Sunday, April 13, 2014

Featured Shop: Frogitta Cards, Prints & Invitations

Frogitta is home to illustrations, cards and gifts that I just thought were adorable so I asked Olga some questions about herself for this week's featured artist. Enjoy!

Thank you card - Royal thank you card with glitter.Thank you card - Royal thank you card with glitter.
by frogitta

Tell us a bit about yourself?
My name is Olga and I am the owner of “Frogitta” shop on etsy. I am 27 and happily married. I was born in Moscow, but am currently living in Vienna, Austria.

Cute sorry card - I'm sorry card - Apology card.Cute sorry card - I'm sorry card - Apology card.
by frogitta

What got started making handmade items?
I always loved creating things and I experimented a lot with different materials. More than anything I loved drawing. But I never paid attention to it - I felt, it was just a hobby. So I went on to study economics and IT, without ever thinking of drawing as an option. But I continued making handmade presents for my friends.

Birthday party invitations - Set of 10 party invitations.Birthday party invitations - Set of 10 party invitations.
by frogitta

What got you to open your shop on easy?
In the last years my office job made me look for something that inspires me in life. And I was looking for ways to express myself, so one day I read about etsy. I created an account out of curiosity & closed the page. For the next 6 months or so I was battling my fear. I was afraid, that nothing will come out of it and I will just get disappointed. In January 2014 just before my birthday I decided to try and here I am.

I love you mom print - I love you dad print - Elephant love print - Love nursery art - Family wall Art.I love you mom print - I love you dad print - Elephant love print - Love nursery art - Family wall Art.
by frogitta

Tips for other etsy artists?
It is really a typical advice - just don't be afraid and don't give up, just keep on trying. Look, today my friends and colleagues know that I love drawing-they got to know a new side of me and this is wonderful and there is nothing to regret.

Any other links to yourself on other websites you'd like to share with us?
We’ve got a Facebook page

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Yay For Trades team promotion calendar

Last week I was made captain of the Yay For Trades team and I am thrilled! My first order of business, I felt, was to do a bit of cleanup. The team was overrun by post-and-run promotion threads, many of them were being spammed by duplicates. Team members said they wanted to see a little promotion in the team so there was a nice mix of promotion and trading going on, but nobody wants promotion to overrun trading. So I've decided to try something out... a promotion thread calendar!

Each month we'll post a new thread, we'll love it and let it run, then close it at the end of the month. This way it'll be really easy for new members to jump in. Some of the months will be for members to post their items in some color... whoever posts the thread gets to pick the color!

We won't have any big generic "post your new items" threads because we've got the team website... - where any member can just enter their shop name and have their 25 newest items automatically posted and ready for us to search for trading.

Here's my plan for the monthly promo thread topics:

January - (color) items
February - Blog posts
March - Spring items
April - Facebook
May - (color) items
June - Summer items
July - Pinterest
August - (color) items
Sept - Fall items
October - Twitter
November - (color) items
December - Winter items

I'll readily accept suggestions, either comment here or post in the team, we can change it up.

Let's see how it works!

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Finding Seller Opportunities on Etsy

Some of my blog posts are things that I find myself saying over and over again in the Shop Critiques Team... I write them here so I can link to the post instead of saying them over and over again.

Sometimes Etsy comes out with prototypes - little tests of new features - that are worth paying attention to. In my opinion the best prototype out there now is the Seller Opportunity Tools. They actually started in this in March 2012, then maybe just forgot about it, who cares.

The point is that it tells you thinks that people are searching for on Etsy, but that aren't flooded with tons of results. You type in a word, like "airplane", and it'll tell you that "Airplane Pillow" is a good opportunity (lots of searches, not much competition!) but "airplane jewelry" doesn't show up anywhere.

To use it, you have to join this awful, spam-ridden team: Seller Opportunity Tools Team

Then use the link on the side that says Find Inspiration.

You have to be a member of the team for the link to work - I tried leaving the team because it's just a mess, but then couldn't use the tool, so oh well I'm back in. But it's totally worth it.

Just one of the little tidbits I've snatched up along the way by being involved with Etsy teams. Happy to pass it along!

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Etsy tip: Avoiding the saturated markets

I know I blog on here about photo tips, listing titles, promotion opportunities, but I just realized that when my real-life friends tell me they're about to start selling on Etsy and ask me for my first most important piece of advice, what I tell them is very simple:

1) Don't sell jewelry

Why do I say this? Because you can post in every team, spend hours on your photos and tags, rent a billboard... but if you're competing with a zillion other people on Etsy in the most saturated category they have, your odds of sales are very low.

