Book Review: Animal Friends of Pica Pau

Book review

If you are a crocheter, I am certain that you have already seen the book, Animal Friends of Pica Pau. It has been all over social media! Countless crocheters are making the animals from its colorful pages.

(Link to the book –Animal Friends of Pica Pau: Gather All 20 Colorful Amigurumi Animal Characters)

I bought the book soon after it’s US release date in 2017. I was drawn to the unique characters on the cover and knew I had to have it. At the time I couldn’t even make amigurumi! I started with Victor Frog and so far I’ve made ten out of the twenty designs.

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This book is my go-to for inspiration and patterns. Yan Schenkel’s ability to design such unique and adorable creatures is incredible. The puffin pattern is one of my absolute favorites! Not only are her patterns adorable but they can stretch beginner and intermediate crocheters skills. I learned how to read color charts from making Bonny Puffin.

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Another one of my favorite designs is the panda. She is one of the easier patterns and I was able to complete her in half the time of other designs. Yan Schenkel’s ability to design animals with such personality is truly a gift.

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There is no way I could ever choose which one is my favorite and I look forward to making each and every animal! Do yourself a favor and buy this book!

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Pass the Pumpkin Spice: Fall Planning for Crafters

 

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Fall is almost here and while everyone else is all about the pumpkin, I’m all about the planning! I am a planning enthusiast! I get high from checking off those carefully organized boxes! In my personal life my planning obsession has been out of necessity. I am the mother of four children, two of whom are now grown. My husband travels all over the world for his job and in the recent past was gone more days a year than he was home. I have been homeschooling since 1999, which is a full-time job! Plus I have a child with special needs, which means extra doctor visits and therapy sessions.

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I’ve been exactly the opposite in regards to my budding little crochet business. I’ve been flying by the seat of my pants since it’s inception, creating what I want to create, when I want to create it. It has been working well up until this point. That flexibility has allowed my creativity to bloom and wander in different directions. But recently opportunities have come my way that I have not able to fully utilize because I haven’t had a plan. When you’re flying by the seat of your pants it’s hard to pull up the brakes and do things that require preparation.

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This month’s theme on the BHooked Podcast has been all about planning and I am loving it!! Brittany has great tips and wisdom beyond her years. One thing she encourages her listeners to do is set achievable goals. I have planned out my daily, weekly, bi-weekly, monthly, and quarterly objectives for Le Petit Saint Crochet.

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Daily goals:

  1. Post to Instagram and Facebook
  2. Interact on social media
  3. Exercise and stretch for tendonitis

Weekly goals:

  1. Write blog post
  2. Update Etsy shop announcement
  3. Fan Friday features on IG stories
  4. add pins to Pinterest

Bi-weekly goals:

  1. add new Etsy shop listing

Monthly goals:

  1. Batch photograph
  2. plan Etsy shop listings

Quarterly goals:

  1. Teach crochet class

I like having a plan but I’m not a fan of having each and every detail managed. I find that having the space to be creative and spontaneous is key for me. But I do like to have at least a rough outline of what goals I would like to achieve. My planner is full of the nitty-gritty details and ideas that pop into my head. I have learned the hard way that when inspiration hits I need to record it right away, otherwise I probably won’t remember it the next day!

 

How do you plan out your goals? Are you a detailed planner or a more spontaneous creator?

Cha-Ching! How Much are Your Handmade Goods Worth?

Motivation Monday

When I first began selling  amigurumi I priced them around $25 and I was terrified I was ripping someone off. I felt so strange receiving money for something I had made and didn’t want to appear greedy. I quickly realized that my animals were worth more than that and I went up to $40! I thought no one would buy them for such an exorbitant amount, but they did. I began to realize if I wanted to be more serious about selling I needed to know their value.

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Pricing handmade items is difficult, really difficult. Not only do you have to consider your material costs and hours spent, but you likely have emotions tied up as well. For me, each piece I make is truly a labor of love. Each one becomes a character with a personality and a name specially chosen for him or her.

