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Handmade gifts for 2013 Holidays

Just a quick post to share…

I had a very good year for making handmade gifts in 2013.

A friend has opened up her studio one day a week and I have been doing some neat stuff there that ended up being good enough to offer up as gifts.  In fact I had at least two people as for certain pieces if I was in a mood to give them up.  So after hunting down some nice frames and spending an afternoon doing the work, they were added to my pile of gifts that were ready to go.

For mom

For mom

For Son

For Son

For BFF #1

For BFF #1

For BFF #2

For BFF #2

I found a sweet set of figurines that seemed to be perfect for my brother, except for the ghastly colour they were painted.  Kind of a crap brown with a few badly placed spots of cream that were meant to be highlights.  I spent the money [it was through a hospital gift shop, the money goes to fund the hospital] and decided to do a new paint job on them.  I forgot to take a before photo, but here is how they turned out.

bro's buddha's

bro’s Buddha’s

Next came the knitted goods…  I meant to try and get it all done, but I was down to the wire on Son’s socks to the point were I forgot to snap a photo, but they got wrapped and packed in time for gift giving on the big day.  Here are some of the other things I did get done, a cowl and a pair of hand-spun, hand-knit, lined mitts for d-i-l.  You will just have to imagine the socks in your head… tube style, green cuffs, purple foot… what can I say, the kids love funky socks!

k's cowl

k’s cowl

k's mitts

k’s mitts

[EDIT – Son stopped by for a few minutes to grab some stuff before heading back out and happened to be wearing his hand-knit socks so I grabbed a quick photo of them in situ to add here]

Son's Socks

So that left the items in which only some of the parts were done and some were still in progress, the house vest for my mom [which BFF #1 was helping with] and a hand-spun, hand-knit mobious cowl for BFF #1.   The Vest for mom still needs to be seamed and finished, but the cowl is done except for the sewing in of the yarn ends… looks pretty nice though, the trim has fur from her poodle who died a couple of years back spun into the yarn, so it’s a lovely memory piece for her too.

BFF #1's cowl

BFF #1’s cowl

I will have to take a photo and share the vest when it is finally done, but I hope you have enjoyed my handmade gift gallery from  the 2013 holidays.

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Such a simple idea…

For anyone that isn’t a spinner that needs to wash out skeins after they are finished being spun, who like me, waits until I have a bunch [or a couple dozen] of them to do all together and make the effort worth the time, you can take a pass on this blog if you want…

For anyone who is, please read on…  I got a brilliant light bulb moment back about 6 months ago and finally tested my theory out the whole way and I have to say it saved me a ton of stress and angst.  I use the washing machine, fill it with hot soapy water, soak them awhile, spin them out, add a bit of vinegar to the rinse water, soak again, spin out again and then hang them to dry.  While they are all going through that washing, rinsing, being all wet cycle, my paper tags can’t stay with each skein and then I lose track of what each one is and yardages on each, etc.  Memory like a sieve most days, some of you have to hear me on this…

anyway, brilliant idea came about when I realized there were a pile of bread tags in a dish that we had been saving for some reason no one could remember and I was going to toss them out when I happened upon the idea of using them as ID tags for my skeins.

I picked out the white tags with no printing on them and with a sharpie marker I started labelling them “A, B, C, D, …” and so on until I got to R [ran out of tags at that point], then I grabbed hinged ring to keep them all together and neat while not in use.  All I needed was a notebook and I started ID’ing my skeins and listing all the pertinent information on that skein under the letter on the bread tag.

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Finally got to a point where I really needed wash the skeins I had finished, or make up more bread tags and tossed all my skeins into a wash & rinse cycle… Lo & behold!  There are all my skeins, clearly tagged and now I just have to refer to my notebook to create paper labels for each one once they are dry and ready for sale or storage.

How easy [and cool] is that!

