Saturday, April 25, 2015

A Peek Inside My Job(s)

I do consider myself a full time business owner where I set my own schedule and work from home. But what some of you might not know is that before I took that plunge, I worked full time for an animal clinic where we also work with rescues, humane societies, and we rehab wildlife. It's such a stressful, yet rewarding job where there is never a dull minute. That's why when I left there in November of 2013, I happily told them I would love to fill in for vacations and various days off for my co-workers. It's a perfect situation for me and them! They get someone to fill in when they are short handed, and I get to get back with the public, the animals, and the best group of co-workers you could ask for. Occasionally I can't fill in sometimes, but most of the time, I jump on the opportunity.  You seriously never know what you are going to get from one day to the next. Early in my career there, a gentleman handed me a six foot python and told me he could no longer keep it. That was the first time I ever held a snake. It was a nice snake, thank God!

For the past few months I've been filling in a lot, and I'll be filling in a lot more during the summer months. I've shared pictures on the blog of cool things or unusual animals we get in. Last week we even made the local news. Since our doctor is a generous man and and exceptional veterinarian, we make the news a lot. A few months ago it was a coyote that fell off the third floor of a parking garage. We fixed his leg and he was later released. Yesterday a man was walking his dog and was shot. Unfortunately he didn't make it, but animal control brought us the dog which we did a leg amputation. Below is a link to the news article. You can see the interview with my boss and the treatment room where all the big stuff goes down!

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Tutorial - Car Bag or Tablet Cozy

I actually designed this bag out of need. I don't always know which car I'll be in day to day, or what I'll need for that trip. If I'll be using the GPS on my phone, I'll want to grab my charger, or I might need my sunglasses or camera. If I'm going to be gone for the day, I might want to pack a healthy snack. I suppose I could carry a larger purse but I like to travel light so I carry a very small cross body bag. It's so easy to put what I need in this bag, and I can leave it in the car. The best part, it hangs from my doorknob so I don't forget it. I even made one from fun citrus colors for my tablet. Plus, I never forget my bug spray for my walks anymore!

Strips of 100% cotton fabric, at least 2 or 3 inches longer than the width of your bag
--Can use various widths if you want, I placed mine at slight angles
100% cotton batting or interfacing fleece, size depends on how big you want your bag
--I wouldn't recommend polyester batting because the "loft" will affect the finished size
100% cotton muslin, about 1 inch larger all the way around your fleece or batting
100% cotton fabric for lining, same size as your finished quilted piece
3 X 14 inch fabric for strap (optional)
Scrap of fabric for inside pockets, size you desire (optional)
2 to 5 inch piece of velcro, depending on the size of your bag
--For my larger bag I used a 5 inch piece, for the tablet cozy, I used a 2 1/2 inch piece
Cutting tools
Measuring tools
Pins, needles, sewing machine, iron, fabric marking pens

1.  Iron your chosen fabrics and muslin. Cut the batting or fleece down to the size you are making the bag. For example, I want my bag to measure 11 inches wide, by 8 inches high, with about a 6 inch flap. For my bag to be this size, I cut my fleece (I used fleece for the car bag, and 100% cotton batting for the tablet cozy):
--12 inches wide (my 11 inches plus 1/2 inch for each side seam allowance)
--23 inches long (my 8 inch height times 2, plus 6 inches for flap, and 1/2 inch for seam allowances)

Note: I did notice that my length shrunk just under 1/2 inch during stitching. This isn't uncommon when machine quilting. If you will be making a cozy, and you want a snug fit, take this into consideration and make your measurements accordingly. It's also important to remember that your seams will be bulky. This is critical to figure in if you are planning a snug fit.

