Wednesday, June 12, 2013

WIP Wednesday

Sorry for the lull in posting! Just started a new job, and I've been in training and trying to readjust to my new schedule. I'm sure I'll get back to normal soon!

I have orders pending which is also great! The first thing that I need to finish is the Green Bay Packers granny square afghan. It needs delivered by mid-July but I need to get a serious move on! 


It needs to be about 66 inches square, so I have a long way to go! 

What are you all working on?

Hook it up!

Camielle


Sunday, June 2, 2013

Who is Cam's Crochet?

I've had this blog since 2010, but I just realized that I have never properly introduced myself or told the story of how I started crocheting. I think it's about time I did that! 


Like a lot of crocheters (and knitters), my grandma and Nana crocheted. There was a granny square afghan in pretty much every home of my family members, all crochet by my grandma I believe. When I was little, my Gramps (who was actually a great-aunt) taught me how to make a crochet chain, and I got really good at it, but my grandma and Nana had long since passed, (both before I was born) and no one really knew how to move past a chain.

Fast-forward quite a few years to 2007.  I used to live in Orlando, FL, because I did my college internship at Walt Disney World. A coworker of mine could crochet, and tried to teach me, but I couldn't understand. She gave me her crochet hook (a red H-8, 5.00mm), and the project she was currently working on, a bright yellow baby blanket, and suggested I practice. I tried a few times, but I couldn't seem to get it. Unfortunately, she was either fired of she left before I could give the yarn and hook back, so I was left with both.

Fast forward again, this time to 2008. I moved to Columbus, OH in June of that year, and that September, the week of Labor Day, there was a terrible windstorm.


It was awful, and what's more, it knocked my power out for a week! I wasn't working at the time, so I was sitting on my hands with no entertainment, no food, and no air conditioning. To combat my boredom, and also be side I needed to eat, I journeyed to a nearby shopping center. In this particular shopping center was a Half-Price bookstore, and I love to read, so I wandered in. I purchased about 10 books that day, and one of the books that caught my eye was "The Cool Girl's Guide to Crochet," by Nicki Trench.


As it happened, I had that same crochet hook and yarn that had been given to me the year before, so I went home and started trying to learn.  I eventually was able to teach myself with the help of the pictures and descriptions, and so, another crocheter was born! I've been crocheting ever since, and loving every second of it! It's one of the most fulfilling things I've ever learned, and I can't imagine what my life would be now had I never learned how.  I crochet whether I'm happy or sad, on good and bad days, and at this point, I'm almost never sitting down in my home without yarn and a hook in my hands. It's an enjoyable hobby, made more enjoyable by the fact that I've started to make money from what I make.  I love being able to create for people, and finding new patterns and using new yarns pleases me greatly!

So that's my story, and how I got started.  I have some new readers (thanks for tuning in!) and I wanted you to be able to put a face to the name and the company.

How did you all get started? Are any of you self-taught? Do you crochet just as a hobby, or for profit? As always, I'd love to hear from you!

Hook it up!

Camielle



Saturday, June 1, 2013

Get a Grip!

I was part of an interesting conversation on Instagram yesterday about Boye Hooks vs. Susan Bates hooks. 

 
These are my personal hooks, minus my F (4.00mm) hook which is currently hung up in a pair of booties. The large cluster of hooks are all Boye hooks; the singular hook at the bottom is a Susan Bates hook. 

I taught myself how to crochet using a Boye hook, the incredibly beat up red  H-8 (5mm) in the middle of the cluster. I'm not sure if those are now my favorite purely because that's what I learned with, but I suppose it's very possible. I bought the Susan Bates hook after misplacing my D-3 (3.25mm) hook, but quickly abandoned it because I couldn't keep the stitch on it.


Lol, ok, maybe it wasn't quite that bad, but it was definitely frustrating! Interestingly enough though, I've heard that a lot of people swear by Susan Bates hooks, and it makes me wonder: why can't I seem to get the hang of it?

I'm wondering if perhaps it's the grip I use. There are two possible ways (that I know of) of holding a crochet hook: the pencil grip, and the knife grip. 


I'm right handed and I use the knife grip. I've tried the pencil grip, just out of curiosity, and I crochet sooo sloooowly! It's depressing! I just can't get used to that either. I find, given my grip, that my Boye hooks hold my stitches better, and allow me to crochet with a fair amount of speed, which is important to me. 

What kind of hooks do you prefer? Do you utilize the pencil grip or the knife grip? Let me know, I'd love to hear from you!

Hook it up!

Camielle

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

You Charge WHAT?!?

