Saturday, June 27, 2009


We drove up to Massanutten, Virginia for a mini-vacation and our annual reunion with hubby's 3 sisters and their families. We rented a huge 7 bedroom house. The set up here is actually perfect. The kids can go outside and I don't have to freak out...well, if you forget about the gigantic black bear that was sighted down the road. So other then THAT, and the fact that we are the side of of a mountain, it feels safe. hehe

The car ride went OK. Started with Lily screaming and ended with her screaming. Ear plugs for everyone just might be a purchase for the trip home.

We have had a really nice time. I can't believe I contemplated missing this to work on orders. What was I thinking?? I do need this. I love my dh's family, his sisters and my nieces/nephews. They are all so good to my kids. It's just easy. Everyone gets along.

I brought my tie dye stuff and a bunch of blanks that I had ordered and we had a day of tie dyeing. I did the prep work and the clean up and the everyone did their own shirt. Not knowing everyone's sizes, I ordered extras and I intend to offer those for sale, at the Riverside Arts Market or perhaps my etsy store. I love tie dyeing! It's so satisfying, hard work but satisfying.

The shirts curing in plastic bags.
A few of the family shirts.
These are the extras!

Gotta go! They are returning from the water park and it's dinner time!

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

working, working, working

Sometimes, a picture says it all. These will be going out this morning, a battle against time. We leave for vacation tomorrow morning and not one thing is packed. These, however, will begin their journey across the North American continent and to Australia, too.

Monday, June 22, 2009

My studio

I spent some time this afternoon cleaning my studio and rearranging things to better fit the industrial serger. This is what I ended up with.

It makes me so much happier to work in a clean space! My cutting table is right behind me as I took the picture. It has bits of fabric still on the floor so I didn't take a picture. Just pretend the whole workspace is neat and clean and I won't show pics of the kitchen or bathroom. They aren't terrible, terrible but they aren't organized either.

And here is my latest tool, a used electric rotary cutter. It cuts like butter. Fairly easy to use and it saves my body a ton of wear and tear. That doesn't even address how quickly I was going through rotary blades! This thing has a self-sharpener. I am scared though because there is no safety mechanism and no off switch. So, I will have to be UBER cautious if I'm using it and the kids come to visit me.

I spent the past 3 days prepping fabric, cutting and organizing my work space. Now I am ready to crank out some orders. :) I am thankfukl that my orders slowed down. It was getting to be overwhelming especially since we have our vacation coming up in a few days. Now I feel like I can relax on vacation and tackle undone things when we get back.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Unpaper towels created 6/19. (A few aaditional ones didn't make it in the pic. They will be heading to their new homes tomorrow. I usually switch the ribbon colors around but tonight I did them all the same. It's now 4:00 a.m. and I'm heading to bed.

Friday, June 19, 2009

(wo)man vs the Machine

So, I want to tell you that I just adore my new industrial serger. I want to tell you that my 16 years of home serger use gave me a huge advantage and that I would sit down and know exactly what to do. I expected there to be nice knobs for adjusting the differential feed and stitch length. And that between my knowledge and the instruction manual, that we would be well on our way to a harmonious relationship.

Are you laughing yet? If you know anything about an industrial serger, I bet you are.

I bought my wonder new piece of machinery 2nd hand which means that I don't get the benefit of picking the phone up and calling my dealer everytime something goes wrong. That is a pretty big deal. But, the savings of buying (barely) used vs brand new was too great to pass up. So I have to muddle through this myself.

Yesterday, I achieved some level of success with actually using the machine and serging up my unpaper towels. I had previously been afraid that I could never manipulate the small fabric fast enough. After lots of trial and error, I started getting the hang of it. I slowed down at the corners and I appreciated the speed on the sides. That was an area on my home serger that I felt like I could braid my hair waiting for the serger to work down the 4 sides. (Not really but it felt like that.)

The industrial serger is FAST, way faster then I really need. I can only imagine going full blast if I were making curtains. I did run some fabric through at full speed and I ended up biting a hunk of the middle of the fabric into the seam. Whoops! I just couldn't arrange the fabric quick enough.

