The large tote bags available in my shop are so versatile, that I thought I would show you how I use mine. One day it's a beach bag, another a farmers market tote, today it's my catch all handbag. Wanna take a peek?
Here's what I'm carrying today. I'll show you some other versions in coming weeks. My bag is made from a tablecloth that I loved, but was stained. The inside is a plain white cotton, though many of my totes are lined with the waterproof PUL fabric.
Does anyone have experience using one?? Share your thoughts in the comments!
My go-to everyday bag.
Front pocket--tissues, to-do list, lip gloss, lip balm, hair elastic and Star Wars pens. Of course. Don't you have Star Wars pens in YOUR bag???
Fabric for a morning sewing lesson
Package to take to the post office
Hat and gloves
Business card holder
Tin of Mints
First Aid Kit (pretty bird zippered pouch)
More lip balm (it's cold and dry here in the winter!--brown polka dot zippered pouch)
What's inside the small bags inside the big bag?? Take a peek:
I could probably edit this bag. Those Listerine mint things are *awful* (someone gave them to me). The pink ball is an EOS lip balm. Told ya it was dry here in the winter. And I probably only need one tin of mints in my whole bag.
First Aid Kit: Again, could stand to be edited. The white box is band aids and Neosporin. There are some allergy eye drops, more band aids, alcohol wipes, emergency toothbrushes (disposable, I know, but again, someone gave them to me), and the obligatory candy bribes for really bad tumbles or a marathon list of errands to slog through. Why so many band aids? I did mention I have a 5 year old boy, didn't I?
We went to a 5 year old's birthday party this weekend for some very dear friends. This little girl love love loves all things Peter Pan. A few weeks ago, I saw a link for this plushie sewing tutorial over on Sew Mama Sew. The tutorial was shared for free from this book, Flip Dolls and Other Toys that Zip, Stack, Hide, Grab & Go by Laura Wilson.
The instructions were pretty straightforward, though I would have liked more photos for the zipper insertion. I made some modifications because of the wool fabric I used that had a very loose weave (read: unravels easily when cut!). Here are some photos I took while making the croc. I embroidered "Tic Toc" on the tail to make it fit the theme even more.
I used an overlock stitch to prevent some of the fraying, #12 on my machine. It does the same job as a serger without the cutting.
A couple of wooden buttons for eyes.
That's how we roll, handmade gifts even for 5 year old birthday parties.
For the most part, we use glass mason jars around the house. They are sturdy, dishwasher safe, and the quilted jelly jars are perfect for little hands to grasp.
EXCEPT in our tile bathroom! After two broken jelly jars on the tile counter, I found a new solution.
The metal camping cups with a handle work perfectly! They might be a little loud if they are accidentally dropped, but the handle helps with that and you're assured that nothing is broken.
Mine came from Amazon and were very inexpensive (about $5). Give them a try!
It has been far too long since I have shared what's on my sewing table. While I'm not promising weekly updates, I thoroughly enjoy looking back on these posts. Much of the time I feel like I never finish what I set out to make. These posts pleasantly prove me wrong!
Those are projects on my agenda before and during this weekend. Show and tell next week!
Resolutions are not my thing. They always seemed to set me up for failure, never success. In the past couple of years, a dear friend and I have set goals and shared them with one another. Partly it's to help keep one another accountable, partly it's the idea that once something is "out there" and not just in my head or scribbled on a sheet of paper, that it is more tangible and likely to receive my attention. A goal seems more attainable than a resolution.
February is a good time to make our lists. Who can really sit down after all the holiday bustle and say on January 1 what areas of life they would like to improve? I certainly can't. I caught up on sleep that week this year! Taking some time off allowed things to come into focus, and I think I have some clearer ideas of how I want to approach my business this year. Personal goals are staying personal : )
Jumping on the blogosphere bandwagon, I have chosen "balance" as an over-arching goal for the year. I make no promises that I will figure out a magic formula I can follow, because life happens. Things change. Stuff comes up. People are human. There's a whole lot that needs tending throughout the course of the year when you're raising young children, nurturing a marriage, running a business, teaching online, managing a household and still trying to get a decent night's sleep.
Flexibility is a key component of balance, in my opinion, and I understand that different things take priority in different seasons (figuratively and literally). April means building new garden beds and planting seeds. October means lots of craft fairs and sewing. January means rest and reconnecting with my creativity. What does this mean for Dancing Threads RI? I'm so glad you asked!
