Good Reads | Craft x Stew
Category name:Good Reads

Why We Love DIY

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6682450721_cc676aea66_zsource: Natalia Wilson

A friend of mine gave me a window cling set the last week. It came with four outline-printed window clings and a set of puffy paints.

At first, the set reminded me of coloring I did as a child, and I thought it juvenile. But later that evening, before going to bed, I tried it out.

Two minutes in, and I was completed addicted.

For the next three days I spent all my free time working on the project. The result, when completed, went proudly onto the front of my fridge.

As much as I enjoyed the project, it got me thinking: Why would an adult enjoy such a mundane activity? In fact, why do adults enjoy DIY at all?

This is what I realized –

  • DIY offers us an opportunity to be creative. Even the window clings, with their pre-chosen paints, was an opportunity for creativity. I chose the color combination to use on each cling. I decided where the colors would be placed.
  • DIY offers us an opportunity for problem solving. I had only the palette my friend had chosen. I didn’t love the colors but I wasn’t about to purchase more. I had to deal with the problem of making something beautiful from very limited resources (Solution: I blended the puffy paints).
  • DIY offers us a way to relax. Once the colors were chosen, there was something very mindless about applying them to the clings. I felt myself drifting into a kind of alternate state.
  • DIY offers us a feeling of accomplishment. I felt good that I was able to keep the paint within the intricate line drawing. I enjoyed feeling that I had very steady hands. It’s a small ability, but it still makes me feel special.
  • DIY allows us the opportunity for social approval. I placed the clings in a public spot. I have already received compliments on them several times and I expect to get quite a few more. Even as an adult, compliments feel nice.

Why We Love DIYsource: Kat Stan

Why is any of this important?

It’s useful for DIYers to realize that there are ways of increasing the enjoyment they get from their hobbies. Hobbies, by their nature are fun, but there are things we can choose to do that can make them even more fun.

Here a couple of basic principles:

1 – Make sure the project has at least one creative element. Even if you are following written instructions, or a pattern, there is always something you can do to put your own distinctive “signature” on the project.

I once made a lime green tunic shirt from a purchased pattern (back when that color was still popular).  I didn’t know enough about sewing to alter the pattern, but I did choose to go against the pattern suggestions, and use a contrasting trim. I chose black fabric for the pockets and collar and black buttons for the closures.

2 – Add a problem solving element to the project, if it doesn’t come naturally. To do this, make artificial restrictions on either materials, time frame, size, etc.

My favorite class in college was 3D Design. Instead of just giving us projects to complete, the teacher would assign parameters that required real thought to work around. For instance, a sculpture couldn’t be touched with human hands; only with plastic bags. Or, an art kite had to actually be able to fly.

Other crafts, especially on the internet, focus on using found objects or recycled materials only.

3 – Pick a project that varies levels of difficulty throughout. This way you alternate periods of hard work, moderate, and easy work, during the same session.

That’s what I like about ceramics. You start by pounding the clay. Then you build a rough basic form. Only at the end, does the clay require real detail and thought as you put on the finishing touches.

4 – Use your skills. You’ll feel better about your work if it uses some level of skill.  Notice I said skill, not talent. Usable skills can consist of the ability to follow intricate directions, to measure and cut wood accurately,  or in my case with the window clings, simply to stay within the lines.

5 – Allow others to view your finished project. I once made a needlepoint for my son and his new wife. The kit itself was probably only a 20-30 dollars, but I spent over a $100 to frame it.

The reason? I didn’t want the needlepoint shoved into the closet and forgotten. Instead, I wanted it on a wall, where it could be admired.

Why We Love DIYsource: J. Feist

What tips did I miss? Please share your tip by adding a comment below!

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Favorite Reads 2016

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77533711_9b37edb6e3_zsource: anna carol

It’s been close to two years since I last did a Favorite Reads post.

