Posted in Bloggity Blog

Making Christmas Stockings

It’s that time of year to deck the halls and make things merry and bright, and in that vein I decided it was time to do a little decorating for the new house.  We moved in last spring, and since that time, it’s been an exercise of getting the things that we bought for the old house to fit into this new house.  One of the things that we have with this house is a fireplace.

In case you weren’t aware, I live in Florida.  Fireplaces aren’t a necessity for warmth as they may be in colder climates, but it makes for a great focal point in the room.

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See that mantle?  It needs a little… something.  Now, I am not one to buy things for a quick decorative accent, even for seasons like Christmas.  I buy things for the long term, and by long term, I mean for many MANY years.  I still have decorations that I painted decades ago when money was quite slim.

I had looked at quite a few stockings here and there.  I went to my local Home Goods store, looked around online, and eventually I saw some at Pier One that I thought were very nice.  They were on sale, but truthfully I wasn’t really into spending $60 for a few stockings for Christmas.

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So, I contemplated and watched and eventually went to the Pier One store in my area to check them out.  They were very nice in person.  Quite large and fluffy soft.  I still wasn’t sold on them though, so I walked around the store to think about it.  I even ate a chocolate chip cookie from the festive tray of sweets they had laid out.  Then I wandered over to their clearance area.

And what to my wondering eyes should appear, but a set of 4 placemats and 2 matching napkins.

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Huh.  Maybe I can do something with these.  I walked around with them for a bit, and the more I walked, the more I was convinced that I could do something with them.  The extra special bonus was at the check-out.  Instead of the $4.38 for each as I was expecting, they rang up at $2.88 for each.  So for less than $18 I planned to make two stockings.  Did I mention that these were pretty nice linens?

So, home I went and then had to find a pattern.  I wanted the larger stockings like the original Pier One stockings, but most of the patterns I came across were quite small.  I found one that had the outline I wanted.  I just wanted to beef it up a bit.  After doing the math, I ended up expanding all the lines by 3.5 cm.  I tried to make it standard measurements, but it’s easier to round to 3.5 cm than to try to get it to 1 7/16 inches. Silly, I know, but adding the width and seam allowance, just kept getting complicated.  So 3.5 cm it is.

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This photo doesn’t show it, but I dropped the pattern a bit lower and extended the leg all the way to the top of the placemat.

Next I basted two place mats together, right sides facing.  Now, a little side note here.  If you’ve ever worked with commercially produced things, you’ll quickly realize that lining them up perfectly is an impossibility.  These linens were made in India.  I have the greatest respect for those who produce goods for others (I do it myself), and there are many elements that will give you the slightest misalignment of all things mass produced.  It’s just a thing.  I spent a LOT of time trying to line these things up to no avail.  After more fiddling than I wanted to do, I simply gave up and accepted it.

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Since these linens had a few layers to their construction, I decided to trace the pattern and sew with them completely intact instead of cutting them out and then sewing.  After sewing, cutting, turning them out, pressing, (as you do) I used scraps to add the hanging loop which was not exciting enough to photograph.  Finally I added some fun little festive details of baubles and tree clippings, and here we are.

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I had intended to use the napkins for the cuff at the top of the stockings, but as it turned out, they weren’t needed, so I used one to cover a vase with some clippings from our tree.

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I’m enjoyed this little afternoon project, and we are a little more festive around here.

Also, looking at this room you may be thinking that I eschew the typical red and green of holly and berries for all things silver and gold, but that isn’t true.  Let me introduce you to Rufus.

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I can’t remember where he came from, but he has been hanging with us for many Christmases.  He is in the dining area this year with his goofy eyes and red nose.  I hope you all have a great Christmas and holiday season.

Let me know what you’re doing this season.  Are you doing any special decking of the halls?

Posted in Bloggity Blog

Crooked Reviews

The end of January is upon us (already?) and I’ve received feedback for many of the Christmas purchases that were made from my Etsy shop.  If you talk to any creative person, you’ll know that feedback is truly a love/hate relationship.  You want, and in some cases crave, the feedback, but in the back of your mind, you have that fear of rejection of the very thing you’ve put your heart and soul into.  It’s extremely personal and can take you in one of two directions.  Good reviews make you feel invincible.  Ariel LustreBad or even mediocre reviews make you question your very existence and wonder if this whole business thing is where you need to spend your energy.

