Pastel Mania

Pastel Swabs_zoesaysIt being Spring means my love for pastels can blossom for a month or two before it has to shrivel away again for ten months.

Most people associate pastels only with babies. I get that. Should I ever have children, I will have an incredibly difficult time narrowing down colors for the baby’s room. (Official warning to the husband here.)

But I have always been drawn to soft colors. Perhaps it’s because I was born in the Spring; perhaps 80s marketing left an indelible impression on me to the point where my passion for pastels is embedded onto my DNA.

Whatever the case may be, it is Pastel Season and it makes me happy. All the candies are pretty, wrapping paper and tissue explode from displays in my favorite colors, and the world is a gloriously soft rainbow.

To that end, I had a crochet order to fulfill this past weekend and when I was finished, I decided that nothing would complete me more than making some amigurumi Easter eggs.

I only began with three but it’s a pretty safe bet I will make a few more of these during the week. While I am not a religious person, I do love the symbolism that Easter brings: renewal, growth, birth, and of course pretty stuff.

These crochet eggs are so incredibly easy to make and take hardly any time (or yarn) at all. Mine were made with an F hook (3.75mm) and some scraps of DK yarn. I want to keep challenging myself with the different patterns and color changes and add a flower blossom or two to the next ones.

Since the order I was fulfilling happened to be some amigurumi duckies, what could make for a cuter photo session than baby ducks and eggs?

Happy Spring! Happy Easter! Happy Pastels Everywhere!

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On Making and Selling

Well hello, friends! It’s been a little while. Here are some thoughts I jotted down about being an artist and making money at it.

While there are some questionable “arts” out there, generally speaking, I think it’s safe to say that most people who create can be termed an artist of some kind. Not everyone earns money or an actual living from their art, which is fine. There is nothing wrong with art for art’s sake. (Take this blog, for example! I write because I like it.) But it is a heavily sought after dream.

Artists who create with fabric or yarn know that it’s not only popular because it’s fun, challenging, relaxing, and rewarding, but as with any creative endeavor, making any kind of money from this passion is not an easy feat.

Essentially, anyone who knows how to make something out of fabric, yarn, or thread can sell it. That’s the beauty of having an Etsy shop, really. (Or Facebook, for that matter.) I’m no exception to that. I’ve sold a few crocheted things from the shop and I’ve made a few dozen custom orders from people who have seen my finished works on Facebook. It’s a wonderful feeling to know you’ll earn some pocket money from your craft in addition to having fun making the end products. Win-win. Silly baby whales

While there are certainly people out there who have mastered selling finished works and make a pretty penny off of it, it is my observation from both the photography world and the crochet world that the real money is in selling to the artists. I have mixed feelings on that. On the one hand, it makes sense, and bravo to those who have figured it out. On the other, I wish it appeared to be more prevalent that the artists themselves had more success than the teachers, marketers, and “gurus.”

When I was immersed in All Things Photography for the first couple of years, it became overwhelming to muck through all the businesses out there who marketed to photographers who were just trying to earn some money taking portraits. My email was dinging every few seconds with promotional email after promotional email. I even worked with a “photography business consultant” for a little while, until I realized that she had never had a successful photography business herself. (Seriously.) Eventually, when I realized that it was not going to be the business I thought it would, it was a tedious chore to unsubscribe from most of the companies that had my email address. Now I enjoy photography on a much more leisurely basis (see: The Bsns), and I’ve realized that, at least for this period of my life, it’s what works best.

When I jumped into crochet in 2013, the same thing happened where I realized that the gurus exist who are quite successful, and most of them have marketed patterns, classes, or how-to videos on YouTube. (Don’t get me wrong–YouTube is a fabulous tool for learning a craft like crochet for free!) Fortunately, I had learned from my mistakes with photography, and I did not sign up for too many groups, emails, classes, etc, though crochet is a completely different beast than photography.

Aside: I won’t deny that I may have a slight yarn addiction but I think most crocheters and knitters have one. Becoming a yarn snob is something I’ll save for another post down the road.

Before a couple of years ago, I had not browsed Etsy for much of anything. Now that I have my own shop, I have made a point to buy unique gifts for friends and family from others who share their beautiful artistry with the world. Pretty much anything you can think of–and a lot of what you can’t–can be found there. (Here are things I’ve favorited, if you’re into that kind of thing.)

