Aaaaand we’re back

I am so sorry for that extended interlude. Time just slips away, and that’s never a good thing, is it? But let me give you a brief catch up on where I am, and perhaps you will begin to understand why I disappeared for so long.

As I mentioned in my last post, all those weeks ago, I’ve started a business making soaps, candles and beauty products, and that’s where I’ve been spending most of my time lately. My very first show was a couple of weeks ago, at a local junior high.

Booth Set up

It was a really small show, and there weren’t a lot of people there, but it was nice exposure and a chance to try out a booth design to see if it will work for other bigger shows. We found that candles and wax items will be a challenge because of the heat (duh) but we’ve found a couple of ways to get around that. We also found that if people try our soaps, they are more likely to buy. We suspected that would be the case, and we went prepared. If you can see the water cooler at the back of the booth, that’s a very primitive sink type apparatus we set up to let people wash their hands. Two out of three people buy soap after they try it, so we’ll definitely be keeping the hand washing station!

Now, I’m getting ready for the shows I’ve signed up for in June and July. I’ve got soap curing, and a few more bar soaps planned to be made this week. I’ve also come up with a liquid soap recipe made entirely by me, and I am really excited about it!

Liquid Soap

I noticed a while back that most people prefer liquid soaps to bar soaps, particularly in the shower and bath. I tried using some of the liquid soap bases that can be purchased and then scented and tinted to your liking, but the one thing I always noticed was that they thinned out considerably in that process. Also, they are still commercial soaps; they contain all the chemicals and such that most people buying handmade soap want to avoid. So I started looking for a liquid soap recipe. Most of what I found, though, wasn’t really liquid soap. It was paste, or some strange concoction that really wouldn’t be fitting for sale. But I finally ran across a book in Half Price Books that described perfectly how to make true liquid soap. I made my first batch last week, and I have to say that I am extremely happy with the final product. It’s still much thinner than I would like it to be, but it is sooooooooooooo much better than anything you can buy in the stores. I used it for the first time in the shower today and here’s what I noticed …

  1. LOTS of lather! I used it for both a shampoo and a bath gel, and in both instances, there was a LOT of lather.
  2. A little goes a long way. Like I said, it’s still pretty thin, but I dribbled a few drops of the soap on to my wet scrubby and I didn’t have to add any soap to finish my shower.
  3. It rinses off clean. It doesn’t leave a film behind because it doesn’t have anything to give it the “slip” of a commercial soap. That gliding feeling you get from your shower gel is a chemical used to make your skin feel smooth in the shower.
  4. It’s really easy to dry off after the shower. I live in a humid climate (hello, Houston!) and there are times when I get out of the shower in the warm months and it just seems impossible to get dry, but with both my bar soap and the liquid soap I’m not having that problem. I think it goes back to fewer chemicals in the formula (see #3).
  5. My hair dried faster than it usually does. Full disclosure: I have long hair, so I cannot wash my hair and not use a conditioner. I’m going to formulate my own conditioner, but I haven’t gotten that far down the list yet, so today I used a commercial conditioner with my handcrafted soap. But my hair dried much faster than it does when I use commercial shampoos. I don’t use a blow dryer most of the time, so this is air drying in a very humid environment, and it can take all day for my hair to dry sometimes.
  6. My skin feels just as smooth using the liquid soap as it does when I bathe with the bar soap.

If you’ve been hesitating to try my soaps because you aren’t crazy about bar soaps, I think you’re going to love the liquid soap. I’ll be adding it to the website this week, so keep an eye out and get your order in early!

How did I ever find time to work?!

Today marks the two month period since I left my corporate job. I really cannot believe it’s already been two months! It seems like only last week, I walked out the door of that building for the very last time. Admittedly, the first week or so was pretty rough for me; I wasn’t really sure what to do with myself, because I’d already decided to return to school and work toward a CPA. I had a little more than a month until my first class started; what, exactly, was I supposed to do until then?!

