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!

Creative Business Journey: Project 2014 (Week two)

Image from Oh My! Handmade Goodness

Image from Oh My! Handmade Goodness

It’s the second week into Project 2014 at Oh My! Handmade Goodness, and I am loving it. I have an Accountability buddy named Lenore, who runs A Small Bird Designs. You can read more about her Project 2014 journey here and here. She is a freelance graphic designer and we are both working on some ginormous projects, so I think we will both be a huge help to each other.

I know I talked about my plans for this month, but I wanted to focus on a specific goal for the week. Finally complete a design board for my blog! I have some ideas of what I want it to look like, and now it’s time to really pinpoint what I want. And I wanted to share my inspiration with you!

Theme:

Image from Henry Happened

Image from Henry Happened

I don’t remember why I landed upon Henry Happened. I don’t remember if it was a tutorial, a recipe, or some sort of handmade fashion tip. What I do remember, is how beautiful and simple the theme is. I love how each category has a hand-drawn symbol, and I love how all the posts are visually categorized. It really excites me and makes me want to look for more. And I want people to feel that way when they happen upon my blog – I want them to feel like they found a magical land that they must explore.

Colors:

Image from Design Seeds

Image from Design Seeds

If you are into design at all, and you haven’t been to Design Seeds yet, you should probably visit. I am always so inspired by how Jessica can create an entire color palette from one object or photo. You can get the code for each color, so you can use that color in your design work and you can also adjust the colors by adjusting the RGB values. It is quite honestly one of the most resourceful sites I have found since I started caring about design. I love the color palette above because it’s rustic and includes my favorite color – teal! It’s bold yet not obtrusive.

Font:

Image from Betty Red Designs

Image from Betty Red Design

I absolutely love the cursive font in this design, probably because that is exactly how I write in cursive. I would love to use a font like this as my header, and I could probably even write it myself, scan it into my computer and incorporate it in my design. That seems a lot easier than searching all over for the font. Betty Red Design is an amazing site too, by the way.

Now, it’s time to work all of these into a design board. I can’t wait to see what Amy from Amy is the Party comes up with! So far, she is the only person I have trusted to touch my blog besides me (no pressure or anything), so it’s all very exciting! I also found a new site while hanging around Lenore’s website – XO Sarah is run by a designer who also focuses on helping bloggers and small business grow their businesses. Check out her Ebook and WordPress plugins for small businesses.

What are your major goals for your business this week? Anything specific you are working on, or is there an ongoing goal that you are chipping away at? Let’s talk about it. I would love to work on our projects together, and be sure to check out Lenore’s site, too!

Coffee and Muffins

coffee and muffins

Last weekend, my mom and I embarked on a new challenge. We must avoid all drive-thru eateries for an entire month. This wouldn’t be difficult for me, but I have a secret addiction to drive-thru Starbucks. Because sometimes when we’re on the road, I need a coffee. And almost all the time, I don’t want to have to lug my daughter out of the car and then back into the car to get a simple coffee.

The thought of walking to a little, hidden gem of a local coffee shop is a beautiful thought, except for the fact that I live nowhere near one. When I lived in downtown Sacramento, you could just turn in any direction and point, and a coffee shop would magically appear. But this is not the case.

So, it’s time to broaden the horizons. Since I will be more dependent on my at-home coffee-making skills more than ever, I’ve come to a conclusion. It’s time to stock up on some coffee from rad coffee shops when I come across one, and then get some rad travel mugs.

Photo from Mugoos

Photo from Mugoos

First of all, I love Mary Tyler Moore. I used to watch that show on TV Land before all my of childhood shows somehow wound up there, and before there was a DVR. This coffee mug not only brings a smile to my face and brings back memories of no responsibilities, it’s also kind of a perfect quote for my life right now. This ceramic mug has a plastic lid and is double-insulated. MC Simon, who made the mug and runs Mugoos, is a mama-of-two who was welder before running her own handmade ceramic shop.

Photo from Heartbreak Coffee

Photo from Heartbreak Coffee

Heartbreak Coffee is not actually local, but I read about this online coffee shop on Design*Sponge and I fell in love with the story. She brews and sells everything from her kitchen, and the first comment on her Coming Soon post was from her mom. I mean, come on.

So, I think this would be a great time to start reviewing different coffee shops – both local and online.

And what goes better with coffee than…

IMG_1458MUFFINS!!!

