Tuesday, November 16, 2010

What Will Sell My Market Bags?

I sold a total of one reusable, durable, handmade, cotton market bag this summer.  I thought they'd go like hotcakes at the local farmer's market.  No vendors use reusable bags and no one else offers them.  Go figure.  I supposed that people had gotten frustrated having spent money on reusable bags in the past, but continually forgetting them when they go shopping.  I do this myself fairly often, and I spend a good deal of time making them!  Plus, every other store carries those cheap ones at the checkout that only cost a couple of dollars.  In comparison, my bag is a downright luxury item.

Maybe better signage boasting their lead-free benefits?  I could offer some kind of incentive to customers who reuse my bags next summer at our local farmer's market.  Something like, use your bag next week and stop by for a 20% off coupon to my booth or online shop.  Another thought I've had is to wholesale my bags to vendors directly.  Or I could drop my price and not make any money on them in honor of the principle...
Any other suggestions, readers?  I'd love your thoughts!

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Summer Into Fall

A couple of weeks ago, as we returned home from soccer game, I looked up and out to an amazingly colorful sunset over Lake Ontario, and noticed that the clouds had that autumn 'look.'  You know the one.  It's hard to describe, but I know it when I see it.  The purples in the clouds are a little darker, grayer, defined than earlier in the week.  And there was just that slight touch of 'nip' in the air.

Each time a new season begins to edge itself in, I swear that the new one is my favorite.  But, truly, fall holds a special place in my heart.  I think it's the richness of the forest scents that emerge, the deeper shades of summer colors, and definitely the crazy quilt colors of autumn trees in my area of the country.  Fall means putting those cozy sweaters and sweatshirts on when the sun goes down, campfires that are actually needed for some warmth, and a return to a familiar school/work routine.  The coming of fall means the savoring of every last vestige of summer, too.

What does fall mean for my crochet work?  Moving from small summer purses and totes to more serious bookbags, from skinny cotton scarves to fluffy cowls, from lightweight jewelry to mittens and fingerless gloves. Fall means deeper colors, thicker, warmer fibers, more intricate textures, and a wonderful new feeling of discovery as I turn to new ideas and materials.  I'm looking forward to making some projects with alpaca, for instance.  The yarn I purchased this summer hasn't quite begun to speak to me yet, but I can hear it starting to whisper as fall approaches.  And I love working with the huge range of hues available in soft acrylics, thicker organic cottons, and heavier, repurposed yarns.  Yes, the change of seasons is upon us, and it inspires, thrills, and entices!

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

My Most Cherished Handmade Possession

My most cherished handmade possessions have always been clothes that my mother sewed for me as a little girl.  Although I no longer have them at hand, I remember them fondly, and love looking at childhood pictures of myself and my siblings wearing Mom's hard work.  I remember her painstakingly bending on the floor upstairs, smoothing fabric, pinning the pattern pieces, cutting them all out, and finally sewing it all together.  Usually in the summer.  Usually on hot days.  Everything she made was perfectly styled for each of us - favorite colors, items, patterns, etc.  We got much harder to please as we became teenagers, so Mom stopped sewing clothing much for us.  But she had taught us how to sew for ourselves by then, and had prepared us well to satisfy our own trendy whims.

There was also an old quilt that I used on my bed that was made by my grandmother (I'm pretty sure).  It kept me so warm in winter!  As squares wore out one by one, we would use scraps from the clothes my mother had sewn for us as replacement squares.  So in one quilt, I had all this family history and love rolled up into one piece.  I'll have to look for that quilt next time I'm at my mother's house and maybe start a new round of appreciation with my boys!

Thanks to the CreateCrochet Team for this question of the week, and the trip down memory lane!

Monday, July 19, 2010

Etsy CreateCrochet Team Question of the Week: What Inspires You?

Thankful that the CreateCrochet Team at Etsy is helping me begin to blog more regularly, here goes! 
What Inspires Me?  Where do I find my muse?  Hmmm.

People I know are inspirational to me.  I find it easiest to create the most unique things when I know a person well, because I can incorporate their likes, dislikes and personality into the item.  I began crocheting again several years ago primarily to make gifts for friends and family.  I still have my clearest ideas when I know the person who will be receiving my handmade piece.

