The State of My Union Update

I’m writing this post with mixed feelings. On the one hand, I’m ready to make a few changes in my life. On the other hand, I am not happy that those changes need to be made. And in any case, I’m frustrated and I feel like I’m bouncing from place to place, throwing things against the wall to see what sticks. As a result, I feel like my attention is split, my efforts are not focused, and my bank account is quickly being depleted.

A year ago, I started Old Fashion Soap Co., with the idea that I could take my tried and true soap making skills and turn them into a viable business. I had all these illusions of grandeur, of becoming The Next Big Thing in the cosmetic industry, and growing my business in to an empire of epic proportions. Of course, I didn’t expect this to happen overnight (or in a year’s time), but I did expect to be doing a little better than I am by this time. Still, we are building brand recognition, and our customers love our soaps. We’re getting that prized repeat customer, and that makes me very happy. Looking back, I realize it wasn’t very realistic of me to expect big things in a short period of time. I have never given up hope that one day, this little business can sustain our financial needs. But I have, on several occasions, lost my focus, mostly in an attempt to gain more sales in a short period of time.

In August of last year, I purchased an embroidery machine, primarily because my machine guy told me that people are “making six figures!” with their embroidery businesses. And that might be true, but this machine is not really conducive to that. A single head, single needle machine doesn’t turn out items fast enough for me to make six figures while also running a soap business. I started out by setting up the embroidery business independent of the soap business, but then combined them in a fit of frustration over paperwork and administrative tasks. That was a huge mistake, I know now. It has confused my customers, confused my potential customers, and, I think, diluted my target audience for each of the two lines. The biggest issue, however, is that the embroidery just doesn’t sell like I’d hoped it would. It really has become a financial drain on my business.

Last month, I purchased a heat press for a few reasons. One, I think that my target customer will like heat press items far more than they will embroidered goods. Two, I would like to be able to do more than just t-shirts and hoodies – I really would like to be able to offer some gift type items to my customers that are unique, customizable (I probably made that word up) and fun. And finally, I am tired of looking for things I want and not being able to find them. It’s annoying, and I want to create them myself since I can’t find a place to buy them. But you know … I really didn’t want to add yet another line to an already schizophrenic business. I know, you’re thinking, Let’s cut to the chase here, Jill. What are you trying to say? Well, here it is …

For the very last time, I’m making a change in my business structure. I’m separating Old Fashion Soap Co., out into its own company once again. There are caveats, however. I will be discontinuing the wax line once I’m sold out of what I currently have in stock. We will be offering soaps (bar and liquid), lotions, creams and lip balms. The product lines will be easy, simple and fluid, i.e., the scents may not always be the same, or everything may not always be available. There will be some “core” items that we will always try to have in stock, but there will be a bit of fluctuation, too. If you want an old favorite, we can and will make it for you, but it will take about a month for you to receive it (potentially longer if we have to order an ingredient in for it). But for the most part, the line up we have now will continue on, even if it’s not in stock every day.

I am setting up a new business for the t-shirts, gifts and other fun things. It’s called Heat Wave Designs, and I’m in the process of setting up a page on Facebook for it. There will be a website, and we will be at shows (even if it’s part of the OFSC booth). I also intend to set up an Etsy page for the company, even though I do believe that Etsy is over-saturated. To begin with, I will offer mugs, coaster sets, and t-shirts, and maybe a couple other things as I find them. I encourage you to follow the page on Facebook, even as I’m just getting started, because there could be some rockin’ deals on things that don’t work out exactly as I had planned. LOL But I think I’m on the right track; check out these items I’ve been doing lately …

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I will also be offering customized items so you can give gifts that are unique and fun, like photo mugs and coasters.

As for the embroidery, I haven’t quite figured that out, but at this point, I will still be offering embroidered monograms and a few items like the fishing cooler. One of the things I realized was that even though I was trying to give people more choices in the way I set up my current website, the reality is that people just found it confusing. So whatever it is I decide to do, I will definitely be addressing that issue by offering a particular t-shirt with a specific design. The only options will be color and size, and even the color selection might be reduced a bit.

