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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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 9, 2012

On Pattern Hunting.

Filed under: On Creating. — Tags: , , , , , , , — amandajocrafts @ 4:35 pm

Okay, my crafty folks!

Does anyone know of a knitting pattern that looks like this sweater from Bloomingdale’s?

Yes, in the end, it would probably just be simpler and cheaper to spend the money, but there’s something so rewarding about making it yourself 🙂

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!

September 27, 2012

On Never Judging a Boot by Its Genre.

Filed under: On Observing. — Tags: , , , , , , , , , — amandajocrafts @ 11:16 am

I’m not much of a country-western junkie. I don’t really go in for the hog-ties and bull riding, I really dislike riding horses (mostly because of the smell), and I think cowboy hats look pretty silly on anyone except Kenny Chesney. The only country music I really listen to is Taylor Swift (I love her, can’t help it). Frankly, I’m really much more of a Victorian girl. So, it surprised me just as much as anybody else when I fell in love with a pair of cowgirl boots.

A huge fan of boots, I wanted something I could wear pretty much anywhere and any way. I have a FANTASTIC pair of Victorian knee-high boots that I love for certain things, but they’re hardly daily wear. (PS, those are not my legs! That’s the photo from the website I purchased them from.)

At the same time, I didn’t want just the simple brown boots that everyone seems to be getting. I wanted something a little…different. Well, my fiance found this awesome website, sheplers.com, which sells quite a bit of western gear. Most of the cowgirl boots didn’t appeal to me, but then I found a pair that were still cowgirl boots, but, I swear, Victorian. See for yourself:

They are super comfortable, too! Such a rich, red color that I haven’t seen anywhere else. Amazing quality and stitching. And look at the scalloping on the top! I fully anticipate wearing them with those pretty ivory lace socks that go up just over the boots 🙂 Look at the details!

The moral of the story: never judge a boot by its genre. I have been totally boot-whipped. 🙂

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.

September 7, 2012

On Bundling Down for Winter via Knitting.

Yes, I know that it’s even shameful for me to think of this season right now, as in the US, it isn’t even autumn yet, but I have a project in mind.

I am not great at managing cold weather, snow, and wind, and so I want an extremely warm covering for my head. With that in mind, I had intended to make a “scarf hat” last winter but had never gotten around to it. It’s basically a hat whose back kind of trails into a thick scarf that you can wrap around your face and neck. (But it’s not the end of the hat that turns into a scarf; it’s the front piece on either side.) I saw something similar to what I was looking for at an amazing Etsy shop, pixiebell:

The only problem is my stubbornness; I tend to insist on making winter items myself. Since I know how to knit, it always feels like a huge cop-out to just buy it from someone else, even if that someone else is incredible and it would be in my best interest and completely worth it.

So I went on the great hunt for a pattern, digging through endless false leads. (Do you know how many hat and scarf patterns there are out there? Shouldn’t typing {“scarf hat” pattern} into Google search yield more relevant results?) And then, I realized how silly I was being. There are names for this thing: a hooded scarf and a scoodie.

And armed with that critical piece of knowledge, I have found the perfect pattern. It’s a beautiful knitted, cabled, hooded scarf with pockets at the end for your hands (something I wasn’t expecting to enjoy, but I’m quickly warming–pun intended–to the idea).

A trip to Michael’s later, and I had the yarn I wanted to use: Caron’s Simply Soft in Dark Sage.

I have a dark brown knee-length winter coat, so this should go perfectly :). Of course, I had to buy a couple extra skeins for mittens, “just in case”! I’ve already modified the scarf’s pattern to use on the mittens, as well, so if that goes as planned, I’ll share that pattern with you, too!

I do actually slightly prefer knitting to crocheting, just because you can really do some awesome detail work. However, since it is so labor intensive, I don’t knit for my shop, because I would feel uncomfortable charging that much for an item. Instead, I knit clothing for myself and occasionally for my fiance. I’m excited to have this chance to work on something for myself!

So far, I have the first pocket done. I’ll keep you posted on the progress.

Are you planning any winter projects?

August 31, 2012

On Finishing a Non-Crochet Project.

Filed under: On Creating. — Tags: , , , , , , , — amandajocrafts @ 11:10 am

I absolutely love crocheting for my Etsy shop. I love creating patterns, adding new product lines, and I especially love the new teddy bears I’ve been making. But sometimes, it’s particularly gratifying to complete something for yourself, something you know you’re not going to sell or give to a family member, something that is just going to be yours.

A little while ago, I had written about a “finished” dress I found in my closet–finished but for the fact that it was many sizes too big (how does that happen?) and the whole bodice would have to be taken out and redone. (Click here to read about it.) Well, I did it this weekend–mumbled and grumbled my way through the excruciating process of undoing all those stitches I had previously done and refitting, repinning, resewing, trying the dress on so many times I grew sick of it…and I had an epiphany. Sewing is the opposite of yarn art. In crocheting or knitting, it’s the creating that takes all the time–all those loops and yarn-overs and knits and purls and everything–millions and millions of painstaking knots. In sewing, however (at least with a machine), the sewing part is so fast–a couple ZIPS under that needle and you have a seam. But taking it out once you’ve made a mistake, without injuring the fabric, is both tedious and time-consuming. I mentioned as much to my fiance, and he just commented on my lack of patience.

At any rate, I successfully made it. I hemmed it all by myself. (Which is a feat for me, because I usually beg my mother to pin it while I’m in it to make sure it’s all even. But since she’s a couple states away, that would have been quite difficult.) I added some cute buttons. And here it is:

It’s not perfect, but I am proud of it. And now I have sworn off sewing for the next six months.

August 20, 2012

On Braiding.

Filed under: On Creating. — Tags: , , , , , , — amandajocrafts @ 11:45 am

This morning on the bus, a woman pulled her hair to the side of her face and began braiding it while reading a book. Her hair was thick and dark and straightened. (Having curly hair myself, I can always tell when curly hair is straighted.) My first reaction was disappointment: she had clearly spent some considerable time making her hair perfectly straight, no bumps or ridges, no frizz.

Then I thought again. The braid was beautiful too–even more so was the way in which she did it. Swept it from her neck with one stroke, firmly divided the thousands of strands into three, and while she was doing something else–while her concentration was on the book in front of her–she created something entirely new.

I can braid; I do the same thing she does. When it’s raining or humid or hot, my hair doesn’t stay trailing on the back of my neck like some woolen blanket; it goes into a braid. I guess I just never realized how graceful and commanding the act was, how skilled one had to be to change the structure of your hair in fifteen seconds. Do I look that powerful when I do it, too?

Like braiding, crocheting takes strands and makes them into a context. Any project does this: sewing, knitting, beading, felting. We are changing the very structure of these items. We have the power to alter their makeup and how people perceive them. Yarn is just yarn until you, essentially, tie it in a million knots. Then it’s craft, or art, or a blanket, or a doll. We don’t personify yarn, but we do give faces and voices and personality to a teddy bear, or an octopus, or a rabbit. We make them matter.

That’s a daring thought.

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