Prioritizing and You

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So this is a subject that I often struggle with in my daily life. Figuring out how to prioritize what to do and when to do it when you feel you’re overwhelmed/stressed. Typically I use a weekly planner to map out my work schedule for myself, but what about everything else? Where do I fit in my house hold chores? Doctor’s appointments (for me and family)? Cooking/Meal prep? Work for Craft Hackers? The sheer amount just overwhelms me mentally sometimes. Well, in case any of you out there are feeling buried under stress, here’s a handy chart/suggestion I found online to try and help you get a hold of things. This comes from a very helpful blogger and is no way my own idea.

Take a deep breath, because this is a boot camp in prioritization.

  • Make a 3 by 4 grid. Make it pretty big. The line above your top row goes like this: Due YESTERDAY – due TOMORROW – due LATER. Along the side, write: Takes 5 min – Takes 30 min – Takes hours – Takes DAYS.
  • Divide ALL your tasks into one of these squares, based on how much work you still have to do. A thank you note for a present you received two weeks ago? That takes 5 minutes and was due YESTERDAY. Put it in that square. A five page paper that’s due tomorrow? That takes an hour/hours, place it appropriately. Tomorrow’s speech you just need to rehearse? Half an hour, due TOMORROW. Do the same for ALL of your tasks
  • Your priority goes like this:
    • 5 minutes due YESTERDAY
    • 5 minutes due TOMORROW
    • Half-hour due YESTERDAY
    • Half-hour due TOMORROW
    • Hours due YESTERDAY
    • Hours due TOMORROW
    • 5 minutes due LATER
    • Half-hour due LATER
    • Hours due LATER
    • DAYS due YESTERDAY
    • DAYS due TOMORROW
    • DAYS due LATER
  • At this point you just go down the list in each section. If something feels especially urgent, for whatever reason – a certain professor is hounding you, you’re especially worried about that speech, whatever – you can bump that up to the top of the entire list. However, going through the list like this is what I find most efficient.
    • Some people do like to save the 5 minute tasks for kind of a break between longer-running tasks. If that’s what you want to try, go for it! You’re the one studying here.

So that’s how to prioritize. Now, how to actually do shit? That’s where the 20/10 method comes in. It’s simple: do stuff like a stuff-doing FIEND for 20 minutes, then take a ten minute break and do whatever you want. Repeat ad infinitum. It’s how I’ve gotten through my to do list, concussed and everything.

You’ve got this. Get a drink and start – we can do our stuff together!


DIY Dye Jobs – Clothing or material

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Hello again, fellow Hackers of Crafts. Scribe Sarah here with some helpful tips I came across whilst attempting to fix a portion of a Renaissance-y cosplay I wear yearly. You’ll be seeing more of me as I will be posting every Monday here on the Craft Hackers blog.

We’ve all been there. You search and search and search for just the right article of clothing or a specific shade of fabric. But alas, your efforts are for naught. You have either too specific an idea in your head that you can’t find that perfect item to match or you run short of time and money and must make do with what you can get. The latter happened to me last year for the Bristol Renaissance Festival. I had spent months putting together the perfect cosplay and it came down to one last item. All I needed was a pair of leggings. I had put this off to the last thinking that finding a pair of either olive or chocolate leggings would be the easiest thing in the world. Leggings are all the rage right now, right? Well, apparently, I was wrong and the best I could find on short notice was tan leggings. They worked.  But I got multiple comments about how it looked like I wasn’t wearing any pants (which is true).

A friend first suggested, then my sister seconded that I just dye the pair I had to a darker brown. I had put it off, thinking that I had a whole year to try and find a better pair. Guess what? Life happened. I got busy, I forgot about it, I got even busier…you all know how this goes. We all experience it. So here we are, a year later and I’m going to Ren Faire next weekend. I never found a better pair of leggings. So I thought, “I’ll try this dying thing…”

I have never dyed cloth before. I have watched other people do it but I was nervous. What if I messed it up and ruined my one pair of leggings? Then I really WOULD have to go pantless! So I thought that I would document my little DIY journey for others, just in case you find yourself needing to break out the RIT.

