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.

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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

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!

 

 

Posted in Bloggity Blog

FREE Bow Tie Pattern

This is a post that I’ve been planning for a while, but didn’t write, because life.  A few years ago, I added a men’s accessory to my Etsy shop, a pre-tied bow tie.  I noticed that those who wore bowties, were pretty distinct with their styles, and I have an appreciation for unique style.  Like this guy.

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I mean, who wouldn’t like to know him?  He wears a pocket watch around his neck on a chain!  Then there’s Mr. Intense:

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I might be a bit apprehensive about meeting him, but I appreciate his determination.  Also, who doesn’t dresses accordingly to read?

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So, I simply had to do justice to an understated accessory that brings so much to a man’s personality.  It took a bit of research and trial and error, (lots of error) but I finally made a pattern that cut and fit well on many fabrics.

circuittieFor the fabrics, I’ve used cotton, satin, linen and polyester and they all work well.  Really, it’s hard to find a fabric that doesn’t make a great bowtie.

Now, the purists insist on cutting ties on the bias.  I have cut this pattern on the bias and not and it looks great either way.  Since I use interfacing, I found that the weave direction has no bearing on the final look.  This tie can be made with a fat quarter of fabric, if you don’t cut it on the bias.

I use sbrownsquarestietiff sew-in interfacing for the bow itself.  I have found that fusible interfacing on the bow makes the fabric pucker too much with the gathering of fabric in the center.

For the neck piece, I use a very lightweight fusible interfacing, but it’s not necessary.  It’s a personal preference.  I just like to see a crisp structure when I finish a piece.

If your local fabric store doesn’t have the hardware, and mine didn’t, you can find it at Wawak.  Link

So, let’s get down to it shall we?

  • Bow tie pattern – 4 fabric pieces, each 8 in x 3 in
  • Sew in interfacing (I use Pellon 50) – 4 pieces, 8 in x 3 in
  • Center piece – 1.75 in x 3 in (No interfacing)
  • Neck Piece – 2 in x 22 in
  • Lightweight fusible interfacing (Optional) 1 in x 22 in
  1. Trace and cut all the bow tie pieces from the fabric and interfacing using the pattern.
  2. Put fabric together, right sides facing, then interfacing on top and bottom to make a sandwich.
  3. Sew around the edges with 1/4 inch seam leaving the small end open. (yes the small end)
  4. Fuse neck interfacing to half of the neck strap piece (on wrong side) if applicable.
  5. Fold the 3 inch center piece and long neck piece in half lengthwise, right sides facing and sew the long edges of each with 1/4 inch seam.
  6. Personal note: I use pinking shears to trim the ALL the edges after I’ve finished sewing, to cut down on bulk when it’s turned out.
  7. Fun Part! Turning out all the pieces.  Use a safety pin on one end and push it through to turn out the two tubes.  They will be a hot mess when you are done.  It may not be easy, but it’s doable.  Trust me.  I use a wooden dowel to push out the corners of the bow.  Iron those bad boys flat.
  8. Put the two bow pieces together and sew the small ends together to make one long piece.  Then make a Z of the new long piece to form the bow.  The new center seam will line up with the narrower part of the bow pieces.
  9. Gather the center of the bow.  It might take a little work, but try to fold the center in half lengthwise and put the center piece around it.  Pull the center piece tight on the back of the bow.  Use a pin to hold it once you get it tight enough.
  10. Hand stitch the center piece on the back side of the bow (not to the bow).  How finished you want this part to be is up to you.  I put several stitches on the center piece in the back, then trim off some of the excess fabric and make a small fold of what’s left of the fabric and put a few more stitches to hold the fold down.
  11. Neck Strap Time!  Feed one end of the neck strap through one side of the slider piece and down through the other.  Fold over enough to sew in place with your machine (or hand sew if you prefer).bow-tie-hardware_main-1
  12. Loop the loose end of the neck strap through the loop piece, and then back through the slider.  bow-tie-hardware_main-1
  13. You should have formed a loop of fabric that will make the tie adjustable.  Use a safety pin to feed the loose end of strap behind the center piece of the bow.
  14. After you’ve pulled it through, remove the pin, and loop it through the hook piece of the hardware and sew the edge.  bow-tie-hardware_main-1-copy

I’d love to see what you make, so please let me know how you get along with this and share photos!  You can always find me on social media.  Facebook, Twitter, Instagram

Posted in Bloggity Blog

The Crooked Smile Anti-Social Network

I will be the first to admit that I am horrible at using social networking.  Putting myself out into the online world isn’t something that comes natural to me.  It wasn’t until maybe two years ago that I got a smart phone.  It’s not even the latest, greatest one.  It’s one that my husband had that I started using when he upgraded to the latest, greatest one.

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Facebook has been around since 2004.  I joined after I opened an Etsy shop, which was in 2010.  I probably wouldn’t have joined at all except a personal page is a requirement for a business page.  If you have been so gracious as to follow me on Facebook, you will understand when I say I am no good at this online presence stuff.  My Instagram account is also in a sad state.  My sister and husband suggested I use Snapchat, but I can’t for the life of me figure out how to use the app.  The only site I probably use with any consistency is Twitter, and I’ve heard it’s not so relevant any more.  Maybe it is, maybe it isn’t.  There are so many other sites like Pinterest, Periscope, and I’m sure others that I’ve never even heard of.

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All of this is to tell you just how miserable I really am at using social media.  I just do not remember to photo, catalogue and share what I’m up to each day.  Really, I don’t remember to do it once a week.  I didn’t go through my teens with a phone in my pocket and a camera pointing at every moment of my day.  I am no more proficient at taking a selfie than I am at speaking Swahili.  It’s just not natural to me and I never have the thought to capture and share things until it’s completely over.  Then I have the thought, “Oh, that would have been something to share…”  Yeah.  I’m guess I’m slow like that.

It all seems to be a bit overwhelming from a business perspective.  Those in the know will tell you to set up a schedule and use software to share and post automatically for you.  It should have a curated theme and composition well thought through and projected a week in advance.

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Me too kid, me too

Ugh.  Will I ever be good at using social networking?  I don’t know.  I hope so.  All I can say is, I will certainly try.  If you do follow me online, I thank you, and appreciate your patience.