Saturday, December 31, 2011

2011: A Year in Review

I started out 2011 as a full time stay-at-home mom and a part-time paralegal working at night and on the weekends.  One job was rewarded with never ending work, temper tantrums, hugs, and kisses.  The other job rewarded me with a paycheck!  This money was allowing us the freedom to travel to places outside of my Michigan's upper peninsula.  Don't get me wrong, the U.P. is wonderful, but sometimes it is nice to branch out.  However, in July 2011, life through me the proverbial curve ball and I was laid off.  Not a happy time and if I am being truthful, sometimes when the bills come due, I am still a little bitter.  But, losing my job gave me the opportunity to think outside my comfort zone and try something new:  Sewing, blogging, and entrepreneurship.  So, here is my year in review.  

January to July

We rang in 2011, as a family enjoying downtown Detroit.  Dinner at Pizza Papalis, dessert at Astoria, and gazing at the big Christmas tree and ice skaters at Campus Martius Park.  It was a really wonderful night!  Kevin and I travelled to Las Vegas and Boston without our children.  As a family we took many trips to the U.P. and Chicago to spend time with family.  We were also lucky enough to take trips to Spring Mill State Park and Holland, Michigan for Tulip Time!  Mimi graduated from preschool and moved on to Young Fives.  She also preformed in a dance recital.  Violet became a full fledged blabber mouth who no longer sleeps in in a toddler bed or uses a diaper.  Whoa - a big girl bed, a toilet, and big words = big year!

Spring Mill State Park, Mitchell, Indiana

Inside the Wynn, Las Vegas

Holland, Michigan

Swan Boat Rides, Boston, MA
July to December

After I got my layoff notice, my husband got this wacky idea that I was going to learn how to sew.  In August, I made my very first pillow, ever.  While it was not a horrible creation and I did brag about it a bit, it was definitely not ready for Etsy.  I practiced a lot and got the whole family involved.  My mom taught me some tricks, Kevin took photos and pushed me to work.  Mimi and Vi held pins, picked out fabric, stuffed pillows and asked a lot of questions.    
Very first pillows for Mimi and Vi!
While practicing, I made a dozen pillows for HAVEN, a domestic violence shelter.  Yes, I want to do another project like this again.  The girls learned a lot about helping others and truthfully, as a grown up, I needed a little reminding, too!

Pillows for HAVEN

Mimi helping load our car with pillows!
At the end of October, I felt I was finally making a good product, one that I was proud of and launched my Etsy store.  I even have some kid pillows for sale at June Moon Furniture Store in Berkley, MI.  I have sold 26 pillows between Etsy, custom orders, and the craft show I attended in early December.  Not bad!  My goal was to sell nine pillows a month and I have far exceeded that goal.  But, now 2012 is tomorrow and I need to have some goals.  You know I like to set goals and write lists!  Hey, I could write a blog, 715 Lists and Goals!

Candy Cane Lane Craft Show!  

Goals for 2012

I learned how to make pillows and a pair of pajama pants in 2011.  Now, I need to continue to hone my pillow making craft.  There is always room for improvement.  This year I hope to do the following:
  1. Sell my pillows at more craft shows - shall I shoot for five shows?  I think I shall!  
  2. Try my hand at pillowcase dresses.  This has been suggested by multiple people so I will do in time for spring!
  3. Continue to sell on Etsy and have a January sale.  After all, if I am going to launch new products I need to clear out the "warehouse."
  4. Learn how to make pillow covers.  This will solve my "warehouse" storage issue. 
  5. Make enough money to "help" pay for Vi's preschool.   
  6. Continue to make tooth fairy pillows.
  7. Learn how to make stuffed toys...this is a long shot but could be a ton of fun!
  8. Last but not least, continue to have a good time.  Because, if I am not having fun, then there is no point in making pillows!  
My goals are not too lofty and I tried to make them attainable.  I am sure I will adjust and add new goals as the year goes on.  But, it is important to have at least something to work towards.  I do hope you enjoyed reading about my journey in 2011.  I hope that 2012 will bring some interesting pillows and stories for this blog.  I also hope that 2012 will bring all of you joy and happiness.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Free Tooth Fairy Pillows: One Lucky "Like" Will Win!

Okay, here is the contest!  I will be giving out two tooth fairy pillows today.  One for a boy and one for a girl.  If you would like to win, all you have to is click on 715 Pillows on Facebook and do the following:

  1. If you have not already "liked" the page, then like it!
  2. Post a comment under the post.  I will need to know if you want to win a girl (pink flannel fairies) or boy pillow (gray, black, green, orange dinos.)
  3. Let me know your favorite tooth fairy tradition.  That way I can steal some ideas when Mimi starts losing her teeth.
  4. The contest will close around 9:00 ish tonight.  This will be a short contest so I can ship the pillows to the winner before Christmas.  These make good stocking stuffers!!!  
Good luck to you all.  The winner will be chosen at random.  

