Sunday, June 19, 2016

My etsy photo checklist

We talk a lot in shop critiques about the need to use all five photos, which gets people asking the question about what to use those precious slots FOR. Well I can think of all kinds of ideas that need to be conveyed in your photos! Remember - if a customer was standing by your item in a store, they'd get to feel it in their hand, flip it over, open it - they can't do that online. You are trying to replace that. It's a serious challenge!

So with the help of our contestants from Bamboo day at Etsycontest, here is an easy checklist of things you need to show in your five photos.

1) The whole item in one shot, with white space around it so it fits in a thumbnail and I can see it without scrolling. This is ESPECIALLY important if it's a long necklace or a candlestick or something vertical - don't make me scroll to see the item, pull the camera back.

Vintage 40s Tie - 40s Necktie - 40s Cravat - Wide Satin Tie - Swing Tie - Novelty Print - Asian Tie - Bamboo - Red White Blue - Van Heusen36th place June 16th, 2016
Theme Thursday! Bamboo items from $1-$50.

Vintage 40s Tie - 40s Necktie - 40s Cravat - Wide Satin Tie - Swing Tie - Novelty Print - Asian Tie - Bamboo - Red White Blue - Van Heusen
by royalstarvintage

2) Closeup of details

Fine Silver Bamboo Pendant60th place June 16th, 2016
Theme Thursday! Bamboo items from $1-$50.

Fine Silver Bamboo Pendant
by MWTArtJewelryDesigns

3) "Sense of scale" photo - in its natural, usable setting, next to known objects, so I know how big it is. I have a whole blog post just about sense of scale photos - they're the most important, in many ways!

Personalized Cutting Board, Grandma & Grandpa, Established Dates For Grandkids, Personalized Gift For Grandparents, Bamboo Cutting Board22nd place June 16th, 2016
Theme Thursday! Bamboo items from $1-$50.

Personalized Cutting Board, Grandma & Grandpa, Established Dates For Grandkids, Personalized Gift For Grandparents, Bamboo Cutting Board
by DolceHome

4) "Concrete scale" photo - next to a ruler that has both inches and centimeters to remove all doubt about dimensions.

5) Closeup of hardware. Jewelry, for instance, how's it clasp? Framed picture - how does it hang up?

Hanging Gardens of Babylon Adjustable Cat Collar14th place June 16th, 2016
Theme Thursday! Bamboo items from $1-$50.

Hanging Gardens of Babylon Adjustable Cat Collar
by FashionableFelines

6) Other angles. If I was in a store I'd pick this thing up and look at the back, side, bottom - I can't do that online, so give me a photo!

FREE POST - Antique Pair of French Silver Plated Cutlery Rests, Knife Rests, Stylish Pair, Superb Table Decor, Fine Dining, Bamboo Effect27th place June 16th, 2016
Theme Thursday! Bamboo items from $1-$50.

FREE POST - Antique Pair of French Silver Plated Cutlery Rests, Knife Rests, Stylish Pair, Superb Table Decor, Fine Dining, Bamboo Effect
by AToasttothePast

7) Photo of the item being worn, if it's an accessory. What kind of things does it go with?

Bamboo & Organic Cotton Extra Wide Headband, Bohemian Tie-Dye Featuring Blue and Purple, Wide Dreadlock Headband1st place June 16th, 2016
Theme Thursday! Bamboo items from $1-$50.

Bamboo & Organic Cotton Extra Wide Headband, Bohemian Tie-Dye Featuring Blue and Purple, Wide Dreadlock Headband
by PoseyAndChelle

8) Packaging, if gift packaging comes along with it and it's cute.

SET OF 5| Drool Cloth|+Gift Set+|12x12in|Burp Cloth|Bamboo Baby Cloth|Organic Wipe Cloth|Non-Toxic|Made in USA| Rosie's IdeaFeatured June 16th, 2016
Theme Thursday! Bamboo items from $1-$50.

