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.


I like it... I really, really like it

I finally broke down and got a Facebook page for nisseworks. It's still a work-in-progress, but feel free to stop by and 'like' it (oh, that sounds so cheesy...).

I'll be using it to keep people updated on what's going on with my business and projects I'm working on and maybe, if we're lucky, holding some giveaways and contests.

So, yes... please 'like' (*rollseyes*) my page. You won't regret it... at least I don't think you will :)


Branching out

I'm trying to find new things to work on to try to keep from getting bored with what I do. This pencil pouch is the first design I've come up with, all on my own. I will admit to doing some research on the easiest way to put the zipper in without having raw edges on the inside of the pouch.

But this is my first original design. I haven't seen any others like it, but there is a chance someone - somewhere - has created a pouch just like this. But for now, let's just say it's mine, ok?

I like how it turned out. I spent an hour yesterday trying to figure out the zipper/raw edges issue, but couldn't come up with a way to do it without a complicated series of turns and flips of material. To figure things out, I'll often try to break them down in my head and piece them back together, like a puzzle. Sometimes, I think I've figured out a way to solve a problem, sit down to apply my thoughts and quickly realize that I'd forgotten to take something important into account, like a seam or placement of a snap.

This piece, though... well, this is actually the second piece of this design. The first one was the test piece, the one I sewed up a hundred times and ripped the stitches out a hundred times, too. I had an idea last night how to finish the piece and let that idea stew through the night and this morning. When I sat down to finish it this afternoon, it seemed bloody obvious and I felt slightly foolish for not having realized it in the first place, but at least I came to a conclusion. I didn't give up or take extra steps that would have landed me in the same place.

I've got four more waiting to be sewn up so I can list them in my shop. I'm probably going to charge $9 for them, so be sure to keep an eye on my shop to pick one up for yourself or any student you may know!


Awkwardly attempting augustness

I consider my desk to be 'clean' when I don't have to take anything off the keyboard or hunt for the mouse. 
And yes, that's a red Swingline stapler in the top right.


What a depressing month.

No, no terrible personal events or tragedies (that I can remember...), I've always just found August to be the least pleasant month of the year. It might have something to do with still associating August with the beginning of school, but I think it has more to do with knowing that the year is way more than half over and winter is closer to starting than it is to being over.

If that makes sense... it does to me.

August also means that my birthday is a month away. At this point in life, birthdays don't mean that much. And now that my driver's license doesn't get renewed until January, I don't even have that to look forward to.

But enough slagging on August.

This month is looking pretty busy already. I did up a to-do list for the month so I had something to torture myself with midway through the month when I have nothing done. 

No, I really did a to-do list so I could get organized now rather than later. I've applied to be in my very first craft sale next month (Sept 11, to be exact) and need product to sell. Right now, I have none, and I don't want to sell what I've got listed in my shop, so I've got to come up with new - and different - product to sell.

My plan at this point is to make:
  • pincushions, in a couple of different styles and sizes;
  • needlebooks, mainly because I need one and if I need one, other people do too;
  • sewing pouches, like the pouches I sell already, but with a few pockets on the inside for scissors or something;
  • large sewing totes, which would be like this tote, but, again, with pockets on the inside.
So that's my plan for the craft sale.

I'm also starting to look at doing some graphic design stuff to try to catch some Christmas/holiday-specific sales this fall. I tried doing some things last fall, but didn't get them ready in time and wasn't really happy with the work I had been doing. I had a few different styles of gift tags and cards, and I may keep some of the elements but probably redesign the majority of them.

This is almost the perfect month to get a lot of work done, too... Keith has quite a few days off leading up to the 8 days he's away at a golf tournament, and my mom's already said she'll take Maddy for a night while he's gone.  Maddy's able to play by herself a lot more and doesn't need to be right with me all the time, so I can do a lot of embroidery while she's playing. I'm still going to make time to get outside and relax in the yard before the snow flies, and we're probably going to head out to my parent's next weekend and maybe to Winnipeg this month.

 It's all about using the time we have available appropriately. And I can't work all the time. As much as I try (re: want) to.