I used a recipe from The Granny Girls for these apple blueberry muffins and they were delicious – and good for you! I count them as a success because my boyfriend – the enemy of all that is health food – even enjoyed them. My muffins tend to be dry, but these were simply delightful. Moist (I know, I hate that word too), and every bite was filled with fruit.

The ingredients are below and you can get the full recipe here. I’m thinking of adding bananas next time (like, tomorrow).

  • 2 cups whole wheat flour
  • 1/4 cup turbinado sugar
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 cup raisins or currants blueberries
  • 1/2 cup chopped walnuts
  • 1 cup apple juice (I didn’t have any so I used almond milk)
  • 1/4 cup maple syrup
  • 1/4 cup apple sauce
  • 1 tablespoon canola oil
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 large egg, beaten (or 2 egg whites)
  • 2-3 medium apples, unpeeled, finely chopped (or grated)

What healthy steps are you taking? Share them in the comments and on social media. If you are writing about it, share the post with me! I would love to help motivate each other!

Thrifty Thursdays

thrifty thursdays

Sacramento residents breathed a little easier yesterday. After 52 days of dry weather, we finally got our first day of rain! And from what I hear, there are more rainy days on their way. So, what this means to my admittedly self-absorbed self is that I can finally put my garden in! I did finish a coffee can planter for my rosemary, and I will be sharing the tutorial soon. I’m hoping to expand my garden and while I will replant vegetables in the back, I want a few herb planters for the front yard that will be easily transportable when we move.

We have plenty of things to use as planters around here, but I’m not 100 percent sure I have permission to take them with us. So, I have gathered quite the collection of awesome DIY planter tutorials. Turns out, you can pretty much make a planter out of…anything.

Photo from Little House Blog

Photo from Little House Blog

I must admit – this will take some work. Lindsay from Little House Blog actually bought and mixed the concrete and made this by hand. That sounds pretty intense, so I would probably give in to my laziness and just find some concrete blocks lying around. But in the hopes that I am actually productive enough to actually make a concrete planter by hand, this is for sure on the list.

Photo from Heavens to Betsy

Photo from Heavens to Betsy

Before meeting Sam, I did not frequent the swap meets. Swap meets are more for car guys, but it turns out that they may or may not have a couple booths of collectibles, in case the car guy also happens to collect antiques, or they bring someone who does. It’s where that I discovered a love I have for old oil cans. My collection is small with only three, but I was thinking of turning them into planters and candle holders. This tutorial from Heavens to Betsy is the perfect inspiration!

Photo from The Paper Mama

Photo from The Paper Mama

I have an old three-tiered basket that is super rusty and the chain no longer works. In the event that I will not be able to restore it the way I want, this will be a great back-up plan. I would love to attach this to a fence, if we end up having one. You can read the full tutorial from Chelsey (The Paper Mama) on Better Homes and Garden’s blog.

And, of course. The windowsill planter.

Photo from Design*Sponge

Photo from Design*Sponge

One thing is for sure. You can find old wooden boxes anywhere. Thrift stores, flea markets, swap meets, your house. The issue I have is that I get old wooden boxes like this to hold all my pens. Then I decide I want my pens in a little pack I can bring everywhere with me. As a writer, I have to have my pens with me. Even in this digital age, I still get a kick from writing things down when I think of them. So, the boxes end up sitting in my closet until they have a purpose. And now, they have one! This would be good for your windowsill, and will actually be a cute gift for your favorite people, too. Check out the full tutorial on Design*Sponge.

Do you have any DIY planters to share? Did you complete one of these projects and want to share what you did? Then do it here! Just post the link in the comments and share on your social media so we can all check it out! Use the hashtags #staythrifty or #makestuff so I can easily look up your posts!

Meet the Maker: Print Therapy

meet the maker

Meet Melissa, 30, and Nicholas Wert, 32 from Longmeadow, Massachusetts. They are the adorable and creative couple behind Print Therapy, a handcrafted paper expression company, and I am honored to have them as my guests today. And how perfect (and not planned at all) is it that Valentines Day is officially less than a month away.

Melissa and Nick decided to start Print Therapy while Melissa was in a hotel room during a business trip. She still works full time as a project manager and has one foot in the creative world, one foot in corporate America, as she would put it.

“After several weeks of travel (for work, not for pleasure!) and too many moments of not feeling like my best was good enough and not being able to truly stand behind my work, I called Nick and said “Dang it! We’re starting Print Therapy. For real!” A few hours later, we registered the name and had filled out all of the legal paperwork.”

