Stop Hiding: Your Gifts are Meant to be Shared

Stop Hiding: Your Gifts are Meant to be Shared

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Have you seen this commercial from Apple? I absolutely love everything about it. It inspires me, challenges me, and even makes me cry a little.

The World Needs Your Voice

The beginning of the commercial shows a young woman making various creations and each time she hides them from those around her. She is extremely critical of her own work, but her adorable dog recognizes her talent. He opens their window and all of her hidden papers fly out into the world where people below begin to scoop them up. She frantically runs down to the street and tries to recover her scattered secrets. As people begin looking at the papers, smiles and joy spread across their faces and they share her creation with others. The original young woman begins to recognize that what she created is bringing happiness to everyone around her!

You may not even realize it, but the world needs your voice. The world needs your individual talents and perspective. It’s easy to believe the lie that what you have to share isn’t important or good enough. I felt that way for a really long time. I thought that creativity was for other people, not simple moms in suburbia. Because of your own life experiences and one-of-a-kind personality you have something unique to say, create, and share.

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Grandma Moses

Everyone has heard of the folk artist, Anna Mary Robertson Moses, better known as Grandma Moses. But did you know that she didn’t begin painting until she was in her 70s! She is quoted as saying that she wanted “to keep busy and out of mischief” after her husband had passed away. Grandma Moses had been creative throughout her entire life but her early adult years were spent raising children and working on their family farm. Although she had always been creative, it wasn’t until her arthritis had progressed so much that she was no longer able to embroider, which was something she enjoyed. Her sister recommended that painting might be easier on her joints and history was made! She was a prolific artist and created over 1,500 paintings. Her canvas titled Sugaring Off sold for 1.2 million dollars in 2006! Her work is displayed in museums across the country and most Americans would recognize her folksy work.

Imagine if Grandma Moses had considered herself too old to try something new. Imagine if she had let her lack of formal education stop her creativity. Thankfully for all of us she didn’t let little things like that get in the way of expressing herself through art. When looking at a painting by Grandma Moses you get a sense of who she was, what was important to her, and what she wanted to tell the world. Her art brings to mind simpler times from days gone by. They feel nostalgic and recall an uncomplicated time when modern machinery wasn’t yet invented and communities were full of honest, hardworking folks.

I believe that each one of us has a story to tell through our own creativity. I have chosen to make amigurumi and just like Grandma Moses I have no formal education and I didn’t start crocheting until I was in my mid forties.  I am certainly not comparing my work to Grandma Moses, but I wouldn’t be surprised if our motivations were exactly the same. I don’t know this for sure but I would bet that Grandma Moses didn’t paint just so she could make a few bucks. I wouldn’t be surprised that even if she had never made a single dollar that she would have continued painting for herself, her family, and her friends. I believe that is true for most of us crocheters as well.

(You may want to read more about being creative here: Do it Scared…Explore Your Creativity)

For me, making amigurumi is more than just turning yarn into a stuffed toy. It’s about bringing joy and happiness to a troubled world. It’s about bringing back those feelings of being an innocent child and enjoying a whimsical moment. It’s about doing something with my hands that hopefully makes this world a tiny bit better for someone else.

Your motivations for creating may be different than mine but each of us has a voice and the world needs to hear it. Why do you crochet? Why do you create? Do you share your work or are you more like the young woman in the commercial? Please share your thoughts with me!

If you enjoyed this blog post you may be interested in this post about how my blog name is more about why I crochet than anything else: Why Le Petit Saint Crochet Isn’t Just my Business Name, but a Piece of my Heart as Well.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Making Amigurumi: The Artistry is in the Details

 

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I have been enamored with details since I was a little girl in elementary school when I discovered they could be useful. In third grade our teacher had an art project for the students to make. The assignment was to draw a scene on a plastic plate that when treated would render the artwork permanent. What I discovered was that the more I added to the picture the longer I could stay out of class. I can still remember adding worms in the grass and birds in the sky. “Just one more,” I would say and surprisingly the teacher just let me. That is the day I discovered that details weren’t just for fun they could come in handy!

Many wouldn’t define making amigurumi “art” but I believe there’s at least of hint of it in every creation. The dictionary defines artistry as “artistic quality of effect or workmanship.” Crocheting something beautiful or useful is at the very least a skilled craft or to put it another way, workmanship. But making something that creates emotion in another person, whether that is happiness, joy, or wonder takes artistry.  Being an amigurumi maker takes both skill and artistry.

