Sunday, February 26, 2012

Yikes! I Have Encountered My First Dissatisfied Customer!

Worry dolls from Guatemala.  
School, work, and life in general has always stressed me out.  When I was a kid, my parents bought me a set of worry dolls.  I got a small wood box with about six small dolls inside.  Supposedly, if I put a doll for each worry under my pillow, when I woke about in the morning the worry would be gone.  These worry dolls did not work for a couple reasons:  1.  Six dolls did not cover all my worries.  2.  New worries surfaced by the minute.  At night, I would have nightmares over math.  I could not stop the math problems in my head and it did not help that the answer was always wrong.  I have always wanted to succeed at work, but I am human and screwed up from time to time.  Once, when I was working for Congressman Bonior, I answered the phone and it was Dick Gephardt, the House Majority Leader on the other end.  I was so nervous that it was the Majority Leader on the phone that when I put the receiver down to tell Congressman Bonior he had a call, I forgot to press the hold button.  Fortunately, everyone had a few laughs and it was no big deal.  But, I initially thought I was going to have a heart attack at the age of 22.  My personal life has been known to have messy streaks -- I can embarrass and make a fool of myself daily.  This can be endearing to some and annoying to others.  This is just who I am.  When Mimi was born, I decided to quit my full-time job to full-time job to become a stay-at-home mom.  I have had some part time jobs in the past five years to keep my brain fresh.  But since leaving the full-time workforce, my stress level has decreased in many ways.  I sleep a little bit better and I am a lot happier.  But, then, this pillow thing started.

While I have to say it has been fun and exciting trying to get this pillow experiment off the ground, it has also been stressful. I am kind of putting myself out there.  I write this blog to share my experiences with the entire cyber world, literally.  I sew pillows.  I make something.  I want people to like what I make.  I don't have thick skin.  So here is where today's story starts...

My rejected pillow!  Sadness : (
I got an order for a pillow right around Valentine's Day.  As usual, I am thrilled with any and all orders, and I immediately shipped the pillow.  It arrived to the buyer on February 17th.  We left for vacation on the February 20th.  By the time we left, I figured that since I have not heard anything, everyone was satisfied.  Yes, I am nervous every single time I ship an order.  I did not check my e-mail until a rainy morning on February 23rd.  Yikes!  The buyer sent me a message on February 22nd that she did not like the size of the pillow, that the hand-sewn seam did not meet her expectations, and that she wanted a full refund.  I was a little shocked because I give the pillows a good inspection and everything was in good shape when shipped.  Of course, I told her I would give her a refund when I got the pillow back.  I also offered her 20% off of a future order.  I really want to make things right.  I also worried and stewed over this for a couple days.  When I received the pillow back at home yesterday, the bag was split open and the pillow was a bit dirty.  This worries me -- was the bag also split when she received the pillow?  The seam looked like it got caught on something and was cut.  Did this happen in shipping?  In use?  I guess I'll never know.  But, I do need to take another look into shipping options to ensure that pillows I mail out to customers arrive in the same condition as when they leave my home.  Issues may occur in shipping, but I want to minimize the frequency of those issues.  This was my first return and it sucks!!!  I tried to make myself feel better thinking about all the things I order online that either did not fit or I did not like.  It happens.  That is life.   And, when I think about the fact that I have sold about 40 pillows and have received only one complaint, I feel quite a bit better.  

I am really hoping this is not regularly occurring in the shipping process.
Once I finish my transition to sewing pillow covers (and selling them with or without the pillow inserts), I won't have to worry about hand-sewn seams since all seams will be sewn with the help of my sewing machine.  But, I am sure I will find something else to worry about.  :)  Yes, I am always an optimist.  And, guess what?  I have almost perfected sewing pillow covers.  I am really excited to start using my new fancy fabrics instead of testing scraps.  There are always fun and exciting things on the horizon.  Personal taste and style may not always be a fit for what I sew.  I am human and I sometimes mess up; but, I am optimistic that selling pillow covers will be better for both me and 715 Pillows' customers.  This customer reminded me that there is always room for improvement, and there will most likely be another time to say "I am sorry." 

