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November 2019

Tips, Tricks & Techniques

10 Tips to Start Your Handmade Business

November 9, 2019

I think many of us can say that we all have at least one time or another thought about taking our craft skills and creating it into a business. It crossed my mind many times, but it took years for me to realize that I had a craft that could be made into a business.

I’ve crocheted for years and it wasn’t until 2014 when I started to pick it up again as a serious hobby. My friends and family knew I could make almost anything they asked for–blankets, hats, and more! The downside to my hobby was that it cost a lot of money for yarn and it took a lot of time. I started to look up how much my items could sell for and my heart sank when I saw blogs showing how to calculate prices. I didn’t think that anyone would ever be willing to pay 2.5 times the yarn price or any of the other suggested methods. So, I did what probably most people do…I decided not to sell. However, time went on and in 2017, my husband and I looked into selling my crochet products. In 2018, my husband needed a hobby, so he started to make crochet hooks. In 2019, we established a crochet business that has grown into something we would never expect. How did we do it? Well, here are some things we learned:

  1. Find Your Niche! This is crucial. Find something you’re really good at that people will know you by. For instance, we’re known for our resin crochet hooks. If we sold personalized glitter tumblers, custom ornaments, and handmade jewelry along side our crochet hooks…then it creates a weird vibe and no one may be interested in your shop. Find a niche that is dedicated to a community of people.
  2. Do Some Research. Do some research! Spend time learning about what avenues you have to sell your products: e-commerce (we use WordPress with WooCommerce), social media marketing (i.e., Instagram, Pinterest, etc.), and more. You want to be an expert in your business.
  3. Create a Plan. Create a plan on how you’d like to deliver your product. How do you want to sell and deliver your products (i.e. Etsy, Shopify, Craft Shows, etc.)? How much are you willing to invest in your business? How much will it cost between the material, labor (time!), shipping, etc.? These are all really important questions to ask yourself because you’ll be at risk of losing money (or all your time) with a poorly managed business.
  4. Pay Your Business, not Yourself. It’s up to you on how much you want to spend on the initial start up for your business. My husband and I wanted a hobby that pays for itself. In 2017, we invested $100 towards starting up an Etsy shop and that took into consideration the cost of materials and shipping that would be back paid once an item was sold. When we started making crochet hooks we had to invest much more, and it was a big decision (equipment, materials, packaging, etc). It was a slow growth initially, but over time it was worth it. The big tip here is when you start getting a positive number in the bank account use it to make your product, process, packaging or customer service better. It may be hard to not go on a shopping spree for yourself, but that is the only way to have a successful business down the road. We’ve never been in debt to our business because we followed this rule.
  5. Legal Considerations. Depending on your craft, you may want to look into the legal considerations of your business. This could include copyright infringement, patents, return policies, taxes, and more. Get registered to be a small business in your state…no matter what or how much you sell. One of the biggest things we see in the “maker” community is copyright violations. We highly advise steering clear of anything that is copyrighted (i.e., characters from Disney, etc.) because you may end up with a court date, a fine and a cease to desist order (we’ve seen it happen). Just know what is copyrighted and what is not before you plunge in.
  6. Target Audience. Take into consideration who your target audience is. We learned this early on when we were trying to sell physical crochet products, crochet hooks, and crochet patterns. So many people loved our crochet products, but they didn’t want to purchase anything except crochet hooks and patterns. Why? Well, because our target audience was the crafter. Crafters/”makers” aren’t going to buy a crochet product when they could make it on their own. That’s when we moved away from selling physical crochet products (i.e., scarves, blankets, etc.) and only sell them at craft shows or as custom order requests.
  7. Social Media. Social media is a absolutely necessary. Find what you think is best for your business. For us, most of our business is driven by Instagram and Pinterest; however, we have accounts for Facebook, YouTube, and Ravelry. We wouldn’t be able to sell online if it wasn’t for these platforms. So make sure you create accounts for your business! Do keep in mind that it takes time for your business to grow and the number of followers doesn’t dictate how successful you are.
  8. Have Good Product Photos! Yes, good product photos are an absolute must. It makes a huge difference in how people view your business. White backgrounds are perfect for product photos. You don’t want to have photos that are in poor lighting and with a ton of clutter in the background. Keep it professional. Be careful with editing programs…you want the edits to turn the photo into what real-life looks like and not make it better/different than it actually is. We invested in a good Canon camera we found on Facebook Marketplace and Adobe Creative Cloud. Between the camera and Adobe Creative Cloud features, we were able to create photos and consistent marketing templates for all of our social media platforms. It’s 100% worth it.
  9. Branding. Again, we invested in Adobe Creative Cloud and in that package we have Spark Adobe. This is a life saver for our “branding”. We sell our products all online and are seen on various social media platforms. Customers remember us due to our signature teal accent to all of our photos and packaging for shipment. We budgeted for teal bubble mailers, cardstock “thank you” / policy cards, business cards and more. Our customers love their packages because they’re fun, colorful and presentable. It’s more about the experience than anything.
  10. Customer Service. This is something you MUST have in your business. For us, we are focused on excellent customer service. If you’re non-responsive or are not timely in responses then you’ll have a tough time keeping customers around. We’re not saying you should respond within seconds of someone contacting you, but at least acknowledge their response within a decent time frame (i.e., within 24 hours, within business hours, etc.)

