Monday, December 31, 2007

Happy New Year!

I've been reflecting on the past year and the many things that I have learned. On Jan. 1, 2007, I'm pretty sure that I didn't really understand what an "indie crafter" was. I had never heard of Etsy.

Exactly one year ago tonight, on New Years Eve 2006, my cousin called me. She was having some friends over and she recognized a tote bag that one of her friends was carrying. Her friend told her that she had bought it on ebay when she and her husband were stationed in Germany with the military two years ago. It turns out, she bought it from me, in my previous ebay life. It was a very "hey, small world!" type of moment.

But Jan. 1, 2007, I woke up and this remarkable coincidence was the first thing that entered my mind. I had been looking for a way to get back into making and selling, and if this wasn't a sign to do so, I didn't know what was. At the next available opportunity, I took some Christmas money and bought fabric and supplies. Who am I to argue with the Universe?

But, even with a fresh head of steam and pretty new fabrics, I wasn't exactly sure how I wanted to proceed. "Feebay" was cost prohibitive. I thought about selling to local boutiques, but didn't want to do only wholesale. I floundered for a few months.

But thanks to the craft blog world, I started seeing references to Etsy. After checking it out, I knew it was a good fit for me. Actually, I was thrilled to find it! I WAS HOME!!!

But now I needed a name. I tried a zillion combinations and such, but when I stumbled upon "Modern Charm", I knew it was right for me. To me the word "charm" has almost a vintage feel to it. Charm School. Charm Bracelet. Pretty, feminine, well heeled. Adding "modern" to the mix gave it an updated twist. Clean lines. Clever designs. The combination of the two gave me free reign to do everything I wanted to do with my shop.

I began selling in April 2007. My very first listing was a Ginkgo leaf tote and makeup bag. Despite all my pretty new fabrics, I made this set using white duck cotton and machine stitching ginkgo leaves in pale green thread.

It didn't sell, but it did get me some attention. Which in turn, helped to sell my headbands. I had been making headbands for my daughter and began putting them in my shop. They were my first real etsy success.

I've learned a ton this year. I've been inspired every single day when I look at the other crafters on etsy. It's such a generous thing, this craft world, and crafters' blogs are a seemingly unending source of inspiration and information and encouragement and warmth.

So now it's time to look forward, take a deep breath, set new goals, and imagine what changes 2008 will bring.

Friday, December 28, 2007

Merry Christmas to ME!!!

Betz White, crafty rock star, recently came out with a new book on using felted wool. Of course, you probably all know this.

Did you know that if you purchase a book from her etsy shop, she will sign it for you?

This is going to be my first project to tackle. After all, I have a tween, and she has a head and a neck and could use a scoodie.

Come to think of it, I also have a head and a neck.

Actually, there are tons of great projects in this book! There is a messenger bag that I want to make, and of course I want to try a cupcake pincushion, and the list goes on. And, high on my list, so many of them are functional items. Things to use, things you need, things that you didn't know you needed until you cracked the binding on this book! Gorgeous pics, lots of eye candy, lots of great instruction!

A couple of months ago, I tried to felt some thrifted sweaters. I put them in the machine on SCALD for about an hour. Maybe two. Then I overdried them. And killed them. They should make excellent scouring pads to use on those stubborn pots and pans.

But I did have some pale pink wool coating that I didn't over-felt TOO much, and I saw a stuffie-type-tree, and tried to make one of my own.

(So sorry for the terrible picture of my little pink tree. This project is not in Betz's book. If it were, it would be much cuter. It would have garland and other cute things. I started this before I received Betz's book.)

The buttons are mostly vintage Mother-of-Pearl. I'm almost happy with it. I think if I have several more in varying sizes, it will be a much better display.

I'm going to start the hunt for materials for the scoodie immediately! Wheee!

Lesson Learned #45,587

Gee, my shop is looking very... Christmas-y. Still. Hmmmm....

It seemed like a good idea at the time to photograph everything with candy canes hanging all over them. Festive! Pretty! Minty! But now, I'm wondering why I didn't bother to take a few pics WITHOUT the candy canes, you know, just in case customers didn't swarm in like locusts and pick my store clean by Dec. 24th.

Note to self: For Easter, when you get the great idea to photograph everything with pastel colored eggs or marshmallow Peeps? Take a few without. Just in case.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

You're either In or You're Out

So, I was all excited and such about the new season of Project Runway. And it's been... well, um... yeah. This season has been more irritating than entertaining.

Jillian darling? Please speak up. You are beginning to remind me of the low-talker on Seinfeld that made Jerry wear the Puffy Shirt on the Today show.

