Saturday, January 29, 2011

Weekend Links, January 29th

Read It
notes from Harder, Better, Faster Stronger Blogging by not martha.  Am I going to cause my blog to implode by linking to a roundup of links in a post about links?  This post has so much useful info packed into one place and is especially useful for all of us poor slobs who couldn’t go to Alt Summit.

Business Tips: Pricing for Profit from Team EcoEtsy (via the Etsy Success Newsletter).  I think the part of my business that induces the most stress is pricing.  This gem of a blog post even includes a pricing spreadsheet for download.

01 29 11 tshirt pom poms

Make It
T-Shirt Pom Poms by Craftaholics Anonymous (via Crafts & Deals).  These are SO STINKING CUTE!  I have no idea what I’m going to attach them to, but I’ll find something!

Technique: Understanding Bias Tape from Dana at Made.  I make a ridiculous amount of bias tape.  My sister and my mom bought me a Simplicity Bias Tape Maker for Christmas that makes the ironing part super fast, but cutting the bias strips still takes forever.  This post has great directions on how to fold a big ol’ piece of fabric so you can cut strips quickly.

01 29 11 ruffle fabric 2

Buy It
Ruffle Fabric.  Holy moley, how have I never sewn with any of this?!  Wouldn’t it just make the cutest leggings for B?  Or maybe a little dress like this one?  Aaaack, must buy now!!

See (or write!) anything good this week?  Share it in the comments!

Thursday, January 27, 2011

My Favorite iPad Apps

As I mentioned before, my super-amazing husband who spoils me rotten bought me an iPad for Christmas (sorry ladies, he doesn’t have any brothers).  I’m relatively new to the App Store but I thought I’d share the apps that have earned a spot on my main screen.

12 28 10 ipad

Todo.  This great app organizes all my to-do lists, both for business and home.  Each item can even have sub-lists, which is great for things like blog posts, which involve writing, picture editing, and searching for sources.  I even keep track of my short- and long-term business goals on Todo.

Calendar (this one came pre-installed).  This syncs with Google Calendar, which I use on my laptop at home (both also sync with my phone).  I found out randomly that if you enter a person’s birthday in their contact info it will show up on the calendar.  Handy, right? 

Evernote.  This is such a great app, and another one that syncs my laptop, iPad, and phone.  You can write notes, save pictures from your phone, and save documents in Evernote, and they’re available anywhere.  I’m using it a lot to keep track of stuff I want to post here, plus I just take pictures of business cards with my phone and save them instead of carrying a bunch around.  You can tag everything so it’s easy to find what you’re looking for.

Penultimate.  This app allows you to write in notebooks with your finger, then save the pages (you can even email them).  I use this for product idea sketches when I want to draw something out before I forget about it.

1 27 11 usa today app

Social Media and News
FeeddlerRSS.  This is like Google Reader for your iPad.  I have the free version and it’s been great – the only downfall I’ve come across is you can’t add subscriptions from your iPad with the free version.  It syncs with Google Reader so my unread posts stay up to date no matter where I read them.

HootSuite.  I use TweetDeck at home, but the TweetDeck iPad app isn’t so great.  I’m really loving HootSuite so far but I must admit we’re still in the honeymoon phase.  For some reason I just CANNOT get it to hook up with my Facebook account, though, so I might be trying something new since I don’t have a Facebook app.

USA Today.  I’ve always loved USA Today because I like my news light and fluffy.  This app is a good way to make sure I don’t miss any important big news while still allowing me my celebrity gossip.

1 27 11 fruit ninja

Home and Fun Stuff
Grocery IQ.  Seriously, this app has saved me SO MUCH TIME.  I am a detailed grocery list writer, sorting everything by aisle.  This app does it for me!  Plus, it has a favorites list so I can just go through and click all my normal stuff (like the gallons of coffee creamer I go through and the tons of peanut butter Bridget consumes) and add it straight to my list.

Pandora.  I’ve been using Pandora on my laptop for a while, then when I got my fancy phone with an unlimited data plan I started using it there.  The speaker on the iPad is surprisingly better than the one on my phone so I pretty much use this app whenever I want to pump up my jams.

