Wednesday, December 31, 2014

2015: A Brand New Year

Happy New Year to all!

In making my resolutions for 2105, I'm being gentler with myself.  I've learned that setting unattainably high goals  creates extreme stress and may be downright counterproductive.  Despite fairly strong holiday sales in my Etsy shops and at craft fairs, I felt like a failure in 2014 because I fell so far short of my goals.  If I'd ignored the goals, I might have convinced myself it was a pretty good year.

The crystal ball is cloudy as I look ahead to 2015, but changes may be looming on the day job(s) horizon that could impact my Etsy life.  That's another reason I've lowered the bar for 2015. 

My word for 2015 is:  REGROUP

My Personal Resolutions for 2015

Continue my gratitude journal
Pray daily
Eat sensibly
Walk more
Read at least one good book a month and blog about it in a Book of the Month post
Continue to explore health insurance options
Complete three long-overdue quilt projects (Sandy's memory quilt, Erin's graduation quilt, and Pies & Tarts)
Complete unfinished Curiously Gorgeous Sisterhood creative journal exercises.
Adopt a 52-week savings program.  (I'll put my first dollar in the big envelope tomorrow.)

52-Week Savings Program from Obvious Magazine

My 2015 ETSY-Related Goals
Hit 1200 all-time Etsy sales (I'm 7 away from 1,000) in my Pasque Flower Creations shop.
240 annual sales - Pasque Flower Creations
50 annual sales - Aunt Pheba's Vintage
Action Plan for 2015:
Continue to focus on high quality handmade oven mitts (I've made over 1,000), but add new product lines to my Pasque Flower Creations shop. 
Continue to monetize scraps.  (Card wallets and cord keepers did very well at local craft fairs, and I may add some new scrappy listings to my Etsy shop as well.)
Continue to participate in local / regional craft fairs.  Apply to be on the wait list for some of the bigger area shows.
Improve photography skills. 
Improve SEO (search engine optimization).  I've signed up for Etsypreneurship's THRIVE program by Jason Malinak, CPA. It's a tax-deductible $13.41 monthly investment in my business.
Make better use of Facebook, Pinterest, and Twitter as marketing tools, and add Instagram to the mix.
Anne Shirley of Anne of Green Gables
by L.M. Montgomery
A Bee in My Bonnet
I've been toying with the idea of opening a new Etsy shop after tax season.  I'd call it Punkydoodles (my dad's nickname for me when I was a little kid long, long ago).  It would delight my Inner Child.  I'd include handmade soft toys, doll quilts, dolls, rattles, personalized baby gift sets, baby quilts and blankies. 
It's something to ponder . . ..
I jumped the gun a bit on the 2015 Blogging Business Artisans January Team Challenge by Sharla of Beaded Tail:
January - Goals or hopes for the New Year
What do you hope to accomplish this year? What are you looking forward to doing in 2015? Do you have plans to travel some place exciting, move to a new home/city or how about get a kitten? Will you be taking your shop in new directions? Let us know or give us a hint of your year to come!
Wishing you all the best in 2015!




Tuesday, December 30, 2014

2014: A Retrospective

As I prepare for the ball to drop in Times Square and listen to the strains of Auld Lang Syne, it’s time to take a look back at the past year before bidding GOOD RIDDANCE to 2014!  The past year was a very umm.... challenging one. 
I’d characterize 2014 as a Compost Year – a heap of sh*t that will hopefully spawn new growth in the year ahead.
Here's a review of last year's personal resolutions and Etsy goals.  My, what a Pollyanna an optimist I was!
Last year I set spiritual, physical, mental, emotional and financial goals. 