I had lots of mess-ups but I think I am almost at a point where I can let my home serger take a mini-vacation with the service shop.

Notable facts about an industrial serger.

There is no presser bar lever. I have 2 pedals, the left is the speed, the right lifts the presser foot. I have adapted fairly well and it's actually a nice change. I'm not as good controlling the speed with my left foot but it's not really an option to use my right foot on that pedal because it would be an akward twist of my body to access the serger.

The machine uses oil and a LOT of it. It took half a quart to fill it. When I serge fast, you can see oil bubbling up to the top of the machine under a little plastic bubble. It's kind of weird and cool.

It's a PAIN is the arse to thread. About 10 times harder then a home machine and tweezers are definately needed even when threading the needles. I can thread my home serger without tweezer if need be. It's probably a bit quicker with tweezers but half the time I don't know where they are, usually buried under fabric. I will HAVE to keep track of my tweezers...or maybe buy a few extra to keep floating around.

It's a teeny bit noisy. Is has a separate motor that is attached under the table. Oh, and yes...has to be attached to a table so it's not portable.

The instruction book is pretty useless. It's written in 4-5 languages and each section is lacking. The diagram for threading it is not clear enough and not big enough for me to be 100% sure. There is plenty of room for error!

Adjusting the stitch length and differential feed involves opening the machine up and pushing buttons that don't look like buttons or twisting knobs that don't look like they want to be unscrewed. Not exactly abundantly clear even when looking at the instuctions.

But, it IS faster. And I'm starting to warm up to it. It will help me be more productive. But, I expect that it will give me plenty of headaches until we become more accustomed to each other.

June Sales Stats (so far)
162 unique customers, mostly new but a few repeat buyers in there, too (thank you!)
221 sets of unbleached unpaper towels sold (5 packs and bakers' dozens) That's approx 2700 individual UPTs!!
3 'deluxe' sets of hand dyed unpaper towels
12 sets of flannel cloths
1 apron
96 packages shipped
71 to be shipped (to date)

Holy moly! Never, I and mean NEVER would I have dreamed that I would post stats like that. This month's sales mean that I was able to pay CASH for the industrial serger, CASH (OK, the debit kind) for all the other supplies that I need to run my business - like shipping supplies (polymailers, labels, tissue paper,) a large order from dharma for dyes and blanks, 16 spools of serger thread, 400 yards of fabric, an industrial iron and a new cutting tool. And if I weren't saving to become incorporated, I could pay the household back for the purchases that started my business. And one of these days, in the near future, I might even be able to pay myself for the bazillion hours a week I am pouring into this business. And that money will be mainly earmarked for debt and hopefully a bit of renovating of my studio.

Hurray! Dave Ramsey would be proud, I think. It feels WONDERFUL to be able to offer such a great product to my customers and to reap benefit that will directly impact the lives of our family.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

I have reached a level of success that I didn't know was possible

My's good. Don't get me wrong, it is a LOT of hard work. My neck, collarbone and arms are SORE from handling 6+ yards of fabric at a time. The part of the process that makes me sore is hanging 6-12 yards of wet fabric on the line. It's hard work but the pay-off is that I don't have to iron the fabric before I cut out my unpaper squares. I'm sure a bigger operation wouldn't go through the steps of pre-washing, drying and then hanging wet fabric on the line. I do it because it makes the end product better. I have tried taking short cuts in the interest of saving time...and the results were not desirable.

Anyhow, I am not getting a whole lot of sleep. I am constantly working or doing research or ordering supplies. Every ounce of extra energy is going towards this business. And I'm excited. I believe in my product and I am tickled with the amazing feedback that is rolling in.

I bought a slightly used industrial serger from a couple last night. They had plans to make some sort of dog products but they put the project on hold and decided to outsource the work. They knew a little bit about how to operate the serger but not the level of expertise that I would have gotten if I had purchased from a dealer. At 50% of the retail price, my husband and I will muddle though it. And yes, I said my husband. This serger is way beyond me at this point in time! It's like man equipment, for sure! It's seriously fast. Like faster then my hands can manipulate a 10" square piece of fabric. I am hoping that with practice, I will get better! It's not fully set up in my studio just yet so I can't start that process just yet.

