Jill’s Fabric Arts

If you’ve been reading here for any amount of time, you know what’s been going on in my life over the last year. But if you haven’t, to recap, in February I was laid off from a job I held for nearly six years. I wasn’t able to find another full-time permanent job, so I decided to start a business of my own. I toyed with the idea of doing bookkeeping, but then decided to make and sell soaps. I have really been enjoying doing the soaps, but it is very labor intensive and I don’t think it’s as creative as I thought it would be. I’ve invested a lot of money in the soaps, and I intend to continue doing them, but on a more manageable level (i.e., not trying out every single fragrance that every single vendor offers). I’m thinking maybe eight to fifteen soaps, depending on the time of year. But my primary reason for cutting back on soapmaking is because I’m starting a new business!

Soon, I will be launching an etsy.com store called Jill’s Fabric Arts that will feature embroidered items, such as t-shirts, polo shirts, hoodies, blankets, and towels. I’ll also be offering some specialty art items that I’ll share with you as I finish them up. Most things will be custom orders, so you can choose your focus color, sizes, and designs. I am currently in the process of setting up wholesale accounts and ordering in sample garments and items that I will be embellishing, so the store won’t be launching just yet. But I am so excited about this new business, I couldn’t wait to share the big news! I have long wanted to have a business that will allow me to be flexible and creative, and I think this is it. I am super excited (if you couldn’t tell).

I am going to have a few sample items made and ready to share with everyone this weekend, so if you’re going to be at the Bellville Market Days on Saturday, look for us there. We will have lots of great soaps, as well as some sample items that you can look at and place your order. I know it doesn’t seem possible, but the holidays are just around the corner, so this is a great time to start looking for unique Christmas & Hanukkah gifts. What could be more unique than a gift that’s been personalized?!

Keep an eye out here for more news, sample photos, and other information on Jill’s Fabric Arts. Also, follow us on Facebook!🙂

This Studio!

Most of the time, I love my studio. It is my happy place, my escape, my wonderful corner of the world. Well, it used to be all those things. These days, it’s more like a dumping grounds for anything business related. And I have to tell you that I’m more than a little sick of it. I lost my design wall to bookcases for storage of soap related items. We dump everything in there when we come back from shows because a) we cannot get into the garage right now; b) it’s right at the front door; and c) where the heck else are we going to put it?! At least some of this will be alleviated if we can ever get the garage door fixed (it broke in like, I don’t know … March?), but until then …  I’ve added a couple more bookcases to hold stuff for business, one of which is still in my studio, but hey, a girl’s gotta do what a girl’s gotta do. And until I’m making enough from the business to move to a store front, this is my life.

But I’m doing my level best to get it cleaned up this week, because I have this overwhelming desire to SEW. I want to finish the Star Wars quilt, and I want to make myself some clothes, and it would be nice to get started on some holiday items. I feel like I’m drowning in work and school right now, and I NEED the release sewing provides, but right now, this is what I’m dealing with at my sewing cabinet …

I'm embarrassed to even share this, but here it is, in all its glory.

I’m embarrassed to even share this, but here it is, in all its glory.

That’s probably the worst of it, but I also have this cedar chest that my parents gave me when I graduated high school that’s sitting right in front of my cutting table, waiting to go upstairs. However, I can’t take it up there just yet because there’s an old tv stand where the chest is going to go. But I can’t clean that up because … oh, let’s not even get into how bad my master bedroom is right now. Let’s just say that it’s a good thing I’m not planning to move any time soon, because I assure you … it would not be happening this year!

Anyway, in between making soap, cleaning and trying to keep up with this insane tax course I’m taking at school, I’m making a list of things I want to make myself for the Fall. So far, this is what I have on the list …

B5300 McCall's 6084 B6070

Also, this new McCall’s pattern looks super easy and fast to make …

McCall's 7432

McCall’s 7432

I would maybe be interested in something from Simplicity, but how would I know, considering how horrible their new website is?! Someone should tell them to fix it (oh wait, I HAVE).

I’m also interested in some skirts – I hear the hemlines are going to be longer this Fall – and some pants. I haven’t worn dresses or skirts in many years, but lately I’ve been wearing some skorts I purchased and I LOVE them. I love how cool they are, and how comfortable they are. And since it rarely gets that cold here in the Houston area, I figure I can get decent wear out of a couple of dresses and skirts pretty much all year long.