These changes will start appearing soon. You can still use the same link to get to the website, but in the end, it will be more of a gateway to the two completely separate and different sites. Sometimes, I guess we have to learn by doing and failing, and this was a heck of a lesson. I really hope that you will check out both businesses, and that you will consider supporting small business by purchasing from one when it makes sense. And as a final plug for Old Fashion Soap, you should totally check out the website, because our May special is four bars of soap for $20. That’s just $5 a bar, and it’s a great value (most of my customers say their average bar lasts four to six months).

I am also looking for a job at this point, so if you know someone who needs a great all-round person, or a good cost manager, let me know.

Finally, I want to thank all of you for sticking with me through the last year. When I got laid off last year, I think I said that it was going to be a new adventure, and it has certainly been that. Your support has meant a lot to me, and I am grateful for all the kind words, the emails and messages that I’ve received. Thanks for everything, y’all!

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A Junkie’s Confession

I have a problem, and it’s time I come clean. I live for the thrill of the next high, the rush of adrenaline when I find the next drug. It’s a hard, hard life, and no matter how hard I try, I can’t stop myself from seeking out the next thrill.

I am a craft junkie.

I started out when I was just a child, with embroidery. My mom would let me buy those iron on Aunt Martha design envelopes and some embroidery floss and a little tea towel and off I’d go. It was a gateway craft, though – enough to get me hooked on making things, but not enough to satisfy my desire, no, my NEED, to be creative. I did some latch hook kits, then I did a little sewing of things like kids’ shorts, slacks for myself … I progressed in to making fabric covered photo albums when my kids were small. Then I found quilting, which led to more sewing. And soap and candle making. And now I have found my next big thing – vinyl.

I bought a Brother ScanNCut when they first came on the market a few years ago. I used it a few times, but honestly, it scared me so much I was almost afraid to touch it. It just seemed so complicated to use, and I was afraid I would do something to really screw it up. But one of my New Year’s (Non-) Resolutions for this year was to learn how to use this machine. And I can say with some pride that I’ve at least conquered my fear of this machine, and I’m using it to make t-shirts and other items. And I’m having a BLAST with it!

So that I could get the full effect of the vinyl, I also bought a heat press, and the combination is exciting and fun. Aaaaaaaaand … it’s led to a new business line for me (oh come on, you HAD to see THAT coming!). It started with this t-shirt I made for my daughter …

She saw a similar design at a show we were at earlier this month, and she really wanted it. The shirt she saw was a tank top, and the cost was more than $40! I didn’t have a tank top, but I did have a tee, and so we tried it out. Not only did she love the way it turned out, so did many of her friends.

 

These are shirts I’ve made for her friends, who wanted their home state instead of a heart inside the Texas. I’ve started calling it the “Transplanted Texan” shirt. LOL

I also bought a few transfers and tried those out as well …

But my plan is to do more of my own designs and fewer purchased designs.

You can look for these on the website in the near future; I’m just want to get some better photos first. 🙂

 

Planning mode

I know it’s been a couple of weeks since I posted, and I didn’t want to let it go much longer, because … well, because I am making an effort to post to the blog at least a couple of times a month this year. And my silence hasn’t been because I’m not doing anything, because I am. It’s more because I’m trying to come up with a viable sewing plan that will give me some flexibility and some much needed clothing for the near term. I’ve found that right now, I’m not really in the mood to quilt, and I’ve realized that feeling is what usually drives me to look for another creative outlet, and before I know it, I haven’t touched a sewing machine for months. I don’t want that to happen again, because I firmly feel that every time you pull away from something for an extended period of time, you lose “muscle memory” and your craft suffers for it. I experienced this extensively during my four year hiatus from sewing, from 2007 through 2011, and I still haven’t fully recovered all of my skills, confidence and positive attitude about sewing (by “positive attitude” I mean the idea that I can make just about anything; I was a fearless quilter prior to my break, but I’ve been somewhat paralyzed with the fear of “messing up” a quilt since I returned to the craft). But I digress … Thus the reason for venturing into the land of Garment Sewing, a place where I have feared to tread for most of my sewing career, until recently.

A couple of months ago, I started working on McCall’s 6084 …

McCall's 6084

I’ll post a photo of the finished product and a review soon, but suffice it to say for now that it is one of my absolute favorite garments, and I really do love it. It’s far from perfect, and I want to perfect it, but it’s super comfortable and I wear it often (in fact, I’m wearing it right now). I am planning to make at least one more of these, possibly two, because I think you can never have too many cardigans, and if I buy fabric on sale, it’s way cheaper than buying a ready-made cardigan. And, I can make them in whatever colors I want, instead of being stuck with the colors the stores carry, which for plus size is most often either boring black or some garish color I couldn’t possibly pull off. Don’t get me wrong – I love black, and it’s a great basic. But seriously, how many black cardigans can one girl have?

