Thursday, October 6, 2016

October Slump

I had high hopes for September.

I  set a lofty goal for using up yarn from my stash... and only got through about half of it.

I had high hopes for two craft shows. Local sale in my hometown in conjunction with townwide garage sale did well two years ago. Barely sold enough to pay for my table this year. Bummer. Other show came within $11 of setting a new record for net sales last year. This year, it ranked in the bottom third. Double bummer.

Buzz Feed featured an article about dragon scale gloves. I had two pairs completed, so quickly listed them in my Etsy shop. I had over 700 views in one week (probably more than in the past year). Did either pair sell? Nope.

When I entered mileage for craft shows and some incidental expenses, I realized that my expenses for the year are higher than my sales. Like $100 higher. Ouch.

There were tears. There was frustration. I said to myself, "Why do I do this? There's no cheese at the end of the maze!"

So I entered October not wanting to set lofty goals or have high hopes for the three craft shows scheduled for October (good thing, because the show on October 1st was another bottom-third show. It was a great show, though, because I met some wonderful people and had some great interaction. I gave out some free gifts and got a lot of baby smiles.) Focus on finishing stuff. Focus on organizing. Spend a little more time cleaning my house. Focus on getting back to healthy habits. Focus on the customers - greeting them, engaging them in conversation, being a bright spot in their day, rather than focusing on sales. Finish off that bag of yarn from the September challenge. If I see a quick little pattern that I think is adorable, just make it!

I started October with several custom orders awaiting completion.
Catnip Mouse order... done

Orange dragon order... done

Girly-Girl airplane order... done

I'm trying to focus on the positive:

  • I'm nearly done with an order I've been putting off for months. (Done!)
  • My yarn stash is lower than it has been in years, thanks to my sticking to my "yarn diet."
  • I have two more craft shows this month that have the potential to get me out of the red. 
  • I'm excited about designing some entries for a amigurumi monster design contest
    First monster design done
  • I found a new pattern for an adorable Pumpkin Pie Tissue Holder that has the potential to be a hot seller at fall craft shows, will work on getting a few of those made.
    I've made two so far, and both are spoken for! 
  • Three out of four of the hedgehogs I made from the Woodland Hedgehog pattern have sold... so make a few more! I certainly have enough fun fur yarn! 
So I will plug away at my two remaining custom orders (the penguin mittens and a mermaid tail order cancelled), make enough pumpkin pie slices to fill a pie plate, and forge ahead with October with a positive outlook.
Penguin Mitts done! 

10/9 Update:
The order for the mermaid tail fell through, so without any orders on hand, I will just keep churning out items that I think will sell quickly at craft shows.
Started: Fingerless gloves. Finished: Mini monster & pumpkin pie tissue holder

After the mermaid tail order got cancelled, I decided to make up a new challenge for myself. Managed to cross off 3 of the 16 squares in one day!

10/12 Update: Today's WIP Picture: on the left is the start of a design for the monster contest. I haven't made much progress on "catasaurus" since last Wednesday's picture! In the center is a Starabella scarf - using up some of the yarn from the September challenge. And to the right, I made a hat with the bulky black yarn from the challenge, and still had some left over, so now I'm working on matching pawprint fingerless gloves. I did get a custom order for several amigurumi that replaces the lost mermaid tail order, so I will be a busy girl for the rest of the month! 

Thursday, August 25, 2016

My September Challenge

 Making progress...
So, I am trying to continue my "yarn diet" into September. I have several bins of yarn in three locations in the house (ten totes in the basement, 4 under one bed, 1 under another bed), and would like to empty out one or two. I came up with this idea...

I sorted my Ravelry yarn stash inventory by lowest yardage, so I ended up with small/partial skeins. Here is a screen shot of the first 28 entries. I would like to use up these 28 balls/skeins of yarn in September.
Yarn is gathered from a dozen different totes... 2.5 pounds to use up! 

Here are my ideas so far...

