Yo Momma Monday: Maiden Jane

yo momma monday

Meet Jane, 51, a quiltin’ mama of four from Cleveland, OH. She sells her quilts, pillows, totes and repurposed items in her Etsy shop and posts tutorials on her blog – Maiden Jane. I found her blog while searching for upcycled apron ideas, and I instantly fell in love with her story.

Before she was gifted one by her husband before the birth of their first one, Jane had never used a sewing machine. She did, however, love to create things and sewed by hand when she was a little girl. Although her mom never sewed “not even a button,” she supported Jane’s hobby buy purchasing her craft kits.

“So I am largely self-taught. My mother-in-law helped me in the early days and I also attended classes at the Sewing Expos that came through town.”

For Jane, most her inspiration comes from her daily life. If she has a need that she feels is not being met by the products on the market, she will try to create a solution.

Photo from Maiden Jane

Photo from Maiden Jane

“That’s how my Oversized Tote came about. My husband and I tried all different ways of carrying all our supplies to the beach – plus the kids! We decided big bags would be the answer.”

She is also inspired by stuff that other people might be considered junk.

“I am a little sad when I go to a garage sale or the thrift shop to see all the stuff that we – first, buy, then, pitch. I hope that I don’t accumulate so much in my own life that will later be sitting on shelves.”

Her customers are also a source of inspiration, as they will ask her to make certain items that may end up spawning an entire line!

Photo from Maiden Jane

Photo from Maiden Jane

As a small business owner and mom working from home, Jane does not have a set schedule. She does, however, set goals for how much time she wants to spend on certain tasks. She will take breaks for housework and when her kids come home, and she sets aside specific days for her errands.

“…This year I am trying to be working by 7:30. So that means checking email early and then getting started working on sewing. I rarely work for more than two hours straight without doing something else…

I can fritter away a lot of time on social media, so I am trying to confine that to morning,
lunch, and evening. But it’s an important part of my business. So much of my work is custom and then the product ships out right away, so that means I have to photograph it within a day or two of being done.

When Jane and her husband built an addition to their home, they added a master bedroom. The designer wanted to add a glamorous bathroom or a walk-in closet, but it was Jane’s husband who offered up the idea of a craft room/office. And Jane couldn’t be happier with the decision.

Photo from Maiden Jane

Photo from Maiden Jane

“One of the best things I have is a mobile table. It is on wheels so I can move it around the room or out of the way. The height of the table can also be changed. Side flaps on the table change the table size
to make it narrow. So the entire table can slide under the counters. We also have several mobile file
cabinets – which gives us storage and extra seating for when the kids are working in here.

Jane bought an entire Singer sewing book set at a closeout sale years ago, and she still refers to them often. She also likes Simplicity’s Simply the Best Sewing Book, The Reader’s Digest Guide to Sewing and the Vogue Sewing Reference Book. For newer books, she likes A Bag for All Reasons by Lisa Lam and In Stitches by Amy Butler.

Jane says she has made and enjoyed a few patterns by Burda, and after she made some totes from Jennifer Paganelli’s fabrics – they all sold out!

“I get a little frustrated with the traditional pattern makers. It seems they have forgotten how to write a pattern for beginners.”

Photo from Maiden Jane

Photo from Maiden Jane

Not only does Jane share her love of sewing and quilting on her blog, she also shares tips on practical living. Since she and her husband are both engineers, they thrive on order and solving problems that arise in their growing family. They are constantly changing and organizing things to adapt to their evolving lifestyle – like simply storing plastic grocery bags in an old milk jug with holes cut on the top and sides.

“Do you know, we still use that jug after 20+ years? My husband jokes that it saved our marriage! Since I am practical in nature and some of my products were borne of the idea of being practical, yet pretty, I used it as a basis for developing my brand.”

Jane gets tremendous satisfaction from working with her hands and making as much as she can. She started sewing for herself and her kids and would make gifts for people when she could. She created t-shirt blankets for her nieces and nephews as High School graduation gifts, and after encouragement from a friend, she opened an Etsy shop. Soon after that, she started a website and her business has continued to grow in the last five years.

“I almost feel selfish because I enjoy it so much…I love doing it for the creativity but I am motivated by the financial gain.”

Photo from Maiden Jane

Photo from Maiden Jane

Even though her kids and husband help out when it’s needed – doing chores, make pickups and drop-offs, help with laundry and set the table – she remains an one-woman operation. Her oldest daughter, who has modeled on her website before, is now off to College so her other daughter, Annie, has taken over modeling. She also has her own Etsy shop called Pink in Mind.

Jane’s work and has been featured in quite a few websites, such as Craft Gawker, Craft Gossip, Totally Tutorials and All Free Sewing. She says that it has been a mixture of her submitting her work to different sites, and getting sought out by different bloggers.

“I was thrilled to have a few projects featured on Craft Gawker because that forced me to improve my photography. But I’m clearly not “there” yet because I continue to get rejected! I haven’t made it into a magazine or book yet, but that might change soon!”

Jane is inspired and motivated by piano music, and since her oldest son is a jazz pianist, her house if full of music! She loves both classical jazz and New Age – like Jamie Cullum and George Winston. She will also listen to musicals and soundtracks while she sews.

Photo from Maiden Jane

Photo from Maiden Jane

Since Jane sells patterns for some of her quilts, she wanted her customers to be able to share their creations that they made with her pattern. So, she added a board on her Pinterest for all of her customer creations. If a customer puts their work on their own blog, she can also add that to her Pinterest board.