Ricky? Sweetie? Please, please, PLEASE stop crying. Seriously. I know Andre. Andre is a friend of mine. You are no Andre.

Kevin, we get it. You are straight. You know who Tiki Barber is. Because you are straight.

Christian, I don't hate you as much as I thought I would. And aside from the puffy sleeves, I really like your clothes.

Also, I have learned one very important aspect to the judging. Crazy trumps Boring every time. If your outfit is the fashion equivalent of Valium and is standing beside the fashion equivalent of a bag lady pushing a shopping cart full of aluminum foil hats? Buh-bye.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Turning the corner

Christmas is over. Long, exhausted exhale.........

I would love to say that Christmas is my favorite time of the year and full of wonder and sparkle and all that good stuff. Unfortunately, I find as I get older that it seems to be more stressful and the magic has been completely wrung out of the season. Never enough time, never enough money. Maybe that is just part of being a grown up. I hope not. I would love to rediscover the warm feelings that I used to enjoy.

It's 12:15pm on Dec. 26th and my tree is already down. I used to leave my tree up until after New Years, but for some reason now, it just makes me sad to see the tree after Christmas.

I am proud to say that while I did not strictly adhere to the Handmade Christmas pledge, almost everyone on my list did get something handmade, whether it was something I purchased on Etsy (my daughter adored the Mario buttons in her stocking, and my hubby got a smile from his Guinness soap) or something from my own shop, or a photo that I took of my daughter that I framed for the grandparents, or cookies for the neighbors.

So, now it's time to get back to work. New designs for Spring. New twists on existing products. Today is a Project Runway marathon (always good "sew along" tv) and my daughter has more new stuff to keep her busy than she can wrap her mind around. (The only grandkid on one side of the family + only one of three on the other side = SPOILED ROTTEN.)

The best news is that New Years is just a few days away. Without a doubt, this is my favorite day of the year. New year, new possibilities, new beginnings, new goals. And lots of football on TV.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Who knew I was part of something so cutting edge and cool?

Excellent article in the NYTimes about Etsy!

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Insert Clever Title Here

Today is baking day. Crazy, gotta-do-it-all-today baking day. So instead of an actual post, how about a Christmas-y recipe and some Christmas-y pics?

Peppermint Bark

12 oz. semi-sweet chocolate chips
1/3 cup heavy cream
1/2 tsp. peppermint extract
12 oz. white chocolate chips
6 oz. crushed peppermint candies (about 3/4 cup)

In a double boiler, melt semi-sweet chocolate chips with heavy cream and peppermint extract. When melted, pour onto a cookie sheet lined with foil or parchment paper. Sprinkle with about half of the crushed peppermints. Chill in fridge for 20 minutes.
In a double boiler, melt white chocolate chips. When melted, pour and smooth over the chilled semi-sweet chocolate mixture. Sprinkle with remaining peppermint candies. Chill for at least an hour. Break apart into pieces. Enjoy!

Every year, each person in our family chooses an ornament to add to our collection. I always pick houses or buildings. This is mine this year.

This is my daughter's. Actually, she got two. Each year she chooses an angel, but we couldn't resist the Clara ornament, so we got both.

This is my big project from last year. I made about a kazillion felt poinsettias for package toppers. When I had waaaaay too many, I decided to do a new tree skirt. They have jingle bells in the centers. I'm told it also makes a nice cat bed.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Christmas Goodies

From Angry Chicken, gift tags to print.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

My labor of love...and insanity.

Holy freakin' cow, what on earth was I thinking?

This was by far the most ambitious gingerbread structure I have ever undertaken, complete with obese snowman. I'm happy with how it turned out, but it took sooooo much longer than I anticipated, simply due to the more complicated construction. More pieces, many many more pieces.

A teeny little Baxter with his own Snoopy-esque house and Santa hat (my daughter's brilliant idea).

Merry Christmas!

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Gift Certificates!

Gift Certificates in several denominations are available in my etsy shop.

Want me to ship directly to the lucky recipient? Sure! No problem. Just let me know where, who, and what you would like to say on the enclosure, and it's as good as done.

Monday, December 10, 2007

More Market Totes

A brand new batch of Market Totes have been added to my etsy shop.

Mmmmm.... Amy Butler fabrics!

Friday, December 7, 2007

Lavender Filled Sachets

My sewing studio smells sooooooo good right now. I am calm and peaceful and destressed and I'm pretty sure that this stuff is keeping away evil spirits, too, but that may be stretching the powers of the lavender just a wee bit.

