Thursday, March 31, 2016

Late Night Thoughts

I have something big on my mind: I am pondering the idea of opening an Etsy shop to sell handmade items.  Makers like me often get told by well-meaning people that we should sell the stuff we create.  I take it as a compliment but rarely consider it seriously.  There's just too much other stuff to do, the end goal of our making is not to earn money (the rewards are many and rarely financial), and it's overwhelming to think about finding the time to have a handmade business.  

Here's why I am considering selling handmade items:
  • I am interested in earning some money to help pay for the expenses of my pricey hobby.
    • I've really been trying to scale back my fabric purchases and work from stash but I still have to buy thread, batting, etc.   
    • I am a stay at home mom of three kids, ages six and under.  There are not a lot of money making opportunities in my world right now.  A lot of moms sell things like (e.g. Mary Kay) but I am not a saleswoman.  Another friend nannies another child full-time; my hands are full enough with my own children right now.  
    • I realize I'm definitely talking about a first world problem here- I don't mean to whine.  
  • I would love to be able to put some money aside to pay for my biggest dream: owning a computerized Gammill longarm (I've literally had two recent dreams where I owned one and I was sad to wake up to realize it wasn't true).  
  • I really like making small items right now: bags, zip pouches, kitchen items.  When I give them as gifts, they are usually appreciated- but all too often, some recipients just don't care.  
  • Participating in swaps is a good reason to make smaller items but I received absolutely nothing handmade in my last swap and it was such a negative experience.  I don't see myself participating in any swaps again any time soon.

(I recently made another 241 tote and donated it as a door prize for my an upcoming MOPS event).

I have to admit that opening up a handmade shop makes me feel a little fearful.  I am afraid no one will buy what I make.  I am timid to set prices that will make this a worthwhile endeavor.  I am worried that time given to a business would erase any hope of doing my own personal projects.  I don't want to turn my fun hobby/passion into drudgery by turning it into a business.  For the most part, I've been very content to be a simple hobbyist when it comes to sewing.  

(I've been having too much fun with the linens aisle at TJ Maxx.  These towels destined to be re-purposed!) 

A personal note about a past life decision based on fear and feeling inadequate: One of the biggest regrets I have about my young adult life is that I chose an undergraduate major based on my belief that I should choose the easiest path to achieve the highest grades.  I was worried about having the best resume for graduate school.  I wish that I had had more confidence in myself to work at something more challenging.

Am I really the kind of person that shrinks back from a difficult task?  I could talk about other instances in my past when I've accomplished challenging things.  I don't want to shy away from this handmade business idea just because it would be "hard."  

 (I am obsessed with this newer Riley Blake fabric line: Vintage Kitchen but the only store that carries the whole range is and I hate them!)

So what do you think?  Is it worth it to sell handmade items?  Do you know of other makers who've had success with this?  How do you afford the supplies for your sewing?

(Lately I've become obsessed with stationary.  A local Hallmark store just went out of business and I went a little crazy.)

I'm going to contemplate this handmade business idea for a little while longer.  I want to finish up some WIPs and do a project I've been gearing up for: organizing my patterns that are scattered throughout my sewing room.  There are lots of book resources on the subject of handmade businesses and maybe I will give some of them a try in the meantime.  I'll keep you updated!

Monday, March 21, 2016

Guild Lecture and Class on Bag Making

Over the past few months, I've become more involved in attending the Front Range Modern Quilt Guild (FRMQG) meetings.  I took a long break after having my baby last May but I am so glad I've come back to the guild and have made it more of a priority now.  

I offered to teach a little presentation on bag making to the guild this past Saturday.  I gathered all of my bags to use as visuals for my little talk.  Everyone really thought I had a lot of bags and I guess I do.  I don't think it's excessive if you consider I've been making bags for a long time and I use them frequently.  I also give a lot of bags away as gifts.  

In my presentation, the bulk of my talk was focused on the different types of interfacing available.  I even brought samples to pass around and they were parceled out as a giveaway at the end.  I talked about my favorite bag pattern designers, recommended fabrics, and lots of "tips and tricks."  I received a lot of positive feedback at the end of the meeting, which made me feel good.

After the lecture, I taught a bag making class to eight ladies (not all pictured).  The pattern we worked on was the 241 tote.  It was a really fun afternoon.  Everyone either finished or made a lot of progress.  They all had different skill levels with sewing and bag making, so everyone went at a different pace.  This seemed to work out okay, it might have been more difficult if the group were a lot larger.

