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The Chilly Dog - 2014 Highlights

When I started The Chilly Dog three years ago, my business plan was to start selling my handmade items on Etsy and blog occasionally to promote my shop and share some crafty inspiration. I don't know exactly how or when it happened, but during that time my focus has clearly shifted from item production and sales to blogging.

I try not to obsess over my statistics, but based on the numbers, The Chilly Dog continues to gain popularity with over 265,000 page views this year. I strive to create quality craft-related content and wrote 170 posts that included 59 original patterns and tutorials in 2014. Additionally, I have invested time in improving my social media skills to promote crafters and crafting. You can find, follow and like @thechillydog on FacebookTwitterGoogle+Pinterest and Wanelo.

Although most of my blog posts are about my experiences and projects, I enjoy sharing stories about other artists and crafters from around the world. I am inspired by the similarities between artists no matter where they are from or what they create. I try to promote one featured artist each month. This year I introduced my readers to:


I also began hosting a weekly link party called Crafty Saturday Show and Sell. It's a free place for artists to promote items from their online shops and a great place for shoppers to find one of a kind handmade gifts. I typically choose at least two favorite items from each week's link-up to promote on my Facebook, Twitter and Wanelo.


In addition to The Chilly Dog, this year I started a second blog called Create Happy Crafts. It's a collection of printables, patterns and tutorials created by other talented craft bloggers. This year I was able to feature over 180 projects from about 70 different blogs.

Of course, the next logical step was to create my own Create Happy Crafts Google+ Community. It's open to all crafters and craft lovers and you can share your crafty projects, patterns and blog posts, promote handmade items for sale, or even ask craft related questions and get help from the community's 700+ members.

One of my favorite parts about the blogosphere is collaborating with other creative people. Last summer I had the opportunity to be a Tombow Guest Designer and participate in a blog hop with their fabulous design team. In the fall I collaborated with Teena, from Serendipitini, and Sherri, from About Family Crafts, for a Paper Craft Challenge. We each created projects using repurposed paper as the primary material and came up with three very unique designs. In February 2015, I'll be sharing a Valentine project when I participate in Emma Owl's "Month of Love."

These collaborations inspired me to host a 2015 Craft-a-Month Challenge on Create Happy Crafts. Each month there will be a different theme or featured material and bloggers are welcome to link any projects that fit the monthly theme. I think it will be exciting to see all the different ideas that people come up with.

Of course, I haven't given up on my shop(s). Unfortunately, due to the many disappointing changes made by Etsy in 2014, I have decided to downsize my Etsy shop and only sell digital downloads of my knit and crochet patterns. I have moved my complete handmade inventory to my new Storenvy shop.

And finally, my guiding principle...

I love to craft and learn new skills that I can incorporate into my creations. I take great pride in my work. Crafting often requires patience and attention to detail but with practice (and maybe some guidance and encouragement) everyone has the capacity to make crafting a relaxing and enjoyable part of their life.

The Chilly Dog is my place to share my crafting experiences, expertise and inspirations and I hope to guide, encourage and promote others in their creative endeavors.

Create Happiness. Expect Excellence.




Handmade Marketplace Options

Etsy, Storenvy, Zibbet and ArtFire: A comparison of 4 popular venues for selling handmade and vintage items. If you are a crafter or artist, at some point you have probably considered selling your items online. The good news is that there are a variety of marketplaces available that make it easy to set up your own shop as long as you have some basic computer skills.

Please understand, selling your handmade goods online is not a "get rich quick" plan. No matter which venue you choose, you still have to create your items, take quality product photos, write captivating product descriptions, market your business and more.

Just because you have a shop, doesn't mean you will make sales. Any seasoned seller will tell you that turning your hobby into a business is often times a labor of love. With that said, who doesn't want to make a living doing what they love?

Four common selling options for handmade arts and crafts are


Etsy is perhaps the largest and most well known marketplace for handmade, vintage and craft supply items. However, with over 1 million active shops on Etsy, it's easy for small shops to get lost in the mix.