ABC Player.  I can watch TV shows!  While I cut fabric!  And while I sew!  Although I have some crashing issues here and there, I love having such a portable way to watch TV.  I just downloaded the PBS app too so I’m hoping it’s as good.  Correct me if I’m wrong, but I think you can even get a Netflix app (but I’m too cheap to pay the monthly fee for Netflix).

Fruit Ninja and Angry Birds.  Download them both, now.  Seriously.  Angry Birds has gotten a little too tough for me (I’m a quitter) so I’m hooked on Fruit Ninja.

Do you have any favorite apps for your phone or iPad?  Do you share your fancy electronic gadgets with your significant other or kids, or are you shamelessly selfish like me?

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Buying Fabric Wholesale

I’ve been tossing around the idea of signing up for some wholesale fabric accounts.  There’s no doubt about it, it would be cheaper – wholesale fabric is about half the cost.  But man, is it a lot of fabric to buy at once!

01 25 10 bobaloo! bolts of fabric

I’ve been doing some research, and it seems like to open a new account you typically have to buy somewhere around $500 to $750 of fabric.  Each bolt usually contains 15 yards, and the smallest amount of any one print you can buy is a bolt.  Sounds great in theory (I can go through Mezzanine and Nicey Jane pretty darn quickly) but I just can’t come to a decision.

Right now, I obsessively follow fabric sales and buy in bulk.  For instance, this morning I got an email that is having a $3.95 cotton prints sale.  I looked through all 8 pages of sale items, found five I liked that fit in with the overall color scheme in my shop, and ordered 3 yards of each.  I had a 15% off coupon, so my total for 15 yards was right around $50, which is only $3.35 a yard (less than wholesale).  Truthfully this good of a deal doesn’t happen all that often, and I’m always at the mercy of what’s available in the sale section.

fabric 7 16 10

I do buy at retail price occasionally if I need something specific or if someone requests a print.  During the holidays I had a couple of special orders where the customer requested that I make something from a fabric they saw in the store, but I didn’t have any more on hand.  In those cases I had to suck it up and pay full price, which cuts into my profits.

My husband suggested making a good ol’ pros and cons list of buying wholesale, so here you go:

  • Fabric is CHEAP – usually half the retail price
  • I wouldn’t have to spend so much time hunting down sales
  • I’d have plenty of fabric on hand
  • I could make more multiples of items, cutting down on the time I spend taking pictures and writing listings
  • I’d have rows of beautiful fabric in my house, like having my very own fabric store!

  • I’ll have less variety in fabric prints.  I make pretty small things, so it will take me a while to go through 15 yards.
  • I’d be limited to just one or two manufacturers.  I am trying really hard to only spend money when I make money, so I just can’t afford to open very many accounts.
  • I’d probably still have to buy other fabrics here and there
  • I’m afraid my Etsy shop would look boring with less variety in fabrics
  • You’ve seen my sewing room – where would I store it all?!

11 5 10 desk

Another option occurred to me last week – I can open a fabric shop on Etsy to sell off my excess fabric inventory.  I really don’t know if I want to tackle running another Etsy store, but it is tempting to have license to buy a LOT of fabric.

I’d love some objective opinions on this whole thing.  I go back and forth on it and I really just need to make a decision and go for it.

Where do you guys buy supplies?  Do you just buy what you need when you need it, or do you stock up when you find a good price? 

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Weekend Links, January 22nd

Read It

Defining Your Target Market from Biz Ladies on Design Sponge.  This article is such a great guide to defining your target marketing without using a lot of business jargon.  After reading this I have added “re-define target market” to my first quarter business goals.

7 Reasons You Should Never Check Email in the Morning from Sid Savara.  I need this list prominently posted in my house.  First thing in the morning I check my email, check twitter, check facebook… then my whole morning is gone. 

1 22 11 brassy apple valentine art 1 22 11 Braided Sweater Scarf 2

Make It

3D Love Art… 2 Tutorials from Brassy Apple.  These are so cute and would be such a great craft to do with your kiddo.  I love a project that uses stuff from the dollar store!

