Saturday, December 28, 2013

Year End Thoughts

I've taken an unintentional break from the internet these past few weeks. It was an unusually busy end of year at work, with a huge design effort culminating in back to back week trips (one 2 days, the other a sort of massive 4 days....the week before Christmas). Most years it seems that projects kind of wind down before the holidays and end of year because there simply aren't the people around to pay them proper attention on the clients' side due to travel and vacations and such, so deadlines simply get set for sometime in January. But this year that was not the case, so that alone has me feeling a bit turned around. I mean....I had to have my husband address our Christmas cards! I did the list for him, but now in hindsight I can think of a handful of people I would have added had I been doing them myself, but you just have to do what you can do and let the rest go sometimes.

On top of the sort of odd frenzy at work, my little shop has had sort of an incredible year! I felt like I was a knitting machine these past few weeks (which has me thinking a bit how I'll want to differently handle next year's holiday season), and I finally had a chance to look at the numbers while I found myself awake at a sort of ungodly hour. I ended up sending out 17 hand knit or crochet goodies from November to beginning of December, plus another 2.5 on deck. (For fun, this compares to just 6 orders last year plus another 3 that came in just after the holidays through the end of January, with roughly the same non-existent level of marketing.) At one point earlier this month I was actually feeling simultaneously thrilled and a bit sick at the thought of it that I actually backed out of a craft fair I was supposed to do back on December 7, which is SO not like me. (Oh man, that actually reminds me that I didn't even include craft fair numbers in that count!) I set an order deadline for the shop to promise orders by Christmas and then I kept a close eye on the posted ship dates for USPS to deliver by Christmas Eve. Thank goodness they didn't seem to have the delivery issues that UPS and FedEx reported this year! In a fashion that is again, seriously unlike me, I found myself flying off to the post office minutes before they closed on multiple days before Christmas to get packages out on time. I even had to go so far to have to express just one of two pairs of legwarmers to my cousin, which would account for the "half" order on deck. I feel terrible about that, but I guess in trying to make the best of it I can adjust the fit of the second pair if needed, and there will certainly be some extra goodies in the second package for her little girl!

I had a hard time falling asleep last night as well, with tons of post ideas rolling around in my head, most of which I of course cannot remember now. One of them was definitely how I'd like to change up my shop process for next year. For starters, I think I need to pre-make some of my more popular items. While I definitely like the option for people to pick and choose their color and size, and will continue to offer that option, I bet I could take a little pressure off myself by examining the trends so far. The cottage slipper socks were definitely my most popular item both this year and last, and the colors trended sort of the same way as well - mostly the oatmeal color that's pictured as well as charcoal gray, and mostly size medium. They are probably the most expensive item in my shop on my end in terms of materials, which has always stopped me from keeping them in stock, but now that they've sold pretty steadily for two seasons, I'd be ok making up a few pairs in advance.

Last year I sold several of the long tail elf hats, but only a few this year via Etsy - I sold a few more at craft shows. Those are pretty low impact to make up ahead though, and I feel like the color options are more limited for the "standard" item - mainly reds and greens for Christmas colors, and it wouldn't hurt to have some newborn sizes in pink and blue around as well.

Toddler mittens were sort of a whim for me - basically I toyed around with a few different designs because I needed some, and listed them on the site for kicks. They've been flying! It sort of boggles my mind that people don't seem hesitant to pay $18 for kid's mittens, but that's a fairly middling price compared to others I've seen around on Etsy. There also doesn't seem to be a ton in the standard chain stores (from my super limited search) for an every day mitten that isn't the hardcore, playing in the snow for hours, enormous puffy deal. Definitely a time and place for those, but the run to daycare really isn't it. So while these are more time intensive than the elf hats, they've been pretty solid and are lower in cost for materials as I can make several pairs from a single ball or skein of yarn, that's another one I think I would consider keeping in stock. Especially since I had to turn down an inquiry for a bulk order! That one bummed me out, because I'd have loved to help this person out....there was just no way to do it before the end of the year. It's just me over here! As much as I enjoy knitting and this brave new retail world, I can't let myself take on too much to the detriment of my family life.

