Last Minute Holiday Decor

Sometimes I get so busy with holiday orders and work and this and that I forget little things like my own decor or wrapping hostess gifts for parties. Sometimes I even forget the hostess gift entirely. Thankfully I always have yarn laying around so making something is an awesome option.

And thankfully this Liesure Arts Yarn Whimsies for the Holidays booklet has me (and you) covered. So many great and quick ideas from a Pom Pom wreaths to a table top tree to garland. I whipped up these cute Pom Pom Hat Ornaments for gift decor in no time using yarn I had in the house and a toilet paper tube! What I love about this booklet is everything in here can be made with what you've got on hand and they are great if you are looking for activities with kids. You can download the booklet here

 

 

 Disclosure: Liesure Arts sent me this booklet free of charge for the purpose of this review & collaboration. Although this is sponsored content, opinions and review are completely my own.

POS Credit Card Readers: Which Is Best For You

Woo Hoo it is summer festival & craft fair season. That means we get to get outside, set up our pop-up shops & tables to show off our wares. Since I sell warm weather cozy wear, Summer festival season is something I enjoy only as a spectator and customer. But I do love the vibes.   

One question many handmade artisans have is about payment processing, especially since not many people carry cash anymore. I did some research when I was starting to sell at the One Of A Kind Show in Chicago and found that I am a fan of Square. Here is a link to sign up and get a free reader and get your first $1000 free processing.  (Yes I get credit for this link but no that is not a factor in my analysis)

For me, it is just easy and the fee is not too bad. I like the fact that I can get unlimited free card readers so when the booth is busy more than one of us can process sales. I like the reporting analysis because it is easy to read and lets me know what my best selling items are.

The inventory management system was a bit labor intensive to set up but they all are so this isn't a deterrent to me. I would have to set it up anywhere. It is extremely helpful to go through this step to know what really sells and what trends are happening with my products. It also gives me a good overview of traffic patterns in my booth which is extremely helpful.

I have a friend who uses the Etsy reader because it helps her presence on Etsy by increasing sales in her shop. For me, that is not a factor. Plus, I do not like the fact that it makes me subject to Etsy TOU which means I cannot directly market to those customers unless they explicitly sign up for my emails. Similar to why I don't like Pattern by Etsy, it means I am doing work for the Etsy brand instead of my own.

Whatever card reader & POS system you choose, be sure it is right for you and your needs. Below is a breakdown of the three I researched. I know that Intuit also has a card reader / POS system, but I am not familiar with it so you may want to explore that as well.

Happy Market Day season everyone

 

Summer Kick Off Giveaway

Hope you guys are all having an amazing start to your summer (for those in AU - bundle up - it's getting cold!). Stitch & Hustle will be ramping up our content calendar but are having a slow peaceful start to summer on the beach.

But that's no reason we can't kick your summer off with a killer giveaway right? I've put together some of my favorite things for kicking off Summer Project Season just for you guys. Enter below. Up to TEN entries per person! Good Luck.

What will you win? ALL THIS:

Crochet Bible: Lucy and the gang at The Stationary Geek know what crocheter's need and have come up with an amazing project book: The Crochet Bible. I love it. Great for notes as I work up new ideas and designs.

Yarn Mug: Anyone who knows me (or follows me on Social Media) knows that I start every day with a fresh cup (or pot) of coffee in one of my favorite fiber arts inspired mugs. Krista from is serving up the super popular "yarn" mug which is def among my faves.

DIY Shirt: You may recognize Angel from Mad Love Shop from my shop or Instagram feed. She is an awesome graphic artist and hand screen prints her shirts. My latest fave is her DIY or die trying and perfect for summer project season. She will send you one in your size!

Pattern & Bonus: I am in love with We Are Knitters Pima Cotton fiber and so is anyone who touches it. It is perfect for spring, summer into fall. Jessica from The Hook Nook has designed this lovely Shawl for their pima cotton and you get the pattern free. But that is not all! Stitch & Hustle & We Are Knitters will send you the yarn to make it in the color of your choice. YES!
Hello Next summer project.

Don’t Just Be Busy: Be Productive! A Simple Tool for Increasing Daily Productivity

Guest post By Alissa M. Trumbull

Sometimes I have these mornings where I’m paralyzed in bed. I can’t move. I won’t move. I’ve spent the night mulling over what seems like 100 things that need to get done the second my feet hit the floor. Instead of getting up and running, my head feels busy and not productive, and I spend the day running circles around myself like a dog chasing its tail.

I know that I, like many others, continually look for ways to increase productivity. Some days are hard: I might have writing to do, errands to run, a vast number of emails to read and reply higher than a preschooler can count, and a job or two outside the house that require me to be dark on social.

A few weeks ago as a guest on #H2HChat, Brian Moran shared what he does to be more productive every day. Brian broke it down for us and showed how tasks on packed days – and the easy ones, too – can be grouped into four categories:

Urgent – It has to get done today. Don’t go to sleep until it’s finished.

Important – It really needs to get done today. Don’t get in trouble for not doing it.

Everyday – The daily routine. Muscle memory items.

Nonessential – If it doesn’t get done today, it can happen tomorrow. It’s okay to sleep on it.

This blew my mind. Such a simple categorization would allow me to provide better structure and more meaningful organization to my day. As a big fan of post-its, I’ve taken to laying out each day since then in these quadrants.

In the same chat, Brian noted, “Today is for execution; planning happens the night before.” So, now I wake up in the morning with today laid out from the previous evening. As my day goes on, I am able to remove items from my digital list. Ideally, I’ve done everything in the first three categories by the end of each day (and god forbid I forget to feed the cats!).

It’s amazing how my overall stress level has decreased and my productivity has increased during the past few weeks as I’ve utilized this new system. I no longer wake up fearing a lengthy to-do list. Instead, the visual division positively impacts my day, allowing me to be more organized, less busy, and more fruitful in my day-to-day activities.

I feel better. My relationships are better. My work is better. My life is better.

