KonMari for Crafters

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Why This Crafter Needs KonMari

This is the stuff of horror movies and I’m putting the carnage and chaos on full display.  I’m ashamed to admit that my beloved crochet room is no longer the pristine, restful place that it was just a few short months ago. When we turned our spare bedroom into a space for my own creativity I proudly shared a tour and was so incredibly proud of it. (You can read more about that here: A Room of Her Own: A Tour of My Little Crochet Room and What it Means to Me). Fast forward to today and it’s a complete disaster. A big hot, unorganized mess. The video below isn’t for the faint of heart! Lol!

I wish I could write that I purposefully trashed this room for dramatic effect for the blog. But sadly that would be a lie. This is the state it is currently in and I am bound and determined to do something about it! I’m sure by now you have heard about Marie Kondo, her book, and her Neflix series. KonMari has become a household word in my neck of the woods and has me so excited about taking control of my spaces.

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Fabric scraps in a mason jar, crochet books, and magazines piled high on an overstuffed dresser.

The KonMari Method

1 – Commit yourself to tidying up: 

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I’ve been avoiding this particular step for some time now. I’ve made excuses for why this space stays so unorganized like, I’m creative so it’s going to be messy. I’ve even equated messiness with creativity. But in actuality that is just a crutch and it only gives me a reason to keep the junk. So although this may seem like the easiest step it is probably the hardest for me. I’m committing myself to tidying up my crochet room and I’m no longer going to give myself a hall pass.

I do think it’s important to understand why this space has become so completely unorganized while the rest of my home is fairly neat and tidy. I think the number one culprit is too much clutter. There’s way too much furniture in this small room and it always feels crowded no matter how organized it is. I want to remove pieces of furniture to allow this space to breathe.

2 –  Imagine your ideal life

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When I imagine my ideal crochet room, it is roomy, uncluttered, organized, and beautiful. It creates a feeling of calm when I cross the threshold. It sparks my creativity and inspires original thoughts. Currently it is the exact opposite. It stifles my imagination. It causes me to feel anxious. I avoid it. It’s claustrophobic.

3 –  Finish letting go first

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I’m actually really looking forward to this part. I’ve been telling myself the lie that I need to keep certain things like yarn I don’t like, because I may need it some day. But truthfully I only use a handful of yarns and I rarely if ever even look at the others. I need to donate the yarn that I am never ever going to use again. I need to toss the scraps that somehow I have talked myself into keeping as well.

4 –  Tidy by category, not location

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Crochet tools in a repurposed makeup caddy.

This makes the most sense for this space. Tidying by category, not location, will make my job much easier. I’m going to keep yarns separated by brand and weight. (You can read more about my favorite yarns for amigurumi here: Yarn Recommendations). I want to keep my tools in a more logical order as well. Knitting needles and crochet hooks need a place of their own. My patterns have a file box but somehow when I pull them out they just end up in a pile on the floor.

5 –  Follow the right order

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Marie Kondo recommends tackling clutter in the following order:

  1. Clothes
  2. Books
  3. Papers
  4. Komono (a.k.a. Miscellaneous Items)
  5. Sentimental Items

I think for my crochet room I will adapt this since it doesn’t really fit for this space. For the clothes I will substitute my yarn and all other fiber materials. I will keep the books and papers in the above order. I’m also going to substitute tools for Komono. The final step will will be for miscellaneous items like my camera equipment. I don’t really keep sentimental things in my crochet room so that category can be eliminated. Here is my revised order for tackling this space:

  1. Yarn, embroidery floss, fabric, and ribbon
  2. Books and magazines
  3. Papers – patterns, certificates, printed articles
  4. Tools – crochet hooks, knitting needles, embroidery hoops, scissors, etc.
  5. Miscellaneous (anything else in the room like camera equipment)

6 –  Ask yourself if it sparks joy

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This is the part of the KonMari method that really speaks to me. Since I was a small child I have been personifying every single thing in my life. In middle school I remember a pair of Esprit espadrilles that had seen better days. I didn’t wear them anymore because they were so battered and worn out but I couldn’t bear to throw them out. I kept imagining how sad and betrayed they would feel at being discarded like just a piece of garbage.