To sort of spin off that last line...I'm a little jealous of all of my customers! I have some generously gifted sock yarn just sitting in my disaster of a craft room/ office/ let's face it, it's the cat's room that I would love to turn into socks for myself...but the time just isn't there! Standard socks....while they are seemingly a staple for many knitters, they've always intimidated me. I'm not exactly sure why! I make the slipper socks, so I probably know all the techniques. But the yarn and needles I use for that are many times larger than those for real socks that are actually meant to fit inside shoes lol. I guess I worry that when working with such small tools that it won't feel like I ever make any progress? I definitely enjoy knitting as a hobby, but lately life has been all about deadlines, so the thought of knitting on a longer turn around is a little scandalous to me!

In addition to my apparently guilty pleasure, personal sock knitting, I have at LEAST 2 other things I'd like to make for my nearest and new ideas for the shop. I've got my sister testing out a new product, er, Christmas earwarmer headband thing. I made a few earlier this year that I wasn't happy with, and whipped out this new one just in time for Christmas. Literally...I mean like hours before I gave it to her! Given that amount of development, I'm not ready to list it yet, so I'll have to see what she thinks. Always trust little sisters to give you true, honest feedback! Plus I want to develop a shorter, slip-on slipper. I LOVE my tall slippers, but they really only work with leggings, skinny jeans/jeggings, or tights. I want more of an every day deal to leave lying by the back door that I can put on when I get home from work with normal pants. Bonus to self - I would get to keep the samples for myself! I also have a charity hat to knit (that I was supposed to have done by December 16! Ouch!) that will really move to the very top of my list after my paid orders are out the door. More than I need a nice pair of socks....a warm hat for someone in need is certainly more important this winter. So with that....since sleep doesn't look likely and who has time for to knitting!

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Ok West Elm, I'm Impressed!

So earlier this week, I posted about this runner I got from West Elm a few weeks back that was pretty off kilter.

I'd been waffling about whether or not to return it, even though it's obviously flawed. Mostly because it seemed like too big of a pain to find an open UPS drop place. First world problems, I know, right? Well anyway, after a little encouragement, I finally just sent them an email inquiry to see if this was typical of all of these rugs, or if mine was indeed messed up. (I guess I thought that perhaps they would rely on the handstamped nature of the rug as a reason? Like handmade imperfection? Which, uh, as a handmade maker I really try to avoid myself, so that seems silly even to me.)

Anyway, I was just using their online form so there wasn't a way to attach this photo (and I certainly didn't direct them to my blog, because who the h*ll am I?), but I offered to send it if they wanted to follow up. So yesterday, I actually got a personal phone call assuring me that no, that was definitely NOT normal - no photo needed. And not only could I exchange this item, which is now on final sale, but she was going to arrange for UPS to pick it up at my house AND provide a mailing label! Which honestly was another reason I hadn't done the exchange earlier - I would either have to wrestle with my home printer which is always out of ink somehow, or remember to print it at work which is impossible. (Oh lord, how lazy can I be?!?!) Then they'll have a new one to me in about a week!

I have to say, this has been one of the most pleasant customer service experiences I've ever had!

Tuesday, November 19, 2013


Madness is certainly an apt description of life of late. Madness is also how I might describe the decision to do 3 craft shows, 2 weeks apart, with 2 weeks of initial prep. And shall we also add in entirely new products? And we can't forget that the Etsy shop is in full swing of the holiday rush! These are all not bad problems to have in the scope of things though, that's for sure. Every spare moment it seems has been spent with busy hands, knitting, sewing, crocheting, oh boy, is my house a mess and have we ever been eating a lot of delivery food! And as it happens, otherwise occupied hands make for a blog full of crickets. I'm quite sure that I actually took a bunch more photos with my good camera with all intentions of blogging about them, but as it turns out I can't seem to connect any time to blog with access to those photos, so a few phone shots to catch up it is!

