DIY Craft kits for kids: Felt pennant banner

Felt Pennant Banner - DIY craft kit for kids

I started making these DIY craft kits for my daughter as an alternative to the pre-packaged kits from the craft store. This post is the fourth installment in the series. See more here >>
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Felt pennant banner

Felt Pennant Banner - DIY craft kit for kids

This craft kit was really easy and inexpensive to put together.  I’m thinking it priced out at around $2 or so? Felt is cheap! Typically only around 30 cents for a 9×12-inch sheet.

I trimmed the felt into triangles (approximately 2.75 inches wide and 4.5 inches high) and cut small slits in the upper corners. A 9×12-inch sheet could yield more than 14 triangle flags in that general size, so if you are being extra thrifty, you can get by with only one or two pieces.

I got the plastic needles at Jo-Ann for a dollar or so with a coupon, and the twine was something I already had in the house. Thin ribbon or the like would also work well.

Felt pennant banner - Kids sewing activity Felt pennant banner - Kids sewing craft

Sewing with a large plastic needle is a great fine motor activity for kids. Elise really loved it, required minor participation from me, and it kept her busy for a quite a while. That kind of thing is golden around here.

Felt Pennant Banner - DIY Craft Kit for Kids

See more kid stuff here >>

14 Tips from my first year selling on Etsy

14 Tips from my first year of selling on Etsy

Tomorrow marks one year since I opened my Etsy shop! I hit 100 sales around 9 months in, and as of this post, it’s climbed to 147. With my primary job of raising two little girls, I’m still very much in the part-time seller camp, but I am selling things and making a profit.

Other than some high school accounting classes, I don’t have any formal business or marketing education. That said, I have always had an entrepreneurial streak, and I secretly love bookkeeping. I’ve learned a lot during my first year and continue to learn new things every day. The following tips are based on my experiences.

1. You are creating a boutique.

When selling on Etsy, it’s understood that you should have clear and descriptive listings, beautiful photos, and a cohesive look to your shop. All of this takes a really long time to set up. This isn’t eBay. You can’t just throw up a bunch of stuff willy nilly and expect it to sell. If it does, kudos to you! But the majority of shops have to put some thought into it to show any success. Your goal should be to create a cute/pretty/pleasant shop full of related items.

2. Your shop won’t be perfect from the beginning

This was a hard pill for this recovering perfectionist to swallow.

I was trying to get everything just right before opening up shop. Keywords, tags, titles, descriptions, photos, policies, etc. Well, that was a next-to-impossible task. Try your best, open up shop, then see what needs to be changed based on how people are finding (or not finding) your items. As time goes on, every sale (or non-sale!) is a chance to learn more and develop your shop.

And you will make mistakes.

  • You will introduce products that don’t catch on.
  • You will undercharge for shipping.
  • You will buy a bunch of the wrong materials or shipping supplies that you will never use.

I’ll own up to all of those. Trial and error are my best friends.

3. Keep active

If you set up shop and don’t sell anything, don’t list anything new, and let the shop sit stagnant, your items will fall out of favor in Etsy searches. I don’t have any reference for that, it’s just my experience.

Etsy is not a “set it and forget it” type of thing. You have to tend shop. Etsy searches seem to favor “activity.” The more favorites you get, the more views that item seems to get. The more views you get, the more sales you get. It’s all related.

4. More is more

Filling your shop with 100 items on Etsy is some kind of mythical milestone that supposedly makes it easier for your items to be found in searches. In my experience, hitting 100 sales had much more of an impact. But I can’t argue that every listing is a potential entry point into your shop, so more has to be better. Personally, I see small bumps in views every time I list a few items, and with each tier I achieve (50 items, 100 items). I also saw improved traffic and sales as I built up one of my shop categories from just a couple of items to more like 10-15 items.

Sometimes I get a spike in views and no sales. Some days I get just a few views and multiple sales. I cannot make sense of that.

5. Add new listings a few at a time

After you’ve filled your shop initially with a page or two of items, add listings slowly. I tend to create a batch of items, save them as draft listings, and then publish one or two each day. Etsy favors “activity,” remember?

6. SEO is everything. EVERYTHING.

It kills me when I see shops misusing the SEO opportunities Etsy provides. I think people are either too quick to set up shop and just fill out the form fields Etsy requires, figuring they’ll change it later, or they haven’t done their research.

Entire books could be written about Etsy Relevancy and SEO, so here are just some basics based on the most common errors I see.

Etsy shop SEO - Shop name - Shop title - Shop description

Your “Shop Title” is not your shop name! It should be a brief description of the items you sell. I see this mistake all the time.

Repeat the same phrases in your Shop Title, your listing titles, the first part of the item description, and in your tags. Bonus points if the Shop Section is also named similarly.

Your Shop Announcement is intended to be a note to customers that you can change, announce news, sales, etc., but the first part of it is also the description of your shop that shows up in Google searches (if your shop gets indexed), so you kind of have to weigh what is more important to you personally.

