Monday, December 28, 2009

On Holiday

Just wanted to let everyone know that I will be breaking from the blogging until Jan. 4. Heading for Phase 2 of Holiday celebrations in Tennessee, and still have handmade gifts to finish. I am a procrastinator to the core.
Looking forward to a fantastic 2010. See you guys next year.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Last minute gift idea

I was going through my Google Reader the other day and came across a tutorial for a rice bag warmer. A rice bag warmer is a fabric bag of rice that you heat in the microwave for a few minutes and then lay the warm bag across your sore neck, head or even slip under your blanket to warm your feet.
My grandmother used to make these when we were younger, and I have been complaining to my husband that I wished I had one for my sore crafter's neck. Then, when I saw it, I knew it would be perfect for my co-worker who is always cold.
So I made two of them. The most beautiful thing was I had almost everything I needed to make them already in my stash. I just had to go out and buy rice.
You can add dried herbs like lavender to the bags, if you want to just increase the awesome.
I was lazy, and stuck to just rice.
I gave it a whirl this afternoon, and placed it under my son's feet. I thought he would really think it was cool, but mostly it just weirded him out.
So I wrapped my coworkers rice bag warmer with two packages of hot chocolate. If her temperature doesn't rise after this gift, then next year I will just have to get her a Snuggie.

Friday, December 18, 2009

O Christmas Tree

We downsized our Christmas tree this year. Living in the tiny apartment really didn't afford a lot of room for a large tree, and after our storage closet was flooded and our tree and many decorations were ruined, I decided to give up the fight and went searching for a tiny tree.
I was able to score one for only $10 - prelit.
I didn't think much about tree downsizing until I saw a link on Indie Fixx today. They too downsized their tree because of space.
It made me wonder who else was downsizing this Christmas.
Once we got the little tree set up, and the decorations on it, it was a little like a Charlie Brown Christmas. We all looked at it, and decided, it really wasn't so bad. We would have had no place to put a big tree in the first place, and my son loves it just the same. I find myself adding a little bit to the decor everyday, to the point, it might topple over.
But it is beautiful, and I'm glad we did it the way we did.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Patience, persistence and a good seam ripper

I told my mother several months ago that being in a recession means that more people will want to start sewing their own clothes. She didn't believe me. She also doesn't read the New York Times.
I came across this article this morning and read it with a smile because I have walked down the same road as the author. When I got my first sewing machine, I also bought a dress pattern. I didn't even bother with the home decor process of wanting to make pillows and dish towels. I wanted fashion damn it! This was before Project Runway, mind you, and I just KNEW I could not only make my own clothes, but make enough one of a kind designs to open my own shop in the very tiny little town of Murray, KY. Looking back, I know that Murray probably wouldn't totally embrace my style, even if I had mastered a self taught "fashion degree" (a lofty aspiration all on it's own). But I loved living in that small town, and hated my job. So I was dreaming big. Actually I was completely delusional.
But I was also persistent. I bought a dress pattern, fabric, thread, and a zipper. My aunt, who was visiting me at the time, chipped in on the cost of my materials because what's family for if not to support your crackpot ideas and then slip out of town before the results are in.
I had a plan. I was going to make my first dress, and I was going to wear it New Years Eve! I was certain it would take no longer than a few hours the Saturday before.
I remember the weekend I laid all the materials out in my living room. I carefully cutting out the pattern pieces out of the thin tissue paper. I pinned pieces to some plain white practice fabric. After I cut all the pattern pieces, I pinned them all together and very carefully slipped on my "practice dress".
It was too tight. Way too tight. The little pins were three inches from even reaching. I had failed to take my own measurements before I started cutting.
That's when I learned a very important lesson. Just because you wear a certain size at the store, doesn't mean you actually are that size in sewing patterns. Now, I might know how to handle that situation. Anything was better than what I actually did do, which was sit in my living room and cry. I never even sewed a stitch.
Now I know better. I have bought several sewing books. I have learned to measure twice and cut once, and I have gained an amazing amount of respect for the people who put together something so many people take for granted - our clothing.
I don't really sew dresses. I have made several quilts, pillows, placemats and other small projects that can get done in a weekend, but clothing construction takes an amount of patience that I have yet to develop. But I am getting closer with every stitch.

