Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Interview with Lex of WhattheCraft.com

Last week I shared a blog post by Lex of Smarmy Clothes titled, Why is Buying Handmade so Expensive. That article brought tons of views to Whatthecraft.com and has been shared with millions of people around the world. Actually that is where I first found out about Smarmy, over a year ago I was shopping for woven tags and stumbled upon What The Craft where Lex herself shares over 50+ tutorials, sellers resources, tips and tricks, and so much more. I love her style, her attitude, and the fact that she is willing to share all of "secrets" that she has picked up along the way.

Upcycled Sweater Dress
-Tell us a little about your biz, website, and any other projects you're involved in
I've been selling handmade clothing and accessories on my website, SmarmyClothes.com since 2005. I actually started selling stuff on Ebay in about 2003, but I didn't launch my site until the beginning of '05.

I started out mostly doing upcycled clothing. Reconstructing thrifted t-shirts and fabric. I do a lot of "from scratch" work now, but I don't think I'll ever be able to give up my thrift habits.

I also run WhatTheCraft.com, where I share sewing and craft tutorials and tips for other handmade sellers.

And I'm in a band called the Extreme Unicorns. We rock pretty hard. Check us out. ExtremeUnicorns.com

-How did you get started?

I learned to sew in middle school, but I didn't really get into it until later. I got totally addicted to thrift shopping and garage saling in high school. I used to just make a sad face and pass by the stuff that wouldn't fit me. And then one day I realized, "DUH! I know how to sew. I can MAKE it fit me!"

I messed around with sewing a little for myself, but it wasn't until I saw that there was a pretty substantial handmade phenomenon happening on Ebay that I thought, "I wanna do THAT."

I took it a little more seriously from there, but I was in nursing school, so it was still just a hobby. When I graduated in 2005, I decided I'd rather sew than do nursing, so that's what I did.

-Where did your inspiration come from?
I can find inspiration almost everywhere. I'm kind of all over the place. I love Japanese Street Fashion, I love vintage fashion, I love 80s neon craziness. A little bit of all of that winds up in my stuff.

-What advice would you give to someone starting out?
I have three favorite pieces of advice.

One of her favorite designs
The first, and most important is: Just Do It. A lot of people get stuck in the oh-I'd-love-to-do-that phase and never get to the screw-it-I'm-doing-it phase, and then they never even try. At some point you have to just jump in there, get a little dirty, and make a lot of mistakes (which is good, because you will learn from them). This applies to everything in life, I think. If you want it, DO IT. You'll never get there just by dreaming.

The second is almost as important. And that is: practice, practice, practice. I get the impression that some people think you can just hop on a sewing machine and be a whiz at it, but it's a skill just like anything else. It requires time and patience to get good at it.

And lastly, don't bite off more than you can chew. Big goals are okay, but make sure there are small, logical steps in between. I get questions from people wanting to know how to draft patterns and through conversation it's revealed that they've not only never touched a sewing machine, they've never seen a commercial sewing pattern. It would be extremely difficult to draft a pattern from scratch in that situation, because you don't know what anything is supposed to look like! It would be much easier to practice sewing with some basic patterns, take apart some clothes and see how they're put together, and then start experimenting from there.

-Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
Right now SmarmyClothes is really a one person show. My boyfriend helps with a ton of the email/social networking/computer stuff, but he's basically working for free.

In 5 years, I'd love to be at a point where both of us are making a comfortable living off of it. All I need to be happy is fabric and food, so I don't need to be rich. But it would be cool to not stress about all the money stuff.

-If someone were to interview you for a news article, what would your headline be?
Woman Sets World Record For Eating The Most Chicken Noodle Soup


Connect with Lex:

Here are some of my favorite designs from Smarmy Clothes, what are yours? 



