I think I can, I think I can!

“I think I can, I think I can.” Sure, they are the words from The Little Engine That Could but at this moment they resonate with me. Looking at my to do list I have a huge cactus order to fill, plus some auction items that need to be made and a couple of fandom related items to start and finish. Also, for some unknown reason, I chose today to start a website. As if there wasn’t enough on my plate, I throw a curveball to myself.

IMG_0353

Maybe this train really started rolling when I realized I wanted my side hustle to be more than what it was. A career? A dream to be my own boss? Suddenly every sale mattered and every potential sale meant more. This new blog of mine is going to travel along with my husband and I and hopefully at the end of it all, there will be a big shiny business at the end.

Side hustle? No! Full-time hustle, here we come!

 

Advertisements

Review of my New LightBox

One of my goals this year was to update some of my photos that I use for Etsy and in general to take some higher quality photographs of my work. I decided that upgrading my light box would be a help and was super happy and posted it on instagram. Lots of people were curious about what I thought of it, so here’s my review!

My previous light box was one that I created myself (with my husband’s help) after watching some tutorials online. I wrote a blog about photography and I also went into detail about how I made the box which you can check out here: How I made my own Lightbox

Before getting to the review of the product, I did want to address why I use one of these. I have found that using a lightbox has been helpful in a variety of ways. The most important being, that I live in an apartment and don’t have space for a crafting area, or a dedicated work space. So I have to shuffle projects around, and creatively use my living space to keep my business up and running. Therefore, I haven’t been able to have a big photo set up with large lights. I don’t even really have an open space that I can transform with a backdrop that will easily be in the sunlight. My other reason is that I work a 9-5 job. It doesn’t leave me a ton of time for taking photos. Especially during the winter when it’s dark out when I leave and dark out when I come home. I like to use my weekends in a variety of ways and having to rely on the solely on the sun to take photos wasn’t working out. Enter the lightbox!

I used my previous lightbox for a few years and found it to be pretty helpful. But recently I decided that I needed something bigger and more importantly one that was collapsible. I did some research and decided on this one from amazon called: Amazon Basics Portable Photo Studio

Overall, I’m pretty happy with the purchase.  Here are some basic specs that interested me, and the rest can be found in the link above. The dimensions of the box are 25” x 30” x 25”, it comes with one white background that is removable, LED lights at the top left corner inside and also along the top center. It is collapsible and when closed it has handles that can be used for carrying purposes.

EB2268A5-4750-40E7-A670-0B1E54AA9D2C

Here’s the light box I recently purchased. The front flap is currently up on top of the box.

91C12F47-0FE8-46D7-8F09-EF80B8CF154B

Here it is all folded up!

I figured it would be easier to discuss this product with a pro and con list. So we will begin with the pros.

  1. My favorite aspect is that the light box folds up and can be easily stored. The first time I had to fold it, I was definitely confused. But once I realized where everything went, it became easier and easier. It weighs about 15 lbs, so lifting it up and carrying it when it’s collapsed is very doable. Trying to move it when it’s fully opened is tricky because it’s so large.
  2. The space it provides is really helpful. I love that I can fit more of my objects inside and not have to worry about squashing anything or getting the unfortunate angle where you can see the back corner of the box. This box is really big. It can probably fit a baby inside with no issue. My products aren’t that large, but I like to get big group shots of them, and this makes it a breeze!
  3. The provided LED lights aren’t always the best because they can sometimes cause shadows to happen. There’s a light in the top left and center front. Sometimes you can see a shadow since there isn’t a light in the top right corner. However, it’s on the pro side because it’s one less thing I need to set up before starting to take photos. You pop open the box, pull the plug out of the convenient case on top of the box and then boom, you can start setting up your shots. I love it!
  4.  I like the flap that comes down the front which has 3 openings. You can have one open, or all three open depending on how much light you want reflected back onto your product. Sometimes if it’s really bright in my apartment I find I can leave the flap open and take pictures like that. The flaps are easy to open and close because they are magnetic.  The whole front piece can be attached to the bottom with Velcro which can be a little finicky sometimes, but I got used to it.
98001151-BEB8-491D-B527-1896509F1A3B

The front 3 flaps are magnetic and you can open or close whichever ones you want. Also this whole piece flips up and you can keep the front open.

