I find ornaments irresistible and usually end up buying and making at least one each year.
This year I found myself fascinated with these large gold and silver leaves. They're sold as pendants at Michaels and each one is a slightly different size and shape.
These holiday leaf ornaments can be as quick or as complicated as you like.
For the wire hook, you can leave it plain, add a second wire wrapping, or wire wrap with beads. The second wire wrapping will make the hook stiffer and less likely to get bent out of shape. The two wires can match in color (the way the silver wires match in the top photo) or they can be two contrasting colors.
Here's an example of a leaf ornament with a beaded and wire wrapped hook:
In addition to the traditional Christmas colors with red and silver/gold, you could try an all metallics version:
I created this one in a girly pink/clear crystal combination and added a bow:
Find the full instructions including step-by-step photos on the Halcraft blog.
P.S. Need an idea for how to display your handmade ornaments? Check out my Beaded Ornament Frame Holder tutorial.
Thursday, December 8, 2016
Wednesday, October 12, 2016
Halloween is one of my favorite holidays for making decorations. It's a holiday that continues to grow in popularity, but still seems to have a lot of room to "make it your own" and come up with something new and fun.
When I first saw these craft pumpkins, I thought about decorating them with a glue gun. That would probably work fine, but it violated two of my important rules for happy crafting:
- It's messy. (Glue strings make me crazy.)
- I can't watch TV while doing it. (I'd have to sit next to an outlet in the basement to make it since a glue gun needs to be plugged into a place where I can be messy. See point #1.)
Using sewing pins and beads turned out to be perfect. You can sit anywhere (on the sofa watching movies) and you don't need any special tools. It's also completely mess free, unless you're the type to drop pins into the sofa cushions. (The blood will come out. Trust me.)
Beaded Pumpkin Tutorial and Tips
This project sparked some unexpected nostalgia, as it reminded me just a little of that old Girl Scout Christmas project of covering an orange with cloves. (You did that, too, right?)
- It's important to use the steel sewing pins. (They may also be called dressmaker pins.) Regular jewelry head pins will bend too easily. You'll likely want to use pins with a plain, flat top instead of decorative pins.
- Instead of an all-over design, make two different designs (one on the
front and one on the back) so you have options on how to display the
- Look for beads that have a single center hole and will look good when viewed from the top down. I've found that spacers that often look quite dull when viewed from the side, really look cool when viewed from the top down.
- You can paint your pumpkin before you begin if you'd like a different base color or if the pumpkin you bought has a few scratches or marks.
- It will take less time to create a pumpkin with larger beads, but you'll be able to create more intricate designs with smaller beads such as seed beads.
- If you drew your design with a pencil, remember to erase any stray pencil marks when you are finished.
- You can just use your fingers to push in the pins, but this can be hard on your hands. You might be able to use a small hammer if you are careful and do not hit the beads, especially if they are breakable. Light tapping works well. (Try not to think of politics or anything that might cause unrestrained whacking while you work.) You can also use a metal ruler or file to help push in the beads.
Full instructions (including step-by-step photos) available on the Halcraft website
More of My Halloween Tutorials
Here are a few more of my free tutorials from the past:
Boo Napkin Rings
Use beaded wire to spell out a spooky message.
Day of the Dead Earrings
Each one of these has a little personality!
Midnight Ranch Necklace
This easy knotted necklace features leather cord.
Get spooky and have fun!
Thursday, September 22, 2016
Ever wonder how an entrepreneurial mind works?
People who aren't entrepreneurs think that the hard part is getting an idea. It's not. I have more ideas than I could ever use.
Here's just one example:
Awhile ago I tried to solve a problem with some monogrammed note cards I created. I was getting some little tears in the paper and couldn't figure out how to fix them.
I read all sorts of advice online. One tip was to put a facial tissue (Kleenex) on either side of the paper to cushion it. That didn't end up fixing my problem and I was left with a stack of embossed tissues.
An ordinary person might look at this pile of experiments and think, What a failure!
Instead, I realized that I now know how to make the prettiest facial tissue ever. Who wouldn't want monogrammed disposable facial tissues? You have tissues with lotion, extra absorbent tissues, triple-ply tissues, and now ... classy ones with your initial.
