The Downhill Slide

Fall has always been my favorite time of year. Theoretically, the temperatures start to cool down, kids go back to school, and thoughts start to turn toward the Holiday Season. This year, it really hasn’t cooled down much in the Houston area. Quite to the contrary, I have been calling this the Summer That Never Ends. We’ve had few days where the temps stayed below 70 this Fall, and quite a few days where we got above 80. With weather like that, it can be difficult to get in to the Thanksgiving spirit, let alone Christmas spirit. But I’m doing my best. I’m listening to Christmas music as I work, and I’m thinking of all these great gifts going to people who are going to be surprised to get a custom item this year.🙂

A couple of weeks ago, Chris and I agreed that we would take Thanksgiving week off. No work, no social media presence. Just time to relax and unwind and enjoy a little bit of “me” time. Ha! Ha hahahahahahahaha. Well, for the most part, we did manage to take the week off. I embroidered a soft sided cooler to take photos for the Etsy shop.

Here, Fishy Fishy!!

Here, Fishy Fishy!!

I also posted it to Etsy (obviously).  And I did a couple of posts about Small Business Saturday and a Black Friday sale we’re having in each of the shops. But for the most part, I tried to put work out of my mind and enjoy the holiday. Well, as much as I ever enjoy a holiday in which I spend at least a full day baking.

Monday, Chris and I took a little drive. We were gone most of the day, and it was so nice to get out of the house and not try to remember which store we need to stop at next, or what we need to be sure to pick up before heading back home. Most of our excursions out of the house the last couple of months have been to the post office to drop off orders that are being shipped out, to pick up some item we need for one of the businesses, or to the grocery store so we don’t starve. But Monday, we just drove aimlessly around South Texas for a bit, and it was magical.

Tuesday, we spent most of the day cleaning. It’s amazing how bad a house can get when three adults live there, but are so busy, they are only doing the minimum needed to keep the house from being condemned by the Health Department. OK, it wasn’t THAT bad, but we really did have to do a fairly deep cleaning. Sadly, we didn’t finish, but we’re still working on it a little at a time each day. Wednesday, I baked. I baked a pumpkin cake, cheesecake, and a couple of pumpkin pies. Oh, and the cornbread for the dressing on Thursday night.

So, after all of that, and driving across town to my folks’ house and seeing family on Thursday, I was looking forward to doing a little sewing on Friday. NOPE! That didn’t happen either. I can’t recall what I did do, but it wasn’t sewing. In fact, now that I think about it, Friday and Saturday are a bit of a blur – I have no recollection of exactly what I did either day. I do know that I was bound and determined to get some sewing done yesterday, but alas, I woke up with a migraine. And thanks to all the medicine I had to take yesterday, that was full of caffeine, I got very little sleep last night. But today, I bounded out of bed and got right to work.

Of course, I wasn’t set up to get started right off this morning, because I was sick yesterday, so it was a bit of a slow start. But I did manage to get this King’s Towel on the machine this morning and get it completed.

The King's Towel

The King’s Towel

I just love this one! I still need to do a little clean up work on it, but tomorrow, it will be headed to Washington state. Washington state! (Note to self: Get a map of the US to keep track of where people are that order items). This one isn’t yet listed on the Etsy shop, but I will be adding it today or tomorrow. I will also be stitching out a Queen’s Towel that is just as cool as this one (but with a better crown LOL) to put up on the Etsy shop. These would make great gifts for those difficult to buy for folks on your holiday shopping list.

And then I had to make another fishy cooler this morning, this time in blue.

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In the soap shop, we have fresh batches of Pride & Joy, In the Air Tonight, Don’t Bring Me Down, and Boys of Summer! We have other great soaps as well, so check those out in the Old Fashion Soap Co. Etsy shop!

We have a lot of great gift ideas in both the Jill’s Fabric Arts and the Old Fashion Soap Co. Etsy shops, so get on over and place your order today to ensure delivery in time for Christmas.🙂

It needs to be said …

I agree with Tim Gunn. Recently, he commented on women’s fashion and how designers need to step up to the plate and start designing clothing for women who aren’t a size 2. He said that the average American woman these days is a size 16 to 18, but really there is no one trying to design clothing for these women. And that’s crazy, considering that women in the “plus size” range spend more money on clothing than their thinner counterparts!

You can watch his comments here.

As you probably know, I fall in to the “plus size” category. Depending on the clothing and where they come from, I may wear an 18 – 24 in tops and a 20-24 in bottoms. That alone should give us some pause – there is a FOUR SIZE differential in my shirts and a THREE SIZE differential in bottoms! Even at my absolute thinnest, I’m a size 10, not a size 2 or 4. Anything below a size 10 and I start to look anorexic (no joke; it’s really pitiful looking). Granted, as it is right now, I need to lose weight – there’s absolutely NO denying that. And I’ve been working on doing just that. But I couldn’t agree with Tim Gunn more. Designers need to stop ignoring a third of the population (and more than half of women) and step up their game.

