Other Loves…

There are so many beautiful things to discover on the internet, and all of them make me want to develop a million new hobbies!

#1: I LOVE to build things!  For me one of the hardest things about our move last summer (besides moving away from my family) was knowing that I would no longer have access to my dad’s shop and mad wood-working skills! I haven’t built much, but the last couple of years I liked to imagine myself as the sort of person who could built things, and I had started dreaming about all the things I would build in the coming years! Moving away has definitely put that thought process on hold, but it has not died! I have a Pinterest board full of projects I want to build some day!

First on the list is this dresser from Old Paint Designs! Hubs and I have been without a dresser for a year now. He keeps hinting at buying one, but I really want to either build one or buy one from Goodwill and refurbish it! He’s so patient with me!!

dresser

And you can’t talk about a love of building things without talking about Ana White. I’m completed obsessed. I’ve been following the building of the Mom-Plex since the beginning and am constantly dreaming of building a coffee tables and bed frames. Needless to say, my place now is pretty devoid of furniture as I don’t want to buy anything, I want to build it all!!

#2: I’ve been obsessed with Embroidery for a while and need to pick a project and get going on it!! Big surprise, I have an Embroidery Pinterest board too 🙂

SONY DSCPolka & Bloom has my favorite embroidery patterns, I just need to decide which one to start with!

#3: And finally Quilting. It doesn’t help that I have 2 friends that are amazing quilters, and every time I see anything they’ve made it just makes me want to make a quilt too! These are some of my favorite from my Quilts Pinterest Board:

quilts

1. From Lovely Little Handmades

2. From The Crafty Cupboard

3. This was a user upload, so I can’t link to a site, but I LOVE it!

4. From Grand Revival Designs

Do you have a talent you’d like to cultivate? Please feel free to share so I don’t feel alone!

Ask Me Anything – Hand Health

“Don’t Your Hands Hurt?!”

I often get asked if all the sewing I do makes my hands hurt at night.

I normally answer with the short answer, “Not really”, and then about my day. Today I thought I would share the tips that I use to keep my hands from hurting.

I spend several hours at a time sitting and crocheting, and while I enjoy it I often worry about what my body is going to feel and look like in 5 years. My main concern is the use of my thumbs, wrist and elbows, as losing use of them by the time I’m 30 would be a disaster!

Below is a short list of the things I do to keep my hands in good shape. (Note: I have absolutely NO medical background and these tips are only coming from my own personal experience. I have spoken with doctors, chiropractors and physical therapists about this, but only in informal ways. These tips are my personal opinion and what works for me. Always see a doctor if you feel pain!)

– I try to sit somewhere comfortable, but not slouch-inducing. Sitting up straight keeps my elbows and wrists in line, thus reducing the stress on my arms. If I can I usually will put a pillow under my left elbow for support.

– I crochet quite loosely now, but I didn’t when I first started. As I got started I noticed that my hands would start to hurt after just an hour or so when I was crocheting tightly, but that if I loosened up a bit there was no discomfort. I concentrated on loosening up my stitches and now that’s just naturally how I sew. When I occasionally work on amigurumi  the tight stitches hurt my hands, which is why I don’t do it often, even though I love it!

-I don’t sit for hours at a time, I try to break up my sewing time. As you read in last weeks post I try to work my schedule so that I only am sitting for 3-4 hours at a time, at the very most. Usually after 2 hours of sitting I will try to take a break and walk around the block, or get some housework done.

– If I feel ANY discomfort I take a break immediately and ice my hands. This may seem extreme, but pain is rare for me so I take it seriously. If icing doesn’t help I’ve been known to take 2-3 days off from sewing before going back. I’m a bit of a hypochondriac about my hands, but I think that’s better then running them into the ground just so I can get an extra hour of work in a day.

– STRETCH YOUR WRISTS!

One-Arm-Assisted-Wrist-Stretch I found this great article 2 years ago, when my business was about 6 months old. It has some simple stretches you can do to ‘help prevent carpal tunnel’. Since I can barely touch my toes I can’t do the third one very well, but I do the first 2 a LOT throughout the day.

