Old shop, new chapter 

Hello dear friends!  I’m blogging! Is that still a thing people do? Do people still   take the time to click on a link that takes them to another site and away from their news feed? I don’t know. Nor do I know if a blog is still a good way to advertise one’s product.  I suspect it’s not.  But I am going to do it anyway, just as a means to update those of you who might be interested in my Etsy shop. But I think from this point I will be doing most of my advertising via social media.

If you follow me on Facebook or Instagram at all, you know I have been contemplating opening my shop again after a looong hiatus.  I’ve debated the pros and cons, told myself I have too much on my plate to tackle sewing right now and generally hesitated to jump back in.

But three things convinced me-

-several people asking if I would please reopen

-the fact that I am always sewing anyway so I might as well try to make some money on it

– and, well, money. Spare cash is always acceptable.

Of course I am busy. I have five kids. I homeschool. I work part time for my church and our house is still in process of remodeling.  But I figured if I had a few spare minutes, I would just sew what I had time for, have some fun and not stress about it.

There are some things I learned from the last time I was selling dolls etc.  Most people aren’t going to shell out money for an expensive doll unless its Christmas or some other really special occasion which always made the Christmas season more than a bit overwhelming.  Custom orders and last minute Christmas dolls will have to be minimal.  When I have something to sell, I will post it.    And I am reopening in February- not because it is a great time to sell dolls but to slowly build up a stock of inventory so that when/if a Christmas rush does come, I will be better prepared.

All that to say- I have spent the last couple months trying out some new things. My dolls haven’t changed much- the biggest changes being I finally figured out a way to do 3D noses and I am now using yarn for hair. What’s been really fun is learning how to design stuffed animals.  My old horse will always be a standby but I started in on unicorns and then figured, the skies the limit once you have the basic idea down.

I designed a zebra, an elephant, a sheep, even a dragon!  That led me to develop a new section of my shop- The doll and rider.

My horse and doll combo was always a good seller so I decided to make more combos, just for kicks.  I am selling them as pairs or individually on my shop but I will introduce them here.

My original combo, as I said was a horse and doll.  This is Susannah, my pioneer girl and her horse, Henry.


I love her sweet face and her curly hair which I achieved merely by using the crinkly end of a skein of yarn!

From there I moved on to another animal in the horse family- a zebra named Zeke who naturally needed an African girl named Zara to ride him. 


 

What other horses are there? Why magical ones with horns of course who are best friends with medieval girls named Cecily.  I’m still debating a good Unicorn name. Ursula?


Then it was time to break out of the horse world.  Why not elephants? And since I already had an African girl, it was time to go with Indian.  This is Elliot and Ananda.

Now that I was going with different countries and because I love red hair, I had to do a Scottish lass named Bonnie. I had a hard time thinking of an animal for her to befriend and I’m not entirely sure that riding a ram is feasible but I love my little highland sheep just the same. 

And last but not least, we reenter the magical realm, where sweet Scandinavian girls named Brigitte ride gentle flying dragons named Dexter or Drake.  Which do you prefer?


 I would also like to do a little Chinese girl with a red dragon but I haven’t gotten that far yet. 

Phew! So that’s a start.  I’m hoping to get back to doing a greater variety of just dolls but for now, this is what I have.  

I have been able to collect quite a bit of feedback over these two years and have seen several specimens of these dolls that have really held up well. These dolls may look like delicate China dolls and I know several people who were afraid to purchase them for their younger girls but they really are very sturdy and can withstand a fair amount of abuse. Per the request of several, I am stitching the shoes and underclothing onto the doll so they don’t get lost but the stitches are easily clipped if you want removable shoes etc.  

 Pricing these things is always tricky of course.  Clearly they take me several hours to make, not to mention cost of materials and hope of some profit.  But I always want them to be affordable and don’t like charging friends and family an arm and a leg.  So the prices I have put on them are more of a test price. They may go up or down depending on sales.   And as always, questions and feedback are welcome.  

Here’s a link to my shop just in case. And feel free to share! 

Expanding our borders (ever so slightly)

Well, I know I’ve been posting a lot about my shop lately, but I wanted to get this out before the holiday weekend- you know, the weekend that starts the shopping mayhem for the next month.

Up ’til now, I haven’t done much with promoting my shop on designated online shopping days, or even Black Friday.  But apparently, this Saturday is ‘Small Business Saturday’ and I was invited to join a real, live, local Etsy market to show some of my wares.

It’s at the downtown Chattanooga library, and I have no idea what to expect.  Supposedly about 30 other vendors will be there, and as to numbers of customers- that’s anyone’s guess.  But I thought, since it was free, that I might as well give it a try and get my stuff out there using a different venue.  

So come on down and take a look if you are so inclined.  And if you’ve been on the fence about buying my stuff, it will save you shipping : ).

