Category Archives: handmade

Dear Artists: There’s A Problem With Your Pricing – Part 2


I received a comment on my blog post from yesterday that shows I need to further clarify what I mean when I say – price is not really why people buy.  Mandy brought up the following, and it’s a legitimate position.

“Forgive me… but I respectfully disagree with one of your points. …. It’s not that I don’t value great art, but purchasing art of any kind, for any reason, is a luxury for me. So if your beautiful crocheted scarf that I admire deeply and would love to own is priced about $20 more than what I can allow myself to spend, it’s going to stay right where it is. No offense or disrespect intended, but my funds are limited and my hands are essentially tied. I may be the minority?

Having said that, in the past year or so I have started teaching myself to crochet as a hobby, and have started giving crocheted gifts. As a result, I’ve had ladies ask me if they could buy some of the things I make. I’m lost when it comes to pricing my work because I am a hobbyist, and a newbie. My materials and time are valuable, but maybe not in the same respect as those of you who are true artists and are supporting your families with your craft. I am guilty of thinking to myself that I’d like to offer my work for a bit less than some of the prices I have seen, because of my personal experiences, and because I know most people in my community and surrounding area are not likely to pay “artist prices.” Have any of you run into this, and do you have any advice for someone just starting out? I’m not opposed to one day crocheting to sell, but for now it is just something I enjoy and a way to give practical handmade gifts.”

Mandy, thank you for your valuable addition to the discussion and daring to disagree!  I’ll explain my position better below.  Dear Community, she’s asked a question of all of us, so feel free to respond, politely.

First, I’ll refer you to my article “How Much Are You Worth.”  Here I talk about the difference between novice and expert work and about sweatshop pricing. And that’s something we all have a responsibility to do something about. We have gotten used to being able to live off the work of others in low economies. And so when it comes to the actual cost of our materials and goods where we live, where it’s more expensive, we still think in terms of 3rd world sweatshop pricing.  But do we really expect anyone to live off 50 cents an hour? Or for anyone to pay off their degrees and training and education, not to mention materials and taxes and fees that way? Of course not. No reasonable person would. And yet, every time we price our work in par with a sweatshop, that’s what we do.  And in an economy that is much more expensive to live in.  I cannot usually buy yarn as cheap as the sweater you buy at WalMart.  So when I make that sweater from the materials available to me, cheap or expensive, it’s still going to cost way more, no matter what – even if I don’t charge for time and expertise at all.  And there’s nothing at this point that I can do about that.

On the other hand, in general, the market will not bear outrageous pricing.  So I would argue that there should be a natural cap to how much beginner level type work should go for.  Sticking a bead on an ear wire and slapping a $100 price tag on it better mean that’s one heck of a valuable bead.  Because we know how much skill and time went into it and that cannot alone bear the weight of the price tag.  Sometimes things just aren’t practical or there just isn’t a market for them.  Who wants to pay a significant chunk of money for a cashmere wash-cloth to scrub dishes with?  Unless you can provide some amazing advantage as to why this would make someone’s life better, this is just not likely to sell.  There’s no demand and even more, it doesn’t make sense.

We can’t always afford the work we love.

This is part of life. Sometimes that means we learn to make it ourselves to offset cost of time.  But even then, even with my level of expertise, I can’t myself always afford the work I can produce.

For example, I have a friend who has amazing wood carving skills, he literally works for the stars – several celebrities own his work. And yet, he has four kids, one with downs and says he cannot afford the work of his own hands. The materials and time and methods are all that specialized and expensive. Should he stop making what he makes? No. There is a demand for it and what he does is highly specialized and arguably a dying art. He’s really (I mean really) good at it. Would you have him instead do something he’s not good at? Not to mention take away the work that is feeding his family, and paying for the therapy his child needs for downs. Even so, he doesn’t yet feel like he can justify owning one of his best pieces yet.  The materials and expenses alone are cost prohibitive.

Now, my friend works in a highly specialized scenario that relies on the help of galleries and such, which also increases his expenses, but his story illustrates a point.