A set of three sachets, tied with a satin ribbon, is just $10 in my etsy shop. More fabric choices will be added soon.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Oh, this could come in handy on so many other occasions...

Once again, How About Orange finds all the best stuff.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Yes, I realize that I sound about 107 years old.

Last night we watched Merry Christmas Charlie Brown. I always get some serious warm fuzzies when Linus recites the Christmas story on stage. I adore when the whole gang decorates Charlie Brown's sad little tree, and then they "oooooh, ooooooh, ooooh" to Hark the Herald Angels sing, and inhale all together between oooohs.

My daughter loves Christmas shows, too, but she doesn't know what it was like when her dad and I were kids. There was no Tivo. There was no such thing as a VCR even. Or Disney Channel, Nickelodeon, ABC Family, blah, blah, blah...
When the Christmas specials came on TV, it was a BIG DEAL. You talked about it at school that day. You were sitting smack dab in front of the set when it came on. (Remember the spinning "Special Program" graphic that came on just before??? Crazy-good!) During Charlie Brown, almost all of the commercials were for Dolly Madison snack cakes. "Good Golly, it's a Dolly!"

Tonight is Rudolph. My daughter doesn't get why the doll is on the Island of Misfit Toys, and I've got to admit, neither do I.

Seems perfectly fine to me.

Sunday, December 2, 2007

More Zippered Wristlets

In Alexander Henry's Pavo fabric - so cool! Love this stuff.

And also in red corduroy (baby wale - so very soft!) with some freehand stitching in black and white thread that has been embellished with buttons.

The closeup pics are terrible, because we had absolutely NO sunlight today. I'll have to retake those when we have some natural light, so that you can better see the sweet mother-of-pearl buttons, particularly the little flower.

I'm really pretty pleased with how this one turned out, and my daughter has given me the color scheme for the next one.

Friday, November 30, 2007

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Lessons Learned

When you are a seamstress and the iron dies? So does your productivity.

When I grow up, I want to be Anna Maria

"Beautiful things come from failed plans I do believe."

This is a snippet from Anna Maria Horner's wise post about going with Plan B. (If you don't already read her blog, you absolutely should add it to your list.)

I love it that this post came along right before the Christmas season ramps up, because sometimes - I think especially with we creative folk - we have such a clear picture of how things are going to be, that we have a hard time just letting things "be."

Enjoy! And, if you get a little misty-eyed while reading, that's OK.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

New for the Christmas Season!

New Zippered Wristlets from Modern Charm! Small enough to fit in a stocking, but cool enough to be an excellent gift on their own. Great gift for teachers, babysitters, etc...

Right now, I only have this one listed, but in the coming days, more will magically appear!

Monday, November 26, 2007

*Zu Zu Zu Zu Zu Zu!

How is it that I didn't know about CraftyPod? Podcasts! About crafts!

Shut up!

No, for reals! Even a series on crafty 'preneurs, and an interview with Amy Karol of Angry Chicken and the book Bend the Rules Sewing.

*I dare you to listen and not do a little do a little sixties twist to the music. Sort of very "Down with Love."

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Words of Thanks

Feeling gratitude and not expressing it is like wrapping a present and not giving it.
- William Arthur Ward

Reflect on your present blessings, of which every man has many; not on your past misfortunes of which all men have some.
- Charles Dickens

Gratitude is the most exquisite form of courtesy.
- Jacques Maritain

Happy Thanksgiving!

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

To feed my insatiable need for tutorials...

I've hit the motherload at Cotton Spice Blog . Lots of spankin' fresh tutorials for gift ideas.

Also, tons of more great ideas and tutorials at the Sew, Mama, Sew! Blog, where they are doing 30 Days of Gifts to Sew.

Craft on!

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Time to Make the Gingerbread

Ever since my daughter's first Christmas, we have made a gingerbread house. When she was little, we even had a few Gingerbread House decorating parties. I would make small houses and tubs and tubs of icing for her little friends and they would each bring a bag of candy to decorate with and to share.

When she was four I was crazy enough to do this for her preschool's Christmas party, and made 12 small gingerbread houses and gobs of icing. (I'm sure that the other parents were thrilled when their kids came home that day, hopped up on sugar and carrying a completely edible house dripping with icing and covered in candy.)

(Picture taken long ago, before Mommy knew how to use a camera, apparently.)

Last year, we made this house based on a picture of a cottage that Emily had seen and loved. And while it was not an exact replica, it was close enough. I melted butterscotch candies on parchment paper for the windows, and I put a string of lights inside the house for a cozy glow. Emily added the jelly bean string of lights on the roof, and I think it was the perfect touch!