Time and time again in my teams I see desperate people asking us for advice on their first sale, and sometimes their shop does need a little help. But frequently, they're just selling something that everyone else is selling. Competition is stiff. It takes a lot more work to get a sale, and odds of selling anything are low.

In fact, I would take my advice a step further and tell you to stay away from any of these categories:

1) Jewelry
2) Digital downloads
3) Hair accessories - ESPECIALLY kids bows
4) Photography
5) Vintage
6) Bath & Body
7) Knit/crochet

Now, there's an upside to all this - if you're a buyer, Etsy is a great place to go for great deals on these items. I've bought several handmade scarves for really low prices, and get most of my soaps now for free on the trade teams! But if you're looking to start a business you don't want people like me saying that, you want to make a profit and have a steady stream of inventory LEAVING your house.

Go visit Etsy's teams. Check around for "promotion" threads where people are spamming "post your items here"-type threads. Those people are desperate. They're willing to waste time posting in useless threads, because making things isn't getting them any money. Make a mental note of what they're selling, and know that it doesn't sell on its own. Don't copy them.

Maybe what you make is special and different and has a "niche". If you're not sure, list it. Every listing is an experiment. If it doesn't sell, correct your course and try another idea.

So what should you sell?

I love the Seller Opportunity Tools prototype team. Once you join, there's a link on the left that says "Find Inspiration", where you can see search terms that are getting put in by shoppers, but buyers aren't filling all the needs.

Check out Craft Count to see what the highest selling shops are selling. In general, what are they doing that you are not?

Browse around Etsy from the main page. Read shop announcements. Shops who use their announcement space to advertise deep discounts are probably in a market you should avoid. Shops who have things like "we're so behind if you want your item in time for Christmas you'd better order in October!" obviously have more demand for what they're selling.

Consider barrier-to-entry markets. That means that any guy on the street can't just start making what you're making. Things like stained glass and woodworking require tools that not everyone has in their house - so those markets aren't as saturated.

Obviously you have to love what you're making, stay in markets you "know", and be true to yourself. But you probably want to have some sales, too! So find a product line that fills a void. It'll practically sell itself!

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Monster pencil case tutorial

Kids are back in school, Halloween is coming up, so I figured it was about time to post up some instructions to the Monster Pencil Case fabric I recently added to my spoonflower shop. One fat quarter gives you supplies to make three different designs, all you need is a zipper and some simple lining fabric!

This is a simple easy project that takes almost no time, I love making zipper pouches. Here's what the fabric looks like:

First cut out all the pieces. Cut a matching piece of lining fabric for each part. Cut the face straight across where the mouth will be.

I used a 7" zipper for this that needed a bit of extension, luckily there's extra fabric for that. Layer the fabric, right sides together, with the zipper in between like a sandwich, and sew across where the zipper teeth end.

Lay the head, zipper and lining together. Make sure the zipper teeth are against your cool outside fabric, not the lining.

Sew across the head.

Open the head up and iron flat.

Do the same for the mouth layers.

Open the mouth layers and now you've got a whole face that unzips!

Now lay the backing down, set the face on top of it, and set the back of the head right-side down on the face.

Pin together.

Sew around, but leave 3-4" open at the bottom to turn inside-out.

Turn, and topstitch or hand stitch the opening. Ta-da! Scary! Yet functional, don't you love it!

Friday, September 27, 2013

Etsy title tips: get your creation found

Something I point out a lot in the shop critiques team are title improvements. I've seen some etsians make titles sound like a really complicated effort, throwing around terms like "relevancy" and "optimization"... relax. Those are computer words. We are humans.

So all you need for a good listing title is this: use words that people will search for.

You hold your creation in your hand and you think "this is something I made with those extra zippers in my craft room"... that's what it is to you. But what is it to someone else? A blue purse. If someone wants a blue purse, you have JUST the item for them, don't you? So that's what you should use as the first words in your listing title!

A good thing to do is to use Etsy's search bar to see if people are actually searching for the stuff you're listing in your shop. For example if you type in "tote bag", all sorts of stuff comes up. Lots of people are searching for tote bags, there are even other suggestions, if you make a "chevron tote bag" you're really in luck. That would be a great phrase to start your title off with.

The most common mistake I see is shop owners who want to be descriptive and unique, so they scrape up some descriptive unique words. But shoppers don't think to use those words in search, so they're not helping you. If you type in a phrase and get no suggestions, it's probably not too common.

