Wednesday, August 21, 2013

What's Happening at stinkRknits

The past month has been one of reflection and retooling at stinkRknits.

I lowered all my mug cozy prices. Madness, you say? No! I did a very thorough search of mug cozies on Etsy. I looked at prices compared to design, embellishment, and quality. My prices were some of the highest, but my products are definitely unique. I work hard to maintain a standard of quality that would attract any buyer. However, if the price is too high, the customer will not buy! So, after my research and soul searching (am I crazy? does the customer value my item as much as I do? what am I truly trying to accomplish here on Etsy?) I lowered the prices by a few dollars. Wouldn't you know it, one sold the very next day! I had another sale a week later! Definitely made the right choice. I feel good about it.

Running a business is such constant revamping and reworking. The market is always changing and so are the trends. You really have to be diligent and up to date when competing for business. I like to search similar products on Etsy once a week now. I want my shop to be competitive.

There can't be an emotional attachment to your products, either! I remember a cute basket weave bag I had in my shop. I was sad the day it sold! I had created this bag from my own ideas and designs. I had brought my creation to life! And then I had to ship it off! My hope is that the buyer enjoys and loves the products of my knitting as much as I do. It's a romantic notion of my shop that I really can't afford to have. I love the design and creative process of each listing. But, once it's listed, that's where my cold, hard business sense must take over.

So, here we are on the cusp of the holiday season. I set a goal to have 100 products listed in my shop by the beginning of November. Only 23 to go! I am making these cute mini bunting banners that I designed. They are so cute!

I'm going to make one for myself to hang at my desk during homeschooling. I'm thinking about a coffee theme. Did you catch that? We are homeschooling again. The year is off to a good start, which you can read about here.

The balancing act has begun. I'm keeping it all moving so far: Etsy, homeschooling, wife, coach. Not in that order, but you get the idea. There's is always a lot going on!

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Back to Business

I took a risk in July by leaving my inventory behind and my shop NOT in vacation mode as I spent a lovely three weeks in Washington state. This is my usual family vacation, but the first one while I've been running my Etsy shop. I knew the risk was small, as my sales have been slow the past couple months. I did get one sale, three days before my return home, in plenty of time for a reasonable ship date. Woo hoo!

I worked while on vacation, not a lot, but who could resist knitting with such a view? I had to indulge my passion and commune with my bamboo needles and soothing yarn while I was there. Also, I had about 10 days without my husband with me and that meant some very late nights knitting and purling with Seinfeld, The Office, and Frasier. Bliss!

 I was working on a baby blanket I planned to leave behind, but I was way to busy having fun to finish it. We went roller skating, bowling, and had lots of coffee. LOTS of coffee! (Starbucks started the Treat Receipt right when we got there! Perfect timing!) I have a few more weeks before my sister's baby is due. I'm a little nervous, but I think it will get done. I'm in the middle (almost) of a Massive Project that must be done before the end of August. It's an afghan for a wedding gift. So that's my priority right now. I think I'd rather be knitting the baby blanket. It's cuter!

I finished a couple new projects on the trip: a cute dachshund mug cozy and a cherub tassel necklace. The lighting was absolutely perfect for these listings, however the Internet was incredibly s-l-o-w. It was more like s---l---o----------w. Seriously. Maybe it was the clouds. Maybe it was the location. I don't know. That dampened my enthusiasm for making listings. But not my creativity! I spent a lot of time with my project notebook sketching and planning projects.

One of our favorite activities on summer vacation is thrift store shopping. There are several awesome shops in the area and there are treasures to be found! Here are just a couple books I picked up for $1 each. I scored a stack of books at a Goodwill, all about knitting and one about cup cozies in particular. Wow! Lots of inspiration in that one. I also scored some needles and my sister gave me her stash of yarn. Bonus!

I loved our vacation. I am refreshed and ready to tackle Back to School and the Holiday prep season for my shop. I have a notebook full of ideas and projects that I am so excited to make happen. Our drive home even provided some inspiration for my latest listing, a sunflower bunting.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

stinkRknits and Operation Gratitude

You may not know this about me, but I was a military brat. My father was in the Air Force all my life and we lived all over the country. He would get new orders every two years or so and we would move wherever he was sent. (Except Thule, Greenland. He was on his own up there!)

I have been surrounded by the military my whole life. There is a special place in my heart for the families of soldiers serving today. My father was gone two to three weeks of every month for many years. I appreciate the sacrifice the families today are making.