Monday, December 14, 2009

A little press goes a long way

I am so excited. The store when I have been consigning my holiday ornaments has gotten a little local press. Street Scene (not to be confused with the urban Christian movement of the same name in Lexington) is a vintage consignment store that has the most awesome, kitchy, irresistible items. I am in LOVE with the pink couch that is in the above photo of owners Terri Wood and Katherine Wiseman. There is also costume jewelry, clothing, pink poodle skirts, lamps, and those really awesome huge sculptural ashtrays that look like they came right out of a 1970s penthouse party. Also, for the DIYers, there are yards and yards of vintage fabric in the back to buy to make your own vintage furnishings.
Street Scene is located at 2575 Regency Road, or become a fan of them on Facebook.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Christmas Craft-tacular

So, as always I have decided to do too many things at once.
Christmas is rapidly approaching, and I love to make my own gifts.
Unfortunately my ambition always outweighs my time frame, and I make lofty goals with no way to complete them.
However, last year I got everything done right down to the wire, and perhaps this year with a little more organization and better laid out plan, I will be able to get everything accomplished.
Here is the list-
Two throw sized quilts (don't turn on me now. They are not patchwork quilts)
One queen sized throw (Okay, so that one might not be able to happen because quilt supplies are expensive enough, and this would be an additional gift to one I already had planned)
One knitted hat, (or maybe 4 knitted hats, depending upon whether I decide to send a surprise gift early to my nephews)
three stenciled bags
One piece of original art
One batch of chocolate chip cookies (or an apple pie. Last year I perfected my crust, and I saw this awesome little apple shaped pie mold for only $10)
This doesn't even count the teacher appreciation gifts, the cards to mail out and items for co-workers, church friends and part-time babysitters.
I'm a mad woman and I need to be stopped.
But first gift - COMPLETED!
I hit up the 40% off sale at Hancock Fabrics and got all my materials for my two throw sized quilts. I had no intention of patchworking and putting edging on these pieces, because I didn't want to completely lose my mind. So this is how I did it, and it was super easy.
Buy 60" of 45"wide fabric for the top, and another 60" for the bottom. Layer the pieces like a quilt sandwich - front piece (pretty side up), bottom piece (pretty side down) then batting. It seemed silly to me too, kind of like making a bread, bread, peanut butter sandwich, but bear with me.
After I sewed up three side, I flipped the whole thing inside out, just like I was making a pillow, and BAM - it looked like a quilt. I pushed out the corners, ironed the edges, then sewed the open end.
But we're still not done. I had to do something to keep the batting from slipping, sliding and bunching on the inside. So, I was going to have to tack it. I folded the quilt in quarters to find the center and threaded my yarn needle. With a pretty piece of pink yarn, I dove the needle into the center and back up and then tied the yarn in a knot. Then I continued to tack in 5" intervals all over the quilt.
The whole project took 6 hours, and my Maw will be so pleased.
Things I learned:
1. high loft batting, when sewed as the top layer, can get tangled up in your presser foot, so be very careful to keep it flat.
2. There is a reason quilting stores sell large plexiglass rulers. They are to press the fabric down so you can easily trim access. I did not have one of those large rulers, so I used a very large book instead.
3. A bed does not make the best cutting table, but it will due. I am SHOCKED I did not cut a big hole in my comforter.
4.I used three pairs of scissors and always left them out of arms reach of where ever I needed them. Considering getting a tool belt.
I went ahead and knocked out the sewing part of my second scheduled holiday quilt, and just have to tack it tonight. Also, I got a friendly reminder from my husband to come up with a manlier way to tack, because the second quilt was for his dad and yarn ties looked "girly."
You know, I don't tell him how to study for his law finals.
Whatever, besides, yarn ties might be a little girly, but I'll figure that out tonight.
Wish me luck.