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Christmastime in Detroit

Sometime I am a little down on Detroit.  I have lived in Michigan my whole life and talk about leaving...a lot.  But I never do.  Instead, I have lived in New Baltimore, Macomb Township, Allendale, East Lansing, Royal Oak, Birmingham, and Berkley.  I think I have settled on southeast Oakland County and must face the reality that living in Washington DC, Boston, and New York were all nice dreams, but would never actually be home.  I like that Detroit can be gritty.  I like that it can have a bad reputation.  I like the I have a family history here that I can be proud of, including a grandfather who was one of Detroit's Mounted Police Officers.  How cool is that!!!!!  I also like that I know where to go to have fun.  Tonight reminded me of how much I love living here.
I found this online, on Facebook.  My grandpa is on kneeling,
on the far right.  
Right after Mimi was three, and Violet was still a little baby, I was looking for a place to have a Mimi ~ Mommy Night.  I was searching online and discovered the Edsel and Eleanor Ford House hosts a Christmas Story Time for two evenings in December.  Tonight was our third year in attendance.  We were ushered into the Ford House Gallery and all the children sat on the floor while Mr. Terry reads, "The Night Before Christmas."  This year, Mimi listened while Violet was announcing to the entire room that she had an itch on her foot.  This was an insatiable itch that kept travelling from foot to foot.  Shoes kept coming off and she just could not stop talking about the itch.  At the end of the story, who should appear out of the chimney?  Santa Claus himself.  This year, all the kids got to get their pictures taken with Santa Claus.  Right away, Mimi was determined not to sit on his lap and not to talk.  Which is fine because as Mimi says, "Santa has really big ears and he can hear from far away what I want."  Violet on the other hand was jumping up and down saying, "I am so excited to see Santa.  I am going to show him the puppy on my shirt.  I am going to tell him I want a baby elephant, books, and a dollhouse."  Well, when it was finally our turn to see the big guy, Mimi was true to her word and Violet froze....for a moment.  All of a sudden she points to her shirt and showed him her puppy.  Then in speed talker mode she says, "I want a baby elephant, books, and a dollhouse."  It was pretty cute.  Santa, then invited ME to sit on his lap and the girls gathered around and we got our picture taken.  It was very fun.  

"Mimi!  I have an itch on my foot!"

Ho Ho Ho!!!!

Pretty tree in the Ford House

Yes, I am the only one who looks happy in this photo.
But, I can guarantee we all had a good time. 
On the way home we drove around Grosse Pointe while the girls oohhed and aahhed over all the Christmas lights.  Violet loved seeing all the "castles" decorated.  It was a happy night.  But then again, how could it not be when you are celebrating the season with the ones you love.  

Each year, we kick off the Christmas season by seeing Santa at the Henry Ford Museum, we hear a story at the Edsel and Eleanor Ford House, we Stroll through the (Anna Scripps Whitcomb) Conservatory on Belle Isle, and ring in the New Year at Pizza Papalis and Campus Martius Park (we are also home by about 8:30 pm.)  We take in all Detroit has to offer, we appreciate what we have, and don't dwell on what we don't have, like light rail transit.  It is nice to take a look back in December and say, hey, we ended 2010 the exact same way as we will we end 2011;  happy! 

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Craft Show One: Success!

Well, I did it!!!!  I was an official vendor at the Candy Cane Lane Craft Show in Berkley.  Surprisingly, I was not at all worried on Friday night and slept like a baby.  When the alarm when off at 6am, I seriously laid there for a moment thinking, "Why is the alarm going off?"  Then reality hit and I jumped out of bed to pick out my outfit.  So many choices...  Do I wear my candy cane sweatshirt?  How about my snowman earrings?  Maybe my reindeer sweater?  Well, I am one of the least festive people you will ever meet.  I wore jeans, a beige long sleeve t-shirt, and a black sweater.  Upon entering the craft show, I realized my attire was bordering funeral attire rather than holiday craft show.  But hey, I have never been much of a conformer.  So, how did the craft show go, you ask?  Did I meet my goals?  Well, yes and no!

