Friday, January 28, 2011

Introducing Louis Lobster

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After many requests, and my goal to make more East Coast/Marine themed amigurumi, I have designed Louis Lobster. Although I am not included in this group, so many of my friends and family love to eat lobster (the cockroach of the ocean). I always knew what was for supper when the table was lined with garbage bags and the hammers come out. Even the local airport, Stanfield International Airport, Halifax, NS, sells live lobster. Louis Lobster represents Nova Scotia culture and he is named for the Fortress of Louisbourg where I worked during the summer in high school as an interpreter – I wore lots of wool and fired a musket.

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As with all my amigurumi, I wanted to make sure that Louis would be child-friendly and very durable. Since I do not love sewing, the antennae and legs are made as part of the body. The colour in the picture is Hot Red (0390) by Red Heart Yarn, but I have many different shades of red. Should I make some in green as well? Louis will be added to Etsy shortly, and I hope to have the pattern available next week.

Louis joins my three different mermaids. More aquatic themed creations to come in 2011!

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Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Amigurumi Materials (Reasons why I chose acrylic yarn… mostly)

What do I use for my yarn creations? Two weeks ago at the Historic Farmers’ Market I was showing a girl in grade 4 the basic chain (ch) stitch (st), and she was wondering about my materials. I had with me a few hooks and a bag of balled yarn ends – and she was impressed. I wonder what she would have thought about my bookshelf of yarn? Annually I easily go through over $700 of yarn.

Yarn

On various message boards, such as Ravelry, discussions abound on which yarn to use with amigurumi (yarn dolls/toys). There are natural fibres such as cotton, wool, and bamboo and synthetic fibres like acrylic. Honestly, any type of yarn will work fine, and it is only through experimenting that a crocheter can discover their own preference. I prefer Red Heart worsted weight acrylic yarn.

  1. acrylic yarn more wallet friendly than natural fibres
  2. acrylic yarn is stain resistant
  3. acrylic yarn is machine washable and dryable (hot, warm or cold) – and since babies tend to put things in their mouths, many of my customers like to wash their toys in hot water. I was even told that one toy carrot has even survived an accidental round in the dishwasher and is not showing any damage.
  4. there is a lesser chance of fungal/bacterial grown and insect damage
  5. acrylic yarn is widely available in a rainbow of colours.

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While I understand the ecological reasons for using natural fibres, it does result in a toy that will not age as gracefully as synthetic fibres, and I feel that added longevity is the eco-friendly quality of the synthetic fibres. I sell my amigurumi to the public, and the best form of advertizing is in having a product that looks just as good 3 years later as it did the day it was bought. Red Heart yarn is now produced in the USA, so I have confidence that the working conditions of the employees meets labour standards. However, I know very little about the labour standards in yarn factories in Asia, India, and the Middle East. Also since my yarn is produced in North America (shipped locally from Ontario, Canada), it’s carbon foot print is smaller than if I was shipping it from a greater distance.

Why Red Heart brand? No, they do not sponsor me – I did try to work a deal with them since I purchase quite a lot of yarn, but I was quickly rejected. One of important details of crocheting amigurumi is to minimize the spaces between stitches.  I have tried Bernat along with other brands, but really liked that Red Heart does not have much of a natural stretch. When the yarn stretches, it thins and holes are more obvious. If I ever switch to a different brand, I would probably need to use a smaller hook size, and my creations would be smaller for the same amount of time (it is quicker to make an afghan out of yarn than a lacy tablecloth from thread). If some fibres have no stretch, then the holes may also be visible. As I crochet, I keep the tension on the yarn tight, and as each stitch is made, as it relaxes, the holes fill in. For example here is a picture  of a duck made with cotton (left), and the other with acrylic (right). When the cotton duck becomes wet, the stitches will loosen and the holes with enlarge slightly.

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I do create with other fibres. I make dolls out of cotton and stuff them with wool or cotton – but only on request. Usually the price is a dollar or two more, and I make sure that the new owners know the special care instructions. After all, in the end any sort of string or rope can be crocheted into amigurumi.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Weekly Update

1. New Items Listed

These items may not be entirely new, but they are new to ETSY and new for the Historic Farmers’ Market: Drako Dragonfly, Piper Pig, Liam Lion, Calla Caterpillar, and brand new (market only for now), Ladybug.

2. Stores Summary

This week, I completed an order for Fiddleheads Kids Shop in Dartmouth, and I hope to deliver the carrots, turtles, monkey and mermaid early next week.

