Feb 182017
 

In my previous post, How to save time and money for your craft business design needs, I described—among other items—how I used ordinary office software to design a custom photo album. In this post, you’ll see how the software design translated into reality when I assembled the parts of the album.

I began with two stacks of card stock, one in black for 5-inch x 6-inch pages, and another stack in ivory for 2-1/2 inch x 3-1/2 photo mats.

My best friend for adhering the photo mats to the pages is Scor-Tape because it’s strong, lasting and lightweight.

When I adhered the photo mats to the pages I really did not want to have to measure their location with a ruler, so I created a U-shaped card stock paper jig that helped me with consistency in placement.

To each page, I adhered a strip of printed paper for a splash of color. I cut a narrow length of card stock to serve as a temporary spacer between the photo mats and the location of the printed strip. This speeded up the placement process considerably.

I usually round the corners of the pages I add to any book or album; not only does this look more finished, in my opinion, but rounded corners tend not to curl or crease as easily as 90-degree corners do.

I punched the pages for insertion into the photo album using my We R Memory Keepers Cinch. I do have a Zutter Bind-it-All, but because the latter punches only six holes at a time, I find the Cinch works better for me for larger books. On the other hand, the Bind-it-All punches through thicker covers and more pages at a time than the Cinch, and its owire crimping produces a more rounded appearance. The Cinch punches both square holes and round holes, depending upon which version you purchase, while the Bind-it-All punches square holes only. Each binding tool, in other words, has its strong and weak points.

The cover of the album was created after the pages were completed. I began by gathering the papers and heavyweight book board, and cut them into appropriate sizes. The book board I use measures .082 inch in depth, which is thicker than I feel comfortable cutting with my Rotatrim Professional M18 rotary trimmer. Instead, I use the Zutter Kutter, which is designed specifically to cut through thick materials such as chipboard, book board, foam board, stacks of card stock and leather.

I layered all papers together the way my customer specified, covering the book board, and bound the album with a one-inch-diameter owire. I have discovered that the wider the diameter of the owire, the more trouble the Cinch or Bind-it-All have with crimping it. Too often, the owire ends up with a kink in it instead of being perfectly rounded. Sometime last year, I decided it was time to locate a commercial tool that is dedicated to owire binding. I discovered that MyBinding.com sells some of its equipment at a reduced cost if the box has been opened and the item inside is damaged in some way, but still is functional. In my case, some of the paint was chipped on a Tamerica DuraWire 450 Manual Twin Loop Wire Closer, but the tool itself worked perfectly in every way. I bought it at a seriously reduced cost, and find that it crimps consistently every time. These days I use both my Cinch and Bind-it-All for punching holes only; when they no longer punch well, I will likely replace them with a commercial punching tool.

The wire closer accommodates owire diameters from .24 inch to 1.25 inches.

My husband gave me his old tool chest, which is the perfect place to keep this rather large piece of equipment.

The front and back sides of the finished photo album are essentially the same, except for a floral embellishment on the front. Although I do use some purchased solid color papers for custom orders, I generally print papers from digital designs, and then seal them with Tim Holtz Distress Micro Glaze to make them water-resistant. For some of the papers whose white inner core edges I don’t want to be visible, I brush them with Tim Holtz Distress Ink.

The last item I add to an otherwise finished book or album is the cover embellishment. I crafted a yellow zinnia from 90 paper petals—nine layers in all—die cutting the petals with Spellbinders Create-a-Flower Zinnia. After the layers were adhered, I spray-misted them with Ranger Perfect Pearls Mists to give the flower a little shimmer.

I glued the flower to the cover, gave it 24 hours to dry, and shipped off the album.

As I mentioned in my previous post, creating a digital proof for custom orders is essential to making sure that both the customer and I are on the same page. I don’t have expensive design software, so I use ordinary office software to get the job done. It does add a few extra steps to the creation process, but in the end, I think everyone is happy.

In the comments below, describe a challenge you faced when you crafted a custom item, whether it was for an order or a gift.

© 2017 Judy Nolan. All rights reserved.