My online time has changed dramatically during that time. I used to read a lot of specialty blogs, like Crafty Pod, Meggie Cat and How About Orange. Since my last update, many of these sites have stopped publishing.

Now, instead, I read mostly websites, with a few blogs sprinkled in.

Here are the websites at which I spend 80% of my (non-working) online time.

Crafts

  • Pinterest – Why? Constant flood of ideas for every kind of craft and recycling project.
  • Make Something 365 – Why? I purchased the 365 book and I love to read the website for inspiration.
  • Keri Smith – Why? I own almost everything Keri Smith has written. She is my guru.

Self-Help

Education

  • Class Central – Why? List of almost 2000 free classes each month. Most are given by well respected colleges and universities.
  • Ted – Why? Short, high quality talks on a variety of subjects.
  • Talks At Google – Why? Longish talks, often on best selling books.

Cooking

  • Allrecipes – Why? Most recipes have been tested and rated, and include comments and changes.
  • Chowhound – Why? Great group discussions on many food related topics. I especially enjoy cookbook posts.

Hive Mind

  • reddit – Why? When I have a question, I love to get multiple opinions on the subject. I also love to read answers to others folks questions.
  • MetaFilter – Why? See above.

Blogging

  • ProBlogger – Why? Perpetual favorite of mine. Lots of guest bloggers.
  • Moz – Why? Quality information, backed by research.
  • KeyWord Tool – Why? My favorite keyword tool. Free and very easy to use.
  • flickr – Why? Practically unlimited supply of free photos.
  • PicMonkey – Why? Online photo editor. I usually use the free version but there is a paid version with more options.

Decorating

  • Houzz – Why? I get their newsletter. Every time I open it there is always something new to peruse.

Books

  • LibriVox – Why? Who wouldn’t love hundreds of free audiobooks?
  • goodreads – Why? I enjoy the entire site but I especially love to browse Listopia.
  • Better World Books – Why? Good place to purchase used books for readers living outside the US. Free shipping.
  • Amazon – Why? Great resource for book reviews.
  • Book Depository  – Why? Thousands of new books for sale for readers outside the US. Free shipping.

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19 Home Business Ideas That Work (And 4 That Don’t)

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6355388579_0312787bde_zsource: 401kcalculator.org

This is the time of the year that everyone is looking for ways to make extra money. Between unpaid credit card bills from Black Friday and overly generous seasonal gift giving, a lot of us are scrambling for extra cash.

If you already have a full-time job or have small children at home, the best way to earn money may be to start your own mini business. You can set your own hours, choose your own pay and do the kind of work you enjoy.

I know quite a few people (including myself) who have made money working from home. Here are a couple of ideas to get you started.

A neighbor used to make money each year by delivering the new Yellow Pages to our area. She had a big van and a good back but it was still a lot of hard work.

My mother sold rubber stamps and Spanish videos at the flea market (what a combination!). She ordered the products wholesale and rented a booth in a popular indoor flea market. She made about $1000.00 profit in good months. Warning: Don’t just jump into a flea market business without a lot of research. This business is a lot harder to pull off than it sounds.

A friend of mine has done daycare in her house for many years. She always has to be home and her house needs to be constantly spotless but she actually makes very good money.

Another neighbor made good money running a long distance van service. He advertised in the community newspaper for customers who needed to go from Baltimore to New York or Baltimore to New Jersey. My neighbor also did airport runs. He charged a flat rate, irregardless of the number of people traveling.

My mom ran a notary service from her house. She made only a few dollars per notary and had the aggravation of strangers coming to her home at all hours. She hardly made any money but she did for many years. Update: Several people are now offering mobile notary services (for a high price) and this may be a more profitable endeavor.

I use self-employed plumbers, electricians, handymen, movers and cleaning help. My father-in-law uses self-employed painters, carpenters and caterers. I assume each of these contractors makes a decent living.