– Last but not least, I take Fish Oil tablets pretty regularly, as well as my daily mutli-vitamin. Fish Oil is supposedly an anti-inflammatory, in addition to a having a lot of other health benefits. If you talk to your doctor and decide to take Fish Oil just be sure to get the ‘No Fish Burps’ variety. Trust me, you’ll thank me. And so will whoever you’re smooching.

And that’s what I do to take care of my hands! In addition, I also try very hard to take care of my body.

Sitting all day is bad for your body, and especially hard on my legs. If I don’t exercise 2 days in a row I can really feel it in my legs by the end of the 48 hours. So what to do about it?

I exercise 5-6 days a week, for at least an hour a day. Hubs and I usually walk 3 miles 5-6 evenings a week, which is great because then I start and end my day with exercise.

Do you have any tips or tricks for keeping your hands, wrists or elbows in tip-top shape? Please feel free to share in the comments!

Small Business Spotlight: Avonli Cottage

I am SO excited for this first Small Business Spotlight! I roped my awesome friend Camilla in to being my guinea pig for the series. She has an AMAZING photo-prop business called Avonli Cottage. I’ll let her tell you about it!

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Hi! My name is Camilla and I am the woman behind Avonli Cottage. I have a fireball toddler girl, and an amazing husband.

Tell us a bit about your business. How did you get started? 

I specialize in newborn photography props. I hand make bonnets, pants, headbands, etc for newborn photography setups. I was first a photographer, and when I began to specialize in newborn photography, I realized how much I loved the props, and knew I could make them. So Avonli was born.

What is a typical day in your life? 

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Hmmm typical day. Because I have a daughter at home, I have to balance a lot around here. The size of Avonli requires that I work a lot of hours, but I’ve been implementing new ways to reduce those hours. I have two amazing women who sew for me, so between the three of us we can keep up with the orders, and two men who make props for the company. I also work with an awesome crochet vendor and a knit vendor who I do resale for. Monday and Wednesday my daughter is in preschool/daycare, so I try to pile the majority of my work into those two days. Those are my shipping days as well. On the other days, she and I have a morning routine that involves a walk and the park, and then she goes down to nap at noon. During her nap time, I answer emails, make items, and package. It is definitely a full time job, but one that lets me have flexible hours which I love. Some nights I’m up till two am, because I would rather play with my daughter that day, and that’s okay with me. 🙂

Where do you work?

I have a studio space in my house, thank heavens. I had a custom made cutting table that folds up into the wall, and a LOT of storage built into the closets, as well as a custom work table and wall storage organizer. I also put down hard wood for the flooring- I was tired of all the threads getting stuck in the carpet and vacuum, lol. It’s nice to have a separate room for that, it helps keep me sane. 🙂

What is your favorite thing about running your own business?

Getting to know so many awesome people. And seeing my items in use. That really is so gratifying.

What is the hardest thing for you in running your business?

Time management. There are times that I want to just quit, but I feel like we have been so blessed with Avonli, it is something I need to do. So as a family we make our schedule and do our best to stick with it. My husband has been extremely supportive, which makes it so much easier.

What surprised you the most when you started your business?

Fortunately, I had been a photographer before Avonli, so I wasn’t a stranger per se to small business. When I was a brand new business owner with photography however, I was surprised at how much it costs to effectively run a business legitimately. That means paying taxes, accounting, materials, equipment, etc, etc. My prices went up, fast. Lol. I didn’t want to be paying to work! 🙂

What advice would you give to other business owners out there?

Don’t undercharge. When you first start out in an industry, especially an arts one, its easy to mimic and undercut the competition. You will be kicking yourself later. I did. Lol. You will build a client base quickly when you are cheap, but when you actually have to charge what will make it worth it, then very few of that base come with you.  Sit down and really chart out what it will cost to have that business. What will be your start up costs? What equipment will you need? What is your gas cost if you travel? How much will you be paying in taxes? Do you need to charge sales tax?How much does it cost to set up a business legally with the state? Etc, Etc, Etc. Then when you’ve done that, you will know a little better about what you have to charge in order to make that money back quickly.

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Where do you get your inspiration?

Everywhere. Movies, books, fabric. I walk down fabric aisles like a crazy person, touching fabrics, trying to find interesting texture. Seeing certain materials will help me visualize how that material will look in a design. I also love vintage- I use a lot of vintage designs to inspire new ones.

What is one thing you would have done differently in the beginning?