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I will be at the Historic Farmers’ Market tomorrow (January 22nd): items in stock: (small) Mona Mermaid, Moncton Monkey, Monty Monkey, Calla Caterpillar, Liam Lion, Carrots, Aliens, Drako and Drew Dragonfly, Tudor Turkey, Charlie Chicken, Piper Pig, LadyBug, and Thomas Turtle along with a few other friends. This week I will be sharing my table with Cheryl Simon who specializes in (porcupine) quill art.

3. Extras

Happy Birthday to Claire (born on January 16th)

Moncton Monkey (handmade, yarn, plush crocheted doll) Ladybug Amigurumi  (handmade, yarn, plush crocheted doll) Liam Lion Amigurumi  (handmade, yarn, plush crocheted doll) Calla Caterpillar Amigurumi (handmade, yarn, plush crocheted doll) Piper Pig Amigurumi  (handmade, yarn, plush crocheted doll) Monty Monkey Amigurumi  (handmade, yarn, plush crocheted doll)

A Day to Renew

I have been busy with The Silver Hook non-stop since November 2010. There were 6 multi-day craft shows, markets, and happily many custom and Christmas orders. For the first time, I had orders spanning over the holidays, some of which I have yet to finish (a huge thank you to the patience of some of my clients). Last Saturday was my 29th birthday, but I did not do much to celebrate that day: it was my first week back at the Historic Farmers' Market and my husband was working a night shift. We decided to celebrate on Tuesday. For many small business owners, our businesses can consume all of our free time. We think about it late at night, first thing in the morning, and pretty much all day. But on Tuesday, I spent the day away from my hook and yarn, and had a wonderful time in Halifax and Dartmouth.

I awoke to the sound of music….my husband singing Happy Birthday :) and a little while later I had one of his specialties for breakfast: grilled cheese sandwich. After breakfast we began our day. We started with Dartmouth ( as sister city to Halifax located on the opposite side of the harbour) was filled with a bus trip to downtown, a walk to the ferry, a trip to the Alderney Gate Library (I checked out a book on Bavarian Crochet) and a quick snack at Two If By Sea – a bakery that began at the Dartmouth Farmers Market and after a few months opened a brick and mortar shop. The portions are huge and delicious. Jason (my husband) and I split a chocolate chip cookie and a croissant and enjoyed our water in mason jars.
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The Giant Cookie at Two If By Sea

In the afternoon we returned via the ferry to Halifax and walked to the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia. There were a few notable exhibits on Maud Lewis, folk art, and an audio exhibit on ocean sounds using reclaimed electronics/speakers that interpreted real time data from ocean buoys. I very much enjoyed the exhibit on Maud Lewis: she created her bright paintings without any sort of artistic education or having ever visited a gallery. She painted from her heart.
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Artwork on the Roof of the North Gallery at the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia

After the gallery we walked up Spring Garden road  to see the movie Black Swan (fantastic acting by Natalie Portman) and picked up take out a Baan Thai for supper. We ate supper while watching a documentary on Netflix about the Amish culture. I now understand that Amish people put community well-being before technological ease, and it gave me much to consider.

Monday, January 17, 2011

ETSY – Quit Your Day Job Series

 

I have been reading the “Quit Your Day Job” interview over on Etsy where successful Etsy store owners discuss giving up their day jobs to be small business owners. Each interviewee come from a different background, and each shares their reasons for the career change. Here are some common statements (each one also applies to The Silver Hook).

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  1. Running a business takes tremendous amounts of time – not just in making products, but also learning and using booking keeping, advertizing, photography, writing, and organization skills. Success depends on the amount of hard work and time you put into your business, not the amount of money invested.
  2. Work always comes home with you (but if it is your passion, you don’t seem to mind). A conscious effort has to be made to balance work load and personal life.
  3. Update your Etsy Shop frequently – even if you are only relisting, or listing another unit of something already listed.
  4. To Do Lists are vital! I never complete my daily list, and it is always carried forward to the next day. I like to use Google Calendar and I drag unfinished items to the next day. Seeing all the items that I can check off each day, helps me to visualize just how much work I have done.
  5. Excelling in customer service is key. With social networking sites and feedback forms, a business must excel with it’s customer service. Grammar and language is important. Even how items are packaged and shipped can contribute to positive feedback and future sales.
  6. Keep records, and keep them organized. I use an Excel spreadsheets to keep track of sales, expenses, inventory, consignment orders, wholesale orders, contact list, and the times and pricing for each product. It is time consuming to keep track of all of this, but it is the best way for me to evaluate what works.
I am continue to work through the many interviews, and there is a new one each week. I love how these articles inspire me to work hard at my business. Like many of the people featured in these articles, I tried to follow the more traditional career path. I did well in school, completed two degrees (B,Sc, and M.Sc), worked in multiple fields, but never really loved my work (with the exception of my time spent working on my Masters Thesis). The Silver Hook, for me, has many similarities to my thesis: self-directed, setting my own hours, being responsible for deadlines, creativity and stimulation of problem solving, and most of all, thinking about every detail and truly focussing on details. With The Silver Hook, I feel like I am on the right path.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Tudor Turkey