The first thing you need to do is look at the type of material you want/need to dye. My leggings were a bit more difficult because they are 85% polyester. Most regular dyes don’t work as well on blends or synthetic fabrics. I went to Joann Fabrics and diligently perused the dye selection. There were the regular RIT dyes and then a couple specifically designed for synthetics and blends. I opted for the one to the right because the color was closest to what I had envisioned.

 

Now, the first hiccup I came across with this process is make sure that you read the packaging BEFORE you purchase the product and get it all the way home and start your dying process. This particular dye required boiling. That’s right, I basically had to boil my pants in dye. It was a learning experience. However, it ended up being a fun process and not nearly as difficult as I first anticipated.

Tip number two: Read ALL the instructions before you start. I was a tiny bit anal-retentive due to fear I’d ruin my clothing so I read them three times before starting and then also constantly referred to them as I proceeded. But I cannot stress enough how much easier everything was knowing what steps I had to take and when. Follow the directions and you’ll do just fine.

Tip number three: make sure you have rubber gloves to wear during this process. I used kitchen dish gloves because they come up the arm further and protect more of your skin. I also highly recommend either having an old apron to wear as you work or make sure the clothes you have on are ones you don’t care about. As I stirred and shifted the leggings around in the pot, sometimes they would slip off the spoon and *plop* back into the hot water, making little splashes of chocolate brown water.

The dishes you chose to use should be ones that you are never going to use with food again. My old spaghetti pot will never be the same, sadly. But it was the only thing I had that was big enough for the leggings. The spoon wasn’t as big a deal but truly, make sure the tools you have at your disposal match your needs. This was my second hiccup, sort of in correlation with my first (had I paid attention to the fact this needed to be boiled, I would have gotten the other dye that you can use in warm water in a stainless steel sink).

During disposal of the dye (which is septic and safe to pour down the drain), either pour it down the stainless steel sink (or a utility sink, should you have one) or resign yourself to immediately scrubbing your tub with Ajax or a bleach cleaner. My third mistake; I thought, “oh, I’ll dump it down the tub drain so I won’t splash up on the kitchen counter!” Not my best idea ever. Half the tub looked like I hadn’t ever cleaned it. So I had to immediately take care of that before the permanent dye set in. In related news, Ajax really is a great cleaner! Not as good as Francis, but….

All in all, the process wasn’t hard or time-consuming, as long as you prepare fully beforehand. It is possible to have that perfect colored fabric or clothing item and it won’t cost you a fortune! Now that I’ve done it once, I feel like it would be fun to experiment with designs and maybe even mixing my own custom colors. Uh oh, I think I have a new hobby….Couldn’t you just DYE?


DIY Unique Yarn Storage

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Hey there, Hackers! Tis your intrepid ScribeSarah, back with some tips on how to keep your crafting space clear and organized. Now, even little ol’ anal-retentive me gets her home a little messy with all her little projects but there are ways you can get that chaos organized, even if it doesn’t always look like it. While I tend to be a bit of a jack of all trades in the craft arena, for today’s exercise, I thought we would focus on ways to keep your yarn both accessible and stowed so that it’s not taking over your home.

There are quick and easy ways to store your yarns and threads, most of which you can find at your local Container Store (a place I am not allowed to go unsupervised because I will buy all the things). However, if you’re looking for something a little less ordinary (and costly), there are a bunch of things out there that you can use or re-purpose for these needs.

For yarn that isn’t being used currently (or for that yarn you found you just couldn’t leave the craft store without despite not having a specific project you bought it for), you could use old wicker/weaved baskets. My grandmother had a ton of these just hiding in her cupboards and when she passed away, rather than donate them to the Goodwill, I kept and re-purposed them. Some I use for small balls of yarn (leftovers from projects past) and some I use to keep finished projects. These can be decorative and left out by a chair or sofa or can be standard square that fits in a closet or on a shelf easily.