SET OF 5| Drool Cloth|+Gift Set+|12x12in|Burp Cloth|Bamboo Baby Cloth|Organic Wipe Cloth|Non-Toxic|Made in USA| Rosie's Idea
by Rosiesidea

So that's 8 photos and you only have 5 spots - surely that justifies using them all! It's true, sometimes I get lazy and don't use all five, but if I'm serious about a listing? 5 it is!

Monday, May 16, 2016

Build a Bear Dress Pattern - Printable PDF

This past week I got to looking around for teddy bear dress patterns for my daughter's bear. We have cute scrap fabric and I thought it can't take that much fabric to make a dress, right? I was right! A half yard is more than enough. I found a great tutorial on pinterest by Jaci Hayden over here:

The only tough thing about the pattern is that it's an image, not a PDF, so I had to resize it every time. I figured I'd do a good deed for the internet and PDF it! So now it's downloadable in the right size, with some extra marks on the dress to fit the skirt ruffles on nicely.

Bear Dress Pattern PDF

And here's Bella in one of her dress. Thanks for the tutorial, Jaci!

Monday, December 21, 2015

Super reusable fabric gift wrap bags

Just wanted to post up about a Christmas tradition in my house... fabric gift bags! Yup, a few years ago my eco-friendly brother-in-law started introducing some alternatives to gift wrap at our family christmasses... baskets, gift boxes, and yes, fabric. My sister and brother-in-law aren't sewers so they'd get a yard of fabric on super clearance discount after Christmas the year before, pinking sheer the edges so they would fray, and call it good. That's awesome, but when I got the yard of fabric I went a step further and made it into several different-sized gift bags, so here's what my package pile looks like now:

These are really simple and easy to sew up. I very casually only sorta measure a package when I have to make one, but since they're used for years, at this point I'm not making a ton. I sew the side seam and follow up with zigzag stitch. Then I sew the bottom. Then I pin and hem the top. People aren't looking too clearly at the stitching or hems so I either pin or iron but never both - it takes five minutes to make one of these things.

Then I either tie the top closed (bag-style) or I fold the top inside the package like a pillowcase:

Finish with a ribbon and you're done!

This is a great "thread user" project, use up the end of a spool that you don't need around, since long zigzag stitching uses lots of thread and as I said, these are cheap and casual and nobody pays attention to whether your thread matches. They'll get re-used for years, unlike paper gift bags. They can hold a ton of weight, get thrown in the back of a car and they don't get mashed up.

Dark fabric with busy patterns works best because it's gift wrap, you can sometimes see through white!

In my family we set a price limit every year and every person gets gifts from everybody so the pile of wrapping paper used to be bags and bags of throw away paper, but between my sister introducing random yards of fabric and me making them into bags we keep and send around, we're barely trashing or recycling anything these days! Less mess and less time spent on wrapping, we are definitely going the right direction!

Saturday, December 12, 2015

2016 color trends

It's December again and since Etsy success requires that we keep looking ahead, let's just pretend it's 2016! I don't post many treasuries but I made this one of 2016 color trends and wanted to save it here for posterity's sake. To find the items I used a combination of casual browsing like always, but leaned heavily on the color app on my widgets page that lets me type in any hex code and find Etsy items that match.

The treasury:

'2016 Colors' by spacefem

Treasury of trending colors for 2016 - bright, happy, ready for a new year!

Ladies Underwear- Pink Linge...

GIGANTIC Shabby Chic Vintage...

Blue Pottery Vase, 10 1/4 in...

Handmade Laptop Bag ,Yellow ...

Neon Green, Suede Fringe Tas...

5 clothespins turquoise dis...

hanging lamp/wooden lamps/pe...

Superfine merino felting woo...

Handmade carmine felt Cachep...

Glass Cabochons Ornate Flora...

Hand-made in Ethiopia: The L...

Horse Throw Blanket Horse Bl...

Vintage brown wide slashed l...

My house at night. - Print o...

Lalique France Noel 1992 Gre...

