May Whiplash - Miniature Quilt

First up, I have to apologize to Star; this was supposed to be a surprise, but I missed Whiplash last month because I was sick, and I really wanted to enter this month. There's a few more surprises in the package I'm sending her, so hopefully it'll still be fun for her! (This is an entry in the Project category.)

Doll Quilt

This quilt actually started as log cabin coasters, but I saw on her blog that she'd already received a set, so I decided to turn the 4 pieces into a doll quilt. That, and the fact that I was running very low on muslin really determined the finished size - it's only 9 1/2" square. A little smaller than I was hoping for, but I think it still works as a Blythe doll blanket! LOL

Doll_quilt5It's completely machine pieced and quilted. I'd love to try a hand-pieced quilt sometimes, but my patience level has been somewhat lacking lately. The centers of the log cabin blocks are silk, I read somewhere that traditionally the center blocks were red to represent the home. I liked that thought, so I incorporated it. I'm really very pleased with how this little quilt came out, and I'm sure I'll be making a few more very soon!

I'll caution anyone wanting to try and make silk trim tape - it's a bit trickier than cotton. I should have known (or guessed!) this, but I thought it would look so pretty trimming the sides. Originally I wanted to go with 1/4" trim, but I'm glad I went for the 1/2" instead. I probably saved my sanity on that one! LOL These pictures don't really show the luster and shine of the silk trim - I snapped them right before a nasty storm came through. I'm really glad I decided to use the silk instead of cotton for the trim, I think it turned out very pretty!!! I hope Star does, too!


Is That Grass Really Greener?

Even though I started my blog as a place to share projects and ideas, lately I've been spending more and more time thinking about the writing that I put into it. At first, it was just a matter of "This is made from this material, and it took me X number of days to make," and I was totally ok with that. Recently I've been writing more posts analyzing both myself and the crafty Blog-O-sphere I love so much. A year ago I would've been embarrassed to post without pictures, but I find myself writing more and more, that I just don't have the right photo for. And that's ok, too! LOL

It's really interesting to me, how positive most everyone tries to be. Not that I want to bring anyone down, but I think it's normal to have negative thoughts, and even express them. Not that I want this to turn into a bitch-fest, but it feels good to get the bad stuff off your chest every once in a while. (Feel free to leave now, if rants aren't your thing!)

First, a confession; I get so jealous of people sometimes. I mean, really jealous. And it's not as if I think badly of these people because of their successes; merely that I wish I felt more successful myself. It's such a trap I fall into. I check the "How's Your Etsy Shop Doing?" thread on Craftster frequently, and while I'm proud our community as a whole is growing; it's so easy for me to feel so envious that I haven't made a sale in over a month. That I haven't felt as much a part of the community, as I really want to. That I don't feel successful, even though I've made huge progress in the last year. Those emotions are like quicksand for me, and it sucks me down into a spiral of "I'm not good enough." (Don't even get me started on other Tsumami Kanzashi sellers on Etsy… I could turn green just thinking about how many more sales they get, than I do.)

Those times, I try and remember I am successful, even if I haven't reached a lot of my goals yet. Even if I haven't ever won Whiplash, even if it really seems the grass is greener on someone else's side; it doesn't mean it is. I think about how hard some small business owners push themselves to get where they want to be, and how I so blindly fell into that trap. I think about how overwhelming it all feels sometimes, and I wonder how I'd really feel about wholesaling 200 pieces (of anything! LOL) or not being able to keep up with demand. That might be right for some sellers, but for me it's about the customer. I want every Crafty Ginger customer to be 100% satisfied with everything I put into my products. I love writing little notes saying Thank You! to my buyers, because I'd love to try and make their day as good as they made mine by purchasing from me. I like having total control over my packaging, that I can print up small batches, and make them personal. I'd really love to sell more, but I don't want to sacrifice quality of product, or the buying experience.

I guess what I'm saying is - define your own success, and don't let others do it for you. Only you can know what truly makes you happy, and if that's selling hundreds of products in a week - that's great for you! But if you want each an every buyer to feel special, that's ok too! I think in this day and age, it's easy to let outside factors determine how we feel. I think that's a copout though, as it's always harder to stay true to yourself and be an individual. I think that's what this community is really about though, embracing who you are, and what you love. Be who you are, and do what you love - in whatever way that's true to you.


