This post isn't mean to be a tutorial on hand dyeing yarn (there are so many already out there!), but rather just an overview of what I did so I don't forget the steps! And, of course, to share with others interested in trying this. :-)
I've been wanting to try my hand at dyeing some yarn for a while and was finally able to get to it yesterday. I don't have room for the extra equipment needed if I used acid dyes (separate pots, etc.) so I stuck with food coloring since there wouldn't be a problem reusing my crockpot, pots, etc. to actually cook with later.
I found someone destashing their KnitPicks Bare yarn
on Ravelry for cheap, so that was my first yarn base. And since I didn't want to dye it in the hank as it came (I wanted it in a longer "loop"), the first step was to wind it into 2 equal balls, and then wind them into 2 longer hanks. (Easier said than done since that involved wrapping the yarn around a portable table with cases of Pepsi on top to give the loop a longer circumference. That was okay, I put The Good Wife
on my computer (thanks Amazon Prime!) and watched a couple episodes while getting the yarn ready.
As soon as the yarn was wound and tied, I stuck it in a water/vinegar solution to soak. And I started playing with the food colors mixed in water to see what I could come up with. I'll admit, I poured a couple of the first tries down the drain and started over - mud color really wasn't my goal this time.
When I was ready for the first skein I put it in my crockpot with just enough water/vinegar to barely cover it and turned it on high to get the water steaming. Once it was hot I started adding the dye mixture.
I used a small measuring cup to pour the dye in and used one color over about 3/4 of the yarn, and the 2nd color on the other 1/4. I used chop sticks to sort of poke and pull the yarn apart to try to get the color onto the yarn underneath. My crockpot isn't very big, so that was a little challenging to do without mixing up the two colors of yarn. But I knew from the get-go that the yarn wouldn't end up a solid color.
So then I just put the cover on and let it 'cook'. I checked it every 15 minutes or so and moved the yarn around to expose the undyed parts. Then I'd pour more dye in. The 2nd time I did this, I used a cup to take out some of the clear water before adding more dye to keep the water level low.
Once I used up all the dye I had premade and the yarn had soaked it all up, I just turned the crockpot off and let it cool. I then rinsed the yarn and let it dry.
I absolutely love the 2nd colorway of blue & orange and will be trying that again. It makes me think of a Koi pond with a big orange fish swimming around. I can see maybe trying to add a bit of green to it as well. I'm hooked!! :-)
Copyright & Trademarks
Copyrights, trademarks, licenses (and patents) are all forms of legal protection. Each is a bit different as far as the specific rights they protect as well as the types of items or creations they will protect. In general, copyright protects written or artistic works (books, music, paintings, drawings). Trademarks protect brand names (or symbols, like logos); Licenses are contracts with terms agreed upon by both parties, and Patents protect inventions (and/or the process by which those inventions are made).
It’s already confusing, I know. We are only going to talk about copyright & trademarks (and a bit of licensing) as they apply to what is legal to sell on Etsy.
When you write something – a story, a novel, or even a crochet pattern – it is automatically copyrighted the moment you create it. You don’t have to register it anywhere; you own what you have written. This applies to the specific “arrangement” of those words – for example, I can write a simple pattern for a beanie hat. No one else can legally sell my pattern without my permission. But that doesn’t mean they can’t write their own pattern for the exact same kind of hat in their own words
and sell that pattern. We each would own the copyright to our own pattern.
And it doesn’t matter if I offer my pattern for free on my website. It is still a violation of copyright for someone else to take my pattern and sell it (or give it away) without my permission. That’s copyright infringement and most people are aware that this is wrong.
But what about making up my own pattern for a Mickey Mouse beanie – the basic black hat with the big ears? If I make it up myself, is that copyright infringement?
Writing your own pattern for a mouse ears hat isn't copyright infringement, it’s trademark infringement. Those mouse ears are trademarked by Disney. And to legally sell something that is trademarked by someone else, you need to get permission or be licensed by that someone else.
If you do a search on Etsy for “Mickey Mouse”, you’ll find that there are 36,455 items listed (as of right now). Considering what I've read about Disney’s requirements for licensing, I’m betting 99% of those listings are infringing on trademark. (It's a lengthy and pricey process to obtain a Disney license - this is a quick overview from their website
So, okay. Disney has trademarked anything to do with “The Mouse”. But they’re a big corporation – how can it hurt them if I sell a few Mickey Mouse hats?? Times are tough – I’m just trying to make a little extra money.