Marie Kondo recommends holding each item to see if it “sparks joy”. Does it give a thrill or happy feeling when it is in your hands? If not, thank the item for serving you and either put it in the donate, sell, or throw away pile. I can really get behind this action. I love the idea of thanking items for their service, but at the same time removing them from my own home. It is acknowledging items for what they are and have done and letting go without guilt. img_4046

I’m actually looking forward to this process now. I have a plan and for me that is half the battle! Do you follow the KonMari method for your home or crafting area? How do you keep your creative spaces organized?

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Interview with an Amigurumi Designer: Crochet to Play

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Have you ever thought that something looked fairly simple, but when you actually tried doing it yourself you found it incredibly difficult? No, just me? Haha!! Well that is exactly what amigurumi design is! When a designer does it well, they make it look easy and that certainly is the case with the talented Jennifer behind Crochet to Play

Jennifer’s style is whimsical and full of the wonder that fills childhood play. I found Crochet to Play just last year and was immediately impressed with her unique designs and adorable characters. I feel lucky to now consider her a friend. Jennifer’s designs are so imaginative and I want to make every single one of them! I was honored to be able to pattern test her Felicity Fawn pattern last month! Isn’t she adorable?

I’m not the only one noticing Jennifer’s work, recently her Little Red and Wolf pattern was published in Crochet Now magazine! She is currently designing animals for her Forest Friends collection and has released Mrs. Millie Mouse and Felicity Fawn. Jennifer just finished designing Mr. and Mrs. Hedgehog and they are the cutest pair you ever did see!

I am amazed with Jennifer’s “scope for the imagination” (bonus points if you know where that phrase comes from) and I can’t wait to see what is up her sleeves! I hope you enjoy this interview and I just know you’re going to love her work!

 

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Jennifer from Crochet to Play

  1. Tell us a little bit about yourself, where you’re from, husband, kids, job, favorite food, movies, hobbies outside of crochet. I’m from the beautiful Pacific Northwest, where I met and married an amazing guy and where we’re now raising our three sweet kids together. We met at a golf course over 18 years ago – I was a cart girl and he worked in the restaurant. The rest is history!  I’m a part time teacher (I work with students with reading difficulties like dyslexia) and mostly I’m just a busy mom. I love Mexican and Italian food and tend to binge-watch Hallmark movies while I crochet at night. Crochet is definitely my main hobby, but if I don’t have a hook in my hand, I love making memories with my family – going on walks, to the zoo, or to the beach.
  2. When did you start crocheting? I started crocheting about nine years ago when my oldest daughter was a baby. I wanted to be able to make her cute things and was intimidated by knitting, so I learned to crochet. I knew a little bit from my mom and grandma and learned the rest from the public library!

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    Daniel and the Lion’s Den

  3. When did you start making amigurumi? One day, a few years ago, I was browsing the yarn aisles at Michael’s and I stumbled across Ana Paula Rimoli’s book Amigurumi World.  To say I was mesmerized by the cuteness is an understatement! I fell in love with amigurumi right then and there and haven’t stopped making it since.
  4. When and why did you start designing amigurumi? I designed my first amigurumi pattern (Goldilocks and the Three Bears) three years ago. I was ready to transition from selling made-to-order items, mostly hats at the time, to something totally different. So I gave designing a try, and knew right away I wanted to design amigurumi. I had (and still have!) notebooks full of ideas that I couldn’t keep inside. It was a slow start, maybe a pattern every few months at first, but it has built up over time.