ABOUT Alissa:
Alissa is a Community Gardener for BTC Revolutions. Her purpose in life is to help people find their aha moments. She lives in Denver with her husband and their two cats, and gets to see the mountains every day.

Got ‘Gram-Game? An Instagram Primer For Artisans & Small Biz

Let’s take a deep dive into Instagram as part of the Stitch & Hustle Social Media Series. If you are not using Instagram yet, I implore you to see if it is a good platform for your brand. I have a feeling it will be.

I love Instagram – in fact it is my favorite of all the platforms.  It is an incredible tool to grow you business, connect with other businesses and customers.  I break it down here into 3 segments: Posts, Community, and Metrics.

Since it all starts with what you post, let’s talk about that first.

I think of Instagram as the advanced Social Media version of the pre-school game Show & Tell. You have two opportunities to tell your brand story when you post on Instagram: in the photo and in the text.  A great Instagram post is more than just a pretty picture. It connects and tells a story.

You can also think of Instagram posts as mini blog posts. That way you are always trying to connect with every post and share with intent & purpose. And remember – every post is a representation of your brand.

First up: The Photo

Knitwear designer Ozetta Takes Us Into Her Cozy Studio On Her Instagram

Knitwear designer Ozetta Takes Us Into Her Cozy Studio On Her Instagram

The photo is the draw. It is the eye candy. It is what makes Instagram Instagram. Your images should give a cohesive theme and brand message. You can focus on reflecting the brand lifestyle, inspirations,  as well as just the product itself.  Give a glimpse to your behind the scenes or process. SHOW your brand message.

If you are starting out or have a personal small brand this still matters. For example a friend of mine was asking how to up her IG game for her home chef account. I say – go beyond the finished meal and glossy pics.  As a healthy home chef show ingredients in their natural setting. Show markets and shopping carts. Show the process. Show the meal prep. Instagram allows video: show us your knife skills and dice something! There are so many ways to mix things up in a single image that reflects your brand and community.

Building your Instagram brand profile for personal account or your business requires a cohesive and consistent message in all your posts.

On a technical side; You can use almost any camera really. There are so many apps and filters that sometimes your phone is your best option. Plus, it’s always handy. For specific product display or branding purposes, you may want to consider a DSLR or even hiring or collaborating with a photographer. But again, getting started with your phone is all you need.

If you want to take a quick course on turning your phone into your camera, I suggest one on Craftsy or this one on CraftU. But nothing beats playing around with it and learning hands on, learning when the best time of day gives you the best lighting for your product, etc. No matter what filters or tools you use, nothing can “fix” a badly lit photo so these are important things to know.

Mud and Yarn Takes Us behind the Scenes on Her Instagram to See her Process and Even Inside her Kiln

Mud and Yarn Takes Us behind the Scenes on Her Instagram to See her Process and Even Inside her Kiln

A couple of apps I personally love are Camera+, VSCO, & PicStitch. Each has various features that allow me to manipulate the photo to tell the story I want. Be careful with filters though. They are not all right for your brand image even though they work for others. You can also control the intensity of the filter with a simple click. So play around with filters and apps to find what works best for you.

Stay away from collages. While you want to show all the awesome uses and variations of your product, the truth is that they are distracting and do not convey a clear story or brand message.

One photo. One story. Minus the rare exception, that is my Instagram rule of thumb.

And have fun! It’s true this is work and you have a marketing purpose but having fun is just as important. It comes through in the image (I firmly believe this). So be creative. Play around with various angles of your product and in various locations and settings for your product. It is a social media platform not a catalogue shoot!

Next up: The Text

While yes, the photo should tell a story – your text should enhance that story. Go deeper to connect with your community. Maybe talk about your process. Or share personal detail about the day. Whatever you choose to share it should be with intent to connect with your community and stay within your brand message.

The text is a great place to offer something to your community. As we have talked about is the intent of this blog, our hustle should be to help others succeed and to be of service. No reason not to do that with your Instagram. Offer a tip. Offer insight to a design. 

Whatever your brand message, this is a great opportunity to start a conversation with your community. I try to leave my posts with a question, invitation to comment or call to action. Invite the community to engage.

Back to the home chef example; this could be where she talks about the difference between one ingredient over another.  Or offer the community a quick time saving tip to be more efficient. Maybe ask the community what their favorite herb or ingredient is then in the next post refer back to that favorite. Talk about the recipe and why you love it (which gives a glimpse to you). Make it about more than just the picture.

I am strongly against lengthy text every time. Mix it up. Keep the audience interested. Again, this is another opportunity to connect. Don’t miss out.

Another important aspect of text is hashtags. I could do a whole spiel on hashtag etiquette but I will refrain. Just know that within the main post 2-5 relevant hashtags should be the max. If you want to add another round of relevant hashtags you can do so in a comment. Use tags that your audience will seek out so they can find you.  Think like a customer!

So now you have a great image and interesting post. Posting it is only the first step. Now we get into your community.

Crochet & Knitwear Artisan Crochet Gallery Lets Us Experience Her beautiful Surroundings and Inspiration on Her Instagram Account

Crochet & Knitwear Artisan Crochet Gallery Lets Us Experience Her beautiful Surroundings and Inspiration on Her Instagram Account

Social Media platforms call them “followers” or “fans” but I call people part of your community. Interaction & engagement goes both ways and, as you know from the purpose of this blog, I am a firm believer in giving more than you take.

When new people follow you, check out their page. If it is interesting or appealing to you, follow back. Read their posts. Comment and start a conversation. Make that effort to reach out. It could be as simple as a “like” or happy face. Whatever your method, connect. Find accounts that are aligned with your brand. Interact and comment.  Don’t wait for people to come to you. Go to them!

When people comment on your post thank them. An unanswered comment is akin to saying “I don’t care what you say” and WE DO CARE what our community says. So BE social. Respond. Interact. Too often we think Social Media is about putting it out there. It’s not. It is SOCIAL Media. Read my detailed post on that topic here.

