Friday, October 31, 2014

Our Halloween Gnome

We have our very own woodland gnome. Here she is: 


Inspired by her role in her school's Michaelmas pageant (here is a short introduction to Michaelmas), HG decided to be a gnome for Halloween. She and her classmates all sewed their own wool felt hats for the pageant, so she already had that part of her costume complete. Since she wanted the tunic to look the same as the one she wore at Michaelmas, I borrowed the one from school and made a (very rough) pattern from it. How did I do that? Well, I took a lot of pictures, traced the basic shape of the tunic, and then read through a similar store-bought pattern I already had to make sure I sewed  the pieces together in a sensible order. When it came to drawing out the actual pattern, I made one pattern piece. For the front sections I cut out one piece of fabric using one side of the pattern and then the other piece using the reverse side. For the back, I folded the fabric in half before cutting along the same lines, so I had one piece that extended from one shoulder to the other. Make sense? You'll see there is also a collar of sorts with buttons attached. This I did completely free hand, no pattern, no measuring. It worked well enough, though the two sides are a little bit different. I am not one to go to extremes in Halloween costume making, so if it's not perfect I am not bothered.

We searched high and low for the perfect fabric, and in the end we had to go with polyester velour from Joann Fabrics which wasn't ideal but it looks great. I don't like working with synthetics because they feel pretty yucky and they are always causing some problem or other for the sewing machine. Plus you really can't iron them, which makes sewing just that much harder, though the rocketship was able to overcome all the issues it was presented with. We also did a thorough search for just the right wooden buttons. The sisal rope was easy to come by at our local hardware store. 

HG did not have school today (the teachers always schedule fall conferences around Halloween so the children are not bonkers in school), so together we made her loot sack out of some of the leftover velour. Keeping with the rustic gnome look, we used twine for drawstring. I know it looks kind of small, but I assure you it held plenty of candy for one six-year-old. 

Here she is above singing the gnome song from the pageant, which is all about using our wills to work hard and overcome obstacles. HG also remembered that gnomes often carry lanterns, so she scurried off and brought outside the one she made a year ago for Martinmas (yes, another Waldorf school ceremony).

I like how we are able to incorporate HG's school life into our home and how all these celebrations are wonderful opportunities for creativity. What about you? Did you have a special Halloween this year? Have you ever tried to make your children's Halloween costumes? 

Thursday, October 30, 2014

My Overflowing Idea List

When I first started my shop a good friend from college, who is very creative, told me that I would find the creativity part easy--I would never be at a loss for ideas because once you get in the habit of thinking creatively, it turns out you can't stop. I thought she was just being very supportive, but it's so, so true!

Below the photo is a selection from my current list of new products to develop. This list gets bigger every week; it's almost frightening all the spectacularly interesting and fun projects there are out there.

Just one of my newest fabrics. This is the one I thought would make perfect soft storage buckets. 
yoga mat carriers
covered cork/bulletin boards
coffee cup cozies
glasses cases
table runners
little fabric baskets
floor storage buckets
drawstring bags
kid backpacks
gardening aprons
craft or half aprons
mug coasters
mouse pads
matching/concentration game with fabrics
embroidery hoop sets with coordinating fabrics (wall decor)
bike bags
doll teepees and blankets
kleenex box covers
yoga mat carriers
over door toy organizers
kids/travel placemats
give/save/spend pouches
baby stuff like bibs and play mats
little girl purses
key fobs
dog leashes/collars
drawstring backpacks
grocery/farmer's market tote bags

Is that a long enough list for you? If anyone wants to give me a hand and tell me which are your top three you'd like to see me tackle, that would be super! Maybe I'll write a post on how I get from an idea on a written list to a new product available. It's a long, rewarding process!! 

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Lila Giveaway on Wooly Moss Roots

Please head over to Wooly Moss Roots starting on Saturday October 25th. Blogger Taryn is hosting a giveaway of one snack sack set, one zipper clutch, or one pencil/crochet hook roll from Lila. The lucky winner will get to work with me on fabric choices, gaining access to all the fabrics I have on hand, not just those currently represented in the shop.

some pencil/crochet hook roll fabrics to drool over. 
This is a terrific opportunity to treat yourself or have something special made--and made early!--for holiday gift giving.

