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!

What Not to Do with a Hank of Yarn

Being a hank n00b, I had no idea what to do with one when I finally received my first. It looks unassuming and not all that intimidating, being in a nice neat twist. As per uge, I had taken advantage of a sale from Knit Picks and grabbed up one of their beautiful hanks of wool and poly-amide blends called Hawthorne, prettily named Happy Valley.

I had very specific plans for this hank, as I intended to make the Fortune’s Shawlette from Moogly.

I was ready to get my yarn on.

I was ready to get my yarn on.

Unfortunately, I didn’t Google what to do with a hank before I got started, so what began as a simple unraveling turned into this mess:

Hank messIt’s pretty tragic.

I thrust one end of the yarn at my husband, who good-naturedly took it, I started with the other end, and we started winding the yarn through an infinite number of knots.  While I’ve made progress, this is how it sits on my table until I can finish winding it. The ball on the upper left is connected to the suuuuuuuuuper extra knotty section of the hank. O_o

Far too belatedly did I research how one is actually supposed to unwind a hank, so The More You Know on that one. Then of course, I also read that you should plan to make whatever it is you’re going to make with the wound yarn quickly so it doesn’t stretch it out, making me slightly more anxious than I already was about getting this yarn ready to use.

While it remains to be seen whether I make the shawlette with this particular hank of yarn, it is next on my list after I finish a round of amigurumi orders, which I’m  still in the throes of making.

So for anyone else out there who hasn’t experienced a hank disaster, take not after me. Ask your local yarn shop expert or someone who has done it before to guide you through this process so you aren’t going through a harrowing ordeal that may result in throwing away a perfectly good amount of yarn. (Right now I am determined to get through this–I hope to win out.)

Wishing you happy yarn creating and a beautiful weekend!

Edit: I managed to salvage a lot of the yarn, and I do have an idea up my sleeve on what to do with it, but it is in my long-awaited crochet queue as of February 2016!

Trashed: A Crochet-Fail Story

Not too long ago, I wrote about how I was trying my hand at Tunisian crochet. Still loving it, although I had to shelve it for a little bit while I worked on other projects and orders.

One of those other projects that I have been undertaking is learning different joining methods for motifs. Specifically, I wanted to become completely comfortable with JAYGO, or join-as-you-go.

I came across the designer and blogger Heidi Bears, who puts together the most beautiful patterns and dolls using the African Flower motif, and knew I had to make one of her designs. I pored through her patterns until I found one that looked reasonable and which she deemed a good one for beginners. (For the record, it is this one.)

After much research and planning, I bought a bunch of colors of sock yarn and I got started making the motifs. I read through the entire pattern and the perused her joining tutorials. I felt ready.

While it definitely took me hours a little while to get the hang of it, including double checking what I was doing with a YouTube video here and there, I eventually and successfully made my first series of joins. I was on my way! Emoticon small

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I carefully went through the pattern little by little, making the various required shapes and joining them. I found my groove and thought I would have this thing done before June was over, easily.

But my grandest project to date–my “Titanic,” if you will–struck a proverbial iceberg when I realized waaaaaaaaaaaaaay too late that I had joined one too many sides of a heptagon (7-sided shape).

Just keep joining, just keep joining....

Just keep joining, just keep joining….

I did my best to fix it; I thought I was being quite ingenious, even, for coming up with a workaround. Alas, it still wound up being a fail. I ended up with a lumpy body with the hole for the head being in the wrong place (not to mention having what looked like a dent sticking out of its backside).

The Iceberg

The Iceberg

I tried cutting just the joined yarn and saving the motifs but it was not to be borne. I was going to have to redo all of my motifs and start again.

There are some valuable lessons to be had, here, but I’m not gonna lie: it reeeeeally sucked to know I would have to repeat all of the motifs I had spent hours on already.

The two quasi silver linings I managed to dig up were: 1) I’ll get to re-order the motifs more strategically the second time around so that half the owl’s body isn’t half dark, half light. 2) When I went back to study the JAYGO method again, I learned that I may have been doing something slightly off with my join method and there may be a way to make it even flatter than it was the first time around.

In any case, some life events have recently caused me to set aside my Owl Redo but I will get back to it and you shall absolutely see the end result when I have conquered this thing. (Maybe this should be called the FAYGO method: Fail-As-You-Go.)

If you have tried your hand at one of these designs or any JAYGO method, I’d love to hear any tips or tricks you may have. This is definitely a work-in-progress, considering I just crashed and burned with my first attempt.

Before I deflated it and started all over *Taps playing*

Before I deflated it and started all over *Taps playing*