Friday, December 3, 2010

Creating the Gift-giving “WOW” Factor

(This article was first published in the Etsy Dallas Jingle Bash booklet given out free at the Jingle Bash on November 20. Written by me!)

Most of us have re-gifted a fancy holiday gift bag or two, but what are some other creative, and eco-friendly, ways to present your gifts?

•  Stash your present inside another gift, such as a pretty pouch, petite purse, or bold reusable shopping bag. Personalize the bag with embroidery or iron-on letters to add a, well, personal touch.

•  Decorate a reusable box with decoupaged images, stickers, and letters spelling the recipient’s name or initials. I prefer boxes with plastic lids like instant breakfast, oatmeal, or some cereal boxes. Put a big ribbon on top. After the holiday it can be used to store other treasures.

•  Use a scarf or scrap of fabric to tie up a fancy bundle or bottle. Add a gift tag and you’re ready to go.

•  Fashion a stack of fabric pouches from a variety of old colored t-shirts. Create an envelope fold pouch that only requires stitching on two sides (like a pillow slipcover), tuck your goodies inside, make a stack of different colored pouches, and then bundle together with a ribbon. Viola!

•  Fold a paper box and lid. Find instructions for an origami box. Use print outs of your favorite digital pictures, magazine images, or pages from an old book. If the paper isn’t stiff enough, mount the images on cardstock first.

•  Create a gift terrarium with your present nestled under a glass dome among moss and tiny plants. You could rest a glimmering necklace on a rock or situate a tiny gift box among flowers.

Other ideas to make gifts fabulous? Sew, crochet or knit a pouch. Embellish with buttons and embroidery. Add a homemade tree ornament as the gift tag.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Just in Time for the Holidays

If you saw me at the Jingle Bash in Dallas this last weekend or Funky Find's The Experience in Fort Worth earlier this month you might have noticed that I'm now 6 months pregnant! Things are going well and we're so excited about our new baby coming in March. While I won't be doing any shows in the Spring, I am so happy to have had the opportunity to do such amazing shows this Fall.

I had a blast at the Jingle Bash yesterday and even though it was completely exhausting, it was totally worth it. Same for The Experience in Fort Worth, but the Jingle Bash holds a special place in my indie-craft-heart. I've done that show every year for all of its three year history. Every year I am blown away by the crowds, the enthusiasm of the shoppers, and the quality of the Bash. The Etsy Dallas team does an amazing (all-volunteer) job of organizing a fun, creative, and high quality shopping experience.

Once again, I'm in awe. I'm exhausted, but still kind of giddy from the success of the day.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Full Circle Hoop Experience

In addition to crocheting, I really enjoy hooping. I've been working with Hip Hazel Hoops making and teaching hula hooping since September. This August we're teaming up with three other hooping instructors for our first all day hooping workshop. Here's the scoop!

Spin Cycle Hoop School announces Full Circle Hoop Experience on Saturday, August 21, 12-5 pm at South Side on Lamar in Dallas.

No longer just for kids, adult fitness hooping has come full circle offering both physical and mental benefits for all who want to give it a whirl! Full Circle Hooping Experience will include activities for all levels, including beginning and advanced workshops with area experts, a hooping showcase, hooping videos, a hoop boutique, and an open hoop jam with Q&A. If you’re curious about how the hula hoop has evolved into a fitness revolution, this is the event for you! No previous experience necessary.

What:  Full Circle Hoop Experience
Who:  presented by Spin Cycle Hoop School
When:  Saturday, August 21, 12-5 pm
Where:  South Side on Lamar, 1409 S. Lamar, Dallas, TX 75215; Free event parking

Cost:  $75 in advance, $80 at the door

Thursday, June 3, 2010


I just finished two commissioned pieces back to back. Here is the cream and brown puff sleeve shrug that is going to Austin. It is based on my Chocolate and Cream Shrug, but resized for a custom fit. It was really fun to revisit this item. I love how sturdy the acrylic feels; it really helps give the sleeves the right amount of structure. 

Just before that, I finished up a very challenging piece in silver lame. It looks and feels more like chain mail than your typical yarn. I used a smaller hook than normal and found it took a little while to get used to handling it. But, I think the results are stunning. This piece is off to Cardiff, UK.