Again, just because one has a shop, it does not mean that people will buy. Standing out from the herd of millions proves to be a frustration for many, myself included. Crochet and photography shops are a dime a dozen and, once again, those craft shops who stand out seem to be doing something truly unique OR they’re marketing to people like me, who are passionate creators but are not necessarily blazing a trail in the design world.

Perhaps designing is in my future; it’s not out of the realm of possibility. But for now, I am a happy little maker of things. Speaking of which….I know it’s a shameless plug, but it ties in so nicely with my topic here, so I hope you won’t mind too much.

I started this post a while back and by the time I’ve gotten around to publishing it, I happen to be having a canvas sale in the Photography section of my shop this week. And if I’m being honest, which I am, it’s a good one.

I’ll just leave this here and if you or someone you know needs some wall art in your life, well then…..yay!

And now I slip quietly back to my creative dungeon…until next time.

Baby/Blanket Fever

Happy Friday the thirteenth and full moon! Though the number thirteen and I are not friends, it is a beautiful and quiet day in my neck of the woods, so I thought I would send out a project update.

Crocheting has proved to be an aid in more regular blogging, it seems. This way, I get the trinity of creativity going: create/crochet, photograph it, blog about it. Mmmm, trinity.

After the last show ‘n tell, I had a couple of orders come in, so I had to put down the other baby blanket project I had been working on in my spare time. But last Sunday, I was able to pick it up again and I pushed to finish it.

It came out beeeeeeeeeeeeautifully, if I do preen so myself.

Mint and Cream Baby Blanket - Wide Fold

I stuck to the designer’s original colors since I thought they were perfect for a gender neutral baby blanket scheme; I also wanted to try out this particular yarn brand’s Antique White and Mint (Bernat Softee Baby).

Not only was the yarn wonderful to work with–particularly for a baby weight yarn, of which some brands are a nightmare–but it worked up quite quickly and was rather therapeutic to make. Last but certainly not least, the stitching of this pattern gives a gorgeous scrunched shell look.

Mint and Cream Stitches Closeup

The size of the one I ended up making came out to about 19″ by 24″; it is intended to go around a baby in a stroller or car seat. If it is a newborn, though, it would be wrapped up quite nicely and the blanket lets the wee ones breathe.

To be perfectly honest, I haven’t decided whether to list it for sale in the shop. I know at least five couples expecting this fall and it would make a beautiful gift. That’s not to say I couldn’t make another one or two. The jury is still out.

For now, it sits tucked away with my other finished items, waiting to be bestowed to a new owner.

Happy weekend to you all!

 

 

Showcase of Recent Projects

I promised about a month ago to begin doing more show ‘n tell posts on projects I am working on or have completed.

Here I am to fulfill that promise….slightly out of breath and a little worn, truth be told.

Between working full-time and wedding planning, working on my side interests is all about making time for them. However, since I also have a shop where people can request handmade gifts, the customer comes first if an order comes in.

Before I was graced with two back-to-back orders totaling ten amigurumi, I had just finished up the following:

Baby Pastel Crochet Washcloths

Cotton crochet baby washcloths, currently in the shop

Folded Pastel Baby Blanket 2

25″ baby blanket, currently available in the shop

I was SO proud when I finished that blanket because it was the first one I had ever done in the corner-to-corner design that is quite popular right now. I added a border and voilà! 

And prior to that, I had just finished this little miracle:

Shell Baby Sundress - Front

That, my friends, is a newborn baby sundress. It’s pretty much the “I die” of baby outfits.

I had just started on a second baby blanket (no photos yet!) when I got two orders within a week for ten amigurumi animals. I just shipped them out on Saturday morning. Here they are in all their adorable glory:

Amigurumi Order

I’m still doing my photography, of course, and have put up a few pieces for sale in the shop, like this one:  

Though we’re under five months until the wedding (eep!), I have heard from a multitude of friends and family that they are expecting a child around the same time, so I have all these ideas for care boxes of baby things I want to make and send to people, but there simply are not enough hours in the day to carry out all of my pho-chet dreams. I’ll simply have to go into overdrive when all of my party planning days are behind me!

This concludes the first installment of Pho-chet Showcase with yours truly. If you are a fellow crafter and/or are curious about anything you see here, please leave some love in the comments!

