In Search of Embellishments?

embellishments on Crafty TipsBefore you take a run to your local craft store and purchase some mass-produced embellishments or make do with a limited selection, you might want to check out the folks who have shared their websites and businesses with Crafty Tips.

This week, I have added a clever button maker. In addition to two artists making buttons from polymer clay and ceramics, today’s new addition is ZzzonkOwl, a newly opened Etsy shop.

zzzonkowlDorothy makes lovely fabric-covered buttons. You can purchase the buttons from her Etsy shop. She also takes her bright and colorful buttons and turns them into necklace pendants, like the collection shown here – act fast and they might be yours – Vintage black and white fabric button necklace. Her future plans include turning her buttons into earrings, pins, shoe clips, hairpins, thumbtacks and a variety of other doodads.

Don’t forget to check out the other great folks offering embellishments for your craft and sewing projects. You’ll find sources for flat-back crystals, rhinestones, trims, tassels and beads too.

News from Crafty Tips

Site Issues

craftytips2013-200Whether something went wrong with my webhost, the software which runs Crafty Tips or one of those gremlins who wreak havoc but never seem to have a name was to blame; Crafty Tips was down for a few days last month. And, somewhere along the line, the primary way for folks to submit their sites and crafting tips simply stopped working. Ahh, the joys of site ownership.

Both issues are thankfully fixed and (knock on wood) everything is working the way it should be.

The Good & The Bad of Site Audits

Once again in adding new sites to Crafty Tips, I had to say goodbye to a number of old friends. Their sites or shops are no longer online. Hopefully, they are on to bigger and better things and won’t be giving up their artistic endeavors completely. And, once again, the total site count sinks a bit, despite several new additions. Hopefully before the day is out, that too will be fixed.

One of the fun things about running a site like Crafty Tips is getting to see all of the wonderful things everyone is creating. What can be really fun is visiting with an artist who has significantly changed what they are making and are now creating something I think is really exciting.

The Best Part of Site Audits – Exciting New Discoveries

Alexandra originally submitted her Etsy shop to Crafty Tips around 14 months ago. She, like so very many Etsians, was making beaded jewelry. Nothing wrong with beaded jewelry and her’s was lovely. But, she has apparently taken what she learned and is now making truly unique pieces. She is combining macrame techniques, the use of soutach and beads and is taking friendship bracelets to a whole new level.

Her pieces break with the tradition of a friendship bracelet being something that is worn until it literally falls apart. The pieces Alexandra is offering on Calypso Charms are those I think any among us would treasure and treat as the true artisan pieces they are.

Here’s some of my favorites (if you like them, act fast as it looks like each of her pieces are truly one of a kind)….

calypso-dreams1

Turtle Friendship Bracelet

Using small pieces of friendship bracelets as beads or cabochons. Gotta say I’ve not seen that before and it certainly creates a dramatic piece. Look closely and you might realize that each knotted section depicts a turtle. How cool is that?


calypso-dreams2

Friendship Bracelet Cuff

This bracelet by Calypso Dreams is so bright and wonderful. Alexandra takes soutache cord and creates a beautiful braided trim which she used to edge a complex friendship bracelet. Then, she added beads, rhinestones and crystals to the piece. Didn’t I tell you that she’s taking friendship bracelets to a whole new level?


calypso-dreams3

Braided Soutache Bracelet

I have worked, a little, with soutache type cording in an embroidery, but I have to admit that I don’t have the foggiest idea how Alexandra constructed this beautiful piece. I think that when a piece defies the viewer’s ability to deconstruct it, that piece is truly extraordinary. This piece is bold and dramatic and quite frankly I doubt it will remain for very long in her shop.


Another Fun Day in Paradise

brokenFor the most part, I really enjoy what I do. I get to play with my computer all day, work with great vintage images, look at all kinds of great arts and crafts and help other small business owners build their sites. But, then, there’s days like today. sigh.

The day started out like any other day. But, then I logged into my Adsense account… Crafty Tips wasn’t anywhere on today or yesterday’s reports. Crap, that generally means only one thing…it’s down…hard. Sure enough it was toast.

Digging a little deeper, at least the database – that wonderful thing that stores everything that makes up the site looked OK. Got on the live chat with my webhost. Didn’t take long to determine, Oh gee, lookey there maintenance was done on the server and the site went down at the same time. Gosh, what a coinkydink. sigh.