Lunch Bag Luv
Do not miss out on your chance to walk away with one of these goodies for free! Mark your calendar! If you'd like a reminder on Saturday, send me a note with your email address so I can add you to my list. Don't worry, I only send out emails once a season and for giveaway opportunities like this. You can remove yourself from the list at any time.

One of many zipper clutch options.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Being an Artful Parent

I would not say I am particularly good at art. I did not like art class very much at school, I really can't draw, and I surely cannot paint. But I do believe in having fun while doing art projects, and I definitely can do that.

Coming up with those fun ideas is not always easy for me, so when HG was little I turned to the internet. A wonderful blog called The Artful Parent was fairly new at that point and offered many terrific, easy ideas for things to do with kids. It also introduced me to some books on doing art with kids, to the concept of "process art," and to the idea of having an art play group. A couple of friends and I made a date to get together every month or so with our three toddlers, and each time I'd come up with a simple activity for the girls to do while we grown-ups chatted. It was totally brilliant.

Now the Artful Parent blogger, Jean, has published a book that shares all of her wonderful ideas. I took it out from the library one day and barely opened it during my three week stint because I got busy. When I tried to renew it I found there was a hold on it, so I did what I never do these days as I am trying to reduce the number of books in my life: I went and bought it.

I wanted to share one idea from the book, and then you can go look for it in your library to get the rest. This great idea hinges on art--or creativity--being something you can do for short periods. It does not have to be complicated, and it does not have to be messy, and you can squeeze it into your (or your kids') day, every day. Jean suggests, among other ideas on this theme, that you set up a little creativity space (kitchen table, designated art space, front porch...) for your kids to find after school or when they wake up on Saturday morning or whatever. Just put out a pad of paper and a few crayons one day, or some yarn and sticks on another day, or a couple of boxes from the recycling bin and a glue gun, or a bunch of different dried beans and rice and stuff in little cups and some elmers and cardboard, or toothpicks and marshmallows, or some felt pieces and needle and thread. See how none of that is very complicated? And guess how long it takes to set each of those things up? I especially love the idea of just leaving the tools and the space for the children to find. They can dream up whatever they want to with the tools you've provided, and they are not overwhelmed by so many choices that they can't move.

Here are a selection of tools and inspiration in green that I set up a few days ago.
This is the kind of creativity that Waldorf schools (and other schools too) try to encourage. By reducing the volume of "stuff," and increasing the possible outcomes through providing open-ended experiences, little ones (and big ones!) can create in freedom. In my view, when you give kids more rigid parameters, such as showing them an end product you hope they'll emulate, or setting down some sort of already finished product for them to simply embellish (I'm thinking particularly of all those little wooden objects and figures people get at craft stores for kids to take home and paint), their creativity isn't really involved. This is not to say that doing those kinds of activities is wrong--I've done them, and my kids have done them, and we've all had a smashing good time--but when you only do coloring books and craft kits you are limiting their imagination.

The other day HG came down to dinner having made a dinner bell with a stick she found outside, some string, and a few little Christmastime crafting bells we had in some box in the art cabinet. Now that's what I'm talking about! My hat goes off to Jean and her blog (and her book, The Artful Parent), for introducing me to art and creativity as process activities, and to how simple it all can be.

Our new dinner bell.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Simple Advice from a First Grade Teacher

Summer rain fun. 
You've heard about "everything I need to know I learned in kindergarten," right? Well, I was struck by something so very simple that HG's first grade teacher included in one of her parent emails. This teacher is in her first year of guiding a Waldorf class on her own. HG and her classmates enjoy her very much and we parents are glad to have her in our lives.

Here is what she passed along:
Look behind and be grateful
Look ahead and be hopeful
Look around and be helpful
I'm pretty sure if everyone followed that simple advice we'd find ourselves much less stressed out, much more connected to one another, and much happier. Anybody with me?

One of our four garden sunflowers, earlier in the summer. 

Friday, October 10, 2014

Giving My Shop a Boost

Over the summer I took a class on Etsy called "Boost Your Shop." Actually, I took half of it. I still haven't finished the other half, though I think about completing it every day. I really do.

