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Staying on Track: Use Your Stash Challenge 2017

Staying on Track

Another day, another project in the Use Your Stash Challenge 2017! This one I have been putting off for at least two years–maybe more, considering the baby I made the first one for is now four-years-old. This is such a beautiful baby blanket, I couldn’t resist starting another one–but that was years ago. If you’re like me and find that staying on track isn’t always easy, this post will be an encouragement to you.

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Organizing New Ideas for Future Crochet Projects

Organizing New Ideas

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Sometimes, when you get new ideas for future crochet projects, you aren’t ready to start working on them right away. You need time to think about them — to refine and perfect them — until you’re ready to begin the project. So, how do you keep those new ideas stored and organized until you are ready to start working on them? I have several things which I do that help me keep new ideas in mind.

1. Take a Photo with My Phone

I will take pictures of things that  inspire me or trigger ideas in my mind. My phone is usually always with me and a photo is worth 1,000 words. The thin and thick stripes in this wrapping paper would make a great crochet blanket, scarf or sweater.

Inspirational stripes

And here’s an example of a striped fabric that caught my eye. I like the colors in this, although they do seem a bit dark. The widths of the various stripes and the color sequence would lend themselves easily to being repeated in an afghan.

Fabric inspires new ideas

This blanket was inspired by the yarns within it since they inspired me to see the Autumn landscape of Oklahoma: the browns of the plowed fields; the golds and rusts of the trees; the blue from the sky and lakes; and the green of the old dried grasses in the pastures.

Inspired by nature

2. Pin It to My Secret Pinterest Inspiration Board

Yes, I do have several secret boards. (Doesn’t everyone?) If it is online, I will pin it to my secret inspiration board which no one else has access to. When you choose to create something based on what someone else has created, you need to be very careful about claiming too much of their work as your own. You can use it as a springboard to a new idea, but downright copying and passing it off as yours is piracy.  While I do have a secret Pinterest board, it isn’t filled with just other’s work — it has photos of color mood boards, stitches that I want to try, and other things that I think will make beautiful projects.

3. Go “Old School” (Paper and Pencil) and Write the New Ideas Down

(Affiliate links are included for the products I use. I will receive a small percentage of any item you purchase, but it will not affect your pricing.)

Often, I will draw out new ideas or write them down. I find this method increasingly hard to manage, though, as papers tend to get shuffled and lost. Here’s an example of a couple of my composition books (which I love!) full of ideas and crochet patterns.

Storing new ideas

I also love the post-it note brand of tabs and file folder labels.  I use them to mark the beginning of each pattern or idea that I put in the composition book. It helps keep the patterns organized and easy to find.

Keeping track of new ideas

Another thing I use all the time is a legal pad and clipboard. I write the pattern and notes furiously and then flip the pages. You can even see the paper sometimes in the background of my photos. Nearly every pattern I write has its beginnings on paper in some form. I always try to date and take progress photos as I work. This helps me keep track of how I put it together as well as document my thought processes. This all translates to detailed patterns, with photos, for you!

organizing new ideas

4. Pin It to a Real Life Bulletin Board or Magnet Board

saving new ideas
Check out more cool bulletin boards here: https://www.etsy.com/listing/165564215

Sometimes I’ll see a photo in a magazine I own, or maybe the  colors in fabric or yarn in my stash will catch my eye. When that happens, I will actually pin the photo or the materials to a bulletin board. I haven’t been doing this as often as I have been taping them into the composition book. The book is working better for me at this time, since I don’t have a dedicated working space. I often find myself in my chair, at the dining table…basically, working all over the house.

How Do You Save Your New Ideas?

Now that you’ve read about the methods that I am using right now, I’d love to know what you do to keep your ideas organized. Leave a comment below to start the conversation!
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Talk to you later,

Karen

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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

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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