When you are in the handmade market, it’s important to price fairly and consider developing a range of products.

That is, if you have no plans to get that highly specialized. You want your highs, your lows and your middles.  For example: I have some amazing purses I’ve made, where the blunt, literal cost in materials to me is over $150 and I haven’t even lined them yet. Their final cost will be substantial. The silk, the beadwork, the specialized hardware to make them look and work right – all of that requires not only a lot of time and expertise out of me, but also the money to acquire materials. And because I’m not a warehouse, I cannot get warehouse prices on materials either. So I’m slowly but surely investing in the work I’m putting into them. Everyone loves them. Will everyone be able to afford them? Nope. But they are my OOAK high-end specialty art pieces and out there someone will decide to snap them up. That said, I also have made some purses I could comfortably sell for $35. My level of expertise is the same, but what is different is mostly my cost in materials.

This is why it’s important to have a range of product prices and work you are doing in business, if you want to hit a wider range of customers. The fact is, it’s my work, my service and my story that will draw you to me. (My writing even.)  Either you will like my work or you won’t.

Maybe you can’t buy my high-end expensive purse.  In that case – the price data is what helps you say “no” to that particular piece.

However, that is not the same as saying no to me.

Because if I have another beautiful piece, where the materials do not cost nearly the same, and it is in your price range, you will likely settle for that instead.

And that’s one part of what I mean about people not saying no based on pricing.

Sometimes “No” Is Really About Guilt

There’s also the reality where people say no seemingly “based on price,” but it’s really based on guilt. The “it’s not you it’s me” scenario. When a customer has money issues or financial PTSD, that is not something you can ever control. And their bad relationship with money is theirs to bear, not yours. Getting their sale will not make a difference to you in the long run. You have to look at and make decisions based on the long financial picture of a business, not the spur of the moment whim.  This gets back to knowing your market and even knowing your individual show. Not everyone will feel like they can afford your stuff. If they did, then you might as well be a dollar store and have trouble paying your bills.

Newbies who are dropping their prices out of fear that they can’t get a sale is an entirely different thing from trying to price fairly. It’s important to understand the distinction. A) Price dropping like that creates an unhealthy relationship with money and it can get you into trouble with your business. B) Most juried shows forbid it and it can get you kicked out.  C) Business is risk. Don’t get into it without embracing that fact.  It’s not if you will fail at some point, it’s when.  And it’s about you learning not to see failure as a bad thing.  Becoming a business owner is one of the best things you can do for your own personal-growth.  Kinda up there with parenthood.  You will learn amazing things, whether you set out to or not.  D) People are not turning down the artist based on price as much as they are based on their experience. If you like my work, my story, my service, and if I have something in your price range you want – you are likely to buy it. Period. It’s really that simple. If you don’t like my work, no amount of dropping my price is going to make you spend money on it.

And that pretty much sums it up.

Everyone justifies their spending somehow.

I know someone who for years complained about how she hated her shag carpet, but couldn’t afford to get it replaced. carpet was her “luxury.”  And yet, she always had the latest clothes and fine jewelry to wear. It was her choice. She just didn’t invite anyone over.

Me? Hey, I value quality shoes. I’m on my feet all the time and have a degenerative genetic joint condition that causes pain. You better believe I invest in good footwear that won’t aggravate my degenerative condition. It could cost me hundreds of dollars, and I don’t care, I will work a 3rd job if I have to not to be in pain. I also value a good dishwasher. For reasons I just stated, I try to limit the time I’m on my feet. So a dishwasher that never breaks down and practically eats the garbage from my dishes is an asset I want to own. My time is worth more than to be constantly fixing something.

I know someone else who has almost no kitchen ware, but they have cutting edge materials and sewing equipment for quilting. And yet another person who values homegrown food most of all and would sooner spend $10 on seeds than on a new shirt.

We all have those things we see the value in much better than we see in others. You want to look for the customers who will value you.

Back to what I said before about fair pricing.