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Research and Development: Halted Due to a Plague!

Back in January, I had a posted a post that boasted my plans for research and development.  I posted this on January 22nd.  I believe somewhere around January 23rd my children started to cough, their noses started to run, and I was preparing to meet my husband in Las Vegas for a weekend getaway.  Well, as luck would have it, the week that Kevin was gone and I was planning sewing in the wee hours of the morning, my children felt too icky to sleep.  Who can blame them?  A persistent cough will keep any human awake.  Needless to say, I did not sew that week.  Sewing with interruptions at fifteen minute intervals and sleep deprivation is not worth doing.  I once tried to sew after drinking one glass of wine - just one glass - and failed miserably.  We may have been fairly healthy from September to the beginning of January but don't worry, we have paid for it the past couple weeks.

All of this fabulous fabric is in my house uncut and unused.  So sad! 
However, the week after mid-winter break is a new week.  

We are used to various plagues in our house.  Head colds, ear infections, stomach bugs, pink eye, Hand, Foot, and Mouth Disease, Fifth's Disease, well you get the idea.  We get sick a lot!  We rack up huge medical bills with co-pays and prescriptions.  We usually exhaust our Flexible Medical Spending account by April.  Jealous?  Didn't think so.  Anyway, the day before I flew to Vegas, I took the girls in to get their cough checked out.  When I came home, I had to take Violet to the doctor for an ear infection.  Probably isn't much of a surprise, Kevin and I have been suffering from cold for about two weeks now.  We think the cold is going away and BAM, it comes back!  Yeah, yeah, woe is me!

I guess the good think about being self employed is that when the plague does attack our home without plans to vacate, I have the option to lay low a bit.  However, by taking this option I also opt out of not getting paid.  Luckily, I  have sold about seven pillows since the beginning on the year.  But, I was kind of hoping to have done more research on craft shows, learn how to make pillowcase dresses, make my bag, and have completed lots and lots of pillow covers.

Here is what I have done:  I have bought a rotary cutter and mat, I have experimented with cutting on the mat, and continuing my quest to learn how to make pillow covers.  My pillow covers are improving.  I need to order a 16 x 16 insert, I think the envelope closures need to be centered in the back, and a button might be a nice touch.  Still a ways away from selling covers but getting closer.

Trying to get a clean line on the edge of the fabric.
Front of the pillow cover made with the rotary cutter and mat.
Back of the pillow made with the rotary cutter and mat.
To sum up:  I am still hanging around and sewing a little bit.  If you were expecting a spring fashion show of pillowcase dresses, I am fearful of meeting an Easter deadline - could happen, but give me about two weeks to know for sure.  Also, I am not giving up on 715 Pillows - head colds can't last forever!

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Creating a Mimi-Me: Changing the World One Sewing Machine at a Time!

I basically understand how genetics work.  I understand how traits are passed down from generation to generation.  I also love the theory of nature versus nurture.  I love watching my own children physically change along side their personalities.  My kids are not mini-mes of me.  Mimi is tall, slender, small boned, with straight hair.  Violet (currently) has straight blond hair which used to be curly, is tall, and  is built more like me - meaning we are a built more like German peasants.  Violet, like her mom, will be a fantastic kick boxer someday.   Given that they do have some rights to privacy, I am not going to divulge all the secrets to their personality, but Mimi is a heck of a lot like her mom.  She has inherited personality traits from me that are just plain spooky!

Violet when she still had curly hair!
Mimi hanging out with the tulips!

When I started sewing, my girls were really excited, particularly Mimi.  They still really enjoy watching me sew and really want me to sew them their pillowcase dresses.  Mimi, my crafty girl, wants to learn how to sew.  Her career aspirations are to work with me forever making pillows.  Well, if we are going to make this a true family business then I guess I need to teach Mimi how to sew.  Mimi is five and I had been thinking that sometime next year would be a good time to teach her some of the sewing basics.  Yesterday, I got the perfect gift and perfect bargain, for a perfectly wonderful future six year old.  (Her birthday is in November so this gift will be hiding in my closet for a long time!)