Dahlia Flower Pillow Cover -...
Powered By Handmadeology

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Make a blank paper book out of one sheet of paper

My teacher mom was here this weekend and since my five year old is so artistic/prolific, Mom showed us how to make an 8 page book out of a single sheet of paper. If you've got budding young illustrators in your house too this will be a fun project!

Mom says this works better with an 11x17 sheet, but we had 8.5x11 so that's what's in these photos. It's okay to use a scrap paper that's been printed on one side, your blank side will be the only one showing.

Start by folding your paper in half down the middle.

Then fold again lengthwise

Then fold in half again so now it's in eighths

Now unfold until you're back to the one fold in half:

Cut from the center fold to the 1/4 fold, right in the middle:

Unfold only the top layer, along your fold line:

Now fold width-wise back to 1/4:

Fold in half again so you're back down to the 1/8 size:

Start your book! It should stay together very nicely.

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Coloring pages for pi day

Last year around March 14th, I was getting ready to celebrate Pi Day with my daughter, like every good nerdy family. As a creative kid, one of her favorite things to do is COLOR, so I told her we'd print out some pi day color pages for her and her friends. I went internet searching but woe was me... I didn't find anything I loved!

So I made my own.

And now they're available on open clipart:

Hope you enjoy!

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Reblog: If you want to sell on the internet you have to be on the internet

I officially approve of and recommend this blog post:

artologica: If you want to sell on the internet, you have to be on the internet

It's about internet marketing - but not the way you think. The gist is that you can't just put a photo out on the internet and assume people will come running to buy your wares. You also can't broadcast onto twitter and pinterest like a robot, reading nothing, and assume people will read what you're saying.

So get out there, people! Be the kind of internet user who you enjoy hearing from, it'll do you good!

Thursday, January 15, 2015

How TrueTwit Validation Spam drove me to start @StopTrueTwit

If you're here, you've probably run into this scenario:

1) You joined twitter (I love twitter!)
2) You clicked "follow" next to some profiles of folks who shared some interests with you.
3) Sometimes after you'd follow someone, you'd get a direct message (DM) right back telling you that the person you followed uses the TrueTwit validation service, and requesting that you visit an external website so you can prove that you're "valid".

If you clicked, you were asked to type in a word (captcha) to prove you're not a robot. And then... nothing really happens. Whether or not you type in the captcha you're still following the person. Whether or not you type in the captcha they can still decide you're cool (or not) and follow you back (or not). Bots are certainly capable of typing in captchas these days, and spammers are welcome to join the truetwit network so they can escape the captchas all together. So what's it all about?

If you got a few of these messages, you'd wonder how you could stop them from flooding your message box, and consider joining TrueTwit so it would forever know that you are not a robot. That's when you'd find out that to join TrueTwit, you must also give TrueTwit access to your twitter account, so they can send all your new followers DMs to their website asking them to "validate".

Or, if you don't want to send DMs, you can pay them $20.

Does that sound fishy? It did to me. I love twitter - my main account is @spacefem but I also run @etsytrades for people who like trading handmade items they've posted on Etsy, and I run @wichitaswe for my local Society of Women Engineers to let people know about free technology events for kids. I love meeting new people on twitter, so I'm always clicking "follow" buttons!

I also like to reserve the use of Twitter's direct message system for very important things - so I hate getting messages that tell me to go visit a website that really does nothing.

When I complained to @GoTrueTwit about this, here's the nice message I got back:


I noticed I wasn't the only one... when I searched twitter for "truetwit", nearly every tweet was about how people hated it!

Yes all those tweets are from a time period of just a few hours, because they're really easy to find. No tweets thanking truetwit for a great service - no one appreciates truetwit. They're just annoyed into it.

TrueTwit, in return, says this about their critics:

So because I don't like truetwit, I'm a slutbot? I thought I was a 34-year-old married mom from Kansas who tweets about arts and crafts. I don't think this is a service that any of us should refer to for evaluating people, especially on Twitter, a place where 160 character bios make it really easy to quickly determine who's worth following back and who isn't.