Monday, August 29, 2011

Hola from the FP

Waving good'day to you this morning from the Etsy front page- A wonderful collection from The Treasury Tree team.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Fresh Off the Scissors

Pumpkin Pie Love -Ladies Tshirt size Large (Not yet listed) 
Nothing says autumn like pumpkin pie-  brings back the fond memories I have of sitting around a local New Jersey diner at the wee hours of the morning with my best friend drinking too much coffee and enjoying pumpkin pie.
Drink ID- Name your Poison Tags
You'll never loose your drink again, even if your names not (really) Ed. Just slip the adjustable name tag over your favorite brew.
Caddy Shack in progress
 Monster Jam is still a favorite here, but all it took was a dancing gopher to sell my guys on the game of golf. Yesterday we took the boys to play 9 holes, and Sam wanted a golfing shirt to wear. After putting this one together in a jiffy we decided it needs a gopher.... so its a work in progress.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

How to get Found: Etsy Sections are Meta Tags

When I first opened up shop, I vowed to learn everything there was about SEO in one sitting. I realized pretty fast that its impossible. Each day I challenge myself to learn something new and lately relevancy here on Etsy has been my daily dose. However I thought I would give you something new to digest.

Simple version: Much of SEO is done through meta data, which is part of a website’s code that is read by search engines. Meta data for SEO has three main components: page title, meta description and meta keywords.

We've already discussed here how important a good title and description are- so I am skipping straight to the meta keywords. Meta keywords are generally not visible to someone viewing a web page, but they are used by search engines to help rank relevancy of pages in search results. There are pieces of information you control for your shop and item listing pages that can make an impact on your shops SEO and your shop sections are one of them. The sections within your shop are used as meta keywords for your shop page and by using accurate descriptions can boost your results in Google/web searches. 

 

Some of my shop sections include:
Upcycled Jewelry
Recycled Tshirt Bags
Upcycled Kids Clothing

If you have any questions, please post them- If you'd like help optimizing your own Etsy shop or need help brainstorming ideas for titles and tags please join us at the Helpful Relevancy Team.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

The High Price of Handmade: Why Buying Handmade is so Expensive


Lucky for me, I met Lex long before she published the blog post which has pretty much gone viral. I keep seeing it everywhere- and thought I would show her some love right here. She is super sweet, always willing to help out, and smarter than your average bear. You will find a ton of useful tutorials and tips over on her site whatthecraft.com and her creative handmade punk designs at http://smarmyclothes.com.


“$70 for a t-shirt?!”
“I love your website, but everything on it is overpriced!”
“Your stuff is too expensive.”
“Are you rich or something?”
“I could make that for $5.”
“Sorry, but that’s a rip-off.”
“$80 for a hoodie? You’re not Gucci.”
I’ve heard it all. At first it hurt my feelings and made me worry that my prices were too high. Now it only baffles me that someone would say something so rude. This is my job. It may not be like your job. I don’t have a boss or regular hours, and I don’t have to drive to work or even get dressed for it (heh), but this is how I pay the bills.
I’m always tempted to asked these people, “How about I come down to where you work and tell your boss you’re overpaid?” Because that’s essentially what they’re saying.
But I’m too polite to do that.
Instead I decided to write this article to shed some light on the work that all of us that run a handmade business are doing… including all the behind-the-scenes stuff you probably never even think about. (And that some of us don’t charge for.)
Sure, some people will still be rude doucheballoons. That’s life. But maybe I can just make a few people think, “Oh, I hadn’t realized how much work goes into that!”
 

 To read the complete break down of costs/time and pricing stop by and read the full article at whatthecraft.com





Sunday, August 21, 2011

Fresh Off the Scissors

With Preparation H in full swing, I finally had a moment to sit down and work on some new holiday items that have been floating around inside my head since last year. I know its still a little too early to be pushing Christmas on you, after all you still have 125 days left.
Keep you eyes out for more! You'll be able to find them at the  Christmas Ornament section in my shop.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Keeping Relevant on Etsy: How To Get Found

inmyigloo on etsy
 I'm not sure how many of you keep up with Etsy changes,  there are many I admit. I might be one of the few who actually think *most* of them are moving towards bettering the etsy shopping experience. Except for removing the chat rooms... but that is a rant for another day. Over a week ago Etsy switched its default search from Most Recent to Relevant. Really? It makes sense right? If you're a shopping and you want to find a Monster Truck Tshirt you don't want to have to wade through random items ranging from birthday party invitations to back hoes and fire trucks. The new search has many shop owners in a tizzy- and trying to figure out what it takes to become relevant.

Are you wondering how to become relevant on Etsy? Here are a few tips to get found:

-Your titles matter *more than your tags right now*

-Use all 14 tags (20 character limit) Be descriptive. Red Scarf, Merino Wool Use terms that customer would to search/find you. Tag order does not matter.

