Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Pricing Handmade: An Inside Look

I have been asked over the years where on earth I came up with my prices.  Some questions come from other crafters and sellers, but mainly it is customers and potential customers that ask this question.  Some ask from the point of view that my prices are too low; others think they are too high.  This is my attempt to present my answer to these questions in a way that is easily understood by all.

First off there is this ‘formula’ that hand crafters are supposed to use that goes something like this:

Materials + Labor + Expenses + Profit = Wholesale Price

Wholesale Price x 2 = Retail Price

There are a slew of things that can be factored into labor, materials and expenses and I am not here to break that down for anyone, as that would be a whole different post in and of itself.  For seller’s this is the short answer and there are many other articles out there that can help you figure out what you should be paying yourself, what expenses to include and exactly which materials to count and maybe in some cases not count.

For my example I will use two sets of dishcloths that I currently have listed in my Etsy shop.  A set of two green dishcloths and a set of two white dishcloths.

2012-09-11_11-27-14_958            245

For all intents and purposes both of these sets have TWO solid color dishcloths, but the price is different.  The green set is $7.00 and the white set is $7.50.  WHY?  They are both made of cotton yarn, and the yarn cost is the same per skein (ball).  So the answer to why the price difference is:  The stitch pattern I used for the green set takes less yarn and less time to make. 

So why do I make dishcloths using two different stitch patterns and offer both??  People like both, it’s that simple.  Some prefer the thinner smoother texture of the green ones, while others prefer the nubby thicker texture of the white ones.  Is one better than the other?  The answer to that is:  it depends on the person using them. 

Now let’s move on to the other questions I’ve been asked about pricing, still using these dishcloths as the example.

Why do you charge that much for just two of them, I can buy 12 washcloths at Walmart for less than $5.00?  My response to that question is:  The ones I make are thicker and last longer.  They are a better quality and in the long run you will have saved money.  The thing I usually do not say unless really pressed is that it takes me about 45 minutes to an hour to make two washcloths, I am not a factory nor am I a machine.  I prefer to provide a quality product and can not, more importantly will not, compete with large chain-store pricing.

Some of those people that have pushed me, and that have gotten that response feel that I am being rude and have said so.  I don’t feel that it is rude for me to answer the question as honestly as I can.  I would never ask my hair stylist to dye my hair for $8.00 because I can go to the store and get hair dye for that price.

And finally, for those that think my prices are too low.  Yes, yes I have been told several times (more than they are too high) that my prices are too low; by other crocheters and potential customers alike.  I have been asked if it is because I either

  • buy my yarn wholesale,
  • buy materials that are cheap or substandard or
  • crochet lightening fast. 

I do not buy my yarn wholesale, nor do I buy cheap quality yarns; but I do crochet faster than most.  But, the main reason I set my prices where I do is because I do not pay myself the $20 an hour that someone of my skill level would earn in the job force, and I will get to that in a moment.

The main reason I do not buy my yarns wholesale is that I like to look at and feel every single skein (ball) of yarn before I buy.  I will not buy yarn that is not dyed evenly, or that is not evenly textured; I consider these deficiencies in a skein of yarn to be substandard and the yarn unusable.  I will also not buy any yarn that I find to be scratchy or rough.  The quality of the yarns I use does affect the overall price of the items I make.

Now, let’s talk about how much I pay myself.  This is a sticky subject for many.  I personally do not have a set hourly rate that I pay myself, but I can assure you it is no where near the industry standard of $20 an hour or more that hand crafters are supposed to be paid.  Why?

It is not because I do not value my work, nor is it because I do not produce quality items made with quality materials.  It mainly has to do with the fact that I want to make products that most people can easily afford to buy.  Some stitch patterns are more difficult, require more time and concentration than others.  That being the case is why I pay myself at different hourly rates for different projects and project types. 

