amandajocrafts

December 17, 2012

On a Crafty Weekend!

Filed under: On Creating. — Tags: , , , , , , , , , — amandajocrafts @ 11:36 am

I got my craft on this weekend!

First, after a stalled-out Etsy shop (slow times happen to me at the weirdest times!), I got two orders in two days! The first was a pair of fingerless gloves, which are always fun to make.

The other was for a custom kitten! Not just any kitten though–there’s a bit of a story behind this one. Apparently, there is (or was) an online game called “Glitch.” The developers are taking the game down, and someone was interested in having a crocheted version of the cat character from this game, called “Heli Kitteh.” They showed me a screen shot from the game of the kitten, and I got to work! The recipient loved it, and I already got another order for it!

Also, I can’t post pics yet because I also did this craft for some relatives who have not received it yet (don’t want to spoil the surprise!) but I did 10 gifts for everyone at my office, AND baked cookies for them! Due to a miscommunication with the notes on my cookie recipe, I misjudged how many cookies the recipe would make, and instead of getting 160, like I expected, I got 260 cookies! (Needless to say, there are a LOT in the freezer now!) All of that took up most of the weekend, but it was certainly worth it–I love my workplace and everybody I work with, so I was more than happy to share the joy!

Finally, I wrapped all the finace’s gifts! He has a nice little pile under our tree now :).

Have you been crafty this weekend?

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December 13, 2012

On DIY Mania…Post-Christmas.

Let’s all just start by admitting that Pinterest is addictive.

Helpful, yes. Interesting, yes. A fantastic way to share things with my best friends regarding style, wedding, and clothing ideas, even though they’re states away? Yes.

However, it also awakens a (not so latent) need to always be creative. I want to make everything. And so the DIY Pinterest board began.

Since it’s Christmastime and I certainly won’t have the time for myself before the big day comes along (let’s ignore the fact that I go back to school in January, and therefore probably won’t have time after Christmas, anyway), I have a little list of DIY projects for myself once the new year begins. (And side note, 2013, really? Where has the time gone? In my head, when I calculate years that have passed, I still always assume it’s 2000 for some reason. 2013 just sounds strange…like we’re all in a sci-fi movie….which is making me want to watch Firefly…getting off track now, I know.)

So, here’s my DIY list for the new year:

Crochet Hook Holder

This really does not look that hard, although there was no attached tutorial in the pin I found. I have a sewing machine, seems like you buy some material, a little lace, and go to town! (Ask me if I feel this way when I actually attempt it. My sewing machine and I do not always see eye-to-eye.)

Knitted Lace Socks

(Pattern here.)

I have had these on my pinboard…well…just about since I got a Pinterest account. I actually took a step forward and bought the yarn for them the last time I was at Michael’s, but with the push to add items in my Etsy shop for Christmas, I just haven’t gotten around to working on something for myself. (In that respect, my scarf hat is still right where it was when I last blogged about it, as well. I know…it’s going to be spring before I get my act together. The fiance keeps telling me I have to actually do something for myself for a change. Gotta get around to that :))

Canvas Shoes

These just look really cool. Another Etsy blogger, the awesome Vivid Please, supplied a tutorial for these awhile back, and darned if I just haven’t gotten around to it. I will in the new year, I swear!

Mason Jar Herb Garden

 

I’d like to do a variation on this. My fiance and I get a lot of tea in the really pretty tins you see at Trader Joe’s and Giant Eagle Market District, and I won’t let him just throw the tins away because they’re so cute! (Yes, I have a cute clutter problem.) I think this would be a great way to reuse them, and a great alternative to having them sitting on a table somewhere, because we are just out of room!

Well, that’s my list for now :). I’m trying to keep it manageable so I’ll actually get to it! If you want to check out everything else I’ve been thinking of, come on over to my Pinterest DIY board.

Do you have any DIY lined up?

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?

November 29, 2012

On Supporting Handmade.

Oh Christmas!

I’m not one for getting swept up in the commercialism of the season, but boy oh boy do I love giving gifts! You heard me right–my favorite part of gifting is not the receiving, but the look of delight on someone’s face at Christmas that lets me know I got them just the right thing. It’s all about making people happy 🙂

This Christmas, as I’ve done for the past couple of years now, I’m doing my best to gift handmade and support small businesses. Of course, I definitely bought stuff (with coupons!) from big stores (Kohls and I are best buds), but at the same time, I’m making a concentrated effort to support handmade whenever possible!