Well, two months later, I can honestly say that I don’t really know how I ever found the time to get up every morning, get dressed, go to the office and work for eight hours. One day, I may have to do it again, but for now, I’m keeping myself busy in a million different ways:

  • I’ve started a business making soaps, candles, and beauty aids
  • I’m taking a refresher class in accounting principles
  • I’m trying to work out my school schedule for summer & fall classes
  • I’ve done more sewing in the last two months than the last two years combined
  • I find time to walk on the treadmill most days
  • I have time to read, even though a majority of what I read is either sewing, accounting, or business related
  • I spend time with my husband; he had surgery in February and I was able to be at the hospital with him, and take care of him when he came home without worrying if I was missing anything important at the office
  • I have taken care of my grandson a few times (who can resist an adorable toddler who is usually pretty happy?)
  • I’ve taken time for myself – I’ve attended a class or two for sewing; we take long drives in the middle of the week when it’s less crowded; I’ve been able to get together with my mom a few times

Overall, I’m busy, and I’m happy. In fact, I made a comment to my mom the other day that I have difficulty making time for things I used to do regularly when I was working – like laundry! Oy vey, is my laundry out of control! Ugh!

My hope is that my business will take off enough that I won’t have to go back to work for Corporate America. I really want my days there to be done. But if I have to go back down the line, I’ll make it happen. The only thing is … I’m really enjoying the way things are now! I love getting up in the morning and making soap or candles. I really enjoy taking a day off and going to see my mom when I feel like it. It makes me so happy to spend the day with my husband, or my grandson, or by myself in the studio.

How I ever found the time to work is completely beyond me …

Butterick B5300 Step 1

Tape measure

I was in a small business seminar all day on Saturday, but all I could think about on the way home was getting a start on my muslin of Butterick B5300. After chatting with Chris for a while about our day, I got him to agree to help me take some measurements that I could use to compare to the pattern. After checking the pattern, I found that the only measurements included on the envelope are bust, waist, hips and bicep. So I pulled out the tape measure and grabbed a pen and paper, and we got started. I will be checking the back length on the muslin, because I am long-waisted and I was a bit irritated that the back length wasn’t included on the pattern envelope; this is often a place where I need to make adjustments, so I will be keeping an eye on it throughout the fitting process.

I started with my upper bust, because I have read that one can achieve better fit results if they use the upper bust measurement instead of the full bust measurement to choose a pattern like a blouse or dress. According to my upper bust measurement, I was in the 18-20 range. Next, we took my full bust measurement, more to determine what sort of full bust adjustment (FBA) I might need, then we took the waist, hips and right bicep. My hip and bicep measurements gave me the 22-24 size range, but the waist was more like a 28 range. My suspicion is that if I use the 28 through the waist, it might be a little bit too big, but I’m going to go ahead when I trace the pattern and use the 18-20 in the shoulders, then taper out to the largest size as I move down to my waist. I’ll leave it at the larger size for the hips as well. I have a feeling that the silhouette that will be created by this will make me look like I’m wearing a maternity blouse, and that it might be too large, but I’m going to try it and see. The reason why I have doubts is that I followed the pattern measurements for Butterick B6070 through the waist and it’s quite large.

What all of this really tells me is that I need to lose weight, but I already knew that.

What it also says is that pattern companies, much like ready to wear designers, don’t take into account trouble spots and try to help camouflage or otherwise attempt to draw attention away from them. To combat the too-large stomach area, I’ll need to come up with something that will draw the eye upward toward the neckline.

I’d like to see a silhouette more like a loose-fitting t-shirt through the waistline, because I like my fit to be a little closer to the body than what most blouse patterns seem to be these days. So if I don’t like the way this looks, that might be my next modification – to bring the waist and hips closer to my body, but not so close it’s uncomfortable when I sit.

By Monday afternoon, I hope to have the pattern drawn off and ready to lay out on some muslin. We’ll see where it goes from there.

I may be a nerd

But at least I’m an organized nerd.