So, that is my goal – clean up the studio so I can maybe try to recapture some of my sanity. It works like that, right? Right?? Oh, please tell me I’m right!😉

Trying to carve out time for me

When I worked outside the home, I thought I was busy. It seemed that I could never find enough time to do the things I wanted to do, and that I was always torn away from my favorite past times to do other things – work, mostly. I have come to realize, however, that I wasn’t nearly as busy as I thought I was, and I was, in fact, quite lazy. But to be honest, I’m still a little lazy, even though I’m busier now than I ever have been.

Or am I lazy at all?

I’ve always believed that if I wasn’t being productive, I was being lazy. Sat on the couch all day and watched tv? Lazy. Laid in bed and read a book for three hours? Lazy. Stared into space thinking about lint and aliens and dog fur? DEFINITELY being lazy.

I’ve realized over the last few weeks that it’s not laziness at all; I need that time to recharge my batteries, restart the creative juices, and push forward. OK, maybe it’s just laziness sometimes, but for the most part, I do those things when I have hit that brick wall we hear about so often, when my brain is over loaded and I just can’t deal with things anymore. I have also realized that I didn’t have these problems when my kids were young, because I actively sought out time for myself, and I don’t really do that anymore. You know, when the kids were young, I always thought I’d have more time when they were grown to do the things I want to do, and while that may be true, I’ve become worse at managing my time.

Over the last several months, in fact, I estimate that probably 80-90% of my waking hours are spent either making, thinking or planning something for my business. Another 5-10% of my time has been spent talking to Chris about his business, and the other 10-15% (depending on the day) is spent doing school work for my CPA program. I cannot recall the last time I sat down at the sewing machine just to sew for fun. Sure, I spent some time last month working on the Star Wars quilt, but that was when I was considering selling it at one of my shows. But the more I considered selling handmade fabric art items, the less I wanted to make them. So last week, I made a decision that my fabric art items will not be something I make for shows to sell. I may, from time to time, offer a piece that I’ve made but have no specific plans for, once it’s completed, but for the most part, I am choosing to keep my sewing & quilting activities out of the business. I make probably 10 batches of soap a week; I think that’s sufficient for the time I spend on making things for the business.

I have also decided that I need to set some business hours, because frankly, this “All work, all the time” thing isn’t making me too happy. My mom and Chris have been telling me for months I need to do this, and they’re right. Of course, now Chris has a fledgling business and he’s struggling with this as well. LOL At any rate, my new business hours are from 8 am until 5 pm – just like a regular office job. However, I will not be reachable before 9:30 am, so that I can spend some uninterrupted time on taking care of the books, advertising and other administrative duties. Whether or not I’m reachable until 5 pm will depend on the day, but if you need anything at all, please feel to contact me on Facebook or by email and I’ll get back to you as soon as I can. Obviously, with the nature of the products I make, I’m not always able to stop and chat when someone pings me, but I always respond as soon as I can.


Blogging failure

Sooooooooooooo much a failure at blogging lately … Not that I need to tell YOU that – you can easily see that I haven’t had a blog post in over a month. Where does the time go?!?

Things are just crazy busy around here; I’m not sitting around enjoying a bunch of free time, that’s for sure! In the last month, we’ve had four shows, all of which were a roaring success, and one attempt at Traders Village, which didn’t go so well. Alright, honestly, it was horrible. But other than that one flop, every show has gone better than the one before. And response to the soaps has been amazing.

Last weekend, we were at the Hempstead Watermelon Festival, and the feedback we got from the people who stopped by the booth was really good. People loved the look and scents of our soaps, and we got some requests and suggestions for new soaps, which we’re working on. One of those is an Oatmeal, Milk & Honey bar.

Oatmeal milk & honey

You can see the little flecks of oatmeal right in the bar! The top layer is colored with cocoa powder. Response has already been very positive, just from the photo.

But the big hit at the Watermelon Festival was our Watermelon Bliss bar, and is there any wonder? Look at how beautiful this bar turned out to be!

Watermelon Bliss

Not only is it beautiful, but it smells like fresh cut watermelon. I have a few of these left, so if you want one, you better order now. Head on over to the website and claim your bar today.

While we were out at the Watermelon Festival, we handed out about 200 free soap samples, and talked to about 500 people about our soaps. Like I said, response was very positive, so we’re hoping to carry that momentum forward.