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    Little Red Riding Hood

  5. What does your creative process look like? Like I just mentioned, I have notebooks full of toys, themes, and sketches of amigurumi I’d like to make. When I officially begin a project, I generally do a quick sketch and then decide on yarn colors. This can be painstaking for me. I can always “see” the finished design ahead of time and then have to find yarn to match my vision. Once I finally do, I map out the parts and pieces I’ll need to shape and join and then I start experimenting until I get it right!
  6. Why do you think people should make amigurumi? Oh, so many good reasons!  I think amigurumi makes people smile. It’s such a unique niche in the fiber arts.  It’s very satisfying to make a toy from start to finish, especially as your skills improve and you can enjoy it more and more.

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    Felicity Fawn

  7. What makes you excited about the yarn and crochet community? I am crazy about the crochet community!  I absolutely love the connections I’ve made with other makers in this craft – people from all walks of life who get just as excited as I do about a yarn delivery, or a new finished project, or a pattern release that has roped us all in. Social media has given us a window into how many amazing makers are out there right now, putting their fresh stamp on crochet. It’s being modernized in a lot of ways and I love getting to see it and being a part of it.
  8. What are your goals and dreams for Crochet to Play? This year, I’d like to continue releasing patterns from series I’ve started – more animals for the Forest Friends, more Bible stories, with a few other patterns in between. I would like to grow Crochet to Play in the future as my kids get a little older, but I don’t yet know what that will look like. Perhaps books, perhaps with a blog.  It’s been a dream come true already so I am open and excited to how it’s going to grow.
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    Christmas ornaments

     

    You can find Crochet to Play on Instagram and Etsy

    If you enjoyed this post you may also like:

Making Amigurumi: The Artistry is in the Details

Do it Scared…Explore Your Creativity

 

 

How I Healed my Crochet Elbow: AKA Tendonitis

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I tend to overdo things. When I’m interested in a subject I will eat, breathe, and live every single minute detail and then some. Crochet has been no different for me, if anything it’s been more engrossing than anything I have been passionate about before. I love reading about it, looking at it, writing about it, and doing it!

I began having problems early in 2018. I would occasionally experience pain and stiffness only in the right elbow but that began to change as the months wore on. By spring of of that year the pain was waking me up at night and doing normal everyday activities began causing me a lot of discomfort. Gripping items like a hairbrush caused lightening bolt pain to radiate up and down my arms.

For months I tried to ignore it. I tried a few home remedies but nothing worked. Finally I went to the orthopedic doctor. He diagnosed me with Tennis Elbow, or tendonitis. He recommended a shot of cortisone in the joint might help with pain and advised that I take some time to rest. The injection itself was fairly painful, and I say this as a woman who has given birth with no anesthesia! It wasn’t horrific but it was definitely uncomfortable. By the next day I was actually regretting having the injection done because I was feeling a good bit of pain. By day three the discomfort was noticeably better. A week later I claimed that I was completely healed and went right back to crocheting 24/7.

Approximately three months later the trouble with my elbow was worse than ever. Everyday activities were even more difficult and I was now emotionally worn out and discouraged. Something that brought so much joy to my life was now causing so much harm. I reluctantly went back to the orthopedic doctor. He recommended that I begin physical therapy and that’s when my condition finally began to improve.

The following suggestions are what I learned from the physical therapist I worked with. She was very knowledgeable about repetitive motion injuries and how to heal them. I am so grateful for her wisdom and understanding! I hope you find something that you can apply to your own life to either help heal tendonitis or help prevent it.

Rest

This was the absolute last thing I wanted to do. I did not want to put my crochet hooks down for any reason, but eventually the physical therapist convinced me that I would never get better if I didn’t. What surprised me was that I didn’t have to put them down for days, weeks, or months at a time. She just recommended that I only pick them up for a max of a couple of hours a day and to take breaks. This seemed very reasonable to me and I began implementing this right away. I stopped the marathon crochet sessions late into the night. I started taking breaks every thirty minutes or so. If I could only recommend one suggestion this would be it!

