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 :))

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

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!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

What were you working on this weekend?

November 27, 2012

On Pieces of Elise’s.

Well, last weekend, my fiance and I were watching Singing in the Rain, and as usual, I couldn’t get enough of the old-style singing and dancing. They just don’t make movies like they used to!

Thankfully, I’m not the only one who thinks so! Elise, the creator and mastermind behind Pieces of Elise’s, makes darling paper dolls from the “good old days,” like Gene Kelly and Fred Astaire. (Why don’t men know how to dance anymore?!)

However, she doesn’t stop there!

Pieces of Elise’s is a virtual treasure trove of fun drawings in Elise’s own unique style, craftily re-made into paper dolls, magnets, stickers, puppets, and custom drawings, not to mention jewelry and masks.

I can relate to Elise quite rapidly; like me, she’s an office administrator by day and an Etsyian by night and weekends (and any other time she can slip it in there)! It takes great dedication to maintain a shop while having a day job, and it’s great to see her persevering with such fun, interesting creations!

In order to make it all work, she schedules her Etsy time, “tweaking things, adding products, answering conversations, a couple of times a week, mainly on my days off.” She even has her mom get in on the fun by messaging clients and creating forms. Says Elise, “She’s a real lifesaver!”

When asked, Elise said her favorite item in her shop is her “portrait of a lady with big hair :)” This drawing is so expressively done, and so full of confidence and vigor in both the figure and in Elise’s own pencil strokes, that it’s not hard to see why this is a favorite!

However, her favorite items to make in her shop are her articulated paper dolls. She likes “that they are movable and interactive. They appeal to kids and adults. The classic Hollywood articulated paper dolls I make can be posed and are cool miniatures of the actual celebrities.” Most importantly, “I just love drawing people and I feel like I’m bringing something to life.”

With options from Adele to Alfred Hitchcock, these are truly unique creations that I can honestly say I haven’t seen before. What a great idea for a gift–especially since her dolls cover such a wide range of pop culture references. And, if there’s something you want in particular, she always does custom orders!

(I just love the way she drew his face–it’s exactly the expression I picture him to have.)

It’s clear that Elise is talented, and it seems that it runs in the family. “I’ve been drawing for as long as I can remember. My mom was a graphic artist and studied abroad during college in Italy. She spent time drawing with my brother and I when we were little and it became something we both loved to do.” That passion stuck with her as she grew older. “When I went to high school I took three art classes: pottery, art, and jewelry class. I liked them all, but I think drawing always came easiest to me.”

Of course, I have to finish up by asking her where she sees her shop heading in the months and years to come. In the short term, she plans to keep right on trucking along: adding items, doing custom orders, and having fun with her shop. For the long term, she wants to spread the word about her shop, quit her day job, and be an artist!

So, if you’re interested in some Pieces of Elise’s, head on over to her shop. You can also check out her blog for some personal pieces of Elise, as well!

November 12, 2012

On Some Fingerless Gloves.

Gotta share a quick one 🙂

I just listed my first pair of fingerless gloves at my Etsy store, and I couldn’t be more excited about them. I made a pair for myself last week (in pink, a made-to-order set in that color will be showing up later this week in the shop!) and have been wearing them to work ever since–they’re great to type with, they keep my hands nice and toasty, and I love the dexterity!

I wanted something that was both super warm and cozy and something that looks delicate and classy, and maybe a little Victorian–so both bulk and delicacy (I wanted it all, basically :)) Well, I worked with it for a bit and finally came up with a pattern that I think satisfies both!

Also, I just wanted to mention how excited I am by the photgraphy of these gloves–don’t they look great?! I owe the photo to my fiance, because my hands were in the gloves!

If you have a moment, come and check them out here!

November 6, 2012

On If the Customer *Really* Wants Crochet.

I was handed a nice little epiphany yesterday, courtesy of my friends on the Etsy Success team.