I repeat, we’re not talking about over-pricing.  (Though there are cases where it can be used as a management tool, but that’s another article.) I’m talking about fairness that’s win-win.  But as Laurie Wheeler from The Crochet Liberation front said it best: “You are not a sweatshop!” And you’re not. OK? So stop working on something for hours and then charging $2 to a stranger for it. It’s wrong. And anyone who supports that kind of self-abuse is also wrong. As is anyone who raises their kids to think about money and work this way.  And those 3rd world countries everyone’s wishing could get better pay will also never be better off, as long as we all help promote this lack of value for time and hard work. If you’re giving a true gift, or you’re doing charity work, that’s one thing. But that’s not what we’re talking about.

What is my hour worth?  A sack of potatoes?  A loaf of bread?  A lunch?  Or a cheap cup of coffee?

When you dare to enter business, it’s important to recognize the value of every single part of the equation. And it’s time we grow up and get a handle on what a responsibility this really is. My customers work hard for their money, every bit as much as I. My suppliers also work hard for their money, every bit as I. When all we respect each other, we create balance and everyone can win.

There is another thing though.  We tend to be worst of all about valuing the work that women traditionally do. Even we women do this to each other.  Even in this day and age.  And we need to stop and think about this when we size things up and question whether we’re guilty of it or not.

So, I leave you with a challenge. Whether you own a business or not, it’s a good exercise to help you get a handle on what you value, how you spend and also recognizing how it might be for others too.

Stop and think about a $20 bill and just what you would justify spending it on and what you would not. Would you take a friend out to lunch? Would you buy a scarf? Would you pick up some gourmet coffee or buy a pack of smokes? How about a case of canned goods? How about a skein of yarn, or a tube of paint? Maybe an organizer? Or an iPhone case?  Makeup maybe?  A couple of crochet magazines?

What things could you do with a $20 bill and would or would not do? And once you’ve thought about that deeply, then analyze each item’s true worth in terms of the value it provides or not. $20 to feed a friend, or to keep someone warm for the winter, or to help you get organized, etc..

Money is nothing more than a tool.  How do you use it?


If you enjoyed this article, you might also like:

Dear Artists: Your Prices Are Not The Problem – Or Are They?

How Much Are You Worth?

When Artists Hear “I Can Make That!

Disparaging Handcrafts In The Name Of Law – How Far Does It Push Us Back?

Cro-pocalypse: The Rise of Crochet

Help Me Travel The World To Study Crochet Hooks!


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Filed under Business, Crochet Community, handmade, NaBloPoMo

Sometimes You Work Hard And You Fail…


So it’s on for the Fall to Christmas crochet hook carving challenge.

The weather was not as nice as it was last week, but I still enjoyed the windows open, the birds at the feeder and the fresh air for a while this morning.  Between chores, some training, a meeting at school and several back to back calls and other meetings, I managed to spend some time perfecting the crochet hook I started this weekend.

Grandmother Tree

There’s a pile of wood pieces I’ve saved.  Pieces gifted to me by my mentor Jimbo while at Cama last year, pieces from my Grandpa Jack’s tree, pieces my brother dug out of his stash of project scraps, dowels, chopsticks and knitting needles I have worked on and pieces from my giant old trees in the back yard.

While sorting through my choices in deciding what I would work with for the first hook of my Fall challenge, my eyes kept settling on an interesting curved shape I’d already pulled from the yard and stripped in preparation for work.

A piece from our 500-600 year old live oak tree.

This is the tree my children love, the tree they have climbed, swing from and the tree that has shaded them all their lives.  This is the tree that will be so hard to leave when we move.  The one thing that stands out and my children will want to see again someday when they are older and they need to reconnect with their roots.  The Grandmother Tree.

Comparing sticks, I think I’ll start with the curved.

I picked the piece up and immediately remembered why I added it to my project box.  I’m not an overhand crocheter, but this piece of wood curves perfectly in the hand, knife style.  There’s even a natural depression right around the thumb area.  I’m not personally a huge fan of thumb rests as a chop-stick style crocheter, but they are very helpful to nearly anyone using an overhand style.  The size and shape kind of reminded me of a trigger style hook.

So began the work to prepare the shape for the hook captured inside.