For the most part, nothing will change noticeably from where you sit. There are new products in the works, new shows to attend, refinement of existing products (and the processes that I use to make them), and a de-emphasis of custom work. Working smarter, not longer hours. I talked in the past about how I get a lot accomplished throughout the day, and I really can't physically add more work hours without sacrificing something like sleep or playtime at the beach (I love the above photo taken at a neighborhood beach here in Portsmouth). In order to improve my time management, custom requests are on hold indefinitely.
If you ask me to make a grocery bag in flip flop fabric, I'll enthusiastically say "Yes!" If you see a lobster bag on Etsy and would like a dozen, just ask! No problem. If you ask me to make a slipcover for your couch, I will gladly recommend some local upholstery shops. See the difference? Just because I CAN sew, doesn't mean that tailoring or alterations are my strong suit. Neither is quilting. Or embroidery. I CAN do all of these things, and you will likely see some of these skills shown here on the blog this year, but if I don't feel that I do them extremely well, I don't feel comfortable selling said product or service.
Creativity--the fun of running a business, is taking a larger role this year. The latest line of applique zippered pouches are a step in that direction.
Re-using, upcycling, recycling, and just plain wasting less is a major goal for my business. Why make an eco-friendly product line if there is a lot of waste in the process? You will see some very creative uses of materials in my studio this year. Some will be products available for purchase, others will be tutorials on how you can make similar items yourself. I have plans for the spools in the bin below. If you follow me on Pinterest, you will have an idea of where I might be going, creatively, this year.
Sewing lessons have been one of the most rewarding aspects of my business this past year. Working with someone who wants to try something new and being able to help that light bulb go off over her head is a bit of magic. Speak up if you or someone you know would like a lesson! Whether you are just starting out, are now ready to work with zippers, or would like to hang out and ask me a zillion questions while you work through a project--I am happy to help. My rates are reasonable if you are here on Aquidneck Island, and I'm even open to the idea of a web cam session for those living outside of Rhode Island.
I love what I do, and I think that moving to a more creative product line, while keeping the things you know and love, sewing more things for myself and my family--these will all help keep me excited to get up at 5am and sew every day. If it becomes a chore, or something I hate, then why keep doing it? I believe these new goals will help make that happen.
Bring on the balance, 2014. I'm ready for you. I know I'm ready for some new products, for staying in the groove of my current product line, for getting more creative and eco-conscious, for making some things for my family, for me, and for sharing those products here in this space. Thank you for following along as I carve out my niche in the world of small business ownership!
My last post described at length how I am trying to waste less through my business this year. With our recent cold snap in the single digits, it was clear that we needed more than one draft dodger in our house!
I still have PLENTY of this:
And I had a piece of fabric that has colors from most of the downstairs rooms in my house. I sewed up a quick tube and started stuffing.
The beauty of making things yourself is that you can make it exactly the way you want. This fits the entryway perfectly!
The next project I have in mind for the scrappy stuffing is weights for my items to use at outdoor fairs. Wind is an issue when you try to line up lightweight zippered pouches neatly on a shelf. By making custom-sized weights with materials I already have on hand, it's an economical and eco-friendly solution to an issue that occurred many times last year. Win win!
2013 saw more Dancing Threads RI products created than in any year thus far. Thank you to all of my fabulous customers for making that possible!
After the dust has settled from the busy holiday season, I have embarked on a studio reorganization. All that productivity has lead to this mess:
This is all high quality fabric that I am not about to just throw away. How on Earth did these piles get so large? Let me show you a bit about how I sew.
Let's say I'm going to make a grocery bag like this. Note the slight curve of the handles where they meet the green part of the bag.
I start with a fresh new yard of fabric that is cut from the bolt in a rectangular shape.
I pin the pattern pieces, cut, and start constructing the bag. But this is what the fabric looks like after cutting.
It's the same beautiful fabric, but now it's bizarrely shaped. I can't cut out another grocery bag, there isn't enough continuous fabric. Maybe I can cut some snack bags. That leaves an even more bizarrely shaped piece of fabric. What do I do with this????