Which takes me to my next point on community: Listen!!!  The importance of listening to what your community is talking about cannot be understated . What interests them? What problems can you help them solve? What are they talking about matters because it is your opportunity to connect.

So now you’ve posted and listened and built community. But how do you know if it’s working?

Like any Social Media or Marketing effort, you need to have an intentional plan & strategy going in. You want to grow. You want to increase followers and ultimately generate brand loyalty and sales.  Develop a plan that works for you to achieve those goals. Then Track. Track more. Track, shift and grow.

Obviously if you see an uptick in likes, comments and “followers” you will know you are on to something. But I suggest you develop KPI’s that will help you meet your goals and know where to spend your time and resources and get an overview of what posts are hitting the mark. I personally use Iconosquare and you can try it free for 30 days.

Over the course of your first 30 days of posting with purpose as described above, you should be able to clearly see what resonates with your community and attracts new followers. That is what you build on to grow and ultimately generate sales.

Instagram should be fun but it is also work. So get to work and have some fun!
And don't forget to follow Stitch & Hustle on Instagram & join the community!

 


 

 

 

Pattern by Etsy: Is It Really Your Own Website?

photo from Etsy blog

photo from Etsy blog

You may have heard, either by news article, blog or an email from Etsy, that Etsy has launched a new Web Service: Pattern By Etsy and are rolling it out this week. Here is a link to the Etsy blog launching the service and the Entrepreneur post.

I can't say I am a fan of this but to serve you best, I will be objective...

On second thought, nah.. let me just lay it out for you. I am finding more bad than good here.

Let's start with the name: Pattern by Etsy. Who thought of this malarkey? I mean really?

In my first 24 hours using the service and reaching out to their customer support there was instant confusion, more than once. You see, I (like many many others) sell my original patterns on Etsy. So their support thought I was having an issue with a Pattern transaction. You can imagine how frustrating it gets spending the first group of emails trying to get them to understand I am talking about their feature not my patterns. Even when my email to support said "I am having trouble with the new website program Pattern by Etsy"... they still came back with instructions on how to download a digital pattern. No kidding.

It blows my mind that they would name it Pattern by Etsy. But moving on...

Pattern by Etsy is slick. It is glossy and pretty and easy to use. The set up process is a matter of a few clicks. Because it is a mask of all the data Etsy already has in your Etsy shop, there is no import. The items are linked on the back end.

You can select from a few Theme Templates and each allows a bit of customization. The customization is quite limited though. You cannot "add pages" or really customize the type of content on your site too far away from what is already in your Etsy shop. The initial content from your Etsy shop comes over and you can edit as needed but again, within the parameters of what Etsy already allows. But it is easy to use and setting up the entire website took a matter of minutes.

At first glance, Pattern by Etsy has all the trappings to entice crafters, hobbyist and small business owners already using Etsy. But hold on... it also has limitations and constraints that make me tilt my eyes,  smirk and shake my head.

Going beyond the fact that Etsy takes 48-72 hours for your site to go live (which baffles me being that they are in fact a tech company) let's talk about the nitty gritty.

Pattern by Etsy is designed to keep you within the Etsy vortex. Similar to how Etsy itself works, Pattern by Etsy will not let you link to an outside site. For example, on the “About” page, I wanted to link to my standalone site www.144stitches.com. The link would not go live forcing customers or site visitors to see the text but not have a clickable link. They would have to “copy & paste” the text into their browser to get to my site. But If I put the link to my other Etsy shop, www.144stitches.etsy.com then the link is live. So you see, it is not actually "my website" as I am still playing by Etsy rules keeping the consumer and me, the vendor and in this case site owner within the Etsy vortex.

Additionally, Checkout is still run through the Etsy check out system.  So customers are still not buying from “you” but are re-routed back to Etsy. This means if they do not have an Etsy account, they will be required to create one.

You work hard, marketing your shop and promoting your work. You spend lots of man hours developing your brand and driving traffic to your new website. In fact, you spend the extra $16 per year Pattern by Etsy charges for your very own domain so you are not using the “patternbyetsy.com” extension to further drive traffic directly to your site and create brand name recognition.

But, in compliance with Etsy TOU, you are NOT allowed to collect emails of your customers or market to them once they have made a purchase. You see Etsy views them as "their" customers and only Etsy is allowed to use their email for marketing purposes.

So now you have your stand alone site doing Etsy’s legwork… not your own. Your brand is now linked to Etsy on a deeper level and all the work you do to get traffic and customers to your site is wasted as you cannot grow them into returning customers. Yes, you are paying for the privelege of doing Etsy's marketing.

Pattern by Etsy promotes Unlimited listings and that you do not have to pay a “listing fee” to add items. But you have to pay $15 per month and still have the listing fees due Etsy any time you add an item. And since you can ONLY add items by adding them to your Etsy shop there is no way around that fee even if you plan to drive traffic only to your new Pattern by Etsy website.

So now you are paying the $15 monthly fee, $16 annual fee for your domain and your Etsy listing fees of $0.20 per item and Etsy takes a 3.5% transaction fee per sale. These fees add up quick. Seriously do the math. and you have to still follow the Etsy TOU though you technically have your "own" website.

One last nail in the Pattern by Etsy coffin is the fact that if you have multiple Etsy shops (as I do) then you must create multiple Pattern by Etsy websites. Yup... they STILL will not allow a single account to operate multiple shops. So in my case, where I have 3 Etsy shops, take all those fees I just mentioned above and multiply it by three. Not to mention I would need 3 separate domains, 3 separate marketing plans, etc. I mean what a confusing headache!

Look, I love (and hate) Etsy. It is how I got my start and has opened so many doors for me. But Etsy today is very different than the Etsy of old and I really can't help but feel like Etsy is scrambling to create new revenue streams by making features that entice users but are just to keep investors happy now that the curtain has been pulled back. To me this feels haphazard and without much forethought for the user, which is the Etsy customer. And I am not talking about the consumer. I am talking about small businesses who use Etsy to sell their wares. Those are the Etsy customer. The money makers for Etsy through fees upon fees. Yet here we are again...

