Mar 12

android apps for crafters

A few weeks ago, we shared 9 crafty apps for iPhone owners, but we didn’t want to leave the Android owners high and dry! Do you wish you could craft even when you’re on your smartphone? Here are a few apps for crafty minds that will keep you near to your crafts even when you’re on the go. We’ve added links for each one so you can get to downloading right away!

Top Android Phone Apps for Crafters:

 

 

Michaels App

1. Michaels

Creativity is only a click away! Make crafting even easier with mobile access to your favorite Michaels products, projects and events. Also scan their QR codes and see deals and coupons that can be used right off your phone!

Cost: FREE

Read the rest of this entry »

Feb 14

smartphone apps for crafters

Do you wish you could craft even when you’re on your smartphone? Here are a few apps for crafty minds that will keep you near to your crafts even when you’re on the go. I’ve added links for each one so you can get to downloading right away! Not on an iPhone? Check out our 9 awesome craft apps for Android owners!

Top Phone Apps for Crafters:

 

craftgawker

Craftgawker

Craftgawker is a collective resource of inspirational images and projects to inspire your crafting. The app lets you scroll through hundreds of thumbnail images to get inspired, and you can just click on any to read more about it or visit the original posting. If you sign up for a craftgawker account, you can even save your favorites on the app for later looking. This sounds like a great way to kill time while waiting at an appointment, and get inspired at the same time. Your only problem will be picking which projects to make!

Price: FREE

Read the rest of this entry »

Dec 13

Turning Ebooks into Gifts

This week over at CraftyPod, my good friend Sister Diane is posting an fun series about turning an ebook into a cool gift.  She’s posting one idea for the next five days for turning your ebook into a tangible gift, including such awesome ideas as printing an ebook and binding it, or presenting a CD or thumb drive creatively.

Sister Diane always has fabulous articles and ideas, so I can’t wait to see what she has to share.

Go check out Part 1 now, and look for the rest of this series every day this week!

#Crafterminds Craft Blogging Twitter Chat

Some friends and I have started a craft blogging Twitter chat. Our first session was last week, and it was really amazing. Over 50 craft bloggers got together and shared their best tips for blogging. This week, we’re talking about Photography.

Here are the details:

Date and Time: (TODAY) Monday, December 13th at 1pm PST/4pm EST
Topic: Craft Blog Photography – are you wondering how to take a great picture of your craft project?  Do you want tips and tricks for making your current camera work for you?  Questions about photo editing?  We’ve got the 4-1-1 this coming Monday.
Moderator: @crafterminds
Hashtag: #crafterminds

Craft Blogging Experts – follow us all!
Amy from Mod Podge Rocks, @modpodgerocks
Heather from Dollar Store Crafts, @dollarcraft (moderating as @crafterminds this week)
Beckie from Infarrantly Creative, @infarrantly
Jen from Tatertots and Jello, @jenjentrixie

Special Guest: Amy Locurto (@LivingLocurto) from I Heart Faces and Living Locurto.  Her blog photography rocks, and we know she’ll have some great advice.

If you’ve never participated in a Twitter chat, they are great fun.  Here are some resources to help you get started:
What is a Twitter Tweet Chat?
How to Participate

They go pretty fast, so Tweet Chat is a great website to follow the conversation.  We hope to see you Monday!

Find out more at Crafterminds.

Jun 30

Last week(ish) I went to the Summit of Awesome, a conference about crafting and the business of crafting that was held in Portland by Hello Craft. I was there for Day 2, and I spent my entire day in the Make Something Awesome area, making awesome stuff and getting in on the craft workshops. I know, as a craft business blogger, I really should have been in the business sessions, but as a compulsive maker, I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to make stuff for a whole day.

Here’s Talley Sue of Schweet Schtuff (sorry no link) embroidering a Sublime Stitching dachsund pattern, while I am sewing my upholstery sample backpack. Photo lifted from Hello Craft.