Next on my radar screen is another version of Butterick B5215, in a smaller size, of course. You might remember that I made this t-shirt a few weeks ago, and it turned out to be much bigger than I really wanted it to be. I have traced off the smaller size and I’m gearing up to make it again. I really want to perfect this one, because I want a simple, good t-shirt pattern. Again, the current colors in the stores for tees just do not flatter me at all. When I was out looking for tees a couple of weeks ago, I found purple (which is fine), hot pink, pee green, some bright yellow color, and a bunch of pastels. I don’t do pastels as a general rule, and the other colors look terrible on me. Heck, I can’t even find a basic WHITE tee! And for some reason, most t-shirts these days are made out of fabric you could read a newspaper through, if you could actually find a newspaper to read. That might be fine for some teen or 20-something, but I prefer a little more coverage – I guess I must be getting old, but I want a t-shirt that’s actually thick enough to not see my bra through!

Another pattern I’m going to make is McCall’s M6802, which is another cardigan.

McCall's 6802

I like the style of this, and I hope it translates well to the larger sizes. I have it almost completely traced off – I’m just missing one piece and it will be done. I have a very soft rayon jersey knit I want to use for this, in camel. I think it’s going to be fabulous.

I also have a Butterick pattern I picked up recently – B5300 – it’s a nice basic blouse. I picked it up recently when I saw someone on Pattern Review talking about it, and I fell in love with it. Fortunately, someone else tipped me off that it was discontinued, so I managed to snag the very last copy of it that my local Joann’s had in their drawer. I have a polyester poplin (I thought poplin was a cotton type material, and I have confirmed that with a couple of other sewists, but … whatever) in both Ivory and Navy to make this one …

B5300

And finally, I need some new casual/comfy pants to wear around the house, so I have M4261 in queue …

M4261

I may also try the long sleeve tee and the jacket as well, but I haven’t decided  yet.

Of course, all these ideas are just that – ideas. I reserve the right to change how, when, or why the garments are made. 😉 My luck, and as slowly as I sew, this little bit might take me through the end of the year to get done, but I really hope it doesn’t!

Butterick B5215 – A Pattern Review … of sorts

This weekend, I managed to do something I haven’t ever done – I started and completed a garment! Sure, it was a t-shirt, but it was made by ME, and I got it done in just two days. I am totally psyched. I chose Butterick B5215, view B …

Butterick B5215

This is supposed to be a semi-fitted t-shirt. And I am very proud of the t-shirt I made, even though it’s way too big …

Butterick B5215 Black

 

When I tried it on after it was done, it was more of a tunic than a t-shirt, and I couldn’t figure out why. This isn’t the first t-shirt I’ve made from this pattern – I’ve also made view A, fitted, and view C, unfitted. View A fits perfectly, even though my tummy really isn’t cut out for a fitted tee, so to speak. It was the first one I made, so I thought, “Well, maybe view C will look better.” I was expecting a tee along the lines of a unisex t-shirt, sort of boxy and not all that flattering. I was looking for just a standard t-shirt. It was huge. I felt like I needed to put on leg warmers and start dancing to “What a feeling.” It just hung off of me. I was so disgusted with it, I didn’t even finish the neck binding (more on that in a bit). It’s still sitting in a plastic project box, propping open the guest bedroom door.

So when I finished view B and put it on, and it looks like it should have been labeled “tunic” instead of tee, I thought something was wrong with the pattern. So I went off to PatternReview.com to look for  reviews on this pattern. I knew there would be some, because it’s a very popular t-shirt over there. And sure enough, it looks like a t-shirt on everyone else. I couldn’t figure it out. Then when I was cleaning up and putting away the pattern, I happened to glance at the back of the pattern and I realized what I’d done. I made a 2XL, because that’s often the size t-shirt I need in ready to wear (RTW) just to fit over my chest. But in this particular pattern, a 2XL is the equivalent of a 26W-28W RTW! That’s why the shirt doesn’t fit. In this pattern, I need to make an XXL, which is what I did with view A. I think most people can see why that was confusing. I didn’t even realize that there was an XXL on the multi-sized pattern. I thought it was a XL. I suspect that’s also what happened with view C. So if you make this pattern, be really careful about the sizing, particularly if you wear a size 18W through 24W in RTW.

