Wednesday, March 31, 2010

"Two countries separated by a common language..."

We were having a conversation at work when we were trying not to work (haha) about where we'd like to be from if we weren't American.  Since most of us haven't been out of the country to make an educated guess, we narrowed the conversation down to what kind of foreign accent we'd like to have.  One wanted Irish, another French, and another Russian because he thinks it's an intimidating accent. I went with British, because it's a nifty accent, and I wouldn't have to deal with a whole other language...or would I?

For some reason I don't know many of the blogs I follow come from the UK, and there are all sorts of nifty phrases I encounter that just sound so much better than the American equivalent.  For example, they have a loo roll, instead of toilet paper, for when they go to the loo (and not the bathroom).  Doesn't it make it sound so much more elegant?  Instead of checking under the hood of your car, you look under the bonnet; and you don't stow things in the trunk--you put them in the boot.  Rentals are hire cars, and they're kept in the car park instead of the parking lot.   Elevators are lifts.  See what I mean?

They have ministries instead of departments, jumble sales instead of flea markets, and dustbins instead of trash cans.  A baby carriage is a pram, gasoline is petrol, and a truck is a lorry (unless it's a big rig, in which case it's an articulated lorry).  And that's not even bringing up the spelling difs.  They have programmes instead of programs, they fly in aeroplanes instead of airplanes, and crayons come in colours, not colors. 

And some are just plain fun--ice lolly instead of popsicle, swimming costume instead of bathing suit, and bangers instead of sausage (with which you may eat chips (which are fries) or crisps (which are chips)). 

Now, I'm going to stop mucking about and have a biscuit before I go to bed (only one more sleep before my last work day and a looong holiday weekend).  Translation: I'm going to stop goofing off, have a cookie and go to bed because there's only one more day of work left.  See? It's fun. If you don't think it's fun, clearly you're not saying the British words with a British accent and the American ones with a nasally New York/Boston/Philadelphia type of accent.  Go back and try again.....see? Fun!

Monday, March 29, 2010

For anyone who has loved a dog...

I still miss you, bud...

Friday, March 26, 2010

Buy! Buy! Sell! Sell!

I admit--not my photo. But I like pics in posts so I borrowed this from the quilting page at  Fun, no? Cheery, yes?

My to-do list has been knocked in half.  This is the part of the list I'm aware of that sits at the forefront of my brain.  In reality I'm probably only a quarter done...but I don't know where my actual list is so I can't check my math.

Anyhoodiddleywho--I've learned a LOT in the past six months since I started trying to make some money from my hobby.  I haven't done a ton of craft fairs but each one brings with it a fresh perspective and new ideas.  I thought I'd list a smattering of those things here in a friendly bulleted list.

  • Have something pretty for your goods to sit on.  My first show I used brightly colored plastic tablecovers. Alone it was cute. But next to the tables from craft-show-lifers with their fancy tablecloths it looked pretty generic. The one I did last week I used a springy quilt and it really made everything look cheery and cozy.  Once I forgot to bring anything at all--I sold things but it looked like I just stuck things on the table instead of arranging them lovingly.

  • Make it visually interesting. I'm still working on this one and it can take some fiddling.  My dad made me some "trees" to hang bags on for my first show and it really looked cute.  The entire show that day had a poor turnout. I thought I would never do another so I tossed them.  Needless to say--I really wanted them last week.  Also, I love the look of items that are staggered in height--they can sit on different sized boxes or specially made platforms underneath your tablecloth.  Makes it look much more boutique-y than just spreading them out.  I saw one idea last week that was pretty unique. Generally there are standard folding tables provided--one vendor used table-risers. One under each leg of the table and she instantly brought her product closer to the customer.  Nifty and easy.

  • Put things in baskets--little things like tissue covers, cell phone cases, change purses, etc.  I think it's human nature to see a basket full of goodies and want to rifle through them and see what's what, especially if the colors are bright and inviting.  But don't overload it--if people think they might mess up your display they also might not want to dig too deep.

  • Have your information available.  I keep my business cards on the table for anyone who may not want to buy something today, but likes my stuff and may want something in the future.  And each of my items has my business card tied to it (hole punch, cute ribbons--easy peasy).

