craft business

Genius Hour

In elementary schools, Genius Hour is a dedicated time where students can explore anything that interests them. Some sort of output is usually required in the form of a physical object, writing piece or digital multimedia presentation. Our Friday clubs are my school’s version of Genius Hour.

sewing clubMy Stitching Stallions were required to design and make blocks for Block Party, which is a kid-focused quilting exhibit (open to all K-12 students in Georgia) that will be on display during Georgia Celebrates Quilts in June, 2019.  Most of my kids had never touched a sewing machine before the end of January.  They love to sew long lines of fabric together, so we decided on strip pieced blocks as the overall design for everyone.  The kids cut the bulk of the strips themselves using my Sizzix machine and strip dies. Some of the kids really took their time and kept a fairly consistent seam allowance throughout the entire block construction. They carefully selected colors that would complement one another and arranged their strips in a certain color order. Other kids took a lot of creative liberties with sewing wide seam allowances because they wanted different width strips, or sewing the strip directly on top of the other one because they liked the look.  Their written block descriptions are due back Monday. I can’t wait to see what they wrote about the experience!

This Friday sewing club has been a treasured part of the past four years I’ve spent at this school. We learned on Friday afternoon that there would be no more clubs for the remainder of the year due to the new state-mandated testing schedule.  The rumor mill (usually accurate) also says there will be no clubs next year.  This confirms my feeling that it’s time to dismantle sewing studio B,  re-home four sewing machines and divest the bulk of the craft materials (rather than waiting until the end of the year).  Two sewing machines and some supplies will be kept in the Media Center for Maker Space activities. 20190301_125826

craft business

QuiltCon 2019 Recap

Two years ago, I attended the event in Savannah.  Had a BLAST!  Immediately put QuiltCon 2019 in Nashville on my calendar. I had a good time and met some nice folks, but I left without the warm fuzzies that I did in Savannah.

Why?

  1. Downtown Nashville is very crowded.
  2. Parking was expensive.
  3. Conference hotel prices were outrageous.
  4. Food vendors were confined to one small space where the dining seating (roped off to boot) also served as the seating for the demo stage.  I had to eat my lunch sitting on the floor of the loading dock.  Not cool.
  5. Unless you sported vibrantly colored hair, nose rings, full sleeve tattoos and a hipster vibe, some of the vendors weren’t that interested in you. I saw more than one customer leave an armload of merchandise in a booth because they grew tired of waiting for someone to take their money. Apparently Instagram followers are more important than paying customers. 
  6. There was no communication at all from QuiltCon or the instructor regarding a required kit fee for one class.  This caught several class attendees by surprise, many of whom don’t carry cash.  We had to pay the kit fee at the door before we entered the classroom. Why wasn’t the kit fee included in the class fee?
  7. Dear instructors: please remember your students paid money to learn and sew- not listen to you constantly pitch the various products you sell, represent, or serve as a brand ambassador for during the entire class.  Once, maybe twice, is more than enough.

 

 

craft business

Self-care isn’t selfish – it’s a necessity

Remember the oxygen mask instructions given before each flight by the flight attendant? “Put YOUR mask on FIRSTthen help the person next you.”

Honestly, mid-winter break came at the right time.

I’ve been feeling out-of-sorts for the past 3 weeks.  Tired, cranky and ever so grateful for our pseudo-snow day.  That gave me a very much needed one day off to regroup and make it until mid-winter break. My applied linguistics class has an insane amount of homework and I’ve had one hell of a time making any meaningful connections with the required IPA transcription activities to my daily library work. Thankfully, it’s about over.

In the day job, we’ve had some professional development sessions designed to help us better understand ourselves and our students.  Teachers tend to be very selfless and giving, but we have to learn to be selfish and put ourselves first or we’re not going to be any good for anybody.  My school work environment meets the training leader’s definition of “a trauma environment.”  Hmmm. Think that might be one of the reasons so many people leave each year?