As you probably know, I’ve started creating scarves and cowls for my Etsy shop. I was (and am) really excited about adding this new element to my shop, and since I assumed “tis the season,” I expected them to be searched for with regularity.

One of the “offenders” :).

However, in the two weeks since I’ve listed the first scarf, it’s only come up in search once. I was floored–after all the work and understanding I now have about the tagging/SEO system for Etsy, I really thought I had done so efficiently for the scarf.

After a quick question out into Etsy Success team, I received the most fascinating answer: no one is searching for “crochet.”

This whole time, I’ve been thinking like the seller, not the buyer. I’ve been thinking about how it’s made, not by what people are looking for. It’s kind of like searching the internet for glassware with the word “lehr” (the oven that’s used to heat it) rather than “glassware.” Oh.

If people are looking for something like my scarves, they’re searching for “women’s fashion scarves” or “red winter scarf” or “dressy women’s scarf,” not the way in which it was made.

Hopefully some title change will bring some views to this beaut!

So, I’ve now updated my titles and tags to reflect this little epiphany, and I’ll keep you posted on the results!

October 22, 2012

On A Granny Squares Update.

After lots and lots of bus rides to and from work, I’ve got all the granny squares I need for the blanket! (If you’re curious as to its inception, read here.)

I’m not making this to keep; instead, I intend to list it on my Etsy shop as a young boy’s blanket. It’s just the perfect size–at 6 squares wide by 10 squares long, it should be the perfect durable, run-around blanket for any boy!

As you can see by the picture, I didn’t have the chance this weekend to begin connecting them (something I haven’t actually ever done before…so it should be interesting!) I did, however, lay them all out how I wanted them (I was going for an eclectic feel, rather than a definitive “blue, green, white, blue, green, white”) and labeled them to make connecting a little easier.

I also took a trip to Michael’s and purchased some green yarn (kind of a muted army green color) to connect them all. It was harder to decide on a connecting color than I had anticipated, but I think the green will bring it all together.

I’m so excited to get them connected (!), but I suspect that it’s not going to be finished until after school finishes for the semester. Just not enough hours in the day! However, I’m really hoping to have it in the shop well before Christmas so it can be the perfect present for a young boy!

September 21, 2012

On Helpful Tips for Etsy Sellers.

I see this question all the time in the Etsy forums: Will you critique my shop?

One thing I really love about the Etsy community is how willing everyone is to assist each other. We give opinions, critiques, hints, tricks of the trade, away freely, because we are eager to help where we struggled. However, it can also sometimes be galling, especially when, if you searched in the Etsy Success team (where I see the above question most of all), there is already incredible information waiting there for you. Most of the time, new sellers shouldn’t need to even ask for the critique, because the information is already there.

With that in mind, here are some valuable lessons I have learned from the Etsy Success team. Though I don’t claim to be a high-profile Etsy seller, I can tell you these are the both the basics and the essentials to running your shop and making it fantastic.

1) (The most important one, folks.) Be willing to devote some time to your shop.

Do not expect to load up some photos of your items, write a couple lines, and expect them to sell. This does not really happen. (I know because this is how I started. HUGE mistake. After six months of research and changing everything, I finally had a shop I could be proud of.) Be ready to take and retake and retake and RETAKE photos, write and edit and revise and tweak your descriptions, and always be working on your tags. All of this, not to mention making your items. If you do not feel you can devote the time and energy to this, perhaps an Etsy shop is not right for you.

2) Take FANTASTIC photos.

Never accept mediocre. In the eighteen months I have been open, I have retaken my photos three times, all of my photos, and I’m sure I’m not done. It takes time, but it is, in my opinion, the most crucial piece of your shop. Before customers see anything else, they see a picture of your item. If your picture isn’t top-notch, do you really think the customer will take the time to click on it and see your item description or the other items in your shop?

