Sunday, November 11, 2012

How to Set Up A Facebook Page For Your Business

If you have a business, you may want to set up a Facebook page specifically for it for promotion. Here's how to go about setting up a Facebook page for your business.

You need a personal face book account first. If you don't have a personal account, create one at After you have an account, make sure you are logged in and go to this page.

For a business, such as Karen's and mine are, you could choose“local business or place” or “brand or product”

Unless you have a local store, or are trying to get free face book advertising, I'd go with brand or product. You can change it to local business later if you come across free advertising (more on advertising later)

Then add a picture. This can be you, a product, or a logo. This picture is the avatar that pops up next to your posts, so you want it to be representative of your brand. In handmade items, a picture of you is sometimes a good choice.

Add some information: What they are asking for here is a basic description. What your items are about. You'll be able to add a whole lot more later. Start the about section with a link to your website, it'll show on the main part of your Facebook fan page.

And then the URL. When I started my page, you had to have 25 followers to get a custom URL. Now apparently, you are able to get one immediately :) Be sure the URL you set is the one you want.

After these 3 items are set up, you will be able to finally see your page. Facebook will take you through their tutorial on where everything is and you will be able to make your first post if you are ready.

Add a cover photo, face book says that this cover photo cannot be text based, or contain promo codes or sales information. Think of this cover photo as a tall banner, a sign on your page, and more opportunities for branding.

At the very top of your page, above where the cover photo goes, is the admin panel. Your visitors will not see this. This area shows your statistics, new likes, comments, shares, any messages your page received, etc. there is a small, grayish bar there where you can edit and manage your page. This is where you expand on the information that you provided at the beginning.

If you haven’t done so already, make your first post. This is a good time to welcome the people you are about to invite, say hello!

And now, invite people! If you've been on face book for a while, you probably have a few friends you can invite, click the build audience link at the very top of the page, and invite all of your face book friends! Many probably will not join, and that's fine.

Add your new face book page URL to your profiles everywhere, each place is another place to be found.

Come visit my Facebook page at 

Hope this helps!
-Steph from One Stitch Designs

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Imitation is the Sincerest Form of Flattery

I'm not sure when lazy became synonymous with sincerity but having people compliment your original ideas and designs only to attempt to replicate them is all part of the territory and everyone creative faces it at some point.  It really does feel terrible and frustrating and it's hard not to get angry but there's nothing much that can be done about it.  You can't copyright an idea or a technique and you can't sell your work and hide your ideas away at the same time.  It seems to be the way of the world and even we tiny businesses have to face it.  This must be my week because I've had one woman come right out and ask me if I would mind if she copied a design stitch by stitch and one of my Facebook followers has also started to try to do the same type of work.  Luckily for me both of them are copying hat styles that are just a little side line for me and not my sweater designs. Once I get over my initial hissy fit and calm down the first thing that I try to do is feel sorry for them.  It's sad to think that someone wants to be an artisan so badly that they would appropriate someone else's ideas to make up for their lack of creativity and ability to create anything original and I'd rather have someone copy me than have to feel that void in my life.  They'll never know the joy of that creative spark or feel the confidence that comes from knowing that what you make reflects who you are and how you see the world.  Somehow I doubt that the clink of the coins in their pocket measures up to that.  I feel better about myself if I can pity them instead of feeling contempt for their lack of integrity.

 The next thing that I usually feel is a cold determination to create even more complicated designs so that they at least have to struggle a bit to rip off my idea.  It's not much consolation but it helps a bit to imagine the tangled mess that they're probably making as they attempt to recreate something very colorful. Another thing that's good to remember is that there is a huge difference between a real friend and the occasional online "friend" that really isn't one.  Real friends are the people who you trust but a few of  your Facebook followers are likely to be selling similar items and are just scoping out your work.  I try not to take it too personally, I don't say anything to them or pitch a fit and I limit myself to nasty thoughts and giving their avatar the evil eye.  I also think really mean things about how amateurish and sloppy their results look to me.  It's a little bit of fun to "Like" their Facebook posts about it just so that they know that you've seen what they've done but chances are that they know no shame in the first place or they would have stopped themselves from doing it.  They might even be ditzy enough to think that it was a compliment.

 Even though there is nothing that any of us can do to protect ourselves against idea and design bottom feeders there are a few common sense precautions that will at least help in keeping them a few steps behind you.  Keep your ideas to yourself for as long as possible so that you can at least get the item completed before they come out with the imitation.  Don't share your great suppliers or tell anyone where you get unique materials and control your desire to help novices by showing them how to do more advanced work if they also sell their products.  If you spend a lot of time doing research it isn't always necessary to share your findings with the world.  Let them do their own work.  Don't tell the competition where you advertise and never get caught up in a race to the bottom of the pricing range.  If the market gets flooded with cheap imitations that you can't compete with then just accept it and move on.  Your best asset is your creativity and ability to take your work to the next step so use it to leave them in the dust with something new.

 If necessary find another outlet such as local brick and mortar shops to take your work on consignment at first and charge what the items are worth. You can also find a niche product that's harder and more expensive to replicate.  For example, lots and lots of people sell handmade sweaters but very few of them make plus sizes, one of a kind designs or invest in high-end materials.  I can't compete for bargain shoppers looking for acrylics but I'm not trying to.  My customers are too smart to pay handmade prices for something that they can find in any chain store for far less money.  They (and I) go to chain stores for common sense everyday purchases and then fill in their wardrobes with a few high quality pieces.  I want people to buy my work because they want to express their individual style and indulge themselves a bit and not because I have the lowest prices in town or because they want to look like everyone else in the latest trends.

 In the end all you can really do is suck it up, throw some rocks at a tree until you feel better and then get back to work on more original designs.  At least what I do is too complicated to be showing up as imports on Alibaba that can be bought by the thousands for pennies a piece and that's some consolation!  

 Please come by and visit me on my Mirabilis Fashions Facebook Page, at Plus Size Sweaters by Mirabilis Fashions or on Plus Size Sweaters by Mirabilis Fashions on Google+.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Before You Ask for Free.....

This is a post I found on another site, that is a re-posting from somewhere on Craigslist. The author is unknown, but I give her/him kudos.

This applies to all handmade, artists, designers, etc.

Before you ask for free design services...
Every day, there are more and more posts seeking “artists” for everything from auto graphics to comic books to corporate logo designs. More people are finding themselves in need of some form of illustrative service.

But what they’re NOT doing, unfortunately, is realizing how rare someone with these particular talents can be.

To those who are “seeking artists”, let me ask you; How many people do you know, personally, with the talent and skill to perform the services you need? A dozen? Five? One? …none?

More than likely, you don’t know any. Otherwise, you wouldn’t be posting on craigslist to find them.

And this is not really a surprise.

In this country, there are almost twice as many neurosurgeons as there are professional illustrators. There are eleven times as many certified mechanics. There are SEVENTY times as many people in the IT field.

So, given that they are less rare, and therefore less in demand, would it make sense to ask your mechanic to work on your car for free? Would you look him in the eye, with a straight face, and tell him that his compensation would be the ability to have his work shown to others as you drive down the street?

Would you offer a neurosurgeon the “opportunity” to add your name to his resume as payment for removing that pesky tumor? (Maybe you could offer him “a few bucks” for “materials”. What a deal!)

Would you be able to seriously even CONSIDER offering your web hosting service the chance to have people see their work, by viewing your website, as their payment for hosting you?

If you answered “yes” to ANY of the above, you’re obviously insane. If you answered “no”, then kudos to you for living in the real world.

But then tell me… why would you think it is okay to live out the same, delusional, ridiculous fantasy when seeking someone whose abilities are even less in supply than these folks?