Using the formula above and the green dishcloths above, if I paid myself $20/hour to make those the price would start at $15 and go up from there to include the materials, expenses and a profit; then multiply that by two to get the retail price.  That would mean that I’d be asking more than $35 for a set of two dishcloths and there is just no way in this world that I can wrap my mind around asking for that much for two dishcloths unless they wash the dishes by themselves!

With all that I’ve said already I will wrap this post up with this…

I set my prices in such a way that most people should be able to afford my items without going broke to do so.  If I use the formula above and end up with a price that is ridiculously high, I lower it.  If I use the formula above and come up with a price that is ridiculously low (which almost never happens lol) then I re-do my math.

Handmade items take a lot of time to design and make, and the experience to make a product that does what it is intended to do, but this is not my get rich quick scheme.  My prices are higher than some and lower than some, but I feel they are fair for most.

When buying handmade there are a few things to look for in pricing to help you make a good choice as to who’s items to buy.  I hope that my explanations here will help you make your choices in the future!

I’d love to hear your thoughts, comments and questions on this subject!

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Students from 1995 Prophetically Describe the Future of the Internet

These kids from 1995 had it right!  Just ten years after they made this PSA Cyber Monday, the biggest online shopping day of the year for many became a reality!  I’d love for them to get all these kids back together now and give their thoughts on this PSA.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Handmade vs Homemade

I recently was involved in a discussion about the perception people have of handmade items.  Some people recognize the time, quality, individuality and uniqueness of handmade items and artwork; while others apparently think it means cheap homemade junk. 

Far too often I see the words handmade and homemade being used synonymously. So what really is the difference between handmade and homemade? Homemade refers to an item that is made at home, while handmade refers to an item that is made by hand. Many items that are homemade are by nature also handmade since most home crafters do not have the machinery to produce the item in any way other than by hand.  Handmade items are simply just that; made by hand.  However, handmade items are not always made in a home, there are factories where many people work making things by hand without the aid of machinery.

There was a time in this country when most women, and some men, made all their clothing, bed coverings and sheets, dish towels and more by hand at home.  This wasn’t done because they had all the time in the world to sit around making things for a hobby.  Most of the people that wore handmade items, did so because they couldn’t afford the store bought things, thus having to make their own at home.

Many people in my generation grew up with a grandmother or two that fell into that category of having to make every stitch of clothing their kids wore.  As their kids got older and moved away they could then turn to making nicer things for the home, and even though the items moved from being a necessity to being a decoration they still carried that ‘homemade’ connotation.

An item classified as handmade often carries with it the association of an item that is carefully hand crafted by an artisan with such care that its quality and style surpasses a machine made item of the same type.  While an item classified as homemade usually brings to mind amateur, low quality work and materials. 

This way of thinking was brought on, like I mentioned above, back when people that had very little money had to make their things at home.  It didn’t mean that their workmanship was always of poor quality, but that maybe the materials they could afford were of a lessor quality than store bought items.

I have been crocheting for over 30 years, I learned my very first stitches at the age of 7 and for the next two years each of my grandmothers worked very hard teaching me.  Not only were they teaching me stitches, but they also taught me how to choose my yarns and how to design patterns, while I taught them patience.  Neither of them taught me to read crochet patterns and for many years I just made things up as I went along.

My grandmothers did not teach me a sub-standard way to prevent getting cold in the winter by making a blanket the cheapest, fastest way possible.  They both told me how when their kids were growing up they had to make what they could out of whatever material they could get, and both taught me to never slack on quality or to rush through a project.  They told me I was lucky enough to not have to; so do it right and make all my projects with quality stitches and materials and to make each one as if it were my masterpiece.

Although I personally hand make each of my items at home they are not cheaply made with poor quality yarns.  Each item I make has all my years of experience in the art form of crochet itself, plus my years of experience in working with fibers and yarns, designing various items and the perfection that I hold myself to.  My grandmothers would have it no other way!