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In other news, I posted something on my Facebook page a while back- something I couldn’t reveal on public media for disclosure reasons.  I had received a rush order for three of my horses about two days before our big trip out west, and because of the generous amount this person was willing to pay, both to make them and ship them overnight, I went ahead and filled the order.

I am now at liberty to reveal what they were for.  They were shipped out to Hollywood, CA for a little commercial.  They really only needed one for the commercial, but ordered three to see which one looked better on set.  It’s just a brief, horsey cameo, but I’m tickled pink about it.   Take a look!

A Holiday Herd

I know the season is already late, but I have been wanting to make at least one big push for my shop before the Christmas season is fully upon us. With travel and sickness and general busy-ness, I feel way behind where I was last year at this time. But last year, I was traveling for Christmas and so had to close my shop December 1st. We are staying in town this year, so I hope to be able to take orders through at least the first half of December.

So to get you all in a festive mood, I want to show you what I’ve been working on in between bouts of croup and trips to the ER. It’s a new series of horses that I have been having enormous fun designing. I posted my first plaid horse on facebook a few weeks ago, and couldn’t wait to do some more. But after I finished them, I felt like they needed a little something more, like maybe a rider.

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I haven’t done a lot with pants for my dolls, but I like the little riding pants on this one. I even figured out how to make boots!

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Since they go so well together, I thought I would try something new and sell them together on my shop this Christmas. Here they are on a country outing.

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Aren’t they cute? I’m kind of excited about these two.

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But here are some solo shots if you would like to purchase them separately.

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And here are a few more of the herd by themselves.
One plaid with an auburn mane and tail.

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And this rather striking fellow with a lovely gray houndstooth coat.

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I am also continuing to sell my red horse. This one was by far my most popular last Christmas, but instead of wool, I decided to try making him out of a lovely cherry red corduroy. I like how it turned out.

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Due to the uniqueness of the plaids in these horses, (they are made from wool skirts) they will only be available in twos or threes. So think of them as limited editions, but hopefully with new and different ones to come.

Let me know what you think! (And feel free to share ; )

Following the trend

Business is slow folks.  Turns out Christmas is a busy time of year for shoppers!  Who knew?  And apparently the rest of the year is not so much. Hah!  Sarcasm aside, I was well aware that business would be much better around Christmas, and I am not entirely sorry to have a break from the rush. (I do miss the money though).

I have been enjoying myself, taking time to look at other options for my shop, and even to start sewing a bit for my daughter.  My Daughter! Have you figured out I am excited about that prospect yet?  I hope to show you my first project for her soon, but I have also been spending a lot of time on Pinterest, searching for inspiration. Animals, birds, dolls, you name it.  But one thing has come up consistently in all of my searches.

Owls.

I know owls have been trending over the past few years, thanks to Harry Potter and other owl inspired films, but I haven’t really gotten into them much myself.  Truth be told, owls have always kind of creeped me out a bit with their big, unblinking eyes, and their often angry stares.  My first introduction to owls was in fourth grade, when we studied their habits and then had to dissect an owl pellet. You know, those furry balls of undigested rodent bones that they regurgitate onto the forest floor?  We got to tear one apart and try to reassemble various skeletons found therein.  I remember the boys in the class having a blast.  Me, not so much.

The only time I have ever encountered an owl out in nature was at a summer family reunion.  We were staying at a lodge, high up in the mountains of Washington state. I was out on a walk by myself one moonless night, getting a good look at the incredible stars.  And as I was staring straight above me, a huge owl- wings outspread, bright white against the night sky- silently glided over me.  I looked into it’s big round eyes, and I was glad I wasn’t an unsuspecting rodent.  It really was beautiful- even awe-inspiring, but it spooked me out too.  I ran back inside.

All that to say- owls haven’t been high on my list of cutesy stuffed animals to make, but I finally figured I might as well make what people are buying.  I altered a pattern that seemed realistic in shape, but fanciful in design.  A whimsical owl, if you will.

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I made the body from nice, soft brown and white velvet, and then decided that I would forego feathers and stencil a fun design on the wings instead.  I mean, why not?

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I tried to make the eyes a little more friendly as well.

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Here is a closeup of its little wire feet.  I wrapped them in cotton, so they would be a little softer.

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And here is a view of the ‘tail feathers’.

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I really did have fun with this prototype, and I even think it’s a little cute! There are an infinite variety of things I could do with this basic pattern, and I might try one with feathers next if there is any interest.

I may have joined the trend a little late, but it never hurts to try!

Put a Bird on it

One of the things that I love about homeschooling is how organic it can be.  You start reading a topic in history that leads you to geography, that leads you to science and eventually leads to a muddy sort of experiment all over the front porch.   And any book the boys might be reading can lead who knows where, and I like to go with the flow and learn some new things myself!

My oldest has been reading one of my favorite books, the Hobbit lately.

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Towards the end, he asked me what a thrush bird was.  I remembered the little bird being an important, although small, part of the plot in the Hobbit, but I wasn’t sure exactly what kind of a bird a thrush was either.