Sister Diane of Craftypod wrote a fabulous article on what it felt like to be at Summit of Awesome. I love this:

In the online craft community, we’re abundant in many things – connection, conversation, inspiration. Our only real scarcity is face-time… And even in a city with insanely abundant resources like Portland, so many events seem to be centered more around selling crafts than making them – or discussing them, or learning from each other, or hanging out.

The last sentence made me smile because I met Sister Diane back when she ran Church of Craft Portland, a for-crafting party held once a month. Those were good times. Getting together and crafting together is sooo much better than having an online-only relationship. I mean, I love the internets, but I love hanging out with real peeps even more.

Debbie helps us screenprint our Summit of Awesome t-shirts

Summit of Awesome Takeaways

My award-winning craft throwdown project: theme: Dinosaurs (Land of the Lost); material: felted sweaters. The Hello Crafters donated it to this needy waiter at Kennedy School. Photo by cernest.

I took away a lot of crafts (remember, I was making stuff for an entire day): screenprinted shirts, a beaded necklace and earrings from Susan Beal‘s jewelry workshop, a Mighty Ugly doll from Kim Werker’s Mighty Ugly workshop, an upholstery sample backpack I hand-sewed on my own at the Make Something Awesome table, three hilarious craftacular creations from the Crafty Throwdown (and one book and award badge from winning a round with my Dinosaur banner), and some goodies from the crafty white elephant party.

The friendships I made were even more memorable than all the swag I scored. (I stole this pic from Kim Werker.)

Hanging out with people who “get” what I do and love to do is so nice! Usually when I’m in mixed company, I don’t talk about what I do because it’s just so awkward to watch people try to comprehend crafting and blogging for love (and money). When you find like-minded crafty people, it’s such a relief to talk to them and just hang out, knowing they’ll get why you’re sewing upholstery samples into a backpack.

Heidi and Vanessa work on plush fortune cookies

What I Missed:

A lot. I was only there for a day, and there were so many things going on, I missed most of what was going on the day I was there. I really wish I could have been there for the whole event! Next year, I will be (and hopefully you will be too!)

Highlights for me (besides crafting all day):

  • meeting Heidi Kenney of My Paper Crane (also a longtime online friend from way back in the day) and hearing her talk about her business
  • listening to craftnote speakers Pat and Aaron of Buy Olympia (shucks, I didn’t even KNOW they were in Portland now) – funny, highly interesting history of their business
  • following Kim Werker around like a puppy
  • competing against other star crafters in the crafty throwdown (15 minutes is NOT a long time to put together a project, you guys!)
  • Amanda Siska‘s zombie headband (I don’t know if there’s a photo of that anywhere, but it was sheer genius)
  • being at Kennedy School, a dream venue for this event. Seriously amazing.
  • hanging out with local crafters I know, but don’t get to hang out with often enough (including doing the crafty throwdown at the same table as Leethal)
  • listening to the backstories of Mighty Ugly figures by their creators (specifically Vanessa‘s creation: Blaine)

You can be part of the community too:



Upcoming Conference: This was such a great experience. I highly recommend participation in the Summit of Awesome, or a similar gathering of like crafty minds. Here’s an upcoming opportunity: Conference of Creative Entrepreneurs happening August 13-15 in Seattle. Be there!

Become a Member: Also, I became a member of Hello Craft (a craft-business trade association), and you should too! They did such an amazing job on the SOA, and I have the utmost belief that they could turn into a huge asset for us in the craft community with a little more support (they are already an asset, by the way… but they have HUGE potential as a galvanizing force for us “indie crafters.”)

Additional Resources:

Jun 25

In my last article, Just Say No to Spec Work, Dave asked:

Ever heard of spec in regards to techies? How about when someone you’ve known all your life asks you to “help” them with a little CSS or HTML? Is this spec?

