There are a dozen little choices we make each day that can make a difference. Both bottles above have plastic caps, but the bottle on the left is made from glass, the one on the right is plastic. My spice rack used to be entirely plastic, but one spice at a time, it has changed to mostly glass without much of an impact on the budget. Paying attention to details on our errands about town can start to add up to make a big difference!
There's been a lot of behind-the-scenes planning around here. For a variety of reasons, I've made the decision to discontinue making children's toys. Whatever is still in my shop is the last: magnetic felt fishing games and the memory matching game. The baby shoes will be strictly word-of-mouth sales (I will create a custom Etsy listing by request, though it will not be a standard product anymore), and they will be available at the Ship's Bell at the Naval War College. They're just too cute not to make!
Why? The main 2 reasons are to give my shop/brand more cohesion, and to stay true to the reason I started my business in the first place: providing alternatives to plastic bags.
You may be asking, "What about crayon rolls?" Those I still plan to make and have with me at all of my markets and festivals. They were created to provide a more functional way for parents to carry crayons for their kids (instead of in Ziplock baggies). Knitting needle organizers? Still falls under "alternatives to plastic bags," because so many fiber artists store their needles in Ziplock baggies. Do you notice a trend?
Employment questionnaires, of all things, prompted me to more clearly define my work. I very happily now fill in "self-employed" under occupation. Then what do I say when the dentist asks, "What do you do?" It was difficult to describe. My elevator pitch was a rambling one. Now I confidently respond with, "I own a business designing reusable bags." Oh yes, much better!
You will see some changes to the blog soon as well. Products I no longer intend to sell may very well turn into free sewing tutorials. By being more streamlined and efficient in my production, I hope to have more time for personal projects which I intend to share here in this space (tutorials when I can manage them).
Balance and simplify have been guiding goals for me in 2014. The blog Becoming Minimalist has been a great inspiration. My business was in need of simplification, and narrowing the focus of my shop is the best way to accomplish this. What is my hope for this business? I want to make extremely happy customers who use fewer plastic bags in their everyday lives. There are a lot of great toy makers out there, and I will be more than happy to point you in their direction. Right now, I'm energized and inspired to bring you wonderful solutions to our world's disposable plastic bag problem. There are quite a few new ideas I hope to bring to fruition this year as well.
Scoop up the games while they last!
Saturday, May 17th is the 7th annual Sheep and Fiber Festival at Coggshall Farm in Bristol, RI. This was such a lovely event last year that I am very much looking forward to attending again.
For the event, I will have knitting project bags, needle and crochet hook organizers, my new circular knitting needle organizer, various totes, and of course many zippered pouches.
Included in the day will be shearing demonstrations, folks spinning wool, weaving fiber, and of course lots of knitting everywhere you look. The setting is absolutely stunning on/near the water in Bristol, RI. You can read more about the farm here.
Saturday, May 17, 9-4 (rain or shine).
The "experts" in this case being LL Bean, the "something" being a school bag.
I tried. I really did. I followed and adapted a pattern. I mustered all of my make-a-bag-sturdy skills. I used fabrics my daughter chose. I interfaced. I reinforced. I even bought a kit of bag hardware to make sure everything would be sturdy and last through the wear and tear of a school year. I made a really great bag, but it wasn't the right fit for the task at hand.
There are just some things that others do better than I. School bags are one of those things.
My daughter asked me to make a school bag for second grade. She specifically wanted a messenger bag to sling across her body. She wanted mermaid fabric and pink anchors. She wanted it to zip shut. This bag does ALL of those things.
The problem is, I have a reader. An avid reader. One who takes a lot of extra books to school each day. The bag I made just wasn't going to carry what she needed (plus a lunch!) on a daily basis. In fact, the work folder was about half an inch too long to easily fit inside the zipper. It fit inside the bag, but to wiggle it through the zipper and nestle it inside the bag was a royal pain.
So we ditched the mermaids and went with a backpack from LL Bean. This is actually the second year of use--doesn't it still look fabulous in May? LL Bean rocks the backpack. They never die. They hold a ton of books plus a lunch bag. And, two shoulder straps really are better for the body when carrying a lot of books.
We bought this at an outlet in New Hampshire. Thank you, Jordan, for returning your monogrammed backpack so that I could reap the deep discount. What to do with someone's random personalization? Cover it with a patch!
Handmade is a beautiful thing. However, some things are just not worth the effort to make yourself. Rest assured that if I'm not even going to make something for my own children, you are not going to see it as a product in my shop. The messenger bag might make an appearance down the road, but a backpack probably never will. What do we do with a fabulous mermaid messenger bag...I might steal it for myself to take on business meetings!
**LL Bean did not sponsor this post. All ideas expressed are my own.
Do your children grow out of their clothes as fast as mine??? Every time I look, pants and skirts are too short. When you love to sew for your children, it can be disheartening when they grow out of clothing you made (and labored over for many hours), in the blink of an eye. Since my girl has out-grown most warm-weather clothes in her wardrobe, I set about making a skirt that *might* last until the fall.
The pattern is very simple, a few gathered layers with an elastic waistband. I made it super long, hoping that she can wear it more than a few weeks. She chose the fabrics from my stash. That seems to be a key component in having your children wear what you make--involve them in choosing the fabrics.
To finish the internal seams, I went over each of the panels with an overlock stitch. It's a type of zig zag stitch that comes standard on most machines.
For the pattern, I adapted one from the book Stitch by Stitch by Deb Moebes. This book is fantastic for those just starting to sew! And, obviously, for those of us not so new to sewing too. The pattern called for patchwork panels, and I just didn't want that look for this skirt. So I did some extensive math to calculate the size of the panels I would need, plus sized it up since the largest size as the pattern is written is a child's 6. I needed a 10. Algebra, it turns out, can be pretty useful outside of high school.