Another thing that gives your not-being-used yarn a happy and somewhatImage result for vintage suitcase retro home is to put those old suitcases to work. Vintage suitcases are a beautiful way to store these items that still look neat and classy. They fit in closets, under beds or sofas, but still show off a little glamor when pulled out for use. They can also be stacked decoratively in a corner or on a shelf (e.g. hat boxes, etc). You can line old suitcases with any fabric you like too, so the inside as well as the outside has a special sort of flare.

If you like assembling items, this next item is for you. Simple pegboard and hooks are a fabulous way to store your yarn while still keeping it readily accessible and easy to use. You can customize size, shape, even color quite easily and load as many or as few skeins onto a board as you see fit. You can also create many small boards to mount along the wall of your craft room in a funky design or pattern. The sky’s the limit with this option and it works best if you have a dedicated craft area or room.  For an easy-to-follow tutorial, check out Dwell Beautiful’s step-by-step instructions here.

Coffee cans are a fun, decorative way to store yarn you are currently using on projects. They come in various sizes and, depending on how much coffee you consume, you may have a restoring supply. You can paint or decoupage the outside of each can, simply slice a small hole in the lid of the can, then place the ball or skein in the can and thread the end through the lid. Glue guns, glitter, rhinestones, shelf lining paper and yarn itself are also fun ways to decorate the outsides of the cans. Not only does this give you storage, it is also an inexpensive yarn holder. But if you don’t want tons of coffee cans just sitting around your space, you can also mount them on the wall (without the lids).

Image result for coffee can yarn

And finally, we come to milk crates. These may be a little harder to come by but they give you a great way to create your own yarn shelves. They are stackable, come in different colors and can be used in small and large spaces equally as well. Got a lot of yarn? Just keep stacking on the crates until you have a place for it all. For this idea, I recommend using an anchor of sorts when stacking against a wall; the higher you stack the crates, the more likely it is that the whole thing could topple over. You will also want to lash the crates together as well to make your yarn storage sturdier.

Image result for milk crate yarn storage

These are just a few ways to take items you may have either laying around the house or are easy and inexpensive to acquire and use them to organize your space. But don’t stop there. Look around you. You never know when inspiration will strike. That random item that’s just collecting dust in the corner may be the next great organizational tool in your crafting adventures.

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Clay in winter

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Happy Wednesday! This is Kim with Fantastical Menagerie. As a clay artist, winter is always harder in more ways than one. Colder temperatures mean that clay doesn’t always stay conditioned.

Copyright © 2015 by Ginger Davis Allman The Blue Bottle Tree, all rights reserved.

Copyright © 2015 by Ginger Davis Allman The Blue Bottle Tree, all rights reserved.

That same block I was working with the day before can be hard and crumbly all over again. Blech! Some shortcuts that I have found work for me are:

  • If you are using a marble, granite or glass work surface, remove the clay and wrap it in waxed paper when you finish for the evening. Stone surfaces conduct cold very well.
  • Store the clay in a box in the warmest room of your house. For many people, this would be the kitchen area.
  • When you start working, hold the cooler ball of clay in your hands or if you are in a hurry, near your skin for about five minutes. This warms it without cooking it.

I hope some of these suggestions help! Some brands of polymer clay are naturally softer, such as Sculpey III or Sculpey Soufflé. Next week I have a tutorial on creating fruit tarts I will be posting in two parts. I know it’s out of season for berries, but maybe the tarts will help you think warmer thoughts.


Keeping Those Resolutions

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happynewyear

Happy Sunday and a very happy new year to you all! Last year definitely had it’s ups and downs but I do hope that your own ups outnumbered the downs. I, like a good majority of people, tend to make some kind of new year resolution that I totally intend to keep and then end up getting sidetracked/give up on/push until next year for any number of reasons. The biggest roadblock to keeping mine usually stems from one of my greatest aspirations and biggest adversaries: organization. I love the idea of organization but execution always seems to fall short of my expectations. Like I am just going to magically become this domestic organization goddess that knows exactly what I am doing with my life because I finally got all of my yarn out of the plastic bins overtaking the office and into cube baskets on shelves.

