Back to Sewing School

A few months ago, I enrolled in the Beginner Sewing Class of Mood Fabric’s MoodU.  I took the six week course successfully and came out of it with a refresher in basic machine sewing and a tote bag.  I have always enjoyed learning new things and this was even doubly fulfilling because I came out of it with a new bag to lug around.

Summer came and with impending travel, I missed the succeeding session and decided to wait for the next round of classes.  Last Saturday, we had the first of six new lessons in Advanced Sewing and my sewing bag is back in use.  I do the lessons with a girlfriend and we were both excited to start this weekend routine again.  It’s the build up of the anticipation to being able to do something that gives you a concrete result you can actually use later.

For the first week, we were asked to choose which piece of garment we would take on: a skirt, a wrap dress, a men’s polo shirt or a robe which is the same pattern for a coat.  I picked the latter — because “coat” beckoned to me.

I’ve always found coat shopping a bit of a challenge, and I’ve been wanting to find a nice fitting coat in a more non-traditional fabric.  Another project brewing in my head is jazzing up an existing coat with embroidery or embellishment.  A recent scan of some magazines showed me some garments in painted denim which made me go “hmmmmmmm.”  But first, the robe.

Having measured ourselves and and then trying on the sample pieces of our garment of choice, we were given the pattern of the project we chose in the approximate size.  This class, by the way, is being taught by Benjamin Mach once again, which makes for an additional perk.  I like the way he teaches and the humor he wryly injects in between instruction sessions making the lessons even more enjoyable.  He is assisted by a very eclectic mix of competent sewing teaching assistants who add not only a lot of color but a ton of sewing experience to help us navigate our way through the project.

You receive the pattern in a range of 4 sizes and in several variations of the garment you are trying to make.  The thing is to identify your size and the kind of dashed line referring to it and cut the patterns out.  I didn’t even get to finish cutting my pattern and am going to do that during my lunch break.  There are just too many pieces and I need the room.

This golden girl is getting ready to sew!   Pattern to be cut and fabric to be chosen… must do in the next 5 days before next Saturday’s class.  Can’t wait!

Setting up shop again

#tags #branding #props #paperKrafts #store #etsystore #etsyshop #mybrand #bygothamchick

Resurrecting the shop seems to be taking a little more effort than I had expected.  Once upon a time I had opened PaperKrafts which, as the name implies, was all about papercrafted items.b in the short run that the shop was active, I think it did pretty week with the 8 sales I managed, and then it faded into oblivion.

I’ve been making cards for friends and have developed a new line of paper embellishments and have found myself with a bunch of untouched artisan handcrafted paper.  Add to that a newfound love for using pressed rose paper petals as elements for floral collage.. My crafty side kicked in and I decided I would give the shop another try.  

I have the first dozen cards ready to post, and I’ve been refining my write up template. I have also had to rewrite my shop policies and other shop sections, and that has taken a while to whip into shape. I want everything to be ironed out before I post anything, rather than post my items for sale and then backpedal to fix the parts of the shop that need fixing.

People may think running an online shop is done with just a click of a button and then a few keystrokes here and there, but a lot of thought and planning, usually by one person (me), goes into each and every listing. For now, my biggest hurdle are the photographs which I’m trying to produce, and which aren’t quite as simple as just taking a regular photo. You think of components to make up the entire presentation beyond just putting the card against a plain background or what not. So what to do?  Everyone is harping on natural lighting.. And that is what I am working with.

There’s also the hurdle of figuring out the correct shipping charges. While Etsy now offers calculated shipping, there is the problem of figuring out the initial package weight to start with.  This may seem such a small facet of the listing but I had to learn how important it was the hard way.  A recent sale in my other shop resulted in my absorbing a shipping cost way more than I had allocated as part of the shipping and handling fee.  When that happens, I have no choice but to cough up the difference as part of good customer service.  

