Saturday, January 31, 2009

An Etsy Love Story

About a dozen women were hoping to buy this bag for themselves and maybe even hinting about it to their husbands or boyfriends, but one lucky woman is about to get it for Valentines Day. I traded emails with the man who bought it, and discovered that his woman is crazy about Etsy and hearted this bag a while back. I think it is so sweet that he knew about it and bought it for her. I don't know your name, but you are one blessed woman to have a man who would study you like that. I say, he's a keeper.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Making Hay, While the Sun Shines

This post was inspired by this poster by Slide Sideways

Everyone I know in the Northern Hemisphere is ready for Spring. While we probably aren't making hay, we should be making pictures whenever we do get a sunny day (like yesterday here.) Sometimes it means running outside to shoot some photos, making other things on the "to-do" list wait (like the laundry.) In Spokane, our morning light tends to be a little blue for portraits, making people more attractive in the late afternoon (or maybe it was that glass of wine ;-) I am glad I caught the frost on the trees at sunset last week, I may never see that again. There is a group on flickr that is fun to look at, with extreme cold and heat photos.
Frosted branches at sunset by me, Attractive person on a late afternoon hike also by me ;-)

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Making Posters - Valentines Idea Number 3

Since Valentine's and the 100th day of school tend to go together, it's fun to combine the themes. This poster of my younger son that we made for his 100 days of kindergarten project still brightens our hallway three years later.

What Daddy wouldn't turn to mush at receiving a poster of himself with his daughter for Valentine's day? This poster is about 20" long and 15" wide. It was printed on letter sized paper, the white edges were cut off, then the pieces were arranged and taped with double stick tape to a sturdy piece of tag board. For Caleb's poster above we left the white borders on and covered the poster with 100 kisses made from a rubber stamp and red ink. Here is the step by step instructions for printing your own valentine poster.

Using Microsoft Publisher 2007, the "how to" is easy.

1. Open Publisher and click on >blank page sizes>posters>22x17 (or whatever size you want.)

2.>Insert>Picture>from file>(I sized my pictures on photoshop to 20x16, and that is the file I used)
3.>File>Print Set up. Choose "Tiled" Choose paper size 8.5x11 "Portrait" Set the horizontal and vertical overlaps for .25

4. Once that is set. Check the print preview to see how it will tile print.

Voila, now you are ready for a Happy Valentines Day and only 80 more days of school 'till Summer vacation!

Monday, January 26, 2009

Coffee Search

My friend Randi is redoing her shop and it looks great. One of her new items inspired me to look further for coffee themed items. I love it!

Friday, January 23, 2009

Embroidery Made Easy

Proving that I really do sew, here is a tip on how I do some fun embroidery work without going blind or poking my fingers. To get the hand sewn look I have created here on your sewing machine is easy.
  1. Fill your bobbin with heavy thread, like upholstery thread or, as I used in these examples, denim top-stitching thread.

  2. The thread in the top of your machine should match the fibers in your fabric.

  3. For free-hand designs like the faux gilding in the banner photo, back the fabric with stabilizer and insert the fabric and stabilizer into an embroidery hoop. (No hoop necessary if you will be using a normal presser foot and feed dogs to make a simple design, like the flower below.) The hoop will give you something to hold onto and "steer" with as you use free-motion stitching to fill in the desired area with your design.

  4. Draw your design or, if you like to wing it like I do, draw the borders of your design area on the stabilizer. You will be stitching from the back side, on the stabilizer, (on the inside of the hoop if you are using a hoop.)

  5. After you take the first stitch, pull up the bobbin thread through the fabric, so you are not stitching over that tail of thread. Stitch your design, following your drawing or your imagination.

  6. After the last stitch, cut the threads and pull the tail of the bobbin thread through the fabric to the back side where you will tie the two threads together. Also tie the beginning stitch. If you have trouble pulling the thread through, thread the bobbin tail thread onto a needle and pass it through the fabric that way.

If you wouldn't mind clicking on one of the quick feedback boxes below, I would appreciate it!

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Take Me Home, Country Road

John Denver journal/album by VintagePaperWorks
I was doing the grocery shopping this morning and the in-store musack was that John Denver song. It made me think of myself when I was my daughter's age, singing along to his happy music. I wondered if anybody can afford to be that low key anymore (maybe I should have said "laid back" because I did not intend a musical pun there.) I thought "I bet you don't have this on your Ipod!" Then it made me think "but you could have this." (Strawberryluna's artwork on your ipod. The link is to her blog post about it.)