Braided Sweater Scarf with Pompoms from Just Another Day in Paradise (via One Pretty Thing).  This is SO CUTE.  Between the sweater pillows on Brassy Apple and this, I’m going to cut up every sweater I own.

Buy It

Just Dance 2 for Wii.  I’m obsessed, seriously.  My belly dance teacher told me about this little gem and I can’t stop playing!  It does make me realize that I need to get to the gym more often – I get all sweaty and out of breath after Criss Cross makes me jump around.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011


Saturday night, while enjoying Miss America (had the TV all to myself, what can I say), I got some more important business stuff accomplished.  bobaloo! is now officially bobaloo! LLC!  Hooray!

1 18 11  bobaloo! llc screenshot

As I’m sure you all remember, my SCORE mentor advised me to set up my company as an LLC.  The main reason is because it limits my personal liability to a certain extent, which is important for someone who sells children’s products.  And it was so stinkin’ easy it had me wondering why I didn’t just do it from the start!

Here in Indiana (and I think in most other states) you can submit all the necessary info to set up your LLC on the state website.  I didn’t even really have to put in all that much information, basically just my name, address, business name, and phone number, plus a few other basics about the business.  I paid a little less than $85 and that was it!

bobaloo! EIN screenshot

I figured since I was on a roll, I might as well go ahead and apply for an EIN from the IRS, which can also be done online here.  There is also a great FAQ about EINs here and a really helpful page about starting a business here.  That was super-quick as well and I had the number as soon as I finished answering a few questions.  As I understand it, an EIN (or tax ID number) is kinda like the business’s social security number - I’ll use it to open a bank account and file taxes for the business.

Seriously, all of this took me maybe half an hour (about the length of the talent section of the show - what about that ventriloquist, eh?).  I wish I had known from the beginning that it was so simple to do.  I wouldn’t have had to bother with that DBA that sat on my to-do list for months.  First thing Tuesday morning I had the confirmation that my LLC was approved in my inbox.

So next up on my list of paperwork and licenses is getting my sales tax license, which I honestly should have filed for from the beginning.  I’m reporting my income from the business on my personal taxes for 2010, so I’m just going to have to pay the sales tax.  If I had set up the whole sales tax thing before I started selling I would have known exactly how much money to set aside.  This is another task I can take care of online, but the EIN takes two weeks to appear in the IRS database so I think I’m going to wait until the end of the month.

How are you guys setting up your business?  Are you a sole proprietorship, LLC, something else?  Haven’t decided yet?  Have no clue what’s what?  I tell you what, I may have a business-y degree, but it’s a challenge to keep up with everything!

All of the acronyms in this post make me think of that Boyz II Men song from back in the day.  You know the one, at the end they say “Boyz II Men, BBD, ABC, the East Coast Family?  I had to google it to find the name – it’s Motown Philly!  How could I forget that?

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Weekend Links, January 15th

Read It
Biz Ladies: Top Ten Etsy Web Apps on Design Sponge.  I use a couple of these now (I’m hooked on Craftopolis and love the Statsy Clockbot for renewing), but a few were new to me. 

Recommended Reading from Megan at Crafting an MBA.  I get Megan’s newsletter (sign up for it, you’ll be happy you did) and this week she wrote about reading business books.  It’s no secret that I read A LOT and this list is chock-full of useful business reads.  Looks like my library request list is about to grow!

A Status Update from Blogging With Amy (via SimplyStacie on Twitter).  This post has a great infographic about Facebook – it is AMAZING how many people are on Facebook every day.  This really makes me want to work harder on my page!

Make it
I Heart Craft Social Swap (via Sister Diane on Twitter).  I’ve never done a swap before, but this one for Valentine cards sounds really fun.

Fitting a Pencil Skirt from The Cupcake Goddess.  I’m taking advantage of some downtime in my Etsy shop to actually sew something for ME!  I’m making a simple pencil skirt and I’m using this info to help with fit.  Actually, there’s a trouser sew-along going on at the Cupcake Goddess now, so I may be convinced to make a pair of pants too.

Win It
BEST. CONTEST. YET. on Prudent Baby.  Jaime and Jacinda are giving away two (TWO!) Brother sewing machines!  All three of my machines (sewing, embroidery/sewing, and serger) are Brothers and I love ‘em all.  You better believe I’m entering this one!  Go find out the details!

