Sunday, May 31, 2009

Felted Technology Cozies

Before we went on our Florida vacation (many thanks to our family in beachy locations :) Dell bought me an iPod!

We don't even have cell phones, so this little-bit-of-a-technological-miracle-clad-in-orange kinda blew my mind. And my first instinct was to protect it. So I crocheted a little pouch from worsted wool and felted it in the sink. I made it big enough to also hold the recharge cord and even fashioned a little pouch on the front for the earbuds.

I have done lots of felting from wool roving, both wet and needle felting. And I have done a lot of crochet. I have even felted from my crocheted items, making coasters we love using around the house and which I hope someday to add to my shop. But I always felted the knit and crochet stuff in the washing machine before. I didn't have time for that days before our big trip so I donned my lovely yellow rubber gloves and tried wet felting my cozy in the sink. It worked!

The following isn't meant necessarily as a detailed tutorial, but as an overview of my process.

First I found some worsted weight merino yarn in my vast stash:

Then I crocheted it into a pouch (see below for very basic recipe). This one is for an iPhone type of object. I'm not doing mathematically accurate measurements, I really just like to eyeball stuff. For me that's more relaxed and fun.

After I completed the crocheting, I took it over to the sink, got it wet with hot water, poured a little dish soap on it, and started scrubbing:

You can really rough it up, I smashed it all around into itself, occasionally put a little more hot water on it, or soap if needed, and sometimes pulled it flat to see if it was felting OK and/or becoming a weird shape by accident.

After it had felted as much as I wanted it to, I rinsed it well and sort of blocked it by laying it flat, pulled into the shape I wanted it to keep when dry. I put the pouch on a sunny windowsill, usually they are dry by the next day.

I have a HUGE vintage button collection and I like to go through it, picking out buttons for these little pouches.

Here's one I made for my digital point and shoot camera, the button is Bakelite:

Here is my very basic recipe for making a pouch that could hold a digital camera, adjust as necessary for your specific 21st century marvels:

1) I use a G crochet hook and worsted wool (not super wash!)

2) I chain about 18-20 then turn and single crochet (into the front loop only) back and forth for about 12 rows more or less.

3) When it looks wide enough (I'm allowing for felting shrinkage of about...25%? I have no idea :) I slip stitch the pouch closed down the side and single crochet the pouch closed along the bottom.

4) Then I cut the yarn and work in loose ends, these will disappear into the fabric of the pouch when you felt it which I LOVE!

5) I start the button loop by attaching the yarn at the top opening of the pouch somewhere a ways in from the edge (1/2 inch maybe?) your call, and chain about 10, attach it where it looks most symmetrical to where I began and single crochet along the chain back to the beginning of the loop, fasten off, weave in ends.

6) Felt as above, 7) block and allow to dry then 8) attach button of choice!

You could also add more buttons for adornment, embroider, sew on beads, and/or needle felt designs onto the pouch. Let me know if you make these too and what yours look like!

Monday, May 18, 2009

Craft Show Display

It's show season again! Along with thinking about producing as many items as I can to fill my table and what exactly those items should be, I'm also thinking about display.

My craft show displays have always been organic and inexpensive, whatever I had around that worked for now. Over time they have been augmented by things I've found for free or at thrift shops. I also found some great items at Bed Bath and Beyond and Target. I got my fab card spinner randomly from a shop that was going out of business.

Here's how my full tent display came out at the Sheep Shearing festival in April, thanks to Candace's generous help and impeccable eye!

Here's my half-space table from Andover Crafts in the park on May 9th:

This past weekend I vended at the SOWA Artwalk in Boston's South End. It was a crazy set up of first come first served spaces in two empty office buildings. The space was generously donated and our table fee was $0, so we were all determined to make the situation work!

I snagged a space in a larger room with some natural light. The fluorescent light above me was not functioning and the first day my space was a little dark.

On Sunday I brought a lamp and that made a huge difference. I sold many more of the items under the light! I also rearranged the left side of the display.

My theme, in as much as I have one, has mostly been trending toward displays that look like they should hold food. I think this is appealing and goes with some of my food-like products, cupcake anyone?

But it's not consistent across my table, I do like the way things pull together at my shows, and I get a good response from shoppers, but there is a part of me that wishes I could have a Martha Stewart set designer come in and tell me what I should do! Because I believe, like photos in online shops, displays at craft shows can affect sales.

Though I don't think I'm living up to my full display potential yet, I'm on that path, I'll get there soon!

Monday, May 4, 2009

Making my own hang tags

When I started selling in consignment shops I needed to add individual hang tags to my pieces for branding and as a place to put pricing stickers. Most shops won't want a tag with your web address on it, so I just put "made in lowell by Liz Smith". I started by cutting some Moo cards in half and rounding the corners, those looked fantastic but wow that was going to get expensive fast.

I don't mind a ton of laborious cutting and clipping (OCD heaven!) so I designed a group of 11 hang tags using my product photos and arranged it to fit on an Overnight Prints postcard. I chose Overnight Prints because I wanted the matte finish they offer, sort of trying to replicate the Moo card look. When the box of 100 cards arrived I cut the tags apart, used a corner punch to round their corners, punched a hole and strung them with vintage crochet thread.

While I am overall very pleased with the results, here are the things I would do differently next time:

1) Design to the edge of the postcard, do a full bleed. I designed my card with the images floating inside a large white area and while this wasn't a problem for me, Overnight Prints lil printer bot caught it and emailed me TWICE to tell me my order was on hold because I didn't do a proper bleed on my card and it was coming up as an error in their system. I don't want to give the lil bot a heart attack and I don't want my order delayed again so next time I will make sure my image goes past the edge of the card.

2) Size my tags differently. The best corner rounder I have found is made by Fiskars but your tags have to be at least 1 ½ inches to reach the corner punch part and still leave you something to hold onto. My tags were about ¼ inch too short. *sigh* I cannot be thwarted so I rigged up a lightly sticky strip of paper to extend my reach so all was not lost, but wow, was that a pain.

3) Another note on size: When I took my items to one of my consignment shops, I saw my carefully placed text and image obscured by a pricing sticker that is standard size for a lot of POS systems, ½” x 1 ¾”. My tags weren't long enough for the whole sticker to go on the back so the shop owner had no choice but to wrap the price tag around to the front of my tag ruining its aesthetic. I really should have thought of this when I designed my tag shape, but now I know!

Now that I have tried making my own hang tags using an outsourced printing company, I have more ideas for things like earring cards and other packaging. Please feel free to tell me your experiences with this kind of DIY packaging project!