Graphic artists, illustrators, painters, etc., are skilled tradesmen. As such, to consider them as, or deal with them as, anything less than professionals fully deserving of your respect is both insulting and a bad reflection on you as a sane, reasonable person. In short, it makes you look like a twit.

A few things you need to know;

1. It is not a “great opportunity” for an artist to have his work seen on your car/’zine/website/bedroom wall, etc. It IS a “great opportunity” for YOU to have their work there.

2. It is not clever to seek a “student” or “beginner” in an attempt to get work for free. It’s ignorant and insulting. They may be “students”, but that does not mean they don’t deserve to be paid for their hard work. You were a “student” once, too. Would you have taken that job at McDonalds with no pay, because you were learning essential job skills for the real world? Yes, your proposition it JUST as stupid.

3. The chance to have their name on something that is going to be seen by other people, whether it’s one or one million, is NOT a valid enticement. Neither is the right to add that work to their “portfolio”. They get to do those things ANYWAY, after being paid as they should. It’s not compensation. It’s their right, and it’s a given.

4. Stop thinking that you’re giving them some great chance to work. Once they skip over your silly ad, as they should, the next ad is usually for someone who lives in the real world, and as such, will pay them. There are far more jobs needing these skills than there are people who possess these skills.

5. Students DO need “experience”. But they do NOT need to get it by giving their work away. In fact, this does not even offer them the experience they need. Anyone who will not/can not pay them is obviously the type of person or business they should be ashamed to have on their resume anyway. Do you think professional contractors list the “experience” they got while nailing down a loose step at their grandmother’s house when they were seventeen?

If you your company or gig was worth listing as desired experience, it would be able to pay for the services it received. The only experience they will get doing free work for you is a lesson learned in what kinds of scrubs they should not lower themselves to deal with.

6. (This one is FOR the artists out there, please pay attention.) Some will ask you to “submit work for consideration”. They may even be posing as some sort of “contest”. These are almost always scams. They will take the work submitted by many artists seeking to win the “contest”, or be “chosen” for the gig, and find what they like most. They will then usually have someone who works for them, or someone who works incredibly cheap because they have no originality or talent of their own, reproduce that same work, or even just make slight modifications to it, and claim it as their own. You will NOT be paid, you will NOT win the contest. The only people who win, here, are the underhanded folks who run these ads. This is speculative, or “spec”, work. It’s risky at best, and a complete scam at worst. I urge you to avoid it, completely. For more information on this subject, please visit

So to artists/designers/illustrators looking for work, do everyone a favor, ESPECIALLY yourselves, and avoid people who do not intend to pay you. Whether they are “spec” gigs, or just some guy who wants a free mural on his living room walls. They need you. You do NOT need them.

And for those who are looking for someone to do work for free… please wake up and join the real world. The only thing you’re accomplishing is to insult those with the skills you need. Get a clue.


As I said above, this is a re-posting and the author is unknown. 

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Helpful Tools To Price Handmade

 Handmade is by it's very nature, difficult to price.There are so many factor in deciding what the retail price of an item is going to be, and it doesn't help that we artisans tend to be more creative in thinking rather than business oriented.

Sometimes, pricing gets set based on emotions, because of what other people are pricing, or based on what the person setting the prices would pay for it.

None of those are good business (although it can pay to be aware what others are charging and selling similar items for).

Here are a couple tools that may help anyone set pricing.

 This calculator takes in your yearly expenses, how many hours you'll work, how many of them are actually billable (IE, you work 1 hour making a product, and one hour getting it out there, you have a 50% billable rate), etc, and tells you how much you'll need to charge per billable hour to make ends meet, and how much you'll need to charge per hour to get what you want.

This calculator takes a potential price, what you charge for shipping, what you are charged for shipping, your materials cost, and tells you what etsy and paypal fees are going to be

To get true business profit, add your hourly wage to the materials section.

The calculator was originally built to calculate for etsy and paypal fees, but you can exclude either one and even change them to fit a merchant account or another selling site.

Between the 2 above, you can get a pretty decent view of what you need to charge to have a healthy business.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Copyright and Trademark differences and similarities

There seems to be a lot of confusion about copyright and trademark

While the protections are similar, they are 2 very different things

So we'll get started with definitions. From Webster's dictionary

Copyright: the exclusive legal right to reproduce, publish, sell, or distribute the matter and form of something (as a literary, musical, or artistic work)

Trademark: a device (as a word or image) pointing distinctly to the origin or ownership of merchandise to which it is applied and legally reserved to the exclusive use of the owner as maker or seller

So copyright protects words, images, and sounds (books and other printed matter, music, movies, photos, etc.).

While trademark protects brands (McDonalds, Hello Kitty, Disney, John Deer, etc.)

Another difference between the 2 is that when you take a photo, write words, etc. you are automatically copyrighted in the US and the other countries that recognize the same set of laws. You can pay to have your item copyrighted, but this fee is mostly for extra protection in case you ever have to go to court over it.

But a trademark only goes into effect when you pay the money to have your trademark registered with the USPTO (US patent and trademark office).

Both sets of laws allow you to license some rights.

With both sets of laws, the copyright and/or trademark holder must enforce them. If the holder doesn't enforce the laws themselves, they can lose their protection, even if they paid a fee.

Not everything can be copyrighted or trademarked. Clothing, for example, a finished item does not have copyright and/or trademark protection unless said finished item has a decorative element (artwork, logos, etc)

I always assume that words, images, etc are copyrighted unless it says specifically that it is in public domain,to be extra safe.

As for trademarks, if you are wondering if a particular term is trademarked, check here:

Monday, June 4, 2012

How to Get Started on Google+

We’ve all been hearing about how Google+ is going to help our SEO and give us a boost to our google rankings so this post will tell you how to get started with it.  

The first step is to create a personal profile.  This is similar to your personal page on Facebook and if you use it at all it should be for social reasons and not for marketing your products.  Just like on Facebook you have to have a personal profile before you can add a business page.  This link will show you how to get started by creating your personal profile. 

The next step is to set up your business page and profile.  This is similar in concept to your Facebook fan page.  This link will show you how to do that:

It’s a good idea to use a different avatar for your business page than you did for your personal page because that will make it much easier to know which page you’re on.  You can change your avatar by going to your profile using the profile icon on the left sidebar, hover over your picture and it will give you a chance to edit it.  You’ll see “Options” at the bottom left and under that drop-down there will be a choice to delete it.  Once you delete it you can add another one.

When you sign into google+ you’ll be on your home personal page which shows all of the posts from the people in your circles or that you’re following.  The way to get from one page to the other is to click on the Pages icon on the left navigation sidebar and it will give you a choice between your personal profile and your business page(s).  Make sure to enter links to everywhere that you have an online presence like your shop, blog and Facebook page on both of your profiles.  This link will show you how to do that:

Circles are the main way to share posts on google+ and you can find your circles by clicking on the Circles icon on the left sidebar.  When you’re using google+ under your personal profile circles are like Facebook friends. You have completely different sets of circles for your personal profile and your business page and there is no connection between the two.  The best way to think of it is that you have 2 completely different entities and you are the only one that knows that there is a connection between your personal page and your business page. The people that you put in your circles using your personal page won't see the things that you post under your business page and the people in your business circles won't see your personal posts.  You can choose which of your circles that you want to share your posts with and you can also share them publicly so that they get found in searches.  The most viewed and shared posts end up in the “Explore” area.

When you're using your personal profile you can follow or add any person or business to your circles and they get a notice and have the option to circle you back. You can +1, share or comment on anything using your personal profile name.

When you're using your business page you can follow or add other businesses to your circles, +1, share and comment on their posts using your business name. They get a notice and can follow you back if they want to. You can't circle or follow a person or comment on their posts using your business name unless they circle you first but you can +1 their posts and share them. When you try to add a person that hasn’t added you first to your business circles it doesn't give you an error but it doesn't add them either and their little card just floats back to the top when you try to drag it into a circle. You can tell that it didn't work because the number of people in your circle doesn't increase.  You can always remove people from your circles if you decide that you don’t want to see their posts after all.

