Pre-Made vs Made-to-Order

I want to give a shout-out to those shop owners who regularly keep items in stock, particularly those of the knit and crochet variety.

Whether you sell at fairs or have an Etsy shop or your own website, I find it daunting to keep items in stock, for several different reasons.

  • Anticipating what your customers want — try as I might to stay “on trend,” there is no telling what potential customers are going to actually purchase. There is so much subjectivity when it comes to buying something, especially if it’s a gift for someone else, that it’s hard to know what will fly out the door vs. sit around. I do check my stats regularly, and look to see what search terms are getting people to my shop, but I haven’t figured out any magic formula. Sometimes I don’t participate in the hot trends, however. Two examples that come to mind are ponytail hats (for autumn/winter) and mermaid tail blankets. I have made mermaid tail blankets, as I’ve blogged about, but trying to list a custom mermaid tail blanket was a bit overwhelming. People want to see color choices and they want to see an example. Since I’ve only made three in three different colors, I would have to ask people to use their imaginations, unless they ordered something exactly like what I’ve already made. Just typing all that out reconfirms for me why I never made a listing for them.
  • The more effort you put into something, the more you want it to sell. This is especially true for larger stuffed animals or any kind of garment. I have a baby blanket that hasn’t sold, even when I had a sale going on for the month of July. It’s colorful with a popular design (dragonfly) and is a terrific size, but…..nada. I try not to dwell when things don’t sell, for whatever reason, but it definitely shapes my decisions on what to make in the future, even if I’m just trying something out for fun. On the flip side of the coin, smaller and easier things don’t always sell, either. I’ve made several cute baby hats in the past that have just sat there, so they went into the gift pile, instead. Baby hats never go out of demand but it’s also a saturated market, so… c’est la vie.
  • I work full-time, so I don’t have as much time during the week as I’d like to dedicate towards crafting. I am in awe of and inspired by those who have creative careers where they can make and sell for a living (pottery comes to mind). Even if I didn’t work full-time, however, reasons 1 and 2 would keep me from making things in advance unless I were regularly setting up booths at craft fairs.
  • Limited space! While I do have a dedicated craft space for my yarn and other crafting supplies, storage space for finished objects is definitely on the smaller side. If I were to have a shop full of items in stock, I would have to be selling something 1-2x a week so I didn’t have 20-30 animals and blankets and things laying around.

For those reasons above plus those below, I enjoy doing custom orders as they come in:

  • have sold items in stock and I really love when I’m able to ship something out quickly without having to make the customer wait. That said, even when I make something for the current season, e.g. a cowl, there is no telling what someone is going to want. It’s great to have a little pile of pre-made gifts, but typically, I like to ask a person if I can make them or their child something, and 99% of the time it’s not what I’ve already got on hand. Case in point, I’m about to make my third hippo in a row as a gift to a friend — they’re just so cute, a terrific size, and the accent colors are totally customizable.
  • I can buy specific yarn for a specific project and know that it will get used. If you are a yarn addict as I am, you know the pitfalls of buying a bunch of yarn with no intended project. I made that rookie mistake AGAIN this past weekend, when I used a Michael’s store credit to purchase a whole bunch of Caron Baby Cakes yarn in multiple colors, just so I could try it out. Now I’m working on another baby blanket to use up 5 of the 7 skeins I bought. Worst case scenario, the blanket will be donated, but I have so many friends having children, I am sure it will be gifted or sold. (It’s a very pretty design.)
  • Making custom orders is giving someone exactly what s/he wants, down to color, size, etc, and it makes me feel all warm and toasty inside to be able to craft something precisely as that person desires, be it friend or customer. This raccoon and the big pink bunny are just two examples of that.

This is a random aside that doesn’t have anything to do with crochet or knitting, and I don’t mention it very often, but I have various photographic prints for sale in my shop. Photography, like crochet and knitting, is such a saturated market, that I rarely sell any prints or canvasses, even though these have a short turnaround time. I have been toying with the idea of getting rid of the photo listings. I’ve read that it’s better to have one particular focus per shop, as well, so it may be the little nudge I need to finally do away with them and stick to the yarny things for Etsy. I have bigger aspirations, and I may just need to see the light on this and stick with the crochet sales (and potentially knit sales in the future!).

