A time for daydreams

Sewing roomAfter a nice long break from work over the Christmas holidays, I am back at the office today. It was a great time off. Just the right mix of getting things done and being a bit lazy. I spent mornings immersed in tasks for my crafty business, the occasional afternoon nap with the cat and much cleaning and organizing of the sewing room. Hubby was super diligent in getting a few items done around the house that had been hanging over us (a shelf needed to be cut, stained & hung, the punching bag needed to be set-up, and smoke alarms needed to be installed). All in all, it was a satisfying break.

I spent my last day of vacation sitting quietly with the cat in the sewing room daydreaming, envisioning, and putting down on paper my business goals. I have been using a number of books to guide me in this process:

That “Becoming a Resonant Leader” was actually a book that I used during a career development course at work and the exercises in it have come in handy so much as I try to develop a clear picture of what I want for my craft business. It is part of the whole philosophy that you are much more likely to succeed if you actually write it all down. Having a bunch of great ideas, goals, and measures of success in your head is one thing. Recording that all somewhere is another. I need to write out an official business plan and work on financial projections, but it seemed best to start with a “vision” first. Then I can begin to hammer out how I will get there.

Sewing roomBack in the fall when I first started thinking more concretely about a craft business, I figured I should have a business plan and all the details figured out before I started selling. This perspective changed, though, as I realized that I just needed to take the leap. I’m not going to entirely skip over the planning, but it is something that I can do now, while my Etsy shop is open and I continue to make items. There is a strong desire to keep moving forward. The learning curve is steep, but exciting! I’m seriously no good with crunching numbers, either, so the thought of doing financial projects is a bit nauseating. This is where help from hubby will come in handy. That was part of the “envisioning” too, determining my greatest strengths and weaknesses and areas I might need to get help with.

I guess, sometimes, I get overwhelmed trying to come up with a plan. It’s easy to feel defeated even before you begin, like there’s no use, you’re so far behind already. The past several months, though, I’ve felt less and less like that. It’s a bit like having a heavy fog finally clear away. The fog has been replaced with excitement, resilience, and even ambition. Now I’m feeling less lost and much more directed than I have in quite some time.

More than one fresh start

Woman wearing orange scarfIt never ceases to amaze me how things seem to happen at just the right moment. Of course, in that moment, it is easy to feel like everything is wrong, it shouldn’t be happening, life isn’t fair, things would be so much better if… Looking back though, you have a bit clearer perspective and maybe you start to see how that moment was just the right moment. If it had happened any other way, things would be going so very differently, and it really might not be better.

Kinda abstract for a Saturday morning, I know. I’ve written a bit about this before, but it’s monumental enough to reflect on again, this year was the craziest roller coaster ride I’ve ever been on. The highs were super high, the lows were so low, they were sub-level. Honestly, though, I wouldn’t have had it any other way. Facing challenge after challenge made me realize at my inner most core simply, that I could. A year (or more) of life altering situations and experiences has truly given me a strength I didn’t know I had and a faith that I hope to keep burning inside me.

Sure, I didn’t come out the other side perfect. My heart has been hardened quite a bit. Resentments and anger are taking up some space in there. I really want to let those go. Some days it is easier than others and whatever 2011 brings, I know that I will still be facing some of the challenges that 2010 has left behind.

For all those perfectly timed moments this past year, I give thanks. Thanks because it has given me a list of fresh starts for this New Year:

  • new yarn and needle felting supplies to make into all sorts of lovelies
  • an AeroGarden for a third attempt at my herb garden
  • a heavy punching bag in the basement to work out some anger on
  • an online shop that is ready to open now open
  • a body that is healed and ready to see if there is children in our future
  • a new Bible to learn from
  • a layoff that will lead me to a new career

Happy New Year everyone! Greet this day as one of the many fresh starts to come!

Santa’s workshop revealed

Christmas StockingNow that the gift-opening flurry is mostly complete (we have a couple of stragglers still in Europe that have presents waiting their return), I can share some of the things that got made up this year. The most important of course, was that our kitty Chloe was graced with a Christmas stocking. It’s not like she’s a new addition to our family, but for some reason we generally overlook her at Christmas. My mom, never fails, gives Chloe a Christmas gift. We, on the other hand, are rarely in our own home Christmas morning and thus, don’t get to open gifts with Chloe too often. This year I was determined to include her. I cheated a bit by purchasing a plain ready-made stocking from the craft store because the first chance I had to work on it was on the 24th. Cutting it close, but it did get nicely decorated, if I do say so myself. Just a bit of felt, some buttons, and embroidery thread. Voila!

