Monday, November 28, 2011

True Confessions - Things I never knew before I came to Etsy

(Warning - this might be tl;dr for most people but at least scroll to the end to see the picture - it's hilarious.)

In case it isn't already obvious, I'm not the crafty type. I love to design and crochet things but that's about it. There are so many things that I've seen on Etsy that I never knew or heard of before but you can't swing a cat around there without offending dozens of people so I'll confess/laugh here.

- I have never seen a hot glue gun, never mind used one. Everything that I glue falls apart in the rain.

- I've worked with yarn all of my life and I have no idea what felting is or how it's done. I think that it has something to do with needles and a phenomenal amount of patience. I always thought that felt came in little sheets from the craft store.

- I can't even pronounce the name of those cutesy little crocheted animals. I think it's something like amigurami. Don't ask me why they can't just call them little crocheted whatevers.

- Adults wear tutus and not just on Halloween. Seriously? I thought that I lived in the weirdest place on earth but grownups don't dress like aging ballerinas.

- People wear cowls that come all the way up to their eyeballs. I have no idea of how they breathe that way. I feel like I'm choking in turtlenecks.

- Fingerless gloves are phenomenally popular. I don't text and my fingers are always freezing. I wish someone would make the fingers without the gloves part.

- There is something called a hipster that is native to Brooklyn. They wear painfully tight jeans, Buddy Holly glasses, spout pseudo-intellectual nonsense about literature and philosophy that they've never read but glanced at on Wikipedia and like owls, mustaches and little woodland creatures. I refuse to believe that there is any definition of hip that includes stuffed animals on bicycles and fake mustaches. . They like a color called greige which is what happens when you mix up white, grey and beige and toss it all over everything. I think that Pottery Barn invented it. These kids are seriously lacking in imagination when it comes to designing a subculture. There is also a heretical sect called the Loud Spandex Tribe that lives deep in the jungles of Brooklyn. Their core belief is that if they make you look at their tights every day you’ll eventually buy them so that you can burn them and never have to see them again. I'm guessing that the schism had something to do with using one color too many.

- People will pay for someone else to put sticks in a jar for them. Pet rocks, move over.

- In Etsy jargon, cupcake means nauseating suck-up who will never, ever state an opinion that is not already approved by the powers that be. Another confession - I never ate a single cupcake during the whole fancy cupcake phase. I avoid bakeries like the plague. Also, an incredible number of people call a sale a sell. Yay - I got a sell today! WTF?

- They have some pretty funny acronyms over there. My favorite is BNA, which stands for Be Nice, Asshole. It happens when someone starts a thread asking why we all can't just get along while simultaneously insulting everyone with their OP.

- Forums comprised of over 90% women are way more vicious than the ones that are mostly comprised of men. It's just amazing to see someone with a lovely delicate bridal shop spewing venom in every direction and calling other people's stuff hideous crap.

- It's a bit dangerous to be a yarn snob over there. Some things are best kept to yourself. There is also a seriously scary knitting mafia who will hunt you down and kill you (or at least snitch on you) if you dare to call crochet a knit. Never mind that the entire fashion industry does it - on Etsy it's a technique only and the rest of the dictionary definitions are verboten. I'm pretty sure that you have to earn your cupcake status to be considered for membership but that might be a coincidence.

- It turns out that something can be both unique and trendy at the same time and you can shop locally while simultaneously supporting the global economy. Who knew?

Yesterday I saw this wonderful painting by the artist ArtdeJoie on Etsy that sums this all up perfectly. Every time that I look at it I see another funny detail. She does beautiful work so go check out her whole shop if you can. If you click on the photo below it will take you to the full size version. I'm going to buy the print instead because I'd have to sell a lot of sweaters to afford a real painting by someone other than my nieces and nephews.

