Thursday, March 17, 2011

Anime Industry Charity Update

If you live in the Los Angeles area, anime industry members and artists are coordinating a fundraiser hosted at Meltdown Comics tonight. There will be voice actor signings, an art auction and free booze! Please see the We Heart Japan website for more details.

Every year, the amazing folks at Anime Detour host a large charity auction benefiting the Twin Cities chapter of the American Red Cross. This year, they are routing the funds to the Japan Earthquake and Pacific Tsunami Relief Fund. Carrie Savage and I are hosting the auction and have already shipped five boxes full of rare and wonderful items. Everything will be viewable at the Art Show on Friday and Saturday, April 1-2, and we will start the auction around noon on Sunday, April 3rd. If you plan to attend, please check the schedule to confirm the time and location.

At midnight on Sunday, I will appear on the unofficial One Piece podcast with Christopher Bevins. The schedule has been posted and I believe the times are in the Eastern time zone.

There are many other projects in the works and I will post another update when more information is available.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Charity Auctions - Tips and Suggestions

Over the past few days, I have noticed many groups of people starting fund-raising drives to help support the relief efforts in Japan. Since I have been heavily involved in helping coordinate charity auctions for various anime conventions, it occurred to me that people may be interested in learning a few tips and tricks I have picked up over time. Please note that I do not run auctions as a profession, but there may be some valuable information I can share after six years of trial and error. This is not meant to be a comprehensive step-by-step guide; just a basic overview of the process.


Before you accept donations for any reason, always check your state laws. In some states, charitable raffles may potentially infringe on local gambling laws, so do your homework ahead of time.

Choosing a Charity

Charitable organizations are simply everywhere. So, how does one go about making the right choice? First, think about what you want to accomplish. If you want to directly impact individuals, choose a charity that suits your needs. Always research the organization's non-profit status, as well as the percentage of donations that will directly support the cause you want to help. Some NPOs need a large amount of money to run their organization and this may make people feel uncomfortable. Also, be cautious when donating money to a third party. There is no guarantee they will disburse the funds they promise, so keep in mind that you are sending your hard-earned cash into the wild at your own risk.

Live and Silent Auctions

When you run either a live or a silent auction, the preparation beforehand can make the difference between raising $500 or $5,000. Organization is a key factor and while my experience is specific to auctions at anime conventions, some processes will work across the board. First, you need to understand your target audience. If you have a room full of anime fans, it’s difficult to try to auction items specific to other genres of entertainment. I’m not saying there will not be any crossover appeal, but I cannot stress enough that it’s better to choose your items based on what the majority of people are looking for. The higher the number of interested parties, the higher the likelihood of starting a bidding war. Period.

Once you have chosen your items, think of a way to organize the information. Create a document or spreadsheet with the description of each item and its estimated value. For gift baskets or items normally available for purchase, the SRP is usually a good gauge. If you have an autographed item, ballpark what you think it’s worth and add this to your documentation. You may have a specific goal amount for the total donation at the auction, so this will serve as a reality check to see if you are likely to meet expectations. It’s not entirely out of the realm of possibility that you can raise $10,000 with a $5 item, just improbable.

When values of all items have been estimated to the best of your ability, think of a starting bid. Use your eBay skills! We all know sellers do not want to part with an item at the opening bid price. Since the auctions I am discussing here are for charitable purposes, it is even more important to try to maximize the bidder amounts.

If you are holding a silent auction, create a bid sheet to place near the item. All bid sheets should have a detailed description of the object and enough space for people to write in their bids. The rest of the information on the bid sheet will depend on the circumstances of your auction. If you have a group of people who will stay at the event until the end, you can leave a space for their name. To be on the safe side, you may ask for an email address so you can get in touch with the winning bidder at the end of the auction.


At a live auction, your auctioneer is critical to the success of the event. If possible, choose someone who is a good public speaker, enthusiastic and knowledgeable about the items, charity and sponsoring group. Always acquaint them with the items ahead of time and make sure they know how to pronounce names correctly. I cannot count the number of occasions where auctioneers were unfamiliar with the items and mispronounced multiple names. This does not instill a feeling of excitement in your bidders, so this is a position that cannot be phoned in for any reason. It’s a tough job to maintain a high level of energy for hours at a stretch, which is why I usually leave this task to someone far more qualified than myself.

During the Auction

I have found the greatest success happens when someone is keeping detailed records (that’s me!) during the auction itself. While people are busy looking at items or furiously screaming at each other during a bidding war, I usually stay hidden behind a laptop with a spreadsheet, documenting the total amounts for each item, as well as the total amount for the entire auction. It is also important to remember that people who are serious bidders will want more than one item. While the auction is running, I am busy compiling receipts for each person and sorting their items into piles. This greatly speeds up the checkout process at the end of the auction when 30-40 people want to make payments at the same time. No one wants to wait 30 minutes to pay after sitting in a room for four hours. No one.

