I've moved - check out my new home @ nisseworks.com.


Changing the address

I finally took the plunge tonight and moved all the posts on this website onto my new one - nisseworks.com. And it was much less painful than I expected... I was convinced posts would go missing, photos would end up bungled or I would break the internet somehow.

But it all went smoothly. Yay!

And from now on, that's my new home. So change bookmarks, redirect links, do whatever you have to.

See you there :)


On the move

Within the next week, this blog will be moving to it's new home - nisseworks.com. I will try to keep this as painless - for everyone - as possible. I will keep this blog running for as long as I'm moving posts & comments, but in the new year, it will no longer be my home.

I'm starting a new venture - a shop. My own shop. I will list pieces and products there that aren't available in my ArtFire and Cargoh shops. I need a home for the stationery/design work I'm creating and this seemed like the best solution. I'll probably list a few special pieces, too, like handmade felt toys and such... it's also where I hope to showcase my custom work.

Things are going in a very different - but happily different - direction than I had planned when I started this little handmade adventure earlier this year. I know where I want to end up and the path I was on was not going to help me get there. I'm happy I've made the decisions I have and hope that things keep progressing. Even if it's at a snail's pace.

(and yes, I did mention this previously. this time, it's a definite go.)


Customized creations

This is how my head feels today. Ugh.
I'm sick - again, 3 time in 6 weeks - but thanks to my iPod Touch, I can keep on top of emails and read some pretty fantastic blogs (scoutiegirl - seriously wonderful. Same with design*sponge).

And it's a good thing I can check my emails from under a pile of blankets on the couch. I sold this wallet a few weeks back to a customer in Austin, TX. It was one of my favourites to do - I love the argyle print on this oh-so-soft material and business card holders are a must-have in my life. I've gone through 4 since I started carrying my own earlier this year (3 were 'just because'; 1 ended up being a victim of spilled apple juice in my purse).

This morning, I had an email from the wallet's buyer to do a custom order. This will be the first custom order I've had from someone that I isn't a friend; this will also bring the number of custom orders I've had since mid-August to 6.

I've been very interested in doing custom orders since I started doing this earlier this year. I've tried to research exactly how to do it, how to promote the availability of doing custom work, and the only thing I can come up with is to just say I'll do it. Make sure it's mentioned somewhere, everywhere, I can. Especially with the holidays coming up, custom work should be in demand. Handmade should equal custom; custom should equal one-of-a-kind. And who doesn't want one-of-a-kind pieces? Individuality is a good thing :)

So here's my first official statement & promotion: I do custom work. I can't sew a wedding dress, but if you take a look at one of my shops - ArtFire or Cargoh - or my Facebook page, there may be something that strikes your fancy (even poke around on this blog - I've posted some things I've done for Maddy that might be of interest). I will be totally honest and upfront about what materials I have access to and time frames for completion.

If you would like some info on custom orders, just email me: nisse.works{at}gmail{dot}com. I'll try to get a more 'official' posting up this week for custom orders and what I can offer.


More frugality

I've been looking for leather to use for various projects for months now. Buying leather wholesale is just way too expensive - and the only choices I can find for sizes is either small (8x11") or HUGE (a whole hide). So I've been on the lookout for a decent leather jacket that I could use to make handles and possibly even bags with.  Every time I go to the second-hand shops in town, I've found jackets that were ok, but not great. I wanted something that had been taken care of, not scratched and tattered beyond use.

I've been finding a lot of unique and quite useful pieces at our local MCC Thrift Store.  This jacket was one of them. It's in incredibly good shape, with a couple of small tears along seams and worn bits here and there, but it's a decent size and is such a lovely, rich reddish-brown that I couldn't turn it down.

The $8 price tag didn't hurt, either.

The extra-wonderful bonus to this jacket is the lining - it's got a zip-in vest lining, made with 100% wool felt and polyester, both of which are in incredible shape. I'm really excited about the possibilities that this piece can bring to my work.

I may even have time in the next couple of days to start taking it apart to get working on making handles and such soon... glee!


Changing it up

There's a very unmistakable chill in the air these days... yes, fall is here, but around here, it also means winter is right on it's heels. There's frost on the car's windshield this morning and the furnace has been on since yesterday.

I still haven't tidied up my gardens and don't know if I'll be able to do the full-on tear-up-and-roto-til I wanted to this year. We've got a fair bit of compost and a lot of leaves in the yard, all perfect for a winter mulch, but ever since I went off my thyroid meds last week, I've got no energy to do anything physical. The good news is I get to go back on my meds in 3 weeks, right after my second (in 10 months) radioisotopes scan... hopefully I'll get some of that energy back and the snow stays away for me to get the much-needed yardwork done.

October 1 was a big turning point in my business. I closed my Etsy shop and opened my ArtFire shop. I'm staying away from reading forums of any kind, as much as possible. I can't deal with the overall negativity they breed and I really don't have time to waste on them, anyway. I have much more important things to do, like build up connections and network with other crafty/handmade folks.

I made a 3-month to-do list last night and was kind of surprised at how little I've got on it. There's the usual 'make stuff, sell stuff' on it, but beyond that... I didn't include anything extremely challenging or too far out of the ordinary. I don't know if that's a good thing or not. I'm sure challenges will pop up along the way, but have I purposely put any in place? I don't think so. I may have to rectify that.


Close door, open windows

ArtFire - Buy Handmade - Sell Handmade

I closed my Etsy shop this morning and moved most of my pieces over to ArtFire. I'll be listing a few bags from Etsy in my Cargoh shop later, too.