1. Brown Rug Yarn - catnip toys? 
Four long-tail catnip balls, done.

2. Sashay Ribbon yarn (from when ruffled scarves were so popular) - ballet skirt on stuffed animals?
  (used it to make a cowl, but need to put a button on before I can take pictures)
3. Starabella Yarn - see #2
4. White sport yarn - combined with another strand or two to make a stuffed animal
5. Fuschia Wool - dryer ball
6. Hot Pink bulky yarn - I may have used this up already. It was marked as being used in a project
7. Pink Ombre - mini baby doll, would make cute PJs .
Ombre #7 - Used up! 

8. Whirlagig - not sure - maybe a Joy doll from the movie Inside Out?
9. Pink Pompadour - mini baby dolls - face/body
10. Jamie Baby - combine with other yarn to make stuffed animal
4, 9 & 10... knocked out three numbers in one project! 
Bored with some other projects, I pulled up the pattern for a little Big Head Baby Doll and started with the two pink baby yarns...then used the white sports yarn for her head. It's not even September yet, and I've used up five of the yarns from this list!

11. Black Thick & Quick - Hair for a Gonk doll
Gonk #1

12. Red Heart Classic - small stuffed animal
13, 14, 15 - Moda Dea fun fur - hedgehogs!
16. Green sport yarn - used up in gonk hat (see above) and a catnip long-tail ball thoroughly enjoyed by my grandkitty, Fyodor!

17 Fun Fur  mixed with bulky - Cookie Monster cat hats
18 Red Sport yarn - and 20 white sport yarn - Pokemon Go Balls
19 Deborah Norville blue variegated - Fancy dress-up baby doll - couldn't find this in stash! :(
21 & 22 - more fun fur - more hedgehogs?
Hedgehog #1
Almost finished off the green yarn (#21)

23 Pink worsted weight - baby slippers- used in a doll
24 & 25 - bulky yarn, blue & black - airplane? knit beanie? gonk hair?
Used one skein to make a belt. Used half of another skein to make a baby hat (which cannot be put online until after a 9/17 baby shower)

26 Soft gray bulky yarn - Gnome hair
Used up gray yarn for a catnip mouse and hair on Gnome #3 in this pic.

27 - light blue sport yarn - combine with other yarn to make stuffed animal
Doubled the sport yarn to make this hedgehog. Used up half a skein of fun fur, too! 

28 - black bulky yarn - gonk hair

I won't necessarily do them in that order... just as the inspiration arises! I will be updating here as I complete projects ! September also marks the beginning of my craft shows (2 in September, 4 in October, 2 in November), so custom orders may compete with challenge projects for my crafting time!

9/30 Update:
I used 18 of the 28 yarns shown. I got some custom orders that kept me busy! This dragon kept me busy for about two weeks, but seeing how happy the customer was with him made it all worth it! Now, on to girly-girl airplanes, catnip mice, penguin mittens, and a mermaid tail!

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Hello, August!

In August, I'm trying to get back to setting some goals and making daily progress toward meeting them. You see, I have a new obsession that threatens to push all my other projects aside... it all started about a week ago when someone posted a picture of an adorable doll in a free pattern group. I went to look up the pattern, only to discover it had been removed from that website. But... there was a note about joining a Facebook group dedicated to making those dolls. So I joined, found the pattern, and discovered that the Big Head Baby Dolls came in three sizes: regular, medium and mini. I pulled out some scrap yarn and tried my hand at a mini... loved it! Then I made another, and another....

One week later, and I've made five of the little cuties! I have so many ideas for color combinations, hats, themes... but I do have a few other items I really should be working on!

So, I set myself a goal to finish up four WIP this month:

  • Unicorn Purse (order) - DONE
  • Cupcake Blanket (gift for granddaughter due in October) - DONE
  • Mermaid Tail Blanket (inventory stock-up) - DONE
  • Penguin Mittens, version 2.0 (order) - 1/4 done with first mitten
Mermaid Tail Blanket - DONE! 

