Why I’m Giving Up On Sewing

25 Jun

In 1998, I began sewing.  In 2011, my sewing productivity began to drop.  I had a good run.  I made hundreds of garments and a few curtains, pillows, and bags along the way.  Some projects turned out, some didn’t (if I was lucky, I could tell the difference).  I loved sewing so much I have a needle and thread tattoo.  I’m also a former owner of a sewing blog and spender of thousands of dollars in fabric and other sewing supplies.

So, what happened?

First off, my body changed.  It’s much easier to fit a flat piece of fabric onto a flat body.  Why do you think models are that skinny?  It’s not to taunt the rest of us; it’s to make the designers’ jobs easier.  When I started sewing, I was maybe 100 pounds.  Then I had my daughter in 2004 and decided to keep the weight because I’ve always wanted to be curvy.  Clothes got much harder to fit.

Second, I got busier.  This led to less sewing time and less energy.  Spending 5 hours sewing a garment that may or may not fit and/or flatter became a costlier investment.  I decided to spend my more limited leisure time on other hobbies.

And then I got more ready-to-wear shopping options.  I live 10 minutes from an outlet mall.  Then there’s Ebay and Thredup and 6pm.com and Amazon Prime.  I find it easier to just go buy something instead of trying to sew it.  And with sites like those I mentioned, I can usually buy a garment for the same cost as making it myself.

I’ve tried pattern alterations.  I’ve even tried figuring out which alterations I’m supposed to make.  Neither venture succeeded.  My brain just doesn’t work that way.  I’ve read Fit for Real People, Fast Fit, Pattern Fitting with Confidence, and I’ve bought Sure-Fit Systems.  I’ve posted unflattering photos of myself on sewing forums wearing mock-up dresses hoping the advice I got would somehow make sense in my mind.  It didn’t.

Aside from the occasional sweatpants, maxi skirt or loose-fitting tunic, I think I’m done making clothes for myself.  I have a few pieces of fabric I plan to sew into a garment that may be presentable, and then that’s it.  I’ll miss buying all those patterns on sale at the chain fabric stores, but then I’ll have money to buy clothes I can actually wear.

I Could Totally Make That!

7 Oct

The above sentiment is often heard from patrons at craft shows and occasionally impolite folks commenting on a crafter or artist’s social media page.  A local garden artist recently had this happen to her on her Facebook page.  Mary of Garden Whimsies by Mary makes garden art, known as whimsies, using upcycled dishes, vases, knick knacks, and the like.  While the majority of the comments on her creations are very complimentary, she also receives occasional requests to share the type of adhesive she uses, and some even are so bold as to tell her that they could easily make whimsies too.  Some were actually pretty rude about it.

This is a topic that is not new but still warrants discussion.  Let’s use Mary’s Garden Whimsies as an example.  Here is one currently for sale in her Etsy Shop:  whimsy

Let’s first play devil’s advocate and say that yes, anyone can glue these 5 objects together.  Now, let’s consider it a little more thoroughly:

  • I would have to research adhesives to determine which is best for china and glass
  • I would need to ensure that all pieces were assembled in such a way to prevent the piece from being lopsided and/or tipping over
  • I would have to source the actual pieces which would likely involve a few trips to thrift stores to make the piece economical enough to make myself
  • I would need to have the talent for combining different pieces in an attractive and visually pleasing way
  • Since the vases are hollow, I would need to take great care to not leave any gaps in the adhesive, otherwise moisture could get inside the piece and create a mold issue

And these are only the factors I am aware of as a person who has never made such an item.  I am sure there are many other factors involved in making a piece like this.

As a seller of handmade goods and an avid crafter myself, this topic is not new to me.  I often see items for sale that I could easily make myself.  However, the key is politeness.  I know that it is extremely rude to say such a statement in front of the maker.  And even if I can make the item myself, I may buy it anyway.  Why?

For the same reason many of us eat at restaurants.  While we can cook a meal, we just don’t want to at that time.  We would prefer to pay for the convenience of having another person make the meal (or other item) for us.  We might also appreciate the unique style that maker brings to the item that we might not have.  We are not just buying a meal or a product; we are buying convenience.

Just like Mary, I am very transparent about how my products are made.  My specialty is korker ribbon hair accessories.  I learned to make them by finding tutorials via my friend Google.  Obviously, anyone can use Google and learn to make the same item, and that’s OK with me.  My customers are those who prefer not to make their own and prefer to purchase them from me.  In fact, since I purchase ribbon in bulk, the cost of my bows isn’t much more than what it would cost the average person to purchase the materials at their local craft store.