Most people would simply throw it away and start the next project with another fresh rectangle cut from the bolt. Being in the business of eco-friendly products, I couldn't bear to throw this away. Over the past year I've been saving these weird bits of fabric, forming ideas of what to do with it all.
I can muster my Yankee thrift and make a quilt. That's what women have done with scraps for centuries. I am doing that, but the pile of fabric is enormous from my business. I'm not just making clothes for the family with a meager basket of scraps leftover that add up to a single quilt. To be honest, I'm not much of a quilter. The ones I've had in progress have been in progress for a YEAR or more. That's not going to clear out my studio very quickly. So I've begun testing out some other ideas.
All products made through this scrap-busting process are still the same high quality you have come to expect from me and my shop. It's the same high quality fabric being used, just in smaller bits. These products are much more time-consuming because of the piecing and extra sewing, but it's also a fun method of creative expression. I'm pretty excited to see where this leads in the coming weeks/months. I would hate for anyone to think that I'm unloading cast-offs onto my favorite customers. Far from it!
In fact, many of the fabrics that will appear in scrappy projects this year have been discontinued and are out of print. They are getting a second chance!
So what was the first project that I came up with? A much-needed draft dodger for my basement. Bear with me on this one...
Instead of patching fabric scraps to make a tube stuffed with fiberfill, I thought, "Why not stuff it WITH SCRAPS??" The scraps that are way too tiny that would drive me insane making patchwork. The thread snips. The ribbon snips. The ends of cuts that are just plain small. Like this:
This is the mother of all draft dodgers. Not only is it two tubes, one on the inside of the door, one on the outside, connected by a flat piece of fabric, but the stuffing makes them extremely dense. I'd like to see breezes even try to get past this sucker.
This is a basement door that goes to our bulkhead. Someone in the past has apparently used the door as target practice for a BB gun. Um, ok. That compromises the insulation of the door even more, but we have plans to address that later. For now, closing the bottom gap was the first order of business. Since the side/bottom also had some gaps, I made two door-stopper type of bags. Think of them as sand bags, but filled with fabric scraps. Just in time for today's morning temp of ZERO DEGREES.
This project swallowed a good chunk of my scraps, it was great! I thought I would start selling them, but they are so dense, that the weight would be obscene to ship. (If anyone local is interested in a single-sided regular draft-stopper....let me know! It would not attract critters like a rice/bean filling might, it's a bit lumpy, but it's not plastic like fiberfill, and it's even eco-friendlier since you're helping me recycle).
The fabric was perfect for this part of the basement since it's right next to the washer and dryer. I have a few old-school washboards and plan to make the door even cuter in the near future.
So this was project #1 in my Scrappy New Year. Next up is finding more ways to use the stuffing-grade scraps, and move on to larger scraps where the print can be used and even highlighted.
Enter the mug rug.
Have you ever seen these? They are just adorable. I think it would be a lovely hostess gift with a box of tea. The idea is to make it larger than a coaster, but just large enough to hold a mug and a little treat. For someone like me who works from home, it's used daily. I'll have a breakfast bar with coffee when I first wake up and work at the computer. Or maybe have a granola bar with more coffee later in the day. You could also have a cookie, muffin, piece of chocolate with your mug of tea. I may or may not have had sweet treats on my prototype mug rug on a regular basis. I think this would be a great addition to anyone's work office whether at home or not.
This rug has seen a lot of coffee in the past year.
Another idea that I have wanted to try out for a while, came together last week. Some of you may have seen the Facebook post and/or Etsy listing. Bunting is all the rage right now. It's pretty darn adorable, so I thought it would work well on a zippered pouch.
There will definitely be more of these showing up in my Etsy store.
I think bunting may work well on a tote bag too. Maybe even on the mug rug. Hmmmmmmmmm. The wheels are turning...
Those are the products I've been able to work through since being on vacation. I have so many more ideas to test out. Because really, this is getting obnoxious.
And there's more in my attic. You people out there who like to give me circa 1990's fabric...please don't. At least no more for now until I reduce these ridiculous piles! If anyone has any ideas for using ugly fabric, please speak up. What looked good as a window treatment in 1983 doesn't quite work as a tote bag in 2014...
May you have an Eco-friendly start to the new year!
As co-owner of Stitchery in Portsmouth, RI, I teach sewing classes to children and adults. Welcome to my blog Dancing Threads RI.