Using the Etsy app, you get a little ding notification on your phone the instant feedback is received.  In that moment you are unsure if you want to read it or not.  Your mind races from, “Oh good”, to “What if…”, to “How will I handle it if…”.  It truly is a momentary roller coaster ride.  Then you hold your breath and look at the review.

Thankfully, I’ve received very good reviews.  The affirming feedback helps me to keep designing, and more deeply, planning for the future.  I assure you, I am a fighter at heart, so it may seem odd that something like a customer review could be a make or break verdict, but that goes to the very heart of a creative business.

My leather designs are the newest products in my shop.  The commitment I’ve made to myself to produce quality bags at reasonable prices is a big deal, so I’m very happy that customers have taken the time to voice their opinions.

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Red Leather Crossbody Bag

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So while I cringe at tooting my own horn, I am very happy that others have shared their reactions with me.

Posted in Bloggity Blog

That time I bought two sewing machines

You may know of my use of Rex my portable walking foot machine.  Well, Rex couldn’t keep up with the demand of all my leather sewing needs.  I had been looking at replacements, but it was always something that was in the “planning for expansion” phase of my business.  img_1730

Well, October was apparently the time for that to happen.  Rex just wouldn’t budge any more and a visit from my repair man wasn’t enough to convince Rex to get with it.  The timing was not great.  The holidays were coming up y’all!!  My busiest time of the year and I was dead in the water.  So the hunt was on.

After much searching and sweating, I found not one but TWO machines.  They were a matched pair and they both had to come home with me.  They were in a shop near a marina and used for upholstery work for boats.  The shop was downsizing and had two machines too many.  The timing, the price, the details were nothing short of amazing.

There were, however, a few obstacles.  I’m near Tampa.  The machines were in Cape Canaveral.  Opposite coasts of Florida.  Also?  They may or may not fit in my SUV.  Each machine has three pretty heavy elements and assembled each one weighs about 100 pounds.

TruckSo, what’s a girl to do?  Welp, ya do what ya got ta do.  I rented a pick up truck and I drove to the other coast.  A day trip in Florida isn’t such a bad thing, ya know?  Cape Canaveral is two hours away.  So I got up early, got the truck, drove across the state, loaded up the machines, and brought them home.  Easy peasy.

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They were very used machines, so it took a bit to get them cleaned up and ready for coming into my studio.  I only needed one, and I wasn’t sure which one I would set up, so it was a matter of deciding which one cleaned up better, but honestly they were equally ready to get to work.

Here are a few before photos from what they looked like when I got them.  They started their new life in our garage.  They needed some cleaning for sure.

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Once I got them cleaned enough to come in the house, I set one of them up, so I could get to work.  It was clean, but certainly not what I wanted for my space.  There was still rust on the metal and scratches and holes on the table top, but it was certainly an improvement on how they started.

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After a while, I decided a new table was needed.  My son-in-law has ALL THE TOOLS so I worked with him to get a new table top designed and made.  He did all the cutting and I took over afterwards to get the staining and sealing on the top and I also painted the legs.  So here is the after.

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Quite a change huh?  Well, I’m glad that adventure is over and I am VERY thrilled with my new machine.  I still have the second machine but it’s not going to be set up until I get back to that expansion phase I mentioned earlier.

Posted in Bloggity Blog

The little bag that grew up

Summer has finally arrived!  This summer is shaping up to be an amazing growth for me design-wise.  My popular design of wristlets have grown up to be other bags!

The hardware that I put on the front has always been a unique feature.  It adds a little style and function that is a little boho, a little chic and just a lot of fun.  Now, I’ve added the same design features to crossbody bags!

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Ba-Bam!

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How fun is that?  Summer is the time to go outside and enjoy the music, the sun and the warmth.  Walks and bike rides are just better when you’re not weighted down, am I right?

These are so fun to make.  I know it might sound odd, since I already make wristlets with these features, but a crossbody bag is just a fun little twist for these little bags.  Plus YOU get a great little addition to your bag collection!

I’ll be adding to this line through out the summer along with a few more variations AND something that will be entirely new.

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Stay Tuned!  More exciting updates to come.

Posted in Bloggity Blog

A few deviations

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Lately I have been sewing many other things besides handbags and wallets.  I’m not sure why life has taken me in this direction, but I’ve just gone with the flow.  It started when we got new furniture. IMG_7529Pretty huh?  The old furniture was 15 years old, so it lived a long furniture life considering what it went through in our house.  The ottoman is seriously HUGE.  It is the spot for the dog to lay on, and our old covers weren’t big enough for this new big thing.  So I decided to make a quilt, of sorts.