Share
Feb 052017
 

Recently a customer asked me to design a photo album to commemorate her elderly mother’s birthday. She already had 2×3 mini photos, but was looking for a special album to display them. We settled on a spiral-bound album using digital papers she selected, and exchanged convos (short for “conversations,” or messages) for other aspects of the custom order, such as papers and accents.

As a small business owner who designs and crafts handmade books, I don’t have a large budget for design software. To save time and money—but mostly to ensure my customers and I are on the same page for custom orders—the use of digital proofs is critical. My solution? I use standard office software, Microsoft Office, to get the job done.

I developed a template in Microsoft Office Word that allows me to insert thumbnail images of digital papers. The template is nothing more than a table, with alternating rows for images and captions.

After I insert images into a copy of my template, I save it using a customer-specific file name. This allows me to edit the file later without affecting the original template. Then I save the file once more as a PDF file, which is a universal file format that anyone can use by downloading Adobe Acrobat Reader. Because the software flattens images so that they’re not as high resolution as the original images, this also helps to prevent distribution of them. This is important because I purchase digital papers from sellers who rightfully want to protect their intellectual rights.

After the customer selects digital papers, I create a proof in PowerPoint, outlining further choices that may need to be decided. If nothing else, providing a digital proof enables me to know that my buyer has approved the design. Then I can write a custom listing that the buyer uses to purchase the item from my Etsy shop.

In the images below, the customer needs to decide whether I should add a red or yellow handmade flower accent to the front cover. The floral image is clip art, so it serves an illustrative purpose but does not reflect either the exact placement or final appearance of the handmade paper flower I will create.

A proof image also gives the buyer a chance to review the inside cover page and approve it.

Even the inside pages require review. One image shows a pre-matted page for 2×3 photos, while the second page shows a decorative paper strip that might add a splash of color to a page. All these pages were designed using Microsoft PowerPoint.

Microsoft Office is useful for designing more than custom order options. You can use either Word or Excel to design your craft show booth space, and then add colored shapes for the different tables or fixtures inside it.

For the image below, I created an Excel workbook with a different worksheet for each booth layout. I changed the width of each row and column to .25 inch, then outlined the entire dimensions of a 12-foot wide by 9-foot deep space with a thick, dark line. Colored rectangles represent the different sizes of tables I own. It is easy to copy and paste the shapes from one location on a worksheet to another.

You can also create a scaled image of your booth space with Word by creating a table, but it takes more time to move the shapes around. Honestly, I thought it was easier with this method to print everything, cut it out with scissors, and go “old school” to design your booth space. You can then snap a picture with your smart phone, and take the phone with you to your show.

Have you ever applied to a craft show that requires sample images of your products? It’s easy to do using Microsoft Word. I simply insert images into a blank page, re-size them, and drag them to the desired location. Below is a product sample page I used for a recent application for a craft show, where I will sell my crocheted women’s accessories.

When I first began using office software for design purposes, I used Corel WordPerfect, as that is the first major software package I learned. In fact, ran a home-based desktop publishing company for 10 years using WordPerfect, serving local area businesses. I still have design templates from that program that I use, but am gradually migrating to Microsoft Office because it is more universal. I keep coming up with additional ways to use both packages for design applications for my craft business, and love to hear about the ways other people use them. How do you handle design issues for your craft business or hobby?

© 2017 Judy Nolan. All rights reserved.

Share
Oct 232016
 

It’s that time of year again when, despite all of the preparations I have made for upcoming fall craft fairs, I find myself blogging less and creating more. One week ago my husband and I packed our car with folding tables and chairs, cloth bags of crocheted accessories, boxes of handmade books, and an assortment of display racks, signage and other items. I’m always surprised that everything fits in one vehicle, as well as grateful that my husband designs and executes the loading plan.