Friday, December 4, 2009

My first time

Today, I bought my first little bit of advertising.
Which has been incredibly weird for me because I sell advertising. Being on the other side of the fence has been quite eye-opening. As soon as I realized, that TODAY was the day I was going to have a featured artist spot on Etsy, I immediately went to the site and clicked refresh until my ornament appeared. Then I immediately went in and switched the photo I picked because I thought the Vampire ornament might be too much for the needlecraft site, and now I am thinking about switching it back because the dove might seem too pedestrian to bring in any actual buyers. As you can clearly see I am driving myself insane over it.
I sell advertising, and I have the knowledge that sales is a numbers game. You have to ensure that either the most people see your ad as possible to draw in a handful of potential clients, or you have to directly target your specific audience with lazerlike acuracy. I know that Etsy gets a good number of visitors that come to the sight specifically to shop. I know that if someone is interested in needlecrafts they will go to that link. I know my $7 is well spent.
But owning a business and putting your heart into it takes all the logic out of my head. Just having items on Etsy is intimidating enough because there are a lot of sellers and they truly are artists. Suddenly the ornaments I made that seemed so awesome yesterday, seem average today in the light of self-doubt.
So I will probably change the photo back to the vampire lips again, put on my business hat that reminds me of the odds, and in the end hope for the best.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Sewing machines

Not too long after I graduated from college, and was living on my own for the first time, I started putting two and two together that making things for myself might be cheaper than buying them. So when my mother called and asked what I wanted for Christmas that year, I gave it some thought and said, "You know, I have always wanted my own sewing machine." My mother quickly responded, "You will never use it."
Perhaps her response was brought on by the fact that my aunt had actually given me a sewing machine not too long before, and I promptly returned the relic after it billowed smoke on a trial run and the man at the repair store told me it would be cheaper to buy a new one.
But, my mother did come through with the machine by way of Santa that year (yes, I still and always will celebrate Santa). A Brother LS-1520 Sewing Machine with about 14 stitch setting purchased at Walmart for about $100 (You can get the same machine at the same store for less these days, but I digress) and I totally fell in love with it. This machine and I have had an on and off passionate affair for many years. I have read and reread the manual 100s of times. I have learned basic small machine repair. I have oiled and tweaked and cussed it out on several occasions. And sometimes, I actually make things with it, once again proving my mother wrong (Ha. Ha. Ha. evil laugh).
I started fondly referring to my machine as the Tank. For a while, I would visit expensive sewing machine stores and think I had to have one of those fancy smancy models to be able to produce a fine garment. But then I spent a weekend sewing on one of those machines, and as it turns out, I was not impressed. The thread kept getting caught inside the bobbin case, most likely my fault, and I had to take the machine apart every few stitches. After that weekend I promised I would never bad-mouth my machine ever again. Clearly it was tough enough to withstand my amateur mistakes, and still run like a top.
I have a fondness for sewing machines. Like stray puppies and kittens, I just want to make sure they all find a good home. So when I found the thread on Crafter asking people to show off their machines, I had to flip through it. Photos proudly posted like parents with brand new babies. There were 57 pages of postings. 57 pages of love and adoration for machines fondly referred to as Baby, Beastie and Gretta . Not all were expensive toys, like the ones at quilt stores with complicated German names and price tags that rival my car. Some were Goodwill finds, Freecycle scores, and hand-me-downs from parents who loved these machines before.
So in honor of the day of Thanks, I am bestowing thanks to my own mechanical partner in crime, in which all garments are possible.

I want to make

Apparently I have a bag fascination. I have found two in the past week I want to make. If you take my bag obsession along with my pillow fascination, my closet dwelling sewing machine might have to find a permanent home somewhere in my tiny apartment.
This messenger bag is adorable, and I am just dying to make it.

