Thursday, April 30, 2009

South Africans are also creative and online

If you're living in South Africa and want to open an Etsy shop, there are a couple extra hurdles. South Africans can't open PayPal accounts and receive money (unless they have overseas bank accounts). So enter Setcom and 2CheckOut...

I haven't used Setcom, and 2Checkout is ok. Because Etsy isn't integrated with these payment solutions, only PayPal, you as a seller will have to generate links to direct people to sites where they can pay.

2Checkout has a "create invoice" page to send an email to your buyer, but you must first create your product and be careful with the weight, so that the shipping works out the same as on Etsy. There is a complicated weight set-up process, but once you have worked out your postage costs you should be fine. The other option (instead of the weight/shipping price table) is to just include the price of the weight into the Product in 2Checkout. The fees are ok - 5.5% + $0.49 per transaction (including shipping), $49 setup fee (obviously more expensive than PayPal, which is 3.9% + $0.30) but they do allow your customers to pay with their credit cards directly, and they don't need to sign-up. Downside: 2Checkout will only pay you in batches of $300 or $600, and you will probably get charged by your bank for an international deposit (Absa charges around R100 I believe).

I don't have personal experience with Setcom .. all I know at the moment is that other South Africans use it, like skinnylaminx, and are very successful. By looking at their site it seems like it is an alternative PayPal (so potential customers must sign-up) but the fees are quite high - 4.9% + R2.50 and then on withdrawal too - R8 (because I bet there are very few places you could use the cash, unlike PayPal).

I really think South Africa have stuff to offer the world, especially handmade stuff sold from the person who made it (a rare treat), so I hope other creative and crafty people are able to open their own stores despite all the extra complications. Actually I know they are - it's going to explode soon looking at the number of shops that have popped up since I started selling. A previous post on ZA Etsy shops.

Use the Etsy shop local flash app to browse active shops in your area (or in South Africa, Durban, Johannesburg, or Cape Town)

If you are starting a new shop, you might be interested in my experiences with promotion on Etsy, advice from buyers to sellers, or browse my other posts about Etsy.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Craft yourself stylish

I am a sucker for ideas on how to re-use things we usually throw in the bin, so this CD spindle light appeals to me. It's from Kaytet on CraftStylish.

Here are some other super creative ideas from this great craft site:
wall art with vintage fabrics
wall paper decorations (definitely one for the new house)
mosaic with old plastic
baby toy with crinkly plastic (i love the re-use of nappy wipe packets)

Monday, April 27, 2009

this one is for girls only

I finally converted Granny's pink felt ring into a headband for baby C using the hem of an old t-shirt. It looks okay (the felt flower is definitely the best part) she likes to chew it, but will leave it on her head.

After I was done, I realised I should have used the entire length of the t-shirt hem and made myself a flower out of the left overs on the one side, using a tutorial I blogged about in the past.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

ikea + shwe shwe = awesome

This is my latest creation. On request of my friend Dave, I made a cushion cover for his Lillberg chair out of Madiba range shweshwe. I wouldn't say it is a total Ikea hack - for me this is something you can do if you've got a sewing machine, can sew, and the patience to measure 3 times over at least.

To save you the trouble, I have made my plan open source.
I am going to be making some for myself and am still deciding which fabrics... what would you do?

This is what you need
At least 100m length of cotton thread
1 x 90cm zip (35.4")
fabric, 90cm (35.4") wide, about 2m/78.7" long (3.5m and I got 4 cushion covers)

These are the pieces (2cm/0.8" allowance)

To put it together, follow these simple steps
1) Sew the zip on using the two zip/back pieces, effectively joining the pieces together.
2) Sew the two sides pieces (right sides together) onto the zip piece.
3) Sew the front part onto the other three pieces making a tube.
4) Pin the tube onto the top and bottom pieces, right sides together (sew inside out and remember to leave the zip a good bit open so you can turn it right ways in the end)
5) Turn right way and do a top stitch around the edge of the top and bottom pieces.

If you want to make the top cushion (which I will in the near future when we arrive in CT) note that it is smaller (obviously the same width, but at least 17 cm/6.7" shorter. I am not 100% sure).

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Quilters, get your shwe shwe charm pack here!