So what do you do?

You are not helpless and if you want your own website and domain go get it! But be responsible and check all the options. If you have big Etsy inventory and are attracted to the fact that Pattern by Etsy integrates your Etsy inventory, maybe you will consider IndieMade or SupaDupa or SquareSpace.  Each allows you to import your Etsy products and I know IndieMade syncs as you sell. And if you have multiple Etsy shops as mentioned above, you can import from multiple shops. Come on... no brainer!

I am a huge fan of these platforms and if you do the math you get way more bang for your buck and have true site ownership and control of your brand!

IndieMade, Supadupa & SquareSpace allow you to add pages and truly control your content as well as customize any of the free templates they provide. You can create a blog to share news and updates if you want. Pattern by Etsy simply allows you to link to an offsite blog, as long as you don't sell anything there because that would technically violate Etsy TOU.

Personally I use Squarespace, though I have used both IndieMade & SupaDupa in the past. For my needs, Squarespace is working great. On my current standalone sites (I have 2) I can list whatever I want (or not). My monthly fee includes listings, data storage, email and whatnot. 

Another option is to get a domain from GoDaddy or a similar service for a few bucks a year then have it direct to your Etsy shop. For as little as $5 a year you can have your very own domain to begin your branding and still it takes customers to your Etsy shop. There - I just saved you over $180 a year :-)

Bottom line is that there are tons of options if you are ready to take the leap, have your own website and begin building your brand beyond having an Etsy shop. I just think anyone considering Pattern by Etsy should take a beat and do the math and decide if it is really right for them. And I think that Etsy needs to find a way to reconnect with the Artisans who helped get it where it is.

Are you using Pattern by Etsy? Are you considering it? I am interested in your thoughts so please join the conversation in comments below.

UPDATE:

When I contacted Etsy to cancel my "free trial" within the 30 day period, I was informed that it would take SIXTY (60) days for me to get "ownership" of my domain, that I purchased through the sign up for Pattern by Etsy so not to use the "patternbyetsy" extension. I was baffled because didn't I "own" it when I paid for it? Nope. Etsy does. And because of ICANN restrictions, they cannot transfer for 60 days. With only a 30 day free trial, that forces me to at least pay for a month to be able to use the domain I purchased and is unacceptable.

I then asked, well could they at least forward the domain to my Etsy shop while I wait out the 60 days? Nope, they said they cannot because of the same ICANN rule. This is odd - especially since on GoDaddy, or anywhere else, I can pretty much forward a domain straight away.

In the end, their support apologized and extended my "free trial" to the full 60 day period. The problem is that for those 60 days, they are killing my google rankings because it appears as duplicate content as mentioned above. Thankfully I did not test Pattern by Etsy with either of my two main shops. But I will still feel the pinch.

 

 

Another Wood Shop Adventure: Business Card Holders

While I was looking around Pinterest for product display ideas, I also noticed some other interesting ideas to display  my business cards. Previously, I had them just stacked on the table near my products.

I would often have to neaten up the pile and point to where they were. Well not anymore!

With some left over wood from another project, and another afternoon in the wood shop with my husband I present my new business card displays.

We cut the approx 2 inch blocks off of a scrap wood slat. Then used the router to create slanted spaces. You want to be sure to slant so that your business cards display with your information showing.

Quite easy to make and I just love them.

Social Media: Not All Platforms Are Equal

Social Media has become a necessary tool for success. It is a gateway to the world for small independent business. It is a way to not only grow customers but also grow within the artisan or small business community. You can connect with service providers, fellow artists for collaborations, people who inspire you and so many others. The opportunity to connect is endless. But where do you start?

I think that many of the nuances available for social media to be a tool for success are missed because as a whole it is overwhelming. I get that.

In the Stitch & Hustle Social Media Series we will explore social media and how to make it work FOR you! How you can use social media to grow your brand and yourself.

The first step is to realize that not all social media platforms are created equal. This is an extremely vital factor in social media success. The term “social media” is broad. To truly be successful you need to look at each platform as it’s own branch of social media and plan a strategy for each independently.

Of course, you can be lazy and lump them all together but you will be missing opportunities for success if you are not tailoring your approach and message for each platform.

Customers are smart. They know when they are being bombarded or your content is just posted without specific intent. Want an example?

If I post on Instagram, then hit the “share” to Facebook, Tumblr & Twitter option, the EXACT same piece of content is being posted to all four audiences. This has a few negative effects but here are the big ones:

  1. People who see your content, the SAME content, on multiple channels may start to ignore you or even unfollow you. They do not need to be bombarded with the same content every place they go.
     
  2. There is a good chance your content isn’t relevant in all places. (we will dive into relevancy later in the series). Twitter is real time. It moves fast. Facebook algorithm gives you more opportunities to be seen based on what is relevant to your audience. Currently Instagram is chronological but they too are switching to an algorithm based on audience activity. So your same piece of content is not relevant everywhere! That is ESSENTIAL to understand.

Yes, people do this. Yes I do this on occasion. But it should be done at minimum if at all and not with everything you share. For me, I do it when I know I have content relevant on multiple platforms. I may edit the post and tailor the language for each platform as well.

Where you share your content is just as important as whom you are aiming your content at and whom you are targeting. They are intertwined.

For this post, I will just look at what I call the big 3: Twitter, Facebook, Instagram.

Of course there are basic generalizations about each platform. But to develop a strategy for success, it is important to drill down further into each one and what they offer. You may in fact find some platforms aren’t for you at all. So drilling down into each platform is important to help you know where to focus and where to spend both time and money.

Statistics change often so you can only go by the best information available and then implement best practices. One statistic that seems to be consistent is age. Facebook audience is generally older users. Twitter & IG have a younger base. Why does this matter?

Well – if you put emoji everywhere (like I do) that may not go over as well on Facebook. Or while you can get away with a quick one liner or sarcastic quip on Twitter, that probably won’t get the same response on Facebook. Knowing your audience and platform will help you tailor your campaign and ultimately reach more of the RIGHT people. And more of the RIGHT people is the ball game. Not just more people.