Etsy provides us with a very nice "shop statistics" page, where you can see what keywords are bringing in the most people to your shop. If you list five similar items, be sure to give them all a wide selection of titles and tags, and see what works best. Experiment and diversify! Maybe some people are searching for a "blue hat" and others are searching for a "wool hat" - if you've got two similar blue wool hats in your shop, give them different titles and you'll catch the eye of both sets of people.

Just remember that your target audience is always the people who come to Etsy with money in their pocket to buy something - that's who you want to find your item. Good titles are the most important tool you've got for that!

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Survey of spoonflower colors - full saturation to black gradient

Spoonflower requires that designers order swatches of their designs before publishing. It's a good policy, because print often looks different than screen, especially with darker colors. Dark blue can easily wind up just being black. Subtle variations are often totally lost.

To help me out recently, I printed a swatch that crosses all hues, fading into black. Here was the original graphic I uploaded:

And here was the printed fabric on kona cotton:

I then made a "color averaged" version.

Now when I design my fabrics in GIMP, I have a two-layer file with my color averaged file on the top layer, "graphic" one underneath. I pick out what I want a color to look like using the color-averaged version, but "grab" the original version of it.

I plan to do some other gradients with this method... for example, I'm still trying to figure out how to get brown. Pastels are a lot easier on spoonflower, much more likely to come out looking like they do on the screen.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

My geeky baby onesie designs finished up by clichemom - yay!

A while back I introduced a collection on spoonflower of geeky baby onesie kits - cut and sew designs so you could sew up a onesie inspired by your favorite sci-fi show. Of course then what happened? I got Etsy convos from people wanting me to sew them up and sell them. Great, except I've got a full time job and just had another baby... no time!

Then I remembered heck, I'm on etsy! There are shops all over the place run by people looking for more sales, talented artists who can totally sew. I searched around and found someone who was already making geeky baby items, with snaps even... for me that was the most pain-in-the-rear part of the baby onesies, I hate closures. But my new friend Katie at clichemom has no problem with them.

So I convo'ed her to ask if I could send inquiries her way, she said sure, and we're off... she's fulfilling orders and giving me design feedback, I'm back to being just a fabric designer. Collaboration is awesome!

Here's what originally drew me to approach her, these adorable suck pads... basically little pads that snap around your baby carrier (bjorn, ergo, whatever pricy thing you've invested in) so your kid can drool all over the straps and you've got an easy removable bit to throw in the washer:

Blue fancy tardis suck padsBlue fancy tardis suck pads
by cichemom

And here are some of the onesies she's making with my fabric:

Little yellow trekkieLittle yellow trekkie
by cichemom

Little 10th time lord- 3-6 months sizeLittle 10th time lord- 3-6 months size
by cichemom

Little Wizard 3-6 months onesieLittle Wizard 3-6 months onesie
by cichemom

Saturday, September 14, 2013

mod podge cabinet door jewelry holder

Here's how I'm storing my necklaces these days:

Yes, I have a cute jewelry tree that sets on my dresser but my kid kept getting to it, so I came up with this solution, which is out of her reach!

1) Bought a 50 cent stick of wood at the hardware store
2) Painted it with mod podge, wrapped it with scrapbook paper, mod podged again
3) Stuck the ends to the door with command adhesive strips

Since my cabinet door is inset, I can just hang the necklaces over the stick.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

2013 trending color: flat brown

Earlier in the year pantone announced that emerald green was making a huge comeback and would totally be the color of 2013. This has proven to be total crap, which is a shame because it looks good on me, but seriously we're not seeing it anywhere. I'm not sure who emerald paid off at pantone to get such a nice prediction made out of it, but it didn't work.

No, the real trending colors for the year seem to be flat ones. Low saturation, neutral, relaxing, and homemade-looking. With that in mind, I've chosen a nice flat brown for my latest spoonflower fabric: geek glasses on flat brown

The color: #AB9073. I seriously compared a spoonflower color sample swatch to a chunk of cardboard. Don't laugh, I love it.

Here, I will put chevrons on it:

And this pattern I made over at colourlovers:

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Simple knit toddler dress

I've really gotten over my fear of working with knits lately. Last weekend I found this soft pink poly/cotton blend in the remnant bin at the fabric store, and made this dress for my 3-year-old:

Sorry the picture doesn't show the dress on my child, she is cute but moves too fast to be an ideal model. So far!

Really simple, the remnant was 54" wide and a little over .6 yards, I figured out that with 3/4 yard I could make dresses for all kinds of kids. Here's all I did:

1) Cut 3" off one end for the dress straps - in the direction so they wouldn't stretch too much. Made tubes out of them that turned inside-out and there ya go, straps.

