Gearing Up For Black Friday? Buy Handmade!

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Black Friday is almost HERE! However, with the Occupy Wall Street Movement and the latest Black Friday door busters opening at 12 am at some places (Thanksgiving night!) this whole consumerism and Black Friday thing has been getting some negative media attention. Is it really fair to make workers come to work at midnight the day after Thankgiving? (er, midnight is not really the day after in my book!) Well, a lot of people don't think so. I think it's a little zealous myself, but I am not begrudging the biggest shopping day of the year. The idea is fun; I got up at 4am once but all I got were some free donut holes and cheap coffee. I suppose I don't have the money to spend, on the real savings, and even if I did I wouldn't want to clobber anyone for four mega inch flat screen t.v's. So I usually end up participating in Buy Nothing Day by default. ("Buy Nothing Day," is a movement intended to stop and think about what you purchase and is recognized on, you guessed, Black Friday); but buying nothing isn't very much fun at all.

So where am I a going with all this, you may be wondering? Well, another option or for those looking for a great excuse to turn your mother-in-law down to getting up at 3am after five platefuls of turkey and two pumpkin pies, yet still partake in the in the carnival of gift giving is to BUY HANDMADE! And even if you are willing to risk be trampled on by the masses, (you know there is someone that is going to be -sad face-) buying handmade is a good way to get some of your shopping done; at least after you get back home with your new black eye and 50 inch TV's. Or if you are participating in Buy Nothing Day, you can stay up till midnight on the day after-after Thanksgiving and log on to your computer and do some "local" shopping. Maybe we could call it Chartreuse Saturday (green is just too overdone).

As stated, consumerism has a pretty negative connotation attached to it these days. But we are a consumer culture and it's an important aspect of keeping the wheels a'spinning. But we can make good buying choices, we can make purchases that we know have a direct positive impact for our communities. In the last few month of selling my good on Etsy I found this has all led me to a place of being much more conscientious of how I spend my money. Not to say I wasn't already, but it takes new meaning when the money that I receive for my handmade goods is directly from those that support local sellers - be it someone down the street or on a marketplace like Etsy. I just can't in good conscious take that money and run off to Wal-Mart, I want to put it back into the hands of other self supporting business owners - which more likely than not turns into more creative genius, groceries, or shoes for their little tots toes.

Buying local or buying from Etsy can be more expensive, for sure, but I have found with this new perspective things I would have bought just because I could afford them often end up in a category of "yeah, I don't really need that" and I find myself "needing" much less, getting higher quality goods and really thinking about my purchases. Buying in these places can also garner quality and personalized gifts that will leave the receiver feeling thought of and special (aw). So, this holiday season I am pledging to support other smaller business owners, at least in addition to the wish list items that I simply can't get handmade. This is always been something that was important to me but I have such a deeper understanding for it now and respect for people that shop local and support local economies and people. Another great reason for shopping on Etsy is that you get global products but are still making "local" purchases. With that I mean, you are still supporting individual people but you can do so and still get products from all over the world!

If you are looking for some great handmade options check out my gift guide on PINTEREST almost all of the items listed are from fabulous creative folks on ETSY. You can also check out Etsy's Treasuries, there are tons of gift guide treasury lists there; many with items under 30, 20 and 10 dollars!

So tell me... Are you buying handmade? If so I'd love to hear what your reasons are for buying handmade this holiday season and some of your favorites too!

If you find you need a few head over to Poppytalk and read this amazing list 101 Reasons To Buy Handmade  If you are a handmade artist it's really fun to read this list as well, it gives you pause to think about all the great things that you do! And maybe you don't even realize it.

Make: Infinity Scarf - Wear It Four ways

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Wearing instructions will be at the end of the tutorial

First you will need a piece of knit cotton. I cut my piece 60 inches long by about 12 inches wide. 

Fold it in half (length wise); Right side together. You now have 60 inches by 6 inches. Pin along the outer edge of the 60 inches.