But still, the pattern went together pretty well. The only thing I don’t like about it – and that has killed my efforts every. single. time. I’ve made it, is the neck binding. On view A, I gave up and just folded the raw edge in and stitched it down. It isn’t great, but it’s ok. I can, at least, wear the shirt outside of the house. On view C, as I said earlier, I gave up on it, but I might pull it out and try to finish it a different way just to say it’s done. And on view B, this shirt, I followed the directions on the pattern exactly. It looks stretched out to me, floppy and too heavy. So I’m definitely going to find a better way to finish the neck on this one. My mom gave me a couple of tips, and I found a couple of tips on the internet that I’m going to try next time.

And even though this shirt is way too big, it is super comfortable, except for that floppy-ish neckline. So I’m probably going to wear it as a tunic. Surprisingly, there isn’t that much difference in the sizing in the shoulders between the XXL and the 2XL, so it’s a little big there but not horrible. I could put a belt on (if I wore belts, which I don’t) and it would be really cute with jeans.

If I had to grade the pattern, I’d give it a B-. The weird sizing thing aside, the problems with the neckline are just annoying. But despite the fact I’ve made this shirt three times and so far none of them have turned out perfect, I just cannot make myself give up. I’m going to give view B (and maybe view C) another chance sometime really soon. I mean, once I get this one right, who wouldn’t want custom-made t-shirts?!

My Personal Challenge

As I posted last time, one of my goals is to get better at making clothing. I still don’t have the revised pattern piece, but I did email them again this morning to ask about it and to point out that there is also not a notch for one side of the sleeve. I’m about to pack it all up and take it to my Mom’s to see if she can help me get it finished. I’m not happy about this because I was really hoping to have it finished by now!

Anyway, back to my original reason for posting. My goal is to get better at making clothing, both for myself and my husband. So I’m setting myself a challenge – one new garment completed each month from September until the end of 2015. I hope to complete more than one a month, but right now, that’s my goal. One garment each month. It doesn’t have to be for me, and it doesn’t have to be complicated. But it does need to be completed by the last day of the month. 

My garment for September will be a semi-fitted t-shirt for myself. I made the fitted version of Butterick B5215 back in the spring, and at first thought it didn’t fit well and that there were problems with the neck line (there ARE problems with the neck line, but I’ll save that story for another time). Well, it does fit very well, it’s really comfortable and I can conquer the issues with the neck line. In fact, once I put the shirt on the right way, the neck was perfectly fine. I’m going to try the semi-fitted version of the same pattern, and I’ll be starting it this weekend (and hopefully finishing it, too, which means my challenge will start in August, not September). I have plans to make either four or five of these shirts for myself, so it might be a couple months of t-shirt sewing in various colors. I will do a post on the fitted version as soon as I can get a photo of myself wearing it, and share my struggles with the neck at that time. 

Another thing I’m seriously considering doing is to take a fitting class with Craftsy, because I want to learn how to draft my own patterns, and I think proper fit is the first step in that process, not to mention that even when my measurements are the same as the information on the pattern envelopes, I don’t always get a good fit. I have found that in some cases, I could have made at least a full size smaller than the envelope indicated. I think learning how to get a good fit is also important when one starts to branch off into independent the pattern maker’s offerings, not because they aren’t as good as the Big 4 (Simplicity, McCall’s, Butterick and Vogue), but because I can pick up the Big 4 on sale sometimes for as little as $1 each, and the independents cost about $16 on average for a pattern. I’ve been a little wary of indie patterns because a lot of them are downloads, where you print them out on regular paper and then tape them all together. I’m not interested in yet another step in trying to make a garment – I want to pull the pattern out of an envelope, trace it off and GO. I would never use a pattern that I taped together to make a garment, so that would mean I would have to print it out, tape it together and then trace it. No thanks … I’m not that interested in anything an indie has come out with to go through all those steps. Heck, for that, I can learn to draft or modify patterns myself, which is why I’m considering the Craftsy class.