Then John sang "...West Virginia, mountain mama, take me home..." and I thought of the most refreshing featured seller interview I have ever read on Etsy's blog. Dolan Geiman being from Virginia and maybe about as unpretentious as John Denver himself. ...Sweet times in between the English muffins and the bananas...

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Cabin Fever Decorating

You know you're tired of Winter when all you can think about is redecorating the house. As I have been working with Amy Butler's bright fabrics for tea party chairs and bags this Fall and Winter, I mentioned to Rory that I would love to redo the house in bright fabrics. He laughed. I think he had a vision of everything turning into bubble gum and tea parties, like this chair I made for Gabrielle.

Sometimes I will leave a couple of my bags on a chair to get him used to the idea. (The chair in the upstairs hall is perfect for that.) He'll come around. By the time I actually redo things, it will be his idea ; ) ...but don't tell him I planned it that way.

This boring couch is going to get redone in a bright green crypton herringbone for the base. Then, for the back, each pillow will be unique and colorful, something like this beauty from Stitch in Dye. Next to it on the wall, I've got room for new art too, like this poster from Strawberryluna.

I'm having fun using poster sketch to look at fabrics and art together. Okay, all done dreaming and planning for today. I have got to get that next pattern out or people will start to think I don't really sew or make patterns, I just blog.

Monday, January 19, 2009

An In-Depth Look at Wholesale

There is an informative Storque article about the basics of selling wholesale. The article covers pricing, terms and packaging considerations. I wanted to get a little more in depth on the topic with a couple of knowledgeable and experienced artisans.
wristlet by janinekingdesigns
Janine King is an established independent designer of fine quality, fun and unique fabric handbags. Working from their expanded carriage house studio in upstate New York, Janine and her husband Donald run JanineKingDesigns, a premier Made in the USA cottage company. With over 6,000 sales on, Janine brings a mature perspective to the topic of selling wholesale. I feel privileged that she is willing to share her wisdom with us.
pendant by 215Design
Trudy of 215Design, is a 7th grade English teacher at a private school in Kansas City, MO. Making pretty pendants and packaging them beautifully gives her a creative outlet outside of her regular work. I love the enthusiasm Trudy brings to this article.

this photo byOrganicStills Trade shows and reps are the traditional (maybe old fashioned now) wholesale venues. Janine spent time pursuing these routes before settling on Etsy as her location of choice to market her lines. Janine says, "Our items fit into the ‘Gift Market’, which is inundated, with inexpensive China imports. We can’t compete with the pricing. And we can’t mass-produce at the required levels."

My own experience with the ABC show in Las Vegas is that attendance at trade shows has dwindled over the past several years, and both boutiques and small manufacturers are seeking less expensive alternatives to sourcing and marketing their goods. In response to this trend, juvenile marketing expert, James Girone, runs a virtual trade show on his site, a must-see for anyone with infant-juvenile lines. Additionally, rep commissions are usually 15%- 20% of the wholesale price. Unless you can produce your items very quickly and cheaply, your profits will be slim or non-existent. Both Janine and I found it difficult to make a profit selling wholesale through reps.

How Wholesale Happens Janine has had several shop owners tell her they found her by stopping women on the street and asking them where they got their bag. This echoes what I have learned from shop owners over the years. They know what they want when they see it.
(Get stopped on the street by carrying this bag by ArmandoJavierDesign)

If the wholesale buyers are not seeking you out, Trudy suggests sending an email to boutiques, referring them to your shop or website. This has resulted in several accounts for 215Design. Another source of wholesale accounts for Trudy and other popular Etsy sellers has been (a website where brick and mortar owners can shop for wholesale items to sell retail.)
Having a shop on Etsy does make you visible to boutiques looking for unique items to feature. Trudy says, "I have 5 new wholesale accounts from people who have found me through my Etsy shop." Janine has used her Etsy shop to streamline the wholesale process, by clearly stating her offerings and requirements in her wholesale listings.