In your tags, use long-tail keywords (that is, phrases) that someone might actually search. Try not to use single word keywords, though some categories and items probably defy this rule. Don’t use “red” and “pillow” and “cover.” Use “red pillow cover.”

Use Etsy search bar to get keyword suggestions to use in your titles, descriptions, and tags

Even after your items are listed, you should tweak your titles and tags if your items aren’t being found in searches. If you start to type into the item search box at the top of Etsy, it will give you suggestions about what phrases you might want to use as tags.

If you label things right, your items will come up in Google Shopping results! That is huge. I have sales I can attribute directly to Google Shopping from first time Etsy buyers.

(If all this still seems really confusing, here’s a link to basic SEO information from Etsy.)

7. Figuring out what to charge for shipping is hard

Hoo boy. This is still one thing I’m trying to figure out. In these days of Amazon Prime or “any size order ships for $5,” people have an unreasonable expectation of what shipping charges should be. People don’t like to pay for shipping. Unfortunately, shipping charges are expensive. I live in St. Louis (right in the middle of the US) and to ship a 2-3 lbs package to one of the coasts can cost more than $10. I am sure it is worse shipping from one coast to the other. It makes no difference that the item value is only $15-20.

So when the shipping estimate is high, I tend to cut my shipping cost down a bit. Like if the estimator says it could be $10, I charge $8 and take a hit on my profit. Sometimes I adjust the price of an item to make up for it, but not always. My goal is to keep my prices affordable and reasonable, so most of the time I feel like I’m pushing my prices as high as I can. This is just what I do, and I’m still experimenting. Your situation and experiences may be different!

8. Give customers as many options to pay as possible

An overwhelming majority of my customers pay via Direct Checkout. That is, paying with a credit card directly through Etsy (instead of using PayPal). If you don’t have Direct Checkout set up (you need a business checking account to do this, and really, you should have one anyway), then you are likely missing out on sales. As commonplace as PayPal has become, it’s extra hassle to some buyers.

9. Answer your convos (emails) ASAP

Convos are Etsy’s internal email messaging system. You might think answering messages promptly is just a courtesy to customers/potential customers, but it actually has a self-serving undertone.

Customers typically message sellers to ask questions about items before they purchase them. People send convos while they are shopping. Answer them quickly, and you’ll probably catch them while they are still on Etsy, or at the very least, still in the shopping mindset and at their computer. Many times, I will get a message asking things like if I think the item will arrive in time for so-and-so’s birthday, etc. before they purchase it. I answer quickly, give the buyer’s confidence in ME, and have gotten a number of sales this way. If I had delayed my reply, they probably would have moved on.

10. But take a breath before answering messages

I know! I’m contradicting myself. But sometimes, people ask strange questions. Or they’ll request something custom that doesn’t seem in line with what I do. Taking a breath to really think about what they are asking, makes my responses a thousand times better.

11. Keep a tight rein on spending

It is easy to spend money. It is easy to “need” something for your business. I’m a frugal girl at heart, and even I have a hard time with this. Be smart about how much you spend and how much you stock up on raw materials.

I keep my basic materials and shipping supplies in stock. If I am going run out of something I need to complete my work (like paint or printer ink), that’s sort of an automatic purchase. I also allow myself one “improvement” purchase each month as long as I am still making sales. In the past, this has been a new work table, a custom rubber stamp, new business cards. If I make a large raw materials purchase, I might hold off spending on anything else that month.

12. Use the Sell on Etsy app

This is a separate app than the regular Etsy shopping app. It’s just for sellers! Every time I get a convo or a sale (!), I get a notification on my phone. It’s pretty great. And it’s still a surprise every single time a new order comes in.

Using Etsy shipping labels

13. Use Etsy shipping labels

…and buy some self-adhesive mailing labels.

Etsy allows you to print postage at home, and at a small discount even. This has saved me so much time, not to mention printed labels look about a thousand times more professional than handwritten addresses. You can even print international postage with the customs form included. (Don’t forget to sign the customs form!)

This is the brand of labels I use (other cheaper ones have spotty reviews). They cost about five cents per label. If you are printing your postage on plain paper and then just taping it on? Trust me, you are using more than five cents in packing tape. Just get the labels.

Once my packages are packed and labeled, I run them to the post office and drop them off. I’ve heard that you can also arrange home pickups, but I live close enough to a post office that waiting around for a pickup seems inefficient. If your items are small and light enough, you can even deposit them in the outdoor blue mailboxes. Beware though, that you need to mail them from your home zip code. If you don’t, you might be saddling the buyer with postage overages.

14. I believe in Etsy karma

That’s not an official thing that factors into any fancy algorithm; it’s just something I like to think exists. What do I mean by Etsy karma? If you sell on Etsy, you should be shopping on Etsy. I really do think it makes a difference. I am the last person that would suggest spending a bunch of money on stuff you don’t need, but should you need gifts or supplies, search Etsy first.