  • Post your prices.  People prefer having the price readily available.  Speaking personally, when I have to ask the price I feel as though the seller may expect me to buy something.  This is most likely untrue, but I still feel awkward. I would much rather just be able to view the price. Especially now that I'm on the flip side of the transaction and when someone shows that bit of interest you get a tinge of excitement--when they don't buy it leaves you wondering if you're priced too high, if they have a problem with your goods, etc.  I like putting it out there and then feeding off the customer if they seem interested, or letting them go their merry way if they're not.

  • Have a nice range of products. Some people might not be able to afford something pricier but would love something handmade, even if it's just a little change purse.  Or, they may buy a gift for someone else and would buy something small for themselves--but only if that something small is available to buy.

  • Network.  Take other crafters' cards and leave them with yours. Ask them to contact you if they learn of any other craft shows, and tell them you'll do likewise if they're interested.  Some areas don't advertise very well so there may be several untapped venues nearby that someone else may know about.

  • Be a good neighbor. Don't infringe on someone else's space (they paid for it too!) And don't pull people from someone else's table over to yours--if they're interested they'll stop by. 

  • Be genuine.  People sense your enthusiasm for your product and your craft.  I was very nervous at my first show, a little less at my next, and by last week I had no nervousness whatsoever.  It definitely makes a difference in sales.  And smile.  Not that crazy-lady smile that makes people smile back and edge away with worry on their faces, but that warm inviting smile that says "Hello, dear. Want to chat? I'd offer you some tea if I could in this school gymnasium. Now let's find you a bag, shall we?"
I'll admit--I was mopey after my first show.  I felt like no one was interested in my goods. I went in thinking I'd sell out and have some nice bank after spending an entire Saturday doing this. Now, it really wasn't all that bad unless compared to my high hopes. I did better than some more seasoned vendors who were happy just to get their table fee back.  It just took some time for me to see this.  Last week the show was only a few hours and I made the same amount as a show more than twice that length.  Of course, I had better products and more enthusiasm.  The thing that can be a little de-motivating is how much time it can take to build a following, either with an online shop, a blog, or at local fairs.  But if you're enjoying what you're doing good things will come.

One final tip: don't be the person who tells EVERY person who stops by that you're broke and you're selling everything at cost because you need to earn bridge tolls and gas money so you can get home.  And don't tell that tale to your neighbor who knows you just spent $100 on a bracelet on ebay because she heard you coordinate with your friends to place the winning bid.  Just saying...not that I was ever the lucky neighbor...ahem...

That's all I have for now.  I hope it's helpful in some regard.  I'm in the midst of a good mystery, so I'm going to go curl up under the covers and try to figure out who-dunnit.  I'll catch you on the flip side.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Not much fauna, but there's certainly flora!

My craft fair busy-ness has passed (thank goodness--it can start to feel like factory work after a while) and now I have a nice lineup of custom orders to get to.  I was able to knock one off the list tonight.  I took a pinch of this and a pinch of that:
KwikSew pattern #3749 and Michael Miller's 'Flora and Fauna' in Stone

...stirred in a few stitches...ate some Reese's Pieces...and ended up with:


She's pretty big, weighing in at 18 inches wide by 16 high by about 4 inches deep.  The person I made this for wanted a big bag, and boy is she getting one!  She has a nice curvy gusset, and the top border on the inside is the same gray and white polka dots as on the outside, so it has a nice look to it, almost like something you'd see in a store (but better because no one else has it).

It took some creative cutting to get those flowers to line up right--I neglected to think of this when I ordered the fabric, but I'm pleased with how it worked out.  And the inside has a drop-in pocket and a zippered pocket.  It's pocket-tastic!

This was actually quite fun to put together.  There was enough to pay attention to that it wasn't boring, but it was simple enough that it wasn't frustrating in the least.  Plus it has pleats! I think pleats are great fun to sew...maybe just because if you take your time it really adds a zing to the bag, or whatever you're putting them on.  Next time I might try adding some piping--but then again...I might not be able to handle that much fun.  And it's not just me--other sewing geeks know what I'm talking about :)

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Bags, bling and aching feet

I just got home a bit ago from the spring craft show.  I did a nice bit of business in three hours.  I did my share of spending but we'll get to that soon.  I spent a manic few hours this afternoon writing up price tags and tying them onto my bags with cute little ribbons.  I set my table up just so.  I waited (I was ready super early)...and I sold a little bit of everything.  I earned my table fee, bought a few bits of yum, and still made a pleasing amount.  Each show I do is more encouraging than the one before (after my first I was ready to quit altogether).  Selling bags online isn't easy--personally I love to touch the fabric and get a feel for the size, something you just can't do online--so I make out much better selling in person.  Anyway, here are a few shots of everything all set up.