So here we have 2 new items that haven't yet made it into the Etsy shop, but did do the rounds at 2 of 3 craft fairs so far. The mug cozy is something that I initially thought was just cute and would be quick to whip up several of them in order to actually have some stock to offer at these shows. But wouldn't you know it....they actually work!?! I have a habit of making myself a cup of tea at work, getting distracted, and remembering it's there only to take a sip and it's gross and cold. This little wrap though actually keeps it warm for about 45 minutes and drinkable and not gross for an hour! Holy cow. So I hope to have some more of these ready to go in the shop before x-mas, as I think they would make a cute stocking stuffer. I also took time during the shows to keep crafting, and came up with these sweet little flowers. I sold them as hair clips, but I would love to add them to some hats - I think it could really "girl" up something like the newsboy hat. (Also, shellac manicures DO last a really long time without chipping! They also give you some mad noticeable grow-out if you find yourself without the time to properly remove it, haha)

This is unrelated to anything, but I ordered this rug from West Elm....and it's totally crooked on one side. I haven't decided if it bugs me enough to return or exchange it. I ordered it before it went down to the final sale price on the I think I could still exchange? It's not so bad laid out as is, with the crooked side toward the door. But I can't really rotate it (it's a runner) without that crooked part looking me in the eye, so I guess if I keep it, it just won't wear evenly. Which....for the $40 I spent....maybe that's ok? Maybe it's time to just get the rug pads out for it so it stops slipping all over the place and call it a day? And find a rug for the living room and stop living in musical rugs madness (that's a whole other story!).

One (of many) pairs of sweet little mittens going out the door. These have been crazy popular in the shop. I think I have 4 pairs to make in the next week!!

Oh boy. I shouldn't be sent to the store with no time limits.......

But I think it was worth it! I've started making these tote bags after discovering a miraculous source of those awesome, funky printed coffee sacks (and chocolate too! Those are coming!). I'm totally digging them. They are super roomy inside, big enough for a laptop, with all kinds of inside pockets for cords, and phone, and whatnot, with a magnetic clip on top to keep it all contained. The front and bottom are super durable burlap material, cut to include all the cool printing, and pre-washed and dried to soften them up. Then I made the back out of this soft fleece with some added interfacing for strength, tough cotton webbing for the straps, and contrasting lining fabric! So far these have been craft show exclusive, but after my last show on Dec. 7, I plan on listing anything left (and any more I'm able to make) in the shop as ready to ship items. Most of what I do knit-wise is made to order so that I can customize colors and sizes, but since these prints are unique, it's tough to do custom. Bright side though is that there's no lag time, so they would also make good x-mas gifts!


And finally, just some shots from this weekend that pretty much typify what I'm doing when I'm not here. Watching the rain, filling the house with fall scents (I love this "mountain lodge" candle from Yankee Candle - it is such a light scent that it smells like nothing in the sensory overload of the store, but is juuuust right when you get it home. I hate overpowering smells, even good ones!), and settling in with a hot cup of tea to work on more Etsy orders (that's a cottage slipper sock). At least until the end of naptime!

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Happy Halloween!

I've been ridiculously busy these past few weeks, using every available minute to get ready for my first craft fair this weekend, as well as keeping on top of a few orders from my etsy shop. A good problem to have for sure, but it makes for busy hands!!

But in the spirit of Halloween, this crazy pumpkin pyramid appeared near my house, and I just had to get a picture of it all lit up. Pretty impressive!!

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Of Late

Wow. How do those daily/multiple times per week bloggers do it!? I feel like I've been so busy with life in general that there simply isn't time to upload photos, have a thought, write a post....but I've definitely been up to some things, so here's a snapshot. Or two.