So, some tips to taking photos (these are thanks to some great fellow sellers from the forums; that thread can be found here):

  • Have a sense of cohesiveness. I feel this is most easily achieved by the traditional “white” background, and as that is what I use, I’ll be telling you how to successfully do that. However, I have seen some amazing shops that don’t use a white background, but what they do use is the same style of background. If you want a rustic wood background, do that for everything. If you want pale lace, do that for everything. Give you shop the sense that all those items belong together.
  • Make your photos CLEAR. This was one of my biggest issues. If you have a small item, learn where the macro button on your camera is (it looks like a flower, and most cameras have it, even cheap ones). Also, when taking the photo, holding down the button halfway for a second before you push it all the way down; that will allow the camera time to adjust the lens and get a clearer image. Better yet, use a tripod, and you won’t have to deal with your shaking hands.
  • Use natural (or artificially natural) lighting. Some people have it really nice; they can set up their image by a beautiful bay window as the light comes in and get a great photo. Some of us (me included) live in a city apartment where light is certainly not streaming in the windows. Therefore, you have to fake it. To do so, open the windows anyway (it does help a little). Buy a couple cheap desk lamps, and daylight bulbs to go in them. Arrange the lamps around your item, using that aesthetic eye of yours to give it some nice shadows, but not too many shadows.
  • Edit your photos. Even a fantastic natural shot needs a wee bit of help. I use picmonkey.com, because it’s free and has some great tools. If you’re going for a white background, like I do, I use the neutral picker under the color setting to tell it what part of the photo should be white, and then I use the brightness and contrast to keep bringing that up. Be careful though, because you don’t want your picture to look over-edited, you just want it to look professional. When a photo looks over-edited, people often avoid that item because they don’t believe they’re really getting what they’re seeing.
  • Use all five photos slots. Show us the whole image, show us a close up. Show us what the underbelly looks like, what the back/inside looks like, make us feel like we’re holding the item and can see it from every angle.
  • Be cognizant of the fact that Etsy uses a standard photo layout for its searches and displays. Don’t take a portrait-style picture of a long necklace and expect it all to fit in there; all we’ll see is the chain and not your one-of-a-kind pendant that you hand-created. Etsy is now rolling out a new feature where we can adjust what part of the photo we want in the image search, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be aware of the photo formatting, regardless.

3) Descriptions are about describing (but not too much).

There’s a lot of different ways to go about writing descriptions, so I’m not going to get into too much detail about it. The most important things, though, are:

  • Tell you customer what the item is in the first paragraph. This is particularly essential if you want to get found on Google, because it will take your first couple sentences and display them in the search results. Tell us what it is, what color it is, how big it is, what it’s stuffed with….We don’t have it in our hands, so you have to be our describer. Pretend you’re at a craft fair, and you see something you think your best friend would love, so you call her up to give her the low-down before she gives you the okay to buy. Write it like that.
  • Don’t get overly wordy or long. Buyers, notoriously, don’t read everything, so put down the essentials in short, direct paragraphs. Don’t expect us to read a dissertation; you’d just be giving yourself extra work, because about 1% of your viewers would actually read all that.
  • Put some backlinks to other items on your shop at the end. For example, in each of my teddy bear listings, I say a variation of: “if you like the teddy, but perhaps are looking for a different color, check out the shop section:” and then I give the link. Or, with my octopi, if you’re on the listing for the small purple one, I might say: “Looking for something bigger? Try Ferdinand {link}. Or looking for a little more rainbow flair, try Exuberance: {link}.” This way, the shopper doesn’t have to go hunting for something similar; I’m giving them suggestions based on what they’re looking at.

4) Tags/Titles are where you get found; use them.