WIP Wednesday - Pleated Skirt

Pleated Skirt WIPWhen I first saw this skirt on Wendy's blog, I knew I had to have it. I ended up going to Stitches Midwest a few weeks later with my Mom & sister, and lo and behold - I found it at one of the first booths we stopped at. I knew right away I wanted it in turquoise, although violet was a close second. I almost got both to do the inset pleats in purple against the body of the skirt in turquoise, but I'd never knit a real garment before, just scarves & wraps.

I let it sit around for a while, probably because I was very intimidated by the pattern text. It's really strange, but it seemed like a foreign language to me at first; and trying to take the whole page in made my head hurt. After I knit my Clapotis though, I don't have as much trepidation about working patterns anymore. I just look up any abbreviations I don't know before I cast on, and if I do hit one I don't know mid-project, it's pretty easy to hop over to Knitting Help for videos (in both English & continental styles!) I really prefer visual instructions, I learn things so much quicker, and I can remember it better, later. Learning things has always been easier when I can see something done, and then replicate it myself.

Pleated Skirt

When I finished the pleats, I thought I might want to add some short rows, so it didn't ride up my butt (a tip from Wendy, great idea!) There was only one problem… I didn't know how to do them without getting holes in the work, and holes on my butt - not desirable!!! LOL Normally I would've just looked it up, but I'd read so many comments from people scared of them too, that I wondered whether it would slow my project to a halt. Then fate intervened, as Knit Picks added illustrated instructions on how to add short rows without holes (to their latest catalog.) It was like the sky opened up, and a choir started singing angelically. LOL

So, I did my very first short rows on this project, and I'm both proud of achieving the desired effect, and surprised by how easy it really was. I'm really glad I added them in, as I'm knitting the 15" version, and don't need it creeping up my backside! Now, if only I could even out my knit-to-purl transitions! LOL (BTW - It's the Blue Sky Alpacas Pleated Skirt pattern.)I'll be casting on for the front side after I finish my stuff up for Star - I owe her big time, both because she totally spoiled me, and because I'm taking my sweet-ass time getting her stuff finished for our personal swap. I'm just being nit-picky about getting Blythe doll clothes perfect, and they're so tiny it's driving me a little nuts! LOL


Learning the Lesson

First I must admit, that I really struggled with whether to share this or not. I certainly don't want to scare anybody off (starting their own business,) but I've been through so much in the last few months; that I thought if I could share the lessons I've learned, it would be worth it.

Last year, I decided to start my own business, and came up with my first product - tsumami kanzashi flower snaps. I knew things wouldn't start fast, I was a new name with a new product, and I knew there would be a learning curve to get over. It took me a few months to get products together for the store, and I was pleased to make my first sale in the first week after I listed my first round of items. Fast forward to this January, I had a great plan to promote my products, first with The Sampler, and then Etsy's Showcase.

And then, in mid-February, my grandmother died. We weren't very close in the last few years, but I was very surprised by how hard it hit me. What was even more surprising, I now think I made it even worse for myself, because I didn't allow myself to really own up to what I was feeling after her death. I tried to push everything back down inside, and focus on my store. That was probably the worst thing I could have done, because I ended up wrapping all of my hopes and goals for the store, in all of the negative emotions I didn't want to release.

Consequently, I pushed myself so hard to find new products, and come up with new ways to promote my store. I put all of my happiness in that, and was shocked to find it wasn't making me happy, just to stress about how it's not doing as well as I'd hoped. It was so hard to find amidst all of my personal disappointment, the real truth - I can't decide where my happiness comes from, but I do have to open my eyes, and see that it won't be one thing. Whether that's my business, or my house, my blog - not one thing can ever make me truly happy. It's the balance that I'm looking for. Strong when I need to be, but also vulnerable sometimes, which has always been the tougher side for me to express; hopeful about my goals, but realistic with how I approach them. That's the balance I realized I'm longing for.

