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 MirabilisFashions.com

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 MirabilisFashions.com

Friday, January 13, 2012

Paying it forward the geeky way

Stephanie's post got me thinking yesterday about how much I've learned from other people since I started and how seldom I bother to get involved in the "OMG the world is ending HALP!!!" threads over there anymore. The areas that I can be the most helpful in are the more technical aspects of all of this but I can't think straight when all of that artistic temperament is flying around. I react like Olivia de Havilland does in this video

Now that Mary has started an SEO team that's nice and calm and hysteria-free I volunteered to be a leader and help her out with the basic stuff so that she can focus on the higher level things that very few of us understand completely. She helps so many people for free even though she does it professionally and I still learn something new from her every day. It's fun to have found a nexus between what I already do well and what I want to learn to do.

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

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Paying It Forward

When I first joined Etsy, I had no freaking clue what I was doing, and was lucky to get a picture that wasn't blurry, or to get anyone to even look at me. This is true of most new people on Etsy.

I got lucky though, I had a lot of people offer advice and one took me under her wing. All this help eventually got through my thick skull, and now my shop looks respectable and I get somewhat decent sales.

For several months now, I have been confident enough to hand out advice. And everyone who has asked me has received the best advice I can give. Or been referred to someone I know is willing to give advice and knows the type of situation better.

And I've taken 2 others under my wing, in the hopes that they find success and pass some of their knowledge forward.

I would like to pimp them out today :)

I've been helping her for a while The goth lace was my suggestion!
She's really new

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Google is smarter than some of my ex-boyfriends

I'm still working on getting my new shop set up and now I'm rewriting all of my descriptions to avoid duplicate content. If possible I'd like to have my new shop come up before Etsy for my plus size sweaters. My biggest problem is that I need to include the measurements for the item as well as the mannequin. My inner super-organized geek can't stand the idea of having them all in some confusing hodgepodge of mixed up orders and I want them in a standard boilerplate format. After talking with an expert on Etsy it turns out that google is smart enough to recognize measurements and not count them as duplicate content if the numbers change. Since everything that I do is one of a kind the numbers are always a bit different even for the same sizes. This is going to be easier than I thought and I won't have to resort to the tried and true Etsy method of sticking cutesy song lyrics or little fairy tales into my listings to beef up the content. At least I hope that's why they do it. I'm not capable of writing poetry about clothing.

Speaking of Etsy experts, Mary from SEOWebDesign has started a new team on Etsy to help all comers with SEO and Etsy relevancy. She's great and we'd all have to pay a lot of money to benefit from that kind of expertise anywhere else. You can find the team here if you're an Etsy member:


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

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Paypal :(

I really don't like paypal, the only reason i use it is because you pretty much have to to do business online without a merchant account.

Then there's the Problem with PayPal and regretsy a few weeks back, and now this!!


The destruction of fine musical instruments makes me ill. 

Oh, why Oh why is no other option to pay integrated anywhere?

But, it is also important to remember that this is only one side of the story. Although I'm inclined to believe it, and there have been many other similar stories in the past.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Google and Duplicate Content

Dear Google,

I know that we have this love/hate relationship that depends on where you put my stuff but your insistence that I try to trick you by describing the same type of items in dozens of different ways is ruining our relationship. You go along on your merry way sticking my stuff wherever it is that suits you without even the least bit of explanation or consideration for the toil and brain bleeding that I go through trying to please you. You won't even tell me where you put my things after you hide them! The worst part is that when I'm finally successful at tricking you then I start to think that you're just an idiot. You act like you're the only man on earth.

Umm, wait - I guess you are the only man on earth. Never mind...

Love (sort of),


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


Yeah, I know - go rewrite the stupid descriptions again.