Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Preparations For My First Craft Show

Mark your calendars for December 10, 2011.  If you live in Metro Detroit, why not venture out to Berkley's Candy Cane Lane Craft Show.  It is on a Saturday from 10 am to 4 pm at the Berkley Community Center (2400 Robina Drive).  And guess what...the show includes free admission and free parking.  There will be 26 vendors, including me!  There will be a raffle and food will be sold at the concession stand.  Sounds like a great afternoon:  have a snack, do a little Christmas shopping, and stop by to see a friend.

So, now that I have told you the important stuff, I am going to tell you what I am doing to prepare for this adventure!  First and foremost, I have been sewing, a lot of sewing.  Right now, I am sewing 16 x 16 pillows, 11 x 17 pillows, and a couple 18 x 18 pillows.  This Wednesday, I will be going out to buy fabric to make tooth fairy pillows and if time permits, some Christmas ornaments.  It is my goal to provide pillows/ornaments in all price points.  Also, I think it is important to have tooth fairy pillows for both boys and girls.  After all, the tooth fairy visits everyone!

But, preparing for a craft show is not just about the craft, it is also about the display and marketing of the craft.  When I signed on to do this, I never had any idea what it took to participate in a craft show.  Here is a list of things I need to figure out:

  1. I have have to figure out how to load all these pillows in the one of the world smallest {and most space efficient} cars.  Yes, I own a subcompact car.  At least it is a hatchback and the seats fold down.  Plus, it is red and the red is the color of Christmas so everything is going to be just fine!  So, logistics is on my list of things to figure out.  Do I buy all new bins, use the old bins in the basement, garbage bags???  Lots of options.
  2. How do I display my pillows?  I will have an 8 foot table and two chairs.  What I am thinking about doing, is displaying one of each pillows and storing the extras in bins under the table.  Then, I have clementine crates that I thought my work for displaying the tooth fairy pillows.  Lastly, if I time permits and I actually make the Christmas ornaments, I have a tiny little Christmas tree that I can use to display ornaments.  
  3. Marketing!  Kevin is hard at work making me brochures to put on the table with important information like my blog address, Etsy address, Facebook information, and contact information.  I also need to make tags for all my pillows with prices, create some kind of receipt.  People also need a bag of some kind for their purchases - got to work on that!  I am also thinking I need a bowl of candy on my table.  It is always nice to have something tasty to entice people to your table.  But the bowl of candy is important for one other reason:  if no one buys a pillow I can eat my way to happiness.     
  4. A QR code -- I don't even know what a QR code is, but Kevin assures me that it is a good thing, and that I should have one to make it easier for people with smart phones to connect with me.  So I'll probably give it a try.  
There is so much to think about as the craft show draws near.  I have high hopes for happy sales.  As one of Michigan's many unemployed, this is an experiment in how to make a little money by thinking outside of the box.  It is does not work out, I will be a little sad.  But, I am hoping to as the very least, sell enough to cover the cost of the table.  Like I have said before, it is important to try new things.  So, come out on December 10th and check out some locally made pillows.   

Sunday, November 20, 2011

A Departure From Floral: Mid Century Modern Inspired Pillows

When Kevin and I bought our house, we were really into bungalows.  We wanted an all brick house and lots of windows.  In April of 2005, Kevin turned 26 years old.  For his birthday, he wanted to drive around and look at open houses. (Yes, we are the annoying people who snoop around your home with no intentions of buying.  We are just researching our next home, when and if the economy ever recovers.)  We were getting married in a couple months and planning on buying a house in the future.  Well...we drove up to a brick bungalow with a white bay in the front and fell in love with a house.  Yes, our house was an impulse purchase and we moved in a month later, Memorial Day Weekend.  We still love our house, but there are of course a few other houses on our wishlist.

First, there is a tudor in Royal Oak that I am still coveting about 2 1/5 years after first seeing it.  Someone flipped the home so I don't feel guilty for going to the open house.  Every single time I drive past that house I imagine living in that home.  Second, we also thought a dutch colonial would be a nice option.  Third, a craftsman style bungalow is strong contender.  We live in a bungalow, but it is s post World War II bungalow built in 1948.  Most recently, Kevin and I have started to really show interest in mid century modern homes and decor.  Everything about mid century modern just seems so functional and clean to me.  Plus, it is just such a huge departure from the bungalow architecture I am now so used to.  Anyway, I like to sit back and imagine myself sitting in an atomic ranch full of windows, reading a book while lounging on an Eames chair.  Okay, lets be realistic here, it will most likely be an Eames replica.  While reading, I would gaze up to the wall to check the time on a sunburst style clock!  Yes, I love the sunburst.  So, when I was fabric shopping this weekend and found a pattern that reminded me of a sunburst and mid century modern, I bought three yards.