2.  Lay your batting or fleece on top of your muslin which should be about an inch bigger all the way around. Pin in place to secure. Machine baste all the way around about 1/4 inch from each edge. For this part I like to loosen my tension because if your stitches are too tight, they will really shrink your fabric and fleece. (Image 1)

3.  Cut the muslin even with the fleece or batting. As you can see, I like the rounded corners on mine, so I just took a food storage lid and drew a line to round my corners. After I cut them away, I went back to the machine and stitched the curved edges just as I did the straight edges, with a basting stitch and 1/4 inch away from edge. You can also do this after you have stitched all your strips to the batting or fleece. (Image 2)

4.  Place this on your work table with the batting or fleece facing up. Lay your strips of fabric across the width overlapping each other. I slightly angled all mine to give it a super casual look, but you can stitch them perfectly even all the way down if you prefer. Be sure your ends extend beyond the sides so there will be no white showing through. If you are going to stitch them down in angles like I did, you will want them to be a couple inches longer than the width because you will be flipping the fabric strips over after stitching. 

Arrange your strips until you are happy with the way it looks. I always cut a few extra because I usually need them. Now stack the strips up neatly in the order you will be stitching them down and take them to your sewing machine with your batting or fleece and muslin piece. (Image 3)

5.  If you loosened the tension for your machine basting, don't forget to adjust it now for your stitching. You want your stitches to be secure but you don't want them to be too tight. I always use a test strip of the fleece or batting I'm using so I get it right. Place your first strip down with the right side facing up. This is the only one that will be stitched on this way. Stitch it in place along the edge that it is covering using 1/4 inch seam allowance. You won't be able to see the edge, but you will be able to feel it when you are holding the fabric down. Don't worry about the ends extending beyond the edges, we'll trim them away later. (Image 4)
6.  For the remaining strips you will be positioning them with the wrong side up, then flipping them. So place your second strip on top of the first one and stitch 1/4 inch away from the edge that is closest to the center. I have placed mine at angles, so I trimmed away the excess of the strip before it, but you don't have to do that if you don't want. Be sure that that you smooth it out neatly before stitching and remember that when you flip the strip over so the right side is facing up, there should be no white showing and the ends of the strips should extend just a little beyond the edges of the batting or fleece piece. If you do flip it over and the color you stitched this one to is darker, you might have to trim it away so the darker seam allowance doesn't show through lighter color strip. 
(Image 5, 6, 7)

7.  Continue using this technique until you have all your strips stitched in place. When you get to the last one, be sure to stitch the edge of the strip down 1/4 inch away from the edge of the batting or fleece piece just as you did for the first one. This will keep them secure for the final steps. (Image 8)

8.  Take back to your work table, with the wrong side facing up, and cut away all the excess fabric. Flip it over now and see your designer fabric! (Image 9, 10)

9.  Position one of your velcro pieces (centering left to right) on this piece. The best way I have found to do this is by folding your fabric piece exactly how you will when you are ready to assemble the bag. Turn your upper edge of the bag 3/4 inch to the wrong side, secure with pins or clips, then bring your flap down where you want it to be. Make sure that the the velcro piece is completely covered. I allowed the bottom of my flap to extend at least an inch beyond the velcro piece underneath so that after the seam allowance (when stitching the flap to the lining) there is no way the velcro could peek through. Pin in place to secure, then stitch the velcro piece down close to the edges of the velcro. It's also important that you begin and end your stitching with back stitching or your velcro pieces with tear away from the fabric when you are opening your bag. Back stitching is something I always do at the beginning and ending of my stitching as a standard practice. You can leave the clips or pins in where you folded the edge down, but don't stitch that yet. Set aside for now if you will be making the strap or pocket. If you will not be making those, skip ahead to step #12. (Image 11, 12, 13)

10. If you will be adding a strap, take the 3 X 14 inch piece of fabric and fold it in half lengthwise, iron. Now take the two long edges and have them meet in the center, and iron. When you fold the strip, you will have a 3/4 inch wide piece with one fold along one edge, and two folds along the other edge. Stitch along both folded edges for a nice, finished look. Set aside. (Image 14, 15)

11.  If you want to make pocket(s) for the inside of the bag, you will make those now and stitch them to the right side of the lining that will be at the back of the inside of the bag. Here is how I made mine:

I want my pocket to be 7 X 4 inches. I want to put a seam down the center of the pocket so that it will be perfect to hold access cards, gift cards, lip gloss, or a quick place to access my toll money. For my pocket to be that size, I cut my fabric 7 1/2 X 5 1/2 inches. I allowed an extra 1 1/2 inch for the upper hem and turning under the bottom edge, and an extra 1/2 inch for turning under along the sides.