Our Nature Table. Just a nice photo. Not really related to the content of this post. 
How does one take a class on Etsy? Well, just like going to school, there are worksheets and readings. The difference is all the work is homework because it all takes place on your computer, at home. The class was supposed to take eight weeks. Each week Etsy sent out a worksheet and some directions for completing the lesson. I'm sure there was an opportunity for discussion and sharing and chatting with other people in the class, but I never looked into that and just did everything on my own.

The class was extremely useful, which is why I keep saying I'll finish it. It started with an evaluation of one's business brand. This was a super long lesson that I completed while flying overseas. I can't remember why, but I didn't have the computer, so I read the worksheets I had downloaded on my phone and hand wrote out my answers on the little sheets of recycled paper I had brought for HG to draw on. She listened to books instead.
No, also not related. 
The worksheet for that branding lesson began by asking us to write down the 20 words or phrases that describe our brand. "Brand" includes everything--items themselves, customer service, history of the business, everything about one's shop. Here's the list I came up with for Lila, in the order I wrote them down:
  1. detailed
  2. quick
  3. friendly
  4. unique fabric
  5. family-oriented
  6. durable
  7. beautiful
  8. well made
  9. contemporary
  10. not cutesy
  11. clever
  12. customizable
  13. researched/thoughtful
  14. clean lines
  15. simple
  16. upscale
  17. lasting design
  18. proven
  19. easy
  20. responsible
Coming up with 20 things was fairly difficult, actually, and I'm glad they asked for 20, since #17, "lasting design," has become a phrase I use quite a bit now in my descriptions. I'd love to know if you have other items you'd put on my list too! 

After a couple more exercises we were asked to write a "brand promise." We had to fill in the following sentence: 

"Every experience with Lila will convey ____________________ and ____________________ to my customers."  

What two phrases went in there for me? Lasting design and friendliness. So that's what I promise! 

All these little worksheets led up to the Big Job of rewriting our "Aboutthe Artist" pages on the Etsy website, which was Lesson 2. I had thought mine was pretty good before, but Lesson 1 of Boost Your Shop helped me discover some ways to improve it. I made all those changes, and you can read my revamped About page here. It took several drafts before I was happy enough to publish, but I think it was well worth the time as I now am able to articulate what values I hope to convey with my shop and even what products to offer. I've said before that the development of my shop has been so organic that these important questions--the ones most businesses address much earlier in their development--hadn't really been answered before. Doing just these first two lessons of Boost Your Shop gave Lila greater cohesion and much improved definition. 

The next two lessons involved tweaking copy and photographs, both of which, I believe, absolutely every shop out there can improve. I went through a couple dozen of my item descriptions and made small, useful changes which focussed mostly on the fabrics and the concept of lasting design. While I am quite comfortable with editing words, thanks to a life-long education in writing, taking and editing photos is often a struggle for me and my patience with myself in this area does wear thin. This is where I stopped working on the class, because the idea of trying to reshoot dozens of photographs just does not make me happy. I am continuously working on taking pictures, and my photos are miles better than they were when I first started, but I know there is plenty more I could do. The next lessons in the class have to do with social media, so I do hope to finish them. Maybe after the puppet theaters. But then there is a Halloween costume to make. And new wristlet clutches. And capes. And floor buckets!! It never ends!! 

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Puppet Theaters Are Back!

In time for winter play in the northern hemisphere, I'm working on more puppet theaters. I have some new, phenomenal fabrics to work with, so keep your eyes peeled. Sister Parish curtains are next and an entire theater made with canvas from Hable Construction will follow.

Here is the first one, featuring that fantastic funky purple from Unison. You can find it here.

This theater is made from a purple and white ticking stripe. It's soft and very durable. The border around the stage has mitered corners, which are not that easy to do on inside corners, mind you. The bird applique at the bottom is super cute, I think. Other theaters have a fox looking up at the stage and I think I might tackle a hedgehog somewhere down the line. It was my husband HM who came up with the animal applique idea, so good for him. Here's a close up of the bird.

And a nice wide shot of the curtain area.

