Milla Mouse + Shop Update!

Hi, folks!

I’m really proud of today’s amigurumi reveal. The designer, My Krissie Dolls, is very thorough with her patterns, as you can see from a previous doll I made of hers. I worked on this doll off and on for about two months and I’m really happy I took my time.

What I loved about this pattern–and what was most challenging–was that you are given an option to knit the dress and collar or do it in crochet. Because I wanted to challenge myself with the knitting, in addition to preferring the overall look, I opted to knit them. However, I did not want to make something flat and have to seam it, so I used magic loop. I also used worsted weight yarn, whereas the designer calls for sock weight yarn. I prefer my finished dolls to be more sizable and huggable. 🙂

The other options for this doll include shaping the toes and adding some kind of blush or rouge for added color and dimension to the face and ears. I did not tack on eyelashes or make the teddy bear for Milla, but those are all details you can decide on if you take on this pattern.

First up, some photos. Then an update on the shop below!

Now that you’ve surely fallen in love with this mouse doll as I did, there’s good news on that front. She is for sale!

Not only is she for sale but she’s listed on the new shop page! You’ll see in the main menu links above that there is now a “Shop” link, which I will be keeping updated with what I have in stock and ready to go. Shipping is free within the domestic U.S. but if you are an international shopper, you’ll need to message me beforehand so we can square up the final details in a separate listing.

I’m not ready to take custom orders the way I did on Etsy but I imagine I’ll get there. Speaking of Etsy, I still have the shop and a handful of listings there but ultimately, I will only be keeping it up to let people know to head this way. The bottom line is, as much as I love Etsy and continue to support other artists there, it’s not good for small hobbyists like myself who are selling infrequently. The costs have gone up way too much. At the end of the day, I pay a not-so-cheap annual fee to have this website and it would benefit me (and any buyers) to sell directly from a website I already pay for and use, versus having to charge more for all of the fees Etsy takes out now. I didn’t imagine I would even have an Etsy shop for over five years, so I consider it a really good run.

Questions or comments? Email me at zavvycreations[at]gmail[dot]com or leave me a comment on this post!

Knitting Frenzy

I have knitting news!

I invested in a couple of short circular knitting needles last weekend and in one week’s time, I was able to accomplish knitting two hats AND a pumpkin.

Whaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaat.

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Remember when I first started learning to knit and all I wanted was to knit a hat? Well, I accomplished that via the magic loop/half loop method a while back, but then once I got my hands on some good shorties (I bought two bamboo ChiaGoo 16″ needles from a local yarn shop), I discovered how much more I enjoyed knitting in the round on the short circular and transferring to magic loop for decreasing. That’s not to say I won’t be using magic loop for sock knitting or making mitts down the road–those are still goals!–but for now, I seem to have unlocked a reliable method to whip out some hats.

I was also on the struggle bus with a rather simple knit pumpkin pattern but after some tries and fails, I busted out the new short circulars again and that helped a lot. (Plus, the designer was kind enough to answer my newbie knitting questions!) I didn’t think the acrylic yarn did as well on bamboo; a bit too much texture going on. But wool glides really well on the bamboo needles. That said, I understand why people amass a collection of different types of needles. I still want to get some more red lace ChiaGoo 16″ needles, among others.

Blue knit hat: women’s XL done in Knit Picks Chroma Worsted. Colorway is Weathervane but I believe it’s discontinued. Simple pattern from the Craftsy/Bluprint class on magic loop with Lorilee Beltman.

Green and brown tweed hat: unisex medium (would fit child/teen/petite woman) done in Knit Picks City Tweed DK. Colorways are Chipmunk and Sage — unsure if either or both are discontinued. Pattern is a FREE one from Ravelry called Bankhead and is quite popular!

Pumpkin: done in Knit Picks Brava Worsted (can you tell I have a lot of Knit Picks yarn to get through?). Colorway is Persimmon and I crocheted the stem in another colorway which I think is Dublin but I’m not 100% on that. Pattern is available on Ravelry and Etsy for a low price. I learned a lot with the pumpkin because I learned how to knit a large tube in the round and then sew up the ends. Nothing wrong with leveling up on sewing skills!

I need to give my hands and wrists a rest but I’m already scheming up what to work on next!

 

 

A Cute Raccoon and an Update on Etsy

Hello, friends!

It’s been longer than I would prefer between updates. Life was pretty hectic for a while and the blog took a longer snooze than I thought it would.