The smaller platforms like Artfire, Zibbet and Storenvy may not have as many customers browsing their sites, but there are also less competing shops.

All four marketplaces have different fee structures for sellers.

  • Etsy charges a fee to list (and re-list) items and a fee when you make a sale.
  • Storenvy charges for add-ons like using your own domain and accessing upgraded discount types and is planning to start charging a fee when you make a sale.
  • Artfire and Zibbet are subscription based, so they charge a flat rate, but their are no sales or listing fees.

Here's a quick comparison of the four marketplaces. (For easier reading, you can click on this chart to see a larger view.)




You can find more information about each of the marketplaces on their sites at- Etsy Help, Storenvy How it Works, ArtFire Features and About Zibbet.

Do you have a shop on any of these marketplaces? Share your selling experience by leaving a comment below. It's always helpful to know what challenges and successes other artists are experiencing.

Happy crafting and happy sales!


Crafty Saturday Show and Sell #51

This year, my holiday gift from me to me is a little time "unplugged" and away from my computer, so please forgive me for not selecting favorites this week. I appreciate all of the wonderful items that were shared last week and you can find them, along with every other item linked in 2014 on my Crafty Saturday Show and Sell Pinterest board.

I hope you have a safe and happy new year!






Featured Artist: Artzest

One of the best parts about blogging and selling on Etsy is all of the incredible artists that I have met (at least virtually). Interacting with other artists and crafters from around the world always inspires me, not only in my own crafts, but in life.

I don't know why, but it still surprises me how similar all of our artistic stories are. No matter where we are from, artists all have an inner passion that drives them to create and share beauty in different ways.

Today I am excited to introduce you to one of my Etsy friends, Roohi. You can find her elegant jewelry designs and more in her Etsy shop, Artzest.

Who are you and where are you from?
My name is Roohi and I live in Karachi, a beautiful city with a hub of activity. I have two wonderful daughters that are also potential artisans, an adorable son and a supportive husband.




What do you create?
I make jewelry and decorative items. In fact, I make almost everything that is creatable - anything that I get the raw materials for. Crafting is a hobby and I enjoy putting things together. I am always interested in things that I can use in crafting, and I have a collection of many odd things in my home. I recently discovered polymer clay and that opens up a versatile array of things that can be crafted, but I might limit it to flowers and jewelry.

What is your favorite craft or hobby and how did you learn it? 
I don’t have any particular favorite. I make anything that is beautiful, be it a decoration piece, a jewelry item or a dress. I learnt most things by trial and error. When I was a kid, we lived in a remote area in Africa where I had very limited access to proper crafting materials. I used to learn by just experimenting, and from any magazine that I could get.

When did you realize your creative passion?
I have always had this passion, I can say, for as long as I can remember. I always used to observe things closely and if I found out that I could make something, I would try to find the materials and make it. Making crepe paper flowers was one of my earliest crafting successes, when I made it into a nice decoration piece in my home.

What or who inspires you in your crafting and/or your life?
All beautiful things, any material from which I feel something can be crafted becomes an inspiration for me. Sometimes a need becomes a reason to create. I needed storage space for my crafting materials and I designed a small shelf with wheels so that I can take my crafting materials in any room, especially when I wanted to work in front of the TV.

What’s your philosophy about crafting and/or life?
Crafting is an expression of one’s ingenuity. It combines the flair of creativity with the strength of passion and one gets a sense of satisfaction when one creates something beautiful. It gives us an opportunity to escape from the stresses of this life, into a world ruled by our own creativity.

Why do you create?
I enjoy creating; I like the beautiful things that I end up making, I like the appreciation from people when they see my creativity. Crafting keeps my creativity alive.

What other interests do you have?
I enjoy reading and sewing. I sew almost all of my daughters’ clothes. Apart from this, I am interested in social service. I had the opportunity of running a school for underprivileged children and I enjoyed doing it.