These theaters take a full seven hours to construct. While that is a long time, it is not nearly as long as the kids will spend playing with them! They can use their theaters with hand or finger puppets, or set them up as a stage for belting out tunes from Frozen. They even work as pretend storefronts! Don't you love toys that work for so many different activities?

Each theater comes in a drawstring bag for storage. I make those too. Oh, and I include the dowel as well that slides into place just below the window to stabilize the theater. OK, I'm off to work on the next one!

Friday, October 3, 2014

The Benefits of Owning a Rocketship

First off, there is less swearing. This is a benefit to all. At first I thought that my new machine didn't actually make things go faster, but I realized last week that indeed when I am swearing less and fixing things less, projects do get done more quickly. Imagine that!

This is the promised post about how very cool my new rocketship is.

Its major benefit is this thing in the photo below, called the Acu-Feed Foot. A sewing machine "foot" is whatever piece of metal or plastic is holding your fabric from the top and pressing it against the metal plate below. These feet are removable, and depending on how they are designed, they can achieve different things, like attach a zipper, darn a hole in something, or sew crazy fun stitches. This one here has little guiding grabbers that pull the fabric from the top and help it to feed evenly along under the needle. You can't really see the top grabbers in this photo but you can see the ones that grab the bottom layer of your fabric. Those are the teeth-like metal parts you see running vertically in the middle of the picture. They're called feed dogs but I don't know why. I get that they feed the fabric but I don't get the dog part.

But I am not that interested in finding out, so we'll move on. When you are sewing through a lot of layers, or if you have to go over big bumps such as at the beginning of something thick, this foot will do it. My previous machine had to be coaxed, coerced, or just throttled into going over big bumps, and it always slid the top layer off the bottom layer, making things crooked. (For those of you who are sewers and want to know why I didn't own a walking foot, I did and it made very little difference.) This machine just slides right over those bumps, hallelujah.

Another extremely cool feature is the needle plate, which is that big flat piece of metal with grooves and holes on it. This machine comes with two needle plates. The one I have installed at the moment has two little holes right next to each other which you can see in the middle of the photo above. Those are the only places the needle will go with this plate--either in the middle or slightly to the left. Why does this matter? Well, first off any flimsy fabric you want to use will not be crushed into a wide hole by the powerful needle. Secondly, any narrow piece of fabric will not get smashed into a wide hole. This is what matters to me.

Above you see me sewing a narrow strip of fabric that's going to be a tie in the back of a smock. I've told the needle (in the photo the needle has a little red dot on it, and it is poking down through the fabric) to go in the left-hand hole so that the grabbers on the left of the foot will grab as much of the fabric strip as possible, thus guiding it straight and true. This whole set-up is a gigantic time saver. The narrow little strip does not get eaten from below, the bump at the end of the tie slides under smoothly, and the layers of fabric all line up correctly at both ends. It's truly stunning and makes me want to jump for joy. I realize that for most of the world, indeed for all of the people with whom I live, this is completely not interesting, but you are reading, so...keep reading. 

The other needle plate, which just pops in and out with a little lever, has a very wide hole in it to allow the needle to move side to side and make many, many different stitches. Here is a photo of all the stitches it can make. 

That's the lid of the machine propped open, showing what each stitch looks like and which number to punch into the computer so that it will sew the stitch you want. The computer is down there at the bottom right. There are a zillion stitches and I know I will never use them all. I tend not to be wowed by the different stitches a machine can make. I bought this machine because of its power, its precision, the enormous size of it, and the features I'm talking about now. Someday I might use many of those stitches but I haven't used any of them yet. Seriously, noting except the straight stitch so far.

You can see in the photo above some of the slots for the different feet the machine comes with. I think it came with about 15 or so; only the ones the manufacturer thinks you will use most often are stored in the top. The rest live in a compartment the fits under the machine. So far I have used the zipper foot and the regular foot but I've got some applique coming up shortly and I am sure in the distant future there will be some quilting.