Two chat sessions later and several emails proving I have the authority to approve a restoration from the backup files and….I’m still down. Apparently in the process of proving I have the authority, my ticket dropped out of or to the bottom of the queue.

Hate the idea of looking for a new host but it is getting more than a little tedious that every time they do maintenance one or more of my sites goes down. Apologies and getting it running again are all well and good but meanwhile they cost me money and a lot of time.

Had a few other things to do on my own sites and after lunch planned on working on a bit of writing for a client. She had sent me a very specific request for a blog entry and I needed to check my email for the names of the products.

Oh goody. gmail is down…again.

Maybe I just should have stayed in bed today.

Oh, and my wonderful embroidery for Mom is in a holding pattern. A part of what I’m working on is darkish threads over the edge of a darkish fabric. Even with a fairly decent light, I can’t be sure all of the fabric edge is covered. I’ve been waiting for 4 days, yes, that’s 4 days, for enough sunshine to see what I’ve done and what needs doing.

In the grand scheme of things, today’s frustrations are small. It is the second time I’ve had to delay work getting to this client because of a gmail outtage but other than that it’s pretty much another day in the paradise called the Internet.

5 Minutes Later…Guess I can add another thing to my list for the day…WordPress permalinks that seem to break and leave you wondering for exactly how long has my site been messed up.

2 hours later…permalinks fixed and still trying to get webhost to fix what they broke. Oh how I cringe at the idea of needing to find a new host.

When to leave a craft fair in bad weather?

foul-weather

You’ve set up your booth have your items displayed nicely and then the weather turns bad, really bad.

What do you do?

Before the Event…Read Your Vendor Contract

There’s a few things you should do before you even get to this point…

I’m hearing more and more festivals and fairs are requiring exhibitors to remain for the entire duration of the event. In good weather, I think it’s a good idea. There’s nothing worse than traveling to an event, even paying admission, to only find many of the vendors are packing up or have already left.

One vendor recently told me the event we were visiting had a $400 fine for leaving early. They had required a deposit in that amount and simply wouldn’t refund the deposit if she left early.

That sort of thing puts a whole new wrinkle on the stay or not to stay debate when the weather gets nasty. That particular day, the issue wasn’t weather, but foot traffic. The event was pretty much a bomb – many of the vendors didn’t even earn their space back in raw sales. They cringed at the thought of their losses when they deducted their item costs from their sales.

We met another vendor at a stormy event. She was trying to evaluate which would be more expensive for her, more product losses from breakage or losing her deposit for leaving early. She was almost in tears. Neither option was good.

In one case, we watched foul weather bend a vendor’s tent pole. Can’t imagine how that little bit of destruction cost her.

The $64,000 Question; Do You Leave or Do You Stay

I was asked by a talented photographer, Robin, on my earlier post on craft shows in windy conditions, when is it time to bail when conditions get too bad.

Robin’s work is susceptible to both wind (glass breakage and damaged frames) and rain (destruction of her art as well as the finish on the frames).

There’s an irony to bad weather. I’ve noticed that while the attendees are more sparse, they are more inclined to buy. Whether in sympathy for the vendors or because they really are interested in finding some unique wonderful thing that day, the attendees do seem to be buyers rather than lookers.

Deciding If & When to Leave a Craft Fair

In the end, each vendor is going to have to make their own decision about staying or leaving.

If you have mixture of pieces that have varying degrees of weather tolerance, maybe remove the most fragile items from your display. Perhaps, just leave those items that won’t blow away or can tolerate getting wet on display. One, you might get a die-hard customer. And two, I doubt there’s any show contract that stipulates you must stay for the entire event and you must maintain a full booth the entire time.

If the weather is costing you money, it may be wiser to take the loss of your deposit. If you can protect your wares, displays and even your tent, it may be better to stay. Event organizers may be kind enough to drop the leave early policy. Unfortunately, that doesn’t always happen until days after the event is over and they receive enough complaints. We were at one event where the organizers went around telling each vendor they could leave early without fear of losing their deposit – kudos to them.

I guess if I were evaluating whether to leave or not, I would consider if the losses will equal or surpass any loss of deposit or penalties for leaving early as well as any sales I might have made (assuming there are any attendees sticking it out). Yep, that does require a bit of a crystal ball gazing and taking your best guess.

