Friday, 11 March 2011


So... yeah... Technically I did just about keep my promise of not leaving it four months between posts, although 8 days shy seems pushing it slightly... Sorry about that :)

That's not to say I haven't been reet busy in the guise of KD - I've had more new commissions over Christmas, our traditional retro soccer scarves have started to take off and as we speak I'm churning out a line of handbags and accessories for spring *excitement face*. All that, and time to fawn over the goldfish. How do I do it.

It's about this time of year that I knew I'd be facing my biggest challenge though - it's not exactly knitting season, and I've a pretty well stocked shop to promote. Oh God. I've been dreading this bit.

The admin bit.

So dear readers, what do you find most challenging about running a shop on Folksy, Etsy, Artfire etc? (Please feel free to comment below.) I make a point of reading all the Etsy blog posts, some with very relevant and useful info, some less so but all worth a shufti. It's fantastic hearing tips from sellers who've made it their full time job, their experience of how to manage both crafting and business, what tips they can impart on a new or struggling seller and what they'd do differently next time. I've learnt that running a small business is a combination of the following things (amongst many others!): good management of time, money and resources; the right attitude; good customer services; the right products; the right market; and the ability to self-promote.

But as someone who manages theatrical productions - and the creative, technical, logistical and budgetary challenges therein - in my real job (which I'm not ready to give up by a long shot) I'm pretty confident that management isn't my failing here. I've not yet read a blog post about time/money/resource management that hasn't made me think "well, I know that..." If that sounds arrogant, well, it's not meant to - I'm only 8 years into a career that most people spend 40+ years perfecting and experience alone can make you better at it, which is quite some way to go for me yet. What I mean is I know where I'm headed in that respect, and where I don't always know how to get there at least I know who to ask for directions :)

I'm reminded of something my wonderful course tutor taught us in the first year of uni about the circles of knowledge - there's the things you know you know, the things you know you don't know, the things you don't know you know and the things you don't know you don't know. Julian, you said that would stick with us and it did.

My attitude - really, point one of my business plan - is enjoy what you're doing and don't do what you don't enjoy. I LOVE knitting, and I do it because I love it. Equally, I wouldn't sell anything that I wouldn't buy, which isn't necessarily a tried and tested marketing method, but I'd feel like a charlatan promoting something I don't believe in. As a production manager I'm often put in the position of tasking a crew to do a particular job I know they're going to be unhappy about doing, but I never ask them to do something I wouldn't do myself - if they ask why they're cleaning up a piece of scenery that only three audience members will ever see and I either can't give a good reason or don't know why it needs to be done, they won't do it, and neither would I. Certainly there are elements of running the shop that I can't wait to get over and done with - photographing my stock is always a bit of a chore! - but I understand why I do it, and what it means in the grand scheme of things. And ultimately I could give it all up tomorrow and kick back with a book every evening, gaining myself a good 30 hours a week of quality me-time with no financial loss whatsoever, but I never will. My shop is my me-time.

The next item is good customer services which, if it ever needed to be said, is essential. I don't just mean be good to your customers and they'll come back, I mean be a good person, be good to people (they may be communicating through a computer but the people buying your wares are actually human, after all!), and if you've been as kind and helpful as you can you've done your best, and whether or not they choose to return is up to them. As it goes I do happen to believe in brand loyalty and the comfort in what you know as a consumer, but as a seller I don't like to feel like I'm hawking for future business when conversing with my customers, for the fairly simple reason that someone who is being nice just to get your future business sounds like someone being nice just to get your future business - UGH. Manners cost nothing, as my nan often says, and she's wrong about nothing except perhaps the best way to mix a gin.