04F052B6-3695-4C0B-886B-ED75DEF1C4FF

The AV cord is connected here which makes it easy to plug in the lights. However, once it’s plugged in then the lights are on. There is no switch.

DDC130D1-8873-4D6E-A71B-A1FD0F6414BD

This is the top of the light box. I took this in selfie mode, the light on the right is actually the front of the box.

Cons

  1. There is a zipper pouch at the top of the light box. Inside one section is the plug for the lights. Which is great, but there’s no on and off switch. So once you open the box, you plug in the lights and they are on until you unplug it. I do appreciate that it is a plug rather than batteries so I don’t have to worry about recharging or replacing, however the lights can get really hot sometimes and I worry about them being on for too long a stretch of time.
  2. There’s a circular viewing hole at the top under the zipper pouch that can be used for taking photographs. Its a circular opening and I’ve found it difficult to get a good shot in. There seem to be a lot of shadows and I need to zoom in since I take photos using an iphone or an ipad. I would imagine it would be easier if you used a camera with a lens that could fit right into the space provided. Maybe that would cut down on the amount of shadows, but I’m not one hundred percent sure about that. I know for my purposes, photos haven’t worked this way.
  3. The white background provided has a crease I can’t get rid of. The front side of the white is a plastic type of material, and when you fold up the box for storage, the white backdrop is also folded in half. Depending how you are taking the picture, you can see the crease in the background of the photo sometimes. When I have seen it, I use an app to brighten the white and it usually disappears. I would imagine it would be easier to get rid of in photo shop, but that’s not a program I use. Also, because the background is plastic, I don’t think you have the ability to iron it, and as soon as it’s folded again for storing purposes, the crease would most likely come back since the background is folded. However, the background is removable, or you can add fabric to the top. So this isn’t a huge deal, but I could see it being a possible reason that people would not like it.
AE58E4CA-39AD-404F-9E78-42D46AFD4C02

The zipper pouch at the top keeps the power cord and this is where the small round hole is for camera access.

2A2D5430-8EEA-4DF6-A2CA-10FD3FF39BEE

The crease in the background that I can’t get rid of!

BC95CE3B-995E-4E2F-8CCA-BA3A905155FC

Here’s a recent picture I took using this light box. Once edited using AColorStory you can’t see the crease in the background.

Above you can see the Porg photo (which is a pattern from the awesome Geeky Hooker has no crease line, this is partially due to angle of the photo and editing. The baby mandrake photos were a straight on shot. You can see the crease line in the before photo pretty clearly and after editing it is still there but less noticeable. Someone more experienced with editing software can probably make the line disappear completely.

Overall, I’m pretty happy with the purchase. I’m not a professional photographer and have no background in the subject. I’m just trying to find my way through it all and to try to take the best photos that I am capable of.

Thanks for reading and if you have any questions about this particular light box or light boxes in general that I didn’t address, ask me in the comments!

If there’s a topic you’ve been curious about, let me know I’m the comments!

Happy crocheting!

Jessica

Behind the Scenes: All About that Package

Packaging. It’s not the most interesting aspect of the business but it IS important. The box/envelope that your customer receives is the first thing that gives them information about your brand and it might be one of the reasons they become a repeat customer.

Some people like adding details to the outside of the package (like stickers, stamps and/or tape), some people like a minimalist approach and some who are less about the packaging in favor of zero waste/recyclability. All of this depends on your brand and how you want your business portrayed.

I have a more simplistic approach with a stamp that has my logo (purchased from a small shop I found on instagram) and a handmade with love stamp (purchased at Michael’s).