When making amigurumi the details are what make the object come to life. With each project there are choices to make. Those choices will determine not just the size and shape of your project but its personality and uniqueness! This quote by the great coach John Wooden sums up my feelings perfectly about all the details involved with making amigurumi!

“It’s the little details that are vital. Little things make big things happen.” John Wooden

The following six steps are the decisions that I make for each and every project and I hope you find them helpful!

Yarn Weight and Hook Size

This is the grand decision that needs to be made at the beginning of each and every project. The yarn is what serves as the inspiration for the whole project. For the wolf pattern, from the wonderful and talented Yan Schenkel (you can read more about her work here: Book Review: Animal Friends of Pica Pau), I first had to choose which weight and  brand of yarn to use. I chose the Berrocco Vintage wool blend specifically because of its soft touch and the slight fuzziness it creates. It is a worsted weight fiber and it comes in so many gorgeous colors. With that particular yarn I have found that I like using a 3.5mm hook. It creates nice small stitches that do not leave big gaps or holes for the stuffing to show through.

You can read more about my yarn preferences here: Yarn Recommendations

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Colors

Many times I use very similar colors that the designer chose but I have the most fun when I go off the rails and try new things. For this particular wolf project I decided to stick with a traditional gray and white color scheme. I love the heathered gray and feel that it gives this project a rustic look. Currently I am in love with mustard yellow so I chose that for his shirt. The gray, white and mustard were the first colors I chose and I used them as the basis for the other colors I wanted to add. I decided on a rusty orange and mossy green colors for his little cowl.

Just changing the colors could have made this project look completely different. If I had used a reddish orange instead of the gray he could have been a fox! Or I could have made him a her by adding more traditionally feminine colors like pink and mint green for the shirt and cowl colors.

You can read more about my color inspiration here: Winter Color Inspiration

Eye Size and Shape

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Eye size and shape can also completely change the look of your amigurumi. I tend to like 9 mm round safety eyes. But I have seen others use oval and multicolored eyes as well. It completely changes the appearance of the project. It is surprising that such a small thing can make a really big difference. You could also not use safety eyes at all and embroider them on. It’s such a cute design feature to stitch the eyes closed to make them look like they are sleeping or just closing their eyes in pure happiness.

Nose and Mouth Embroidery

This is where you can get really creative! Do you want a small nose or a large one? Do you want to use a satin stitch to fill it in or just make it a simple “V” shape? Will the mouth be smiling, frowning, or absent altogether? I enjoy this part of amigurumi but it is the most challenging for me. I have found that a sharp embroidery needle instead of a yarn needle works best. I also prefer using embroidery floss rather than yarn. It can be quite tricky to make sections of a nose even or a smile look straight or curved. I had to practice so much to make them look cleaner and neater than when I first began making amigurumi. I am also not afraid to rip it all out. I redo the mouth and nose until they look the way I want them to. To be completely honest though I always see room for improvement and am never 100% happy.

Tags

Personally I really enjoy making tags for my amigurumi! My current favorite are black tags and I use a white gel pen for writing the text. They look like miniature chalk boards and I feel it also helps to give them a vintage look. I also like using the craft brown tags and black ink. I prefer doing them by hand rather than having them printed. I can personalize them so much easier that way. I also always add who the designer is to the backside of the tag.

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Ribbon

Ribbon can be used to solidify the style you’re going for. I love that rustic look and choose ginghams and twine to hammer my style home. There are so many affordable ribbon options that coordinate with any project! Changing the ribbon could easily change the entire design aesthetic! You could also add ribbon that have a holiday or even a sports team theme.

IMG_3691Amigurumi details are what make projects truly personal and unique.I hope that you have found this post useful! I would love to hear what your tips are for adding those special touches to your amigurumi projects!

 

 

Winter Color Inspiration

Lately I’ve been taking time to stop and really look at my surrounding. I’m beginning to see things I’ve never noticed before. Maybe it’s because I’m getting older and I appreciate the little things more. Maybe it’s because I bought a new camera recently and I’m looking for scenes to take photos of.  Winter has never been a season that I enjoyed or that sparked my imagination, but that is beginning to change. I’ve heard it said that inspiration is all around us and I’ve never been more convinced of that!