A few years back I caught a documentary about Bruce Lee. While he was a bit before my time, I was amazed by how smart he seemed. He had a quote I really love, and I knew I had to share it here. He said,
Be like water making its way through cracks. Do not be assertive, but adjust to the object, and you shall find a way round or through it. If nothing within you stays rigid, outward things will disclose themselves.

Empty your mind, be formless. Shapeless, like water. If you put water into a cup, it becomes the cup. You put water into a bottle and it becomes the bottle. You put it in a teapot it becomes the teapot. Now, water can flow or it can crash. Be water my friend.
So, I've decided to not push so hard on my store stuff. I'm still taking custom orders, and shipping anything that sells, but I won't be spending too much time developing it until I can find a balance between it, and the other parts of my life. (It won't affect the blog though, I seem to have found a pretty good balance here, and with my other activities and responsibilities.)


Best Friend Bag - Now with Handles!

Best Friend Bag - Now with Handles!

My sister gave me this lovely little bag last year, the Best Friend bag from Knitty - in aqua cashmere!!! I knew I needed to add handles, though; I was too afraid of leaving it in some restaurant, or on a checkout counter somewhere. So, I asked if I could trade her for the rest of the yarn, so I could make handles. (Jenn, I don't think I ever gave you anything for this, lemme know if you have any ideas!)

Best Friend Bag - Now with Handles!I let it sit for a few months, it wasn't very high on my priority list, and I'd never done I-cords before. I only realized this after editing my Ravelry profile, that I've been knitting for 4 years, without trying such a basic technique. It sort of bothered me, so I put a few other things aside for an evening, and knit up a pair of 9" I-cords (5 sts on sz2 needles.) Turns out, they're easy peasy! I should've figured, but I'm a fairly shy knitter. I'm trying to remedy that, though! I did my first short rows on the Blue Sky Alpacas Pleated Skirt I'm working on (watch for more details on Wednesday!)

Anyhoo, I used the tail ends to sew jump rings onto the ends, and then threaded them up through the I-cord itself. When I moved both ends to the middle, I knotted them and stretched the handles slightly, to draw the knotted ends up into the I-cord. I wanted the handles to be sturdy, and not stretch too much when I wanted to carry heavier items like my camera or sunglasses. I'm very pleased with the results, I feel like they won't stretch unless the knots pull out - and I took my Mom's advice and tied my knots in the opposite direction of one another. Did you know if you tie them the same they can pull out, easy as punch?!?! Thanks, Mom! It's an awesome tip to learn & know!!! Thanks also to Jenn, who's one of the most talented knitters I know!


Blogger Spotlight - Kathryn Ivy

Alice and Grace's blog is one of my favorites these days. Knitting, sewing and spinning, I'm not sure there's a craft out there these two won't try. Which I love, because I'm totally like that too, just can't confine myself to one craft, no matter how hard I try. Grace's recent Vintage Velvet scarf (from Scarf Style,) had me drooling! In the book, I merely liked the pattern; but in a more vibrant color, and lots more photos - it's simply stunning, and I must make one for myself. LOL

They have a great extras section, with tutorials and patterns. My (current) favorite is the DPN pouches. Clear directions and pictures, and tips to make them larger or smaller; if you're a beginner, this would be a fantastic first sewn project. Even if you're more experienced, the envelope pouch could be used for all sorts of storage needs. How about pen pockets, or pouches for makeup or even wider pouches for DVDs!

They also have a Review section, which is such an awesome idea! Right now, it's yarns and needles, but I have no doubt books will follow soon. It can be tough to decide what yarn, pattern or book to buy, so more information can be a great help! Their blog is relatively new, but I can already tell it's going to be a great resource for lots of crafters. I think sharing projects and ideas can really spark inspiration, and love finding new blogs that do just that! Alice & Grace, I LOVE your blog, and can't wait to see what you'll both do next!

Go check out their Etsy store for their first knit patterns, Hawkeye and Kiddie Cadet Hats. They're super cute, and great for boys and girls! I should get the pattern to make a lilac one for myself, but I'm fairly scared of short-rows! (I know, I'm a knitting chicken! LOL)


A Few Ups and Downs of Starting Your Own Craft Business

Having been a member of Craftster for the last year, and an Etsy seller of 6 months, I've seen a bunch of projects (& products) get really popular. That by itself is great, but the downside is that sometimes ideas or patterns are used in a way that takes advantage of the originator. This could be someone selling finished items using your tutorial, or maybe a kit with a pattern. Either way, there's very little to be done to prevent such intellectual property theft from occurring. That's not to say you're helpless; as the copyright holder you do have rights. But, they can be very hard to enforce, and you'll likely never see a dime for the profit someone else makes ripping you off.