Another big difference is that while Twitter operates primarily in a world of anonymity, Facebook and IG are platforms where people get a bit more personal. It may be via people you actually “know” in person, or people who share like interests and are in shared groups.

Twitter and IG are more “global” communities where as you will likely find Facebook audiences to be closer to home. It is also important to keep this in mind in the content you are creating to share. What plays well to your local audience may not hit the mark globally. This goes back to what I said earlier about sharing the same content everywhere may yield fewer results.

It is important to factor all of this and more when creating your campaigns. For example, if you do not ship worldwide, Facebook may be where you place more focus. And vice versa – if you are intentionally trying to grow globally you may focus more on IG and Twitter.

But the bottom line is that the better you can know your audience and understand the platform they use, the better chance you have for a successful campaign.

Where to begin?

Start by listening. Go to your Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook pages and see what your audience is interested in. See what they are talking about. Learn their concerns and what they like. Is it the same on all platforms?

Any successful campaign starts with listening. And the best way to understand how to best use each platform is to listen to your audience who is already there. Talk to them, Comment on their posts, interact. Get to know your audience. You may even find that your audience or target audience isn't where you thought they would be! Drill down to all platforms.

You will find they are different on each platform and then you have started the journey to successful social media.

We will dive into each platform over this series and tips and tools for each as well as general social media best practices. If you have specific questions please use the contact form to ask. We will get it covered for you. And share below in comments what platforms you use, what your favorite Social Media Platform is and why. Would love to get to know what you are all using.

 

 

 

 

Welcome to Stitch & Hustle - Is Your Hustle On Point?

Hustle is a word I hear a lot. Everyone is hustling. When I was growing up and lived in NYC if you "got hustled" it wasn't always a good thing. Nowadays, everyone is "on their hustle". Some even have a "side hustle'. So let's talk about it. Let's talk about the Hustle.

I recently listened to a podcast with an interview of Matt Mazzeo from Lower Case Capital. Well, the timing of this interview and this message could not have been more perfect. While there were many (many) takeaways from the 20 minute interview, the one I want to talk about right now is being of Service and having Hustle. It seems, after all, appropriate right?

Mazzeo was asked how he defines the word "Hustle". Someone as successful as him, you may have expected an answer that talks of non-stop work and being busy busy busy. Or perhaps an answer that talks about constant forward movement. Nope. Here it is:

"Hustle is repeatedly understanding how to offer value to others in advance of asking for value for yourself. [...] It's really truly believing that if I just add value to other people that there doesn't need to be a cash in moment - that you're just doing it because it's the right thing to do because you love doing it and because you can help somebody else. That's a whole other level of hustle."
- Matt Mazzeo, Lower Case Capital

Marinate on that a minute.

Kind of a head turner right? Yet, it makes total sense.

It's natural for me. My hustle has always been behind the scenes. In both my career and personal life, I am happiest when I am able to be of service and support to others. Not because I am people pleasing, which can easily be confused here. But because I like to be part of something so much bigger than myself it requires many elements to be completed. That is kind of magical.

The truth is, coming out from behind the scenes, where I lived in my production life, to be the face and owner of a business was a big transition. Still is in fact. It is a constant struggle against my nature. I prefer being behind the camera rather than in front of it. It is part of why I struggled so much with my previous blog. It always felt too focused on "me" and I was not comfortable with that. Letting it go stagnant was a relief.

But I missed having the opportunity and platform to share my work and creations. A place to share my tips and things I have learned.

So for me, Stitch & Hustle is a bit of a compromise. It allows me to still share my projects but, more importantly, it makes giving back and serving the community of artisans I love so much the priority. I was working on this new blog launch when I listened to the Mazzeo interview. It struck such a cord with me and the timing could not be ignored  (especially since I'm not a real big podcast listener)!

We are meant to be in service of each other. Without community we have nothing. I believe this as a human being and as a member of society.  So why shouldn't our Hustle be part of that?

My hope is that this blog becomes more about you the reader than about me, your host. I hope that I can offer you, through sharing my experiences and thoughts, a resource to grow to be the best version of yourself possible. I hope that by inviting guests to share their knowledge that I can offer you insight and help to become uber successful. I hope that this becomes a place that serves you.

On my hustle! Never gonna stop! 

On my hustle!
Never gonna stop! 

With that bit of background I say welcome to Stitch & Hustle. Let's hustle together! If there is a topic you would like covered, please contact me here and let me know. I will do my best to cover it or invite a knowledgeable guest poster to help us out.

I have brought over some posts from my previous blog that I think may be relevant or of interest as well as have several scheduled topics and posts coming up.

I hope that I can share my hustle; and I'm talking about Hustle in the meaning presented above by Mr. Mazzeo. A hustle not just for my goals or success but to be part of yours!

Sign up for updates and never miss a post! Let's do this! 

 

Amazon - The New Kid On The Handmade Block

Well now isn't this interesting! I was kind of waiting for this… Amazon saw the opening with Etsy woes I bet… and here comes competition. They are launching a Handmade at Amazon. Not much info is available but I am sure it will be competitive. Many Etsy sellers and other handmade artisans already sell on Amazon, but it is not in a specific Handmade Marketplace and you need to follow Amazon's strict rules on return policies, UPC codes and other various requirements.

But in the wake of recent Etsy woes since going public (exposure of their big success story being fake, scrutiny over lax practices when it comes to allowing counterfeit products & copyright infringement and trademark infringing products on the site, a potential lawsuit as a result of this practices and a severe dip in stock price) may have been a signal that the time is right for a major competitor to shake things up.

And Amazon already has systems in place to address IP / trademark / copyright  so that is a bonus. They also require certain things from sellers to maintain integrity and this could be promising. Additionally, it appears from the initial emails that they are trying to be distinctive as to what Artisan and Handmade are defined as. All good things if you ask me.