This the first year I have had my Etsy shop ready for the Fourth of July. I really wanted to do something special, something patriotic, to show my love for veterans and soldiers. I always cry when I hear the National Anthem. I love the commercials that show surprise homecomings of military dads! I've been learning a lot about perspective in my personal life, so I wanted to do something practical, too. Somewhere on the internet I came across Operation Gratitude.

Operation Gratitude sends care packages to soldiers overseas, the families here at home, Wounded Warriors, Veterans, and First Responders. The packages are filled with snacks, entertainment, gifts, and even letters of appreciation. This organization simply wants to say thank you and put a smile on someone's face. I love this! It's practical and uplifting. Don't you love to get something in the mail? Wouldn't you love to get a care package of goodies? How about a letter from someone thankful that you do what you do? I think Operation Gratitude is doing something really remarkable and touching the lives of so many people. This is a truly wonderful way to show gratitude to these soldiers and remind them that they are not forgotten.

In my shop through the month of June, ending July 5th, I have a special section just for Operation Gratitude. The purchase of any of the red, white, and blue cup cozies will provide a donation to Operation Gratitude. I always have a 10% donation in this section, but for the period of June through July 5th, 2013, I am donating 50% of the sale price to Operation Gratitude. I want to support their amazing work!

Check out their website! You can find out how to get involved. You can volunteer to put packages together. You can request a package be sent to someone deserving. You can find other ways to support their cause, like a Mud Run! There is a lot of great information.

For me, it's all about perspective right now. I am so blessed. I need to remember that. I need to pass it on! How are you spending your summer? You can read about mine so far here.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

The Story of a Custom Order

I consider myself somewhat of an artist. My husband smiles at me indulgently when I talk about "the fiber arts" and being a "fiber artist." Let's just say I'm creative with yarn. I may get inspired by a visit to a museum, you can read about that here, or a fashion magazine. Sometimes something catches my eye and I get that Aha! feeling. Lately, my inspiration comes from buttons, little packs of themed buttons. I purchased many, many of these little packs in a variety of themes. My pan is to make mug and cup cozies with these cute buttons on them. 

One of the first button packs I grabbed was a football theme. There are several footballs, some stars, a helmet, and some that say "Football!" or "#1 Player." Being a football fan myself (Go, Bucs!) I knew these would be perfect on a green and white knitted background, basically a football field background. 

Knitting with different colors on the same project is a skill and takes practice. The different threads have to be combined just right or it will look bumpy and funky. I knew my football field had to be smooth, so I simply cut each strand of white at the end of the row. Easy enough, but really a pain to weave in all those ends! Ask any knitter about weaving in ends and they will tell you, ugh! It's the most tedious part of the project. There were a lot of ends to weave in! But, it was worth the effort because the cozy looked exactly how I pictured it.

I listed it in my Etsy shop and moved on to another project. Well, what do you know, but the wife of a football fan, a Green Bay Packers fan to be exact, saw that mug cozy and requested a custom order. She would like one knit with green and gold, the colors of the team! What a great idea! Now why didn't I think of that when I listed it? Of course I can make one in those colors! No problem! 

I knew I had that gold yarn SOMEWHERE. I knew it had to be...nope, not on my shelves. Maybe it was...nope, not in my stash in the house. Hmm. Maybe it's in the storage room, but I hope to God it's not because that room is filled with stuff! But it was in there. It HAD to be in there. I had already given up and gone to the craft store to get some new gold yarn. But it isn't time for gold yarn on the shelves. No, it's still summer colors. Dang it! I crept into the storage room, halfheartedly moved some bags, and hallelujah! There it was! The gold yarn was sitting at the top of a bag! Success!

I got busy knitting the cozy and am very pleased with how it turned out. The buyer purchased it and off it went into the mail. I love packaging my knits to be shipped. There's a feeling of completion and satisfaction wrapped up in it. I also updated my listing to include custom orders. 

"Just click the Custom Order button and tell me the team and colors you want!"

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Of Books and Blankets

Now that summer is almost here, I'm making lists of projects and changes I need to make for my shop. I am transitioning away from scarves and warm knits into bags and hair wraps, more summery things. I have a bag full of cute themed buttons waiting to be attached to cup and mug cozies. My time right now is still taken up with homeschool and finishing the school year well, so making the lists satisfies my creative urge for now.

My goal is to list something new at least once a week, but I've been stalled out a little. I am finishing a custom baby blanket. This blanket is the first one I've knit to sell. I've knit blankets as gifts, but this is the first time I am knitting one on a real deadline. I thought knitting under pressure would stress me out, but actually it's been the opposite.