Because I know how attached I become to each animal,  I decided that a straight handmade formula would work best for me. I researched different ones and came across the one that made the most sense to me:

(Cost + Materials) x 2 = Total Price

Determining the materials part wasn’t too tricky. I took the price of the original skein of yarn and divided it by the number of ounces to determine the cost per ounce. Then  I used a food scale to weigh my leftover yarn so that I would know exactly how much I had used. I then added in the cost of small things like safety eyes, poly-fil stuffing, embroidery floss, etc. and gave them a round number, typically around $1. I then added up the ribbon and packaging box I used as well.

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The cost part is a little tricky. Cost needs to be what you want to pay yourself for making the item. I decided that my cost would depend on the project. An easy project might only be $15 for cost, while a complicated, time-consuming project would be $30.

Here’s an example of how this would work. Imagine I am making a squirrel and he’s not easy but not terribly difficult and my materials totaled $8.73.

Cost $20 + Materials $8.73 = $28.73 x 2 = $57.46 Total Price

But this formula began to bother me a bit. It didn’t take into account my hours or my skill. I did a little more research and came across a fantastic podcast from the Merriweather Council. One piece of advice Danielle gave stuck with me. She said to price items so that when you sell it you will be happy. That really resonated with me. I want to be happy when I hear the notification from Etsy that an item has sold.

But I needed something more concrete to use as a pricing model. I decided to time how long it actually took me to make an animal. I started with Percy the Pig. He took a staggering eight hours. I had severely underestimated how long my project actually took to crochet. The little backpack he carried took an additional two and a half hours! The entire project totaled ten and a half hours! Yikes! My pricing needs to take my time into consideration as well.

For now I’m pricing based on my time, not the difficulty level. I have decided on a price per hour that I feel my time is worth. It’s a very simple formula.

Time x Dollar Amount = Price

My pricing model will likely evolve over time but for now this seems fair to customers, but also for me as well. Ultimately you are the only one who can decide how much your items are worth, but do yourself a favor and do your homework! You are likely undercharging for your handmade treasures!

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How To Photograph Amigurumi

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Let me start off by letting you know right now that I am NOT an expert. I have absolutely zero training. I use an iPhone! I’m not smart enough to even use the DSLR camera that I have had for years! I even attempted a Craftsy class for digital photography and I literally could not understand what the man was trying to teach. I am a camera dummy.

But I consistently get compliments on my photography and I have learned a few things from trial and error.

  1. Use natural lighting! If you only do one thing, this is it! DO NOT USE artificial lighting, unless you are an expert, but then of course you wouldn’t be reading this! Don’t put amigurumi in direct sunlight, which creates really harsh shadows. Indirect sun is perfect, like near a window or in a spot with a little shade or cover.IMG_2954 (1)
  2. Look at what is in the background of your photo. Is there dirty laundry in the corner? Is the cat in the litter box to the side? Did your husband walk through the front door just as you were taking the perfect shot? Background matters. Make sure everything in your photo is styled perfectly. Trust me when I tell you that you would be horrified if you saw what was off to the side in my own photos!IMG_3807
  3. Edit your photos. Learn a little bit about photo editing. I use the free app, Snapseed. I don’t use filters, but I do use tools. I adjust for brightness, sharpness, shadows, etc. If you have good lighting your photos typically won’t need much editing.IMG_1858
  4. Style your photos to make them visually interesting. Play around with props and putting more than one amigurumi animal in a shot. Use what you already have around your home to make your photos more interesting.IMG_4019
  5. Practice, practice, practice. I take dozens more photos than I ever actually use. Train your eye by looking at good photography, not just of amigurumi. Have fun! Be silly and willing to try ridiculous things! You might just get the perfect shot!

You Can Make Amigurumi: A Tale of Two Walters

NOTE: My two classes at Cheers to Ewe are almost here! Last chance to sign up!

Crochet 101: August 11, 18, and 25 from 10:00 – 11:30

Victor Frog: August 11, 18, and 25 from 1:00 – 2:30

Check out this link for more info: Classes

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Please forgive my boldness, but I’m freakin’ proud of my new wolf, Walter. He turned out so darn cute! I love his sweet face and those perky little ears. And those mittens!!!!

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Above is a side-by-side photo of new Walter on the left and old Walter on the right. I made old Walter in January 2018 and new Walter in August 2018. That’s just eight months apart.

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You can see that old Walter is quite a bit bigger. You may be able to see that his stuffing can be seen through the large stitches on his legs.

