amandajocrafts

December 11, 2012

On Some Things to Look Forward To.

I got busy with my hook this weekend and started two new patterns for two exciting things to come in the shop!

The first is a pair of boot cuffs. This pattern was more challenging to create than I had expected. First, I’m not the best mannequin for them, because I think my calves run slightly larger than your average calf (all those years of dance class!). Second, I wanted a good blend between an interesting pattern and something that didn’t take forever to work up. I’m pretty happy with the way they turned out! (And, of course, I had to add a bit of scalloping at the top :))

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Second, I hopped on the start of a newish bandwagon–move over moustaches, peter pan collars are up next! I’ve loved the look of a peter pan collar on cardigans and blouses for a good long time now, and then I started seeing some necklaces that mimic that design. Well, I took it a step further and crocheted a peter pan collar! I absolutely love the way it turned out–the pattern kind of fell right into place naturally, without much redoing on my part to get it the way I wanted it. I’ve ordered some great buttons for it, so I just have to wait for them to come in to start listing on Etsy!

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What were you working on this weekend?

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September 24, 2012

On Granny Squares.

Filed under: On Crocheting. — Tags: , , , , , , , — amandajocrafts @ 10:44 am

I have a LOT of yarn.

My mom used to knit and crochet a lot in the years before I came along. After I grew old enough and wanted to know what the boxes and boxes of yarn were doing in our closet, she taught me. She also kindly offered all the yarn in those boxes to my project whims. (Mothers are so darn selfless!) Of course, then I was the one in possession of all these possibilities.

I remember, so clearly, dragging the heavy metal stepstool from the laundry room up the stairs to the hall closet. The folding doors would squeak delightfully as I pushed them open on either side. I would, so carefully, open the step stool, because it made a sharp snap when it locked into place, and my mom had always made it clear that my fingers would not be happy if they were in the proximity of the snap. I’d climb up the three steps and, with my short, chubby kid fingers, inch the box off the top shelf, holding it in the crook of my neck and shoulder while I eased my way back off the stool. I’d look inside, knowing just what I’d find in there because, of course, my mom had marked in Sharpie on the outside what colors, and just how many, were kept inside.

Last year, when I started my Etsy shop, I bought even more yarn. And then, when I moved out of my parents’ house to pretend to be a grown-up, I brought some of her yarn with me. It hung out in a lot of eco-friendly bags until my fiance encouraged me to purchase a wooden storage bench with some lovely baskets (I think he was just getting sick of all the bags in the corner).

I think, at the time, I felt as though I needed as much yarn as possible, “just in case.” Then, my Etsy shop didn’t have quite the direction and continuity as it does now; I was not sure what the next item would be, so I felt as though I just had no clue what I needed. However, I now have a clear vision, and it does not include all this extra yarn! (Especially when I bought out a certain brand a Michael’s a month ago for those teddy bears I’ve been making. They do not fit in the baskets with everything else in there.)

So, I pondered what to do with this yarn. I didn’t want to store it somewhere, because then I would forget about it. I didn’t have the heart to fill my parents’ hall closet back up with it again. Then, I stumbled across the fascinating “granny square.”

You would think, being a hard-core yarner, yarn-artist, and general yarn-a-holic, that I would have a lot more experience with a granny square. (Really, my only “contact” with them was when I was just starting out crocheting and found some of my mom’s old, leftover granny squares. She taught me how to connect them, and my American Girl Dolls had a nice little blanket.) Granny squares are the perfect way to utilize this “homeless” yarn!

I wasted no time in looking up how to create them, and even less time in coming up with my own, slightly varied, version of the traditional granny square. I tried a couple out, and decided this would be the perfect project to do on the bus on my way to work.

Putting thought into action, I assumed–with a slight delight–that this might cause some interest on an otherwise morning-dulled bus. Maybe I can hand out some business cards, I thought to myself. This could be great shop publicity. People can see me in action!

I was wrong. No one even looked twice! It actually harkened back to some even odder behavior by myself, where, right after moving, I put all my crochet animals in bags and took them to the park and beach to photograph them. (I have since changed my photos on Etsy, but some of my fourth and fifth Etsy pictures do still have examples, like my octopus here.) Although I didn’t mean to draw attention to myself, I thought that at least a couple people would wonder what the heck this girl in a sundress was doing with bags of crochet animals slung over her shoulder. Nope.

At any rate, I’m still really excited about these granny squares. I have quickly mastered their efficiency and can knock them out relatively fast (a little over one per twenty-minute bus ride). I’m looking forward to having enough to connect them into a really fun, colorful young boy’s blanket! I’ll let you know when it makes it onto Etsy. 🙂

September 12, 2012

On Yarn Art Humor.

Filed under: On Wordless Wednesdays. — Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , — amandajocrafts @ 9:55 am

(Not quite a wordless Wednesday, but it is a comic!)

Pickles, by Brian Crane:

Special thanks to junxtaposition (my aunt) for pointing this out to me 🙂

September 11, 2012

On Jen’s Tangled Threads.

What better way to start bundling up for fall and winter than by thinking of some nice, warm feet! As you know, I’ve been eagerly anticipating the weather change, as I am much more of an autumn than a summer type of girl, and Jen’s Tangled Threads is the perfect shop to get me in the spirit of the changing season.

Jen is a one-woman operation–though her son is her official color coordinator–working in her spare time (which, as all mothers know, is a farce of an expression) and taking moments between dance competitions and caring for her son to crochet her invention: flip-furs. Flip-furs actually originated from attending dance competitions. She noticed many of the dancers did not have a simple alternative to the dance shoes they wore onstage, and would stay in those uncomfortable shoes or just go barefoot (even in the bathrooms, which I’d agree is pretty yucky) when they weren’t dancing.