How does culture influence your work?
I belong to an area that has a very rich culture. Culture shows the originality of the ideas that evolve in one particular place and these, I believe, should be reflected in the work of artisans. I love using the things that are typical to my culture in my creations. I would love to spread them in the world, and I also love to see the typical artwork of different cultures in the world.

Is crafting a hobby, business, or something in between?
As yet, it is a hobby. I am giving more time to it now and it might go some way beyond that.

How did you choose your brand or shop name?
I wanted a name that combined ‘art and craft’ with passion. I tried many names and finally settled on Arzest. RMS are the initials of my two daughters and me, and Flair might evolve into the brand name.

What is a typical day for you?
These days I have taken a break from my job, so I am at home. After sending the children to school, I spend some time on the computer and then I prepare lunch and do some house chores. In the afternoon I tutor students, and I also do my crafting or sewing on my free days. I have some free time again after dinner, which I spend helping my children with their studies.

What is an ideal day for you?
When I have all my chores done, and some time to spare- for reading a book or an outing with the family.

What projects are you the most proud of?
I recently made a pendant in which I used a purple polymer clay rose that I made myself, some beads and amethyst gemstones. It is a unique item as it is a combination of three items- clay, beads and gemstones. It looked quite pretty as well. I liked it when I made it, and I think it was nice as it is the second item that I sold- it has now gone to America, and I hope the owner likes it too.
I do some sewing as well. I made a gown as a prom dress for my elder daughter. It looked really nice, and people appreciated it.

How do you deal with crafting failures?
I learnt most of my crafting by trial and error. With every failure, one learns something new, discovers a new material, or finds a new way of doing something. I try to figure out new ways of doing a particular technique or I keep on trying new materials till I get the required result.

I was making some glass slides recently and was figuring out a way to make it stand. I tried sticking a small rectangular piece of glass at the back to make a stand. I used glue that is normally used for glass. It seemed to work at first but it wasn’t strong enough, and the piece came off after sometime. I tried another type of glue, but the same thing happened. I have now discovered a new type of glue, which I had seen in woodwork shops - it is made by mixing two materials - and that I believe will work as it dries really hard.
As yet, I have found another use of it. I have used it to fix beads, shells and clay flowers on the slides. They are fixed quite strongly and the glue dries to a transparent finish. I made beautiful decorative slides using this glue. I have yet to fix the glass at the back, but I believe this glue will work.

Where do you do most of your crafting?
I have a corner in my room where I have some of my crafting materials, I do my crafting there, or sometimes I bring the materials in the TV room and do it there. I have a spare room which I have to set up yet, as a proper crafting place.

What keeps you busy when you are not creating?
The house chores keep me busy. I spend quite some time on the computer also these days. I also spend time with the family, helping my children with their studies and other activities.



Is there anything else you’d like to share about yourself, your craft, or business tips to help others with small crafting businesses?
Till now I have been crafting just for fun, making small pieces that could be used at home. I discovered these online shops only recently when my daughters started crafting and used the internet to get ideas. They discovered Etsy and wanted for us to have a shop as we could make so many things. So we started giving more time to crafting and have set up this shop. However, being in a completely different culture, it will take time for us to understand things in the other part of the world- the holidays, the seasons and the demand of different items along the year. We learnt many things this year, and with this experience, and the cooperation of the Etsy community, I hope I am successful in running this shop.

I think setting up a small business as an independent crafter needs a lot of patience and hard work, but, as it is driven by one’s passion, I believe it is bound to succeed one day.

Stay Connected with Roohi





Book Review: The Knitter's Handy Book of Patterns

I've been knitting for well over 20 years and one of the most valuable references in my knitting library is The Knitter's Handy Book of Patterns by Ann Budd. I can not even count how many items I have made based on the patterns from this book.

The book includes basic knitting and sizing instructions for eight different types of garments - mittens, gloves, hats, tams, scarves, socks, vests and sweaters. The best part is that the instructions can easily be adjusted depending on the weight of yarn you are using or the size of the garment you are knitting. (You will need to work a gauge swatch before beginning any of these projects.)

