Thursday, December 18, 2008

Sumpn from (almost) nuthin

It's that time of year that gifts are given and baskets are filled. This year is different -- hello! can you say recession? - but it's not stressing me out. Having grown up poor -- which has a tendency to build your creative "muscles" -- I prefer giving humbler, but creative gifts.

In the past, we've gone a little overboard at Christmas. We were both working then and both made decent salaries. And Good Lord knows the economy was better. So, in our hurried forays into the shops, we would grab this and that and this and that and wrap it all till we were exhausted. And then just to make sure we didn't leave anything out, we'd fling a couple of gift cards in there. I'm not saying we didn't put some thought into the gifts, but who needs a mountain of gifts at Christmas? It always made me feel a little funny inside -- probably its me as a poor child looking through the window saying ... this ain't right! I find I PREFER fewer gifts! I love gifts that are homemade or purchased at a thrift store and cleverly upcycled into something else. I think a gift that includes cleverness and love is the best gift of all.

I remember the year Billie & Amanda gave us 2 special gifts. Amanda made some "trivets" of Christmas fabric filled with spice scented rice. And Billie made "Bailey's Irish Creme" from a recipe she found. She put it in a pretty bottle she got at a thrift store. They wrapped the gifts in white tissue paper and I think the ribbons were silver. It was lovely and meant so much to me. I still have the bottle and the trivets.

Now that we're adults and our children are grown, I find we need LESS STUFF! So we've encouraged the kids to give us consumables. Every year Erika bakes some wonderful breads for us - like Black Forest Chocolate Bread or Italian Olive bread. We cut the loaves in half, wrap and freeze them and then when we want a special treat, we pull out one of Erika's breads and it brightens our meal. And we love the thought that we haven't made a big dent in her economy.

Having said all that, I humbly present the baskets I sent to work with DH this mornining. I bought the baskets at Goodwill in Denton for $1.00 each. The one on the left was dark brown, the one on the right was mauve with a country style ribbon glued around it. I removed the ribbon, brushed them off real well, painted them white, stuffed white tissue in the bottom, covered that with a sheet of beautiful gold tissue, and tied a gold bow to the side. The bow is made up of 2 different ribbons and I wired 3 bells to the center. (I got the bells at Dollar Tree - 9 bells for $1.00). One basket has three books wrapped as one package and the other has a beautiful picture frame from Barnes & Noble. Each basket has a mercury glass votive with candle, a large loaf of rum cake, a package of homemade cranberry almond biscotti, and a package of Ghirardelli chocolates. DH added a really neat teeny-tiny flashlight that has a VERY bright beam (my sweet techo DH) and the funky-shopping-bag-chick ornament we found at Goodwill in Waco.

All in all, I'm pleased with the result!

Thursday, December 4, 2008

A Mama Moment

One of the really great things about Mom was she didn't know how to do things, but she did them anyway. For instance, she didn't know how to roof a house, but she probably asked someone ... at the hardware store or perhaps a neighbor ... and the next thing you know, she climbed up onto the house, tied a rope around her waist, attached it to to the roof (to break her fall if she slipped) and started roofing her house. And when she decided to build a carport, she just DID it. She was absolutely fearless about that sort of thing. Remind me to tell you the story about the wasps sometime ... but not now.

Back to my story, yesterday I had a Mama moment.

DH bought me an embroidery sewing machine about 6 months ago and I've been movin and groovin with it ever since. It's been a real learning experience. It's taken a lot of study plus tons of trial and error (with occasional shouts of "YOU RAT B%ST%RD! WHAT'S YOUR PROBLEM!!), but I mastered the machine and have been producing ever since. I'm down to the forging-new-paths stage -- removing blocks of the design and combining it with other designs to produce a whole new thang -- MY thang.