You can find things to add to your circles in several ways.  The first is to search for subjects and businesses that you’re interested in or think that your target demographic will be interested in and follow them or add them to a circle.  You can also search by twitter hashtags.  The second way is to click on the Explore icon on the left sidebar and you’ll see a selection of popular posts and subjects and you can follow the ones that are businesses.  People also share circles so when you see one that you like you can add it to yours. (This can be time consuming because you have to edit the people out of the circle because you can't circle people as a business unless they do it first.)     One of the easiest ways to get noticed is to +1 and share posts that don’t already have hundreds of +1s because people are more likely to see you if there are only a few +1s there.  Before you post think carefully about which circles you want to share it with.  For example I’m following and in a few science and geeky circles that are almost all men under my business page to keep my feed interesting to me and they probably don’t care very much about my products and those posts might annoy them.  Start out by organizing your circles as you add people so that you can target your posts. 
Adding people to your circles and getting added back doesn’t do much to increase your google rankings but having your posts get +1s and shared does.  I can’t reiterate enough that the way to help each other and get noticed by others on g+ is to +1 and share their posts with any of your circles that seem appropriate and publicly as well.  I recommend creating an SEOteam circle with only people from here in it so that we can share our posts back and forth and only be spamming each other.  Just like on Facebook the way to encourage people to share your posts is to be interesting, funny and post more than just product commercials.   Bring in some new content and don’t just share what you see in the Explore area because everyone shares those and you’ll see dozens of them in your feed when you have a lot of circles.  Just like on Facebook, pictures and videos are more eye-catching than posts with just text are.  

 We’ve already talked about adding your links to both of your google+ profiles and if you have your own stand-alone shop or blog it’s very good to link them back to your google+ account.   You can add a g+ button to your site by following these directions:

You can link your site back to google+ by following these directions:

Please come see my handmade designer plus size sweaters, sweater coats, capes and shrugs at Mirabilis Fashions Plus Size Blog and tell me about the things that you'd like to read about.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

The Facepalm Moment

We all have them, the moments where you ask yourself what the heck you were thinking, how you forgot that, or why did you think it in the first place?

Well, I just had one.

I've been advertising One Stitch Designs for a while now on various fashion and fiber artists blogs. My ad has a coupon code in it, same one I've used in my Etsy shops when I have advertised before.

Well here's my facepalm moment.

I made the code in my website and went on with my life. And today when I went to add a customer specific code (for joining my mailing list), I realized it wasn't active. I forgot to triple check everything and make sure it was active!

That was smart. I wonder now if anyone had gotten to my cart and when the code didn't work, they left. I know I've done it in the past.

Moral of the story: always check everything.

Now, in recognition of my stupidity.


Monday, May 21, 2012

Plus Size Blog

One of the things that I learned from my marketing review was that I really should have my own blog in addition to this one that sticks to the subjects that are closely related to what I do such as designing clothing for plus size women, selecting and shopping for luxury yarn, sweater design and other plus size issues including my mixed feelings about my own weight loss. (Yikes!) I've got a new one set up now and I hope that some of you will come visit me at Mirabilis Fashions Plus Size Blog and tell me about the things that you'd like to read about.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

In Support Of Handmade

(all items shown on this blog post are 100% handmade items)

Today is the day where many shops are closing their shop for the day in protest of etsy's decision to allow a seller who claimed to have a handmade shop that could not have been handmade in any one but etsy's definition to stay open.

I will not mention names, or put a link here, miss perfectly manicured pretty hands carpenter has had more than enough exposure.

I understand why these people are closing shop for the day, the silent protest, hoping that their approximately 0.5% of shops closing for the day will put a large enough blip on etsy's radar to tell them something.

But Etsy knows what we want, and closing our shops for the day isn't going to hurt anyone but ourselves. I know I cannot afford to lose out on even one tiny sale, literally every penny counts!

Some of the shops closing today have been bashing those of us who have decided to stay open, it's sad.

Many of us have devised a way to show support of handmade in our own ways (after all, isn't this why we are in business for ourselves, so no one can tell us what to do?). These other alternatives are positive.

*There's the Stop, Then Shop movement, which will refrain from buying today (May 10, 2012), and buy everything they wanted to buy tomorrow.

*Some of us cannot afford to buy anything, those of us in that boat are doing a whole lot of promotion for people we know to be handmade sellers.  This is done on pinterest, twitter, facebook, in treasuries, on blogs, and wherever else a person may promote

*Some of us are going to go ahead and take the plunge on some items we've had sitting in our carts and were on the fence about.

There are so many ways you can support handmade any day, not just this week.

Buy and promote handmade by the seller in anyway you can. On etsy, on any other site, even on the sellers own websites.  If they have one.

Q: How do you know it's handmade by the seller?

 A: Sometimes it's hard to tell. I usually do a search for that item. if it's a reseller item, or "charm on a chain" (which in my opinion is not handmade unless you made the charm or the chain), you'll usually see several other sellers selling the same piece. Many people add a few beads or dangles to the necklace, this is OK, as it shows a little bit of creativity.  On higher priced stuff, it's not always so easy to tell, though usually a Google search can bring up the original maker

Both Karen and myself are 100% handmade (although I do have a supply shop where I sell some knitting needles and yarns that I didn't make)

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Further Adventures in E-commerce

It sure has been a busy month for me with all sorts of good things going on as well as getting some eye-opening advice from a marketing professional that understands my demographic very well.  First for the good news:

- I have over 600 Facebook fans now and they're starting to interact with my page and talk to me.  I'm hating it less every day.

- People are also commenting on and sharing my posts on Google+ but it's still a ghost town compared to Facebook. 

- My stand-alone shop has done more business in 2 months than my Etsy shop has done in the last 6 months and those months included the winter and holidays.

- I've started a new blog to go with my shop and as soon as I get more content out there I'll let you all know about it so that you can visit me there too.

- I learn more and more about SEO every day from being a leader on the SEO team and even though it's a lot of work I love seeing people start to get great results because they took it seriously and really researched their keywords.

- I'm eventually going to be featured on a plus sized blog for professional women (yay!) and will probably have another feature done by a popular plus size blogger during the holidays.  The best part of this is that they have nothing to do with Etsy and are out there in the real world of advertising.

The rest isn't exactly good news but it definitely goes under the heading of useful advice. 

- I was told by a well-known plus size blogger that my stuff was too white and middle aged to appeal to her audience.  After I scraped my chin off of the floor I realized that she was right.  Although I wouldn't have phrased it that way and would have referred to things like "youthful urban fashion" without bringing skin color into it I did appreciate how blunt she was.  It helped me to focus on where I should be marketing and it isn't to trendy young women on a tight budget.  I already reach that demographic on Etsy and it's virtually useless to me.  The average person under 30 probably isn't shopping in my price bracket and I avoid trends like the plague.  If I invest a lot of money in clothing I want it to last for years and years and not look silly in it by the next season. She also said that people my size don't understand plus size shoppers and I was tempted to send her a picture of myself in a 3X from a few years ago but there was no point in arguing with her.  

- I was lucky enough to get a professional marketing review for free and boy did it open my eyes because she was simply brutal about Etsy when it comes to older women.  She felt very strongly that older women do not see Etsy as a place to buy clothing at all, never mind high end items, the plus size categories are a disaster of a mess of mislabeled stuff and that I'm setting myself up to look like a tacky amateur if I stay there.  She said that she would be much less likely to buy my items if she were aware that I also had an Etsy shop and that I should eradicate the word "crafts" from my vocabulary because I don't make macaroni art.  Her strongest advice was to shut down my shop there and if I wouldn't do that I should at least open up under a new name so that I don't taint my real business name.  Yikes.  I have to think about this because I can add a "for the home" section to my own shop to put the blankets in but I still have a few straight size sweaters that don't fit with the plus size theme of the shop.  Leaving Etsy altogether would probably be great for my blood pressure also because they're the most outrageously immature, rude and obnoxious entity that I've ever handed money over to. It isn't like I make much money there anyway and it falls far behind local sales and sales from my own website.  (She also asked me if Etsy sold anything that wasn't white or beige and that was my best laugh of the day.)