I don’t pretend to be an authority on this; I’m always tweaking my tags and titles. Also, if you’re looking to really get into SEO, I’d recommend the CindyLouWho Team on Etsy. But, here are some crucial fundamentals:

  • Your titles and tags should match. If you have “amber necklace pendant” in your title and a tag that says the same thing, you’ll show up higher in search than if you don’t.
  • The first three words of your title are the most important, so if you have a birthday card for a little brother, DON’T start your title with “Cute, Darling, Baby Birthday Card for Little Brother.” Who’s going to be searching for “cute, darling, baby” and be looking for a birthday card? Instead, start with “Brother Birthday Card – Little Brother – Cute Card.” You have a MUCH better chance of getting the viewers you’re looking for.
  • In your tags, uses phrases when possible. Sure, you might get more hits if you just put “bear” as opposed to “crochet teddy bear,” but you’ll get more focused hits from the latter. The more specific you are, the better chance you have of finding your target audience.
  • Don’t waste tags. CindyLouWho taught me this: if you have a tag that says “crochet teddy bear,” you are also covered for the terms “crochet teddy” and “teddy bear.” Therefore, don’t waste tags on those terms! This was a revelation for me, and really opened up the opportunity to put some great tags in there because I had more room. And, this should go without saying, but use all your tags.

5) Write your policies.

Way too many shops are floating around without policies, or with very minimal ones. Sellers, they are your only “defense” against a customer–use them! Tell you customer what forms of payment you accept, how you handle returns, what your processing time is, that they’re responsible for out-of-country customs charges (and yes, they are!). That way, when a customer comes to complain, you can tell them very very nicely “I’m sorry, but XYZ is stated in my shop policies {here}.” It will help you and save you headaches later.

6) Update all the time!

Part of both Etsy and (I think) Google’s search has to do with “freshness,” so always be tweaking and editing! Besides, it always helps to be modifying. For example, if you notice an item isn’t getting a lot of views, especially perhaps compared to a very similar item in your shop, see what the difference is! Do you use a phrase in one that you don’t in the other? Have you put it in a different category?

Switch things up, pay attention to what search terms people are using to end up in your shop, and use that data to your advantage.

So…

Next time you want a shop crit, follow these steps first! The benefit of doing all these things before asking for that crit is that, when you do ask, you’ll get some great, detailed information on how to improve your specific shop, rather than just the general guidelines that all Etsy sellers should be following!

Questions? Comments? Things to add? I’d love to hear what you have to say!

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 30, 2012

On Loving an Etsy Purchase.

Filed under: On Etsy Loving. — Tags: , , , , , — amandajocrafts @ 10:02 am

This is not a post about date night, but you’ll have to get around it first.

Last week, my fiance and I had a “date night.” We try to do this at least once a month: pick a fancy restaurant, dress up, and pretend like he wears snazzy ties and I wear stiletto heels all the time. I’d strongly recommend this for any couple–it keeps it fresh and reminds us that being with each other is a privledge, and we’re so grateful to have such loving company. It takes us out of the habit of plotzing down on the couch after a day’s work and watching Frasier reruns (although don’t get me wrong, I am a huge fan), of exercising and complaining about eating too many cupcakes (me) or only completing 300 of the 500 self-prescribed sit-ups that day (him).

So, we went to a little Italian restaurant quite close by. It’s one of my new favorite places, because it is Italian. The cook rivals (but does not beat) my grandmother’s cooking; the waiters all look like they could be Godfather extras, there are pictures of 50’s crooners on all the walls, and there is the most fascinating employee who, as our waiter says, is there to “tell good stories.” He has leathered skin, an easy smile, perpetual shades on, and talks to us about his many past girlfriends and his time spent working in a lounge in Vegas. I really don’t want to know what his position was there.

The other fun part of this evening was being given the opportunity to use a new Etsy purchase of mine from ChatterBlossom *wave to ChatterBlossom*. (See, I told you this wasn’t about date night!) I purchased her “Tickle Me Pink” bow early last week (see, I told you I would!) and she was super-duper kind and awesome and generous and added in a set of her bobby pins to say thank you for the feature. Well, I had a difficult time deciding which hair accessory to wear first, but since I had a new nice dress burning a hole in my closet for the last week, I had to go with the item that matched best: the bobby pins. They looked so pretty with my french twist! (Pardon the strands of hair that didn’t make it in the twist; I have a LOT of hair.)