It’s definitely worth paying the little extra to know that not only are you making the day of the person to whom you are giving the gift, but you’re also making the day of that seller! (Do you know how excited I get when I sell an item? Really? There’s typically some jumping involved :))

So, let me know below if you’re planning on supporting handmade this season, through Etsy or craft fairs or wherever, and I’ll get you started with some of my favorites. (That I didn’t get for other people, don’t want to spoil any surprises!) If you like any of them, just click on the picture to send you there!

Hair Pin Buttons by Chatterblossom

Autumn Pillow by NeedlesnPinsStitchery

Hobbiton Necklace by PrettyLittleCharmsUK

Country Button Earrings by ciaralg

“I Like Big Books” Tote by PamelaFugateDesigns

How have you supported handmade this holiday season?

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 23, 2012

On Etsy Scarves, At Last!

Just a quick post to say: at last, at last!

I have (finally!) created some scarves for Etsy (the yarn has been sitting there for a month–darn the homework!) and listed the first one today. I’m so happy with the yarn and the pattern (just a simple shell pattern I created, but it gives off a nice elegant vibe).

Look for more coming soon, too!

October 19, 2012

On Four Things to Look for Next Week.

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , , — amandajocrafts @ 11:03 am

There a lot of exciting stuff coming up very, very shortly!

4) Utterly unrelated to crafting, but “Red” comes out Monday. As in, the new (and I’m sure to be awesome) Taylor Swift CD. I’m well aware that I am an anomaly of a T-Swift fan, and I’m also aware that people tend to either love her or hate her, so you may hate her. But I have respect for her because:

  • Her lyrics. Read them. As a writer, not only do I appreciate what I feel is a successful attempt, but I appreciate that she isn’t relying just the tone of the music and her name to get hits. She cares about what she’s saying.
  • She’s a good role model for younger girls. Think about what they have to work with right now (Katy Perry, Brittney Spears, and Miley Cyrus all comes to mind) and then think about T-Swift. Genuine. Doesn’t show her belly button every chance she gets. We don’t see her getting drunk every weekend (except perhaps on love).
  • I sing along to her songs, loudly and poorly, and they make me feel good 🙂

So now that my “why you should love T-Swift” rant is over, I can happily say I’ve already preordered the deluxe CD from Target 🙂 I’m as excited as a pre-teen!

3) I should be posting update number 2 on the hooded scarf next week. I’ve come pretty darn far, and I have actually extended the scarf past what the pattern calls for, because I just really want it to be long. I think, this time around, I ended up “knitting small,” which I never do, so it threw off the pattern a bit. But more on that next week, with some accompanying pictures 🙂

2) A granny squares update. I *think* I’ve finished all the squares I need to come up with a good-sized young boy’s blanket. I’ll at least get some pictures of the squares all arranged, even if I don’t get them all put together this weekend! (I suppose I should probably do some homework this weekend. Shucks.) I’m headed to good ol’ Michael’s for a one pound skein of yarn, which should do the trick in terms of having enough to connect them all.

and the really cool #1 thing is…

1) Look for cowls and scarves coming to amandajocrafts! I have three done so far, and I hope to get at least one more complete and them all photographed for Etsy this weekend. I’m really excited about this development; it’s the first time I’ve added something to my shop that’s not a doll or animal, and it think it will really bring some more diversity. People who will be looking for scarves might find my shop and then *boom* fall in love with an animal, or vice versa.

And let me tell you now, these scarves are pretty cool (err….warm). I have chunky cowls with classic scalloped edges that will hang stylishly on your neck and can be easily tucked into a coat, or can be hung over the top of your head in the snow. As for the scarves, they’re crocheted in a shell pattern with some super soft yarn, so they’re dainty, stylish, and very warm!

October 8, 2012

On Loving a Bama+Ry Purchase.

Well, I had to wait to post this one until after my mom’s received it for her birthday, because it was a gift for her.

I’d been “creeping” on Bama+Ry’s Etsy shop for quite some time now, in fact ever since she started cropping up in the Etsy Success forums and not only asking great questions, but also providing wonderful advice. Then I found her blog and started to get to know the person behind the shop. It wasn’t long before I was itching to purchase a creation of hers.

Excellently, what I was thinking for my mom’s birthday aligned perfectly with her shop. When I was younger, my mom used to read me Guess How Much I Love You  all the time. It’s a story about Little Nutbrown Hare and Big Nutbrown Hare, and they are essentially holding a contest about who loves who more. And Little Nutbrown Hare will say “I love you as high as I can reach” and Big Nutbrown Hare would say “I love you as high as I can reach.” At the end, Little Nutbrown Hare says “I love you right up to the moon” and, right after he falls asleep, Big Nutbrown Hare whispers “I love you right up to the moon…and back.”