If anyone who reads this blog is also an Etsy seller, I would love to hear your feedback, especially if you keep items in stock. I just don’t find it very practical for how long it takes to make things and hope for the best, but I see plenty of people who sell regularly from their stores.

Thanks for reading, friends. Until the next mishap or adventure!

Knitting Update: We Have Dishcloths

When I last wrote on learning how to knit, I was swatching like mad.

Eventually, you wear yourself out on swatching, and you have to dive in and make an actual thing.

The month of July witnessed me making three dishcloths. I didn’t think they’d all been this month, but when you diligently record your projects in Ravelry, the details don’t lie.

This bright orange item that resembles a square now sits in my kitchen sink, and was my first official knitted project:

I didn’t block it, and because it’s done on the diagonal, one has to be careful about how one decreases, which is more difficult than increasing, which is a simple yarnover. I have higher hopes that the next time I tackle this design, it will look a bit more polished.

Then of course you have the hole in the middle, which I didn’t know how to fix. Still don’t. I don’t know what to do with dropped stitches and, so far, any mistakes I made either live in the project or I have to frog all the way or most of the way back; this is completely unlike crochet, where mistakes are easier to fix when you catch them right away. (+1 crochet)

After the orange thing, I graduated to attempting a chevron washcloth from Very Pink Knits. It’s quite pretty and I love that it’s reversible. In fact, I’m not really sure which side is supposed to be the front.

I don’t actually have a photo of it, just a video from Instagram, which you can see here.

That one ALSO had a mistake in the middle (what’s with me and doing that?) and I didn’t know how to fix it. Trust me when I say that I had to frog along the way, but only when I was catching the mistakes mid-row.

My most recently completed dishcloth is this ZickZack design from KnitPicks:

What I like about it is that it’s easy, with just knits and purls, and a simple row counter app on my phone helped me stay on track. I didn’t have to frog nearly as much mid-row, and lo and behold, I don’t have any holes in it! The toughest part for me was binding off, which I still need to perfect. This one got blocked and looks terrific. I’m thinking of making more to do bundles for the Etsy shop.

Little aside: I was encouraged by my cloth-making when a friend of mine tagged me on Facebook, who said she loved her (crochet) spa cloth that I made for her, as it was done up with KnitPicks Shine Sport, which is made from Pima cotton and bamboo. I can attest that they do make for seriously luxurious washcloths.

Last but certainly not least, what has contributed to my success in knitting has been investing in some better needles, specifically circular ones. My ultimate goal is to be able to make things in the round, namely hats and mitts and things, and I have hit some hard potholes going down that road so far. I am currently working on my Magic Loop skills, which I hope will be the key to my success in finally whipping up a hat. Stay tuned.

In sum, I have gone from ultimate frustration with loads of epithets and claiming I would never be able to “DO this,” to swatching, to attempting a dishcloth, to actually making a dishcloth that is attractive and doesn’t have any holes or other unsightly mistakes.

This crocheter is on the knitting path. If any of you readers are also experienced knitters, or just learning like me, I’d love to hear any stories, tips, or anecdotes you may have.

Cheers!

Who Doesn’t Love a Big Pink Bunny?

When I first started working with this custom order request, I honestly didn’t know how big the bunny would turn out in the end, just that it would be “twice the size” of the Big-Bottomed Bunny* I already have in my shop.

I worked with the pattern to double the number of rounds and stitches, carefully monitoring the shape as I went along. She ended up twice the height at a full 12″ tall, but I think she ended up more like 3X the width around — look at that big old bottom!

Although it took more yarn than I expected, I’m really happy with this beauty, and hope her new owner is, too. She’s soft and squishy, and just cute to look at. Her soft pink color gives any room a nice little pop.

*Pattern is not mine–it is from the book Crochet One-Skein Wonders, which is a fabulous book!

Up ‘Do

Recent Cutie Patooties

I have been on a bit of a tear lately finishing (and starting) various projects. I even started a knit dishcloth the other day, but it’s TBD on whether it’ll be a useful item or be wound back up into a yarn cake.

But here are a couple of recently finished (crocheted) items, both of which turned out SO well and are so freaking cute!

The first is a paper boat amigurumi from the talented designer Lalylala. The other is a standing bunny rabbit from the designer StufftheBody. Both can be found on Ravelry and Etsy.