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With three machines, all different brands, I had to come up with a way to keep up with the feet, bits and pieces for each one of them. So I went to the sporting goods store to find something, and I came up with these boxes. They are shallow, which is perfect for machine feet, screws, and other small pieces. Right now, I’m using Plano series 3600 & 3700 stowaway boxes, and I have to say that I prefer the larger 3700 series for this purpose. Eventually, I’ll switch all of the machines over to the bigger box size, but right now only the Pfaff Creative 4.5 accessories are stored in the 3700.

In other news, I will be starting a new project on Monday. I am going to start the muslin process for this blouse. B5300

My plan is to combine the bodice from view C with the sleeves from view A. I would like it to be slightly fitted, but my primary concern is making sure it fits through the bust apex and the stomach. I have a stomach that’s too large, and it’s a bit of a challenge to find blouses that fit both my upper chest and my stomach and avoiding the gaping apex. I don’t do a lot of shopping because … well, I actually hate shopping for clothing; it’s never been one of my favorite things to do. But I did make a swing through Macy’s women’s department, and noticed that the big color this year is coral. And denim seems to be big, too, but right now I’m focused on the coral thing. I will need to hunt up some coral colored fabric, but I have some time, and I’m not sure that I even want to make this particular top in coral, but I digress. What I really need right now is a good white button down blouse, which seems to be impossible to find.

I will be utilizing Nancy Zieman’s book, Pattern Fitting with Confidence to help me make the adjustments to my pattern. I may also be referring to the Craftsy course , Fitting Solo by Linda Lee. I found it to be very informative when I watched it but I haven’t had a chance to use the knowledge I gained from the course. Fortunately for me, both of these sources follow very similar processes.

I will post photos and information on my progress next week.😀

All quiet on the western front …

Or at least the home front. I haven’t really been involved in the studio due to some personal things. I’ll be back in the studio this week, though, and I hope to be able to post some new stuff in the coming days. I’ve been more interested in getting past this week than I have been in sewing and doing artsy/craftsy things, but now I can focus on things that are more fun.

In other news, I have a new blog that will document my transition from corporate life into the next phase. I’d be so happy if you’d stop by and take a look.

Until next time …

Lessons in patience and frustration

Last week, I wrote about all my plans for the free time I would have now that I’ve left Corporate America behind. I was so excited and looking forward to doing what I want, when I want to do it. I’d like to report back to you that I’ve been having a great time doing all the things I planned, and more, but alas, that is not the case. Instead, what I can report is that I’ve been sick all week. At times, I’ve been so sick that even the idea of walking up the stairs to my bedroom seemed like unnecessary torture. Not only that, but the few times I’ve felt well enough to drag myself in to the studio, my results have been frustrating and irritating, to say the least. In fact, nearly everything I’ve touched this week has resulted in similar feelings of ineptitude and irritation. The only thing that has truly worked in my favor is sitting on my butt, watching Netflix and playing on the iPad.

So that you don’t think I’m exaggerating, here, in no particular order, is a partial list of the things I have failed at miserably in the last seven days …

  • I decided that since I was sick, and didn’t really feel like doing much standing, I would work on improving my Electric Quilt 7 (EQ7) skills. EQ7 is a great program that quilters can use to plan out quilts, and I’ve long wanted to master it. I did some tutorial courses a few months ago, and I thought that maybe it was time to give it another go, so I pulled out my notebook and opened the program. But something is wrong, and I cannot open the Sketchbook. The Sketchbook is the “clipboard” that stores the blocks and fabrics you’ve planned to use on your quilt, and without it, nothing is going to happen. So now I’m waiting on technical support to tell me what I’m doing wrong (it must be my fault, right?).
  • I thought I would try scanning the patterns from the Amy Bradley Campers quilt into the Brother ScanNCut. I’ve had the SNC for probably a year, but I haven’t used it to its full potential, so I thought I’d try using it for this. At first, I couldn’t get the patterns to scan properly, but then I figured out it was the way I was trying to scan them. Got that figured out, and got a block’s worth of pieces scanned in, so I thought I’d test it out with some “throw away” fabric, and maybe use that to make a cute sewing machine cover for one of the machines. But I couldn’t get the Wonder Under to adhere to the fabric. I thought I finally got it to adhere, so I tried cutting a couple of the pieces on the SNC, but … wow. It was a mess. An utter mess.