How to price our items is one of the most over-thought, ever-present topics for a lot of crafters.  There's nothing worse than having someone Oooh and Ahhh over your work, only to clutch their imaginary pearls once they hear or see how much your items cost.


Keep in mind that most non-crafters have no idea how much time and energy goes into making a product.  You have to learn how to be fair to yourself.  I can't speak for anyone else's time, but mine is valuable, and I've been devaluing it because I've been concerned about sales.  The unfortunate reality is, I haven't necessarily made a lot of sales (especially on Etsy) even with the low prices, which is why I'll be raising all of mine in the near future.  People who want to buy your items, who understand and appreciate the value of custom, hand-made goods, will buy your products, and that's the market you want to cater to.  

I've mentioned before that a lot of fiber artists use the Cost x 3 rule, i.e. 3 x the price of your yarn, buttons, embellishments, anything that goes into making the final product; some people also utilize an hourly rate, plus the price of supplies. I don't know that a specific formula is best, only you can decide what works for you.  I've used both systems for pricing, and I also now figure shipping cost into some of my prices since it's hard to ballpark how much heavier items (blankets, shawls), will cost up front. I've gone so far as to time myself as I make things with a stopwatch, stopping it and starting it as appropriate, so that I can accurately gauge how long it takes to make things.  No, I'm not always thrilled with the total price (my hourly rate is minimum wage for the state of Ohio: $7.85), but honestly, I think my time is worth at LEAST that.

What formula(e) do you use to price your items?  Do you find that people balk at your prices?  How do you respond when someone complains about your prices? I'd love some feedback!

Keep Hooking it Up!

Camielle


Friday, May 24, 2013

So You Want to be a Craft Vendor (Part 5: Final Thoughts)

We've reached the light at the end of the tunnel!  Please feel free to comment or e-mail me (miss.mielle1908@gmail.com) if you have questions.

I did receive a few questions via e-mail, so I'd like to answer them here.


-How do you know how much stuff you should make? 
I NEVER know how much stuff to make...I make things year round, and for the most part, everything goes with me to craft shows, even if I don't put everything out.

-How do you take your payments? (Cash only? Checks? Credit/Debit cards?) 
I take cash, checks, and credit/debit cards for payment (see Part 4 of this series for more information), but I have a card reader and an app on my phone that allows me to take a picture of checks and deposit them immediately.

-Do you purchase any specific supplies to bring with you? 
I purchase supplies as my finances allow, I've purchased two banners, one horizontal and one vertical, and a stand to hold the vertical one.  I have 66qt. containers that I keep my items in at home and I also take 3 of them to shows to hold all my stuff; I have two blanket racks for holding afghans. I also have foldable fabric boxes that I use on my table to hold smaller items. I'm hoping to purchase a dolly soon as carrying all of my stuff is time consuming and difficult.  I also own my own tent, table, and chairs.  Oh, and at some point in the hopefully not too distant future, I'm going to have to purchase an SUV.  Transporting everything I have in my Chrysler Sebring is not easy by any means, especially since my tent is 5'ft tall folded up. :-/

-Do you have freebies that are offered to your customers when they purchase something? 
I don't generally offer freebies, primarily because I don't have a lot of small items that I can afford to give away.  As my inventory increases, I may start to do that more in the future.  I do offer a 15% off coupon code for my Etsy store with purchases.

-What questions do people normally ask you, if any? 
I don't know if there is a specific question that I get a lot, other than 'Do you have a card?" and "Are you on Etsy?" Sometimes people will ask if I'm doing any other shows in the area in the future, which generally I am, depending on the time of year. I don't necessarily get a lot of questions related to my items; not sure if that's a good thing or a bad thing.

-How do you find the time to make so much stuff?
I am running my business full-time right now, although that may change in the future if I need to go back to work. Even when I was working full-time, though, I put nearly as much time into my business as I did into my job.  One of my least favorite feelings used to be walking into a show and feeling that I didn't have enough product.  I would work 6-8 hours on building my inventory nearly every day, weekends included.  Now that I'm not working, I work on making product 12-14 hours a day.  That's a choice, not a recommendation.  I am doing what I feel that I need to do for my own business, and I'm also single with no children, so I have that luxury.  Do what works for your schedule and your family.  I'm also a really fast crocheter I hear, I can make an unembellished adult hat in 20-25 minutes, so that helps too.

-How do you determine how much items cost?
This is a CONSTANT struggle for me.  A lot of crocheters use the "Cost x 3" rule, and the majority of my items are priced in this manner.  I hear all the time how inexpensive my items are, and yet those same people don't feel inclined to purchase...it's...let's say sobering, lol.