The destination was Clarinda Craft Carnival—my third time—at the Page County Fairgrounds in southwest Iowa, where Edi Royer—one of my Blogging Business Artisans teammates—also sells. This fair is typically pretty busy, so while we don’t have much time to visit during the event itself, we do meet up afterward for dinner. This year Edi, her parents, my husband and I enjoyed a leisurely dinner at a local restaurant, as well as conversation that never flagged. I realized afterward that we completely forgot to take photos of each other, but you can see Edi’s basic booth setup on her blog from a previous show, and my tables are shown below.

img_7778-resized

img_7780-resized

Of the two craft shows where I sell each year, the Clarinda one is more successful, but I learn something new at every venue. Whether you have lots of sales or not, it’s always a good idea to take stock of went well and what could be improved. With three weeks to go until my next show at Beaverdale Holiday Boutique in Des Moines, below is the learning I’ll take with me, going forward.

What went well

  1. Aim for a small footprint while transporting your goods. Using pretty lidded boxes to both store and display handmade books works well, as does using cloth bags to store and transport crocheted goods. Both types of items take up a relatively small footprint in our car for transport, and are easy to carry into the exhibit hall.
  1. Use an SKU (stock keeping unit) system for merchandise. Attaching SKU tags to my crocheted goods helps to track what colors and items are popular, and identifies quickly what items need to be restocked for the next show. I use a letter code that pinpoints the type of item (such as gloves, head warmers, neck warmers, or scarflettes) plus a numeric code that represents the yarn brand and color.
  1. Be prepared to do credit card transactions the old-fashioned way. I always bring a paper method as a back-up for handling credit card transactions. Although I prefer to use a Square credit card reader at craft shows, sometimes the building where I sell doesn’t have an adequate Internet connection. That’s the case in Clarinda, where my iPhone read “No Service” for the duration of the show.
  1. Simplicity can be the best booth layout. The booth size in Clarinda is only 8 feet wide by 5 feet deep, so a straight-line table display is what worked best for me. When you only have 18 inches behind your tables, that narrows your layout options. I also needed to have a way to enter and exit my space, as there were booths on either side of me, as well as behind me. To achieve this, I brought 4-foot, 5-foot and 6-foot tables—the shortest table for my books, and the longer tables for my crocheted goods, with 12 inches between the two types of tables for entry and exit.
  1. Aim for eye-level display. To go vertical, I used spinning racks that I purchased from Achieve Display for crocheted items, a combination of decorative boxes (from Jo-Ann Fabrics) and tiered acrylic racks (also from Achieve Display), and wooden plate racks (from Hobby Lobby) to display my books.
  1. Focus on popular colors. I focus on popular colors for crocheted goods based on the previous year’s sales, but I also pay attention to current apparel colors in local department stores. This year, I was pleased to discover I hit my target colors particularly well. No one asked for colors that weren’t already available.

Where I could improve

  1. Allow enough time for new product development. I’m overdue for offering a few new categories of crocheted accessories, such as boot cuffs, flower lariats, and maybe jewelry bags or clutches with crocheted accents. Buyers like to see new items, but I simply ran out of time this year—due to medical issues—to develop something new. I need to dedicate time to developing new products instead of leaving this to chance.
  1. Bring the right merchandise. Crocheted scarflettes do not sell as well as neck warmers. Unfortunately for me, I brought more of the former than the latter. Go figure!
  1. Bring more merchandise than you think you will need. Despite the fact that I brought more crocheted merchandise than in previous years, there were still a few hooks on my display racks that looked skimpy. The solution, of course, is to manage my time better so that I’ll have more items to display.
  1. Identify what your shopper wants. What customers want or need changes all the time, so you need to pay attention to their discussions with other shoppers, and really listen to their questions and suggestions. Sometimes a poll on a social network like Facebook or a blog can be helpful. Right now I’m still trying to pinpoint which of my handmade books are most appropriate for a craft fair venue. The answer might be a type of book I haven’t yet created.

During the next three weeks, I will have limited time to implement changes and improvements, but you can bet that at the next show, I’ll be paying attention to my buyers’ comments, and jotting them down in a notebook or on my Notes app on my iPhone. What learning have you taken away from your last craft show?

© 2016 Judy Nolan. All rights reserved.

Share