Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Before I Go...

This will probably be the last post on this blog, because my crafting inspiration has been hijacked by a little doll named Blythe! I love making doll clothes and other goodies for my dolls and my Etsy shop, and I am busy on my other blog (Blythe Happy) and several Facebook doll groups. I've loved having this blog--I've learned so much and grown in so many ways just by writing it--and I've met a lot of wonderful people. Thank you to all who have read and commented on this blog!

Before I go, I want to share an interview I was invited to do for a Blythe blog. The blog is called Blythe Life, and every March it features four "new talents" in the world of Blythe. Since I opened my Etsy shop last summer, I qualified, and after submitting a questionnaire, I was chosen to be interviewed. It was fun and exciting, and my favorite part was all the comments left by readers (of course, they had to comment to be entered in the giveaway I was doing, but still, their sweet comments were so uplifting and encouraging to me!) If you would like to read the interview and comments on the blog, click HERE.

My Interview with Michelle of Blythe Life

Hi Leslie! What can you tell us about yourself?
I am happy to be a stay-at-home wife, mother (although my two kids are in college right now), cat-wrangler (we have four cats who don't always get along...), crafter, seamstress, blogger, Blythe collector and Etsy shop owner!  For the past 15 years we have lived in the touristy town of Williamsburg, Virginia, which I love for it's small size and proximity to bigger cities.

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How did you discover Blythe? Who is in your dolly family?
I first started seeing Blythe on the craft website Craftster.org in 2012, and I wondered what these dolls were. My curiosity took me to eBay, where I started spending a lot of time scrolling through the Blythe listings. I was especially captivated by Raspberry Sorbet, with her long, swingy hair, and finally I took the plunge and bought her. I hadn't had a doll since I stopped playing with Barbies at the age of 12, and I had mixed feelings--what will my family and friends think about me playing with dolls???  So I kept my new interest quiet at first, but slowly, as my collection grew and my confidence grew along with it, I became more open about my dolls. Starting my Etsy store this year was the turning point--it made my doll collection more "legitimate", because I was actually making money on my hobby. Now I have no problem talking about what I do! I'm sure I would not have gotten into this hobby if it wasn't for all the things I saw people making for their dolls; I love to sew, knit, embroider and do general crafting, and all these skills come together for me in Blythe.

I have a nice variety of Blythes in my collection now, including several of the face molds and lots of different hair colors. My first two girls were brunettes (Petit Dejeuner was #2), but I've come to realize that the fantasy hair colors are my favorite.  Right after Christmas I lined up all 20 of my Neos and took this picture of them in their bookcase/dollhouse:

What was the first thing that you crafted for Blythe?
The first patterns I found for Blythe were at Puchi Collective, and the first one I made was the Empire Dress. Here is Bonnie--this is both my first dress and my first picture of Blythe! She didn't even have shoes (she came with boots but they didn't go with this dress), and I just plunked her down on my front doorstep to take the picture.

Since then I've become a lot more creative with both my sewing, crafting and picture-taking; here's a recent photo. I made the room box on the right, and the winter-themed stand on the left; I also made the yellow table (from perler beads) and the red and white outfit on Heather (my Prima Dolly Violet). Oh--I just added Precocious Candy Mushroom to my collection--this is her first photo!!

Tell us a little bit about Blythe Happy - what made you decide to open up a shop?
As I've already mentioned, one of the main reasons Blythe appealed to me was that I could make lots of "stuff" for her. I quickly became involved in swaps on Blythe Kingdom and Plastic Paradise, and I got so much positive feedback from my swap partners about the items I knitted and sewed, that the thought of opening a shop started to form. I resisted it for a while though, because I didn't want the hassle of running a business--getting a business license, keeping records for taxes, and filing quarterly returns for Virginia sales tax DO NOT appeal to me!  Eventually, though, as I sewed cute dresses and knit fun little hats, I really wanted to share them with more people. I decided the hassle would be worth it, so I opened Blythe Happy on Etsy in the summer of 2013.

How has opening a business changed the Blythe world for you?
The biggest change has been all the people I've been able to connect with through my shop. Although I am active on the Blythe forums and Flick'r and some Blythe groups on Facebook, I'm not really "chatty", so it was hard for me to meet people. Now that I have a shop, it's easy for people to get an idea of who I am by seeing what I make. Many of my customers are also in the on-line groups I belong to, and as a result of their purchases, we've connected in the groups. It's so fun to connect with people!