So that's why I launched @StopTrueTwit. I'm sad that TrueTwit has been able to annoy so many twitter users into signing up for their service and sending out all those DM spam messages to new followers. Some people don't even know they're doing it! To me, TrueTwit is running an extortion service: either pay us, become our spambot, or suffer annoying DMs every time you dare click "follow" on a potential new twitter friend.

They're also a spam advertising service - they constantly brag about how much traffic their site gets so they can make more money on ads. In other words, they've gotten thousands of twitter users to send out links a website where only TrueTwit gets ad revenue. Their users give them free advertising, and they make money!

If TrueTwit has lured you in, visit and see if TrueTwit is listed. Click the "revoke access" button next to them to free yourself so they can't use your account.

And please never click a link you get via DM to "validate". Real people on twitter can decide for themselves if you're a real person. When you click those links, you're not showing that you're real, you're showing support for DM spam.

My @StopTrueTwit campaign has several goals:

1) Let people know that TrueTwit is really spam, if you don't like it you are not alone.
2) Serve as a resource for people trying to get truetwit's grabby teeth out of their account, with screenshots, Q&A, and quick tips for how to disable it
3) Get the attention of Twitter and the API team to ask them to shut down the service altogether. I realize this will take a bit of a following. @support has ignored me so far. But some strength may come from numbers.

Yes, I realize there have been anti-truetwit campaigns before that were launched and then abandoned, I will not do that. I am darn persistent. I've been running for 12 years now. I still blog on livejournal - very 2003, I know, but I don't abandon stuff I care about. So trust me, and stay with me. I may not be a social media expert, so if you are you can definitely shoot an email to with tips on how we can stop truetwit.

Let's work together to free twitter from DM spammers, and make it the great place that we all love!

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Etsy title tip: diversify!

We get a lot of users in the Shop Critiques Team asking for how to get more views and there's one tip I end up repeating a lot: diversify your titles!

I've written before about how to use Etsy's suggestion tool to find titles - those suggestions will tell you what people frequently come here to shop for, so you can start your title with those words.

But don't start every title with those words. Not exactly the same, anyway.

Every listing you create is a tiny doorway into your shop. So if you have 10 listings that all start with the term "tote bag", they're all competing for a top spot in the search for "tote bag". You're competing with yourself.

Or you could re-arrange each title so that one starts with "tote bag", another with "canvas bag", another "cotton tote bag", etc. The "canvas bag" won't rank as high on the search term "tote bag" it's true. But it'll be higher for a search for "canvas bag"! You're just made another tiny door into your shop. Once a potential customer clicks, they might notice your other items on the side or your shop links, they'll click around. But you've got to get them in first!

People are different, you never know exactly what they'll type in. So do your best to aim each listing at a different group of people. Cast a wide net out into the ocean of Etsy searchers, and you'll catch a few more!

Monday, November 10, 2014

Spacefem's Guide To Starting An Etsy Team

I adore Etsy teams. I hope Etsy keeps this feature around forever. I can honestly say I would not be on Etsy still if it weren't for teams... I would have posted some listings, though "Well nothing's selling. Oh well." and then bailed.

But luckily through teams I got shop critiques, support, learned helpful tips, got dragged into the shop opportunities prototype, made a ton of friends and got to be the etsian I am today!

I've even started several of my own teams, and captained a number of them. You know my biggest team,, I did not even start! I inherited! But more on that later.

How To Start An Etsy Team

Step 1: Don't.
No really - as I said, I inherited my biggest project. It's a trade team, there are lots of trade teams, it would be a silly idea to start your own trade team when you could use your talents to contribute to an existing one. Go searching for a team with a purpose similar to one you'd start, and jump in - so much easier than starting from zero! You might even ask the captains how you can help or volunteer to co-lead.

Some teams have no captains, or their captain went missing a long time ago. If your team captain no longer responds to convos, you might just start a thread asking the team whether anyone has heard from the captain or would support you in becoming captain. If your team is okay with it, you can contact Etsy, tell them the team captain has gone AWOL, and volunteer to captain yourself. I've done this a couple times and they always respond within a few business days - I clicked the "help" link on Etsy, looked for help on Community Guidelines > Teams, and used the contact form to get in touch.