Uh huh, sure. I've heard that one before.

Uh huh, sure. I’ve heard that one before.

Let’s be honest here, one of the big reasons I am obsessed with Pinterest is because it gives me all of these innovative ideas for de-cluttering my home by going to the dollar store/covering this cardboard box in washi tape/building new storage out of toilet paper tubes but I can count on one hand the number of these solutions I’ve actually attempted. Organization is also my foe in other parts of my life…I adore planners. Back when I was a wee student and discovered the themed student planners, part of my prep for the year was always picking out just the right one. I very much enjoyed filling out assignments, important dates, and social events. I also love the idea of journals, as my untouched but pretty journal collection can attest to but I never seem to be able to keep up with it. Add into that my accomplishments as a list maker and you have my ultimate organization conundrum. Is there something that exists that can help me keep better track of everything while still letting me following my meandering route and also act as a creative outlet? Turns out there is.

bulletjournalven

Enter, the bullet journal. One of my very good friends (who may be picking up some blogging duties here – yay!) introduced me to this concept at the end of last year and I had yet to investigate it thoroughly. WARNING: a search may suck hours of your life away if you are not prepared for the black hole that is “bullet journal ideas”, not that I know from experience or anything. So what is a bullet journal, exactly? Well, this world being what it is, of course someone actually gave the concept a title and bought the domain name so you can go to the official Bullet Journal Website for a description or this article from Buzzfeed gives a pretty good background but I think I truly got interested because of this article on The Lazy Genius Collective. Not only do they keep it real, they are wonderfully witty as they go about describing what the basic pieces *usually* consist of.

This is cute and all but I have waaaaaaaaaaaaaaay too many books on both of those lists to ever set it up this way.

This is cute and all but I have waaaaaaaaaaaaaaay too many books on both of those lists to ever set it up this way.

The important point that I’ve gotten from the articles is that this is not something you should feel pressured to keep precisely organized. All of the pieces are your pieces and they should be done in a way most effective to YOU. It is part planner, part to-do list, part diary, and part whatever else you need. It definitely does not need to be the most beautiful thing you have ever produced and I would caution you to not be intimidated by all of the cute doodles or calligraphy level entries you may find in an initial search. One of the biggest parts of making this useful, however, is the index page. This is your guide to your bullet journal that will tell you where to find all of those different thoughts, lists, and dates. Along with “signifiers” which are like your own secret code of symbols for giving quick look assignments to tasks or notes, this truly seems like something that I would not only keep up with but may also enjoy. If anything I have described above resonates with you at all, I do highly recommend checking out this lovely madness I am about to plunge headlong into. On that note, we have MAGfest coming up this week and I have to make my packing list! Have a fantastic week, all!

Stay crafty!

~Laura

 


Cosplay A to Z: Choosing a Commercial Pattern

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One of the things I think many beginner sewers have difficulty with is choosing patterns to sew with. For today’s article, I’m going to assume you’re working primarily with fabric for your costume.

Choosing a pattern can make your life easier or not, so today we’re going to talk about my 4 S’s of pattern selection.

Size
It goes without saying that size is important. Pattern sizing is not the same as fashion sizing, and so at a basic level, you need to ensure you are using the correct size. If your pattern size is the same as what you bought in a store, you’re probably going to have problems.

But in a more abstract manner, size is important in different ways. Maybe you don’t want perfectly fitting clothing. Maybe you want oversized clothing.

Is your character a cartoon with blocky features? If so, maybe you want to ensure that your pattern is going to be oversized to give that less human, more pixelated look. Some designs may be created that are made to hang large on a frame. Looking at the fit of the design on the model can help you get an idea about whether it will really bring your character to life in the way you want to.

 

Shape
Shape goes to the basic shape of a pattern. If you were to represent your costume in 2 dimensions, what shapes would it take?

