Small Biz Rant: Do Crocheters Support Their Own Craft?

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“Crochet books don’t sell as well as knitting books.” “Crocheters don’t spend as much money as knitters.” “Crocheters don’t spend as much money on yarn.” “Crocheters don’t want to spend money, period.” Do you find any of these statements to be true, as a crocheter? When I first started to get more into crocheting in 2005, I would hear things like, “Knitters are snobby toward crocheters,” or that local yarn shops cater to knitters more than crocheters (i.e. not carrying as many crochet hooks or crochet books). What at first seems like elitism or snobbery becomes more interesting when you talk to a store-owner about it. “In general, crocheting a scarf takes up more yarn than knitting a scarf, and the yarn-expense turns off crocheters from spending money on more high-end yarn.” I have to remove myself from this equation because I LOVE YARN. I love to look at yarn and touch yarn and buy yarn and hoard yarn (obviously, if you have seen my yarn wall). There is some yarn that I consider a prize, or art, and I just like to possess it and look at it and be happy that I own it (creepy?). But I know not everyone is like that. A lot of people are more practical, and if they want to make a blanket for a newborn baby that a baby will probably barf all over, chew up, and get poop on, they don’t want it to cost $100+ in yarn only. I get that completely. As a crocheter who sells her crochet goods, I do have to try to keep the cost of my supplies down since the cost/time of labor is so high, and usually that means you can’t crochet with the fancy stuff. In my journey to publish my second crochet book, my agent and I encountered a lot of the statements that I started this blog entry with: crocheters don’t spend money, i.e. nobody wants to buy your crochet book. Or, if a publisher is looking for crochet books, they want stuff that is less weird than my stuff, like “25 striped hats for your kids,” or “25 kinda okay scarves for the average 25 – 45 year old lady,” etc. Because, this is what people buy, and this is what makes money for publishers. I totally get it. Even though my audience had grown substantially since selling my first book, my numbers were not enough to sway many of the publishers we approached. It was an extreme uphill battle that I never blogged about. Now, I’m really only talking about big/traditional publishing, and they are businesses, and they have a bottom line, and they want to make money, and they can’t really be bothered with much else, like, championing the unique or the underdog. That ain’t their problem. So we have places like Etsy, or Ravelry, or Craftsy, to sell our patterns or e-books or self-pubbed books, and the books can be as weird and wacky as we want them […]

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Small Biz Rant: “How do I find my signature work style?”

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Sara from SoulCandyCrochet (the jar cozies pictured are hers) asked if I had any advice about finding a signature style for her crafting and her shop. In various q&a’s, I talk a lot about how I think it’s super important to have your own voice, so your work can stand out, but how do you find and cultivate that voice? Sara has a pretty clear idea about her work’s manifesto/philosophy, but she is uncertain about how to develop that into something tangible and physical in her crochet pieces. I think there are probably blogs and books about this very topic, and there are probably like “10 Steps to Blahblahblah” exercises that may or may not be helpful. I don’t fancy myself a small business guru, and I don’t pretend to have all the secrets to success, but I’m certainly open to sharing my story and some stuff I’ve learned along the way! For some people, finding your signature art/craft style is organic, and you just kinda do what you do, and it’s kinda different and out there, and people notice it, and you get featured on Etsy or Huff Post or Make:Craft blog or what have you. For others, there may be a creative urge and an artistic talent, but figuring out where you stand in the world needs more strategy or intention. For me, I think there was sort of a mix between organic and intentional. The women in my family always encouraged us to be creative and “go home and make it” (you may have heard me quote this before!). What I found myself doing was not necessarily making things I wanted to buy, but making things I wanted to HAVE and was not able to find in stores, whether they were presents for other people or just presents for myself. When I worked in an office, my boss always encouraged me to open up my own shop for handmade goods, but I always knew in the back of my mind, that my crafting was all over the place – real cereal picture frames, personalized pillow cases, funky Dr. Seussian hats, handpainted rocks – and that I wanted to have  a more refined concept before thinking I could sell anything to a complete stranger. So crafting had been in my blood for years, on a casual level, usually as a way to give unusual and memorable gifts to people. But the intentional part came from working in publishing and learning about branding (authors). I had learned that it was important to represent something specific and something unique, in order to appear like a sellable commodity, and since I hadn’t figured that out yet, I didn’t feel ready to put anything out into the world. In my “about” page and various bios, I talk about how moving to San Francisco inspired me to make myself some scarves. This is 100% true. I started making scarves for myself because the evenings here are chilly, but I wanted to wear something […]

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Small Biz Rant: “How Do I Get Noticed?”