Our next show will be on September 3rd at the Bellville Market Day. We purposely left a six week window between these two shows for three reasons. One, it’s just too darn hot to be sitting outside for 12 hours a day. Two, I am taking a summer class during this time, and I have to focus a bit on that. And the biggest reason is that I wanted the time to prepare for our fall schedule.

In fact, our fall schedule is so busy, we’re looking at booking two shows on some weekends, and sending a second team to run one of them. For the month of September, our schedule currently looks like this:

September 3rd – Bellville Market Day, Bellville, TX

September 10th – Wait listed for Cypress Women’s Group Shop Till You Drop (if I don’t hear from this one soon, I will be looking for something else to fill this slot)

September 14th – 18th – Applied for the Washington County Fair in Brenham, TX; hoping to hear back early next week

September 24-25th – Applied for the Texas Reds Steak & Grape Festival in Bryan, TX. Should get confirmation next week on this one.

So, if you need some soap, and you want the good stuff, come on out and visit us at any of these shows. Or, head on over to the website at http://www.oldfashionsoapco.com and place your order!

Water, water everywhere

Four years ago, Houston and most of Texas was caught in one of the worst droughts we’d ever seen. We prayed for rain, begged even. I swore that if it ever rained again, I wouldn’t complain because the lack of water was just staggering. I knew that once it started raining, it would be as if someone had turned on the spigot and forgot about it, and boy, was I right. Texas had so much rain in May that it would cover the entire island of Manhattan all the way to the top of the Empire State Building, four times over! Literally trillions of gallons of water has fallen on the Lone Star State since the first of May, and we have little hope it will stop any time soon. On June 2nd, Houston had already seen 80% of it’s normal rainfall for the entire month of June – that’s nearly eight inches of rain in less than 48 hours. I’m pretty sure that at this point, my feet are growing webs between the toes.

Sadly, all this rain has caused much chaos, loss of lives, and property damage. So, really, in the grand scheme of things, I have no right to complain or be upset, and there was that little thing I said during the drought. But just for the record, I was supposed to be at the Bellville Market Day today, peddling my soaps and other items; it was cancelled due to rain and flooding. I was very sad because I had really been looking forward to it, but I’ll be there in September (the next Market Day) with bells on, and hopefully no need for a life jacket.

During all this rain, though, I’ve been making progress on multiple fronts. My Star Wars quilt is coming right along – all the blocks are put together, and now it’s down to sewing the sashing between the blocks and making rows. I’m hoping to get a fair bit of that done today, because I’d really like to get this quilt finished up. Chris thinks I should try selling it once it’s done, but I haven’t decided about that yet. Maybe, but … I know he’d like to have it, too, so I’m on the fence about it.

Also, I’ve been prepping to make up a bunch of burp cloths to take to shows to sell. I did some looking around, and I found that a lot of people really like these, and they are fairly quick to make. I’m using flannel instead of cotton on mine, though, and I think they’ll turn out really well. I’ll post a photo when I have a few made up. Additionally, I’ve started doing some embroidery on towels to sell, and I may add other items to my line as I go. So, there are big things happening here.

But I would be remiss if I didn’t tell you a little about my soaps, since that’s where most of my efforts are these days. I know that a lot of you are sewists/quilters, and I know that for me, at least, one of my biggest issues is dry skin. I hate using lotions when I’m sewing because I don’t want it to get all over my fabrics. That’s what makes me so happy about my soaps – I don’t have to use a lot of lotion to feel like my hands are moisturized. One client recently told me that she’s seen a lot of improvement in the skin condition on her hands, all because of my soaps. She was experiencing cracked, bleeding skin and within days of starting to use my soaps, it stopped. Another client posted this on her Facebook timeline:

So when I give Aubrey baths I would usually use Johnson Johnson bath time soap and I started noticing she would gets bumps on her skin so I switched to aveeno and that didn’t do anything different. I started using Old Fashion Soap Co.& her skin has been amazing! It’s so soft and no bumps. Definitely my favorite soap for sensitive skin.

If you have dry skin issues, or if you just want your skin to be in better condition (and with the summer sun and heat, who couldn’t use a little help with that?), please take a look at my website, Old Fashion Soap Co., and place an order today. You’ll be so glad you did!

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 …