The process for me in creating a hook is very precise as I am quite particular about shape and purpose of my tools.  Though I have created hooks specifically for certain people, my focus is generally on creating hooks that I would use.  I’m not interested in creating just any shape that happens to seem hook-like in nature.  I am actually quite obsessed with the shape and quality of my tools.  And I’ve seen many a badly shaped hook.  Sometimes your frustrations have nothing to do with crochet, your yarn or your skills, but everything to do with your tool.

Hour 1:

I enjoyed the fresh air in the garage while carving the tip into a rounded point.  Two ladies drove up and one jumped out to get a sales flier for our house from our box.  I hope it leads to a contact.  But I also hope it’s not today.  Or tomorrow for that matter.

I had a meeting to get to, so I stashed the rounded shaft and headed out the door.

Hour 2:

The shape of any natural stick is inconsistent and presents variations in any carving endeavor.  However this stick is curved and unusual with its knotting, so to get the shape I want in the end, and keep it comfortable in the hand, I have to sculpt it carefully.  I need both an excellent hook shape for work, but also a comfortable handle with no uncomfortable anomalies.

Getting there!  Lot’s more to go on the head though.

Smoother and the shape is more refined.

Hour 3:

Michelangelo was known to say that in his work, the sculpture was always locked inside and he simply removed what what not the sculpture.  I’m not a genius artist like he was, but I do completely understand this concept as it’s very logical and exactly how I see making hooks.  I stare at the wood and a shape emerges.  And then it’s revealed how that shape can become a useful shape for my purposes.

Hour 4:

The art of crochet involves torque.  It’s one of those things that makes it very different in skill than knitting because the needs to leverage your tool to work with yarn are different.  There’s all sorts of manipulation involved that depends on a strong and properly shaped hook in crochet.  Hence the strength of our hooks are vital, more vital than the strength of a knitting needle. Because it must be able to take the pressure we exert by way of the yarn wrapped through it.  It’s especially important for the bowl of the hook’s mouth to be incredibly smooth.

(sigh) broken. I accidentally took the lip right off.

And to craft that hook just right in wood, with the right amount of slope, a generous bowl and long enough lip takes careful work with the right tools.

But sometimes even then, even after hours of collective work, you fail.

And in working on the bowl tonight, after hours of work, I accidentally took the lip completely off.  And that’s that.  Or is it?

It’s a nice curved handle, so I spent some time looking at it some more. 

Maybe there’s still some hope to save Grandmother Tree’s hook.  It would be shorter than I have planned, but in studying the curves, my hand and what’s left at the front, I begin to see another crochet hook.

It’s getting late though and I do not want to continue to work with sharp objects when I’m tired, nor do I want to lose my “place” and the vision in my head.  So to be sure of my thoughts, I sketch, make notes, and draw some marks for her new face.  Clarifying in my mind whether I really think the new shape could work.  Or perhaps in the morning, maybe I should just start over.

Nah.

Maybe there’s hope yet.

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It’s Official – I’ll Carve One Special Crochet Hook Per Week: Happy Fall My Friends


This is absolutely my favorite time of year.  My favorite season, my favorite three months out of the year.  Some would say it’s because my birthday is next month.  And they might be right, but I don’t think so.  I think it’s more likely because down here in Central Texas, the summers are brutal.  And as my husband said the other day when the weather was finally nice enough to throw the windows open: “This.  This is why we live here.  This is why we put up with the heat of summer.  For this.”

Here, fall is a sign of relief, holidays and family gatherings around the corner and in many ways, to me a new beginning.  But then, I guess October is my New Year.

In celebration of my favorite season, and in leaving the safety of 40, I have agreed to take on a challenge handed to me by friends.  Can I do it?

I have pledged to hand-carve and blog about at least one new special crochet hook per week from now until Christmas.

And I better get cracking.  These special hooks will be offered up for sale each week here on my blog.  And through the process, I hope you may learn a bit more about hook anatomy and why the design of your crochet hook is so important.