Sound harsh? Well good; the craft-blogging community can sometimes seem very light, not covering some of the more negative sides of doing business for yourself. The point is, it's worth considering that if your product gains enough popularity, you will likely get copied. It's true that imitation is the most sincere form of flattery, but it can be little comfort when you stumble across your pattern for sale by someone else. The second, and more important point, is that you shouldn't let it discourage you from developing your product, and going for it. The simple fact is, your unique ideas are worth the risk, to share with crafters all around the world. I conclude that point based on observations that most people are good, and you'll never be able to stop all of the people that don't hold themselves to higher standards. So hold yourself to a higher standard, and prepare yourself for what it might mean to be self-employed with a crafty business of your own.

Crafty Ginger Sampler Contribution
Here's all the products I sent off for the March Sampler.
So far as I can tell, I haven't made a single sale from it.
I might try it again sometime, but definitely with a different product.

My very first product I came up with was tsumami kanzashi flower snaps. I love the tsumami technique, but I didn't want to copy all of the great sellers I'd already seen on Etsy. I wanted my products to be unique, and completely my own. That's not to say I'm the first (or last,) person to put snaps on the backs of folded fabric flowers; on the contrary, I expect if I ever sell enough it's an inevitability that I will be copied. I don't look forward to that, but there's lots of bad things that can happen along the way to starting your own business. What I do look forward to, is selling more, and if that means I get copied - so be it.

Another one of the pitfalls can be difficult customers, although I'm lucky enough to have avoided this so far. People's expectations can vary widely, as well as their reactions and responses. Don't take it personally, it's a lesson on what to do differently the next time. If you learn something from it, mistakes can be good. They challenge us to evaluate, and I think that's a skill you absolutely need in starting your own business. I think learning to communicate well with lots of different kinds of people is also a crucial skill.

Recently, Grace Bonney of Design*Sponge shared some of her thoughts on starting a business with me.

What were some of the positive aspects about starting your own business?

There's nothing quite as satisfying (and frustrating) as being your own boss. You can set your own hours, your own pace, your own goals and you have only yourself to answer to. I've loved that I can work on projects that excite me and choose assignments and jobs based on my own desires- not my boss'. Running my own business has reminded me that if you set your mind to something, do your research and plan well you can do most anything you set your mind to.

What were you most surprised by?

How much work it would be. No matter how much you plan and ask around, it's always much more work than you can even imagine. But it's good to throw yourself in and learn quickly- if you're passionate about what you're doing it won't feel that bad.

How do you balance your crafty business with the ups and downs of life?

Having a good support group inside and outside of the industry is crucial. I try to have friends outside of the design world who won't care to listen to me talk about the shop or the blog all the time- they remind me that there is in fact life outside of work ;) But it also helps to have other friends doing the same thing who understand the ups and downs of running a small business. It's incredibly helpful to have people to bounce ideas off of and commiserate with when things go wrong.

How did you establish your "brand" or individual identity in your blog or store? Or, how are are you continuing to do so?

I think the most important thing with any business is to stick to your original goal and stay true to your mission. It's tough to resist the lure of any number of options that might bring you more money or more attention but would require you to alter your image, your brand or abandon your audience. I recently had to pass on a wonderful offer because of something like that. It was tough at first but at the end of the day it feels good to know that you've stayed true to what you believe in and what you set out to do.

What were some negative experiences, and how did you face them? More specifically, did you have any experience with people selling your work as their own, people reselling without your consent, or other malicious events? How did you deal with it? Also, how did you find out about it?

Thankfully I haven't had anything too awful happen with the shop yet. The blog world can be pretty catty so there are plenty of stories there but I try to stay out of the fray and just keep my head down and work. I think and the craft and indie design community continues to grow there will need to be more regulations and rules for copying and things like that, but things are still pretty fresh and new and they'll need to come with time. But thank goodness nothing too horrible has happened to me yet. Knock on wood...