Brother SNC trial

  • When that didn’t work out, I thought I’d try using the AccuQuilt Go! Baby I bought last year but haven’t used much (are you noticing a theme here?) to play around with applique. While I knew I wouldn’t use it to do the Amy Bradley quilt, I figured I could get some practice fusible interfacing and such. I happened by SewVac City in College Station yesterday and bought a new die to use with my Baby, a cute owl I thought would be fun to work with … but again, I still can’t get the fusible to fuse to my fabric! At least the die cuts fabric well …

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I could go on, but I think you get the picture. So I’ve decided to take the antibiotics the doctor gave me today and wait a couple days to see if my abilities improve with my health. Because I mean, what else can I do? I think that one more failure might push me to the edge of sanity and let’s face it – I’m already barely hanging on as it is!

I will say this – if I cannot figure out how to get the applique thing going, next week I’m going to do something I know I CAN do and piece a quilt!

Take the money & run

Yesterday was my last day in Corporate America, so “Take the Money & Run” by the Steve Miller Band was my theme song all day. Yep, I’m that kind of nerd, but I have come to accept and even embrace my nerdiness. LOL After going to the office one last time to turn in my computer, badge and assorted CorpAm paraphernalia, I went in search of the last bits of stuff I need to start the Amy Bradley Campers quilt.

Amy Bradley's brilliant quilt pattern, Campers!

Amy Bradley’s brilliant quilt pattern, Campers!

I am crazy about this pattern! I first saw it when I was shopping at my favorite LQS, Painted Pony & Quilts, a few months ago. They had to order the pattern, and I got it ages ago, but I didn’t have time to dig in to it. Now I have lots of time to devote to making it. It’s my first project post-CorpAm.😉 And I have the PERFECT fabric for it …

Adorable Route 66 fabric by Robert Kaufman

Adorable Route 66 fabric by Robert Kaufman

I first fell in love with this fabric a few years ago when I visited another favored LQS, Sew Contempo. Sew Contempo became All Brands last year, and I think it’s better than ever, but I digress. I didn’t buy this fabric the first time I saw it, but it haunted me, and eventually I gave in and made a trip all the way back to the store (which is about 50-ish miles away) to pick up a couple yards. It has acted as my inspiration for the rest of the fabrics, and will serve as a larger than called for border in my final quilt. Speaking of the rest of the fabric, I am really excited about the colorway this quilt has taken on, and the cute fabrics I’ve found for the campers …

Route 66 Coordinates

Route 66 Coordinates

I think it’s going to be really cute. Now, the original pattern is like, child sized, or maybe wall sized?? Well, you know that’s not going to work for me, so I’m going to add at least one more column of campers, and some additional borders. While I certainly love Amy’s original pattern, I want something I can actually use as a throw. Oh, and did I mention that this will be my very first applique quilt ever?? Ambitious? Perhaps, but I think it will be totally worth it.

I have been toying with the idea of using my Brother CutNScan to cut the pieces for the campers, and I’m going to give it a shot tomorrow, because I don’t have a lightbox. I could order a lightbox, but it will be sometime next week before it gets here, at the earliest. I could build a lightbox, but after pricing the lights for the box, it would be cheaper to order one off Amazon. Trust me, I’ve looked every where I can think to buy one locally, except for the camera store, because I KNOW how much they’ll cost there. I never could afford a lightbox when photography was my main hobby! But the CutNScan has possibilities …

At any rate, words cannot begin to describe how excited I am about starting this project. I am really looking forward to putting together different fabrics to make the campers, and I’ve even toyed with the idea of mixing colors within in the blocks. *gasp* But seriously, how can you go wrong with a retro camper quilt?!?

I’ll keep ya updated on my progress; Lord knows I’ll have plenty of time to post now that I’m not working.😉