The bunny I decided to list in the shop. I have plans for the paper boat, but likely I’ll make that a custom listing down the line.

Happy Fourth of July weekend, everybody!

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The K Word, or: Knitting Is Hard

Last year, my mother brought me a bunch of things from her abode that she was ridding herself of; a large bag she gave to me yielded a bunch of knitting needles in all sizes and textures, some magazines from the 70s and 80s, and some really old yarn that I ended up pitching.

I didn’t pay much attention to this horde of items for a while. I loftily thought that maybe, maybe one day, I would “pick up” knitting when I had more time .

Turns out, I don’t have more time. No one does. But I got to a point where, after organizing my things and putting the knitting stuff in its own cubby in my craft room, that I noticed a seed had been planted in my brain. I know a few knitters from a local crafting group I’m in, and I have one or two friends who have dabbled in knitting.

Aside: while there would appear to be a fierce “rivalry” of knitting versus crochet, I prefer to think of the yarn arts as inclusive, and we’re all doing something to express ourselves creatively, no matter what it is.

In any case, after the planted seed had sprouted some teeny tiny roots, I decided to do some research online to see what was available for those wanting to learn to knit.  A couple of women in my group had commented about Continental knitting being easier to learn for crocheters like myself, since you don’t “throw” the yarn, but “pick.” I was intrigued.

During my initial research, I came across this well worn (but very useful) demo of Continental knitting by a woman named Lorilee Beltman:

It’s not a HD video but Lorilee shows how sprightly one can knit and even specifically mentions that when crocheters want to learn to knit, learning the Continental method makes sense for them.

The little seed grew a few more roots, and I personally contributed somewhere between 5-10 views of that video as I continued my research in how I would learn this new craft.

As fortune would have it, Craftsy not only has a Continental knitting course, but it is taught by none other than Lorilee herself. (Right now, it appears to be 50% off at $20, which is a bargain! I heard on a podcast with Lorilee that she had to pitch Craftsy three times on teaching Continental knitting before they finally said yes. I’m glad she persisted, because she’s truly a fabulous teacher.)

I took a deep breath, snatched up the course, grabbed some straight needles from the pile in my craft room, and began to watch and learn. Truth be told,  I had some concerns before starting that I would go down the rabbit hole and abandon crochet for long periods of time as I spent money and time on this new skill. Fortunately (or not?), I found knitting to be HARD, and so I have been forced to slow down, take breaks, and relax my brain with crochet in between bouts of learning how to knit.

When you start learning a skill such as this in your late thirties, it is decidedly not the same as learning something in your teens. I don’t know if it’s the learning curve or some by-product of age, but it just hasn’t come to me the way crochet did. I’d like to just make the blanket statement that crochet is easier than knitting (an opinion I hold) but I don’t think it’s as black and white as all that. I was practicing a knitting swatch with a seasoned knitter a couple of weeks ago, and she told me that for her, crochet is not relaxing, and her hands grip the hook very tightly. The opposite is true for me. Crochet is extremely relaxing and my personal technique does not make my hands hurt, though if I sit for too long with a bigger project, such as a blanket, I can make my arms and shoulders ache a bit with overuse.

All that aside, learning a skill that takes using both my hands at the same time is similar to learning piano. I *did* take piano starting at a young age, and despite having hundreds of hours of practicing scales in my lifetime, it did not prepare me for the knitting experience.

Since I am a firm believer in mind over matter, I expected to come to knitting similarly (but perhaps with a bit more difficulty) as I did with crochet. I didn’t learn to make amigurumi overnight, and it took a few dozen animals before I hit my stride (mostly with the sewing aspect, but still). In the past four weeks, I have hit frustration levels where I thought I won’t be able to do this, and have come close to tossing in the towel. (I mean, casting on and getting through ONE row of knitting took ages!)

Perhaps it’s Lorilee’s teaching style — which is not only thorough and well done, but Lorilee has a warm and personable sense about her — but I stuck with it, and I have learned the knit stitch and the purl stitch, and am on my journey of swatching. And swatching. And swatching.