Thursday, January 13, 2011

New Product: the Director’s Cut

The original bobaloo got an American Girl doll for Christmas.  I’m not gonna lie, I was excited about this.  How fun is making doll clothes?  You get to use little bits of fabric, they go quick, and the doll never outgrows them.  It was inevitable that I would end up with a new product for the shop thanks to that doll.

glamour girl set flat

So Christmas day, I’m talking to my sister about doll clothes, and somehow one of us mentions little aprons.  Kate said I should make matching doll and girl aprons and my mind was off and running.

First, I was thinking I could make them out of Alexander Henry’s 2D Zoo, which is available in a regular size print and another that is the same print, only significantly smaller.  As much as I love that fabric I didn’t want that to be my only option.  I emailed my favorite fabric stores to see if any other manufacturers made the same print in two sizes.  No luck.

Now I know I could have just used the same fabric for both aprons, but I’m a stickler for the details.  Bridget got a matching doll and girl pajama set with her doll and I love the fact that the doll outfit is a miniature version of the girl outfit, right down to the pattern scale.

1 6 11 spoonflower fabric 1

A lightbulb went off – Spoonflower!  I could design my own fabric for the aprons!  Photoshop and I spent some quality time together and before I knew it, I had four different apron set designs printed and shipped right to my door.  I sewed them up and I just have to say, the first two sets turned out ADORABLE!

green leaves set on b glamour girl set close up on b

The pink Glamour Girl set and the Green and Yellow Leaves set are both available in my Etsy store now.  I have a super-cute pink set with an elephant detail and a very French set coming in the next week or so.

I bribe Bridget with suckers to model for my little girl products.  I thought you guys might enjoy a few outtakes from the apron set photo shoot - my personal favorite is the bottom left.

1 13 11 bobaloo! outtakes

It’s sad how many of my billions of ideas never see the light of day.  What triggers new ideas for you?  How many of your ideas actually get made?  Do share!

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Tutorial! Phone Case

bobaloo! phone case tutorial finished

I got a fancy new smart phone a few months ago. My former phone looks like a dinosaur chewed on it – it is a minor miracle the thing lasted as long as it did. In the interest of preventing my new phone from suffering the same fate, I whipped up a cute little case to keep it safe in the depths of my giant purse.
bobaloo! phone case tutorial materials
Here’s what you need:
  • A super-cute fabric for the outside (I used home-dec weight fabric from Drawing Room by Anna Maria Horner)
  • Fleece
  • Matching thread
  • velcro

bobaloo! phone case tutorial measuring

Measure your phone. Cut a piece of both your fabric and your fleece to the same size – the length should be the length of your phone x 2 + 4”, and the width should be the width of your phone + 1 3/4”.  Here are my calculations:

length: 5” (length of phone) x 2 = 10”.  10” + 4” = 14”.
width: 2 1/2” (width of phone) + 1 3/4” = 4 1/4”.

