Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Happy Holidays!

I've been saving this bit of holiday cheer to share with you closer to Xmas. Every year at work, I head up the "adopt-a-family" program at work. A local charity that helps families in need throughout the year assigns families for adoption that need help over the holidays. This year, we adopted 4 families with a total of eight kids ranging in age from 4 to 15. They send over their wish lists for Christmas gifts, and we collect what we can, wrap everything and donate to them. Even with the economic downturn this year, my co-workers were generous as always and we put together a ton of toys - from Barbie dolls to an iPod, plus gift cards to Target, Best Buy, Blockbuster and a variety of other places. We also do a food drive to collect non-perishable goods and top it off with a grocery store gift card for each family. I thought it might be fun to share some photos of the process. =)
On that note, HAPPY HOLIDAYS to you all!!

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

'Tis shiny indeed

Our anniversary evening was lovely last night. We exchanged gifts (I got him an xbox 360, he got me a watch) and then went out to dinner. The server at the restaurant coincidentally was the same guy that headed up the waitstaff on the evening of our wedding reception that we had there. He gets two thumbs up from me! After dinner, we went to Best Buy to get a second controller for the xbox and then played a few rounds of Kung Fu Panda with the new toy. I am pretty much horrendous when it comes to video games, although he has now been instructed where to get a good deal on Guitar Hero for me. Hehe.

So, on the more crafty end of things, I've been hearing about people unraveling sweaters and reclaiming yarn for a while. I've never been one for patience when it comes to thrifting, but while out searching for a horrible holiday sweater for a party this weekend, I figured I'd take a look at some other sweaters to give recycling the yarn a try. I found a nice cabled sweater in a cream color. The fiber is a wool/cotton/acrylic blend and it was $5.99 at the local thrift shop.

With a little help from this tutorial, I have so far removed one sleeve, which came apart pretty easily. There were a few knots and breaks while unraveling the first sleeve, but overall a quick and easy experience. The yarn appears to be about fingering weight and I have no idea how much yardage so far, but the ball I made is about 4 inches in diameter. That's just from one sleeve! I'm going to be able to make a lot of socks with this I think...and I also think it's going to encourage me to experiment with dying the yarn. Yup, I might be out of control!

Monday, December 22, 2008

One Year Ago Today

It's crazy to think that one year ago today was my wedding day. I'm wondering how the time passed so quickly and thinking of all the things we've done in the last 12 months - most importantly buying our first home.We banished my parents, who are visiting from England for the holidays, to my brother's house so that we can have the day to ourselves. This evening we're going out to dinner at the restaurant where we had our reception for out of town family (best filet ever!) We'll be enjoying some live jazz and a bottle (or two) of wine - normally wouldn't be drinking on a Monday night, but special occasions don't count.

He's been trying to guess what his gift is for the last week since I snuck it in the house, wrapped it and shoved it in the downstairs storage closet. Seeing as first anniversary is traditionally a paper gift, I keep telling him that I wrapped a 24 pack of toilet paper for him. I don't think he believes me though. On the other side, he got me something "shiny", which I'm pretty sure is jewelry. Pictures of my new "shiny" gift to follow!

Thursday, December 18, 2008

There's a hole in my cashmere!

Now that the weather has finally reduced itself to a nasty cold here in L.A., the winter clothing has been making its way out of the closet. So, when I put on one of my favorite sweaters this morning, I was definitely distraught to find this hole....I will say that the hungry moth that chowed down on my sweater has good taste seeing as this is the only cashmere sweater I own!! I'm pretty sure the incident occurred in the apartment I used to live in as I would find the occasional moth there. The weird part being that I haven't lived there for nearly 2 years and I've definitely worn this sweater since then. However, seeing as the hole is on the bottom toward the back, perhaps I just never noticed. Since taking up various fiber arts in the last couple of years, I've been a lot more conscious about watching for moths in general.

Of course, having found the hole this morning, my first thought was to check the seams to see if the yarn can be reclaimed and I'm completely in luck! I can't bring myself to rip up the sweater and recycle the yarn just yet, but I'm so happy to know that I have that option available to me. When I can finally bring myself to do it, I'm going to have a ton of pretty orange and cream lace weight cashmere to play with. Just like the clouds outside right now...there is a silver lining.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Important ruling - CPSC and the little guy

Many of you may not have heard about the new Consumer Products Safety Commission (CPSC) regulations, due to go into effect on February 10, 2009. The new ruling, known as the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act (CPSIA) passed in August 2008 and was originally intended for more stringent testing of children's items imported from foreign manufacturers, including testing for lead and dangerous phthalates in children's items. However, this will affect anybody who sells items for children under the age of 12 in the U.S. and will require them to seek stringent testing of their items. It includes toys, jewelry, clothing, school supplies, and anything else you can think of that may be used by children.

Although the laws were created to increase regulation of imported items, those of us in the handmade line of work will be directly affected by this as the way the act was passed did not address the impact this ruling would have on the safer items made in the U.S. The certification testing that this regulation requires involves a cost of $300+ per batch. A batch is considered to be a group of a single product that all where made using the same material lot - therefore if you make handknit baby blankets, they would need to all be made from the exact same yarn and dye lot to be considered a batch. The manufacturer of the yarn is not responsible for testing, only the maker of the end product. Given that those making handmade items for babies and children are generally making something that's one of a kind, or at least in limited amounts, this would essentially put stores making handmade items for children out of business given the financial repercussions of compliance. Non-compliance can lead to hefty fines and possible jail time.

If you'd like to read up more about the regulations going into effect, here are a few helpful links.