“If my customers send me a photo, I put it on my blog and then pin it. Then I have a reference board for other customers to see finished blankets.”

When I asked her what her advice was for new moms who are also starting their own businesses, she had this to say:

“First, enjoy your time with your babies. When they are young and on schedules, you can use nap time and evenings. That’s when I sewed a lot. Then again, I was only sewing for fun at that point. It was a wonderful outlet for me. I see so many amazing business women and bloggers and wonder how they do it all with young kids.

In my opinion, it gets harder when the kids get older. When my kids hit the teen years, my life turned into chaos. Suddenly, I was running kids to practices. No longer was the evening my own as the kids were staying up later. So my point is, life goes by so quickly.

Here I am, starting a business in my late forties. When I went to college for engineering, I realized that I didn’t really love it by my junior year. But I also decided that I would have many careers in my life. So I was open to whatever path my life would take. If you are starting a business at home, go for it. Dive in. You’ll learn as you go. It’s so easy to start an Etsy shop. But find what works best for your family.”

Customer Creation from Jane's pattern. Photo from Maiden Jane.

Customer Creation from Jane’s pattern. Photo from Maiden Jane.

Jane hopes to continue to grow her business and says that she always has new ideas for products if she has some time to design them, and she has also been percolating with products she could have made with a small manufacturing house or collective.

“I only have two hands and although I love to create with them – and I always will – I can’t see how to grow my business without additional help. I love collaborating with other makers and have some new bag fabrics in the works. Usually my mind is overflowing with ideas.”

If you would like to find out more about Maiden Jane, visit her here. If you or somebody you know would make a perfect feature for this series, share a link in the comments and on social media or e-mail me with the information!

Craft Inspiration: Paper Mache

IMG_1833As a student of both Journalism and Graphic Design, magazines are my cup of tea. I devour all of the articles, and I am always intrigued by print design. Unfortunately, some smaller magazines have fallen victim to the advent of digital production, and even some of my favorite magazine stands have closed. But there are a few that have stuck around, and of course…as a mom….my life is full of baby magazines right now.

But, then there lies that problem after you’re done reading them…what to do? You can’t just toss them. Totally not good for the environment, and what if you need to refer back to them in the future? So you keep them around. And they stack up and stack up. And soon enough, your entire room is surrounded by stacks of magazines. Oh, is that just me?

My love for crafting has made this a simple fix. It’s time for some paper mache, y’all! I’m working on a project for a future article, and I thought I would share some inspiration for the project. I have a lot of ideas running around my head, and since this is something that will stick around my house – I want to make sure I love it and it will make sense.

Photo from Stars for Streetlights

Photo from Stars for Streetlights

I am not a fan of taxidermy. I think it’s sort of neat in photos, but when I come face to face with a buck staring at me through it’s dead eyes, I can’t hang (no pun intended). But paper mache taxidermy – that’s something I can get down with! The full tutorial along with photos can be found at Stars for Streetlights.

Photo from Lil Blue Boo

Photo from Lil Blue Boo

For this project, Ashley from Lil Blue Boo did not use any template, she just crumbled up newspaper into balls and shaped it to make the unicorn. Obviously, there was more involved, but that’s how she got the basic form. It took her about four hours to complete it, and the unicorn had to dry overnight. Ashley hung it up in her daughter’s playroom, and I’m thinking Cecilia’s room would be quite fancy with one.

Photo from A Little Artsy

Photo from A Little Artsy

Let’s say you want to paint your animal head, which I think I would do. Isabel, who runs Bel & Beau contributed this tutorial to A Little Artsy. She used an animal mask from a craft store as a guide for her animal head, and then hung it up in her son’s room.

Since there are a lot of babies who will be gracing our lives with their presence in the next couple months, I think this would be the perfect gift for a nursery. I’m definitely making one for Cecilia’s room, just need to figure out what animal to make after we get her room all figured out.

Do you have any fun paper mache tutorials to share, or did you make an animal head with one of these tutorials? Share the link in the comments and on Facebook, Instagram, Google + and Twitter! Find more animal mache inspiration on Pinterest!

My Creative Business Journey: Inspiration

My Creative Business Journey

My boyfriend’s favorite thing to say is “Pinterest ruined my life.” And I guess there is some truth to that. I have ruined a lot of meals, made him wait hours for some meals and have had to make emergency/expensive trips to the craft store, all in the name of Pinterest.

But I see it more as this magical world online, that you can totally make your own. Since it’s all user-based, we make up what Pinterest is. Tired of looking at someone’s board? You can simply unfollow that one board and you will never have to see it again.

Your experience with Pinterest is completely up to you, and for me – I like to use it as inspiration and motivation for my creative business, along with inspiration for home decor, design, crafts, and recipes. It has also opened my eyes to so many sites and so many people that I would have never found searching by Google alone. More than anything, it has brought organization to my scattered mind.

Now that I am in the midst of my blog redesign and I am focusing more on what I want for my business, I am revisiting so many pins that I completely forgot about, and exploring more. I wanted to share a few links that have really helped me and brought clarity to an often cloudy business path:

How to grow your social media networks, from Fat Mum Slim

Etsy: What I’ve Learned and Tips for Success, from On Sutton Place

Running a Successful Online Business | Balancing Work and Motherhood, from Le Papier Blog

How to craft for a living, from A Subtle Revelry

A Comprehensive Guide to Working from Home, from Lovely/Healthy

There are so, so, so many awesome articles about working from home, and where to take your work. At the point that I’m at, these have been the most inspiring. As I continue down my path, I will have more to share. And, for continual inspiration, motivation and swift kick in the patoot, here’s where I go:

Design*Sponge’s Biz Ladies column

Oh My! Handmade Goodness‘s blog. You don’t need to be a member to read all of these amazing articles by different creative businesses owners and bloggers, but it certainly doesn’t hurt!