Monday, November 23, 2009

A Birthday Pony

My niece Ava LOVES horses. It started out with My Little Ponys but now it is all horses. Her birthday is coming up, and I guarantee that she will most likely be getting the entire toy horse wing at Toys are Us, so I decided to stick with that theme.
I love this print. There is something so Little House on the Prairie about it that I just fell in love when I saw it.
The process was actually a lot easier than I thought.
I made the pillow cover from a tutorial I found on
I traced a horse silhouette I found onto the plain pink fabric, and ironed a fusible backing.I embroidered my details and then cut out. Then, I sewed the horse on the pillow cover. Start to finish, it probable took me about 12 hours. I can't be sure because I slept in between. Either way it is a great weekend project. Now I want to fill my whole house with throw pillows. I will try to restrain myself.

Friday, November 20, 2009

DIY Office style

I can often be found wandering around office supply stores. I love binder clips, pocket notebooks and can completely lose myself in the sharpie aisle.
So when I can across Indie Fixx this morning and their awesome compilation of indie office supplies, and tutorials to make your own, I clicked on each photo with the hunger of a young teenage werewolf who bursts out of his clothes when he attacks. . . and I'm sorry, I got off track there.
So check out these office supplies, while I try to pull myself back together.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

New find

I stumbled across the absolute cutest blog today. She is a German artist named Mymaki.
She has the most adorable characters on each of her items. I bookmarked her before I realized I could use Google translator to actually read some of the stuff she wrote. Honestly, her work spoke for itself.
Mymaki - I likey.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Putting it all to work

Today I got to give my news stamps a real work-out. I took another gross of ornaments to Street Scene and I needed to whip out a few hang tags for pricing. The stamped cards look really cool and my production times was a cut in half.

Something to inspire

Sometimes we all get in a creativity rut. I came across this on a website called Indie Fixx, which posted a Top Ten Ways to Be Creative Everyday by an artist named Nicole Docimo of Blue Bicicletta.

She is too cute, with her hand drawn lists and calendars. Love, love it.
Sorry the art is so small, but check it out here.
Or check out Nicole's etsy to see her work.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Stamp-tacular hits and misses

This week I dropped off a few of my Christmas ornaments at a local vintage consignment shop called Street Scene. I was putting together pricing labels, and realized after hand lettering my second card that I really needed something that would help me create labels faster. Now, I should have followed my first instinct, which was go to Office Depot and get a rubber stamp made. Something professional with curly cues. But the $20 price tag threw me off. Surely I can come up with something on my own.
After scouring the forums and blogs, I fumbled across a few sites that explained how to make rubber stamps with $1 erasers, like this one that I book-marked over a year ago and have been dying to try.
However, the Speedball lino cutter almost everyone on the blogs brought me back to the $20 price tag I have been trying to avoid. So, I found another blog where a stamp carving only used an Xacto knife. Considering I already owned an Xacto knife, I gave it a shot. I grabbed a sharpie and drew my company name on a standard pink eraser and got to carving. The result wasn't that bad, but my edges were rough, and of course, I didn't realize I was supposed the be carving a reverse image, so my bluegirl actually read lrigeuld.

Take 2 – I found another blog where I learned how to easily get my reverse image in my eraser before carving, AND this carver made all her stamps with only a cuticle cutter. Alright. I could buy a whole manicure set at Dollar Tree for only a buck. So with a whole new package of erasers I gave this technique a go.

Rats. The cuticle cutter did okay, but again, my round edges looked rough, and there are a lot of curves in my chosen company name, so that wasn't going to work. Also mad props to the girl who can carve with a cuticle cutter, but I put her in a category of crafters who can knit with pencil nibs and paint masterpieces with a sponge. This is a category I don't fall in.

My determination has a tendency to override my common-sense, and the once lofty $20 price tag on the Speedball carving kit didn't seem too outrageous. Totally forgetting that I could have a professional make a stamp for me for the same price that would be detailed enough to include my store site, blog and a tiny portrait of myself, I stomped right into my local craft store and bought the lino carving set.