I'm feeling good about this. Within the month, I'll hopefully have my shop open on my soon-to-be new website, and with the move to ArtFire and more focus on Cargoh, things are looking up.

Or, at least, I'm saying they are. A little positivity can't hurt, right?


A rose by any other name

I've had this purse sitting in my bag o'things to finish for probably 2 months now. It's the same basic design as this purse in my Cargoh shop (and will be listed for the same price later today... hopefully) but in keeping with putting different finishing touches on this line of purses, I had no idea what I was going to do to make this one 'special'.

Wow, that's a long, awkward sentence.

Anyhoo, I didn't want to just slap something on and be done with it. So I figured, why not try to do something that goes with the interior? The lining is a very unique floral print, mostly abstract (or what I call abstract) but not easy to replicate. The flowers in the print are roses and I've been thinking about trying my hand at making fabric flowers for a few weeks now... perfect opportunity, right?

Wrong. Oh, looking at it, it looks like it's a very rough rose, kinda tattered, unique. Pick it up and it falls apart. Maddy took it apart once all by herself. I tried to stitch it together as I went (the second time) but it just wouldn't work for me. I know there are people who can do this, no problem... I can't. I don't know why, it may be the size of my hands (they're fairly big) or not being able to comprehend how to hold the piece properly so I could sew it together... it just didn't work.

So I decided to try felt. I've been working with felt a lot more lately - mostly as appliqués on the pouches I've been making - and feel really comfortable using it.
I think it looks great. The colour of the photograph doesn't do it justice - it was taken at a weird time in the morning where I couldn't get good light anywhere... but compared to the first flower, a vast improvement.

That's not to say I won't try fabric flowers again. I will, but I'll have to work out a method to do it that I can work with. I do like the concept of a tattered, messy-looking flower for some of my pieces, but for the time being, I'll stick with felt.


Starting the week off right

Two things:

First, I was chosen as one of Cargoh's Things we love today.
More specifically, my tan cotton slim case was chosen. Thanks to the awesome folks at Cargoh for that :)

And today, I made this:
This is the best picture I could get before Maddy whisked it away. She's named him 'Lellow'... it's how she says 'yellow', which is the only colour she wanted him to be. He's (I think he's a 'he') made out of cotton, eco fi felt, and is filled with scrap fabric and polyfill batting. He's mostly handstitched, with the exception of the two pieces of cotton. I'm debating offering this up for custom order - would there be interest? Drop me a line in the comments if you are interested and if you have any other suggestions.

My Etsy shop stock is still 15% off until Thursday. As of Friday, that shop will close and I will move most of whatever remains (I'm hoping there won't be a lot) to ArtFire and Cargoh. Some of it I will remove from sale completely and make it available only via craft sales and possibly by special request. I'll try to make sure I post updates frequently. It's going to be a busy week with all the hubbub of closing the shop, stocking another, getting the website up, setting up a shop there...and it's still 90 or so days until Christmas. Yay.


Guide to the unknown

For years, I've usually worked whenever the local MCC Relief sale was taking place. I've heard about the wonderful pies and cookies and other delicious treats; the unique crafts and products available from Ten Thousand Villages there. This year, I finally made it.

And it's a good thing I did, too... I remember my mom having this book around a lot when I was younger, but she says she never actually owned it - she just borrowed it from the library a lot. I knew the second I saw it hidden on one of the tables that not only did I need it, I had to have it.

The sticker on the cover says $6. By the time we had reached the books, the prices had all been slashed in half.

I paid $3 for this book. Three dollars.

Do I think it was worth it?

Um, perhaps.

Yeah, I guess.

I have a small booklet outlining some of the same stitches that are in the one I picked up today, but not with the detailed instructions like the new one has.

I've been interested in learning new needlecrafts since I started doing more embroidery. Smocking is one of the techniques I've seen finished a thousand times; and it seems way easier than I thought. Like simple. I say that now, but wait until I actually try it and cry in frustration every five minutes.

 I really like the tips and tricks that are included for people like me, who have been clipping corners very badly for months now. A pin to keep from clipping the threads? Genius!

The book covers embroidery, needlepoint, knitting, appliqué, quilting, patchwork, macramé, crochet, rug-making and lacework; each section goes beyond just those, like the lace section...

Goes into tatting. Like smocking, tatting is one of those techniques I've seen and admired but never thought about how one would go about creating it. My mom apparently knows how to do tatting, something I never knew. Huh.

That's Maddy's hand, helpfully pointing something out. She likes my new book, too... she keeps crying whenever I take it away from her.

One of the things I'm most excited about in this book is the section on weaving. I know the basic weaving techniques - back and forth, over and under, etc, etc, etc - but I've never quite understood how different colours are introduced or how patterns are made. Now, apparently, I can find out.

I've been doing a lot of embroidery lately, and this book is going to hopefully help me expand on my stitch repertoire. I can see doing a sampler in the near future so I can at least try out the stitches and narrow down which ones are doable and which ones turn out looking like rat's nests.

Just a reminder that all stock in my shop is still 15% off.  Be sure to check it out if you're looking for early holiday gifts.


It's gotta go

This is the last week for my Etsy shop to have stock in it, so if you've had your eye on a piece, pick it up now. If you live in Brandon and would like to save yourself the shipping costs, drop me a line (same if you live in the surrounding 50kms or so).