Along one of the edges (the one that will be the top of your pocket) turn under 1/4 inch to the wrong side and iron. Now take that edge and turn it to the right side (right sides together) one inch. Don't iron but pin to secure. Stitch the side edges where you turned the fabric to the right side. Clip corners, then turn that edge right side out. push out corners and iron. Now stitch the "hem" in place. Take this back to the iron and turn the three remaining edges 1/4 inch to the wrong side and iron. (Image 16, 17, 18, 19)

To get the correct placement of your pocket, fold your lining (that has been cut to the exact dimensions as the outer bag piece) down just like you did when you positioned the velcro piece on your outer bag piece. Decide where you want your pocket and pin in place. Stitch the sides and bottom of the pocket to the right side of the lining, which will be the inside of your bag. If you want to make your pocket into two just like I did, simply stitch a line down the center. (Image 20, 21, 22)

Note: for my tablet case/cozy I didn't want a pocket or strap, so I omitted those steps.

12. Fold the upper edge of your lining fabric 3/4" to the wrong side just as you did for the outer bag fabric, iron. (Image 23)

13. With right sides together, fold the quilted piece the way you want it to look and pin to secure. Two important notes:

***Pull your flap down so that it will completely cover the velcro, and don't forget you will have a half inch seam allowance for the flap as well as a some top stitching around the flap when you are finished.

***I cut my strips on the wider side so I slipped my hand in between the folded piece and make sure that the strips are smooth along the bottom fold so they don't bunch up. If this happens, it will look horrible when you turn the bag right side out and your corners will bunch up. If you will be inserting the strap, do not stitch the sides yet. (Image 24, 25)

Repeat this step with your lining piece. Lay them side by side so that you can make sure that your flaps line up and the upper edges (where you folded under 3/4 inch) line up perfectly. This is very important. Secure the side edges with pins. Stitch down the edges using a 1/2 inch seam allowance. (Image 26, 27)

14. Before you stitch up the sides for the quilted piece, you will want to slip your strap between the seam. Fold the 3/4 inch wide strap in half forming a loop. With the loop toward the inside of the bag, line up the ends with the raw edges on one side of the bag just below the folded edge. I left my ends extended slightly so you can see where I placed them. (Image 29, 29)

15. Stitch down each side just like you did the lining. For a little extra security, I stitched three times over the strap area. When you get to this part, it helps to hold the fabric in front and behind the needle. Since it is so thick, if you just hold the fabric in front of the needle, it's going to bunch up and your needle will not go anywhere. Guide it GENTLY from behind as well. Trim the bottom corners near the fold for this and the lining piece. (Image 30)

16. Turn both pieces right side out. With right sides together, line up your flaps. Make sure the the folds in the lining line up with the fold in the outer fabric. Pin to secure. Stitch around the flap beginning at the fold on one side, and ending the stitching at the fold on the other side using a 1/2 inch seam allowance. Trim seam allowance and clip curves. Turn flap right side out and iron. (Image 31, 32, 33)

17. Now you can turn your lining piece wrong side out and slip it inside the outer bag piece. Line up your folded edges and pin to secure. Stitch along that edge combining the outer bag to the lining. I find that my open arm works best for this part. (Image 34, 35, 36)

18. Top stitch around the edge of the flap about 1/4 inch from the outer edge.

19. Stitch your final piece of velcro to the underside of the flap. For correct placement, fold the flap over and slip the piece of velcro underneath so that it's even with the one you stitched down earlier. Pin to secure and stitch in place.

If you are using this for a car bag like I am, you can hang it over your doorknob and it will look nice while it's waiting for your next adventure!