-Recency still plays a factor in relevancy. A little bit.

-Use key words in your description, upfront right in the beginning. Repeating key words in title and tags helps Etsy SEO Repeating key words in title and listing helps Google SEO

-Shop stats and Google Analytics are your friends! Use them. Check for your highest ranking key words- Use these in your titles and tags

-Category attributes are NOT being factored into listings (thats the new section where you can decide who your item is for/holiday/style found on your new listing page)

-The Etsy Search result formula is 'top secret' but some things we know ARE factored in- Titles, Descriptions,Tags, Exact Word Search Matches (meaning I search for Red Merino Scarf and you have red scarf in your title, tags, listing = you should show up in my results) If your shop returns several listings equally relevant they may be spaced to show a diversified return

Read: HeyMichelles post "Relevancy Tips: How to Make Your Shop More Relevant" www.etsy.com/teams/7716/announcements/discuss/8822575/

Join the Helpful Relevancy Team  if you'd like help brainstorming tags and titles, discuss SEO and Relevancy Changes, and make positive connections with other sellers as we all strive to be discovered.

I'd love to hear you're feedback on the relevancy changes, as a seller do you feel like you're being found? I'm wondering what you're expectations are. As a buyer- are you finding what you're looking for? If you prefer to search the old way (Most Recent) you can manually switch your search settings.

**Updated 1/22/12: I have also published 2 other "How to get found" posts I hope you find them helpful!   How to Get Found: Shop Sections are Meta Tags and Keeping Relevant on Etsy: Recency Still Matters, folks.


Monday, August 15, 2011

My Crappy Camera Challenge

Just a few weeks ago, my beloved Canon DSLR died. I guess these things happen, but of course it was unexpected. I'll admit it... I've been moping around here like I lost a pet. Product photography plays a big part in successful listings (and sales) of handmade items- it's a fact. How am I ever going to capture creative and good quality photos with my old HP Photosmart M447? Seriously, the HP camera has been crammed in my junk drawer for well over a year now- it sports a tan paint job from the day that my youngest managed to spill an ENTIRE gallon of paint. It's not pretty- but it still works. I decided to challenge myself. I can't remember it- but I know there was life before my Canon camera. I took good pictures then... I should still be able to now. After all, cameras don't take pictures, photographers do. Cameras are just another artistic tool.

I really love changing up the perspective and getting up close- I think that it adds depth and texture to the photos making them a little more interesting. Above you can see my failed attempt- because I am using the 'crappy' camera with automatic settings it was not allowing me to focus so close up. Even after I changed to the Close Up shooting mode [menu->shooting modes->] I found myself growing frustrated. Then it dawned on me maybe I could trick the camera?!

First, point the camera straight at the object of interest bringing it into sharp focus. Then, half-press the shutter button. The camera will focus on the said object. When the camera is focused, the screen shows green brackets as opposed to red ones. Red brackets are not our friends. Now, keeping that button half-pressed (if you take your finger off the camera will just re-focus when you press the button again) slowly readjust your point of view and NOW press the button the rest of the way down.
 Heres a similar shot done using the technique above- I edited using picnik to lighten the background but you could also use an app like Fotofuze.
 Some other photos taken with the crappy camera, and photoshop is my friend.

Keep an eye out for more of my crappy camera challenge, and if you have any questions please let me know- I'll be sure to answer them (if I can) before retiring this thing to the back of the drawer.

Fresh Off the Scissors


Upcycled tshirt scraps are cut into itty bitty squares and placed by hand on 25mm blue hoop earrings. I have a few pairs of tshirt shard earrings myself, go figure! Are you wondering which ones I wear most often? I love my denim hoops, they're great for everyday jeans and a tshirt. I loved my blue jean hoops so much that I worked up a pair of black denim ones as well. I really love the texture. What do you think? 


Saturday, August 13, 2011

Whats Moo? You don't need business cards.