Be true to who you are. This is easier to apply to an arts business. I wish I would have specialized immediately in photography- I tried to do everything, an never turned down paying jobs. I burned out quickly. It took a long time to get back to why I loved photography in the first place. So now I only shoot two types of photography, and having Avonli, a specialized organic newborn prop company helps a lot. I don’t try to do it all. I stick to my style and brand and it takes a lot of stress away. I think specializing can apply in a lot of fields.

What do you do when you’re NOT working?

Roasting marshmallows on a campfire, hiking, swimming, reading, and anything that doesn’t require a camera or sewing machine. 🙂

If you won the lottery today what is the first thing you would do?

Jane Austen country baby. Hahha. I SO want to go to Europe, England especially. After that, I’d wait for the real estate market to burst again and buy a ton of rental properties. 🙂

What did you want to be when you were little and do you think you ever will be that?

I wanted to be an attorney. Yea, I was a weird little kid. Maybe someday. At the end of my bachelors degree I was prepped and ready to start applying, but I just didn’t feel good about going to law school at that time. Maybe in the future it will open up.

avonli (3)

What is something people would be surprised to learn about you?

I’m bilingual. Also, I had a parasite once. His name was Benji.

Where do you hope to take your business in 5 years? 10?

I hope to still be kicking in 5 years, and still be growing.  If I’m not, then I hope I’m at least doing something I love like I love Avonli.

Thanks so much for having me!

Want to see more amazing props from Avonli Cottage? You can find her on Facebook and her Shop

A HUGE thanks to Camilla for letting us talk here! 

Do you know a business I should consider interviewing for an upcoming Small Business Spotlight? Leave a comment or email me with a link to their information and let me know! Wish I would have asked a different question? I will be changing up some of the questions in the future, so if you have something in particular you would like to know be sure to let me know! 

Thanks everyone! Happy Tuesday!

Ask me Anything!

Every so often I get an email from someone interested in knowing how I run my business. Day to day routine, how I store things, how I still have a life, etc. I’ve always wondered the same thing about OTHER business owners, and I’ve decided it’s time to find out!

I’m pleased to announce the beginning of TWO new weekly blog columns. Starting next Tuesday I will post an interview with a different home-based small-business owner each week, and starting today, each Friday I will answer one of the frequently asked questions I get asked often.

If you have a question to ask me, or know a small-business owner you think I should interview just let me know and I will do my best! So here we go…

ask me anything

 “What do you do all day?”

The most common people ask me is how I structure my day! I design patterns, sell finished products and manage all my online stores/blogs and ads.

A bit of background before I get to my actual schedule. I am married to a wonderful man who is just finishing his first year as a Junior High teacher and works a LOT. We don’t have any kids yet, so I am home alone often and get a lot of work done in a day. I write this hoping that others with kids at home, or those who work part or full time outside of the home will NOT compare themselves. Hopefully soon I will be dealing with running a business and having a baby running around, but for now it’s just us J

6:00-6:30

Try to get up. I am NOT a morning person, so some days I’m successful, others I’m in bed until 7:30. On the days I’m successful I spend the early morning on the computer, looking for new crochet blogs to follow, marketing through Facebook and replying to emails. This is also when I usually do my blog-writing (It’s 6:30 as I’m writing this, so today was a good day!)

8:00-11:00

I ride my bike to the gym sometime between 8 and 8:30, depending on how caught up I get writing or marketing! I take some sort of class at the gym every morning for an hour. I love to spin and I take a weights class as well. On the weekends I run. I’m usually at the gym for about an hour and a half, which might sound like a long time, but honestly, this is the majority of my social interaction for the day. I have some great friends there that I take classes with daily, and I really love it. By 11:00 I’m home and showered.

11:00-3:00

These are main ‘sit down and crochet’ hours. I always have a big master list of what I need to get done before my next craft show or to send to the store I sell my hats at. When I have a show coming up I make myself a schedule, figuring out how many hats I should be able to make a day and then planning what days I will make them on. Right now I’m getting ready for a show in June and have committed myself to making 4 hats a day for the next 5 weeks. I often will do an extra 1 or 2 every day so that if something comes up in the future I don’t get behind schedule.

