"The purpose of life is to discover your gift. The meaning of life is to give it away." David Viscott

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Craft Fair Crochet Prices

Even though I opted out of vending at the craft fair circuit this year, I still like to visit them to see who is there and what is selling.  This year brought a few surprises.

The Good

There are some very talented crocheters out there.  Nice even stitches and tight seams.  American Girl sweaters, in a variety of  styles, all $25 each.  American Girl afghans, $40 each.   Each sweater was displayed on its own hanger with a couple of inches of space between so they were easy to view.  Because of the popularity of American Girl dolls, as well as the well-made product, and an excellent display, this booth was making a whole lot of sales.

The Bad

Underselling your work is bad for everyone.  One woman had a table so stuffed with merchandise, it was pretty hard to see exactly what she had.  Mittens were marked $2.50, made from acrylic.  Baby afghans, $8.  Layette sets, $10.  I know acrylic is not very expensive, but really?  Is the crafter's time worth nothing?  The table itself did not showcase, nor show very much pride in her work.  From a distance, it looked more like a table at a rummage sale rather than at a craft fair.  She did make a couple of sales, but I'm sure it wasn't enough to pay for the $45 table and a whole day of time.  This is incredibly sad, as her stitches were even and the finishing was spot on.

The Ugly

Another booth by someone who both knit and crocheted had baby sweaters for $18.  That's more reasonable, even though they were made from acrylic.  This crafter showed her pride by having a neat, well laid out table, and displaying the ribbons she won at the country fair.  Hats of various styles were $10.  Okay, the pricing is reasonable.  What made me cringe was a close up view of the work: specifically, the seams.  There were gaping holes where the sleeves had been set into the sweater.  Granted, this screams hand-made, but it also screams poorly made.  What's to stop it from falling apart the very first washing?  I obviously was not the only one to notice this, as many people would take a close look then walk away without saying a word.

The Overpriced

One table was overladen with afghans of all shapes and colors.  I realize a whole lot of work goes into an afghan, but how many people are really going to shell out $250 for one?  Or even $100 for a crib size?  I don't think she made any sales at all.  The table was not very approachable, as it was literally piled with afghans, so high you could not see her sitting in a chair behind it.  There were no signs, no smiles, no friendly chatter.  If you are going to charge prices like that, you need to be extremely engaging to every customer that walks by.

What was selling?  Doll sweaters, doll bedding, and hats.  Baby items usually would get comments about how cute it was, usually followed by "I wonder if so-and-so could make something like that..."  Products made from natural fibers, such as wool and alpaca, sell much better than acrylic and for higher prices.  Alpaca socks were selling for $40 a pair from a very energetic and friendly elderly man.  He would happily tell people how he cared for the alpaca and his wife knit the socks from their wool.  He left at the end of the day with less than half the inventory he arrived with.

That seems to be the key to generating profit from craft fair sales:  sell something that cannot be purchased or even found at one of the big box stores.  Have customers experience the item - the alpaca gentleman would insist that everyone 'just touch it' to feel the softness, and to imagine how comfortable and warm that would keep feet.  People go to craft fairs to find something unique, that perfect gift for the person who has everything.

I would sell out of wool mittens every year, to people who would comment "these are like my grandmother used to make!" and "you can't find wool mittens anywhere anymore!"  They would happily pay the $10 (child) or $12 (adult) per pair, walk away with a smile on their face and go show their friends, who would have to purchase some themselves.  

Friday, November 25, 2011

Announcing My New Web Page!

I am excited to announce that I have built a new web page to compliment my Etsy store and have a place where people can order custom work.  Check it out!


Keep in mind that this is still a work in progress.  I realize I have to put up quite a few more pictures of my work - I'm working on that.  Otherwise, what do you think?  I'd love to receive feedback!

Web pages are a terrific way to gain exposure.  I wanted to work on my page building skills on a free site, rather than paying for the opportunity and screwing it up.  I will eventually get my own domain, but for now I'd like to get the basics right.  I therefore opted to use Google Sites, a free site hosting service that allows you the opportunity to have a live web page while learning the ropes.

I want to eventually put up pages on it to sell my own designs, but I haven't figured out the e-commerce part of it yet.  A little more study and a lot more trial and error are required, I think.  But I'll figure it out, I'm sure!  Meanwhile, suggestions are always welcome!

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Vermont Crochet Designer Creations Is Now Open!

I have finally finished enough of the setup of my Etsy store to officially open!

visit me!
I took my time with this, trying to get everything right.  I found a new book at the library, "How to Sell Your Crafts Online:  A Step-by-Step Guide to Successful Sales on Etsy and Beyond" by Derrick Sutton.  The first few chapters focus on how to get your Etsy shop up and running, advice on keywords and listings, as well as photography (my major weak point!)  I do not have an avatar yet, even though the book promotes and tells you how to make one.  I simply can't decide on what I want it to be!