SPIRITUAL:  I kept a gratitude journal and prayed daily.  I enjoyed the Curiously Gorgeous Sisterhood’s 52-week creativity journal course by Sarah of A Cat-Like Curiosity, but fell behind in my “homework” during the holiday rush. I’ve resolved to complete the unfinished weekly exercises in 2015.
PHYSICAL:  I ate healthier, walked more, and I’m drinking more water and tea and far fewer carbonated sugar-free soft drinks.  Aspartame is a scary chemical. There’s still room for improvement in 2015.
MENTAL:  I did not manage to read one good book a month.  My late maternal grandmother, a librarian, would have been very disappointed in me.  I did take a community college photography class but my photos still suck.  There is MUCH room for improvement in this category.  I do have new camera batteries and a new light box.  Just need to figure out the settings.
EMOTIONAL:  I didn’t finish Erin’s graduation quilt (major guilt) and  I continued to spend way too much time on the computer.  But I did see all 9 grandkids and their parents, and my two single adult kids during 2014.  I was very grateful for that quality time with my family.  With big financial challenges to overcome, I found it fairly easy not to sweat the small stuff. 
FINANCIAL:  The near-austerity budget was a way of life for most of 2014, and I was not able to procure affordable health insurance.  The part-time job at UNL which started in February was a godsend.  Those small but steady paychecks helped keep us afloat as tax office hours were cut, legal research work was mostly pro bono, and Etsy sales plummeted. 


2014 ETSY GOALS  – Pasque Flower Creations

I must have been delusional. Here were my lofty goals:

$10,000.00 in sales in 2014
500 new orders
Surpass 1,000 total sales in 2014 (I was at 735 in 2014, so it seemed do-able at that time.)

Here’s what REALLY happened at Pasque Flower Creations this year:

$5694.60 in sales  (down 33% from last year)
228 new orders  (down 24% from last year)
I did not surpass 1,000 total sales in 2014.  I’m currently at 993, so I should hit 1,000 in 2015.
Ironically, I met almost all of my specific Etsy goals, but they did not translate into increased sales.
1.  Monetize scraps.  Did that.  Cord keepers were a big hit at craft fairs.  I’ll expand on that concept in 2015.
2.  Add personalized/ monogrammed items (learn to use my new embroidery machine).  Did that. Added personalized bibs fairly late in the year.  Zero sales of personalized items online or at craft fairs.
3.  Expand and promote my oven mitt line.  Did that. Still my best sellers--just not as strong as 2014.
4.  Promote prairie sunbonnets (the only item other than oven mitts to make my Top 10 Favorites in Shop Stats).  Did that.  No significant increase in sales or views.
5.  Create new shop sections to maximize SEO and reflect current shop identity.  Did that—and joined the Etsy TEMPT Team to do more promoting.
6.  Create a Clearance section in an attempt to recoup some of the costs of discontinued or less popular items.  Did that.
7.  Write fewer but more interesting (hopefully) blog posts.   Much room for improvement there!!
8.  Increase my number of Facebook followers or bust.  I had only 162 followers in 2014.
Did that.  I now have 208 followers.  I have more Twitter and Pinterest followers, too.  Still much room for improvement in the social media marketing arena.
9.  Explore options to market items in venues beyond Etsy.   I increased craft fair marketing, and did more local custom orders -- no gift guides or wholesale orders this year, however. 
10.  Improve product photography.  TOTAL FAIL!  Much to work on in this area in 2015!
2014 ETSY GOALS – Aunt Pheba’s Vintage
$2000.00 in sales in 2014
150 orders
Have 100 listings by July 1, 2014.
Here’s what really happened:
$716 in sales (up 24% over last year)
46 orders  (up 22% over last year)
I had 38 new listings during the year, but currently have only 47 items in the shop.  I didn’t hit 100.
I had only 3 resolutions for Aunt Pheba's Vintage for 2014:
1. Add more vintage book listings.  Did that.
2. Consider adding estate sale finds, particularly jewelry and vintage sewing and quilting items. Did that (although I didn't make it to many estate sales, I made quite a haul at the annual Hillestad Gallery rummage sale this summer), and many sold quickly.  I need to seek out more opportunities to add vintage textiles and sewing notions to inventory in 2015.
3. Improve product photography. Again -- TOTAL FAIL!

And in conclusion . . .
It wasn't pretty!  But I was grateful for the extra income, even though it was lower than I'd hoped. I did have relatively strong holiday sales in both shops, so I have not completely abandoned hope that my Etsy shops can survive and possibly even thrive in 2015. 

I'm painfully aware that in the "new Etsy" it's definitely survival of the fittest -  adapt or die!
Stay tuned for my 2015 plans in a future post.