2) Made the top section, 7" wide (I would fold it in half lengthwise to make the top) and long enough to wrap around my kid's top - about 22" is good for a size 3-4T.

3) Used my skirt pattern calculator to figure out the bottom part. For the "waist", I put in the kiddo's hip measurement. 16" length would hit about knee-level. For the width I just played with it until the "full pattern width" was as wide as the fabric I had, when I folded it in half (that calculator makes you a skirt that you have to cut two pieces of).

4) I sewed the top part in a tube and folded it lengthwise. Sewed the straps to the top. Sewed the two sides of the skirt together.

5) Then when I attached the skirt to the top I just stretched the top to fit around the skirt so the thread would have enough stretch to go on and off.

If I were to do it again I'd put the straps a little closer together, when laid down they're about 1.5" from the sides, need to be 2 or 2.5". But the skirt/top combo worked out awesome. And this whole getup was like $3, so that's a win for me!

Monday, August 19, 2013

Featured shop: KentuckyBluebird Eco-friendly mats and homewares

Everyone, meet Scott and Kate. They run the wholesome, earthy etsy shop Kentucky Bluebird and loved the items they had featured in the etsycontest recently, so I asked them a few questions about the business they run together. You can also find them on facebook at Kentucky-Bluebird.

Set of Four Natural Wooden Coasters- Handmade from Salvaged Black Walnut- Recycled Felt Bottom41st place August 15th, 2013
Theme Thursday! Wood items from $1-$50.

Set of Four Natural Wooden Coasters- Handmade from Salvaged Black Walnut- Recycled Felt Bottom
by KentuckyBluebird

Coupon code: ONLINEAD 15% off

Tell us a bit about yourself?
We are a couple from Lawrenceburg, KY. We both have full time jobs, but in our spare time, he is a woodworker and she is a seamstress. We also enjoy organic gardening and following our favorite bluegrass and folk musicians.

SALE Organic Small Washable Pet Mat / Bed for Cats or Small Dogs -Honey BeesFeatured July 19th, 2013
July 19th! Items from $19-$19.99.

SALE Organic Small Washable Pet Mat / Bed for Cats or Small Dogs -Honey Bees
by KentuckyBluebird

Coupon code: ONLINEAD 15% off

What got started making handmade items?
We are both very interested in buying local and being as self sufficient as possible. Thus, we usually ask ourselves before buying something factory-made if we could make it instead or buy it from someone who could make it by hand. We are also obsessively productive people and would rather be making things than watching TV.

SALE Dragonfly Baby/Child Quilted Blanket- 100 Percent OrganicSALE Dragonfly Baby/Child Quilted Blanket- 100 Percent Organic
by KentuckyBluebird

What's your home like?
We live in Lawrenceburg, which is in the heart of bourbon and horse country in central Kentucky. Our abode is a small, older white house, surrounded by cows and hayfields. We have a dog, five chickens and a huge garden.

Blue Nature Baby/Child Quilted Blanket- 100 Percent OrganicBlue Nature Baby/Child Quilted Blanket- 100 Percent Organic
by KentuckyBluebird

Tips for other etsy artists?
Don't make anything you don't enjoy making. You started an Etsy shop to love what you're doing- right?

CLEARANCE Extra Small Designer Organic Cat/Dog Bed - Washable- Pillow Insert Included- Eco FriendlyCLEARANCE Extra Small Designer Organic Cat/Dog Bed - Washable- Pillow Insert Included- Eco Friendly
by KentuckyBluebird

Most important thing you've changed about your shop or products since starting on etsy?
Adding more variety was the key to success for us.

Have you bought anything cool off etsy lately?
We buy a lot off of Etsy. We recently bought a bunch of yarn made from old t-shirts for wrapping our items for shipping. We love the eco-friendly products available on Etsy!

SALE Organic Dog Bed - Washable- Recycle Your Old Pillows- Birds in FlightSALE Organic Dog Bed - Washable- Recycle Your Old Pillows- Birds in Flight
by KentuckyBluebird

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Sushi zipper pencil case

Half the reason I posted up my box-shaped zipper pencil case tutorial was so I could get the world to make this... my sushi pencil case!

This fun project is now available from my spoonflower shop: sushi pencil case cut & sew:

I guess it could hold chopsticks too?

Anyway a fat quarter of cotton makes the case, plus an optional crayon roll that coordinates quite nicely.