One class member, Leslie, nearly finished this beauty.  She quilted the tiger fabric, made her own piping, and she had extra hardware.  She definitely could have taught the class!  Isn't it gorgeous?!

I spent a lot of time preparing for the lecture and the class.  Right now I feel a little relieved to have it all done and I am excited to re-focus on my own projects cluttering my sewing room.

(Sorry for the crummy iphone pictures, I didn't remember my "real" camera in all the rush of bringing so many other extra things to the meeting!).

Friday, March 18, 2016

Finish it up Friday: Vintage Kitchen Projects

 Sometimes I "save money" by making gifts instead of buying them at the store.  It's often rewarding and fun to make something special for someone special.  That being said, I don't really save a lot of money if you consider what I've already spent on fabric and other supplies and I definitely don't save time.  For my sister's recent birthday, I really was willing to buy something off of her list and call it done.  But that plan was foiled when I learned that my mom had already gotten her everything from her birthday list.  (We are definitely "list people" when it comes to giving gifts in my family).

In the past, I've made her a quilt, a tote bag, and a few zip bags.  I knew it was time to do something different.  I have a precious little bundle of Vintage Kitchen fabric that I adore.  (This collection is adorable and it felt refreshing to have something in my stash besides the typical AMH, Tula Pink, Lizzy House, etc.)  I started with a large hot pad made with VF and lots of scraps.  We have one of these (made by a friend in a long ago BMQG swap) and use it pretty much every evening.  This measures 16":

With the large one being so busy, I decided to do one-fabric hot pads, measuring 8":

 I bought an inexpensive pack of dish towels at TJ Maxx and sewed some patchwork square strips along the ends.  It's a great scrappy project, tutorial found at Crazy Mom Quilts.

Here's a picture of it all together, along with some fun items from the housewares section at TJ Maxx.  Ok, so I guess I still went shopping!  

Linking to Finish it up Friday at Crazy Mom Quilts.

Wednesday, March 09, 2016

Scraptastic Wednesday: Purple Projects

I just can't stay away from "quick" projects.  I really want to work on my ongoing quilt projects, but somehow I can't stop myself from making a pillow, a zip pouch, or a dress when the opportunity arises.  

A friend of mine has been in the academic trenches of PhD "comps."  She has been studying for months and had three full days of written testing ahead of her.  This all finally ended on Tuesday and I arranged for this little handmade surprise to reward her at the end of it all.  Her favorite color is "radiant orchid" and I got to work with some scraps, some stash, and a bit of Essex Linen in Putty.  The pattern is from Pillow Pop.

A zippered back with one of my favorite purple-ish fabrics:

Speaking of purple and scraps, I finally made my first Hello Kitty block for the pixelated quilt pattern.  I sewed very carefully and worked to get all the points to match.  It really feels so gratifying to sew with scraps: the little pieces remind me of previous projects and it feels good to be putting them to use:

Linking up to Scraptastic Tuesday:

Scraptastic Tuesday

Friday, March 04, 2016

Finish it up Friday: Princess Birthday Quilt

 At last weekend's retreat, the first project I worked on was binding the birthday quilt for my daughter.  A few weeks ago, a kind friend allowed me to come over and use her longarm to quilt it.  I had been stressed about finishing the quilt, making secret sister items, and preparing my own projects for the retreat.  Being able to quickly longarm quilt this in one evening was a real time saver.

This picture shows the back of The Hideaway, where we had the retreat:

 The quilting is an all-over meander.  Time constraints didn't allow for anything more complex, plus the fabrics were so busy, I didn't think it needed too much more.

The pattern is "Kitchen Windows" from Elizabeth Harman's The Practical Guide to Patchwork.

I backed the quilt in coordinating prints from my stash.  I purchased the binding at a LQS; I need to get in a better habit of stashing fabrics larger than a half yard because it's almost always a struggle to bind from the stash.

Charlotte's birthday was on Monday, February 29.  She's a leap year baby and we tried to make the day extra special, since we could actually celebrate it on the 29th (which only comes every four years).

She likes the quilt and has slept with it every night since receiving it.  She does have a lot of quilts already but she was particularly excited about those adorable princess fabrics and I am excited I finally put them to use.