Monday, December 29, 2014

Belated Treasury Thanks

Belated thanks to the curators of Etsy treasuries who included items from my Etsy shop, Pasque Flower Creations, in treasuries last week.  We've been fighting a computer virus and connecting with kids and grandkids over the holidays -- and I'm running a bit behind.  I am still not able to upload photos :-(.

Kudos to Cassie and Lisa, two of my TEMPT teammates who, despite the holiday rush, made time to curate treasuries last week.

Lisa Lavender of TheBumbleBeadShop featured my black and white chevron oven mitt in her stunning black and white-themed treasury, TEMPT Team's Days and Nights.  These beautiful evening "GO TO" earrings would look smashing at a New Year's Eve party.

Cassie of CassieVision featured my black and white jungle animals on aqua baby bib in her treasury, Always for Blue.  These sexy black and silver bobby pins would look great in an "up do" at a  New Year's Eve gala.

I am so sorry I couldn't upload photos of those items.

Happy New Year to all!


Saturday, December 20, 2014

Treasury Thanks

Each week my Sunday post extends a huge THANK YOU to the curators of Etsy treasuries who have featured items from my Etsy shops, Pasque Flower Creations and Aunt Pheba's Vintage, in treasuries over the past week.

In the midst of all the holiday hustle and bustle, a few Etsians took time to create some wonderful treasuries.

My cousin Lise (LLPyles) of DustyDiggerLise, featured my red and green chevron oven mitt in her treasury, Booked for Christmas.  Lise's shop specializes in vintage paper -- and she has hundreds of advertisements, books, and post cards -- a great place to browse.  Although I haven't done any holiday baking yet, this vintage Christmas cookie magazine photo caught my eye.

Liz of TheLittleEmptyNest featured my olive, brown and orange on cream oven mitt in her treasury, TEMPT Team - Avalance.  In keeping with Liz's white and cream theme, I chose to feature this beautiful white and cream Kumihimo bracelet from TheLittleEmptyNest.

Lisa Lavender of TheBumbleBeadCompany featured my nature pillow cover in her back-to-nature treasury, TEMPT Team Earthtones for Christmas.   This stunning rope cord necklace with multiple rings in brass or silver is one of the beautiful handmade jewelry items you will find in Lisa's shop.

And last but not least, Suzanne Perry of Glowblocks featured my hearts baby bib in her treasury, Thank You Treasury.  This snowman night light could cast a cheery glow all through the long, dark winter.

Wishing you and yours a wonderful holiday week!
Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, Happy Festivus - - - Happy Holidays!


Sunday, December 14, 2014

Treasury Thanks

Each week I devote my Sunday blog post to extend a THANK YOU to curators of Etsy treasuries who featured items from my shops, Pasque Flower Creations and Aunt Pheba's Vintage, in treasuries over the past week.

The Christmas rush is here!  Many of this week's treasuries had a holiday theme.  Enjoy!

Alvecote Marina of Alvecote1 included one of my key fobs (perfect stocking stuffers BTW) in her treasury, Treat Yourself This Christmas.  This extra long yellow mohair wool scarf would be a lovely gift for a special someone this Christmas.

Paige of TheRoomKit featured my retro-inspired red linen bow clutch in her treasury, Its Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas.  These pretty cloth cocktail napkins would be a great stocking stuffer, hostess gift, or teacher gift.

Valerie of Nandy's Nook featured my green roses baby bib in her green-themed treasury, Tempting Christmas Gifts #2.   In keeping with the green theme, I decided to feature one of Valerie's coffee mug cozies in spring green. 

Liz from TheLittleEmptyNest featured my nature pillow cover in her treasury, Earthy Gift Ideas - TEMPT Team.  This carved olive wood beaded bracelet would be a lovely earthy gift.

Sarah Leonarad of ACatLikeCuriosity featured two of my holiday oven mitts in her treasury, Green and Red, Red and Green . . ..  I love Sarah's artwork, and this angel and a star greeting card is a lovely Christmas art piece.

Margaret of SplendidLittleStars featured my red and green chevron oven mitt in her treasury, Tis the Season.  This baby tie dye lap t-shirt from SplendidLittleStars is just SO adorable!! 