Pretty much everyone who knows me knows I love a good bargain.  Not only do I love a good bargain, I am really good at finding good bargains.  Since last year's famous trip to Boston, I had been coveting the Mad Men line of dresses and Banana Republic.  With my laid off status, there was no way I was spending $150 on a dress.  But, I waited and I waited and I now have two of them and spent a total of $33 on both.  715 Awesome Shopping Deals, anyone?  Back to the point of this post; Mimi and sewing.  Earlier this week, my mom gave me a $5 coupon to Kohls and I also had a 15% off coupon.  I needed a couple things so I packed up the girls on Friday to do a little shopping.

Good behavior at a store is always rewarded with trip to the toy department, not to buy, but to look.  Yes, I am a mean mom.  While "looking" I found a shelf with toys marked 60% off.  Then my eyes met a glorious box that screamed, "Figure out a way to buy me without Mimi seeing me."  That's right, I found a small sewing machine for ages 6 and up.  It was originally $40 marked down to about $11 and I got it for $7.  Holy smokes!!!!  She is going to be one excited six year old.  It is small for small hands, it is portable, and it actually sews.  How cool is that?!!?!?!  I got a hand held basket, placed the sewing machine in, and stuffed coats on top.  When it was time to pay, the girls were send over to the Kohls Cares for Kids display.  Success!  Mimi never saw the machine!

Every so often, I get gift giving right.  I think this is one of those moments. 
Mimi and I are similar and different in many ways.  I would never expect her to like everything I like.  She is much more of a girly girl than I every have been.  I like to get dirty and play in mud.  Mimi prefers to be clean.  No problem.  But, we both want to learn how to sew.  We can share this desire to learn with each other, and with my mom because as I have said before, she is a sewing guru.  Even if Mimi does not become a life long sewer seamstress, sewing will help her learn many skills such as: math, measuring, exactness, creativity, and how to hang out with mom.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Mother Knows Best!

Right now, my two little girls are very much enthralled with the movie "Tangled."  There is action, adventure, long hair, and a little love.  Rapunzel is not a dippy princess looking for Prince Charming, but an inquisitive girl locked in a tower by a "mean mommy" who only wants to see the floating lights.  It has a snappy soundtrack and a catchy little ditty called, "Mother Knows Best."  This is a link to the song - I am warning you it will be in your head, FOREVER!!!!  My kids love this song and sing it to me a lot when we are eating breakfast.  I don't think they have quite absorbed that the lyrics are kind of mean as the song is sung by the "mean mommy."  But, who am I to argue when my kids tell me that I know best, right?  Well, in a lot of ways mothers really do know best and my mother knows best when it comes to sewing.

"Tangled" fans!  
For about a month or so, I have been less than productive when it comes to working the old sewing machine.  I took some time off around in December.  Then January hit with along with cold season, a small Vegas vacation, and productivity went down, again.  I bought lots of materials and had good intentions but then I started reading directions and decided that my congested head just was not up to the challenge.

This week, I was feeling healthier and sleep schedules started to return to normal.  I broke out the sewing once again.  My mom is going to come over and give me another sewing lesson sometime very soon.  But, I wanted to see if I could figure something out on my own.

I broke out the directions on how to make an envelope pillow which were written in a sewing language I don't understand.  Directions are also written in French but lets face it, I never performed all that well in my French classes.  So, I gave the directions to Kevin.  Kevin kind of understood and we decided to forget the directions.  I cut out the big square for the front and two halves for the back, envelope.  My measuring was a little off - my mom always tells me that if it is off I should start over again.  Yeah, I did not follow those directions. (Mother knows best!)  In the end, my "envelope" opening should have been a little wider and my insert smaller.  I ordered a 17 x 17 insert so that the pillow would be fuller.  Here are the pictures:  

Not bad from the front...

...back needs some tweaking.
I am actually pleased that I did this on my own, with little help.  I think that once I get the measurements down, these pillow covers will look pretty good.  Now, I need to get my mom over to give me advice on all the other projects that I want to do in the next month.  I need advice on supplies, materials, how to, and even tweaking these pillows if I don't get to it before she gives me my lesson.

The moral of this little post: if at first you don't succeed, try again.  So, I will be trying again.  Tonight!