A Reason to Rip Out: Color Pooling

Family and friends often ask me what it’s like to design crochet patterns. Recently, I answered that I crochet and rip it out, crochet and rip it out, crochet some more and rip that out, too. I have just finished trying a new technique called color pooling.  Finally, I finish the prototype and let it sit for awhile. Eventually, I take it apart all the way down to the beginning. I can almost hear you sigh as you ask, “Why are you telling me this, Karen?” The answer is simple: learning a new technique means that you must be willing to rip out old work.

I get it–I really do–that feeling of ahh, it’s finally finished! That sense of permanence and finality that comes when you put the hook away, clean up the snippets from weaving in all those pesky ends, and fold up your creation and set it aside. I love that feeling of accomplishment.

The Need to Rip Out

However, there are times when that project just isn’t working out; the colors, the size, the density–something just isn’t right. In your heart of hearts, you know that you are going to hate working on the project and that it will sit unfinished if you don’t correct the problem. You are hesitant–you’ve already put in so much hard work–but you know what you should do. You should rip out that row, those 25 rows, down to the beginning and start over, and simply give the yarn away and start over fresh!

A Reason to Rip Out

I’m talking about the need to rip out in order to prepare you for the next wonderful thing in the world of crochet. It’s big! It’s addicting! And it will cause you to rip out as you work (or design) patterns!

You’ve seen those beautiful variegated yarns on the shelves, the ones that have 2-5 different colors in them, with each color about 10-25 inches in length.  There is this Wow! thing you can do with it, if you space things just so, and crochet the yarn with just the right tension. I know you’ve probably seen projects that use this technique, and you’re wondering about this addicting craze. And, IT IS addicting–In the biggest sense of the word! But, you must get used to ripping out because you will crochet and rip out and crochet and rip out, over and over, again and again.

Color Pooling

I started last night with some Loops & Threads® Impeccable yarn from my neighborhood craft store and my favorite G-size hook. It worked perfectly! I crocheted, ripped out, and crocheted again; in between, I surfed the Internet for clearer instructions. I worked all evening and finally ended up with what you see in the photo below. This is about 34 stitches wide, plus two for turning.  color pooling

What is this mystery? Where did the argyle come from? This, my crochet friends, is called color pooling. Color pooling is when you crochet with variegated yarn in the correct length, tension, and stitch to make the colors show up where and when you want them. It isn’t hard, but it does take determination (and a certain amount of bull-headedness) to want to crochet something in rows for about 3 inches before you rip out and start over to get the patterning right. This method of crocheting isn’t for the faint of heart.

Playing with Color

I love it! What a great way to play with color and buy lovely yarn that already has the pattern built right in! There are so many variegated yarns to choose from, too. Some have larger color sections than others, so keep that in mind when you are shopping.

I will show you more in a later post, as I am off to play with the yarn and see if I can’t make it wider. What did I do with the 18 inches of skinny, skinny scarf, you ask? I ripped it out to make a wider one (after the photographs, of course)! So far, it isn’t working, but I will figure it out. I’m not quite sure whether it is the tension, number of stitches, or what.

Remember: crochet, rip out, repeat.

(I’m hooked! This is like Sudoku, or spider solitaire with four suits. I just can’t put it down, and I will win in the end! As you can see below, it’s time to rip out again.)

time to rip out

Talk to you later,

Karen

Why Etsy Isn’t the Only Way to Sell

Etsy isn’t the only way to sell. Are you surprised to hear me say that? Let me be more specific: If you need to pay off debt, save money or simply earn quick cash, Etsy isn’t the best way to sell your handmade products. Don’t get me wrong– Etsy is a fairly good online venue, but these days it isn’t the only one. It certainly isn’t a fast way to earn money; with 1.6 million sellers, it is a challenge to get your product seen at all.

For most people, Etsy is a slow-growth, long-term business investment. If you are looking to supplement your income now–this month, next month, or even this year–Etsy is not the place to do it. There are really very few people that hit the top of the income curve on Etsy within a year. It takes time to learn the ropes for selling on Etsy.

Alternative Methods of Selling

Personally, if I were uncertain about selling anything I created, I would pick another venue first.

Why Etsy isn't the Only Way to Sell! www.chocolatedogstudio.com,

There are other (less expensive) ways to advertise and sell your handmades online. In the beginning, all sales depend on how many people you know and how much they shop. This is your “natural market,” and it’s your best first place to start.

If you are already active on one or more social media platforms, this is where you should take your first marketing steps. When I started my online shop, they were not as well known–or even around–so you’ve actually got it easier than I did. Let’s take a look at some of the obvious places, and remember: no one platform is the only way to sell. Find what works best for you.

Facebook Sales

Selling via Facebook is quite easy to do. If you’ve had an account for any length of time, you’ve already created your natural market–your ready-made customer base: friends and family. It is inexpensive–okay, it’s actually free–to start your own Facebook business page and share it with your friends. While Facebook does offer ads and the ability to “boost” posts for a fee, it isn’t required. The more people interact with your page, the more it will appear in their news feed. The more people “like” and “share” your posts and page, the more new views you’ll have, and this will bring you more customers.

