What? It Fell Out of the Tree that Way!

Mr. Pea & I bought our Christmas tree on Sunday and ended up with a few extra branches.  The man cutting the fresh ring on the tree had to clip off a few of the low hanging limbs and he was about to throw them into the pile of other discarded branches when I stopped him.  We just paid for those limbs why discard them!  Christmas is the best time of year for a DIY project and those extra branches could make lots of nice decor for your home.

Here’s what “fell” out of my tree:

Christmas Wreath

Christmas Wreath

Christmas Bough Decor

Christmas Bough

In total I ended up with four of the lowest (and biggest) branches to play with.  Here is all you need to transform your extra branches into beautiful decor: 2 Wire Hangers, Pruning Sheers, Wire Cutters, and Green Wire.  That’s it!

Wreath Making Tools

2 Wire Hangers, Green Wire, Wire Cutters, & Pruning Sheers

The green wire I have shown is 20 gauge and easy to manipulate, floral or other easily bendable wire will also work.  If you have a wire wreath form floating around, omit the wire hangers.  Now, shape the hangers into a rough circle, line up the hooks, and using the green wire secure at the top, bottom, & sides of the circle.  I found it hard to even see the hangers anymore once the wreath was done, but if you’d like wrap the hangers with green floral tape.  Now clip one branch at a time into 10″-12″ lengths and secure to the wreath form you just created with the wire, overlapping the ends of each length.  Continue doing this until the wreath is as full as you’d like.

Now it’s time to decorate!  I had these clip on decorations from my usual grapevine wreath.  I got them at Michaels.  You could spice yours up using ornaments, bows, pine cones, or lights.  Whatever you have around the house or find in the yard even.

Here are a few inspirational ideas:

  Wreath Ideas

I really love the use of different plants for varying texture in all of these wreaths.  For more tips and how to add live plants to a wreath check out this article on Apartment Therapy.

My wreath took less than an hour to put together and I had enough branches left over to put together the bough on my front step.  I couldn’t believe how easy (and cheap) this was to put together!  Literally, this was free!  Now go make something beautiful!

Homemade Fir Wreath

 

DIY Paper Star Garland

To me Thanksgiving is such a nice primer to usher in the Holiday Season.  Right away you get to start off your Christmas decorating with a clean house (if you hosted), and all the leftover pumpkin pie is yours to nibble on while you dig through your box of goodies.

I like to add at least one new decoration to my holiday collection every year.  It is too expensive to buy it all at once!  This year I made a Paper Star Garland and I’d love to share this cute little DIY decoration with you today.

First you’ll need the template!  I cut these out with my Silhouette, but they could easily be cut out by hand.

Grab this template and scale it to the size you want.  I used a 4″ star and a 2″ star.  Cut along the solid lines and score along the dotted lines.  Cut out 2 for each finished star and glue them together with the tabs.  Once they’re glued you can push them together to get the 3-d shape.  You should end up with a pile of stars like this.

I made 8 large stars and 4 smaller stars for a 6′ length of garland.  Next measure the length of intended span and add a few inches for slack.  For instance, my window is approximately 5′-6″ so I added another 6″ to allow for a bit of slack in my garland.  Now cut out double that length for the rope or twine, I cut 12′ of twine.  Tie the two loose ends together so you end up with a doubled over 6′ length of twine with a loop on each end.  I hang mine by looping each end over a thumbtack, preferably the same color as your molding or clear to not draw attention to them.

Hang up your twine at this stage to make sure the length is right and make any adjustments necessary.  Trust me you want to do this now before the stars are added.  Now back to the stars!  I cut out 6″ of twine for the larger stars and 18″ for the smaller ones, but make this your own, keeping 6″ as a minimum.

 

 

Once you have them all stung through (broaden the hole on the little stars if need be), tie them off where you would like them to meet the rope.  Don’t tie them too close to the star because you want it to dangle.  For the larger stars I tied them off roughly in the middle and for the smaller stars I tied them off closer to the loose ends so they would hang farther down.