Thing is – and this would really piss off designers – I don’t think they know HOW to design for a woman who isn’t a size 2. I don’t think that most of these designers have what it takes to design clothing for real women instead of the imaginary women that are in their heads. I’m not in to body shaming, and I don’t want this post to turn in to that, But if we can be honest for just one moment – how many women do you see on the street that look like a runway model? On an average day, do  you see women who look like they can wear a 00 jeans? I’m not saying they don’t exist, and I’m not saying that every woman who can wear a very small size is anorexic. Some women are just naturally very small, and kudos to them. But why can’t fashion designers accept, if not embrace, the attitude of Viva la Difference? Why must they insist on cutting off their sizing at size 10 (and a lot of them do just that)? 
A while back, I saw an advertisement for clothing that trumpeted the arrival of “plus size” clothing at a boutique. The “plus size” in question was a size 12. SIZE 12!!! The last time I wore a size 12 was before I got pregnant with my daughter, and trust me, I looked good. I looked so good, I was practically beating men off with a stick (ok, maybe not all the time, but sometimes that was true). No one accused me of being fat or plus sized back then. I had curves. But I still had trouble finding clothing that fit well even back then. If it was big enough for my hips, my waist just swam. If it was big enough for my boobs, it hung off me elsewhere.
I know that the days of custom fit clothing are in the past for most of us, but wouldn’t it be nice to walk in to a store and be able to find clothing that at least got close? Now that my biggest fitting issue isn’t, “Will the buttons gape at my breast apex?” I find that clothing shopping is depressing. Clothing for women who are larger than a size 12 looks terrible. It’s not stylish, it’s not flattering. It’s depressing, drab and disgusting.
Tim Gunn said that designers say they don’t like making clothes for plus size women because it’s too hard, and one woman who’s a size 16 is different from another size 16 woman. My response to that is, DUH! You can’t tell me for one moment that all size sixes are the same. It’s a cop out, and it’s ridiculous. No two women of the same size are exactly alike, regardless of what size that might be, so why do we accept such stupid, insulting comments from designers?
I don’t really have an answer to how to fix this problem, but I see more and more women learning to sew so that they can fit their bodies.  So maybe that IS the answer – we have to start voting with our dollars, and stop spending money in places that aren’t willing to stock a wider range of sizes.

It really isn’t possible …

For me to suck more at blog posting than I do, and for that, I apologize. It’s hard to believe that it’s been nearly TWO MONTHS since my last post, but I guess it makes sense because I’ve been so freakin’ busy, I can’t even keep up with what’s going on lately. But that’s what I’m here for today – to get caught up, and hopefully, stay caught up, on blog posting. So, let’s get started.😉

First, on a personal note, I signed up for three accounting classes this semester. I just finished one up last week, and in the first eight weeks of the semester I learned something that’s vitally important. I do NOT want to be an accountant. The only enjoyment I get from any of these classes is the human interaction I get twice a week from going to my intermediate accounting class. Beyond that, I hate every single minute of the classes I’m taking. So I dropped the class that was scheduled to begin this week, and I will finish up the class I’m taking now, but after that I’m done with accounting classes. Maybe I wouldn’t hate it so much if I didn’t feel like it sucks valuable time away from my businesses, but I feel torn between doing school work and working on the businesses. I think “resentful” is a better word than “hate” though. I am very resentful of the time I spend doing school work when I feel it’s  not going to be very helpful in the future.

Which brings me to business … We have been going like gang busters on the soap front. A new show every weekend, a lot of work going in to the business, but not the results we had hoped to see at this point. So last month, we sat down and took a long, hard look at what we’re doing and we realized that the biggest inhibitor to our success is the way I scheduled shows. I looked for allegedly big shows that would hopefully bring in a lot of sales volume, but we’ve found that the attendance numbers for the two biggest shows we signed up for were vastly overstated. Sadly, both of those shows were “traveling shows,” meaning that we traveled to them and stayed in motels. As such, we made NO profit off either of them. We’ve learned our lesson, though, and all of our future shows will be within distance to get home at night after the show is over. We’re really excited to be staying close to home over the next several weeks – most of our shows from now until Thanksgiving will be at the Cy-Fair Exhibit Center located at 11206 Telge Road. That’s the FFA complex at Telge and 290, if you’re familiar with the area, right across Telge from Cy-Fair High School. We will be out there this coming weekend, at the Cy-Woods FFA Booster Show, so be sure to look for us there!

One of the things I’ve come to realize with all the shows and the focus on soap is that I have not been able to get much done for the embroidery business, but I really want to focus on that. In fact, the concept is moving from straight embroidery to other fabric arts as well, but I haven’t had time to devote to any of it really. That’s one of the reasons why I’m so glad that we’ve decided to cut back on the road shows and stick close to home from now on – it should give me more time to work on the embroidery business and get it up and running. I mean, check out this adorable hoodie sample that I did last week.

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Now, maybe it’s just me, but I think this hoodie would make a great gift for any woman. It comes in sizes from XS to XXL, and it’s super comfy! Of course it can be customized with your initials (I guess people don’t want to run around with MY initials on their chest LOL). I’m working on the listing for my Etsy shop now and it should be active by the time this post is public. But if it isn’t, and you’re interested in ordering this hoodie, just send me a message and we can chat about it. Who knew setting up an Etsy listing could be so complex?!

Anyway, I guess that about brings you up to speed for now. There are other things in the works, but I’m not ready to share those just yet. So stay tuned and please don’t fault me for being out of touch the last couple of months. I know I always say this, but I’ll try to do better; I promise!

 

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.

Jill

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!