Even as I got older, my mom and I would say that to each other. So, for her birthday, even though we don’t get to see each other as much anymore (me being all moved out of the house and supposedly grown up and all that!), I wanted to tell her how much I love her. After a complete quick, efficient messages between Bama+Ry and I, my pendant was in the works!

Even though it was a custom order, I received it very quickly, and I’m so happy with the way it turned out. My mom came to visit me for our birthday (yes, we have the same one!) and she was so happy and excited! It couldn’t have turned out better!

Thank you Bama+Ry!

October 2, 2012

On The Necessity and Power of Feedback.

Filed under: On Observing. — Tags: , , , , , , , — amandajocrafts @ 11:25 am

Feedback is a coveted benchmark, so you would think we would provide it more.

Last week, my fiance and I were looking for a new entertainment center for our living room. We are still in the process of transferring college (read: cheap pressed wood and plastic) furniture for slightly more grown-up, in-our-twenties-and-fine-financially-but-not-ready-to-spend-thousands furniture. For this task, Amazon is our new best friend. Sure, you have to put the furniture together still with a thousand little screws and knobs, but it looks great when you’re done…if you’ve chosen the right piece.

This is where feedback was crucial to us. I created a “wish list” of pieces (thanks for the handy tool, Amazon!) and then we scoured the feedback. We could rule out ones where people said it fell apart the next day, we were aware of when someone mentioned a color didn’t match the picture, or if there was a trend of pieces arriving broken. Without this feedback, I don’t think we would have ended up with the incredible entertainment center that we now have.

Alternatively, I’ve been on the other side of feedback twice this week. On Etsy, feedback is manna to sellers, especially new ones. It makes your shop look better and more credible, it tells you how you’re doing, and if it’s good feedback, or a particularly kind review, it just gives you those warm fuzzies inside that can last the whole day. I received some delightful feedback this week, as well as left one for another seller, who took the time to tell me how much it meant to her to hear that I loved the piece she made.

Similar to that is feedback via teachers or professors. As a grad student in writing, I crave and beg for feedback in my pieces. I want to know what’s not working, I want to know what is, what can I change to make you believe in my characters, what can I tweak to make that story even a little bit better? Heck, I’ll take a grade–it’s some benchmark against which I can judge my progress.

Feedback is less formal, too. “I like that sweater,” “cute shoes,” “your haircut looks great,” boost us and make us feel more confident; again, a benchmark against which to weigh that particular facet.

So, if we all crave feedback so darn much (and don’t pretend you don’t), then why don’t we give it more?

I will always leave feedback for an Etsy seller. Since I am one, I know how much it brightens my day to hear a personal note that tells me what a customer thinks of my handmade item. Again, warm fuzzies ensue. Even with smaller shops on Amazon, I will try to remember. (One notable time is our kitchen island in our apartment. It is one of the most beautiful pieces of craftmanship from a simple, American-based company called Catskill Craftsman. It actually arrived with a split down the middle of one piece (through the fault of shipping, I’m sure) and when I called them about it, they apologized and sent out a new piece that day. That is amazing customer service, and I wrote them a great review.)

However, when it comes down to the bigger vendors on Amazon and the chain stores (Kohls, Target, etc.), I’m usually silent. Why?

I guess, at first thought, I figure that big stores don’t need me giving them a pat on the back because they probably don’t care. While that may be true, I still use the feedback for items in those stores to tell me if I want it or not. Especially with clothes shopping and Kohls, I scrutinize the reviews to see if there was someone with my general build who has a piece I’m looking at. I want to know if it fits small or big, or will make me look fat.

In what I’m going to call “social” feedback, I’m often reluctant to speak up, as well.

In my graduate classes, I’m sometimes hesitant in a new class to “tell it like it is” during critique, even though that’s exactly what I want from others. If my piece only gets a half hour of crit time, don’t waste half of it telling me you “liked” it; I want to know what’s not working. Therefore, I shouldn’t pansy around with someone else’s story, either. I don’t think I’ve ever been told that I’m being “mean” or “harsh.” What good writer doesn’t want as many opinions and thoughts as she can get?

At the end of the day, we all want the benchmark, but we don’t necessarily want to be the one to dish it out. I don’t know if it’s part of our twenty-first century politically correct world, or if it stems from a fear of being hated, or if it’s just a selfish desire (“I’m going to use what others have taken the time to say to make my decision, but I’m not going to leave anything for the next person.”) What do you think?

In the meantime, I’m off to Amazon. I’ve just guilt-tripped myself into the realization that I haven’t left any feedback for the entertainment center.

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!

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