Put the horse before the cart. (toy by twelfthdimension)
I asked Janine, "Do you find that selling wholesale helped you get more efficient in your production methods and therefore, more profitable in your retail business?" Her response reveals her business savvy: "The other way around, actually. We became efficient enough in our production methods for retail that we realized that it was possible for us to sell wholesale, but on a limited basis only. "

Trudy offers some inspiration for getting more organized: "I have had to become very efficient in my production because large orders tend to overlap each other. Keeping my supplies fully stocked and my studio tidy helps my production speed. I have also figured out a nightly schedule to produce my necklaces (my necklaces take 3 days to produce due to drying time). I have a batch of necklaces going all of the time. I have to be efficient because I am a 7th grade English teacher by day. I have become more profitable in my Etsy retail shop because people have seen my items in boutiques and visit my website. Also, my husband helps me with the packing and shipping." Organize t-shirt by hungryknife
Don’t get discouraged. Janine (remember now, she is the top seller of bags on Etsy) gets many wholesale inquiries that do not result in new accounts. She comments, "In recent years gift shop owners have become accustomed to buying inexpensive China imports that they can markup 400% and more. When they realize that they can’t purchase one of our $60 bags for $10-$12 they often lose interest. We seem to sell best to very exclusive shops, usually in upscale tourist destinations."

Here is Janine King’s advice to Etsians wanting to break into selling wholesale. "Unless your ultimate goal is to be a large manufacturer or a well known brand thus leaving Etsy altogether, I recommend that you put your energies into expanding your online retail business and use wholesale only to supplement your retail sales. If you aren’t selling enough retail on one site, then expand to other sites. This is called multi-channeling and many professional artisans do this, and if you really want to sell wholesale:
RULE #1: Make it easy on yourself. Be selective in what you offer and offer only your best selling items and/or items that are easy for you to produce. Make sure they are items that you can continue to produce for awhile. If an item sells well for a shop owner, they usually want to re-order and will be disappointed if the item is no longer available.
RULE #2: Make it easy for the shop owner to buy from you. Shop owners are busy people and more likely to buy if they can do so quickly online, without contacting you first for terms and pricing. I recommend setting up a wholesale section in your Etsy store and offer your best selling items at quantity discount. For example, we offer an assortment of 6 wristlets at 50% off retail.
Note: We stipulate in the listing that the customer must include tax-id in the ‘message to seller’ field to qualify to purchase the wholesale listing. As a general rule, you don’t want to offer quantity discount pricing to your retail customers. The intention is to grow your business with the repeat business of your wholesale customer who will come back to you over and over again to stock their store. A retail customer who buys in quantity will usually do so only once, say for Christmas or bridesmaids gifts. A retail customer cannot offer the repeat business a shop owner can. You will upset/alienate your wholesale customers if you offer the same discount to everyone and consequently they may look elsewhere to buy. " laptop bag by JanineKingDesigns
Trudy adds an uplifting anecdote. "I wasn't expecting the amount of wholesale business that I received before the holidays. I had only been selling on Etsy for a few months, and I was contacted by 3 boutiques for very large wholesale orders (over 600 necklaces). I told my husband that I was determined to finish the orders. I am a perfectionist, so I pulled a few all nighters, being fed snacks and water by my husband who would periodically check in on me in my studio. He would also assemble the ballchain necklaces. The night that we had to package the orders was hilarious. It was 3 in the morning, we were slap happy, trying to bubble wrap the necklaces and singing along to our Ipod. We would periodically take dance breaks to help keep our sanity. With the profit made on those orders, I took him away for a fabulous long weekend to Vermont. My lesson was learned - in my downtime on my summer/winter/spring vacations, stock up!! Wholesaling has been a wonderful experience for me with incredible shop owners. I have a few shops in my city where I take a big batch of necklaces monthly for them to purchase. I just love it when the owners and customers "ooh" and "aahhh" at my work. And, knowing that my product - made with so much love by me - is around the necks of people worldwide, makes me happy."

Friday, January 16, 2009

Oops! What do you do?

I received an email from a most wonderful Etsy buyer who kindly pointed out a mistake on my best selling pattern! It's a tiny typo and easy to figure out, maybe that's why the 50 people before her never mentioned it? Still, it needed fixing. I promptly emailed her one of my other PDF patterns as a thank you. We were both exceedingly grateful to one another. Happy ending. Do you have an "oops!" story with a happy ending? I'd love to read it. By the way, "oops" is a fun search to do on Etsy.
cupcake is an oops listing from LilyBaySoap

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Never Say Never

I knew it would tempt someone beyond their ability to resist. It was not bait. It was an honest evaluation. Still some people just can't help themselves. It is so fun to prove someone wrong.