Sew it up with either a serger or your trusty sewing machine.

Then turn it right side out so that your stitches are now inside.

Now you are going to piece your ends together. Do this by putting one side inside the "tube" fold the edges of the outer tube under about one inch (make sure your inner tube is about an 1 1/2 inside the outer tube as well) and pin. If you do not wish to add any buttons, simply sew it up along the edge and you are done!

{If you are not adding any buttons place your pins as shown in the above photo. Just remove then as you sew!}

If you are adding buttons pin it like this photo above.

You will begin your first stitch about a half inch to an inch in from the folded over edge of your outer tube. This will make a little flap so that you can add your buttons; as you can see in the photo below.

Now find some pretty buttons!

Sew your buttons as close to the first seems as possible onto the flap.

Now you can make your final seem by sewing on the outter edge of that flap, but be sure to move your buttons out of the way as you are sewing!

Ways to wear your new scarf:

For the COWL, just wrap it around your neck three times, and pull the button seem up so that it creates a cowl and tuck the extra scarf under.

For the CLASSIC INFINITY SCARF, wrap around twice and adjust the button seem to suit your fancy.

For both the HIGH-WAISTED BELT and the HIP BELT, just twist the scarf around you twice creating a cross in the back (like an X) and either pull it up under your breastbone or down over your hips!

This is super simple and would make a pretty fun handmade gift, for yourself or someone else!

Favorite Finds | 4 | Sapling Press

Friday, November 18, 2011

I felt completely lucky when I ran across this little shop on Etsy - ok, so it's not that little, it's crazy popular and successful, which makes sense because these cards are some of the funniest I have ever seen. I sometimes just can't help stopping by if I need a good chuckle.(Why didn't I stop by yesterday when my iphone screen was smashed to bits? d'oh! I really needed a laugh - I am sure my children would have agreed!)  

I think this small example of cards here speak for themselves. You will want to bookmark this shop when you need to prove to someone how witty your humor is and what great taste you have with one of these hilarious cards.  So without further adieu...Sapling Press!

Favorite Finds | 3 | DIY Lighting

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

I have been running across some really amazing DIY lighting projects lately and here are just a few of my favorites...

This has to be my favorite! It's the "Orblando" and was a DIY project on Emily Henderson's show Secrets from a Stylist. He has a tutorial on his blog Hommemaker

Colander light. I love the light reflections this gives off! And it seems like a super simple DIY project! I found this photo on, sorry no instructions included - But I am thinking they consist of drilling a hole and changing your shade out.

The Doily Lamp! For a tutorial go to More Design Please

 This lovely pendent light looks like the easiest DIY'er of the bunch and it has that great industrial/farm house feel. I must try this someday! You can try it too, by going to Under the Sycamore.

 Now this looks completely amazing and like quite an undertaking! I found this tutorial on Design Sponge. But the creative mind behind this drinking straws lamp is Aunt Peaches and I highly, highly recommend checking out her blog - don't tell anyone, but it's my favorite!

This is such a great idea for a holiday party! Find the tutorial at Janina al maison

Tutorial {Felted Sweater-Scraps Wreath Ornaments}

Monday, November 14, 2011

This cute little "sweater-scraps" wreath ornament is really, really easy to make! In fact I made this one here with the help of one of my three year old twins.

What you need:

Some sort of sweater scraps (it doesn't have to be "felted," it can be made of any old sweater, felt or paper for that matter - but paper would require a lot more cutting!)


Wire (I used brass wire)

Wire cutters

And a little ribbon for a bow that you can stitch to the wreath or to add a string to the top to hang it with.

What you do is cut your material into small square shapes. For our 3 inch size wreath and felted sweater squares, which is pretty bulky I cut about  25 pieces of two different colors.

Cut a wire piece that is about 4 inches longer than you want your wreath circumference to be. So I cut about 10 inches.