Part of a trademark holder’s responsibility is to defend his trademark – or he can lose it
. And the holder is the ONLY one who can defend it. Etsy cannot tell you to take down your unlicensed Mickey t-shirt unless Disney contacts them. Sure, a company can look the other way, but if they do that too much they are putting their trademark at risk. I kinda doubt Disney is going to ever let their trademarks go. Will Disney’s lawyers find out you’re selling those little Mickey hats? Maybe. Maybe not. It’s pretty easy to do a search on Etsy though – and they have made “sweeps” of the site in the past.
And what exactly are you risking? A slap on the hand from Disney lawyers? The first step is USUALLY a notice called a “Cease and Desist” (C&D for short). They basically tell you you’re infringing and to take the items down. If Etsy is involved, Etsy will just deactivate your items themselves. But legally the owner of the trademark could go after you for statutory damages plus costs, including attorneys' fees. Yikes.
Yes, there is a market for those things and they'll probably sell. But bottom line is Disney owns the Mouse. They even own the image of the Ears. For Dr. Who fans, the BBC owns a trademark on the blue telephone booth. And they have gone after those selling or giving away a pattern to make one. Are there still folks out there selling unlicensed Dr. Who stuff? You betcha. Will they get caught too? Maybe; maybe not. But do you want to risk a whole bunch of money, your business, your home doing something you know is wrong?
A few years ago, I was making little notebooks from recycled cereal boxes and listing them for sale. These were boxes going into the trash bin; I was being all “green” and recycling them into useful items. Besides, they were cute. Never even occurred to me that I was infringing on their trademark. I received a Cease & Desist letter via Etsy from Kellogg telling me in no uncertain terms to knock it off (along with a bunch of other sellers). I wrote them back asking for permission to sell the notebooks, but they never responded.
Certain companies have a reputation for being VERY hard-nosed about their trademarks: Disney is top of the list, Sanrio (Hello Kitty) is another. Harley Davidson, Kellogg, Jack Daniels, the BBC (Dr. Who, Firefly, etc.), MLB and the NFL. And they have the right – they've spent years and a lot of money to develop their brand. If I ever create something that goes viral, I’d probably be ticked if people stole it too.
So if you didn't write it, draw it, create it; don't try to make money off it without getting permission.
There is, of course, a whole lot more to this issue. Some things that used to be copyrighted are now in the Public Domain (copyright does eventually expire). It is possible to get a license to create & sell things using trademarked images. If you feel like doing your own research, here are a few links for further reading. (Warning - government websites WILL make your brain explode. Just sayin'!)
Wondering if something is trademarked? (You’d be surprised what is – “Spit happens” is a trademarked phrase!) You can do a search here: http://tmsearch.uspto.gov/bin/gate.exe?f=tess&state=4806:829quv.1.1
Copyright Registration for Works of the Visual Arts - http://www.copyright.gov/circs/circ40.pdf
The United States Patent & Trademark Office - http://www.uspto.gov/trademarks/
Licenses, Permits and Sales Tax
Most of us would just as soon limit the amount of interaction we have with any form of taxing or licensing authority. It ranks right up there with going to the dentist in my book. But as much as we’d rather spend the bulk of our time creating, the reality is that there is a certain amount of paperwork that must be done to be 'legal'.
Whether you need a business license, planning department permit – or something else – depends on your local city/county/state regulations. I’ve lived in places that required nothing beyond registering with the state; and I’ve lived where I had to get a business license as well as a planning department variance permit to operate a digital-only business out of my home. (Don’t get me started on how ridiculous that was!)
Sales tax is another issue though – if your state has sales tax then you must collect it on items that you sell. But you only have to collect it from your buyers who live in your state – not everyone. (As of right now anyway - there are efforts to change this to require businesses to collect sales tax from every single buyer no matter where they live. 50 different sales tax rates - how fun would that be??) But for now, if you live in Florida, you only have to collect from buyers who live in Florida. (And in Florida, only ‘tangible’ items are taxable – so the digital patterns I sold were not subject to sales tax, but any custom items I made and shipped were.)
Rather than reinvent the wheel, I’m going to give you a link to something a friend on Etsy wrote about this whole subject – I would encourage you to take a few minutes to check it out: http://www.gotogreatpanes.com/blog/sales-tax-business-registration/
She has direct links to just about every state’s licensing websites so you can see exactly what your state requires.