While postage is non-negotiable, I am trying to keep the cost down by being creative with the shipping packaging.  The card itself is professionally packaged in a cello bag, but my cardboard backing going into the envelope is recycled Manila folder or other chip cardboard.  The envelope, I have announced, will be handmade packaging made out of colorful newspapers or magazines or Kraft paper and packaging inserts.  I just love how major retailers are now shifting from plastic bubble wrap to ecoFriendly paper stuffing.  

It’s not really a matter of creating everything from scratch.  Like I told my good friend, EhawkinsIllustration, there is a lot to be learned from others already selling on the site.  I encouraged her to view other listings and look at “Terms of Use” documents to be able to define her own.  And her shop is up and running.  Of course we all want to add a personal touch that is truly our own into our shops — and we all do that, but it is never a bad thing to learn from others.

I like browsing other shops, not just to look at what other sellers are doing, but also to find out what other have created and are offering for sale.  I am not just an etsy seller — I am also an etsy shopper.  We have a not so small community of small businesses that share a passion for the crafts that we pursue, as well as the entrepreneurial vibe that inspires us to try and make a dent in this world of thousands of like minded business men and women.

I often feel envious of those entrepreneurs who have quit their day job and are able to sustain themselves through their Etsy stores.  But I am also well aware that that jump requires a huge effort to make the running of an Etsy Shop seamless from posting to shipping, and of having a consistent presence online not only on Etsy but in the other channels of social media as well.

As far as that last bit, I’m trying.  I’ve learned that the “social” in “social media” actually means real-time socializing.  You cannot just sit on your account and expect others to follow you or bump into you through your hashtags and awe-inspiring tweets or photos on Instagram or Pinterest.  So I ventured out and found others, and while I haven’t quite topped even a 1000 followers in either forum, I’m learning that follow for follow actually works, and helps you to grow your network faster.  It takes effort and time, but it does produce results.

I’m working on it.. and I’m hoping to post soon..rebuilding the shop one brick at a time.

Growing my flower garden

I have been busy growing my paper flower garden for months now.  I have to admit that I often “get lost” in the midst of drawing and cutting and assembling my pieced paper flowers.  I would tell myself I will sketch one sheet and I end up doing three.  I cut one piece off and I just have to cut up everything drawn on it.

My Paper Flower Garden Series
Why do I draw these flowers anyway… it’s not so much a question as a statement.  I find it very relaxing and it helps me to unwind.  At the same time, it fulfills a need to create and do something artistic even if I have always considered myself a crafter and not an artist.  I kept drawing not knowing what use I would have for these flowers exactly.  While I had started drawing them for my Thank You Postcard project which has not really gotten off the ground, I have kept on going and I’m still drawing.

Each piece is hand drawn on a copy of a background I had once created through watercolor or acrylic paint.  There are sheets of paper towels I had used as catch cloth for ink spray projects, or sheets I had used to wipe off my work surface.  Even those have come in handy and very useful.  The randomness of the way the colors got layered and settled next to each other have always been a source of wonder for me.  And then mixing up the papers through the various layers I pull together gives me a new creation each time.  Forget that the strokes and shapes I draw are the same.  The randomness of which layer goes with the next makes for a unique flower each time.

I would carefully fill empty spaces with dots of swirls and spirals to form the stamen of the flower, or that central dot from which all the petals and layers emanate from.  I just can’t stop drawing more of them in the spaces between, and every time I cut them up I end up making new sheets of flowers and so on and so on.

I have marveled at how the flower itself has gained volume even when the sheets are 2d and really one dimensional.  I guess it’s the way the flowers are sketched, or just the way I draw them.  I had gone on and on, drawing with no particular use in mind for these, until an idea hit me just a few days ago.

Blank cards.  Greeting cards.  In two sizes, possibly three.  Gift tags.

You purchase an original work each time you buy one of these.  They are not printed in multiples.  Each layer of each flower is drawn individually, cut and pasted onto the next layer.  Developing these designs has been a continuing learning process for me.  I have seen my first attempts grow into something more fluid and more naturally drawn.  While variations have been difficult to come up with, they are slowly but surely finding their way into the designs.  One at a time.