My husband worked for a man who sold t-shirts, undershirts, underpants and socks at flea markets. The man would buy “imperfect” merchandise very cheap and sell them for a small mark-up. In order to earn a reasonable living, instead of just selling at one flea market, he hired enough teens so that he could sell at several.

I tutored Russian and Israeli immigrants in English. I found some students through my part-time ESL job and others through advertising in the community newspaper. I was able to do the work without knowing either Hebrew or Russian, as the lessons were all given in English. I will probably write a longer post about this later.

My niece runs a nursery school from her home. She has a degree in early childhood education and teaches the class in Hebrew. She has six to eight children each year and provides a complete preschool curriculum.

My daughter’s 20 year old friend made $10.00 dollars an hour babysitting. Babysitting doesn’t seem like a very grown up way to make money, but it is actually quite profitable.

I used to send my son to a man who specialized in teaching religious studies to homeschooled boys. The man charge several hundred dollars a month and taught the boys in groups of eight. The classes lasted three hours daily and took place in his dining room. He taught a group of younger boys in the morning and a group of older boys in the afternoon. If you have a important skill to pass on, teaching homeschool classes may be the way to go for you.

My husband and I had a business called Baltimore Computer Repair. My husband made house calls to sick computers at night, after his day job was through. He found his customers through advertising in our daily newspaper. My son, who is A+ certified, now does this same work in Israel.

The husband of a friend makes money at home doing telephone soliciting for charities. He works his own hours and is on commission.

My husband made close to $1000.00 a month on weekends by doing computer programming for businesses. He got the first job, writing an inventory program, for a distant friend who owns a pizza shop. The pizza shop owner recommended him to a man who owned three grocery stores, who recommended him to a print shop owner, etc.

When I was a teen, I made a small amount of money doing grocery shopping for senior citizens. I advertised in the community paper and got plenty of calls. I charged a $5.00 minimum or $.15 per item. Nowadays, I would have to charge a lot more to make this worthwhile, probably $.30 per item.

I see plenty of boys (and men) making money shoveling snow, mowing lawn or raking leaves. As a matter of fact, I’ve paid for these services plenty of times myself.

My mother sold Avon for many years. Unlike lots of other direct sales programs, you do actually make money from Avon. Mary Kay and Tupperware also make a profit for their salespeople. I have friends who sold both, quite successfully.

I had a very successful business selling hats and modest skirts from my basement. I sold to a specialty crown (religious women and cancer patients). I sewed the hats myself and outsourced the simple skirts to neighbors. Besides selling from home, I had several retail distributors.

In the past, I have made money from this blog. Right now this blog is making less than $100 a month, but several years ago it was doing slightly better. The money comes from Google Adsense and is deposited in my bank account each month.

Now for a couple of businesses that don’t work (at least for me)!

I used to have my own flea market business, selling kitchenware, novelties and kid’s toys. I ordered products wholesale through the Thomas Register and through flea market merchandise catalogues. I also bought merchandise locally at wholesale stores. I lost a ton of money on this project and to this day I don’t know why.

I had a business where I tried to outsource computer techs to busy companies who needed help with their overflow. Another big failure. The cause of this flop was easy to understand after just a few weeks. The smaller companies didn’t have any overflow work to offer us and large companies wanted an established business to work with.

I made handmade gifts and jewelry to sell at flea markets. After a month of Sundays I finally sold one pair of earring. The cause of this disaster was simply a lack of thinking on my part. I didn’t realize that people go to flea markets to get great deals…not art jewelry at medium to high prices. I really had no excuse for this stupidity because I already had flea market experience.

I once tried selling greeting card ideas to the companies listed in the back of Writer’s Digest. Yes, people said it took years to break into the greeting card market, but I didn’t believe it. I sent out hundred of greeting card ideas and not one of them sold. I guess sometimes you need to listen to advise.

If you have a successful business, please let me know about it in a comment.