Then we come to my product line, which is unfortunately where my great business plan starts unravelling... I've been using the first year as a sort of workshop - trying ideas, seeing what's popular and what's worth the time it takes me to make it. I started out with the rule that I would never spend more money than I had made, and to me patience and perseverance is the key so if I've not made it in 6 months then no bother. Getting back to the practicality of the shop however, I've learnt that knitting has the occupational hazard of being time consuming, so even by charging myself a minimal cost per hour and excluding overheads I'm still finding that some items are coming up too costly for the common market and are therefore not worth making. Of course customers will appreciate the effort that goes into handmade and pay more in comparison with the Primarks and the Accessorizes of the world - hence the point of Folksy/Etsy/Artfire - but not many people spend £50 on a pair of lace gloves when there are so many cheaper options; and "not many £50s" = "hardly a stable income" for me. So, I've started to whittle down what's profitable and what's not, at the expense of principle number one (nobody said they had to be absolute) but I still can't be sure that knitted woodland animal shaped accessories is really what people want. Certainly no-one else makes them, but not every gap in the market is there to be filled. *thinks of the lime green mankini, shudders* So how can I make sure that I'm selling the right things? The answer I suspect, is more workshopping, trial and error, and a bit of market research. Which brings me on to... pathological fear of marketing. Pathetic, really. I'm not a stupid person, I've articles on the hows and wheretofores coming out of my ears - I just don't get it. I don't have the gumption to be bold and noisy about promoting myself. Conversations that start with people asking me about my wares usually end with me shyly mumbling, drifting off to another subject and eventually wandering off for fear of ridicule, which, given that none of my customers are 8 years old or Nelson from The Simpsons, is a slightly barmy thing to assume would happen. I know this. I know. I must have wasted countless opportunities to make a sale because of it. So let's put a pin in that and go for an infinitely more appealing and empirical tool of marketing, market research. So how exactly do I do this without annoying people?

That's not a rhetorical question this time. I really want to know. The last thing I want is to come across as lazy about this - "Dear internet, how do I make more money out of my stuff? Yours etc, Me" - although I really would love to hear what you as a seller have found as a useful research tool and what you as a buyer find to be a turn-on/off. I'm aware of questionnaires, but I don't know what on earth I would write questions about, and quite frankly every questionnaire I've ever received as a consumer has filled me with dread. See principle one. So, browsing the other listings on Etsy is another suggestion I've come across. But what am I looking for? As I mentioned there are plenty of knitters but few make the sort of accessories that I do, so I have very little to compare with. and the whole point of handmade is the unique quality - if I find a hundred other knitted apple brooches then to be noticed I'll be forced to resort to noisy promotion, which is still struggling against the massive pin I stuck in it. So how else do I find out what people really want?

There is of course the argument that people don't know what they want until you tell them - sounds suspiciously like that noisy marketing to me - but if we consider that as a plausible theory, you then need to know how to show them what they want, which is all about getting your voice heard. It's that perenneial question: how do you get your products out in the great beyond with a limited budget? I've found that Facebook and Twitter are a good place to start but are nonetheless complex tools in themselves, and in no way to be used as a shop front. The forums haven't really worked for me. I've got business cards a,d all the stationery. I've made the best use I can of my Google presence. The next step is craft fairs and the like - got the first one lined up for May! - but there's only so many I can attend with a full time job. Is the real answer that you don't see a serious return until you make it a serious job? It would make sense, but flipping hell it's a scary thought. Doesn't stop me poring over every single QYDJ article with longing though :)

I know I'm asking more questions that I'm even attempting to answer here, and as I look back on it I know I've answered all my own questions: clearly I know what I need to do and I'm too afraid to do it. M
aybe I have to confront the fact that KD can't compete with my career in theatre, and will just have to play second fiddle; it's worked out fine so far, so why rock the boat? There are only so many hours in the day after all. I just feel like I've been asking myself these questions for so long and getting no answers, and with the frustration reaching boiling point I just don't know who else to ask. I hope that if nothing else this post has made other sellers feel like they're not the only ones asking questions to thin air and getting no answers. I'd love to hear if you're having the same problems, and if there's any advice I can offer to ever newer newbies than me then even better!

And if nothing comes of it, well, I at least feel better for having written it down. My poor boyfriend will have some respite from my rhetorical knitting-related questions...

Bless you all for reading this far - I will bring back the slightly more upbeat Folksy Friday blog as soon as the dayjob settles down a bit, so please check back soon. Also I promise not to whine so much this time, honest.

Love and knitties :) xx

Friday, 19 November 2010

Return of the Duck...

Well, I am rubbish.
I know, I know, understatement much - my last post was on the 29th July! I do have a good excuse, mind - since I last blogged my new job in the glamourous world of theatre has presented me with something of a baptism of fire, and even as I write it's the last Friday for a while that I'll have the chance to blog. I'm talking 8am starts and 5am finishes, cancelled performances and 6 versions of misbehaving scenery - but I wouldn't change it for anything. Except maybe a few more hours' sleep. YAWN.

So what's occurring? In that time we've added a whole new winter line for the Folksy and Etsy shops, acquired our first employee - welcome Wendimum, literal and figurative mother of KD :) - to keep up with demand, been on holiday, had a haircut, drunk gallons of tea and coffee, and spent hours fawning over Jeff and Bob, our new goldfish. (Don't judge me, they're really bloomin' cute.)