Truthfully, I will always have some type of loyalty and gratitude towards Etsy. It is where I got my start. It is where I met many other creatives. entrepreneurs and developed some great relationships. I even spoke at an event for them. I will always champion what Etsy used to be.

But in reality, Etsy has known about the "reselling" and counterfeit or copyright infringing for as long as I have been there (which is almost 6 years). Sellers on the site have raised the issue and concerns in the forums and to Etsy directly so many times I can't put a number on it.  Etsy hasn't taken any action unless the copyright / trademark owner files a takedown notice. Their stance was untouchable between safe harbor rules and being a private company. Then they went public and these things can no longer be swept under the rug. It shakes the integrity of the site to it's core in my opinion.

Etsy has a tendency and habit to stay silent. That is their known practice, while they leave sellers and merchants hanging in the throws of speculation. Spend a day in the forums and you will see what I mean. But if you weed through the conspiracy theories and rants, there are some genuine and valid concerns that Etsy just does not address publicly if addressing them at all. This has created a very love/hate and tenuous relationship with sellers toward Etsy. This can be fixed - but Etsy doesn't seem interested in fixing this.

Etsy is the known handmade marketplace powerhouse. They've never had a competitive push. Artifire, Zibbet and the many others are out there but never gained enough traction on the buying side. Sure sellers went there, but buyers didn't and that was Etsy's edge. They had the BUYER. 

Well guess what? So does Amazon! 

And that could be the big wake up call to Etsy as well as create a competitive handmade marketplace


While "Handmade at Amazon" doesn't exactly roll off the tongue since it is known as the place everyone goes for fast shipping and bottom dollar pricing on things, I am excited for the doors an Amazon global marketplace would open. 

More details to come when I have them. I applied to be a beta seller and like Etsy themselves always say.. competition is a GOOD thing.

My biggest hope is that this type of competition forces etsy to take a look in the mirror and make changes.

So maybe ... Just maybe between the public scrutiny since the IPO and quarterly filings coupled with the Amazon handmade platform - etsy will take a minute, take a look and use this as an OPPORTUNITY to be awesome again.

 

 

UPDATE:

Shortly after I posted this, I was pointed in the direction of an Etsy forum where a seller suggested this may in fact be part of Etsy's big plan. While I am typically not one to go for conspiracy theories and speculation, this perspective seems both interesting and plausible. Their comments are here:

"As business analysts are saying, Etsy is now a prime target for a buy-out, and there are plenty of HUGE ecommerce players with money to burn who would like to get hold of Etsy.

As they are saying in the business news world, it is way easier for someone else (Amazon???) to buy out Etsy than it is for them to start a whole new venture from scratch. 

The current Amazon presence is not right for selling handmade/artisan goods, so Amazon would have a huge marketing job ahead of them to gain trust and acceptance from consumers in the handmade sector.

It would make a lot of sense for Amazon or Alibaba (or similar ecommerce businesses) to just take over Etsy. Perhaps Etsy *allowed* it's first-quarter financial return to be worse than was expected, because it sure makes Etsy attractive to the really Big Boys on the internet."

This post originally appeared on Crochet By Michele

Introducing: Savannah

This scarf was born from a mistake I made while making a basic striped  hoodie. I soon realized my "mistake" was divine design intervention and with just a few more tweaks it could be fully reversible so... voila.. the Savannah Reversible Hoodie Scarf Was Born!

It is a great pattern for beginners working with color changing techniques and texturizing garments. The pattern is easily adjusted in size as well, which is great because some people have a tiny head and some people have a not so tiny head.

You can order this in any color combo you want making it TRULY yours and one of a kind.

You can buy the pattern here to make your own

Hmmmm….. Coffee!

Chemex Gift Set & Custom Phish Blend

 

A little break from the crochet chat on today's blog and let's talk about my other deep love: Java!

Now, I have always loved coffee. When I was a kid, as early as 3 years old, I remember climbing up on my grandpa’s lap while he read the morning paper and had his cup of coffee.  This is actually one of my few childhood memories and one I hold dear. My grandpa, older in years, always fell asleep right there at the table. I would reach over and drink his coffee. He had a sweet tooth so it was loaded with sugar and creamer and … well, thus began my love for java.  As time went on, I developed my own coffee taste buds, but still love it the way grandpa made it.

As I traveled the world, I was exposed to a variety of coffees; different ways to make it; different blends and beans and even learned about the art of local roasting. And even though coffee houses started sprouting up everywhere (thanks to the Starbucks takeover), I wasn’t afraid to go to my favorite hole in the wall diner near the west 4th street train station in NYC where they brewed that perfect cup and served it just the way grandpa liked.

Loving coffee to the tune of a few cups (okay fine, sometimes a few pots) per day, imagine my joy when one of my husband’s clients sent us a box full of a variety of specialty coffees and a Chemex system as a thank you gift for all his hard work on their summer tour.

Now, even in all my coffee experience, I had not previously heard of Chemex. I opened the box to see a beautifully blown glass carafe type device and thick filters. What is this contraption? I thought.

So I quickly hit the Google and read up on this Chemex, and to my astonishment this well kept secret is the gold medal in coffee making. Where has this been all my life this Pour-Over - Slow Drip coffee device and how did I knot know about it sooner? Oh my; my taste buds and I were about to embark on a journey to coffee heaven.

A variety of Phish Blends

A variety of Phish Blends

It is easy enough to use. First; I selected which blend of this gift box to try. It was filled with a variety of small business coffee roasters that I had not heard of. Excited, I wanted to try them all at once, but I knew that would be silly.  So I picked the one that jumped out at me first (by being in my hand at the time I was deciding). I was not going to be disappointed!

This was a special blend for the gifts so no identifiable name to this coffee. Just Rival Brothers Special Blend for Phish (the client). As soon as I opened the bag the aroma was delightful. It wasn’t that heavy coffee scent from the common store brands. This was rich and flavorful. If I were a food critic I would have a better vocabulary to describe the smell. Lets just say: It smelled GOOOOOOD.