Want to make yourself a shwe shwe quilt but don't have enough different pieces? AfricanCotton to the rescue - she has a charm pack (in indigo) for sale.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Dreadlock shower cap

My brother has a full set of dreadlocks and asked me one day if I could sew him a shower cap that could fit him (it's amazing that it's impossible to buy one). I pondered a while, wondering where I would find the right fabric.

It just happened around about the same time that I had read the Dutch book Cool baby, where they make kids rain ponchos out of old umbrellas, and my visiting mother in law's umbrella gave up. Two and Two, and here we have the dreads shower cap.

To make it, I removed the metal skeleton of the umbrella, cut a circle out the middle of the umbrella and hemmed an elastic in the edge.

Unfortunately the design is not yet perfected. I think, because it is shaped like a beret, it drips water down his back. Next time I get my hands on an umbrella begging for new life I'll give it another go. Next time I think I'll also cut a circle out the middle of the cap to get rid of the point.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Etsy Seller workbook

It's a simple but sweet Google spreadsheet - the Etsy seller workbook. I could have done with keeping better records - than stashing my receipts in a cardboard box and not knowing what went with what.

It was the first time I used Google spreadsheet so it took me a bit to get used to something other than Excel. First thing you want to create your own copy, so click on File then "Create a copy". I called mine 'Etsy-sellerworkbook-diggitydugs'. Don't worry about where it is saved (somewhere in the cloud).

Now you can get to business - widen the columns on the 'Instruction' page. Always read the how-to:) To get to the instruction page (known as a sheet) use the links at the bottom of the site.

I would imagine that the non-US user would find the following sheets useful:
  • etsy sales - download your sales data and copy and paste into this sheet (well part of it - the other part I find really useful to keep track of the actual postage and any tracking numbers - these you will have to fill in manually).
  • etsy expenses - luckily you don't need to enter this by hand - simply download it from "Your Etsy bill" - go to the specific month and then right at the bottom of that page is a link to download your bill as a CSV file to copy and paste
  • other expenses - a very useful page to track how much you spend on raw materials. You need to enter these manually.
Thanks to

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Shweshwe poppis

These very cute dolls are made from shwe shwe. They are based on the drawings of children from the Zola creche in Soweto (run by a NGO), and handmade by their mothers and grandmothers. Isn't that create? They are available for sale in the African Toy shop (I love this shop except sometimes the toys aren't really for kids).
ps: poppis are dolls in Afrikaans.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Damn, why did I throw away those old t-shirts

Last Sunday I went through my stash of old clothes waiting to be upcycled and threw away ruthlessly (decided I wouldn't carry them back during the move) and today I come across a great how-to for converting an old t-shirt into a baby romper. What's always stopped me from attempting this project is the fact I don't have a press-stud machine, but this pattern uses velcro. Dope, why didn't I think of that first.Link

Monday, April 20, 2009

Squarebags from African Cotton

African Cotton has some new things in her shop. The squarebag, a cute boxy pouch, comes in all the shwe shwe colours and a shwe shwe baby quilt or mat (shades of indigo). I was surprised to see a bag in the post from her on the same day she listed it. It's perfect for small things in your purse.

Sunday, April 19, 2009


I've known about Burdastyle for a while - it's a tight community who share patterns and blog about their sewing. As they put it "open source style" - that byline appeals to my geeky nature. I browsed their pattern library on friday (my mommy-at-home day) and was thrilled to find loads of free and very reasonably priced patterns. I love the way everyone makes them and uploads their photos - so inspirational!

I am bookmarking

Saturday, April 18, 2009

South African book, Strange Nervous Laughter

My sister in law, Bridget McNulty, has written a novel, Strange Nervous Laughter, which is soon to be published in the States (12th May). The novel is based in Durban and revolves around some pretty zany characters which I found to be quite charming in their own weird ways (especially Harry who was toned down in the final edit much to my disappointment).

I think Bridget is really talented and will be our next famous South African (after Nelson Mandela and Charlize Theron). Well done, and enjoy the book launch trip in the USA. As part of the book launch, she has started a flikr group with pictures of Durban, which you might enjoy.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Sorry, another Etsy related post

Handmade Marketing, a blog I recently came across, has lots of tips for people who sell handmade.. Subscribe to their feed here.

I found the post about How to Read [a] Google Analytics Report quite interesting and informative. I have set up analytics on this blog and my etsy shop and it's interesting (and kinda addictive) to watch the numbers roll by.