Next Friday, I'll have a new shop to open and hopefully a new website to launch, as well as new stock in my Cargoh shop. Keep checking in to see what else I might be getting off the ground.

Fresh coat of paint

I've just redesigned my Twitter background to something a little less in-your-face (I hope). I'm not sure if it'll work with the new Twitter layout that's slowly coming out, but I like the geometric lines so much I'll probably use it somewhere else if it doesn't.


Rain, rain...

First day of fall and I could see my breath outside when I popped out a half hour ago - at 1pm - to take this photo. It's raining and cold and just ugh. We never really had a summer, but it looks like it might warm up this weekend to a whole 19˚C. Sad when we get all giddy over a high like that, but it's been a pretty ugly year in terms of weather around here, especially for the farmers. Too much rain, no warmth, late harvest, if any at all... ugly.

But onto happier news. Or somewhat happier... I'm still planning to close out my Etsy shop within the week. I've signed on to upgrade my ArtFire account and plan on listing some pieces in my very neglected Cargoh shop. And then there's the new website - nisseworks.com.

My website is being designed by my supertalented brother-in-law (his website's here). I've decided to include a 'shop' feature on my website. I've done a lot of research into e-commerce and shopping carts, trying to find one that a borderline web design Luddite, like myself, can use and not crash the entire internet. I checked out what a lot of the blogs I read use for their shop sections and read a lot of reviews, and have decided to go with Ecwid. One of the first things I noticed about Ecwid was that their website is easy to use - very straightforward, uncomplicated, something I could move around quite easily. And they're free and a lot of crafty-types use them, so win all the way.

I didn't expect to have to step out on my own so soon... I was hoping to spend a few years on Etsy, build up a customer base and then move onto my own site so I could control stock & orders. I'm not mad that I'm moving on so much sooner, I'm mad at how it happened. I'm more than a little scared at going out on my own, but I don't think that anyone would be cool, calm & collected if they were in my position. And really, the upcoming holiday season is the perfect time to launch something like this... fingers crossed, I end up being busy with orders & requests. Heck, I'll cross my toes, too, if it'll help :)


Making it up

This is my primary workspace, outside of my desk. It's our kitchen table, theoritically seats 4 when it's not covered in my sewing stuff and also isn't in our tiny war-time house kitchen. (We can't open the apartment-sized oven if someone's sitting at the table. That's how small our kitchen is.)

Yes, it's disorganized. Some would say mess. Others would say, 'Oh, wow. That's a disaster'. I seem to work best when my workspace looks like this. Can I find everything I need at the drop of a hat? Heck, no, but I can't do that when it's nice and tidy, so what's the difference.

I also clear everything off the table every 2 weeks to make bread. It's quite the challenge when you have no storage space, except under the table itself. That's something I'm going to have to rectify soon because there's a furnace vent that is on the verge of being covered and in a house with crap for insulation, we need all the vents to be as clear as possible.

But back to my work. That tote bag is the first piece I've made that wasn't done for a craft show in a month. And I love it. The lining, the duck cotton exterior, the eco-felt flower that I embroidered on the outside... it's the perfect tote for any occasion. I'm hoping to have it listed in my Cargoh shop by the end of the week. First, though, I need to build a light tent.

I've been trying to come up with designs for a few new pieces lately that (a) are within my skill range; and (b) within my price range. We've got some pretty amazing thrift shops here, as I've mentioned before, and there have been some pretty killer finds beyond the scarves I wrote about before.

Like these. Lovely pieces of soft corduroy, beautiful wools and whatever-the-blue-plaid-is (I think it's a cotton/wool blend)... I'm excited to be moving beyond cottons, especially into wools. I have a lot of it, all in suitweights and all in dark hues, but I'm trying to be as stingy with it as possible right now. It's too nice to just hack up for any project under the sun or cut for something I never intend to make. Right now, I've cut a few pieces to use in a iPod/iPhone sleeve design I've come up with.

Progress is being made. Decisions are being made. Pieces are being made. I want to have as much as I can in place for October 1 - what is essentially going to be the beginning of holiday shopping for me and my shops - but I don't want to be making things for the sake of making them to sell. Quality in my work - and workmanship - is something I need to focus on right now. And I think it'll show in the pieces I've got planned.


Closing the door

photo via sxc.hu
I've mentioned before that I wasn't happy about some things that go on with Etsy, specifically their treatment of the sellers themselves and the actual operation of the site in terms of ease of use.

Well, today, thanks to a glitch in the system, every seller who had been included in every treasury made had their full name displayed. Not just shop name - oh, no - their full theoretically-legal name.

Which goes against their own privacy policy.

There's going to be some pretty ugly results from this. There are a lot of unhappy sellers there now, and a lot have left, disgusted with a variety of issues.

I'm done. I am so done with Etsy. This wasn't just the straw that broke the camel's back; it's the one that buried it in the sand... much like the heads of Etsy's admins.

That said, for the next 24 hours - from 1:30pm CDT Monday, Sept 20 to 1:30pm  CDT Tuesday, Sept 21 - everything in my shop is 10% off. EVERYTHING. And because Etsy doesn't have the ability to adjust prices without going into every single item and change them, I'll refund the 10% at the PayPal checkout.

Happy shopping :)

(I'm still at Cargoh, though... and likely moving to ArtFire soon. Like by the end of the week.)


Frugal finds

Four scarves, $2.25 at the local MCC today. One wool, one hand-screened, one typical 70s design, one thin. The photo - with it's not-so-great lighting - doesn't do the colours justice.