Please don’t let this overwhelm you – take things step by step and you’ll be legal in no time. Signing up to collect sales is most likely something you’ll be able to do online. Depending on your state, you may only have to remit the taxes to them quarterly, semi-annually or even annually. For Florida I was able to do everything online – filling out the quarterly reports and remit the taxes. I would guess most states are there or going that way. Be sure to save a copy of the sales tax returns you file – just in case. And yes – I had to file the report each quarter even if I didn't sell anything subject to sales tax for those 3 months.
Collecting the tax isn't difficult – you just need to tell Etsy how much and when to collect it. Go to your shop “listings” page and on the left hand side there is a column of links. Look under Shop Settings --> Shipping & Payment. Click on that and you’ll see a series of tabs across the page – and there it is! A tab for Sales Tax.
Once you click that tab, you’ll see drop-down menus to choose your state and enter the tax rate. There are also tabs if you’re unlucky enough to live in a state that has a different sales tax rate for different zip codes. If that applies to you, you’ll have the breakdown directly from your state and – as brutal as it is – you’ll have to enter the zip codes and the tax rates individually. I know, I’m sorry. New York is notorious for having really complicated sales tax rates.
Once you set the tax rate up, Etsy will start charging sales tax to anyone with an address in your state. If your state doesn't tax certain items, make sure you uncheck the “apply sales tax” box when creating listings for those items. It is up to YOU to keep track of the sales tax you've collected – and to put it aside in your bank account – so that you have it available to send to the state when it’s due.
It’s likely that you won’t be collecting a lot of sales tax unless you happen to sell a large percentage to your home state. There were several quarters where I literally had to pay less than a dollar on my sales tax report. The upside is that having to fill out that report forced me to keep my bookkeeping up to date – I had to know my total sales to do the report.
One more thing I've learned – although it may be tempting to say the sales tax is “included” in your price and just figure out how much you owe each quarter without setting everything up on Etsy; that may be illegal. (Yes, really). In Florida it was specifically against the law to do that – I had to collect the tax from each person at the time of the sale. I don’t know how common that is – we’re currently in Oregon and they have no sales tax. (Thank you God!)
Next week we'll talk about copyright & trademarks and how that may affect you and your shop. See you then!
You’ve never heard of Etsy before, but everyone keeps telling you your stuff is great – you should sell it!! So you check out the website and figure it’ll be easy. Just take a bunch of cell phone pictures of your stuff and throw them up there. Cool – this will be fun.
Yes, it can be fun but there is also a steep learning curve if you’ve never sold online before. And Etsy has its own ‘culture’ made up of hobbyists, entrepreneurs, vintage lovers and starving artists. There are those who parade their lifestyle choices (“I live off the grid and would NEVER work for “the man”!) as the one, true religion to follow. Okay, whatever. :-)
There are those who believe you should only create things that YOU are passionate about or you are violating the “spirit” of handmade – never mind if it’s what buyers want. And if you follow or research current trends, you are somehow cheapening what being an artist is all about. And of course there are those who will cross the legal line of trademark or copyright violations in pursuit of sales at any cost.
Hmmm….basically a snapshot of all the different views and standards you will see just about anywhere in our society. Imagine that.
You can get as involved in the day-to-day life of Etsy (forums, teams, followers, circles, etc.) as you want. Or you can stay in your shop and never venture outside. Either style is a legitimate choice; but if your ultimate goal is to grow a business you’ll probably need to take advantage of at least some of the collective resources available on Etsy.
I’m the type of person who tends to gloss over instruction booklets when I get a new electronic toy. (I’ve had my latest smart phone for over a year and I know I’m missing out on a lot of its features because I haven’t taken the time to read the guide.) There are a ton of resources on Etsy and when you’re starting out it can seem overwhelming. It’s very tempting to just flip through the screens and click the ‘accept’ button and be done with it.
Please don’t though.
Before you even begin the process, understand that it will take several days (maybe even weeks) to fully set up your shop. This page
is where you will start. It has links to some very valuable information for you – Etsy Do’s & Don’t’s
; How Etsy Fees work
; FAQs on just about all things Etsy
. There is more – but I’m really trying not to overwhelm anyone. Remember that steep learning curve I mentioned? I wasn't kidding.
and the Sellers Handbook
– a series of blog posts - at the very minimum before you decide to do this for sure. Make sure what you want to sell is “Etsy legal”. For instance, you can’t sell items made from a kit. You can’t sell something made by someone else (called reselling and is a big, bad no no – Etsy is not eBay). You can’t sell gift baskets made of items you didn't make yourself. If you’re not sure about something, email Etsy to ask if it’s allowed before spending more time or money setting up shop.
