Friday, January 29, 2010

Blog Carnival: Snowflakes

Taking a break from the routine to post another blog carnival (almost missed this one! Eep!). This one is all about snowflakes!

One of the options was to write about our favorite way to make snowflakes, which immediately made me go, "Ooh!" Remember those paper snowflakes you learned how to make in art class back in elementary school? Actually, show of hands, who did learn how to make them? I learned last winter that, contrary to what I would have thought, this is not a universal part of the elementary school art class curriculum.

It should be. They're easy and they're fun and the end product is always beautiful and unique--just like real snowflakes. And there's just something about the whole process of making them... It's almost meditative. Or it is to me, anyway. I don't know. Maybe I take my snowflake-making too seriously. =P

There's something about teaching people how to make snowflakes too. I taught my little sister a few years ago, and it kept me smiling for days as she made snowflake after snowflake and proudly showed me the results. And she's gone on to teach others. It's amazing how the snowflake-making love just naturally seems to spread...

Now, if I'd been on top of things and had a bit more time to work on it, I'd be posting a little snowflake how-to here. Maybe I'll make that my next Tuesday tutorial...

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Busy Day Update

Whew.  It's been a busy couple of days.  I got off to a late start yesterday, but then I spent the rest of the day beading and crocheting and taking pictures and editing pictures... I totally forgot about my blog post. And then today I got up and took some more pictures, did some more editing, got my donation to Hearts for Haiti sent in... I was thinking I would write up today's post after lunch. But while I was eating, my email notifier made its little noise at me, I bounced over to check it, and huzzah! A sale!

So instead of working on my blog post, I've been working on a custom banner order. And as I've been working so hard, I thought I'd be a bit lazy and just post something short. And all about me. =P

Besides, I wanted to let my lovely readers know that I'm running a special on this baby...

which is currently featured on the Craftomania Toolbar I told you about in my last post AND on The T-shirt Lady's blog! About which I am ten kinds of excited. My very first blog feature! Yay!

But I digress. To celebrate, I've reduced the price and, for the rest of the week, shipping is free! So if you've been eyeballing this one, now is the time to grab it!

Me? I'm off to work some new items that shall soon be gracing the shop! See you tomorrow!

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Techno Tuesday: The Craftomania Toolbar

Happy Tuesday, Folks! If you’re a regular visitor here, you may have noticed a bit of a change. That’s right, today is Techno Tuesday rather than Tutorial Tuesday. Now don’t get me wrong. I love posting tutorials, and I shall continue to do so, but it recently occurred to me just how many different bits of software I use to help me stay organized and keep track of my business. I figured there are plenty of folks out there like myself, who could use a little help in the organizational department. So I’ll be highlighting a different program or tool every Techno Tuesday, beginning today with the Craftomania toolbar.

I’m always a bit leery of toolbars. Everyone wants you to use their’s, and they always seem to be trying to sneak into your browser with other programs. And once they’re there, do you ever really use them? You might it they were all like Craftomania’s toolbar. I mean, it’s a toolbar just for crafty folks. Could it get any better?

Oh, it could. If you’re an Etsy seller, it’s also a promotional tool. As a matter of fact, that’s how I first encountered it. I came across a forum post about a new way to promote. My enthusiasm waned when I saw that it was a toolbar. I posted my information for possible promotion and left it at that. For a few days, at least. And then curiosity finally got the better of me. C’moooon, said that nagging little internal voice. It’s a crafty toolbar. It might actually be cool!

So I went and found the link, installed the toolbar… And was immediately impressed. For one thing, it looks nice:

*Note: If you’re using the toolbar in Firefox and you’re using Personas, you’ll have to use a lighter colored Persona to keep things looking nice. On darker backgrounds, there’s a ring of white pixels around each graphic that may or may not actually bother you all that much.

There’s a lot of content there, but the bar doesn’t look cluttered at all. And I like the little circular graphics. I can’t really say anything about the color because it changes from week to week, which ties in with the promotional aspect of the toolbar.

Every week or so, the toolbar changes colors and a new thread is posted in the Etsy forums, where folks can post a link to any items they may have in their shop fitting the color theme. Those items are then added to a special tab on the toolbar. Like so…

The “blog” tab, as you may have guessed, features blogs. A long list of blogs you could spend ages reading.  And if you'd like to have your own blog added to the list, you need but ask, which you can do at right here on the Etsy forums.