Oops, didn't make a full size doll, made a medium! 
I also made a list of six items I wanted to get made for craft show inventory. One of my customers said she will be shopping at my September shows looking for gifts for a one-year-old boy, so I need to make sure I have a few items that are more typical for boys, like my planes and cars. I also want to get a good selection of the Big Head Baby Dolls in stock, since they are so adorable, I think they will sell well. Here is my inventory-building list:

Cupcake blanket, done! 

  • Plane - DONE
  • Car - DONE
  • Big Head Doll - full size - DONE
  • Big Head Doll - Mini - DONE
  • Big Head Doll - Mini - DONE
  • Pokeball Cat Toys - DONE

I also set goals for participating in blog link-ups, Instagram photo challenges, and Facebook interactive posts. Since August is typically a very, very slow month for sales, I want to promote, promote, promote!

Then, after I had set all those goals, I got drawn into another challenge, a stash-down project. Like so many other crafters, I have quite the stash of yarn and other craft supplies at my disposal. This month's challenge is to:
(1) make one project per day that uses up scrap yarn from my stash. If you are following my Facebook page, you will be seeing lots of little projects like Messy Monsters, Mini Owls and more of those cute little Big Head Baby Doll minis!
(2) At least once a week, make a project that uses a craft material I purchased specifically for a project, but never got around to using... that polymer clay I bought to make my own ergonomic hooks, the beads I got for wrap bracelets, those bell ball cat toys I got to use as a base for crocheted toys, that pom-pom yarn I thought might make a cute hedgehog... you get the idea!
(3) DON'T BUY ANY MORE YARN UNLESS YOU GET AN ORDER THAT REQUIRES IT! (Sorry for the "shouting" caps. Sometimes I just need to get my own attention, especially when it comes to yarn!)

I have been trying to work down my stash, only buying yarn when I absolutely need it for an order. Well, in July I didn't quite stick to that resolution. There was an Estate Sale about two miles from my house. A friend who had been shopping there said there was a box of yarn, for fifty cents a skein/ball. I stopped by on my way home from work... found the box and took it to the front table to pay, hoping I had enough in my wallet. The woman at the table took a look at the box and said, "You'll take the whole box? $5! And take the box of fabric scraps in there, too!" So, I ended up with over 30 balls/skeins of yarn for $5. I also made a few trips to craft stores and picked up a few bargains... so my yarn stash gained about 8 pounds last month. I would like to see it lose at least five pounds this month!

So, those are my lofty goals for August! They look intimidating  in print, but if I keep chipping away at them, one day at a time, one project at a time, one stitch at a time, I can do it! I'll be posting updates on my Facebook Page and through Instagram

August 19th update:
2/3 of the way through the month, so I should have 8 of the twelve items finished, right? Only six... need to keep my focus on the list instead of playing with fun new projects! To my credit, I haven't purchased any yarn. (Originally typed "yearn". I must be yearning for yarn.)

August 30th update:
All done but the penguin mittens... the small needles cramp up my fingers, so haven't been working on them much. Hoping to have one done by tomorrow!

Plane... done

Big Head Doll, done! 

Pokemon Go Ball  cat toys - done! 

Thursday, June 30, 2016

My Little Owl Family (Pattern)

Little balls of scrap yarn accumulate in my house. There's always that little bit of yarn left over after a project... or I've had people give me bags of scrap yarn, knowing I will find a project for it. I designed these owls to use up really small (.3 oz) balls of yarn.

Worsted weight yarn in main color, plus small amounts in white, black and yellow/orange
Size F hook (Size K for Mama Owl)
Yarn Needle
Stuffing material (I used fiberfill)

After making my first owl, I decided the best order is to make the face, wings and bottom first, then make the main body. That way, you can attach the face while you can still access the inside, and when you are working on the body, you can just keep going until you just have enough yarn left for sewing and the top tufts.

Wings (make 2):
Chain 6.
Starting in second chain from hook, work a slip stitch, sc, hdc, dc and tc (your stitches are getting taller as you work back along the chain). Finish off, leaving about 6" for sewing wing to body. You will sew the wing to the body along the edge of the treble crochet.
Tip: to make the wing a little more solid, I do a linked double crochet and treble crochet. Rather than doing a yarn over for the double crochet, I pull up a loop from the hdc before it. Likewise, when I do the treble crochet, I do one yarn over and pull up a loop from the double crochet before it. Here is a video link from Moogly on linked double crochet.