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Styles Of Crafting

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Styles Of Craftingsource: Margarida Sardo

Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about my style of crafting. I’ve recounted every project I’ve done over the last couple of years, and I’ve come to a realization….I’m a utility crafter.

What is a utility crafter?

It’s a crafter who crafts useful projects only.  I don’t make decorative eyeglass cases,  pretty little toe rings or lovely lingerie bags. Those projects are charming, but their not for me.

What I do make are fitted sheets,  skirts,  replacement board game boxes,  greeting cards,  gifts of food,  and mini-notebooks.  All things that are cheaper to make myself or can’t be easily located.

The only exception is scrapbooking. Scrapbooks don’t save me money and they aren’t really useful.

I’d love to expand my crafting horizons and make a couple of things just for the creative fun of it.  Unfortunately,  I  never have time. Instead I’m busy crafting gift tags, making free, printable board games and sewing storage bags. Oh, well.

What is your crafting style? Please send me a comment and I’ll be happy to publish it.

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Favorite Reads

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Favorite Readssource: utnapistim

When I stumble upon a blog I really enjoy, one of the things I always do is check out what THEY read. I figure, if I enjoy their blog, we must share the same interests. And, being a blogger, they must really know who the “stars” of the blogging community are.

Here is my list of current favorites. They may not be the blogs I love in a month from now, but as of now, these are the blogs I read every day.  Hope you enjoy!

Crafts

  • Crafty Pod – Why? Wonderful podcasts on a wide variety of crafty topics.
  • How About Orange – Why? Super classy blog with lots of very doable projects and great resources.
  • MeggieCat – Why? Links to  tons of very unusual resources. (Has not been updating recently)
  • Cathy of California Why? I love all the photos she puts up of vintage crafts.

Homemaking

  • Small Notebook – Why? This blog always has new takes on old homemaking problems.
  • Home Living – Why? This is the blog of the famous Lady Lydia of Ladies Against Feminism

Israel

Frugality

  • The Simple Dollar Why? Because he doesn’t just recycle the usual trite money saving suggestions. He actually thinks things through before writing about them.

Board Games

  • Yehuda – Why? Lots of good information on games and gam­ing in Isr­ael.
  • Print And Play Podcast Blog Why? Reviews of print and play games. (Only up­dates a few times a month)

Cooking

  • 101 Cookbooks Why? Gourmet veg­et­ar­ian rec­ipes with gor­geous pic­tures.

Blogging

  • ProBlogger Why? Darren is the cream of on­line blog­ging res­our­ces.

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MS Paint vs PicMonkey vs Photoscape

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Photo Editing

I do a LOT of photo editing. On average, I probably spend 5 hours a week resizing, lightening, cropping and troubleshooting pictures. I don’t try for artistic results, just clean, serviceable photos.

Since I haven’t had the patience to learn anything difficult, I use  a combination of three utilities/programs.  They are: MS Paint, PicMonkey and Photoscape. Between the three of them, I can accomplish just about any fixes I care to do.

Why three programs? Because each of them have good and bad points.

MS Paint is a very beginner level program. It has only a few features and the results are frequently pixely. On the other hand, MS Paint is extremely fast.

I use MS Paint primarily for resizing photographs, making quick and  simple line borders and for occasional fix-ups that only require drawing in a few pixels. It works very efficiently for those adjustments and it only takes a few seconds to open, save and close.

For more complicated photo repairs I use my free Photoscape program. Photoscape is a lot harder to use, but it has a lot of useful features. It includes Bloom, Backlight, White Balance, Color Balance and tons more.

The features I use most are often are Contrast Enhancement, Deepen, Brighten, Darken. None of these features require any real knowledge of digital art, because they each have three pre-programmed levels to choose from. Plus, a very useful undo button.

When I want to get a bit artsy, I use PicMonkey. Picmonkey is fun to use and has lots of special effects, fonts, overlays and more.