Otherwise, inspiration usually surprises me.  Shapes, colors, color combinations, textures, sounds and scents  - all these things are what draw my attention and form ideas in my head for crochet designs.  Being outdoors is almost guaranteed to lend me inspiration in some way.  I will see an interesting cloud shape, explore the various blues, grays and browns in a bed of pebbles, admire the texture of high grass waving in a field, revel in the scent of blooming garden phlox, or marvel at the aerodynamics of dragonflies, and then begin to think about how I might present those qualities in crochet form.

If stalled, I'll watch a home design show on television and/or go look at design magazines at the bookstore.  The colors and uses of materials will always get my mind humming again with new ideas.  Sometimes inspiration is found by having to meet a real need for warmth or comfort, or by the necessity of having something that performs a certain function.

And I find overwhelming amounts of inspiration by taking a look at other crocheters' work.  There is always something new to learn, or a different application for a common stitch, found in a team member's creation.  I think this is what is so wonderful about crocheting.  The art of crochet is so flexible that each crocheter can do something totally unique using the same stitches in their own way.  From a small washcloth, to a parabolic coral reef creation, the possibilities are endless.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Our Visit with Alpacas

Two weekends ago, my family went on an expedition to Home Again Farm in Theresa, NY (http://www.hafalpacas.com/HAFhome.htm) , to learn about alpacas.  The farm is owned and operated by Gail and Daryl Marsh.  Home Again Farm is a family-run farm, originally established in 1831 as a dairy farm.   After 30 years away in New Jersey, Gail and Daryl returned to the north country as the sixth generation to farm the land Gail grew up on.  They have been raising alpacas since 2005. The 50-acre farm is currently home to 20 alpacas and Red, the cat.  Gail and Daryl also have begun growing grapes for wine-making to supply local wineries.

I had called ahead to make sure our visit would work with their schedule, and they fit us right in on Sunday afternoon.  We received a 2-hour personal tour!  Gail and Darrel were very welcoming, and put us all immediately at ease.  It was apparent that they had given many tours for families, school groups and other audiences. 

Gail told us that we would first visit the "ladies" in a small corral next to the main barn, and that they would be most comfortable with us if we kept our arms and hands down, walked slowly and just sat down on the rock or bench provided.  We followed her instructions, and it wasn't long before we were nose-to-nose with these curious, expressive animals!  Bailey, the brown alpaca most comfortable with human company, laid down at our feet and let us stroke her amazingly deep, soft fleece.  We watched as Peaches, the head female, squealed a warning to the herd when a cat appeared across the road, and all 9-12 alpacas stood alert and focused.  Alpacas are most comfortable in a herd for protection, and we could see why.  Their most dangerous predator in our parts are not cats or coyotes, but domestic dogs.

We had a shorter visit with seven "fellas" in a separate pasture.  Only one decided to come to the fence and sniff us.  They were very spirited young men, too!  Daryl had sheared two of the boys recently, and it was amazing to see how much bulk the fur adds to their physiques.  One alpaca yielded 10 pounds of fiber!  Daryl demonstrated the operation of their shearing table in the barn, and showed us the variety of clippers needed to humanely remove the fur.  With summer coming early here, I'm sure the shearing would provide much relief for the animals.  By fall, their thick regrown coats will keep them warm outside in temperatures well below zero.

I also was able to spend quite a bit of  time browsing Gail's lovely shop.  I was most interested in the yarn from her animals, and she pulled out a healthy stock of yarns for me to peruse.  While I took to drooling and moaning as I petted the yarns, she told me which animals had contributed which fiber.  I chose three skeins - two a gorgeous warm brown, and one a dark chocolate and cream blend.   Each skein came with a tag telling all about the individual that grew that particular yarn.  Her shop was also filled with items from a Peruvian coop crafted with alpaca yarn, and I certainly plan to return for holiday gifts - oh the double-layer alpaca gloves and the slippers lined with luxurious alpaca fur!

Other interesting things I learned about alpacas:
Alpacas hum!
Fur color is not determined by genetics necessarily.
Alpacas' feet are not hooved - they have two toes with nails, and their feet are soft.
All individuals in the herd go pee and poop in one chosen spot, not all over the pasture - easy to clean up the mess!
Alpaca babies are usually born in the very early morning so that they can move with the herd later.  If not ready, the mother will leave the baby behind in favor of staying with the herd.