If nothing in the TOU’s or the handbook scream “Etsy isn’t for you!” then go on to the next step - choose a shop name (if you haven’t already) and check that it is not taken already. Unless you’re using your own name or something very, very unique this may take a while. As of Aug, 2012, there were over 800,000 active shops on Etsy! And once a name has been used it can never be used again, whether or not the shop is still active. Try to plan ahead – maybe in a couple of years you will want your own website so check that your desired business name is available as a domain too.
One early mistake I made was to limit myself with my shop name. My first shop was TheCrochetedBaby
since baby stuff was the focus of what I was making at that point. But I quickly learned that I had limited myself with that name and had to bite the bullet and start over with a new name that left open future possibilities without being too generic. After brainstorming with hubby, PlayingWithFiber was born. (There are no spaces in shop names on Etsy so make use of strategic capital letters). Remember too that your Etsy shop name doesn’t have to be your official business name. My registered business is Pam Daley Designs – that’s what I use for taxes, collecting sales tax. etc. My Etsy shop is PlayingwithFiber. Etsy is simply one “location” selling Pam Daley Designs.
So now you have decided on a name, you've researched it, you've set up your shop and read through some of the resources on Etsy. You are on your way! Next week we’ll talk about putting together a business plan to help you get all those ideas and plans in your head into a set of goals to make them come true.
We have been on the road the past 10 days - from South Lake Tahoe to Oakland & San Francisco; visiting my "home town" (and getting totally lost) and remembering why I don't like driving through Sacramento.
We went to a baseball game (our team lost), visited Fisherman's Wharf in San Francisco, and walked across the Golden Gate Bridge (twice since you have to get back to your car!).
We had a great time, I'm tired, and I managed to finish my rainbow socks - aren't they awesome?? The color stripes didn't line up exactly, but I'm happy with them. And yes! The color really is that bright - they are fabulous, if I do say so myself. :-) I also started another pair of socks (I'm calling them "jailhouse rock" socks - you'll see why when I finish them and post pictures); a pair of gloves; and a shawl. I have crochet ADD - I make no apologies for that. :-)
I've also been working on my "So you want to open an Etsy shop" blog series and will have the next post up on Wednesday of this week. I'll be talking about some of the things you need to consider before hanging that "OPEN" sign - from choosing a name to deciding exactly what you're going to sell in your new shop. I hope you'll check back later this week!
My goal with this new blog series is to hopefully provide good, easy to read information for those considering Etsy as a venue. I get asked questions pretty frequently and while I don’t mind helping someone out, it will be much easier to have my thoughts already written out. The challenge will be to keep these posts to the point without leaving out valuable tips, tricks & information. You’ll have to be the judge of whether I succeed.
These are some of the topics I will be covering over the next few weeks:
1. Deciding what your shop is about – what is your goal? Why are you doing this?
2. Legal – income tax, collecting sales tax, business permits & licenses
3. Why isn’t anyone buying my stuff?
4. Down & dirty SEO
6. I know I should do <fill in the blank> first, but…
If there are some specifics not included above that you would like to see, please let me know by posting a comment or email me and I’ll do my best to put together a post covering them.
I opened my first shop on Etsy in 2007 after a friend suggested I check out the website. I had been going through chemo and crocheting was about the only thing I could physically do during that time. Also, my hubby and I had both just retired from our careers and I was looking for an online business that we could take on the road as full-time RVers. Just something to make a little extra money. Opening a shop to sell my finished items as well as the crochet patterns I was starting to write seemed like the perfect idea.
It’s now 6 years later and my shop is in its 3rd incarnation. I’ve dabbled in a few different products, but my shop now is what I envisioned at the beginning – custom crochet & original crochet patterns. I’ve branched out from Etsy and sell my patterns via other venues as well as my stand-alone website. Am I satisfied with where I am with my business today? Yes, but – and there’s always a ‘but’ - I want to grow it more. Etsy has been very good to me and I have no plans to close my shop there. The site has great built-in traffic, it’s inexpensive to list products and the community is a wealth of information.
Does this mean I know everything there is to know about Etsy? Of course not. And to be honest, what works for me may not work for you. Much of what we do as far as marketing, advertising, etc. can take weeks to evaluate. So you’ll probably have to use trial and error sometimes to see what brings about the best results for your shop. But I hope that sharing my experiences will be helpful too.
Thanks so much to all who stopped by yesterday - and are still stopping by today! My inbox has exploded over the past 24-36 hours - and I can tell that a lot of you are taking advantage of the free pattern download. I love it!