Any other thoughts on starting a craft business?

I think you can never, ever research too much. Talking to people who run businesses, who work in every aspect of the industry. They'll often pass on the most priceless pieces of information. Other shop owners can share what businesses or services to avoid and which ones will make your life easier. It always pays to be prepared.

Any other thoughts in general?

Not to get too Fiona Apple on anyone, but always, always be true to yourself and your goals. If you have something unique and worthwhile to share it will be noticed. There is always room for more creative, unique voices in the craft and design world but the last thing anyone needs is more of the same thing. If you stay true to your own unique style you can never go wrong.

Thank you so much Grace! I found your advice so very insightful and personally helpful, and I'm sure I'm not the only one! If you haven't before, go check out Design*Sponge! Also, I'd love to hear what you think about starting a craft business. Leave a comment here, link me to your blog or email me (Crafty[NOSPACE]Ginger[AT]Gmail[DOT]com)!!!


Ravelry Rocks!

As you may already know, some things get around the Blog-O-Sphere pretty quick. Ravelry is one of them, maybe it's because there's so many knitting blogs out there, or maybe because we like to share great finds with other knitters. Either way, Ravelry rocks! LOL I finally scored my invite over the weekend, and I couldn't be more impressed. A place for everything, and everything in it's place, just how I like it.

Ravelry - Notebook

Basically, it's an online knitting journal, keeping track of all of your projects all in one place. It integrates Flickr pictures and blog posts, and lets you share all sorts of info with your fellow knitters (all you hookers, too! LOL) Yarn & pattern specs, with easy ranking systems for how much you like the yarn and/or project. A growing community, it's still in Beta right now, but I know it'll only get bigger & better. It sort of reminds me of a young Etsy, even though it's not a selling/auction site; I can tell how much Jess & Casey really care about making the concept the best it can be. What I like most, is how helpful Ravelry will be for those who don't blog. Some people don't like it, or can't keep up with it, but it's still nice to see what they're making anyway! (Wink, wink Jenn!)

Ravelry - Edit Photos

The Stash section is probably my favorite, as I've been trying to take a real inventory of my stash for a couple years now! Add pictures, mark it all as used up, add notes - so many features I'm still learning them all! I'm super excited to have such a great system to catalog my knitting projects & materials. My second favorite feature is the Queue - where you can line up all of the projects you want to work on next! Normally, I'd just stuff all of those ideas up into my head, and end up forgetting at least one in the process. LOL Now, I can line up as many as I want, and I can add details & notes, so as not to forget even the tiniest thought. Awesome!


Super Swap Goodies!

A while back, I asked Star if she'd be up for a personal trade with me. I'd never really done one before, although I have sent off surprise packages before (and I owe another to Shirley, sorry girl!) Anyway, she agreed and asked me for a patchwork purse in return. Little did I know though, just how much she was going to spoil me! (I haven't sent to her yet, because of my nasty cold the last few weeks. Didn't want to send a Pandora's box-o-cold germs! LOL)

Personal Swap - The Goods!

Not only did I get the handspun yarn of my dreams, but she included 2 beautiful knit sweaters for my Blythe dolls, along with 2 hats, a shoulder/headwrap, a really cute little dress made by Atsuko, roving, more roving and more roving! LOL I actually bought some of this from her Etsy store, but I'm glad I did, cuz I'm still really a beginner spinner.

Please excuse the harsh shadows in these pics, I really wanted to capture the color. The aqua batts have holographic thread, and the pink is so soft & lovely with 15% mohair. She also sent some lovely brocade fabric, Kool-Aid in flavors I haven't tried before, and some really cute doll accessories. I doubt the sunglasses will fit, LOL! Blythe heads are huge!

Personal Swap - The Goods!

Josie and her (unnamed still!) sister couldn't wait to try on their new stuff! Don't the knits go great with Josie's new Squeaky Monkey jeans? LOL Even her bra straps match, how cool is that?!?! Star even sent some Blythe-sized knitting! I wish their hands were a little more poseable, though. It can be tough to make them "hold" things for photos. Unnamed Violet went straight for the dress Atsuko made, I think it goes well with the Noro Silk Garden Lite hat.