Create & Thrive is perfect for budding business owners and it has tips on pretty much every aspect of running your business

Smart Creative Women – This is a web TV show that shares stories of creative boss ladies. You can find so much good stuff here, it’s not even funny.

Handmade Success – Here, all the advice is categorized. That’s how much advice they share. They have to categorize it.

What are your favorite articles and/or sites to visit when you need a little inspiration for your creative business? Share the link in the comments and on your social media sites. Let’s all learn together!

Psssst! The beautiful vintage typewriter illustration that I used for my design is from Marish on Creative Market – a wonderful site for bloggers and businesses.

Yo Momma Monday: Karen LePage

yo momma mondayMeet Karen LePage, 42, a sewin’ mama from Michigan. I met her through Oh My! Handmade and I instantly swooned over all of her work. She not only sews up a storm, but she also creates patterns, sells custom-made garments and shares tutorials on her website at One Girl Circus! Oh, and she also co-wrote a sewing book for boys, appropriately named Sewing for Boys.

Before she started working for herself, she sang at weddings, sold cars, managed a coffee shop, taught German and worked in Strategic Planning. To say she is well-rounded would be an understatement.

Karen started a blog after she read and loved blogs from other people. Initially, it started as a means for documenting her children’s special moments.

“I guess it’s not surprising that I’m not very consistent with it, however, because I was never a child who could keep a journal beyond “dear diary” for more than a few weeks.”

Photo from Karen LePage

Photo from Karen LePage

After her mother bought a sewing machine when Karen was five, she started experimenting and made every project in the booklet that came with the machine. From there, she spent several years making wardrobes for all of her dolls. As a kid, she started watching Sewing with Nancy when it came on PBS, a show she still watches to this day.

I always say Nancy Zieman taught me to sew…I still watch it.  I still love it.”

Karen still remembers her first sewing project – a drawstring bag – and she says there have been plenty of disasters along the way. When she first got started, she would wear her disasters; now, she tucks them away until she’s ready to try again. Her latest creation was a Japanese double-gauze newborn outfit that was in a box for six years because she couldn’t stand to look at it.

“I’m so happy I could rescue it!”

Photo from Karen LePage

Photo from Karen LePage

As a mom, Karen says that her children not only inspire her work, but also keep her balanced and admits that if she didn’t have her kids, she would probably just work all the time.

“I love making things, and having humans relying on me for comfort, food, and shelter ensures that I nourish myself with their companionship while meeting their needs, too.”

The creativity bug has definitely hit both of her kids, as her son likes to design the garments she makes for him, and her daughter is a quilter. Her son also shops at thrift and vintage stores, so he has become quite the master at button replacing, and he already has an eye for what can be fixed, and what cannot. Her daughter will often work up a patchwork when she’s in the sewing space.

“She has an amazing eye for color and pattern.”

Karen describes her workspace as chaotic yet comforting. While she is always moving things around in there, she still keeps an open space for her kids to visit while she’s working. She does like to take some time tidying up in between projects.

Photo from Karen LePage

Photo from Karen LePage

“But as soon as I have a clean space I’m inspired to start making again – immediately.

Although there’s no such thing as a normal day, there is one consistency in her morning routine – coffee (ain’t that the truth). Her daily activities are determined by deadlines, inspiration and commitments – and she does try to get some sewing in every day.

“I start to get twitchy when I’m away from my sewing machine for too long.”

Karen says that the best and scariest thing about running her own business is that everything – from what get made to what gets published – is all her.

Photo from Karen LePage

Photo from Karen LePage

“Sometimes it’s wonderful and sometimes it’s terrifying and sometimes it’s wonderfully terrifying.”

She started teaching classes after someone asked her to do it, and that is one of her favorite things about what she does.

“There’s something super-satisfying about nudging my students toward sewing confidence.  I love that it’s a skill they can use forever. I love holding their hands through the tough part and saying “Look how awesome you are!” when they make it through and realize they can make something they didn’t think they could make.”

When Karen is not teaching classes and making clothes -  or thinking about new classes and new projects – she loves reading, hiking with her daughter, yoga and cooking.

Photo from Karen LePage

Photo from Karen LePage

“Actually, strike that, I like reading cookbooks.”

And of course, she loves all forms of crafting. There isn’t a craft she hasn’t stopped, and thanks to Creative Bug and the craft section in her local bookstore, that won’t be ending anytime soon. She loves making anything from  baby clothes to formal gowns – all of it.

“If it goes on a body, someone will wear it and love it, and that’s something that makes me happy and keeps me going.  There’s always something new I want to try, whether it’s a technique or material I haven’t yet attempted; I incorporate my latest learning into each new project.”

She gets the majority of her fabric from local fabric stores and loves visiting new stores in any town she visits. When she cannot find a fabric she wants locally, she will shop online.

Photo from Karen LePage

Photo from Karen LePage

“I spend my dollars locally whenever possible.”