What is the first thing that you sold through your Etsy shop?
The very first thing that sold was a Happy Cloud Dress, which was purchased by one of my lovely swap partners because it matched a hat I had sent her!  See what I mean about connections? Several other former swap partners made purchases from me in the early days of my shop, which really warmed my heart and boosted my confidence--I truly appreciate those first customers, and every single one since then. Here's a picture of that first dress; I opened Blythe Happy with a dozen dresses I had made as a personal challenge to sew or knit a dress every day for a month. 

I soon noticed that a lot of people on Etsy sold outerwear for Blythe, but not many were selling underwear, so I decided to try making some panties. I wanted them to be pretty and practical, so I used white fabric (practical, so there are no worries about staining) and I came up with some simple embroidery designs for the front (pretty, but still practical, because embroidery is flat and won't cause lumps under clothing like other embellishments--bows, buttons, beads, etc.--would). As soon as I started offering the panties, they sold well, so that's what I concentrate on now. I try to keep a good variety of designs available all the time, and I'm always coming up with new embroidery patterns to keep the shop fresh. I've also started making the panties in Middie size, and they have received a good response from my customers. 

Do you end up keeping a lot of what you make, or does most of it end up in the shop?
When it comes to the panties, everything I make is for sale--leaving my own dollies with "seconds"! Only a couple of the girls are actually wearing my panties, and those are the prototypes I made that had imperfections. But I do like to see all my dolls dressed nicely, and I like to see them in items I've made myself, so I go out of my way to sew and knit outerwear for them. If a dress doesn't sell in my shop by the time the listing expires, I keep that for myself. Since I only make items that I love, I am very happy to keep anything that doesn't sell quickly!

What has been your best-selling panties design so far?
The top favorite design is a flower trio (on the Middie panties it's a single flower) that I do in several different colors. I consider it my "signature" design, because it's the only one I do completely free-hand (for all the others, I trace the design onto the fabric and embroider over the lines.) The next best-seller is a kitty face; every time I put one in the store it disappears quickly!  But all the designs sell well, probably because I am careful to choose themes that are popular in the world of Blythe collectors--anything cute or pretty or kitschy will work--like animal faces, mushroom houses, gnomes, hearts, crowns, unicorns, rainbows--even a cute little T-Rex!  But since the surface area for the design is small, the images can't be too complicated or detailed. I keep a little notebook where I brainstorm ideas for embroidery designs.  Later I go back and decide which ones will work, and I refine those sketches into workable drawings. 

Generally speaking, my dolls don't run around with their underpants showing - how does it make you feel when you do get to see your embroidered pants on other people's dolls?
This question brings up the biggest drawback to making panties--they rarely get to be seen in action!!  Recently, however, I sent a pair in a swap package, and my partner posted a cute picture of her doll raising her skirt to show off her panties--that really made my day! 

I always enjoy the surprise of seeing pretty panties on my dolls when I'm changing their clothes, so for the most part, the panties are a pretty secret to be enjoyed only by the doll owner (and the dolls themselves, of course!) 

10. What's been the biggest lesson you've learned about business owning and being the owner of an online shop since you've started selling things?
You have to advertise! After opening Blythe Happy, I quickly realized that I couldn't expect customers to find me on their own--as with any business, you have to advertise so people will know you exist.  I post links to my shop in the Facebook Blythe groups; and both Blythe Kingdom and Plastic Paradise have sections for shop owners to show what they sell.  All of these are fantastic opportunities because they directly target the Blythe community, and they are FREE!!  So far I haven't used the option at Etsy to pay to have my listings at the top of the page when customers do searches, but I am keeping that in mind for the future. Another thing I'm considering is making up something small to be packaged with my business cards to donate to Blythe Con 2014 for the goodie bags. I know that when I got home after Blythe Con this year, I made a point of looking up all the businesses that gave freebies; that would be a great way to put my shop name directly into the hands of Blythe collectors.

I think it's fun that you make cute underpants for the dolls that we all love. Can you tell us about any future plans you may have for Blythe Happy?
At the moment I am thinking of ways to feature my little embroidery designs so they will be more visible--I might do something like a line of dresses with embroidered pockets, or perhaps dolly shoulder bags with embroidered fronts, for example.  I also like to embroider a doll's name on a white dress--I do this for all my dolls, and I plan to offer it in my Etsy shop soon.

During the summer and fall, I am planning to do more giveaways through my Facebook page (which is also called Blythe Happy).  I love giving stuff away, and everyone loves a freebie, so giveaways are a win-win!

