Thursday, May 26, 2011
Thank you, each and every one of you, for reading this blog. I've learned so much and had so much fun interacting with you guys and I hope it continues. Change can be hard sometimes, but I think this change is the right move!
Wednesday, May 25, 2011
Wednesday, May 18, 2011
For a while now, I’ve been debating what to do with my website. My goal has always been to have a website that incorporates an online shop with a blog, press info, wholesale info, and all that other good stuff all in one place.
I was lucky enough to be chosen to be the subject of the first business workshop over at Ace Department yesterday. First of all, if you’re a business owner, get over there and sign up – it’s in beta so it’s free right now, and those ladies know their stuff! The point of the workshop was to discuss where I want to go with my business in regards to my online presence. I can’t tell you how helpful everyone’s advice was, and now I really feel like I have a concrete plan.
As soon as I can get it together (hopefully in the next two weeks), I’ll be re-launching bobalookids.com with a little bit of an overhaul. I’m planning on making the website a landing spot for customers where they can read the blog, shop, or learn more about my brand all in one place. Want a sneak preview? Here ya go:
So what does this mean for this blog? I’ll still be writing a blog, but it’s going to be more geared toward my customers instead of other handmade business owners. I haven’t decided for sure what to do with my existing blog content. Either I’ll move it over to the new website, but post more customer-related content from now on, or I’ll move it to it’s own blog.
This is one decision I haven’t completely made, so I’d love your input. I’d be happy to maintain a second blog about the business side of things if there’s enough demand, but my posting schedule would probably be a little lighter (once or twice a week). What do you guys think? I learned how useful other people’s points of view can be when making big decisions, so advise away!
Tuesday, May 10, 2011
I’ve missed you all! I hope your Mother’s Day was as lovely as mine, and I hope you aren’t still hobbled by that half marathon you should have trained for like me! Let’s get back into the swing of things, shall we?
I’ve done my fair share of product photo shoots over the past eight months, so I thought I’d share the setup that’s working the best for me now. In the next two parts of this little series I’ll give you my editing process and tips for streamlining your photo shoots.
For a long time I took my pictures in my sewing room. Although it’s the most convenient, it certainly isn’t the best for light (the orange walls don’t help). I finally noticed that the big bay windows in our kitchen let in really nice light in the mornings, mostly due to the filtering effect of those sheer curtains.
I like to use an all-white background for my pictures because my fabrics are so colorful. I use a big white project board (the kind we all used for science fair projects) as my background, and I keep a big piece of white felt on hand to lay across the table. You can see the project board is kind of tucked into our light fixture – it just barely fits.
I don’t turn that overhead light on because it gives the pictures a yellowish tint; I just rely on good ol’ sunlight. On a cloudier day I set up my camera on a tripod and take pictures using my remote to ensure super-crisp pictures. If it’s a sunny day, I can usually use a fast enough shutter speed and just hold the camera while I squat down in front of the window.
For the pictures of products lying flat (like this bib and this changing pad – the picture of it opened up), I lay that big piece of felt on the floor and take my pictures from above. I used to put everything on the table, then stand on a chair and risk my neck by leaning in strange angles to get the best shot. We live and we learn, right?
Once I have all my pictures taken, I sit down after the kids go to bed and tackle editing them in Photoshop Elements. We’ll get to that next time!
In case you’re interested in the specifics, I shoot with a Nikon D40, which I looooove. If I need a flash I use my SB600 Speedlight or O-Flash. My tripod is just an inexpensive collapsible one and my remote was a ridiculously cheap one the hubs found on Ebay. And just an FYI – those are affiliate links.
Tuesday, May 3, 2011
First this happened, which was bad:
I’m pretty sure that voids my warranty!
Then I had orders from two new stores, which is good! The hubs, bless him, got my sewing machine back up and running, but I’m a busy mama so you may hear crickets around here this week. I also have a half marathon to run Saturday that I am in no way, shape, or form ready for, so let’s hope my cousin doesn’t have to carry me across the finish line.
We’ll chat soon!
Friday, April 29, 2011
I’m pretty sure I’ve mentioned before that I really want to have a line of organic bobaloo! products. A couple of weeks ago I decided I was ready to get started so I ordered a few organic fabrics from Cedar House Fabrics and fabric.com.
left to right: Grove in Sky & Clearing (Nature Walk from Cloud 9), Woodland Chain in Pool & Woodland Friends (Circa 50 by Monaluna for Birch Fabrics), Stripe & Floral in green (Suzi Q from Timeless Treasures)
Truthfully, I mostly bought based on the prints, but once everything arrived I realized I had ordered from three different manufacturers so I figured a little comparison was in order. I washed all the fabrics in cold water with no fabric softener and (as you can probably tell) didn’t iron them, but I did pull them out of the dryer when they were still warm to keep away most of the wrinkles.