So, my adventures in learning about e-commerce continue...

A few hours later... Hmm - that certainly seemed to hit a nerve. I'm not much into replying to abusive anonymous convos so I'll take a stab at it in public. My comments about Etsy are certainly not meant to be a universal criticism and I wasn't implying that everyone that sells on Etsy should be ashamed of themselves or of the site. The marketing expert was talking about one specific type of product targeted to one specific demographic that Etsy doesn't try to serve. For the people whose products target the same demographic that Etsy does and whose work falls within the traditional craft categories and and pricing of the other types of items there Etsy is probably just fine. All of that long convo blather about hating me and unliking my page is sort of childish, don't you think? I'm sorry if anyone was offended but it would probably be better for your blood pressure to just ignore me. Sheesh.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

I know, I've been terrible about keeping up with this blog lately because I've been so swamped with work. I keep meaning to do a long post on how to design clothing with thread lace but I'm so tired of doing it that I can't bring myself to write about it in the little spare time that I have. I've also had some great shop reviews and gotten some great advice from a marketing exec that I want to tell you about too as well as to celebrate about how my new shop is already doing better than my Etsy shop is. So, instead of writing a real post I'm going to treat you to 2 of the funniest legal letters that I've ever seen. The short version is that Etsy has decided to allow factories to be called collectives and selected an importer to feature on the front page. Much drama and hysteria ensued and the legal threats started to fly around. The first letter is from the outraged reseller's "lawyer" and the second is a response from a real attorney. Here is the response: You've got to love a guy that can legitimately fit "intractably mentally ill", "bumptious", "malapropisms" "preposterous", "ridiculous", "empty thuggery", "freakishly unprofessional" and "gibberish" all into one legal communication. It almost makes me wish that someone would sue me so that I could hire him.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Tips for Running Multiple Venues and Shops

Most people agree that you need to run multiple venues to have a successful business.

While this is not always true (many successful businesses are run on one venue), it certainly helps for security, being found by a wider range of people, and sometimes even for hitting your target market better.

The more venues you are on, the more webpages you have, the more likely you are to be seen.

Also, having different venues helps if one closes.

I currently sell from the following pages:
OneStitchdesigns On Etsy (finished Items)
OneStitch on Etsy (supplies) (mixture of 2 shops above)
TraditionalByNature On Etsy (rustic home goods, wedding decor, business card holders)
Ravelry page
Craftsy page

So how does one juggle all of these different venues?

Well, It isn't easy!

Because I have different crafts in many of the shops, I devote certain days to a different craft. One day, I'll make a new design, another, I'll work on new colors of old designs. Some days I work on stitch markers, on others, I'll make paper stuff.

Every day I'm coming up with new designs in my head. The list of designs I want to make real is very, very long.

I spend at least one day a week doing computer work only.

Traditional by nature is the easiest, I just design the product, my fiance makes it, and he runs The etsy version caters to a different market, and I know Etsy real well, so I run that shop.

It's easier if you stick to one craft, but it's boring :)

I make sure to do a little bit of work in each shop everyday. And put at least one link back to each shop everyday.

Except forRavelry and Craftsy. I just list there, and leave it be. Both are for patterns, both have their own really good traffic. And neither take much work.

It's a lot of work, but the security is worth it.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Something Odd I've Noticed

This seems strange to me. Whenever there is a thread with that Etsy game where you pick an item from the shop that posted above you as your favorite thing in the shop I see the same pattern. People who don't crochet always pick one of the most elaborate, difficult and expensive items in my shop. People who do crochet almost always pick the simplest, easiest and least expensive items. I suppose that the obvious answer is that they don't like the sweaters but you'd think that a few non-crocheters would feel that way too. I tend to be the opposite - I always like the crocheted things best that show the highest skill level with the most amount of effort put into them. Go figure - it's just another one of those "only on Etsy" mysteries, just like "custom made vintage" (huh?) and "She's copying my copies of other people's licensed trademarks!".

In other news, I figured out a way to send a message to an actual staff person on FB to ask why the last $150 in free ad money they've given me won't work. I didn't get an answer yet but it felt like a major accomplishment just to find the form.

Monday, April 9, 2012

A bit about Google+

For those of you that don't know, Google+ is google's answer to Facebook. As usual google is being vague about how they plan to use it but the one thing that's clear is that they will use it as part of determining page ranking. It's not even half-baked yet and it's very confusing to use and once you figure it out you realize that it's a ghost town anyway with a non-stop parade of commercials. Essentially you have a personal page and you can add a business page and then you have to start getting into circles and hoping that people share your posts, just like on FB. It has a stream like the FB newsfeed that you have to narrow down to circles because otherwise every single post there is mushed together into one big list.

It's fairly easy to set up and it's probably a good idea to start to have a presence there so that you already exist when google decides what to do with it. One thing is very important to note. It might have been a coincidence but once I joined G+ I noticed that I was getting personalized results on my google searches. It was delightful - all of a sudden my most trivial stuff was covering the first 2 pages. Since hell would freeze over first I looked a bit harder and realized that I had to change the search from personalized results back to regular ones and then I went right back to where I had been. It might be happening to everyone now but you'll need to turn it off to test your SEO to get true results. Well, sort of true anyway because with personalized results no one knows what anyone else is seeing anyway.

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

Friday, April 6, 2012

What is a hobbyist?

It seems that Karen and I have separate views on what a hobbyist is.

My views:

First of all, it's important to note that if you are selling anything, you are a business, and are subject to laws in your area governing your type of business, though the IRS does declare you to be a hobbyist if you do not come out ahead most years.

At it's most basic, a hobbyist is merely someone who does what they want to do, makes what they want to make, which could put about 90% of everyone who works for themselves into the hobby category.

But in my mind, a hobbyist who sells doesn't really need the income from it. Usually when a hobbyist sells their stuff, it's because the stuff is taking over their home, or they just want their supply money back. Anything extra is icing on the cake.

But there's more layers to it. Many hobbyists I know who sell their stuff are just trying to get some of their money back to make more. A few of these people drive me nuts. If your going to give it away, just give it away, get some money back in the form of a deduction.

These people don't make business plans or anything for a business, a lot don't even realize they have to pay taxes, much less know anything about CPSIA laws for kids products, etc.

But then there's also the people like Karen, who run their hobby like a full on business, all the promotion, taxes, laws, business plans, etc. (hell, I'm not a hobbyist, and I don't even have an official business plan for OneStitch designs).

While those people are still technically a hobbyist, they are actually somewhere in between.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

What is the difference between a hobby and a business?

Not much as far as I can tell...

Another never-ending opportunity for snark on Etsy is the age-old comparison of hobbyists to "real" business people. I really hate to break it to the more opinionated business folks but unless you're deriving a significant part of your income from this then you're just a hobbyist too but with aspirations to become more than that. That somewhat obnoxious posing in the forums makes one look a bit silly when anyone with a calculator can tell that the numbers don't line up with the arrogant attitude. (Yeah, I'm kind of annoyed but at least I didn't blast the latest smug brat.)

On the other hand, calling what we do a hobby doesn't mean that we're off the hook and that we don't have to do all of the things to operate a business as anyone else does. Business plans and budgets have to be made, legalities have to be covered, taxes have to be paid when due, marketing and advertising has to be done, SEO has to be mastered, social signals and backlinks have to be created and then (when we have time after all of that work) we have to make stuff so that we actually have something to sell.