More Swap Goodies!

Thank you SOOOO much for everything, Star! I promise I'll try to finish your purse up soon!!! I only have the handles to make, so it should be this week or next! (Thanks for being patient with me, while I was feeling so crummy!)


Blythe Doll Bargain Shopping?!?!?!?!

Alright, so first admit that you've jumped into a hobby that can be SUPER expensive. And if you're here to find a deal on a Kenner Blythe, keep searching, because I've yet to find any surefire way of getting a deal on one. Sorry! For those of you looking for the Takara Blythe of your dreams, here's all the tips I've learned! I love a good deal, and know it can be tough to find one on these girls.

Jealous Sisters?!?!?!?

The real reason it's so hard to find Takara Blythe dolls in the US, is because they're not licensed to sell them here. Ashton Drake holds the license here, and so finding a Takara girl (especially a good deal,) can be very tough. Basically you have 2 options; find a US seller who's willing to part with one, or have it shipped internationally. Obviously, international shipping can be expensive, and it can take a long while. Registered airmail can take a few weeks, and impatient mommies should beware (I waited 3 weeks for my first girl, and it seemed like it took twice as long!) Other international services have better delivery times, Express Mail Service from Japan took about 4 days. Domestically shipping will be much quicker, although I have heard some horror stories with both UPS and USPS. I like to always pay for insurance, you never know what can happen in-transit.

So, I can't give you any tips on finding super-duper-30$ deals on Blythe dolls, but I can offer some tips on not spending too much for the girl of your dreams. First off, you'll probably need to think about what doll you'd like to buy. A particular Takara release NRFB (which means never removed from box,) a doll that looks like you, a nude doll for customizing, it's all up to you, and what you like and prefer. I think Flickr is a great resource for anyone looking for Blythe dolls. You can see lots of shots of all sorts of different kinds of dolls, from completely stock, all the way up to completely customized. Keep in mind the older the Takara release is, the harder it will be to find, and probably more expensive for it. Also limited dolls are tougher to come by, and pricier too. One of my wish-list girls is Prima Dolly Melon - limited to 500, I doubt I'll ever afford one, but I did purchase a Prima Dolly to reroot in aqua saran, to be my own personal Melon! LOL

If you're aim is to find a doll on the cheap, you'll need to be flexible. To find the best deal, I'd suggest not being picky about what doll you're purchasing, when you plan to buy her, and where she's coming from. You don't have to buy a doll this way, but it's how I stumbled onto my 55$ girl, and it's how I satiated my Blythe-lust without breaking the bank. LOL (It should be a real word, folks. Once you get hooked, it really is a lusty hobby!) Being flexible in any one of those, or a couple will go far in getting you the doll you want at a price you can afford.

Being patient can also go a long way in not spending too much for a Blythe doll. I've been looking for a Picca Encore or V-smash for a little while, but figure since they're not limited I'll find one when the timing (and financing!) are right for me. Patience can be a tough strategy for Blythe fans, but remember there's new girls out every year, and maybe yours is in the future, instead of the present.

The condition of the doll can play a big part in what you'll pay for her, as well. "Nude" dolls generally cost less because they don't come with the stock outfits & accessories they were originally sold with. "Gently played with" is also another good way of finding a deal. In this case she might come with all stock outfits & accessories, but she has been removed from her box & played with. I should caution every new Blythe Mommy to be careful though, sometimes sellers misrepresent the condition they're doll is in. Colored or dark spots on the bodies, cracks or slices in the faceplate, sand or spray-matting that was done incorrectly, scratches or non-functional eye-mechs can turn into bad dolly deals. The easiest way to avoid this is to ask for lots of pictures, or see the doll in person; but there are plenty of trusted sellers as well (on Ebay and TIB.) Do your homework and read as much as you can about the seller, and Caveat Emptor! Also know for the most part, if you don't bond with your new doll, or don't like her, there's plenty of ways to sell or trade her, to a new mom that will. Anyone have a Prima Dolly Saffy they don't want/need?!?!??? LOL

Any questions? Feel free to ask... I might not know the answer, but I'll try my best!


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