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Recently on Tumblr, someone asked me about how to get their Etsy shop noticed, and I kinda get this question every now and again, so I thought I would write a blog post about how to start spreading the word about your shop/brand/business. I don’t know of any special magic, and my shop is certainly not the most popular or anywhere near there, but here are some initial ideas if you’re just starting out. I’ve never done anything super fancy, so all my advice is kinda basic, but it has worked for me so far! The first thing that comes to my mind is how we’d always get asked, “What’s the secret to making a bestseller?” when I worked in publishing. Well, if there were a secret, and if we (or anybody, even the publishers) knew that secret, then all the books would be bestsellers. Let’s face it. There are duds. You could be the dud. 1. Be a trend-setter not a trend-follower – I say this a lot in blog and magazine interviews, but I believe it super strongly. Be unique. Don’t just see something popular and think, “Hey, I can do that,” and just put MORE of the same thing into the universe. Add something new! Add something YOU! That’s how you will become memorable. Not everyone will love your work; some people will even hate it (years and years ago, someone in an online crochet group said my old-school rocket pop scarf was stupid and looked like a penis). But you will be memorable if you make the effort to be creative (who’s laughing now, penis-hater?!). If you are the only person making a certain thing at a certain time, people will HAVE to go to you for that special product. When I first started, I googled and searched all over eBay (Etsy wasn’t really a thing yet and totally not on my radar in 2005) to see if I could find anyone else who was making what I wanted to make. My mom was like, “Maybe you should focus more on colors that remind people of food, rather than actually crocheting scarves that look like food.” Moral: it’s ok to be weird. It’s probably good to be weird, even if everyone hates your peas-n-carrots scarf, and you never make one ever again in the history of ever. 2. Have a voice – Sometimes I’ll browse Etsy shops and feel like their products are all over the place. I’m not saying you have to pigeon hole yourself, but … I sort of am. In the early stages of your business, I think it’s important for people to be able to easily associate your brand with a particular style, philosophy, aesthetic, and/or product. “Crocheted, food-themed scarves” is pretty specific as a focus, but I think it really helped people to remember my work and who I was. When I worked in an office, I used to DIY random and weird gifts for my boss. She was always hounding me […]

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Sanitized, Pasteurized & Sterilized: The neutering of my blog. (Small Biz Rant)

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I was texting my buddy Alek yesterday (apparently he was in Daiso, and clearly that means you text your Asian friends with pictures of Asian things), and I mentioned I had this blog entry queued up in my Drafts, but I hadn’t hit “publish” yet, because, while it felt good for me to write it,  it also seemed like a RANT that nobody else would give a flying fishfinger about. But that’s sort of what the whole blog entry was about, too….so I decided to push the button! Anyway, it’s Saturday. Most of you are probably outside enjoying the real world! *** In the very early 2000s, I had a deskjob. I was an assistant, and I answered phones all day, took messages, faxed things, wrote letters, and read manuscripts. I’d often be the only person in the office, and I’d listen to my CDs quietly – Kitty Craft, Dressy Bessy, the Gerbils, to set the scene. I was a very GOOD employee. I didn’t surf the net on personal adventures, and I hardly used the computer at all. But I remember Yahoo’ing something for work (we used Yahoo then not Google!) and randomly stumbling across somebody’s Diaryland diary. It was bland, written poorly, and completely inane. I WAS HOOKED! What was this? People sharing their personal lives on the internets? Everyday, boring-ass people nobody would care to read about? You ate chicken today? I FIND THAT VERY INTRIGUING! I was in publishing. I was looking for GOOD writing not CRAP writing, but I was totally intrigued by the REALNESS of blogging. Who was this person? Why were they eating chicken? Would I blog about eating chicken? I signed myself up. My blog had a bright yellow background, plain black Times New Roman text, and no pictures. We didn’t have pictures back then. Blogging was about writing. My best friend at the time had moved away. I thought this blogging thing would be a cool way to K.I.T. with all your pals. You could share a story once and keep it fresh and funny and not have to repeat it over and over to different people. I was an English/Creative Writing in Fiction major, and blogging also seemed like a good way/excuse to exercise the muscles everyday, even if you were writing about the stupidest things. Well, I’ll tell you: NONE of my “IRL” friends read my blog in the beginning. It just became something I did to entertain myself, make myself laugh at my own self, and maybe draw strangers in to laugh with/at me. It was fun to form little blog posses (that word looks really weird right now…did I spell that right??? POSSIES?? POSSEEZ?) and keep up with the adventures of your invisible internet buddies (Carlyn of Canada….WHERE ARE YOU NOW!?) who were probably all 45 year old men. Back then, I was trying to out-me me. I wanted to be the funniest, smartest, wise-crackingest me, the cleverest me. I’d write about a night of drinking on […]

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