So, stating dismissively that you could make an item that someone put a lot of effort and love into is really oversimplifying it.  And it’s also very rude to say to that person.

Aren’t adoptions supposed to be happy?

13 Aug

I recently ended a 7-year journey as an adoption social worker in the child welfare field.  I was involved in almost 200 adoptions, and I was ecstatic for every single one.  So, when it came time to adopt my 2 stepdaughters, I was dumbfounded as to why I didn’t feel that same excitement and joy.  Some may even pass judgment on me for it.  These feelings even upset me until I figured them out.

In a child welfare adoption, that day in front of the judge has been highly anticipated by many of the parties involved for many months or years.  A child who’s spent years in the system being repeatedly abandoned and rejected, a couple who experienced infertility now has children who call them Mom and Dad, a relative caregiver or foster parent who cared for a child throughout an unpredictable and slowly-progressing dependency case.  All of these scenarios involved uncertainty, and most of them involved a conclusion that had been hoped for.

A stepparent adoption doesn’t necessarily work that way.  I will only comment on my own experience which may or may not be typical.  When I met these girls almost 3 years ago, I never envisioned becoming their mother.  In fact, I only had one birth child because that’s all I wanted and thought I could handle.  I did not mind being a stepmother (crazy behaviors aside), and I encouraged the girls’ relationship with their birth mother.  I even tried to help her, but her lifestyle choices were not compatible with parenting. (I am not sharing the details here in the event that the girls someday find this blog; I don’t want them to learn about the circumstances this way.)  About 2 1/2 years into my relationship with my now-husband, she decided to surrender her parental rights with the knowledge that I would adopt them.

Telling 2 young girls (ages 6 and 8) that they may never see their birth mother again, even with a therapist present, is about as horrible as you may have guessed it is.  I did not expect the blow to be softened by the news that I would adopt them, and I doubt it was.  

About 5 months later, we were all in a courtroom finalizing the adoption.  Like the weeks leading up to the occasion, I did not have any of the feelings I did at the adoptions I’d been a party to professionally.  In fact, everyone was quite blase about it.  Nothing felt different.  The younger girl had been calling me “Mommy” since I’d broken the news to her (I told them they could call me whatever they felt comfortable with, and they could change their mind anytime).  The excitement surfaced when we pulled up to Yogurt Mountain for a post-adoption treat.

So, why the lack of excitement?  I couldn’t muster up any excitement for what I feel is a monumental loss for them.  The only reason we were in that courtroom is because of their birth mother’s inability to care for them.  How could I feel joyful about that?  Of course, adoption means a lifelong commitment, but I’d already made that commitment when I married their father.  So, they didn’t gain anything; rather, they lost a parent.  The adoption made it official.

I suspect that I will see future adoptions I attend a little differently now.  It reminded me of the time my supervisor told me, “adoption is sad.”  I had no idea what she was talking about.  I understood that an adoption was preceded by a loss, but I never believed that the loss could overshadow the joy of adoption.  Now I understand.

How I Got My Dream Wedding Dress for $220

7 Aug

On my last post, I talked about all the ways my husband and I saved money on our wedding. I promised more details in future posts, and though life has been unsurprisingly busy since then, I want to keep my word and share!

For most brides, picking out a dress is a very big deal and involves trying on dozens of dresses, lots of opinions from family or friends, and budget-busting misery.  There is just something, well, wrong with spending 3 or 4 figures on a dress that will be worn once when many of those same brides don’t even break the hundred-dollar mark on garments they wear all the time.  

As the sole wage earner in my family until my husband finishes college, buying an expensive wedding dress was not an option.   However, buying a sundress off the rack would’ve been disappointing to me.  After all, it was my WEDDING, after all!  I ended up with a dress I love so much I would’ve chosen it no matter how big my budget was.

The first thing I did was think about what was and was not important to me.  I have always loved ball gown style dresses, so that went on the list. I also wanted a white gown.  It did not matter to me if the dress was brand new or not.  I didn’t find many local options for pre-owned dresses, so I looked online.  

The site I ended up buying from was www.preownedweddingdresses.com.  It’s a site similar to eBay in that individual sellers post and sell their dresses and accessories.   Since I was buying online and therefore couldn’t try it on, I looked for a strapless style with lacing in the back.  This eliminated having to worry about it not fitting in the arm and shoulder area, which is where I have the most problems.  The corset-style lacing allows the dress to fit a range of sizes.  The ball gown skirt is also very full and loose fitting and therefore easy to fit as well.  The dress I bought was a sample from a bridal shop.  It’s a beautiful Maggie Sotero with a beaded bodice and pick-up skirt.  I paid $220 shipped!  The only way one could tell it wasn’t brand new was if they looked on the inside.  Since bridal shops don’t want you ordering direct from a manufacturer or shopping around, they remove labels from the dress and instead write a number inside the bodice for identification.  The ribbon hangers were also cut out.  No big deal.  When my dress arrived, all I had to do was hem it with some Steam-a-Seam and I was ready for my wedding!