Melissa has both a Bachelors in Business Management and a Masters in Communication and Information Management. She and Nick started Print Therapy a year after she got her Masters. She admits that at first it felt like a waste – paying off a whole bunch of student loans after realizing that she wasn’t all about corporate America.

Photo from Print Therapy

Photo from Print Therapy

“But when I stepped back, I realized how much they would help me run my own business and handle the non-creative portion of my work, which I love almost as much as the creating!”

Melissa says that she wouldn’t rather work with anyone else, and that the secret to their success is working in separate offices. She adds that having her husband as her business partner gives them both an understanding of all the work they put into it.

” If one of us needs to take a break or step away from it for a while, then it’s totally okay. We both know that we each love this business and want it to grow, and that we’re 100% committed to that. Nick doesn’t get on my case if I devote an entire Saturday to Print Therapy or if I fall asleep on the couch at 8pm after a long day of work. We appreciate each other for the work we’re putting in – and make sacrifices together to keep it all going!”

Since Melissa is an early riser, she is able to get a huge chunk of her work done before anyone else gets up and the neighborhood is still quiet. She makes a cup of coffee, checks her email and visits the blogs and social media sites of her favorite creative people. Then, it’s time to handle business. Some days, she works on all the of business aspects and other days, she’s creating a new design.

Photo from Print Therapy

Photo from Print Therapy

“I am a methodical planner (hence my project management background), and have had to learn that you cannot plan creativity. It’s not something you can schedule on the calendar (yes, I’ve tried), or slot in a certain time of the day. When it happens, it happens.”

The upstairs spare bedroom of their 52 Cape doubles as her office, where she says all of the white space inspires her; yet the beautiful charm and character are her favorite. She has a desk, some storage racks, a Print Therapy design board and a Yoga Dogs calendar. Her only office mate is her dog, Sawyer, who is always hard at work on his comfy bed under the window.

“The bones of the room give me  a warm and fuzzy feeling…being surrounded by color would limit my design sense.”

While Melissa does get a lot of her home inspiration from Pinterest and creative inspiration from Instagram, she is most inspired by things that are not related to stationary at all, a nod to a subject she studied in College.

Photo from Print Therapy

Photo from Print Therapy

“I studied architecture in college before switching to business, and I tend to find a lot of inspiration in different architectural pieces and in interior design.”

Before Adobe introduced the Creative Cloud, Melissa and Nick were creating all of their cards on Microsoft Word (yowza!). After watching all the Adobe TV tutorials they could handle, they now use Adobe Illustrator and InDesign for all of their designs.

“It’s opened up a new level of creativity and confidence for me. We print most of our items at home, but are slowly beginning to work with a great printing company that prints out of California. They will greatly expand what we can offer, and can help keep our prices reasonable for bigger orders.  It’s hard to let a big piece of the business go like that, but we’ve found someone we trust and really enjoy working with, so … baby steps!”

Since both Melissa and Nick work full-time aside from running Print Therapy, they don’t get a whole lot of downtime. So when they do get a chance to unwind, they will get burgers or Chinese take-out and snuggle with Sawyer on the couch and watch a movie or catch-up on their favorite shows.

Photo from Print Therapy

Photo from Print Therapy

“As much as we love working together, getting to unwind together is even better! Both of our families are about 10 minutes away, so we love getting to spend time with them, too. We also treasure dinner dates with our closest friends – whether they be out to a restaurant or home cooked at someone’s home. Quality time together is where it’s at!”

For Melissa, being responsible for it all is both the best and scariest thing about running her own business. She loves having control over every aspect of her company, but also admits that it can get a little hairy when there’s not an IT Department or a paycheck, for that matter.

“You get to know yourself pretty well when you’re the one behind it all, and you have to learn to work within your strengths and weaknesses, and to push yourself farther than you thought you could go.”

When they need to buckle down and get to work, Melissa and Nick have different ways to get in the creative mood. Melissa will turn her workspace into what she calls a “safe space” and shuts the door, turns up the heat, lights a candle and turns up the emotional music. Nick, on the other hand, revisits the 90s with his musical choices. “Method Man, Wu Tang, all of it”

Photo from Print Therapy

Photo from Print Therapy

“Nick often jokes how much I love sad music – it’s true! I feel most creative when I deeply, deeply feel something. To me, that’s the point of stationery – to put feelings into text and images that can be shared with someone else.”