Why Etsy isn't the Only Way to Sell! www.chocolatedogstudio.com,

Pinterest Sales

Pinterest is still a fairly new venue–about which I’m still learning–but there are many people using it successfully to sell their handmade items. You will need to set up a Pinterest account, which is free to do, and then it’s a matter of “creating pins” as a way to advertise and link back to your website. Like Facebook, the best place to start is by getting your friends and family to “follow” you.

All the details and “how-to’s” can be found on Pinterest, as well as by searching online. Here are a few links that may be of help as you set up your shop on Pinterest:

Instagram Sales

This is another venue that I’m really new to, so I’m still in the exploring stages myself. It is also free, but you’ll need a smartphone to use Instagram. Like Pinterest, the potential for sales is on the rise with Instagram. I see many people selling headbands for babies, doll clothing, and jewelry here.

Like other social media outlets, your single best bet for making extra money quickly with your handmades is, quite simply (you know where this is going, right?), your friends and family.

Here are a few links that may be of help as you set up your shop on Instagram:

Not the Only Way to Sell

Each of the above social media platforms has unique features when it comes to selling handmades. Whichever you choose, remember that clear, attractive photos are the key to getting the attention of your buyers. Learn about each platform. Try them out. And then decide for yourself which you will use. Don’t let anyone tell you there is only one way to sell online — I’ve just shown you there are multiple ways!

Now, go out there and get your business set up on social media–you can do it! Have fun with it! If you have any questions about starting a business selling handmades, leave a comment below, or on any of my social media pages. (Feel free to share your social media pages with me as well!)

Talk to you later,

Karen

Sell Your Handmades

Are you thinking about ways to sell your handmades now that you have 100 crochet dishcloths whipped up, and you’ve already given two to everyone you know? Are you thinking about possibly starting an Etsy shop?

There are options other than Etsy or craft shows for selling your handcrafted items which work easier and more efficiently.

Deciding to Sell Your Handmades

When I decided to start selling my handmades, I opened an Etsy shop. My husband was in the process of changing jobs, and I thought selling handmades would be a good way to supplement our income. I designed a cup cozy and started creating a bunch out of stash fabric– I simply used whatever supplies I had on hand as a way to make a profit.

My first year was dismal as far as sales; I didn’t sell a single thing. However, keep in mind that:

  1. The shop opened in November
  2. I had five items
  3. I had no idea what I was doing

Unfortunately, the next year wasn’t much better.  I made $79.50 for the whole year! I will admit that:

  1. My photos were AWFUL! Just horrible.
  2. My listings weren’t much better
  3. My promoting was just BAD

An income of $79.50 for the year is not going to pay my bills. I had to either get better or quit. I chose to get better, and I slowly improved over time.

Consider All Your Alternatives

When I started selling on Etsy in 2008, there weren’t as many other online sales venues. Etsy wasn’t nearly as big as it is now, and it was mostly Mom and Pop shops (not individual sellers). Pinterest and Instagram were just ideas in someone’s head at the time, and selling on Facebook and Twitter was almost non-existent.

As you consider today’s options for ways to sell your handmades, ask yourself these important questions:

  1. Is it worth the cost to pay Etsy 3% of every sale you make?
  2. Do you want to be one of the 1.6 million sellers on Etsy?
  3. Why give Etsy any of your hard earned money when you can use other venues for free?

Sell Your Handmades, www.chocolatedogstudio.com

If you are set on selling your handmades online, either on Etsy or another venue, then it’s time to start thinking of some basic business decisions, such as:

  1. Imagine the worse case scenarios when it comes to buying/selling online and figure out how you will handle each of them. Write your answers out and keep them somewhere safe so you will have them if you run into any of the scenarios.
  2. What will your return policy be? Make sure you put this in writing. You will need it at some point.
  3. Wrap an item for shipping and weigh it. Put this info in writing for easy reference.
  4. Research shipping costs and decide how you will handle long distance returns. (See #2.)
  5. Figure out average shipping costs to various locations in the USA so you can set your shipping prices accordingly. Do you want to ship to Alaska and Hawaii as well? What about other countries? (If not, include this info in your shipping policies.)
  6. Think about custom orders. Are you going to accept them? Will there be special charges for them?

Keep all this info in a safe place. This is part of your business plan. As you make more business decisions (such as how to market your handmades), you will want to keep all of this info together in a place where you can find it easily.

Sell Your Handmades, www.chocolatedogstudio.com

Creating a Business

If, after answering all these questions, you still desire to sell your handmades, then it’s time to get serious– get some business cards made. Business cards are a great way to create a business identity. Tuck one or two into each and every item you sell, hand them out to friends and give one to anyone you speak with who asks for your contact info (doctors, sales clerks, local craft shops, etc). Include a photo of an item that represents your business on the front of the card to boost your identity as a serious business owner.