If you recall, on Friday I published my goal setting post in which I outlined what I wanted to achieve as a vendor.  After I published the post, many hours after I published my post, I decided to google the Candy Cane Lane Craft Fair.  Before setting goals, it is usually wise to research your show.  I learned last night that Candy Cane Lane is a small show.  The fact that I did not see it advertised in any local papers should have been a tip.  Then, I saw online that it was described as small.  I started to wonder, hmmm, will I actually sell thirty pillows.  When I arrived to set up, my neighbor said to me, "I heard this is a very slow show.  At least I have my iphone to keep me busy."  Hmmm... at least I have my "Paris Wife" book to keep me busy.  But, I was not going to let that squash me.  I was PUMPED!!!!  

Entrance to the Community Center!
Setting up was fun and exciting.  I had mocked up my display in my basement and then labeled bags of pillows according to display or extras.  I had to get on the floor a bit, do a little rearranging, but voila, a display was born!  No hiccups at all.  My only challenge was keeping Mimi's and Violet's sweet little hands out of the Hershey Kisses!  

Kevin, you are annoying me!

We are ready to sell some pillows!

View from my table!

My "desk" as Mimi called it.  Yes, I need a calculator
The clock strikes 10:00 a.m. and I realize people don't have the same excitement for this craft show as they do for Walmart Black Friday sales.  No one was pepper sprayed or maimed trying to get to my pillows.  It was more like a slow trickle.  I was feeling a little lonely.  But, I guess social media works a bit because eventually, friends and family made their way to the show to check out 715 Pillows!  My in-laws, some really good friends (I was wonderfully surprised to see a friend who does not even live near Berkley,) and some neighbors.  I got caught up on some local gossip, had more than a few laughs, and yes (!), I sold a few pillows.  I sold four 16 x 16 pillows and 8 tooth fairy pillows.  I got one new "like" on Facebook and some positive feedback for customers.  One woman told me I was an excellent seamstress and had "the sewing gene."  I had to fess up and tell her I was a beginner and she was a little shocked and told me I definitely have "the sewing gene."  That made me smile, real big!  I got a lot of questions about the name of my "company."  Many people thought 715 was my address.  Nope!  I kept telling people, it was the day I got laid off and started my new job -- sewing.  Need a refresher, check out "The Anti-Crafter Crafts?"  Then there were the folks who would stand right in front of me and not respond when I smiled and said, hello.  You know how at Jimmy John's smells are free.  Well, at 715 Pillows smiles are free.  Reciprocate people.  Would it kill you to smile???  That is my only complaint.  There it is out there and now I am done complaining.  

My little helpers popped in and out throughout the day.
A customer!!!!
Packing up!
My beloved car, "Red", and many beloved pillows heading home!
 I feel like had it been a larger show, I might have sold more pillows.  Therefore, I am going to do more shows.  But, I am going to try to get into some bigger show.  And, I am going to bring lots and lots of tooth fairy pillows.  They were pretty popular.  I learned what I can do better the next time.  Such as:
  1. Sell pillow covers and sell some inserts for those who want them.   
  2. Don't buy so many Hersey Kisses.  (I think I now need to make some of those cookies with the kisses in the middle.)
  3. Do more research on the actually show, demographics, etc.
  4. Make sure I have an awesome variety of tooth fairy pillows, and look into making other types of kids' pillows.  
Overall, it was fun!  I saw some really nice people that I already knew.  I met some really nice strangers, like Scrappy Sue who makes really nice flower pins.  There are more pillows, more designs, more buyers, and more fun to be had.  Plus, I have 44 fans on Facebook and I need to get to 715 (just click here), right?  Right!  Thanks to all of you who have believe it me.  

Friday, December 9, 2011

Goal Setting for the Candy Cane Lane Craft Show!

It is always good to have a great expectations and goals.  It is just as important to be realistic.  Since tomorrow is the big day, I thought it might be a good idea to figure out what exactly I wish to achieve.  In case you have forgotten, I am referring to the Candy Cane Lane Craft Show in Berkley, MI.  Here is the flyer in case you need a refresher.

As this is my first craft show I have spent a lot of time preparing.  I did not invest a ton of money into my booth in case I don't enjoy myself, people are mean to me and hate my pillows.    But seriously, I don't want to waste money.  Remember, I was laid off!  I will be bringing 84 pillows to the craft show.  They range from 16 x 16, 12 x 17, and tooth fairy pillows.  I have patterns that will appeal to women, men, and children!  Oh, and I have candy!!!!  That's right, folks, three bags of Hershey's Kisses.  Who doesn't like a kiss with their pillow.  And the kisses, well chocolate kisses, are free.