All in a creative day’s work…

I have a standing invite every Monday [that isn’t a holiday] to go to a friend’s Open Art Studio day.  It runs from 3 pm to 9 pm and typically I take advantage of the full 6 hour stretch.  She encourages me to do painting while I am there to get my head into a whole different artistic space for awhile, it’s genuinely fun, all the folk who show up end up spending time talking, laughing and sharing stories over a coffee or tea and I have come home with some fantastic work that is actually worth framing and hanging on my wall.

So today I was not feeling so great, my head and body are all achy, head and nose are feeling like they are full of cotton and my nose won’t stop yelling for tissues – STAT! –  It’s the fall allergy season; I’m used to this after years of suffering…  I know it is going to be a stretch to haul my aching self there on the bus and then the congestion & cotton brain is just not the kind of thing that makes creativity spring up happy and free, so I opted to stay home and try to do something even mildly creative here.

Today’s creative project was photography…  No matter if you are a hobby crafter, an artisan, a cottage industry seller, or a whole sale Ebay master, you need pictures of your product if you are going to sell your product.

Since I am a crafter of various crafts and try to sell what I can to help pay for the multiple hobbies I partake in [and for the simple fact I like the feeling when my stuff goes to people who are just keen for the handmade stuff], I needed to do the photo shoot thing to give my prospective buyers a decent idea of what I am selling.  You see, while there is a huge truth in the saying that a picture is worth a thousand words, but there is also the codicil that says the wrong kind of picture can kill your story before it starts!

I had taken a bunch of photos of my hand-spun yarns awhile back, but I needed GOOD shots of the yarns if I was to post them for sale.  Starting with the brighter yarns in the small case I usually take to markets, sales and festivals, I set up my mini studio on the trunk in front of the living room window to take advantage of the natural light as much as I could.  I will tell you this little fact, natural light can go from fantastic to shitty in the time it takes to shift one skein of yarn off and the next one on, but I digress…

The pictures I took back in February were only intended to be a visual inventory of what I had on hand and ready to sell, the pictures I was trying to get today are intended to interest buyers in these skeins of hand-crafted yarns; they have to make the product look good and that can be hard.  There is a lot that goes into taking product shots; first you have to get it to look appealing, then you have to get the lighting right so the colours stay as true as possible, you can’t forget to keep them clear and focused so they can make out details you are trying to highlight.

For example, the inventory shot of a pair of skeins

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vs. the for sale shot

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You can see the presentation is different…

So my afternoon has been filled with controlled chaos and my already aching body has now added tired to the list of complaints, but I am a stubborn and move on… I need to try to keep track of what I have already done, don’t forget to work the presentation, lighting is important [keep an eye on it!], details & keep it in focus, get multiple shots to cover all the bases – then times all that by a couple dozen skeins – it is very time consuming and a great deal of work, but in the end you look them over with fingers crossed that they look as good on the screen as they did in the camera – all that work for a bunch of crappy shots can break your heart and make all that work a futile effort.

If they have all turned out as you hoped, then comes then next hurdle in selling online. You see posting and/or uploading them is the easy part, it is adding all the right details along side the right photo that can consume an afternoon or evening before you know it… so I cheated a little bit and made sure to take photos of the labels as well so that I can refer to the photo itself for the information, saving me the hassle of needing a written inventory and making posting them for sale soooooooo much easier!

Then there is dealing with the clean-up afterwards, because you know you wanted to get the light while you could, so you just draped the skeins in a pile so you could move fast.  A couple dozen rounds of twist and tuck gets them looking neat and tidy and so they don’t get messed up and/or tangled while in transit.  In the end they are all tucked back into their travel case and stacked back with the other cases of items for sale.

This is the tip of my iceberg, but it was all I could handle today and it is better than nothing at all…

Now I can relax with a mug of tea and peruse a bit of this and that, a few hours of work to produce not so many pictures as one might think, but I have to say I am so very grateful for the digital age, this would have cost me a freaking fortune if I had to do all this on actual film!!