You can look on Etsy at items similar to the ones you make and price that way, if it helps.  In my experience, a lot of vendors make their prices lower at craft shows, since those purchases tend to be more impulse buys, whereas people looking on Etsy are more than likely looking to spend money.  


As a final thought, above all else, have fun during shows.  If you feel pressured to make a certain amount of money or you start to panic because you haven't made a sale, your demeanor will change, and people will notice.  I like making money at shows, we all do, but I use them primarily as marketing and research.  I watch what people buy, what they don't buy, what they ask questions about, and I pay close attention to what sells in different areas of town.  These are things that will improve your performance later down the line as you do more shows. 

Well,  I hope that you've found this series helpful and informative.  For those who did offer feedback, I thank you.  It's nice to be able to use what I know to help all of you grow!



Everyone have a safe and Happy Memorial Day Weekend!


I'm taking some time off this weekend to spend with friends and my newest inspiration, my cutie-pie of a niece!  For those of you who aren't though:

Keep Hooking it Up!

Camielle





Thursday, May 23, 2013

So You Want to Be a Craft Vendor? (Part 4: Checklists and Extras)

Now that we've addressed the basics, we need to talk about the extra things that make your booth special and your life easier.  There are multiple Craft Show checklists available online that you can print out and take to each show with you. While I like this one that is found on Etsy, I find that I prefer Handmadeology's because it's more specific.

Using a few items from their list, I'd like to highlight a few things that I didn't talk about yesterday.

A Credit Card Reader--Craft Shows are no longer a cash-only business.  People just don't carry cash like they used to, and you don't want to miss a sale because you can't take credit cards.  To the best of my knowledge, all three of these card readers work with smart phones and tablets, you just need to purchase or request the reader and download the free app.  If you don't need your reader immediately (within a week or two), you can go to the Square, PayPal, or Intuit websites and request a free card reader.  If you need yours sooner, both Square and Paypal readers can be purchased in stores such as Walgreens, Staples, Apple, and AT&T.  I didn't see on the Intuit website that their reader can be purchased in a retail location, but do your research because I may be wrong.  I have a Square, as do most of the vendors I work with on a regular basis.  I find it very useful, and the fees (2.75% per transaction) very reasonable. I only know one person with a Paypal reader, and she is as fond of it as I am of my square, and I don't know anyone who has an Intuit reader, although I'm sure their service is comparable.  I believe there are other card readers available as well, again, do your research and determine which one is right for you.

Also, it wouldn't be unheard of for someone to ask you if you take checks, although it doesn't necessarily happen often.  I do accept checks, and I have the Chase app on my phone which enables me to take a picture of the check and deposit it on the spot. Check to see if your bank offers an app with a similar services, as it is very useful.  On the rare occasion I am asked if I accept checks, I make sure to let the person know I intend to deposit the check right then and there, not later that day or a few days later, so that they know that I expect that they already have the funds available when they write the check.  This is for your benefit as well as theirs.  I would also request that they write a phone number on the check so that you can contact them if needed.  I've never had a problem taking checks, and will continue to do so unless a problem arises.  


A Dolly or Wagon--This ranks high on the "make your life easier" list. I don't have one of these yet, although it will likely be my next purchase.  One of the hardest things for me is packing and unpacking, especially when I work alone.  I have 3 of these: 

that go with me to every show; 66 qt. Sterilite containers, along with a slightly smaller one for supplies.  As my inventory grows, I can only assume I will need to take more containers with me (I own 8 total), and having to carry them one or two at a time and make multiple trips is a hassle and it's tiring.  The dolly pictured above is a Rock N' Roller which was recently recommended to me.  I haven't researched dollies yet, but mine will have have to be foldable since I have a 4-door sedan instead of a truck, or SUV.  


Signage--You can make your own sign, which can add a cozy feel to your display.  I know a number of people who sew, and they have sewn their business names on bunting that they hang at the back of their booth.  I do not sew, and haven't really had the time to crochet bunting (although I'm considering it) so I recently purchased a 6ft vertical banner with a stand from Vistaprint that matches my business cards.  I also have a 4 ft horizontal banner which I actually purchased first and used for every show until this year.  You also want to make sure to have price tags or some kind of sign advertising prices.  You can use small stickers, folded cards, or price lists.  Some people will not ask a price if they don't see one, and some people will still ask, even if you have every item priced.  