Somehow I got really behind on my "stash used" tally, so this accounting will reflect not only the quilt but several previous posts (secret sister items, 241 tote, Make it Take it tote):

Total stash fabric used in the past four completed items posts: 7.75 yards
Total stash fabric used since Januar 1, 2016: 7.5 yards
Total stash used to date: 15.25 yards

Linking up to Finish it up Friday at Crazy Mom Quilts.

Wednesday, March 02, 2016

Retreat February 2016

I think I'm mostly recovered from this past weekend's FRMQG retreat.  I didn't sleep too much but I had a great time.  I had my mom time her visit from NH to be able to attend with me and that was extra fun and special.  She and I get along great and although she is not as obsessed with sewing as I am, she's talented with the sewing machine and has fun being creative too.  

I finished the princess quilt for my daughter there but will share that finish on Friday.  My main focus of the retreat was a twin size Fancy Fox quilt.  I've had a FQ bundle of Jennifer Paganelli's Crazy Love for ages and I thought it would be fun to use with this pattern.  I also added other Lizzy House, AMH, and Alison Glass prints to the mix as well.  I made 48 blocks at the retreat and will share more progress on this quilt as I continue to work on it.  I will admit that it got really monotonous to do the same block over and over all weekend but the mindlessness of it allowed me to socialize more with friends and I liked how compact the process of piecing these was: I didn't have to spread out too much or monopolize the design wall.

My mom accomplished a lot at the retreat- it was awesome.  She finished this quilt top on Saturday afternoon:

She also made major headway on this Irish chain:

A big part of the retreat was the Secret Sister swap.  I spent a lot of time leading up to the weekend making items for my "sister."  For a while, I was a little stumped because her information sheet was sparsely filled out, her IG account had no crafty/sewing pictures, and she doesn't blog.  Eventually, the information I zoned in on was her penchant for the colors blue and orange as well as her love of Japanese and monochromatic prints.  First, I made a double scissors pouch (pattern from Make It, Take It).  This pattern was somewhat difficult for me and took way longer than it should have thanks to placing the magnetic snap in an awkward spot.  I still made it work.

Also pictured in this photo are some little snack gifts with notes that said, "Here's some encourageMINT to help you through the day" and "I hope you have an EGG-cellent time at the retreat."  The m&m's had a printout about being "Quilter's Helpers" and I got the idea from this pin on Pinterest.  I love cheesy, corny stuff like this and I wanted to have fun with it.

I also made the largest size of an open-wide zip pouch and fond a cute "J" (J for Jane) at Target to use as a zipper pull:

My last, final gift was a patchwork pillow made of monochromatic prints from my stash bins.  I used linen to frame the squares and did only straight line quilting through the orange plus to the sides of the pillow.  This pattern came from the book Pillow Pop and it came together so quickly and nicely.  I also used this tutorial to eliminate the bunny ears that appear on square pillows once you've inserted the pillow form.  It was easy and it worked well.

I always do a zipper-backed pillow:

The person who was my secret sister gave me some store bought items including some snacks, a small lotion, a chapstick, notepad, and a mug.  When it was time to do the "big reveal" and last "big" gift, she said she hadn't understood the swap and had nothing for me.  It was a very awkward moment for me and I will admit that it was upsetting.  I had worked very hard to make nice items for my sister and I had received nothing handmade.  Everyone else at the retreat had received the most gorgeous bags, baskets, pincushions, etc.  It was hard not to take the whole thing personally and I am not sure how this really even happened considering that everyone else followed the swap guidelines which were outlined quite clearly.  As a rule, I do not participate in IG swaps because of the anonymous quality of swapping online: there are too many horror stories of people being totally jilted and my sewing time is so limited.  I figured it was safe and meaningful to participate in a guild swap where I have the potential to build in-person relationships and where the chances of receiving nothing handmade seemed to be "zero."

There is a silver lining to this drama.  Three of my friends from the retreat noticed what happened and collaborated to surprise me with a purchase of some fabric at the pop-up shop that was being held there that weekend.  The row of fabric shown a the bottom of the picture is what they generously gifted me as well as the pattern pictured.  (The other items are things I bought myself at the retreat).   It meant a lot that they noticed my sadness and felt sympathetic to what had happened.  I felt like I really got to know them over the weekend and given my recent homesickness, it really felt huge to have new friends here in CO reach out to me in such a generous way.

I look forward to sharing the quilt finish from the retreat soon.  Thanks for reading.