Monday, December 10, 2012

My Guide to Thoughtful Gift Giving

Please stop buying us crap.

Every year I make this plea, and every year it falls on deaf ears. Ok, please don't quit reading now, I promise this is actually a thoughtful post, not me being a spoiled brat demanding that people spend lots of money on us.

I don't know what has happened to gift giving, but I don't like it. It's not personal anymore. First of all, there is the obsession with opening gifts and the thought that the more gifts there are to open, the better. Some people seem to think that ten cheap items are better than one quality item because it gives more presents to open. Instead of quality, thoughtful gifts, people are spending money so that others can tear paper off of boxes that contain items that they will likely forget about in a few months.

Giving cash is considered tacky, even though it might be the thing a person needs the very most, yet giving them something they don't need just because it can be wrapped is acceptable. Does anybody else think this mentality is all wrong?

Some believe that one should be thankful for any gift and not complain, that a crappy gift  is better than no gift at all. I disagree. Thoughtless gifts can be a burden if they take up space and add clutter to your home. Getting rid of them can induce guilt because we've been conditioned to feel ungrateful for not appreciating every gift, not matter how thoughtless it might be. The worst gifts are the impersonal ones like bath and body gift sets and candles (unless you know the person really likes them).

Thoughtful gifts are not necessarily more expensive ones. They are gifts that reflect the person's likes, interests and needs. The best gifts I've received aren't the ones that cost the most, they are the ones that are the most useful to me. They show that the gift giver either took the time to make or took the time to really think about what I would like. My husband's grandparents are awesome gift givers. They know I love to cook, and have gotten me several things for the kitchen over the last few years. I use the stuff every day. The most thoughtful gifts I've received (or would like to receive) fall into these categories:


Your time is one of the best gifts you can give. Everybody has some kind of talent. Woodworking, sewing, photography, crocheting, graphic design, baking- whatever your specialty is, share it with others. One of the best gifts I've received was a huge basket filled with eight different kinds of homemade cookies. Ok, so maybe that one wasn't the most useful, but it was delicious. If you truly don't have the time, you can buy something handmade from somebody else (just don't try to pass it off as your own!).

Consumable (Gift Cards):

I really love the whole idea of consumable gifts (which usually come in the form of gift cards). Consumable gifts are usually frowned upon because they can't be wrapped and there is nothing physical to show for them once they are used. I see this as a good thing though! Let's face it, most of us have enough "stuff" already. Especially kids! Is anybody reading this really thinking about how they need more knick-knacks or that their kids could use a few more loud annoying plastic toys? I didn't think so! Some of the best gifts can't be put into a box and wrapped! The memories of consumable gifts will be there long after toys have been thrown in the trash and forgotten about. Consumable gifts are also great for the environment because nothing ends up in a landfill. Some great consumable gift ideas are: tickets/memberships to a museum, zoo, aquarium, sporting event, theatre or ballet. If you live too far away from places like these, you can still buy passes for fun things like mini golf, batting cages, arcades, ice skating, bowling, restaurant or movie theater. If  the gift is for a niece, nephew or grandchild, you can be part of the present by taking them to do one of these things.

Some people consider gift cards to be impersonal (and they mean one less gift to be opened), but I think they are awesome gifts as long as it's to a place that the recipient likes. Many people are struggling financially and have had to cut back on dining and entertainment, so a restaurant or movie theater gift card would be a real treat! Just make sure the gift card is for enough to cover the meal or movie.

Gift Baskets:

I really love the idea of personalized gift bags or baskets. They show that you know the person's interests, and the bag or basket can be reused. For the coffee lover, put a bag of coffee (or box of k-cups), and a mug into a basket or resuable bag. You can also add a mug cozy and a gift card to their favorite coffee shop. For the wine enthusiast, buy a bottle or two of wine, a corkscrew and a couple of glasses. You can even put them in a wine tote.

I've done themed baskets before, too. One time I made "breakfast in a basket" gifts. I put homemade pancake mix into a jar and printed the pancake recipe on some decorative paper. I also included a bottle of high-end real maple syrup, a mug, tea bags, hot chocolate packets, a piece of fruit, and a small loaf of homemade banana bread. Another year, I did an apple theme with homemade canned applesauce and apple butter, a loaf of apple butter bread made from scratch, and some apples. I've also made cookie/candy baskets with a variety of homemade cookies and candies. All of these baskets took a great deal of time to put together, but they were not expensive.