Bonus Tip: Love what you do. When it starts to feel like work, remember why you started it in the first place!

Crochet Basics

Gauge–It’s Important!

November 9, 2019

I recently did a Crochet A Long (CAL) with a Facebook Group. It was my first CAL with hundreds of people participating in the same project as me. I honestly didn’t know what to expect, but I knew CALs were popular within the crochet community.

In this CAL, there was a lot of discussion in regards to the gauge and/or that their project was too big/small for what was recommended in the pattern. That’s when I realized…not everyone does a gauge. Not only that, but some individuals may not know how to fix their gauge to match what’s recommended for the pattern they’re using. So, I thought, “Well, why not blog about it?”. So here it goes…

What is a “Gauge”?
Gauge means there is a number of stitches per in/cm and number of rows per in/cm while working with a specific yarn and hook size. On the back of a skein of yarn or within your crochet pattern, you may find a gauge listed for a 4 in x 4 in (10 cm x 10 cm) square block. This is essentially a swatch you create to ensure you’re able to crochet stitches similar to the designer of the pattern. Many individuals skip on doing a gauge and I’ll be the first to tell you that I was a victim of that for YEARS! Now, I always make sure I always do a gauge.

Why does Gauge Matter?
Well, your project or garment may:

  • Not fit as it should or as you would expect.
  • End up with too much or too little yarn–who wants to play yarn chicken?!
  • Not look anything like the final product that was pictured

Factors that Impact Your Gauge
There could be a variety of factors that could impact the size of someone’s gauge:

  • Tension. One person may crochet loosely with their stitches, while another person may crochet tightly. If you have a loose tension, your gauge may end up bigger than expected. If you have a tight tension, your gauge may end up smaller than expected.
  • Yarn Type. Some individuals may want to use a different brand of yarn than what’s called for in the pattern, so they opt for something of similar yarn weight and fiber type.
  • Hook Size. I mentioned this in a previous blog called, “Getting Hooked–Types of Crochet Hooks“, but the size of your hook matters. Not only that, but even the brand or style of the hook (i.e., Boye vs Susan Bates, ergonomic vs aluminum, etc.). Let’s say you use a 5.50 mm aluminum crochet hook and decide to switch to a 5.50 mm ergonomic crochet hook. You may find that your stitches look different in size (stitches and/or rows) because your hand grip changes your movements, ever so slightly. So be very cautious in switching hooks because it may cause your project to look “wonky”.

How to Make a Gauge Swatch & Troubleshooting Techniques
Let’s use the Yarnspirations Caron Simply Soft as an example for our tutorial.

Step 1, Find your Gauge:
Look at your pattern or the packaging of your skein of yarn. You should see a recommended gauge. Caron Simply Soft shows that a 4 in x 4 in gauge with a 5.00 mm hook should have 13 Single Crochets (SCs) and 14 Rows.

Caron Simply Soft Gauge

With that being said, you will typically start off with trying to match this gauge when you’re a beginner. With more experience, you may already know if you need to change the hook size to meet this gauge. For instance, I know I am a “tight” crocheter, so I typically go up 0.5 mm or 1.00 mm in crochet hook size. Although the gauge states 4 in x 4 in, I would recommend making your gauge slightly bigger (i.e., 5 in x 5 in, etc.) so you can get a more accurate measurement.