5362C687-9093-421A-9AE7-273559F40285

E183E49B-E602-423C-AD44-263522657BE4The next thought is about the inside of your package and how it looks. What is the first thing your customer will see? Some people use washi tape, logo stickers, confetti packages, business cards etc..  It all depends on your items and your budget. I try to be aware of my shipping budget and keep my costs down since my material costs can be higher. So I use white tissue paper (from Michael’s) to cover my packaged items (I use plastic bags to individually wrap each item). Everything is sealed with a logo sticker I made on vistaprint. And at the bottom I have a business card that was also made on vistaprint. I think one thing I am considering is adding a handwritten note to the package as well.

0036DAE2-65FA-4D4C-A86F-D3CDCECF24F1

E7BCCD69-CF49-4419-9FEC-ABB950B95DDCSome people also add swag items to their packages as well. This is usually a free item and can range from something small like a sticker or a pin to something more expensive like a shirt or a piece of jewelry. People do this to generate goodwill with their customer, or hope to encourage that person to become a repeat buyer. If you do decide you want to give something away, make sure it’s appropriate to your brand and fits within your budget.

If you aren’t sure about the options out there or what you want to do, take note of packages sent to you from small businesses and what you liked and didn’t like about them. There’s no right or wrong answer, just what feels right to you and your business. Also, packaging is something that can evolve over time. Maybe you start out with just a business card, and eventually decide to add in some confetti. It’s all up to you.

Thanks for reading, I’d love to hear about how you package your items and even see some photos!

Free Pattern: Micro Bunting

3F641C36-61DD-4B2B-83BB-462BA2109516Who doesn’t love a good bunting?! I love the way they look so I created a micro version to use as a prop with some of my small amigurumi.

My pattern calls for using a micro crochet hook as I wanted my bunting to be tiny. You could use a larger hook with worsted weight yarn to make it bigger, although I’ve never tried it. You might need to add a few more rows to successfully make the triangles bigger. However, I like my crochet small, so let’s continue on with the micro bunting! 🤗

Here’s my pattern. Let me know how it goes and if you make one!

 

30C44983-CA86-4802-A056-684BB5328B9A

Materials

  • 1.5 mm steel crochet hook
  • crochet thread of varying colors (size 10) – you could alternatively use embroidery thread.
  • scissors
  • an embroidery needle

Directions to crochet a single flag

  1. ch 5, in second stitch from the hook sc. sc across. You should have 4 sts. Ch 1, turn
  2. sc2tog, sc2tog, ch 1, turn (2 sts)
  3. sc across, ch 1, turn (2 sts)
  4. sc across and end. Leave long tail for sewing. Weave in ends on each triangle. Since only one side of my bunting would be seen I just did a square knot with both ends of thread.

And  there you go! Super easy to do the triangles, now do as many as you want and then connect them.

To connect, I used a complimentary piece of crochet thread and thread it through the back of each triangle ( I went through 2 sc loops on the back of each). Then I could move the triangles further apart or closer. Another option is to crochet through each sc along the top of the triangle and then ch 5 and sc into the top of the next triangle and so on until all your triangles are connected.

Thanks for tuning in! Happy crocheting!

Back in Action!

Hi everyone!

Long time no see! It’s been a crazy couple of months and I have literally no time for much of anything. I figured I would check in and let everyone know what’s been going on and where things are headed for the shop in 2018.

The last time I posted my husband and I had just received word that our bid on an apartment in the suburbs was accepted and we were on the road to moving. Ha, I wish it were really that simple. It was a long, arduous process that took up most of my time throughout the summer and early September. Late September we finally moved and have been settling in since then. Here’s a little looksie at our living room!

592251B9-3AC2-4FF8-A177-ED77AE7F75AE

Right when I thought everything was settled and I was organized again (see my awesome yarn shelf) the holiday orders started coming in early. Plus I was working at the Columbus Circle Holiday Market (see below) which required a lot of inventory. So it was busy, busy, busy. But now I’m all caught up, ready to make new products and to keep crocheting my little heart out.