We took serious advantage of a "fill your car for just $28" special at a local farm, and Halloween'ed up the cottage. I think I'll have time to carve approximately zero of these pumpkins, but I'm still enjoying the way the pumpkins make the untrimmed planting beds look almost on purpose. However this might not look quite so cute in February....since I doubt we'll actually get them cleaned up before the snow falls!

We found an amazing deal on a place to stay through my friend's aunt's friend (got that?) in Manhattan, so we were NYC-bound for a long weekend to celebrate our 6th wedding anniversary! We had the most ridiculously good weather for mid-October. It was nice enough to walk around without jackets most of the time! I've been there twice before, but I haven't done the really touristy stuff either time, either because I was "too cool" or too cheap. But this time we went to the top of several buildings as well as visiting the Statue of Liberty which re-opened during the government shutdown just in the nick of time.

Pretty much the entire results of my garden...all grown without any assistance from me. The herbs that I'm drying (holy cow, how domestic am I?!) are entirely self seeding, and the little pumpkins and gourds are kind of weeds. I guess my compost doesn't get hot enough, and squash sort of comes up willy nilly, but this year I actually got some little pumpkins! The potted herbs I've actually managed to keep alive indoors all summer, which is a small miracle. Turns out houseplants like water! Who knew!

Finally in the background, I've always thought that doing a craft fair might be fun. I rejoined the devil known as facebook, and saw that a friend was doing a couple. I asked if she might be interested in a booth buddy, and she said she was! So since then, I've been busily knitting and crocheting my fingers to the bone to try to build up some sort of inventory that I hope people will like. Because I'm not super bright and the first show is in less than two weeks!! Worse comes to worse, it will be a fun way to figure out if I want to do any more of these in the future and it will basically be a win if I can sell enough to cover my half of the booth fee. Plus if things don't sell I can always put them up as ready to ship items in my shop! (and omg I'm not actually going to be selling socks at these craft fairs - that's a book that one of my knitting group members generously lent me. I would love to be able to knit my own socks, but I think I'll have time for that in approximately 3 years.)

So! Whew! That really does feel like a lot going on lately!

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Pumpkin Head Halloween Costume

In case you missed me over at Delightfully Noted for her Wicked Craft's a repost of my Halloween costume crafting.

Halloween is one of my favorite, favorite times of year. I looove the turning of the season, the chill in the air, sweaters, scarves, campfires, pumpkin....everything! While I'm a big fan of the pumpkin spice lattes, I'm actually here to talk about the pumpkin as the classic Halloween costume. It's pretty special to me as that FIRST Halloween costume for a couple of reasons. My mom made almost all of my Halloween costumes over the years, and I so love that memory. And the first costume of all of them was a pumpkin head! I could have actually used that same costume, but it's important to me to start that tradition all over again for my family. We can always use the original for playing dress up!

My mom taught me to sew in high school, and though I've been doing it for quite a while, I'm definitely no expert! This isn't necessarily a step-by-step how-to for that reason, but whenever I find myself stuck or having problems, I love looking to Make It & Love It for super clear and helpful tutorials.

When I'm sewing more than a hem or something simple like a rectangular pillow, I turn to patterns. I like the Simplicity brand because, well, they're pretty simple! They're good for beginners because they don't typically have a lot of complex steps or advanced stitches. I also tend to avoid things with buttons and zippers if I don't want to have a headache later! In this case I did some research ahead of my trip to the fabric store (I went to Joann's). Basically you just check the back of the pattern envelope and look at the options for your chosen pattern (they usually come with several related patterns per envelope - here I was following "D") and look under "Notions." Elastic and velcro are pretty easy, but I personally steer clear if buttons or zippers are listed! This envelope will also tell you how much fabric you need to buy. I like to buy a little extra to make sure that I don't come up short after pre-shrinking it in the wash - that's VERY annoying!

So gather up all of your materials.

The orange fleece doesn't matter so much because it doesn't fray, but the black cotton I wanted to use for the face will. It helps if you clip the corners on a diagonal before washing because it will help limit any fraying.