A heap of swatches

I even joined a couple of knitting-help groups on Facebook to provide assistance where I get stuck along the way. Two examples are: attempting to make a swatch of seed stitch was really messing with my head, since I kept knitting the knit stitches and purling the purls, creating ribbing (or some mashup of stockinette) — I had to learn how to identify the stitches when I turned my work, which is still a work-in-progress; creating a selvedge (selvage) that wasn’t just a knotted mess when I would turn my work and would create a chained look. To be honest, creating the selvedge in Tunisian crochet proves to be much easier. (Tunisian crochet, in general, is easier to learn, in my opinion, but it does have some limitations.) Why learning knitted slip stitches is hard is beyond me, but that was another challenge I’m slowly learning.

The TL;DR version of all of this is that I find learning even basic things difficult with knitting.

Little by little, I’m getting there, and my hands are slowly less achy, and I’m getting a bit quicker. When I get to the point where I’m asking, “Now what?” is when I might try to learn to read a knitting pattern, or follow a simple pattern via YouTube, as I did when I was first learning to crochet and made baby hats. I suspect the first thing I’ll actually make will be a washcloth or a potholder of some kind, but that will also entail investing in a set of circular needles. I have begun to abandon the straight needles, as I find them a bit too long and unwieldy with Continental knitting (a point Lorilee makes in the class, and she’s right). Practicing on my plastic needles with acrylic yarn was a terrific way to have some friction while learning hand placement and getting tension. But I have finally moved on to needing the slippery-ness of steel/aluminum needles, and circular ones at that.

The journey continues, my friends! We’ll see if I become a knitter yet!

Question for readers: Anyone else bi-stitchual?  😀  Anyone else learn knitting first and then crochet, and find crochet more difficult than knitting?

 

Blocked: Sunrise Knit-Alike Tunisian Scarf

This scarf took me three months to completely finish, including blocking. Scarves are one of those things that seem easy, and for the most part, they are. But when you get over halfway through and you just want to be finished already, getting to the end can seem like an eternity. Also, I’ve noticed this is more the case with Tunisian crochet scarfs than traditional crochet where you merely turn and keep going.

In any case, I was working a lot of hours between January and April, so it didn’t really take me three months as much as I had to put it down and motivate to pick it back up again on numerous occasions.

All that aside, I absolutely love the look of this scarf! The pattern is from bhooked. It may look intimidating, but it’s just two Tunisian stitches: the knit stitch and the cross stitch. I also followed her lead and did the same colorway as the designer did. I’m not usually a super bright colorway person, but there’s just something about those colors. I didn’t have a specific person in mind when I set out to make it, either — I just knew it needed to get made.

When I first began trying my hand at Tunisian crochet, I was unsure if I would get the hang of it. But I caught on pretty quickly, and like many others who have become addicted to it, it fulfills that yearning to create something denser and less loopy. I have dipped a toe — A TOE — in the learning-to-knit pool, and so far, it hasn’t taken. I’m going to keep at it but my hands just don’t want to cooperate with where I’m supposed to put my fingers to keep tension, the movements, etc. (I am working on learning Continental knitting, as it’s an easier transition from crochet and it is more efficient, which is right up my alley.) When I get frustrated at my clumsiness with knitting needles, I toss them aside and pick up my hooks again, feeling right at home.

I digress.

This scarf is super long, warm, cozy, and bright. It would make a wonderful autumn-into-winter scarf. Mine turned out pretty wide at 6-7″. I also used bhooked’s method for wet blocking. Blocking is a pain but it does work! My ends didn’t uncurl completely but it’s not terrible. It just gives the scarf that little extra handmade look.

For blocking, I used some rubber/foam interlocking mats, T-pins, and sprayed down the scarf with water from a spray bottle I had. I let it dry for a couple of days before unpinning, which was the most tedious part of the whole process.

I haven’t decided whether to list it in the shop or just keep it in my gifts pile. But I’m excited for the day to come when it goes to an ecstatic new owner!

Edit: added to the shop!

Back in the Saddle

That loud whooshing noise you hear is the dust being blown off the blog.

I know I only have a handful of people who read this wee craft blog, but regardless of time lapsed between posts, it still means a lot to me to be able to post projects and other goings-on related to this love of crochet.

I hold down a full-time job at an accounting firm, which means that the first four months of the year become increasingly stressful as each month passes, until there’s just work and sleep between April 1 and Tax Day (U.S.). With tax season now behind me for the remainder of 2017, I can resume my crafty passions on the side.