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Wolfgang is made with a heathered gray wool mix, mustard yellow, rust, moss green, and creamy white colors. The cowl is made from two Shalimar Yarns, one called Dirty Jeans and the other Merlin’s Beard!

Lately I’ve been leaning more and more toward colors found in the great outdoors for my amigurumi projects, and nature has produced a very wide variety indeed! I’ve even noticed how the seasons are affecting my color choices. Earlier this year I began making Pinterest boards of seasonal color palettes (you can find them here – Pinterest color boards) I appreciate that talented designers from so many different industries are adding them. You can find them for home decor or weddings and everything in between! Regardless of their original intent you can use them to help decide which colors to choose for your crochet projects. Brittany from Bhooked recently did a whole podcast about choosing colors and she had so many wonderful ideas! (you can find that podcast here – Bhooked – How to Pick Colors for Your Project)

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On our daily walk with my beloved dog, Jersey-boy, I began noticing how interesting and beautiful the “weeds” are! I had never taken the time to really look at them. This particular route isn’t very picturesque but once I stopped and noticed the individual plants I was mesmerized and started snapping photos. I have no idea what their scientific or common names are but these winter neutrals are giving me all the feels!! The creamy whites contrasted with rusty and grayish browns take my breath away!

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I have never seen such a bright white fungus before! I love how it pops against the dark wood of the fallen tree limb. 

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These leaves contain colors from light peach hues all the way to deep eggplant tones. I can just imagine these colors all together in a gorgeous crocheted blanket or scarf!

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I’m really enjoying all the green colors right now. I can’t get over how many different shades there are in one small photograph!

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What looks better than bright red and deep green together? I just love these berries and how saturated the color is on this plant. 

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I found one lingering dandelion and marveled at how bright and rich in color this little flower is!

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This was the perfect pinecone specimen. I cannot get over how many shades of brown are on one scale! There are deep rich nutmeg colors all the way up to a grayish white. 

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These fuzzy weeds are my absolute favorite. I see maroon and gold tones on some of the stalks. They are so delicate and brittle and have a beauty all their own. 

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I have long enjoyed these wildflowers that are so prolific on our roadsides here in North Carolina. They must be a very hardy species indeed to be still flowering all the way into December after several freezes. 

 

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These prickly weeds are also one of my favorites. The contrast of the beige tones and the dark green is brilliant! 

I’m trying to stop and smell the roses, so to speak. I’m trying to truly see things at a deeper level not just at the surface. Typically color is what inspires my projects from the very beginning stages of planning. Nature has quickly become my first resource for making those decisions and seasonal colors are even more inspirational! Browns, golds, grays, maroons, whites, blues and greens are all on my radar currently.

For my wolf amigurumi project, from my favorite book Animal Friends of Pica Pau (you can read more about that here – Book Review: Animal Friends of Pica Pau) I decided to make him a traditional gray wolf with white accents, which is how he appears in the pattern book. Those colors are everywhere right now in my world, from the dark gray skies to the white fungus on the tree trunks. I also decided on the mustard yellow shirt which is also how he is featured in the book. For his cowl I chose white but decided to add a rusty brown and my favorite, moss green. I think the color combination is wonderful and could easily be found in the natural areas all around my home.

I thank you from the bottom of my heart for reading my blog post and would love to hear from you! Please comment below with your ideas! What are the winter colors from your neck of the woods? Are you inspired by nature’s palette?

 

Christmas Shop Update!

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Sometimes I pretend that I have an actual little shop on some quaint street in a historic village. Can’t you just hear the little door bells jingle when you walk in? I imagine that it has creaky old wood floors and built in cubbies lining the walls. There would definitely be a sleepy calico kitty lying in the windowsill named Mr. Mittens. I would greet you with a big warm smile and welcome you right in saying, “Come in, come in! Get out of the cold and warm up by the fire!” Because of course there would be a big stone fireplace in the corner. Ok, I know it’s not practical to have an actual wood burning fireplace around all that yarn! But just humor me!!! But until that day comes I will just have to be satisfied with my little online Etsy shop and on Friday, December 7th I am reopening with five brand new animals!