As I mentioned on Twitter a few hours ago, I'm really getting into this 'being thrifty' business. I'm going to start looking at the second-hand/thrift/restores more and more now... there's no way I could ever hope to find anything like these scarves in a big box store, even at what might pass for a normal retail price. Even the small bundles of material I keep coming across are incredibly unique and totally worth more than their price (usually between 50¢ & $1).

I'm working on starting a few new lines of product in the coming weeks and I'm hoping to do one made completely out of material and fabrics I've found the thrifty way. I'm always intrigued when I come across a piece made of repurposed fabric, and I hope others are too.


Packing up

At some point in the next few weeks, I'll be moving this blog - and hopefully everything contained within - to my new website nisseworks.com. I've wanted to have everything - my blog, an online shop, portfolio - in one place for a while, and I managed to catch an awesome deal with Netfirms for hosting last week. I'm in the midst of doing some research on what will be the best shopping cart for what I plan to do (Ecwid's leading the pack so far, but the WordPress widget looks good too).

Once this blog has completely moved, there will be a post letting visitors know to head to the new site. I'm hoping it all goes smoothly and that eventually, I'll have an online shop that I can be proud of (I'll still keep my Cargoh shop, but my Etsy shop will be closing by Jan 1/11).

So, apologies in advance if something randomly goes missing or there's no blog here at all one day. I'll try to do this without messing everything up, but I'm a borderline Luddite when it comes to this type of thing.


On a quest

I'm trying to get back into the work groove as smoothly as possible - it's only 10:45 am and I've already made 9 loaves of bread (including 2 cinnamon & 1 raisin). Next on my list o'things to do today: organize myself for the next 3.5 months.

The holiday season is the prime money making time for crafters and artisans. I need to get in on that like there's no tomorrow. The question is, how to do that most effectively. I've been reading a lot of online articles and how-to's over the last week or so (when I wasn't embroidering or stuffing tiny pin cushions) about what the experts claim to be the 'best' methods. This business is still fairly new - not even a year old yet - and I feel like it's not quite at the point it should be at yet.

On one hand, I worry that things are never going to pick up and that I'll have to go find a 'real' job in the new year; on the other hand, I want to be a success, but don't want to sacrifice my goals and aims to please the market. I've heard and read so many times that in order to be a successful crafter/artisan (and I don't use those two titles interchangeably, but as a complementary pair), you have to produce what the people want. Well, that's fine and dandy, but what if it means changing what I do? Where does the creativity of the crafter/artisan come into play? Or is that the point where you say 'Am I doing this to make money or to be creative?'.

It's a fine line crafters and artisans tread... I know that if I go back to work at a 'real' job, I won't continue doing what I have been for the last year. Creativity, for me, will take a backseat to bringing home a paycheque... bills need to be paid and I really don't think the bank will accept a purse in lieu of a mortgage payment.

And now, here's a question for my readers: what types of bags, pouches, cases - all handmade - do you like? I'm trying to figure out where to focus my attention next, and I've had some decent ideas and suggestions so far, but I'm always open to new ones. If you want to be specific and have a link to something that you really like, feel free to pop it into the comments, too. Thanks :)


Learning lessons


My first craft sale this weekend.

On the up side, I learned A LOT.

On the down side, I didn't even sell enough product to cover my table fee of $25.

I'm not terribly upset or distraught... I needed to find out how sales actually worked, especially in this rural-based, primarily-middle-class region. I have an idea now of what works and what doesn't - but I also know that what didn't work at this sale may be the absolute killer at the next.

A brief list of the big lessons learned this weekend:
  • Just because you're selling something no one else at the sale is, doesn't mean you'll have no problems selling your product. Anyone who sews has pin cushions coming out their ears; needlebooks, while 'cute' and 'smart', are a great idea, perhaps not the best execution.
  • Having an eye-pleasing display is important, especially if it includes various kinds of baking. Baking always sells fastest and first. The table next to ours was completely sold out one hour & 20 minutes into the sale. 
  • While my parents have lived in Carberry for almost 14 years, I never did. Most of the people I know there are either friends of my parents or my younger sister. Probably the best thing I did for this sale was ask my mom to help me at the table. She knows EVERYONE in town and is much more outgoing than me...she brought in all three of my sales.
  • Don't be saddened that the older couple across the way can sell homemade underwear; take their approach to selling, sift through it and see what might apply to you. Their table was overloaded with product - and not just homemade underwear - to the point where customers had to go through piles of tea towels and knitting and blankets just to get to what they wanted. More often than not, they'd find more than what they were looking for at the bottom of the pile, because something they had to sort through to get there caught their eye. That doesn't mean I'm going to haphazardly pile my product on my next table, hoping that people will go through it to find what they want; it does mean, however, that I need to work out a display that makes the customers go from one product to the next without losing their focus.
  • Signage is so important, more important than I thought. I made up a couple of placecards with my business name on them, but that was it... until I got frustrated trying to explain to my mom - my helper for the day - which product was which. Then I made handwritten signs that I just kind of slid into the baskets. Next sale, signs and perhaps even a brief description on the signs will be accompanying the products. Also, a pronunciation guide for nisse (niss-eh) and a little historical background to what the word actually means. 
Yeah, I only made $17 and had 3 sales, but quite a few people did pick up the postcards I made up and there was some interest in doing some custom work in the near future. But more people know my name now than did on Friday and that's what I see as the biggest achievement from the sale. There aren't enough articles or tutorials in the world to learn these lessons.