 

For 2018 I have a few goals for myself. In regards to my Etsy shop I want to start writing my patterns down and selling them. I have had a few up in the past but poor photo quality made me take them down. I also have a new camera and light box (I’ll show you guys in an upcoming post) so I want to revamp my current Etsy listings with some higher quality photos.

I also want to continue blogging and also keep adding videos to my YouTube channel. That’s how I learned to crochet so I want to pay it forward and add some of my own knowledge to the pool.

TheKnitKnack Shop YouTube Channel

Do you guys have any goals for 2018? It could be goals for yourself or for your shop/business. Let me know in the comments, I’d love to hear from you!

Oh cacti, my cacti

This has been an interesting week. I’ve officially gone back to work teaching and this was the first week with kids. I’ve had to re adjust to teaching a full day (with little kids) and coming home and crocheting so I could fulfill orders. It’s always a hard thing to try and get used to all over again. Maybe one day I won’t have to! 😝

Although, I think this week has answered my long standing argument with myself over whether I have a hobby or a business. A friend once said to me, “If you come home after a long day of work and are exhausted and you sit down and crochet, girl you got a business.” I really felt those words this week. It took every ounce of my being to sit down until 9 or 10 pm and finish working on orders. So I guess I’ve got a business.

What kept me busy this week you ask? So many cacti! I had an order for cacti wedding favors that I’ve been busy with for about a month, but this week involved the finishing touches. Adding the flowers, sewing them on and then gluing them into the pots. It was definitely worth all the effort as they look amazing, but it was definitely a labor of love. I hope my client loves them!

Here are a few photos of them all together on the table. If you are interested in having the cacti as party/wedding favors, check them out on my Etsy page.

IMG_0500IMG_0503

Behind the Scenes: Product Photography

IMG_6043Oh the dreaded topic of photography. The thought of it makes me cringe a little inside. It’s a topic that has an abundance of information to be found. There are entire forums on Etsy, Pinterest, Ravelry and anywhere else you can think of. The discussions range from what I would call a beginner level, all the way up to spending thousands on equipment with really detailed explanations of white balance and other photography terms that sound really complex. So what is the average person supposed to do?

Well, I’m here to tell you what I worked out over the years through trial and error. My photos are still not 100% but I feel better about them then I ever have before.

So to start with, I use a light box. I didn’t buy one, I made my own out of foam board and white fabric. Here’s the TutorialI used. I purchased my foam board from Michael’s and then I found little white linen fabric squares from Michael’s as well. I also purchased these Lights from Home Depot which are only $12.00 each. The reason people suggest using the light box is because it helps balance and filter the incoming light so you can achieve a white background. Ever take a photo on you counter or in your living room and it’s yellow toned? This will help prevent that. It allows your product to shine through. And supposedly these pure white backgrounds are what customers are looking for. So you can see in the photos the fabric is on the sides and top of the box and allow light to pass through. The external lights are attached to a table or another surface and can shine through the sides and the top. To be honest, sometimes I don’t even use the lights and I just pop the box in front of a window and take the photos from there. I really do think these are the best way to go, and if you don’t want to make your own there are plenty of options you can buy already pre-made. In fact, I might switch to a collapsible one to save some space.

Now to take the photos I’ve used a few devices over the years. First I use my iphone6 camera. Sometimes I attach lenses from Manfrotto that hook up to a specially made case for my phone. I think the lenses and case amounted to around $100 to $120. I also use my husbands iphone7 camera. And have recently purchased an iPad Pro which has an amazing camera on it.

I also use some apps to edit the photos I take. I have found the app ColorStory to be really helpful. They have a ton of packages to look at, all offering different settings. I personally like using the organic filter to help get the true white background. I use the app Phonto and Font Candy to add words. (This is mostly for Instagram). A lot of people use photoshop to edit their photos and when you know what you are doing, your photos look really professional. It’s not in my wheelhouse so I’ve stuck with the phone apps. But you do whatever is comfortable for you!