If you’re looking for a skirt, the first question to ask is does this give the right kind of skirt? Is it a-line? Is it mermaid? Does it go in where you want it to go out? For instance, a short school uniform-type of skirt has a very different shape than a pencil skirt worn by the school principle.

If you’re wondering whether a pattern would give similar shapes, you can easily try drawing them out to compare.

 

Silhouette
Silhouette takes shape to a step above. It is about the lines on the edge of the body and the curves or straight lines they make that that point. You want to check that the pattern you choose gives you the same silhouette as a character.

For retro and historical patterns, you may find that the correct silhouette is not achievable without proper undergarments. For instance, the 1890’s saw the use of spoon-busked corsets. These are very distinct silhouette and corsets that use any other type of busk will not give the S-curve of the 1890’s corsets. Further, any clothing not designed for a spoon-busk may need alterations to accommodate a different style of corset.

The Victorian silhouette

The Victorian silhouette

I think silhouette is best explained by Jessica Rabbit. Any pink sparkly dress with a red wig will evoke the comically drawn Jessica, but only a specialised corset and dress will depict her incredibly tight waist and buxom features for an accurate silhouette.

 

Seam Lines

The last, but certainly not least, consideration is where to the seam lines lie on the pattern?
You can save yourself a lot of effort if you can find a pattern that has similar seam lines. It will be more easily alterable to gain the silhouette you want, as well as looking more like what the character uses.

I will caution that seam lines are not always a requirement for many costumes, but for some, they can make or break a costume. In some instances, seam lines can be the difference between a screen accurate costume and not.

For instance, while any black bodysuit could be used to represent Mara Jade, she is always depicted in the comics with very specific patterns. I had to adapt a bodysuit pattern to add these seams in and take extra seams out in order to get an accurate costume.

All four of these things may not exist in a single pattern. However, if you can find a pattern that has 3 of them, you’re going to have a lot less work to do to make it fit and look accurate than if you just pick the first jacket pattern you find in your size. You could choose the first jacket pattern you buy, but take some time, and you may find one that is not only 1940’s styled, but has princess seams.

There are thousands of patterns in existence, and combing through them can be time consuming. However, taking that time at the beginning of the process can significantly make the construction process later on easier.

~ eliste


Cosplay A to Z: Measure it out

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One of the fundamental issues with getting a good costume is starting from a good base.
If there is any sewing involved, that base needs to be accurate measurements.

Measuring a body is more tricky than many people realise. It is one of the first things they teach you upon stepping into the world of pattern making, and for good reason. We have pudgy bits that defy attempts to keep things where we want it, but without accurate measurements, it is difficult to know where to begin.

Here are some tips on how to get accurate measurements for your costumes.

1. Don’t measure yourself
It is a little known fact that you almost certainly cannot get accurate measurements of yourself by doing the measuring yourself.

There are a number of reasons for this. Firstly, you cannot actually see some of the measurements to take- like your back. It is physically impossible without a multiple mirrors to be able to see what’s going on at your back. Likewise, one of the key things in measuring is that you are doing it accurately, and you cannot view where the tape is sitting on your back to ensure it sits straight/at the right height/etc.

Further, if you were to somehow set up mirrors to deal with this, you would have to contort your body in order to get those measurements. As soon as you move your body, you lose accuracy in your measurements. That is not to say that you need to be stock still, but bending arms or legs, twisting your head, all of these things will alter the measurements that get taken. So at the bare minimum, you will get better measurements if you get someone, anyone to take them for you.

2. Learn how to measure
Measuring is a science. You need to be precise. You need to keep using the same spots for measurements, and you need for it all to be harmonious.

screen-shot-2016-11-16-at-11-28-19

Note that this person is actually measuring their waist wrong.

One of the simple ways of doing this is to add guides to your body. Tying strings around your waist and where your arms and shoulder meet can provide good guidances.