I originally wrote this as a joke, but the entrepreneurial part of my brain perked up and for hours afterwards, I was thinking: Wouldn't these be a funny gag gift? Or what about executives? Could I sell these to CEOs? Yacht owners? You know your nose is extra special! When ordinary tissues won't do ...
Author Lewis Carroll must have been thinking about entrepreneurs when he wrote, "Why, sometimes I've believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast."
Thursday, August 25, 2016
This August marks my fifth year selling on Etsy.* I found this old list of five lessons I'd written after my first year as an online shop owner, but I never shared it until now. I've added my current thoughts to this list (written in italics).
- Don't be afraid of custom orders. Some of my best experiences this past year have been doing custom orders. In fact, for this next year, I'm going to increase some of the personalization options I offer.
I still enjoy custom orders. There is something very satisfying about making items that mark special occasions or that have some special meaning to the customer. That said, custom orders are not for every shop. A lot of sellers hate custom orders. You need to be a great communicator and be willing to work with colors, themes, or styles that might not be personal favorites. Custom orders can take a substantial amount of time, so take that into consideration when accepting one.
The easiest way to start doing custom orders is to allow for minor modifications of an existing item (maybe a different color) and see how it goes. If you need examples of how to offer options to your customer, see How Many Choices Do Customers Need? I also wrote about my own experience with custom orders as a customer (Custom Jewelry: A Customer's Perspective).
- It's OK to say no. I get asked to make items that are completely out of my comfort zone—things I've never made before with materials and techniques I've never used. While I love experimenting, I don't necessarily want to do that on a customer's dime. When I turn orders away, I try to steer customers to others on Etsy who might be able to help them.
I still say no to some orders and guide shoppers in a general way to other sources. For example, a common request I get is for custom printed invitations. I don't make those, but I suggest that shoppers look for letterpress shops that do offer that service. Honestly, I see turning down orders as part of good customer service. While I understand that the customer may be disappointed that I can't help him or her, it's far better to turn down the order than to make something that isn't up to par. I try to respond as quickly as I can to those requests so that he or she has time to seek out an alternative.
Of course, if you're getting a lot of requests for a certain type of item, you might think about whether you want to add that to your selection. If someone's asking about it, chances are there's a market for that item.
- Don't emphasize a cohesive shop. I think shop owners worry about this too early. For your first year, it's OK to experiment.
Honestly, if I had never experimented with new directions, I'd never have added my cards, which turned out to be a major component of my first year.
There are lots of advantages to having a specialized shop. You might be able to get better deals on supplies since you'll be buying larger quantities. You'll be able to market your work more effectively. It's definitely an admirable goal, but don't stress out if you can't find your way there immediately. (See my post on 6 Reasons to Create a Jewelry Line for more thoughts on this topic.)
One caveat: I see a lot of new shop owners who take the idea of cohesion to an extreme, opening separate shops for earrings and bracelets, for example, rather than seeing that "jewelry" already is a cohesive shop. Cohesion can mean a technique (woodworking) or style (bohemian), not just a narrow type of item.
- Photos are the most important place to put your resources.
The overall quality of photos on Etsy has continued to rise. I see far fewer photos that look like they were taken on a rumpled bedspread or a dirty carpet strewn with animal hair. (Seriously!) My own photos have steadily improved over the years and I'm always experimenting with them.
Use great photos to catch a shopper's attention in a sea of search results. You don't need an expensive camera. Read my blog post The People in My Neighborhood if you're interested in learning more about how to view your own photos more objectively.
- SEO is the second most important.
Search Engine Optimization (SEO) means the keywords that people will use to find your items. I'd probably rate this as the most important now. If you don't have good keywords (titles and tags in Etsy-speak), then shoppers will never even see your beautiful photos. (That said, if you're coming up in search, but still not getting sales, your photos might be one area where you need improvement.) Make sure you read and follow Etsy's suggestions since the way they use keywords is different than Google or other search engines. See You're Already an SEO Expert, Simple SEO for Your Jewelry Blog and SEO for Jewelry Shops for general information on this topic.