I know exactly what I need to work on each day. My family knows I am on a deadline and they have been picking up the slack on housework and meal prep. Also, when I knit out in public, the blanket is eye-catching and generates a lot of interest. I always carry business cards now!

So, this is the first of many to come, I hope.

This is the tri-color basket weave baby blanket I am currently knitting.

My husband and I went on an overnight anniversary getaway last week, which you can read more about here. One of our favorite activities is thrift store shopping and the area we stayed in had quite a few. I found these like-new knitting books for $1 each at a hospice thrift store. At a retail store, these books cost $15-$25 each, so this was an amazing find. I was especially thrilled to find the knitted bags pattern book.

Four like-new knitting books for $1 each, score!
So the countdown to summer begins: 30 days!

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Knitting vs. Etsy

I have been so incredibly busy since the beginning of February that I am amazed I have accomplished anything with my Etsy shop, stinkR. I declared 2013 "The Year of stinkR", but 2013 had other plans. I have had to reevaluate my priorities more than once and let something go this year, like cooking better or losing all the weight. But, never knitting.

Knitting is one of my passions. If I get time alone, you will find me browsing the aisles at craft stores, touching the skeins and sighing over buttons and bamboo needles. I love knitting! Inspiration strikes at any moment, in church (looking at the curtains behind the podium), at a restaurant (people-watching), or paging through a non-knitting related magazine (ooh, I could do that with yarn). I see stitches everywhere! I look at the purses ladies carry and mentally convert them into knitted bags, sometimes with metallic yarn and sometimes with feathery. Knitting is part of me.

My Etsy store is a branch of that part of me. While I know I need the store to sell my products, I don't need it to feel complete in my knitting. Sometimes, the store adds a pressure to my knitting that removes all the joy of the process. I start thinking I HAVE to knit and make new items to list because that is what the store is FOR. Right? There is no quicker way to stall my muse than to tell me it is something I have to knit. The muse flees, runs for the hills! The project list I have? Nothing goes right. I use the wrong yarn or the wrong pattern and the results are never pleasing. I shake my head. I step back. I walk away from the needles.

During this break, the answer always comes. Relax! Your knitting is your knitting, not Etsy's. You have the freedom to list one new item a day, or week, you choose! (Of course, I have goals for inventory, but that's another conversation) I go back to my WIP (works in progress, for you non-knitters), and usually frog (tear out) everything, pull the stitches out, and wind the balls back up. I start over.

Knitting is a process for me and the end result will hopefully be something lovely I can list in my shop and sell to someone who loves it almost as much. I have scarves in New Mexico and New York! That would never have happened without my Etsy shop. (mostly because I don't know anyone who lives in those places because everyone I know has something I knit) So, the shop is secondary to my passion, not the inspiration or the reason.

If I keep the perspective straight, the knitting just flows, and if the knitting flows, the shop gets filled. You know what I mean?

Monday, February 25, 2013

Knitting for Me and in Public

I find that knitters don't often knit things for themselves. I'm not sure if many creative people, such as jewelry artists or photographers, ever create much for themselves. I love knitting for the process and creation aspect, not to adorn my house and body. Occasionally, I will knit something that just doesn't turn out the way I wanted and then I will choose to start over or frog it all, or both. In the case of the above pictured cup cozy, the buttonholes aren't lined up exactly even and that bothers me. I will not list anything so flawed in my shop. But I really like this cozy! I added a couple sparkly green buttons and use it myself! The buttons are big enough to hide the misaligned buttonholes, excellent!

There is a National Knit in Public Day. Did you know that? Yep. It has become so popular, they expanded it to a week! I think, though, that a lot of knitting in public goes on every day. I always have my knitting with me. You never know when little pockets of time will appear and you can add a few more rows on that endless kerchief scarf! Here is a picture of knitting in public at the park while my son is in baseball practice. I'm not ashamed. I don't mind the stares! I usually get some interested bystanders and lots of questions. Being a SAHM, too, I enjoy conversing with people about my knitting and encouraging them to give it a try. On the day pictured above, I had a lengthy conversation with another parent that ranged from knitting to crocheting to homeschooling and baseball. Love that!

This week I am kicking off my Easter projects. I have a couple really good ideas for sets to knit. I think there is enough green in my shop to get some Saint Patrick's Day shoppers. I know I should probably be working on Father's Day listings already, but I gave myself permission to do Easter first. Next year I think I will be more organized.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

The Magic of Yarn

My favorite listing this week
The past two weeks have been so busy! My focus right now is filling up my Etsy shop. I set a goal to have at least 30 listings by the end of the month. Enter the 30-minute knitting projects! I have a book full of great items that can be knit in a short amount of time. I don't necessarily follow the patterns, but I definitely got inspired to make some small projects. The cup cozy pictured above is one of these projects.