Stretch

When my physical therapist first examined my arm she noted all the knots up and down my forearm, around my elbow, and up my tricep. These knots are caused by tight muscles and tissue bunching up and causing pain. During my crochet breaks my PT encouraged me to stretch. I would stretch my wrists, elbows, chest, forearms, and back muscles. As with most things, in the beginning I would overstretch and cause pain and more damage. My PT taught me that stretching should never hurt. Push to the point where you feel the stretch but not to the point of discomfort.

Ice

This is my second most important suggestion. After putting ice packs on my elbows following crochet sessions I began noticing considerable improvement right away! This was the hardest thing for me to remember to do, but I also believe it made a huge difference in my recovery from tendonitis. I used simple gel packs from Walmart and always kept one in the freezer so that I could apply it at any time.

Identify

Identify what triggers your pain. While listening to a BHooked podcast about different types of yarn I learned that cotton could be part of my problem. (You can read more about that here: Saying Goodbye to my Beloved Cotton Yarn) I switched to wool and wool blend yarns and began to notice a big difference right away. During my physical therapy treatment I tried using cotton yarn again and immediately began feeling that familiar pain. I haven’t picked it back up even though I absolutely love the look and feeling of quality cotton yarns.

You can read more about my favorite podcasts here: My Favorite Handmade Business Podcasts

I also identified that holding my dog’s leash was causing problems as well. My physical therapist recommended using a different type of leash that I could wrap around my forearm rather than by holding the handle on the type we have.

Crocheting was definitely the main trigger for my tendonitis but there were other factors that were contributing to it. Really begin to notice what could be causing pain, even if it seems too small to be the culprit. You might be surprised what little things you are doing in your own life that could be causing problems!

Strengthen

My physical therapist used a metaphor that helped me to see more clearly the objectives we were trying to achieve through strength training. She compared crocheting to running. Just running improves your cardio condition and endurance levels but to prevent injury you need to strength train. The muscles you use to crochet need to be strengthened to prevent injury down the road.

My preferred way to gain strength is through yoga. Many people think of yoga as more of a stretching activity, but upper body strengthening is a key component. I regularly practice gentle yoga through the YouTube series Yoga with Adriene. There are a few poses that do cause pain in my elbows and wrists so I adapt them or skip them altogether. For the most part it has been the easiest way for me to gain the strength I need and stretch tight muscles caused by crocheting.

Heal

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“Dry needling is also called trigger point dry needling or myofascial trigger point dry needling. It is done by acupuncturists, some chiropractors, medical doctors, and some physical therapists (PTs) to treat myofascial pain. The word “myofascial” is made up of the roots “myo” (which refers to muscle) and “fascia” (which refers to the tissue that connects muscle).

Muscles sometimes develop knotted areas called trigger points. These trigger points are highly sensitive and can be painful when touched. They are also often the cause of referred pain (or pain that affects another part of the body). Clinicians push thin solid needles through the skin into trigger points. The needles are used to stimulate the tissue, not to inject medication.” – Cleveland Clinic

Dry needling is not something I was particularly looking forward to. Thankfully I’m not afraid of needles, but they aren’t my favorite either! Dry needling was done during my physical therapy appointments and was one of the best things I did to help heal my tendonitis. The sessions were $30 each and were well worth every penny. The physical therapist explained that inflammation is not always a bad thing. By injecting the needles into specific trigger points she was causing controlled inflammation. She explained that bringing fresh blood into the area would help the healing process. I’m so glad that I didn’t let the fear of a little additional pain prevent me from doing this treatment. It did cause discomfort at times, especially when she would tap the bone with the needle. When she would pinpoint a particularly good area my muscles would spasm! She always got excited when that happened because it was a sign that she had gotten the right spot!

Wait

This is the absolute hardest part. I can be a very impatient person and want problems to be fixed yesterday. Tendonitis definitely taught me that healing takes time. Typically there are no easy fixes, especially if you wait a long time to deal with a problem. My current strategy is to prevent tendonitis from happening in the first place. I work really hard to rest, stretch, ice, and strengthen routinely so that I keep my joints healthy for years of healthy crocheting!