I finished a custom raccoon order back in March and things were so busy at work, I didn’t have time to process the photos I took or blog about it. So now I’m posting the update on that. I was a bit worried that because I hadn’t done a raccoon in a few years, I would find the pattern overly technically challenging, but I was pleased to find it wasn’t. The most challenging aspects of making it were:

  • The color changes on the snout — getting nice, even tension with the changes
  • Placement of the eyes and eye patches and getting everything just so with the symmetry
  • Making sure to stuff properly but not overstuff; the head and body needed a lot for proper shaping!
  • All the sewing

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In the end, though, the pattern and my skills prevailed, and I was just as in love with this raccoon doll as I was when I made the first one. If you’d like to try your hand at this pattern, you can find it in Little Muggles’s shop.

Speaking of Etsy shops…

Between January and July of this year, Etsy has made some pretty significant changes to their platform. There are definitely some pros to what they’re doing for mega sellers. For smaller shops like mine, I’m afraid the overhead costs of having an Etsy shop are proving to be too much. I haven’t officially decided to close my shop because having the potential buyers on such an enormous platform is definitely worth some of the expenses. (Operative words: potential and some.)

Due to the changes Etsy made, I saw a SIGNIFICANT decrease in sales. I was getting the visits, largely due to Pinterest (I’ll save a rant on Pinterest for another time), but almost zero sale conversions. It wasn’t just me. I took to the forums to see if others were experiencing the same frustrations and they are.

I work hard to price my items fairly for my time and quality materials. I am definitely not someone who has all the time in the world to make a bunch of amigurumi and sell them at a discounted price. Nor am I selling at craft fairs. (Maybe someday.) I was also still using promoted listings at $1 a day to get my items in front of buyers. However, even dropping $30-35 a month on promoted listings, I have barely been able to sell anything, and I’m spending that money with zero guarantees that more sales will be forthcoming. On top of out-of-pocket costs, Etsy changed how they bill sellers and are taking a little extra chunk out of the total sales, as well.

The most recent change in the last few weeks is that Etsy has updated their algorithm to favor listings with free shipping. Honestly, I get it. I do. Everybody loves free shipping. But all that means for small-potatoes shops like mine is that we have to include the shipping cost into the price of the item, which makes the items seem overpriced, and I’m not sure free shipping is going to be the clincher to get a sale. If I were to tell someone that the hippos I sell are $45, they might say, “Okay, a bit pricey but seems worth it for a quality handmade toy.” (By far my most popular one.) But when I say they’re $54, I picture eyebrows winging up and a much faster decision being reached that that’s far too much. At least when I was listing shipping fees separately, a buyer could see that I did my best to keep them at $10 or under, and it was because I ship Priority Mail and with insurance.

I’m pondering over all of these changes and wondering what the best route for me to take is. I have had my Etsy shop for five years now and for the most part, it’s been really great. I have enjoyed the process, I’ve really liked having a wee side business that earns some extra spending money, which mostly helped me repurchase supplies for new listings, and I’ve evolved as a crafter and honed some more business skills. But with these latest changes, I feel as if my shop is being swallowed up unless I am willing to invest much more money up front, which I don’t have. If I were churning out items left and right, that would be one thing.

At the end of the day, having this shop is primarily supposed to be for fun. Crocheting and knitting are FUN hobbies for me. I don’t want to equate those activities with the drag of Etsy’s new policies or being a strain on my personal finances.

So what I’ve done in the meantime is keep a handful–and I mean handful–of listings active. I also have the “Request Custom Orders” turned on because anybody can go through my prior sales and figure out what kind of work I do and request something to be made. The listings that are available have free shipping but their prices look higher.

I’ve turned off priority listings, which means I’m not shelling out $35 a month for the potential of a sale. Not having as many listings also gives me time to make items in my own time and list them for sale as they become available. One of the options I have been considering is letting all of my listings expire and doing a shop restock when I get 5-10 items made. I’ve also considered selling items only through this website, which I am able to do, but I don’t have the audience, and purchasing options are more limited (e.g. only being able to take PayPal).

If you are an Etsy shop owner or if you are someone who shops on Etsy, and in particular if you’ve ever purchased something from me, I would love to get your feedback. I have found posts from people I follow on Instagram and the like, voicing similar frustrations, with some people actively shutting down their shops altogether. I’m still open…just…but need to figure out a way to make my craft hobby work for me without being subject to these large monkey wrenches.

For now, I’m knitting and crocheting at a leisurely pace and trying my hand at things I haven’t had the time for and I’m enjoying it. I hope you are all enjoying a lovely summer!