The freebie promotion will be ending in just a few hours, so spread the word to your crocheting friends. If they haven't made their way here yet, tell them to hurry!
Thank you to all who signed up for my newsletter and to help with Project Night Night
- I'll be contacting you shortly with more details. If you haven't signed up yet and would like to, click on the "Contact Me" link at the top of this page and fill out the form there. The more the merrier!
To those of you visiting today as part of the Crochetville National Crochet Month Blog Tour - welcome and thanks so much for stopping by on my birthday! I can't think of a better way to celebrate!
I'm debuting a new sock pattern today and offering it FREE for a very limited time. The sock has a unique cuff made to look like the knit stockinette stitch - sideways. Easy to do and different! (If you'd like to read more about his unique stitch, check out this blog post
from last week.) You can download the pattern from this page
, or if you want to download it directly into your Ravelry library, it's available in my shop there
as well. (Use the coupon code BLOGTOUR to get it free on Ravelry.)
If you've been following along on our tour this month, you've probably already read about our sponsored charity - Project Night Night
. If your heart has been touched by this group, but you don't think you can commit to making a complete blanket I'd like to offer an alternative: crochet as few or as many 6 inch squares and send them on to me. I have committed to deliver 10 Project Night Night bags to one of the sponsored shelters and would love to use your squares as part of the blankets I will be making. (I will be donating the bags to this shelter - Siskiyou Domestic Violence Crisis Center
in Yreka, CA)
You can use the contact form at the bottom of this post if you're interested in helping me with Project Night Night or if you'd like to receive my monthly newsletter. You'll get sneak peaks at upcoming patterns as well as other news and discount codes once in a while. If you're interested in testing new patterns before I release them, the newsletter will sometimes give you a heads up on those opportunities too. (To be clear: I will never sell or give your email address to anyone else and the newsletter comes out monthly at most - depends on how crazy my life is at the time!)
Thanks so much to Amy Shelton and Donna Hulka, co-owners of Crochetville
, for organizing this blog tour. Crochetville, as well as CGOA
(Crochet Guild of America) have been so instrumental in helping me move from "wanna-be designer" to actively pursuing my dream job. Even if you don't want to design patterns, there are so many resources on those two sites for any crocheter. Classes, social communities, patterns - I continually find new pages and "bunny paths" to explore - I'm sure you will too.
Don't forget to join us on the tour again tomorrow - we'll be visiting with Tammy Hildebrand
and Marty Miller
. See you then!
I am so excited to announce that my patterns are now available (in print!) for distribution to local yarn shops across the US (and Alaska & Hawaii!). Stitch Sprouts
is a company which provides professional designer services - including distribution. I'm now one of their represented designers - you can see my page on their website here
It has been one of my goals to wholesale my patterns directly to local yarn shops, but setting it all up turned out to be more of a time commitment than I could handle. So I decided to pursue signing on with a distributor - leading me to Stitch Sprouts. They handle everything from contacting the shops to printing and delivering the patterns. I have decided that the day I walk into a random yarn shop and see one of my patterns for sale there will be the day I can say "I've done it. I'm a professional crochet designer!" Not that there aren't other milestones I'd like to accomplish, but seriously - that's one near the top. :-)
I'm always up for trying new crochet stitches - I love coming across a one that I've never seen before. Of course, that excitement quickly turns into frustration if I can't figure out what it is or how to do it!
There is a "new" stitch that is being seen more and more in the crochet world lately - it mimics the look of a knit stockinette stitch (worked sideways). It's being called by lots of names - I've seen "short single (or short half-double) crochet", "surface braid stitch" and "hump stitch". From what I have found researching online, the stitch was first introduced in the early 1990's by author and crochet designer Naka Pillman. She named it the "camel stitch" and then trademarked that name. Since you cannot copyright or trademark the actual stitch itself, it means that designers are free to use it in patterns, but we have to come up with another name for it - hence all those I listed above (and more, I'm sure).
It's kind of sad that the name has been trademarked - makes it difficult to find patterns using the stitch since no one other than Naka Pillman can use "camel stitch". I haven't seen that any specific name is becoming more popular so we're likely to continue to see new ones pop up.
Be that as it may, I still love the stitch and have designed a pair of gloves and a pair of socks using variations of it. The glove pattern is here
and the sock pattern will be debuted on Tuesday when the National Crochet Month Blog Tour
stops here. I'll be giving the pattern away for a very short time - you don't want to miss it!