I’m including the prices so you can get an idea of cost, but if I decide to go through with the organic line I’ll probably buy wholesale. This girl loves a deal and I can’t stomach spending $15 a yard on cotton if I don’t have to!
Let’s start with Circa 50 by Monaluna for Birch Fabrics. This fabric reminds me of high-end cotton sheets, the kind you’d find at a really expensive hotel. It’s super-smooth and just feels so nice. It does wrinkle up pretty easily when crumpled, but I’m guessing it irons like a dream. Birch’s prints are definitely my favorites because they are kid-appropriate but super-modern.
This one was $15.50/yd but it was on sale for 10% off with free shipping.
Next up is Suzi Q from Timeless Treasures. This one definitely has some texture and is lighter-weight than the others. If you’ve ever bought the Quilters Only Solids at JoAnn’s, that’s what this fabric feels like.
I bought this for about $11/yd, though I did use a coupon so it ended up being a little less. Fabric.com claims the regular price is $15.99/yd.
Last is Nature Walk from Cloud 9. The fabric from this line is the most similar in feel and appearance to the regular designer cotton prints I normally buy. It’s nice and soft and isn’t too wrinkly despite the lack of ironing.
Nature Walk is the first of Cloud 9’s Price Sensitive collections, so I paid 11.95/yd plus 10% off and free shipping.
Okay, so here’s my bottom line. The Circa 50 by Monaluna from Birch Fabrics is my favorite because of the prints and amazing fabric feel. The price is the highest of the three, but it also feels the most expensive. I want to rub my face on it. I just need to figure out if customers would be willing to pay what I’d have to charge if I use this fabric.
Coming in at a VERY close second is Nature Walk from Cloud 9. The price is great, the prints are awesome, and the fabric is every bit as nice as what I’m used to using. I’m sure I’ll be able to check out Cloud 9’s more pricey fabrics because I’m completely obsessed with Cut Out and Keep and must have some soon or I will quite possibly die.
I feel kind of eh about Suzi Q. The floral print in particular is cute and reminds me of the sheets I used to sleep on at my grandma’s house, but the quality isn’t quite as nice as the other two. I think part of my hesitation is I don’t like enough of the prints to justify buying wholesale from Timeless Treasures.
I’d love to hear what you think about organic cotton. Are you willing to pay more for products made from organic materials? If you sew, do you buy organic fabrics?
Thursday, April 28, 2011
Tuesday, April 26, 2011
The original Bobaloo and I were making bracelets for Craft Hope last week and we came up with these little cuties to use up some of my fabric scraps. Using snaps makes this project silly quick – it took me longer to type this up than to make the bracelet – but if you don’t have snaps, Velcro would work too.
- three different fabric scraps, at least 16” long and 1 1/2” wide
- pinking shears or regular fabric scissors
- One set of snaps (I use KAM snaps and love them)
- snap pliers or press, or whatever you use to attach snaps
1. Cut one strip from each of three fabrics, 1 1/2” wide by 16” long, using pinking shears or regular scissors.
2. Stack the strips on top of each other, right sides all up, at one short end. They don’t have to match perfectly – we’ll trim them up at the end. Using your awl, poke a hole about 1/2” from the end of the strips.
3. Attach one snap with the cap side up.
4. Braid the pieces of fabric (I had my cute little helper holding the snap end for me). Try to keep the right sides of the fabric up – you may need to twist the strips a little to keep them facing the right direction. Braid loosely for a wider bracelet, tightly for a narrower bracelet.
5. Once the bracelet is near the length you’d like it, stack the strips on top of each other just like you did at the beginning.
6. Install the other snap with the cap on the wrong side of the bracelet.
7. Using your pinking shears or scissors, trim the ends of the bracelet in a nice rounded shape.
8. Put that bracelet on the nearest kiddo or pack it up and send it off to Craft Hope!
If you make one, be sure to add it to the bobaloo! flickr pool – it’s about time we started using it, right?
Thursday, April 21, 2011
Recently I came across a post about Craft Hope, an organization that encourages people to send handmade items to others in need. They post a project every few months and give the details on what to make and where to send your finished products. As I have craft supplies coming out of my ears, this totally caught my eye – what better way to use up all this extra stuff than to spread a little goodwill?