Buy Female Body Form, Plastic Hanging Ladies Display Form, Display Female Torso

Risers/Mannequin heads/displays--this really depends on your craft, but most people will tell you not to lay all your craft flat on the table, no matter what it is.  The key is to draw people to your table, so the more vertical space you take up, the better.  You want people to be able to see your wares from 6-10ft away, not necessarily have to walk right up to you to even see that you're selling anything.  For me, getting my display right is a work in progress; it never looks the same twice, and I'm always coming up with a new idea or a way to do something differently.  I'm also usually strapped for cash since I fund pretty much my whole business myself, so I've had to come up with creative ways to do things until I can afford what I need.



photo 2.JPGphoto 4.JPGphoto 3.JPG


photo 5.PNG

These are photos from my last 4 shows.  As you can see, they are all drastically different.  Three of these shows were indoor, the show with the rug and my mom sitting in the armchair *smile* was actually done in the back of a 14ft U-Haul truck.  That show was a bit of an anomaly (a really fun one though!), most indoor shows have an 8x6", 8x8", or 10x10" space. You then have to decide how to best fit your wares into that space, which brings me to an important point...

Booth Shots--as you can see, I always take multiple pictures when I do a show.  There are a few reasons for this.  I like to keep a record of my setup so that I know what I do or don't want to repeat.  It also helps me if I ever do that show again (some shows are annual or even seasonal) because there's a high likelihood that i'll have a similar space.  Last but not least, some applications require not only photos of your wares, but photos of your booth set up.  This way, I always have them if I need them.

I would like to point out that I suffer from "display envy." (This is what I call it.)  While I've been doing shows for a little while, I have delusions of grandeur for my display, and champagne tastes on a tap water budget.  As such, it never fails that I walk into a show, look at everyone else's display, and feel like a pre-schooler on the big kids playground.  It's a normal feeling, and I'm sure I'll feel it until I get my display the way I want it.  Don't fret if you feel this way, I've found that the quality of your work will speak for itself, and a bright personality and a smile will more than make up for anything your display is lacking temporarily.


Last but not least, I highly recommend bringing snacks and water.  Nearly every show I've done has had some sort of food vendor on the premises, but I really am not crazy about spending my hard earned money on food during shows. I will occasionally, especially if it is a very long show (8 hours or more).  I have a small insulated lunch-box and a styrofoam cooler that I often take to shows, whether they're indoor or outdoor.  I take 4-6 bottles of water, granola bars, chips or crackers, and fruit.  Take more than you think you'll need, packing and unpacking makes you more hungry than you might expect, and the worst feeling in the world is being hungry at a show with no food or snacks.  If you are working outdoors, especially during the summer, take at least twice as much water, if not more.

Tomorrow I will do my final wrap up, and my "Dos and Don'ts of Craft Vending."  I haven't gotten any questions, so either I'm really thorough, or you guys are really shy, please don't be!  I love asking questions, and I'm sure I missed a lot.  There is just so much that goes into show prep that it's hard to cover it all without being terribly long-winded.  If I get any today, I'll answer them tomorrow in my wrap-up.

Thanks for hanging in there with me.  I have gotten some feedback, and I'm glad to know this information is helpful.

Hook it Up!

Camielle

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

So You Want to be a Craft Vendor? (Part 3: The Essentials for Preparingfor Craft Shows)

You've decided to take the plunge, you've found a show, paid your entrance fee, and been accepted. Great!



Now you need to prepare.  Presumably you've have bags, boxes, or crates full of your wares to cart with you.  No? Well, you're definitely going to need that! There is no way really know how much of anything you should take to a show, please do not break your brain trying to figure it out.  There isn't a right or wrong answer.  My mother always says "take everything," so that's what I do.  If you're doing a multi-day show, look at your inventory and try to take twice that, if you have time prior to your show to make more.

Other than your wares, there's a list of basics that you absolutely must have.  Not subtle nuances, we'll get to those in a moment; I'm talking the bare essentials:

Product Image

A table (if one isn't provided for you.)--Some shows will provide one at a minor cost, usually $5-$10.  There's nothing wrong with renting one, but a table is a solid investment if you plan to keep doing shows.  I bought mine from K-Mart for roughly $45, and it's a 6-ft. table that folds in the middle for easy transport and storage.  I've seen a similar model that was 8-ft. as well.  Do your research, you may be able to find one cheaper.

Deluxe Fabric Padded <em>Folding Chair</em> - Tan

Chairs (again, if they aren't provided.)--I have two folding chairs that I usually take to shows, because generally I have someone work with me, either my mom or my friend Daven.  I would highly recommend you have someone work with you for a few reasons: 1) it's nice to have help with loading/unloading and set-up/teardown. 2) the company is very welcome, whether a show is busy or slow; if it's slow, you have someone to talk to, if it's busy, you have someone to pack items while you change money with customers, or to talk to other customers if you're mid-transaction. 3) It's nice to not have to leave your table unattended if you need a restroom break or want to check out other vendors or grab food.