Step 2, Create the Gauge Swatch:

Grab your hook and yarn and get stitching! Remember, the Caron Simply Soft Yarn is recommending to use a 5.00 mm hook for a 13 SC x 14 row gauge. If you get this right the first time, then kudos to you! You are pretty much set to go. If not, then your gauge swatch may look a tad bit off.

Below, you will see gauge swatches that are 20 SCs x 20 rows to show you what happens when you use different hook sizes and/or that your tension is too tight/loose. This is important to note because if you decide to change your hook type in the middle of the project, you may find it getting a bit “wonky” and shape into something wider or smaller than you expected.

(Left to Right): (1) 5.00 mm Gauge Aluminum Hook; (2) 5.50 mm Gauge Aluminum Hook; (3) 5.50 mm Gauge Ergonomic Hook; (4) 6.50 mm Gauge Aluminum Hook

Step 3, Measure the Gauge Swatch:

This is the crucial step. Some individuals will have different tools to measure the gauge swatch. If you’re using a tape measure, keep in mind that this can stretch over time and so the measurement may not be the most accurate. Some individuals may use a standard ruler. My favorite measurement tool is the “swatch ruler” and you can find this in your local craft store (i.e., Hobby Lobby, Michael’s, etc.) or online. The one I use is from Clover and I found this on Amazon.

Take your ruler of choice and measure both the width and height of the swatch to see if you’re meeting the gauge for Caron Simply Soft Yarn. Don’t be that person that tries to stretch the gauge swatch to match what’s required. Let the gauge swatch lay flat in its natural form.

Hopefully, you were able to meet the gauge. If so, you’re pretty much golden and you’re able to compete the project with no problem! If not, well…looks like you need to follow the next steps.

Step 4, Adjust your Gauge Swatch–If Needed.

“My gauge swatch is too small/big! What do I do now?”

  • If your swatch is too small, it may be due to your tension being too tight. The best way to adjust for this is to loosen your tension–but that can be extremely difficult for some crocheters to sit and focus on their tension. If this is a struggle for you, then another option could be increasing the hook size. If neither of these work for you, then you could opt to change the yarn weight; however, I personally do not recommend this unless you’re not concerned with the drape of the material or the way the switches may look.
  • If your swatch is too big, it may be due to your tension being too loose. If this happens, you’ll do everything vice versa of having a swatch that’s too small (i.e., tighten your tension, decrease hook size, decrease yarn weight, etc.)

“My gauge swatch is too short/tall! What do I do now?

If you’re struggling with the height of your gauge, then one of the best methods I have seen is the “Golden Loop” through Knit and Crochet Ever After who has a video tutorial on “Fixing Gauge when Height is Incorrect AKA Golden Loop Method Tutorial“. She has a very in depth video tutorial that can help with this problem!

(1) 5.00 mm Gauge with Aluminum Hook
(2) 5.50 mm Gauge with Aluminum Hook
(3) 5.50 mm Gauge with Ergonomic Hook
(4) 6.50 mm Gauge with Aluminum Crochet Hook

Step 4, Start Your Project

Hopefully, this blog was able to help you understand gauge and how to make adjustments based on your individual crochet style. Remember, don’t get frustrated. It takes time and practice in the beginning stages of learning how to crochet, but practice makes perfect. The gauge is often an undervalued and overlooked portion of any pattern, so don’t skip out on it!

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Crochet Basics

Get Hooked–Types of Crochet Hooks

November 4, 2019
Loops & Threads 6.5 mm
Yarnology 6.5 mm
Boye 6.5 mm

When I first started to learn how to crochet, I had absolutely no idea what I was doing. I just knew I needed a hook and a skein of yarn and never did I think about yarn weight and hook size. Well, years later, that all changed when I decided to take crochet more serious as my hobby.

As a beginner, I started off with a starter set of Boye brand hooks. Honestly, I’d recommend this for anyone starting out because of the variety, cost and simplicity of the hooks.

Then one day I lost a 5.5 mm hook, so I would go to the local Michael’s Store and grab a 5.5 mm hook…made by Susan Bates. To me, they looked the same, but to the experienced crocheter…they would know the difference. This is when I learned about tapered versus in-line crochet hooks because of my struggle while stitching when I got home. My mind was blown and naturally my Type A personality had to know more details and figure out the anatomy of these hooks!

