The Handmade Holiday Gift Guide 2017

Ok you guys... in an ideal world I would make every single gift I ever give. But let's be honest... that is just not possible. Plus, I like to give things I may not know how to make and support other artisans and makers buying from them. So I am still giving the gift of handmade (but made by a fellow creative and their hands not my own). With holiday mayhem, Black Friday and Cyber Monday and deals abound, I wanted to take a minute to share with you some of my fave handmade gifts ideas. Click each photo below to be taken to the shop directly.

Flowers are such a great hostess gift if you are going to a party or dinner. How about a handmade twist. If you follow me on social media, you know the wooden handmade flowers I have are one of the most valuable and important things I own. In that spirit,  I bought these from Stephanie at Triple Knot Studio and LOVE them. They are made so well, and she gives such care to shipping. A perfect gift that lasts a lifetime.

 

Want a little razzle dazzle? How about the perfect gift for your crochet or knit loving maker friend something that is really special? Check out this beaded hand dyed yarn from VanessaKnits. The color is one amazing aspect but then the pop and sheen of the sporadic beading makes it really just so special. 

 

One of my favorite things about being in a community surrounded by other talented peeps, is how I also get to support them Tanya posted this hat on Instagram one day and I instantly knew I had to have it. Sure I can get the colors and make my own but chances are it would look different and why copy when I can get the real deal from the original designer? Tanya so graciously sent me one and I have literally worn it nearly every cold day since. IT IS MY FAVORITE HAT EVER. Get one for yourself or if you run out of time to make all the gifts, get one for someone else!

 

The Sexy Knitter Tool Kit is in my bag and the perfect gift for makers on the go. I cannot tell you how many times I have been so happy to have this handy kit in my bag! You can get them in a variety of fun sayings and images on the tin cover. I love the mini sheep tape measure too.

 

 

Three things I NEVER leave home without: My yarn, my favorite TooShayCrochetHook handmade hook and my knitting project bag with my Clever Cove pins. For real.. this is me putting each in use while at a Coldplay concert. The bag is perfect and I decorated it with two of the cutest pins from the Clever Cove Shop on Etsy. . The hooks are my favorite because not only are they handcrafted wood handles, but the paint and design is just so special. I have a full set!

I have been a fan of my handmade crochet hook cases from Soyun Park ever since I got my first one a few years ago. I now have three - 2 for hooks and one for knitting needles. Soyun always does an amazing job with detail and her works stands up to my every day use. I LOVE THEM! If you have a special maker in your life or want to truly treat yourself, I cannot recommend Soyn's cases enough!

 

 

If you follow me on social media then you know one of my favorite things is my mug collection. It is not just fun, but really encouraging throughout the day to have a bit of fuel on a mug with a message. The one that started it all, this blog and my gusto if you will, is my Create. Hustle Repeat. mug from Small Glow. I am such a fan of Zenia and her maker small biz Small Glow. She took some time off after the birth of her new baby but is back with a whole new line of Boss Babe gear that is the perfect gift for all your maker tribe. And even for yourself!

 


If you are looking to to stat an amazing new project  then check out the kits from Mama Knows Luxury. Because trust me, Sarah (mama) KNOWS! I myself am currently working up something fun with her big merino wool and I tell you that this would be such a treat to get as a gift. For real... this is so much fun that you may want to get a kit for yourself. I have designed home items. accessories, and am working on a poncho now. SO MUCH FUN TO BE HAD WITH THESE!!!


So there you have it... awesome handmade finds for people who love handmade or even to Treat Yo’self this holiday season.
HAPPY HOLIDAYS !!!! 
xoxo
Michele
 

Handmade Mother's Day Gift Guide 2017

Ok you guys... in an ideal world I would make every single gift I give. But let's be honest... that is just not possible. Plus, I like to support other artisans and makers buying from them. So I am still giving the gift of handmade (but made by a fellow creative). With mother's Day around the corner, here is my official handmade Gift Guide.

Flowers are such a traditional Mother's Day gift. How about a handmade twist. If you follow me on social media, you know the wooden handmade flowers I have are one of the most valuable and important things I own. How about giving mom, or nana, or anyone, flowers that will last forever? I bought these from Stephanie at Triple Knot Studio and LOVE them. They are made so well, and she gives such care to shipping. They will actually be both a Mother's Day gift and a housewarming gift for my bestie. A perfect gift that lasts a lifetime.