Update: this is how the current fee structure breaks down for any given sale in 2019. It adds up to almost 9%, which is not a small chunk, in my opinion: “Etsy charges $0.20 for listing fee, 5% transaction fee, and 3 % + $0.25 payment processing fee.”

 

Llama Rama Ding Dong

Over the summer, I had a request to do a custom llama – white with some black included, based on a photo.

This animal is a challenge for several reasons, one of which is the abundance of llama patterns out there. I ultimately settled on one where the emphasis was not on sewing a bunch of limbs together, and the final shape was a very obvious llama.

My only challenge with this pattern is that you have to turn it inside out before seaming it up the back, and then you quickly have to stuff all the limbs before moving forward. It’s unconventional but I will credit the designer with a pattern that works well in the end. The llama stands up on its own and is really cute.

Due to the success of the first one, I received another order for a pink one to send to a family member who’d just had a baby girl. This one was a bit easier because it was all in one color and it turned out great!

I finished this amigurumi in October and I have taken a little break since then. I am gearing up again since the holiday season is on top of us (where did this year go?) and I would like to get a few things accomplished that are holiday-oriented. (Remember this post from last year?)

Cute photos below!

Challenges with Color Changes

Late last year, I had two back-to-back orders for baby penguins. Due to the holidays and typical year-end madness, I didn’t get around to doing a post about either of them.

In previous renditions when doing the color changes in the head (white eye areas on a dark gray/light black background), I have kept my two colors of yarn going simultaneously, but I have had mixed results with the color changes looking loose in the end product.

I made an executive decision as a woman who takes pride in her handcrafted goods. I changed things up by snipping one of the colors for each round (the white in the head) and tying secure knots with the loose ends. I found this to be much more successful in keeping the stitches tight (as color changes can produce looser or sloppier looking stitches), not to mention not wasting a lot of yarn carrying tails back and forth around the head. In the end, the dolls looked polished and professional, and I didn’t have to worry about a stray end coming loose if the doll ends up in the hands of a careless child or pet.

Finished penguin with tight color changes

Fast forward to the present moment. In one of the crochet groups I am in on Facebook, someone posted this blog article, where the author wrote about doing more seamless color changes in amigurumi.

I gave it a try the next time I worked on a doll (this time, a giraffe) — and I am pleased to say it is a successful technique!

Giraffe with new color changes technique used

As you can see from the photo, where the color change happens when you’re working in the round (without a join), the jog isn’t as noticeable. Check out the horns. It doesn’t glare out at you and you don’t get the “zig-zag” effect. Sometimes the zig-zag looks okay for a particular effect but for the most part, it looks nicer when it can be avoided.

Even my husband, who doesn’t notice much of what I’m doing with crochet most of the time since I’m always working on something, thought the this color-change technique was noticeable and one to keep using.

There are a couple of key points I discovered: slip stitching loosely is important, or the piece will look slightly shrunken on that round. If you’re going for the shrunken effect, slip stitch more tightly. The other point is to make sure there are enough rounds between the color changes that aren’t doing a lot of increasing or decreasing. In fact, it is ideal to change colors when there is another round of one single crochet stitch in each stitch around.

Lastly, the slip stitch round + doing the next round in the back loops with single crochet = one round. Knowing that helps with counting your rounds, since you’ll see the two horizontal lines next to one another. See photo below:

If I’m not mistaken, the blog post I linked to above has gone viral in the crochet world, because I have seen the “big time” crochet designers doing their own posts showcasing their successes with it.

Have you tried this out? What do you think?

 

Hippos of the Rainbow

As many of you know, I have made dozens of hippos. They are a huge hit and my best seller in the shop. (Giraffes and penguins are second and third, I think.)

Just last night, I finished an order for a red hippo  — my first boldly colored hippo ordered in a long time. I was really excited for this one, because I think the hippos can look good in any color, but don’t get an opportunity to stray outside of standard colors very often. The red makes me think of that game Hungry Hungry Hippos from the 80s — anyone remember that one?

In the end, he turned out so handsomely! Check out this good-looking fella:

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I have my eye on other kinds of dolls to try out but in the meantime, I’ll keep going on the hippo train!

Do you make crochet or knit animals? Do you have any suggestions for others I could try out? Leave a comment below!

Pattern Overview: Robot from Amigurumi Today

I received a request to make a couple of little toys for two small boys who were going to be traveling. They had their own unique interests so I worked with the client to try and find patterns that would sync up to their particulate tastes.