Me and my fabric
Close up

A mid century modern inspired pillow!
The fabric is a dark gray decorator fabric with a white pattern that reminds me of a sunburst.  It also looks like a dandelion that has morphed from a pretty yellow flower to fabulous fluff!  There were so many option and ways to cut out these pillows.  I honestly sat with the fabric folded and unfolded trying to find the best pattern for about an hour.  It was so much fun.  I decided to make four 16 x 16 pillows and four 11 x 17 pillows.  I just finished the 11 x 17 pillows so they are not posted to Etsy yet, but the 16 x 16 pillow is available for your shopping pleasure.  I am quite pleased!  I love the colors and I love the design.  I hope you all like them, too!  They are a departure from the floral designs I usually create but it is good to try new things.  Enjoy!

Friday, November 18, 2011

Christmas Shopping: Have You Considered Custom Pillows?

I love the fall!  The colors, playing in leaves, apple picking, cider and donuts, and the chill in the air.  I guess it is not quite accurate to say chill anymore, here in Michigan is now downright cold and we have seen a few flurries!  Fall is leaving and winter is coming.  And if winter is coming, so is Christmas.

Yes, I still get down on the ground and play in the leaves.
The reason children exist is so adults have a reason to play, again. 

Well, I guess according to retailers, Christmas has been here before Halloween even arrived!  It drives me crazy to hear Christmas music and see decorations before Thanksgiving.  I am a bit of a traditionalist, call me a purist but, I like to celebrate one holiday at a time.  Kudos to Nordstrom for not decorating until after Thanksgiving.  However, even though I don't celebrate two holidays at a time, I do shop year round for Christmas.  This year, I am guessing the majority of my shopping with be done by December 1st.  Yippee!  More time to play or more time to sew!

Sewing custom pillows can be a fun for me to make and a surprising gift for the receiver.  Most pillows found in a store are mass manufactured and fairly common.  But, custom pillows can be as unique as the person you are shopping for.  Now, I am not talking about my  pillows, but even those are unique because I only make about four of each fabric pattern.  What I am writing about, is creating a specific pillows for a specific person.

For example, my mom loved Dick and Jane stories when she was a kid.  I was looking at a website called    Fashionable Fabrics and they sell vintage fabrics.  Low and behold, they actually sell Dick and Jane fabric.  Who knew?  For her birthday this year, I made Mom two Dick and Jane pillows.  Needless to say, she was shocked, surprised, and delighted.  With the advent of the internet, there are so many fabrics out there that may not be available at your neighborhood fabric store.  I honestly believe, there is a fabric for everyone out there.

My mom opening her Dick and Jane pillows!

I am starting to take custom orders.  A friend of mine recently asked me to sew pillows for her daughters.  Dora for the little girl and cat pillows for the older girl.  What I did was go online and found a sampling of fabrics that I thought her daughters might enjoy.  She chose the fabric.  I purchase everything needed for the pillows and my friend will pay me for supplies and labor.  Easy right!  A custom and unique gift.  Fabric is sold at so many price points that this can also be an affordable option for those on a budget.

Dora pillows.
I need to ship these soon because Violet wants them...real bad!
Cat pillows!

So, if you are interested in working with me on a custom order, send me an e-mail at 715Pillows@gmail.com.  Like I said, my Christmas shopping is almost done.  Why not let me help you with yours!

Monday, November 14, 2011

Getting Noticed on Etsy!

For anyone who is reading this blog for tips on how to get noticed on Etsy, I am not really a pro as of yet.  I am learning how to navigate the site and what exactly it means to be part of a circle or treasury.  Since I started posting to Etsy, I am realizing that it is part online store and part social networking.  Maybe I am wrong about this but that is the impression I am getting.  Crafters and bloggers seem to really work together to network and promote each other.  It is really kind of cool.  Instead of hoarding secrets to success, people share!  For example, I follow a blog called Maybe Matilda.  She is a sews, crochets, is generally pretty darn crafty.  She also sells on Etsy.  She posts lots of great tips on how to sell on Etsy and how she ships her orders.  While I may not use all the tips I see online, it is nice to see people sharing!  Right now, I don't have any tips, but someday...yes, someday I will be sharing secrets to success.  It just may be awhile!