Because of all the work I’ve put into learning my craft, learning to choose the best materials and the best stitches to work with, I do get a little snobby when someone looks at my work and describes it as ‘just homemade’.  It is the perception that the word homemade brings with it that raises my hackles.

In the course of the discussion that prompted this post, another woman stated that she has been told things like “I could just get my grandma to make that for a whole lot less money than you want for it”.  While that is true in so many cases with things that are handmade, the person making a statement like that has no idea of the time, effort, energy and love that their grandma will put into each and every stitch of the item.  When a person buys a handmade item they need to think about the time spent in making that item and the time the person making it has spent learning to produce an item that far surpasses the quality of anything that can be made by machine.

The next time you are browsing handmade items or have been gifted an item made by someone by hand… think to yourself about the difference between the perception of handmade quality and the word homemade.  Appreciate it!

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Friday, November 2, 2012

Off The Hook: New Designs

I have been working on some new designs and pieces to add to the Etsy Shop

If you see something you like in my sneak peeks here and on facebook and want to buy it before I list it on Etsy just let me know.  If you want custom colors or items for Christmas, get your requests and orders in soon, as it is looking like I will not be able to accept ALL custom orders this year, spaces are filling up quickly!

A few of these are one of a kind items or sets like these:


The light sage hat and scarf will be sold as a set.  This is a one of a kind set that I will not be repeating due to not being able to get that particular yarn anymore.

The dark sage cowl and leg warmers will be sold separately, but will also not be made again.

The yarn I used for these four items is by far one of my favorite yarns to work with, as it produces such soft and beautiful pieces.  I was very sad to see it discontinued!  I can make more pieces using these same patterns, however I have yet to find another yarn that drapes this wonderfully.

Most of the new items coming out are repeatable items, and customizable as well.  See one you like and want it in a different color… not a problem, just let me know!


In the above picture the green scarf and boot cuffs will be sold separately but are made using the same stitch pattern so would make a great set, they are made with 100% cotton.  The multi-color brown scarflette in the bottom left is a one of a kind item!  I made that with some synthetic mohair and acrylic yarn, a strand of each held together.  I love the synthetic mohair and have made tons of things over the years with it but it too, has been discontinued. 

These items will be listed on Etsy in the next week.  Check in often for new items as I get the shop ready for Black Friday and Cyber Monday shopping events!

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Black Friday and Cyber Monday SEO Tips

This post and tips are geared toward Etsy Shops, and the Etsy website specifically.  With everyone out and about the day after Thanksgiving, traditionally known as Black Friday, and the Monday after Black Friday has been coined as Cyber Monday.  Etsy Shop Owners want to cash in on some of the spending that is going on.

Black Friday is called this because it is the day the retailers drop their prices to attempt to go into the ‘black’ accounting wise; shoppers take advantage of this to get their Christmas gifts all bought at bottom dollar prices.

Cyber Monday is the big day that most online only retailers have that huge surge in sales that brick and mortar stores experience on Black Friday.  Cyber Monday is a fairly new, seven years old, marketing term used the Monday after Black Friday to convince people to shop online.

As a small retailer on Etsy it is hard to imagine dropping your prices so low that you could then go into the ‘black’; it seems kind of backwards when you view the idea on a smaller level.  You don’t have to drop your prices so low that you are making no profit, just enough to get the shoppers to buy from you.  One way to offer a special and increase your profits during these two big shopping days is to offer free shipping for anyone that spends a certain amount or more in your shop.

But first, you have to get those shoppers into your store before you can turn then into customers.

There are several ways in which you can do this, obviously marketing and advertising play a key factor…  So what ever specials or sales you are running, if you have specific items that make great Christmas gifts, or whatever your niche is; get on the social networking platforms and let people know. 