Some of us will be traveling over the holidays.  Pamela of MombieDesigns created a travel-themed treasury, Travels Treasury VIII - Gift Guides- Rainbow Stew.   I love this colorful fringed area rug from Pamela's shop!

And last, but not least, Antiquity Travelers featured my winter trees baby bib in her treasury, Woodland Creatures.   These copper filigree charms are so pretty and festive!   Perfect for a fancy New Year's Eve bash.

And there you have it!  Another great week of Treasuries.  Thanks, again, to all the curators who took time during this BUSY holiday rush to help promote other Etsians. 

Only 11 days until Christmas.  YIKES!!!


Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Wordless Wednesday

Law Book Tree
Schmid Law Library
UNL College of Law

Treatise Tree

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Sewing in Overdrive

It's Shameless Commerce Tuesday and I am delighted to report that the long-anticipated Christmas rush is here!  (Perhaps "spurt" would be a more accurate term.)

I've been keeping the pedal to the metal, burning the midnight oil, and trying to get  a minimum of four hours of sleep per night.

Tired Sewist from Flower Box Quilts
Today after work, I'll be working on 14 oven mitts, 6 custom placemats and 2 custom burp cloths.
I love the "Ka-Ching!" every time an order hits my in box, and I say a little thank you prayer.

Wishing you all a happy and prosperous holiday season!


Monday, December 8, 2014

December BBA Challenge - Special Memories of a Farm Girl Christmas

Each month a member of the Blogging Business Artisans Etsy Team poses a challenge to team members.  This month’s challenge comes from Judy of MisterPenQuin:

December is a busy holiday month, filled with lots of opportunities for decorating, celebration and remembrance. Share one or more of your holiday decorations or customs with us, especially your favorite one(s), or . . . describe a special memory associated with an ornament, a food dish, a family outing, or a family member. Maybe you'd like to describe a special gift you received and why you especially like it, or a gift you made that has special meaning for the recipient.

My response to the challenge includes some childhood memories of my Christmases on a small farm in Lake County, in southeastern South Dakota. My godfather (my dad’s cousin Stuart) played a special role by creating Christmas magic year after year.

Christmas was a very special time!

Preparations began in mid-December when we decorated a real Christmas tree.  No trendy modern aluminum trees for us!  I loved the ornaments – angels and brightly-colored balls, strands of silvery tinsel, and the old-fashioned lights with big, brightly-colored bulbs.

My Brother Jeff and I - 1958
If one bulb burned out, the whole string went dark, so we always needed to have some spare bulbs on hand.  I found this wonderful assortment of vintage Christmas bulbs at samjams3 on Etsy.
I remember coming home on cold, dark, snowy nights, and seeing the lights of the Christmas tree shining in our north window.  What a pretty sight!
And there was baking!   My mom always baked pies and cakes and cookies and homemade bread year-round.  But at Christmas time, there were sugar cookies with frosting and sprinkles - stars and bells and camels -- gingerbread men, candy cane cookies, spritz cookies made with a special press, cranberry bread, chocolate fudge made with marshmallow crème, penuche, bright red anise candy, divinity, and my grandmother’s famous “rotten butter cookies.”  My cousin-in-law Deb Quist sent me the recipe:
Grandma Quist's Rotten Butter Cookies
Preheat oven to 375.    Makes 2-1/2 dozen cookies

1 pound butter
1/2 tsp. soda
1 cup brown sugar
1 tsp cream of tartar
4 cups flour

Beat butter, brown sugar and soda to a light creamy texture.  Add rest of ingredients.  Amount of flour may vary slightly depending on the humidity in your house, temperature of the room, etc.   Batter is very stiff and hard to mix in the last of the flour.  Roll by teaspoons full into balls and place on ungreased cookie sheet.  Flatten each with the bottom of a glass dipped in flour to keep the glass from sticking to the cookie.  Bake at 375 for 12-13 minutes.  Cool on the cookie sheet a minute or two before transferring to brown paper.  When all are baked and cooled, place in a crock and store covered with a piece of brown paper until Christmas.  (We put an upside down paper sack over the crock and tape the bottom edge to the side of the crock.)  Put in a cool place like a baseme
And there were Christmas carols - - some that I played on our old upright piano (a converted player piano) – never quite in tune.  One of my favorites to play was Silver Bells.  I found this vintage Christmas sheet music at GrayDayPapier on Etsy.