More "First Year on Etsy" Stories
While some advice is timeless, Etsy changes every week, so tips that worked for someone in their first year in 2010 might not be worthwhile today. Treasuries, for example, used to be featured on the Etsy home page, but aren't now, so tips about how to get featured are no longer relevant.
Most advice is well-meaning, but I have seen some blogs recommending practices like unsolicited email (spam!) to random site visitors (not customers) that are against Etsy's terms of service. Trust your own gut!
Here are selected blog posts from other shop owners on what they learned that first year:
- 14 Tips From My First Year on Etsy
Erin Heaton's 2014 blog post is one of the best I've read on this topic. (And many people agree, it's been pinned 40,000+ times!) Her solid, helpful advice is very specific and written in a friendly, easy-to-understand way.
- 1,000 Sales in My First Year of Business on Etsy
Subtitled "Low Cost Marketing Strategies," this post on the popular site Handmadeology recommends customer appreciation sales and thinking positively among the strategies.
- My First Year With Etsy
Read this post when you're feeling a little crazy about your shop; it will make you see that most shop owners go through a roller coaster of emotions that first year.
- The Dos and Don'ts of Selling Successfully on Etsy
An Australian shop owner describes how she found success with her second Etsy shop. (Lots of successful shops are actually second or third shops, a good reminder that you don't need to be perfect the first time out.)
- 12 Months and 1,200 Etsy Sales: Lessons Learned
This blog post offers a nice bulleted list of tips such as "Legendary service leads to loyal customers."
- My First Year as an Etsy Seller: Shop Policies
One of a series of blog posts by the Pennsylvania Guild of Craftsmen, this one covers an area that's often neglected by new shops until they run into a problem!
- 7 Steps to a Successful Start on Etsy
The official advice that Etsy offers to new sellers.
* I opened my account in 2010, but did not list anything for sale until late 2011. If I was going to add one more lesson to this list, it would be to not wait until everything is perfect before you open your shop! Nothing will ever be perfect. You can prepare as much as you like, but you're never going to feel absolutely, totally ready.
What lessons did you learn your first year selling on Etsy?
Wednesday, January 27, 2016
When I saw the snowflake-inspired palette for January, I wanted to make a glorious necklace.
But when I got to Michaels, I saw this cool belt buckle. I glanced at it. I glanced away. I glanced back.
Necklace! Necklace! I kept repeating the words to myself as I stared at the buckle, all silver and shiny.
I tried to make myself stick to The Plan, but I couldn't. I envisioned a sparkly, mulistrand belt that could add some bling to your jeans-and-white-shirt or glam up an otherwise plain dress.
As the author of a book titled Unexpected Findings, one thing I know for sure: When a certain finding calls to you, it's best not to argue!
The Beaded Belt: Materials, Techniques, and Tips
- Beads: I chose clear, glass Bead Gallery beads that were on the larger side (nothing smaller than 8mm) so that the belt would work up more quickly. (Once I decided to make a belt, I wanted it now!) If time is not an issue (or you just prefer a more delicate look), you could easily use smaller beads. A mix of shapes, sizes, textures, and finishes add interest to a monochromatic color scheme.
- Cord: I chose waxed linen cord as an easy way to string and knot the beads. I knotted in between every single bead so that they wouldn't bang against each other and so that if the belt was damaged, you wouldn't loose the entire strand of beads. You'll want to make at least three strands, maybe four, to balance the large buckle size. The great thing about working with waxed linen is that the knots hold very firmly. Of course, this is also the worst thing about it! Make sure you have each knot exactly where you want it before you tighten. You may not be able to loosen it and try again.
- Clasps: I found these cool hooks in my stash. They are part of a set, a hook-and-loop clasp combination. Online they're labeled as "paracord clasps." I only used the hook halves. They do require glue. If you prefer a glue-free solution, try extra large lobster clasps instead.
The Belt in Action
This belt measures 37" in length (including the buckle) and uses approximately 175 beads (about 55-65 per strand). As designed, this belt will hang low on the hips as shown on the mannequin. By adjusting the number of beads, you can easily make a smaller or larger belt or one that will sit at your waist rather than on your hips.
I'm so glad that I let that belt buckle finding seduce me in Michaels. This project turned out to be perfect antidote to a gray winter day.