At any rate, my sewing plans this weekend are to maybe finish my button down shirt, if revised pattern pieces come from Butterick, and if not, I’ll start work on a t-shirt. I’d like to make a tee that I then put some embroidery on, but I’m going to make this first one to check for proper fit first. Then, if it works out like I think it will, I will make another one to embroider on. 🙂

Have a great weekend, everyone!

Dr Seuss baby quilt

I was sooooooo excited to finish this quilt – the first quilt I’ve actually finished in 2014, I apparently forgot to post it. Wooooooow … This one was ridiculously easy, but for some reason it took me freakin’ forever to do the binding. The entire quilt could easily be done in a single weekend, but I managed to drag it out for more than three months, because that’s how I roll.

Cat in the Hat baby quilt

Yes, that IS my son holding up the quilt while sitting in bed, because he was too lazy to stand up and hold it up for me. Fortunately, he has ridiculously long arms, so it worked. And I don’t have to apologize for his funny faces he makes while holding quilts as I take photos. LOL

This week, though I’m on vacation, I have yet to spend any real quality time in the studio. However, that should all change today, as my only plans for the day involve sewing, although I suspect that at some point, I will end up leaving the house; isn’t that what always happens? But my focus today isn’t another quilt – it’s t-shirts! I am tired of the baggy, ill-fitting t-shirts that are just not really my style that I keep finding in stores these days. I’m certainly no seamstress, and alterations terrify me, but I am really not impressed with the RTW clothing I’m finding lately. The t-shirt pattern I’ve chosen seems to be a fairly easy one, that has some fitting already. I’m sort of hoping I can get two of these shirts made, if not today, definitely this week.

If this goes well, I may be ordering tons of knit fabric to make some t-shirts. I have lots of ideas, including some embroidery and other embellishments. 🙂

My formula for living is quite simple …

I get up in the morning and I go to bed at night. In between, I occupy myself as best I can.  – Cary Grant

Staying occupied really isn’t a problem for me of late. Last weekend, for example, Chris and I went to the farmer’s market and purchased a big box of tomatoes, which I spent Sunday turning into tomato sauce. I’ve made homemade tomato sauce before, cooking down tomatoes to turn them into spaghetti sauce, but I’ve never made a big batch to be canned before now. I will admit that I was pretty pleased with the way it turned out. From about 12 pounds or so of tomatoes, I canned nine pints of sauce. I can’t wait to try it out in recipes. I think my mom was surprised that I didn’t season the tomatoes at all – no salt, no spices … just tomatoes and a bit of lemon, to raise the acidity of the jar contents. I used a couple of jars during the week to make spaghetti, which got great reviews from my family, and a jar was used yesterday in some ranch beans that turned out fabulous. I am happy!

I had plans to sew last weekend, but because of the tomatoes, I didn’t get around to it. This weekend, I managed to get a pair of shorts made for myself. They are denim, and I’m quite happy with them, except that they seem to be a little looser than I expected. I made a muslin prototype, but the actual shorts are bigger than I expected, but I’ll do a post on that later. My plan this week is to spend some time at the sewing machine making myself some t-shirts and a top. I’m not worried about the fit of the top, because it’s very blouse-y and not even close to fitted, and the measurements actually work with my body measurements, and the same holds true for the t-shirt pattern I’m using. Once I have these clothes together, I may make another couple pairs of shorts, because as I mentioned before, I can certainly use some summer clothing.

Our new furniture was delivered a couple of weeks ago, and I love it. One of the things I haven’t done yet is to put up drapes in the house, because for one thing, drapes can be quite expensive, and for another, I’ve had some trouble finding something I truly like. So I got this idea to go looking for fabric to make my own drapes, at Joann’s. I was browsing through their home decor fabric, congratulating myself on such a good idea because I found several pieces I really loved. Then I looked at prices and wanted to cry. Most of the fabric I loved was more than $60/yard. Considering I need about 20 yards of fabric to cover four windows, it was clear that this wasn’t going to work. It also gave me a greater appreciation for the cost of draperies at places like JC Penney and other big box type stores. Even with a 50% off sale, the drapery fabric would be in excess of $600 … so now I’m considering other options again. Ugh!

All in all, I feel like I have spent a lot more time in my studio over the last couple of weeks than I have in the previous five years combined. It’s probably not true, but I definitely have the sewing bug. In fact, I’m enjoying it so much, I am going to dig through my fashion fabric stash in the closet and see what I can find in there to put together!

Happy sewing,

Jill