New Things

As my crochet obsession took over my brain for the better part of the last five months and it shows no sign of slowing down, I realized I needed to re-insert balance in my life when it comes to my other passions, those of blogging and photography.

Fortunately, photography comes naturally with crochet because I get to take pictures of my finished works, so it keeps me en pointe with that set of skills.

But Zoe Says is my first love and after 5.5 years of blogging, I don’t want to see it recede into the background. Now that I have refocused a bit and am actively including posts about crocheting here and there, I thought, what’s a good way to keep up on the blog and strike more blog-life balance?

It’s a very simple answer, which is: have a weekly post on newly created things. They don’t even have to be items that I will necessarily list for sale in the shop; at the very least, it’s a way to keep paying forward the creativity. I’m in the Granny Square phase of learning in crochet. In fact, I just added a charity to my blogroll  that I think is SO cool and will eventually donate to, which is Crochet Granny Squares of Love. The woman and her team who run it receive donated granny squares and turn them into blankets for charity.

Once upon a time, I followed another blogger named Zoe (though I think she used an umlaut) and she would update about her knitted items and I just thought they were the bees’ knees. I believe she re-purposed her blog or took it down but it was keen.

In sum, keep your eyes peeled and I look forward to sharing more crochet love with y’all!

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Spring Fling and Easter Critters

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Is it too early to celebrate? No? Happy Spring!!!

I sincerely hope the weather is springlike where you are. I think we can all agree winter was frigid, to say the least, and I know more than a few states in the good old U.S. of A were walloped with weather they almost never have to worry about. Illinois has allllll the seasons, and while I prefer it that way, Old Man Winter was extra cranky this year, resulting in getting more than our fair share of snow, ice, wind, and crazy sub-zero temperatures.

As some of you may have seen already, I have been diligently working on my side hobbies quite ardently in the last few months–namely crocheting cute little things and posting them in my relatively new Etsy shop.

Soooo to celebrate the arrival of what is hopefully better weather and warmer temperatures, in addition to Easter coming up, oh and just ’cause you guys are awesome, I am offering my readers a “Zoe Says” discount in the Etsy shop. Just enter the coupon code SPRINGFLING14 at checkout, and you automatically shave off 10% from your order. There is no minimum purchase required (really!) and I have items for sale for a variety of budgets, big or small.

For those who haven’t visited the shop yet, I sell both crocheted items (little amigurumi creatures and a few wearables) plus photographic prints and canvasses.

And! Pretty much everything is customizable, so if you see something you like but want a different color, just send me a message.

If you want a print but don’t see the size you want, hit me up.

If you are buying an “in stock” item and want more than one, we can do that.

If you have something specific in mind and don’t see it listed, just ask if it’s possible for me to make it. The possibilities are endless and the discount will still apply!

Etsy makes it easy to contact me; just click one of the links on the sidebar in the area that looks like this:

Custom Order

I have had several custom requests from friends and acquaintances and it’s always fun to try something new and give someone exactly what they want. This Spring Fling/Easter sale/Zoe Says “thanks!” coupon code doesn’t expire until April 20, 2014 but order early if you want something in time for Easter, since I like, have to make it and ship it.

To sum up:

It’s Spring. We’re overjoyed.

Easter is a month away and we love pastels and eggs and chocolate and cute little critters.

I’m grateful for you, my readers.

I’m offering a special thank you code through Easter, which is April 20. SPRINGFLING14 gets you 10% off any order, big or small! Just hit up the shop.

Here are some cuteness overload photos, in case you’re still on the fence. Every single thing in these photos is available for sale! Thanks so much, everyone, and enjoy this first month of spring!

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Evolution of a Crochet Cupcake

In case anyone was wondering, cupcakes have still not lost their hypnotic appeal, and are as popular as ever. Even arts and crafts have become dedicated to whipping out these tasty-looking treats.

When I began (furiously) crocheting again, I came across several too cute patterns for cupcakes and had to replicate them immediately. However, crocheting amigurumi is a practice of patience and making things over and over again. In time, once you’ve mastered a few thousand stitches in different variations across different yarns, hook sizes, and stitches, you begin to understand which patterns will suit your crochet style in particular. The beauty of crochet is there appears to be endless ways to be creative with it.