I got out my grinder and poured some beans in. They even looked good. I was like a kid in a coffee-making playground. While the grinder was going, I boiled some water and prepped the Chemex. The prep was quite simple: Take out Chemex.; Place filter in top; put 1 tablespoon of ground coffee in filter.  I could not have screwed that up if I tried!

Once the water was boiled, I let it cool a wee bit (per suggestions from online articles on this method) and then poured the water into the filter. This was riveting!

Per the instructions, I had to pour just a small amount at first to be sure that the grounds did not “float” as this allows the coffee to “settle” and develop its … whatever. This is just the way your supposed to do it, don’t ask me why.

So I did that and watched the coffee drip through to the bottom of the carafe and it was so rich in color. Once that first bit of water went through, I poured the rest and then waited. And waited. And waited. Until I had a carafe full of slow drip, pour over coffee.

Well, that was WORTH the wait!

First of all, (no disrespect grandpa so don’t roll over in your grave) this coffee is so dang good that I do not even need to add all the extras I have always added since a tot. I did not need to create a flavor with rich heavy creamer and about the equivalent of 6 sugar packets. This coffee had FLAVOR!

It had aroma and it had just the most delightful taste. I was worried it may be too “raw” or bitter for me in this format. Nope. It was perfect.

So Many Memories w / Chris Kuroda & Phish … and now we have.. COFFEE !!!    

So Many Memories w / Chris Kuroda & Phish … and now we have.. COFFEE !!!

 

 

And the clean up was easier than my coffee maker. Just take the filter, drop in the waste bin and wash out the carafe. Easy peazy lemon squeazy!

In fact, it was so perfect that I am hooked! I am seriously about to retire the Cuisinart that sits atop my kitchen counter (still hang on to it for those 8 cup days) and just slow drip pour over my way through summer. I still have other coffees to try, but I am sold on both the Chemex and my newfound coffee fave Rival Bros Coffee.

If you get the chance, I strongly suggest you check them out or visit any local roaster and support the local small business!

And thanks again to the Phish gang for sending such a truly FANTABULOUS gift!

Surf's Up!

Surf-Shots-028.jpg

I have been talking to a lot of people in my online community lately about taking adventures and starting next chapters in their journey. Whether it be a big step on the career path or a short hop for a personal adventure, this topic is recurring. And, I get a lot… A LOT of questions about how I had the courage to take the leap to chase this crochet dream. My answer is always the same:  for me, it's always been easy … Truthfully, even when it is hard. I don't mind taking the risk to chase my dreams.  I DO mind being stuck in a place of "what if". I always say I would rather have memories than regrets.

It really comes down to this: I am less afraid of failing than I am of  not trying. It's a mindset. It's being curious about what's next rather than what if.

It's knowing that no matter what, I will always find a way to bounce back so why not just try and make my dreams my reality?

So in light of these conversations, I have decided to share the story of how I learned to surf, lived in Australia for and changed my whole life just by taking that leap of faith, trusting God, trusting my gut and not being afraid to fail. Though it is travel and exploration, it's very similar to the same thought process that I used when I quit my job and chased this crochet dream.

Let's start at the beginning:

I’ve always wanted to learn how to surf. To be out there, riding waves and develop a personal relationship with the ocean seemed like a calling to me. Maybe it is because I am a true Pisces that I am naturally at one with the ocean. Growing up, I had to settle for lakes, but the salt water always seemed to be calling me by name.

Another problem was that being a city kid, I had never learned to swim and never needed to. When I was a teenager, I moved to Miami from New York City and one of the first things I did was park myself within steps of the ocean and then: I taught myself how to swim. I spent hours upon hours at the beach teaching myself to swim.

There were many close calls but I have never felt more at home than when I was in the Ocean. And, even though the Atlantic is a mild ocean without waves,  I knew it would someday lead to surfing so I persisted.

Fast forward several years and I had landed a wonderful gig as Prop Master for a show that took me around the world. And when the first leg of the tour was done, where it landed me was Brisbane, Australia.

This was one of those moments. One of those JUST DO IT moments. Just jump off and take the leap. I felt it in my blood.

Instead of boarding my flight back to the USA, I took a bus for an hour ride towards the coastline to a place called Surfers Paradise. (How could I not?! The name of the city itself called to me.)

At the bus depot, I grabbed a few pamphlets of places to stay, surf schools and such and went on my way backpack and suitcase in tow. I found a wonderful place to stay and a new friend, Belinda who ran a backpackers hostel.  I traded room & board for taking the overnight shift in the front office. (and considering I just quit my job to stay in a country on the other side of the world this was a huge SCORE!)

I took a stroll to the beach and  got a job at a beach café (where I later learned how to be a short order cook which is HUGE because my kitchen is only used to store beverages and make coffee). And, I met a new lifelong friend Sandra who introduced me to her friend Cheyne Horan.

So there it was, total immersion: I had new friends and a new home and felt an overwhelming sense of purpose and joy within 48-72 hours of arriving. I knew I was where I was supposed to be.

My dream was not only coming true, it was way beyond what I could imagine.  I didn’t know who Cheyne was. To me, he was just a nice fella on the beach in Paradise offering to teach me how to surf. I only found out days and many lessons later, that he is a world class surfer.  Seriously – talk about wow factor and serendipitous!

Everyday I would meet Cheyne on the beach and he would give me surf lessons. It was brutal. It took a while but eventually (after weeks of trying) I was up and running and out riding waves. Sure, they  were small mini waves in the beginning and laughable to some onlookers. But I didn't have a care in the world because I was doing it. I WAS SURFING!

It didn't last for eternity, but the seed was eternally planted within me.

Several months later, for family reasons, I returned to the States and resumed my crazy life, career and work travel schedule. But I  brought back the memories of one of the  happiest times of my life when I took a risk, went the other direction and chased my dream on a beach learning to walk on water.

That entire experience would never have happened if I didn't take that risk of leaving my job, turning the other way from my flight and taking a bus to a place I have never been.

In life, in our careers, in everything - things may not be perfect and things may not work out as planned. Knowing and accepting that makes it easier to take the risk.  Because even though things may not work out as planned, they DO work out! We have to believe we are resilient and will bounce back when they don't.