I felt so beautiful in that dress, and no one could believe I only paid $220 for it!  I always thought I’d be one to give away or sell my wedding dress, but it’s so beautiful that it’s still hanging in my closet almost 4 months later!  I see it every morning when I get dressed, and it still makes me smile.

Some other ideas for finding affordable wedding dresses:

  • Thrift or consignment stores
  • Craigslist
  • Borrow from a friend or relative
  • Buy a white prom gown
  • Ask bridal shops about floor samples
  • Buy a white cocktail or sundress from a department store
  • Make your own
  • Buy a handmade or vintage dress on Etsy
  • Buy retail and then resell it right after the wedding to recoup some of the cost

Wedding on a super small budget

24 Apr

Weddings, as you already know, are ridiculously expensive.  An average wedding in the US costs $27,000.  How does an average couple (or their parents) afford that?!?  My husband and I got married last weekend, and being on a budget like most of us are these days, we needed to keep costs to a minimum.  We managed to have a lovely wedding on a super small budget of  $638.75.  I’ll tell you how!

  • We held the wedding at our house.  This eliminated venue fees completely.  All we had to do was clean our house and rearrange our living room.  My husband spruced up our backyard including pressure washing our fence.  We rented chairs and decorated the yard ourselves.  My husband bought wood posts, painted them white, and I draped lengths of tulle between each, securing with a thumbtack.477039_10151327658196008_1262839736_o
  • We kept the guest list short.  We only invited very close family and friends who’ve been supportive of us and our family.  We did not invite acquaintances, coworkers, or family we’re not close to.  Also, most of my family lives out of state, so they were unable to attend.  This resulted in about 20 guests, about half of whom were children.
  • The entire wedding, including reception, was 3 hours long.  We saw no need for an all-day affair.  Of course, this meant skipping lots of the traditional wedding festivities, but we preferred that anyway.  In addition, this was much easier for our guests as it didn’t take up an entire Saturday for them.
  • We did not serve a meal.  Getting married does not obligate you to buy dinner for dozens of people.  It’s not that we didn’t want to; we could not afford to.  We held our wedding from 2-5pm so it was not during mealtime, and instead we served some simple snacks, drinks (no alcohol), and a wedding cake baked by my mom.
  • We did not have a traditional reception with dancing, a DJ, and alcohol, i.e. no drunk white people dancing.  While that is certainly entertaining, it is also expensive as it requires a paid venue, DJ, alcohol, and bartenders.  We also had a family friendly wedding as we have 3 children between us, and our guests had children as well.  A bunch of drunks grinding on the dance floor and falling all over the place is not great for kids to watch.  Instead, we all hung out and chatted like a regular party, and I set up a craft table for the kids.
  • We skipped the flowers.  I just could not see myself spending 4 figures on flowers.  It is such a waste of money, in my opinion.  I am also quite unusual in that I do not even like flowers.  Even my bouquet was flower-less.  I used feather butterflies instead (more on that in a future post).  And I doubt our guests even noticed the lack of flowers.920210_10151327659631008_944969226_o
  • We did not hire a photographer.  This was a difficult one, as I really appreciate well done, professional photos.  However, we could not afford it.  Fortunately, we had 2 of our guests who brought great cameras and happily took pictures for us.  And after seeing the results, I no longer regret not having a pro do them.  Additionally, with the availability of free, easy to use photo editing programs, great photos are possible for even the novices among us.