One of the most crucial lessons I learned about myself with making something new, even if I’m really excited about it and am comfortable with all the types of stitches a pattern entails, is that I will typically need to do a practice run first.

Sometimes you get patterns that turn out to be easy peasy and your first attempt comes out perfectly–such is the case with the chocolate Easter bunny I just made.

But perfecting the crochet cupcake turned out to be something I had to make at least five times over before I executed it to my standards.

Here is how my first cupcake looked. It’s okay to giggle. (Click on the photos to enlarge.)

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It looks like a cinnamon muffin wearing a pink sombrero.

In this instance, I was quite glad I used leftover beige yarn to practice with, instead of going for the good stuff.

My next attempts looked like this. The frosting is slowly getting better but the cupcakes are leaning to one side and still kinda look like muffins.

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After a few of these, I grew frustrated and tried a different cupcake pattern altogether, just to see if I was a crappy crocheter or what. I made this little guy and added some frosting berries on top:

Cupcake diptych-zoesays

Reassured, I tackled the cupcakes again and whatever “it” was finally clicked into place. I added some heavier filler to get it to stand up straight, didn’t overstuff it so it wouldn’t look like a muffin, and got the frosting to look good, as well. Lastly, I tried my hand at sewing on some beads for “sprinkles.” Voilà!

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After finally mastering this deceptively difficult pattern, my goal is to offer some of these for sale in the shop, so stay tuned! The best part about cupcakes is that you can mix and match all different “flavors” and colors, too, so I’m excited to see what I’ll end up with when I get a half dozen or so complete.

Just for emphasis, here’s a side-by-side shot of all the cupcakes from start to finish. It’s not easy to keep trying at something but when you finally succeed, it’s totally worth it.

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New Goals, New Projects, and a Big Old Tangent

Why hello! Happy 2014!

I hope you all had lovely holiday seasons. I sure did. Believe it or not, I have done a lot of contemplating about writing in the last two months, though it hasn’t (yet) translated to more posts.

Here’s a quick recap on what 2013 ended up being for me:

  • A less hectic and draining year than 2012.
  • A year with no major health setbacks: YAY!
  • Made major advancements in wedding planning. (2014 is The Year of the Wedding!)
  • New or strengthened friendships–awesome!
  • Learned the value of setting goals or resolutions for oneself. I did not set any for 2013 so by the end of the year, I didn’t feel as accomplished as I might have had I written some things down. Ergo, I came up with eleven goals/resolutions for 2014.
  • Took up a new hobby: re-learning crochet and making amigurumi. Yeah, I had never heard that word before, either, but apparently the only way to refer to small, crocheted/knitted animals is through this word. Thank you, Japanese language!

Regarding the last item there: while I really loved taking up crochet again, as I haven’t touched it since I was a kid, I became intensely aware that skills which appear to be simple are the exact opposite of that. Trying crochet again began with an impulse buy whilst Christmas shopping at Barnes & Noble. I picked up a kit called Teeny Tiny Animal Crochet. I’m putting a photo here, courtesy of Barnes & Noble, so you can see why I might have been drawn in:

Animal Crochet

The adorable animals, the words “teeny tiny,” and the cursive font all sucked me in.

Pretty cute, no? After exclaiming in my head how adorable these little creatures were, I immediately thought, “How hard can this be? I can make these.” It was probably more like, “I HAVE to make these!” But whatever.

Problem was, I assumed that the book clearly stating that it’s “even for beginners” actually meant that it would give some verrrrrry step-by-step instructions for those taking up the hook for the first time or starting over again, as I was. I was laughably wrong. The book does attempt to teach you how to read a pattern, which is a learning process in and of itself, and through its photos, tries to get you to understand slip knots and rings and all that.

The kit also gives you two small balls of different yarn (not even a whole skein) and a few more supplies to make “two projects,” that of the bunny and the koala bear. I was immediately drawn to the bunny. I have an affinity for bunnies and couldn’t wait to try and replicate the project on the cover of the book. The koala bear was just “eh” to me; in fact, I really thought I’d be able to make two different bunnies with the yarn.

If that notion were a crochet balloon, it didn’t merely pop–it was shot down.