3:00-4:00

Back to the computer to check on emails again. This is also when I start working on patterns. If I’m not working on writing a new pattern at the time then I’m usually working on updating an old pattern.

4:00-6:00

Hubs usually gets home around 4:00 and goes straight to lesson planning for the next day, so I’m off the computer and back to sewing. I try to use this time to work on new patterns, but if I’m feeling like I’m in a design funk then I usually go back to making hats. I try not to force myself to be creative when I’m not feeling it, and I never know when the mood will strike, so the more ahead of schedule I get then the more time I can take off to design later when I’m feeling crafty!

6:00-12:00

Hubs is usually done with school stuff by dinner, so after eating we go on a long walk, or to the pool. Sometimes we pop some popcorn and watch a movie. Mostly we just do something together. He’s usually tired and in bed by 9:00 and on days that I was up at 6:00 I go to bed with him and read for a bit. On days I slept in I usually stay up and do my computer stuff that I should have done in the morning!

So that’s a typical day. Sometimes I go out to lunch with friends, or babysit a friends kids so they can go grocery shopping, but I don’t have a car, so I can’t go far. Often Hubs will have more work to do after 6:00 and I spend more time crocheting in the evening. I always get work done on the weekends too, but there’s really not typical schedule to it, it’s just whenever we don’t have something going on! Hubs works a lot on the weekends, but we try to do something fun on Saturday, even if it’s only for an hour or two.

What can YOU take away?

My biggest piece of advice for anyone who wants to run their own business is to try to structure your day so that you don’t get burned out. I have a hard time sitting for more then 4 hours doing the same thing, so I don’t. I break up the way that I work so that I get to do multiple things a day. I also do things this way to give my hands a break. I have no evidence for this, but I can’t imagine it’s good to keep your hands busy with repetitive motions for 10 hours straight.

You may also notice that I spend most of my day sitting. I’m an active person, so all the sitting can be hard for me, which is why going to the gym everyday is important for me. I bike there and then jog for about 30 minutes before my hour-long class starts and then bike home. Unless Hubs and I go on a long walk in the evening (which we do about 75% of the time) I don’t get a lot of movement during the day, and I can feel a huge difference at the end of the day. Even just walking down the street for 10 minutes makes a difference. Be sure to take care of yourself so that you can keep doing what you love!

So that’s it for the first “Ask Me Anything!” If you have a question you’d like me to answer leave a comment or email me and I will try to get to it! Come back tomorrow for a round-up of homemade Mothers Day Gifts!

Granny Square (mini) Blanket

 2013-03-09 17.51.112013-03-08 13.50.45-1
Since there were a lot of requests for the instructions to make a mini-blanket picture I shared I Facebook I thought I would share my pattern here.

This pattern can really be used to make ANY size granny square blanket, I just happened to make very small ones. Mine took a little over 2 hours and are made of 9 granny squares, each approx. 6″. With the border they topped out at about 20″. Like I said though, make as many as you want and make your blanket as big as you want!

Disclaimer: This pattern has not been tested by anyone but myself and I cannot guarantee that the edging and everything will come out perfectly if you change the size from what I did. Feel free to play around with it, but please don’t make a King-Size blanket and get mad at me if the stitch count is off!

Basic Granny Square

Each Granny Square followed the same pattern. You can use any size hook you like, I used an H. You can also use any color(s) you like. For my mini-blankets I used 3 different colors, changing colors at the end of each round. For the pink/gray/ivory blanket the exact colors are: Vanna’s Choice in Dustry Rose (Color A), Vann’s Choice in Beige (Color B) and Hobby Lobby’s I Love This Yarn in Gray Mist (Color C). As you can see from the photo’s above, I didn’t do my colors all the same, I did 2 different color patterns.

For one I did: Round 1 in Color A, Round 2 in Color C, Round 3 in Color B and Round 4 in Color A again.

For the other I did:  Round 1 in Color B, Round 2 in Color C, Round 3 in Color A and Round 4 in Color B again.