We've also overhauled our Facebook fanpage - now with 207 fans, whoop! - and are gearing up for Christmas with plenty of giveaways and offers, including postage refunds for our FB and Twitter fans on all Folksy orders placed by 12th December. We're just too good to you.

Not to mention occasionally squeezing in the odd bit of knitting! Here's a few of our most recent commissions...

Green Anchor iPad Sock :: Kris
Another of Kris' requests that turned out to be a brilliant little intarsia design - a chic way to protect your iPad or netbook from the elements! Although this one was sold as a commission, we have a similar iPad/netbook sock in Chocolate Stripe currently available in both shops...

Rosy Tea Cosy :: Glenn
A commission that came to me via Twitter, I was originally asked to make a teacosy with the word 'Rosie' on the side, but knowing how hit and miss words can come out at the chunky gauge needed for a cosy with insulating properties, I suggested going for an actual rose detail instead, and this is what I came up with. It turned out to be a good decision, and a commission I'm really proud of.

Long Leg Goth Socks :: Charlie
I love these, and as soon as the backlog of knitting is cleared I'm making myself a pair too... The brief was to make a pair of long slouchy socks for a lady whose friend didn't believe gothy versions of yoga socks existed - just goes to show you can knit anything you can think of knitting! Next step: reading my new bible, otherwise known as Anticraft: Knitting Beading & Stitching For The Slightly Sinister...

Seaside Scene Cushion Cover :: Sue

My piece de resistance - Sue requested this as a decorative cover for a young lady who lives in Brighton and always wanted a sunny seaside view, even in winter! She was so pleased with it she promised to return for another commission before long - there's simply no publicity as good as a happy customer :)

So what's next? Well as soon as I'm done here I'm off to rejig my website, organise my large but disorganised stock, and get cracking on a couple more knitties.
Not least of which, our latest signature item, the Mobius Snood - inspired by the famous Mobius Strip - which is designed as a continuous loop with one twist, meaning it can be worn as a long scarf, or doubled over as a hood and neckwarmer! Knitted with 9mm needles in thick but light yarns, they are cosy, chic and great at insulating against bitter winds and cold.

That's all from me for now, but although I won't be able to blog again for a couple of weeks I promise not to leave it as long as 4 months... Please feel free to comment on anything in this blog you found interesting, and as always keep us up to date with your crafty goings on!

Love and knitties,

Thursday, 29 July 2010

*yawn* Folksy Friday is off to Bedfordshire...

Another two week wait for my Folksy Friday post, but I’m back! Since the tragic demise of my poor laptop (which has now gone to the great PC World in the sky) I’ve struggled to find another one that can handle my destructive EMP, despite the best attempts of my lovely other half to find me a temporary replacement. Apparently, the unsufferable ignominy of being my laptop drives every machine I’ve come in contact with to harakiri... until now. So, armed with a really cute – and hitherto stable (fingers crossed) – netbook courtesy of Andy’s sister, I’m back causing havoc. Grin.

Not much havoc, mind. I always joke about ‘getting too old for this’ (I’m 26) but I have to concede these world-weary old legs can’t stand up to a whole weekend of shenanigans without payback any longer. And I am KNACKERED. So when I asked my knitty Twits for inspiration for this blog post, too tired to even think straight, the answer came back immediately – the blissful respite of bed.

I’m surprised to note that even in the height of summer – the hottest on record since 1998 – there are some lovely cosy items on sale you just couldn’t wait to curl up under the duvet with (oo er). And I think I could imagine away the sun just long enough to enjoy a cuddle with the Ted in a Bed Hottie Cover by Tea and Crumpets. The hot water bottle cover itself is made from vintage blanket fabric, with a crocheted pocket on the front to hold Ted in place, so he’s always there for that extra little bit of comfort. Aaaaah...

Course, summer or winter you never want to be woken up too early by the unforgiving rays of sun – which is why you need the Lazy Daisy Eye Mask from 4getmenot! This neat little accessory is made from double thick green felt to keep out any pesky light, and embellished with daisy motifs. Such a simple solution to an age old problem!

This next item is absolutely my sort of thing – if only Annie Rose made other housewares I’d probably get her fitting out my whole house!

Bang on vogue, the scruffy chic mix of colours and motifs goes with pretty much anything and immediately revives a warm feeling of nostalgia and comfort. I’ve made no secret of the fact I’m more a winter girl than a summer one – quilts like this Panache Scruffy Throw make me pine ever fervently more for the first leaves to fall.