Extra Stuff

Try to maintain a water station and a snack table. People are more likely to be in a good mood if they are not thirsty or hungry. Depending on how you are running the event, you can break up the monotony of the auction by giving away freebies. In the past, we have given each attendee a numbered ticket and chose prize winners at random all throughout the auction. This was a really big hit and discouraged a number of people from leaving the room to attend other events.

Payment Options

This is a tough subject to tackle because there are many potential pitfalls. In addition to accepting cash, credit cards are an absolute must. This can present a problem if you do not have a way to process credit card payments. Paypal and other similar services charge a processing fee and will cost quite a bit of money. They are also an electronic record of income that may come into play during tax season.

The best option I have found is to get in touch directly with the charitable organization and ask if they can be physically present at the event. Most organizations will be able to process credit cards at a lower cost due to their status as a non-profit. This way, you can guarantee that all of the money is going to a reputable source and your bidders will be able to obtain a receipt for tax purposes. If you have specific questions about taxes, get in touch with a CPA and not someone like me. I have no clue.

In closing, there is a wealth of information online about the subjects I have covered. If there are any questions, please leave them in the comments section and I will address them as best as I can. Organizing charity auctions isn’t a science, but with good organizational skills and hard work, you can make your auction a success. When a few more projects are underway, I will create a follow-up post with a list of donation resources from the anime community and industry. If you have read this far, thank you! I have worked for 12 hours and I fear I may be a bit incoherent at this point.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Out of the Cold Snap

Coffee Cup Cozy
Originally uploaded by craftytails
The sudden arrival of unusually bad weather within the past month has definitely upset the applecart. Two weeks of ice and snow are quite odd for Texas and the roads were too treacherous for travel. One of the days was so cold that I watched the windshield of my car crack horizontally across the middle. Even though I originally wanted to buy a new car next month, the damage accelerated my plans. An unexpected financial burden, coupled with five days of being trapped in my home and followed with a convention trip took the wind out of my crafty sails.

I did, however, manage to bring my second drop stitch scarf with me to Naka-Kon. Although I had a wonderful time this weekend, the schedule kept me too busy to make much progress. Upon returning home (after some minor stress with a flight cancellation), I put the scarf aside in favor of my Hourglass Sweater. Knitting a skirt is still very tempting, but probably not the best decision until my waistline has diminished slightly.

In other news, KnitPicks is now carrying Kromski spinning wheels. Their pricing looks comparable to quotes I have received in the past. Now, if only there was a way to raise this much money at once. There are other, more urgent purposes for these funds, but a girl can dream, right?

Next month, my friends Ryan and Wolf are shaving their heads to raise money for St. Baldrick's Foundation. This is a great cause and if you have a local event in your area, it’s a fun and worthwhile way to spend an evening.

Since spring is on its way, I will close with a free knitted daffodil pattern that should make a cheery centerpiece for a coffee table or living area.

Monday, January 24, 2011

New Hats for the New Year

Corkscrew Tassel Hat
Originally uploaded by craftytails
Project-wise, there has been a lot going on these days. During the holiday break, I finished the Mr Greenjeans cardigan and it fits like a dream. The project is a particular success because I wore it to work and no one asked if I knitted it. This may sound odd, but I am happier when someone can't tell if a garment is handmade.

Crafts aside, my main project for the year is a major overhaul on my home. Many possessions will be donated, tossed or sold within the next few months. The yarn stash will also be pared down to exclude anything I will never use. The prospect of simplifying my life is really exciting and the first round of purging already looks promising. Hours were spent organizing the button and bead stashes and everything is now stored in plastic ziplock bags in shoeboxes. This probably doesn't sound too interesting, but there is a sense of relief that comes with never having to worry about finding a specific button or buying something I already own.

Speaking of organizing, I have become addicted to making lists. The month of January has been spent on various hat-knitting projects: After knitting a few more hats, perhaps I'll make my first skirt. There are a bunch of choices out there and in making the list, I have noticed most of the patterns come from one of my favorite online resources, Knitty.In hindsight, a skirt should have been started before the cold snap. Possibly, I may be able to start on a smaller size in a few weeks after my new exercise routine is in full swing. Losing a few pounds should help me feel more motivated when picking garment patterns. My next order of business should be locating some websites with healthy, low-calorie recipes. Any ideas?

Monday, October 18, 2010


Mr. Greenjeans
Originally uploaded by craftytails
Once again, NaNoWriMo is almost upon us. For many knitters, November marks a concentrated effort to knit a 50,000-stitch sweater in a month. The criteria is detailed on the original blog and looks quite daunting. My schedule doesn't allow for the full completion of a new sweater from scratch, but I am determined to finish some UFOs on the needles. My Garter Yoke Cardigan is finished and fits amazingly well. Now, I am working on the second sleeve of my Mr. Greenjeans cardigan in a vibrant tangerine heather (pictured). The Tilted Duster is still awaiting sleeve seams and buttons. If I budget my time correctly, all three cardigans will be ready for the winter weather (such as it is in Texas). Not a single sweater actually fits the rules of NaKniSweMo, but the spirit is still there.