I also have received quite a bit of support from my cousin, Pam who writes a great blog of parenting and life, her blog is It's Time for More Coffee.  She doesn't sell anything, but she does have contests and has given me some advice.  Thanks, Pam.  And then, there is someone I don't even know who has a blog called Ernestine Edna and her Really Big Ideas.  She follows me and I also read her blog.  She also sells on Etsy and has some really cool knitted items.  Until I started my little project, I really did not realize how interesting blogging actually is.  There are some fantastic writers and really clever people hanging out on the internet.

But back to getting noticed on Etsy.  Since I started posting pillows, every so often, someone has made one of my pillows a favorite, or my shop a favorite, or become an admirer.  This always makes my day!!!  Thank you to those folks.  I never realized you could do this and it is a really great tool.  I have one favorite right now -- a pair of metal roller skates with red leather straps.  I had a pair when I was a kid and just really like to look at the picture.  But, I think this is a great tool.  See something you like, mark it as a favorite and come back to it when it is time to shop for a gift or for yourself.  But this weekend, I discovered something really cool.  It is called a treasury.  People create a treasury of items of similar interest that they like.  This weekend, I got a message that I had been added to an Etsy Treasury called "It's all in the Stripes."  I was so excited!  I don't know this person at all!  I did message her back with a big thank to the kind stranger for including my Christmas pillow in her treasury!

In the corner is my striped Christmas pillow!  Yippee!
It is definitely fun to get noticed.  It makes you feel like some of your hard work is starting to pay off a little bit.  It is also important when people start noticing you, to pay it forward and recognize someone else.  And, it is also a good idea to say thank you!  So, to the all those people out there; bloggers, crafty people, family, friends, and strangers who have encouraged me even a little, I say thank you!

Saturday, November 12, 2011

The Perfect Pillows: Yes, They Are For Sale!

When I set out to make pillows, I certainly was not expecting to actually become good at making pillows.  Do you remember this post?  When I made my first pillow I was thrilled.  My seams were not perfect.  I did not put enough stuffing inside but, I did sew a pillow.  I tried something new and accomplished something I had never done before.  Not bad at all!  But, yesterday, as I referenced in "The Trouble With Chickens", I sewed the perfect set of pillows.
The Perfect Pillows!

Seams that align!
For some reason, the stars aligned or maybe I am just starting to get really good, but I made the perfect pillows. So what makes them so perfect?  Let me tell you!
  1. The fabric is really beautiful and has a floral pattern.  But, it is a difficult pattern since it is a floral design broken up into three distinct patterns.  A large flower which runs down the middle and two smaller patterns running down each side.   I had to place my pattern over the largest flower and center it so it would be the focal point.  This actually took a lot of time.  But I did it.  And, because of the way I positioned the fabric, I am thinking I will be able to make companion pillows with a slightly different pattern but from the same fabric.  
  2. I cut out two panels for each pillow and pinned them together.  As I started pinning, I realized something.  In my head I was thinking, "Holy Smokes!!!  I can actually line up the pattern on the seams."  Anyone who sews knows this is a really big deal.  For one thing, it is really hard to do.  Also, with many fabrics, it is nearly impossible.  When you shop for pillows in a store, most of the time, the pattern does not line up at the seam.  
  3. I started sewing the pillows, cut the corners, and pulled the pillows right side out.  There it was right in front of me:  Pillow with seams that lined up.  I was pretty much doing cartwheels, figuratively of course.  I was never good at cartwheels and I now have a bad back.  
Yes, I am excited.  I love all the pillows I made.  I am proud to sell them and I would be proud to show them off in my own home.  But, these pillows are special!  I love the fabric.  I love the pattern.  I love the way they turned out.  Now, I would love it if someone bought them.  They need a loving home.  They need to be appreciated and shown off.  If you are interested, they are on Etsy.  Just click on this link:  The Perfect Pillows! 

Thursday, November 10, 2011

The Trouble With Chickens!

I have been pretty busy these days trying to stock my Etsy store and preparing for my December 10th craft show.  On top of all that, I am a stay-at-home mom!  Despite what my husband says in jest, I do not live the life of leisure.  Lately, my two year old has been a typical bi-polar two year old.  I never know from minute to minute if I will have Sweet Violet or Volatile Violet.  But, that is just life with a two year old.  My now five year old is becoming the calm child and can't stand her sister's outbursts.  Therefore, lately when evening falls, I have not been in the mood to blog or sew.  This is a bad thing because pillows are my new job.  When I worked from home, I worked because I had to work, even if I did not want to.  I need to take the same attitude when it comes to pillows.  But, sometimes when things don't go my way I tend to get discouraged.  I think I started to lose some of my zeal for sewing when I met the chickens.