There's a white sheet of directions included along with tissue paper sheets that have all the pattern outlines. Here again you just look for the letter (D) of the pattern you are making, and it tells you which of the pattern outlines you'll want to cut out. It also gives you a layout that will help you maximize your fabric. The tissue sheets will also tell you what they are for specifically. I thought the hat looked pretty silly, and I had a different idea for underclothes other than the jumpsuit, so I opted not to make them. This means I didn't need to cut out the pieces associated with those parts of the costume. To me, this is part of the beauty of DIY-ing rather than just buying a whole outfit - it just seems easier to personalize it!

Gather up your materials. For me the most important things other than a work surface and sewing machine, etc. are the wine and junky shows streaming on Netflix. That's old school "Charmed" in the background! Way more seasons than I remember. :)

From here the pattern instructions will pretty much tell you what to do. Which, well, obviously.

This doesn't mean I don't deviate from time to time. I was supposed to use fusible interfacing for the, uh, face of the pumpkin. Basically you iron this sheet of paper onto the fabric that you want to turn into an applique, which is a fancy word for sticker as far as I can tell. Then you peel off the paper which exposes a sort of blue, and you iron them onto your fabric using a damp cloth. Why damp cloth, I have no idea, but since I don't usually use this stuff I went with it.

It looked super cute, but because I was trying to get the face to stick to the sort of nubby texture of the fleece, I didn't really trust the interfacing. The corners seemed a little loose to me, so I ended up stitching along the edges anyway. I suppose that's fine because the interfacing held it in place nicely while I sewed. If I had used just pins I'm sure it would have slipped all around, so in hindsight maybe that worked out well!

The one other thing I did a little differently was right at the end when you turn everything right side out, rather than just stitch it closed as they directed, I opted to add some stuffing. I wanted to make sure my little pumpkin was nice and round!

After the finishing touches, here is the finished product!

I found some cute striped leggings at the Carter's outlet that look just perfect, and I will top it off with a cute knit pumpkin head hat!

So that's my method for homemade costumes! It's definitely not perfect, but I hope that my little one will have the same great memories of wearing costumes made with love like I do.

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Has this ever happened before?

On deck for me today:

9:00 - brow wax
9:15 - manicure/pedicure
11:15 - massage

Whaaat?! I think the last time I was THAT pampered was the day before my wedding. And I didn't get a massage that day, and I probably was stressed out about something. How did I get myself such a trifecta (quadfecta?) of a day? Well, I got a gift certificate/reimbursement thing from work a few months ago for a job well done that I could use for ANYTHING I wanted. I wanted to use it all up at the same time because I needed to put it all on one expense report. I originally planned to just get the mani/pedi and buy myself some gift certificates for massage so that I could make the pampering last as loooong as possible. However...yesterday I started to feel my neck going out AGAIN (seriously, that would be the sixth time this year....I thought it was a joke that you start falling apart at 30. It is not.) so I lucked out in that I could actually get in for one today. Huzzah! And I'll still pick up a certificate for another at a later date.

I'm just guessing. But I think it will be the best. day. ever!

Friday, October 11, 2013

Pumpkin Link Party?


I'm going to go ahead and admit that despite being a reader of blogs for many years, and a writer of blogs for fewer but still multiple years....I totally do NOT understand these "linky parties." I see them pop up from time to time in my reader, and I mostly do the confused dog head tilt thing (you know what I'm talking about), go huh, and move on.

Despite that, I saw one this week on NewlyWoodwards (one of my long time fave blogs) that actually related to something I'd written this week - my pumpkin head costume guest post, so I figured I'd give it a shot. Sooo....I guess I'm in? (and maybe someone can explain to me what exactly I'm "in"?)

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Guest Posting at Delightfully Noted!

Yikes, it's my very first guest post! Won't you come visit me over at Delightfully Noted? I'm sharing where I ended up after outlining my plans for a classic Halloween costume here.

(I love the graphics Jennifer added - very Pinterest-ey!)