In the midst of these large projects, there are surprises in the works for the holiday season. This year, I refuse to get caught in a last-minute dash to the finish line. Patterns have been purchased and yarn orders placed, so all should go according to plan (appendages crossed). With the exception of a scarf, most projects have been chosen for their simplicity and beauty. Viewing my craft life with a "less is more" attitude has really helped me evaluate my struggle between being both a process knitter and one who enjoys the finished object. My ambition has the tendency to override common sense and a new way of thinking has severely curtailed both unnecessary spending and starting things that will ultimately remain unfinished.

Besides knitterly pursuits, some time will be dedicated toward the task of infusing vodka, specifically with cardamom and ginger. I am not one to be trusted in the kitchen for most purposes and this idea reeks of potential disaster. Either way, the thought of having jars full of mysterious potions in my cupboard makes me feel like I am pretending to be a booze-friendly Professor Snape.

My dance card (aka convention schedule) is rapidly filling up for 2011 and will continue to be updated on this blog. The most recently announced appearance at Sakura-Kon has become more exciting after being informed that many staff members either knit or crochet. In light of this news, I will donate a hand-knitted Jayne Cobb hat to the charity auction. It's always nice to have the ability to combine two seemingly disparate interests in a relevant manner.

Now, off to hyper-focus on costume ideas for Halloween. After promising to go to a party, I find myself lacking something clever to wear.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Cardigan Addiction

Garter Yoke Cardi
Originally uploaded by craftytails
After a few months of non-stop work and little time for side projects, I am finally making my craft life a priority again.

First things first, the knitting portion of my Tilted Duster is finished. The only parts left are sewing in buttons, setting and seaming the sleeves and blocking. Some minor modifications were made after reading notes from Ravelry users. The back and two front pieces were increased from 4" to 6" in order to create a more flattering bust (from 21 to 31 rows using a size 9 needle). The sleeves were made one size larger to improve fit around the arms. If I manage to avoid major mistakes in the seams, the sweater will be my new weapon against the uncomfortably cold climate in my office.

As a result of my unchecked problem with "start-itis", the Garter Yoke Cardi is now on the needles. It's seamless and will satiate my need for instant gratification. Plus, the yarn is quite soft and will not irritate my skin like wool. A trip to Golden D'or this weekend yielded a treasure-trove of buttons which will look perfect with the pink colorway.

Speaking of which, the new Knit Picks catalog arrived and to my delight, it included some limited edition colorways of Felici. I have never been tempted by this yarn in the past, but Abracadabra immediately caught my eye. After a moment, I noticed a colorway next to it called Time Traveler. I am definitely ordering enough for a pair of socks because I am a huge Doctor Who fan. In case someone doesn't know the reference, here is an example of the matching scarf. I used a pattern from this website to knit a scarf for a friend.

For the time being, however, there will be no new socks until the cardigan frenzy subsides. Next up is Mr. Greenjeans, then perhaps the Vine Yoke Cardigan since I love Ysolda Teague's patterns so much.

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Ravelympics 2010

Liesl #1
Originally uploaded by craftytails
After missing the last few Ravelympics events, I thought I would never get the chance to join the festivities. My participation online has historically been minimal and the Liesl cardigan was started with the full knowledge that it may end up in the UFO pile with the others. To my great surprise, the sweater was completed in a mere six days.

The Ravelympics is an event sponsored by Ravelry and its purpose is to inspire people to start and finish a challenging project during the Olympic games. While this pattern was not challenging in the area of personal skill level, the true test for me was following it to completion in a limited amount of time. I usually lack the dogged persistence others have seeing a project through to the end. In fairness, I must credit the incredibly talented pattern designer. The instructions are easy to follow and offer a lot of options with sizing and customization. For my sweater, I chose the three-button, wide neck version with 3/4-length sleeves. Since I have two more skeins of a different Malabrigo colorway burning a hole in my stash, my second Liesl will have cap sleeves.

Perhaps this small success will enable me to dust off the three sweaters in my UFO pile. I have been avoiding this task because they have languished for so long that I don't remember where I stopped. It doesn't help that my detailed pattern notes disappeared into a box somewhere. Surely they will fail to resurface until I have meticulously backtracked and finished the projects. This gets me a little depressed, but it isn't all bad news. I have finished a total of nine projects this year. Three hats, four scarves and a pair of fingerless gloves are either sitting in my drawer or awaiting their recipients.

Now if only I could figure out the charity knitting... Time is running out and I am determined not to buy new yarn until at least one of my plastic tubs is empty. I am a long way from fiber stash acceptance and organizing my craft life will hopefully have a positive impact on other areas needing attention.