I have also ordered an electric rotary cutter and I'll be looking into an industrial iron. My beloved Rowenta just isn't cutting it anymore.

I have approx 100 orders to fill. My short-term goal is to do 18 orders a day. That will catch me up, exceed my customer's expectations on shipping and place me in a good place next week when we leave for a 5 day vacation/mini-reunion with my husband's 3 sisters and their families. We are heading to Virginia, driving...not taking the camper.

I took a couple hours last night to finish up loose ends. I owed 2 packages that I owed to gals from an online bb. One was for photo magnet buttons and some unpaper towels. The other was for 2 toddler outfits. I have one more photo magnet button order to do and then I can 100% focus on my etsy orders. Here are the 2 outfits that I made. My ultimate goal was QUICK yet cute projects and these went together super fast. And I think they are adorable. And I'm pretty sure they would fit Lily so I'm a little sad they aren't staying here! LOL

Now I'm going to get a bit religious and delve into a very sad subject. Read at your own risk.

Today is the 4th anniversary of the unexpected death of our youngest son, Nolan James. It is not a day of celebration, like his birthday, but a day of mourning. A day to reflect on what we lost and the horrifying details of June 17th, 2005. I miss him and still feel an unmeasurable sense of loss and sadness. I just know that he would have been a very special 4 year old if he had been allowed to stay here with our family.

I have spent the past 4 years holding God at arms' length. Actually, I think I tried to throw him right out of my life with the sheer magnitude of my anger geared towards him. I obviously couldn't budge him. He was still there, watching me. I told myself that he did it with indifference because he obviously didn't care about ME since he allowed my precious son to die. That wasn't the God I knew.

I feel like God is making it clear that he does care about me and that he is guiding me towards success with my business. I can't really claim any credit for it. There are so many people that work hard, make a product and then struggle to find the right audience for it. I am no different. It is things that are outside of my control that has driven traffic to my store. I'm not a marketing expert. I don't know the right words to say to close a deal. I've just put myself on the line, like so many others.

I guess that all I'm trying to say is that this success makes me feel like God is trying to reach out to me and offer a proverbial olive branch. That he does care and that he is calling me to do this work. So I will work. And maybe I will try to start forgiving him. Maybe.

Friday, June 12, 2009


I can't believe it's been 2 and a half weeks since my last entry. All I can say is that I have been busy!

My oldest child, a niece we have been raising since she was 2, went to visit her mom in SC. My oldest son, Greyson, turned 9 on the 8th. Poor kid...we had to reschedule his party due to the fact our toddler was really sick. So this was our little salvaged party at home. Real party coming up soon.

Greyson was the first baby born to me, 2nd in our home. He is a super easy, delightful kid. He also has a quiet sense of humor. I'm so glad I get the pleasure of being his mom.

These cookies came from RosewoodHill. She replied to my alchemy request on Etsy and she made 2 WONDERFUL cookies for the birthday boy. Also got him a Jedi robe from CustomKids

And, my business? BUSY! I found out I was featured on a website.

I sold more then 40 sets of my unpaper towels is a very short time frame. I am in complete shock and awe. I would write more but I have a heck of a lot of orders to process!

Oh one more thing...

I'll be in the July Spotted Box. I stayed up until 3:00 a.m. to get my samples prepared. I wanted to get this out of the way so that I can work on my unpaper towel orders. Phew! I just need to work on my ads and then I'll be all set.

And 2 lucky Spotted Box buyers will get a FREE package of unpaper towels!! Who will win?

Can you see how I SEWED these closed?? :D That was fun! I have had these small manilla envelopes forever and they don't work well for my shipping needs so I cut them in half, stuffed them and sewed them closed.
I recently made some girly burp cloths for a friend. She bought one set and I put a set up on my etsy store. After a sea of off-white unpaper towels, this little project tickled heheOK, I really have to go. since I started this, my toddler used her little potty and tried to clean it out in our bathroom sink. Sound goods but not really! She also scratched the heck out of her big brother. And my middle daughter helped herself to Coke for breakfast. Aye aye aye!