We have to take that leap to find out what's out there and in this case, it was walking on water and creating some of the best memories of my life. I encourage you whether it's travel, work, career, moving… ANYTHING… be a risk taker. Be an explorer. Make memories.

Two Worlds Collide: The Cornwall Shawl

As a designer, I find myself inspired by so many different things: the seasons, the scenery, sights on trips, other artists and designers, something in a magazine or boutique… it is endless. Sometimes it is all overwhelming in the most amazingly perfect way but sometimes reigning in those ideas can be a challenging process. When it all comes together quickly like magic and boom, instant success it is the most unexpected delight. Other times though,  it takes a while to marinate on a concept or idea and nurture it to life.

It's all a funny, fabulous and daunting process and in fact, One of the best parts of my job. I love the experimentation and design process.

I'd wanted to experiment with leather and "tougher" fibers inspired by some of the stylings in Highlander and the Hunger Games series. But I had yet to find the right leather to work with so this became a concept I was kicking around and marinating on for some time

… until...

At least year's One Of A Kind Show in Chicago my booth was next to Urban Gypsy Designs. The artisan, Christina hand paints beautiful leather purses and satchels and accessories. She also sells these fabulous cuffs that have both an industrial and sophisticated feel. I fell in love immediately with them and knew I wanted to incorporate them into a design.

As I marinated over all the ways to incorporate her leather cuffs into my work and mix it with the softness of my crochet wear I found myself not just accenting existing pieces but designing whole new ones. Then I found myself returning to my original notes and ideas from several months ago on the mixed texture pieces I wanted to do. YES!! It's all coming together! This is the process!

So I have been hard at work creating several new styles that will be ready for Fall 2015 and I am so excited about the variety of texture. Here is a sneak peek at that new collection: This is the Cornwall Shawl.

The shawl body is made using an exceptionally soft wool blend fiber. I am using a stitching technique that gives the illusion of being striped when it is actually not. It is an added dimension by design.

I have placed one of Christina's Infinity Cuffs as an accent to the piece giving it a flare of juxtaposition and style. The cuff is strategically placed to give the shawl so many different looks.

I am so thrilled with the Cornwall Shawl and  the complete collection will launch for Fall 2015 and I cannot wait to bring you these creations incorporating new textures and leather accents.

If you would like to make your own, I have made my original design available in my Etsy shop. You can buy the pattern here

My Weekend Project: A Little Woodworking Fun Working On Show Displays

Me & The Husby Getting Our Woodshop On
Me & The Husby Getting Our Woodshop On

I am always looking for interesting ways to display my creations. But unless you catch a store closing sale, dress forms and mannequins are not cheap and building a display can get expensive. Fast. I also don't want the display to take away from or distract from the crochet creation I want to show off. And now that I am doing more in person appearances, such as at The One Of A Kind Show in Chicago, I also want displays that work within my booth while people have a room to walk around and shop. Meeting all the display criteria is not easy.

And, Like I said… it can get expensive fast.

So after spending a little time on Pinterest (and getting lost in the land of pretty pictures and fabulous ideas), I realized why not just build what I want? For raw materials cost of under $50 and a fun day in the garage / workshop with my fabulous husband I could get exactly what I wanted. I present to you my DIY Easter weekend in pictures and note I am EXTREMELY proud of the finished projects at the end:

FIRST UP: The Head Display

We started with a scrap piece of wood from another project. We cut it to the size we wanted and then let the sanding begin.

TIP: Measure the hole in the base of the Styrofoam heads to buy the right size rod. Also, buying one long rod and cutting it allows flexibility in placement or you can know the measurements you want and they will cut it in the store for you. Some places charge to cut though.

Almost done assembling the head display stand after we drilled holes for the rods.

NEXT UP: The Hanging Stand

TIP: We took a plastic hanger and traced it onto the wood for the standing frame. Use thicker wood – 1.5″ – 2″ so it will be sturdy and hold the weight of your piece. Sand the heck out of that hanger. Remember, your garments will hang here for display and you don’t want them to get snagged in the fabric. We use a tread screw at the base so that this stand can easily be taken apart for transport.

And here comes the big finish...

New displays are ready and one perfect Weekend with the husby in the can.

Crochet & Stay Organized In Style

I have been on the hunt for the "perfect" crochet hook case for about 2 years. It's not that I am picky, it's that I had in my mind exactly what I wanted and wasn't ready to settle for something that didn't meet all my needs. I was about to give up and have one made for me. I support handmade and custom work, but this "custom" aspect always adds to the cost and I am a gal on the budget. Plus there is always the fun of communicating the idea in my head to someone else in a way they get it. I call this artistic challenge.

So there I was... feeling a little frustrated when I decided to give Etsy one last try. And boom!

I discovered a Atelier de Soyun, fabulous shop in South Korea owned and run by a woman who is married to an ex-pat.  Her shop is filled with delightful cases and cary-alls for us knitters & hookers.

I purchased the case and was delighted to received a lovely thank you note. Not the typical generic note, but a very personalized thank you email with information on when my case would ship and when to expect it. It was an unexpected element that made me feel even better about my purchase.

The case arrived very quickly. Within 2 weeks, and well before the estimated time of arrival. When I opened the mailer, the packaging was clean and simple and accompanied by another hand written note.

The case is perfect. First of all the simplicity of the design is perfect. No extra wasted frills and attachment. The fabric color , embellishments and ruching really give that touch of style and beauty. The craftsmanship and materials are top notch. It has a side flap pocket for my small snips, stitch markers and quilting needle. I love the flap over top to keep the hooks from sliding out as well as the snug button closure.

I am truly blown away by the quality for the price.  Most of all though, I am thoroughly impressed by the level of customer service.

In fact, I loved the case and the buying experience so much that I ordered a second one for my larger wooden hook set.

So check out Atelier de Soyun and stay organized in style.

 

 

This post originally appeared on Crochet by Michele