And finally, Knitted Duck's own little contribution to the Land of Nod – this Blighty trio is hand knitted with crochet trim on the Union Jack and intarsia houndstooth motif on the two smaller cushions. I made this set while feeling especially patriotic and Vivienne Westwood-y and immediately got a commission for a second in pink and pale blue. Britannia just got cool.

Now I really am struggling to keep my eyes open... time for this snoozy little duck to go to Bedfordshire. If you like what you see here or have something related of your own you’d like to add feel free to comment below – the more the merrier!

Night all, (sort of)

Wednesday, 14 July 2010

Jingle jangle - It's Folksy Friday!

I'm back! Granted, my laptop very much isn't (sob) but I'm working on that. Nonetheless, it looks like replacing it is going to put a sizeable dent in my bank balance, so any hopes of a new wardrobe have gone right out the window this month. Sigh.

All is not lost however; if you've read my blog before you'll know how much I love a bit of accessorising. There's no end to how much you can update a tired old outfit with the right finishing touches, with the double advantages of making your look unique and fresh every day, and saving you pennies along the way. And one of the most classic yet constantly evolving accessories is a favourite of mine - the bangle.

I've just listed this on Folksy and Etsy - the base is made of cardboard tubing I rescued from work which just happened to be a perfect diameter for the project, and the 'upholstering' is acrylic yarn and gold thread knitted together so the gold flecks are picked out in the light. It's a real statement piece, certain to get you noticed... :)

And it has a matching ring - also available on Folksy and Etsy. Tiffany's has nothing on me.

But enough of my bragging - here are a few lovely things I've unearthed from Folksy's intrepid sellers!

This one leaves me speechless - surely it needs no explanation? KNITTING NEEDLE BANGLE. By Bettie Sells Stuff. A-maze. I love that she's spreading the knitty word in new and wonderful ways. :) As well as extolling the virtues of re/upcycling - a cause I champion - the ingenious usage of the needle effectively teaches an old dog new tricks. And they say that can't be done...

This Peach Floral Filigree Bangle by My Beady Eye is more traditional, and a beautiful example of vintage chic - the delicate filigree detail is subtle, feminine and timeless. I find items like this are perfect for dressing up work clothes - muted dull workaday blouses become Chanel, Primark becomes Prada. Almost. Ah well, a girl can dream.

This last item is fun and striking and mouthwatering all at once - tall order, capably fulfilled! I love the sense of playful nostalgia, and the bright colours are really enhanced by the crystal clear resin they're set in. Hats off, Sour Cherry - your Smartie Bangle is truly scrumptious!

That's all from me now my lovelies - as ever, please feel free to comment below or post up related items. Show us what you got!

love and knitties
KD x

Sunday, 11 July 2010

Have your birthday cake and eat it...

Well, I can't, it's not my birthday - but it was my gorgeous little sister's birthday this week, as well as about fifty other people I know, and I never need much of an excuse for cake... So happy birthday to Leyla, and to everyone else who's been cutting cake recently!

It was partly this and partly the triumph of finally finishing a long standing commission that inspired this weeks' blog - subject being, as you've guessed, birthday cake. It actually goes back to a house party in May when Natalie and I were hailing the virtues of cake, and everything cake related (in fact, I'd just listed a couple of knitted cupcakes on my shop - one has sold now but the other is still available!); so she charged me with designing a cupcake shaped knitted handbag... and here's what I came up with!

The body of the bag is knitted with three strands of wool together on slightly-too-small needles, thereby making it stiffer and with a tighter weave, and giving the walls more practical integrity. It's also great fun knitting with more than one strand when you mix up the colours, as you get these beautiful depths of colour and texture. The base is in good old fashioned seed stitch - I experimented with more complex stitches but this one worked the best - and the top in even more old fashioned stockinette stitch, with a row of loop stitch (as used also in KD's Loopy Teacosy) to give the cake a little bit of decoration. And of course, there's the customary cherry on top. Perfick :)

The keen eyed among you will notice that it's not Friday ergo this is not a Folksy Friday post (boo), for which you can thank the tragic demise of my laptop on Wednesday (double boo); nonetheless I thought it would still be nice to take a shufti at the Folksy vaults.

And how can you have a birthday without a birthday card? Especially one with a cake! This 'Happy Birthday' Cake Greetings Card by Quite Contrary Crafts is simple but so striking, and can be personalised! They are painstakingly handcrafted and each comes with a coordinated envelope. Moonpig can sod off.