Going back to the topic of Instagram, I like to vary up my backgrounds instead of just going for an all white page. I like going outside to take photos around where I live. With brick backgrounds and white fences and trees, it adds a little demension to my page. When I can’t go outside I use scrapbook paper to add into my box. Usually the paper is $.50 to $1.99 at Joann Fabric. (I like their paper selection more than Michael’s). I have also used some fabric squares as a backdrop as well. And attach it to the white poster board that is mounted inside the light box.

Occasionaly I will use props in photos. I get these from all over, if something catches my eye while I’m out I will just pick it up. It ranges from little statues to flowers, whatever I think fits the aesthetic I am going for. Below I used some flowers I cut from a branch I bought plus some little accents I found at The Christmas Tree Store.

 

I also occasionally create my own props to use. Here I made a tiny flag banner to use. Thanks for reading and I hope this was helpful. If you have any tips or tricks for taking awesome photos let me know in the comments!

My love of Harry Potter, in crochet form

I still remember anxiously waiting on line for the next book, The Goblet Of Fire. Then running home and frantically reading it, only to finish it in one sitting. It reignited my love of reading and transported me to a lovely place filled with love and friendship and magic.

I am the Harry Potter generation. It’s stayed with me as I grew into adulthood. They are books I’ve read repeatedly throughout the years and yet find something new in them each time. Happiness and triumph over evil when I was a kid and messages of true bravery and courage when I grew older.

I’m so much of a nerd that two of my many tattoos are devoted just to HP. (Hogwarts Castle was done by Mike V from Addicted to Ink Instagram Page here) and the awesome cuff bracelet is from TeamNeville

Eventually it was bound to happen I guess. One day I sat down and just started crocheting a person who I thought looked like Harry Potter. Then it was my interpretation of Hermione and Ron to the adorable Dobby. I still have a few I want to do, like Hagrid and maybe even Voldemort. But for now, here’s the collection inspired by my favorite characters.

Enjoy! And let me know what you think in the comments. IMG_4181IMG_4206IMG_4207IMG_4310IMG_4625IMG_5369IMG_0083IMG_0415

How I learned to Crochet

IMG_3685

I’ve been crocheting around 7 years, about half that time it was just making items for my family and friends and then I branched out to selling person to person and then finally made my way to Etsy and in person markets.

How did it all begin? Well, I found out I was going to be an aunt, and I wanted to make something for him that would last. i wanted to hand over something that 5 years later I could tell him a story about. So I ended up learning to knit and made my soon to be nephew a blanket.  As he grew up and my niece was soon to arrive I wanted to start making them toys to play with. The only problem was my lack of confidence in using double pointed needles and navigating 3 or 4 of them at a time. So I looked into crocheting and specifically the style of Amigurumi.

I went to Michael’s and bought a metal Boye G hook and some yarn and went to town. I practiced the basic single crochet stitch at first and it took me longer than I’m willing to admit to understand the initial stitch. YouTube was a big help and I just kept at it until I could make a basic ball.

Beginner crochet tutorial
Beginner Amigurumi Video

Then I went to Lion Brand Free patterns and found the penguin pattern. I started with that and completely messed it up. I crochet the increases, forgot the middle section of regular single crochet rounds and went to directly to the decrease rows, what resulted was a flat-ish penguin. Oh and when I did the feet I forgot to flip the foot inside out, so they were both flat with the wrong stitches on the outside. And yet, despite all of that I couldn’t believe I had MADE something. I realized my mistakes and started over, and even then the penguins came out a little wonky, my nephew loved them though. And from then on, excuse the pun, I was hooked.

I used Lion brand patterns and a few patterns on the site Ravelry, and with more practice I began to realize I could create my own patterns. The first was this dragon. (I apologize for the poor photography here. I have changed the pattern over the years so I had to use an older photo to show you what it looked like when I first made it!)