 

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  • Tudor was created for Thanksgiving 2010 and he has been traveling with me to various markets and shows. At 5.5” tall, Tudor is always a hit! Must be his majestic name. In the next few weeks, I plan on playing with his colour palette and probably this Spring I will adapt the pattern into a peacock pattern. Any colour suggestions? This week I added both the toy and the pattern to ETSY. I hope to continue the trend for 2011 and add a few new designs each week to ETSY, and continue to add pictures to the Gallery.

Tudor Turkey

  • Thank you to all my friends for sharing TheSilverHook.ca link on Facebook! I’m so happy to have such supportive friends!

 

  • I will be back at the Historic Farmers’ Market (Keith’s Brewery, Halifax) this Saturday, January 15th from 7am to 12:30pm. I’ve been working hard to replenish my stock. I will have Mona Mermaid ($17), small caterpillar ($10), turtles ($13), sheep ($10), carrots ($8), small monkeys – new design ($17), chicken ($13), bunnies ($14), dragonflies ($17/$30), aliens ($15), giraffe ($20), turkeys ($22), and a few others.

Monday, January 10, 2011

TheSilverHook.ca

TheSilverHook.ca is up and running!  Along with producing a product catalogue for my wholesale and retail clients, updating my online presence has been my main goal for the new year. I’ve had the blog for a while now, but it lacked that professional edge I was looking for.

Discoveries:
  • Blogger Static Pages
  • HTML searches/Gallery
  • Banners
  • Domain Names
The first step was to figure out how the website was going to run. Did I want to fork over money to pay someone to design a website for me? Did I want to pay for software? Not really – since in the end those costs would have to accounted for in my products. I wanted my website to be something that I could easily update (user friendly) and not have to worry about cost. Blogger hosts both my personal blog and my business blog, so I began by researching Blogger. At some point in time Blogger started “static” pages – unchanging pages to compliment their blog pages. If you look just below my banner, my static pages are listed. Updating them is similar to making a blog post.

I really wanted to have some sort of gallery on my page. I am in the selling business, and I needed to show my product. I thought it would be simple, but in the end it took about 4 days. I don’t really know anything about HTML. I thought about just putting a link to either Facebook or Etsy, but there are plenty of people who don’t do facebook, and I never have all my products listed on Etsy. I searched online for a widget (but that would put the gallery on every page), and I tried to find a script that I liked. I tried having the page automatically redirect to a Flickr gallery – but none of them quite fit. Then I searched on other websites, and compared their codes (View Page Source in the top bar menu). Eureka! Most galleries, just seem to be tables. After that discovery, I had the gallery up in about 2 days. I’ll continue to add more pictures, and hopefully captions.

Every professional website needs a banner. I tried quite a few, some more complicated than others, and settled for something simple. I created the banners in MS Publisher, convert to 72dpi pdf files, cropped the pdf and saved that as a jpeg, and set the size and contrast with MS Picture Manager.

blog banner 1  blog banner 2 Publication2
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Finally the time came to buy a domain name (thesilverhook.ca). That was probably the easiest part. I have blogger hosting everything, so I just needed the domain name to have masked forwarding to the blog website. I bought the domain name from GoDaddy along with an email address (info@thesilverhook.ca). And here we have it. Welcome to TheSilverHook.ca!

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Welcome 2011!

 

Happy New Year! Thank you to all my customers, facebook fans, and friends. 2010 has been the best year for The Silver Hook yet. And it was a very busy year filled with markets, craft shows, and even a wedding! In the picture, you can see a flower garland crocheted by The Silver Hook.

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The Silver Hook is back to work rebuilding her stock to return to the Historic Halifax Market (Keith’s Brewery) for Susan’s Birthday, January 15th.

Goals for 2011 – I think 3 is a good number to begin!

  1. Revamp the website (check out the tabs at the top of the page!)
  2. Design a line of marine/aquatic themed toys (looking for suggestions)
  3. Increase the number of stores carrying The Silver Hook to 10 (currently at 4)

Feedback and suggestions for all three goals would be greatly appreciated. Send an email to TheSilverHook@gmail.com!

Jellyfish