Interview with craft blogger Jane Skoch (on Etsy as MaidenJane)

CC thoughts, Interviews

Happy Friday!

I’m ending the workweek with a fun post about a new craft blogger I’ve found online. Jane, on Twitter and Etsy as MaidenJane, has already inspired me with a few of her projects.

I asked her to tell me a bit about how she got started.

Carolyn Crist: What sparked you to start your website, and what keeps you going?
Jane Skoch: I was inspired to start an Etsy business and a blog by various friends. I have loved creating things my entire life. My husband gave me a Singer sewing machine just after my first child was born. I had decided to retire from my engineering job and sewing provided a great deal of satisfaction to my during the years that my kids were growing up. Not only did I get to sew during their naptimes and evenings, but I made outfits, dresses, and coats for them. I was always reading, taking classes and trying new things.

When my four kids were in school I began substitute teaching and working for an online
fabric company. The owner was one of the early online fabric companies and I was
amazed that she had created a successful business and is still in business today: http:/
/ She thought so highly of my sewing ability that she
encouraged me to open an Etsy shop. So I just dove in!

My first network of bloggers started on Ravelry, a site for knitters. We read each others’
blogs, commented and before you knew it, I had a circle of blog friends. Many have
stopped blogging and moved on to other activities. But my blog has evolved, too, so I’ve
discovered new friends in the process.

Carolyn: What interests you the most about blogging?

Jane: I love that I can share a bit about what inspires me and my creative process.

Carolyn: How do you continue to find intriguing content to post each day?

Jane: I didn’t post a lot initially. Perhaps two to three times a week. I would share my knitting and sewing creations. I challenged myself to create a tutorial and have developed a few. My most popular is for the oversized beach tote. Sometimes I would write about my family life. Recently, I decided that I am going to post five days a week based on a schedule. Monday is for Design Elements – this would be design ideas I use in my home or design ideas I find inspiring out in the blogosphere. Tuesday is Inspiration – interviews with interesting artists, shops or items that I love. Wednesday is for Sewing in which I might share tutorials, tips, things I’ve made. Thursday is for Thoughts on Life where I will share recipes, my family life, practical tips. And Friday is for sharing what’s new in my Etsy shop, Maiden Jane

Carolyn: Tell us about your crafts: When did you first become interested in crafts, how do you come up with ideas for new items, and how do you promote your items? Have you found Etsy to be successful?

Jane: As I mentioned, I loved creating as a child. No one sewed in my family, so I taught
myself to hand sew. My mom bought me all kinds of craft kits, from dolls to rug
hooking. My girlfriends grandma lived in the house behind me and we girls would go to
her house. She taught us to knit and crochet. We never finished anything! Years later,
when my son was born, I picked up those needlecrafts and haven’t stopped! I think back to the days of my youth and freely creating with whatever I could get my hands on with a
great fondness.

I come up with ideas for my shop based on what I like to make and what people ask
me to make. I have made T Shirt Quilts for years for my nieces and nephews as they
graduate high school. I’ve also made some lovely quilts as memory quilts for loved ones
who have died. People started asking me to make them so I have quite a word-of-mouth
business, locally, with that and a growing online presence, too. The oversized beach tote was a product my husband and I designed to help us carry all our stuff to the beach. With four kids in tow, we never had enough hands, so we felt if we made a big enough bag we could sling it on our shoulder. I still use it today!

Other inspiration hits me at odd times – usually the shower. One of my hobbies is
collecting beach glass. One day while sticking my finds in my pocket I was inspired
to come home and make a small mesh bag that clips onto my belt loop. A perfectly
practical bag!

Etsy is a very successful venue. It is populated by amazing artists! It seems like people
mainly find me because of my beach totes and T Shirt quilts, so I need to work on
directing traffic to my shop for some of my other items. My sales have steadily grown. I
am also working on my shop appearance and photos. Some of my items are bigger and
are challenging to photograph. A new camera is on my wishlist, too!

Carolyn: How do you support yourself financially while blogging?

Jane: My blog was intended to support my Etsy shop. It has evolved into more than that for me. However, that is its primary purpose. It does not generate money for me other than that it drives traffic to my shop. I don’t have ads. Any ads you see are for my daughter’s shop and the shops of some of my friends who have, in turn, helped drive traffic to me.

I see some amazing blogs with high traffic and wonder if I will ever get to that point. I’m
not sure. Besides, I think the face of blogging is changing a bit. I have become so busy
that I don’t read my blogroll every day. However, I might be directed to a blog based
on a Facebook post or a Twitter post. So I think blogs are still a great place to assemble
information, but I think it is not enough to have content – you have to lead people to it.

