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

That time again, with turns ahead

Christmas bird ornamentAnd I’m not just talking about Christmas, although I am trying to remain in the spirit of the season. This year has been one of the craziest years I’ve lived through. It was month after month of riding such a huge emotional roller coaster. Every truly wonderful thing was so quickly followed by something down right tragic. I’m not an overly dramatic person, but when I talk about ups and downs this year, I mean life and death-type stuff (although thankfully, that’s not the challenge I am currently facing). I should have known that following such an amazing weekend at Market Collective, during which I finally felt like I’d found my passion, I would be hit with some hard news. So for now, I’m in one of those upside down twists in the roller coaster. That’s just the way this year has been. It is humbling. Truly humbling. And a bit motion sickness inducing. The whole expression of old doors closing and new doors opening springs to mind. Is that too cliche?

Counting the days until the end of this year and now seriously wondering what 2011 will bring. Certainly things have to get better in general. I mean, they must. I suppose deep down I’m really ready for a fresh start with things, which is why this most recent bit of news is more a mix bag of challenge, uncertainty, relief, fear, excitement, hellos and goodbyes.

For now, Christmas is fast approaching and I have a list of gifts still to make and traditional baking I want to indulge in. That should keep me busy right up until December 25th. Wishing you all some quiet time by your Christmas tree to reflect on things that have gone and things to come.

Craft sale craziness

Craft fair tableI survived. Actually I more than survived. This weekend at Market Collective was truly an amazing experience. A very crazy, busy, exhausting, satisfying, successful, fun, experience. I am just feeling so full and incredibly thankful. After years of friends and family telling me that I should be selling my craft creations, I now get it. I SHOULD be selling my crafts. It’s funny, I went into the craft sale thinking that truly, I would be happy if I sold just one of the scarflettes, because the main purpose of the weekend was to learn from the experience. Having a single person out in the world who liked one of my scarflettes enough to pay for it, would make the whole thing worth it. So, I was pleasantly surprised when I sold half of my scarflette stock!!

My brain is still spinning with everything. Above and beyond the selling, I did learn so much and met some wonderful people, including the very lovely Nicole of Noela jewelry. She is actually a close friend of one of my co-workers and we completely lucked out with tables right beside each other. Besides chatting with a couple of the vendors, it was pretty amazing to talk with all the folks that came through the market. I hope that everyone enjoyed their time shopping and listening to some of the live music. It was fascinating to see how many people treated the market not just as a sale, but an event. Folks would spend hours there and I now understand how much of a “happening” Market Collective is.

Craft fair tableOn a business level, one surprising thing for me was that my coin purses actually did not sell very well. I thought that they would definitely sell and I had been a bit sad that I didn’t have more to bring along. As it turned out, I have plenty left. Folks seemed to genuinely like them. They would spend plenty of time picking them up, opening them, flipping through all the colours, but then didn’t buy them. So I’m left wondering what else I can do to encourage folks to take one home with them. This again, is all part of the learning.

In the end, my table display was pretty simple, but I think it was fairly effective. I had some things raised at eye level, which people were drawn to. I rotated which scarflette was displayed on the top of the shelf. If folks took a second to touch the scarflettes while they were passing by, it always made them stop and feel a bunch of them. I soon discovered that wearing one of the scarflettes in person was key. Customers often picked one up to try and figure them out, then glanced at the photos, but as soon as they realized I was wearing one, their face lit up in understanding. They are an odd shaped thing, I kept admitting, but once around your neck, their shape makes sense. I encouraged folks to try them on and I had a mirror hung on the wall, so that they could take a look. All in all, I think the simple table with a few important pieces (like a mirror) worked well for me this time.

Before the weekend was even finished, I was all set to start thinking about the next Market Collective. I would love to do it all again! Thanks for everyone’s support and continued interest in the blog!

Shoe boxes everywhere

We spent an evening this week volunteering with friends for Operation Christmas Child (a program run by Samaritan’s Purse). Many years ago, my mom and I used to put together shoe box donations for the program. In recent times, I missed out on this while we focused our donations on local needs through our church. This year, though, hubby and I had quite a bit of fun organizing items to fit in our shoe box donation. We have friends who volunteer each year at the actual facility where the Calgary shoe box donations get sorted, packed and shipped. So it was with great thanks that we accepted the offer to join them in their volunteering efforts. It was just one evening, a few short hours, but it was nice to spend some energy towards helping others after focusing so much on starting up the craft business these past couple of months.

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