Now that I’m an experienced crocheter and I have married the love of my life, I would have never guessed we would be creating crochet hooks together. So with that said, I think it’s important for everyone to know the differences between the variety of hooks that are offered out there…

The Anatomy of a Crochet Hook
We’ll start out with the anatomy of the hook. We’ll use the Susan Bates and Boye brands as references since they are commonly used and many individuals have seen these hooks on the shelves of their local craft stores.

  • Hook: This portion of the body is where you will insert into previously made stitches and allows you to grab hold of the yarn. Some individuals prefer a “pointier” tip and some individuals prefer more of a “rounded” tip. If the tip of the hook is too sharp, you may find your yarn splitting. If the tip of the hook is too blunt, then you may find it difficult to slip into each stitch.
  • Throat: This portion of the body is where you’re able to maintain some control over your yarn and where it’s important to ensure you have the right size yarn for the right size hook. For instance, you don’t want to use a 4 mm hook with a bulky yarn because it’ll probably get you no where.
  • Shaft: This portion of the body is where the size of your hook is determined (i.e., 4 mm vs. 6.5 mm, etc.) and is where you hold your loops for your stitches.
  • Grip: This portion of the body is where your thumb is able to rest. Now, how you grip may depend on your preference or how you were taught. Typically, individuals may hold the hook like it’s a knife (like myself) or they may hold it like a pencil. Typically, you will see your hook size labeled here on aluminum hooks.
  • Handle: This is the remaining portion of the body. Typically, you will see your hook size labeled here on an ergonomic style hook.

In-Line versus Tapered Crochet Hook
What’s the difference?

  • In-Line Crochet Hook. The Susan Bates crochet hooks are what people typically think of when it comes to the in-line crochet hook. It basically means that the hook is “in-line” with the shaft. The hook itself may seem like it has more of a “point” and has a “deeper” cut. You will also find that the in-line hook will typically have the same width between the shaft and throat of the hook.
  • Tapered. The Boye crochet hooks are what people typically think of when it comes to the tapered crochet hook. It is not “in-line” with the shaft and you’ll notice that it has a smoother transition. The tapered hook will typically becomes more narrow from the shaft to the hook.

So you might be thinking right now, “So, which one should I use? Is one better than the other?” Honestly, it depends on the individual’s preference. Many beginners will prefer the tapered style, but that doesn’t mean that everyone prefers it. We started off making our crochet hooks as in-line, but it was found that tapered was preferred by the majority of our customers. Some individuals may struggle with tension and if that’s the case, then they may end up choosing the in-line hook. Some individuals may find it easier for the tapered hook to slide through the stitches. Again, everything is based on individual preference.