Socks are my very favorite thing to knit from this book. I have made chunky socks and lighter weight ones, wool and acrylic, and everything in between in just about every shoe size.

Here's the most recent pair I made (for myself) with some beautifully hand dyed yarn from Kookaburra Yarns.


Since I have had so much luck with the other patterns in The Knitter's Handy Book of Patterns, I decided to try making my first pair of mittens from another stunning skein of yarn from Kookaburra Yarns and was thrilled with the results. Here's my very first mitten.


This book is not for novices. You need to be familiar with the basics of knitting. But if you are ready to expand your knitting horizons and create your own unique clothing with your favorite yarn in any size, I highly recommend, The Knitter's Handy Book of Patterns.



Crafty Saturday Show and Sell #50

Happy holidays to all! I hope you get to unplug and enjoy some time with family and friends over the next few days.

With Christmas just days away, I decided to pick some holiday themed items as my favorites this week. I couldn't limit myself to just two, though.

Red and Green Earrings by BlueQuailCrafts
Quilted Wall Hanging by SuesCreatingCottage
Flannel Pillowcases by HandbagsByDyana


You can get a peek at my favorite items every Tuesday on Wanelo and Twitter and Saturdays on Facebook or follow my Crafty Saturday Show and Sell Pinterest board to browse every Crafty Saturday item.






Crochet Pattern: Sock Yarn Swirl Necklace

Sock Yarn Crochet Pattern: Create a quirky, swirly necklace that's a unique anytime accessory for v-neck shirts and sweaters.I recently got two beautifully hand dyed, 100 g skeins of sock yarn from Kookaburra Yarns. I don't use this weight of yarn in projects very often, but the colors were so incredible that I just couldn't resist.

With the first skein I made a knit infinity necklace as well as a pair of socks. So, I thought I would try my hand at a crocheted necklace with the second skein.

This is a rather unusual pattern for sock yarn, but I think you'll enjoy the fun and quirky style. You may even be able to use up some of the bits of yarn from your stash for this project because you only need about 65 yds (14 g) of sockweight yarn.

The finished necklace is approximately 17 inches.

Materials



  • approximately 65 yds (14 g) of lightweight sock yarn (I used a 75% merino/25% nylon blend)
  • 3/8 inch button
  • US 1 (2.35 mm) crochet hook
  • needle and thread


Directions


Before you begin, here's one special stitch.

# Chain Fringe (#chf): Chain the indicated #, sc in second ch from hook and each ch across.

Ch 101

Row 1: Sc in 2nd ch from hook and next 9 ch, hdc in next 10 ch, dc in next 20 ch, tr in next 20 ch, dc in next 20 ch, hdc in next 10 ch, sc in next 10 ch, ch 1, turn

Row 2: Sc in first 20 sts, hdc in next 3 sts, dc in next 2 sts,

          [20chf, dc in next 2 sts] twice,
          [25chf, dc in next 2 sts] twice,
          [30chf, dc in next 2 sts] twice,
          [35chf, dc in next 2 sts] twice,
          [40chf, dc in next 2 sts] twice,
          [45chf, dc in next 2 sts] twice,
          [50chf, dc in next 2 sts] twice,
          [45chf, dc in next 2 sts] twice,
          [40chf, dc in next 2 sts] twice,
          [35chf, dc in next 2 sts] twice,
          [30chf, dc in next 2 sts] twice,
          [25chf, dc in next 2 sts] twice,
          [20chf, dc in next 2 sts] twice,

hdc in next 3 sts, sc in next 20 sts, ch 5, sl st in the bottom of first sc of row 1 to form a loop, finish off.

Use a needle and thread to attach the button onto the end of your necklace.

This necklace is a lovely accent to a v-neck shirt or sweater and can be worn any time of year.

Sock Yarn Crochet Pattern: Create a quirky, swirly necklace that's a unique anytime accessory for v-neck shirts and sweaters.




Tutorial: Clay Gingerbread Ornaments

How to make gingerbread man Christmas ornaments out of clay and puff paint.If you like the look of classic gingerbread dough ornaments on your Christmas tree, I'd like to share my method for making gingerbread ornaments that be placed on the tree year after year.

