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

via GIPHY

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!

 

Branching Out to Baskets with Bernat Maker Home Dec

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A few months ago, I purchased a couple of skeins of Bernat Maker Home Dec yarn because I thought I would make another pillow with it. I had fallen in love with this smock stitch (Tunisian) from TL Yarn Crafts and couldn’t wait to get started.

I sat down to practice with my yarn and hook and didn’t fall in love with making the stitch the way I thought I would. (I may try again, but I impatiently moved on.) I really wanted to make something else as a home decor project that wouldn’t take all day and was as attractive as it was useful.

Enter baskets from Yarn and Chai! I loved the look of the mini bean stitch and once I read through the pattern for her nesting baskets, knew I wanted to get started right away. I flew through making a large basket with the pretty aqua skein. For my basket, I used I and H hooks (5.5mm and 5.0mm) instead of H and G hooks, as I wanted it to be slightly larger than what the basket size would yield. Because the design gives a double lined basket, you don’t have to worry about the spaces between the stitches as much. It’s sturdy and will hold up well. I did not insert the plastic ring in my basket but I will experiment with that down the road. I think it’s a terrific technique that she offers up for making the baskets extra sturdy, in addition to keeping their shape.

I loved working with this yarn, by the way. It’s soft and doesn’t split, due to the cotton/nylon blend. I have another skein in the colorway clay with some aqua leftover. I haven’t decided if I’ll do another basket or if I’ll try my hand at a pillow but I will figure something out soon, considering how much I like it. The yarn also shows off terrific stitch definition, and the mini bean stitch is perfect for it.

Knowing me, I’ll probably put odds and ends in my basket, or I could even put it out in the family room to hold some items. It’s quite eye-catching. I also want to experiment with doubling or tripling the pattern to yield a much larger basket when I get my hands on more of this yarn.

What have you made with it? Do you love it, too?

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Luminosa Cowl and Happy New Year!

Earlier in the year (2018), I ventured to a nearby city and visited two independent yarn shops. At the second one, I found a cowl made with some gorgeously soft and also shiny yarn. The shop owner told me it was Luminosa by Cascade. She also pointed me in the direction of the free pattern, which is this one here, if you’d like to try it yourself!

Her cowl was done in pink and a brighter teal. They were out of the teal but I picked up the pink and a darker black and blue, which I thought would let the pink shine but still give a nice balance of color.

Still very new to knitting, as I only began to learn in 2017, I was nervous about the pattern and the fact that I dropped $40 on two hanks of yarn. It helped that the kind shop owner caked the hanks for me, so I could pick them up and start the project more easily.

Determined, I did pick up those cakes of yarn and got started not too long after this shopping trip, since I wanted to try something that would allow me to practice knitting in the round without worrying about decreasing (a hat I have YET to complete!). While it took me a while to completely finish the cowl, since I let it sit finished except for bind-off for about two months, I was extremely pleased when all was said and done. There were definitely some challenges along the way, as the purl-2-together was tricky for me, but I plowed through.

You guys…it is SO pretty and it is incredibly soft! Due to its size, it has some versatility with how it can be worn, but simply draped around one’s neck and shoulders looks lovely.

I’m still deciding whether to keep it for myself or list it in the shop. I put the Etsy shop on vacation over the holidays and now that I’m coming up on FIVE years of being an Etsy seller, which is nuts, I have started to think about where I want to take things with my craft and if I want to do occasional restocks versus having mostly made-to-order listings. More to come on that front.

If you are newer to knitting as I am, or if you are a yarn addict and need some inspiration for a project, grab some of this delicious yarn and maybe give this pattern a try. I would absolutely make another of these — but now I’m working on all the practicing of hats. 2019 is going to be The Year of the Knitted Hat!

❤ P.S. I also tried a technique I saw on Facebook from Petals to Picot about binding off with a crochet hook and once I tried that, it cleared the path for me to more easily and quickly finish knitted projects from here on out. It’s so comforting to know I don’t have to let things sit, lest they be ruined with terribly done bind-offs!

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!

Chevron Convert

IMG_2202 zvcWhen chevron was blowing up a few years ago, I didn’t get into the trend right away. But after I tackled a couple of projects that used it, I really liked the look of it, colors depending.

Last year, Jeanne from The Crochet Crowd designed this chevron “hugs and kisses” blanket using Caron Baby Cakes. I liked it as soon as I saw it. My transfixed inner voice said, “I must make the thing.”

It took me longer to complete than I would have liked, but largely that was due to my getting sidetracked with orders, work, and other life goings-on. It is not a difficult pattern.

For my blanket, I decided to blend two different colorways, Dreamy Mint and Frosted Pansies. I wanted a pop of yellow in there to break up the teal, grays, lavender, and cream. I liked working with this yarn, for the most part, but it can split at times. It is very soft and warm, though, and I like how easy it is to wash and dry it.

I found this project relatively soothing to create, although I had to keep careful track of my rows, since it the pattern repeat consists of 8 rows. For the bobble stitches, I switched from my usual comfortable Clover hook to my Furls Odyssey hook, which has a nice long neck, ideal for working with a fluffier, thicker yarn such as this one for bobble stitches. Because you alternate with something different each time, it keeps you on your toes. It is not dull or mindless to complete.