  • I bought a pre-owned dress online.  I know, how could I have skipped the joys of going to bridal shops and having my friends gasp as I walk out in wedding dress after wedding dress?  And how could I get THE perfect dress for $200 online, and have it fit without professional alterations?  Well, first, I am not as picky as some.  I knew I wanted a strapless ballgown in white with a detailed skirt.  Luckily, that is a very popular style.  Also, in order to avoid expensive alterations, I chose a corseted style which laces in the back.  All I had to do was hem it with Steam-a-Seam.  I found a gorgeous Maggie Sotero gown on http://www.preownedweddingdresses.com/.  It was a floor sample from a bridal shop, which didn’t bother me in the least.  The only difference is that the tags are removed, and a style number was written on the bodice lining.  Big deal!  It is the most beautiful dress I could’ve gotten no matter what budget I had.  I got so many compliments on it, and people were surprised to find out how little I paid for it.904732_10151327658886008_853838286_o
  • I skipped the veil.  I cannot believe how much brides are willing to pay for a $1 length of tulle sewn to a hair comb!  Also, veils, in my opinion, are a little dated.  I was going to make a fascinator with birdcage veil, but after trying it on, I decided it looked silly on me.  So, I did not wear any kind of headpiece at all.
  • A family member did my hair and makeup.  I’m sure most of us have at least one friend 905422_10151331377901008_1124413675_oor relative with a talent for hair and makeup.  I am not that person, but luckily, my husband’s aunt is.  She happily came over early to make me pretty for my wedding day.
  • I did not purchase any special accessories or shoes.  The length of my dress made my shoe choice completely inconsequential, so I wore a favorite pair of flats.  I found a pair of butterfly earrings in my jewelry box which fit perfectly with my bouquet and the sugar butterflies on the cake.  I wore a necklace from my sister that I wear every day, and my husband and I kept the rings we’ve been wearing since our engagement.  And my husband’s aunt gave me a pretty jeweled butterfly for my hair.
  • My husband skipped the tuxedo.  We decided that since it was a casual spring wedding in Florida, it would be just fine if he wore a shirt and tie instead of a formal tux.  His only expenditure was a new tie.
  • We did not have a wedding party.  I have yet to hear a valid reason to have a bunch of bridesmaids and groomsmen.  What’s the point?  Besides, my husband and I are quite busy with our family and don’t have a ton of time to be social, so we don’t have a big Friends-esque group we hang out with.  If my sister was local, I would have had her be maid of honor, but alas, she is several states away.  We did, however, have our 3 daughters as flower girls…
  • Our flower girls’ ensembles were not from a bridal shop.  It seems as though attaching the words “wedding” or “bridal” to 414178_10151327659311008_1204709312_osomething doubles the price.  This is where Ebay came in handy.  I’m a big fan of Gymboree clothing, and while it is spendy at their stores, you can buy their clothes pretty inexpensively used.  I took several hours browsing dresses on Ebay until I decided on a cotton shift style.  And since it is a popular brand, I had no trouble finding one in each girl’s size.  I paid $14, $15, and $20 for the dresses, which originally retailed for $34.75.  And since it is a casual style, they can wear them many more times.  Each girl wore a pair of pink sandals and a hair bow I made to match the dresses (having my online accessory shop, Orange Blossom Accessories,  made that simple).  Their baskets were from Ross and were spray-painted white (they were orange) with a ribbon handle added (more on that in a future post).
  • I made the programs and favors.  I’ll do a separate post on these, but in a nutshell, the programs were printed on cardstock at home for pennies.  The favors for the adults were magnets with a fun Dr. Seuss poem with our names and wedding date (i.e. something our guests may actually use and appreciate).  For the girls, they got hair bows similar to those worn by our daughters, and the boys got bottle cap zipper pulls that I also made.
  • We did not do printed invitations.  I considered them, but decided against it because they’d just be thrown out anyway.  Who keeps old wedding invitations?  We invited people via Facebook event instead.  And for those who couldn’t attend, we hooked up our webcam so they could watch it on You Tube (I’ll write a separate post on this later).