Now take your long length of twine down and lay it out on a table or the floor.  Take your stars and space them out along your twine.

Now keep an eye on your helper.  They might steal one of your cute stars or try to run off with the string entirely.  SO very helpful!

Now once your helper is wrangled, and your stars are arranged as you like them it’s time to tie them off!

Finish with a little bow or just a knot, it’s up to you!  Once you’re done tying them all to the twine you can hang and enjoy your beautiful work!

Ready or Not The Holidays are Here!

I don’t know about you, but I am still in shock it is November already.  I started focusing my attention on holiday items for the shop back in September, but the holidays still felt ages away.  Well today I showed up to a mall all decked out for Christmas!  Starbucks has switched over to their red holiday cups, and well I’m finding myself pulling out Christmas decorations too.  Ok, they’re for photo props, but still I just strung holiday lighting around a Christmas tree!  There’s no avoiding it, the Holiday season is here.

For this holiday season I didn’t want to make cards.  I was ready to try something different, so I started playing around with folded paper boxes.  I instantly loved them, but it wasn’t enough.  Anyone can fold a box, heck I’ll even give you the instructions!  There are a ton of tutorials on the web, but I had great success with these instructions from Homemade Gifts made easy.  Now that I had a cute box I needed to make it mine, something worth buying.  I ended up with these Poinsettia boxes and they are stunning in person!

Hand cut pedals, painted leaves, and beaded centers make these paper poinsettia on top of a hand folded paper box something worth buying (and keeping)!  I made a version of this box for a friend’s baby shower and everyone loved the idea!  You can expect to see more of these types of boxes in my shop this spring.

I enjoyed sculpting those flowers so much I decided I’d start working on larger, frame-able pieces of art.  I am not going to reveal just yet what I am working on, but in my research for my first piece I discovered a beautiful pattern just perfect for the holidays.  Yup, just worked out that way.

This leaf pattern is found in French Gothic architecture.  If you look closely you can see the Fleur-de-lis at the ends of the leaves.  It was a pattern designed for a King and it makes a bold, beautiful statement.  I have had so much fun playing with different ways to use this pattern for the holidays.   It becomes so whimsical in the colored patterned paper, and then so regal in the gold and silver.  My holiday decorating usually includes a bit of both humor and tradition, so I am pleased to have found a pattern that works for both.

If you’d like to incorporate any of these holiday items into your decor or gift wrapping, they are now available in my Etsy shop: Mrs. Pea’s Papers.  Thanks for stopping by, and Happy Holidays (already)!!

Mrs. Pea’s Goes High Tech

Over the past few months I have put my focus back onto Mrs. Pea’s Papers.  I reduced my hours at Starbucks, which helped tremendously!  I am now done with work most days before noon.  Imagine that, getting out of work before lunch and having the afternoons to yourself!  My spare bedroom is now a more functional studio too.  It is now my favorite place in the house.  I also invested in an incredible machine, the Silhouette Cameo!

The Cameo opens up a whole new world to me.  It is basically a printer that cuts your designs, and comes with an illustrator type software that’s easy to use.  Unlike some other craft cutters out there this one will cut your own designs, and as an added bonus you can even switch out the knife for a pen!  It even has the ability to cut out your printed images.  I can’t say enough good things about this machine.  Check out my first real project with the Cameo:

I was able to cut out the vinyl lettering for the window of my stepmother’s new business using the font of my choosing.  It’s amazing to be able to do something so professional from home!  Did I mention it cuts a range of materials?!  You could use this machine to cut paper, card stock, vinyl, fabric, magnetic paper, rhinestone templates, and more.  You really get a lot for your money.  Next I made a card for a friend’s wedding:

This card actually gave me a lot of trouble and showed me the limitations of the machine.  It does not like a thick card stock paired with a thin font.  You also need to watch what is behind the machine that the adhesive mat could stick too.  At one point the exposed adhesive edge grabbed the stapler on my desk and dragged it back while ruining the cut.  Mostly, this card was my trial and error process with the Cameo.  Due to time constraints, I almost gave up on it completely but I stuck with it and figured it out.  I was very proud of myself when it was finished!