The back is longer and the sleeves are fitted. The piece was created exactly to fit the customer. This is the first time I've had a chance to use the size Large dress form. It was very helpful when establishing the drape around the sides from the front to the back. With the longer back, this pieces has more sewing with piece work than some of my other shrugs, like the one above. With these two now in the mail, I'm off to my next project!

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Renegade in Austin

I spent last weekend in Austin at the Renegade Craft Fair. I was super psyched to be juried into this show! I went to the Renegade in Brooklyn last June and it was amazing. I agonized over how to set up my booth and finally break free from the table table display I've come to rely on. So, for this show I had a dress form with one of my shawls and three panels across the back of the 10 x 10 booth. I covered the panels with fabric and either clipped to or stitched through the fabric to secure the items on display. Yes, that is an IKEA bath mat that I repurposed as a background for an arrangement of pins! I still had my trays of crocheted button pins, baskets of crocheted scarves and hats, and my hanging rack of goodies, of course. But, I really wanted to try some new things with my display. I also added a new sign. I kept my crocheted script sign and added a logo painted on a large stretched canvas that could be propped up. 

I really enjoyed the process of preparing for this show. It was challenging trying to load the car for the first time with all of these new additions to the set up and a new car. The drive down to Austin was full of blinding rain, but we didn't have any more rain for the rest of the trip. We went to the Etsy meet and greet on Friday night and found Korean BBQ from a street vendor later that night. Saturday night we had burgers and sausage out on a patio. By Sunday evening I was ready to go home. Renegade was fun. I spent plenty of money buying wonderful goodies and oogling everyone's stuff. There are so many talented and creative people! 

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Spring is finally here!

I just finished my contribution for the Spring Bash. I made tiny crocheted flowers with button centers and magnets on the back. Very cute and petite. I made ONE leaf. A very special person will find that in their Goody Bag. Although I'm not participating in the Etsy Dallas Spring Bash with Modest Ambition, I still want to contribute to the team! 

I will, however, be there with Hip Hazel Hoops selling hoops, classes, gift certificates, and demonstrating hooping. It's going to be so much fun! I just signed up for the decorating committee. I feel like we're getting ready for the prom.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Custom-ize Me

February and March have been surprisingly busy for me. I was lucky enough to have a flood of custom orders including all the ones featured in this post. I didn't have time to photograph all of them properly before shipping, but at least I have some kind of record. The pink and off-white shrug was based on my Chocolate and Cream Shrug. I'm working on a black version for my shop right now. 

Here's a better view. I forgot how much I like this item! the lacy grid on the arms and trim really help differentiate this shrug from all the others. I made two brooches in case the one photographed here was just too dramatic, i.e. too big.

This ivory silk mohair shrug was based on my Silk Mohair Orange Shrug. It was designed to go with a lovely floral print dress in shades of green. The brooch is just pinned on so this shrug will be wonderfully versatile.

This is probably my favorite custom item that I've done recently. The customer took my Silk Mohair Blue Dream Shrug and turned it inside out, reversing the colors and adding red for the rosettes. I love how it came out! 

Finally, this was the most complicated of the recent orders. The photograph doesn't do it justice at all, but this is a version of the Ivory Alpaca Lace Ruffled Shrug. We changed the fiber to a brighter shinier one, an alpaca silk blend, shortened the back and made the entire thing smaller. I took this photo at night and since it doesn't actually fit me I couldn't model it, in fact, I think my hanger was too big, which is too bad - the mohair ruffles were so pretty. 

Saturday, March 13, 2010

White Rockin' It

I was at White Rock Local Market today and it was so much fun! I have a terrible sunburn from being outside from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. but I'm so glad it was such a nice sunny day. I split my booth between Modest Ambition and Hip Hazel Hoops, which made for some chaotic moments, but seemed to work pretty well. I wore my crocheted shrug and demo'd hula hoops. Kids love to play with the hoops, but really we focus on adult fitness hooping. The colors did sparkle in the sun. I'm experimenting with my display; I debuted my brooch board. Which worked great, until a great gust of wind knocked it over. Oh well. The hoop rack came down once too. Yikes! At least it wasn't as windy as yesterday. Some of the booths had tents and others didn't like mine. While I benefitted from the warmth of the sun in the early morning (like in the picture) when it was in the 40s, by the afternoon we were getting cooked but still it was only in the 60s. I'd say that was a perfect March day.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

News and more news

So a bit of news to catch you up - first, Etsy Dallas announced their 2010 team roster and once again I am proud to be part of this group! I hope to become even more involved this next year, participating in the spring and fall bashes, writing for the team blog, and promoting team projects. 