First of all, let me just clarify that the reason for my last article wasn’t to scare you away from doing free work. There are lots of times when it’s a great idea to work for free. You should weigh each request for free work and try to determine what the reason behind the request is, and also whether or not you are willing to do the work for free. A lot of times, even legit requests for free work aren’t something you should agree to. It just depends on the situation.

to do mug

photo by jessica wilson, her blog

For example, I love to write. I do it for free for others all the time. However, if you are an auto mechanic and you ask me to write a blog for your site for free, I probably wouldn’t do it because I don’t know anything about that topic, and gaining exposure on that blog wouldn’t benefit me or the business I am trying to build. Or maybe you are starting up a craft blog (which is related to what I do) and you want me to guest post. I might refuse your request because I don’t know you, or your blog has no entries yet, and I have no idea what I am affiliating myself with, or I don’t have time right now.

The magazine that wanted me to submit a craft article for “possible inclusion” in their magazine wasn’t offering me anything. I didn’t even have a guarantee that my project would appear in their magazine or on their website. They just wanted people to do hours of work and hand it over so they could pick their favorite articles and get killer content with no work or money extended on their part. This is a core principle of the content contest model, by the way (logo design contests, etc.) — to get people to do a ton of work in vain hope that their work will be singled out and they’ll win a “prize.” (In this magazine’s case, the “prize” was that a few people would have their project featured in the magazine with credit to them, plus possibly appear on the magazine’s website.)

I just think it’s kind of shameful when a big corporation who I have no personal relationship with expects me to work for them for free. Even when they tempt me with “free exposure,” generally THEY are the ones getting the best end of the deal. Sometimes “free exposure” is the only currency someone has to barter with, but in the case of a magazine with a budget for each issue, this is not the case. They are just trying to get something for nothing.

subvert the system mug

photo by lee meredith, her blog

Dave, someone very important in my life is the family tech support (for everyone in his entire family, including parents & siblings), and while it can be inconvenient, tiring, or annoying, he pretty much always does it. And he wouldn’t accept any payment in return. I think any time you want to help ANYONE for free, it’s totally fine. Obviously, you are more likely to help family and friends for free.

I am even fine with you doing free work for other for-profit ventures (like if you helped with CSS or HTML for someone you know, even if you only “know” them via the internet). Helping others when it’s within your power to do so is beneficial in many ways. Putting good stuff out into the universe is never a bad idea. Maybe I’ll write about that next time!

So back to your question specifically. If someone you know asks you to help them with a little CSS or HTML, check yourself (“search your feelings, Dave.”) Do you feel resentful that they asked you to work for free? Are you going to help them for free, but feel begrudging about it? If they offered to pay you, would you feel better? If you are happy to do it for no pay, then go for it. If you aren’t happy to do it for free, then tell them that you can’t afford to do two hours of work for free, but you’ll do it for <insert the price that will make you feel good about it here>. Or if they have something you want (like, an advertising spot on their website or a mention that you helped them with a tech problem on their blog, and your contact info), then maybe you can barter for your services. Lots of times you can come to an arrangement that is mutually beneficial, even if no actual money is exchanged.

Now if that fictional auto mechanic who wanted me to write a free blog for her* offers to trade her mechanic services or a discount in exchange for my blogging, I would probably take her up on that.

reclaimed mustache mug
photo by amanda siska, her blog, reclaimed mugs

*see what I did there, I flipped your expectations.

Jun 22


I recently received an email request. This is not the first of such requests I’ve received, nor will it be the last. Perhaps you received the same request (or have received a similar one in the past). This request asked me for a spec article to be published in a print magazine. Spec in this case means working for free for little or no benefit to myself or my website.

There is a time and a place to work for free. Some of my friends have talked about the benefits of working for free, but this, my friends, THIS is not one of those situations.

Here, read the email yourself. I have edited the note to remove any direct references to the person or the publication. My edits are in brackets and italicized <like this>. I have also bolded parts of the note that I want you to pay special attention to.

–begin email–

Hi, Heather:

I am an editor at <Large National> magazine and a fan of your blog; hope you’re well. For our <Christmas Themed> special issue, which is on newsstands September 28 through December 28, I am putting together a story that features Christmas crafts made by bloggers. I would love for you to be a part of the story, if you’re interested.