Lucky for me I have an in-house online marketing expert to explain bounce rate (how long people are on your site), visitor loyality (how often the same people return). I also find the referring sites (sites linking to you) interesting, and have discovered some new websites that way. When I was experimenting with listing at different times I used the numbers to figure out which were more effective.

Take note - the data is updated once a day, so don't check too frequently.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

My Etsy book

I have no idea when this would be useful (if you have any ideas let me kn0w), but how about making a book from your shop -

I made myself one, unfortunately there aren't many templates, but if you work on it you can upload your own images for the background.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Craftivity, the book

This was a birthday present a year or so ago (Craftivity). It's hard to find interesting craft books, but this one certainly is interesting. Aka, the crochet skull... Unfortunately I haven't made many things from the book yet - I am not fond of knitting or crochet (I need more instant gratification), and my woodwork skills are such I would probably lose some fingers. I did however make the t-shirt panties (will be posting about those sometime - no promises) and would like to make the cover picture 'chandelier' some day. This book has been sitting on my book shelf for a while, but while paging through I got some inspiration. It really deserves the high Amazon ratings.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

I love the Ardennes

It's become somewhat of a tradition for us over Easter - hiring a house in the Ardennes. This time we stayed in Mirwart (famous for its castle that looks more like a stately house rather than something from a fairytale). The Ardennes are special for us living in the Netherlands for two reasons 1) It is mountainous and 2) It is really possible to get away from other people and feel like you are alone in the wild.

This year we weren't snowed it, there was just a little rain but when the sun came out it was actually quite pleasant. We ate at a super fancy michelin restaurant (AUBERGE DU GRANDGOUSIER), had a yummy five course meal, watched lots of T.V, went on one or two walks, and I ate more chocolate in one sitting than the entire year. Hope you all had a great Easter.

Friday, April 10, 2009

My cute baby sheet

This is something I promised when I first made this blog, and finally it is here - my baby sheet. I think it's really simple, but the extra bits make it special. I made it all with the same fabric, but it would be nicer if the fabric for the hearts is nice to touch. Look at the closeup to spot the cute Elna SU duck sewing stitch. I love those cams.

This is what you need:
Sheet fabric (for a crib) 150x90cm
Ribbon (90cm)
Fabric for the hearts, cut x 2
Stuffing or batting to fill the hearts.

This picture shows more (click on it to enlarge) ...
1) place the fabric right side up and fold the top edge forward (raw edge on the right side) and the bottom edge behind. sew hems.
2) sew a ribbon over the raw edge of the top seam.
3) place the hearts together, right sides. then sew around the edge, leaving a small 2.5cm gap. turn inside out, stuff, then sew closed by hand. sew the hearts onto the sheet by sewing down the middle.

going away to the Ardennes

Tonight we are going to the Ardennes (I must admit in usual fashion I don't know the exact details, but hey). We will be in a house with friends we will sure to live near again in the future. I will blog more later... These trips are one of the things that I will really miss, although there will be lots of new places to visit around the beautiful cape.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

My experiences on Etsy promotion

I had a fun time selling on Etsy, and I learnt a lot. Hopefully I have another shop in the future and perhaps it might be useful to put my Etsy experiences on record. If you have anything to add, please do comment :)

This is how I improved my listings
  • for popular categories - such as fabric I listed at specific times of the day (e.g. USA lunch and dinner time).
  • I also staggered fabric listings over several days and different times to maximise exposure at the top of the search list.
  • I continually tried to improve my photos so they were (mostly) clear, good quality and show all possible angles of the product. My biggest lessons were to avoid using the flash as it distorts the colour and use macro to get closeup.
  • worked on the first image so it enticed people to click and view my listing. (take care that when your images are cropped into squares by Etsy, that the photo still looks ok (to solve this simply crop the image yourself into a square)
  • I added short and fun descriptions (something you would say to a person if you were actually standing in a shop)
  • and descriptions that tell told buyer stuff they can't see in the photos - dimensions, weight, smell, texture, history/background
  • looked at descriptions of similar items to see if I had missed out anything - especially shops that are doing well. When I added some information about how I refund shipping and that I only ship single pieces of fabric I got more sales. These are things that people buying fabric find important.
  • updated my featured items for my regulars so they could easily see when I had new stuff
  • if an item wasn't being received well, then I would change the photos and the description and eventually you find out what works
  • renewed items if I had nothing new to add
  • Adding measurements in cm and inches