Take good care of your printer, or buy a sturdy one. It will become a good friend to you as you print out receipts, business cards, invoices, and shipping labels.

Make sure you set up your finances correctly, too:

  1. Write a budget. (And stick to it!)
  2. Open a business checking account. (Never mix business and personal funds.)
  3. Keep track of your expenses. (For tax purposes.)
  4. Get a sales tax permit for your state if you sell to your local friends. (The IRS will find you sooner or later if you don’t.)
  5. Stay out of debt. (If you don’t have funds in your account then don’t buy anything–it’s not a good deal if you don’t have the cash.)

My final piece of advice when you are ready to sell your handmades is simple: have fun, be enthusiastic, and don’t worry. If you take care to make quality items and treat your customers and other sellers well, you will succeed. You may need to make adjustments here and there, but everyone (from Wal-mart on down to the neighbor’s garage sale) does that.

Have you started to sell your handmades yet? Are you still thinking about it? Which social media or other venue have you found to be the most profitable? Leave a comment and let me know!

Talk to you later,

Karen

 

Garage Sale Shopping for Craft Supplies

There are so many different places to buy older or gently used craft supplies:

  • garage sales
  • estate sales
  • thrift stores
  • flea markets/craft malls

But today, we are talking about craft supplies from garage sales. Yes, garage sales! I know, you normally think of clothing, toys, and household items, but I’m here to tell you that you can score some great finds for craft supplies, too, when you are garage sale shopping. Before you set out on the hunt for supplies this weekend, though, you need to be prepared.

Garage Sale Shopping for Craft Supplies, www.chocolatedogstudio.com

Before You Leave

Ask yourself these questions before you leave the house:

  1. What is it that I need to buy; am I trying to start or finish a specific project?
  2.  What is my spending budget for my purchases today?
  3.  Do I have my cash ready for shopping?
  4. Where am I going to do my garage sale shopping?

If you don’t know the answers to those questions, then you need to wait until you do. Get a pen and some paper. I’ll wait for you to answer them.

Off You Go!

Now that you have a game plan in place, you get in the car, buy coffee and donuts, pick up your BFF, and drive off to your first garage sale. Woohoo! You’ve reached the neighborhood and see the sale, but wait–!! Before you even stop the car you need to start asking yourself some questions again:

  1. Is the sale clean, in a clean environment, and safe?
    If the sale area looks dirty, or the items are sitting in the dirt, then the answer is NO! You don’t even need to get out of the car at that sale; just keep driving!
  2. Does the sale look like it might have what I want?
    If you need baby blue yarn or party decor for a boy’s birthday, and the garage sale is a sea of pink and purple, just keep driving. The chances that this place will have what you want are slim-to-none.

Garage Sale Shopping Score

Ok, you and you BFF have finally found a nice looking place to stop, and they actually have something you put on the giant list you made at home. Now you need to ask yourself these next few questions:

  • Do I know the content of the yarn, fabric, marker, etc.?

The content of art supplies has changed over the years, especially in kids’ craft supplies, so be careful. Check for the ‘non-toxic’ labels and make sure whatever you buy is safe according to new and current laws.

Try not to buy yarn unless it still has the labels on it so you know what kind of fiber you are buying. Otherwise, you might end up crocheting a wool sweater for your niece who happens to be allergic to wool. There are tests you can do to check fiber content, but sometimes the tests are just a rough approximation. Remember, only buy yarn for planned projects which you know you will complete. This keeps your stash down and your spouse happy. (Happy Spouse = Happy House.)

  • Can I clean or wash the item the minute I get home?

If you can’t wash it and it isn’t clean, just walk away. Don’t even buy it.

  • Is the item in good working condition?

Markers, paint, glue and other things dry up so make sure that they are still in good working condition. Don’t pay for something you can’t use.Garage Sale Shopping for Craft Supplies, www.chocolatedogstudio.com

  • If I can’t use the item right away, do I have a place to store it until I do?

This is so important! And so is this next one:

  • If I store it, will I remember I have it?

I have been known to buy Valentine treat bags (new, in the package) and then lose them until after the next Valentine’s Day. Have a place to store things, and know where you have stored them. A “master craft supply list” on your computer would come in handy for this.

Final Questions

The final question is a three part set.

      1. Is this a once in a lifetime buy?
      2. Is the price so good I can’t pass it up?
      3. Can I find it easily if I don’t buy it here?

If your answers are “yes,” “yes,” and “no,” and if you have not spent all your budgeted money, and if the item passes all the questions in the previous section, then you need to buy it before your BFF does! What are you waiting for?!

Those are all the questions I ask myself before and during my garage sale shopping trips for craft supplies. I hope they help you the next time you plan to go out! If you’ve found any once-in-a-lifetime buys at garage sales, I’d love to hear about it! Leave a comment below, and don’t forget to sign up for the newsletter.

Talk to you later,

Karen

P.S. The star in the photograph at the top of the page is made from vintage felt. The vintage pillowcase needs to be embroidered, but the embroidery floss pictured with it is not vintage.