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Organizing Your Time

If you search through my blog you are sure to find some great organizational tips to keep your creating space clutter free and you'll know where everything is. I haven't touched on how to organize your time. This isn't just for your hobby or business, everyone can get get more done with a little organization! I'll share some of my tips and techniques. Some will work for you, some may not, so do whatever works for you.

Let's start with calendars. Some people prefer to use a paper calendar and I was the same way until recently. I'm also the type of person who not only hates clutter, but also I like travel (day to day) very light. I like the Samsung calendar that comes with my phone. I can sync it with my Google calendar. Works very well for me. Paper or electronic, find one that works for everything and if you have a business, you'll want one that will merge the two events so you only have to go to one place. I love the color coding for events and tasks as well.

Where to store all your general (and non general) data? This is where I find that Evernote does the best job ever! I keep my trips organized, my business information, addresses, websites, various notes, and even recipes. You can create various "notebooks" and each notebook can have several cards or pages. This thing just does so much, I don't know where to begin. It's best for you to just check it out and see for yourself. And yes, it's FREE! There are several apps and websites out there, and I've tried several, but once I discovered Evernote, I quit looking.

List, lists, and more lists. I am a list maker! It just feels so good to cross off items as you complete them. Before I used the electronic apps I used the old fashioned paper and pencil, and you should use whatever works for you. There are so many apps out there if you want the electronic version, again, find what works for you. Other than the usual grocery lists and packing lists, I like to keep some To Do lists as well.

TODAY: I always have a "TODAY" list in all caps of course. On my app I always have a list with the name of the day of the week, although I don't get too far ahead of myself. If I absolutely don't want to forget a task, I'll put it on my calendar then add it to my list the night before. This is an important list because this is how I make sure my stuff gets done for that day. I use the same list for business and personal. If for some reason I don't get a task finished, I'll add it to the next day.

WEEKLY or MONTHLY: These are nice lists to have and are good for big projects, or things that you need to get done that month. You can move these items to your daily list when you can fit it into a certain day.

"WHEN LISTING" LIST: I know this sounds silly but when you know why I call it that, it will make sense. When I first list a new pattern, there are various steps that I don't want to forget, so I create a list of things to do at that time. For example, before I list an item, I proof it, prepare display images, turn it into a PDF document, add it to my items inventory list, introduce it on Instagram, etc.... There are actually about fifteen things I do when I first list a new pattern or clipart set.

I also have other lists where I like to use Excel spreadsheet. An important one is my "Shop Check Off List." Between my graphics and my patterns, I sell at about eight different places. The first two places I list to are Craftsy and Etsy. Then I spread out the other listings throughout the week. It would be too hard to remember what I posted when and where, so I created the spreadsheet so I can have a check off list.

Above are a few ways I like to keep organized. Feel free to share your tips in the comments section. I'd love he hear them!

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Turn That Frown Upside Down!

I never knew that my greatest joy in life would be becoming a Nana! Brian and I are now empty nesters who can come and go as we please. Yet when I walk into my dining room, I see a chair that has a booster seat, there is a toy basket in my studio, Paigie prints on my living room windows, rubber bath toys on my tub, and my husband (aka Grandpa Brian) has become a jungle gym. Yes, every time he sits on the floor, he's fair game for a little blonde peanut to climb on. And what is my new favorite saying....."Turn that frown upside down" because every time I say it, I get the biggest grins and giggles!

Yep, being a Nana is one of the greatest gifts imaginable! And what's really cool....the Easter Bunny and Santa stops by my house every year!

Monday, March 16, 2015

Basement Clean-out - Report Cards

You know how you really want your kids to work hard in school, and you expect good report cards? What do you do when your kids find your school report cards? Yep, that's exactly happened today when we were doing mom's basement clean-out. I come down the stairs to hear my future daughter in law laughing after saying the words, "Sheryl does not work hard enough and talks too much in class." Yes, it was my first grade report card from 1967. OK, so I wasn't perfect!

We are finding more and more interesting treasures every time we clean.