And if that’s not enough promotion for you, there is a whole list of other places to promote right there on the toolbar. I haven’t done any real experimenting yet, but these sites all look pretty cool.

This is what I really love about the toolbar. It offers such a wealth of resources to explore—promotional opportunities, social networks, and more tools than you can shake a stick at. And when you find yourself using a particular resource all the time, you have a handy link right there. All you have to do is click.

That may not seem like much. I mean, really. You can type, right? Sure. But take the Etsy forums, for instance. I don’t have the URL for the forums memorized. I wouldn’t want to type it all, if I did. So normally I would just go Etsy and click on Community and then click on forums… Just a couple of clicks, but I have to wait for pages to load in between, which can take some time if you’re not blessed with a super-speedy connection. The toolbar, on the other hand, gives me a link right to the forums. One click. A small timesaver, but all those seconds saved add up.

And if you should find, in time, that there tabs you never use, you can go to your toolbar options and hide them. You can shrink the toolbar so it takes up less space. Or on the opposite end of the spectrum, you can add other potentially useful tools (I’ve just added the e-mail notifier).

All in all, the Craftomania toolbar is just downright nifty and quite handy to have around. I strongly encourage my fellow Etsians—even the toolbar-haters—to give it a shot.

You can grab it right here. Let me know what you think!

ETA:  Links are fixed!  Sorry about that, folks...

Monday, January 25, 2010

Monday Motivator: Hearts for Haiti

I've never done any sort of crafting for charity. It's one of those things I've always wanted to do and meant to do, but I've just never gotten around to doing it. And I can't help but think that I'm not alone in that. Many of us have good intentions, but it's easy for them to get lost amongst the odds and ends of our own busy lives.

We don't have cable or satellite or even an antenna--DVD's and videos only in our house--so the only news I get is headlines on my phone and what I come across here on the internet. So two weeks ago, when the earthquake struck Haiti, I was sitting here completely unaware until I decided to check my phone and saw the headline. And then throughout the day and the rest of the week, I watched charitable acts and organizations popping up all over the place, like flowers in spring.

There has been much buzz on the Etsy forums about what we crafty folk can do to help, and there have been plenty of efforts organized by our fellow Etsians. One of the first I came across was Hearts for Haiti.

This is an awesome shop that sells items--many of which are heart-themed--that have been donated by Etsy sellers. 100% of the proceeds (minus the Etsy and Paypal fees) goes to Doctors Without Borders, which is a fantastic organization itself, and if you aren't already familiar with them, you really should go take a look at their site. Hearts for Haiti has already raised over $16,000 and is still going strong.

I decided as soon as I saw the shop that I was going to donate something, and after some thought, I decided to design a piece specifically for them. A little wire-work, a little stringing, and here's what I came up with:

A Heart for Haiti

Working on this has got me thinking it's about time I dug out that list of crafty charities and got to work. What about you? Have you done any crafty donations? Got a favorite crafty charity? Leave a comment and let me know. I may just make this a weekly feature...

Friday, January 22, 2010

Follower Feature Friday: Dongedy

Happy Friday, folks! Today's featured follower is the fantastic Dongedy, a truly unique photographer who specializes in miniatures.

It's hard to describe Dongedy's art in words, other than to say that it's wonderfully creative--a bit quirky, rather humorous, and sure to make you smile. So, allow me to show you a few of my favorites...

This one is called "Sin of Gluttony," and looking at it, I can't help but imagine myself as a tiny climber, scaling a jar of Nutella. Oh, yes. Much gluttony would be committed...

On one hand, this could be a viewed as a more serious piece making a statement about the medical field's dependence on drugs. On the other hand, it just makes me chuckle. I would love to see this hanging in a waiting room...

This would be a great Valentine's gift for your favorite heartbreaker. Or maybe an anti-Valentine's gift. Or maybe just a generally awesome gift for someone who appreciates a great visual pun.

I'm going to stop typing now, and you're going to go check out Dongedy's shop, right? Right.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Thursday Threads: Ballet Beauties

Happy Thursday, Folks! First off, I want to share a little something I whipped up the other day...

Copellia Necklace

It's not in the shop yet because, well, this one is mine (I always keep the "prototype"), and I ran out of chain.

I decided to name this one Coppelia. The pink and white made me think of tutus and toe shoes, and though I think it's rather elegant, there's also a certain playfulness to it. It's ballet with a sense of humor. Like Coppelia.