Maybe in the end it comes down to how realistic our business plans and expectations are. I know that I want to design and create and not go into mass production, patterns or having other people make my designs so I know that I'll never get the economy of scale that it would take to bring in a full time income but I don't need one. If that means that I'm a hobbyist then that's OK with me. Now if I could only stop with the 12 hours days...

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

Monday, March 26, 2012

How many Etsians does it take to change a lightbulb??

Hahaha, I was reading a thread this morning with the same title.

This is a really, really funny read, though it may not be 100% understandable to people who don't visit the forums often :)

How many Etsians does it take to change a lightbulb??

From Karen:

How funny - you beat me to it because I was just coming here to post it. You can thank her for the laugh by visiting her shop at LifeMeetsArt on Etsy. I guess that the forums aren't completely dead and tedious now after all.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Facebook Ads vs. Google Adwords

Now that I've had a chance to use both of them I can safely say that I will never use google adwords again unless I find the magic keyword that attracts the demographic that has always bought my sweaters offline. I have a narrow target market of plus size women from 35-65 who have a significant amount of discretionary income and google ads just scatter-shot at everyone with no targeting. IMO that's a waste of money unless what you sell appeals to a very wide audience. On Facebook I got to use $50 in free ad money and target each version very specifically to people who at least have a chance of being the right targets. They're very fun to use because you can can have several versions of ads running and compare them to each other to see how they're doing. I found that the ads that used product shots did much better than the ads that used my logo and the ads that sent people to my shop generated much more interest than the ones aimed at my FB page. The people that came in from the ads that I specifically targeted to women over 40 that liked luxury goods had a much, much lower bounce rate than I've ever had before and the average person looked at at least 4 sweaters.

On the downside, after rushing around trying to get to 50 likes I needed for more free ad money I found out that only people who had never used them before were eligible. Oh well.

Update: Facebook doesn't seem to keep track of who has already used free ads because they gave me the $50 more anyway. For starters I'm using it as one of those "like this to enter" things with a hefty coupon and I got 6 new likes in 10 minutes. It sure would be nice if this keeps up.

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

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Facebook ads experience

I recently received some advertising from Facebook to use their ads.

I set up a picture of my mug cozies , and set the target as women who enjoy fashion and/or coffee.

Paying approximately 42¢ per click on average. And sending the traffic to my page, so that I can keep advertising to those people. I've had 243 new likes in a month and a half.

For the purpose of getting more followers on Facebook, and thus more potential buyers, I'd say the advertisement works very well.

I've also used some of my advertising credits to send people to One Stitch Designs where I can better see what is going on with people when they click through.

I did not have any luck with that. the bounce rate seems to be fairly high for that, and I have had no sales from directly advertising.

My search for good advertising continues..........

Friday, March 9, 2012

Learning to Use Google Adwords

Most of us that work on the SEO for our shops are familiar with the free google adword keyword tool and we use it for analysis even if we never pay for an adword campaign. When you sign up for that account (which most people do to avoid that captcha stuff) unless you pay for ads within a few weeks they send you a coupon for $100 to try it out for free and they give you an adviser to help you set up the first one. I decided to take advantage of my free offer before it expired so that I could see how it all works without spending any money. I called their adviser and he more or less took over and walked me though the technical parts of how to set it up. It turns out that you do have to spend a minimum of $10 to use their coupon but it was still worth it to me. Then the guy took a look at my website, checked out some keywords and set up my first campaign. This is where you really need to be careful. These guys are experts at setting up adwords but not experts on what you sell or who you sell it to. He really pushed the keyword "trendy plus size clothing" because it's a popular one but the point isn't just to get views - it's to get the right views. Trendy is the last word that I would use to describe my stuff and people who are spending that kind of money don't want it to be out of style in a year. I decided to take his advice to see what would happen and sure enough - that very expensive keyword phrase was getting the most hits, eating up the most money and had close to a 90% bounce rate. (You find that out by linking your campaign to your analytics account and then you can track it like any other traffic source.) That's just what I expected - kids looking for low-end trendy clothing popping in, getting sticker shock, seeing no young trends and bouncing right back out again. Once I paused that one keyword phrase in the campaign and added a few that were much more targeted my hits dropped down but the bounce rate went way down with it. So, lesson one was to not let the ad guys convince me to use inaccurate but popular keywords and lesson 2 seems to be that Adwords are really, really expensive and I can do almost as well at getting near the front using normal SEO and that's free. I think that from what I've seen my money would be better off spent advertising on high end fashion blogs where my target demographic is than on random google searches.

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

Monday, March 5, 2012

Pathetically Begging for Facebook Likes

I normally would be disgusted at myself for doing this because I would really rather that my Facebook likes come from people who like my stuff than those who do it just because I asked them to but this time there is money involved. If I get about a dozen more likes I can get $50 more in free ads and then have a chance to win $100 more. That's a lot of free money. So, anyway, if you haven't rolled your eyes and stopped reading by now could you go like this thing? I don't spam products much because it takes me too long to make them to be able to do it more than a few times a month.

Mirabilis Fashions on Facebook

Friday, March 2, 2012

My Item is in the Etsy Fashion Section!

Quick - go look! I bet that it isn't there for very long. Then get out your woolies because I think that hell just froze over. This just goes to show that the admins that pick stuff don't read the forums. You might have to refresh the page a few times because they're rotating them but there aren't all that many.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Busy, Busy Bee, Even When It's Dead

So apparently my shop is on it's slow time.

General consensus has it that you should take your slow times to reevaluate what you are doing, work on new designs, do paperwork, clean your disaster zone (house), etc.

So that is exactly what I am doing. I am making a new design (see my other blog), working on my shop (views are up!) paperwork is done, and my house is still a disaster zone, but with a 15 month old, it's never gonna be pretty! and I'm whooped!!

I think I'm going to work on more shipping options for my .com I've only got the Americas done so far!

Saturday, February 25, 2012

My SupaDupa Shop is Finally Open!

Wow - that was a huge amount of work but I've finally gotten it open. It's not perfect, I've probably missed some good keywords, my pictures still more or less stink and there are probably typos and bad grammar sprinkled all over my listings in both shops but at this point I've looked at them so many times that I think that I have them memorized and no longer see exactly what's on the page. I'm never going to think that it's completely done or perfect so if I keep waiting for that I'll die of old age first. Now I just have to wait for google to crawl me so I can start testing.

Go check it out - the software is great and I love the little slideshow of images. I'll be eternally grateful to anyone that points out a mistake and I'm not proud. Feel free not to criticize my pictures though - it's depressing enough as it is.

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

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

An Early Peek at Spring

It's already early spring here in my part of California and the flowers and trees are already starting to bloom in my garden. Here's a few pictures for those of you still suffering from the winter blues...

Sunday, February 19, 2012


While Karen's been showing up how she designs her sweaters (it's beautiful, BTW Karen), I've been struggling with pattern submission.

I've been making these gloves for some time, and I was ready to write the pattern and sell it too.

One of my goals this year is to get published in a magazine, and when ! got the editorial calendars for a couple of magazines, I realized I had better get a pattern around NOW!

So I did, I was almost finished writing the pattern when my files all deleted from my thumb drive (glad I had them all backed up elsewhere). Then I had to do it again.

When I went to re write the pattern, I modified it, so that it would be a little easier to make. Took out the little bits between the fingers.

I agonized over this pattern for weeks!

I am N.E.R.V.O.U.S.! wondering what I could have done wrong, looking over the pattern again and again.

And I can't even share the photo!!