I knit myself a Kindle cover with this same yarn, called Flower Power. I love it! The colors are so bright and cheery! I had enough yarn left for this project and even found the perfect button amongst the group from my grandmother. Love!

Pink Parfait Cowl and Fingerless Glove Set
This beautiful cowl and fingerless glove set was a bit of an accident. On Mondays, I am out of the house all day taking the kids to homeschool classes. I always have a project bag with me because I have a lot of waiting time. I forgot my project bag. Forgot it! I was devestated. Monday is a great knitting day for me and I look forward to it! What choice did I have but to go buy a set of cheap needles and decadent yarn? I HAD to! Believe me, DH understood.

I found this gorgeous pink variegated yarn, called Pink Parfait, ooh la la, and immediately knew what to do. This soft yarn begged to become a cowl. And then, what was left demanded to become a pair of fingerless gloves. So I knit this matching set while the kids were in social studies and science classes. I finished off the next evening and listed on my Etsy shop.

The person who purchased it a few days later told me, "The color and style just spoke to me and I had to have it." Whoa! She blew my mind. There was definitely something special about how this set came together, a misty destiny-ish aura surrounds it. I wonder where my customer will wear it? What happens to this Pink Parfait next?

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Keyhole vs. Short

Funny story about this scarf. The stitch I used is mock cable, love! The pattern I thought I was using is keyhole, a keyhole scarf. I knew such a thing existed. I knew I had seen pictures. I truly thought that was what I had made by forming one end of the scarf into a loop so the other end could be pulled through. Isn't that like a keyhole? Sure! But, of course this is after I listed it and tagged it with keyhole, keyhole, keyhole, my husband was perusing one of my knitting project books, an unusual activity for him, and he says, "Oh, wow. I thought you made that term up yourself. Here it is right here, a keyhole scarf." I glanced at the picture, and froze. That scarf looked nothing like the one I made! Their keyhole was in the middle of the scarf! Doh!

Well, first things first, I looked up pictures of the scarf style I DID make, and it's called a short scarf. Yep, that's it. Short scarf. Definitely not as cute and peppy as keyhole scarf, but whatever. I changed all my tags and titles and relisted it as a short scarf. Then I added a vintage button from the bag of buttons my grandmother gave me. I love it! The button really adds a lot. So, here it is, a Kelly green short scarf!

When I'm looking at the stats for my shop, one number I always compare is the listing viewed to the listing favorited. In other words, I want to know if the numbers match. Did the shopper favorite the item viewed or not? You want favorites if not sales! This gray headband got a lot of views, but not many favorites. This was boggling to me since it is such a cute piece. Hmm. As with most of my knitting lately, the headband needed something, some pizazz, character. I added the black trim and changed my pictures. Immediately the favorites started matching the views! I am learning so much from running this Etsy shop! I know my knitting is in a evolutionary phase and I'm surrounding myself with different techniques for finishing projects. It's more work than simply binding off, but absolutely necessary.

I have so many projects on the needles right now. I have finished a few that are awaiting that final inspired touch. I have yet to pick up my needles today. You can read about it here. Time to make some coffee and get busy!

Saturday, February 2, 2013

This and That

This has been a very busy week for stinkR! I was learning about the daily promoting committments on PFT and it really blew my mind how far-reaching it went! These artisans are the serious-minded sales group I need! One of my goals was to hit 500 circles, or followers, so I could participate in all the promoting for my own shop. I had been climbing steadily for a week, then stalled out at 465 on Monday. I doubled my efforts and hit it yesterday. DH knew what a big deal it was and brought me flowers with a note, "Happy 500!" Love that guy!

More good news: I sold two bags this week to someone I don't know! Yay! I also sold the white eyelet scarf, my beautiful first-time eyelet lace pattern, to someone I do know. Still a yay! My shop had so many hits and favorites! Definitely a great week.