When I said my cute bag would never make it to the front page, I meant it. Now it's in this treasury with so many really pretty things. I am afraid it almost ruins it. Will someone please buy it before it gets to the front page, so the worthy alternate with a prettier picture (I'm sure) can take its place? It really is a wonderful, cute bag. I just had a hard time photographing it.
Do you catch yourself when you are tempted to say it? Or do you fly in the face of fickle fate, and cry "never! never! never!"

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Getting Paid to Live in Paradise - Queensland

tee shirt by JettasNest

Queensland Austrailia is looking for someone to come live on an island paradise for 6 months and blog about it. The person who is chosen will also be paid a six figure income. After the Austrailian tourism board announced the contest yesterday, their website crashed and I was unable to enter : ( Read a good version of the full story here. The good news is they are accepting applications through February 22nd. Maybe we will submit ours after the initial rush has passed. My kids think we've already won and are packing their bags. Who wouldn't want to use our family to advertise the Great Barrier Reef? With a teenager on board, we'd probably call the video blog "Finding Emo."

Whoever gets picked will find some wonderful Etsy artists in Queensland.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Valentine Idea Number 2

A few years ago, I made a small collection of cards that I sent out, using definitions out of our dictionary published in 1927 (yes, it is pretty cool, and yes, we use it.) I thought about making some PDFs of these great dictionary pages, and making them available for my blog readers to download. Before distributing someone else's work, I thought I better check the copyright, so I spent an inordinate amount of time on Friday researching it. I found some very interesting information. John Grant, a copyright attorney in Seattle, gave me this link. It's a pretty cool way to check if something is still covered under copyright. I had researched through copyright library records and found that the original copyright on this dictionary was in 1927 and it was subsequently renewed in 1957, so the rights run until 2022. Sorry, I can't let you upload it.
digital collage sheet by Piddix

Then today the Storque ran a "quit your day job" article on Piddix, and in reading about her, I found a link to a great blog post she did about copyrights. So if you are interested in this stuff like I am, you will enjoy finding Piddix, reading her blog and browsing her shop.
I am still working on something you can upload because I am the copyright holder. It will probably be an image or two that you can use to make your own valentines. As for myself, this year I'll probably spend $3.00 for that sheet at Piddix and make 25 cute valentines out of that.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Expert Help Available

the Beatles in Mouse Form by TheHouseofMouse
An Etsy seller named TheHouseofMouse posted a list of Etsy experts who are willing to share their knowledge with the Etsy world. It is quite an exhaustive list. To get the help, you just send a convo to the expert, and they message you back with their help. What a deal!

Perfect Red Heart Earrings by OverTheTop

Using the list, I came up with this as a follow up to my "Peddle It Like Peterman" post. Click on the title to read the description. I believe this woman is an expert in that area. How cool of her to offer to help others.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Valentine Idea Number 1

I have quite a number of fleece scraps left over from the hundreds of changing pad bags I've made over the past couple of years. For his birthday in November, I gave my nephew a very long loop of fleece in his school colors. I pictured him sharing it with his girlfriend at football games. I talked him into modeling it with my son for the blog. It's not a product I am going to carry, so I was pretty casual about the photography.

scarf for two print by theblackapple

I think Emily Martin captured the idea I had in mind in her artwork. It's just some 6" wide random lengths of anti-pill fleece sewn together on the serger because I like the look of the serging. When I was in highschool, I would have loved this as a valentine gift. Feel free to use this scarf idea for your own shop if you are so inclined.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Peddle it like Peterman

Stag Secret- Vintage Locket Necklace by TheHandofFatima
This blog post about the origins of the Mary Jane shoe, got me thinking. We have a longing for history and a fascination with narrative. Seinfeld made fun of it, but who could put down a J. Peterman catalog? It was so full of adventure and romance. If true art elicits emotion, then marketing becomes an art when photos and description combine to move us to obtain the desired object. Look deeper into the old marketing adage, "find a need and fill it." Living in abundance as we do, chances are our physical needs are met. What need is left? There is true need for originality, authenticity, beauty, romance, identification, and more. I have found some descriptions particularly provocative and appealing to emotional needs. I offer them here as inspiration both to those of us who market on-line and those who "go to market" on-line.