Additionally, there are little things you need to do like keeping your measuring tape level with the floor when you’re measuring, keeping your measurements all in one metric system (cm or inches, don’t mix), and

If you’re not sure how to measure, then look for guidance. Between the internet, books on garment making, and traditional sewing classes, you should be able to find someone out there to give you guidance in this respect. Even better, get whoever you are going to have measure you sit down and learn it too. I recommend finding a costume buddy, because then you can do it for each other.

I highly recommend learning in person. There is nothing that quite replaces being able to feel a shoulder bone or the divet in the neck. You can see it, but feeling it really puts it in your mind forever.

3. Learn where to measure
Most costume companies will ask for three things- your chest, waist, and hip measurement. This sounds easy, but this is actually not going to give you a particularly accurate costume.

The more information you have on your measurements, the more accurate a costume will be. These three measurements, while crucial, only give a basic understanding of what your figure is like.

They don’t explain that your waist is higher than most cause you’re only 5’ and while you might have a fairly standard sizing in these three areas you actually need that, but with about 4 inches lopped off the overall length. Further, if you’re a busty girl, it will be obvious from the other measurements that using the large bust measurement will make your costume way too large overall.

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This is the basic minimum that is needed IMO. But if you are drafting you will need more information than this. There are many guides like this that can be found with simple Google searches.

So you need to take all the measurements necessary to make your costume. This may be all the upper body alone, or it could include lower body. Maybe you don’t need sleeve measurements cause it will be sleeveless.

My word of advice is that it is always better to take more measurements than are needed. It is best if all measurements are taken at the same time by the same person, so if you think you’ll use the measurements a second time before re-measuring get everything you can before you lose whoever is helping you. At least if they do everything, if there are errors, they will be consistent throughout.

Like with learning how, the tools are out there. You just need to find them.

4. Don’t rely on old measurements
Got some measurements done in college 2 years ago? Great! But don’t just expect them to be the same now. If you’ve gained or lost 5lbs or more, your measurements will likely change. Even if you haven’t changed weight, exercise and diet can have changed how your body is put together.

In fact, even if your clothes still fit you, that is not a guarantee that your measurements have not changed.

My point is, if you haven’t had measurements in a while, then you should get new ones done.

Once you have all of your measurements done, make sure whoever is making your costume has all of them. Even if they only ask for three measurements, send them all. If they don’t use them, you won’t have lost out on anything, but if they do, you should get a costume that is as close to your size as possible.

Further, you can use this as a way to determine if a costume seller is really up to the standard that you want them to be. If you contact them and they are unwilling to work with custom measurements, that is going to tell you something and then you can make up your mind about whether it is worth getting a stock sized costume that you may have to alter to fit, or whether you want to hold out for someone who will make a costume that will genuinely fit you.

Happy measuring!

~ eliste


A Girl’s Best Friends…

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… Where the answer may often be diamonds, sometimes the answer is her bridesmaids. Last week I gave you a few links with some great DIY ideas for the men involved in a wedding, this week I’m going to post some ideas for the ladies in your wedding. It’s just as important to thank these tireless babes as they helped to make your big day special and stress free. After all – what are friends for? Now, one of my general rules of gift giving – especially for big events that tend to merit trinkets with dates etched into them or something else that you wouldn’t want to use, I follow my own personal rule of giving something consumable or useful. That way, the people who helped you on your big day can have a little enjoyment out of their gift rather than having something that sits in a cabinet.

1. My first offering, is from Lia Griffith who  has given a step by step tutorial, including printables for labels (if you are a member of their site) and recipes, for how to give a spa day in a box.

I love that this gift lets your lovely ladies open something fabulous, and the fact that this is all hand made is what makes this gift special. You can find most of the ingredients easily at a grocery store, and you can visit your local craft store for any containers that you may need to buy (you don’t need the roll tubes for your lip balm, think of some small jars instead). The other nice thing about this is you can really make all of this in bulk so that you can make one for all the ladies in your bridal party.