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So we looked it up. Turns out, there are a lot of different thrushes in the world, in all different colors.

The google search also revealed a BBC video series called “The Life of Birds”, so we started in watching that.  At the end of an episode, one of my boys asked me what my favorite bird was, to which I promptly replied- “a robin redbreast.”    When asked why, I had to stop and think about it.  Then it popped into my mind.  Because of the Secret Garden of course!  Another of my favorite books from childhood.

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It was the robin who showed the way into the garden!

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If I hadn’t been thinking about birds so much lately, I might never have taken notice of a cute little book at the library on how to make stuffed birds, by a woman named Abigail Glassenberg.   I thought I would try and make a little thrush, just for fun and for the Hobbit’s sake.  I went a little overboard on the colors however, since no thrush in any picture I had seen was quite as flamboyant as the one I ended up making.  But I couldn’t help myself- I had a whole stack of vibrant velvet pants I was itching to repurpose.

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Accenting the wings was fun.  There are really endless possibilities with these.

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I love the little birdy feet, but they are made of wrapped wire, so I am not sure how well these little guys would do as a snuggly stuffed animal.  They seem more like something you would just keep on a shelf, but my boys are always asking to play with them, so who knows!

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After the thrush, I thought I would try something a little more true to nature, and naturally, a robin redbreast was my next choice.  I veered away from the pattern in the book just to see if I could make one work, and it came out all right, I think.

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Not quite as eye catching perhaps, but it makes his red breast stand out all the more.  And I finished him just in time for the real robins to herald the spring.  These will go on my shop, just to see what happens.  And they were so much fun, I might be trying some more.  Any requests?

The Fox and the Hog

Time to introduce some new friends for my shop, folks.  I’m still plugging away at developing my own patterns, or at least altering patterns that I find. And I continue to experience more frustration than success.  What, between adjusting patterns and trying out different fabrics, I am never sure just what I am going to end up with.

These next two projects are definitely rough drafts- especially the fox.  I have been on a velvet kick lately, since I like stuffed animals to be nice and soft to the touch.  But velvet has it’s own set of challenges, when it comes to sewing.

There are several things I would like to change about this fellow- the legs and nose for a start, but I like to use my blog as a place for constructive criticism, so have at it!

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And then there is my little hedgehog, who didn’t cause me nearly as much trouble.  I made him from some soft, purply velvets and stitched little ‘spines’ all up and down his back.  He is super soft and cuddly.

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I must say that I love his little face.

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Anyways, I am going to keep experimenting with animals, but I found a new book on sewing beautiful birds that I am just itching to try out. So we will see what comes of that!

Puppies and kittens and squirrels, oh my!

Well folks, I have been trying to branch out a bit from my horses and rabbits, and it has been an interesting journey.  For one, I simply haven’t been able to find any patterns that I like.  Well, that’s not exactly true.  There is a lot of adorable stuff going on in the world of felt right now- miniature felt animals, little collectibles etc.  But working with felt is a whole different game, and I am not wanting to get into it right now.  So I ordered a book (really a pdf file) of some cute little miniature animal patterns and thought I would do some experimenting.

There were two problems with the book.  The pattern sizes all needed to be adjusted because I don’t want to do miniatures and, well, all the instructions were in Japanese.

The first animal I attempted was a squirrel.  Woodland creatures seem to be very popular right now, so why not join the trend?  I found a nice rust colored, upcycled corduroy and got to work.  I did alright following the pictures, despite the Japanese instructions, but I failed to take into account the stretchiness of the fabric.  Once I started stuffing, I just couldn’t stop.  The little squirrel rear end got fatter and fatter until it was as round as a ball.  The boys thought it was hilarious, and so adopted the bottom half of my first attempt as a new ball game.  They call it tumble butt.

So then I tried it out in a nice, unstretchy,  charcoal- colored wool.  I like how this one turned out better, except every one in the family asked me if I was making a rat.  Turns out, squirrels and rats look a lot alike, except for the tails.  The tail made a big difference once it was on, but I think I should stick to brown colors the next time to avoid rodent confusion.

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After he was done, I thought it would be good to try a little something more common, like a cat or a dog.    The cat pattern turned out to be a lot more difficult, or maybe I need to brush up on my Japanese, because I had to redo it several times.  I like the final product, but I feel like there is a lot of room for improvement.  These are definitely rough drafts.

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I do like her pink bow though.

And last but not least, the puppy dog.  This pattern caused me a lot of grief, and my family much hilarity, because I couldn’t seem to adjust the head to the proper size.  It was absolutely too enormous for the little body.  I wish I had thought to take a picture of before and after shots.  I re-sized and re-sized it, and even now, I think it is too pointy.

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What I would really like is a good book on developing your own patterns.  Any suggestions?  And any other feedback?  I am pondering over which direction my little shop should turn.  Thanks!