You also want to make sure that all those people that are searching and browsing for YOUR specific items can find you, and here are a few ways to make that happen:

1.  Publish your Black Friday and Cyber Monday Content Early.  Look at the larger retailers, they start to advertise their Black Friday Sales and Specials a couple weeks to a month in advance.  Set a plan for your Etsy Shop Sales and Specials for that day then start sending it out.  Make sure to include links to your shop, sections of your shop and individual items when you do so that you can get a little ahead of the SEO game just from your promotions.

2.  Use images.  Images make online shopping easier as they grab the shoppers attention.  Use alt tags for your images that are optimized to Black Friday related keywords.

3.  Research your keywords on Etsy and Google Suggest.  Try various combinations.  Start with the words Black Friday then your own main keyword.  An example of this would be if you are selling hats, then type in Black Friday Hats or Cyber Monday Hats and see what suggestions you get.  Change your tags and keywords to fit what people are actually looking for.

4.  Look at Google’s ‘Searches related to’ at the bottom of Google Search Results.  What else is there that you could use?  Think like a shopper.  Type in keywords and phrases that you think shoppers looking for your items would type, see what comes up.  Do this in the Etsy Search also.

5.  Use the year and/or Thanksgiving.  Some people say this is a good idea, some think it is a waste of time.  Use the above (#3 and #4) suggestions and add the year or the word Thanksgiving and see what you come up with it.  In your specific categories it may not be needed.  Also, consider using the words Black Friday, Black Friday Sale, Black Friday Special (or any combination of Cyber Monday, Black Friday and sale or special) followed by your main keyword and see what you find. 

6.  Use the keywords and phrases that you have found to be most relevant for your shop and items in your pre-Black Friday and Cyber Monday Marketing and Content.  Change your headers, descriptions, tags and keywords for those two days to attract the online shopping crowd that searches specifically for Black Friday and/or Cyber Monday sales events.

All of this may seem like a lot of work, and well it is time consuming.  But, the whole point is that you want people to spend money in your shop and they can not do that if they can not find you.  No one else will be doing this for you, so start planning now to spend a few minutes to an hour a day preparing your shop, your listings, your tags, promotional copy and marketing strategies to ensure that YOUR customers find you!

There is a good checklist at SlingshotSEO that you can tailor then use for your Etsy shop.  A few of their suggestions are geared towards larger sites or retailers with their own sites, but many of the things can be used for your Etsy shop too.  Take a look at their checklist HERE.

I welcome any questions or comments that you have!  Let others know, in the comments below, what has worked for you, what hasn’t worked for you or if you are a shopper let us know what you are looking for and what you want to see on Black Friday and Cyber Monday!




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Friday, September 28, 2012

Christian Meditation

"Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy--meditate on these things." (Ph 4:8)

Christian meditation dwells on what has already been revealed in creation or inspired revelation.  Whereas other forms of meditation are seeking some new truth to be revealed.  It is very important to not confuse the two.  The purpose of Christian Meditation is to nourish man with an understanding of God and His Revealed Will (not to seek for some previously unrevealed truth), and to give man spiritual joy and strength through such nourishment (cf. Ps 1:1-3; Is 40:28-31).  This nourishment is spoken of by Jesus, when tempted by Satan:  “It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.’” (Matt 4:4)

We should reflect upon God’s Word in a thoughtful way, appropriate its truths personally and apply them to our life.  Below are some examples of meditation in the Bible.

Isaac meditated in the field at eventide - Gen 24:63

Joshua was charged by God to mediate "day and night" - Josh 1:8

The "blessed man" in Psalms 1 is one who meditates - Ps 1:1-2

David became wiser than his teachers through meditation - Ps 119:99

Paul commanded Timothy to "meditate on these things" - 1 Ti 4:15

Sample routine for meditation

  • Choose a place that is quiet and free from distractions.
  • Choose a time that will allow you to not be or feel rushed.
  • Wear comfortable clothing.
  • Pray prior to your meditation, perhaps also read a passage from the Bible to give you a focus for your meditation.
  • Do 6 to 8 rounds of Regular Breathing (breathe in counting to 6, hold to a count of 6, breathe out counting to 6).
  • Relax your mind and open all thoughts to Jesus.
  • Meditate for 10 to 15 minutes (this time can be increased or decreased based on personal preference).
  • Do stretching and any other form of exercise that you do daily.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Sneak Peek

Here is a peek at some new fall items coming soon to my Etsy Shop!