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His nose is totally wonky! He has button eyes. His ears are floppy. He is squishy. Now don’t take me wrong. I still love Walter. His imperfections give him such personality! But as someone who likes to sell my creations, I need them to be a little more polished.

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New Walter is much more consistent throughout. The stitches are uniform. The color changes aren’t messy. His mittens actually fit and wont’ fall off. His nose is fairly even and joined more evenly.

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Amigurumi takes practice. Lots of practice. But I’m here to show you that after only eight months I improved. A lot! With practice also comes confidence. I am able to make patterns exactly as they are written or add my own embellishments.

I often hear people lament that they could never make amigurumi. Really they should say, they don’t want to make amigurumi. If someone with two working hands wants to make these animals there is no reason why they couldn’t. It will take practice, determination, and hard work. But they are SO worth it!

Flip-Flopping or How I Started an Etsy Shop

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My husband would tell you that I’m a grade-A, professional flip-flopper. I am an expert at it. HGTV should call me to host a show called Flip-Flopping, but it wouldn’t have anything to do with home renovation. I have the ability to completely convince myself of one decision and then strategically convince every single person in my life why that it the BEST decision. Within a few short hours, days, or even weeks, I flip. I do a complete 180 and start the process all over again.

Originally I wasn’t going to open an Etsy shop. I loved the idea of selling locally. I wanted to see my creations in a sweet little boutique in my quaint downtown. I even went so far as to contact the owner, meet with her, and come up with a plan to consign my animals. I was absolutely convinced that this was the best option for me and then for two months I worked toward that goal.

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One conversation planted the seed for my ultimate flip-flop. An accomplished knitter and crocheter named Julie revealed a horrific story to me after I shared my plans. She told of a time when she did the same thing but with a beautiful shawl. Julie returned to the shop only to find her beloved shawl crumpled on the floor with food and makeup stains on it. At that point the shawl, which had taken countless hours to make, was unsellable. Hearing her story was like watching a horror film and not expecting the predictable ending! I had never once thought about that being a possibility. From that day forward I couldn’t stop seeing my animals covered in jelly and lipstick!

That was the fulcrum point of my flip-flop. Jelly! Lipstick!! Oh, I can’t take it! My animals are precious to me. The planning, the materials, the hours upon hours crocheting, make them my babies. Not having that control is what ultimately did me in. I am officially an Etsy shopkeeper and I couldn’t be happier or more excited!!

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Saying Goodbye to my Beloved Cotton Yarn

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I am head-over-heels in love with cotton yarn. I love how it feels. I love how it works up. I love the colors. I love how smooth the texture is.

But it seems that cotton yarn doesn’t love me back.

I began having pain in my elbow approximately six months ago. The pain continued to get worse and worse. I finally went to an orthopedic doctor and he diagnosed me with Lateral Epicondylitis, also known as Tennis Elbow, due to repetitive motion from crochet. He gave me a cortisone shot right in the joint to relieve the pain and inflammation. OUCH! It definitely helped but I have since read that repeated cortisone shots could damage the joint long term so I will not be getting another one. The shot definitely helped the pain. It almost went away completely but within four weeks or so the pain was back and much worse.

I have taken a lot of time to research repetitive motion pain in knitters and crocheters. I have found that it’s more common than I thought! I have discovered, for myself, that making amigurumi is the culprit and that cotton yarn is the accomplice. Making amigurumi requires making single crochet stitches over and over again. There is very little variation which I believe is the problem.

While listening to a Bhooked podcast about how wool yarn is made, I heard something that I hadn’t heard before. Cotton yarn doesn’t stretch, which can cause problems with hands, elbows, or wrists for knitters and crocheters! NOOOOO!!! I knew that cotton didn’t have any stretch, which is why it’s really good for amigurumi! But it’s not good for my joints.

So now I am trying different fibers to see how they behave with amigurumi but also how my elbow feels with more stretch in the yarn. I am currently trying Paintbox Yarns Wool Mix Aran, which is 50% wool and 50% acrylic.  It has a bit of a fuzzy texture when you look really really closely but other than that it looks fairly similar to the cotton yarn.

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I’m hoping that stretchier fibers will be the antidote to my tennis elbow but only time will tell.