Carolyn: Tell us a bit about marketing and promotion of your site.

Jane: It is not an exact science. I have learned a lot about SEO – how to describe your items so that they show up in Google searches. In fact, I found some of the keywords and then honed my product line based on those words. I have a Facebook page and it is
a fantastic tool. It can be hit or miss, but you can connect with the people who like your things. When I have a new product I put it on Facebook. The picture catches people’s eye. Twitter can be a bit more challenging. I felt like a Who in Whoville when I first started….like no one heard me. Then one day I tweeted about the cookies I was baking and before you knew it, I was in a fun discussion. That led to developing a relationship with some of those people…little chats about our work. Most importantly, the relationships lead to sharing. Many people share tweets so in addition to your followers seeing a tweet, now your friend’s followers are seeing it. Helping to promote other people on Facebook and Twitter is a win-win! If you are patient you can find the right balance between sharing new items, sharing inspiration, chatting, etc. I have a Pinterest account. I like that it is a visual way to keep track of things I like. I used to save sewing patterns in my bookmark folders…never to be seen again. Now I can go back to my boards and see right away what I liked! (Not to mention, all of my James McAvoy pins…)

Some people subscribe to my blog via email. I have been thinking about developing an
email list for my Etsy shop.

Thanks for the opportunity to share a “bit” about myself!

Thanks, Jane! Keep up the crafting. I can’t wait to make some T-shirt blankets.


Interview with book blogger Colette Chimel

CC thoughts, Interviews

Hello friends,

It’s interview time! I talked to Colette Chimel, who writes book reviews for her blog, “A Buckeye Girl Reads.” It’s fantastic, so I thought I would feature her here!

Carolyn Crist: What sparked you to start your website, and what keeps you going?

Colette Chimel: What sparked my interest to start my book blog was that a friend of mine through my personal blog started one, and thought-I could do that! My book reviews were taking over my personal blog, and my readers there weren’t as into books as I am, so I started it one night when I was bored.  What keeps me going is all the great comments I get from my followers, and when an author thanks me for reading their book or leaves a nice comment on my blog.

Carolyn: What interests you the most about book reviewing?

Colette: That’s a good question! I think what interests me most is that it’s a way for me to remember what I thought about a certain book and to help me with my writing also lets me read books I normally otherwise wouldn’t read.

Carolyn: How do you continue to find intriguing books and content to post on each day?

Colette: I’m not sure that the books I read are always intriguing to others, but I just read whatever sounds interesting or different to me. A  lot of authors & genres  I’ve found through different bloggers, and through that keep discovering more titles I wouldn’t have noticed if I wasn’t a blogger. I’ve also discovered that you don’t need to post something everyday and that helps keep the content fresh & I’m not boring people with having a different book meme every single day.

Carolyn: What types of characters do you like the most?

Colette: I love books with strong heroes & heroines. There’s nothing better then seeing a hero that’s tough on the outside become a softie. I love strong heroines that aren’t afraid to say with they think and solve problems on their own.

Carolyn: How do you support yourself financially while blogging? 

Colette: Most of the books I read come from the library! I also have a book budget that I try to stick with. I have found having a Kindle has saved me lots of money when it comes to book buying. I’m always amazed at the great deals and free books that are on amazon.

Carolyn: Tell us a bit about marketing and promotion of your site.

Colette: When I was a new blogger, I was really shy about promoting my site. I didn’t do much marketing or promotion at all. What helped me the most were joining reading challenges, book memes, blog hop giveaways and blogger events like Dewey’s Read A Thon. I’ve found that leaving comments on other blogs is the best kind of marketing you can do. I don’t suggest leaving a comment and then a link to your post, but just leaving a simple comment works wonders for word of mouth promoting. The only promotion I really do now is through blog hop giveaways, blog tours and twitter. The best advice I can give is just be yourself and do what you feel comfortable doing to promote your blog.

Interview about blogging with Jane Austen blogger Maria Grazia

CC thoughts, Interviews, Jane Austen

Hello everyone!

Beechey's Reading Lady, Maria's avatar

Beechey's Reading Lady, Maria's avatar

I’m continuing my advice series today with Maria Grazia, a blogger I’ve met while growing the Vicariously Jane Austen blog. We first talked on Twitter, and I asked if she’d be willing to answer a few questions about how she got started!

I hope this will help people who are getting their blogs off the ground and promote a great blog to those who want to read about Jane Austen.

Find her on Twitter, and check out the Everything Austen Daily that she created on

Carolyn Crist: What sparked you to start your website, and what keeps you going?