So, Valentine's Day approaches, which means I move on to the next holiday. St. Patrick's Day! I don't have any real themed projects, just a lot of green planned. This is a double beneft since green is the hot color for this year, according to Pantone anyway. I am aiming more toward a Kelly green right now. I also have a lot of spring colors in my stash, no pastels, just bright pinks, yellows, and greens, of course. I have a scarf on the needles right now, a chunky green yarn called Sprite. I love it! Being Irish, this color trend really appeals to me. :)

Here is the mock cable scarf I finished. I decided to turn it into a keyhole scarf. I'm pleased. I will do a photo shoot on Monday morning to start the week off with a full shop. My goal is to finish six projects this weekend. They will be small, but I want to build my inventory. I'm still looking for that niche project to focus on! I have a bridal shawl on the needles, but no end in sight. Too many other knitters are selling headbands and mug cozies and cowls and scarves. Focusing on afghans would take a major time committment so I am holding off on that until summer.

This week I learned how to make pom poms and tassels. Here is the first pom pom. DH claimed it since he helped me figure out the little pom pom maker gadget. The directions were all pictures, like reading a map, something I am notoriously not good at!

This is the purple pouch bag I deactivated becase it was too plain. Not anymore! I added some black trim, doubled the drawstring, and attached a tassel. Lovely! Tassels are big for me right now. I also added them to the dark red lined bag, and it sold the same day I updated the pictures! Progress!

I am up early to blog real quick and then get busy knitting. I have so many projects in my mind and on my needles! Time to get to work! Enjoy your day!


Wednesday, January 30, 2013

A New Project Finished!

This is definitely not a great picture, but here is the newest item for stinkR. I finally finished the first matching set of headband and mitts for runners! What you are seeing is the back of the headband, which I tied into a knot for a snug fit.

I had this idea a few months ago. I made myself mitts and I love wearing them to run. Cold hands are a distraction when I'm running. Then, I started making a leg warmer for someone for Christmas, but switched to make them something else. The unfinished leg warmer looked about right to seam and use as a headband, so that's what I did. Voila! No more cold ears! The headband covers just the tips of the ears, not the whole ear, for safety reasons. Also, I am only using bright colors, also for safety reasons. My next set will be black and neon green. I'm making a whole line of these for the shop, quick and easy.

I am getting used to waking early and spending quality time on Etsy and in stinkR. I've been trying to find my own way around Etsy for a few months and have not made much progress. I recently joined a very active team of Etsians, Promotional Frenzy Team, and I am excited to see the difference this will make. Everyone promotes everyone else's work and there are daily goals and activities to keep everyone on track. Right up my alley! I even have a mentor, wow! I wasn't expecting such personal attention. Suddenly, all the plans I have for my shop feel attainable. I feel like I am in transition from hobbyist knitter to professional knitter and I see a long road ahead. I'm ready!

Yesterday, there was no knitting accomplished. You can read about it here. Today I have lots of housework on the agenda, but also lots of knitting. I hope you have a productive day, too!

Monday, January 28, 2013

Monday, Monday

A typical Monday starts like this: waking up at 2am with sever abdominal pain, thinking you are hungry and eating a string cheese, going back to sleep only to wake up and barf a few hours later. Yep, feels like Monday! Hopefully it will pass because I  have a lot on my plate today!

I cast on the bridal shawl this weekend and the progress is slow. This is why I don't usually use small needles, takes a long time to feel like you're getting anything done! The pattern is such a simple one, though, I don't mind. I'm almost 10 rows in and the emerging pattern is gorgeous. Definitely worth it!

My shop now has an official banner! I love it. I took a spontaneous, random picture of my knitting needles and a logo was born. Who knew? Check it out. I also made it the cover photo on Facebook. This is all part of taking the shop to the next level.

I'm off and running today, my trusty project bag by my side! I hope you have a better start to your Monday than I did!

Saturday, January 26, 2013

A Productive Day

Wow! Since I made the decision to get serious about my Etsy shop, my knitting life has become much more busy. Today I spent a lot of time knitting, compared to the last two days which were devoted to the business end of an online shop. I'm waiting for one more step at Etsy, joining a team and getting a mentor, and then I think my commitment to my shop will officially be a second job.

Or would that be a third job? Homeschooling counts!

Here is a picture of the Kelly green scarf fresh off the needles tonight. I knit this in mock cable stitch and it is just lovely. I'm planning to add a button that can slip right through the cable, making this an adjustable cowl.

I also cast on the bridal shawl, finally! I have had this pattern in my magazine stack and mental file for months. Two weeks ago, I went through all my magazines and removed the projects I knew I wanted to do. The bridal shawl was at the top of the pile. I bought the needles and the yarn last week, but I needed to finish a couple other projects before starting this one. Finally, finally, it is on the needles! I'm so excited to see how this turns out. I think it will be a beautiful addition to the shop.