I'm still going through the second half of the book:  chapters on Google Analytics, various marketing and tracking techniques, shop promotion, etc.  It's taking a while, as after a read a chapter, I try to implement it with my online endeavors.  It seems to be working, too!  One of my other blogs had traffic increased by 300 percent in a single day!

Therefore, I am viewing my Etsy shop as a work in progress.  The items currently listed for sale are items that were made for the craft fairs I opted to skip this year.  They were priced the same as they would have been at the fair.  I plan to add more items as I make them; a much better prospect than throwing them into a bin to store until the next craft fair season.  I may decide to list patterns for sale as well, although I have read warnings from other designers about patterns being "stolen".

One thing is for certain - there is a LOT of work involved diversifying crochet projects and design to earn money with it.  More web presence means more exposure, which will hopefully mean more paid projects.

That being said, I'm off to crochet something!

Sunday, November 20, 2011

What a Project!

I had an idea for a booklet with about 10 patterns in it.  I pitched it to a publisher, who 5 weeks later sent the dreaded "thanks but no thanks" letter.  I then sent it to my CGOA mentor, who encouraged me to self publish it.

What a wonderful idea! I thought.  I was clueless about the amount of work I was putting on myself for this.  I didn't know the first thing about self publishing.  This began a great deal of research, which I am still doing.

It turns out that you can sell crochet patterns on Ravelry, Amazon, and Kindle.  Apparently there is a market out there for various ebooks.  You can also sell on Etsy and your own website.  This has opened up an entirely  new world for me to explore!

As I have written and sold patterns before, I think I have that part of the process down.  It takes time - a LOT of time.  I have to jot down pattern notes while I crochet what's in my head.  Then, once the item is complete, I have to translate those notes into a readable pattern.  Then comes the dreaded photo session.  If a good picture is worth a thousand words, then my photos are worth about 3.  Usually someone in  my family will take pity on me and get a few good shots of the item for me.

Formatting is taking me a little bit of time to learn.  As is setting up my own website and Etsy store.  The process is slow, but once done, I won't have to do it again.  This is keeping me motivated, even when frustrated!

Each of the 10 patterns needs to be completed, not just a sketch.  Each pattern needs to be written, each item photographed, introduction text needs to be written, table of contents and cover pages need to be decided upon, online shops need to be set up, formatting needs to be done, and then, once the booklet is finished, it needs to be marketed.  Sheesh!

My goal is to have it all done by March 2012.  I still have to make time to work on Christmas presents!

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Combining Yarns

When crocheting winter gloves, I generally use sock yarn or fingering weight wool.  The gauge works out perfectly for the small to medium hand size.  Medium to large, however, requires either thicker weight or a larger hook. 

I had purchased some fingering weight 100% wool at the Yates Farm Yarn sale, but I found that it felt a bit too stiff and scratchy.  Next I tried combining it with lace weight alpaca to soften it up.  It worked like a charm.

By combining the two, I achieved the gauge I needed for medium/large gloves.  Both being natural fibers, the combination should provide the same if not more warmth and still be water resistant.  By using 1 strand of forest green wool with 1 strand of medium brown alpaca, the color combination works wonderfully.  The wool should also keep the alpaca from stretching out of shape.

It is important to learn the various properties associated with different fibers to make a combination that works.  If I had put the wool with cotton, for example, I would not trust that it would retain the water resistant properties.  I could have doubled up the wool, but that would not have softened the finished product at all. 

Combining yarns can be a fun way to get the properties you want out of your finished crochet project.  Trial and error may take some time, but it is well worth the education you will give yourself.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

The Sting Of Rejection

The Yates Farm Yarn Sale Aftermath - Find The Cats If You Can!

Crochet design definitely has it's ups and downs.  One of the major downs in the rejection letter.  I received 5 of these last month, which naturally caused me to question myself.  What was I doing wrong?

Enter one very helpful mentor.  Anyone interested in becoming a crochet designer should join the CGOA and apply for a mentor.  Without her, I probably would have given up completely.  Instead, I am now looking forward to the next batch of submissions.  

I emailed my mentor, then, at her suggestion, I mailed the rejections to her.  She went through them and identified my weak points.  Then she emailed me a sample of what her submissions look like.  They say that a picture is worth a thousand words, and in this particular case that is very true.  One glance at her attachment and everything she had told me over the phone clicked.  I got it.  

I learned that submissions are a lot like resumes - whoever looks at it should find what they are looking for at a glance.  This is something that I have to work on.  Due to the encouragement of my mentor, I am now re-energized and have direction.

Competition among crochet designers is fierce due to the limited number of publishers.  Thus, there are far more rejections than acceptance letters.  I am not alone, and the rejection no way indicates my designs are crap.  I simply need to convey my ideas better.