Craft Hope just recently released their 12th project – handmade bracelets for the orphans of Russia. I had no idea how bad the conditions are for these kids – 60% of female orphans in Russia become prostitutes. It’s terribly sad to think of all the love and affection these kids are missing out on. You can read all about the situation on Craft Hope’s site here, but here’s a little excerpt:
When the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991, it’s shaky orphan-care system also fell. Alcohol consumption increased 10 times the U.S. level. The instances of divorce also climbed, along with the HIV-infection rate, which is now one of the highest in the world. And, according to a 2007 UNICEF report, the annual number of children without parental care in Russian ‘has more than doubled over the last 10 years, despite falling birth rates.’ Currently, there are over 750,000 children in the orphanage system and hundreds of thousands more living in the streets.
See how just a little bit of handmade love would really be a bright spot for these kids?
Want to participate, too? If you need some ideas, here are some great bracelet tutorials that I’ve come across. Some of these involve fabric because I have fabric scraps taking over my house and I’d love to use a few up.
I’m excited about this one because I can easily make most of these while relaxing on the couch at night, and even Bridget (who is almost 4) can make a few simple beaded bracelets. We’ve been trying to teach her about giving to others who are less fortunate and this will be a great lesson.
Go on over and like Craft Hope on Facebook so you can get the details, or visit their website and take a look around. This project ends June 15th, so you have plenty of time to kick it middle-school style and make some friendship bracelets for some kiddos who’d love to have them!
PS: I ordered the Craft Hope book last month and it is full of simple, adorable projects along with information on where to send donations. Most of the projects would be an awesome activity for a church group, MOPS group, or even a group of kiddos.
PPS: That link to the book is an affiliate link, so if you buy it I get a teeny tiny percentage. Just thought I’d let you know.
Tuesday, April 19, 2011
Saturday was a cold and rainy day, that’s for sure, but there really was a great turnout for Record Store Day. Martha does a great job picking out locations for her shows and this one was no exception.
The hubs was trying to be extra helpful Friday night and loaded up the car for me. He specifically told me he had the tables and the tent packed already. Once I had my car unloaded, I discovered I had no tent top and only one of three of my tables. Lesson learned – double check your car, even if your husband is as wonderful as mine.
Also, even though I remembered my camera and my fancy flash, I forgot my memory card (again). Sorry about the cell phone pictures.
After the kids and Kenny dropped off my missing stuff, I rushed to get everything out on the tables (and had a sale before I was even set up!). You can see my new displays in these pictures, but since I was so rushed I didn’t get to try out the chalkboard paint signs, boo.
There was pretty much steady traffic all day, and I had Shan & Jarod and Misty to keep things entertaining between shoppers. It did drizzle off and on all day but Martha rigged up a rain catcher between our tents and everything stayed nice and dry.
I really liked the DJs, too – the music was just the right volume and both guys played some great songs. We were set up in a U-shape, circling-up-the-wagons style, and it was like we had our own little tent village next to Luna Music. My only complaint was that a few shoppers felt like smoking in covered tents filled with merchandise was perfectly acceptable behavior, whereas I feel otherwise.
If you’re local, don’t miss the Handmade Promenade shows because they really are great both as a shopper and a vendor. I have to miss selling at the next one because I’ll be hobbling through a half-marathon early the next morning, but I’ll be stopping by to shop!
Craft show season has begun - have you guys been to or sold at any good ones yet? And how are we feeling about my very white new displays? Too plain? I’m planning on adding more chalkboard paint to some of them (like the crayon apron display) to write prices on, but I’d love some feedback!
Thursday, April 14, 2011
I pretty much exclusively buy my fabric online. I use mostly quilting cottons, and living in the land of chain stores, there just aren’t a lot of local sources. Plus it is so much easier for me to order fabric online than to pack up two kids with sufficient store-safe entertainment and make it to a fabric store and back. My UPS guy even knows not to ring the doorbell during naptime (I know you feel me, Hannah).
My first recommendation comes with a bit of a warning – their customer service can be a little lacking, and don’t count on everything you order actually being in stock. But Fabric.com really does have some great sales and you can score some serious deals, like quilting cotton for $4 a yard. I would recommend signing up for their emails. There are a lot, but their super-cheap fabrics go fast and you’ll want to shop quickly.