In a nutshell, I’m reaching out to bloggers I admire and inviting you to submit a craft for possible inclusion* in the story. Of the submissions, we’ll ultimately choose about six designs to photograph.** The published story will include step-by-step instructions for creating the craft at home, as well as give full credit to you and your site for the idea.

I’m sure it won’t surprise you that our readers love easy, very doable and not intimidating crafts. Of course, the prettier and simpler, the better (one of our favorite crafts was a pine cone made out of felt and wooden beads), and any time an item can be used in a surprising way, the readers love it (for example, we’re doing a story about crafts you can make using candy in an upcoming issue).

If you’re interested in submitting a craft, I would need to have it here in our offices no later than Monday, June 21. And while, unfortunately, due to budget constraints, I cannot pay for the idea or reimburse for supplies***, I can certainly send you a UPS slip so that you can ship the craft to me free of charge. We’ll be putting the story* on our website, <LargeNationalMagazine.com>, as well, so I’m sure there will be additional opportunities for cross-promotion; the only thing I’d ask is that you wait to run the craft on your own site until our story hits stands.

That’s my pitch. Hope you’re interested, and happy to answer any questions you may have. Thanks so much for your time!

Best,
<Magazine Writer/Editor>

end email–

*possible inclusion, the story = they are asking me for spec work – a craft project with photos and written instructions – that MIGHT appear in their publication, but there is no guarantee that my work will be featured
**we’ll ultimately choose about six designs to photograph = again, a request for spec work that results in a lottery wherein the most suitable craft projects will be featured. The creators of these craft projects will receive “full credit”
***unfortunately, due to budget constraints, I cannot pay for the idea or reimburse for supplies = this magazine knows it doesn’t have to pay for ideas because people will submit free ideas just for the chance to be published. I wonder how many people will happily submit their ideas?

This magazine has a circulation of over 400,000 and a readership of over 2 million. Shame on this major publication for asking for spec work from hard-working bloggers.


photo by See-ming Lee

What is Spec?

According to No!Spec,

“Spec” has become the short form for any work done on a speculative basis. In other words, any requested work for which a fair and reasonable fee has not been agreed upon, preferably in writing.

There’s a movement that is well-known in graphic design circles known as “No Spec.” Basically, it’s never a good idea to do speculative work for no pay. Now, I think there is a time and place for spec work within certain circles. I think there are certain instances where doing spec work (such as a guest blog post) can be beneficial to both parties and can “pay” in different ways than monetary. Check Sister Diane’s article “What IS in it for you?” for more discussion on deciding when to participate in a non-paying opportunity.

When There’s Nothing In It For You

Yes, there are occasions when you might want to participate in a spec job, however, when a for-profit corporation that employs dozens or hundreds of people asks me to do free work for them because “they don’t have the budget,” I excuse myself and run away as fast as I can. If they don’t value content highly enough to budget for it, then their priorities are seriously screwed up and I don’t want to be affiliated with them in any way.

This request for free content showed me how this particular Old Media publication absolutely doesn’t respect New Media. Just because I’m online creating my own corner of the web and pouring in hours of work and sweat for virtually no money doesn’t mean I’d be glad to give you my hard work for nothing. I’m not such a rube that I’ll give into your request just because I’m flattered. And I’ll admit, I am flattered. Any time I get an email from a PR company or an editor (any level) of a print magazine, or someone connected with Old Media, my first impulse is to feel flattered. And then when I read further, I am either happy to discover that this particular member of Old Media values my work and is prepared to pay me for it, or disgusted to find out that they admire me enough to approach me, but not enough to pay for my “virtual” content to become hard-copy content.

There’s a reason why Old Media is becoming old.

What I Said to <Large National Magazine>

–begin email–

Hi <Person Who Approached Me>,

Thanks for thinking of me. At this point, I can’t do any projects on spec for no money. Let me know if you ever need any paid craft project articles!