FAQs on the CPSC website

Handmade Toy Alliance
CPSC Petition
GK Law Article
Fashion Incubator Article

Whether you are the maker of handmade children's items, or someone who enjoys buying children's items that are handmade here in the U.S. with care, this will affect you. Those of us who handmade things for children and babies ask that you look into this law and contact your congressman, the CPSC, local media outlets, or take a few minutes to sign the online petitions regarding this ruling.

Friday, December 12, 2008

I'm featured on another blog!

I'm so used to being the one featuring sellers on a blog that it was a pleasant surprise to be asked to be the featured seller on somebody elses! Check out meanbean's blog to see. =)

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Smells to smile about

Thank you to everybody that commented on my post below, providing a commentary on commercial vs. handmade. It's encouraging to know that I am not alone in my thoughts and I will say that I have learned a lot from the experience. From now on, I will certainly be a lot more careful about choosing where I sell my goods and make sure that I have the right audience to appreciate the work that goes into making each item with the love of my craft.

I am finally getting around to photographing and listing in my Etsy store the items that are left over from the vendor fair, starting with the scented sachets I made. It brought a smile to my face this morning when I opened the storage tub and the fragrance of lavender and mulberry filled my nostrils! It also made me laugh a little to think about when I brought home all the sachet pellets and the entire house was filled with "girly smells" (as my husband described it). I can't describe how fun the fragrance is through the computer screen, but take a whiff. =)

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Commercial vs. handmade...the truth in action

As you may be aware, I have spent the last 3 weeks knitting, crocheting, sewing, taping, sticking, and who knows what else in preparation for the vendor fair I attended yesterday. After all of that, what was the end result? To be honest, I was a little disappointed.

I am very proud of my craft(s) and it's certainly an honor to be able to share that with the outside world and get a concept of what the general public thinks. After all, while I certainly appreciate my husband's opinion (and thankfully he's very good at being honest), it's also nice to know what a complete stranger thinks.

After yesterday, it's been confirmed in my mind that there is something to be said for an appreciation of the art that goes into handmade. I was one of 6 vendors that attended the fair - three of us selling our handmade wares, the other three were offering mass produced items (namely purses, framed posters and holiday cards). This was really a true test of handmade vs. commercial in my mind.

I found that I certainly received a lot of "oh, you're so talented" or "oh, your things are so cute" comments. I received admiration and comments about knitting being a dying craft, but this somehow did not translate into a lot of sales. While I did make a few sales, most people would squeal how adorable one of my items was....then go purchase a purse from the booth next to mine. I may not be the best salesperson alive, but the commercially made bags sold themselves, whereas I found myself constantly explaining my craft, what inspires me, why I love it as much as I do.

The kicker truly came when a nice looking gentleman in an expensive suit and tie came by and was looking at my 5"x7" matted photography prints. He noted how nice the prints were and inquired how much I was selling them for. I told him that they were $20 (which I still consider to be under priced but I had to go with my anticipated audience on this one) and that, as the artist, I would be happy to sign the print if he'd like. He exclaimed "$20?!!" as if I'd just asked him to hand over his soul and scurried off into the distance. At that point, I didn't know whether to cry a little, or laugh. The vendor next to me sold over 20 framed generic reproduction posters (he sold an amazing number of Kobe Bryant posters) with a price ranging from $35-$65 in a little over an hour, while I quietly pondered the value of my art.

It didn't improve when another person came over and asked me how much it costs to make my notecards - I believe the comment was "I mean, this can't cost you more than 50 cents". My husband told me later that the correct response would be a pro-ration of the $2000 camera, the travel costs to the different locations, the time taking the photographs, downloading them, organizing them, picking the perfect shots, uploading them to the printer, costs of the prints themselves, the shipping, the cardstock and the time taken to mount each one by hand. When you think of it like that, the notecard being sold for $4 is a steal. My husband's answer may have been the more direct approach, but I found myself justifying how I shoot my photographs and the time I take to carefully compose each shot because I'm not much of a believer in post-production (hence my business name). The man seemed surprised that I don't just hold down the shutter button and click about then see if I got a good shot later. I eventually gave up trying because I didn't feel like I needed to explain myself to him and remembered to not take it personally - although it's a really hard thing to do.

When I returned home slightly disillusioned by the day, I started looking at the humor of it all. While the masses may not appreciate the skill involved, I can be happy with myself knowing that I can create and do it well. At the very least, I regained the cost of my materials and I am now able to move forward with a supply of holidays gifts for my friends that are already made, and of course a month's worth of Etsy listings for my shop!

Monday, December 1, 2008

Don't bother me, I'm crafting!

I think I've been firmly entrenched in my crafting bubble over the last 2 weeks. While I had made a bunch of things for the last craft fair, when I really started thinking about the upcoming craft fair this Wednesday, I started panicking...just a little (ok, a lot). My biggest concern was that I just wouldn't have enough inventory for a building with 2,500+ tenants. So, I put my head down and got to work, even creating my own little excel spreadsheet (I'm a big nerd like that) to track inventory with. As of last night, I have 109 items!!

While knitting and crocheting up a storm, I realized that my hands might fall off, so next thing you know I'm sewing scented sachets, eye pillows, purses, and doing holiday penguin rub-on transfers to candle votives. I'm very proud of my insane achievement though and excited to get to show it all to a bunch of strangers on Wednesday!

One last thing on the needles for now and then mostly organization and sewing on buttons to finish everything off. Of course, many pictures from the show to come.... The good news is that the husband and I just started the planning for our bathroom remodel and of all goes well this will be a nice head start on paying for the floor tile!