A Tablecloth--More and more I'm running into shows that actually require a tablecloth, but I take one anyway because my table is a bit beat up, and also because it looks more professional.  I recommend a solid color (mine is black), because it won't clash with the items on your table.  I also would recommend a tablecloth long enough to hang down to the floor in the front, that way, you can store things under your table without them being seen.



A Cash Box--This may seem like a 'Duh,' but I did my first couple of shows without one actually.  I have a portable fire-safe with a three number combo lock.  It has a tray on top to separate money and change, and I keep checks underneath when I receive them, as well as my credit card reader and a small receipt book. Mine looks exactly like the one pictured above, and I bought it at Wal-Mart

Bags or Boxes--Something for your customers to put their purchases in.  Don't worry if they're leftover grocery store bags; that's fine, and your customers understand.  At least you're reusing them.  If, further down the line, you decide to purchase bags, that's perfectly fine too, but it isn't something I'd worry about for your first few shows.  Just basic preparation can be pretty pricey, and that's money you can hold on to for later.

  

A Receipt Book--Even though not everyone wants a receipt, I highly recommend you keep a receipt book to track what you sell, even if your customer doesn't want to take the receipt.  It makes it easier to spot trends in what you sell, you have a record of what you need to replace in your inventory, and it helps you keep your money accounted for.  I write paper receipts even when I use my credit card reader, so that I can keep myself organized.  During slow moments, I definitely suggest going over your sales up to that point, and verifying that your money matches your books, especially if you've just had a busy spell.  I actually have two, because I misplaced that bigger one a few times.  I keep the small one under the tray in my cash box, but I take the bigger one in case I run out of receipts in the smaller one.  I bought both at CVS.



Business Cards--Self-promotion is key!  People will nearly always take a business card, even if they don't buy something, and you never know when one of those people might call for a custom order, or visit your website.  That is my actual business card pictured above, and the design was pre-fabricated.  I ordered all of my promotional material from Vistaprint and I highly recommend it to anyone!  They have lots of pre-fabricated designs to choose from, and it's really easy to create everything you need.  In addition, you can upload designs if you already have a logo.  Their prices are very reasonable, and they often hold sales.  As a bonus, if you're a fan of Groupon, sometimes you can happen upon sales for Vistaprint there as well.  I also want to mention that their customer service is VERY good.  I had a problem with a banner I ordered, and received another one, completely free of charge including shipping, two days after I called.  The thing I like the most though, is how easy it is to change things if you need to, and how cost effective it is to order more.  I've changed a few things on my business card, and while i will continue to use them until they run out, it's nice to know that I don't have to go through a lot of extra work to make changes; literally just erase a line and type in the new information.

Those are the things you simply must have at any craft show you do.  While I'm not saying this is all you have to take at each and every show, these are definitely the bare-bones necessities, and you will find that no matter how much you add to your display, you will always need to have these things with you, even 50 shows down the line.

Product Details
I want to add one more thing, even though it isn't exactly an absolute necessity.  If you are doing an outdoor show, however, you will more than likely need a tent.  Vendor applications for outdoor shows generally require a 10x10 E-Z Up-style tent, and those that specify a color, in my experience, will ask for white.  E-Z Up is a brand name, and I do actually have a White E-Z Up tent, although I didn't buy it from their website (I got mine from Amazon...I just LOVE Amazon!).  The tent above is the model I have, but there are various models to choose from.  Fair warning, a tent is a SERIOUS expense, so prepare yourself.  My first outdoor show I actually shared with someone who had borrowed a tent from a neighbor.  I believe that a few shows will allow you to rent a tent, but I haven't seen many applications like that. All the applications I've seen state that you must provide your own tent.  Also keep in mind that If you're doing an outdoor show with a tent, they may also require you to have tent weights (they will often specify how much weight per tent post.)  Tent weights can be purchased or made, and a simple Google search of ' making tent weights' will bring up links to purchase as well as how to make them.

I take FAR more than this to shows, and these items are what I referred to earlier as 'subtle nuances.'  Depending on your craft, you may not need what I take, or you may need something different, but tomorrow we'll go over some checklists and the extras that really set your booth apart, as well as the importance of taking booth shots, and a topic that plagues me nearly every show: "Display Envy."

Have a good night, and Hook it Up!

Camielle