Recently I found myself wishing I was in a team for people looking to increase their followers. I found The Circle Clicking Team - which had thousands of members and seemed to have that goal, at one time. But the captains hadn't started new threads in months. So I asked if they needed help, and guess what - they made me the captain! I am so glad I didn't start my own team from scratch, this was much easier!

Step 2: Or do
Then again maybe there is no team that fits your idea, so you start one, and that's okay too! Be sure to give it a cool icon and fill in as much info as you can about the goals and purpose of your team.

Step 3: So now you're a captain!
I say the first thing to do is get some threads started! Nobody wants to jump into an empty box. If your team has no active threads, you must start at least one. Make it an easy question that people will want to respond to. Make sure it demonstrates that you are here for others, not yourself.

Step 4: Invite invite invite
Etsy has a great feature on the left side of every team that leaders can use, it just says "invite" and you can type in any shop name, user name, or user ID and it'll resolve to a real etsian.

I invite shops to my teams like a crazy person. Who do I invite?

1) People who post nice things in the discussion forums
2) Shop owners posting cool new listings
3) Etsians who are favoriting the same things I favorite

You can send out 100 invites a day, and the first day you open a team I'd suggest using all 100!

Unlike convos, invites are unobtrusive and cannot be flagged as spam because they don't use the convo system. They just put up a message for people to respond to; they either accept or reject the invitation, it sits there until they do something so it's not as easy to ignore. Members can convo you back with questions about an invite, but you're not bugging them in convos, so I love them.

Step 5: Encourage other thread starters
I don't like starting all the threads myself, I think people get bored seeing my same icon over and over :) So I'll convo other people and ask them to start threads, especially easy ones like "post your items here" that everyone feels that every team should have (sigh). Having different people start threads makes it feel more like a "team" anyway.

Step 6: Join the Captains Quarters
Yes, Etsy has a team about teams! And it's awesome, you get an insider look at what the admins are doing, recommendations, help with staying active. It's a wonderful thing to join.

Step 7: Recruit more leaders
I think every team should have at least two other leaders besides the captain. You can't be there all the time. If you add a co-leader you get their help and perspective. My trade team has nine leaders which is a lot I know, but we have 3500 members and a mountain of activities so I appreciate the help. They all have a purpose - starting a monthly thread, maintaining the team page, cleaning up spam. Plus when there are other leaders involved, team members really feel like they're in a team, not just one person's idea. In my teams all the leaders get email addresses and email one another to coordinate so we can all talk at once, it works out great.

Step 8: Take suggestions!
Make sure your team is really a team of people who are networking and getting to know one another, not just a holding place for post-and-runs. Feel free to change up the direction every few years, accept new leaders and be open to new ideas.

So that's it. I've been running forums for years and a lot of what I've learned, I just carried right over to teams. I've made some friends and learned a LOT and hope to see you around!

Monday, November 3, 2014

SEO: It's a waste of time

Of all the advice I hear on Etsy for new shops, I'm ready to declare my all time least favorite. Ready? It's this:

"You should work on your SEO."

I hate it for so many reasons. It's buzzwordy. It's an acronym. It sounds like a huge, complicated topic that you need a masters in. A newbie will ask "well what's my first step?" and get a reply like "there is no first step, no easy way to do it, it's a JOURNEY" and you imagine climbing mountains, and the poor new etsy person is just thinking "all I want is to sell a damn mug cozy!"

I feel your pain, newbie.

They do a little reading and get into even more questions and controversy - two or three word tags? What order should the words be in? Do I repeat words? It's so confusing!

I think the confusing part is that we're trying to think like search engines. Computers.

And the funny thing is, the computers are trying to think like searchers. People. Us!

Maybe the reason I hate "work on SEO" so much is that it implies there has to be this computer in between us and people. Why not just say this:

"Think like your searchers."