I used a nice springtime quilt as my table cover and it added that extra little something to the presentation.

My spot was right along the entrance and exit route, so I got them coming and going.  There was another woman there selling bags, but for crazy prices.  Her fabrics were entirely different so she wasn't a direct competitor, haha.

And now for the loot.  A jewelry crafter from the first show I did was at this one, and she sold me a yummy cell phone charm.  Normally I'm not the type to "bling" my phone, and this thing may annoy me after a bit, and I'm not a cat person, but I really wanted it:

Isn't it purr-dy?  Get it? Hehe...

A few tables down was a girl selling fun scarf/sash thingees in all sorts of prints.  I couldn't decide which of two I wanted, so she offered me a deal and now I have both:

These can be used as headbands, sashes, or scarves.  The colors just sing sunshine.

The lady right next to me was selling silver charms that she makes using a process called lost-wax casting. She sketches out her design and then creates a wax prototype from it.  Once that's where she likes it she creates a mold from it, fills it with molten silver, and kiln-fires it for about twelve hours (the other method is torching it, but she hasn't tried that).  Some of them had words like 'Love' or 'Hopeful' etched into the back of it. The result is an entirely different sort of thing than you'd see in regular jewelry stores. They have a rough-hewn "homespun" look to them, but that's what appealed to me about it. I feel like I own an antique but didn't pay for one.  To top it off she puts it on a hand-dyed, hand-stitched silk cord.  Here's mine:

It's a nifty flower; on the back is etched 'Grow.'

She determines the price by weighing it, so the whole affair had a very old-fashioned feel to it.  And how can one not buy something so sweet when it is then handed to you wrapped in tissue and placed in this little bit of fun?
Looks like some of the bags on my table...

So all in all a nice little evening. I love seeing what other people are working on and getting new ideas to try.  Some of the vendors were selling Tupperware or Pampered Chef items or Avon, but I passed right by those tables and headed for the true hand-crafted items.  I've developed a greater appreciation for them now that I know what goes into them.

My feet hurt and I'm tired, so I'm off to bed.

Pat, I'd like to buy an hour please...

This mess of yum....

...needs to be tagged, pressed and bagged in about two hours for tonight's show.  I know, I know...I'm going.

Pics of my table and if I'm a hit to follow...stay tuned!

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Standing on the Shoulders of Giants: Review of 'Isaac Newton' by Mitch Stokes

“An apple fell on his head and he discovered gravity.” This is what many people think of when they think of the name Isaac Newton (and it is markedly untrue). There are so many more dimensions to this man than I had ever imagined. Part of Thomas Nelson Publishers “Christian Encounters” series, this book pleasantly weaves a tapestry of the life of Isaac Newton from the days of schoolyard fights to bickering over who really invented calculus. Sprinkled throughout are glimpses into his psyche, his work, and how others viewed him at the time. For a man most noted for his scientific and mathematical endeavors, he spent the second half of his career in pursuits that were markedly different from his days writing the Principia and building telescopes.

This book was thoroughly enjoyable. It was written well, avoided unnecessary scientific jargon that can sometimes fill biographies of great scientists, and contained a lot of information that I never knew about Sir Isaac. One of my beefs with non-fiction books is that if something is unknown, the author writes in such a way to make it seem as fact. Such obvious assumptions leave a bad taste in my mouth, because if an obvious unknown is presented as true, I question the validity of other statements. Mitch Stokes does none of this. If something is merely speculative, it is briefly mentioned and noted as such. The reader walks away with no false assumptions about certain obscure dimensions of Newton’s life. I only have one somewhat negative comment about this book. It is noted on the cover that Newton wrote more on theology and alchemy than on all other topics combined, but little of this is presented here. In an age where we assume scientists are non-believers, it was interesting to learn how devoted a Christian Newton was. I would have liked to have seen more from these writings than on his scientific works, as this seemed to be a big part of how the book was presented. Anyone reading this book to learn about Newton’s religious side might be a little disappointed in the lack of such information compared to the rest of the book. Overall, I would recommend it. It is a nice peek into the mind of a true genius.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Thomas Nelson Publishers as part of their book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Monday, March 15, 2010

Bag candy (similar to eye candy, but better)

Before I forget (again) and stay up way too late sewing to blog (again) I'm popping up some baggy loverliness (and not so loverliness) that I've been concocting.  Most of these are going to be up for sale this Thursday at a spring craft fair I am participating in. The photos aren't so hot as we've been short on daylight here with this rainy dreariness.  So, without further ado...