I have purchased the upgraded plan, in order to get a few more tools. The plan is about $30-$40 dollars a year and you get the addition of collage plus some other extras.  However, the program is quite usable, even without the upgrade.

I use PicMonkey for the nice frame selection, the collage feature and some really cool special effects. PicMonkey is easy to learn and very enjoyable to use.  I sometimes play with it for hours, just for the pure pleasure.

Is it difficult to switch between three programs?

I don’t think so.  85% of my editing is done just using MS Paint. I then switch to one of the other programs only if I need to. So far, I’m quite satisfied.

Nonetheless, satisfied or not, I am considering trying out other programs. My choices are Lightroom, or the free versions of Pixeluvo or  TwistedBrush Pro Studio. If I do start using something new, I’ll post an update to let you know how I incorporate it into my workflow.

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20 Online & Offline Ways to Sell Crafts

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20-online-offline-ways-to-sell-craftssource: Tambako the Jaguar

I’ve had many crafty businesses over the years. I sold paper earrings, ink drawings on glass and decoupage platters. I sold hats, hair accessories, and greeting cards. I even sold custom skirts and batik wall hangings.

One thing I learned from all my crafty ventures is that without the proper marketing, your business has no chance of succeeding.

Here are 21 offline and online craft markets, with the pros and cons of each.

Offline Ways to Market Crafts

Sell at consignments shops

Pros: Consignment shops are an easy way to break into the craft business. Since the store owner is not putting out any cash for your craft item, they are frequently willing to take chances with newbies.

Cons: Consignment stores fees are on the steep side. They charge approximately 1/3 of the sale price and a monthly fee for selling your product. You only get paid once the sale has been completed. You do not get reimbursed for damaged or stolen inventory.

Sell outright at wholesale rates to gift shops

Pros: If you are unable to snag a sales rep, this is the simplest way to get your craft item into stores.

Cons: Selling to stores is hard work. You’ll need to carry boxes of products around from store to store. In addition, not all store owners are approachable. Plus, many stores do not pay for 30-90 days.

Sell through sales rep

Pros: Sales reps generally get paid on commission, so if you don’t earn money, they don’t earn money.

Cons: Sales reps can be hard to get and harder to keep. You also need to be able to provide a LOT of product if your item is successful.

Sell through museum shops

Pros: The staff is generally volunteer so they usually very approachable.  They will help you to find a price point that will work for their customers.

Cons: Sales in museum shops can be very slow. Do not expect to make a killing from this venue. In addition, many museum shops sell on consignment, so it can be months before you receive any money.

Sell at craft shows

Pros: Craft shows allow you to make a lot of money within a several day period. You are completely  in charge of price, display and sales.

Cons: The better craft shows charge many hundreds of dollars to enter, and will only accept carefully juried crafts. The cheaper, unjuried shows generally bring in less money.

Sell direct to consumers

Pros: This can be done using an Avon type business model. You can do the selling yourself or pay sales people on commission.

Cons: Direct sales is a lot of very hard work. Even if you find people to do the selling for you, you may not be able to retain them.

Sell higher class antique flea markets

Pros: Fast turnover. Low table costs. Fun and friendly environment.

Cons: This sales venue is only viable for crafts utilizing collectibles. For instance, vests created from salvaged quilts or bath powder packaged in old bottles.

Sell through community fundraisers/women’s meetings

Pros: Friendly environment. Close to home. Immediate cash and lots of valuable feedback from customers. Low cost table fees.

Cons: Community fundraisers vary in buying power and size due to the abilities of the volunteers running them.

Sell classy farmer’s markets

Pros: Low table cost. Nature crafts, such as pressed flower cars, dried flower bouquets and woven baskets can sell very successfully in this atmosphere.

Cons: Even in the higher class farmer’s markets, there is still a bargain basement mentality. You probably won’t receive high prices for your crafts.