2. What about these delicious and unique cookie butters (that’s right, you read that right) from A Beautiful Mess?

There’s recipe and instructions for how to make a butter out of any kind of cookie, and the other supplies for the labels and the jars can be pretty nominal, depending on how to do them. But imagine a set of 4 different cookie butters for your bridesmaids to treat themselves with over a piece of toast or waffles!

3. For your ladies who love to cook there’s an amazing idea that can be applied to spoons and other wooden utensils, but also to bread boards, wooden trivets, and really anything else that’s wooden and living in the kitchen. I’d like to thank Design Mom for their lovely, design inspiration. All you need is a dremel and some creative gumption.

I think this is such a fabulous way to personalize some every day items and give them just a touch of class. Especially since you do these  by hand, they can be as intricate or simple as you’d like, and you don’t have to worry about getting food grade paint as you are just burning the designs in! Keep in mind if you’re going to do something more complex (like a full picture on a trivet, for example…), you may want to etch it with pencil first, as there are no takebacksies when it comes to wood burning.

4. And finally, my last offering in this little gift collage, is to give the gift of soap, with this tutorial provided by A Pumpkin and a Princess. She provides recipes for a few different flavours, too.

 

What I love about this, is that it’s simple, thoughtful, useful and can be made in large batches so that you can give multiple flavours of soap and you can gift to your ladies without breaking the bank. If you get some nice craft paper, or printed wrapping paper and some ribbon, you can make this simple thank you a very very beautiful one!

 

I hope that you enjoyed this as much as last weeks. And good luck!

Happy crafting,

~Megan


Isn’t the Customer Always Right?

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Good morning, Thursday readers.

For those of you working to sell your crafty things, or for those of you thinking of selling your crafty things, I’ve been writing this series of support blogs to help out in the emotional journey and some of the different problems I’ve encountered and how I have handled them. This is an interesting one, especially when we’re taught from an early age and through movies that the customer is always right. Is that true? Yes. Except when they’re wrong. Then they’re not right, and you need to know where you draw the line so that you can stand up for yourself as a business, both small and/or handmade.

Customers will complain about all kinds of things ranging from price to size to fit to colour to just about anything that they can think of. One of the most common I hear are comments about price.  This is a hard one as pricing out product as a maker is different from pricing out product that is coming out of a machine.

 

Most of us have to undercut ourselves just a touch to stay competitive, but there’s no reason that you should be taking losses. This is one place where I find people just don’t seem to have a concept of the labour involved in making things. Often, your best defense, in this case, is education. Talk to your customers about how you make things, the time and the skill that it takes, what your experiences have taught you. This will often help them to understand your pricing strategy and if there’s still pushback after that, then they just don’t understand. Don’t feel the need to bargain with people just because they want to. Stand by your products and remember that your labour is worth fighting for.

 

It is things like this that we hear constantly that can throw doubt on our decisions. Similarly, you may at some point, have to deal with refunds and exchanges from people who are dissatisfied in some way with what they bought, regardless of if it is because of workmanship or simply just a change of mind. The best way to combat this, again, is education. Have a refund policy set out so that you have something to stick by. Don’t worry if you don’t want to accept refunds, there are many stores that do this. Just inform your customer of your expectations when they make the purchase, and have it written down on your website.

All this being said, customer service is one of the most important things that can absolutely make or break your business, but customer service doesn’t mean doing everything you can to ensure that the customer is happy with every aspect of what you’re selling. It means to treat your customers fairly and with respect, including when trying to resolve issues. Customer service is about helping them to find what they need and provide them happily with the service to get it. It doesn’t mean that they have the right to disrespect you or treat you unfairly. It doesn’t mean that they should be allowed to take advantage of you, and I find there’s a lot of people who forget that and make disrespectful demands of makers (and other businesses) because of it.

So what happens when a customer has a demand or is trying to negotiate a term that you feel is unfair? Just remember that you’re allowed to say no, and be fair to yourself. You have the authority. You’re the owner, aren’t you? It’s your responsibility to make sure that your customers are happy, but it is also your responsibility to make sure your employees (you) are treated fairly and with respect. I don’t know if you’ve noticed a theme, but respect and fairness is hard to argue with, from either side of the counter.