Crochet Hook Material Types

  • Aluminum (i.e., Boye, Susan Bates, etc.). This is the classic beginner hook and go-to hook for many people. They’re cheap, easily accessible, and user-friendly. Honestly, I pick-up one of these for when I travel around so I don’t whine and cry when I lose a worthy hook. The only downside to these types of hooks is that it’s not ergonomically friendly, which means that your hands my end up cramping if you’re not properly taking breaks or stretch your hands appropriately. If you’re looking for ease of yarn being able to glide and to have some speed–this may be a choice for you.
  • Bamboo & Wood. Both of these can be a bit pricey, but can be worth the purchase. Bamboo is good if you’re not looking for your yarn to glide too much, but the downside is that you may find that the hook can bend over time. Wood is great too, but you’ll have to make sure it’s properly coated and well taken care of. Wood hooks are typically handmade and that may cause the hook price to increase drastically if you’re concerned about budget.
  • Clay. You’ll find many “makers” who use aluminum hooks and add a clay handle. These handles can be pretty cool when the individual is able to sculpt characters and designs into the handle.
  • Ergonomic. This is a go to for many experienced crocheters. You’ll find ergonomic crochet hooks with rubber grips, clay, wood, resin, etc. and it helps reduce the cramping. However, do keep in mind that even though a hook may be visually appealing, that it may have some weight to it depending on the material it is made of. I’m biased, but I love the crochet hooks we make because my husband made them extremely light weight (less than 1 oz!) and comfortable.
  • Knook. Basically, knitting with a crochet hook. It’s a crochet hook that has an eye (hole) at the end of the hook. I’ve personally never done this type of fiber art, but you can look into it online if it sparks some curiosity.
  • Light Up. When I first saw these, I thought it was pretty cool. Typically, the price for one of these hooks are fair since you’re paying for the capability and as well as the ergonomic feature. If you’re a night owl and don’t want to keep your spouse up or if you’re a passenger in a car with poor lighting–this is perfect! The only downsides are: (1) making sure you have a battery that’s functional; and (2) the battery and wiring will ad a bit of weight to your handle. We have made resin glow in the dark hooks which kind of fall into this category.
  • Plastic. Plastic hooks are pretty light weight and the only con I can really think of is that they look cheap–which may be why I don’t really go for these. However, when I need a ginormous crochet hook for extra bulky yarn, then I’ll gravitate towards this option.
  • Resin. This is what we make our crochet hooks out of. The majority of “makers” who use resin will typically use an aluminum hook and create a resin handle to make it more ergonomic, just like the clay hooks, and can turn out beautiful. Our crochet hooks are made of full resin from hook to handle. Resin can be a delicate material, but is extremely lightweight. It’s very difficult to get below a 4.5 mm crochet hook due to the density of material, but we’ve managed to figure out how to get ours down to 2.75 mmm!
  • Steel. I’ll talk about this one more later, but these hooks are typically used if you’re working with lace-weight yarns. They’re extremely small and sized differently. One down side to these hooks is that they’re extremely small, so your hand can get tired pretty quick. I would recommend finding an ergonomic style one if you’re able to find one.
  • Tunisian (A.K.A. Afghan): This type of hook is almost a hybrid crochet hook that is on a long handle that looks like a knitting needle. This is a crochet technique where you keep the stitches on the hook just like you would with knitting. It also creates a knit stitch look, which is why I call it “cheater knitting”. I’m not an expert on Tunisian and ahve only dabbled into it, but one of my favorite bloggers, TL Yarn Crafts, has amazing tutorials and patterns for Tunisian crochet if you’re interested!

Crochet Hook Sizes
Some hooks are itty bitty and some hooks are ginormous! The Craft Yarn Council’s Hooks and Needles reference guide is a great resource for the various sizes between using UK versus US terms. My personal preference is using UK terms (millimeter range); however, if you order one of our handmade hooks, you’ll find that we use the US terms (alphabet letters). That’s because it’s easier for us to label our hooks that way.

However, keep in mind that steel hooks are generally associated with lace weight yarns and crochet threads. This means that they are sized differently than the majority of hooks that are out there. I personally do not have much experience with these hooks. They’re extremely small hooks and are more for the advanced crocheters that are out there it the world. They’re weird too! The larger the number is for sizing (i.e., US 14)…the smaller the hook size will be (i.e., 0.75 mm).

If you don’t know what hook size to use with your yarn, then you can refer to the Craft Yarn Council’s Standard Yarn Weight System for recommenced hook size for the yarn you’re using–or just use what is suggested on the label of your skein of yarn.

One last thing I would like to say about hook sizes is that little do many people realize that all hook sizes are not created equal with each company used. When my husband and I started creating crochet hooks, we actually used a tool to measure each crochet hook from each company and we learned that not all hooks are created equal. What I mean by that is that if you grab a 4.0 mm hook from Susan Bates and a 4.0 mm hook from Clover USA, they may not measure 4.0 mm—but something close to it. This is extremely important to keep in the back of your mind when you’re working a gauge.

Creating a gauge for your project is another blog I need to generate; however, another important thing to keep in mind is that you want to try and stay consistent with the hook you’re using in a project. For instance, if you use a Boye 5.50 mm hook for a project and then switch to using an ergonomic 5.50 mm hook, you may find that your stitches will slightly change shape due to minor changes in how you hold your hook. Therefore, your gauge may change a bit as well. Those small details can matter for garments and projects that rely on sizes to be accurate.

So What Hook is Best for Me?
Honestly, it’s all up to YOU! It’s all about individual preference due to a variety of factors (i.e., comfort, ease, cost, etc.). As long as you love your hook and what you’re using, that’s what matters!

Psst..if you would like a quick reference guide that is easily accessible, you can use our Pinterest Pin below for your personal board!

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