What would you say has been the hardest thing about having a small online business? 
I LOVE everything about having a small online business--except the paperwork, and it's not really hard, just boring! I love being able to make what I like, and working from home, and setting my own hours, and meeting people online.

Really, the only hard part is deciding what to charge for what I make.  The dilemma is always the same: if I charge too much, nothing will sell; if I charge too little, it won't be worth my time.  So, for the dresses and knit hats and sweaters, I looked around at what similar items were sold for, and priced mine accordingly.  The panties are more unique, making it harder to know what they are worth. I started out charging too little for them, and luckily one of my first customers was someone with a lot of experience in buying and selling for Blythe; she told me to charge more! I did as she suggested, and I am grateful she took the time to offer me her advice.

Thanks so much for participating in the March Talent Showcase, Leslie! What kind of advice do you have for someone who wants to start making things to sell in this community?

You are very welcome, Michelle! I am so happy and honored to be included in your Showcase.

For others who want to create items to sell to fellow Blythe owners, my first word of advice is this: try to do something a little different. Put your own personal stamp on your creations so you stand out from the crowd and your items will be recognizable as yours.  The next thing is so important: be sure everything you produce is top-notch quality. You may have to practice for a while as you work to get all the details perfect before you are ready to open a shop, but your reward will be happy customers and a personal feeling of satisfaction in a job well done.

Friday, December 6, 2013

A Year of Reading

I've gotten a LOT of use out of my bookmarks this year, because, back in January, I set a goal for myself to read 52 books during 2013. Last month I reached my goal, one month early! And I'm still reading!

It all started with the Old Fashioned Book Lover's Swap I organized with my friend Susan on Craftster back in January. During that swap I became aware of a lot of interesting books that I wanted to read; I also found out about the website Goodreads, where I could keep track of what I have read, and write reviews to remind myself what I thought of those books! You can find my Goodreads profile HERE.

I read a lot of Stephen King this year--17 of the books I read were his. I like King's writing style and the way he develops his characters, and I became quite proficient at skimming over the more violent and/or gruesome passages! My favorites were Lisey's Story and 11/22/63.

One of the books I read was the one I received in the Book Lover's Swap: My Sister's Keeper, by Jodi Picoult. I enjoyed it enough to look for more by the same author, and unfortunately my next choice--Plain Truth--turned out to be one of the worst books I read. Do yourself a favor and skip that one. The other stinker that I had the misfortune of reading was A Certain Slant of Light by Laura Whitcomb. This is a "young adult" novel that I chose after someone else in the swap claimed that it was her favorite book ever! It was really silly and strangely R-rated (the few other young adult novels I've read in the past were very chaste).

My favorite new author (new to me, anyway) is Wallace Stegner. I have read only one of his books so far (Crossing to Safety) and I love his writing style and the way he tells a story. I need to get my hands on more of his works.

Most of the books I read were physical books from the library, until I realized in November that I could check out some books electronically. Wow, what a cool revelation that was! I have an iPad and an iPhone (and I have a strong feeling that there will be a Kindle Paperwhite under the Christmas tree with my name on it), so I gave e-books a try, and I am so excited to be able to read on my e-device without having to buy the book (I'm cheap that way)! The best part is being able to read on my iPad at home, then, when I'm away from home and find myself with some time to fill, I can open the same book on my phone and it will take me to the spot where I stopped reading on the iPad! Technology is amazing!

I plan to continue reading with the same goal of 52 books in 2014. I'd love some recommendations--who's your favorite author?

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Cards for Hospitalized Kids

I have to share with you a fabulous idea from a reader named Lynn. She received one of my Hope Heart Starter Kits a while ago, and she was inspired to use the heart templates in the kit to make greeting cards for a wonderful organization called Cards for Hospitalized Kids. When you click on that name and go to the website, you will see how easy it would be for you to brighten the day of a hospitalized child by making and sending a greeting card.

Here are two cards that Lynn made using my heart templates (you can find them at the end of the post HERE, and print them out on your computer). I love how these look! What a great way to use up extra scrapbook paper! What a nice message she wrote inside! The stickers inside are a really cute touch too.

I haven't made any cards--YET--but I intend to. In fact, even though I haven't been feeling especially "crafty" lately,  I am strongly tempted to commit myself to a "card-a-day" challenge (like the "heart-a-day" challenge I undertook in 2012). Or what about a Facebook group, where everyone could post pictures of the cards they make? This could be just what I need to get back into general crafting, while doing good at the same time. The cards could be as simple or as elaborate as time allows, and I'm very inspired by the photos of the kids on the website, posing with their cards. So I will be participating in this, one way or another. Anyone else?