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Treasures from the Past

We've always had a joke in the family about "the basement." Whenever someone goes down there for something they always make sure to notify someone with the words, "If I'm not back in five minutes, send out the search team." Well, now that mom is moving to an independent living facility, the cleaning process has begun. They saved EVERYTHING! Above are two things I found that I consider treasures. I also found a Valentine card that my dad (who just passed six weeks ago) made for my mom in their early days. She's going to frame it and hang it in her new bedroom.

Check out these eyeglasses! My mom said they belonged to my great-great-grandmother. I researched them online and they date back to the late 1800's and early 1900's. A few things I found interesting:

1. They are very tiny. They measure just over four inches across.

2. There are no sides to hold them to the side of the face. The nose piece is what holds them on. Yes, I tried them on, and it was not easy to keep them there.

3. Notice the phone number on the cloth, it has five digits!

I also found this old mortgage receipt book from when my grandpa bought his house in 1950. Notice the amount of the loan.......$3505.75. And how would you like a house payment of $33.18 a month? My how times have changed! I also remember that house because I spent a lot of time there as a child. It was a very nice house. It is actually still there although it's been remodeled. When I asked my mom about it she told me that he had the house built and he paid separate for the land. But still, wow!

The clean-out will continue and I can't wait to see what other treasures we find. I'm sure there will be a few.

Friday, February 13, 2015

Let's Talk Handbags

Those who know me well know that I have an addiction to purses. I feel as if you can never have enough of them. I got several gift cards for Christmas this year so a couple days ago, I ventured out on a search for a purse. This is usually very difficult for me because I can never find the perfect purse. This trip however, I came home with three! As the hubster is reading this in his email, I can see his eyes rolling right now.

While I was searching I was thrilled to find that the tiny, cross body bags are all the rage again. I've never been a big bag person. For the most part I usually carried a medium sized bag. Cross body bags are my absolute favorite. I love the freedom of having both hands free. While I was shopping I found three bags that are much smaller than what I'm used to. The one that I'm using first (black purse on far right) is actually the smallest, in fact some may think of it more like the size of a big wallet.

When I got home I set my purse on my worktable along with my new bags. Even though I don't carry a whole lot, I wondered if I could actually downsize so that I could use these really cute small bags. As I was emptying the contents onto my table, I decided to set aside all the items that I carry around, but never used while I was out and about. What I ended up with was my cellphone, glasses, lip gloss, keys, money, debit cards, an ink pen, and a few Excedrin pain relievers. For the past several years I've carried a camera but since purchasing my new phone (Samsung Galaxy Note) I find that I'm using the camera on that rather than pulling out the real one. It takes great pictures and makes one less thing to carry.

So what is your thought on the perfect purse? Do you like to carry lots of things because you never know what you are going to need, or do you like to carry the bare minimum.

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Sewing Machine Maintenance - So Important

I know that many of my readers already know the importance of sewing machine maintenance. I get a lot of customers write me and share photos of the items that they made from my patterns, and many of them tell me that they are new to sewing. So I thought it would be nice to share this tidbit of information. I'm also going to give you my very own personal tips as well. I've been sewing with anti-pill fleece lately and figured this would be a good time to share some of those tips and photos with you. Just take a look at all the lint that was in my machine!

To begin, you will want to look at the manual for the sewing machine you are using. If you don't have a manual, I'm sure you can google your machine's model number and find a PDF version of the manual online. If not, you can do some research on the Internet. Youtube has some great videos showing the basics. I just popped over to Singer (my machines) and see that I can download any of them. While you're at it, you might want to pick up some sewing machine oil. Be sure it's for sewing machines. You can get this anywhere you can buy sewing supplies. 

How often should you clean it? I've seen some articles saying after every project. Well, that can be confusing because I may do one project that requires seven or eight hours of stitching time, or I might throw a mug rug together can be done in about an hour. It really depends on how often you use your machine. 

Is your machine a workhorse? 
Do you do assembly line sewing? 
Do you crank out a bunch of potholders for craft shows? 