Karen loves being a part of the handmade community because she has always been just one of a handful of people she knows that love sewing. Of the four high schools she attended, she only found one friend who could sew. ONE! Now that she has a whole community of friends who also love the same kind of things, she counts it as a blessing.

“I feel so energized and inspired when working collaboratively; even when working on my own thing amongst fellow makers.  The handmade community is what has made my 30s and 40s the best years of my life.”

She currently has two patterns in the Stitch Magazine Spring issue and there will be another one in the Summer issue. She is also working on a handmade garment line and is hoping to hire some local people to help with the sewing and sales of her products.

“I’m really excited about it, but I’m also thrilled to have a steady stream of consultancy projects.”

Photo from Karen LePage

Photo from Karen LePage

Karen hopes to inspire people by being an advocate of all things handmade – whether its making, buying, spreading the word, or all of the above.

“I also hope I can inspire people to try something new every once in a while, and to really enjoy the process of making.”

Thank you to the lovely and wonderful Karen for participating in this series! You can find her blog here, buy her stuff here and read the book she co-wrote here.

If you enjoy this series and would like to be a part of it, or know someone who should, please leave a note in the comments or connect with me on Facebook, Twitter, Google +, Pinterest and Instagram. Next month, I will be talking with Jane Skoch from Maiden Jane!

My Homemade Manifesto

homemade manifesto

When that big ol sparkly ball dropped, we rung in 2014 with our small family cuddled up on the couch. My boyfriend and I laughed at how different our New Years celebrations are than years past. Before, we spent it at a huge party or out at the bar. We waited an hour or more for a cab, and we were desperately searching for that New Years kiss. This year, we hugged our daughter tight and I had a glass of champagne and some champagne cupcakes, then pooped out at 12:01 am.

This got me thinking about how much my life has changed. When I used to eat take-out every single night, when I burned a pot of noodles attempting to make pasta and all those times I would hit up the all-hours Mexican food stand or when I went on that liquid diet. My friends are still amazed when I talk about cooking and baking, and I think everyone was in complete shock when I handed them homemade canned apple butter.

But to be honest, I’ve never been happier. Sure, there are days when I think about how easy it was to just focus and care about myself, but that’s just simply not my life anymore. It feels right that I put our little family before anyone and anything, and it feels nice to have a dinner at the dinner table every night. It’s boring, and that feels so good.

Last year, I focused a lot on living a homemade kind of life. Either making the stuff myself, or shopping locally or through indie businesses online. And this year is no different. I’m still working on living a self-sustainable life, and supporting small businesses when I can. I just want to take it a couple steps further. I want to really embrace it, and become more proactive. I want to make more connections with people who are doing the same thing, and find more creative outlets.

For me, I love making all of my food from scratch. First, I know how blessed I am to be a stay-at-home mom and I want to show my appreciation by making really good, whole food. It’s something I want to keep going when my daughter is old enough to eat with us. And I love it. I love the creative process, I love knowing that I know every single ingredient that went into our food and I love the joy I feel when my family truly enjoys their food. Not every dish is a hit, but they give me pointers and tell me what to add next time to make it perfect. Because this is all a learning process.

But, I want to take it one step further. I want to find food exchanges in my town, or heck – even create one. I want to continue finding new recipes to try, until I get to the point where I’m developing mine. I want to find friends who make their own beer and wine to have with our food (because mama still likes to unwind a little) and I want to find canning buddies.

I want to get my garden going again, and I want to go to the Farmers Markets and fruit stands when I need some produce. I’m not saying I won’t ever step into a grocery store again, but I want to minimize what I get. I want to share all of my DIY projects on here, and I want to decorate my house with other peoples labors of love, too. I want to buy all of my clothes from small businesses and secondhand stores. I want to take thrift store clothes and give them a little makeover. I want to learn how to sew.

In the end, I want to expand my homemade community. I want to share all of the things I make, and I want to know where to get everything else. I want to have a list of shops to visit for gifts, and I want people to visit my shop when they need a gift, whether it’s for them or someone else.

I want this blog to be centered around my explorations of local food and shops. Centered around the stuff I make at home and the people I meet who also make awesome stuff. Centered around my at-home yoga practice and health journey. Centered around how I am slowly learning to become domesticated and a good mama without losing myself in the process.

So, will you join me? Will you post photos and recipes of all your homemade food? Will you share your DIY projects and the sites (if any) that you got your inspiration from? Will you find a food swap and share your photos and experience? If you haven’t already started doing this, and you’re interested, then start slow. Start by making one homemade meal on a day that you are less busy, and start working on one craft per week. Follow blogs who are doing the same thing to get inspiration. I know I have a lot of posts on my blog about this very topic and I will be sharing more, so feel free to poke around.

Help build the homemade community more by using the hashtag #makestuff on all of your social media channels. Hate hashtags? Simply tag me, or link to this blog so I can see it. You can connect with me on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Google + and Pinterest.

Thrifty Thursdays

thrifty thursdays

I love getting a new calendar and/or planner! While I have plenty of devices that are more than capable to track all of my important dates and ideas, I am not yet trained in relying completely on my phone. I just have this crazy concept that I am able to think better when I am writing on something in front of me rather than on my phone. And I like to make little notes and goals…so it just works better that way.