Christmas Decor:

If you are really stumped about what to get somebody, you can't go wrong with Christmas Decorations! I just took a gaze around my living room and the majority of our Christmas decor have come to us as gifts. Our Christmas tree skirt was crocheted by my grandma who passed away 18 years ago. The decorations become weaved into their traditions; how awesome to be a part of that! You could even make your own tradition of giving ornaments and decorations each year.

I hope this has given a new perspective about gift-giving and given you lots of ideas for gifts that will be loved and appreciated!

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Homeschool Paint Activity

I got this neat and fun idea from the Little Hands to Heaven book. It's a simple, fun way to teach the Creation story to young children. You probably already have the supplies!

White paper
White crayons
Black paint (watercolor works best, but poster paint can be watered down)
Paint brushes
Posterboard (or something to protect the painting surface)
Aprons or smocks (which you notice my kids aren't wearing- learn from my mistake)
Container of water for rinsing brushes
Paper towels or cloths to blot brushes and clean messes.


Let your kids draw on the paper. I let mine write/draw whatever they wanted, and I made a drawing that corresponded with the lesson (sky, trees, land, people, ocean animals). If your little ones get frustrated because they can't see their drawing, reassure them that it's all part of a special surprise.

Have them paint over their illustrations with black paint (the thinner, the better). As the images they drew emerge from the black paint, you can explain to them how the earth came forth out of the darkness.

One fun variation is for you to write words or draw pictures on the paper and have your kids paint over it to reveal your secret message. They can use other paint colors (though yellow probably wouldn't contrast enough).

Have fun exploring different variations!

Monday, August 27, 2012

Packaging Your Etsy Items to Increase Customer Loyalty

People shop on Etsy because they value unique, handmade items. Most likely your customer could have bought a similar version of your item for cheaper at Walmart. Remind your customers why they chose your shop and show them that you care about their business by putting some personal touches into your packaging. Just a little extra time and money can really show your customer how much you appreciate them.

First, make sure your item is properly packaged so your item will arrive without damage. Second, make your packaging beautiful. I use tissue paper and ribbon, and include a hand-written Thank You note. It's not complicated or expensive, but it reminds the shopper that their item was handmade with care. It gives your customer the personalized experience they expect when they buy handmade.

I use special wrapping for holidays: cellophane wrap with hearts for Valentine's Day, and wrapping paper for Christmas and birthdays. I also include cards for the holidays. The pennies these extra supplies cost can go a long way toward increasing customer loyalty.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Etsy Sellers: Don't Overlook Your Most Valuable Marketing Tool!

I'm talking about your kids! If you are a seller of kids clothing, your kids can be a great marketing asset! Dress your kids in your shop's clothing line every time you go out in public, and make sure you have business cards on hand. You just might earn some new customers while doing your regular errands.

I know it sounds like a no-brainer, but if you're like me, you are so busy filling orders that you don't make anything for your own kids. Carve out time to make outfits for your own kids well in advance of any holidays.

You can also get your friends and family in on the action! Give them garments from your clothing line for birthday and Christmas presents. You don't have to be the pushy salesperson everybody hates to be around, but if somebody asks if you sell the clothing you make, it's not rude to give them your business card.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Creative (and Free!) Marketing Ideas

I've already talked about one free way to promote your business. If you are a small business with a tight budget, bartering (especially with other small businesses) is an excellent way to gain exposure.

You can barter items for professional photography. Professional photos of your clothing with models of different ages can help sell your items. The photographer gets free items for her kids and exposure for her business, and you get beautiful, professional pictures of her items.

If you sell accessories that would make good photography props (tutus, diaper covers, baby hats or cocoons), make a deal with photographers. You can supply them with some photo props in exchange for professional photos of your items. You would also be promoting their photography business when you put their pics in your listings, and they can keep a stack of your business cards on hand in case any of their clients want to purchase your cute accessories.

Business card/Promotional Materials Swap- You can swap promotional materials with other businesses who sell different items to your desired market to include in customer packaging. For example, if you sell children's clothing, you could swap with somebody who sells children's shoes, decor or toys.

Blogging- If you have a blog, you can swap blog features with another shop. There are lots of bloggers who are looking for people/shops to write about.

Giveaways- I don't recommend participating in online giveaways, but sponsoring giveaways at fundraisers or events is a great way to gain exposure. Just make sure the event will be attended by people in your target market.