For my Etsy shop I am still developing items for Christmas but I was able to design these patterns with the Silhouette software and use the machine to cut out the tags.

It has been a fun process learning the best way to use the Cameo and it’s software.  Working with the pen features is next on my list, so be sure to look out for calligraphic holiday tags soon!

Etsy: The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly

As a buyer, especially as a bride, I loved Etsy!  So many creative, one of a kind items, all in one place and from all over the world too; yes please!  Etsy is a bride’s dream come true.  You can find those vintage and hand crafted items that give your wedding a special touch in one place.  It is hard to beat that.  I bought my bridesmaids vintage, collage inspired jewelry from England.  Not only was this jewelry exactly what I was looking for, the owner created a special piece for one of my bridesmaids to complete the collection at no extra cost to me.  I was thrilled to find this shop and felt like Etsy was such a magical place to connect me to this crafter in England!

As a seller, I am starting to become wary of Etsy.  I started selling on Etsy this past February, and have big dreams of turning that little shop into a full-blown website of its own.  I started my shop on Etsy because it was easy, within two minutes I had a business to call my own and a $0 start-up fee!  Doesn’t get much easier than that.  You read through all the articles Etsy publishes and the general promise is you get back what you put in.  Meaning if you take your shop seriously as a business then you will reap the rewards of Etsy, but if you take your shop as a hobby, then that’s all it will ever be.

Behind the scenes, in the forums you start to see the cracks in this promise.  So many discussion threads are based on the question,”why am I not selling?!”  These sellers do everything they are told by Etsy Success and the Seller’s Handbook, yet their views are low and their sells even lower.  As a collective Etsy is generally viewed as one of us, a crafter and lover of all things vintage and homemade.  However, I have come to see them as a corporation that is making bank off the dreamers and the unemployed.

Etsy rakes in millions of dollars every year!  They receive a percentage of every item sold, as does Paypal.  Need I remind you the inventor of Paypal is now playing with cars and rocket ships?  They also receive $0.20 for every listing, and have set up a market that rewards those that renew their listing on a regular basis charge the same $0.20 every time.  Other ways to spend money inside Etsy is to advertise, $7 per Showcase (I still don’t understand what this means), or you could set a weekly allowance to promote your item at the top of the search results only paying when your item is clicked on.  Times all this by millions of items and shops and you get an idea of how much Etsy is bringing in.  (See Etsy Fees.)

I have been told repeatedly this is a slow season for Etsy, but looking at March’s report sells are up 41% from last March and have increased 5.5% from February.  What’s slow about selling over 3 million items with over 1 billion page views?  Etsy takes in 3.5% of all transactions, if they use direct check out they get another 3%, plus listing and advertising fees.  Let that sink in while you look at this number from their March report:

$62.8 million of goods (after refunds and cancellations) were sold by our community in March, 7.7% higher than February’s $58.3 million

Yeah, I no longer think of them as one of us.  By the way, this report is not sent out as part of their newsletter, you have to go searching for it yourself.  Here is what really gets under my sink though, it is stories like how Etsy handled this woman that got suspended for suspected drop-shipping when she shipped her handmade goods from a friend’s house in PA while she was on a military base in another country, Etsy Shop Suspended.  Versus how they’ve handled the recent scandal of Regretsy uncovering a reseller used as Etsy’s Featured Seller.  Instead of suspending the shop that is breaking their #1 rule of selling handmade and taking down the article, she’s still open for business and is being featured on their coveted front page.  While the woman who tweaked a rule to reduce her shipping fees was suspended right away and without notice.

The more I see how Etsy’s admin handles certain situations, the more I am ready to jump ship.  Like this “copyright infringement” story.  I no longer feel like Etsy’s inner workings are on my side.  I think back to the first article I read discouraging me from taking the “easy” route of opening an Etsy shop, Why Etsy Stores are at a Disadvantage, and realize he was right.  I got what I paid for.  I thought I could open my shop and test drive products, but it takes hard work and money even to be seen on Etsy.  You could be putting all that hard work into promoting your own shop, not Etsy itself.