Here's some of the handy features that entry-level machine's don't have. At the top of the photo above you see a scissors button. This cuts the threads when you are finished sewing and brings both the top and bottom threads to the bottom so you don't have to snip them later with your itty bitty snipping scissors. Another little convenience. The double arrow button allows you to decide whether you want the machine to stop with the needle up, out of the fabric, or down, in the fabric. I like it down because I am usually stopping just to make a turn, and if your needle comes out of the fabric and you try to turn your project it doesn't work--you lose the stitching line you were making and you basically create a hole in your seam. The target-looking button is very handy. It locks the beginning and end of the stitching line for you by having the machine make several stitches in place. Next down is the reverse button, which all machines have so it's not that special. But I do like how I can program this machine to make a lock stitch or a reverse stitch at the beginning and end of every line I sew. I definitely did not have that before.

Finally, a photo of the whole thing. See the area where my pin holder is? That area is called the harp and it matters to some people how big it is, because the bigger it is the larger the project you can work with. This one is eleven inches wide, which is the widest I have heard of. I love that much of the time my pin holder can just sit there being very convenient!

You can also see that the machine comes with a large clear table that slides on from the left, which is also great for resting big projects. When heavy fabrics are pulled by their own weight off the edge of a smaller table, the stitches can come out warped, or worse, you can hurt your machine by all that sideways pulling on the needle. This big table has eliminated any of those types of problems for me.

So these are the main reasons I bought this machine. I also just like the feel of it when sewing and how very quiet it is. I actually purchased a completely different machine at first, which after a couple of days I took back to the store. It was an even more expensive thing from Bernina and it worked a lot like a princess in my view. Demanding, dainty, and very picky. Every little thing involved pushing multiple buttons on the computer. And it was insanely loud. I know quilters love, love their Berninas, but my Janome is much more my style.

Nope, no one has paid me to say all these nice things about my machine. Janome does not know I exist and I don't think the sewing machine store knows I have a blog. I'm just pretty pleased that my months of research and lengthy test drives led me to just the right choice for me, and I am so, so grateful that my shop's success made it possible for me to get it! 

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

New Lunch Bags Are In!

I've just posted five new snack pouch sets in my Etsy shop. We've got green, we've got blue, black and white, and the promised funky purple!

Find them here! 

Monday, September 29, 2014

Making Spreadsheets is So Fun!

OK, not really. At all. But it is eye-opening and useful. Shall I tell you about it?

Why yes, I shall. While I feel like I got way behind in preparing for holiday orders and fairs this summer (yes, that kind of work starts in the summer), I was able to do several shop-related non-sewing projects that are normal business tasks but that I had not yet done in my, shall we say, organic business development. Etsy is fantastic at enabling people with not a lot of business expertise to open a shop. But if you want to actually turn a profit you do have to buckle down and do some nitty gritties eventually.

So I did two things this summer along those lines. First, I developed a file of spreadsheets which help me to better calculate my shop's prices for profit. Second, I actually did a sales matrix, listing the fabrics I've used on one axis and the products that have sold on the other. Both these tasks were time consuming, not exactly fun while I was doing them, but quite helpful afterward.

I read a huge number of blog posts, Etsy administration newsletters, and various websites to prepare for the pricing spreadsheets. I also had a very helpful conversation with an artist friend who used to be a buyer for a boutique in our town. Different people recommend different formulae for calculating the end price, most of which led to crazy outrageous prices for my very labor-intensive products. I came up with my own sensible numbers instead.

I tackled this issue in a pretty data-driven way. First off, I went and measured how much fabric and velcro and elastic and bias tape and even thread (OK, that one I estimated) go into each type of item I make. Yes, I measured with a tape measure. I made a sheet for each item and put in some calculations that I could cut and paste for each type of item. Every time an item uses X amount of mill fabric, that's X dollars worth. That was all very straightforward, though it was quite time consuming to go through all the measuring. I had to look up how much I pay for everything as well, from machine needles to interfacing to zipper pulls to fees that Etsy charges.

The other major element of pricing is labor. I started timing myself when I made things. Yes indeed I did. In my labor costs I included photography, product promotion, and product design as well as the time I spend actually constructing items. The end result of the pricing spreadsheets are product prices that are both fair and reasonable. I implemented them early in the summer. The new prices allow for some business growth, such as the purchase of a new sewing machine, as well as an occasional sale, promotion, or giveaway. They also accurately reflect the care I put into each item.