So, thank you again to ChatterBlossom, and if you want to read about how cool she is, head on over to her feature here.

August 23, 2012

On The Sun and the Turtle.

Owls…owls…OWLS!

That’s the first thing that strikes me about The Sun and the Turtle, a Finland-based Etsy shop. I also have a weakness for really cute owls, so (of course) I got hit head-on by “want, want, want!”

With her partner, John, Jennifer keeps The Sun and the Turtle full of crocheted and knitted pieces. When I asked her which she prefers, she was split: “Tricky question :). I like to crochet the amigurumis. It’s a great feeling to see them form in my hands. Almost like magic, they form with my hook as the wand.

“At the same time, I make winter hats and mittens for the long winters in Finland, and I can knit for hours listening to audiobooks or talking with my partner John while we work with The Sun and the Turtle.

“I cannot choose! Both of them have their magic.”

Knitting, in my opinion, is one of the most difficult disciplines to sell on Etsy. It’s so very time-consuming, and since a majority of Etsy knit buyers are those who don’t know how, they don’t always realize how much work goes into a piece. In addition, amigurumis are a sub-market. Although they are, essentially, really adorable dolls and animals, some people don’t know that name for them and, therefore, don’t know to even search for them on Etsy! (For more about amigurumis, click here for an earlier post.)

So, I’m particularly pleased to have the opportunity to learn more about The Sun and the Turtle, because I’m all about increasing amigurumi exposure! And who wouldn’t want one of these adorable amigurumis? Jenn’s heart goes into them: “I love to be crazy with my amigurumis. Now it feels very fun to crochet them because I have hooked so many that I feel confident. I usually make a drawing first and then I start hooking them. The imagination is the limit. :)”

Once you get the hang of crocheting in the round, it’s simple! Try out this strawberry pattern as a good starter project.

In addition to the adorable strawberry, The Sun and the Turtle recently launched a blog, where there are some awesome free amigurumi patterns. You can check it out here.

Jennifer’s favorite item in her shop is her Knitted Owl iPhone pouch.

I seriously hope she’s using one herself, because I think just walking around with that would sell itself! She has a great feel for combining the essentials of an owl with her own splash of creativity; they’re recognizable as owls, but they’re also uniquely The Sun and the Turtle’s. These animals “come from our admiration for animals and nature. We spend a lot of time in the woods, and there you learn how to appreciate every single living form. Through that admiration and the crystallization of our ideas we spread a message of awareness because we want animals and nature to be treated with dignity and respect.”

It’s a lofty responsibility, but one that Jenn and John treat with pride. All the more admirable, because Jenn runs her shop while also attending school. She doesn’t see it as an added chore, though, but a “fun” responsibility. “I just make our products and post them once they are ready and well done. Then I continue with the gazillion things I have to do. It is a matter of organizing your time and not get too stressed about everything.” Words of wisdom I should take into my own heart as I go back for my master’s this September!

Finally, I brought up “The Great Etsy Christmas.” Etsy sellers have already begun preparing for this annual event, stocking their shop and buying extra supplies to ship out the upcoming high demand of items. In The Sun and the Turtle, expect to see some woolen winter hats rolling out in early October. My personal favorite is the one with the mermaid!

So, if you’re enjoying these unique creations as much as I am, come and check out The Sun and Turtle. The best part? Even though they’re in Finland, the internet brings them right to you! “Etsy is a global community where people appreciate all the wonderful creations despite nationality or borders. It is awesome when someone who believes in what you do can have it via post, and are willing to wait a few days more for the product to arrive.” I completely agree!

As always, if you’re an Etsy shop with personality, attitude, and a passion for creating, feel free to submit to be featured on amandajocrafts!

Create a free website or blog at WordPress.com.