I work in a spiral, using a stitch marker to mark the beginning.
Round 1: Make 6 hdc in magic ring (6)
Round 2: 2 hdc in each stitch (12)
Round 3: *2 hdc in first stitch, hdc in next stitch*, repeat around (18)
Finish off.

With white yarn, make 8 dc in magic ring. Tighten ring, but do not join.
Turn the half circle so you are working along the flat edge. Along the first dc, make a sc, hdc, dc, hdc, sc. Slip stitch into the center, then make sc, hdc, dc, hdc, sc along the double crochet on the other side of center.

Round 1: Make 6 hdc in magic ring (6)
Round 2: 2 hdc in each stitch (12)
Round 3: *2 hdc in first stitch, hdc in next stitch*, repeat around (18)
Repeat Round 3 until your owl is all tall as you'd like it to be, or until you only have about two yards of yarn left. Don't cut yarn...

Sew on face, with top of heart around row 3. With black yarn, embroider eyes as shown (I did a knot with a double strand of yarn). With yellow or orange, embroider beak.

Sew wings to side.

Add stuffing, then put bottom in place. Do a row of SC, working through both the body and the bottom. When you only have a few stitches left to go, you can push a little more stuffing through the opening, if needed. Finish off.

Cut 6 strands of yarn about 5" long (if you don't have enough of your main color left, supplement with another color, or the white you used for the face). Take three strands, double them over and pull a loop through at the side of the top of the head. Pull the yarn ends (6 strands, since they're doubled) through the loop and tighten. Trim if needed. Repeat on other side of the head.

Finish off.

I followed the same pattern for the Mama Owl, but used two strands of worsted weight yarn and a size K hook.
For her beak, I did a smaller variation of the wing: chain 4, then starting in second chain, slip stitch, single crochet, hdc 
Her wings are the same size as the smaller version, just because I ran out of the pink yarn (poor planning... I should have remembered to do the wings first!)

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Once A Month Challenge

Another blogger posted a challenge... to make a purchase from another crafter's Storenvy shop once a month. My first thought was "oh, man, we have this bill that needs to be paid, and the checking account is running low, and we have to buy so much stuff for the grad party, and I haven't had many sales from my own shop lately to help with finances."

The more I thought about it, the more I thought I really should take the plunge and commit to the challenge. I have been accumulating funds in my SavingStar account, so I cashed in on that, depositing enough money into my PayPal account to fund a few months of small purchases. So, what to buy?

My middle daughter is expecting our first grandchild in October. We just found out that it will be a baby girl, so I wanted to get something for her. I have seen that a fellow crafter who makes adorable and practical monster toys (many of her items double as storage bags) had branched out into sensory blankets - little cuddly blankets with varied textures and ribbons. Oh, yes... babies love little ribbons and tags hanging out of toys! I looked around her shop and found just the right little cuddly for "Pumkin" (temporary nickname for a late-October baby)!
Since my daughter was visiting last week (for her little sister's graduation), I was able to give her the gift. She loved the blend of different materials, and how it was just the right size to put in a purse or diaper bag. So, with one gift, we have a bunch of happy people... I'm happy that my daughter likes her present. She's happy she got a present. Baby girl will be happy to play with cuddly blanket, and a crafter is happy that she made a sale through her Storenvy shop!

That got me thinking of reasons why the challenge to purchase one item a month online from a crafter is such a good idea.