I have decided to handle the blog sales the same way my carving mentor, Jimbo Price, does with his own hooks – by silent auction.   Opening bids for each hook will begin at $10 ($5 increments there-after), with the respective blog post updated as bids are emailed in (to worx@pixieworx.net).  Bids will run for the week and then end.

Funds from these sales are primarily to benefit our son’s vision.  After writing my previous post about our son’s rare vision issues and the need to be able to finish his treatment, we found out he will need more than we expected.  About twice what we expected and at a cost of $3000 more.   Already, one of my customers has made a generous monetary donation on our son’s behalf that has helped us get started.  You know who you are and from the bottoms of our hearts – again thank you.

When it comes to the challenge itself, I’m not quite sure what will evolve out of it.  But I know it will be intriguing to me.  It takes me 3-5 hours to carve one of my hooks, depending on exactly what shape I am aiming for and the wood I’m working with.  I will have to treat this “hook a week” challenge much the way I have to treat NaBloPoMo coming up in November – with discipline and innovation.  There are plenty of events and life activities to get in the way, but you just do it and stick to it somehow.  And when you think you’re out of ideas, you ask for input, turn yourself upside down and you think of something differently.  (You don’t think I’m going to make the exact same hook each week, do you?)  To make it fair, part of the caveat (straight from the NaBloPoMo playbook) is that even if I make more than one hook in a week, I still can’t work ahead and skip a week.  I have to carve and blog about at least one hook a week.  That’s the challenge.  To have that discipline.

The goal in part is for me to see if I can do it.  Just like the goal in NaBloPoMo is to blog every single day, without fail, through the month of November.  Only this is carving a hook a week for an entire season plus a week.  It sounds easier than it is.  But in the long run the badge of accomplishment is worth it.

So be watching for an intro into hook anatomy and the first hook offering!  🙂  See you on the flip side.

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Filed under Artist Information & Notes, crochet, Crochet Hooks, Crochet News, handmade

A Twist On The Gift – Recycled Crochet Packaging


Etsy has been talking about creative shipping and packaging and asking fellow Etsians to share photos and tips.  After all, holiday show season is just about upon us.  So I put together some photos to share in their discussion.

Collection of Recycled Shipping/Shopping Materials in Crochet

What you see to the right are just three different examples of packaging that I’ve made that’s been recycled through the skills of crochet.  Here, a bubble mailer, a rip-stop shipping bag and a clear plastic shopping bag have all been cut up, sewn and crocheted into new looks.  They take some time to do, but I’ve been working on these ideas for the upcoming holiday season to offer to my customers.

When it comes to creative packaging for my business, for me it’s all about recycling and maximizing my efforts while still being creative and maintaining professionalism and class.  I recycle shipping packets as much as possible.  In my shared examples, crochet edging is made from durable scrap yarns and sometimes buttons from “Grandma’s Vintage Bucket Of Awe” also find new life in the creative gift wrap.

A shopping bag finds new life with a crocheted top and hanging loop.

For me it’s partly just good business sense to stretch my dollars if I can.  Handmade is a tough enough business to be financially successful in and I’d rather spend my $ on good yarn, not blow it on packaging or shipping materials if I don’t have to.  That said, I’m also not one to sacrifice quality either.  Not to mention, like my Grandma Dot, who survived the Great Depression, I’m no fan of waste.  And truly, since most of my sales are face to face sales, I have more creative gift wrapping concerns than I do shipping concerns.  So it’s easy enough for me to recycle my and my friends shipping materials.  Another reason for trying to recycle creatively as much as possible is because I simply don’t have the storage space otherwise to hang onto perfectly good items.  So I look them over and then decide if I can repurpose them or not.  And lastly, I simply enjoy the challenge.  Crochet is a true hand art that can never be done by machine.  So even my packaging is made with personal care and pride.

This is one of those rip-resistant shipping envelopes, cut up and crocheted to become a smaller, more stylish envelope! (You can see a hint of the bar code inside!)