Then start sticking your pieces through the center onto the wire! This was were my three year old helper came into play. It ended up being a good play-learning exercise because we alternated colors, so my son was able to practice that concept along with his colors.

Then when you have enough on there, just push them to the center and bring your extra wire together and start twisting it. Then loop it over and attach the end of your twisted wire to the top of your wire wreath. You can make a big hoop to use for hanging or a small loop and then attach a ribbon to hang it.

That was it. All in all it took about 20 minutes : ) You can also make a large size wreath using the same method and materials to hang on your door or even for a nice little handmade holiday gift!

Etsy Talk: Reaching 100! {Sales on Etsy}

Saturday, November 12, 2011

This week I made my 100th sale on Etsy! I didn't know I would be so excited about it, though I did find myself watching my sales hoover around the 90's for a week during a sales slump - when it finally happened I was, indeed, pretty darn excited. It really felt like I hit a milestone I hadn't ever really consciously thought of reaching. I didn't know I could, I didn't know it would happen, and I certainly didn't plan for that within only a few months of opening my shop Plumed. Now I know there are stories out there of thousands of sales in the first few months, but I am not comparing myself to them. For me personally, I am calling this amazing success! I have been able to pour myself into this business and it has become my source of income, and those facts are the real milestone I have been reaching everyday. So, I guess with that said, this was more of a numeric marker for the success I already was owning : )

Someone asked me what my "secret" was and upon thinking about, I realized I really don't think I have one. I don't think I have reached a level at which I will be selling tickets to seminars anytime soon ; ) But for my own mental notes I thought about what I have been doing and those things that have seemed to work. What came to mind are pretty much the things I see all over the internet and in forums as basic advice for all Etsians. I am not sure I can offer truly new advice, but I can reiterate the ones that seem to have made a difference for me and put my experiences to it:

  • First, as I have said before, if you want your Etsy business to become a business, treat it as one from the very start: brand yourself, network in places you enjoy spending your time on, and always keep learning and growing in all directions. When I first started I felt really overwhelmed by the plethora of things I seemed to need to already know. It's true there is so much information, which is great, but can be overwhelming. So my advice on this is: keep a wish list of things you want to learn about or ways you want to expand and then tackle the those things that work FOR YOU and pour yourself into them. Eliminate the ones that don't work and revisit them later. If you see a great article on how to get more backlinks to your blog or Etsy shop, but you feel like it's all written in greek, bookmark it and come back to it later and maybe it will make more sense down the road. Put your energy into the things that make you grow and feel successful; not things that make you feel stumped and unsure. Those things you don't understand right away may make a whole lot more sense later. Trust me, there's still a lot of things I "revisit" and decide I'll go ahead and revisit them again later. And on the flip-side, something like SEO's that completely boggled my mind to begin with, suddenly became very clear to me and I was able to move forward and apply that information to my business.
  • Measure your success by your own standards! Don't compare yourself with the top Etsy sellers or your friends or your friends of friends. Measure your success by YOUR accomplishments. Keeping confidence in yourself is key, so please don't disregard your own accomplishments. They all count and they all add up. And while you are at it be proud of yourself!
  • Try not to get discouraged! Ok, I know it's easier said than done. It happens to me and I am sure it happens to those people with 4000 sales under their one of a kind Etsy belts. There will always be sales slumps and at times these can be really alarming. Honestly, I don't often understand it. Of course when you have done something that has brought more traffic to your shop such as being a guest writer to a popular blog, have a feature, or have some other marketing exposure, you may see a spike in your sales, but other than that it doesn't always make sense.  (Using Etsy shop stats or Google analytics to take "notes" can be helpful over the year(s) to help you identify trends so you can be prepared for more or less business.) I will often have four sales in two weeks and then I will get four sales in two hours, and I honestly didn't do anything differently and the world seems to be spinning at the same rate too. It's just the nature of the beast. I have learned that rather than throwing a pity party for myself when times are slow, or panicking wondering if Etsy made my shop invisible; I take that time to get creative and work on the business ends of things. I work on new designs, make inventory, work on learning about new networking techniques, and so on and so forth. And just between us, I still worry during those dry spells, but I use that worry to move forward. I have learned to look at sale slumps as opportunities to take a stand back and look at my shop and get busy on my to-do and to-grow list.
  • Yep, here it is again... Photo's {Pete and Repeat were sitting on a fence...} Take good photos and then try to make them better. Experiment with different settings and backgrounds. A cohesive look in your photos is a great start, I believe it is a part of your branding and image. Even if your photo's aren't magazine worthy, try to make them look cohesive and, even with less than perfect photos, it will give your shop an overall unique and professional look. (This is something I am currently working on  myself, and will continue to do as long as my shop is open for business)