A sale here, in rural southwestern Manitoba, will not be the same type of sale as one in Florida. Or even Winnipeg. There are very few - if any - craft sales held in the spring or summer around here. Craft sales and fall suppers go hand in hand for us, and everyone in the crafting/artisan world here knows when the big sales are and where the best ones are. It was an interesting and eye-opening experience, to say the least... and one that I'm sure I'll repeat over and over again, but with slight variations, for years to come.

I hope.


    PSA or plea?

    I'm waist-deep in unfilled pin cushions for this weekend's sale, but I had to post this:

    This Is Handmade.

    If you think this messenger bag is overpriced, or that this purse isn't worth $24, especially after watching those clips... then there's no hope in changing your mind. And if you think that my work - or any other independent handmade artisan's work - is worth the price we ask, then please, remember us this holiday season.


    On the radar

    We assume people like shopping at Walmart or Target and so don’t offer an alternative. We assume people like showing up at a party wearing the same thing as three other people and so we don’t offer to help them shop for some vintage clothes. We assume people don’t mind having the same coffee table from Ikea as 20,000 other people and so we don’t tell them about the woman down the street who makes coffee tables from recycled wood.

    -'don't write them off', by Tara Gentile (scoutiegirl)

    I'm still quite sick today, but when I read that article from Tara Gentile (scoutiegirl) this morning, I knew I had to step up and start promoting the world of handmade more than I have been. There's a whole argument about why handmade should be the preferred choice, but getting that through to the vast majority of the public is an impossible challenge for one person, never mind a small handful of vocal handmade 'activists'.

    So here's what I plan on doing. I plan on encouraging my friends and family to look to handmade and small independent artisans for their Christmas gifts this year. I plan on only giving handmade gifts, even if they are my own. I plan on promoting the world - and the benefits - of handmade products to everyone who visits my table at the craft sale next week. I plan on trying to purchase more independent and handmade products, including visiting more farmer's markets. I live in a very Wal-mart-based city, so finding a wide variety of handmade/independent work can be a problem, but there has been a massive influx of immigrants from around the world to our city in the last few years; their influence continues to grow in the community, from restaurants to a monthly women's fair.

    I want to be able to have a viable alternative to purchasing everything at a big box store with underpaid (and underappreciated) staff. I would much rather pay a few dollars extra, knowing that money would go into the pocket of the artisan who took the time to put their own effort into creating something I would enjoy.

    And now I'm going to go back to my embroidery and attempt to get better.


    Handled well

    The local Habitat for Humanity Restore has officially become my favourite place to shop. The bag and linen in the photo above cost a whole $5.50 today. And based on the brief bit of research I've done, I walked away with quite a steal.

    Unfortunately, there are no identifying marks on the bag, beyond the I.D. tag, and the only clue that it was vintage was the phone number and penmanship. Rather than a seven digit phone number, it was only four...and the handwriting screams pre-1950s.  But the well-worn handles and scratches and creases on the body of the bag prove that this bag is not only vintage, but well taken care of.

    I don't care about the paint spots on the bag... I'd rather have something that showed it was used and used well. Pristine pieces are for collectors and museums; I'm just someone who wanted this bag. I'm still not sure what I'm going to use it for, but I'll use it. Hopefully as well as the previous owner.

    And yes, that lock does say 'Cheney'. No relation to the former V.P., as far as I can tell.

    Aside from the handles of the bag, the lining is my favourite part. It's a soft, light material that has held up well over the years... no stains or tears, not even in the small pockets that line one side. The zipper works well and the lock looks to be in good shape... no key, though.

    The linen... oh, the linen. I had a lot more vintage linen in my hands that I could have bought for anywhere between 50¢ and $2, but I went with only $8.75 in change and spent all of it (not pictured: simple woven basket, bamboo picnic case and heavy shower curtain that I plan on using as a table cloth for my table next week). But this linen was something I had to have. The colour in this photo isn't quite how it looks in real life... it's more mustard than shown, but I bought it more for the stripe that runs through it. It's a decent size - 4'x4' or so - and will make a few nice bags, once I find a design that I think would work well with it.

    I've become a big fan of finding the hidden deals, especially on vintage/retro pieces. I don't know if that's the budget-conscious mom in me or the Scottish blood in my mom's family coming through... either way, it could make for some interesting purchases. Much to Keith's chagrin :)


    Hack... hack...

    I'm getting sick - chest cold, head cold, etc, etc, etc - so I'm just going to post a few pics of stuff I've been working on and then I'm going to lounge on the couch until my head explodes.

    New business cards, with my Cargoh shop address. I'm handing these ones out at the craft sale next week, so I figured I may as well try to get as much info on them as I could. I know keeping the info as minimal as possible is a better idea, but hey...I'm not one to follow the crowd. Printed on Epson Premium Presentation Paper Matte, using my Epson 50 Artisan. Cut using my Cricut Trimmer.

    Now, this is not a good photo of this particular piece, but it's the best of the bunch. This is also the first time the receiver will be seeing this iPad sleeve (tada, Bruce!). I'll have more info on the sleeve - and the challenges of working with such a large piece of faux suede - in a few days when I can sit up for more than 10 minutes without falling over.

    And I've finally gotten around to making labels for my pieces... I know, I've already sold 5 pieces and sent them out without any identifying marks and that's just dumb. So I've got 6 yards of off-white twill tape and my logo & website printed onto a sheet of Avery T-Shirt transfer paper. It's much easier to put them together than I expected... now all I have to do is figure out how to put them on my already-finished and listed pieces without destroying them.

