Thursday, May 28, 2009

Etsy Knitters and Crocheters on Parade

One of seven children, Diantha Ross, of Fluff 4 Ewe, is a 14 year old homeschool student from a very talented and industrious family. Her mom (Nikki), sister and father all have shops on Etsy. She likes to quilt among so many other things. Her shop is full of the most gorgeous yarns and batts, and I WILL have to order that Fun in the Sun and Raspberry Caramel Cheesecake. But, if her shop were a physical place and not virtual, I would not be able to leave without spending a fortune. I wouldn't be able to take my hands off all that wonderful fiber. So, let's listen to her answers to my questions.

When did you first start to learn to spin and why?

January, this year, Mom and Des (my older sister) were doing it and I thought it would be fun.

Do you knit or crochet, and do you prefer spinning over these?

I Knit. I Like to spin, because it's kinda calming and I don't have to think about it too much. But I like to Knit just as much as I do spinning.

You are homeschooled, what is your favorite subject and why?

anything where I have to read, (But Not MATH!!!!) I Love to read, I get it from my Mom and Des. I'd like to go on to forensics, so I need to focus on science.

Do you see fiber art and owning a shop as an important part of your education, or do you just enjoy it so much that you would do it anyway?

I think that it is an important part of my education, because I can get a bunch of credits, But I also enjoy it very much.

Do you see fiber art as something you will want to continue after completing your education?

Yes, I don't think I'll ever stop doing it.

What are your goals for your shop?

to make beautiful things that people can use for their own crafts, and to run a small business well.

What inspires you the most?

color, the feel of the fiber, nature, just about anything really, and knowing that I can make something really nice that makes people happy, and can make something great out of it!

Diantha also added, "It is very useful to know how to do those things, it's Wonderful! you can make WAY more beautiful yarns than you can buy at the store. It's a fun, great way to pass time if you're bored, and I think anybody can do it!"

I dare you all to go to her shop and not come out with something.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Etsy Knitters and Crocheters on Parade

The spotlight this week is on Elena Shulman of Passion Knits. I think the name of her shop tells a lot about Elena. She has a passion for knitting and for fiber. Her shop is full of bright, gorgeous, creative items that just make you want to reach into the computer and touch them. The colors are beautiful also. I would love to have many of them, but my favorites are the knitted bracelets. My first contact with Elena was in the Etsy Knitters Street Team, but we have had a lot of fun getting to know each other in Spanish. She twittered in Spanish, and I answered one day. We've had a lot of fun, though I know I made a lot of mistakes since it's been several years since I've really studied and my dictionary is packed. She never points them out to me though and keeps on twittering. So here are her answers to my questions in English:

Do you have a day job? If so, what do you do?

I usually do have a day job: my profession is speech-language pathology, and for quite awhile now I have worked in our school district doing Spanish-English bilingual language evaluations with preschool thru high school-aged kids who are referred as having possible language difficulties. I took this school year off, though, so I have had lots of extra time for knitting, which has been wonderful! Oh -- my other day (and night) job is raising my two daughters, which is the toughest, most frustrating, most incredibly fabulous work of my lifetime!

When and how did you learn to knit?

I learned to knit 20 years ago this month. (My goodness, time flies!) I had been shown how to knit twice before that, but didn't take to it. This time, I was going on a three month cross-country RV trip with my now-husband. Before leaving, I mentioned to my mother-in-law that I might get bored after awhile when it wasn't my turn to drive. She suggested knitting, and sat me down with needles, yarn, and a sweater pattern. She also sent me off on my trip with a big book of knitting, which luckily included info on how to fix mistakes! I worked all summer on that sweater, finished it, and actually wore the sorry thing a couple times! (I'm sure you can imagine: uneven tension, lopsided...) After that, though, I was hooked, and I've been knitting ever since.

In the favorite materials section of your shop bio, you listed Rosewood and bamboo knitting needles. What about them appeals to you?

Again, it was my mother-in-law who introduced me to wooden needles, and I have been so grateful. First, the sustainability of bamboo appeals to me. Second, I just love the way wooden needles feel in my hands, particularly the rosewood. They are so smooth, and I find that yarn slides so easily on them. I also love the rich color of the rosewood; for me it just adds to the aesthetic and the incomparable tactile experience of knitting.

Do you have other venues for selling your creations other than your Etsy shop?