For one little boy, I made a butterfly, the pattern of which is from Theresa’s Crochet Shop. She designs “affordable cuteness” and is very talented. For my version, I added a little sparkly white color for the inside of the wing and used a teal color for the rest of the butterfly. S/he turned out super cute! I’m really happy with this pattern, despite the vast amount of hand sewing involved, and will make more.

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When it came time to find a good robot pattern, I landed on this free one from Amigurumi Today:

Image courtesy of Amigurumi Today

I really had to work to get the head just right, because when working in continuous rounds and making a square shape, you’re actually creating a parallelogram, so it’s pretty slanted and not a decisively straight-edged square.

Image courtesy of Twisted Turns Rebooted

Because this is whimsical and for a little boy, I didn’t think he would mind, but the perfectionist in me was struggling a bit. I used a 3.5mm hook and light worsted weight yarn so the stitches would be nice and tight. Between the head, the face, and embroidering, those alone took a couple of evenings.

 

The head is oversized compared to the body. When I sewed the body to the bottom of the head, it looked centered in the front and completely wonky in the back; something I had to live with. Here’s the back:

By the time I got to the arms and legs and got them sewed on, the doll looked less crooked. But there is definitely a reason you don’t see the back of the doll on the pattern page. 😉

Ultimately, I made a couple of variations to my doll that strayed from the pattern but nothing major. I would probably make another of these if I could figure out some better techniques for embroidering the face. While I know how to cross stitch, embroidering faces onto a crochet canvas is not something I’ve completely mastered.

Skill level: experienced intermediate | Pattern rating: B+

Here’s my very sleepy looking robot doll — or maybe he’s rebooting?

Without the bottom legs, the robot isn’t really taller than the butterfly!

Puppy Love in Shades of Teal

Hello, friends!

Earlier this month, I received a custom order for a puppy dog in shades of teal. The customer wanted whimsical–I think this little guy delivers!

If you’re interested in trying out this puppy pattern for yourself, look up “Scout the Puppy” from Little Muggles; it’s also available in the Zoomigurumi 5 book.

I used shades Tidepool and Cornflower from KnitPicks Brava Worsted. For a couple of the pictures below, I thought it’d be cute to show him next to the Easter egg bunny I made in similar shades.

Please feel free to contact me here or through the Etsy platform if you are in the market for a puppy dog of your very own!

😍

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What’s Better Than One Hippo? Two Hippos!

I’ve had a rash of hippo-making recently. A very generous client fell in love with the hippos I make and ordered one, then two, and then another set of two hippos so she could have a pair in stock for the numerous people in her lives who are having babies.

I admit, I understand the obsession. This pattern is terrific (designed by Dione Design) and I quite enjoy making them. They remain my most popular item for sale to date.

If you or someone you know loves hippos, feel free to ping me on this site or in the shop for customization — I have done these in all kinds of color combinations! The pink and gray are the classic and most requested colors.

On to the photos! 🙂

 

Finished: Meyer the Mallard from Zoomigurumi 7

Another stellar pattern from Little Muggles!

I have been eyeing this pattern for months. Amy from LM finally announced a little while back that her mallard pattern would be available in the Zoomigurumi 7 book.

So, I had to bide my time and wait to pounce, and as soon as that sucker came up for pre-order, I jumped on it.

There are truly some adorable patterns in this book! (I bought the PDF version because I can access the patterns on my iPad — very handy.) I always want to make all the things when I get a new pattern book, but I honed my sights on the mallard and got to work.

I had to bookend making it while my day job ramped up, but when tax season finally ended and we could all breathe again, I jumped back into finishing it.

I know from previously making Little Muggles patterns that she favors Vanna’s Choice yarn. I had a bunch leftover and I happened to have just enough of each color to get me through making the mallard. It was truly a stashbuster project, which is always an extra bonus.

I will say, and the book also states this, that it is a relatively challenging pattern due to the loads of color changes for many rounds, plus the shaping, and also the eye placement (you do this well after you’ve made the head and have had to stuff it a bit). It’s a tricky little bugger but looks so awesome in the end. For my doll, I ended up cutting each color for each round and starting anew because it was easier to tie ends together into a knot to prevent any loose stitches. But to each her own when it comes to color changes. I would rate this pattern as a high-level intermediate; definitely for those who are comfortable making amigurumi and not just starting out, as you do have to rely on your intuition and experience.

Okay, so let’s get to the photos! I’ve got this handsome guy for sale in the shop. In addition to the mallard, the pattern also gives you the baby ducks you can make to go along with him. I opted not to this time but will probably make a few down the road. They will be far easier to make in one color, that’s for sure.

If you decide to try out this pattern, let me know! I’d love to see your mallards and duckies. 🙂

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