If I run out of shipping materials to recycle though, I do go ahead and buy them.  And I do invest in tissue paper and professional business cards and labels.  Clear concise cards and logos are important I think, that is, if you wish to brand yourself and be remembered.  But when it comes to holidays, I try to up the ante and offer my customers some creative gift wrapping options.  Since I’m a crochet designer, I prefer to incorporate crochet somehow into the fun.

A recycled bubble mailer is now ready to hold a handmade item.

For finished crocheted goods, I always wrap them carefully, tie them and focus on two layers of packaging -> the gift inside as well as the outer shipping shell.  The outer shell will be abused by whatever shipping service, so I want to be sure the item inside stays safe.  But also, I want my customer to enjoy pulling their purchase out of the outer shell and opening their “care package” inside.  So I think about the presentation inside as well as out.  PDF patterns don’t get shipping attention of course, but when I carve crochet hooks, I like to wrap them in things like lacy handkerchiefs.  To me, my customers are investing in high end, heirloom quality work done by an expert in the field, so their items should be handled with class.  However they are also investing in a piece of me and my romantic yet quirky sense of the world, so there has to be an element of fun as well.  My goal is always to give someone a grin and a light-hearted memory.

I also personally feel that if you’re really into vintage and handmade as a business, then consider coming across more personal, clever and unique even in your packaging and less like trying to copy mass productions.  Let your personality through on an individual basis.  After all, what’s handmade and the season about?  Customers don’t buy handmade because it’s their only choice, so definitely keep in mind that your edge is that personal touch and that customers desire to invest in you – someone that’s real.

Oh, I do have one other little secret when it comes to my wrapping needs:  My daughter, Jack, can wrap and tie the prettiest bows like no one’s business, so I do often get her help!  😀

So what do you think?  How do you approach gift wrapping or packaging?  Share your tips with us below!

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I Made A Piano Bench! :)


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I made a piano bench for my baby grand piano today!  If you follow my blog, you know I’m also a pianist who aspires to become a piano technician someday.  I’ve already played around with fixing my antique upright.  But today I made a bench for my antique baby grand which came to me without one.  Making a bench alone doesn’t have a lot to do with piano tech work (ok it can if you are restoring), but I’m excited because it’s been needed, I love my baby and I finally found just the means for what I wanted to do.

Earlier this week I found a bench minus the seat, along with about 6 yards of beautiful turquoise velvet corduroy “braid” fabric at our local thrift store that benefits our food pantry. All those years watching Christopher Lowell’s show when the kids were little paid off! Ages ago he demonstrated how to turn a coffee table into an upholstered ottoman.  Well, someone gave me an old couch cushion this morning and I was in business!  I probably should have stopped and took pictures of each stage, but I was just so excited and into the project, I was pretty consumed once it got started.

Not too shabby! 😀

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V-Neck Variation of the Modified Railroad Choker…


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Here’s the V-Neck variation of my Modified Railroad Choker, displayed with a variety of Gothic style pendants to show its versatility.

The blue combination was put together as a birthday present for one of my daughter’s junior-high friends.  The red one is likely to end up with my steam punk costume come Halloween!  The silver one is for the Halloween store!

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Steam Punk, Corsets, and Such: Thinking on Halloween…


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Clockwork hard leather bra by BruteForceStudios

Every year I try to do something outside of the box and adventurous during the month of my birthday, striving to add something truly memorable to my stock of life adventures. My birthday is also in October – only the coolest month of the year! So my memorable pursuits naturally tend to extend into holiday festivities.

Halloween, the climax of the month, is the one day that I can totally play dress-up and have fun, no matter my age or status as “mom.”
I think it just might be my favorite holiday.

Brass Hour Glass Necklace by GwenDelicious

As I’ve been working on my crochet spider webs and spider web patterns this year, I’ve also been preparing for my costume theme this year: Steam Punk.

I have always loved Tesla and gadgets, not to mention corsets, bustiers and cinchers. I don’t have a specific character in mind, but certainly a look that speaks to me. In my hunting around for costume ideas, these Etsy items really caught my eye.

I’m thinking that clockwork bra would be a great birthday present…..