My father is a small business owner and his first bit of advise to me was to advertise on Google.  When I showed him my shop, he immediately retracted his statement.  He said don’t pay for outside adverting when you are bringing your potential customers directly to your competition.  When you pay for advertisements outside of Etsy what you are really doing is paying to promote Etsy’s marketpalce.  To reinforce this sentiment, Etsy has recently changed the search within this shop to feature other seller’s items.  Really Etsy?!  I think it’s time I invested my time and money back into myself.

Online Marketing for Blogs to Blogs

I discovered some very interesting tips on how to submit your work to the big blogs today and want to share my resources with you.  This post goes beyond Etsy sellers and is relevant to other bloggers, or even professionals wanting to get their work published.  The big secret is found in this article from Design Sponge:  Advise from Design Bloggers!  Those Biz Ladies articles offer such a wealth of information.

In a nutshell here are the main points I took away from the article:

  • Email the bloggers directly in a friendly, personal way with great photos under 1MB attached.
  • Do not mass email all of them, pick one blog at a time to go after.  They want the exclusive after all!
  • Do your research, so you can tell them where you think you fit into their blog or why you are relevant to them.

That’s it, the big mystery revealed!  There are other points like don’t approach them if you only have two items in your shop, or only two posts into your blog, but the bullets above capture the essentials.

There are also sites where you can self submit your work, take note they don’t accept Etsy links, so having a blog or other online presence is essential.

Craft Gawker (for the crafty, DIY blogs out there)

Food Gawker (for the food blogs out there)

NOTCOT (covers just about every blogging realm: design, art, fashion, food, travel, cocktails)

Now for you Etsy sellers looking for success tips, READ this post and download the full, expanded 13 page article.  It is a little outdated but worth your time.

Happy Marketing!

On the Cutting Board: Garden Party Set

Well, I have to admit my attempts at holiday cards and individually cut illustrations did not go over well.   After a week or two on Etsy they have received very few views (even though I am advertising them) and only one item got one “heart” from those few that did view them.  Stepping back to look at them next to some of my other cards I can see why; they are not as polished or refined as the others.  Mr. Pea and I came up with some other ideas about how to make the individually cut illustrations work but that is on the back burner for the moment.

I don’t know about you, but I am obsessed with gardening right now.  OK, I don’t actually have a garden, or even a lawn for that matter.  I do have a few planter boxes on my balcony and some containers in my bay window.  I dream of filling all my outdoor spaces with beautifully planted containers, over flowing with flowers, fruits, and veggies.  This has yet to happen, last year I grew one pea (hardly over flowing).  Regardless, there’s just something about seeing the first few flowers pop up that makes me want to dig my hands into the dirt and try again.

For my next project I knew I wanted to fill out my invitation section and a garden party theme is the obvious direction I wanted to take it.  So I took a moment this morning to do a little research and poured over blogs for a little inspiration.  Oh So Beautiful Paper is one of my favorite go to blogs for all things paper!  This led me over to the Rifle Paper Co.’s website where I found more than enough inspiration.  When I say some day I want to have my own eCommerce website Rifle Paper Co. is a good one to model it on.  While looking through her invitations, I noticed she linked customers over to matching place cards and I had an Ah ha! moment.  Of course, I need to work towards creating sets of items.  What do think of Mrs. Pea’s Party Packs?  Haha, I can’t tell you how much I am enjoying the play on “P” words.

Anyways, pictured above is my first draft for a Garden Party themed pack.  Oops, I just noticed Samantha is spelled wrong, good thing it’s a first draft.  So far it includes invitations, place cards, and gift tags.  Other additions might include cup cake wrappers, thank you cards, stationary, and striped envelopes.  I am on the fence about adding in bunting as well.  Variations on this theme might include red and green striped sets too.  I am so excited to have such a strong direction for my shop without scrambling to cover each holiday.

What do you think?  Do you have other ideas for me?  Feed back is always encouraged and appreciated!

Happy Tuesday all.