What a difference the right tools make. I carved out a couple of initial stamps and my company logo. I am in love, love love with the linocutter. I was up till midnight playing around with it, and can't wait to play with it some more. I have a decent company logo I can use on price tags, and a little flower for practice.

In the end my frugality lost, but I have one more item on my list of, “I want to learn how to do that someday” items and that is truly priceless.

Here is how I did it.
Step 1 – trace an outline of the pink eraser on a regular piece of paper so you will know how big your design can be. Then draw your design in pencil in that space.
Step 2 – cut out the design and place it face down on your eraser. Then rub, rub, rub the back of your pencil, or your fingernail, on the paper and your image will magically transfer.
Step 3 – carve out your designs. Remember to cut away anything you do not want stamped.
And that's it.
If you want to try the cuticle cutter method, check out this blog for instructions.
Have fun buying the Dollar Tree out of eraser packages. I have.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Prom Queen - right here

I am having a rush of popularity today, which is weird, because I thrive on being the loner in the cubicle daring people to address her. I've had a few shout outs and a few mentions, and my normal pale, wan, apathetic face is awash with the glow of self esteem.
My friend Molly gave me a plug about my vampire lips ornament on her blog, and then ordered a few as stocking stuffers.
Then after posting my Vampire ornament on Crafster, the curator at another blog sent me a message wanting to post my fanged lips on Geek Crafts.
And my friend at Razzle Dazzle Crafting gave me a huge shout out and showcased the piece of art I made her for her wedding.
THEN, today I took a handful of ornaments over to Street Scene - a super awesome vintage consignment store- to sell my ornaments. Fine, getting all gooey that a store will consign my stuff probably reeks of amateurism, but I don't care. Something I made is in a store, and to me that is pretty awesome.
I'm not sure what to do with all this love and affection. Normally I would make rude comments over dinner until I officially ran my attractors off - but I don't think I'll do that this time.
And who knows, maybe all this respect and self esteem will create a new bubbly, happy full of rainbows and sunshine crafter who scrapbooks and writes funny inspirations poems. Eh - maybe not.
But thanks everyone for all the love.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

To the teeth

So my dear friend Molly Harper was within driving distance today at the Kentucky Book Fair to promote her new book, Nice Girls Don't Date Dead Men. She LOVES the vamps, which is why she has Twilight wallpaper on her laptop, sat through John Carpenters Vampires, and has written her own Southern Vampire series which is HILARIOUS.
I know. I am biased, but it is a book series about a librarian who is quickly transformed into a vampire because she was accidentally mistaken as a deer and shot by a drunk deer hunter. I don't care who you are- that is funny.
So, I wanted to make something in honor of her literary success.

The idea for the ornament came about as an afterthought, but it turned out to be the best piece. It usually works out that way. I whipped it together this morning before we met.
I think it looks pretty cool.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Owls, anyone?

I stopped by a consignment shop this week to possibly hock some of my wares. It is this adorable vintage consignment shop where every item is a cross between Mad Men and John Waters. I was in heaven. (I also found this awesome leopard print coat for only $70)
So I showed the owner my etsy store on my phone, and her first question was, "Do you do an owl?"
Of course because I am always happy to sell out a bit I said, "Sure, I can do an owl."

While I watched How I Met Your Mother, I set to drawing out my template. I found some blue fleece (I accidentally bought a sheet of fleece last year instead of felt, and although I love its softness, it was a pain to embroider on.) and got to work. I also picked up The Embroidery Stitch Bible, at the library and tested out a few new fancy stitches for the feathers. I also stitched on a little scarf to tie it in to the winter theme.
All in all I am pretty pleased, but now I want to whip out a whole woodland creatures series. I have bought some brown felt for a raccoon. I'll let you know how it goes.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Homemade business cards