So my pieces of fabric are 14” by 4 1/4”.
bobaloo! phone case tutorial slits
Lay your fabric and fleece pieces on top of each other, right sides together.  Cut a little slit 1/2” long 3 1/2” down from one edge (perpendicular to the edge).  This is easier to see in a picture than describe, so look at the picture to get a better idea.  Remember you’re cutting through both layers – I’m showing the fleece side because it’s easier to see the cuts in the picture.
bobaloo! phone case tutorial sewing the flap
Now we’re going to stitch the end that’s going to become the flap.  Starting at the end of one of the slits and using a 1/2” seam allowance, sew toward one end, along the short edge, and down along the opposite edge until you reach the end of the other slit (the little arrows in the picture point to the slits).  Again, easier to understand in the picture!  Clip the corners.
bobaloo! phone case tutorial stitched ends
Sew along the opposite short end in a straight line, also using a 1/2” seam allowance.
bobaloo! phone case tutorial turned
Flip the whole thing right side out.  Use a chopstick or pencil to poke out the corners of the flap so they’re nice and sharp.  Press it flat, but be careful your iron’s not too hot because burning fleece smells really bad.  I wouldn’t know from experience, of course.
bobaloo! phone case tutorial topstitching
Topstitch all around the flap and across the opposite end of your fabric sandwich (the short end).
bobaloo! phone case tutorial velcro
Cut a 2” piece of velcro.  Stitch the loop piece (the softer of the two pieces of velcro) to the fleece side of the flap end of the pouch, about 1/2” from the edge.  Stitch the hook piece (the scratchier of the two pieces) to the fancy fabric side, also about 1/2” from the other end of the pouch.  (I realized after making this that my hook piece of velcro was too far down, so the placement in the picture is wrong.  Do as I say, not as I do.)
bobaloo! phone case tutorial serged
Fold the pouch in half, right sides together.  Line up the straight-across short edge with the slits in the flap end of the pouch.  I evidently failed to get a good picture of this, so I hope it makes sense!  Stitch down both sides, starting where the slits are and using a 1/2” seam.  I use my serger for this, but you could also use a regular sewing machine and trim down the seam allowances.  I usually thread the serger thread tails back through the stitches to secure them.
bobaloo! phone case tutorial open
Flip that bad boy right side out and put that fancy phone inside!

Let me know if you have any questions!  If you make one, I’d love to see it!

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Weekend Links, January 8th

Read It
How To Use StumbleUpon from sitepoint.  This article was mentioned during the Crafterminds chat on Monday.  I’ve never used StumbleUpon, but evidently it can bring you mad traffic and help others get traffic to their sites.

Sale Alert Friday: North American Edition on True Up.  If you have a fabric problem like I do, True Up is worth subscribing to for the Sale Alert posts alone (but you will LOVE the other posts too, I promise).  I have found a ridiculous number of good sales from these posts.

Make It
Brooches with Bite from CraftStylish.  These flowers made from zipper tape are SO cute!  I’m totally ripping an old zipper out of some Goodwill-bound clothes and trying this out!

Easy Lime Chicken Fajitas from Made.  Dana posted this recipe earlier this week and it literally made my mouth water.  These are for sure going on the meal plan for next week.

Print It
Printable Kids Coloring Cookbook from Taste of Home.  I forget who tweeted about this, but what a great idea!  I’ve been a Taste of Home subscriber for YEARS thanks to my Grannie and I’ve never seen it mentioned in the magazine.

Did you guys see anything good this week, or did you post anything extra-great on your blog this week?  Share it with us in the comments!

Oh, and I’ve got a new product coming out next week that I’m pretty excited about.  If you haven’t already, make sure you like bobaloo! on Facebook because I’ll be sharing pics there first!

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Spoonflower, Yet Another Way to Feed My Fabric Addiction

I’m working on some fun new stuff for the shop and I needed some pretty specific fabric.  I couldn’t really find what I was looking for (even after emailing a few of my fave online fabric shops) so I decided to print my own at Spoonflower.  Holy moly, so much fun!  And no, they didn't sponsor this - I was just really excited to share my VERY OWN fabric!

1 6 11 spoonflower screenshot

On Spoonflower you can upload your own designs and have them printed on a bunch of different base fabrics.  You can also shop other people’s designs – there are some AWESOME fabrics available!

I designed my fabric in Photoshop and uploaded it to Spoonflower, which was quick and easy.  My design is 42” wide and 16” tall, so I just set it up in Spoonflower as a basic repeat, checked the previews, and ordered my 3 yards (which came to a total of $54.60, in case you were wondering).

1 6 11 spoonflower fabric 1

Shipping was lighting fast.  I ordered on December 25th and the fabric was in my hot little hands on the 30th.  I washed it in warm water, ran it through the dryer, and ironed it. 

I really am happy with the fabric.  It is noticeably stiffer than the quilting weight cottons I usually work with, but I’m guessing it will soften up after a few washes (plus the stiffness makes it super easy to sew).  I don’t think I’d use it for apparel because it does wrinkle pretty easily.  If you’re sewing apparel, try one of the other base fabrics.