You may recall how extremely excited I was about my first purchase of Moo business cards (and I do still love them) but after spending that much money I got to thinking that maybe it wasn't the most effective way of promoting my handmade business. Where do business cards end up? Many of them are stuffed in a junk drawer along with markers and menus or spend countless days floating around the bottom of your bag. So when I started working on Preparation H I started brainstorming some different (and still affordable) promotional ideas. The whole idea is to make your shop/business stand out and be remembered. We all want to be remembered don't we?
I've managed to add some pretty cool items to my arsenal all the while supporting and promoting other handmade artists! (pats self on back) Sima Designs created the awesome stamp for me, you get your own starting at $16.50. I use it on everything! I stamp my mailers, hang tags, and I've even used it with fabric ink to stamp sleeve bags! My buttons have been a huge hit, I got them at  Get Your Buttons (currently on vacation) *the illustration featured there is me! and was made by NatSmithIllustration on Etsy.  I picked up a DIY temporary tattoo kit and printed my own all the while in my pjs and slippers. When the time came to reorder my business cards, I didn't go back to Moo. I uploaded my own design onto Vistaprint and snagged 500 cards for less than $15 total through an exclusive offer. Compare that to the $159.98 for 400 cards from Moo. Wow!

Maybe you don't need business cards after all. Get creative and put yourself on a sticker, pen, pin, magnet and stick your brand somewhere new. And, it's also got me wondering what do you do with business cards you're given?



Sunday, August 7, 2011

Kentucky Heartwood Festival Photos

 
Yesterday, TrashN2Tees made its festival/show debut, and it couldn't have been any place better than the Kentucky Heartwood Festival. The laid back crowd and neighboring vendors made for a fun and easy going day of conversations and selling. They also had several hands on exhibits and activities throughout the day which my boys were there to enjoy. While they were splashing in the creek and learning about the eco system from biologist-  I learned a little more about preparing my booth set up! ( including you can not put up an "easy pop up tent" by yourself. Thanks to those who came to my rescue!)

View from my booth- Say Hi to Kim from Needles and Kims on the left!


Haven't seen these in stock yet- have you? Name your Drink Tags.
 
Free temporary tattoos for the kids!
Shouting a big ole Thank You! to everyone who came by and checked out TNT- I met some amazing people and look forward to reconnecting with many of you soon!

Friday, August 5, 2011

Plastic bag it (gasp!) Display and Packaging

It was getting close to crunch time, and I still had not decided on the best way to bag at live venues (ie: craft fairs & festivals) I had been flipping through the Uline catalog and dog eared a page or two. Of course the nice colorful paper bags with handles were a little bit out of my price range and there was no way I planned on adding to the plastic bag waste stream.

Reusing plastic bags that we already had, and some that've been collected (thank you neighbors) I printed my own stickers "TrashN2Tees Saved Me from the Landfill! Please recycle me when you're done." and stuck'm right on there. I thought it was a pretty clever idea.

I scoured the web for some other cool and creative ways (budget friendly too!) to distribute and display your goodies.

  Craft Show Preparations from What No Mints? 


triflewares said on the Etsy Forums: 
I know it sounds weird, but I get the small sized paper sandwich bags, cut a few inches off the top to make them shorter, and hot glue some scrap ribbon on for the handles. They look great, don't take long at all to make, and are really cheap!
I love the simple brown paper bag with a stamp idea, and think it could be extremely beneficial to reinforce your brand- I'm excited to get real time feedback on my plastic bags this weekend.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

I got fan mail!

The party invites and thank yous include pictures taken in custom made Trashn2Tees- just in case you didn't take notice!
I love to get mail, you know- besides bills... I think that goes without saying though right? So you can imagine how exciting it was to receive this bundle of party invites and thank you notes from Quinn and Cullens mom! (Thank you Stacey!)

Stacey found me through Etsy and was looking for custom tees- Monsters Driving Monster Trucks not just for the boys but for the whole family! I had a ton of fun creating monsters to not only compliment the party decor but to fit each family members personality! As soon as she received the tees, she contacted me again this time for a fire department 1st birthday theme! Now just judging from the themes, invites, and decorations I think its safe to say that they throw some awesome parties!!?!
If you just happen to be looking for custom made quality invitations, cards, post cards, announcements and more be sure to visit Stacey at Make My Day LLC.

I can't thank you enough for making TrashN2Tees a part of your birthday celebrations, but even more so for the thought, time, and energy for sharing it with me through photos and mail. Thanks!!

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