It never really occurred to me that I could create my own calendars until recently, and now I have found plenty of awesome calendars that you can create and personalize yourself! I am most definitely going to work on a calendar and can’t wait to share mine with you! Here are some ideas to get your creative juices going:

Photo from Our Collective

Photo from Our Collective

This calendar from Our Collective is simple and classic, and you can use your own photos for the graphics. You can get the calendar template by clicking on the photo or the link above and clicking on the “free calendar” tab. Once downloaded, you will receive 12 .psd templates (one for each month) and instructions. They also share an awesome idea for reusing your CD cases to hold the calendars!

Photo from Going Home to Roost

Photo from Going Home to Roost

Use your Instagram photos to create this calendar from Going Home to Roost. Just click on the photo or the link to be directed to her website in order to download the template. You will be given three different file types: .png, .pdf and .eps, depending on how much you want to edit. Don’t want to use your own photos? Then download and print hers!

Photo from Poppytalk

Photo from Poppytalk

Now, in order to complete this project, you will need to purchase the 2014 Stitch the Stars calendar set from Heather Lins for $25. So, it’s not free, but it’s worth the same amount of money that you would spend on any other calendar. And this one allows you to use a little creativity! She also offers a Year in Stitches calendar kit, but that one is unfortunately sold out :( Find out more about this project on Poppytalk.

Don’t feel like doing the work…or paying for a calendar? I ain’t mad at ya. Here are some free calendars with all the work done for you!

Photo from The Elli Blog

Photo from The Elli Blog

Download and print out this FREE 2014 calendar on The Elli Blog. I love this calendar because it’s simple and also has enough space to write down important dates and put your notes on the other side. She says to print on white cardstock, but hey…I say get crazy and print it on any card stock you want! Lots of good DIY projects and tutorials on this site!

Photo from Eat Drink Chic

Photo from Eat Drink Chic

I absolutely love this calendar from Eat Drink Chic! It’s fun and colorful, the only downside is that it really makes want some chocolate the moment I look at it! I would love to print this out and put it in the kitchen – which I think I just might do! You can circle or put little markers by the important dates, and I already know a couple people who would love to get this as a little gift!

So if you are like me and still don’t have a good calendar, don’t worry. You’re only two days into the new year and these projects are simple and easy! Have a DIY calendar you want to share, or did you complete one of these projects and show off what you did? Post the link in the comments and on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Google +. Find more thrifty inspiration on my Pinterest!

Fridays are for Favorites

fridays are for favorites

Today’s post is dedicated to my most favorite thing that happened this week – I won the Handmade Winter e-book giveaway from the Creative Mamas Collective through Maker Mama!

Photo from Creative Mamas Collective

Photo from Creative Mamas Collective

This e-book is 92 pages of awesome. There are ideas for books for all ages, drink and food recipes, party ideas and crafting tutorials. Not only that, but the book also includes a few prompts for starting meaningful traditions with your family during the holiday season and continuing through the year.

So, for books….

Photo from Harper Collins Childrens

Photo from Harper Collins Childrens

They not only offer ideas for books like Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak, that we all know and love. But they also offer book ideas for some books that I have never heard of before – like Tap the Magic Tree by Christie Matheson – that look incredibly awesome and I can’t wait to get for my little one. When you click on the Harper Collins link or the photo above, you can choose to buy from Amazon and Barnes and Noble, and you can also click on the Indie Bound link that allows you to search for indie bookstores in your area. Score!

Photo from Rajovilla

Photo from Rajovilla

There are also recipes for making wonderfully delicious authentic Warm Masala Chai like the drink pictured above from Rajovilla. I remember when I had my first chai, and I immediately fell in love with the spice and how warm it made me feel. It’s perfect for after dinner when you want something warm to drink but you’re not about staying up all night. It never occurred to me that I could make my own chai and now I’m on the hunt for of all of the ingredients – and the strainer!

There are several other dessert recipes, including Gingerbread Crinkle Snowflake Cookies from Simple as That and Gingerbread Ice Cream from Things for Boys. Wait, hold the phone. Gingerbread Ice Cream?! I think I might be in love.

Photo from My Life at Playtime

Photo from My Life at Playtime

Have you ever heard of a Favorite Things Party? I had not until I saw the idea from Deborah at My Life at Playtime in the e-book. There is a set dollar limit (she uses $10 but that’s really up to you) per item, and each person brings three of their favorite items. Everyone writes their names on three pieces of scrap paper and puts them in the hat. You then pick names and each person passes out one gift to the person who picked their name. You can make each party themed, too. There is more information in the book and you can read about Deborah’s experience by clicking on the link or photo above.

You can learn how to make awesome crafts, like leather and chain jewelry from Small and Friendly, chalkboard imagination blocks from Classic Play and Polymer Clay Vases and Placeholders from Hideous! Dreadful! Stinky! too! And for you crafty ladies you know your way around a sewing machine, there are PLENTY of sewing tutorials, too!

Finding new tutorials and ideas are amazing. But more than that, I love getting these collaborative books because I find bloggers and makers that I have never seen anything from before, or maybe someone that I have come across but never actually saw their stuff. It also reminds me of bloggers that I have followed for a while and sparks something new.

I learned about the Creative Mamas Collective during my usual stalking of Maker Mama. If I counted correctly, there are 21 collaborators in this book, and over 50 DIY ideas. The book is $15 and it’s my understanding that you get it immediately after your purchase. Could be the perfect gift for a crafty someone in your life, or you could use the ideas for last-minute handmade gifts and party ideas! Join the Creative Mamas Collective by following them on Pinterest and following and posting #creativemamas on Facebook and Instagram.