IMG_0050

Here’s the dragon after having tweaked it as I learned more techniques
IMG_1588
I still need help with new techniques or stitches and I will return to the ever faithful YouTube to help or some sites like Planet June .

It really is a great hobby that helps me to de-stress and relax. So if you want to give it a try, check out some of the links I provided above or head to your local yarn shop and see if they have any classes. Michael’s and Joann Fabric stores both have classes if there aren’t any local places around you. Enjoy! And let me know if you’ve tried crocheting and how it’s going!

Behind the Scenes: what I’m doing now.

Right now I’ve got a few different projects going on at once. That’s how it always is around here, multiple piles of yarn being used and the coffee table covered in pieces of arms and legs and headless bodies. All out of yarn of course. But my husband always says it’s a little creepy.

So my first ongoing project is building up a stock of items for the Columbus Circle Market where I will be a vendor in the Lil’New Yorker Booth! I was there for the first time last year and it was really fun. I just finished a ton of cute hats for kids ranging from 0-6 months to child size (5-7 years). Now I’m going to be continuing with some mini animals and I hope to do a few more mermaid tail blankets. (Because who doesn’t love a cozy blanket shaped like a mermaid tail?)

Next up I’ve been working on some new pins for a pin sale, hopefully at the end of the month. My most recent ones are the tenth and eleventh doctor inspired by the show Doctor Who.

IMG_0360

I’m also working on some items for the next auction with the NPNP Auction House on instagram. I just did a little jigglypuff inspired doll and I’m thinking of maybe doing a cute bookmark or maybe a Hagrid inspired doll. These are still up in the air.

IMG_0390

I’m also running out of room in my notebook where I write my patterns. 😅 I really have to find time to write these up and put them up as freebies and for sale patterns. So much to do!!! What are you all working on? Let me know, I’d love to hear!

Books for an Inspiration Boost!

IMG_0355

Since starting my side hustle a few years ago, I slowly started realizing I needed some help. How would I get my business to grow? How do I grow a brand? What exactly is a brand? All of these questions are still floating around my head if I’m being totally honest.

I’m not sure anyone really has all the answers, all the time. If someone tells you that, proceed with caution. What I’ve conceptualized my brand to be has morphed over the years into what it is today (for now). Quirky, colorful, geeky handmade items that make people smile. At least, that’s what I’m going for.

To help me on my journey I’ve picked up some books to help inspire and motivate me. Plus I like reading books about powerful women succeeding in life.

#Girlboss by Sophia Amoruso was pretty inspiring and had some helpful tips for me to just realize I need to own who I am as a person and asa company. There’s no point in being like everyone else out there. There’s only one Jessica.

Shark Tales by Barbara Corcoran is her story about how she came from nothing living in a too small house filled with family members to basically creating the real estate market in NYC. It was just inspiring to read, but not really very helpful in terms of having “tips and tricks”. Still a great read though!

In the Company of Women by Grace Bonney is a compilation of vignettes on different women in the creative industry. Each story asked the artist different questions about their business and what their inspiration was/is and their successes and failures etc.. First off the book is downright stunning and it just sits on my coffee table, just because. Secondly, it was nice to see regular women and how they made their business successful.  I’m still slowly working my way through the book because I want to appreciate everyone’s story and I’m finding myself encouraged and in awe of these women. I highly recommend this one!

Girl Code by Cara Alwill Leyba and Contagious by Jonah Berger are next on my list to conquer. I bought Contagious because it discusses social media and how it influences your business and how to make it work for you. I’m excited to see what ideas I can incorporate. Girl Code is another female entrepreneur book with the idea of helping each other and avoiding the toxicity that can be present in some maker communities. Thankfully I stumbled my way into an awesome maker community that supports one another and are genuinely kind people. I’m interested to read more about this!

Will these books be the “things” that propel my shop forward? I’m not sure, but it can’t hurt to become more informed and keep striving for success.

Have you read an inspiring business book recently? I would love to hear all about it!