Etsy is actually the newest place for me to sell knit pieces; I just set up shop a few months ago. I started selling about eight years ago, sort of inadvertently! A friend of mine had been looking for a scarf for her daughter at holiday time, and couldn't find anything she felt was special. So she asked me if I would knit a scarf for her. Believe it or not, it was the first scarf I had ever knit; prior to that, I had always done clothing. I was actually nervous, because it was something I didn't have any experience with! After that, my friend asked for another one, and then a second friend decided it was a great idea and asked me to make a scarf for her mother....from there, it just took off. For a long time, most of my selling was word-of-mouth.

I still do a lot of custom orders, but I have branched out in more recent years. I have sold at some local craft fairs, participate in home shows, and have pieces on a regular basis in two local, really fun boutique stores. One of them sells nothing but artists' work, both local and national!

When you begin to knit, do you already have your creation in your mind, or do you just go where the needles take you?

I would say some of both. Sometimes I am pretty certain of what I want to create, and other times the idea is more hazy and evolves with the piece. At times, particularly with scarves, all I know is which yarns I want to combine. I just cast on, and see what happens from there. For me, the surprise of what something turns into is part of the fun of knitting!

I have a suspicion that (like me) when Elena visits a yarn shop keeps petting and pawing and fingering all the yarn. Elena's shop has some scarves and bracelets that I think look like cotton candy.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Etsy Knitters and Crocheters on Parade

This week the spotlight is on Tracey Lord of Cheese at Four Pence. It's been many years since I was in London, and I didn't know her then, but I wish that I had known and looked her up. We could have had a cuppa and knitted with the pigeons in Trafalgar Square. Tracey lives in the U.K. where she turns out the cutest little pixie hats and little people knits. These luring creations are available at Cheese at Four Pence on Etsy in cotton that is so comfortable for delicate skin of little ones. But, let Tracey tell you herself:

Being a teacher, do you find enough time for knitting?

As a teacher, no, I have to say, I don't find anywhere near enough time for my knitting but I after 6 years of teaching literacy to students with learning difficulties I am set to have a change in job role for September, which should ease things up a bit: I have been given my own brand new fashion and textiles department to run, with a graduate degree programme. So I guess my life should all tie together a bit more closely once I'm back teaching textiles again at last!

Do you currently have venues other than your Etsy shop for selling your creations?

I sell on Folksy as well as Etsy at the moment ( - Folksy is a UK version of Etsy. Etsy is not so well-known in the UK yet. I also have some of my work in a small designer kids' clothes shop in West London (which I used to be a partner in.) I plan to set my own website up this summer ready for the winter rush. I love selling on the web, it's so personal - especially the direct contact you have with customers, and the support of groups I belong to like Etsyknitters Team. It's been a revelation to me and I wish I had started web selling years ago.

Do you design differently for different markets, such as outside the U.K.? If so, how and why?

I would say I don't really design that differently for different markets: but I have observed that some designs sell much better in some countries than others - I always sold retro/ironic styles really well to Japan for years before the UK/US really 'got' that look, and I sold the brightest colourschemes to Germany and Denmark. I would like to think that most of my work would appeal across the oceans, though!

Do you think that machine knitting saves time on smaller items?

I do still love hand knitting but found when I had a shop that it was not really viable for me to make a living. When I was at university, though, I did more hand knitting than machine knitting and I still always have a project on the go for myself on the needles (well, several to be honest, as I have terrible startitis...) Machine knitting speeds up the more tedious, plain knit pieces, I find, so that I can spend more time on the details: embellishing by knitting in extra bits, adding a tassel here or there, embroidering or crocheting trims: I still love the hands-on fiddly stuff, that's where the fun lies. You can do all kinds of fiddling about on the machine; people perceive it to be less interesting than handknitting, but it's just a different way of working, like knit v crochet really.

What is the inspiration behind your pixie hats?

My pixie hats came about after I found an old book at my mum's that I loved as a child, which was about the circus. There was a lovely big top tent in it and I came up with a hat shape based on it. The trims are I think from the little drums that the seals in the book stood on while they clapped! I may have had a dream about this book as well, so I think it was well-loved.

If you could quit your day job, what aspect of your art would you concentrate on?

If I could quit my day job I think I would concentrate on developing my patterns for others to use: I have always wanted to do a book one day. I never made the most of the fact that Rowan sponsored my degree collection, I regret letting that link go. I would also love more time to paint.

What goals do you have for your Etsy shop?

I hope my Etsy shop will be full of fun and inspiring accessories and clothes for all, over the next few months: I've got a head bursting with ideas for bags, gloves, scarves, socks, cushions, blankets....... and I can't wait to get started on them!