Linked up to the Newlywoodwards Pumpkin Parade

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

I love/hate technology

My smartphone is the best and worst thing that has ever happened to me.

Someone asked me last night what I liked and didn't like about my phone, as she's in the market for a smartphone. I have an iPhone 4s, which is sort of irrelevant to my train of thought here, but anyway. I love that I always have a camera on hand now, and so many moments that I would usually miss because I feel weird carrying around a real camera are easily captured. I love that I can quickly and easily share cute videos or pictures with my family via text or email. I love that I now have GPS even if my car doesn't. I love that I can check the weather forecast from beneath the jumble of my blankets without even fully opening my eyes. (I admit though that I sometimes remind myself of Phoebe from Friends, the one where she walks into the apartment and asks, "Hey, can we turn on the TV? I think it's raining outside.") I love that I can access all my favorite blogs and shopping and to do lists and schedule with a few taps. I love streaming Netflix on my laptop, which in combination with my DVR totally makes up for our lack of cable tv, because it saves me from flipping through the channels to relax and lets me watch what I want, when I want.

But.....I feel like it often overtakes my life. I despise looking up from my phone, and seeing my husband totally absorbed in his as well, both of us completely tuning out the room, and each other. I love pulling the laptop into bed so that I can knit and watch Real Housewives of whatever before I go to sleep while simultaneously referencing my pattern online.....but I also hate realizing that my husband is downstairs watching tv and working on his laptop far too late into the night at the same time.

I like that everything is all neatly bundled into my smartphone, but every time I think of taking a technology free weekend I have so many, well what about this questions. Like, well I would turn it all off but then it's also kind of our home phone so what if someone needs me? Or what if I ONLY use it to take and send that daily photo? (And if I pre-schedule a daily email does that even achieve the purpose of unplugging? Or is that cheating?) Or what if I'm knitting and I haven't printed out my pattern, can I fire it up to check on it then? And what if my husband implodes from not being able to do his fantasy sports or whatever it is that he's over there pecking away at? Doesn't the very fact that I have so much heartburn over the mere suggestion of 48 phone/laptop/tb free hours - EVEN when I'm just proposing it TO MYSELF - say that this is sort of a problem?

I'm not sure if I have a point here.....this is just a stream of consciousness that I felt the need to document. Electronically......(is this irony?)

Monday, October 7, 2013

Wicked Craft Week

A whole week of crafts....which means a whole week of posts AND new ideas....which means you probably won't find that kind of commitment here! You WILL find it though over at Delightfully Noted! 

And while I can't quite manage a whole week of fresh content, I CAN do one day. And look - there's me on deck for Wednesday's post! I hope you'll come check me out, along with everyone offering up something for Wicked Craft Week. :)

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

It's October!

Ahhh, can't you just smell the pumpkin spice latte in the air?! (I was at a non-Starbucks coffee establishment last night, and asked for a pumpkin spice latte and the girl looked at me as if I'd asked for something unheard of. It wasn't on the menu, but they DID have pumpkin chai. Is it possible the entire world DOESN'T anxiously await pumpkin spiced everything season like I do?)

So anyway, now that it's all officially fall and everything, I just wanted to put up a little note about Halloween hats. I have 3 (er, 4) available in the shop right now! I'll put up a more definitive deadline closer to Halloween as it's somewhat dependent on workload, but I think orders will need to be placed within the next THREE WEEKS to guarantee delivery by Halloween. (And keep in mind that you may need to order earlier if your community does trick-or-treating the weekend before like mine does. Halloween falls on a Thursday this year!)

The perennial classic pumpkin head:

The "boo" earflap hat:

And the newest addition, the monster hat! (This one is pink as it was a custom order, which is obviously not always the scariest color, unless you are a 5 year old boy - then pink might be downright terrifying! As pretty much everything in my shop is made to order, color options are always up to you!)

And this one isn't strictly Halloween, but darn it, I just like this owl hat! :) It could be partly costume.