I ended up not using all four cakes, since I did not chain as many initial stitches, opting to make something slightly smaller than the pattern calls for. (I believe it calls for 6 cakes.) Because I didn’t want the blanket to be overly taller than it is wide, I stopped with the cream color of the fourth cake. I had enough to do a single crochet border in cream around the entire blanket, which gives it a nice finished look. My blanket is roughly 31″ wide and 36″ tall.

I didn’t have an intended recipient for this blanket, so I’ve listed it in my Etsy shop. It’s largely neutral and I think the colors pop so nicely with the chevron pattern. Jeanne did such a nice job with the design.

Have you tried your hand at this one?

 

Finished Knitted Objects! Whee!

Friends, I am so happy to post that I have a few more finished projects and this time they’re from needles and not hooks!

I feel as if I’m the world’s slowest knitter, even having learned to knit continental style, but even so, I can actually pick up knitting needles and knock out something that resembles a real thing. I just need a few…months….longer than most people might.

Since around this time last year when I first completed a pretty raggedy rendition of a dishcloth, I’ve gone on to attempt numerous swatches and other projects that have either been frogged or relatively unsuccessful.

It took the better part of six months, but I finally completed a knitted wool scarf for my husband to replace the previous one I’d made for him. Pictures to follow. In addition, I whipped up a few more wash/dish cloths.

Here are the cloths, all made with Knit Picks Shine Sport. Because this a mixture of Pima cotton and bamboo, I prefer using this yarn for wash cloths (facial cloths). Dishie or another mercerized cotton yarn, is sturdier for dish cloths. The Hydrangea and Cream colors are knitted in the same pattern, a “fancy stitch combination” called sugar cubes stitch. I got the tutorial from Very Pink Knits. The bright teal colored cloth is actually done in Tunisian crochet but it has a lot of Tunisian knit stitch in it. It also makes for a gorgeous and sturdy facial cloth.

The photo of the cream cloth shows the difference between the finished cloth without blocking and the cloth after a light wash, some time in the dryer, and some steam blocking with an iron. Side note: still getting the hang of binding off, a loathsome process.

Now, onto the scarf! This thing is 8.5 feet long. Yes, that’s right. My husband really wanted a long scarf and while this seems excessively long, it’s actually an appropriate length. It took four balls of Capra DK from Knit Picks, which is a merino wool and cashmere blend. Particularly as I’m a beginner knitter, I had to be careful with this yarn, because it could be splitty and too much handling meant it would start to felt. By no means is this scarf executed perfectly, but the stitches and the wool helped hide any glaring flaws.

The pattern is easy peasy for beginners (knits and purls only) from B.Hooked Knitting. One side is only knit stitches and the other side switches between knit and purl stitches. It creates a gorgeous textured scarf on both sides. No matter how this scarf is wound around the neck, it will be pretty to look at.

Blocking really helped the wool relax and get it fully shaped. My husband is very much looking forward to wearing his scarf come winter. It’s soft and cuddly and very handsome in the navy.

Tada! I think I’ll go rest my hands for a while.

Folded with the front facing out

Squishy and thick!

Shows both the back (on the left) and the front) on the right, draped

Folded with the back of the work facing out

Folded with the back facing out from above

 

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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Geoffrey Giraffe, Because Cutesy Alliteration

I’m skipping ahead to show one of my recently finished creations, because I haven’t yet processed all the photos from my finished Lalylala seahorse doll, first mentioned way back in this post.

(But let me just put in a parenthetical, “Whoopee!” for that thing being finished.)

It had been a while since I had an occasion to make a giraffe — I think it had been over a year when I made this one and had it delivered early (on Valentine’s Day, no less!) to an Etsy customer.

This giraffe pattern is from Little Muggles, one of the earliest designers of amigurumi I found when I first delved into this animal-making journey. I have purchased a plethora of her patterns, and she frequently has at least one new pattern in the Zoomigurumi books. Come to think of it, the next Zoomigurumi book that is coming out will be featuring a mallard pattern from Little Muggles that I have been dying to make when she debuted it on Facebook.

All that is to say, her giraffe pattern is a stellar one, and I have enjoyed making the few I that I have. Usually I stick with the bright yellow version, as pictured below, though I have made alternate colors previously.

For the most recent one, I decided to mix things up with the colors of the horns and spots being different than the color of the hooves, and I think it was a successful choice.

Without further ado, here is my version of Stanley the Giraffe, whom I’ve dubbed Geoffrey, simply because I like alliteration.

❤ ❤ ❤

Geoffrey 1Geoffrey 2Geoffrey 3

 

 

The Cuddliest Snowman

Well, folks, we’re getting down to the last week of 2017! (Hurrah!)

While I usually mourn how quickly a year has gone by, this one I am ready to bid adieu so I can say, “Hello, 2018!”

I am still working on a project here and there, and it’s possible I’ll finish up one or both before 2017 gasps its last breath, but my most recent finished project is too cute not to share and celebrate.

The pattern is from The Crafty Fox Crochet. I saw this snowman in my Instagram feed a lot in the last month; it was a really popular creation amongst crocheters this year. I decided to try my hand at it and I really liked making my inaugural cuddly snowman!

The color options are endless for the scarf, hat, and pom-pom, though I find poms are more of a yarn commitment, since it takes so much to make one. My first one fell apart and I was very squinty about the waste of yarn before I finally got the second one to work (pictured).

I ended up using this snowman as a giveaway gift in a white elephant holiday game, but I think in the future, I’ll reserve making them for those who really treasure these kinds of gifts.

I hope your holiday season is going well, friends. Happy jolly merry holi-daze!