The secret, don't use dough. Instead use oven-bake clay. Visually, the ornaments look almost identical to those made of dough. However clay ornaments can withstand a few extra years of holiday cheer.

Materials





Directions


I made a dozen gingerbread men and used about 3/4 of a pound of clay.

Even if you are making multiple ornaments, it's easiest to roll and cut one ornament at  time.
Cover your work surface with a piece of parchment paper so the clay doesn't stain or stick to your counter.

Soften a small handful of the clay by squeezing it in your hands then roll it out evenly so it's about 1/4-inch thick.
Use a cookie cutter to cut out your shape.
Use a straw to cut a small hole where the ribbon will be attached later.
I chose to also cut out a small heart. This step is optional.
Place your ornaments on a parchment lined cookie sheet and bake according to the package directions, approximately 15 minutes at 275 F.
Cool your ornaments on a wire rack.
Once they are complete cooled, use puffy paint like icing to decorate your ornaments.
If you made a cutout that you would like to fill, start by placing a small piece of parchment under the cutout.

Fill in the space with red puffy paint. As it dries, the red puffy paint will compress, so you may choose to add a little more after 12-24 hours of drying.
Let the red paint dry completely, at least 24-36 hours, before you remove the parchment.

The parchment should easily peel away. If you have to tug at it, the paint is not dry and you should wait at least 12 more hours.
Once your ornaments are decorated and completely dry, simply tie your ribbon and hang them on the tree. They also make fun gift toppers or hostess gifts.

Happy Holidays!

How to make gingerbread man Christmas ornaments out of clay and puff paint.




Crafty Saturday Show and Sell #49

Christmas is less than two weeks away and I hope everyone is enjoying the season. I'm excited because Saturday night is my annual "Holiday Hooplah." It should be a lot of fun to get together with some of my Tucson friends and I am planning some yummy treats for everyone.

This week I have been busy wrapping goodies in anticipation of Christmas, and love these beautiful gift containers that were shared at last week's link-up.

Handpainted box by annarobertsart
Bright Gift Pouch Trio by joliefemme
You can get a peek at my favorite items every Tuesday on Wanelo and Twitter and Saturdays on Facebook.

Let's start linking!




If you enjoy this link party follow my Crafty Saturday Show and Sell Pinterest board and invite shoppers by liking and repinning this pin.





Tutorial: 3D Star Ornament

3D Star Ornament Tutorial: Use your Silhouette Cameo and Tombow adhesive to create Christmas ornamentsAfter my success with the Reindeer Christmas cards I wanted to test out the Tombow Mono Aqua Liquid Glue on a 3D paper project. Again, I visited the Silhouette Design Store for a cutting pattern and some inspiration.

I found a star ornament with lots of delicate flourishes and six pieces per ornament.

Not only are these ornaments pretty, but they can be folded flat and inserted in a Christmas card as a special little gift :)

Many thanks to Tombow USA for providing the adhesive for this project. It was perfect for all the fine details!

Materials





Directions


I used Silhouette Studio to scale the original design so that it was 5.5 inches in height. Each finished ornament is then about 3 inches tall.


Cut the design with your Silhouette Cameo.

I was able to cut two ornaments from one 12 x 12 piece of cardstock.
Remove the pieces from the cutting mat.
Fold each star in half along the score line.
Starting with a star that has a loop at the top, apply the glue to half of the star using the "pen tip" side.

Do not put any glue on the top loop, yet.
Make sure there's glue on the swirls and around the edges and center.
Position one of the plain stars against the looped star and press together.
Apply glue to half of the plain star. Position another plain star against it and press together.
You should have something that looks like this.
Repeat the process with the remaining three star pieces.

Let the two ornament halves dry for at least 15 minutes.
Apply glue around the edges, swirls and top loop of one half. Align the other half of the ornament and press together.

After the ornament is dry, place a ribbon or string through the top loop for hanging.
Happy Holidays!