You’ve hacked your craft and now you’ve got the courage to hawk it. Stand up for it, and the work that you do.

 

~Megan


Positively Speaking…

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Good morning, Thursday Crafthackers.

I have had some recent experiences that I thought I might write about as I have found that they have had a severe impact on how I feel about my crafting business and I suspect I’m not the only one. If you have decided to turn your hobby into a business, or even into something just more than a hobby, then good for you, brave soul. It isn’t for the weak of heart, but it can be one of the most rewarding endeavours that you can undertake. After you get past the heady excitement of starting something new and past the initial panic of what this new thing can become, you will start to see the reactions of the people in your life.

This can be an extremely odd experience as you’ll get wide and varied responses. Of course, you want everyone to think this is as great an idea as you do, and you want people to be excited with you and for you – to celebrate your  successes and commiserate with you in your failures… I mean… learning experiences. How do you react, however, when the people who you would expect support from (whether it be financial, emotional or other kinds of support) fall through? How do you handle it when those you love and trust turn out to be your biggest naysayers?

Let me tell you, it’s not easy. I have recently learned realized, that I have a lot more of those people in my life than I would like. People who I didn’t expect who were not just Debbie Downers, but actively telling me that what I am doing is a mistake, and that they don’t agree. What’s worse is the silence that comes with it. Instead of asking me how work is going, there’s nothing. No questions about the business, no interest, no support. So how do you recognize these naysayers? How do you deal with them and should you listen?

Well, first, look at the people in your life who you talk to about your business. Do you talk about it to them with shame or pride? If you feel ashamed when you talk about your small successes, or what you hope to achieve in your puny endeavours, then, my friend, you have found a naysayer. If you find someone who is putting your ideas down, making you feel small, or even ignoring that part of your life entirely, you have people who don’t agree with what you are doing.

Of course, you will listen to them and wonder if they are right. How can you not, especially if they are people who you are used to trusting? But the question you need to ask yourself is this: Are these people seeing things how they are or do they just not agree with what you’re doing? It’s easy to accept negative criticism and let it seep into your psyche and let it convince you that you’ve done something wrong and that you have no right to believe that you can make something amazing. Let me tell you, there is nothing so unmotivating, demoralizing and downright upsetting as this. Thus, there is nothing more damaging to a business. You are the heart of your business, and if that heart is broken the business doesn’t ever have the chance to fly.

So what do you do? How do you get past these Negative Nancies? Well, I suppose it depends how close they are to you. In an ideal world, you could remove those people from your life and keep only the positive influences. In reality, it may not be so easy as they may be friends, colleagues or even relatives. If you want my personal opinion, I would say that if they can’t help to build you up into the person you need to be to own your business, then your business is none of theirs. Saying that, I know it isn’t that easy if the negative comments are coming from parents or close friends.

So, the way I see it, you have a couple of choices. One is to keep them out of the loop, and mind your business yourself, sharing your business plan and your ideas with the people who will help you to grow them and yourself. Another is to actually sit down with them, present them with a business plan, and get their input on how to improve it. The third option is to talk to them and let them know how their criticisms impact you emotionally and the effect that has on your business and your life.

Ultimately, there’s no easy, painless solution, but there’s one thing that is a certainty. Being an entrepreneur is hard enough when everything goes right, and the last thing you need are people who will sap your positivity and break down the things that might help you succeed. Surround yourself with the people who make you stronger and help build your fortitude for the tough times. Look for like minded people who are in similar situations so you can bounce ideas and talk to find solutions to challenges. Talk to people in the financial industry – like your investors or even just a banking adviser – about where you would like to take the business and how to get there.

From, How I Met Your Mother, of course.

I hope that you never have to deal with something like this, but if you do, it’s a really helpful thing to know that you’re not alone.

And remember….

Happy Crafting!

~Megan