What are your favorite things that happened this week? Any new finds you want to share? Post in the comments and on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and Google+ with the hashtag #fridayfavorites. Find more of my favorite inspiration on Pinterest! Now, back to gift making and wrapping!

Yo Momma Monday: Emmaline Lamond

yo momma mondayMeet Emmaline Lamond, 36, from Mornington, Victoria, Australia. She is the beautifully creative mind behind Coco Press and is mama to her beautiful one-year-old daughter, Amelie. I met Emmaline through a Giveaway she was hosting and I was lucky enough to win her amazing hand-printed cards! Today, I’m honored to share her story with you.

9b3eb64e335911e3a62322000ab698eb_8

Emmaline was first introduced to lincout printing in her high-school art class. After school, she had to put her creative ventures aside and as she says, “get on with life,” but decided to take them back up again after she found her old art supplies in a box during a recent move.

“I found my printing gear and fell in love, again. At the time I was working in a stressful corporate job, I found that carving a lino block in preparation for printing was incredibly stress relieving. I was hooked and my obsession has continued to grow over the last few years to a point where I now have a studio over flowing with ink, printing gear and most importantly, three beautiful presses.”

So, what exactly is linocut printing, you ask? I know, I had the same question and Emmaline filled me in a little of the process.

“Lino cutting is a method of relief printing. Its lots of fun, well at least I think so. You basically start with a sheet of lino, I use a softer vinyl product and carve into it with special tools that allow you to cut away the negative space, this leaves only the positive space (the actual parts that print).”

“Think of it as a great big hand carved stamp that you then ink up with a roller (brayer) and then stamp onto paper, with the help of a printing press. I love the tactile nature of printing, I love the problem solving involved, the subtle tweaking you have to do to get it just right.”

Photo from Emmaline Lamond

Photo from Emmaline Lamond

Emmaline works with a press from the ’70s as newer machines are not really being manufactured right now, but to my surprise, she informed me that there are people who use reconditioned machines that date back to the 1900′s! She says that she would love an older press, but they are harder to find – and more expensive – in Australia than in America.

“I do love that they each have their own history, where have they come from who has worked and created on them in the past? For the time being, I am content to work with my lovely Chandler and Price table top and my smaller bright red Adana table top press.”

While Emmaline had been involved in craft fairs for a few years, she did not decide to make this a full-time business until September 2012, when she was put on maternity leave.

“I have been working very hard for the last 12 months or so to build up my business, create a larger range of cards and prints, find the right craft markets for my work (we moved interstate at the same time I started my business), learn the finer points of letterpress printing all while learning to be a mum for the first time!”

She recently launched the invitation side of her business, and she also launched her wedding stationary at a local Bridal Expo. Since she is still building that part, she says that most of her sales come from her letterpress cards rather than her wedding stationary.

Amelie is already a big helper! Photo from Emmaline Lamond

Amelie is already a big helper! Photo from Emmaline Lamond

“I LOVE working with couples to create their perfect wedding stationery. I adore hearing all about their big dreams for their big day, the dress, the location the colour scheme, all of it. It really inspires me to create something unique and beautiful just for them, something that will remain a treasured keepsake they can pull out as the years pass and they celebrate many anniversaries together.”

Like many of us new moms (ok, probably all of us), Emmaline hasn’t had a normal work day since having her little girl last year, and she says her work style has definitely changed.

“I try to keep a to-do list at hand and do my best to work my way through it in 10-minute chunks, as this is usually the longest my little girl will play independently. There is always something to do, drawing, refining my designs in Photoshop, cutting paper, printing, packaging, photographing my products, listing my products… the list goes on and on!”

All of the designs on Emmaline’s cards, invitations and linocut prints are created by her. She says she is drawn to Art Nouveau and whimsical images, and also loves creating her own quirky designs for cards and invites. As for the wedding side, she opts out of the traditional wedding designs, as she says there are plenty of people who “do traditional designs way better than me.”

“But no one else can create my designs exactly like I do. All my designs start with an idea, an inkling, a whimsical daydream that I turn into a drawing and the drawings I like the most are converted into digital images with the help of a scanner, Photoshop and my trusty Wacom tablet. These digital images are then made into photopolymer plates that are used for the actual printing.”

Photo from Emmaline Lamond

Photo from Emmaline Lamond

While Emmaline admits that being a new mom and starting her creative business can be a little tough, she says that she loves every minute of it.

“I feel so privileged to be in a position to make my small dream of entrepreneurship come true. I am totally motivated by my daughter I want to be able to show her that it is possible to live the life you dream of, for me that means building a sustainable business that will allow me to contribute to our household whilst building a loving and nurturing home for my little family.”

Although Emmaline works alone, her partner helps with the little one on the weekends so she can spend a few hours printing on the weekend. She waited until her daughter was a little older to return to the craft fair scene, and now her daughter gets more compliments than her art does!

I love everything about being a mum. I adore my little girl. I could complain about lack of sleep and those downsides you hear other people talk of but I don’t really mind, she’s only this little for such a short time that I just want to enjoy it all.”

She is focusing on craft shows that are close to her home, and fortunately she lives in a beautiful beachside area which is popular for tourists, and therefore also popular for craft shows. She says that the best and worst part about running her own business is that you live and breathe it.

Photo from Emmaline Lamond

Photo from Emmaline Lamond

“I love that I have so much passion and drive to make this a success but I also know that I should step away from it more often to live in the moment with my baby and my partner.