    With that, I'm going to go wrap up in a warm blanket, attempt to do some embroidery and try to get healthy... *sniff*


    Purposefully repurposing

    My parents, Maddy and I went into Winnipeg yesterday to visit my sister and her husband. We haven't seen my sister or her husband since the end of June when she left to go work up north on a couple of archaeological digs, so it was nice to have a chance to hang out and do some shopping.

    I have been looking for vintage luggage - specifically, train sets (although, hat boxes would be awesome, too) - for a while now for the craft sales I'm in.  I want to use them to display my wares in a more unique fashion and as transport/storage. I want to stand out in a crowd at a sale and as I'm not a very extroverted person and am pretty unlikely to obviously seek people out to talk to, having an eyecatching - and memorable - display is the best way to bring people to my table.

    I went to Value Village in hopes of finding some luggage. I've seen a few online classified ads selling them here in town, too, but wanted to make sure that I wasn't going to end up paying through the nose for them. I didn't find any luggage, but managed to pick up a few random grab-bags of sewing notions, a bag of Fisher Price toys for Maddy - including a camera - and a few sturdy belts I'm going to use as straps on future bags.

    And then I found what could be the turning point in my bag business. That coat in the photo? That coat that's 50% lamb wool, 50% camel hair? That coat that is so soft and well cared for that it's a shame it was in a second-hand shop?


    I know there are other bag makers out there who only use repurposed materials and they make some pretty amazing stuff. I like working with the materials I have on hand now - mostly cottons and poly-cotton blends - but trying to make something with this, a beautiful and elegant material... well, it scares me.

    I have no immediate plans for the coat. When a plan starts to formulate, there's going to be a lot of research put into it. I may have only paid $7.99 for it, but the coat is worth far more than that. I certainly don't want to be butchering it up like a Sunday roast.

    Or maybe I'll keep it for special requests. It may come in handy as a nice incentive to get shoppers to sign up for some custom work.



    Some of the work I've been doing this week, including a custom iPad sleeve
    (photos & details to follow in a few days) and the many, many needlebooks I wanted to make.
    Not needed to, but wanted to. Silly me.
    I've been busier this week than I had expected, and as such haven't had time to update here or really post any new pieces in either of my shops. On the plus side, I do have quite a pile of almost-finished needlebooks and pin cushions that have to be done in 2 weeks (if you live in Westman and want to start your Christmas and holiday shopping early, kick off your fall craft sale tour with the Carberry Arts Council's 'Harvest of Hobbies', September 11 at the Community Hall, located right behind the high school on Main St, from 10-3, silver collection...there, I promoted it:) ). And there's a growing list of custom orders I'm working on, too. August, for all of my derision, has turned out to be a pretty damn good month.

    The downside to being so busy prepping for this craft sale is that, as I mentioned, my Cargoh and Etsy shops are both suffering. Maddy and I are heading to my parent's for a couple of days (and also to Winnipeg to visit my sister & her husband), so I should *hopefully* have a decent chunk of time to get through the rest of the embroidery/detail work that needs to be done on 2 custom pieces and the many needlebooks that seem to multiply even further when I'm not looking.

    Long story, short... sorry I haven't posted much. I've been busy either developing one hell of a callous on my index finger or chasing a very stubborn and active almost-20 month old for the last 6 days. Monday, I want my life back to normal. Please :)


    Forethought... not my forté

    This is how I work on new designs that I haven't really dummied out prior to starting: taking inspiration from somewhere (in this case, my coupon envelope, one of those accordion deals), I'll start cutting material without measuring. Then I'll start sewing it, without a plan or consistent use of seam allowances. Inevitably, I hit a brick wall about 80% of the way through the project and either 'set it aside' to finish later (aka, put it into a very full bag I've got under the table, full of similar projects that will eventually be taken apart to reuse the material), or I'll look at the incomplete project with a critical mind and try to figure out if I can finish it.

    This particular design for a travel sewing kit that I plan on selling at the two craft sales I'm in this fall can and will be finished, thanks to my mom's serger. And liberal use of either bias tape or binding, neither of which I like nor can do well. Of course, I didn't actually ask my mom if I could use her serger - a Christmas present from my dad 4 or 5 years ago that she only started using seriously when making receiving blankets for Maddy - until I'd made half a dozen of these. And I haven't told her she's putting on the bias/binding tape...mwahahahahahah. Ha.

    It's shaping up to be a busy week, but not because I have a lot of work to do. Keith's been at Clear Lake since early yesterday, so it's just Maddy and I at home... so far, it's been pretty good. She's can play by herself no problem, but if no one checks on her every so often, she'll try climbing the dresser in her room or eating whatever she finds on the floor (lately, it's been a lot of thread... yay, me). Tomorrow is the first of two baking days for me so I picked up a new colouring book and crayons for her, so that should help keep her busy. And there's always the Sesame Street 40th Anniversary DVD if she gets restless. I'm not a fan of using technology to babysit my kid, but Sesame Street will at least teach her something. And she loves Bert & Ernie. LOVES them.

    In between the baking and taking care of Maddy, there's always work to be done to get ready for the craft sale on Sept 11. Displays, posters, signage, business cards... so much work to do and I'll probably still be working on something right up to the start of the sale, if not during. I'm using this blog post from Mermaid's Closet as a guideline for prepping/running my table, although I have a feeling that at the first sale, I may be the youngest vendor there.