And when there are simply no creative juices flowing? Melissa doesn’t force it, and just stops trying. She will start cleaning and organizing and comes back to it later. If there is still nothing, she will just start designing something and eventually the creativity will reemerge.

“Sometimes walking away is the best option though – becoming frustrated with the process certainly isn’t going to help that creativity to start flowing.”

And when there are design flops, Melissa has learned to not rush the process and to work on a design until it feels right. And if she doesn’t love it, she will not have that innate urge to sell it. And when she’s not jumping up and down to promote it…then maybe it shouldn’t be up for sale.

Photo from Print Therapy

Photo from Print Therapy

“Sometimes it’s easy to get caught up in the trends and to try to make something because you think it will sell. But, if it doesn’t fit you and your brand, good luck”

Melissa loves the familiarity of the handmade movement and community, and loves how it feels like “we’re all in this together.” She has a lot of friends who run their own small businesses, and she feels inspired being able able to purchase items that help people support families, fund an adoption and give back to their communities.

“You just don’t get that feeling from a Wal-Mart. There’s nothing better than purchasing a product you love and knowing that that maker is excited by and appreciative of every purchase coming his or her way, and is using that money to live their life. Double whammy goodness.”

She discovered Oh My Handmade! while on Twitter when she was starting Print Therapy. She checked out the website, and ultimately decided that the small monthly fee was worth all of the support she would get from the online community.

Photo from Print Therapy

Photo from Print Therapy

“Through my OMHG membership, I’ve learned that I’m not alone and that everyone struggles. Everyone has off days. No one feels like a creative successful genius 365 days a year. It’s been eye opening for me, in the best way, and has helped me better accept myself as a maker.”

While Melissa agrees that starting your own business is incredibly tiring, she also knows how exhausting it can be to work at a job that you don’t love. So, she knows this is the right path for her, and if she does have children, she hopes it will be an inspiration to them.

“Every day that I look at Nick, and the family we’re building, I am inspired to go down this path, because it makes me the happiest person I can be. That’s good for me.”

Now that they finally have their website launched (yay!), Melissa hopes to work on a Wedding collection and add more “just because” cards to their shop. “Those are my favorite to send, and to receive, so I want to offer more of those as well.” Next year, they hope to move into wholesale.

Photo from Print Therapy

Photo from Print Therapy

“I hope to inspire people to do what they love, and to not feel constrained by what they think they should be doing or by what someone else thinks they should be doing. I hope to inspire people to find a partner to share their life with that fully supports their dreams and visions.

I hope to inspire people to rescue their next pet versus buying from a breeder, because man, rescue pets are the best. But mostly, I hope to just inspire people to tell someone else how they feel about them in a way that will always be treasured. Leave a love note, send a card. However they choose, I want to inspire people to tell those they love, that they love them. I want to inspire people to send happiness; from their mailbox forward.”

You can find Melissa and Nick on their website, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram and you can order Valentines cards (like I did) and any other cards you like from their Etsy shop. If you would like to participate in this series – or know somebody who should – leave a note in the comments and on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. If you want to be all private, you can e-mail me too!

Fridays are for Favorites

fridays are for favorites

I love when I get a new book and it opens an entirely new world for me. Last year, I got the Handmade Marketplace book from my stepsister, and it introduced me to Kari Chapin and her handmade community, which also led me to Oh My Handmade! This year, I got Wonder Walls by Sarah Bagner from my boyfriend’s sister…and I fell in love with the book. This is my new favorite find!

Photo from Sarah Bagner

Photo from Sarah Bagner

I saw that she has a website called Super Market Sarah and immediately deemed it necessary to check out. The book features different collectors who have their items displayed on their walls, and the website is the same way. You can click on items that you like in the photos, and that will lead you to the store to purchase the item.

You can click Browse to view the 91 eclectic collections, and then you simply click on the item for its price and link to buy it. Some of my favorite collections are: Kirstie Mary Allsopp (who wrote the book Kirstie’s Homemade Home), Tuckshop (awesome jewelry designed by Lynn Allingham) and Bits of Bike (cyclist and designer Clare Pollen makes jewelry out of old bike parts)

Photo from Sarah Bagner

Photo from Sarah Bagner

While I have not had time to go through all of the collections, I can almost guarantee there will be more collections I will fall head over heels for. The best part is when you click on the name of the collection, it takes you to an info page which gives you a little more background on the artist and links to the artist’s website and/or shop. That’s awesome! What an amazing way to promote the artists.