I think I just need to go write the slouchy hat pattern now.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Backing into a sweater design part VI - All Done

I finally finished it yesterday morning but I had to take a break so that my husband wouldn't starve to death this weekend and I lost the light before I got back to take the pictures. I hauled (OK, he hauled) my mannequin outside this morning and I managed to get sort of mediocre but not terrible pictures before the clouds moved in. As usual I'll have to redo them but they're decent enough to list it for now. Here it is - if you click on the image you can see the other views in my Etsy shop.

Size 1X Sweater from MirabilisFashions

I started out with 21 skeins of yarn totaling over 2500 yards and what I have left could fit in a little sandwich bag. Not bad...

I'm already backing into my next sweater. I have this great cotton left over from the last Irish fisherman sweater that I did and it came in gigantic 3 pound cones of 2200 ypp. I doubled it for the first sweater and I have about 1/4 or less of each cone left but I don't really have any idea of what's left because I don't know how much the cones themselves weigh. I know that I have enough for a shrug but there might be even more so I'm starting with a shrug sized back and front panels, then I'll do the sleeves and after that I'll have a better idea if there is enough there to do a longer cardigan.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Backing into a sweater design part V

I left off on Tuesday when I was about to start the sleeve design. I decided that I wanted a smaller motif on the top of the arms that was similar to the one on the front but with a bit less detail. I worked them in the same way as the front and back by doing the colored bands first so that I knew that they would match and then completed the first one before finishing the second one. Once I seamed those on it was time to take stock of what colors I had left and in what amounts and start the finishing work. I worked the sleeve length to leave room for a two inch or so cuff and then used the 3 yarns that I had the most of to do those. Then I matched that with the ribbing all around the bottom of the sweater.

The final step is the neckline. As I mentioned in an earlier post I had set the back motif pretty low because I didn't think that the yarn would stretch as far as it did and I was concerned that I would have to start cutting in for the armholes sooner than I had hoped for. I don't like how it looks because it's not balanced and it bugs me so I want to get some color on the upper back to even things out. My choices are a longer back collar but to make it long enough to work I would be approaching sailor collar dimensions and that's too weird even for me or I can add a hood and I think that will look a lot better. I started that last night and should be able to finish it today if all goes well. Then all that's left is to check for any unwound ends, block and steam it, take the pictures and list it. I'll post it here as soon as the pictures are done.

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

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Backing into a sweater design part IV

When I last left off on Sunday I was pretty unhappy with the results that I got on the first motif and was considering ripping it out and starting all over again. Since everyone else that saw it liked it I decided to set it aside for a while and make a simpler motif for the front. I designed that on Sunday and started it that night and finished it yesterday. I love the new one and I think that it fits much better with the lower band so I'm going to make that one the front. Last night I finished the upper chest and shoulders of both and seamed it all together. I still think that the back looks a bit weird but I'm going to leave it alone.

I still have some design issues to figure out. I wasn't sure how much yarn I was going to have or how long I was going to be able to make it so I set the first motif fairly low on the sweater just in case it had to be shorter than I'd hoped and I would have to start the armholes sooner. By the time I reached the front side I knew that I had more than enough yarn to do whatever I wanted to so I set the second motif higher. I could have worked yet another motif on the upper back above the low one but it's already so busy and colorful that I think it would just be too much. I want something to fill up that blank space though and make it look more balanced so I might stick a hood on it. That can be colorful but without a distinct pattern.

Since I have plenty of black left I can make the sweater longer by flipping it upside down and working another band of black from the bottom. Before you start saying "ack - you're going the wrong way and that will leave a big ugly seam" - no it won't unless it's a very fine gauge and you don't keep the tension even or if you forget to work in the right direction compared to your first row. This will be cleanly on a stripe and not the least bit noticeable. An easy way to design something when you don't know how much yarn you have is to make an empire waist, then the sleeves, then make the rest of the bodice as long as you can before running out. (Don't forget to save some for finishing work.)

Next comes the sleeves. I know that I want a lower band on them that matches the lower band on the sweater but I haven't decided what else to do with them. I might want to put something colorful toward the top but I'm not sure what yet. A smaller version of the front motif might look good but then the back one might look even less coherent with the rest of the sweater. It's not even 7 in the morning yet so hopefully the idea will come together in my head before I get there.

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

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Backing into a sweater design part III

OK I hate it. I really, really hate it. It doesn't look anything like my beautiful picture because the picture has too much detail for the resolution that I can get with DK weight yarn. The color combinations that looked so great on the table didn't work anywhere near as well with the constant color changes. I just hate it. I was about to tear it all out when a friend came over with her 18 year old and the kid went nuts over it so maybe it isn't as awful as I think if you didn't know what it was supposed to look like in the first place. My husband likes it.

I usually work tapestry crochet pieces in the round because then I'm always on the right side and can hide a lot of colors without worrying that they'll show through on the wrong side that no one will see anyway. I can't do that with other shapes. I use tiny hooks and lace weight yarn to get these sorts of detailed results:

When I use hooks and thread that tiny I can get at least 20 stitches into a square inch. Using DK weight I'm lucky to get 8 so trying to work a picture as detailed as the one that I just did is inevitably going to look like something set at much too low a resolution. Oh well, live and learn.

So what's next? Last night I designed a much, much simpler design with larger blocks of color and no tiny details that will get smushed together as a blob. Today I'll work that up and then decide whether the two different ones will look OK on the same sweater and if so then I'll work on some unifying design that can go around the neck and shoulders to tie them together. If I still really hate it I'll rip the complicated side out. I hate it less every time that I look at it as the memory of what I wanted to make fades and I have to remind myself that just because it isn't my taste doesn't mean that someone else won't like it.

This might all sound torturous and wasteful to someone else but if I knew exactly what I wanted to do and then did it by rote I would be bored out of my mind in no time at all.

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

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Supadupa - Remember that?

(I'm still waiting for yarn so I'll keep going with the sweater design series when it gets here.)

I haven't talked about my new shop on Supadupa for a while but I've been busy working away at it to get it ready to open. I'm determined to put everything that I've learned into practice but it's a huge amount of work. So far this is what I've done:

1) Reshot all of the photos that I took before I got the larger mannequin.
2) Erased all of the backgrounds on every single picture in my shop because they were different shades of off-white and now they're all consistent. I also put borders around the detail shots because they look weird in my new shop without them.
3) Researched all of my SEO all over again to make sure that I hadn't missed anything good the first time around.
4) Rewrote every single title and description in both shops to get rid of duplicate content (this was by far the hardest and most miserable part.)
5) Developed a boilerplate for keyword tags and then updated the tags on every item.

I still have to:
1) Finalize my shop title and description
2) Do all of my section names and section descriptions
3) Rewrite my profile on both sites
4) Fill in all of my shipping details
5) Get Google Analytics hooked up
6) Replace all of my current Etsy titles and descriptions with the new Etsy ones.
7) Go over everything carefully for typos, bad grammar and inconsistent formats.
8) Redirect my URL
9) Watch myself drop off the face of google for months while I get backlinks built.

Hopefully it will pay off with a shop that I'm proud of and that will be attractive to my demographic in a way that Etsy will never be.

Snarky comment of the day:

Etsy is just hilarious sometimes. Now they're offering to act as a payment processor like Paypal. We're talking about a place that hasn't managed to come up with even 9-5 telephone support in over 5 years, that capriciously shuts down people's shops and then says "oops", that can't ever get 2 staff people to come up with the same answer and takes a week to answer a simple email question. Kids barely out of college get to make decisions that greatly affect other people's livelihoods. Wait - let me run and give you control over my money too and let you dole it out or withhold it as you see fit. Then I'll jump off a bridge for good measure.

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

Monday, February 6, 2012

How I Design Anything

Karen's last 2 posts were fascinating, and parts of her design process reminded me of my own designing process.