    This is not the week to try structuring a work schedule that includes spending time reading blogs or checking websites for inspiration, but I've got plans to set up a specific time each week to do that, as well as a series of posts on a somewhat unrelated topic here. In due time, though.. in due time.


    Stacking the deck

    It's been a busier-than-expected week, but quite productive. I managed to get a whole bunch of pieces finally finished - mostly cutting hanging threads, putting buttons on, that kind of thing; also updated nisseworks' Facebook page with photos and some links to my work so it's not quite so blank; and ventured full steam ahead into the world of custom work.

    Taking on four custom orders in the last week has opened a new venue for revenue (ooh, rhyming), one that I had considered, but decided against because I thought it would just lead to headaches. Well, after almost 6 months of my Etsy shop being open and only selling 3 pieces, it's probably time to start looking at other ways to use my creative skills to help pay the bills.

    Hence, my Cargoh shop. Let me just say that Cargoh is awesome. Just awesome. Sure there were a few hiccups earlier this month with the jurying and eliminating sellers and all that, but they've come out ahead. I like being part of Cargoh and hope that it succeeds, and I'd think that even if I wasn't a seller there. It's got a very close-knit feeling to it, unlike some other online venues that make the seller feel like they're just a cash cow for the owners.

    Then there's the request for a quote to do up some wedding invitations which came right out of the blue. Back in January, I had given Keith a stack of flyers to post up around town and pass on to people he thought might be interested. He dropped by a small wedding boutique here and they were quite happy to take 200 smaller flyers to put in the goody bags they gave to prospective brides. Fast forward 8 months, and I get an email from a bride-to-be... so I sent her a quote and a basic outline of what she can expect/what I need from her and I'm hoping to hear from her within the next week or so. I had assumed that the boutique just stopped handing them out or no one was interested, but lo and behold, someone is. Hopefully.

    August has been the month I didn't expect, but hoped for. I've been really busy coming up with new designs, trying new promotional ideas, doing research, as well as selling and taking orders. Keith is leaving for a week on Saturday and I'm planning on taking some time while he's gone to figure out where I should take this little business of mine next. I've got a couple of ideas - like the paper/digital design line that I'm 99% sure I'm going to launch in the next month - simmering away, but need to figure out how to get them out of my head and into action. I know that I'm farther ahead today than I was a month ago, which is all anyone can really hope for... I just need to keep the momentum going for the rest of the year.


    Stocking up

    I've got stock in my new online shop at Cargoh - nisseworks - finally. I wasn't sure the photos I'd taken the other day of my pieces were going to be good enough, but with some tinkering and tweaking, they turned out fairly well. There's always room for improvement, and once I get my hands on a decent sized cardboard box to make a lightbox, I'll probably be redoing these photos, too.

    So now I've got two online shops... I've been debating opening a third, strictly for my paper/digital design work. I'm not sure where the shop will end up being, but I know where it won't be (and I won't mention names here, but when those sites I've looked at feature on their front page blurry photos of mediocre work, I'm not sure I want to be associated with them). I'm aiming to have the next shop open in early September, depending on whether or not I get into the first craft sale this fall (still no word... grr). If I get in, it'll be later in September, but I've got Christmas and winter designs I want to do, so it's better to be sooner than later.


    Three ahead, two back

    On the plus side, if I don't sell a single pin cushion, I'll have gifts for many years to come.
    It seems like every time I make a plan, especially one that involves me working for more than 10 minutes at a time, something - or someone - pops up to derail me and whatever I've been working on.

    Don't get me wrong, I like my family - and Keith's too - and I like hanging out with my friends, but people, come on. One day... 8 hours, at most. That's all I should need to catch up on a growing list of projects I need to get finished. Hopefully.

    I'm stepping away from sewing for the day to catch up on some design work I need to do (ie. business cards) and come up with a couple of patterns for some custom pieces I've been asked to do. But those will have to take a backseat to having coffee with a friend this afternoon and visiting a farmer's market with my mom. Again, I like being out with people and seeing my family, but my work is not going to get done if I'm not doing it.

    Breathe in... breathe out.

    I've booked a table for a craft sale in December, but still haven't heard if I made it into the one next month. I'm hoping they let us know soon, because if I can stop making pin cushions by the dozen, I'll gladly do it and get back to my other work.

    I'm also working on opening up my shop *officially* at Cargoh, a new online marketplace that's not only awesomely cool, but juried, as well. I applied last week with some samples from my current Etsy shop and really didn't expect to make the cut. Imagine my surprise last weekend when I was... and then a brief flood of terror that came with it. The terror came from realizing I actually have to put things into the shop to sell. I've got a few pieces I'm planning on listing this weekend (here's the link to my shop - nisseworks), but need to do the photos for them first.

    Things are looking up a bit for this business... some custom orders, a few sales, acceptance into a juried site... maybe this whole thing wasn't a crapshoot after all :)


    Picture it

    Standard photoshoot props - lotions, lip balms, pens, iPod, business cards, sunglasses, scissors, and lint brush. 
    The toothbrush was a random addition to this particular shoot.
    It's photoshoot day for a good chunk of the pieces I've had sitting, waiting, to be listed in my shop for a few weeks now. Taking photos of my pieces is my least favourite thing to do - I find it tedious and frustrating, but I know the benefit of having good photos when you're trying to sell something to someone who can't actually physically touch your product. My product photos have improved a fair bit since I started my shop in March, but there's a massive amount of room for improvement, I'm sure.