I love ballet. And I love fashions influenced by the art. Hence, today's Thursday Threads features ballet-inspired items (in shades of pink to match my pearls *wink*).

One of the first ballet-inspired fashions that springs to mind is ballet flats. DeBonisOrquera has whole shop full of these lovely shoes, many of which are made in bright, fun colors and patterns that are more "bold" than "ballet." But there are softer, sweeter styles as well, such as dear Helen here...

I just love these! The color scheme gives them a distinctly "ballet" feel, but the pattern makes them modern and just a little funky. They would go just as well with a t-shirt and jeans as they would with a pretty, pink dress. Or your leotard and tights.

Speaking of pretty things to wear your new shoes, how about this gorgeous tank from clairelafaye:

This just looks like it came straight from the stage, doesn't it? That shade of pink, those ruffles, that bow... And for a dash of unexpected glitz, that rhinestone pin and chains. Magnifique! And to think it all started with a simple tank top... This is but one example of clairelafaye's beautiful designs. Be sure to check the rest of the shop too!

Now, then. I bet you're expecting a tutu, aren't you? I have to be honest. I did consider it. There are some truly lovely tutus floating around the Estysphere, after all. But in the end, I decided to go with something a bit less obvious and a bit more practical. Like this beautiful skirt from lauralyn:

I love the colors and the pattern and the "poofability" of this skirt. It's shown here on its own, but it could also be worn with a petticoat for that wonderfully fluffy, cupcake-y look. Check out the rest of lauralyn's shop for this same print in dress form, more wonderfully "poofable" skirts, and plenty of other adorable items.

I'm gonna go pirouette my way to the kitchen to have some of the scones I baked this morning! Au revoir!

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Wicked Wednesday: Creepy Crochet

Okay, so it's not really creepy, per se. I just like alliteration. And all of these crocheted creations do have a certain gothic flair. And you thought crochet was just for Granny's afghans! You didn't really, did you?!

Oh, no, my friends. It's also for... jewelry? You bet! Just check out this gorgeous crocheted choker from FlowersbyIrene:

Isn't it amazing? Great for any elegant occasion, but it would truly be the perfect Gothic wedding accessory. There's also a white version for the more traditional bride, as well as lots of other beautiful crocheted accessories. Check it out!

You know what would go great with that choker? These gloves from crochetize:

I know I said the same thing about the last item, but aren't these amazing? So detailed! So elegant! So fantastically well-made! Go pay crochetize a visit. She has a few other pairs of gloves in her shop, and each one is just as gorgeous as these.

I always like to see something for the wee baby gothlings of the world, and these have to be one of the cutest items of that description I've ever seen:

I love these. I love the little skulls. I love that they look like Crocs. And I love that they take the tradition of crocheted baby booties to a new, modern, goth-ish level. Awesome!

Nahvrianna has these in other colors, as well, if you're not of the "drab is fab" mindset. And if you're not really gothly at all I don't know why you're reading this she has lots of other adorable booties too, as well as patterns, if you'd like to make your own.

Now, then. On to today's bonus item! This one isn't actually crocheted itself, but it is crochet-related. And it's so cool I just couldn't resist.

This puts my nice-but-kinda-boring-maroon-pleather-came-with-the-hooks case to shame! Aren't those little button-eyed skulls and scissor-crossbones just the greatest? And the best part? This is just one of many awesome designs Slipped Stitch Studios has to offer. There are plenty of other cool needle/hook wraps as well as project bags and oodles of other accessories for we knitters and hookers.

All right, my fiendish friends. That's it from me today. Have you got a cool, creepy crocheted item to share? Leave me a comment. I'd love to see it!

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Tutorial Tuesday: Make Your Own Etsy Banner

Happy Tuesday, folks! I've been thinking of trying my own video tutorial for a while now, and I finally got around to doing it last week. As my greatest expertise lies with graphics, I decided to do a simple banner tutorial (This also was something I could do with one hand, leaving me with a free hand to operate the camera. Handy. =P).

Overall, I'm quite happy with it. I got a bit ramble-y in places, trying to fill the silence while I did things, and my phone decided to honk at me in the middle of things. But hey, this is an amateur tutorial video, not fine cinema.

So. Watch, enjoy, and let me know what you think! If there's interest, I'm willing to do this in text and images, as well. I know that would be easier to follow for some...

Make Your Own Etsy Banner with GIMP: Part 1 from The Ash Grove on Vimeo.