Next up is Quilt Home. I admit, the website is a little confusing, but there are also cheap fabrics to be found here. On the right side of the home page are links to both a coupon code and the sale section – pretty often I can find fabrics in the sale section that I can use the coupon on. They also send coupon emails weekly, so it’s another email worth clogging up your inbox with.
Fat Quarter Shop is great for current, beautiful fabrics. I usually turn here when I need something specific and haven’t been able to find it in my bargain sources. They also have an extensive sale section that is totally worth perusing. I confess, as a branding nerd, I am drawn to this website because it’s so pretty and clean.
I just recently ordered from Above All Fabric, and I was so happy with her customer service and her gorgeous fabric choices. Since I’ve started my own business, I’ve realized supporting smaller businesses is often worth paying just a tiny bit more. And Melanie’s fabric is by no means expensive – she also has a great sale section (which, as you can see, is important to me) and a rewards program for frequent shoppers.
I occasionally order from Etsy, too, especially when I need something extra-special. I love ordering from the Fabric Shoppe. As an added bonus, if you follow Jody on twitter (she’s @fabricshoppe) she announces great deals to the first one who nabs them.
I do frequent my local Jo-Ann Fabrics, especially for basics like terry cloth (I finally started buying it by the bolt with a 50% off coupon) and fleece. I also buy notions there, including velcro and thread (I’m a thread snob and only use Gutermann) because it often goes on sale for cheaper than I can buy online.
One last tip – if you haven’t started following True Up, what are you waiting for? The weekly sale posts are worth their weight in fabric!
Any good sources you’d like to share with the class? I love a good bargain!
Tuesday, April 12, 2011
At the end of February Martha got a big group of Indy crafty types together for the first meeting of the Uncommon Craft Society of Indianapolis. It was a rousing success – partially thanks to the ridiculously delicious Bloody Marys from Hoosier Momma – and a lot of good ideas were shared.
Last week we had our second meeting, again at the Little Green Bean Boutique (thanks Heather!). Although the crowd was a little smaller, we were really able to talk about what everyone would like out of the group. We even had a craft supply swap – what’s better than free stuff?
I loved chatting with some local business owners and crafty types. One of the downfalls of running your business online (as I’m sure a lot of you do) is that you just don’t get a lot of in-person interaction. Plus, I’m the mom of two kids under four, so any excuse to have conversation that doesn’t revolve around boogers or the potty makes me happy as pie.
If you’re close to Indy, we’d love to see you at the next meeting! You don’t have to be a business owner to join – if you’re crafty (or aspire to be crafty) you’re welcome to join us! We’re planning some great stuff coming up that you won’t want to miss. Just like the Uncommon Craft Society on Facebook to stay up-to-date on the location and date of our next meeting!
A little update on the Great Tooth Debacle of 2011: It still hurts like the dickens, and I’m still taking Ibuprofen like it’s going out of style. The dentist warned me I’m headed for a root canal if it’s not better by Wednesday. Cross your fingers for me, okay?
Saturday, April 9, 2011
Biz Ladies: Taxes Made Easy from Design Sponge. Taxes and general accounting questions always come up when I’m talking with other crafters. This is a great, simple guide to taxes that makes everything a whole lot less scary.
White Chocolate Orange Cookies from Landee See, Landee Do. I picked up oranges and white chocolate chips yesterday at the grocery store and we are making these cookies TODAY. I can’t wait to eat an obscene number of them.
Thursday, April 7, 2011
Despite all the drama this past week, we had a very successful Sewing Night Wednesday. The ladies and I made little ruffled wristlets and they turned out ADORABLE.
I think four girls is the limit for Sewing Night. It looks like I’ve crammed my own little sweatshop in my kitchen. You can’t see it in the picture, but there’s a kid-sized table and chairs in the bay window – maybe I could squeeze two very small friends back there?
Look at those ruffling skills! Keep in mind this is only the SECOND sewing lesson for these girls – didn’t they do great? We’ve decided Megan could fit her baby in her “wristlet” when he or she arrives next month.
So I’m still having a lot of issues with this stupid tooth and have had to step up to the serious painkillers, which means I’ve certainly not had the normal amount of brainpower the past few days. Hopefully I’ll be back to my usual self next week, because I want to tell you all about our latest Uncommon Craft Society of Indianapolis meeting!
Do you guys craft with buddies? Tell me about it! And how are you all feeling about the new blog header? I love fabric all lined up in a row – makes me feel like I have my own little fabric shop!