The other terrifically fun project (no, not really, not at all) was the sales-by-fabric matrix. While my shop is too small and carries too many one-of-a-kind items to benefit from a traditional inventory analysis, I looked through all my sales and figured out, through my matrix, how many of each type of item I've offered, how many have sold, and which fabrics have been most popular. The unexpected big sellers? While I was certain that aprons would top the list, I didn't realize that pencil rolls and capes were so successful. So on my to-do list very soon is to make more capes. But it was the top selling fabric that really surprised me. It turns out that my most popular fabric is the crazy purple and white one from Unison. Who knew? The next day I went to the mill and bought four more yards, because they still had some. Knowing that that pattern, and the three or four others that topped the list (all Hadley and Sister Parish prints), are so successful is helpful when deciding what to use next for whatever I'm making. For instance, I'm in the middle of sewing new snack bags with that purple fabric.
Here's that crazy Unison purple on a smock. 

Now my question is, should I make a cape in this fabric? I've held off in the past because it doesn't seem to me that it would work so well as a cape, but I'd love to hear any of your thoughts.

To be honest, making that matrix was so dreadful I don't think I will be keeping up with it. I might perhaps add to it every year or something, but having to record daily what I've posted in the shop and what has sold is way, way too time consuming. Since I am also the accountant, photographer, copy writer and copy editor, designer, marketing manager, shipping manager, customer service rep, purchaser, and oh, sewer, some tasks are just going to be left undone. 

Monday, September 22, 2014

Your Fabric's Bio

Here's another project I started this summer and will be continuing as long as I keep discovering new fabrics and new designers at the mill. I'm including little cards in each order now with some background on the fabric purchased. While my shop has always had a few sentences for each item explaining the fabrics, I've always felt there is more story I could tell. Part of that happens here on the blog but I also wanted to be sure every customer had the chance to know why their purchase was special.

The cards look like this:

The pretty little scallop cards are from Paper Source, which is a delightful store full of gorgeous paper things. I did try hard to find some scallop cards on Etsy but I could not. Anyway, each card has a short blurb about the designer of the fabric, maybe some quotes from him or her or some reasons why I like the fabric.

For each card I've spent some time browsing the internet looking for information. I've read obituaries, press releases, website "About" pages, and even some sections of books. My hope is that the cards help customers understand what makes their fabric special and gives them a little piece of story they can keep in their minds when someone asks about whatever they've bought. It's the reason people buy handmade, isn't it? They are interested in those stories. I'm happy to oblige!

You are probably trying to read the top cards in the photo, so I'll make it easier for you:

The ________________fabric in your item was designed by Albert Hadley. Hadley was born in Tennessee in 1920 and, after serving in World War II, moved to New York where he earned his BFA and worked as an interior designer. For decades he teamed up with Sister Parish, another designer whose fabrics are available at LilaKids. One of Hadley’s favorite sayings was “Never less, never more.” His prints are usually pretty simple, often using just one color, but they have some perky or unusual element to them which makes them just plain interesting to look at. Some of his clients included Vice President Al Gore and Tipper Gore, Mike Nichols and Diane Sawyer, and the de la Rentas. Hadley died in 2012 but his fabrics are still printed by Hinson and Company. 

Now my packaging includes the tissue paper and hemp cord that I've always used, a tag with my logo and website on it, a little thank you card for the purchaser, and the fabric bio card. The little thank you card has a sweet green floral stamp which HG puts on for me. She takes her job very seriously and works hard to make sure the flower gets in the right place and with the right amount of ink.

I've already heard form one customer how much she liked the card, so I'm very glad to be including them now. I'd love to know what you think!

Sunday, September 21, 2014

A Bicycle Bag

Last post you read about the cookies and tea bags MVB made for HG's birthday. For MVB's birthday, her mom commissioned me to make a handlebar bike bag. We talked for ages about the style MVB might like and what kinds of fabrics she would enjoy. Finally we settled on a pattern I bought on Etsy and some forest green fabric by Unison, complemented by a perfectly matching turquoise paisley which I found at my local fabric shop.