Rested and refreshed now, I have all of these ideas percolating for projects. I know I’m not alone in Potential Project Land, where your mind goes here and there and everywhere coming up with All the Things you could be making.

Things on my To Make list include:

  • A Tunisian crochet pillow cover; I’ve had the supplies sitting in my cart for a few months now. Yeesh.
  • Amigurumi patterns I haven’t tried yet; I just purchased a new bunny pattern and a new pig pattern. I also need to FINISH the one I started almost a year ago now (a seahorse from Lalylala) — it needs details on the head and body, the arms sewn on, and the baby seahorse made. I also have loads of patterns in books, both digital and paper copies, to choose from.
  • Amigurumi orders and gifts to friends that are currently being worked on or are in the queue
  • Challenging stitches, such as broomstick lace. I have a Craftsy class on working in broomstick lace. It also means I have to go out and buy a giant knitting needle (or two, since they come in pairs).
  • A new blanket pattern; there are way too many to choose from, but I have a new pattern for one I’d love to try (with little owl motifs), and another one I want to do is a Tunisian entrelac blanket. Where I get hung up is trying to create a cool plaid pattern and then I just sit and swirl about colors.

Despite being incredibly busy from January to April, I still completed some crochet orders or worked on things to help me relax (even since the Big Red Fox). In no particular order, below are a handful of photos of those items. It’s more or less a photo dump of anything from my camera roll since the last time I updated, which is admittedly a long time ago.  Take a gander!

What have you been up to? I’d love to see anything you’ve been creating!

 

Dragonfly Blanket Over Chair

Babies: Pig, Lamb, Whale

Quad of Gifts

Bear_Etsy Order

Pink Whale

Sunset Tunisian Crochet Knit-alike Scarf

Feel the Love and Savings

Hallo, everybody!

I thought I’d let my handful of readers know about a discount code I’ve got active in the Etsy shop right now: ZVCTHANKS shaves off 10% of any purchase in the shop, be it crochet or photography items.

My shop is three years old and so I am passing on the love–and savings–to those who have lurked and waited for the right time to buy something.

This code is good through February 16! Happy shopping!

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Big Red Fox

img_9645I’ve been making efforts to make projects that I like and would get enjoyment out of, even if there is no intended buyer (or person to give the item to just yet). Working a full-time job means I crochet in my spare time. I’ve discovered that if I start something and put it down, even for a little while, it will easily turn into months before I pick it up again or find the motivation to finish it.

(Case in point: Sepp the Seahorse, my first Lalylala doll, has been a work-in-progress since June of 2016 — yeesh!)

I bought this red fox pattern a couple of months ago and finally got around to making it. I tracked my progress on Ravelry and was surprised I finished it in five days. That is pretty quick for me, but I also realized afterwards that I prioritized it over other projects. I’m glad I did, though, because it kept the momentum going, and this handsome fella came out of it!

This pattern from Kristi Tullus calls for using joints, which I did not use. I labeled it as easy or medium-easy on Ravelry, but I would say that this pattern is definitely meant for an experienced crocheter and/or amigurumi-maker. I had to do some very careful sewing since I wasn’t using joints, and I made some mental notes about what to do for future foxes.

I do love the long limbs, and using Vanna’s Choice yarn was a great “choice,” since it yielded a bigger doll, even using a 4mm hook. Plus I just love that rich orange color, don’t you? The colorway is called Terracotta, for anyone who wants to use that. The pattern calls for using a dark brown but instead I used a Lion Brand yarn, colorway Smoky Mountains, which is dark gray and wisps of silver. I thought it gave the paws and accents a bit more depth.

All told, Big Red is 15″ from the top of his head to his tippy toes.

As much as I love the fox, I decided to list him in the Etsy shop because I feel like he could make a kid (or collector, whoever) very happy. So he is officially for sale! And I threw in free shipping, just ’cause. **Edited to say he sold!**

Here are some photos for your enjoyment! And if you have any questions about the making of the fox, please do comment below or send me a note at zavvycreations {at} gmail dot com.

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Latent Mermaid Tail Photos

I kept my promise to myself and took photos of the completed mermaid tail blankets with my DSLR, so I have a few more pictures to share. I was quite pleased with how these turned out and I’m told the girls they were intended for love them.

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*Note: I don’t know why some of the photos appear blurrier in WordPress except that they are larger than they appear, and so downsizing them causes the blurriness.