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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