Heather

–end email–

I wanted to write a lot more. My complete response is this blog post!

The Good Magazine Request

I should also say, as a happy postscript to this situation, that this week I got another email from another Old Media print magazine editor, who offered me money to reprint an idea from my blog. Money for content already created. Now THERE’S the example of one right way to approach bloggers for content.

Note to Old Media: I would also be happy to create new content for an editor who offers to pay me for my work.

(free hugs)

top photo: photo by kalandrakas

May 25

It’s time for summer craft fairs, everyone! Here are some tips for planning your craft fair experience: things to think about before you go, tips that will make your booth better and more effective, how to market to people who shop at your booth, and ways to make your craft fair-ing more pleasant.

Craft Show Resources:

Other Random Love:

May 18

Last year, I introduced you to using Twitter for your business, and this year Twitter has gained even more popularity. If you’re not tweeting, you are missing out on a valuable opportunity to connect with your customers. (I said “customers” because whether you are just blogging for love, or making stuff to sell, or whatever your objective for being online is, someone has to be buying what you’re selling, even if what you’re selling is free!)

Okay, so you have a Twitter account and you know how to use it. As an intermediate Twitter user, there are things you should know about interacting with your tweeps (that’s Twitter slang for your friends on Twitter). These suggestions apply to your personal tweets as well as tweets for your business.

Retweeting:

Thanks for the RT: When someone retweets you, it’s nice to thank them if you get a chance. This isn’t required, but it builds goodwill and encourages others to RT you.

DM your thanks: It’s okay to thank one or two people in a row, but if you are going to post 45 “thanks for the RT” tweets in a row, you should Direct Message (DM) the ones you can. (You can only DM people who you subscribe to who also subscribe to you.) Your other readers don’t want to wade through a huge stream of repetitive tweets from you.

Comment with your RT: If you have room, include a short comment on why you are retweeting. Something like

great tutorial! RT @dollarcraft How to Make a Beaded Chandelier http://bit.ly/di3LMF

is fine, but a more specific comment is even better. How about

so Anthropologie! RT @dollarcraft How to Make a Beaded Chandelier http://bit.ly/di3LMF

RT whenever you want: Retweeting good links, info, or amusing content is fine. If you’re a good curator, your readers will value your retweets.

But don’t only RT: People follow your Twitter account because they want to get to know you. Don’t just regurgitate other people’s content. It’s okay to share good tweets from others, but be sure to create your own good tweets, too.

It’s okay to ask people to RT: Adding “Please RT” is a proven way to get people to retweet, but only ask people to RT if you want the info to be spread for a good reason.

Good reasons: time-sensitive info (like a contest at your blog), public service announcement (this weekend’s food drive), promoting someone else (“read Laura’s story about meeting her birth mother!”).

Saying you just posted something new at Etsy and asking people to RT is tacky. Posting a link about a Meals on Wheels statistic and asking for RTs is fine.

Make it easy to RT — keep it short: You only have 140 characters available in your tweet, and your username takes up some of those characters if people want to retweet you. Leave them enough room by keeping your tweets even shorter. If you are sharing a URL, be sure to use a URL shortening service like bit.ly.

Responding:

This is probably my biggest personal pet issue on Twitter:

Give a clue: When you respond to someone’s tweet, include some kind of identifying information about what you’re responding to. Do you know what this tweet means?

@dollarcraft I love it!

Neither does your friend when you send a reply like that (especially if hours pass between when you send it and she reads it). Improve your response tweet by restating something from the original tweet (the thing that prompted you to reply in the first place is the best option).

@dollarcraft Thanks for sharing your chandelier. I love it!

It’s even better to include a link to the original tweet, or the link within the original tweet. In the last example, I could have added the URL that pointed toward the chandelier so people reading my tweets could follow along.

@dollarcraft Thanks for sharing your chandelier. I love it! http://bit.ly/di3LMF

The ability to respond to someone else’s tweet is one of the great things about Twitter — it gives you a way to connect with people. When you combine a response with a retweet (by including the original URL), you add even more value to your tweet. This allows that focused tweet to reach more people.