    I don't have a lightbox, but Craftgossip - one of my favourite crafting websites - linked to a blog post about making your own lightbox for next to nothing.  I've seen lightboxes online for $50 or more (closer to $100+), but as I'm still starting out and only have 2 sales under my belt, spending money on any extras just isn't going to happen... so if I can make something that will help me showcase my work better for next to nothing, I'm willing to try it.

    Right now, I use a large piece of bristol/poster board for my backgrounds, for the most part. I've used our living room floor on occasion, too, depending on the size of the piece (bags & purses) or the material I've used (black corduroy). I don't use any fancy lighting, just the natural sunlight that comes in through the south-facing window of our laundry room. After using this set-up for the last 5 or 6 months, I think it's time I try something new, like a DIY lightbox.

    I'm planning on reshooting all of my current pieces while Keith is away for 8 days covering a golf tournament later this month, if only because I like to torture myself with tedious, painful activities. In reality, I've got a second shop I'm working on (more on that tomorrow...) and I want to spruce up the Etsy one for fall and Christmas shopping. And with Keith being gone for so long, I won't have too much time to work on making any new pieces, so why not work on my photos?


    Pattern plotting

    Cardboard, scissors, ruler, pen and old khakis...my pattern-making kit. The ruler is occasionally optional.
    My pattern-making skills are pretty limited. I can design things, like this piece, off the top of my head, usually through a lot of trial-and-error, but working from a pattern is incredibly challenging for me. Making the pattern myself to work from? Quite impossible, as the piles of abandoned projects and cardboard can attest.

    So far, at least.

    I'm starting work this week on a new product line that I'm planning on selling at the craft sales I'm (*hopefully*) in this fall. I've searched the web high and low for a needlebook/case pattern that I like enough to use as inspiration, but haven't found anything that grabs my attention. Sure, there are lots of cute ones out there (like this one, or this one, both found on Etsy), and I certainly wouldn't turn them down if I was given either of them as a gift, but they aren't quite what I want. So I'm making my own.

    I've decided to make three different sizes - two will be more for travel sewing kits or for people who like to embroider on the go, and the larger one will be for more of a central deposit, for lack of a better term, for all your needles and some pins and maybe a pocket for some bits of thread and things. Like a lot of other needlebook creators, I'll be embroidering the outsides of mine with little decorations and designs, something I need to get working on today.

    I've got a lot of scrap material that I'll likely never use for anything to sell (like scrub pants from my mom and old khakis from Keith) that should be perfect for tweaking the patterns I've come up with. I don't want to go into this new line without having perfected it as much as possible... time is short as it is and I can't be wasting more of it ripping out threads or sewing up pieces that just won't work anyway.

    I'll post pics of some of the completed works before I head off to the craft sales this fall. Depending on how they turn out and how many I can produce in 30 days, I may even put a couple up in one of my shops (more on that later, I promise...). Because everyone needs a needlebook to keep track of their needles so they don't end up stuck in the carpet, lost until someone steps on it in the middle of the night, barefoot.


    Animals on the walls

    When I cleaned out Maddy's room last week, the walls ended up looking pretty bare. We've had a quilt hanging in her room for the last year or so, courtesy of my mom, and she's got a couple of shelves of toys way up high, but the room still seemed pretty empty. Taking out a crib and boxes of clothes will do that, apparently.

    Maddy has always loved animals. Her curtains and quilts are animal prints. Most of her stuffed toys are animals. She's a very animal-friendly kid. I've been trying to come up with something I could make her for a few months now that not only took care of her love for animals, but was educational at the same time.

    I've mentioned before that I'm a graphic designer by trade, but haven't been really doing any design since I left my job last winter. Lately, design's something that's been popping up in my head more and more frequently. So I decided to take that need and apply it by making something for Maddy.

    These prints are OOAK (one-of-a-kind, for those not in the know... I wasn't in the know until just recently, so don't feel bad), completely original, home-printed... I have a kick-ass (for me, anyway) Epson Artisan 50 printer that I picked up on sale last winter. I love this printer for what it can do for me - clear, crisp lines, beautiful colours... it the perfect printer for my needs. I used Epson's Premium Presentation Paper in Matte, which is perfect for what I'm planning on doing with these prints - frame in simple wooden frames behind glass/plastic/whatever I can find that doesn't look like crap. I'm a big fan of Epson, from the printer to the ink to the paper... the prices are really decent and the quality is amazing.

    These prints turned out so well I'm debating selling them - not these ones specifically, but a short-run of maybe 10 sets (there are 2 prints/set - I could have put all 26 animals on one page, but it would have been really crowded, and I'm using 8x11 sheets, so yeah...). I'll be sure to announce if/when I put these up for sale and where (again, more on that later).

    That nagging voice in my head that's been demanding more design work has been quieted for now, but I'm sure it'll be back, with a vengeance, soon. And based on this project, I'm pretty sure I'll listen to it and do some more design stuff.


    Aim high, hit low

    I had hoped that by this point in August, I'd be working just on pieces for my shop (or shops, more on that later), but no. As a procrastinator - as well as someone who isn't quite in the best of health - I should have known better. I've needed more sleep this month than any other in the last year, which usually means I'm dead asleep by 9pm most nights. My energy levels are pretty flat right now, so I've been sticking to doing less intensive work, like embroidery. And to top it all off, I get easily distracted.

    So this weekend, I'm hoping to get a lot of work done, in amongst visiting with friends and family and taking care of Maddy. My to-do list is already done and ready to be ignored used to help me keep on track and get ready for what promises to be a busy fall.