Okay, time for my goals.
  1. Sell pillows!  Like I said, I will be bringing 84 pillows.  While it would be nice to say I won't be bringing any of them home, I think selling maybe 30 pillows would be realistic.  
  2. Increase traffic to my Facebook Page.  Right now I am at 43 likes on Facebook.  I think it would be exciting to get that number up to 60.  Come on people...I know you like me.  I do have another contest in the works.  So, you have to like me.  Plus, I am not going to make you write a poem or a song this time.  
  3. Increase traffic/followers to my blog.  The past few days, lots and lots of people have been reading which is wonderful!  I would love to see that grow some more.  But, readership is only going to be as good as my posts.  So, I will keep writing and trying to make it interesting as long as you keep reading.  Deal?
  4. Have fun, lots and lots of fun.  Fortunately, I am pretty good at having a good time.  
So, if you are in the Berkley area, stop by.  Even if you are not super close, Berkley is a centrally located city, just minutes from 696.  Berkley is sandwiched between Ferndale, Royal Oak, and Birmingham so make a day out it and see the sights along Woodward Ave.  You'll be happy you did ~ plus, if you say "hi" to me I will give you a kiss.  Okay, a chocolate kiss.   

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Shipping: I am Confused and Need Advice

It is probably not a surprise to most of you that generally, I live in the dark ages.  I watch very little TV, I know very few new songs, my clothes are less than hip (expecting my Mad Men dresses), and I do not have a smart phone.  Also, the number of times I have searched on e-bay can be counted on my left hand and I have never looked at Craig's list.  All my old stuff gets loaded up into the trunk of my clown car and off to the Salvation Army we go.  Also, and since I see my brother, sister-in-law, and niece on a regular basis, there is never a need to ship gifts out of state.  Anyone see where this is going?  I need shipping help and I need it soon!

Here is a list of my issues (some may be somewhat solved)

  1. Pillows are not heavy, but they are bulky.  So, if I send four pillows or one pillow makes little difference because they weigh practically nothing.  That is part of the reason why about 90% of my pillow products in the future are going to be covers!  Put them in a large envelope and mail.  
  2. Packaging!  What to do?  For my first order, I took the little owl pillow over to UPS and asked for advice.  They packed it up and it cost a lot of money.  Yeah, that is not the way to go.  Second order, I packaged the pillows, all five of them in a large box and shipped them from the UPS store.  The cost was right around $11.  Then, I had two orders this week.  The post office cost me $11.65 for "If it fits, it ships."  Fed Ex charged $13.33 for an envelope and shipping. 
So, for those of you who sell thing on e-bay, Craig's List, ship lots of gift to friends and family; how do you do it?  Seriously!!!  I need some best practices because the trial and error method is not really the best way to go about this.

So, if you know how to ship and have some pointers, please share with me.  You can leave comments on this page, or my Facebook page, or e-mail me at  You don't even have to be a follower on this page to leave a comment.  Seriously, I need help.  Please help me though this confusing maze of the shipping world.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

The Art of the Craft Fair

So I will admit it:  I don't think I ever gave crafters a fair amount of credit.  Now, I never discredited crafters, I just never gave their vocation much thought.  It is a lot of work not only to make something but also to display it, transport it, and sell it.  Well, since my friends and family members are not craft show vendors, I am kind of on my own this time.  However, friends and family members have volunteered some great ideas and wonderful support.

I am officially done sewing.  I have sewed more pillows than I even want to count.  Fortunately, I am pleased with how they have turned out.  What have I learned?  I have learned that I don't like working with knits.  I have also learned that stuffed pillows are not the way to go.  There is a reason why the majority of the pillows sold on Etsy are covers, not complete pillows.  Therefore, the next round of pillows I make for Etsy and craft shows will be covers!!!  Now I just need to learn how to make them.  Oh Mommy, I need your help.....

I mocked up my display on a table in the basement.  I think it will work.  I think I look like a rookie, but it is a nice clean display.  If this craft show is a bit of a success, then I will invest a little more money into my display.  Right now, I am going to have one of each pillow on the table with the extras stored away.  However, all the tooth fairy pillows will be thrown into a big basket.

So, I think I am in good shape!  I am going to go over my list again, and again, and again.  There are still of few things that need to be checked off.  As for writing this blog, I need to sign off because my husband is starting to prime our office and he has the fan on supersonic speed.  My digits are so cold, typing has become painful.  I will be back with an update on my progress on Friday...

P.S.  Here is the flyer for the craft show in case you missed the details...

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Tooth Fairy Pillows: How the Legends of Santa Claus and the Tooth Fairy Collided at my House!