Make Your Own Etsy Banner with GIMP: Part 2 from The Ash Grove on Vimeo.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Thursday Threads: NicoDesigns

I suppose it could be argued that handbags don't technically fall under the category of apparel, but the title of this feature is Thursday Threads, and threads and fabric are most certainly involved here.  Also, it's my blog.  =P

So.  Without further ado, let me introduce you to today's featured Etsian, NicoDesigns, who makes some truly awesome totes and handbags, the most adorable baby shoes, and pretty pincushions and pillows, as well. 

Here are a few of my favorites:

Isn't this pretty? I love the colors (I've discovered I have a big thing for blue and brown together...), and the size would be perfect for all sorts of things. It's listed as a diaper bag--and a very stylish one it would be--but it would also be a great school bag or for my fellow knitters/crocheters, I think it would be great for those on-the-go projects.

Things like this make me wish I had a baby to dress. Aren't these just the cutest? And they're eco-friendly too! They're made with a recycled felt product and 100% cotton flannel. Oooh, flannel. Gosh, I wouldn't mind having some flannel-lined slippers for myself... Hey, Nico! Any plans for adult sizes? =P

How cute are these? And versatile. They have ribbon loops, so you could hang them as ornaments. They'd look lovely just sitting on a shelf. Or you could use them as pin cushions! I personally think a whole set of pin cushions would be a very handy thing to have. Then I could have one for every room, which would totally eliminate the "oh darn I left my pincushion in the other room guess I'll just stick these pins in the arm of the couch" syndrome.

But I digress. There are many, many more adorable items to be found in Nico's shop, so go take a look! And be sure to check out her blog, as well! NicoDesigns is this month's featured Etsy Blogger!

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Looking Forward

If you've been following my blog, you may have noticed a few changes--such as the addition of a second sidebar (Finally figured that out!  Yay!) and some new graphics related to the Etsy Bloggers Team.  Yup, I have officially joined my very first Etsy team, and I am all kinds of excited!

So I'm deviating from my normal schedule today to write my first Blog Carnival entry, answering the question: "Now that 2010 is here, what do you have planned/look forward to/hope to accomplish this year?"

The first answer that springs to mind is, "So very much!"  I have so many ideas bouncing around I could probably ramble for pages.  Which, might be interesting, but also time-consuming.  So I'll narrow it down to a nice, neat list...

Plans for 2010
  • Experiment with quilting.  I've always loved quilts.  My great grandma made the most fantastic patchwork quilts out of old clothes that she cut into little squares and sewed entirely by hand.  They were the warmest, coziest things in the world.  I used to watch quilting shows on PBS almost every day, and came to know quite a bit about how quilts are constructed.  But for some reason, I've just never gotten around to trying it out for myself.  But the crafty muses recently gifted me with what I think is an awesome and rather unique idea for a series of quilts, and I intend to get to work just as soon as I compile all of the necessary materials...
  • Play with polymer clay.  There's a necklace design that's been sitting in my sketchbook for a few months now waiting for me to get the beads and decide how to make the pendant.  I finally decided to use polymer clay and, coincidentally, not long thereafter, I was given a book about stamping polymer clay, which gave me all sorts of other ideas.  I fell in love with poly-clay a few years ago when I started costuming (it's great for all sorts of small props and such), and I've always wanted to experiment with it in other contexts but, like quilting, I've just never gotten around to it.  Apparently, this is to be the year of "Things I Never Got Around To Before."
  • Make some dolls.  I've recently developed a fascination with sock dolls, plushies, amigurumi, and other such forms of "soft" dolls.  I actually made a small stuffed moose back in my junior high home ec. class.  It was a rather frustrating experience, but the teacher and I did not get on well, so the atmosphere was probably more to blame for that than the moose itself.  So I am not deterred.  Though, I do believe some sort of amigurumi will be my first venture.  I also must add that I am utterly in love with sock dolls.  If I can work out a way to make myself a sock squirrel, my life will be complete.
  • Make some soap!  I started fiddling with soap-making a few years ago, and made some lovely melt-and-pour glycerin soaps that I gave as Christmas presents to all the ladies in my family.  They were quite easy and lots of fun, but what I really wanted to try--what started that whole venture, to begin with--was cold process soap-making (the real deal, with lye and all that jazz).  I always did enjoy chemistry...  I think the whole process appeals to my inner mad scientist.  Regardless, I never got around to it back then, and I haven't thus far mostly because of all the equipment I needed to compile (being broke does not make that easy =P).  But I recently came across something that offers the best of both worlds:  soap shreds!  Basically, these are cold process soap that's been shredded and can thus be melted, dyed, scented, and poured into molds, much like glycerin.  How cool is that?  I already have ideas for a few different "scent collections," and I'd love to add a bath and body line to my shop this year (or maybe start a second shop--I'm debating). 
Well, look at that.  I rambled anyway.  Ah, well.  Those are my major crafty plans for this year.  I have many other, less-interesting-to-write-about business/marketing plans and goals, as well.  All in all, it's going to be a busy year!