How I helped people find my shop
  • blogged and blogged just about almost daily
  • linked my blog to my shop (using the Etsy mini tool)
  • commented on other peoples' blogs (especially if they had anything to do with african fabric. And this was fun for me)
  • told my friends and family
  • put up links on Facebook - using the My Stuff application. (Do this with any other social networking sites you use e.g. LinkedIn, Twitter)
  • posted in the forum (mainly in the critiques and promotions sections). Look out for posts with subjects that are relevant (e.g. if you sell fabric please post here). If you start your own posts remember to use subjects that tell people exactly what you are posting about because then people who are interested are directed to you.
  • found shops that sell similar stuff to me, or used African fabrics to make stuff and made them my favourite. This meant they noticed me and could become my customers or their customers could maybe spot me.

Tags are important because they are how you drive people to your products. They are the words people use when they search. These are my tips
  • you should use all 14 if possible
  • think about what people who would buy your product would search for
  • think of words that mean the same thing (especially American vs English vocab)
  • include materials, location (African), theme and main colours

I also learnt that showcase doesn't necessarily generate sales (you can buy a spot for $7) - renewing your items a couple times was recommended (I never managed to prove this). And it helps if you buy things on Etsy because you know what you look for in the shops you support and you can see what the experience is like on the other side.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

We're going back!

We are moving back to Cape Town
after 7 years away
(almost to the day).

Wow. I never thought it would happen. As you can guess I am extremely busy. Back at work, organising movers, renting our apartment, doing up my CV. Exciting times....

ps: This picture was taken on our walk up Lion's head (it's the small mountain next to the famous table). Cape town city bowl (where we will be living) is behind us.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Kim Raad

My friend, Kim, made me such a great surprise present the other day - a tea cosy made creatively from her adaptation of the Amy Butler Stash and dash pattern. I always love the fabrics she chooses - she has good taste and instinctively knows what patterns and colours match. She has just started sewing with a machine (before she did everything by hand - like this very cute blanket and toy she made for baby C before she was born) doesn't it look great?

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Vintage bags

It was my sewing buddy Kim's birthday last week and I bought her this book - Making vintage bags. It had good reviews on Amazon, and I wasn't disappointed. The bags are very cute and the instructions seem very detailed. The best thing about this book is the finishing touches on the bags (like a fabric rose), or big floppy bows, and they show you how to do it yourself. If you like bags as much as Kim and I, then I would recommend this book.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Patch on my jeans

So I found a cool enough patching post on Craftzine. Yes I know it is no longer March (is mending month) but I promise I did this in March and never got around to posting a photo :)

If you would like the instructions, go here

Happy Weekend!

Friday, April 3, 2009


I saw embloggery a while back on the craftzine and really thought it was a brilliant idea, although i wondered how long it was going to last (being obviously a time consuming pursuit). Well it seems it is still going strong (since December 1 2008), despite stitching rss and having to embroider left handed!

Today my friend send me another embroidery vs web 2.0 website - embroidered text messages!

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Why I love Etsy so much and want all my friends to have their own shops

Every time I think of Etsy I get this warm and fuzzy feeling. It's like a happy home filled with people who are like me (like to make stuff), probably all female too. So the main attraction is the community, which is evident in the forums (and I do like forums). People here really want your shop to succeed and will offer free critiques (of your store), advice from successful sellers, loads of free tools (more to come in future posts), storque and reams of self help guides to making your shop a success. If you are selling handmade items this is the place to sell - people here appreciate good quality, uniqueness and don't mind to pay the true value (once you factor in a living hourly wage). Now whenever I come across someone making cool stuff I always recommend Etsy.

Here's one more handy source of information:
The Etsy Seller Handbook: All Our How-Tos about Selling

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

little boxy pouch

Today is my first day back at work (since August 2008), so wish me luck. (If my manager is reading this, please note I scheduled this post, I didn't actually post it at 9am today). Baby C is with a very nice Dutch ouma and oupa and hopefully being a good girl - eating her veggies, sleeping on her own and not crying too much.

ANyway, I found this great tutorial for a cute boxy pouch. I also love the fabric. There doesn't seem to be much else on that site, but since it's such a fantastic tutorial (I love things which look unusual but are actually quite simple).