  • Believe in your product and what you sale/know your target customers. What does that mean? Well, I didn't know until I actually started selling my products and making connections with my costumers. I knew I liked fabric and textiles. I liked embroidery. I knew I liked things that were sentimental. I knew I liked making pillows. But what I found is that I loved the sentiment behind my embroidered pillows because, lo and behold that's what my customers loved about them too! So once I started making my pillows with my customers in mind, my connection to my products expanded exponentially. At that point I realized, hey, that's my niche! And, like me, that might not be really clear from the get-go, but if you have a connection to what you make this will show itself in no time at all. And, also like me, you will probably have your customers to thank. Another example of this is my fabric pillows, what I loved about making pillows from fabulous fabrics is that they are an affordable way to decorate, so with that I keep my fabric pillows affordable for others that want to spruce up their space without a huge investment. Ultimately, quickly on, I found what I liked about making my product already had a target customer and now with that I use it as a guide in coming up with new products and designs.

  • Speaking of customers...Sit tight, this will be longest one...Always make customer service your number one priority (assuming making a great product is already in the bag). Treat your customers wonderfully. This can translate to giving them quick efficient service or sending a few emails back and forth. You just kind of have to gauge each customer as an individual and give them the service that seems to suit them best. If your customers engage you, engage them back! Many of my orders are custom which usually ends up building little relationships. And what I have found from this is that I love engaging my customers and hearing the story behind their purchases. This has given my work a whole galaxy-worth of meaning. My pillows haven't changed since I first started making them and now, but the energy with which I work has. My business puts food on my table, but I never view my customers purchase as money in my bank account. Of course it adds up so I am able to support myself, but each order is an order for a person, it is going in their home or as a gift to someone that they are saying "you mean something to me," with; so with that it's important that that is the essence of interaction with them and is reflected in your product as well. My customers mean something to me, their purchase means something to me. The interaction between me and my customers has truly enriched my life and keeps me totally motivated to be better, learn more and come up with new designs. I think this approach makes such a world of difference. I know it has for me and because of it I have the most supportive customer base. Truly. It is so, so, so true that word of mouth is the biggest marketing tool. I have many return customers and many referrals. I have customers that check in with me to see how things are going or to tell me they "pinned" my items to pinterest, wrote a blog post about my pillows, or told a friend about my shop. I even have customers who let me know that a friend they referred loved their pillow. 
So, in a nut shell, from my experience my advice would be: have excellent customer service, engage your customer, take them on your journey with you (because they are a huge apart of it), take pride in what you do ...and your customers will gladly share in that pride and this will be reflected in your success.

For more in-depth Etsy tips go here -  C -

    Trend Alert: Fashion and Home Design {Pendleton Wool - Navajo Prints}

    Monday, November 7, 2011

    Links to photos from left to right: Throw PillowBag; Scarf; Saddle Blanket
    Women's Coat; Paul Smith Tee; Vintage Pendleton Blanket; Dress; Baby Booties

    Being from Oregon Pendleton wool has always been a coveted item. My grandma had the tiniest little Pendleton wool blanket that she would remind me to be careful with because it was a "Pendleton Wool Blanket." After about the age of 6 it was too small to even cover my legs with but I would stroke its soft texture and snuggle it all the same. Well, now it seems to be in fashion everywhere, high fashion, home decor,  kids wear; and once I saw it on shoes, I realized, okay this is definitely trending. I suppose with raw wood, chevron stripes and antlers all the rage these days this new (old) trend is right on target.