Sugar Skull Coin PurseI had a very special request for these coin purses from my sis-in-law. I made her a coin purse out of that sugar skull fabric a few years ago and she has loved it into the ground. So I was happy to make up a replacement one for her. There’s still a bunch of that fabric kicking around which I fully intend to make into a sassy apron one day… one day. My sis-in-law also recently discovered that her Canon Powershot S90 fits perfectly into my coin purses. So a second one was sewn up for use as a camera cozy. That’s the same camera that I use, by the way (for those curious what my blog photos are taken with).

Crochet ScarfThere were two crochet projects undertaken for Christmas gifts this year. One is still in progress. Yes, I realize that Christmas has passed, but like I said, there are a couple of folks in Europe who won’t be back until the New Year, so that’s a whole extra week of crafting. That project is still under wraps, but I can share the second crochet item with you. It was a scarf for my mom. The pattern is just something out of my head. Not too complicated. Some single crochet, some treble crochet, and some scalloped edging that I winged. It’s nice and long. I was worried that I had made it too long by the time I was finishing it up, but I was told by a couple people that a scarf can never be too long. Especially, here in Canada. Anyway, it should keep her nice and warm. It’s made out of some Lionbrand Homespun yarn.

Hand-dyed prayer flagsHand-dyed prayer flagThe last bit of Christmas gift making were sets of hand-dyed prayer flags. I spent one Saturday dying fabrics in the basement (just with that cold water dye stuff). I used various bits of fabric that I had stashed in the sewing room, including some cotton that I had previous rusted. Those pieces ended up being some of my favourite out of the whole project. I have a stack left over too, which I can either make into a strand for us to hang or I could sew up some coin purses.

I feel like there’s a lot to catch you all up on. Big boxes of new yarn, the death of my herb garden, and book reviews. Oh, and I celebrated the big 3-0 yesterday. Must do more blogging.

Hoping that you had a lovely Christmas and are recovering from the sugar-overload!

The shipping is how much?!

Jar of buttonsWe’ve all been there. You find a great online shop, get sucked into purchasing some wonderful item, go through the checkout process and then it hits. The price of shipping. Seriously. Super high shipping rates have kept me from ordering a number of items. So determining shipping rates for my Etsy shop is a big consideration. I can’t afford to take a hit out of my own pocket to cover shipping, but I don’t want shipping costs to keep customers from making a purchase. It feels like a real balancing act.

I do want to offer international shipping as well, so I need to sort out how I will handle those orders. An important thing to consider is not just the actual cost of service to ship a package, but also the cost of packing materials (envelopes, labels, boxes, tape, etc). One interesting approach is to build all of the shipping costs right into the price per item so that you can offer “free” shipping to customers. I hesitate to do this because international orders could be quite costly compared to shipping within Canada. I might consider offering “free” shipping to all orders shipped in North America, and then determine fixed rates for Europe and elsewhere.

Besides figuring out shipping rates there are also other considerations: Which service provider should I use (Canada Post, UPS, FedEx, DHL, etc)? How should packages be sent, ground or airmail? Will delivery confirmation, tracking, and insurance be included or added for an extra fee? Will I be able to offer an express option if necessary? Will I ship to a customer’s Etsy address or Paypal address? Where the heck do I find fairly inexpensive packing materials? The list goes on and so does the brainstorming.

Here are a list of the articles I have been using to figure out all the aspects of shipping for my online shop:

Writing policies instead of lists

Coin pursesWith the Market Collective sale behind me, I have had a few extra moments (when I’m not prepping for Christmas) to start working on my Etsy shop. One of my big goals for the holidays is to get my Etsy shop all set-up with items listed so I can greet the New Year with a fresh approach to my crafty business. Of course, if I’m going to take my online shop seriously, there is a lot more involved than simply slapping up some items for sale.