She wore it the very next day to school, so I think it's safe to say that she likes it!
For those of you new to this space, welcome! Today I'm going to share with you all the ways you can purchase Dancing Threads RI goodies.
Etsy--my online shop is almost always open. I close it just before and during festivals and markets (I don't want to accidentally sell an item twice if there's only one in stock), but will list a predicted re-opening date in the shop announcement.
In person--There are several events that I attend throughout Rhode Island each year. Join my email newsletter to get the latest market dates (I send the newsletter about once a month). This year I will again attend the Aquidneck Growers Market in Middletown one Saturday per month.
RaNEW Salon and Spa in Newport--my waterproof-lined zippered pouches are available at this fabulous salon on lower Thames Street.
The Ship's Bell Store--This is a fun gift shop at the Naval War College in Newport. While you must have a military ID to access the shop (or tag along with someone who does), you can find nautical-themed items from Dancing Threads RI such as baby shoes, zippered pouches, grocery bags, totes, and even crayon rolls. They even have a fabric swatch book so that you can order certain items in your favorite fabric if it's not currently in stock. All proceeds from this shop go to charities such as scholarships for graduating high school seniors in military families. It is completely run by volunteers, stop by to say hello!
Clements Marketplace--a local family-owned grocery store in my hometown of Portsmouth, RI. At the customer service desk just to the left as you enter the front door, you can find my reusable snack bags, wet bags, and mesh produce bags. This store supports many local businesses, carries specialty food items you won't find at Stop n Shop, is a pillar in our community (they donate a portion of all receipts to local schools and offer scholarships to their teenage employees going off to college), and even sells fresh shaved steak so that I can make a proper Philly cheese steak at home! Good people.
Simmons Farm--Have you been to Simmons Farm in Middletown, RI? It is an organic farm here on Aquidneck Island that offers meat, eggs, vegetables, cow's milk, cow and goat milk cheeses, yoghurt, and the most recent addition: salted caramels made with their own goat's milk. Heaven, I tell you. These caramels are unbelievably good (and come in a coffee flavored variety as well). If you purchase the large bag of caramels in a fabric gift bag--the bag was handmade by me. Full disclosure: my family has been year-round CSA members for about 4 years. We adore this farm and all that they strive to do. It's a bonus that they support local artisans and chose me to make the goodie bags for their caramels. They have a petting zoo open on CSA days (please read and follow the posted rules), the farm stand is open most afternoons (check the times which vary by season), and they participate in several local farmer's markets.
By email--last-but-not-least, I am happy to take orders for items that may not be listed in my Etsy shop or on my table at a festival/market. Send me an email or Facebook message. I'm just a one-woman operation--it's impossible for me to have everything available in every fabric at all times (here's a post I wrote last year about wearing the many hats that is running an handmade business). I also may not have had a chance to photograph and list items that are in stock. Which is why I'm so happy to make you a produce bag in pink anchors, or a crayon roll with pirates instead of the ABC fabric that you see on Etsy right now. As long as the fabric is readily available and it's an item that I already have available in my product line, it's available to order. More on fabric and how it quickly goes out of print in another post.
If you have any questions, please feel free to ask!
Why am I talking about cans in a plastic swap post? The white lining of some canned foods contains BPA.
You can't tell which cans are lined by looking at them on the shelf, but you can keep track after trying a few brands. You can buy beans in bulk with reusable bags, but most of the time I forget to soak and cook them. 3pm rolls around, I'm planning to make chili, so canned beans are the most convenient choice.
Take a peek next time you rinse your can for recycling.
When you have finished sewing your latest handmade masterpiece, there are a few simple things you can do to make it look more professional. Using a lint brush, chopstick and a steam iron will give it a polished finish. Here are some before and after photos to show you what I mean.
A plain old chopstick (unused) leftover from takeout will help make the wonky corners look like crisp 90 degree angles. Your children will use them as Harry Potter wands, light sabers, to conduct an orchestra, as a drumstick...so if yours is missing--check the kids' rooms.
Gently use the pointier end of the chopstick to push out the bunched up fabric at the corners. The chopstick is just pointy enough to make crisp corners, but not too pointy to damage or poke holes in the fabric. Be cautious until you have done this a few times.
Now use a steam iron to make the bag look even crisper. A steam iron is your best friend when sewing. I spend more hours with my iron than my sewing machine. It is well worth the effort!
Another handy tool when sewing is a lint roller brush. It's up to you which style you prefer. When we had a cat, the type with sheets of masking tape was a must. Now, I use it to pick up stray threads that are everywhere in my studio.
Lastly, paying attention to the little details adds another level of professionalism to your work. If you are making something to give as a gift, it shows the recipient that you took extra effort on top of creating them something handmade.
Taking a few extra minutes to polish your handmade item makes it look like it belongs in a Newport boutique! Your gift recipient will better appreciate the time and effort you spent making their gift, never thinking that you threw something together at the last minute. Happy gift-making!
We all recycle any plastic shopping bags we get from the grocery store, pharmacy, or other store when we forget to bring along a reusable tote. It happens to all of us, even those who make reusable bags for a living (a- hem).
You can also recycle many other plastic bags like this one.
In our town, bags made of plastic that will easily stretch when you poke your finger through, can go in the collection sites at grocery stores. Take a look around your home, there might be a lot of plastic you were throwing out that could be recycled instead.
Here are a few other examples from my recycling bin.
Check your city/town and their collection rules. You might be able to divert a considerable amount of plastic from our landfills.
Knitters are the best! I knit badly, but I love to sew lovely bags to keep their projects, needles and hooks in order. I also teach sewing, and you can find many sewing resources here. Welcome to my blog Dancing Threads RI.