And more Christmas carols – played on our phonograph or broadcast on the radio by our little local radio station, KJAM.  Somehow, I never quite saw the humor in Grandma Got Run Over By a Reindeer, but it got a lot of air time.
 Christmas Eve!
The most magical night was Christmas Eve.  Our farm house was filled with grandparents, uncles, my dear Aunt Jan, my little brother and four younger cousins.   My tall Uncle Bill would lift us kids up to touch the ceiling! 
After supper, my godfather Stuart would say, “I think I heard sleigh bells!  I’ll step outside and see.”  And when he stepped outside, sure enough, we could all hear a jingling of sleigh bells.  Then he’d come back inside and say, “I told Santa if he would meet me at the barn, I would give his reindeer some hay and water.”  A few minutes later (while Stuart was tending the reindeer), SANTA would come through the kitchen door with a big “HO!HO!HO!” and a gunny sack filled with PRESENTS!! 
This photo shows Santa greeting my cousin Billy.  Also pictured are my Uncle Jim and my Mom.  I'm in the foreground.  Check out those ringlets.

Christmas 1957
Here's another photo of Santa with my tall Uncle Bill, taken in 1958.

Christmas 1958

We kids would gather around, giddy with excitement, as Santa called our names and passed out pretty packages with curly ribbon bows.  Here I am, at age 4, admiring my new doll. 

Then he’d wish us all a Merry Christmas and head out to deliver presents to all the other boys and girls.
A few minutes later, after we’d opened our presents, Stuart would come in from the barn – commenting about the reindeer – and what fun it was to talk to Santa.

We never caught on. 



Sunday, December 7, 2014

Treasury Thanks

Each week I devote my Sunday post to extend a huge THANK YOU to the curators of Etsy treasuries who have included items from my Etsy shops, Aunt Pheba's Vintage and Pasque Flower Creations, in treasuries over the past week.

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas!  Even Etsy's home page has abandoned the dark, depressing gray tones in favor of bright holiday packages.  I love that new look!   And most of this week's treasuries had a holiday theme.  Please share the holiday cheer by liking, sharing, or pinning, if you see something you love.

Rossiter Lisa of PNLJewelryDesigns featured my aqua and brown oven mitts in her treasury, Holiday Gifts.  These classy snowman earrings from Lisa's shop would be fun to wear during the holiday season -- and they are so affordable!

Valerie of Nandy's Nook featured my red and green chevron baby bib in her treasury, Tempting Christmas Picks #1.  I love Valerie's beautifully-crafted travel cup cozies and mug cozies.  (I'm giving some as stocking stuffers this year.)  I couldn't resist sharing this beautiful purple cup cozy.

Jessica and Bryan of FeathandKee featured my retro-inspired holiday oven mitt in their treasury, Pops of Red.  These fun upcycled red orange triangle earrings would add a pop of red to any casual outfit.

Modern Arras featured my aqua chevron oven mitts in a gift guide treasury, Gifts Under $20.  I LOVE this modern crazy quilt from Modern Arras! 

Marcia from ImagineThatBaby featured my colored dots drawstring backpack in her treasury, Gifts for the Children 2.  We've had several baby showers at my day job recently.  Wouldn't this baby girl diaper cake be a lovely centerpiece -- and a useful gift -- for an expectant mom.


Duni of PeriDotbyDuni featured my aqua and tan oven mitts in her gift guide, Gifts Galore!  This oh so pretty laundry bag with polka dots and roses would be a perfect gift for the college girl on your gift list.

Alvecote Marina of Alvecote1 featured my snowman on black oven mitt in her treasury, Everybody's Christmas.  I just LOVE these fingerless green mohair mittens from Alvecote1! 

Flora of Fabvintage1 featured my black eyeglasses on houndstooth eyeglass case in her treasury, Black.  This vintage compact from Zell 5th Avenue is one of the lovely vintage pieces you will find in Flora's shop.