I can't wait to see what new items arrive in Cheese at Four Pence. My current personal favorite is the Potato Patch Beanie.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Etsy Knitters and Crocheters on Parade

I am starting a series of blog posts that I think will be great fun for me and of great interest to all of us. I'm going to pick other knitter's and crocheter's shops and spotlight them on my blog. If you would like to have yours spotlighted, contact me. My first post is an interview with Celeste Myers. Her boutique is the colorful and always creative CRICKETS CREATIONS.

My first contact with Celeste came about three weeks after I opened my shop on Etsy. I still hadn't had a sale and was trying to find out how on earth to get people into my shop. She had just had her beautiful green scarf featured in "Better Homes and Gardens" and it was almost always on the first page of the knitting listings. Being so knew, I still didn't know that you had to re-list to do that. She didn't know me from Eve, but being the jump-in-with-both-feet kind of person that I am, I just sent her a convo asking her how to do that. I know she must have giggled as she sent me a thread that she had posted in the forums about re-listing. She was very kind and informative, and we have been friends ever since. She has always been willing to share her experience and business sense with me and anyone else that might ask. So here is my interview with her about her talent, inspiration and very successful shop.

When did you first learn to knit?

I took an elective class when I was eight years old. From there, I studied knitting books and tried out patterns. Now I design all my own work and have tons of fun getting really creative!

When did you make your first scarf and why?

My muse, inspiration & support is my husband, Nicky. I made my very first scarf for him (see that first scarf, modeled by Nicky here). He loved it so much that he said, "You could sell these and people would love 'em!" And since that time in August 2007 this has become my full-time career, so I guess he was right. :) You can see some of our wedding pics (we’re newlyweds!) here.

What inspired you to begin making Fringies yarn photo props?

It's kind of funny how it all went down! :) I love to "get a little crazy" with the fringe for the scarves I design and create. To me, the fringe is the playful part of the scarf that dances when we move and I like to go all out with the fringe.

So, one day Bonnie Grist Johnson of Still Time Photography contacts me and asks me to make a scarf that's ALL fringe to use as a photo prop with women and girls; I was delighted! I made her my very first Rainbow Fringe-O-Rama...shortly thereafter another photog pro asked for a Bohemian Fringe-O-Rama...and I was on a roll!

Then another stroke of genius came from Jane Eaton Hamilton of Jane Photo when she asked me to make her a Rainbow Fringe-O-Rama in a blanket shape. I cranked my poor, little brain and measured and fretted and the Fringie yarn photo prop was born (see that very first custom request here and here)! Thank you, thank you, Jane!

What motivated you to move in the direction of fiber experimentation?

I love to play with texture and color, and will use up to 50 different yarns in a single scarf or Fringie. I often start with a special request to match a backdrop, outfit or some other purpose and then just start pulling out yarns and pulling out yarns that I think will add dynamic depth and texture and interest and contrast and....all of a sudden I've got a new piece that I’m proud of!

Has your style evolved since becoming a fiber artist?

Hmmmm…from the outside, it may look as though my style has evolved, because I’m continually launching new design lines, such as my See Through Lightweights and Fringe-O-Rama Scarves. Really, though, it’s more like the designs are already there, just waiting to be plucked from the ether and brought to fruition. It’s very fulfilling to facilitate a piece in its journey from idea to reality.

You once said that taking better pictures was the biggest step in your success on Etsy. What was the second?

I think a close second has been how very prolific I am. I now offer 200+ designs in my shop…and there are a lot more in my head that are waiting to be given life!

In addition to creating new designs at least weekly, I typically make 2-3 scarves a night (and 2-5 Fringies during the day) to restock my inventory, whether for custom orders, special requests from the many retailers I supply, to sell online or getting ready for craft fairs & expos.

How do you promote & find so many customers who love your work?

My online boutique is how most of my customers find me.

There’s also:
my blog and Flickr

The ways that I’ve been able to "go pro" and be so successful are to have fun, create a quality product, and cherish the customers I work for and with. It’s been a blast and I appreciate the opportunity! I so enjoy the chance to interact with my customers and get to know them as people or even friends. If you’re a professional crafter, too, please let me know if I can offer support or advice on how to succeed.

Isn't that just like her always helpful?

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Book Project

I've decided to accept an invitation from a book publisher to submit some items, since I've heard from a fellow Etsy knitter that they are legitimate. As usual, it took me days to make something gel in my mind that would work for them and that I could write down so that someone else could understand it. So, I will post the project as I go. This one will be short and sweet. This yarn and buttons were my inspiration.

I've also decided that one of the most interesting things I could talk about would be other Etsy knitter's shops and items. So every week, Lord willing, I will pick a knitter's shop and blog about it. Some will be on the street team and some won't. I already have in mind which will be the first one. But, after the first one, I want to start with those that have 20 sales or less and work up.