One of my favorite new handmade items was actually a birthday gift to me from my husband and would be perfect for mom too. This HANDMADE breakfast tray was custom made by Sam of Giving Tree Woodshop and legit... I cannot express to you how much I love it. I use it almost every single day as either a snack tray, work station on the floor or in bad. It is so perfect. The legs fold up and are held by a strap (because let's face it, clutz that I am would snap it off if it wasn't) so it can literally be used so many ways. Sam worked with me to pick the right wood and finish and man... I love it. And it was SO AFFORDABLE ( I expected to pay double what he charged to be honest) so yeah... this would be a delight for mom. Serve her up some awesome treats on an awesome handmade serving tray.

Looking for something with a special message? For Christmas I got my fellow makers a handmade wood burned ornament from Ashley at Made of Embers. She also made the coasters for our Stitch Up Chicago gifts bags. Ashley makes wall hangings (I have one in my studio) and wooden serving spoons and so many other things. She is so creative. So if you've got a Mother's Day message to send, send it hand burned with love.

For something truly unique, check out Globe In. I talked about the importance of finding the right brand partnerships recently, and I could not be more excited that we partnered with Globe In for Stitch Up Chicago. Not just about Fair Trade, but in short, Globe In brings artisans from around the world to your door. I still use the items they sent me from my Comfort Box. Maybe get mom a subscription for the Artisan box or a really special handmade gift from around the globe.

 

If you are looking to send mom a project to keep her busy (or hint you want her to make you something) then check out the kits from Mama Knows Luxury. Because trust me, Sarah (mama) KNOWS! I myself am currently working up something fun with her big merino wool and I tell you that this would be such a treat to get as a gift. For real... this is so much fun that you may want to get a kit for yourself. She is even giving you guys a discount: code hustle10 is good for 10% off anything until June 30, 2017. WHAT?!?

 

So there you have it... awesome handmade finds for mom or even to Treat Yo'self ;-)

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.

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

Meet Isaac!

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I’m so thrilled to announce the launch of Isaac, my very first collection of 2015.

I’m always striving to combine fashion with comfort, and when I saw the Carlyle collection of fibers by Isaac Mizrahi & Premier Yarns, I knew I had to create a collection around it.

A few days later, I had a few prototypes and they turned out better than I ever could have imagined. It just so happened that my friend, Emmy winning actress and best selling author Kristen Johnston was in Chicago filming a movie at the time, and I couldn’t wait to tell her about it. I brought an Isaac hat to give her as a Christmas gift.

I had NO idea she happened to be good friends with Isaac!

Kristen says:

I’ve been a huge fan of Michele’s extraordinarily chic and insanely comfortable knitwear for a few years now. (I’m obsessed with her ponchos.) One evening at dinner, she gave me a stunning hat as a gift. As I was oohing & aahing over it, I almost didn’t hear what she was saying. When she said “Isaac Mizrahi has a new line of yarn and it’s the most incredible stuff I’ve ever seen! I’m thinking of doing an entire line, just using his yarn,” she finally had my full attention.

(Okay. I’ll admit it. I shamelessly name-dropped.)

“Michele, Isaac has been a good friend of mine for years! I’ll email him about you…he’ll love it!”

(Is it name-dropping if it’s true?)

At any rate, I emailed Isaac, and included a picture from that night.

He LOVED it! He truly loves creative people, and he was thrilled Michele has made his yarn look so stunning.

I asked if he’d be interested in emailing with her, and he immediately agreed…

As a proud owner of an Isaac hat & scarf, I get constant compliments on them.

Fingerless gloves, you’re next.

Kristen”

WOW!I am blown away and so grateful when people have that kind of reaction to my work. Especially this collection because I truly believe in it and it is from the heart.

I am madly in love with the Carlyle collection of fibers by Isaac Mizrahi & Premier Yarns. The colors, the texture: this fiber speaks to me.  The texture is both subtle & soft but still strong and bold. This fiber truly reminded me of NYC landscapes and buildings and the colors being named after landmark NYC hotels only makes me love it more.

I knew I needed to design a collection of winter accessories for the uptown gal but at downtown prices that would encompass all that this fiber represents to me. It takes me back to that city life that is ingrained in my blood.