I’ve continued to do quite a bit of research and now I’m all set for the planning stage. The big hurdles are writing up the shop policies and determining shipping rates. I’m sure one could take a very simplified approach to shop policies at the beginning, but I’d prefer to have some well thought out policies. These policies, after all, determine how you conduct business in your shop. They are guidelines for you to follow, just as much as they are for customers. Most importantly though, your policies represent your customer service. They will be the first taste a buyer gets of how convenient and supportive you are as a seller. Having beautifully crafted items is one thing. Providing a positive shopping experience is another.

This week, I began writing out my policies. While I still have a number of items to clarify and decisions to make on business practices, I made a pretty decent dent. I used the following Etsy references:

Coin pursesThe greatest tip I can suggest for writing out your shop policies, read the policies of top selling Etsy shops, some of your fav Etsy shops, and shops of local sellers. You don’t need to be exactly like everyone else, but it will give you an idea of what other shops offer and don’t offer. Then you can start considering what you envision for your own shop. Reading through the policies of other shops will also likely make you think about things that probably hadn’t crossed your mind yet. For me, it was thinking about shipping insurance and tracking. What to include, and what to offer at an additional fee?

I discovered the greatest variation in policies when it came to the exchange and refund section. Before reading through the policies of others, I loosely framed in my mind what I thought was the most fair and best service. After seeing such a variety of what other sellers offer or refuse to offer, I’m stuck pondering my own policies. I lean towards a much friendlier, if you’re not satisfied, you can exchange or return the item within a certain grace period with shipping costs non-refundable and the sole responsibility of the buyer. There are so many possible mishaps that could occur too, that need to be considered, besides a customer changing their mind. How will you deal with lost or damaged packages? This is where I began thinking about insurance and tracking options. The exchange and refund policies might be the type of thing that gets revised and more detailed as I experience different scenarios with customers.

Any thoughts on how your fav online shops handle refunds and exchanges? Ever had a really horrible experience with trying to return an item to an online shop?

Santa’s workshop

Christmas tinsOur house felt a lot like Santa’s workshop this past weekend. There was so much “making” going on in in the basement, the kitchen, the dining room, and the sewing room. And it was just the two of us. I’m so very thankful that we have the space to do so much in our home. I can’t imagine trying to do it all in our old apartment! There would a lot more swearing, chaos and ruined carpet. With our home though, we can keep the dangerously messy task of dying fabrics contained in a section of undeveloped basement, leaving hubby the entire kitchen for his “making”. Some of my “making” is still in progress, but the result of hubby’s is in those lovely tins. Aren’t those simple paper tags so sweet? That’s all him. Quick sketches on kraft paper, backed by an art degree.

Tissue wrapped giftsWe have regularly made gifts for Christmas, sometimes out of need because money was tight, and sometimes just because we love making things for our family and friends. There has generally still been bought presents in amongst those handmade gifts though. This year we have been thinking and talking a lot about gift giving, in particular, for Christmas. I have become a lot more conscious of, well, everything this past year. Spent time questioning how much of the super consumerist world I want to get entangled with, what’s healthy and what’s not, and what really matters. There have also been lots of conversations about how we would like to raise our children. In reflecting about how we celebrate Christmas, we have a strong desire to simplify the gift giving. Some of our thoughts were nicely expressed in Leo Babauta’s post “The Case Against Buying Christmas Presents“. So we hope to cut back on the amount of gifts that we receive from others and eventually move to gifts of “time”, especially with family. As for hubby and I, we want to move to only making gifts for each other. No bought things. We didn’t really come to this decision until after we had each bought items for each other this year, but we’re excited to do this next Christmas.

As for the Christmas “making” that I undertook this year, I can show you a sneak peek, but the rest will have to wait until after folks receive their presents (as some of them may be reading this). I am enjoying the colourfulness of everything! So typical of me to point out the colour, isn’t it? Anyway, the gift making is a nice mix of crochet and sewing projects with tie-dye thrown in there. Most of the Christmas crafting was put on hold until after the big craft sale, so I’m now working diligently to get everything finished up in time. Lucky for me, my brother and his wife are away for Christmas, so that’s two gifts I can complete after Christmas while I have some time off work. Now I just have to figure out when I’ll sneak some baking into the week.

Red, yellow, green blue dyed fabricsCrochet scarfCrochet sock in progress