My little energy suckers!
Which came first, the chicken or the egg?  Ugh, when I started sewing these regal, okay silly chicken pillows the following song kept running though my brain: chicken and egg song from "Sesame Street."  I only bought one yard of chicken fabric against Kevin's pleading not to buy it at all.  Country is not really my style but I do love decorative chickens, roosters, and farm animals.  Not that I really own any, but I like the little critters.  I also love pineapple curtains and wall stencils.  Again, none exist in my house.  Once again, I digress, back to the chickens.  Now I am not sure if it is the songs fault or if the problem was that I matched the fabric too closely with the thread, but I messed up one of the pillows.

I chose to make small chicken pillows because I thought the pattern might be overpowering.  A little chicken goes a long way.  When I was buying the fabric, I found the exact, I mean perfectly matching thread for these little pillows.  I was so excited.  I pinned, I cut, I pinned again, I sewed, and I snipped off the corners.  I snip off the corners before I turn the pillows right side out so that it is easier to pull the corners out.  Well, I could not tell where the thread was and as Rick Perry would say, "oops" I snipped to far and literally cut a corner...off.  The fabric started to fray and I could not fix it.  Grr...  I was much more careful with the other two, which are posted on Etsy.  Ultimately, two turned out, one did not.  My failure rate is not horrible.  But it was frustrating.  Now, I have to figure out what to do with ruined pillow.  I hate to throw the fabric away.  

I really do love these chickens!
When I mess up (hey, I am human) it sometimes gets me down.  But I needed to move on.  Last night I completed my blue, red, and gold floral/leafy pillows which are also listed on Etsy.  Once again, everything started out well but when I was on my third pillow, my machine went haywire.  Okay, maybe not haywire to the experienced sewer seamstress, but to me it was panic time.  My thread kept bunching and it did not seem like the bobbin was doing what it was supposed to do.  It was the overall tension of the thread that was causing the problem and causing me to pull out the seam ripper.  Fortunately, no damage was done and in the end, four lovely pillows were completed.  Just frustrating.  

A modern classic!
After a few days of feeling a bit sulky about sewing, I decided that while Violet was having some quiet time today, that I would tackle a couple pillows.  And I am so glad I did!  I actually sewed the perfect pillow.  Now, the pillow is not yet complete but it will be completed and photographed by tomorrow.  This perfect pillow needs it's own post.  It is so perfect, it cannot share a post with a troublesome chicken.  Stay tuned friends, I am getting my groove back! 

Monday, November 7, 2011

Pillow Count

I don't think I will ever have to worry about keeping track of a body count.  But if I did, the count would be one.  When I was thirteen, I was a teen volunteer and a nurse needed my help tending to a recently deceased patient.  Beginning thirteen I said, "Sure, I would love to wrap up a dead body!"  Well those exciting days are  long over and I now have a pillow count.  Lots and lots of pillows.  A few people have asked me how many pillows I have sewn.  While I haven't reached 715, I have sewed quite a few.  So, shall we review together?
  1. The first pillows I ever made were for my beloved little girls.  They were made from Pooh Bear/striped material.  (2)
  2. I made a floral pillow for my mom, my sewing guru.  (1)
  3. A somewhat floral/geometric patterned pillow for my office.  (1)
  4. I bought some lovely decorator fabric that is red with a floral design.  I made two pillows for my bed and kept the leftovers in case I someday hone the skills to make a purse.  (2)
  5. Soft blue butterfly pillows for my small friend, Bethany.  Every big girl bed needs a big girl pillow or two.  (2)
  6. Mom needed some pillows for her UP get-a-way and I needed some practice.  (4)
  7. 715 Pillows went charitable and made pillows for the domestic violence shelter, HAVEN.  (12)
  8. For my mom's birthday, I actually found Dick and Jane fabric and crafted the fabric into fabulous pillows.  If I can find Dick and Jane fabric, I can find anything!  (2)
  9. Elephant pillows to melt any little girls heart. (3)
  10. There is nothing like a trip to the zoo.  Why not have a pillow to match the memory? (3)
  11. Some pillows look like pillows, others look like candy canes.  (3)
  12. I love snowflakes, especially in red and white.  (4)
  13. Even though a mother should never have favorite, the patchwork style fabric that I bought made what I believe are the best looking pillows.  (4)
  14. Brown and ivory floral pillows - divine.  (4)
  15. Hoo can forget about the owls.  (3)
  16. Great things come in small packages, like butterflies.  (2)
  17. Cock-a-doodle-do.  (2)
  18. Sophisticated black and white floral.  (4)
Yep, that is a lot of pillow!  54 to be exact.  Many have a been given away.  One has been sold.  The rest are decorating my home or are up for sale.  Pillows, pillows everywhere....