Here are some pictures of the finished product:

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Distressed Damask - GIMP Tutorial

This week I added a new free damask pattern to my gallery at openclipart - it's a remix of a cool botanical stamp, public domain, pure black & white. That gives it lots of possibilities so I figured I'd post up this quick GIMP tutorial to show how to make a really cool background out of it!

You can use this for any boring pattern that you want to make distressed and earthy looking.

Here's what we're starting with:

First I'm going to recolor it. I kinda like purple and gray this week, so with purple as my main color I use the bucket fill tool. I set the mode to "lighten only" so it only gets the black parts, and hold down shift so it fills the whole layer purple:

Next I change my color to light gray and go to Layer: New Layer and set the color to "foreground color".

Then Layer > Stack > to bottom moves it underneath the damask:

I go to Image > Flatten to get them on the same layer.

Now I want to tile it so I'll have a little variation in the distress pattern. I go to filters > map > tile, set the mode to "percent", click the "chain" to break it, and tile height 200% and width 300% - it gets a little more width since it's not as wide to start out with. Whatever you pick though make sure it's a multiple of 100% so the image will tile nicely.

Time to add some texture to it. I create a brand new layer.

On the new layer, I pick Filter > Render > Clouds > Plasma. Set turbulence to 7 and hit "new seed" a few times until you just like what you see, no big zones of darkness.

Go to filters > Map > Make seamless. Now I'm at this fine mess:

I set the layer mode to "darken only" so it brings out the damask pattern underneath
Colors > Desaturate so the layer is only gray tones
Colors > Brightness & contrast > Brightness minus 100 so it's darker
I adjust the transparency until I like what I see.

And now I have this, which is much darker in a cool vampire-y kinda way:

What do you think? A nice old wallpaper sort of background for any occasion. Playing with layer modes and brightness settings here can bring lots of interesting results, so have fun and let me know what works best for you!

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Featured shop: The Peachy Rose

I found a lovely new shop via recently that I couldn't resist featuring: The Peachy Rose. Allyson does lovely things with mason jars, in addition to the jewelry and bigger home decor items in her shop. I asked her a few questions about it all - you can also follow her on Twitter @ThePeachyRose or facebook:

Bronze & Coral Lace Painted  Ball Mason Jar VaseBronze & Coral Lace Painted Ball Mason Jar Vase
by ThePeachyRose

Tell us a bit about yourself?
I am a twenty-one year old college senior living in Southern California. My major is biology, which is much different from the girly finds you will see in my shop. I have a wonderful boyfriend of almost 6 years that will be leaving for the Air Force in December. Art has played a large role in my life. I loved ceramics all throughout high school. After, I began working in a pottery shop for three years. During that time, I was able to help create custom creations for people's loved ones. Soon thereafter, I began making homemade gifts for my own loved ones. Thus, The Peachy Rose was born and named for my dear grandparents who have always shown so much support in whatever I have done.

Lavender Painted Natural Wood EarringsLavender Painted Natural Wood Earrings
by ThePeachyRose

What got started making handmade items (especially out of reclaimed materials, how cool!)?
As a full time college student with a very small part time job, I realized my homemade creations were not only less expensive than buying pre-made gifts, but also meant more to the recipients.I have always loved thought of upcycling materials and making them beautiful again, especially with such simple items. My college is full of agriculture and large beautiful trees everywhere. I saw all of the branches on the ground and thought that I could make something out of them and repurpose the once lively branches. Earrings were one of the first things that came to mind. I love the natural look of the wood, but I also offer painted earrings as well.

Set of 3 Painted Mason Jar Vases:  Peach, Mint, and IvorySet of 3 Painted Mason Jar Vases: Peach, Mint, and Ivory
by ThePeachyRose

What got you to open your shop on etsy?
I first came across Etsy while looking for materials for some of my gifts. Everyone was just so lovely and proud for selling their own products and creations. I believed I was capable in opening a shop, finding people that love my items as much as I do, and have earnings that I could set aside for my graduate school. Since my boyfriend is going to be most likely moving out of state for the Air Force, the ability to retain my business and move it wherever I go really appealed to me.

Natural Eucalyptus Wood EarringsFeatured July 24th, 2013
Welcome Wednesday! The newest Etsy shops' items from $1-$50.

Natural Eucalyptus Wood Earrings
by Thepeachyrose

What inspires you?
Colors, seasons, and vintage items are the most pronounced inspirations for me. I love distressing newer items to give them that vintage appeal. Right now, the fall season is inspiring me. I love the scents and colors, and am in the process of making delightful candles and decor to match the warmth that the season brings.