So, once you’ve chosen your colors You are ready to begin to make your Granny squares! First, some abbreviations:

ST – Stitch     CH – Chain     DC – Double Crochet     Sl St – Slip Stitch     HDC – Half Double Crochet

Round 1: CH 4 (or use the Magic Loop) and DC 2 times in the 4th ST from hook, CH 3 (The CH 4 counts as your first DC). *DC 3 times in loop, CH 3*. Repeat from * to * 2 more times. Join with a Sl St at the top of your first DC. Sl St in next 2 ST. (See picture below)

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Round 2: CH 3 (Counts as first DC) and DC 2 times in CH 3 space from previous Round. CH 3, DC 3 more times in CH 3 space. *DC 3 times, CH 3, DC 3 more times* in each CH 3 space around. Join with a Sl St at top of your first DC. Sl St in next 2 ST. (See picture below)

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Round 3: CH 3 (Counts as first DC) and DC 2 times in CH 3 space from previous Round. CH 3, DC 3 more times in CH 3 space. DC 3 times in space between groups of 3 DC (see photo below).

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*[DC 3 times, CH 3, DC 3 more times] in next CH 3 space, DC 3 times in space between groups of 3 DC*. Repeat from * to * around. Join with a Sl St at top of first DC. Sl St in next 2 ST. (See picture below)

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Round 4: CH 3 (Counts as first DC) and DC 2 times in CH 3 space from previous round. CH 3, DC 3 more times in CH 3 space. DC 3 times in space between groups of 3 DC. DC 3 times in next space between groups of 3. (See picture below)

1

*[DC 3 times, CH 3, DC 3 more times] in next CH 3 space, DC 3 times in space between next group of 3 DC, DC 3 times in space between next group of 3*. Repeat from * to * around. Join with a Sl St at top of first DC. (See picture below) At this point I fastened off and used a tapestry needle to work in the ends. However, you can keep going and make your blocks bigger if you like, just be sure they are all the same size.

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As I stated earlier, my mini-blankets were made up of just 9 squares. 2013-03-09 12.14.22

I laid them out to make sure I had the colors correct and then got to joining them!

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Now, you really can join them anyway you want to, but for the blanket as pictured I used this awesome tutorial from Carina’s Craftblog. It is a bit complicated when you first try it out, but she’s got great pictures, and I was able to get some more of Color B into the blanket like I wanted to! The only difference between between her blanket and mine is that I used a HDC stitch to join them rather than a DC/Treble and she does.2013-03-09 14.10.18

For the 2 blankets I have pictured I followed Carina’s instructions until the very end, when she says to go around the edge makign another “granny” row. I decided not to do this step, as I made my own border, but that was a mistake! It made the border much more difficult, so I would recommend following her directions completely! I’m going to give the bordeer directions as if I had follow her completely, so while mine will look a little bit different, yours will be much easier! I did do 1 more blanket following her directions and it was much easier, but I was dumb and forgot to take pictures of it!

Border

For the border, join Color B into the top of any 3 DC group and Ch 1. HDC in each ST across side of blanket. When you come to the corner HDC 3 times in the space and then continue to HDC down the next side.

When you’ve gone around once, join Color A or C and HDC around again. This time, when you come to a corner, HDC 3 times in the 2nd of the 3 HDC from the previous round.

1

When you’ve completed the second round join in your last unused color (A or C) and Ch 1 (counts as SC). Skip next 2 ST, DC 5 times in next ST, skip next 2 ST. *SC in next ST, Skip next 2 st, DC 5 times in next ST, skip next 2 ST*. Repeat from * t0 * around. Now, you SHOULD have the exact number of stitches needed to finish out this round completely, and I appologize if you don’t! If you don’t, you may need to add another SC or 2 in in order to make it work. As I said, I’ve done 3 of these blankets and it’s always worked for me perfectly, so hopefully it will work for you too!

2013-03-09 17.51.11

So there you have it. That’s how I made my mini-blankets! I don’t plan on making many more anytime soon, but if you have questions please feel free to email me. I can’t promise anything, but I will do my best to help! Such a great lazy afternoon project!

Lots of Patterns at A GREAT price!

Facebook giveawayFor anyone that loves getting new patterns, I’ve got a great deal for you! Through Wednesday, January 23rd, you can purchase a 2013 Pattern Package. For $50 you will get EVERY new pattern I offered delivered to your inbox, the day it comes out! I’m guaranteeing a minimum of 30 patterns released this year, so with this deal patterns will cost you a minimum of $1.66 each! This is the cheapest price you will get all year, so jump on it now while you can! You can buy HERE.