Sell through community bazaars (schools, churches)

Pros: During November and December there are an abundance of community bazaars throughout the country. The table fees are usually cheap and these shows are almost never juried.

Cons: You’ll need to approach the winter months with an enormous amount of stock made up. If your designs don’t sell, you’re out of a lot of time and money. There is no time for making adjustment to your business plan.

Sell at trade shows

Pros: You can make a year’s worth of sales in just a few days. Trade shows are packed with buyers and orders are usually large.

Cons: Trade shows cost a fortune to participate in. There are table fees, transportation costs, hotel rentals and more. Plus, you need to produce more product than the average home craftsman could possibly manage.

Sell at craft malls

Pros: The advantage of a craft mall is that you have complete control over the price, selection and set up of your crafts.

Cons: Sales at craft malls can be slow. Many sellers barely make back the cost of their rent.

Sell from your home

Pros: Even after the cost of advertising, selling from your home can be one of the most cost effective ways of marketing a product. This is especially true for those products (like custom clothing) that can’t easily be sold online.

Cons: Unless you’re willing to turn away business, you’re on calling at least 12 hours a day. That’s 12 hours a day of high heels, well behaved children and a spotless house. In addition, you’ll need to have a product that is not readily available in retail stores.

Classes

Pros: Selling your product through free classes is a tried and true business model. People are much more likely to purchase your item once they feel an affinity with you.

Cons: The only products that sell successfully through this method are craft supplies and equipment. That means handcrafted weaving looms will sell, finished woven scarves will not.

Online Ways to Market Crafts

Sell through Etsy

Pros: Low start up costs and plenty of online support are very appealing.

Cons: There is tons of competition on Etsy. Your product needs to be very special to stand out from the crowd.

Sell through Ebay 

Pros: No waiting around for months for your product to be sold. You’ll know within a week what the fate of your merchandise is.

Cons: Because the buyers on Ebay are looking for a bargain, not every product can be sold at online auction. Products need to be either very special, very inexpensive or hard to find elsewhere.

Sell through your own website 

Pros: You have complete control over every aspect of the sales process.

Cons: Setting up a website and driving customers in to see your product is extremely time consuming.

Sell through Amazon

Pros: Many categories of handmade products do quite well through Amazon. Sellers can often get reasonable prices. Not as much competition as Etsy.

Cons: Amazon isn’t nearly as easy to get started with as Etsy. Fees are much higher than on Etsy.

Sell through CafePress

Pros: Easy to use. CafePress will use your designs to create the products, take care of shipping and deliver payment right to you.

Cons: CafePress charges a steep percentage for their great service, so your price to the customer will need to be high.

Sell through online stores (other than Etsy)

Pros: If Etsy doesn’t work for you, there are plenty of other online stores. If your product and price is well thought out, at least one is bound to be successful.

Cons: Etsy has the highest traffic of all the online stores. Sales at other venues may be slower than at Etsy. Other online stores may not offer the support or the finely honed business procedures that Etsy has developed.

Tips

Be sure to match the sales method to the product. For instance, fine art will never sell well at a flea market, but I have seen sellers of inexpensive (and quick to make) dangle earrings do a vigorous business.

Never underestimate the importance of a lovely display. Whether selling online or offline, your customers need to see a display that make them desperate to own your product.

Reasonable prices are important, but never sell yourself short. If you’re unable to make a decent profit on your product, figure out how to add additional perceived value or change marketing tactics. For instance, when I was selling greeting cards in museum shops, I placed a small information sheet detailing how each card was made, in a clearly visible location.

Be sure to calculate the time and cost of making sales into your pricing formula.  When I first started selling hats from home, I didn’t include the time cost of dealing with customers. This was a big mistake and caused me to make less per hour than I had initially hoped for.

Books

The links listed above are Amazon affiliate links. That means if you make a purchase using one of these links I will earn a few cents profit. The price of the books remains the same; it is not increased to account for my earnings.

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