Searchers are people! You are a person! It's true that when we make an item, it can be hard to separate yourself from the processes. You'll want to describe it as a "carnival sky: a unique handmade multicolored knitted stocking cap" but that's not a great title for one simple reason: it's not something that people search for.

I've written before about how to type words into the etsy search to get suggestions and hints about what people search for. I still do that all the time. I also do periodic tag makeovers by comparing my shop stats to my existing tags and adding new ones to try to get views. Here's what to do:

1) Check your listing stats to see what key words and phrases have gotten it some views
2) Ditch the tags that are NOT getting it views
3) Time to brainstorm and use up your new free spots! Ask yourself... what are some things I'd search for if I was looking for an item like this?
4) Type some of those in the search box up type. See if they come up as suggestions.
5) Be sure to include any unique niche words - if your item features a fox, a pear, the color teal, you can appeal to fans!
6) Do NOT include words that could apply to almost any listing on Etsy. Everything is "unique" and "handmade". It's Etsy.
7) Use all 13 tags
8) Come back next month and repeat! Every listing is an experiment to see what key phrases will win for you.

I recently started a thread asking lots of sellers to tell us their top 5 keyphrases for catching views. They are as unique as all of Etsy! Some are simple one-word tags like "space" or "florida". Most are 2 or 3 word phrases... "steampunk hair accessories", "coconut candles", "wolf pendant". The point is that there's no magic formula to tell what will work, you've just got to keep trying different combinations of words to see what works.

SEO isn't a magic wand that you wave over a listing to get it views. No one can tell you for sure what will work best. But through brainstorming and trying everything that comes to mind, you'll get there.

Good luck!

Monday, October 27, 2014

DIY Light Box for Etsy Photos

Photography comes up a lot in the Etsy forums, and I find myself repeating to lots of people how easy it is to make yourself a light box setup so you don't have to wait for perfect weather to go outside and take well-lit photos. I don't know about you but I've got a day job and two crazy kids, so the only time I really get to take photos is when I'm up at 4am with my to-do list on my mind and that's not when the sunlight is, uh, anywhere.

I use cheap $30 cameras I buy off Ebay to take my photos. The camera, I've found, is not that big a deal. You can spend $3000 on a camera and your photos might be better than mine, but not 100 times better than mine, despite the staggering cost difference. What matters the most is the environment you're taking the pictures in.

So here's my setup:

It's pretty darn basic. You could use almost anything to accomplish this. My light box is made from:

1) PVC pipe, for the basic structure
2) White ripstop nylon to bounce and reflect light around inside
3) Poster board background
4) Clip on lamps
5) Full spectrum compact fluorescent light bulbs
6) Assorted props for photo time

The lamps are from a few places. First I got some clearance desk lamps at Target, but if they hadn't been clearance they might have run my budget up quite a bit. They're okay.

I experimented with several backgrounds - white curtain lining fabric, projector screens, all flavors of more expensive stuff. The cheap white posterboard turned out to be my favorite.

If I had it to do over again I would do it with just these shop lamps, which I got at Home Depot in the electrical section and I just adore. They're cheap, aluminum, and will take a bulb up to 100 W (try that with a desk lamp!) And the clips really hold them in place. Not as pretty but much more functional!

Don't laugh at the whole at the top of my nylon there... it's to stick my camera lens straight through the top and take pictures from above. Works awesome!

The one place I would not cheap out is on the light bulbs. I special ordered full-spectrum daylight compact florescent bulbs from because they don't get as hot as incandescent. I can put a "120 W equivalent" in my "under 100 watt" lamp because when you use CFL, it only actually uses 32 watts! These light bulbs run $6-8 each but they last a long time and have a wonderful effect:

And finally, I keep my photo props handy inside my light box at all time. I wrote before about how at least one of your five photos must give your customers a sense of scale, so I have things like a ruler, cards (because I make card holders), and sometimes coins or markers around to show what the item I'm selling looks like in comparison to everyday objects.

Then it's photo time! Afterwards, I'll still retouch my photos in GIMP to get a really white background. But my light box gives me a great start!