J. Peterman himself would drool over every item in Urban Heirlooms' Shop.
leather key fob by urbanheirlooms

ToyBreaker combines masculine wit with excellent photography, while at MixedSpecies, it's all about the wit.
Cats Tooth Necktie by toybreaker

For a good clean laugh, check this out! soap by DirtySanchez

MyDeepBlueC will dress you like a rock star, even if you quit band in the 6th grade. customized boys jeans by mydeepbluec

Monday, January 5, 2009

Am I worthy?

We see versions of this question posted daily on the Etsy forums. Are my photos treasury worthy? Why am I never picked for the Etsy front page? Answers abound in the form of photography tips and tricks, and networking advice. In my opinion, what most of us are missing in our own photography is the vital element of perspective. How do your photos look side by side with those that are appearing on the font page? Using Etsy's poster sketch, you can easily check for yourself and, in some cases make adjustments to your existing photos to make them work.

First, go to poster sketch. (I saved mine to my desktop by clicking "page" and "save as" in my browser bar, now I can click on it anytime and get to work.) Load the sketch with the item(s) of yours that you want to test along with items you have seen on the front page. I started with the photo above because I thought it was so great and I could not understand how so many front pages featuring these colors could get posted and not one of them feature my bag. What I discovered was that while my bag was photogenic, showing it in its entirety was keeping it out of treasuries. There was too much white space and the photo lost all of its punch. After cropping the photo closer, it becomes treasury worthy. Here is a screen shot of the finished sketch. My bag is in the lower left corner.

list of sellers in this sketch in order of appearance: outoftheflames, randomscraps, humbledaisyhandmade, ragnazidnar, livepoultry, petalandpink, thepaintedlily, rachel323, khphillips, debbyaremdesigns, patapri, studiocherie, studiocherie, sagegold, rachel323, elephannie

Using this method, I have discovered that some of my bags need a fresh photo shoot. The last photo in the third row of the poster above is a detail shot of a cute bag, but I am afraid that the fabric is a lot better in person than it is in the photos. This shot might work a little better, but I am afraid it is still too washed out and small for the front page. The door and the brick wall is more interesting than the bag. Can you be brutally honest with yourself? I have to accept that this bag is not front page material and never will be.

Here is another sketch I put together with one of my bags in each row. Each row could be the start of a complete treasury. I think they hold up to scrutiny along side the most popular sellers. So now I don't have to ask if my photos are treasury worthy, I can check them myself.

sellers appearing in this sketch in order of appearance: rachel323, studiocherie, larimeloom, LittleSparrowNest, studiocherie, makool, sherrytruitt, redrubyrose, totusmel, dillondesigns, studiocherie, maryandangelika, paintedmetal, studiocherie, livepoultry, imagesofbeauty

Saturday, January 3, 2009

I love my kids

As I was calling the family to dinner this evening, Caleb came bouncing up the stairs from the family room, asking "Mom, are you lactose intelligent?"

Friday, January 2, 2009

If the Shoe Fits, Wear It - The Shoe Philosopher Part IV

funny serving dish by reclaim2fame

I had an epiphany the other night, as I got ready to go out with Rory. I put on my navy suit with the flirty skirt and fun piping, my ruched white cotton blouse, my necklace that I made out of a $4 key chain that always garners many compliments (even when I wore it recently on Rodeo Drive – that was delightful!) and when it came to putting on shoes, I was stumped. My navy pumps looked frumpy. They had to go into the Goodwill bag.

pendant and chain by SweetBlueAugust
I dove deeper into my closet, praying for a fashion miracle. Happily, I had a pair of white platform mules that I had bought on a whim and rarely worn that made the outfit, but it was a close call. I came very near to having to change my whole ensemble for lack of proper foot attire. That experience gave me a healthy respect for the well-stocked shoe closet. Now, I just need the well-funded shoe budget.

crochet pattern by whiletheyplay

And when I hear "If the shoe fits..." I think of "fits" in a whole new way. The fitting shoe makes me feel 10 feet tall and bullet proof. (I get up to about 6 feet in the white mules, maybe that's why I love them.)