Now, look at this next item and tell me just how delicious it looks. Getting your mouth watering yet? Yeah, it's a candle. Don't believe me? Click on it. This amazingly lifelike Banana and Bubblegum Glittery Cup Cake candle by Mr Wick is not only mouthwateringly tempting, it also has a yummy banana fragrance. I'm almost annoyed it's not real.
This final item is - IMHO - sheer brilliance. These Birthday Cake Meerkats from Nifty Knits are knitted in the round in one piece, rather impressively, and make excellent birthday gifts. You can even choose which kind of cake your meerkat is holding, and wires in the legs and tails enable them to be freestanding. WANT.

This is just torture for me now, what with my own birthday being a full 8 months away... I'm off to stuff my face with cake. Please feel free to comment if you have a birthday cake related crafty thing or have seen something as beautiful as these!
Love and knitties,
KD x

Thursday, 1 July 2010

Time for Tea - and Folksy Friday!

Lo all! This week's Folksy Friday theme is close to my heart: a British institution, the bedrock of our society, the cure to all our ills... the humble cuppa. You can set your watch by the regularity with which my friend Ruthie gets her brew on, and there's a good reason for it. The answer to all life's problems is a good cup of tea.

I decided upon the theme after completing a design for a new item for the shop; a set of four knitted Teacup Coasters, on sale on Folksy:

which after a number of Frankenstein-esque prototypes (most of which now lovingly adorn my bedside table) came as something of a breakthrough on Sunday evening. Needless to say I celebrated with an apposite cup of char.

So I started idly scanning Folksy for some tea-themed goodies, and look what I came across...

These teacup candles by Rosie Maguire are so simple and yet so pretty - there's a lovely 'vintage' chic about them that make them great gifts. In fact I've bought one as a present for someone very close to me - that being said I'm making no promises about actually giving it to them...

This charming teatime necklace by Little Red Star is one of those items that really stands out for its ingenuity and quirky charm; it's a great example of what Folksy is all about, because you're never going to find this on the high street...

Tangerinie and Purple Hippos is the talented creator of my final pick this week; this adorable pair of teatime earrings which look good enough to drink!

I'm not sure if it's the mini-ness of the pieces or the intricacy of the detail, but there's something about these which really carries me back to my childhood - to doll's houses and playing grownups and make believe - with such nostalgia that I forget I'm old enough to drink the real thing now. Tee hee.

That's enough of the tea eulogy from me now I think - I'm off to get working on the next line of designs. Maybe after a brew... ;)

KD x

Thursday, 24 June 2010

Summertime AND Folksy Friday? We're so spoilt...

Summer's here! Ah, the great British summer - strawberries, wasps, Wimbledon, surprise when it (shock, horror) rains, grumbling when there's a heatwave, Glasto, hayfever, barbeques, flipflops and sunburn. Man, do we know how to do summer.

Don't mind my acerbic tone - there's a lot I love about summer really, especially when you can properly kick back and enjoy the sunshine and lovely vitamins. :) The thing about summer, as with any season, is knowing how to dress to get the best out of it. Course summer's miserable when you're swaddled in workaday attire, suits and button up shirts and the like. But when you've got a beautiful breezy dress to keep cool in, like Recycled Junkie's Summer Maxi dress, below, what's to worry about?

I have to admit, I'm all about the accessories. You can make two outfits out of one with some clever accessorizing - in fact, I often look at my wardrobe and marvel how relatively little there is in it compared with my overflowing baskets full of belts, scarves and neckerchiefs, costume jewellery, hairpieces and
shoes. It's sort of like having a pantry full of herbs and condiments and no actual food to put them on - which is also what my pantry looks like. Anyway, digression aside, I've found a rather genius way to get accessories and knitting into a summer post, and I'm hugely jealous that the next item isn't one of mine - courtesy of Silky Prudence here is the brilliant Summer Betty Scarflette in Peach Melba.

*bow* I'm not worthy...

Finally, where would any outfit for any season be without a little bit of bling? I'll be honest, there aren't many shades of green that don't catch my magpie eye (except maybe lime) and this Summer Leaf Necklace by Swirls and Squiggles is a perfect example of rich colour and delicate silverwork complementing each other for a real showoff piece...

As usual, my trawl through the Folksy vaults throws up so much talented craftwork and original designs that I think a) why did I EVER go through the doors of a Primark?! and b) that sites like Folksy, Etsy and Artfire are criminally underexposed. I can't count the number of people I've recommended these sites to with literally no more promotional spiel than spelling out the domain name; the quality of work speaks for itself. So if you've seen something here you like, pass it on; if you see one of the millions of items who didn't make it onto my post for no better reason than lack of room, pass it on; if you uncover a diamond in the rough, pass it on. That's what Folksy Friday's all about.

Love and knitties,
KD x