     Purple Ear Warmers


Tan Ear Warmers


Turquoise Ear Warmers


White Wrap Scarf


Purple Wrap Scarf


Pink Beanie Skullcap


Grey Beanie Skullcap


Dark Blue Beanie Skullcap


Dark Blue Beanie Skullcap worn as a beret


Pink Beanie Skullcap with Black Stripe


Brown Beanie Skullcap


The beanie skullcaps can be worn in a variety of styles, and are one size fits most… ranging from child to adult.  I have several colors of the beanie skullcaps already done and these can be ordered in almost any color! 

I have a few of the ear warmers made in other colors as well, the ear warmers are adjustable and can be ordered in many colors.

I’m working on more wrap scarves and only have the white and purple ones finished as of now.  These can be ordered in various colors.

I hope you have enjoyed this sneak peek as to what is coming for fall!!

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Off the Hook: Hat Donation

So, a friend and I were talking about a month ago and she mentioned that she was making crochet scarves for a mission trip some members of her church are taking to Israel.  I asked why they were taking scarves with them and was really confused about the whole thing until she said they were visiting an orphanage while there.  So, me being me, I opened my big mouth and said HEY why don’t I make hats to send… this without finding out when they are going exactly or how many kids are in need LOL 

After much talking about this and looking up what the current fashion trends are, I then decided that I could make hats to MATCH the scarves she is making.  That set us into about 3 days of looking for yarn and coordinated yarn shopping (that spanned two states), which was totally fun! 

We decided on Caron Simply Soft yarn, because it is warm and soft and not too bulky.

Although, I dare say neither of us needed more yarn in our stash     Secret telling smile

Just home from shopping and I was so excited to get started I made this hat right away.

yarn shopping

Now a few weeks later I have about 20 hats done, not as many as I had hoped but I am pacing myself.  I found out I don’t have the hats mailed out to her until about the middle of October! 

Here are a few of the ones I have done so far.

2012-09-03_16-24-05_794 (1)

I think I will be making some of these beanie style hats for my Etsy Shop too.  They would make great gifts and stocking stuffers for Christmas!

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Dead Sea Salt

Dead Sea Salt has been used by many people throughout history for many reasons, ranging from cosmetic to medicinal.  Many people in today’s world still visit the Dead Sea for therapeutic reasons and use bath salts and other products made with salt from the Dead Sea. 
Dr. Sanjay Gupta reports on the curing power of Dead Sea baths and its therapeutic effects.
There are many benefits of using Dead Sea Bath Salts and Soaks, I found a good list of those benefits on HealthGuidance.org, in the article The Benefits of Dead Sea Salt.
• It is more effective in cleaning and exfoliating the skin as compared to most soap products.
• It gets rids of toxins from the skin and helps in good blood circulation.
• It gets rid of dead skin cells, cleans skin pores and helps in skin regeneration.
• It helps firm up skin tissues and strengthens these against infections.
• It helps eliminate aches and body pains, making the body more relaxed.
• It helps in treating skin ailments such as eczema and psoriasis and lessens inflammation of dry skin.
• It helps relieve muscle tension, lessens stress and anxiety.
Overall the good benefits of using Dead Sea salts lead to a more rejuvenated and healthy looking skin.