This is one snappy looking bag, I think. The straps on the back loop around the handlebars and are secured by D rings which you can see above. Inside the bag is a covered section, which is cinched closed by ribbon. The handles enable you to take the bag for a walk after you're done with your ride.

The pattern to make this bag was not easy to follow. While I could now make another one with greater ease, I found the directions for this to be completely non-intuitive. They also used an enormous amount of glue, which I thought was very weird for a sewing pattern. I chose to sew instead of glue. At several points I was sewing along only to realize I had done something backwards or inside out and the pieces I was making would not fit together. I even had to start over and cut out new fabric early on because it was faster to do that than to take out a huge number of incorrectly placed stitches. This was all before my new machine as well. My old machine is less precise and therefore some of the pieces did not come out as evenly as I would have hoped. But you probably can't tell from the photos, so that's good. Still, I'm not going to link to the pattern because I can't recommend it.

The bag is also a little floppier than I might have liked. I used the firmest interfacing (that's the stuff you put in between layers of fabric, usually to make them heftier or stronger) I am aware of, but it's still not a stiff bag.

If MVB's mom has a photo of the bag in use I could post it. Want to send me one? 

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Tea for Two (or Four)

While I am still trying to take good photos of my new sewing machine I thought I'd share a few moments from earlier this summer when I had my camera but did not end up finding time to write.

First is this collection of beautiful kid-crafted felt tea bags and cookies, by MVB. MVB was HG's only birthday party guest this year, as HG decided she would prefer a very small, very special party for her 6th birthday. This suited me just fine as I had read that 6-year-old parties are not always as fun for the birthday child as the planning involved. I took the girls to the Children's Museum in Providence and afterwards we went for cake slices at our best known (and just plain best) patisserie. I think their favorite part of the outing was when I left them in a small pedestrian square with a fountain and walked a block away so they could play at being "big kids" and pretend they were unsupervised. My favorite part was, naturally, the cake.

Earlier, MVB's mom and I figured out what would would be the most appreciated present for HG. Our family had planned to give her a tea set, so MVB and her mom made a full set of gorgeous goodies to go with. Eight bejeweled cookies and four delicate tea bags! MVB's mom confessed that she stayed up quite late to finish them, for which HG is very grateful.

The detail in each of the cookies is amazing! So are the decorations. I have to say I am quite inspired by the creativity. 

These delectables come out quite regularly for HG's tea parties, though we do eat real cookies and drink real tea with the set as well. The real cookies taste good but they don't look nearly as delicious as the felt ones.

I am certain if MVB made these to sell at our school's Holiday Faire she would sell out. Right? Would you not buy a set? 

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

The Great Unveiling

True, the blog here has taken an unplanned hiatus. While I did expect the guests and the summer schedule (ie no school), I did not expect to be so busy with custom orders the past couple of months. Something had to go and it turned out to be the blog, because not feeding your family is generally frowned upon. But I do have many, many new posts brewing in my head and I hope to get them written soon!

The first will be an up close and personal tour of the new rocket ship that landed in my studio in late July.

It is so gigantic I can't even take a decent picture of the whole thing. Anyway, more soon. Stay tuned! 

Sunday, May 25, 2014

And the Winner Is...

Thanks to everyone who had a look at, thought about, and wrote down some ideas for what to do with the mystery fabric in my first U Pick 'Em. It was definitely a toughie!

Jennifer had the most do-able idea for me: a man's apron with matching towel. If there is fabric left to make Heidi's wallet idea or Marie's something-boat-y idea I will let you know!

Congratulations, Jennifer! You'll have to let me know whether you prefer a gift certificate or a set of snack bags, and if you like the snack bags, which ones you prefer. Here are some photos of the latest ones; there are many more fabrics to choose from!

blue and orange

Saturday, May 24, 2014

A Little Spring in Your Step!

I took some photos the other day of the springtime flowers in our garden. We live quite close to a giant refrigerator called the North Atlantic Ocean, so we get spring very late, even later than other parts of our own town. It is usually quite cool around our house until mid-June. The plus-side is that it is much less hot here than elsewhere in July and August, so we can actually enjoy, say, lunch outside. But for now our flowers are still just waking up.

Enjoy, and Happy Spring!