Etsy Shop link

Crispin Coati

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Before making this wonderful pattern from the book, Animal Friends of Pica Pau: Gather All 20 Colorful Amigurumi Animal Characters, I had never heard of a coati before. Of course once I began crocheting this little cutie I had to know more about his species. They are also known as the hog-nosed coon and are members of the raccoon family. They hail from South and Central America and parts of Mexico. It was my first time making this pattern and I must admit that I will be making more coatis! The unusual color work on his face is quite striking. I used the heathered colors from Berrocco Vintage yarn which is a wool, acrylic, nylon blend. His long striped tail is definitely a realistic characteristic of coatis. I changed his outfit from the original in the pattern, which was a striped shirt and shorts. I kept the striped shirt but added a gorgeous Double V Stitch cowl in a brilliant moss green, that has flecks of yellow. I love how Crispin’s long snout and little smile give him such personality!

You can find out more about the yarns I am using and where to find them here – Comparing Cotton and Wool for Amigurumi

Rita Cheetah

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Rita was another first for me! I had never made the cheetah pattern from Animal Friends of Pica Pau before.  I crocheted her from one of my favorite fibers, Paintbox Yarns Wool Mix Aran. Like the Berrocco Vintage yarn it is a blend of wool and acrylic, but it does not contain nylon. The colors are solids, not heathered, but come in SO many different gorgeous shades! Rita is taller than the other four amigurumi in the shop and has quite the striking figure. I love how the detail on her face and ears gives her such personality. She has a fierce but friendly countenance and her long legs give the impression that she’s as fast as her real life counterparts. Her sage green jumper dress compliments her mustard colored body and rose pink undershirt.

Detective Sherlock Hams

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Detective Hams played a pivotal role in solving the mystery involving Grunkle, the crocodile. (You can find the behind the scenes tell-all here) I absolutely love this pattern from Animal Friends of Pica Pau and have made it many times. I love how adding different clothes makes him look so different. I’ve even added a skirt and hair bow to make this little pig a “pigette” This time I added a cute navy and white striped shirt and brown shorts. I used the Paintbox Yarns Wool Mix Aran for him and I always choose the shade Ballet Pink for the body. Sherlock’s little round tummy and big pointy ears make him all the more huggable! He even has a surprise curly pink tail in the back!

Francis Frog

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How stinking cute is Francis Frog? I just want to squeeze him!! This is another incredible pattern from Animal Friends of Pica Pau. This was the first pattern from the book that I ever made and I immediately fell in love. His adorable expression and big floppy yellow feet had me at “ribbit”! I also used the Paintbox Wool Mix Aran for Francis and this time I made him in a bright kelly green! He has two sturdy legs that allow him to stand completely on his own. His removable shorts reveal his white and red spotted underwear!  You can check out a photo of him in the Etsy shop listing in his skivvies on December 7th!

Wolfgang

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In my humble opinion, Wolfgang is the most spectacular of all the patterns in Animal Friends of Pica Pau. I have made him three times in total and I swear I like the pattern more each time. Wolfgang is made with the heathered yarns from Berrocco Vintage and I think he looks dashing. I added a striped cowl in burnt orange, white, and moss green colors. I think the contrast with the charcoal gray color of his body looks fabulous. The embroidered detail on his ears is such a beautiful touch and adds to his overall charm.

Thank you all so much for stopping by! I wish we really could sit down in my little cozy shop and have a cup of steaming hot tea together! Until then keep in touch!

 

Self Care for Makers During the Busy Holiday Season

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I hope you won’t hate me when I tell you this…I don’t really like Christmas. The season feels like a pine scented F-5 tornado spewing candy canes and blinking lights all over the place. Don’t get me wrong, I love Christmas decor, holiday food, and candlelight church services. Did I mention cookies? I really really love Christmas cookies! What I don’t like are the expectations, the pressures, and the additional obligations that have become synonymous with this time of the year.

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This is my first holiday season as a maker and I am finding myself more stressed than in previous years, which I didn’t think was humanly possible.  I haven’t met the goals I made for myself (which I wrote about here  Trying not to be a Discouraged Maker this Holiday Season.) But recently the term “self care” has been coming at me from multiple directions and I’ve decided I better listen. In the past I thought that making myself a priority was selfish or something that should be addressed when everything else was done. I can hear Dr. Phil in the background yelling in his Texas drawl,

“How’s that working for ya?”