I hope you find some of these suggestions helpful! I would love to hear about some of your own tips for keeping your joints healthy for crocheting and knitting!

Transformation of a Dog: Jersey-boy

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Look at that smile!

Although technically speaking, sharing the story of how we came to adopt Jersey boy and his transformation from an untrusting shelter dog to a loving family member isn’t crochet related. But he is such a regular feature on my Instagram account and I receive quite a few direct messages about him. He even has a few legit fans! Most importantly he lays beside me when I crochet so often that I feel that he is an integral piece of my creative journey.

WHY WE WANTED A DOG

The first dog we ever had as a nuclear family came to us in an unusual way. When I was pregnant with our third child, I found a tiny puppy walking along a very busy road. I scooped her up, she had no collar, and was full of fleas. We immediately took her to the vet and from that day forward was our baby. We named her Belle, after the Disney princess from Beauty and the Beast, and she was a Pit Bull. Never was there a sweeter dog. We nicknamed her Nana because of the way she looked after the children, just like the St. Bernard from Peter Pan. We had her for fifteen years and putting her down was one of the hardest days of my life. We knew we weren’t looking for another dog right away but believed that the right dog would come into our lives when our hearts were ready.

GOING TO THE SHELTER FOR THE FIRST TIME

In late 2015 I decided that I wanted to adopt a shelter dog. I knew we weren’t looking for a puppy but I definitely wanted a female. When I arrived at our local Humane Society I was greeted by the volunteers and invited to look around the rooms where there were dozens of dogs in cages, all waiting to be adopted. Some were silent, some clearly seemed afraid, and some were aggressively barking and snarling. It was completely overwhelming and I began to cry. How was I ever going to choose a dog? But one did catch my eye. She was a small female and her name was Buttons, but she was in quarantine and wasn’t able to be adopted quite yet.

I went home and shared my experience on Facebook and a local friend reached out to me. She said that she knew a great dog trainer who routinely worked with the dogs from our particular shelter. She said she would check and see if the trainer had any recommendations. Within a couple of days I received a message from my friend recommending a dog named Jersey.

I went to the website and looked at his photo. To be honest, I wasn’t excited about him. First of all, he was a “he” and not a “she”. I really wanted another female. Also the description of him stated that he was returned to the shelter because he was killing chickens at the home he had been living at. He looked too big, he was boy, and he had an aggressive nature, three big red flags.

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Photo of Jersey from the Humane Society’s website

2nd Shelter Visit: Meeting Jersey for the First Time

On January 2, 2016, my son, Ben and I decided to head over to the shelter to give it another try. I knew before walking through the door that I could not go back into the large room where most of the dogs were being held and asked if they would bring out a few dogs for us to meet instead. The staff was more than happy to oblige us. I originally asked for Buttons but was told that she had already been adopted. I then decided that we ought to at least look at Jersey. The staff member said that we should head back to the smaller room where he was being held. We were led back to that area and I remember being surprised at how much smaller he was in person than in his photo on the shelter’s website. We leaned down and put our hands up to his cage. He leaned against the bars and we scratched his little side. We knew then that we wanted to at least get to know him a little better. We asked if we could take him outside and spend some time getting to know him out of the confines of the shelter walls. Jersey was so happy to be outside and immediately began running around in the grass and small field beside the building. My son was smitten and loved spending time with such an active dog.

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First moments spending outside of the shelter with Jersey

Jersey’s Background

The shelter staff gave us all of Jersey’s background information, which surprisingly they had a lot of. They informed us that Jersey’s birthdate was July 5th, 2010. I was surprised that they knew his exact birthdate but then they shared that little Jersey had been born in the shelter. He spent the first two years of his life there and was finally adopted by a family, with a mother, father, and a couple of kids. He lived in that home until the parents had a very ugly divorce and Jersey saw a lot of yelling and conflict. Jersey was then moved to the grandparents’ home where he was an outside dog. Although the grandmother was quite fond of Jersey, her husband didn’t like him one bit because he kept killing his chickens, which was the reason he was returned. Jersey had been back in the shelter for several months by the time we met him.