As a former (not-at-all-professional) dancer myself, and with fifteen years of ballet, tap, and jazz under my belt, I can definitely attest to that issue. With tap, you certainly can’t wear those shoes around after you perform, and with jazz or ballet, you wear out the shoes much faster if you keep them on when you don’t need them. And as to the barefoot option–no, thanks. (Have you seen the research on all the foot diseases??)

So, to offer another option, Jen created her flip-furs. Girls had a warmer, comfier option than just flip-flops when they weren’t onstage, and they, and their parents, didn’t have to worry about what they might be picking up while they strolled around. (I wish I had heard of these when I was dancing!)

Expanding your horizons, they would also make some awesome dorm slippers for those college kids you know. (Back in my day, I would have JUMPED on a lime green pair. Everything was lime green for me–sheets, rugs, lamps, lightbulbs….drove my now fiance crazy then, I’m sure. He’s dark blues and browns all the way.)

Although her flip-furs are her favorite item in her shop–I’d be proud of them too, they’re so unique!–her favorite items to make are her baby blankets. She uses Caron Simply Soft for them, and finds it more friendly to work with than other yarns. (I myself am a huge Caron Simply Soft fan–I’m using it for the knitted, hooded scarf I was chatting about last week!)

Right now, there’s a beautiful rainbow blanket in her shop, customizable for whatever colors you want!

Look for some more baby blankets, as well as washcloths and doilies, to be peeking their way in amongst the flip-furs in the upcoming months, as having more ready-to-ship items in her shop is one of her long-term shop goals. (That and marrying a rich man, so she can spend more time crocheting, of course!) The first of her new items is already up: a crochet shawl wrap perfect for those cool fall nights. Again, it’s made with her favorite Caron Simply Soft yarn.

In addition to selling on Etsy, she also sells at her son’s dance studio and has begun branching out at craft fairs. It’s a rough market to be in, and I give her kudos for taking the time to try craft fairs. I’ve only done one, myself.

Finally, I asked her to weigh in on my “pricing for profit” debate (click here if you haven’t read about it yet). Like many other crocheters, she’s been struggling with the balance between fair wages for her and inexpensive prices for her customers. “Somehow I can’t make myself raise my prices beyond what they are now….my biggest customer base is my dance moms, and they spend so much [already] on dance lessons.” It’s a rough decision to make, but I applaud her for addressing the issue and tackling it; it’s something each crocheter has to decide for herself.

So, if you’re digging Jen and her tangled threads, you should check out her shop. And if you’re looking to find out even more about her unique Flip-Furs, you can learn more and follow her on Facebook, Twitter (@jtangledthreads), or Blogspot. Expect a giveaway from Jen via her blog once she reaches fifty followers! (So it’s the perfect time to go on over there and start following!)

Want to be featured yourself? Click on over here for the submission form.

August 21, 2012

On Crafting for Pleasure.

Filed under: On Creating. — Tags: , , , , , , , — amandajocrafts @ 11:27 am

I’ve been having this renewed joy in crocheting lately.

When my shop first opened, I was delighted to make new things, and I only briefly petered in that resolve until I moved states and started crafting like a crazed person all over again. Around this May, however, I started looking at it as more of a chore than a delight, and I faltered for a bit. I think a lot of that had to do with an Etsy seller’s mentality of “sales, sales, sales.” I wasn’t getting a lot of them. Nevermind that I’m a small shop and my items are often given as gifts, making them far more in demand around Christmas. Nevermind that I wasn’t doing everything right, either–I did not have multitudes of items, my pictures were poor, my tags were not optimized. I felt sorry for myself for about 2.5 seconds, as is my nature. (I can’t abide with pity parties from anyone, including myself.)

Well, I shapened up my attitude, took new pictures, and started crocheting with a vigor, exponentially adding items to my shop. I poured through the Etsy Success team, looking for tips on how to optimize my titles and keywords, on how to make my shop look more professional. Now, after all that work, I’m back with a whole new outlook on it.

It makes me happy. Due to a day job with a stable income, I can spend a bit of extra money on supplies without a guaranteed return. Coming up with new, adorable designs that make people elicit little “cooing” sounds is delightful (and a little ego-boosting). Why shouldn’t I crochet for fun?

With that in mind, and with the inspiration from a fellow Etsyian, I started making a line of Halloween Octopi: Witchapus, Frankenpus, Ghostapus, and Pumpkinpus.

After the Halloweenopi, I’ve now been making a new line of Collector Teddy Bears. They’re crocheted with a lovely, soft yarn in a super-tight stitch, and they’re big, for the dolls in my shop (about fifteen or so inches tall when standing), all of which makes them SUPER DUPER huggable.

Now, I know this is a “designer” item, that not a ton of people will be looking to spend that much on a bear, but my new favorite part is that I don’t care! *Picture me throwing my hands up in the air haphazardly. I probably accidentally hit someone just there.* I know the right buyer is out there somewhere, and I don’t mind the bears hanging out on my bookshelf until that buyer comes along. Would you mind this face crashing at your place? Seriously. Come on.

My fiance and I call him “Rust Bear,” and yes, we talk to him and occasionally hug him. What heart-filled person wouldn’t? My long-winded point is I’m doing what I love, I’m making the people around me happy, and it fills me with joy. That’s what this is all about.

Are you an Etsy seller, too? Have you ever felt disheartened and needed to remind yourself you’re doing this because you love it? I’d enjoy hearing your stories, too 🙂

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