First we have some basket style bags (which I've made before), but these are improved with a handy little snap flap across the top and an inside zippered pocket to hide your secret stuff.  This bag is so easy to make, but ends up looking extremely professional and can be made to suit a wide variety of fabrics.  I found the instructions for them at u-handbag.

Light aqua and brown bag with delish marbleized acrylic handles.

Fun summery bag with bamboo handles.

Next up is a hobo bag.  I bought this fabric for an insanely cheap price back around Christmas, and decided to use it to test out a pattern I had bought.  It came in three sizes, so I made the middle one. I could move my bed into this bag, so I'm glad I didn't make the large version.  I think the smallest size would be perfect.  Everything went together well, but I'm not sure how I feel about it:

I feel like I should call this bag 'Watermelon Picnic' for what I think are obvious reasons.

The handle is nice and comfy, there is plenty of room and several pockets inside, and everything is neat and tidy.  So I'm going to say that it's the fabric that's not so hot. But I like it. I don't know.  I'm not sure.  I'll try and sell it and we'll see what happens.  Moving on...

You know Vera Bradley? The quilted bag lady?  Well, I love her bags but refuse to lay out the money for one when I can make something similar.  Or so I thought.  A friend of mine asked me to make her a bag similar to this one:

The Vera Bradley 'Amy' bag.

Of course I said "Piece of cake!"   I drafted a pattern easily enough.  It went together ok. The result was less than stellar...

When I saw it wasn't going to work according to plan, I gave up on making good straps (which is why they don't look good at all).

I tried another one, and it actually came out worse.  So, being frustrated, I decided to just go for it on my own and freestyle a bag not based on anything. And I love the results. It's similar in size, but otherwise different:

Fiesta-colored bag with a fun polka dot lining.

This particular bag has a hook on the end of the strap so you can carry it looooong (or sling it across the body, as is the plan for this one) or double up the strap for a little shoulder-bag.  It's been named "The Boardwalk Bag" as it's intended to hold the essentials for strolling the boards when you just need your phone, keys and some cash.  (If you're not from Philadelphia or New Jersey you may be asking "What is a boardwalk?"  It's a promenade made of wood set just off of the beach that is full of shops, food, rides, and fun for the shore-goer).  This is the first bag I've actually designed that worked 100% according to plan, so I'm excited.

And just as an FYI: Blogger has added a feature that allows individual pages on blogs to better organize information and make certain things easily accessible.  I've added a few (you can see the links just under my new banner at the top) and will probably add a few more.  Some don't have anything in them yet, but they will soon.  Just mentioning it.

That's all for now. That fabric won't be cutting itself (although I'd love it if it did).

Saturday, March 13, 2010


No, I'm not sick.  Unless it's of the rain and wind outside. That can go away now.  I've been an avid reader for as long as I can remember.  If there are words, I'm drawn to whatever it is like a magnet to....something magnetic.  Since I've started being a crafter I haven't devoted as much time to reading as I have in the past.  I've gone from reading a book a week (at least) to one every two or three weeks, as I spend most of my hours cutting and stitching (and that's when I'm not at my "real" job).  Even with a reduction in my consumption, my purchasing of books has increased. I love to buy books.  I love to stand in the book store and breathe in the aroma of paper and glue and knowledge (which smells like cappucino--at least in Barnes and Noble).  This can get pricey.  So I was excited when my mother's friend sent me a link to a site called Book Sneeze (get my title now?), run by the Thomas Nelson Publishing Company.  You can get free books as long as you promise to read them in full, and post a brief review to your blog and an online book retailer.  So I signed up.  Unbeknownst to me, Thomas Nelson publishes Christian-oriented books.  Now, I'm a good Catholic girl (wink wink), but most of my reading adventures aren't of the spiritual/religious kind, so this is a different sort of experience for me.  I don't have much interest in reading things like "Love Jesus, Love Yourself" (okay--I just made that up to give you an idea of the majority of the titles), so my first book choice was a biography of Isaac Newton, who apparently wrote on theology more than any other topic.  There is a series of biographies of people who are known for things other than their commitment to their religion, but for whom religion was a large aspect of their personalities.  This interests me.  Why am I blathering on about this? Just to let you know that if you notice a random book report here every once in a while, that's why.  In order to get my goods, I have to give an honest review, whether I like my selection or not.  So far I'm liking this one. But then again, I like knowing obscure trivia.