Resources:

Feb 28

leethal-lightbox

photo by Lee Meredith, leethal.net

While participating in the February Craft Social (a monthly Twitter event/gathering about chatting crafty), a few twitterers and I discussed the fact that winter has a lack of good natural light for photography, which is tough when you’re a blogger and your project photos depend on said natural light.

Light boxes were mentioned. Tutorials for light boxes were linked to. A light box-along was thought of. Interest was expressed. A few more times.

So here it is, the March Light Box-Along.

What do you do?
Make a light box. Post about it on your blog and on twitter with the hashtag #lightboxalong and if you have room #craftsocial.

What’s a light box?
A small box used to aid in photographing objects by providing uniform lighting.

How do I make one?
Follow one of these tutorials or get the basics from reading them and make one your own way.

Share your results:

  • Post on your blog
  • #lightboxalong and #craftsocial on Twitter
  • Add photos to the Light Box-Along group on Flickr
  • Comment here with your progress and links

Feel free to add links to other tutorials or your blog, or weigh in on any other aspect of the Light Box-Along in the comments.

Jan 5

The other day I posted a Picasso quote over at CraftFail that I found over at Make & Meaning, (in the article “On the Care and Feeding of Ideas” by Sean Ragan)

Remember Picasso: “When you make a thing, a thing that is new, it is so complicated making it that it is bound to be ugly. But those that make it after you, they don’t have to worry about making it. And they can make it pretty, and so everybody can like it when others make it after you.”

It was applicable to craft-failing because oftentimes our craft-fails are born out of an idea that we have never executed before. Before it can be perfect, it has to be brought into being, and often times, copied and redone until it is perfected. The first draft is usually just that… a first draft. I am usually guilty of stopping my projects at the first draft stage. I’m a novelty junkie, so I like to make something once and then move on, thereby cheating myself of all the good things that can come from repeating the process, refining it, and riffing on it.

This reminds me of this video where Ira Glass from This American Life talks about creating and closing the gap between taste (you have good taste!) and what you can create (why your creations fall way short of your good taste). If you don’t like watching videos* check this page for the transcript and you can read what he says.

One way to help close the gap between your good taste and your cruddy execution of your ideas is to look at work you admire and imitate it, copy it, dissect it, riff on it. Beginning artists are encouraged to copy the masters. Why? Because it helps them learn the principles of creating a good work of art.

Jeffrey Veen | UX Week 2009 | Adaptive Path from Adaptive Path on Vimeo.

This video has another Picasso quote in it:

Good artists copy.
Great artists steal.

This topic has been a hot one in indie crafting circles for years and years. Is it okay to copy someone else’s project? What’s the difference between copying something and “being inspired” by something? What did Picasso mean by this statement? Check the video for a little more info on the Picasso quote and a discussion of copying.

I also came across another interesting series of blog posts by an indie designer who I really admire, Outi from Outsapop. She has a series of articles about “Forgotten Design” which are built on her thesis of: don’t forget design when you are making things.

To make reconstructed and recycled fashions truly fashionable you cannot forget design. No matter what materials or techniques used the finished product must have the design appeal. Too often crafters and recycle fashion labels just make stuff from recycled materials, but they hardly ever qualify as recycle design.

I admit, I am often guilty of this too. I get a lot of joy out of just making things. Sometimes I create things with a design in mind (yes, I even use my sketchbook first!), but sometimes I just go with my gut. When I get to the end of the project, I rarely want to actually use the thing I created because it just isn’t my taste. I know, I made it, but it’s not my taste. Why is that? Hmm, perhaps because I didn’t inject any design into the *ahem* design.

One of her posts discusses why it can be a good idea to copy high-end designs in your art and craft: High Street Imitation.

*I don’t usually watch videos online when people post them, so I excuse you if you don’t want to watch these ones!*

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