Etsy Hipster Satire by ArtdeJoie

Please come see my handmade designer plus size sweaters, sweater coats, capes and shrugs at

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Choosing a Hosting Platform or Venue

Sometimes I can be a real idiot and forget the most obvious and basic things. When I decided to get serious about this I wrote up a very detailed project plan that covered the first two years of operation in terms of what I had to do to have a fully functioning business by the winter of 2012. So far I'm right on track - I've set up shops on Etsy and Zibbet, started a blog here and a facebook page, learned all about SEO and how to use google analytics to analyze performance stats, had someone do a professional logo, banner and business cards for me and sold enough online and locally to end my first year with more than twice as much cash as I started with plus all of my inventory. I knew that I wouldn't ever be able to afford models so my pictures still stink but I'll figure something out. What I didn't do was research venues carefully or even make a list of what I should evaluate before making a platform choice. Instead I just jumped into Etsy assuming that it was the best place to start. This was not very bright because making a list of questions and issues should have been my first step. Chances are that if I had bothered to check Etsy's target demographics and sales data I would have never considered setting up there. When the target is women under 30 that spend about $10-$20 per purchase I'm obviously in the wrong place. When combined with the perception that Etsy is a mistagged joke when it comes to plus sizes it's clear that I blew it with this decision and that Etsy's market standing is of no use to me at all. I've been turned down by 2 blogs already that have shopping lists of resources because they won't link to Etsy for anything that has to do with plus sizes. They don't want to risk their reputations by endorsing a site that allows the kind of misleading tagging that E does even though everything in my shop is ready to ship at the stated prices.

So, it's back to the drawing board for me. I'm not going to change anything until the end of sweater season but I'm going to start making a list of all of the issues that I need to consider and questions that I need to answer before choosing a hosting platform for my own .com. If there's one thing that I do know how to do it's to evaluate software and technical infrastructure options so that I don't choose something with no track record of stability or very limited abilities to control my SEO.

Today is for finishing an alpaca sweater though. I've been dragging it out because I love touching the yarn so much but I can be done in an hour if I stop dithering around.

Please come see my handmade designer plus size sweaters, sweater coats, capes and shrugs at

Friday, November 25, 2011

Black Friday, Small Business Saturday, and Cyber Monday - Support Handmade

So here we are, it's finally black Friday, and the masses are flocking to the big box stores. But not all of them :) Some of us have the sense to stay home, maybe looking for deals online.

So this holiday shopping weekend, buy handmade!! even if it isn't on sale.

You will get handcrafted goodies made by someone who cares about the product.

The item will be unique, or not very common. The price will not include pay for a wealthy CEO, board of directors, and supervisors; nor the cost of transporting it several times between facilities.

You will be supporting a small time indie artist (who sometimes can not find other work- I know I can not).

So go against the grain, and buy handmade! (or vintage) no designer knockoffs, no Hello Kitty or Disney or any major brand. Gift something unique this holiday season!!

BTW, I'm having free shipping worldwide on everything in Stephanie Makes All this weekend!

And 25% off of everything in my supply shop, One Stitch!

Friday, November 18, 2011

So Much To Do, No Energy To Do It

So, my depression has hit uber hard again, and every time that happens, my sales and views start taking a dive.

I find myself not hitting the social networking stuff as much (or at all), find myself not joining in discussions in the forums I frequent, find myself not wanting to even make new items, even though I have a million ideas.

I find the best way to bring myself out of the funk enough to do something is to make a list of all of the crap I need to do, and maybe I'll get half of it done!!

So here's my list of things needing done- the things that aren't housework anyway.

*set up sales for black Friday/ cyber Monday (still undecided)

*make new designs, or at least new colors of some older designs that I only made one or 2 colors of)

*write up a couple of the patterns I've been meaning to write up

*and retake pictures of the tam I decided to make. Because for some reason, that pic turned out really dark, and I'm not that good at the photo editing software.

That's just the current list. I'm sure I'm missing about 10 things :) Hopefully I'll get all of that done!

Now where do I find the energy to do it??? Anna girl's been super needy, and I've been a deer hunter's widow for several weeks!!! Steve, come home and watch the baby for a while!!!

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

I Have a Complaint

Yeah, I know, so what else is new? At least this one is about a new subject.

I started a Facebook fan page like a good little marketer even though I have no idea of what to do with it or how it's supposed to help me other than to datamine and spread my and my friends' personal information all over the internet. Don't get me wrong, the one lady that comes and talks to me is very nice but it isn't like I've got some big following. I wander around liking things that have anything to do with plus sizes in the hopes that someone might know I exist there.