So, I was sitting in my Weight Watchers meeting recently, patiently embroidering a Christmas ornament while I waited for the meeting to start, when the older lady sitting next to me starting asking me the standard caught crafting in public questions, "What are you making? What else do you know how to do? How long have you been doing it?" which is always followed up with "I wish I knew how to do that."
She was sweet, telling me how embroidery was a lost art, so of course, I told her about my store. After hearing I was actually planning on churning out these little beauties for profit, she asked, "What are you going to do if you get a rush of orders?" I laughed and said, "Sew faster I guess."
By the end of the meeting, my little dove was ready to take flight, so I showed her the progress I made in the course of a half and hour, and she was impressed. She asked where she might buy one.
Damn, I thought. I don't have any business cards.
After writing down my store's address on a random piece of paper for her and her friend, I decided I was going to have to come up with some business cards. The problem- business cards start at $3.95 and would take days to ship. Clearly I needed these business cards yesterday. So I set about that night to make my own.
My craft philosophy is "Craft with what you got," so after I pondered what I wanted my cards to look like, along with a mental inventory of what I had available on hand, I set about my task.
I gathered up:
Two printer pages of my temporary logo columned into business card size
One sheet of 12x12 navy card stock
stick glue
light blue embroidery floss
ruffle edge scissors
Thumb tack
The Collected Works of Jane Austin
First, I draw a grid of 3.5"x2" business cards on the navy cardstock. Then I cut out the cards and printer pages of logos. I trimmed the printer page logos with ruffle edged scissors to add some flair.
Then I glued the logos on the card stock.
This would have been plenty, but of course, I had to take it further.
I wanted to embroider on the cards. Because a card that says bluegirl designs could mean anything. I wanted them to look quickly at the card and remember, "Oh yeah, that's the girl that does the embroidered thingies."
But embroidering on cardstock is not at easy as it looks. I knew I was going to have to punch little holes in the cardstock for the needle to go through. Kind of like drilling holes in a wall before installing the screws. I also knew if I started punching holes in the cards on my kitchen table, I would have little holes in my tabletop as well. So, I grabbed something large, and heavy that could handle a few tiny holes without losing the integrity of the piece, that is where the Collected Works of Jane Austin came in. I knew the holes would not obscure any of the work, and Jane would walk away from the experience with a little more character.
After I pressed in the holes, I lazy daisied a stitch on two corners of the card and Voila - unique business cards for a unique business venture. I like these way more than the standard template cards that were available on the Internet. Unfortunately, just to whip up 20 cards took all night, and my hand cramped from thumbtacking.
What do you think?

Thursday, October 29, 2009

The money shot

So this weekend I took step two to establishing my craft business, photographing my inventory.
This was actually pretty exciting. I wanted to take some really good photos of my ornaments, but they are small and the felt reflects the flash light like a mirror, so I knew I was going to have to put in a little extra work.
While hubby rushed to the laundromat and my son hunkered down to watch SpongeBob in his room, I took to the task of building a light box.
If only I had paid more attention to the directions, the whole process might not have taken me all afternoon. You see I cut the holes in the side of the box for the light to enter- no problem. Then I rushed it all into the bedroom with my husband's IKEA desk lamp to make my little top models look super fierce. I set up my little Christmas tree and started shooting. Then I realized I was getting photos with an ornament, a lovely green tree and nasty brown cardboard in the background.
Fine, so I went back in and lined the box with white printer paper, but no matter how much I lined, it seemed like I was still getting a little cardboard in the shot. After about 100 shots and very very sore knees because my Hello Kitty blanket did not provide the cushion I required, I closed down the photo studio.
You be the judge.
I have another photo shoot for my latest pretties set up for this weekend so wish me luck.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Welcome to the panic

Yeah, it has been masked for the most part under a frenzy of preparation and a touch of excitement, but now it is actually happening and the panic is starting to set it.
I have started a craft business.
It really didn't sink in until I set up my own Pay Pal account. I think that is what makes it official. Setting up a database where people can easily and securely use their credit cards to purchase your goods means you have finally taken the plunge.
I have wanted to do this for so long. After several false starts I think I have a handle on what it is going to take to make this adventure a success. Maybe.
Did I mention the panic?