And to be perfectly honest, it isn’t working for me. The time to include some self care into my routine is vital, not only to my happiness, but to my productivity as well. I have a feeling you are the same way! Once this revelation really sunk in I began thinking about what fills me up, what energizes me and I created a list. Your’s may be completely different but my hope is that by sharing mine you might be inspired to think of ways you can care for yourself in a more mindful and purposeful way! And maybe, just maybe, it will help make this a more meaningful holiday season.

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  1. Getting outside – I find that getting some fresh air by either working in my yard or walking around my neighborhood helps clear my mind. Connecting with the outdoors for even just a half an hour does me a great deal of good.
  2. Cleaning my house – I have found that the dirtier my house is the worse I feel mentally. Even just spending a short time decluttering helps relieve my stressful thoughts.
  3. Staying off social media – Fasting from Facebook and Instagram for short periods of time really improves my outlook! I love social media and I have made so many wonderful connections but there are times that I need a little break.
  4. Spending time with family – playing board games or watching a movie all together gives me such a feeling of togetherness that helps me connect and remember what is really important to me.
  5. Work on a project that isn’t for the Etsy shop – knitting or embroidering something that is just for my enjoyment gives me a spark of creative energy.
  6. Yoga – I practiced yoga every single day in the year 2017 and it helped me get through a very difficult time (which you can read about here: Why I started crocheting and you should too!) I absolutely adore Yoga with Adriene and find that spending some time on the mat brings calmness into my mind and body.
  7. Reading a good book – There are very few things in life as enjoyable as a great book. I am currently reading a biography of Julia Child and listening to the fourth book in the Cormoran Strike series by Robert Gailbraith (aka J.K. Rowling).
  8. Lighting a candle – it is surprising how such a small thing can bring me a little brightness and light, literally and figuratively.
  9. Watching mindless TV – sometimes the very best thing for my mood is a little mindless fluff! Letting my brain turn off for an hour or so recharges my batteries and laughter truly is good medicine.

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Defaced: Justice for Grunkle

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Detective Sherlock Hams

This week we are welcoming Officer Sherlock Hams to guest post on the Le Petit Saint Crochet blog. He is recounting the terrible events of November 13, 2018.

“It is a capital mistake to theorize before one has data. Insensibly one begins to twist facts to suit theories, instead of theories to suit facts.” – Sherlock Holmes  – A Scandal in Bohemia

The call came in around 9:30 p.m. The muffled cries were difficult to interpret. The 911 dispatcher asked over and over, “Do you need police, fire , or ambulance?” Heavy breathing was the only sound coming through clearly. Law enforcement arrived at the residence at approximately 9:45 p.m. They knocked on the door of the quiet suburban home but the only response was the bark of dog. The back door was unlocked and as they quietly tiptoed into the house the canine greeted them with the friendly wag of her tail. The officers searched the downstairs and found nothing out of the ordinary. That all changed as they made their way upstairs. That’s when they called me, Detective Sherlock Hams.

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The team from left to right: Officer Crispin Coati, first on the scene. Rita Cheetach, police sketch artist, and Detective Sherlock Hams

It has been said that I am the best pig in all of law enforcement and I’ve earned that praise. Up until this case I had a 100% solve rate. No crime has ever gone unresolved under my watch, that is until now. Officer Crispin Coati called me at 9:52 p.m. and something about the sound of his voice gave me goosebumps. This was no ordinary crime. I arrived at the scene at 10:09 p.m. Nothing about the neighborhood, home, or interior suggested that such a heinous act had been committed.

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The gruesome crime scene

I followed Officer Coati up the stairs and stopped dead in my tracks when I saw the mangled body of the victim. He was being attended by the paramedics and loaded up onto a stretcher. I leaned in close and whispered, “Who did this to you?” He could only point and gesticulate wildly with his hands. We were unsuccessful in our attempts to decipher his personal sign language. As they wheeled Grunkle away into the ambulance I  vowed that we would not stop until we uncovered the truth behind what happened to that innocent crocodile.

Officer Coati and I continued searching the house and found no one else at the residence and no forced entry points. This didn’t look like a typical burglary gone bad. This looked like a very personal attack. Whoever did this never wanted Grunkle to speak again. Several small pieces of green yarn were on the floor near where his body had been found. Pieces were found in other rooms with stuffing strewn down the stairs. This was worse than I had originally thought.