If you believe you’ll lose more by staying, it just makes more sense to me to leave. After all, a reputable event organizer will hopefully return your deposit – particularly if the weather is easily recognized as dangerous (thunderstorms) or severe enough to drive away attendees.

If the weather is foul, attendees do seem generally more willing to view items under tarps, in tubs or without the benefit of being shown in a nice display. I saw attendees actually crawl under tarps placed over tables to view items at one event. Perhaps give that a try before packing up and leaving – assuming it is a viable option.

In the end, there’s no magic formula to determining when a vender should leave a craft fair in bad weather. One has to be at the event to determine if any buyers are left and if conditions just don’t make staying financially feasible.

I’d love to hear your event war stories, ideas for protecting your wares in bad weather or any suggestions you could add.

Thank you to Matthias Pahl for making his wonderful photograph available on Stock.xchng.

New Embroidery Project

cat-embroideryIt’s become a bit of a tradition for major holidays that I make Mom something. Each one gets a bit more elaborate and each one gets a bit more fun. I rarely have a plan. I spent sometimes as much time ripping stuff out because I hate it or want to move elements around but I guess that’s just the way my brain works.

This time, rather than relying solely upon my stash, I’ve been indulging in buying some new beads, threads and other bits and bobs to make her Birthday present.

She helped to pick out many of the beads and even the base fabric. She knows I’m working on something and the general color scheme but other than that, she knows nothing about what I’m doing. I thought I would share my journey in making her project and maybe we can both share some ideas along the way.

At a yard sale, I picked up some absolutely luscious polar fleece from Nancy Ziemen (yep, the lady with the PBS show, Sewing With Nancy). Didn’t know she sold kits, patterns and fabrics. The yard sale had several pieces from her – really pretty stuff. I knew I wanted to incorporate it somehow but I was just out of ideas.

Spent about two hours on Pinterest. Went from embroidery, to baskets (there’s this weird $5 basket-weave bead Mom picked out that I can’t figure out what to do with. I’ve never spent so much on a single bead before and it’s looking more and more like it might not make it into the final project), to cats (her fave) to Zen Doodles and so on.

cat-inspirationFound this great cat graphic on a Spanish site (Gato Abstracto). Ironically, it matches the fabric Mom picked out perfectly. But, I love the style and position of the cat and since the site offers use of the image for free, I figured it was truly perfect. No worries about copyright and it was just what I was looking for.

The lovely fleece is non-fray like felt but it is so soft it’s very hard to work with. After I finally got the size cat I wanted, it took several tries figuring out how to applique it onto my main fabric. Buttonhole stitch, black thread on black fleece turned out to be impossible to see in the early evening as the sun was going down. Even with a ton of stitches to hold the fleece in place. By the way, don’t you just love the general effect of the long stitches on the black fleece? I’m probably going to have to do something like that for real as it looks so cool to me.

Anyway, after a bit of trial and error. I’m doing a bit of a modified straight stitch over the edge with seed beads. I’ve come to the conclusion that I’ve determined the absolute longest method of doing what I’m doing. Hopefully, today, with a night to think about it, I’ve come up with a faster way. I’m planning on stringing the beads on one thread and sewing them on as I go with another. I’m hoping it will save tons of time, particularly since so many of the beads I am using don’t fit on the needle. Seems silly with so much machine-made stuff today, that they’re still all uneven.

Anyway, here’s what I’ve got so far. I can’t wait to see where this project takes me.

How to Add Pinterest to WordPress Blogs

how-to-pinterestUnless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ve probably heard about Pinterest.

If you are a visual person, you probably have a number of Pinboards full of great stuff you’ve found online.

Do you have a WordPress blog too?

Want to add some of your latest Pins to your blog?

I’m going to show you two different methods to add Pinterest to WordPress blogs.

pinterest-rss-widget

Pinterest RSS Widget

The Pinterest RSS Widget is a WordPress plugin for Pinterest users that shows your latest pins in your sidebar, blog post or a page of your blog.

Each Pin is listed and linked to separately which makes it easier to find amongst the hundreds or thousands of Pins most of us have on our Pinboards. The plugin works great in a sidebar but it requires a bit of fine-tuning to use on posts and pages. The latest version, 2.2.1, seems to have issues with the thumbnail sizes. The Pinterest plugin we’ll discuss in a bit also has some problems with image sizes but these appear to be the most stable and functional options available right now.