You can join the Supermarket Sarah group on Facebook – like I just did – and you can follow her on Twitter! Her blog hasn’t been updated since August but she does update her Facebook and Twitter with shows she is doing and projects she’s working on. Pretty neat to see the behind-the-scenes action!

What is your favorite new find of the week? Post the link in the comments and share on Facebook, Twitter, Google + and Instagram with the hashtag #fridayfavorite. You can find more of my favorite 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!

Thrifty Thursdays: Holiday Edition

thrifty thursdays

As I was writing out my list of gifts I still need to finish (or hell, even start), I came to the realization that Christmas Eve is five days away! FIVE! To add to that, I opted to buy plain brown craft paper this year to wrap all my gifts, you know – to give it that extra homemade feel. This was back in November, when I was sure I would have time to finish my projects for school and get all my Christmas presents done.

So, you can imagine what the next five days are going to be like. Luckily, school is done and now I can focus on the Holidays…finally! If you are like me, and still haven’t found time to do all of your wrapping yet, here are some fun (and easy) homemade gift wrap ideas that will add a sweet personal touch. Right before they rip it all to shreds!

Photo from The DIY Dreamer

Photo from The DIY Dreamer

This custom wrapping paper from The DIY Dreamer is kind of amazing. She just took a couple branches and placed them on the copy bed of her printer and printed the design out on bright white copy paper! While I was reading the tutorial, I was thinking you may need heavier paper. But then again, you want it light enough you can fold it to wrap the gifts. This would be perfect for smaller gifts. You don’t even need the branches – you can really print out any design you want!

Photo from Artifact Uprising

Photo from Artifact Uprising

I usually stick to sharing DIY tutorials from bloggers. If I see something shared by a big-name store or magazine, chances are there’s a blogger doing it, too. But when I happen upon a business whose beliefs I agree with, and they have a beautiful tutorial like this, I feel inclined to share. Artifact Uprising – a photo goods store – teamed up with photographer Fawn DeViney for this DIY Gift Wrapping tutorial. They used the plain brown paper, and added a print on top! Now, they used their Square Prints Set that comes with 25 prints and sells for $21.95. That’s a pretty good deal, but if you are in a time and budget pinch – find some photos/prints that are lying around and trim them down to size!

Photo from Mini Eco

Photo from Mini Eco

I found this beautifully hand-drawn wrapping paper from Mini Eco on through the MAKE zine. Kate Lilley (who runs Mini Eco) worked as a web designer before becoming a full-time mom and now freelances and writes books while her sons are at school. I think I found the perfect someone for a Yo Momma Monday feature! She has loads of tutorials on her site, including a cross stitch gift wrap printable.

Now, for something to top your beautiful handmade gift wrap…

Photo from Lisa Griffith

Photo from Lia Griffith

I’m not a huge fan of the Christmas bows. I think they look beautiful (most of the time), but they usually get smashed when you’re packing all your Christmas gifts into a car, and one time, a family member politely informed me that I had a bow stuck on my butt. How it got there, I have no idea. Sure, it was cause for a good laugh, but I would rather the bows stick on the gifts. That’s why I like these printable paper bows from Lia Griffith – they actually go around the gift, less of a chance of sticking to everything else but the gift! And Lia offers printables for each style and even blank ones in case you want to design your own!

Photo from Oh Happy Day

Photo from Oh Happy Day

When there comes a time when I am able to make/purchase gifts for my friends again (note to friends: sorry), I’m definitely using this printable gift wrap and tags from Oh Happy Day! Heck, I might even use them for the family this year. I was planning on just painting/writing the names on each gift, but if I need to make some tags, this could definitely be the way to go! This blog is so beautiful in general, and she shares so many good tutorials – like a Christmas forest cake topper.

Do you have any handmade gift wrap ideas you would like to share? Post the link in the comments and share on Facebook, Instagram, Google+ and Twitter with the hashtag #homamdefortheholidays! Find more handmade gift inspiration on my Pinterest!

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!

Homemade for the Holidays: Sales!

As I have said before, part of my Creative Business Journey is to share stories of people who have started their own businesses and inspire me to keep doing what I’m doing. With that in mind, this week’s My Creative Business Journey post is interrupted by a listing of all the small businesses I know that will be hosting sales online this weekend! I know that sometimes buying from handmade/small businesses can be tough because it usually means spending a little more, so this list might help lighten the load a little.