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Tutorial Tuesday: Jeweled Mini Boxes

Howdy, folks!  In case you hadn't already guessed, we were having computer troubles again yesterday.  But I'm back today with a great tutorial by ellesbeads.  If you're looking for a fun, stylish way to store your findings, seed beads, all those tiny little odds and ends, check out her video tutorial and learn how to make some adorable jeweled boxes.  They'd make great gift boxes for smaller items as well, methinks...

Friday, January 8, 2010

Follower Feature Friday: Eco Creations

Happy Friday, Folks!  Hope you're all enjoying yours.  We're having a snowy one here, but that's okay.  I view it as a great excuse to stay inside and drink lots of hot chocolate! 

And, of course, catch up on things like my blogging.  It feels like it's been ages since I did a Follower Feature...  But I'm jumping back in the saddle with this post, featuring the lovely EcoCreations!

If you're into eco-friendly, nature-inspired designs, you simply must check out Eco Creations.  While they're focus is on hemp and beaded jewelry, they also feature other accessories and home decor (there aren't any listed at the moment, but they do some awesome hemp rugs).  And the best part?  Not only is everything in the shop beautiful, but it's all made with vegan, domestically-made, and/or recycled materials. And they offer free shipping in the US!  Here's just a sample of what they have to offer...

Unique Hemp Jewelry

I don't think I've ever seen hemp combined with sterling silver before, but isn't gorgeous?  If you don't think hemp jewelry can be elegant, take another look at this picture.  And then go check out the rest of the shop, because this is just one example.

Elegant Earrings

Maybe hemp just really isn't your thing.  No worries.  Eco Creations has lots of not-hemp-but-still-eco-friendly jewelry too.  Like these beautiful, graceful earrings, featuring mother-of-pearl coins that were not harvested from live oysters.  No need for your earrings to fight with your ethics!

Beautiful Beaded Bracelets

Eco Creations has all sorts of beautiful bracelets of both the hemp and beaded variety, ranging from austere and elegant to fun and funky.  So choosing one was difficult, but the name of this one caught my eye.  Sugarplum.  What a perfect name!  It really does remind me of a bunch of sugarplums all strung together.  It's one part Serious Plum Business, two parts Sugary Dancing Fun.  I love it!

And all that talk of sugarplums has made me hungry...  I'm off to raid the after-Christmas candy stash.  You go pay a visit to Eco Creations!

Want a chance to be featured here?  Come follow me!

Thursday, January 7, 2010

A bit of gushing

Well, folks, my blogging vacation turned out to be a bit longer than I had intended...  Our internet has been flaky all week, so I haven't been able to get online to post.  My apologies.  Hope you haven't missed me too much. ;)

Of course, I haven't been able to do my usual browsing around Etsy either, so I'm going to skip today's feature and do a bit of gushing instead.  All of these folks not only have great shops; they're also just awesome people.

Like ellesbeads.  Elle makes jewelry that's very beautiful and very affordable.  Like these gorgeous earrings.  Aren't they amazing?  And she's just a sweet person, to boot. 

So is christinemarieford.  Christine specializes in jewelry, quilting, and fiber art.  And I must say, I'm just in love with her work.  All of her pieces are truly unique and utterly beautiful.  It's hard to choose a favorite, but if I absolutely had to, I think I'd have to go with this choker.  It's just stunning!

And while we're on the subject of jewelry, you should be seeing some new pieces from me soon.  Kitty was kind enough to buy me some gorgeous pearls and jade from BeadsAndPearls and I just can't wait to do something with them.  If I manage to make something half as beautiful as the necklace she bought from them, I'll be happy.

But for now, I'm off to catch up on some other things and throw some dishes in the dishwasher before our pipes decide to freeze.  It's cold.  *shivers*