Traditional quilters may not appreciate how I made it.  I’ve been known to not follow the rules, so that applies to this too.  I saw some table cloths on clearance at Target that I decided would do.  For the batting, I used a bunch of old towels that had been taking up space in the linen closet.  I just sewed them together with a zigzag stitch to make one large piece and then cut it down to size.  It’s pretty heavy duty with all that terry cloth in the middle. (Did I mention it’s for the dog?)  I had enough material that I cut off of one of the table cloths to make the bias tape, so it worked out well.  IMG_7523IMG_7525

I’m also working on one more cover.  I actually bought batting for this one though.  It is using a medley of fabrics that my sister sent me from her quilt shop.  By the way, if you are in Lincoln, Illinois, you should go check out her shop!  I should be finishing this project in the next few days.  Here is the cover: IMG_7534

Another completed project was a jean jacket.  My online friend Cherie provided a link to a Craftsy class.  She is a pattern maven and a Craftsy instructor and you should all visit her page for some awesomeness.  This particular class wasn’t hers, but the sale was $19.99 for the pattern and video class.  I had the denim from a previous job, and it was sitting there taking up room, so I thought, “Hey, let’s do it.”

So first let me say, I’m not one to sew clothing.  Pattern sizes and fabric hang are just not something I can easily figure out.  I think there is a little bit of a dance between the technical sewing and the art of fabric craft that hasn’t quite clicked for me yet with clothing.

This pattern has 19 pieces!  That’s quite a few, but they all came together quite well.  The video aspect showed more than just how to sew this particular pattern.  There were some trade skills taught too, and the instructor, Janet Pray makes it fun and very easy to follow along.

I didn’t take many photos while I was making it.  I guess I was in the zone.  I also didn’t know how it would turn out and didn’t think about blogging about it.  (how’s that for self confidence?)

This photo is about halfway through the class.  The front panels have a breast pocket and a welt pocket, as you can see here.  The back panel is finished here.    IMG_1974

Having used the heaviest denim known to man and the sizing of the pattern, which for me was XXS, meant there were many challenges for me.  I have a few strong sewing machines that can handle denim and leather without too many challenges, but the top stitching of the seams of this denim was quite a challenge.  I got it done, but if I were to do it again, I would use lighter denim, for sure.  At the very least, I would make the yoke, cuff interior and collar underside in an alternate fabric to lessen the bulk.

So here is the final piece.  IMG_1981

It doesn’t have buttons or button holes on the cuff or front.  Cherie suggested using snaps with the thicker fabric.  I agree.  Buttonholes would be crazy frustrating.

Now that I have all these side projects wrapped up (nearly) I will be returning to my leather handbag line.  It’s been a fun little deviation.

Posted in Bloggity Blog

Leather Wristlets Galore

Well, I know it’s been a while since I posted here.  My year has been full and creative.  As I wrote before, I decided to add leather to my product line.  It’s been fun, challenging and frustrating all at once.  I guess that’s the world of creativity though.  If you’re not challenged and stretching your abilities, you’re probably bored.  Well, I am certainly not bored.

Last December I got this machine.  A Rex walking foot sewing machine.  It’s a little scary, and CRAZY strong.  My biggest fear is getting a finger in its way.  That would just be oh so horrible.  I’ve bought a few tools to push the last inch of leather through as it’s sewing, just to keep my fingers from getting too close to that needle!

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Since then, I’ve been able to bring a few of my designs to production.  I started with this design, which was my experimental work with the new scary machine.  I like just a little color to keep the black leather from being so predictable.

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Next I progressed into a little bit ‘o bling.  Rivets have become so much more than just fasteners.  Fun fact:  That rivet on the corner of your jeans pocket that serves no purpose?  It’s to prevent wear and tear and keeps the fabric from fraying.  These are the result of me playing with rivets.

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Next I went in a few different directions at once.  I do that from time to time.  I can’t decide which direction to go, so I go in both.  My most popular wristlet is this little wristlet.

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I’ve lost count of how many of these I’ve made.  Many people are carrying this one around.  So, I used that design and made it in simple black leather.

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Next, I made my most favorite wristlet so far.  It’s bold and it’s fun.  It’s also RED.

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So, that’s what I’ve been up to.  If you want to see what’s new and next, keep looking at my shop.  It’s gonna be exciting!