The Petit Cadeau – Free shipping on everything | Code: HOLIDAY

Photo from Alison Butler

Photo from Alison Butler

I recently wrote about Alison for my Yo Momma Monday series and have felt so inspired by her slow gifting manifesto. She sells handmade heirloom celebration countdowns, all made in her home studio. She sources most of her items and packaging from independent/local businesses.

Ink and Dirt Designs - 20% off everything | Code: OHMYHOLIDAY

Photo from Ink and Dirt Designs

Photo from Ink and Dirt Designs

Karen Jansen is a crafty mama who creates typography art, subway art, word art, original and custom designs. She came up with the name Ink and Dirt because she not only makes beautiful prints, she also likes to work on landscape design projects!

Lix Hewett Photography/ Design – 20% off everything | HANGIT/ BRANDIT

Photo from Lix Hewitt

Photo from Lix Hewitt

Not only is Lix a wonderful photographer, she recently opened her graphic design shop on Etsy! She offers not only beautiful prints, but iphone cases and custom branding as well. Spoil yourself with a custom branding package and get a print for your friend. Done and done!

Sam Osborne – 25% off all orders over £5 | Code: HOHOHO13

Photo from Sam Osborn

Photo from Sam Osborne

As an aspiring illustrator and graphic designer, Sam is such an inspiration. I love her work and how seamlessly it goes from print to products. The moment you see something of hers, you know who it belongs to and all of her work is so bright and fun, it immediately puts me in a good mood.

Lu & Ed – 30% off everything except Team Lu & Ed merch | Code: StorenvyFlash30

Photo from Sam Osborn

Photo from Lu & Ed

I wrote about the wonderful Cody for Yo Momma Monday last week and shared all the awesome stuff she does with her business. She organized a 50-store Store Evny sale and you can view all the stores here. Sale is on Cyber Monday only.

Kitty’s Curiosity - 25% everything in store, including sale items (BONUS!) | Code: HOORAY13

Photo from Kitty's Curiosity

Photo from Kitty’s Curiosity

Genevieve makes both reclaimed and hand-dyed yarn in a smoke, pet and allergen free home. I virtually met in her the Oh My Handmade forums and she is always so very welcoming and helpful! Her yarn is absolutely beautiful and if I ever get into knitting again – I know where I’m headed!

Print Therapy - 20% off everything | Code: GetYoShopOn

Photo from Print Therapy

Photo from Print Therapy

Let me just say, best coupon code I have ever seen. Ever. Melissa and Nicholas discovered a mutual love for handmade paper items after planning their wedding. How freaking cute is that? They have a lot of meaningful cards for all the occasions, like this sweet anniversary card. I can’t wait to share their full story in my Meet the Maker series soon!

dylbug – Free shipping

Photo from dylbug

Photo from dylbug

Leslie started this company after her first son was born and she wanted some hip clothes for him with a personal touch. Now a mama of three, she is always working on adorable new graphics. I was just introduced to this shop through Facebook, and I think I might be in love.

Home Grown Books20% off entire site | Code: shopsmall

Photo from Home Grown Books

Photo from Home Grown Books

My little one loves books. She likes to flip through them, and mostly to eat them. Home Grown Books are all art-based and eco-friendly books, made through an entirely green process. The paper is recycled and sturdy (good for those inquisitive mouths) and the books are 5.5″ by 6.25″ – perfect for little ones! There are seven books in a set, and the artist of each set is spotlighted on the website – which I think is amazing, and unfortunately isn’t done enough.

Simply Mad Jewelry15% off entire order | Code: SPARKLE15

Photo from Simply Mad Jewelry

Photo from Simply Mad Jewelry

I have come to the realization that I won’t be wearing jewelry for a long time. At least until my daughter stops pulling at literally everything I wear. Not that I wore too much jewelry in the first place, but I do have a special place in my heart for fabric rings like the one above! Madeline makes all of her jewelry by hand, and she takes custom orders. 

You can also find a listing of shops with holiday sales on Omiyage – a crafty blog featuring the amazing Washi tape. I actually went on to Oh My Handmade to announce I was going to compile this list so people could promote their sales, when I found out that she was doing the same thing! A lot of these lovely people are from that community so there may be the same shops on her list. I’m going to head over there as well, to see if there are any sales I missed out on!

If you are hosting a sale this weekend, or you know an awesome shop that is and I didn’t know about it, please leave a link in the comments and on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter with the hashtag #shopsmallsales. You can also find more holiday sales on my Pinterest. If anything, I hope this inspires you to shop small and handmade this holiday season.