Flora also featured my horses key fob in her treasury, Magic Christmas.  This lovely Scottish Celtic thistle brooch reminds me of my Grandma Larson (Aunt Pheba to most), who was proud of her Scotch-Irish heritage.  I love to listen to Thistle and Shamrock on NPR Radio -- perhaps because of that connection.

Lisa Lavender of TheBumbleBeadShop featured my yellow houndstooth card wallet in her treasury, TEMPT Team's Holiday Yellow Sunsets.  This classic bumble bead necklace incorporates sunny yellow in the unique and eye-catching design.

Uncovered Treasures (Buyer Only) featured my flag key fob in the treasury, Patriotic Christmas Decor and Gifts.  If you have a veteran on your gift list, this is a must visit treasury!

Flora of Fabvintage1 featured my green chevron and dots bunting in her treasury, Green Christmas.  So often green gets overshadowed by red as a Christmas color--but green is celebrated in this beautiful treasury.  Green is also celebrated in this statement bib fringe necklace from Flora's shop.

Be sure to check the Countdown to Christmas widget at the bottom of my blog.  Brace yourself!

Thanks for stopping by.

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Saving the Best for Last

This St. Nicholas Day (December 6, I was a vendor at Crestwood Christian Church.  It was my last craft fair of 2014.

I arrived before dawn for the early morning set-up.  (Big yawn.) All systems were "go."  The weather was relatively mild.  There was no competing Husker football game.  I was assigned a table in a great location.   And, best of all -- it was right next to my former craft fair "neighbor," Nicole Moffett Shulde.  You can see photos of some of Nicole's beautiful artwork on her web page, Nicole's Creative Flair.   Many of her pieces incorporate upcycled elements.

Set up went smoothly, and I was able to snap one quick photo before the doors opened at 9:00 am. 

I had planned to take a few more pictures -- but I am happy to report that I was too busy to leave my booth!   We had a steady stream of buyers throughout the day.

As always, at local shows, the small and inexpensive items were my biggest sellers --- cord keepers, key fobs, and finger puppets.  I also nearly sold out of holiday table runners and pencil-shaped zipper pouches.

I had promoted the event as a place to stock up on stocking stuffers.  (By now -- after Black Friday, Small Business Saturday, and Cyber Monday-- several shoppers have probably checked off the big items on their list, but still need to pick up little gifts and stocking stuffers.)  I bought printable Christmas stockings which I posted on some of my price cards as a not so subtle hint: "Psst!  This would be a great stocking stuffer."

The committee that hosts this event does a great job of promoting the craft fair.  Despite two other competing craft fairs in the area, the CCC's loyal followers turned out in droves.

The hosts treated vendors like special guests.  I was greeted and offered assistance with unloading and set-up.  Free coffee was brewing.  And all vendors were provided COMFORTABLE, padded chairs.

At my last craft fair, I was asked to pay $7.50 for a lunch that consisted of a lukewarm hot dog on a stale bun, a bag of chips, and a soda.  At this show, we were treated to freshly-baked homemade bread and homemade stroganoff delivered to our booths with the beverage of our choice -- for free!

The hosts also treated customers like guests -- with free gift wrapping services, $1.00 per minute chair massages, three raffle drawings, free-will offering lunch, a bake sale, and soft Christmas music. 

When I ran my final tally, I realized this was by far my best craft show of the year -- and my second-best overall.

Icing on the cake -- I came home to find 3 new Etsy orders in my queue! (December sales numbers had been depressingly slow after a tiny positive blip on Black Friday through Cyber Monday.)

A good day -- and a ray of hope!  Now there's something to celebrate!


Tuesday, December 2, 2014

T Minus 4 Days and Counting!

It's Shameless Commerce Tuesday, and my tinsel's in a tizzy as I frantically prepare for my last craft fair of the season.  I'm sewing in overdrive. 


Saturday, December 6, 2014
9:00 am - 2:00 pm
Crestwood Christian Church
8000 A Street
Lincoln, NE 68510

My best show ever was at this venue in 2012, so I'm cautiously optimistic. I'll be stocking up on stocking stuffers and a few seasonal items.

Did you participate in Fall craft fairs?  Will you be vending at holiday-themed events?