Box ' Bunny Parts

Box o’ Bunny Parts

In addition to the photos in the book being largely unhelpful (not that photos can’t be helpful but this book shows the wrong part of the step to illustrate something, and what good does that do?), the patterns are inconsistent in terms of how thorough they are. The book is a compilation of patterns from crocheters around the country. Perhaps there was only so much editing that was allowed. Moreover, the yarn hook that was provided had an eye way too small to thread the yarn that comes in the kit. So that was some fun time spent trying to get that to work.

One of the patterns completely omits telling you to stuff the body parts, even though you need to. It also goes into ZERO detail on how to sew animal parts together, which is a pretty crucial part to making a successful stuffed animal together. It simply gives instructions like, “Sew the head onto the body.” Okay, HOW? What EXACTLY is the best way to do that? My dude can attest that there were a couple of times I simply sat and screamed at the book or my yarn in frustration, much to his consternation.

In the end, I did not manage to complete a project with the given supplies. I was able to make three-quarters of one bunny and half of another. The balls of yarn ended up just being practice for me. The irregular bunnies are now my dog’s playthings. I stayed up late on weeknights as I tried to master this craft in a short amount of time, but until you crochet a few thousand stitches and really grasp some crucial concepts, it’s just not going to gel quickly. So for anyone reading this who wants to take up crochet, just remember to be patient. Don’t be like me and through sheer hubris, assume you’ll master this within a few hours. Or even a few days.

There is a bright silver lining to this particular craft, and that is YouTube. YouTube gave me the much needed visuals in order to learn all the crucial basics, while other crochet bloggers out there wrote extensively on subjects like hook type and size, gauge (the G-word, in the crochet world; “Check your gauge!”), sewing (at last!), and everything in between.

I managed to teach myself some crochet basics and what I needed to know for amigurumi through watching dozens of video tutorials from experienced crochet gurus out there on the world wide web. I also researched decent free patterns but also purchased a few from Etsy. I went to several craft stores before and after Christmas to stock up–and I really stocked up–and now have a small yarn store plus essential amigurumi supplies sitting in my living room, which has become my temporary craft room.

Things that are pretty crucial, especially for a beginner, in crochet: large-eye yarn needles, a needle threader, stitch markers, and a row counter. I know the last one there may seem silly, but I just got one in the mail and it is a life saver when you are just monotonously working on a project. Crochet is all about counting and knowing your multiple tables. There is no way around it. The number of stitches in a round or a row or a particular type of stitch are crucial to the success of your projects. Once I accepted that, I armed myself with the aforementioned tools to help me. (Essentially, when I’m crocheting, I feel like I’m conducting my own Lumosity brain-training. Maybe crocheting will help me stave off dementia as I age. That’d be pretty neat.)

Basically, between December 23 and now, I have had some very nice successes and also some really terrible project outcomes. I grant that I may have picked this up more quickly than some might, but I attribute that to my grandmother, God bless her, who taught me and some of my cousins at a young age the art of crochet. Back then, though, we were making potholders and little things like that. So my little crochet muscle memory lay dormant for a couple decades.

At the bottom of this post are some photos of a few successfully made projects. And perhaps a photo or two of my Irregulars, as I’m calling them; those being projects that I either completed or had to abandon midway through due to irreparable screwed-up-ness.

After posting several photos on my personal Facebook page, a handful of people told me I should open an Etsy shop. I sat on that idea for a couple of weeks and then thought, why not? One of my resolutions was to simply be more in the present moment, and what better way to carpe diem than to just to try something for the fun of it? I only have a few listings up but I will continue to add to it.

There are other crochet kits like this out there, including a Wizard of Oz themed set, which seem absolutely amazing on the surface, except that the reviews on Amazon from experienced crocheters say the patterns aren’t fantastic. So, word to the wise, folks. Teach yourself crochet/making amigurumi prior to buying any kind of kit. Once you have mastered reading a pattern and executing stitches, go back and try a few projects that at first seemed intimidating. The book in the kit I bought does have some cute animal patterns, so some good did come out of it, even if it did take me three tries to successfully make a bunny. (See below.)

Despite some initial setbacks, they did not deter me from having an all-consuming passion for crochet. In fact, I have to pace myself at it and force myself to take breaks and do other things so I can have a normal life, in addition to giving my hands and arm muscles a break. If you crochet enough, it will cause some serious joint pain and nearsightedness. Good times.

I’d love to hear if any of you took up a new hobby so far in 2014 or are already experienced in the Ways of Yarn. More to come from my end, I can promise you that!

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