Thank you for your support over the last year and to everyone who has purchased something from my shop. Many thanks!

Want to stay up to date with my shop? Sign up for my email list right here! >>

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p.s. Did you find this post helpful or interesting? Would you like to see more Etsy-related posts like this in the future?

p.p.s. If you’re opening your own Etsy shop, use this link and we’ll both get 40 free listings. Yeah, that’s only like $8, but hey, $8.

Painting our new back door black

Painting my back door black

So I painted our new back door. And I guess it turned out OK? I have mixed feelings about it. From far away, I love it. The black looks great. But up close, I am disappointed with the finish. And I’m going to blame it all on the paint.

Rustoleum Door Paint

I really, really wish I hadn’t chosen this paint. It’s special just for doors, so I thought I would actually get better results with it. Wrong! I totally regret the choice and I can’t recommend it, especially not for those who don’t have a lot of painting experience.

Painting our back door black

I used a brush for all the panel insets and the grill in the window, and a small foam roller for all the flat areas. This paint was so hard to work with. I am used to being able to go over an area a few seconds after I first brush the paint on. I’m talking like 3-5 seconds later. But this paint was far too sticky for that. One pass was pretty much all that it allowed. It was unlike any paint I’ve ever worked with.

Even after I got used to the peculiarities of working with this paint, it was still really difficult to get right. I worked during unusually cooler (70 degrees), less-humid days, but the paint still started drying nearly immediately.

Painting an exterior door

And that left me with areas like you see above, where there are globs and the sheen isn’t even. The recovering perfectionist in me is having a hard time accepting this. That said, the finish is hard, not at all tacky, and nice to the touch. I just wish the brushstrokes and roller strokes were smoothed out and less noticeable.

Has anyone else used Rustoleum’s door paint before? Did you have the same experience I did?

See more curb appeal projects here >>

Vintage finds: Mid-century chair, curtains, & more

Kid size roll top desk

I am long overdue for a vintage finds post! We have acquired several new things around here worth talking about.

First, this cute little roll top desk and chair for Elise. It came from Dan’s grandparents’ house, and he remembers playing with it as a kid, but I believe it was his aunt’s as a child. The finish is a bit rough. I had to perform furniture surgery on the chair and the drawers, but I think I’m going to leave the rest of it as is. Elise is so excited to have a little desk to work at. More on that in a later post, maybe.

Mid-century modern barkcloth curtains

I also saved this pair of mid-century modern barkcloth curtains from my grandma’s house. Sort of “atomic” in style? They have a bit of faint age- or sun-staining, but I haven’t tried to wash them yet to see what comes out. I might try them out in one of my workspaces? They are short, and I only have the pair, so they wouldn’t really fit anywhere else.

Mid-century modern upholstered chair

I love love this this mid-century modern chair we inherited from Dan’s grandparents. Problem is, I don’t really know where to put it. Something has to go in order for it to stay, and I can’t seem to make that puzzle work right now. It needs new cushions, but I don’t want to invest in that until I can figure out where it’s going.

Vintage stool with brass legs

And last, but not least, I scored this brassy stool for $1 at the Goodwill Outlet. A dollar! It needs reupholstering for sure, but I’m planning on using it in the upstairs bathroom if/when we ever finish that stupid room.

Summer kids craft: Painted stepping stones

Summer kids craft: Painted stepping stones

Who’s ready for an outdoor kid craft? Elise had been asking to paint, so I came up with this simple project to keep her busy one afternoon. She talked about it for days afterward, so it must have made an impact!

Dollar stepping stones from the hardware store

We found the rectangular stepping stones for $1 each at the hardware store. They are about 8″x16″, but different sizes and shapes are also available. For paint, we just used latex leftovers I had from other projects.

Painting concrete stepping stones

We watered down the latex paint to something like two parts paint, one part water. I found the darker colors you could water down quite a bit and still maintain the intensity of the color. The lighter colors, we didn’t thin quite so much.

FYI: this was just a fun kid art project, and I am not concerned with how the paint will weather. If the stones fade or peel, we will paint them again. If you wanted to do this to an actual patio or sidewalk, you should use special concrete paint. (Valspar makes a good one.) Fair warning.

Painting concrete stepping stones

To keep things simple, we painted one color per stone. Elise did most of the work, and I came up behind her to brush out the drips and cover the edges.

Rainbow painted stepping stones

After they dried, we set them in the ground in front of the playhouse. They ended up being a bit uneven, which I didn’t notice until I was taking photos. But they aren’t a tripping hazard, so I think I’m just going to embrace the imperfection of it all.

Painted concrete stepping stones

I sorta wish we could paint a million of these and make a Candyland-like trail through the backyard. Wouldn’t that be fun? #yeahthatsnevergonnahappen

Rainbow stepping stones

Summer kid craft: Painted stepping stones