I am also excited to announce that I have been juried into the Renegade Craft Fair in Austin, May 15-16. This is a very competitive show and I know many people that were disappointed not to be selected. I am so honored that they chose my shop and I'm going to be working very hard to take advantage of this opportunity. I know I need to completely rethink my booth display and I have some exciting ideas. Think installation art / scene setting with a heavy DIY emphasis. I want to present my designs creatively and thoughtfully, but never in an overly commercial pre-packaged generic way. I know this show means I have to step up my game and consider the entire exhibition space as an extension of my work. Excited!

Finally, I am so happy for my friend Regina who is the featured seller for this week on Etsy with her amazing soap shop Soapopotamus. She gave me a shout out as the maker of her favorite handmade item - a custom hood. I've mentioned this hood before in my blog (Post-Pop Anime Hood), but I here it is again. I thought I was going to go blind while working on it because I was using so many colors at the same time. I wish I had taken more photographs of it, but I'm working with 3 skeins of alternating colors for just about every row. It was so much fun! Congratulations to Regina for being the featured seller!

Friday, January 29, 2010

Warm Memories

This picture is dated 1975. That's me on the left and my older sister Karen on the right. The weird line across the picture above is from the plastic sleeve of the photo album. I didn't want to take the picture out to scan it. I love the weird compositions in snapshots. Karen's face is clearly in the center. I'm off to the side, but still nicely in the frame. The pink chair on the side and the bottom of the picture frames, well, those add interest to the side and top, right? Or, for me, it firmly locates the picture in my grandparent's formal living room. I remember fondly this coat, and later Karen's coat when I grew into it, and the detachable hoods with faux fur lining and black drawstrings. 

I've been a hood-kick lately. Designing and making hoods for adults that are playful, nostalgic, warm, and one of a kind, like this one. I love red and blue together and I've been inching my way towards more complex color switching and patterning. After finishing this project I can confidently say that I have this skill. Images are next! Playing with the geometric patterns was fun and easy. No mistakes here. The gusset is new too. I've been creating blunted points for the hoods by angling the last few inches and knocking off the sharp point. Here I stitched it up straight, as usual, then repositioned it and stitched straight across to create the gusset, which I tacked to the side-back, rather than the top. On the whole, I'm very pleased with this project. I can't wait to think of my next design.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Through the woods

After working on this piece for two weeks and three attempts at photography, I finally listed my newest item. I'm not totally happy with the images, but maybe I need to walk away from it. This is a kind of bizarre piece - not your normal hat to toss on when it's cold. I wanted to push myself so I completed the alternating zigzag pattern by counting stitches and rotating yarns. After the piece was felted I started to work on the brim and embroidery. I'm new to embroidery so it may appear a bit rough, but this is a lovingly handmade piece and I figured that would add to the quirkiness. It was made to be an exception to daily life, a kind of talisman providing escape to a world that actually does get cold, where are there forests to walk through, and wildlife to wonder at. It's still January, but it has been in the 70s this week already. I imagine this hood with a layer of powdery snow across the brim when extended. I can dream.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Leaf-ing Update

After attending the SASSY Virtual Labs critique last week and receiving some much needed advice from a member (thanks CricketsCreations!), I just had to do something about my photography. It's just a start, but here are my NEW photos of the leaf pins. I reshot the flowers too and the combo images. Whew, thank goodness the photos are actually getting better. I was so relieved to have the lightbox that I didn't realize the photos just weren't there yet. Now, I feel like I'm a bit closer. It feels so good to make progress! This lovely mild sunny January day has now been pressed into my leaf pin photos.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Circling back

Happily my hands have been busy and I've posted a few new items today from the Everyday Circle Scarf series. I have five completed and one more in black that is almost done. The circle scarves were really fun to play with. I did notice that some are much longer than others! They range from 28 to 40 inches. Oops. I'll probably make a few more since they are so fast.

Other projects I'm working on include a hood in olive green and coral with a zigzag pattern created by alternating colors and some new crocheted button pins with rusched fabric bits. I'm trying to challenge myself to incorporate new materials into my crocheted pieces and to try to master new techniques. I am stretching my ability to concentrate on the hood, counting and switching colors frequently, but the pattern itself is very easy. In the end I plan to felt it, so mistake-forgiveness is built in.