While Emmaline has a hard time picking her favorite thing about the entire creative process, she can easily pinpoint her favorite part of the printing process.

“That first time you get to see a new print, peeling the paper back off the printing plate to see the image revealed for the first time- its just magic!”

Emmaline describes her personal style as quirky, whimsical and fun, and she wants people to be able to recognize her work the moment they see it.

“I think it’s also important to have a bit of a sense of humour about your work and to realise that what you create isn’t going to appeal to everyone.”

She recently started creating her own tote bags, and said that they are now on the sidelines while she perfects them, but that won’t last long. And as for the future of her creative business as a whole, well – you will just have to wait and see!

Photo from Emmaline Lamond

Photo from Emmaline Lamond

I have huge plans for the future, I’m working on a top secret kick arse idea a the moment, one that will take lots of hard work and maybe more risk than I am used to but one that I am determined to bring to fruition, I am hoping to unveil it all next summer! So stay tuned for more exciting news as I bring the project together.”

Weekly Wishes #6

Image belongs to the Nectar Collective

Image belongs to the Nectar Collective

Last week, I decided to skip the Weekly Wishes post because it felt too rushed and I was out running errands with my friend to prepare for Thanksgiving and get some Christmas shopping done. I’ve decided to make most of the presents that I can, and to shop early for what I need to get from the store. That way, I can spend time personalizing the wrapping if I wasn’t able to make the gifts by hand.

I’ve returned to Weekly Wishes this week as it really helps me organize my thoughts before I start the week, and it motivates me to get started on what I want done. It’s also a really amazing feeling to look back at the past week(s) and see what I got accomplished…or what I really need to focus on this week. I actually changed the way I was working on my business idea, taking them week by week and day by day, focusing on the tasks and giving them more attention. In turn, I am a lot more satisfied with the result.

Here’s what I wanted to accomplish two weeks ago: Work on flyer for Baby Burrito website, start chalk/cork board, get yoga routine down, work on my garden, organize craft closet and designate a workspace.

How I did: I finished the flyer for the website and it’s posted! I also updated the membership and services pages and added a testimonials page. I am so happy with the way my website works, that now I will only need to do a few tweaks here and there. I did start on the chalk/cork board and I am hoping to finish it this week. I didn’t get a yoga routine down and I sort of abandoned my garden this week, but I did get to the craft closet and workspace!

This Week’s Wishes:

Business: Baby Burrito Collective – Create a space for graphic designers and other business services to advertise their services and work. We will do a button on the sidebar but I need another space with more of their information. I’m going to look at the theme to see what I can do. Sweet Mariposa – List Kandyce’s paintings and mason jar candle holders

baby burrito flyer

Creative: Finish my cork/chalkboard. I painted the chalkboard side and cut out the corkboard and foam board to go behind it. Now, I need to attach that to the wood and then staple some fabric over the cork. After that, I’ll attach the wood to the barn window (which will act as my frame) and put the backing on it. I’m going to keep that right now to put in my workspace, but if it looks good, I might think of making more to sell!

unnamed

Fitness: Get my yoga routine down, focus on clean/healthy eating. I know the holidays will be tough to stay on track, but I need to focus on eating right and working out when I can. I just need to keep reminding myself how important this is, and force myself to do it if I have to.

Home: Turn my newly designated workspace into a Christmas wrapping station. I want to wrap one gift at a time and really focus on designing the packaging, so I need to start now so I won’t feel so rushed. I have really focused on slowing down and doing everything one step at a time, and it has been the best thing for me.

What are your weekly wishes? Write about them and link up to the Nectar Collective. You can also share them in the comments and connect with me on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest. Here’s to having another lovely and productive week!

Yo Momma Monday: Stefanie Lin

yo momma monday

Meet Stefanie Lin, 30, from Sloughton WI, who has started her own Virtual Assistant business, called Crafty Helper. She keeps creative businesses in order with all of the services she offers online. This way, you can get an Assistant when you need one, and don’t need to worry about keeping one on the books during your slower seasons.

Before she started Crafty Helper, Stefanie worked a lot of Customer Service jobs and most recently, was running a small business for an owner who lived across the country. She got the idea to start her own business after working the indie craft fair circuit for several years and noticed that so many of her crafty friends were too busy keeping up with the business aspect that they didn’t have time for the creative side anymore.

“So many weren’t at a place to hire an employee on their payroll but needed some help and bonus would love to work with someone who “got it” (i.e: the handmade movement/community).  I saw a need that I could fill.”

While Stefanie has her personal blog called Artsy Momma, she also started a blog for Crafty Helper when the site went live. That blog is more business-driven, where she throws in her past experiences and shares her opinion on various small business related topics.

Photo from Stefanie Lin

Photo from Stefanie Lin

“If I help someone or give them motivation, my work is done. The bonus is that they keep me in mind when they are at a point that they need a set of capable hands to help them move their business forward and take that next step!”

A mother to four, her day is spent balancing work and family life. Her mornings are dedicated to getting her two oldest kids off to school and checking e-mails. Then she run errands with her little ones and does most of her work while they are napping. She also runs an antique booth with her best friend so she will stop in with her baby to check on that and then checks in with her clients at her weekly Skype meetings. She fits in some family time, then it’s back to work again once the kids are all in bed.

Her workspace is a desk in the family room, and she shares it with her kids for their homework and educational games. She does have a studio for her sewing and painting in the basement, but it usually ends up in the living room.