The bath salt soaks that I make are a mixture of Dead Sea Salt and mineral salt (commonly referred to as Epsom Salts) with a blend of eucalyptus and mint oils.  If you are interested in trying a Dead Sea Salt Bath Soak take a look at the ones I make:
Eucalyptus Mint Salts4 

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Off the Hook: Boot Cuffs

I decided I wanted to crochet some boot cuffs, since for the first time in years I am living in an area that actually has winter cold enough to wear boots.  I searched around online looking for patterns, and of course like always… didn’t find anything that really appealed to what I wanted. 
I wanted a simple look, that was tight enough to stay put but yet bulky enough to keep my leg warm where the top of the boot is (I have bird legs so there is always a gap there that gets filled with snow and cold air lol).
Here’s what I came up with on my first try.  I think they will do and I also think this is a concept I’m going to be trying in various textures and patterns!
chenille sage 5  chenille sage 3
I made this pair with a little Lion Brand thin Chenille yarn that I had in my stash.  The color is sage.  I think this is a discontinued yarn, but I’m going to look for some more in other colors because the texture of it worked out great for these boot cuffs!
chenille sage 1
Once I get more of these made I will be adding them to my Etsy Shop… these can be custom ordered as well, just let me know what color you would like.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Something for Everyone

Stop by our newly curated treasury on Etsy... there really is something for everyone listed in this one :)

Click on your favorites and check out the other items in those shops!

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Is Your Skin Ready for Summer?

Spring is on it's way and many of us have finished or at least started our spring cleaning chores around the house. But what about your skin? Is it ready for summer? After winter months of reduced exposure to fresh air and sun, with increased exposure to dry indoor heat and lighting our skin needs a spring cleaning all its own.

It is very tempting to get in the bathroom on a weekend and spend a couple hours exfoliating and scrubbing trying to remove all the dead skin cells that have built up. DON'T DO IT! Too much exfoliation or being too harsh will only damage your skin. Overdoing it will leave your skin inflamed, irritated and dull looking.

For a very gentle body and face scrub that you can make on your own, in your kitchen try my recipe:

Brown sugar scrub:

2 cups brown sugar (lightly packed)

1/4 cup olive oil

1/4 cup Almond Oil

1/4 cup honey

Just mix the ingredients together until all of the brown sugar is moist and store in a closeable container. I don’t refrigerate this recipe because I use it up before it could possibly go bad, but if you aren't going to use that much of it you can either cut all the ingredients in half or store it in the fridge between uses.  You may have to stir the scrub before you use it each time.

To use this scrub wet your skin and using your fingertips in a circular motion gently and evenly massage the scrub over your skin, then leave on for about five minutes and rinse off. I use this scrub about twice a week in the spring and can usually taper off to once a week in summer; but all skin was not created equal so you may need to use it more or less than I do. This scrub is great for all over body use, especially if you have dry skin!

You do not have to use the Olive Oil or the Almond Oil, you can use a 1/2 cup of just one of the oils. You can also substitute either of the oils for whatever oil you'd like, I use and recommend Olive and Almond because they are great for the skin and leave skin very soft and supple. You may also leave out the honey, I use it because of it's benefit to the skin and it's antibacterial properties.

You may not like the sugar scrub if have really oily skin. A Sea Salt scrub may be more up your alley because even though it still contains oil the sea salt scrub will not leave your skin feeling greasy. I use a few of the recipes from here: Homemade Salt Scrub.  My skin is combination skin so about once a month I use the salt rather than the sugar. Sea Salt scrubs tend to dry my skin out too much, but I like the detoxifying effects. The link to the Homemade Salt Scrub article has several recipes and tips for using salt scrubs.

I find that my skin is irritated sometimes for whatever reason and at those times I use an Oatmeal Facemask. This article has three different recipes; one for oily skin, one for acne prone skin, and one for dry skin that can be used as a scrub also. I have used all three of these recipes at various times and love them!

Remember with all scrubs do not rub too hard and take off layers of healthy skin!  Use your fingers and not a wash cloth to gently slough off the dry dead skin cells that are keeping your skin from being radiant.  Regardless of which recipe you need for your skin you should have your skin in shape for those flip-flops and shorts in no time!