OK, enough of that. I'm going to take pictures of my latest creations while there is still a tiny bit of dreary daylight outside.  But because I think a blog post should have a pic, here's one of what's currently on my desktop:

Isn't he cute? He doesn't know it but his name is Norman.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Efficiency Art

I have a very good friend from high school who I had lost touch with for a good many years, only to be reunited through the wonder that is Facebook.  Since I started trying to make some money with my hobby he has provided me with encouragement and morale boosters and some hahas.  So I was tinkled red (because pink just wasn't enough) when I saw what he sent me the other day...

Yes, that is indeed a frog on a spool of thread.

I have never heard of this particular statue before, but in a few short sentences he gave me a full history:
"We used to live in Willimantic CT before our move last April. I thought you might like to see what adorns the bridge in town.  This town has a very interesting history. During the French and Indian War, locals thought the natives were about to attack them one night. They loaded their muskets and let out a horrific amount of firepower at the enemy. When morning came, all they found were hundreds of dead frogs. In the 19th century, it was THE mecca of thread making. ALL the best thread in the world came from Willimantic. I just thought you'd like the unique combination of histories on one statue....I tried to find a pic of the backside of the frog. The legs are clearly not frog legs. The sculptor obviously used a female model to create the legs."
I hope he doesn't mind me using his exact words but I couldn't have written it better.  Thanks, Ian! Love it!  And since I missed it on my first viewing I had to check out the legs again--definitely not frog legs.  You know you just scrolled back up to check it out again too, haha.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

I'd like to thank the Academy...

Blogging is harder than it seems.  I thought it would be super easy and that I wouldn't run out of stuff to say, but I do sometimes (which is odd if you know me).  Since most of my sewing and blogging occurs at night I have to wait for decent lighting to take pics to post of what I'm making, and I'm no Ansel Adams, that's for sure.  I think it's always a work in progress.  Which is why I was super-duper excited to see what Meream has to say on her blog--she awarded me this:

Sometimes I think she may be my long-lost sister who just happens to live in the Philippines.  She has nifty colored shoes. She likes the way books smell.  Organization gives her inspiration. Things like that that always make it fun to pop over to her blog.  So...thank you Meream--you're sweet. 

Anyway the rules for this are:
1. Thank and link the person that gave you the award.
2. Pass this award on to 15 bloggers you've recently discovered and think are fantastic.
3. Contact said blogs and let them know they've won.
4. State 7 things about yourself.

And here are my fifteen blogs I think are nifty:
              Angry Chicken
              Craft Apple
              Film in the Fridge
              House on Hill Road
              London Mummy
              Melly and Me
              Pink Lemonade Boutique
              Sew Christine
              Sew Crafty Fox
              The Small Stuff
              The Wooden Spool
              Tiny Happy

I stuck with crafty blogs, but I want to give an honorable mention to Face the Day Makeup.  This is the blog my gorgeous sisters just started and I think that it, as well as their accompanying YouTube channel, is pretty swell. things about myself.
1. I can't wear high heels.  I teeter and totter and look like a walking truck when I try to. So I don't.
2. I can't ice skate.  The last time I tried I did the cartoon run in place maneuver and went plop on my bum.  Decided equilibrium isn't my friend. 
3. I can touch my nose with my tongue.
4. I like the way schools smell.  A girl I went to high school with is the Philadelphia schools reporter for the Inquirer, and she interviewed Tony Danza, who is "teaching" at our alma mater.  She Facebooked that the school smells the same, and I remembered that I like that smell (old musty books, and some kind of cleanser, I think).
5. I hate to exercise.  I only do it because it's allegedly good for me.
6. I have a major problem getting up in the morning.  I loves me my bed.
7. My soul is older than I am--I was totally born about fifty years too late.


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