I think that I might be one of the only people that designs plus size clothes that doesn't wear them but now every one of the ads that show up on my page is either for dangerous fad diets or junk food. Talk about a mixed message! It's like the marketing people can't decide whether to kill you by starving you to death or loading you up with enough empty fat calories to stop your heart. The pages that tell you to eat less and exercise more oddly enough don't have anywhere near the number of likes as the ones that tell you that you can drop 100 pounds in 6 months and keep it off forever. No wonder so many women have body image and self-esteem problems. Something tells me that when someone likes straight size shops they don't get bombarded with food ads.

Please come see my handmade designer plus size sweaters, sweater coats, capes and shrugs at

Thursday, November 10, 2011

SEO - I'm doing the happy dance

When I first started it back in August with a bit of work I had most of my plus size sweater coats showing up on the first two pages of google. Once all of the major department stores started their fall and winter advertising I was bumped back but a few could still be found on the first 3 pages. Then I made one change to my shop-level SEO in both shops and all but one of my sweaters disappeared. I started to panic and then realized that my shop itself was now on page 1 when I searched on "plus size designer sweaters" "plus size handmade designer sweaters", "plus size sweater coats", "plus size handmade sweaters", "handmade designer sweaters" and my Zibbet and FB fan page are all over the first few pages too. On a straight "plus size sweaters" I don't turn up until page 4 but that's not bad considering that there are huge numbers of them out there and it's a very general search. I have to keep pinching myself to believe that my shop name is all over the place right before the start of the holiday shopping season. Buying Mary's guide was the best thing that I've done for my shop so far.

Please come see my handmade designer plus size sweaters, sweater coats, capes and shrugs at

Monday, November 7, 2011

What I Love About Custom Orders

So my last 3 orders were all custom. they were:

A set of 4 trivets in the shapes of pumpkins,
A set of 3 soap savers in a special yarn for sensitive skin.
And a pair of lace fingerless gloves, that are elbow length.

All 3 were a challenge, and this is what I love the most about custom orders!!

For the pumpkin trivets, I wound up making 2 brand new designs, one was rejected, but I was able to put it into my shop.

For the soap savers, I had to hurry up and contact a member of (site for knitters and crocheters), and get a skein of the special yarn quickly.

And for the lace gloves, I had to completely re-do the glove pattern to make sure it would fit the bigger part of the buyer's forearms.

And now I have a 4th custom order :) simple little flowers appliques :)

The challenge on this one, to design several little designs. and make a bunch up quickly.

I sure do love to take on a challenge!! Now back off to work.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Who do I work for anyway?

This week's Etsy drama is about their new practice of including ads for other shops within our transaction confirmation emails. Is it the end of the world? Of course not. Is it a business practice that I find to be completely tasteless, tacky and inappropriate? Absolutely. It raises a lot of important issues for me in terms of how I define my business and branding. I'm retired from professional work now and one of the things that I love about this is that I feel like I'm finally working for myself and not for a Board of Directors or CEO. I never have to feel ashamed or embarrassed by anyone else's behavior anymore. I tend to see Etsy as my landlord and not as my employer. My landlord (if I had one) could raise my rent and enforce whatever legal limits that he wants to but he can't come in and sign my mail or redecorate my house. Clearly Etsy can and it's their site. I just hadn't realized how much taste control I'm giving up. It's certainly food for thought. I'm pretty practical and I understand that if I want to play in Etsy's sandbox I have to deal with whatever they decide and I have no issue with that but it isn't what I envisioned when I decided to have a hobby/business. I'm not sure what the point of having a little side business is if I can't even control my branding in a way that I feel would help me to grow. This combined with the never-ending push toward trendy disposable consumerism over there is making me feel a little bit dirty.

There's no fast answer or venue with comparable traffic but I'm learning now that this is something that I should have given more thought to right up front. Given that this is a hobby and I don't need the money badly enough to compromise my principles, what are my ethical boundaries? Is there a point where I would say "enough is enough, this is not me at all" and where is that point? I don't know yet but I'm surely going to be thinking about it. The miniscule number of sales I get there may not be worth this icky feeling that my brand spams customers with trendy items that the customer didn't ask for. I just hate spam so much and I'm not sure that I want another job that I'm not in control of or to work for kids half my age that don't appear to have a mature business ethic when it comes to how they treat their customers.

Please come see my handmade designer plus size sweaters, sweater coats, capes and shrugs at