Unlike Karen, I do very little OOAK work. Most of my crochet and knit pieces that wind up being one of a kind become so because I either really hated making it, I cannot get any more of that yarn, or I sold it and forgot to take notes on what I did.(in which case, the buyer never learns that the piece is OOAK).

My first consideration when making a new design is what yarn I have. I design from my yarn stash. This entails looking at it until something catches my fancy. Always fun, as there's some awesome fibers in there.

Then I think about how much of that yarn I have. Some of these yarns come in tiny balls, and somehow I usually wind up with just one ball. Most of those yarns can be used for a trim, which necessitates picking out a simple yarn that'll match in fiber content and color.

Yarn "talks" to me, tells me what it wants to be. And sometimes different colors want to be different things. The same yarn that wants to be a shawl in this color,

Irish Cream Shawl

wants to be a baby blanket in another,

baby blanket

and a hat in a third color.

red hand knit pixie hat

I was actually making that blanket in the red when I decided to change to the blue.

Like Karen was typing about in her posts, I know what goes into a certain size item. I know that if I have 100 yards of worsted weight yarn, that I can make a pair of fingerless gloves in the short style, or if I have 150 yards, I can make either of the longer styles. That 240 yards of a size 10 crochet cotton can get me the wedding gloves, or just over 100 yards of the same cotton can make something like the fishnet gloves.

I can get a general idea of what size of an item I can make, then I decide on a basic shape.

Then I put hook or needles to yarn, and begin making that shape a reality.

While I'm designing, I'll try a piece on after every row, a necessity when you like to shape stuff to make it look like it was tailored.

Oftentimes, I'll change a design totally midstream. All of the wrist band /cup cozy designs, for example. They were all supposed to have been fingerless gloves, and I decided to turn them into cup cozies instead. A few of the basic designs did finally make their way into a pair of fingerless gloves, and the rest will eventually.

And if I decide I don't like it, the great thing about yarn is that you can just rip it out and start over!

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Backing into a sweater design part II

Yesterday I left off after completing the bottom of the back of the sweater, decided to make it a pullover and then worked the bottom of the front to match the back so that I used up the same amount of each color on each side. Now I have the bands at the bottom done and then I finished up the first skein of black so that I know how many rows I can get out of a skein (a bit more than 12 or about 5" / 1100 stitches. ) That doesn't count any yarn that's laid under a row but it gives me a ballpark figure. That's not a whole lot so I might come up short on black depending on how I use the other colors.

Next comes the mandala. If you really want to learn about mandala design then you should probably go talk to a Buddhist monk because I just grab some graph paper (the online version) and start at the center and make dots in patterns that I like to outline it. There is no deep mystical symbolism going on here - it's just a pretty design. If you don't have graphing software then you can either find a sample of graph paper online or scan one in. Then using Paint or any similar software with a pen gizmo you can color it in, making sure not to color over your outline dots in a way that hides them. (If you're working in the round, skip this and do it in your head like you always do. I have a math and computer science degree and spent a month working with a guy with a doctorate in astrophysics and we still couldn't design round graph paper that lets you increase wherever you want to. It's mind-boggling.) Another thing to remember is that although graph paper is square, single crochet isn't and the stitches are about a third taller than they are wide. Your perfect design is going to be stretched up unless you squash it down a bit beforehand or don't care if it isn't perfectly square.

Next comes the color decisions and this is always a tough one for me. The first pass that I did is beautiful and starts with shades of reds and pinks in the center, moves out to some purples and then has green and blue around the edges. It looks great but it means that I'd be using up to 8 colors in each row and that's a bit much. If I carry all of them along it will be too thick and if I keep cutting them after 2 stitches I'll be wasting more yarn on the ends then what I use on the stitches. Then I worked up a second one in intarsia style where the dots stay the same color and the background is striped. It gives a nice effect too (see the picture below of a vest in my shop) but I'm not as excited about how the result will look. I'm going to have to think about it and since I have to wait for 2 more colors to be delivered next week I have plenty of time. I really want to use those 2 colors so I'll have to sit this aside for a few days and work on my in-between project.

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

Friday, February 3, 2012

Backing into a sweater design

People who have to put budgets together using OPM (other people's money) often have to do something called backing into a budget. It happens when someone gives you an upper limit like $100,000 and you have to figure out what is the most you can do while still keeping it under $99,999. People who spend their own money decide what they need first and then add up the numbers at the end. My sweater design process frequently resembles backing into the design rather than figuring it all out ahead of time.

I often get asked how I know how much yarn to order or why on earth I would dive into starting a sweater with a few rudimentary gauge measurements but no real plan. I guess that the short version is that I don't exactly know but where is your sense of adventure? I can make a decent guess at how much yarn it's going to take to make a basic sweater using a specific weight yarn and then I have to take into consideration things like cables and tapestry crochet that use up more yarn than straight work would. I almost always have a general idea of what I want to make but after I see the yarns that I've ordered and had a chance to play with them I may change my mind completely. I thought it might be fun to walk through making the sweater that I've just started because it's a great example of a pile of yarn with no firm plans for it.

I knew that I wanted to make something with a lot of color against a black background and I knew that I wanted it to be made from cotton or some other lightweight breathable yarn so that it wouldn't be too warm. Tapestry crochet always adds some thickness because of the additional strands being carried along under the stitch. After checking all of my good wholesale sources and not finding what I wanted I checked to see what was on sale at Knitpicks (which is normally much too expensive.) Luckily for me they had a really nice linen/cotton blend on sale that came in a wide variety of colors. After looking at the balance of what I have in my shop I decided that I needed another 1X and that 2500 yards would probably be plenty. Then I split it in half and chose half in black and the rest in an assortment of colors. Will it be enough given that I don't know what I'm making yet? Probably but if not I can change the design mid-stream or order some more since it's a commercial yarn.

I spent about 15 minutes on samples to decide what size hook to use and to work out the gauge to get me to a 1X. I added a bit because I know that it will tighten up once I start adding colors and have to hide them when I'm not using them. There weren't any decisions about what stitches to use since I always do tapestry work in single crochet.

Now it's time to decide what it's going to look like. My original idea was a sort of patchwork motif but I decided that it would either come out great or look like they had a quilt pinned to their back so I abandoned that one for now. I've had this other vague idea in my head for a while about a black sweater with a colorful band across the bottom and then some really big and difficult mandala as one big motif in the center. I still haven't decided if it's going to be a cardigan or pullover but I don't have to know that in order to start the back piece.

I'd love to pretend that at this point I broke out the graph paper and designed the bottom band but the truth is that I just looked around my house at some pottery, picked a few straightforward geometric designs, started with the purples because they're my favorite colors and dove in. I don't really want the bottom band to be too complex or stylized because the big motif will be the centerpiece. Geometric anything is easy because you can follow the pattern repeats by eye without having to count or check a chart. I measure it every few rows to make sure that my estimate of how much it would shrink when I started the tapestry work was on target. It's not a custom order so it's OK if it comes out too big but I don't want it to be any smaller than a 1X.

The big unknown here is how to balance the design with the amounts of each color so that I don't end up short and unable to make the front and back motifs match. The easiest way around this is to work the front and back sections in tandem with each other so that they stay in color sync. I finished the bottom band for the back last night so today instead of moving on with that I'll stop and work the lower section of the front so that it matches and I've used the same amount of yarn on each side. Now I have to decide if it's going to be a cardigan or pullover because that will determine whether I'm working an identical front or splitting it into 2 panels. Since I already have a shrug, cape and 2 sweater coats in 1X I'll make this one a pullover.

I'll be back with the next steps after I finish the lower front and move on to designing the mandala.

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

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

I am retired...I am retired....I am retired...