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

A New Month, New Beginnings

Whenever the first of any month rolls around, I think of it as a fresh start.  New possibilities, better attitudes, a chance for better time management, and I am always hopeful those last fifteen pounds will melt away by the end of the month.  Historically, October is always a rough month.  Kevin travels a lot, I am usually sick, the kids are usually sick, and we are all pretty worn out.  October is also a pretty good month, too!  Lots and lots of birthday parties, apple picking, pretty leaves, cider mill trips, the Michigan/Michigan State football game, and let's not forget Halloween.

My girls have been looking forward to trick or treating for months now.  Every single night after we would tuck them in, Violet would run out saying, "I have sompin to tell you.  I want to be Bob Builder for Halloween."  The next night she would want to be a kitty cat, then a bunny, then a bee, then Bob and a kitty cat.  A neighbor gave us a chicken costume.  Whoa - that was definitely NOT what Violet wanted to be for Halloween.  Major meltdown.  Then, another friend offered a bunny costume.  Wow!  Talk about a Motor City Meltdown!  Then the Friday before Halloween rolls around and Violet does not even want to go trick or treating.  However, by the big event, we convinced her to wear a chefs hat and apron.  I think she consented because she wanted more Milky Way bars.  

Mimi on the other hand was easy.  Her butterfly costume from last year still fit.  So, whenever anyone asked her what she was going to be, she would reply, "I am going to be a butterfly...AGAIN" (big sigh.)  Yes, I am a frugal mom.  Hey, I was laid off this year.  Plus, the costume is adorable.  Plus, I grew up a little on the poor side.  I was a clown for about five years.  You think I am kidding?  I am not.  My mom sewed the costume extra large and it was really cute.  But after awhile, I got kind of sick of it.  So, what kind of childhood would I be giving my daughters if they got what they wanted all the time?  They certainly would not have anything to blog about in thirty years.  

One chef!  One mom!  One butterfly, again!
Trick or treating was of course a huge hit and the girls came home with a ton of candy.  I had made a resolution NOT to eat their candy eat much of their candy this year.  But, that was last night when I resolved to eat minimal amounts of candy, attempt to run again, sew tons of pillows every night, use my time wisely, and not to get annoyed when my children act like children.  Well, that was yesterday.  

November 1st started with a super cranky two year old at about 5:45am.  She is really good at being wonderful and sweet.  Early in the morning, she is really good at being unreasonable.  I will give you an abbreviated version of our morning:

(Violet comes up for her morning cuddle.  We are in my bed.)
Violet:  Mommy, where is Daddy?
Me:  He is at the gym.
Violet:  I need my toys.
Me:  Which ones do you want?  I will sneak into your room and get them.  I don't want you to wake up Mimi.
Me:  Just tell me which two to get and I will get them.
Me:  You are being unreasonable.  I am not talking about this anymore.
(Front door opens, Kevin walks in)
Me:  Please go!
(she leaves)
Violet:  I want some cereal, Daddy!
Kevin:  Here are some Kix.
Kevin:  Tell me which bowl you want and say please.
(meanwhile, I am sitting on the couch watching the news)
Me:  Did you say please?
Me:  Then you will not get cereal.  

Violet continues to scream and cry and then falls asleep on my lap until about 8:15 am.  I wish I could say things got better but the improvements were marginal.  Therefore, I ate a TON of Halloween candy.  Yep, I am not losing those pounds today!  I also taught Mimi to say the word crap today.  I dropped my brand new tub of body butter on the hard bathroom floor and cracked the container and I yelled, "Crap."  What is great is that she is learning how to really sound out words at school in preparation for learning how to read.  This is how Mimi was saying her new favorite word, "Crrrraaaaap.  C-C-C-RAP.  What am I going to do with all this CRAP!"  Okay, now I have something else to add to my first of the month list:  Watch my mouth!

In all seriousness, I do have much to look forward to this month.  My niece will be baptized and I am the godmother, Mimi will turn five, the holiday season will be starting in a couple weeks, and I have an upcoming craft show and Etsy store to stock.  Lots of really good stuff.  So, as Scarlet O'Hara would say, "Tomorrow is another day!"