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Overhead shot of the gruesome crime scene.

As we were leaving the residence I saw the dog sitting on the couch. In that instance I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that she had something to do with the crime. Partly because she had green yarn stuck to her chin but partly because her grey eyes looked at me with what could only be called, proud accomplishment. I approached the canine cautiously and asked her where she had been during the attack. She just looked at me and panted. Her collar revealed her name was Pippa, but everything else about her screamed monster. I again questioned her whereabouts during the hours of 8:30 – 9:30 that evening. Nothing. With no other witnesses, this job was going to take everything I have ever learned about detective work. I would need to dig deep if I were to ever find justice for Grunkle.

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The suspect.

Back at the precinct I got to work immediately. I called in a special task force to assist me. We hired Rita Cheetah to sketch the crime scene to help us see the situation in a new light. We created a link chart on our main bulletin board to map the people, locations, motives, and opportunities of our case.  As the days wore on, more and more strings were added to create a complicated pattern in our attempt to answer the questions the public were demanding to know.

Unbeknownst to me at the time a female feline had been doing a little investigating of her own. Magik Kitty was a regular around my neck of the woods and was known to be quite close with Grunkle and my suspect, Pippa. If I had been aware of her snooping around I would have put a stop to it at once. Thank goodness that never happened.

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Magik Kitty

I spent hours pouring over this case. For days I barely slept or ate. I could not forget the horrifying scene that was Grunkle’s face or the haunting eyes of Pippa. On November 16th an anonymous tip came in that changed everything. The caller refused to share her name but everything about her story checked out. She claimed that Pippa had been in love with Grunkle for some time and was going to express her feelings the evening of November 13th. The caller alleged that when Grunkle refused her, Pippa had attacked. It was clear from the crime scene that Pippa had something to do with the attack, I now had evidence and that golden ticket, motive. I could finally make my arrest and start the formal interview process.

Interview with Pippa

Pippa was formally charged on November 19th at 8:42 p.m. As she was being handcuffed and hauled away into the paddy wagon, Magik Kitty arrived, breathing heavily. She was waving something in her little paw. “WAIT!!!!” she screeched!!!! “Pippa didn’t do it!!” She handed me a photo and began to tell her version of the night of November 13th. When my eyes took in the images of her photo, I unlocked Pippa’s cuffs and ripped up the arrest warrant.

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Evidence

From the moment she heard of Grunkle’s terrible incident, Magik Kitty believed in her heart that Pippa was not to blame. After the crime scene had been cleared she searched the room from top to bottom and found the evidence that would clear the poor dog, green yarn on the ceiling fan. Ever since Grunkle had gotten his little gray wings he had gone flying around the room. Every day he had been told not to fly in the bedroom where the ceiling fan was because if he were to become entangled in the blades it could cause serious injury. When Magik Kitty found the undeniable green yarn in that unusual spot she knew Pippa had not been the assailant, but the hero! The reason Pippa had green yarn stuck to her chin was because she was trying to help Grunkle! The heavy breathing on the phone was her attempt to alert authorities that help was needed.

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Magik Kitty for the win!

From that day forward Magik Kitty has been a detective in training and is showing real promise. She has the raw talent one rarely finds these days. The old timers say that the last time such a recruit came up the ranks he was a little pink piglet fresh from the farm with a funny name.

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The new investigative team

*Inspired by actual events

 

12 Simple Rules for Growing a Handmade Business Instagram Account

My 12 simple rules for growing a handmade business instagram account!

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When I become interested in a subject I want to know everything about it.  I study, I learn, and I focus. My interest in Instagram is no different. I listen to podcasts, read blog posts and attend webinars all about this social media platform.  November 13, 2018 marks my one year anniversary on Instagram and so much has happened within that time frame. It seems like just yesterday that I posted my first grainy photo. I’m certainly not an expert, but I want to share my twelve simple rules that have worked for me!