So, here is the final tally of our wedding expenses:

  • Marriage license $93.50
  • Wedding dress $220.00
  • Flower girls dresses $49.00
  • Hair bows for flower girls and girl guests $21.00
  • Butterfly wings for flower girls $14.00
  • Flower girl baskets and flower petals $25.00
  • Sandals for 2 of the flower girls $30.00
  • Chair rental $28.00
  • Outdoor decor $25.00
  • Indoor decor $4.00
  • Plates, forks, napkins, cups $7.00
  • Pitchers for drinks, serving tray $10.00
  • Favors for adults and boys $7.75
  • Bouquet $22.50
  • Groom’s tie $30.00
  • Butterflies for cake and snacks: $41.00
  • Supplies for the craft table $9.00
  • TOTAL $638.75

School Valentine’s Day Candy Alternative

10 Feb

My family includes a third grader, a first grader, and a kindergartener, and kids that age traditionally exchange Valentines.  Usually, they are those little cards with characters on them, but we like to make something more fun and original.  When my oldest was in kindergarten, we made leis I found online.  We spent several hours constructing them from yarn, die cut hearts, and one-inch lengths of coffee stir straws.  Now that there are 3 children in the family, such elaborate projects are not practical, but I still wanted to do something special that the children would enjoy.

My main objective is to stay away from candy.  Kids these days get way too much candy as it is, and I don’t want to add to the problem by giving it out to their classmates.  (I’m sure their parents would appreciate that as well.)  Another objective is to avoid giving out small trinkets that aren’t all that useful and often end up on the floor, followed by the trash.
IMG_20130210_204505So, we went with pencils, the perfect junk and candy alternative!  Kids are always in need of more this time of year, and I hate that teachers end up spending their own money on school supplies, so it seemed like the perfect choice!  We bought a large box of pencils on Amazon, plus a box of eraser caps for the teachers.  You don’t necessarily need to buy Valentine’s Day themed pencils.  In fact, the embellishment we added is enough.

For the embellishment, I used my Silhouette Cameo to cut several heart-shaped pencil toppers (available in their online store here).  I had each child write “From [name]” on the hearts, then they put them on the pencils.  My daughter found that bending the upper circle in half helped it stay on the metal part of the pencil better.  If that doesn’t help, you can always add a small piece of tape to hold it in place.

We wanted to include a gift for the teachers as well.  I cut a small card stock bag with a heart design that came with my Silhouette (here is another design that would also work).  Then we filled each one with a handful of pencils and eraser caps.  This is, in my opinion, a IMG_20130210_204539great teacher gift because it is useful and ultimately saves them from buying supplies for their class with their own money.

That’s what our children’s classmates and teachers will be receiving this year.  What are your plans this year?

Self-Made Bow Card Tutorial

9 Nov

In gearing up for the holiday season, I’ve been coming up with gift packaging ideas to offer in my shop to go with my products.  Bows are small, and I haven’t really seen any good packaging options for just one or two bows.  Little ones would fit into a small cardboard jewelry box, but when I searched online for packaging for my bigger bows I came up empty.  Mass-produced bows come on bow cards, but I’ve only seen 2-3 types for sale and in only black or white.  I decided to make my own cards, sized just for my products and in a variety of colors.


Would you like to know how I made them?  If you have a Silhouette Cameo, you can make them as well!

I started by ungrouping this design to obtain the hanging slot at the top.  I then drew a curved rectangle.  In case you’re new to Silhouette Studio, the red arrow in the screenshot below points to that tool:


To make the little slots that the clips are inserted in, use the regular rectangle tool:


It’s that simple!  The next step was to size them to fit my products.  I made them slightly bigger than the bows and also sized to fit as many of a single style on a page.  The screenshots show one of each, but I also created files for each style with several to a page.  To do that, you have to know how to group.  This was tricky for me to get the hang of.  You need to select the entire card and select “group.”  Then click somewhere else on the screen, and then click on the design to select it, then copy (CTRL-C).  Open a new file then paste (CTRL-V).  You can then use the “replicate” option in the “Option” menu to duplicate the design several times until the page is filled.

So, there you go!  If you make your own bows and other accessories, you can make cards for all of your bows and other accessories and in any colors you want!  You can also add a label with your business name, logo and URL and you’re all set for a craft show!

A gift for adoptive fathers

8 Nov

It’s been awhile since I posted!  I have been hard at work at my full time job, parenting, and starting an Etsy business selling handmade accessories, mainly hair bows and clippies.  This is a post that combines my full time job and my business: a gift for adoptive fathers!


I am very happy with how these turned out!  I was asked to create a gift for adoptive fathers who are adopting children at our local National Adoption Day celebration.  Those were the only parameters I had to work with.  I love to creatively problem-solve, so this was a challenge I was more than up for.  Having recently started dabbling in bottle cap jewelry (I know, about 2 years late to the party), so I decided to make bottle cap key chains.  I also recently started dabbling in creating bottle cap graphics since there is very little in the way of adoption motifs available.  I created these (very simple) designs using Open Office Draw and had them printed at Fed Ex (formerly Kinko’s).

Once the key chains were assembled, I needed a nice way to package them.   I decided to use my Silhouette Cameo and looked online for ideas. I got the idea from a matchbook notepad I saw and ended up making these oversized matchbooks.  They have 2 small holes in the back through which I threaded 1/8″ grosgrain ribbon and tied the key chain inside.  I added the mustaches for fun.  I made a total of 20 of these, and I only used 7 sheets of 12″ x 12″ cardstock!  I attached the mustaches with Scotch brand Quick-Dry Adhesive.  I just bought this on the recommendation of the supplier I bought the key chain kits from, and I am very happy with it.  It indeed does dry very quickly, and it doesn’t leave the paper all wavy and distorted.

I think I may end up selling these in my shop!

Happy Adoption Month!!

3 Nov

Happy Adoption Month!!

I’ve taken the plunge into Etsy land!

23 Aug

I’ve taken the plunge into Etsy land! Check out my shop!

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