I designed for me, for the city, for you.

The Color 'Regis' is like the city at dusk. With gold metallic woven throughout the fiber it is exactly like someone took a picture of the City SkyLine at dusk and waved a magic wand of gold dust over it. It is regal and fabulous.

The colors 'Astor' and 'Algonquin' remind me of the gritty downtown side of NYC. Not for the faint at heart. These colors both powerful in their own right. The Metallic enhancements remind me of how the city comes alive when the sun sets and the night lights take the town to a whole new level. That inspired me to design chichi accessories that suit that nightlife style.

'Plaza' is white sparkle all the way and reminds me of how Central Park would glisten after a fresh snowfall.

Being so inspired by this fiber collection, I used it to design select pieces that function as you would want winter fashion accessories to function but do not sacrifice style for the sake of warmth. Being a native New Yorker,I had that city style in mind.

Isaac by Michele Costa is full of texture, sophistication and stays true to what I myself would wear walking on the NYC streets or anywhere.

Each piece is designed to be worn as a stand-alone or you can mix and match as you please.

So wrap yourself in luxury and spend some time falling in love with Isaac just like I did!

 

The Value Of Handmade

I recently had an interesting experience. Someone liked one of my products, was interested in it, but only wanted to pay me 50% of my price. They said they wanted to support me, but didn’t feel like the product was worth what I was charging. This same person had previously tweeted about the price of another product, publicly saying that his Grandma could make a hat for a few dollars.  

Sadly, this view is not uncommon in the handmade world. But what is new here is that it's the first time a “supporter” of mine has raised a question about my prices and by doing so raising questions of the value of my work.

At first, I was taken aback, truly shocked the way a person thought they could haggle prices or devalue my work. While crochet is known as a craft and many people take it up as a mere hobby, I am more than that. I am an indie fashion designer.

Would you walk up to Tory Burch, Marc Jacobs, Michael Kors, Donna Karan, or Ellie Tahari or ANY other designer and haggle? I doubt it. So then why would a person do that with me? It happens too often I tell you. Asking for a discount is commonplace, but haggling is almost insulting.

The most likely truth is that unlike the big names where the labor, research, and toil are publicly known (and sometimes exaggerated) smaller handmade designers aren’t given the recognition for their work. No one sees the behind the scenes of this one woman show, or the small staffed shop so they make assumptions about how “easy” it is to make something. From ideas, to designs, to photo shoots, it's a process. And that doesn't factor the business & backend of it all.

My creations are made from my original designs. I spend a lot of time researching fibers, working with yarn vendors, and testing what works best for each design. Sometimes this process is quick and smooth and other times it is a laborious task with near no end in sight. I work with other designers in collaborations and to grow the community.

Also, in my particular case: Each item is handmade. Hand. Made. Though the bulk of my items are made by me personally, I also employ another crocheter to help me meet my demands in the busy season. Like so many others, I’m running and building a business and a brand in fashion. Materials, workmanship, branding - it all goes into my pricing formula.

Sure, I know you can go to Walmart and buy a knit beanie for $10 and that’s fine because that’s not what I’m selling. That’s not what I’m creating. That's not a hand made piece of wearable art or a handmade accessory. I create cozy, chic, handmade accessories.

I’ve also recognized that not everyone is going to be my customer and that’s okay. But claiming to be a supporter and then turning around and devaluing the work involved in the business is not support. Maybe my items aren't in your budget and I understand that.

I love those who support me by sharing my posts, projects, or sales on their social media pages. The people who poke in to say, "hey, have you ever thought of this__?", and even my friends who simply stand by and say, "great job!" Not every one of my supporters buys my work but NONE of my true supporters devalue it!

But I also want to impart to you that there are so many ways to support someone, to help them grow their business and their brand and it doesn’t always have to be with a purchase (though ideally those are fabulous). Each bit of support is dear to me, and so important to artisans as a whole. I thank everyone who has supported me in their own way over the years.

Because when you buy, or even consider buying handmade, please remember that someone somewhere sat down and made that. And each time an artisan celebrates a success, celebrate with them because you, their support, helped make that.

For those of you out there supporting  handmade, in any way you can, thank you. For those of you who haven't, why not start now?