After 48 hours of wholesome food, proper hydration, vitamins & supplements, sleep/naps and mega time spent reading, I FINALLY feel good again.  Message received!!! I have to slow down. set boundaries and take better care of me. 

Oh, and quilt!

 

 

craft business

Was there a full moon this past week?

And did I miss the memo?

At Saturday’s Kid’s Club, Miss Jackie and I compared notes on how crazy the past two weeks had been. She even asked if there had been a full moon. (I checked. Nope, it was a new moon moving into a quarter moon!) Saturday’s Kid’s Club involved the girls learning how to make chenille.  Lots of fuzzy fun!

Sometimes the SHTF in all areas of your life about the same time. That was me last week. Too much of everything – work, linguistics class, home and then a text from a customer asking if her orders were ready (no due date had been previously communicated).  I will just say that I made it through the work craziness and spent 14 hours of my precious weekend devoted to linguistics class assignments.  A brief reprieve was spent teaching the kid’s sewing class and purchasing backing fabric for two of my customer’s projects. (I also now have a deadline, but will not be able to complete all projects in her desired time frame.)

There were some pretty dark moments in the past week – like when the professor suddenly changed the assignment requirements and I thought I had no choice but to drop the class because there was no way I could redo my work at this late stage or the unsolicited “reality check” (courtesy of  my spouse) when I mentioned that I might want to leave teaching at the end of the year.  I also felt as if I’d let my customer down because I didn’t ask some hard questions on the front end when a seemingly small project morphed into something much, much larger, thus requiring substantially more time needed to complete her projects.

Linguistics class assignments are submitted, lesson plans written and now I’m heading downstairs to my happy place for a couple of hours before it’s light’s out and we welcome the craziness of the Block B schedule at work. Thank goodness February break and QuiltCon are right around the corner!

Peace!

craft business, Kid's Sewing, libraries, sewing classes

Stitching Stallions are back!

Yes folks, it’s time for Round 2 of Friday afternoon learning clubs at The River.

This time up, we have 12 students (9 girls + 3 boys)  and 8 sewing machines (3 computerized and 5 mechanical). Today, they actually learned how to wind a bobbin, thread the machine and sew a couple of small “pockets.”

I’m a firm believer that the best way is to learn by doing. I demonstrate on one machine, point out the threading and bobbin winding diagrams on the machine and in the manual – then turn them loose. Of course, I have to step in and help…but they learn so much more by doing it themselves!

For a group of kids who were deathly afraid of sewing machines, today they learned that the machines don’t bite!  They were so proud of themselves when clubs ended today.

Sorry, we got so involved I forgot to take pictures! 🙂

craft business

The Importance of Learning to Let Things Go

Timber Hawkeye of Buddhist Boot Camp has a short podcast titled, “Let Go or Be Dragged.”  It’s definitely worth a listen because what he says is so true. Change is the only constant in life. No matter how much we may want things to stay the same, things will and do change. You have to learn to let go if you want to keep your sanity. Is it easy? Nope.

People hate change.  From a business standpoint, try to find opportunities to help people transition successfully toward the new change or find ways to help them incorporate parts of the past with the present day.  Technology is a prime example. Every time a video format changes, there are “adapters” and services rushed to the market to help preserve your memories in a more current format or make the old technology work with the new.  In sewing, we see ergonomic scissors, specialty needle threaders and new gizmos designed to make sewing easier for both new and aging sewists.

I also think this why we see so many maker spaces and creative spaces popping up over town. It’s also why my sewing club at school is always wait listed every time it’s offered. People hunger to get away from the constant stream of technology, work with their hands, be creative, have some wine (well, not with the kids at school) and visit with folks. It simply recharges your batteries.

In my business, I’ve had to learn to let things go. After school sewing clubs got put on hold until I am no longer employed as a public school teacher (conflict of interest/ethics rules).  So, I teach at a local quilt shop and have reached out to a local creative space to teach pillow construction. Sewing requires an investment, which is why people prefer to try it a couple of times before they invest in the hobby. I already have machines, so the AR workshop was definitely interested in pursing a series of basic pillow classes where we’ll turn painted panels into an envelope style pillow. I’ve already paid for the machines and my machines certainly aren’t making me any money sitting idle in the closet between kid’s sewing classes.