Maria Grazia: A sparkle actually lit my passion for blogging. I started blogging to pass materials, notes or power point presentations, video or audio files, to my students. As a teacher of English as a foreign language and of English literature , I wanted a place on line to share with them. This is how I started. My first, old blog is still there and I regularly update it. LEARNONLINE, it is called. I have fun adding my materials there and my students find working online more stimulating, really motivating.

Fly High books

Fly High website image

But then, I wanted a more personal space. Hence, FLY HIGH! There the fire began to burn bright! I started writing it some months after LEARNONLINE. There I like writing about books, period drama, series and movies, school, journeys and trips, theatre and my favourite actors. Well, actually, without final S: my favourite actor. “My one weakness”, as I like to call him. He is one of the reasons why FLY HIGH! has gone
on and grown. Many of my readers are, in fact, Richard Armitage’s fan, like me. They drop by to see if there’s a new post about RA (as we call him). But these lovely readers happen to share many of my other interests: books, period drama and theatre, for instance. So they stay and read and comment even the other stuff they find.

I started my newest blog in January 2010. My Jane Austen Book Club was linked to a Jane Austen club I was actually moderating for the public library in my town. We read the six Austen major novels, one a month from January to June and we met on the last Saturday of each month to discuss what we had read. The experience was obviously inspired to the lovely film “The Jane Austen Book Club” but there was no
handsome Gigg with us! Well, no man at all. So, my third blog started as a “container” for my notes, quizzes, ideas, videos for the club and it has become what it is now, “A friendly meeting place to discuss everything Austen.”

My Jane Austen Book Club

My Jane Austen Book Club

Carolyn: What interests you about Jane Austen – and Jane Eyre?

Maria: Well, Austen and the Bronte sisters are among my favourite authors. I love their talent at dealing with human feelings and passions, at creating strong emotions or witty dialogue. Their sensitivity and their intelligence made them women beyond their time. But there are many other women writers I highly appreciate: Elizabeth Gaskell, Elsa Morante, Isabel Allende, Virginia Woolf, Sylvia Plath, Paola Mastrocola. OK. I’ll stop here. But I’ve got a very long list, in fact.

Carolyn: How do you continue to find intriguing books and content to post on each day?

Maria: Actually they find me! Since I’ve started blogging I’ve virtually met authors, publishers, publicists, bloggers, teachers, women, men from all over the world. I receive lots of books to review or as a gift, I easily find guests to interview or to host with their blogposts. Then, I write about what I watch, period or modern drama, movies or series, theatre or about my journeys. Actually, I have to renounce writing about everything I’d like to. Blogging is quite a time consuming activity, you know.

Carolyn: What types of characters do you like the most?

Maria: As for heroines, they must be intelligent, sensitive, strong-willed, ambitious, independent and, possibly, flawed. A little defect , please! A mistake, from time to time! You can learn much from your own mistakes. I hate the Fanny Price type. I prefer Anne Elliot, Emma and even Marianne Dashwood!

Richard Armitage as John Thornton (Maria's favorite actor in her favourite period drama)

Richard Armitage as John Thornton (Maria's favorite actor in her favourite period drama)

My heroes…ehm…my heroes must be… just like the heroines above: intelligent, sensitive, strong-willed,ambitious, independent and possibly flawed. Proud? Impetuous? Stubborn? Better.vI must confess I have a crush for complex baddies, libertines and rogues. Although my favourite men in literature are loyal and faithful, hard working and ready to sacrifices: Captain Wentworth and John Thornton. Last but not least, my heroes must be dark haired and, possibly, with blue/grey/green eyes. Since they just exist in our fantasy, we can be demanding, can’t we?

Carolyn: How do you support yourself financially while blogging?

Maria: I have my job, I teach  full time in a state school here in my town. I teach English as I said above to teenage students and I’m paid for that . Blogging is one of my hobbies. My main hobby. But I earn no money for that.

Carolyn: Tell us a bit about marketing and promotion of your sites.

Maria: I’ve started using Twitter and Facebook only recently but I wouldn’t say that it has changed much my blogging style nor increased the number of my followers or commenters enormously . I just post links there since I have very little time to spend chatting. Though, I must confess I do it from time to time. I’ve got so many new acquaintances from all over the world now, that… how could I resist to share and chat with them? Blogging has brought to me so many new friends, virtual and real, distant and near! And that is what I am most grateful for. Indeed.

If you were looking for a marketing expert, you haven’t found one, I’m afraid. Maybe we can look for one together among our readers. And ask: ”Any suggestions for us”?

Thanks for having me!

Thanks, Maria! I really appreciate your responses and would love to host you again soon.