Tuesday, April 5, 2011
I tell you what, last week was a hectic one. We had one ER trip (the little guy, he’s fine) one big dentist trip for me (me, and now I have a broken temporary crown and an infected tooth – is that TMI?), and one bored kiddo (the original Bobaloo, home for spring break). I kind of dropped of the face of the internet for a while.
I’ve finally been putting all that brand new fabric to work! I ended with one bolt less than I thought (the blue and orange polka dot one is out of print), but it still feels like a HUGE amount of fabric. I love it.
The pink polka dot fabric makes just the cutest bias tape. Speaking of, I switched around how I make bias tape this time and it was so much faster. I usually use the continuous strip method, but this time I cut my bias strips first like this, then serged them end to end. The serger is so fast, plus the seams didn’t get bound up in my bias tape maker like they usually do.
I’m on an apron streak right now. I just finished up a custom Crayon Apron for an adult who wanted one for her face painting brushes (there’s a picture on the bobaloo! Facebook page) and now I’m working on new ones for the Irvington Iris Tea Room. Doesn’t that pink polka dot bias tape look adorable?
I’ve got our Craft-Night-turned-Sewing-Night at my house tonight and a meeting of the Uncommon Craft Society of Indianapolis tomorrow night, then it’s time to get to work on products for Record Store Day on the 16th. What have you guys been up to? I’ve missed you!
Thursday, March 31, 2011
During my kid-free Saturday I made a huge pile of Little Blankies and finished the rest of the Changing Pad Clutches. I also cut out and started stitching this giant stack of burp cloths, which should be done in the next few days.
So I’ve decided I’ve earned a reward – I’m going to make something brand new for the shop! Making new stuff is my favorite part of running this business. Truthfully, sometimes making stacks and stacks of the same thing gets a little old and I need something different to spice things up a bit.
I have something in mind that’s a sweet little baby toy, but I’ve also been tossing around the idea of a new personalized room decoration that works for both a nursery and a big kid’s room. Also, my friend Shan suggested making some crowns for little boys after I begged for opinions on Facebook.
Since I’m bringing in some new things soon, I’m retiring a few products from my Etsy shop. I’m going to set up a sale section this weekend with all of the prints and Barrette Organizers – once they’re gone, they’re sadly not coming back. The prints are goners since they don’t fit in with my product mix. The Barrette Organizers just haven’t been popular enough to keep around.
So what do you think the new product (or products!) should be? Any other suggestions? I’ve got all that new fabric to play with and I’m antsy to get sewing!
Tuesday, March 29, 2011
Last week I took a break from the stock-the-inventory-closet sewing and made myself this sweet new bag!
The pattern is from V and Co. and is super simple and fun to make. There aren’t even pattern pieces – you just cut it all out with your rotary cutter and it sews up in no time!
This is a serious bag, not a dainty purse. On Sunday it happily held my usual purse stuff, two kiddo jackets, an American Girl doll, a folder full of paper, my big camera, and a box of Rice Krispie treats (it was a party, what can I say?). It’s that handy size for when your kids are too old to require a diaper bag but you still end up hauling around half your house.
You should also head on over to Vanessa’s blog – it’s full of fun sewing projects and loads of inspiration. It’s definitely one of my faves.
I’m not the only one getting something new around here. Remember the awesome chenille blanket I mentioned in last weekend’s Weekend Links? I started one for the little guy! Poor thing – being a second child to a busy mom means he hardly has any handmade stuff, so I’m excited to finish this up for him.
I’m following the tutorial from Aesthetic Nest that was linked to on Living With Punks. So far it’s going surprisingly quickly given that I’m not a great quilter and it is A LOT of quilting. You better believe I’ll be showing pictures of this one when it’s done.
What are you guys up to? Any new fun projects? Want to tempt me with another project for myself?
Saturday, March 26, 2011
Keeping It All Organized from Team Eco Etsy (via the Etsy Success newsletter). There’s some serious organizational eye candy going on in this post. My husband decided we can sell the pool table that takes up most of my sewing room, so I’m in major redecorating mode. I already ordered the comic book boards to help with fabric organization!
Scrap Paper Chandelier from Design Sponge. A-MAZING. Seriously.
Cozy Chenille Baby Blanket from Living With Punks. I am 100% obsessed with this blanket. My little guy is finally old enough to sleep with a blanket and I’m pretty sure it’s going to be one of these.
No Nonsense Spiced Carrot Cake from Angry Chicken. I like my carrot cake nice and plain, so this is right up my alley. Plus, the kiddos and I are in a frozen-waffles-or-cereal breakfast rut and I think I can justify carrot cake for breakfast.