Teams- Etsy has teams that work together to promote each other. I've posted before about EtsyKids. You can see more Etsy Teams here.

I hope these are helpful! Let me know if you have any other free marketing ideas!

Friday, August 10, 2012

No, I'm Not 14 Months Pregnant

I'm sure you all know that I had my baby. I've been so busy taking care of all his needs, plus my other two kids, the house, my shop and EtsyKids that I haven't been able to blog. It would be weird though to come back after 4.5 months of blog silence and not give the details though, so here it is.

Jacob August was born on March 24, 2012 (my 31st Birthday) at 9:21 A.M. He weighed 10 pounds and was 21.75 inches long. His birth didn't go exactly as planned, but I'm happy with it. You'd think by baby #3 I'd have a good idea of how progressed my labor was, but when I felt like I had a few more hours to go, I was actually 20 minutes away from having a baby in my bathroom. Oops!

He is now 4.5 months old and is finally letting me put him down, so I hope to be able to spend more time sewing and blogging. I actually have plans to launch a new product soon!

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Spring Flowers and Baby Showers

I just wanted to share some of my favorite baby items from other EtsyKids Team Shops! Aren't they adorable? Keep these in mind the next time you are invited to a baby shower, and give the gift that everybody remembers!

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Baby Guessing Pool and Easter Outfit Giveaway!

What better way to celebrate the new addition to the Sweet Child of Mine family than with a giveaway? Instead of a boring old drawing, you can enter to win this adorable prize by making a guess in the Baby Pool! Whoever guesses the closest to our baby's birth date, weight, length and gender wins!

Up for grabs is one of our most popular items. This is going to be the baby's Easter outfit, but the fabrics are so versatile, they can be worn for other occasions. Since I don't anticipate having much time to sew with a newborn, I'm making the outfit ahead of time. I don't know the baby's gender, so I'm making one of each in a size 0-3 months. The winner of the Baby Pool will win either the dress or vest-whichever one our baby doesn't need. 

To Enter:

Step 1: Follow the Sweet Child of Mine Blog
Step 2: Enter your guess in the Baby Pool.

The winner will be announced after the baby's arrival. If you want to be notified in the event that you are the winner, please enter your e-mail address in the box where it asks how you know the parents (it will be visible to all who view the pool). Otherwise, I will post the name of the winner here on the blog and on the Sweet Child of Mine Facebook page. "Liking" the fan page is not required, but would be helpful in the case that you win but don't provide an e-mail address. If the winner does not claim the prize within 48 hours, an alternate winner will be chosen.

I'm open to answering questions if anybody needs more information to make an educated guess. Post them here.

Here are the stats from my first two children:
Sweet Child #1: Girl, 8lbs 5oz 21.75 inches, born 5 days after due date
Sweet Child #2: Boy, 8lbs 7oz 20.5 inches, born 5 days after due date

Have fun and happy guessing!