However, yesterday -- two-thirds of the way through a large project -- the machine began to screech jest a leetle bit. Then it suddently got real loud and the needle froze into position. This is where the Mama thing comes in. I unscrewed some parts, oiled it where the manual said to oil it, but decided to oil it up there too -- you know -- right up there! It certainly LOOKED like those were oil holes and it's right where that needle thingy used to move up and down until it froze. Sooo, I oiled it and moved the wheel manually a little back and forth as much as I could, oiled it some more and moved it some more, back and forth till it was moving better. However, all that moving back and forth -- or maybe it was from the big freeze-up -- got the needle out of sinc with the bobbin. At first I thought I was going to have to take the bobbin area apart which is really scary. There's a lot of screws and doo-dads in there. So I just snapped a picture that area and printed it out. My plan was to tape every piece I removed to it's position on the picture. That way I could figure out how to put it back together again afterwards. (Sweet DH called me a genius for thinking of this. I'm so proud!) However, first I grabbed a little screwdriver and slowly move the bobbin thingy jest a tad till it started working again.

When DH got home (and showered me with compliments) he asked if I had blown out the bobbin area to remove the dust. "Sure! See ..." and I bent over and started blowing on it, real hard. He just looked at me (pause) and grabbed one of those canned air things and blew all the thread dust out of there. I couldn't believe how much had collected in there. And my pitiful little lungs didn't dislodge it at all. Live and learn, huh!

My machine is hummin better than it ever has and I'm so proud of myself! I have Mom's blood in my veins for sure.

Now, to finish that project ....

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Brain Soup

Okay, this is not a recipe. It's about all the ideas that float around in that soupy brain of mine!

When I see an interesting item ... for instance a wool felt bird in a craft book ... I don't want to make THAT bird. The idea immediately starts twisting around in my brain. Maybe instead of sewing the bird, it should be felted as one solid piece. Maybe instead of those colors, I should make it a cardinal with a topknot. Maybe it should be a teensy bird on a whimsical birdhouse. The final product of my imagination rarely resembles the inspiration. It's still a bird, but it's MY bird. Know what I mean?

For instance, I saw someone selling tissue cozies, but they're all done with designer fabric. I'm selling tissue cozies on ebay & etsy made of non-designer fabrics, but personalized with an embroidered phrase or name or design. It's still a cozy, but it's MY cozy.

And sometimes my ideas are born out of necessity, like the boot buddy. It was Christmas and the budget was tight. DH had been stuffing his boots with newspapers to keep them from flopping over and damaging the leather. So the first boot buddy was born. It was just a denim tube filled with cedar shavings gathered at the top and the bottom. I painted a Texas star with his name on the front. I made a bunch of them that first year and he loved them -- but he's so sweet, he would love anything I had made with my own hands! When I decided to sell them commercially, I went back to the brain soup to create a sleeker, fancier design with embroidered emblem on the front. I have yet to see if the current design is attractive enough. If it's not, I'll just go back to the brain soup, stir it up and see what comes out!

Okay, all this talk about soup is making me hungry. I'd better have breakfast!

Have a fabulous Thursday! Only one more day to go till the weekend. WOOHOO!

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Step Away!

Today I'm taking a day off from etsy & ebay. Well, not completely. I have to ship 4 things out this morning from ebay sales. And I've got 1 private sale and another interested party on etsy, so I'll have to check emails from them.

OOH! I just got an email from the first rug I shipped out. It was the pink/rose/red victorian style.

I left feedback this morning for the rug I recently purchase from you. This piece is so wonderful--thank you so much for making it. I could not be more pleased, and hope that you will have other rugs available at some point. The workmanship and quality is incredible. I have already placed it in the english tudor house I am working on--it fit perfectly. Warmest wishes from a VERY satisfied customer.

Well, THAT made my day! I hope it's not rude to post it here, but it's exactly the encouragement I've been needing.