Monday, May 24, 2010

A Mom with a Hook

My mother was my role model as far as sewing, knitting, and crocheting.  Most evenings after supper clean-up, my mother would sit and knit while my father and I watched television.  I loved to see the items develop. She would turn a string into these amazing sweaters, blankets, hats, and mittens that would keep me, my siblings, my father, and our friends and neighbors warm all winter long.  This was just one of her amazing mom superpowers that convinced me that moms could do anything and everything!

In my teens, Mom taught me to sew, knit and crochet.  What I learned was that, with practice, patience, perseverance, and an open mind, I could make just about anything made of fabric or yarn on my own.  I also learned how to measure accurately, how to reason through how something is made, and how parts fit together.  These skills have served me well throughout my life.

Crocheting started out for me as a decorative art.  I began with doilies and table runners made with number 10 cotton thread.  Though I loved crocheting, I became more interested in knitting after awhile because I could make sweaters to wear - even though I don't think I ever finished one!  I stopped doing either needlecraft in high school and college because studies and social interests took over...  Every now and then, though, I'd pull out my skills to make a small gift for someone here or there.

Once my children had begun sleeping through the night, i.e., when I was thoroughly trained as an insomniac, I found I loved having that magical quiet time late at night to myself.  However, I needed a quiet activity (for heavens sake, DON'T wake them up!) that would help settle my thoughts - and keep me from eating unhealthy amounts of snack foods!  So I picked up crocheting again with a passion, which led to an overstock of stuff, which led to thoughts of selling my stuff.  Thus, my Etsy shop (http://www.thecraftynaturelady.etsy.com/) was born.

Very soon after I opened my online shop, I noticed the profusion of plastic bags handed out at our local farmer's market, and became determined to sell reusable market bags there in an effort to reduce plastic bag use.  This summer will be my first attempt to sell my bags at said farmer's market, along with other durable household goods that can replace disposable options.  I'm also working to incorporate as much local, organic, upcycled, recycled, and otherwise earth-friendly materials in my products as possible. 

And here I am today... happily a compulsive, late-night, sleep-deprived crocheting Mom!

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Earth Friendly Crocheting

Since I started selling my crafts, I've been conscious of making things that can be reused, and that might replace things that people normally use once and throw away.  Other eco-friendly practices that I use: 
1.  reusing papers, boxes and envelopes I receive to send out my products (reduce, reuse, recycle),
2.  combining trips to the post office with other errands (use gas efficiently),
3.  purchasing supplies made locally or as geographically close as possible (supports local businesses, cuts down on fuel use), and
4.  using materials that have been repurposed, recovered, or are made from recycled materials.

At this point, I'm trying to incorporate more materials that have a lower impact on the environment, so lately I've been reading up on the fibers that become the yarn I work with.  Here is what I've found so far:

Bamboo seems to be the new superstar of ecofriendly materials, and I do love the incredible softness this fiber adds to yarns and fabrics.  True, this plant is a fast-growing renewable resource.  However, processing the fibers into fabrics and yarn uses chemicals that are not earth friendly.  This came as a reminder to me that I need to consider all the aspects of production when choosing yarns.

Using organically grown materials is a major goal for me.  I am shifting more and more to using organic cotton yarns, although they tend to be a bit more expensive.  I would love if I could find an organic cotton yarn grown in the US, but Canada is as close as I can get right now.  Cotton has a drawback, too, though, in that its growth requires the use of lots of water.  Not exactly low impact.  I'm checking into hemp and linen next, as they seem to provide properties similar to cotton without the use of so much water.

Wool has traditionally been considered an organic yarn, although to be truly organic, the sheep need to be organically fed, and the fibers need to be processed in a chemical-free way.  Some have expressed concerns about instances where shearing has caused injury to sheep, also, although the practices leading to injury are becoming less and less prevalent.  I am allergic to sheep's wool, so I don't often work with this fiber.

Alpaca and cashmere both seem to be a good choice as an alternative to wool.  Happily for me, alpaca is hypoallergenic, comes in a variety of rich earth tones, and is less expensive than cashmere, which is famous as a luxury fiber.  These fibers are gathered by combing.  Alpacas have a low impact on the environment due to their soft feet.  No information has come my way about whether alpacas or goats whose hair is made into yarn are organically fed yet. 

Stay tuned if you're interested in more- next I'll be checking into hemp, linen and silk!