In the above cases, you're going to want to clean it at least once a day. 

Are you an occasional sewer? 
Only sew once in a while? 

For these stitchers, you might want to clean after each project so you don't lose track of when you did it last. 

I personally sew often, but my machine isn't what I'd call a workhorse, so I make sure to clean and oil my machine once or twice a month.

My Personal Tips: Now you know the importance and basics, and have read your manual or researched your machine, so you know what to do. I'm now going to share some of my own tips with you.

1.  Fresh oil is a must. If you aren't sure how long your oil has been sitting in your cabinet, or your oil has turned yellow or another funny color, toss it and buy another one. Old and dirty oil will not be good for your machine. It's not that expensive to replace.

2.  When removing or replacing the throat plate, be careful with those screws to make sure they don't fall into the machine.

3.  Never blow into the machine to remove dust and lint. You can actually send the gunk to places you don't want it. You can use a small vacuum and remove it that way if you want.

4.  I'm not a fan of that small and stiff brush that comes with the machine. I use a soft makeup brush that I bought just for this purpose. The lint seems to attract to it like a magnet, and since it's so soft, you can really get a nice cleaning job.

5.  Now is a good time to discard the old needle so you can start your next project with a fresh one. 

6.  I always run some old fabric through the machine as if I were sewing (without thread) to run the oil through.

7.  Now that your machine is nice and clean on the inside, make sure you wipe off the outside and keep it covered until next time you use it.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Once a Hero, Now an Angel

I'm a very lucky girl. Since I was about eight years old, I had two dads, and both of them are truly amazing and I love them both so much. Today I lost one of them after a difficult battle. As you may have noticed, I have not been posting much the past few months. Since we found out that my dad was terminal, my main focus was to spend as much time with him as I could and everything else will be there later.

The handsome man you see in the pictures was an incredible individual. He was a WWII veteran and his plane was shot down. Fortunately he was saved, hidden, and nursed back to health by the underground French. After returning home he joined the Gary Fire Department where he once again, spent his life as a true hero, saving countless lives. 

He married my mom when I was about ten. He never treated us as stepdaughters. He raised us as if we were his own blood. He was an amazing man who was loved by everyone who crossed his path, and he will be missed so much.

I promise to catch back up with all my blogging friends soon. While you are waiting for my return, please let all your loved ones know how much you love them. Tell them, hug them, and be there for them. When it's all said and done, there is nothing more important than the people you love.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

What a Week!

Sometimes it can be tough to create a balance in life, and I'm still trying to find it. This week was one of those crazy weeks where we got a little bit of everything. 

Resident Fox: Notice what looks like dog prints in the snow. Well, they aren't dog prints, they are fox prints. Yes, we have a fox in the yard now. I noticed him about four or five nights ago when I saw something moving in the snow. I knew it looked too small to be a deer or the coyote, so I ran to the window and there was a really cute fox walking around in the yard. This morning when I took Bubba out, I noticed more of his little prints coming out from under the pool deck, down Bubba's potty path, and into the neighbors yard. Poor Bubba, we have to be so careful taking him out.

The BEST Part of the Week: Of course the highlight of the week was having Baby Paige overnight while mom and dad had a date night. She was so much fun and as usual, she was an angel for us. She loves her Grandpa Brian! She follows him all over the house and when he was on the floor cleaning out the pantry, she decided that cleaning time was not important because it was Paige time so she plopped down in his lap and started pulling bags out of the pantry one by one. She's so darn cute!

Florida Sunshine in a Blizzard: While I was out visiting my mom it started snowing so I decided to head home before it got bad. I decided to take back roads because I refuse to drive on the expressway in snowstorms. After two hours (should only have been one) I finally arrived home and found a box that was sent from my dad and bonus mom. I opened it up and it was full of grapefruits picked fresh! They know how much I love that grapefruit!

Busy in the Studio: A lot of time was spent in the studio this week as well. I was able to get some Valentine mug rugs finished and listed, as well as these bathing suit and burlesque style. Definitely ready to think about summer!
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