For the sake of this tutorial, I’m going to assume that you know how to install a WordPress plugin and how to add a widget to a sidebar.

The rest of the setup is merely a matter of entering the information into the fields. I’ve included my set up as an example – make sure you replace my Pinterest username with your own.

Setting Up the Plugin

In my case, I want it display my 5 latest pins on Pinterest. WordPress and the plugin make it easy to have the titles but the plugin does not pull the entire title (for some reason the folks at Pinterest limit the number of characters in the feeds), so you might want to live with it for a while and decide whether or not you want to include the titles.

The thumbnail height option of the plugin does not work right. The thumbnail width option does seem to work. In my case, the default 150px width fits in my theme, so I left the setting blank.

A note about where to open the links. You choices are “same window” or “new window”. I prefer using a new window. That way my visitors aren’t leaving my blog completely to visit my Pinboards. Again, this is a matter of taste and you’ll have to decide what works best for your blog.

Additionally, as you can see from my sidebar, the height of the Pins can vary greatly. If you are prone to pinning taller images, you might want to reduce the number of Pins you display or make them narrower. If you’re like me, your Pin sizes probably vary and while some days your sidebar might be overly long, other days it will probably be fine.

Adding Pinterest to WordPress Blogs with the Pinterest Button & Widget Builder

pinterest-widget-builder
The Pinterest Button & Widget Builder is a utility on the Pinterest website that helps Pinners embed various Pin-related content to your blog.

In this case, we’re going to use the Board Widget to present some of the latest pins of a specific board to our WordPress blogs.

The Advanced Options provides you with the ability to exert some control over the size of the images being displayed.

The advantage of using the Pinterest Board Widget is that the Pins are nicely tiled like they appear on Pinterest.com. The disadvantage is that the settings on the widget also seem to have issues with the sizing of the display. No matter what I set it to, the Board Width remained the same. Additionally, the entire block functions as a single link and your visitors will not be able to visit each pin directly. However, since you are showing the latest pins from a single board, that shouldn’t be too big of an issue.

Setting Up the Pinterest Board Widget on Your WordPress Blog

You’ll have to make some changes to your theme to use this but they’re quite simple and easy to do. In order for the widget to work, you’ll have to add the JavaScript code Pinterest provides on the Widget Builder page. (I’ve included the code here but as it might change in the future, it might be better for you to get it from their site.)

Log into your WordPress site and go to the Appearance > Editor option. This is where you can edit all of the settings on your theme. You want to be careful here so you don’t inadvertently destroy anything. If you don’t feel comfortable editing these files, either ask a friend or just stick to having the WordPress Pinterest RSS Widget in your sidebar.

Bring up the footer.php file in the editor and go to the bottom of the file.

pinterest-code

You are looking for the closing body tag

</body>

Put the following line above that the closing body tag…

<script type=”text/javascript” src=”//assets.pinterest.com/js/pinit.js”></script>

Place the link provided by the widget onto your blog post or page (don’t forget to be in text mode, otherwise this won’t work). I’ve included a sample so that you can see what it looks like and we can discuss making changes.

<a data-pin-do=”embedBoard” href=”http://pinterest.com/blogaboutcrafts/arts-crafts-in-general/” data-pin-scale-width=”150″ data-pin-scale-height=”300″ data-pin-board-width=”1200″></a>

data-pin-scale-width – the width of the Pinned images (works great)

data-pin-scale-height – seems like it should control the height of the actual Pinned images but it appears to control the height of the entire display of Pins which in turn impacts how many Pins you display at one time

data-pin-board-width – appears to be completely ignored as of the writing of this post

What makes this tool super easy to use is once you get the link code, you can change it manually to see how it looks on your site. You can also just edit the link to show any of your Pinboards.

This is what the code above produces…

If we change the data-pin-scale-width to 75 and data-pin-scale-height to 100…

As you can see, the size you set your Pinned images to can make the overall display larger or smaller. But, like I said, the data-pin-board-width setting is unfortunately completely ignored.

Follow Me

If you liked this tutorial, please let me know. Of course, it wouldn’t hurt if you gave it a bit of Pinning love too. ๐Ÿ˜‰