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Chemo Caps and Comfort

For the next two months, my amazing CreateCrochet Team on Etsy is supporting one of our members as she participates in a Relay for Life event in June.  We are making chemotherapy hats and other comfort items that cancer patients, survivors, and/or their loved ones can purchase at her booth at the event, with all proceeds going to Relay for Life.  Some of us are going even further by identifying items in our shops that, when purchased, will be donated to a local cancer treatment center or hospital, with the money collected then donated to Relay for Life.

I have known just a few people in the course of my life who have had cancer.  I knew that cancer is fairly common.  But when members of the CreateCrochet Team started naming people who they would like to have remembered during this event, cancer's prevalence and impact was made starkly clear to me.  As was the need for many more of us to take on the burden of raising awareness and funding to find better treatments and, ultimately, a cure. 

Monday, April 5, 2010

Pick of the Day

So all last month, no matter how hard I tried to keep up with weather forecasts, I was never wearing the appropriate amount of clothing.  I was either sweating because I'd expected cooler temperatures, or freezing because, well, it was warm that morning so I didn't wear a sweater!  Oh, March.  How fickle you were.

And now it's April.  Summer, apparently.  NOT prepared again.  I have found it very hard to settle on a crochet project each day with these rapid weather fluctuations!  For me, that means that whatever yarn I have on hand is just not right for what I want to do... so yarn shopping has become a daily ritual, much like going to the market to find fresh produce for tonight's dinner.

This technique can be quite productive, if I am able to use up the day's pick before the next day rolls around.  LOL.  I've got to get some shelves and organize my collection, so that those older selections stay fresh longer and I can transform their raw energy into useful, lovely items before being tempted by the newest harvest elsewhere. 

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

It's National Crochet Month!

Until about a week ago, I never knew that crochet had its own month of recognition!  Just knowing that there is an appreciation of my passion is inspiring me to create new things.  Of course, added minutes of sunshine this week has helped boost my spirit, too.

I've taken steps to participate in this year's weekly farmer's market, and begun to make designs that I can stock up on.  This has me VERY excited.  Who knows what will sell, but I'm starting out with organic cotton string market bags, purses and wallets.  The first week, all customers will receive a 10 percent off coupon  for their next purchase and an "extra" item. 

Each week I'll run some sort of charity promotion, too.  Maybe do a summer-long crochetathon, taking pledges per item, such as a baby cap (for the hospital) or bookmark (for the library), or stuffed animal (for the zoo).

Can you tell National Crochet Month has me jazzed?  This month, visit a handmade site like Etsy or Craftgawker, and appreciate the talented crochet artists there!

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Hold Your Cards and Wear Your Heart

CreateCrochet Etsy Team member magnoliasurprise has contributed this handmade card holder to the HeartsforHaiti shop!  Remember that your entire purchase is sent to Doctors Without Borders Haiti relief fund.  Please shop generously and often!


Thursday, February 25, 2010

Sweet Legwarmers at Hearts for Haiti

Another fine item for sale on the HeartsforHaiti fundraising site!  This one's by my CreateCrochet Team comember, spac.  They are so sweet and would keep a little dancer's legs snuggly warm after a tough class.  Click and take a look :D!

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Stay Warm and Help Haiti

Find this hat in the "Wearables" section of the Etsy HeartsforHaiti shop!  All proceeds go to Doctors Without Borders' Haiti relief fund.


Sunday, February 21, 2010

It's Winter - Think Haiti!

While you're battling the winter doldrums, check out the Etsy HeartsforHaiti shop for something to brighten your spirits.  Anything from artwork to food is there, made by talented artisans, and 100% of your purchase goes to Doctors Without Borders' Haiti relief efforts.

I hear now that they're in need of tents.  Bet I could find a crochet pattern....

Friday, January 22, 2010

Help Haitians Get Crucial Medical Care

I've been obsessed with the news from Haiti this week, praying a lot and wanting so badly to help in whatever way I can.  Well, now I have one more way, and so do you!  HeartsforHaiti on Etsy.

Etsy has set up the HeartsforHaiti shop to raise money that goes directly to Doctors Without Borders for their Haiti relief efforts.  100% of sales from the shop are donated.  Sellers ship at their own cost. 

PLEASE GO SHOPPING!  You will have access to all sorts of handmade items, be able to support crafters, and help Haiti all at the same time.  Please visit:


This is the Createcrochet Team's charity event for the beginning of 2010.