Glass Eye Ring by kimsjewels

Vioin Themed Waist Cincher by ContrivedtoCharm

Industrial Steam Punk Utility Belt by ahniradvanyi

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Have You Heard of The Five Dangerous Things (You Should Let Your Kids Do) – From The Tinkering School?


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I was recently introduced to an educational concept I’m completely in love with, called The Tinkering School. It’s right up my alley in a Maker Faire kind of way, calling straight to the heart of my inner child. As well, it sweetly validated a general sense of parental philosophy when it comes to learning what I call essential life-skills and the duty of parents to expose their children to the real world and humanity’s natural state of innovation.

Started by Gever Tulley, The Tinkering School concept provides an exploratory environment using real tools and real materials to get kids directly into the mix of experimenting and learning how to take an idea and simply make it. But also it stimulates kids to learn how things do work, might work and could work. A rather organic way of learning if you ask me – very, very natural.  I love it!  (Or is that just the steam punker in me?)

Though I’m new to the knowledge that such a wondrous “school” (official title and expert’s books and all that) exists, I am not new to the philosophy. If anything, it’s a part of the

Jack's Key Blade (Kingdom Hearts)

code of life I carry in my heart. You can see an example of this in my daughter’s creative efforts pictured here. I didn’t design any of her key blade (based off a magical weapon in a popular video game called Kingdom Hearts). She did the whole thing herself. Hers was the spark, hers was the plan. About all I did was take her to the lumber store for the dowel rod and the dry cleaners for the cardboard tubes from hangers. Aside from a little cutting Daddy really had to do, this entire project, even down to asking a thrift store to help her find a piece of wood in their scraps so she could cut stars out of, was all her. On the one hand, I’m adamant about taking care of the things my kids can’t do yet, like driving themselves to the store. One the other hand, I’m adamant that if they have an idea, they should get creative and make a plan themselves too. Even down to “What kind of materials and how will I acquire them?” I love supporting them even though my pocketbook is not very thick, and I know better than most that where there’s a will, there a way. Figuring out how to afford things is a life skill too.

So as you can imagine, finding the following video on Five Dangerous Things (Kids Should Do) just made me feel incredibly happy, validated and empowered in my principles of parenting! #1 on his list just flat out made me giggle. Then again, they all kind of did.

Austin is lucky to have it’s own version of the school called Austin Tinkering School. Though related in concept, the two schools are actually independent from each other. My son had the exciting experience of attending their boat making workshop (big enough for a kid or two to sit in) on his birthday and LOVED it. As my little engineer, it helped make for one of the best memories he’s probably had in getting to just get right into the materials and try to make something without someone trying to lecture him first or slow him down. I haven’t seen the boat yet, since he went with a friend’s family, but when I do, I’ll be sure to post a photo. For now the hard part is finding a date to have the truck to pick up the large boat and find a body of water to haul it too and let us test his thing out!

So all the links are here – go check it out!

If you’re wondering how I found out about the Austin Tinkering School, I had help from some friends of mine from our half-day charter school who keep up with the Austin Area Homeschoolers. If you landed on my page because you’re looking for alternative educational approaches and life enrichment, etc., I do highly recommend AAH as a great local resource, whether you are a traditional homeschooler or not.

So Happy Tinkering Ya’ll!

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Historical Perspective on Crochet….?


I’ve been doing a lot of research lately via pre-1950′s books on philosophy. Anyway, I came across a book from one the WWI periods that had a statement explaining that to comply with limitations on materials because of the war, they had changed certain things about the paper and materials they used to make the book, etc.. Essentially they were apologizing for cutting back and then trying to show how it was better because it’d be more efficient and save materials. I had heard of food and metal cutbacks and even something about hosiery. But materials used in book making? That was something I hadn’t heard about. It gave me a new perspective on how we see books published today and hit upon something I remember Grandma saying about fabrics too.

When it comes to crochet and lack of good patterns at times over the last 100 years, perhaps the world wars affected patterns and materials in ways we aren’t really aware of today? I know that old examples of fabric my grandma had were exquisite. Then came fabrics later that were not as good of quality. It’s not an exclusive reality necessarily, but elements are there. Perhaps business decisions made decades ago continue to lay a framework for our experiences today. There’s also the consideration that women began working in the industrial age more as their men went off to war. That surely affected the patterns that were published and the materials that were available to work with or even the materials people could afford.