    Navajo textiles are amazing and maybe they also feel familiar to me because they have been used in Pendleton textiles forever. I believe these textiles draw us in so much because they have meaning and significance for the Navajo's that introduced these lovely woven textiles so long ago. For the Navajo people that made and continue to make authentic Navajo textiles, weaving is not only a source of livelihood, it is a way to participate in traditional Navajo culture and community.  The art of weaving is an expression of beauty, harmony, and balance: concepts that lie at the center of Navajo art and life. These seem like great vibrant energies to bring into to your space and world.

    I am glad to see Pendleton wools and Navajo prints making a come back. Wool is a beautiful natural fiber that is oh, so warm for the cold months ahead. And the rich textured Navajo designs are often coupled with vibrant colors to keep our spirits up on these short winter days.

    Now where can you get in on the action??

     Chairs by Anthropologie

    Etsy Talk: Show Some Love & Support Fellow Etsians With Just A Few Clicks

    Thursday, November 3, 2011

    With so many changes within Etsy lately and "marketing" and "ads" being a huge topic of conversation among Etsians, I have found that there are ways we can help other shops and bloggers by using the free advertising we have at our finger tips everyday. I know first hand for busy shop owners participating in helping "promote" other peoples works, shops and blogs can fall to the bottom of your to-do list and may not be the type of advertising weighing on your mind. But I have found that taking a couple minutes of your day is a free and worthy investment in just good old fashioned karma and of course it is a great time to do so with the fabulous season of giving fast approaching. Oh, and it doesn't hurt you or your shop to do so either, in fact it often helps!

    The holiday season is here and while we may not be able to buy every single one of the fantastic items we sooo want to buy on Etsy, we can still share in the spirit of supporting the handmade community by showing a little love to our fellow Etsy shop owners and bloggers. So, while you are updating your shop or daydreaming about your own holiday wish list, I have come up with a few simple ways to show the love with little to no time spent.

    So here they are in all their underrated glory - a few ideas that literally take under one minute each and why they are a good idea:
    • First step...See a shop you like? Add them to your circle. The more circles you are in and others are in the more everybody gets seen. And with your "circles" being on your activity page I find this a really simple venue to offer support in. When someone in "my" circle likes someone else (and I see I do too), I add that person and my circle grows - and then so does my opportunity to show some more love to my fellow Etsians.
    •  Favorite other peoples shops and items! If you like it why not say so? Confidence is key to success so why not send little hearts to people and keep their confidence growing : )
    •  Look at a couple treasuries that are in your circle. Like what you see? If you have the time make a comment, favorite it, or share it with others. 
    • If someone adds your item to their treasury, comment and say thank you. Add it to your favorite treasuries list; share it on social networking sites. It's a win-win because you are helping promote others as well as your treasured goods.
    • See an item or blog post you LOVE or like a whole lot? Pin it to Pinterest, share a link on Facebook or Twitter, or Stumble It. These accounts for me are usually always open, so it's super simple to just click the button!
    • Follow blogs and shops that you like on Twitter and Facebook, and, hey, you just might get a follow back!
    These may seem like really simple things, and they are, which is why they are things everyone can do. And by doing them you aren't ensuring that a shop is going to take off because you tweeted about it, but the more exposure we all have the better off we are all. And as an Etsy community, getting the word out about it as a great place to buy the best gifts around through other sites is just a darned good idea. And just remember when you promote someone else or show them a little love you are also getting yourself and your product out there too! And don't forget to connect your shop/blog when and where you can. The word on the virtual street is backlinks are key and some of these methods help provide them for others and yourself!
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