Most of us are born with the same number of parts.  We all have one nose, two eyes, two ears, ten get the point.  However, the general rule is that we keep our body parts for our entire lives.  This rule does not apply to our teeth.  As is the fashion, around the time when children celebrate their beloved fifth birthday, they also start to lose their baby teeth.  As you can imagine or perhaps still remember from your own experience, the thought of losing a tooth can be fairly traumatic.  I think that is why the tooth fairy was invented.

About two years ago my daughter started asking me questions about her teeth.  She was starting to notice the big kids in the neighborhood losing their own teeth.  I tried to explain that baby teeth need to fall out so that the permanent teeth can grow in.  She asked lots of questions and I gave lots of answers.  We talked about the tooth fairy and everything seemed okay.  Well, my husband comes home from work and Mimi runs into his arms, crying, and sobs the following words, "Oh Daddy!  Mommy told me all my teeth are going to fall out when I turn five!  I am not going to have any teeth!  Oh Daddy!"  Seriously!!!  So my husband walks into the kitchen and very seriously says to me, "Did you actually tell Mimi that all of her teeth are going to fall out?"  Are you kidding me????  A child's mind and thought patterns are very curious things.  Again, this is why the tooth fairy was invented.

Shameless plug!  Please come!
As you all know, my craft show is coming upon us.  The big day is December 10th.  I have been sewing lots and lots of pillows.  Quite frankly, I don't think I have done enough but I still have a few more days to get a few done.  Ahhhh!!!!  My craft is pillows.  Throw pillows to be exact.  I have colorful pillows, muted pillows, kid pillows, sophisticated pillows, traditional pillows, large pillows, and small pillows.  But in my mind, I was missing one important kind of pillows:  fun pillows.
When I first started on the venture, I was talking to my friend, Jill, who said, "Have you thought about tooth fairy pillows?"  This is funny because I think she and I often share the same brain and I had just thought of doing tooth fairy pillows.  But, this was when 715 Pillows was in it's infancy and it was just that, a thought.  We both reminisced about our childhood and our cloth pillows with little pouches to hold our teeth for the tooth fairy.  My tooth fairy often left a couple quarters, a note, and either a roll of Lifesavers or a pack of Bubble Yum.  I am guessing my dentist would not have approved.  My mom made my pillow.  It was made of yellow flannel with a small flower print.  I loved it.  So, last week, I started making a lot of little pillows and a lot of little pouches.  At the beginning, this was an arduous task as I did not have a pattern.  I did quite at bit of experimenting and I did discovered that knit fabric is NOT my friend.  These pillows are fun and one of a kind.  Plus, they are cheap.  I am going to sell them for $8 at my craft show.  A nice little gift for a nice little person without spending a nice fortune.  After the craft show, I am going to make something like a gazillion of these things for my Etsy store - that is if they get a good response on the 10th.

Basket of Tooth Fairy pillows for girls and boys!

The pillow fits right into the palm of my husbands hand!
While making these, my daughters, especially Violet, started asking lots of questions.  Mimi just wants a tooth fairy pillow, real bad.  She also really would like to lose a tooth.  Violet would like to meet the Tooth Fairy.  "Is the Tooth Fairy coming to my house tonight?  I am going to wait up for the Tooth Fairy tonight!  What if the tooth fairy comes when Santa is here and she gets scared?  The Tooth Fairy is scared of Santa!  She is going to leave me chocolate coins - she did in Silverlicious."  Most of all we talked about Santa and Tooth Fairy bumping into each other, scarring one other, getting into each others way, where she lives, and all sorts of other scenarios.  Either way, both of my girls want Tooth Fairy pillows and they want good ones.

Like most many stories about fairies, and the tooth fairy is no different, were written out of whimsy to delight children and adults.  It is nice to think of little fairies who live in the forest, under toad stools, in the alley at the New Baltimore Historical Museum (yes, we look for them all summer when we attend, "Books in the Barn"), and in fairy doors.  Fairies can be mischievous and good natured just like their human counterparts.  But, fairies can fly and perform magic.  Fairies make us happy.  And for a child who has teeth falling out of their head, isn't it nice to know that a little fairy is going to fly into your room, gather your teeth and leave you a little gift while you are sleeping?  I think this sounds wonderful.  After all, it was little fairies who visited my house whenever I was feeling down, had a bad day, and was picked on in school.  Sometimes it was a note, sometimes it was a warm plate of peanut butter cookies.  So go ahead parents, childhood is the time to indulge the imagination.  Your kids will thank you for it someday!  I promise - thanks Mom and Dad for indulging me and letting me believe in the unbelievable.