I don’t know. I by far do not have enough information to really have a full theory on this, but these elements have given me another possible point of view I hadn’t thought of previously.

The Great Depression also had an impact of course. My hubby reminded me that there were caps placed on how much something new was allowed to cost etc., but no caps for how much something used could cost. So it caused a change in how much was able to be produced too. Also, as women poured into the work force with WWII, they stayed there. Even after the war was over, many weren’t about to give up the new independence they felt. And then others felt it was the only way to make ends meet and give their kids a better life. Gen-Xers are well known to be the latch-key generation, with moms at work. Women have traditionally been the home experts on all the “crafts,” but while moms went to work, they purchased clothing more than they made it.

I don’t know. I think there’s an interesting story of evolution here.

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Modified Railroad Choker – Featured in a Treasury!


My red and black Modified Railroad Choker with Sun motif has been featured in an Etsy Treasury!

http://www.etsy.com/treasury/4bd7677cb8988eefc2a8c15b/r39n39b-red-and-black

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My Latest Crochet Collection – Teddy Bear Hats for Toddlers….


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Well, I figured I’d share with you guys the collection of crochet I’ve been working on of late. These are my latest designs specifically for the toddler/preschool sized head. I’m putting together a collection of items to go in a local gift store and I have a custom order with some special considerations, so it was good timing for the two right now. These are all created from some of the softest fibers I’ve worked with and with the exception of one hat in this collection so far, out of fibers that are no longer available. The bows you see are not permanently attached to the hats yet, just in case my customers do not want a bow, with the exception of the orange hat, which I have already permanently secured. It has a blend made with a very unusual fiber that happens to be the softest of the bunch. The glass globe you see is the perfect size to display these.

Hopefully these designs will be just the thing for each of my customers!

Baby Blue Bear Pink Bow 2 Baby Blue Bear Pink Bow

Black Brown Bear 2

Black Brown Bear 3

Blue White Green Pink Bear 2

Blue White Green Pink Bear

Orange Bear Pink Bow 2

Orange Bear Pink Bow

Pink Green White Bear Pink Bow 2

Pink Green White Bear Pink Bow

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Why Is Handmade Better…?


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My grandfather told me once that when he was a kid, it was a privilege to be able to buy something for yourself at all. It was something you were thankful for. Thankful for the money, thankful for the experience of bringing something new into your life, thankful to all the people involved in the process of making that item available in your community, thankful of the person who created the item that blessed your life. Today, we take all this for granted.

The mentality behind a disposable society I think has begun to hurt us, as we lose appreciation of the process at work behind getting anything in the world that we want.  To the point that we devalue it and even devalue ourselves. I think the world of crochet especially understands this, as it is the last fiber art left that cannot be replicated by machine. There are no machines that can replicate the complexity of stitches that only the human hand can create. In saying this, it’s probably important to note that the terms crochet and knit are often used interchangeably outside of the US. And if you Google “crochet machine” you will find some, but they are either knitting machines or they set up “chain stitches.”  Several of us crocheters are always watching and wondering, though, when the day might come.  True crochet work, however, is all done by hand somewhere, even mass produced, even by children. And even with the fastest of us crocheters, creating a piece from beginning to end takes a lot of time and planning. Even time undoing and redoing.

There is something very organic about the handmade process that is much less sterile and puts us closer to the human community. You’re not just purchasing an end product, but even every “failure” that led up to its success as well, with quite a story embedded in its very fibers. And the person who is behind that handmade item, actually has the focus and wish for their items to be truly enjoyed.

To me, this process embodies what handmade is all about. A real person, a real story, a real process from beginning to end and a real intent of positive impact behind each handmade piece. And that, also makes me as a creator more real too, and less a carbon copy of others or shadow of some nebulous process.

Handmade, simply, feeds our souls:  individually and as a community.

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