Saturday, October 19, 2013

A Meet-Up in NYC

Many of you know me from Craftster (I'm Leslieshappyheart there); and many of you also know my swap co-organizer Susan (she's susanab on Craftster). I've mentioned Susan MANY times on this blog; she's the one who got me interested in Craftster, and she's the one who encouraged me to start a blog. After knowing her on-line for several years, we finally met in person!

Last Sunday my husband and I travelled to New York City for BlytheCon 2013, a gathering of Blythe doll collectors and enthusiasts. Since Susan lives in New Jersey and works in NYC, it was easy for her to meet up with us there for lunch. We had planned to meet at the Panera Bread restaurant that is less than a block from Penn Station (we came into that station on the train), but Susan texted me to say she was waiting for us outside the station. When we came out onto the street the crowd was thick, and I stood in the middle of it, craning my neck left and right, looking for a small, dark-haired woman; then I heard "LESLIE!" and suddenly Susan was right in front of me! We gave each other a big hug, and started talking a mile a minute. The three of us made our way to Panera Bread (which was surprisingly quiet when we walked in), got our lunches, and sat down for good food and good conversation. Bill took these pictures of us as we sat across from him.

We had a bit less than two hours before I had to be at BlytheCon to watch a demonstration, so after a little eating and much talking (my voice was actually getting hoarse!) we reluctantly said goodbye. It was wonderful to meet Susan; she felt like a familiar friend, and our first meeting was so fun that I know we will see each other again.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Quilted Sewing Machine Cover

For a recent craft swap on Craftster, I made this sewing machine cover for my partner. Her favorite color is orange, and she likes it paired with purple, so that's why I chose this color scheme! I must say that after the top was all pieced together and I was considering a purple fabric for the binding, I wasn't happy with it--the colors seemed to be "too much".  Then I thought of going with the black and white stripe, and it took on a more modern feel to me, and I am very happy with how it turned out. I quilted it by machine, which is unusual for me (I do almost all of my quilting by hand), but I was running out of time, so machine quilting saved the day!

This is the first sewing machine cover I've ever made, and although I would have preferred to make a fitted cover with closed sides, I didn't have the exact dimensions of the machine it would cover, so I made it loose-fitting with adjustable ties. My partner says she loves it, and that's what matters.

This was my 52nd swap on Craftster! That's a lot of swaps! I'm going to take a break from swapping now and concentrate on other things...at the moment, my main interest is sewing and crafting for Blythe dolls. I've opened an Etsy store called Blythe Happy, and the embroidered panties are selling like crazy! I will be doing more blogging on my other blog (also called Blythe Happy) and less blogging here.

So, until next time, happy crafting!

Saturday, August 24, 2013

What I've Been Up To in August

I'm surprised that more than three weeks have flown by since I last posted here! I guess my July craft-a-day challenge didn't have the intended effect--I had hoped/expected it to give me a creative jump-start, but instead it seems to have drained me! Well, it didn't drain me completely...I must admit that I've been quite a busy bee recently in the realm of crafting for dolls.  By the way...did you notice that I didn't mention Blythe dolls at all during the month of July? I did that on purpose. I was trying to separate my Blythe crafting from my general crafting, and I undertook a Blythe doll dress-a-day challenge during July too. It turns out that I much preferred working on the things for the dolls! I love working on that small scale, and I like that I can use all my crafty skills to make things for them. Here's an example of what I've done lately:

Dresses and shrugs (I love sewing and knitting!)

Underwear (I love embroidery!)

I'm getting ready to go to a big meet-up of Blythe enthusiasts in New York City in October, and I plan to hand out doll undies to the people I meet there (package with my business card--I've just opened an etsy shop selling Blythe clothes and accessories, called Blythe Happy). So for now I am concentrating on doll crafting, but there are a couple of other projects that I plan to post here in the coming weeks.

I hope you are having a wonderful summer! This summer I have finally gotten back into regular exercise (jogging a mile every day) and I've managed to lose 10 pounds!

Thanks for stopping by!

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

July Challenge Day #31

Hooray, it's day 31, and this month-long challenge is DONE! I'm ending it with one more goody for you strawberry lovers: a strawberry pincushion. I found the pattern at Martha Stewart.com. It is made from wool felt and filled with emery, which I had bought on Etsy quite a while ago--I'm glad I finally got around to using it!