Our snowman, with tiny bits of black jelly bean for eyes and buttons, and a shard of broken butterscotch for a nose.

And now it's that time of year again. Usually, the weekend after Thanksgiving, I start making the gingerbread dough. I always use this Martha Stewart recipe from her "Martha Stewart's Christmas" book that I bought ages ago. I couldn't find the recipe on her website, but here it is:

Gingerbread for Houses

1/2 cup margarine, room temperature
1/2 cup loosely packed brown sugar
1/2 cup unsulphured molasses
3 1/2 cups sifted all purpose flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. cloves
1/3 cup water

Cream together the margarine and sugar. Add the molasses and continue mixing until well incorporated. Sift the dry ingredients together. With the mixer on low speed, add the dry ingredients alternating with water. If the dough becomes too stiff, add the last bit of flour by hand.

Work the dough with your hands until it becomes smooth in consistency. Turn our onto plastic wrap, form into a neat rectangle, wrap well, and chill thoroughly.

After all the pieces have been cut out, bake at 350 for 10-15 minutes, or until firm but not browned.

Mmmm.... I can smell it already.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Tutorial: Marbled Glass Ornaments

This is one of my favorite ways to make ornaments, and it's even easy enough for kids to enjoy. One year we did this as an activity after Thanksgiving dinner and it went great. This is also a great way to get a custom ornament color if you have a tree that needs a turquoise or hot pink or chocolate brown and can't find it.

You need: clear glass craft ornaments, craft paints (I used leaf green, metallic copper, metallic silver, metallic gold), disposable bathroom cups. That's really all.

Gee, Mendy, looks like you've got some glitter and glue in the picture. What is that for?

Well, I tried to use the glue and glitter and it turned out bad. Really, really bad. Ignore.

Here's how you do it!

1. Take the little top off of the glass ornament.

2. Squirt craft paint inside the ornament. Use any colors that you wish. I would warn against using too many colors inside one ornament, but it's totally up to you.

3. Swirl around a little bit, and then turn the ornament upside down and rest in the disposable bathroom cup, to allow the paint to cover the inside and drain.

The left one is leaf green and silver metallic. The right one is copper metallic and gold metallic.

After the paints have drained, turn the ornaments right side up (in the original box is great) and allow to dry overnight. Replace the tops and voila!

Uh, yeah. Looks like you started with 12 ornaments. ?????

Three of them fell victim to my glue/glitter idea (BAD! ICKY!) and one fell victim to Max.


Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Good Stuff

I was over at Future Girl and read this post and thought it was so on point, I had to pass it on. Here's a part...

"Too often we seem to peel off into opposing cliques: the champions of natural fibers vs the thrifty users of acrylics, knitters vs crocheters, crafters vs artists, granny crafters vs craft punks ... it's so silly. We should always acknowledge the value of making, no matter what people make or what they materials they are using, even if it's silently to ourselves."

Creativity, by definition it seems, should be inclusive, not exclusive. Art vs. Craft, quality vs. quaint, can't we all just get along?

Monday, November 5, 2007

I choose to blame this all on the Daylight Savings time change.

Ever have one of those days? Welcome to mine.

So far today I've made 2 handbags based on a new, but not complicated, design. The first was just not right. Close, very close, but no cigar.

I had extremely high hopes for the second one, which came out worst than the first. I tweaked the initial issue, only to discover that I had made an error elsewhere. A math error.

No real surprise there.

So now I'm working on the third bag. It's showing great potential, but I don't want to get crazy or anything, especially since I'm toying with the idea of tweaking the closure.

(Will I never learn?)

Meanwhile, I decided to do a simple, wintery banner for my shop for the holiday season. Wouldn't that be nice and festive? 45 minutes and one ugly, pixilated, utterly unfixable banner later, I was ready to scream.

So, it's 8:30pm. Should I call it a night and watch some TV? Work on the third bag and try and make something positive and productive out of this day?

The jury is still out.


Oct. 19th...


Finally, a little bit of color!

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Meet Louise Trimble

I would like to introduce you to Miss Louise Trimble, heiress to the Trimble Chocolate Truffle Company fortune.

Louise was unfortunately murdered for her vast millions.

Louise, being a spirited girl (no pun intended), decides that haunting her killer is the only answer.

Her ghost can be seen in various places on the Trimble Estate, dressed in white (as was her usual preference) and looking quite put out.

And sometimes, you might notice that your chocolate has disappeared.