Maybe if I keep saying it I'll believe it. I'm definitely not doing the relax and putter around thing very well because I think that I'm putting in at least as many hours per week as I did for any regular job. I know that I'm doing a fair amount of it in my pajamas with bedhead, have no boss or employees, take breaks whenever I want to and listen to music and books all day but 12 hour days are not usually a part of anyone's retirement plan. Most of my weekdays go like this:

- Wake up at around 5:30 or 6:00, stumble to the coffee pot and turn on the computer
- Let the dogs out, feed the cats, let the dogs in, feed them too. Try to convince the puppy that she doesn't want to be in my lap immobilizing my left arm.
- Get a fire going in the wood stove if it's cold enough to make my fingers hurt.
- Check my email and decide that I'm not awake enough to answer anything anyway
- Check the SEO team to see if anyone is waiting for help, see a bunch of questions, moan a little and get some more coffee. Start blindly running keywords for other people until they get it and can do it for themselves.
- Spend an hour either working on my new store or writing a blog post. Try to think of something to say to myself on Facebook and then put it off until tomorrow.
- Drink some more coffee
- Scan the news to make sure that the world didn't blow up overnight
- Vacuum and dust all around my work area to get rid of any stray pet hair
- Pick up my crocheting, look at it, put it down again and go read some forums until my fingers wake up.
- Crochet for a few hours
- Check the SEO forum for questions
- Clean the house, work in the garden or anything else related to normal household drudgery and making things pretty.
- Crochet some more
- Take the dogs out for a hike or work out if it's raining too hard.
- Crochet some more.
- Drink more coffee
- Talk to my husband when he gets home
- Make dinner
- Crochet some more

It sounds pretty exhausting but then again what would I do all day if I didn't do this? I'm not ready to watch soaps and eat junk food in front of the TV for hours on end or well-off enough to shop for entertainment and I certainly don't need to feed my internet addiction anymore or go back to the days of running or modding a few forums at once. Almost all of my friends are still working. As much as I hate to admit it I guess I still am a bit of a workoholic who can't do anything halfway and somehow my diversions always turn into goals. Oh well - at least I'm not trying to overorganize my husband and that counts for something.

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

Monday, January 23, 2012

300 sales in the bag :)

When you add up my 2 etsy shops, I just hit 300 sales today! 188 in , and 112 in !!!


Granted, it was mostly low cost stuff, and the sales from the supply shop pretty much just pay my etsy fees for both shops, but wow, that's 300 times people liked my stuff enough to put money to it!

Each and every sale gives me a thrill!!

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Improving Your Skills - A Lecture

Chances are that this is going to offend some crocheters but I'm probably not talking to anyone reading this so don't get all in an uproar or anything.

Have any of you noticed that crocheted items are often held up as the example of crafts that require little skill to produce what is arguably crap on Etsy? Yep, I said it - crap. I'm not even talking about the crazy stuff that ends up on Regretsy or What Not to Crochet - I'm talking about poorly executed simplistic little stuff with no finishing details and loose threads hanging off of them. It's fine to find a niche selling easy washcloths, plain scrubbies and simple scarves that never require you to move past single and double crochet stitches because they're practical, popular and inexpensive but no one is going to improve their skills that way. You don't learn from doing the same thing over and over again forever. If you can stand the tedium of making the same hat 1000 times and are making money at it then you can stop reading now because I'm just going to irritate you. (But don't you want to learn to make those adorable baby ones that you saw yesterday?)

At least once a week I get a convo from another crocheter with comments along the lines of "I could never do that" or "that must be knitting and that would take months". Yes you could, no it isn't and no it doesn't - at least not if you take upping your game seriously, practice a lot and demand a higher standard from yourself. Your goal should be to have the skills to create whatever you can imagine without needing a pattern or you'll never be able to create original designs.

If all you can make is a square, rectangle or plain little circle and you've been doing it for more than a few months here are a few tips:

- Pick patterns for things that you've never made before and follow them accurately. Don't just blindly go along doing what you're told - make sure that you understand why what you're doing is going to result in the effect that you'll get. Even if you don't know where it's leading you at first go back when you're done and make sure that you logically understand every step. You won't forget what you really understand.

- Incorporate something new into every single design (other than items that regularly sell that you're doing well with). There are so many techniques to play with that this shouldn't be difficult and by the end you'll have one more thing to add to your bag of tricks.

- Every time that you find yourself thinking "I wish that I could do that" remember that you can if you'll just take the time to learn how. None of us with a lot of experience are doing magic.

- Work your way through every technique. Learn how to change colors in the middle of a row and back again. Start with using only two colors and work your way up to at least 4. Then it's just a short jump to tapestry crochet because as hard as it looks, it's just single crochet with lots of color changes and an intricate design.

- Learn to follow a stitch diagram chart if you want to make lace. IMO designing a complicated lace pattern from scratch is pretty difficult until you have a lot of experience at it because tensions change when it's blocked. Start with edging, then doilies (if you can stand the things) and eventually you'll be able to knock out heirloom large pieces like drapes and tablecloths. I even made a wedding dress once.

- Learn to make a flat circle because ripples look amateurish. All you have to do is start with a ring of n chain stitches and then increase one every nth stitch in each round for single crochet. If you're doing tiny tapestry work do it in a spiral so that you don't end up with an ugly seam that ruins the picture. You can reduce the last row a step down at a time so that you end it with a neat join. Once you have that down then you can start making pictures by changing around where in the n stitch group you increase. Make neat curves by using decrease/increases instead of stairstep stitches that make weird edges.

- If you want to make sweaters, start with a T shape. Personally I don't like that style very much because you end up with too much material under the arms but it's the easiest way to learn. If it isn't intuitively obvious then there are lots of patterns out there to follow. Then move on to setting in the sleeves. It looks harder than it is once you get used to it. Sweaters can be made in 4 pieces, 2 pieces or one solid piece and with a little practice you'll be able to figure out which is the best to use for any particular garment. Large motifs usually look better if the motif continues straight across the sleeves when you hold your arms straight out. Start adding more color and texture stitches to create visual interest.

- If you're doing sweaters, learn to make good cables or don't use them at all. If you look closely most of the crochet cables that you see are really mock cables using surface post stitches with some popcorns thrown in for good measure. Personally I think that they look like a poor imitation of knitting and aren't really cables. Real ones where the yarn is actually twisted are much harder but look much more authentic. I won't pretend that once you start doing complicated ones that you won't find yourself tearing your hair out when you work the back side and can't see the front easily but you'll get better with practice. Your hand will also get used to things like skipping stitches and then going back to do back posts in them and it won't always be as slow and awkward. There are a few decent books out there so grab one, follow the directions for a few and eventually you'll be able to logic your way through designing your own.

- Get a picture of a granny square and draw a giant red circle with a slash over it and then never use one again on anything but an afghan until you've mastered other techniques and have a choice. It's just too easy and helps you avoid learning other things.

- If you make a mistake, rip it out. Missing the hole in the stitch means that you'll have a gap by the next row.

- Read What Not to Crochet regularly so that you know what people are laughing at. Then quit making it unless you know they sell.

- Now stop using patterns and do some one of a kind work that you designed yourself. If you have the patience you can start writing patterns for people that are just starting out or don't want to move past following instructions.

- Last but not least is my own pet peeve. Your work isn't done until you've finished off the edges. Open stitches on the edge are really easy to catch on things and pull or tear. All it takes to close them off is a simple corded edging of crab stitch (reverse single crochet) and you'll get a neat and professional look. It's probably not a necessity for sturdy cotton household items and would look strange on most lace but it's definitely a must for fine yarns. If you don't want it to spread out your welt, collar or cuff ribbing then switch down to a smaller hook. Quit complaining that it's backwards, awkward and makes your hand hurt. You'll get used to it after the first 10 stitches or so.

So ladies, if you're looking at your uneven scarf with the sloppy stitches and dangling threads or thinking about how it took you a month to design that potholder and recognizing yourself here, with all due respect and affection - please try harder. You're embarrassing the rest of us.

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