Memory quilts are a lot of fun, but the ROI simply is no longer there as other companies have cheapened the product to a point where I will literally be in the hole if I agree to make one start-to-finish. I am not in a position to make the investment in a long arm quilting machine that would speed up production, nor do I have the time to devote to making t-shirt quilts on a full-time basis that I feel this type of financial investment would require.  Yes, I’ve looked at longarm rentals in a nearby quilt shop. That is feasible, but will have to wait until summer break where I can go through the mandatory training classes and be available during the day when the longarm machines are available.  In my business, I’ve made many quilts for hire, shut that part of the business down completely and am now looking at possible ways to tiptoe back into that part of the business because my customers keep asking me for that service.

Technical editing came about as the result of a conversation I had with a couple of quilt designers who were bemoaning the dearth of good, reasonably priced technical editors in the industry. Turns out, I had the exact skill set and sewing experience necessary to offer the service.  It still give me a thrill to hear one of my clients state that she has her patterns edited by an “industry professional” (that would be me).  I didn’t realize that a segment of the B2B industry needed my services because I had been so focused on B2C.

In closing, had I not learned to let go of parts of the business plan when I started my business six years ago, I wouldn’t still be in business today.  I would have given it up due to frustration and lack of profitability.  Now, I am more excited than ever to see what the future holds, especially as I transition out of my full-time day job at some point in the future (exact date TBD, but within 5 years!).

So let go, or be dragged!

craft business

Trying new things – English Paper Piecing

icaniwill

If you follow me on Instagram, you’ll know that I recently challenged myself to try something new – using only the the materials I had on hand.  I’d learned the Lori Holt method of machine applique using Pellon sew-in interfacing and now wanted to try something involving handwork. A hexie embellished pillow on Pinterest caught my attention, so I decided to give English Paper Piecing a try.

Yes, I’m a bit late to the EPP party. Better late than never!  The good thing is there are any number of videos on YouTube that will teach you the basics, should your library not have a book on the subject, or you have time to attend an in-person class. EPP isn’t hard, nor does it require much investment on your part to get started.

Here’s what you need:

  • 1″ hexie papers.  (Templates available here.  Print on card stock.)
  • Glue stick (Borrowing your kid’s purple glue stick is perfectly fine!)
  • Needles (Applique or Milliner size 10 or 11)
  • Beeswax/Thread Conditioner
  • Thread (50 wt, 60 wt or 80 wt)
  • 2-1/2″ square fabric scraps
  • Small, sharp scissors
  • Wonder clips or pins
  • Thimble

I used the glue baste method to make my hexies. I experimented with 3 different stitches to join my hexies together to form a flower:  whipstitch, ladder and flat-back. For me, the flat-back stitch was the hands-down winner!

Helpful hints:
* Laminate the entire printed page before cutting out the individual hexie templates.
* Use a small hole punch to punch a hole in the middle of each template. This makes for easier template removal later.
* I found Milliner needles size 11 to be the perfect fit for me.
* Thread preference is 60 wt Coats & Clark Fine or Superior Bottom Line poly threads.
* My Clover desk needle threader was a godsend as the milliner needles have tiny eyes (you can buy large eye Milliner needles, but I was using what I had on hand).
* I detest sticky fingers, so I wasn’t a big fan of the glue stick method until I watched a Sue Daley video where she demonstrated the SewLine glue pen.  That glue pen, along with the laminated hexies, helped minimize the glue reside on my fingers.
*If you are cutting your squares from jelly roll strips, consider picking up a hexie template like this one.  It makes the underside of the hexie a little more uniform and easier to tack down.

Additional Video Resources:
Sue Daley EPP School
Hexie thread basting 
Flat Back Stitch 

P.S. Why EPP?  I’m taking a professional development course for the day job that requires me to watch videos each week. I need something to do with my hands while I watch the videos.  🙂