How I’m Organically Growing my Instagram Account

  1. Engage – This is my absolute number one, most important piece of advice. Engaging with those who are in your niche or who take the time to comment on your post is critical for growth. When I began my Instagram account I spent a good deal of time looking for crochet accounts. I liked and commented on their photos. I responded when they commented on mine. I built genuine relationships and I continue to nurture them to this day. I cannot stress the importance of this step enough.
  2. Good photos – Please listen to me, your photos matter. They matter a lot and particularly on Instagram. Learn a little about photography. In the beginning of my account I exclusively used an iPhone 6 to take my photos. Originally I applied some pretty awful filters, but I didn’t know any better and I thought they looked nice. I began to improve and upgraded to an iPhone X which has a better camera and I stopped using filters. Recently I bought a DSLR camera, but it is not necessary for taking good photos. I cannot stress enough how important it is to have good pictures. (I wrote a blog post about photography if you are interested in learning more : How To Photograph Amigurumi. ) You can use your cell phone or whatever you have to take photos. Always keep in mind that Instagram is more visual than some other social media platforms. If you don’t have an interesting photo, people will just scroll right on by.
  3. Collaborate – Now that you’re engaging your audience and taking decent photos it’s time to connect with others. One way to do this is to share other accounts on your stories or on your feed. This is a very natural step once you’ve been engaging with others and built relationships. Featuring other accounts benefits that person but also your own followers! It’s always fun to discover new accounts! I believe in the “you scratch my back, I’ll scratch your back” philosophy. Don’t just be a taker, be a giver as well.
  4. Hashtags – Hashtags are a very effective way for new people to find your account. You are allowed to add up to thirty hashtags to each post. Spend some time researching which hashtags your favorite accounts are using and try them. Experiment with hashtags, don’t just use the same ones over and over again. Find accounts that will feature your photo for using their hashtag. That is a great way to get your page out there for others to discover.
  5. Consistency – Since Instagram is about building relationships you’ve got to show up on a fairly regular basis. Some people recommend posting more than once a day for optimal success but that isn’t possible for me. I post once a day, in the morning, because that works for me. I know there are apps out there that will even let you know when the best time to post. I have never personally used them but they could be a good tool for you. The point is to be consistent. Show up regularly.
  6. Share something personal, but not private – I like to know the person behind the accounts I follow. I like knowing about their life, but there is a very fine line between personal and private. I share personal things on my page. I have shared about my son’s health issues (you can read about that here: Why I started crocheting and you should too!) and about my love of my dog, Jersey-boy. But I do not share my private life. You won’t hear about the arguments with my husband or that I’m particularly gassy that day. That’s private. Always keep in mind that your Instagram place is public.
  7. Keep it classy, not negative – No one likes a complainer or a Debbie-Downer. People come to Instagram to be inspired, not depressed. There’s a way to share things that aren’t super cheery or upbeat without being negative. I recently shared about how scatterbrained I have been lately without complaining about our busy schedule or my peri-menopause. Negativity pushes people away, positivity draws them in.
  8. Use stories – I am super awkward on video. I hate the way my voice sounds and how old I look! I don’t like it at all, but I do it. Instagram rewards those who use stories, by sharing their feeds more than those who do not.
  9. Be Patient – Success doesn’t usually come overnight. Keep experimenting. Keep learning. When you hit a growth plateau don’t panic, be consistent, try new things, and be creative.

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What Not to Do!

10. Follow for follow – I have had people reach out to me and ask to follow for follow. I don’t play that game. I follow accounts I genuinely am interested in. The follow-for-  follow game is just a gimmick and won’t work long term.

11. Pay for followers – I would never ever pay for followers, which is different than ads.  Be very careful because I have heard that Instagram can find that tactic very spammy and shut down your account.

12. Make your Instagram account one big advertisement – no one is interested in seeing  advertisement after advertisement. You can have a product to sell but have your account be about so much more. The best advice I ever heard about this topic was from the Gold Digger podcast. (Link to my post about my favorite handmade business podcasts:  My Favorite Handmade Business Podcasts) Jenna recommended treating your Instagram account like you would a lifestyle magazine. There will be some ads but every page won’t be an advertisement, that’s boring. If  you are selling a product share your process, teach what you know, or share some behind the scenes.

Instagram, like any other business, is about relationships. It’s about humans connecting with other humans. Gimmicks don’t pay off. Growing your Instagram takes work, creativity, and patience but the connections and opportunities that can come from this platform make the effort worth it! How are you growing your Instagram account?