01 06 11 spoonflower fabric pink

The colors are really bright and crisp.  In a couple areas that are a solid color, like this pink, the color does look a little heathered.  However, some of the tiny tiny details are perfectly clear, which is really impressive.  And there’s a nice white margin around the entire printed area so you don’t have to worry about any of your design being trimmed off (which was really important for the future of this fabric).

Overall, I’ll for sure be a repeat Spoonflower customer.  I went with the quilting weight cotton because that’s what I typically use, but I think next time I’ll try another base fabric.  The ability to design fabrics for specific products has triggered a whole slew of new product ideas!

1 6 11 spoonflower fabric 2

If you have any questions about the process, feel free to ask.  And if you’re going to order, definitely check out their FAQ for some good info about getting your file ready to upload.  Oh, and I’ll share what this fabric becomes soon – a big thanks to my sister Kate for planting the idea in my head!

Have any of you tried Spoonflower or any other fabric printing service?  What would you do with your very own fabric designs?

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Need Some Free Business Advice? Check out SCORE!

My uncle was over the other day and mentioned that he heard one of the owners of Vera Bradley speak.  He was talking about how that company started like many of us did – with a little bit of money and a good product. 

1 4 11 score logo

I was reading about Vera Bradley on their website and noticed they used an organization called SCORE to help get the business up and running.  You can read all about SCORE here, but basically it’s a group of volunteer business experts who give free and confidential business advice to new business owners.  Turns out they even helped Jelly Belly!

I had a meeting with Jim Smith, a counselor at my local SCORE office, last week.  I mostly wanted to learn more about accounting and tax laws and luckily Jim is a CPA.  He gave me such great advice and encouraged me to call or come back anytime.

He gave me a few big recommendations.  First, it would be a good idea for me to set bobaloo! up as an LLC instead of a sole proprietorship.  As an LLC, my company would be a separate entity.  This is pretty important considering I make products for kids and babies.  As I understand it, if (God forbid) something would happen and I was sued, as an LLC only my business assets would be at stake.  I’ll have a bank account in the business name instead of my own, and I will have to file a separate tax return for bobaloo! instead of just adding it on to my personal taxes on a Schedule C.

Second, he encouraged me to get business insurance.  I emailed our insurance agent Paul (who has always been super-helpful with our own insurance) to get a quote so I can get an idea of the cost.  To be honest, I know diddly about business insurance, but I’ll pass on what I learn after I talk to Paul.

1 4 11 paperwork

Jim also recommended I keep paper records of everything and file them away.  I don’t currently print out sales invoices or email receipts, so I’ll have to get used to that.  Luckily printer ink is deductible!

I highly recommend checking out your local SCORE office even if you’re planning on keeping your business small.  It was easy and quick, and I learned SO much.  They have 364 offices around the country so there’s bound to be one near you.

I’m going to tackle the LLC first, so I’ll keep you guys updated on my progress.  It looks like I’ll be able to do most (or maybe all) of it online.  If you remember from my attempt to get a sales tax license, Indiana’s government website is kind of a train wreck so we’ll see how it goes.

Where do you go for business advice?  The internet, books, local business owners?  The more resources the better, so let us know your favorite!

Just a note – the advice I received (and my interpretation of it) may not work for you.  Make sure you talk to an accountant or other professional to get the best advice for your situation!

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Weekend Links, January 1st

Welcome to a shiny and new feature on the blog!  Every weekend I’ll share with you fun crafty and business stuff I’ve come across throughout the week.  Let’s get started!

happy new year!

Read it

  • Snap! Even More Photography Tips from Centsational Girl.  This post has some great side-by-side comparisons of pictures taken with flash, on auto/no-flash, and with manual settings.  I admit, I usually get lazy about taking pictures on manual, but this post made me realize what a difference it makes.

Print it

Make it

  • Mykea (via Photojojo).  This is just ridiculously awesome.  You upload a photo, and Mykea will print a decal of your photo to fit your bland, boring IKEA furniture.  The hubs and I are die-hard IKEA addicts, so this made me squeal!  We’re planning a trip there in a month or so and baby boy needs a new bookcase – just THINK of the possibilities!

Did you see something great this week?  Share it with us in the comments!  And Happy New Year, everyone!
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