Decision Time

Even though I had some reservations my son was absolutely certain that he wanted to adopt Jersey. We filled out the paperwork and brought him home! This is the video I took of us taking him home from the shelter. It’s so precious to watch now!

ISSUES THAT BEGAN CROPPING UP

Initially Jersey seemed very happy to be with us. I could tell he wasn’t used to being in a house. He wanted to smell every single thing but he wasn’t sure how to sit on a couch. He enjoyed the attention but seemed to be a bit overwhelmed by it all. We spent a lot of time the first few days going on long walks. I could tell that being outside was something he really enjoyed and I was so happy to have a walking buddy.

Jersey soon started having issues. He didn’t like people standing over him and would growl. He didn’t like people standing near his bed when he was in it and would growl. He didn’t like anyone to come near treats or toys we gave him, he would really growl then. He began getting off of his leash and running away. He even snapped and bit one of our son’s friends. Thank God the young man wasn’t hurt but it scared us all. We then took Jersey to the dog trainer who worked with him in the shelter. Donna was such a gift and was able to help Jersey but also helped us understand his insecurities and issues from having been in the shelter for so long.

Did Jersey Like Us?

After working with Donna, Jersey’s issues began to melt away. But he still didn’t seem like he really liked us. Our old dog, Belle, would greet us at the door when we returned with tail wagging and excitedly running around. Jersey would wag his tail a bit but there wasn’t much enthusiasm. I began to wonder if even though we really liked Jersey if he really liked us back! I began googling questions like “How to tell if your dog likes you?” I began to wonder if dogs could be depressed.

Turning Point

About a year later my son took Jersey out for a walk and returned home carrying him with blood streaming from his paw. We jumped in the van and took him straight to the vet. The doctor examined him and found a gaping tear on his paw pad and a deep puncture wound in his leg. We still have no idea how it happened but Jersey needed quite a few stitches and antibiotics to prevent an infection. Because of Jersey’s trust issues we had to bring him back to the vet each time his bandages needed changing and he had to be sedated. Poor Jersey freaked out any time we even looked at his paw. Every other day for two weeks we drove him back and forth and tended to him as he came out of anesthesia. After his stitches came out we still had to tend to his wound by changing his bandage. I was exhausted from taking him to the vet so often and worried about the effect of so much sedation on his little body. My son asked if he could try one more time to change Jersey’s bandage. I saw the calmness in my son’s demeanor and thought it couldn’t hurt to try. We both agreed that if Jersey seemed nervous or anxious we would abandon the venture and take him back to the vet to let them do it. But that time Jersey didn’t seem anxious, he rolled over on his back and gave my son his paw. It was like the heavens opened up and Jersey finally realized that we weren’t going to hurt him. He finally realized that he could trust us, that all we wanted to do was love him, help him, and be there for him for the rest of his life.

TRUSTING, BELOVED BABY

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From that moment on Jersey was a different dog. Enthusiastic tail wagging and body wiggling now greet us at the door if we’ve been gone for any length of time. He smiles and shows his love for us every single day. We go for walks daily and no lie, sometimes he just stops and turns his head to look at me. He looks me straight in the eyes and I know he is telling me how much he loves us for loving him and being patient with him. I truly believe in the transformative power of love and consistency, I’ve seen it with my own eyes.

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!

 

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?

 

Trying not to be a Discouraged Maker this Holiday Season

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I’m trying not to be a discouraged maker this holiday season.