Thursday, January 19, 2012


  • How or why did you get started with your craft/business? When my daughter was a baby, I found myself frustrated and unhappy with store bought clothing. The stuff from the big box stores were poorly made and just didn't seem like they would last through much wear and tear. The clothing from  boutique-style stores was just too expensive for something that would be spit up on (or worse), then shortly outgrown. I also didn't want to be afraid to let her play out of fear of ruining an expensive outfit. My other issue was that everywhere we went, there was always at least one other girl in the exact same outfit. I have always loved creating my own style (which is much easier for adults since there are so many more places to shop for clothing), and I wanted the same for my little girl. It occurred to me that I solve my clothing problem by making affordable, stylish, durable garments myself. I got a lot of comments about her clothes, and after several suggestions that I start selling my creations, Sweet Child of Mine was born.
  • Is there a story behind the name of your shop? I wanted something memorable that reflected my love of children. My daughter's nickname is Sweets so I wanted to incorporate that, and came up with Sweet Child of Mine.
  • What has been the most rewarding thing about running your own shop? The  most rewarding thing is getting to do something I love and being able make others happy with my clothing. I also love being able to help out children in need by donating at least 10% of my sales to charities that benefit children.
  • What has been the hardest? The hardest thing is trying to distinguish myself from the many other wonderful Etsy shops out there selling children's clothing.
  • Do you have a specific schedule during the day you follow while working on your craft, or do you fit it your work in whenever you can throughout the day? I mostly sew in the evenings after dinner. When I get small breaks during the day, I work on editing photos, adding and editing listings,  answering e-mails, updating my business Facebook page.
  • What is your most favorite item to create? My favorite items to create are custom orders for birthday outfits. I love that I can be a part of making their day special.
  • If you have children, how do you manage everything (being a mom, running a shop, etc)? I try to get all of my housework done in the morning and early afternoon. I take breaks and play with the kids. Then after dinner and my husband goes to work, I go downstairs to sew. The kids usually go with me and play with their toys, and they like to watch me and sometimes they even sit on my lap while I sew. My kids always come first. I don't always have the perfect balance between sewing and housework. If I get a lot of orders or I'm closing in on a deadline to get my shop stocked before a holiday, sometimes the dishes and laundry start to pile up. It's even more challenging now that I'm near the end of my pregnancy, because some days I'm just exhausted.
  • Where do you create (your own room, a corner of the kitchen, in a pile on the dining room floor, etc)? I have a large room downstairs where I sew, There is enough room that my kids can play (and even ride their tricycle).
  • What is your favorite color? Do you find yourself using it often in your crafting? My favorite color is green. I don't specifically use it more than any other color. Most of the clothing I make is holiday-specific, and I usually let my daughter choose some of the fabrics.
  • How do you spread the word about your shop? The best thing I've done as far as promoting my shop goes is to join the EtsyKids Team. There are over 600 member who work together and promote each other's shops. I also promote through my blog and Facebook pages. I've also participated in giveaways on other blogs. Locally, I promote by word of mouth. I carry business cards in my purse and when people ask where my kids' clothes came from, I tell them and give them a card. I also make clothing as gifts for my friends' kids and my nieces and nephews. Of course my main reason is because I think handmade gifts are more thoughtful, but if word gets out about my business, then it's a bonus.
  • Are you a morning person or a night owl? I'm definitely a night owl, and luckily my kids seem to be too. 
  • Do you listen to music while you work? If so, what do you listen to? I don't listen to music while I work since I'm usually interacting with my kids. 
  • Where do you see yourself and your shop in the next year? Five years? In the next year, I'd love to have grown my business to the point where I have a more steady income. In five years, I'd like to have enough business that running my shop is my full-time job. My dream would be for the business to be our family's sole source of income.
  • Any advice you would give to someone considering opening their own shop? My advice to a new shop owner would be to try to find something that sets them apart from the competition. Another thing is to join a team on Etsy. It's a great way to network and get help from experienced shop owners. Read the merchandising reports that Etsy puts out, and tag your items with any relevant keywords from the reports to get your items found in searches and chosen for treasuries. Lastly, show respect for other Etsy sellers and do not copy designs or patterns from other sellers. 

Monday, January 16, 2012

Tie Tying Tutorial (say that 5 times fast!)

Our ties have quickly become one of our hottest items! To save paper (and who keeps the stuff that comes with the package anyway?) I'm putting the instructions online.

Step 1: Lay the tie and band pieces perpendicular with the tie piece on top of the center of the band as pictured (narrow end at the top). For a longer tie, move the tie piece toward the narrow end of the tie piece and for a shorter tie, move the band down toward the wide end of the tie piece.

Step 2: Fold the narrow end of the tie piece down behind the band.

Step 3: Fold the narrow end of the tie piece over the wide end. This is a good time to make sure the tie piece is centered on the band piece and is the desired length.

Step 4: Fold the narrow end of the tie piece up and behind the neck band. 

Back View

Step 5: Bring the narrow end in front of the neck band.

Step 6: Pull the narrow end down behind the wider end of the tie piece.

Step 7: Hold the knot and pull the narrow end down until it's tight. It may not look right at this stage, but that's ok.

Step 8:  Pull the ends of the neck band straight out, and it should look like this:

The neck band has an extra long velcro closure to achieve a perfect fit for a variety of sizes. The length can be adjusted from 10 to 16 inches. Combined with the adjustable neck band, these ties will grow with your little guy.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Sweet Child of Mine Update

I'm excited to announce that we will be adding Sweet Child number three to our family in March! I will be closing the shop for custom orders on March 10th (subject to change if the little one decides to make an early entrance), so all Easter orders will have to be received by that date. Valentine's Day and St. Patrick's Day orders will not be affected. The store will remain open for in-stock orders which will ship out within two business days. I will do my best to stock as many sizes and fabric selections as possible.

Current turn-around time for custom orders is 10 business days.