“I cant help it I love to be in the middle of the action!”

Photo from Stefanie Lin

Photo from Stefanie Lin

Since Stefanie’s husband works nights and sleeps during the day, she handles most of the parenting until the weekends, when they screw up his work schedule and he spends time with the family. They like going out to their favorite local restaurants, enjoying a good movie and doing projects together at home, although her husband isn’t a huge fan of the resulting mess.

“I always tell people though you pick what you are passionate about and what you make time for.  I love what I do so I work hard and I do all that I can with the time I have.  As for folding laundry, well that can wait :D  (Maybe that will be my kids memory of their childhood, clean clothes in hampers, eek!)”

While it can be hard to manage everything, Stefanie refers to her husband as her biggest cheerleader as he always helps her with designing an art booth, cutting down frames for her paintings and watching the kids when she has craft fairs.

“This new adventure though gives me more time to be in the crafty world but get to keep my weekends free to spend with my family as a whole, and for that I am thankful!”

Photo from Stefanie Lin

Photo from Stefanie Lin

As a small business owner and creative herself, Stefanie knows how time-consuming yet necessary all of the business aspects are, and that is why she believes that virtual assistants are so important to small/handmade business owners.

“So much now for businesses is done online and there are only so many hours in the day to do all the things to “stay relevant” and still be able to make the product you are selling…  A virtual assistant can do so much of the online work for an artist so that the artist can still have their name/brand out there but keep working on what they are passionate about, what they started out the business to begin with to make amazing/awesome/beautiful products”

Like so many business mamas, Stefanie’s favorite part about running her own business is the flexibility and the fact that she is always there for her kids. Since her business is still in the baby pages, she was a little scared about getting her first clients. Just a month in, she is already getting good feedback and referrals.

Since most of her clients are also mamas, they understand that weekends are dedicated to family time, and then Mondays she’s back on the grind. Even with this flexibility, she admits that she has become attached to her mobile devices (really though, who hasn’t) and that she forces herself to put the phone down and be completely present.

Photo from Stefanie Lin

Photo from Stefanie Lin

“When my kids look back on their childhood, I don’t want my phone to be the thing they remember, I want my smile and the projects we do together to be the first memories and the phone/computer just a minimal part of it!”

After all, it was a quilt hunt when she was pregnant with her first daughter that got her involved with craft shows in the first place. She wanted to make her baby a quilt, but hadn’t sewn a day in her life before then, so her husband bought her a sewing machine for Valentine’s Day. As it turns out, she was not so hot on quilting and finally decided to hire someone to make the dream quilt. In the meantime, she grew quite fond of sewing.

“I started with totes applied for my first show (didn’t sell a thing!) learned from it, got my first consignment store and hit the ground running! It wasn’t a straight path from sewing I started collecting vintage fabric which lead to vintage patterns. I wanted to paint my own faces which started out first very whimsical but have come full circle and I paint a bit more realistic but still with my own twist of using lots of texture and glazes to create paintings that have an old vintage vibe to them.”

She got involved with the Oh My Handmade! community after she followed the blog for a while and looked to it as an amazing resource for crafty businesses and a trusted voice on the online world. She finally decided to join the community and found “an amazing group of creatives I get to hang out with/ bounce ideas off of/ learn from/cheer on.”

Photo from Stefanie Lin

Photo from Stefanie Lin

Stefanie’s favorite thing about what she does is creating connections and working with happy and positive people. She loves being able to help them and cheer them on, and sharing knowledge about her past experiences while learning to work with new sites and applications.

“I am all about growing and learning, I like to stay busy so getting to learn new things makes me pretty happy!”

Her advice for new creative business owners is simple: just start doing it.

“I am all about information but if all you do is collect information and don’t take the first baby steps to where you want to go you will get overwhelmed and just sit there with tons of information, and what good is that?  Fake it till you make it baby!  And don’t let the gremlins in your head tell you aren’t worthy of your crafty dreams you are, you can do it.”

Photo from Stefanie Lin

Photo from Stefanie Lin

As for the future of her own business, Stefanie hopes to start a YouTube channel, keep a consistent blogging schedule, look for some good advertising spaces and continue to help artists make their own creative business dreams come true. Her plan for the antique booth is to continue the antique hunt and hopefully expand her booth into two.

“I also would love to help artist/handmade businesses break out of the mentality that they have to do it all for a long time before they are successful, hiring someone may hit the pocketbook initially but having that free time to really build your business is worth its weight in gold (and your sanity)”

For now, Stefanie’s heart is happy being able to cheer on other small businesses and make achieving their creative business dreams just that much easier. She hopes others will get the same fulfillment from their work, regardless of which avenue they choose.

“We all have our special gifts and we love and are passionate about other things.  It is finding that passion that you want to do all the time and can make a living doing.  I am not wanting to become a millionaire that is never my intention I want to have a healthy happy life work balance and make sure my family is taken care of but for me that means living in our cozy home driving a not so new vehicle and one day having chickens in the backyard.  Everyone’s dream is different and that is absolutely OK that is what makes being a human being so freaking amazing!”

Photo from Stefanie Lin

Photo from Stefanie Lin

To find out more about Stefanie Lin and Crafty Helper, you can check out her website here and connect with her on Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest. If you have an idea for Yo Momma Monday, let me know by posting in the comments or using the hashtag #yomommamonday in your posts on Facebook, Twitter and Instgram. Visit my Pinterest to find more awesome mama inspiration!