I'm also happy to report some numbers. My Etsy shop is just shy of 800 hearts, my shop now has 63 items, and my highest viewed item is almost to 3600. I'm still mulling over my goals for 2010 and how they might look in hard numbers, but I'm encouraged the recent activity. Also, as part of my 2010 plan, I sorted out my bookmarks and revisited some of the great links that have been recommended, which led to my reading a 25-page guide to SEOs. Finally, this trip down the rabbit hole of links lead me back to, a website I discovered and joined in 2005. Amazingly my login still works! And my avatar was a platypus skeleton? What?! Oh yeah. Well, we all change over time. I'm looking forward to exploring the "new" Craftster and showing off my super-duper skills. I remember how comforting it was to first find Craftster. I spent so much time there. I've come a long way since 2005.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010


Think of this post as a tiny memorial to an item that sold that I now miss. I ordered handspun tomato orange flecked mint yarn from circuspony and was giddy when I saw that it was even more amazing than I had thought! I worked and reworked the body of the hood three times because I kept running out of that yarn. I added the alternating squishy orange alpaca rows and finally went and bought the cream wool to be able to finish it. I then added the ruffle at the bottom, just because! Well, to balance the design and add an extra touch of whimsy.

I don't work with handspun yarn as often as I would like, so I feel like I have a special obligation to take someone else's beautiful work and try to do my absolute best with it. This hood sat proudly on my hat stand at the Etsy Jinglebash last Fall and was featured on a few blogs before making it to the front page two days before Christmas and finally selling on Christmas day! I'll make other hoods, but this one was magical.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Blue Skies and a New Day

It's the first work day of the new year and I'm busy-busy. I was sick most of last week but managed to add over 30 items to my little shop, plus three more to photograph and list today or tomorrow. Now that I'm listing smaller items, with successful photos, I've been catching up on inventory. But enough of this boring talk, it's Monday of a new week of a new year!

I have so many new ideas. I'm really excited about sharing my designs from yesterday, a mohair shrug and two scarves in a new design. Maybe it was being sick and watching lots of movies that helped me keep my rhythm, but I was mighty productive yesterday. Thanks Fred Astaire and Bing Crosby! I watched "Blue Skies", featuring those two fellows and I felt down-right lazy after watching all the tapping and dizzy from all the saturated colors. Such gorgeous costumes too. By the way, that movie has the strangest plot. It is surprisingly dark and empty-feeling for a movie with so many song and dance numbers.

Meanwhile, here's a peek at what the flowers and leaves that I've been posting lately looked like before completion. I do love color.

Friday, January 1, 2010

Small Items Paradox

I'm still working on my personal New Year's resolution list, but it certainly includes spending more time trying to figure out how to make modestambition work. I know that I need to treat it more like a business than just an extension of my hobby. For example, I can make all kinds of things and often I choose the things that are the most exciting and most challenging to me. But as a business, I am often confused about what to make and who my customer is.

I have learned a very clear lesson from the craft shows that I participated in this last year, all five of them (two in the Spring, one in the fall, and two closer to Christmas). In person, different items sell than online, for many reasons I'm sure including how the product looks in person, how long the customer wants to spend shopping, and who that audience is. Smaller, lower priced items sell better at craft shows. I've sold hundreds of crocheted button pins in person, received 2,614 views on that item at this date, and sold just a handful online. I've tweaked the listing, played with the price and even taken it down for awhile, but it continues to draw traffic, so it's back. I've included them in samplers, team giveaways, craft show goody bags, etc. Sometimes I get really tired of that item, but then I find myself eager to make more - new color combinations, more scraps of yarn to use, new button finds!

The Heidi Bobby Pin was developed as a craft show (in person) item. I made just a few bobby pins in the spring and they did pretty well. By fall, I decided to re-merchandise them and I developed the elaborate collaged card with a paint sample front, my business card info, and scenes and text from a vintage children's book "Heidi" on the back. They were a big hit! I almost sold out at the Etsy Jinglebash. So here they are, online now.

I took my time figuring out how to photograph them. I found tutorials, built a light box, and finally posted a big batch of them.
I think they are an adorable small item and a good gift. Domestic shipping is free, so that won't be the issue. So, the question is how does this sell in person vs. online? I'm going to start making larger crocheted button pins that will be photographed and listed individually. Let's see how this goes.