DH asked me this morning why I'm still putting so much effort into etsy and not into ebay. The ebay items are moving fast and etsy is s-l-o-o-o-o-w. I guess I'm counting on etsy to pay off in the long run. I think people have shops they frequent and I'm hoping mine will become one of the popular shops with repeat business. But it takes a little time to get it going. In ebay, you've got a quick shot at a larger audience, but they haven't a clue about who you are and what you're likely to produce. And with ebay they probably don't keep coming back to see what new interesting things you've added to the shop. Also, ebay is more expensive and it feels like there's a lot more effort required. You have to pick the best time to place your ebay ad so people on boths coasts can get home from work to buy your item before it closes.

Perhaps I'm wrong about the repeat customer thing -- only time will tell, but for now I'll just keep putting items in both places.

I have what I think is a really good idea for a signature handbag -- Sumpn and Oddly agree with me that it could be a popular seller, but that will have to wait for tomorrow. Today is all about working outside because the WEATHER IS GOING TO BE GREAT TODAY! Lots of sunshine and the temp will be in the 70's, so I'm going to mow and work in the flowers beds and cover the boats for winter, etc etc etc. Tomorrow will be cold, so indoors will be fine for tomorrow, but today is going to be my day to do the outside things and step away from the computer. As Alton Brown says "Step away from it. NO don't touch it! It'll be okay. Just walk away!" Of course, he's not talking about the computer .. I think it was bread dough ... but its the same principle.

Today I'm taking Alton's advice and stepping away from it.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008


Well, I'm just chugging along. Why is it that everything takes longer than it should? Yesterday I had a schedule set for my "work day" and I thought it was pretty reasonable. NOT! I did finish the boot buddy -- that's the easy part. The hard part is finding the right setting to photograph the item (several attempts before you even get close), tweaking the photo in photoshop, writing the ad, re-writing the ad, tweaking the ad, etc etc etc. So finally you look up -- it's 2:30 and you forgot about lunch -- all you've had today is a granola bar and a cup of coffee! DURN! Did it again!

Sooo, TODAY I will work on the Naughty Nice cozy and re-do the pictures for my existing cozies. My mentors, Sumpn and Oddly, agree with my ideas about how to stage the cozies to make them more appealing.

And my DH had a great idea about a new banner for the etsy shop, so I'll work on that.

AND I've got to mail some things out today for ebay. Why is ebay selling faster than etsy? It's got to be something to do with having a larger ebay audience. Also, since etsy has a lot of creative folks as members, they're like me and think they can make it themselves.

Evidence of that creative confidence is currently residing in my ears. This morning while DH was getting ready to brave the Dallas commute, I made some earrings! I bought the turquoise glass from the Rock Barrel in Dallas when I was there a couple of weeks ago. I got the earwires from Hobby Lobby and the gold filled half-hard wire from etsy. It took about a half an hour to make them. I don't think they're good enough to sell on etsy, (I have a really high standard for what I sell -- I have a Mary-Poppins-practically-perfect-in-every-way mentality for what I sell or give as a gift), but I think they're good enough for me to wear. It's not like someone is going to take a magnifying glass to them when I'm out and about and say "These are not perfect"! So I think they'll do just fine for my needs. And it cost less than $1.00 to make them. I wear a lot of turquoise, so they'll be perfect for me!

Gotta put the pedal to the medal. Much to accomplish today!


Monday, November 17, 2008


On my early morning conference call with sisters, Sumpn Sassy and Oddly Sassy, they recommended I create a blog re: my ebay & etsy efforts. Great idea! So here I am.

Today I've scheduled myself to finish a few projects I started a couple of weeks ago: (1) boot buddies, (2) Naughty or nice? tissue cozy and (3) tiny birdhouse a la Mackenzie Childs.

On Saturday my DH (dear husband) and I went shopping and got a good start on Christmas presents. We ended up in the Barnes & Noble Starbucks with a Caramel Macchioto (so long diet!) and biscotti. I was checking out a couple of felting books and in one I saw this cute little felted bird. It inspired me to consider doing a felted bird for the birdhouse described above. Time will be the deciding factor.

I'm on a tight schedule today and my calendar is already reminding me that I have to remove the plastic covering over my precious tomato plant. Gotta get up and move.

Have a wonderful - fruitful - Monday