I read this blog post from the amazing Danielle at The Merriweather Council about staying sane as a maker during this hectic time of year. It totally resonated with me and I have a feeling that others will relate. Recently I have been comparing myself to the success I see in others and it can really pull the brakes on the momentum I have going on. Instead of focusing on what I have on my plate, I’ve been busy looking at everyone else’s and feeling quite sorry for myself.

I think I have split personality syndrome. On one side I am very creative, messy, and chill. Let’s call her Diana. Diana is fun and spontaneous. She doesn’t stick to a menu plan. She throws caution to the wind and tells the kids to get in the minivan because we’re heading to Chick-fil-A for dinner! Yeah, baby! My other side is organized, on time, and if I’m honest, a little intense. Let’s call her Karen. Karen never ever deviates from the plan. If Tuesdays are for tacos, then tacos will be had! Diana and Karen must not get along well because only one of them is in control of me at any given moment. If Diana is in control then my house looks like an episode right out of Hoarders but I’m happily crocheting amigurumi and can laugh off the chaos. If Karen is in charge then my house is tidy, we are on time and I get shit done.

Diana has definitely been in charge as of late and I have been in a super creative space. But because of that the holidays have snuck up on me and I’m not as prepared for them as I would like to be as a maker. Once I realized that it was only a few short weeks until Christmas, Karen pushed Diana out of the way and said she was taking over.

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Karen made a schedule so that the Etsy shop will be in full swing for the holidays. She put the Etsy shop on vacation mode and set the date to reopen on December 7th, plenty of time to ship everything before Christmas.

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The problem is that since Diana has been in charge for quite some time now, I’m not as prepared as I wish I could be. I am going to miss out on a big opportunity that presented itself  because I couldn’t be ready in time to take part in it. An awesome local antique mall (the largest in the southeast US) contacted me and offered me a table at their holiday Open House. To be able to stock an entire table I would need to have lots of animals and dolls ready made. Their Open House will welcome thousands of visitors from all over. As of writing this blog post I have a whopping total of two finished. You read that right…two. I can only make one to two animals per week and that’s if my tendonitis doesn’t start acting up (You can read more about that here: Saying Goodbye to my Beloved Cotton Yarn) That was a big huge bummer. A big, huge, fat, hairy, wet bummer. Not a nice visual, huh?

I started to feel super down about my own abilities and limitations. Scrolling through Instagram only made me feel worse when I saw how well planned and organized so many other makers seem to be. They have been preparing for the holiday season for months, while Diana has been over here flitting around in her own head!

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From the Merriweather Council Blog

“If you feel like seemingly everyone else is killing it this weekend – like everyone else has stacks of packages to ship out, orders out their ears, and everything is going just swell for everyone but you – please know that EVERYONE is on their own track. Everyone has to stay in their lane at their pace and experience their own ups and downs whenever they come. And TRUST ME everyone has downs and ups. Everyone.” – Danielle Spurge

This is exactly how I have been feeling. Everyone else is killing it and here I am picking my nose in the corner. But her quote really resonated with me and allowed me to see that I’m on my own track. This is my first holiday season as a maker as an Etsy shopkeeper. I am currently on track to be able to reopen the shop in early December and I am ok with that. Do I wish I had done more? Yes. Do I wish Karen had been in charge instead of Diana for the past few months? Maybe. Diana is definitely way more fun!

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But here I am, the beginning of November, and I’m going to take Danielle’s advice and stay in my lane, quit worrying about how well everyone else seems to be doing, and make some damn cute amigurumi. (Blog post about how you can make amigurumi too: You Can Make Amigurumi: A Tale of Two Walters)

Next season I will be more prepared. I will start focusing on the holiday season beginning in the summer or at the latest September. I would love to do some handmade markets and especially the holiday Open House at the antique mall. That will take planning and I will be depending on Karen to get me there. But I’ll make sure Diana is waiting in the wings with a double margarita and a sombrero in hand when I’ve completed my task.

Are you a Diana, a Karen, or both? Or do you have a completely different persona? I would love to hear about it!