Reasons for shopping handmade:
1. You make a crafter happy! When you purchase something from Target or Walmart, the cashier doesn't say "Oh, you bought a cute t-shirt! That makes me so happy!" When you make a purchase from a crafter's online shop, it is "Happy Dance" time! Participating in online craft groups, I always see posts saying "I got a cha-ching!" or "I made a sale!" Purchases from crafters' online shops go toward paying for kid's braces, saving up for a family vacation, or maybe even just putting groceries on the table. It's a big deal to that person.
2. You are getting a unique, one-of-a-kind product. You can find stuff in Storenvy shops that you just can't find in a big box store. And you can shop in your pajamas! (Well, maybe you can do that at Wal-Mart...) When your gift is opened up at a baby shower, or bridal shower, you don't have to worry that somebody else got them exactly the same thing! It is handmade, with love, not mass-produced.
3. You can get things customized. Many of the items made by crafters can be personalized with names or your choice of colors. I can't post a picture yet, but one of my recent sales was a custom order for a little girl who loves unicorns, pink, purple and purses...and I was able to combine all of those for a very special gift!

So, where do you begin looking? Here are a few of my friends' shops:

Lu and Ed is the shop where I bought the blanket for my granddaughter. This shop has adorable little toy monsters, Mon-Stor bags where kids can store their toys, pajamas, or stuff they need on a long car trip, and the adorable sensory blankets like the one I got!

The Craft Penguin does some cool string art pictures, and she can make custom signs. Her "State Love" signs, with an outline of your state, and a heart where your city is located, would be a great gift!

Sudzy Bums makes a wide variety of soaps. Cute little shaped soaps, scented bar soaps, body butter, gift sets, party favor sets... just lots of fun stuff!

Wilde Designs has a mix of products from magnets to bookmarks, earrings to stickers, bobby pins to buttons, leaning toward the geeky side.

Black Rose Essentials has a lot of bath products (body scrubs, bath bombs, salt soaks) in some of the most amazing scents!

And then there's my shop: Penguin Place Cute little stuffed animals, American Girl doll clothes, hats, scarves, afghans and so much more!

So, would you join me in the Once A Month challenge? If you have a baby shower, bridal shower, or birthday party coming up, consider looking through Storenvy Shops to find that special gift. Looking for something in particular? Let me know, maybe I know a crafter who can help you out!

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Look out, June! Here I come!

Kenny Giraffe & Tutti-Fruitti Elephant
It's hard to believe it's June 1st already. June of 2016 has a lot in store for my family
  • Youngest daughter graduates from high school
  • Middle daughter will announce the gender of her first child (my first grandchild)
  • Oldest daughter will graduate from her hospital residency program
  • Hubby and I celebrate our 30th wedding anniversary
  • I hit 55 years old (which gets me the Senior Discount at Michael's craft stores!)

Since there is so much going on, I am trying very hard to keep organized... so that means LOTS of lists. Shopping lists, menu lists, to-do lists, project lists, custom order lists.

Putting some of my lists out in public view helps me to keep plugging away at them. I love being able to cross things off lists. Maybe that's why I'm loving the whole "bullet journal" thing!

June Must-Do items 
  1. Write long-overdue letter to uncle who isn't on the internet to see family pictures - DONE
  2. Make another mini-giraffe, taking good pictures to illustrate pattern
  3. Plan Grad party menu - DONE
  4. Shop for Grad party - DONE
  5. Survive Grad party - DONE
  6. Set up delivery for penguin mittens order - Contacted customer, no response. Will try again.
  7. Do a new giveaway on my Facebook page - DONE
  8. Use up bag of blue scrap yarn (starting weight 20 ounces)
  9. Restore craft room to guest room status (by June 8) - DONE
June Projects
Kenny Giraffe
  1. Kenny Giraffe - DONE
  2. Red/Purple Sock Monkey - DONE
  3. Sea Horse - DONE
  4. Plane 1 - DONE
  5. Plane 2 - DONE
  6. Plane 3 - DONE
  7. Soft Serve Cone - DONE
  8. Hungry Caterpillar cocoon set - DONE
  9. Shark - DONE
  10. Elephant - DONE
  11. Farm Mat Square 1 - DONE
  12. Veronica crochet-along - a bit behind, had to tear some out to correct an error
  13. Mini-Giraffe - legs are done...
  14. Owl Obsession square...haven't even started
Plane #1

P.S....It's a girl!