Saturday, April 25, 2009

Fitting It All In with Stitch’N Love

Time management is something that I have struggled with my whole adult life. I seem to be the one that everyone goes to get something done or to figure out a problem. Probably because everyone knows that I don’t like to tell others no, I am too much a people pleaser. This has left me in a bit of a quandary for time to fit everything in.

Now here I am a few years later…Mom of six between my husband and I, left the teaching field to stay home with the two youngest, started an online shop nearly a year ago and the new leader of my husband’s Family Readiness Group. I need to learn a little time management! Here are a few things that have worked for me or that I plan to implement in the very near future.

1. No matter how much you try to plan, expect the unexpected. My husband taught me shortly after we got together that you just never say “I plan to (insert desire here)” unless you want to NOT do it. We always a talk in “We hope to” or “If things work out”.

This holds true for trying to stick to a schedule. We have tried having certain days for things, like each person has a laundry day, clean house day, etc. But, alas, it never works out.

2. After the first one, this will sound weird, but get a calendar on the refrigerator and get everyone used to writing important events in it. We have a great family one that has a place for 5 names. Of course, some of us are doubled up, but we all know the routine. Everyone puts their things that they need to go to on the calendar and then I know who needs to be where at what time, who has a field trip coming up, when will hubby be at drill or at a conference. After that is all written in, then I can work in the “schedule” of things to do.

3. Never be afraid to tell someone “No”. It’s the hardest thing for me to say to someone in need, but people do try to take advantage. If you have a bunch of things to do with the family and other long-term obligations, there is no shame in saying no to more stuff.

4. Even when you have a set schedule, sometimes it’s okay to deviate from that schedule. Try to give yourself sometime for you. Even if it’s thirty minutes in front of the computer playing a mindless video game, it’s your time! I personally like to snag a bath every once in a while without any kids or hubby around.

5. As a WAHM or WAHD, make sure that you don’t spend more than 40-50 hours working your craft. This is something that is very hard for me to manage. I can get little snippets here and there when it’s just me and the little ones so I tend to multitask when everyone else is at home. While watching TV at night, I will gather dresses and get them ready to sew or even stitch some hairbows together. I have even been known to pull out the glue gun and line some clips while watching a movie!

6. Remember that you are only human, and no one can do it all. Delegate some work load onto others as needed. Children are only in the home for a little while. In our families, Dads and Moms have to go away for short and long periods of time. Take time to always be a family!

Friday, April 17, 2009

Artist Spotlight on Beth Thompson

Tell me about yourself.
My name is Beth. I am originally from Canada, but have lived in so many places it would take me too long to count them. I stay at home with my two kids who are five and two. I am a military spouse of 13 years. My husband is active duty Army and we are currently at our fourth duty station in Washington state. I stopped going to work outside the home when we had our first child. In a short time I felt the need to do something other than be mommy, but still had no desire to go back to the "real world". So I took up drawing again, which I had been doing all my life, but had gone on a hiatus from since college. I taught myself to draw portraits and used my son for my inspiration and in turn did many drawings of him at various stages of his baby and toddler years. I soon had people asking me to draw portraits for them and I decided to shoot for the moon and try out a business. I opened and was quickly busy drawing portraits for people that were willing to pay me for it. I could hardly believe it. Fast forward a few years and it got stressful. I found drawing portraits for other people not as rewarding as drawing my own family members for my pleasure and I slowed down on it. I began only taking the commissions that I thought were inspiring and continued to create drawings of things I chose to do. A few of those drawings are available in my etsy shop
Where did you discover Etsy?
Three years ago my mother moved to the US Virgin Islands. On my first visit to see her I discovered the joy of seaglass hunting. I couldn't get enough of it, it was so relaxing and I found it really interesting what the sea had done with carelessly discarded pieces of glass. They were smooth little gems and begged to be treasured. I immediately felt the need to make something with them and began making earrings and pendants. This is where I discovered Etsy. I did searches for seaglass artists and found this was amazingly a big thing, that people actually wanted. I signed up for Etsy as a buyer and on a whim decided to open a shop for my artwork and photography. Then I started adding the jewelry I made, including some I'd gotten into with beads and crystals. It was fun and gave me an outlet that got me "outside" of our cozy home where I played mommy all day. And I couldn't believe the amount of handmade things people were pedaling. Incredibly creative and original things that I couldn't wait to see more of and own some of.

How did you learn to crochet?
Last year I asked my mother if she would teach me to crochet again. She had taught me the basics as a child, but I had completely forgotten how to do even a basic stitch. She agreed and spent two days showing me how to do the absolute basics, how to make a chain, how to make a single crochet, and how to slip stitch. It seemed to click, and I caught on quickly. She then headed back home and I became obsessed. Within two days I had made my first hat. It was horrible! In another two days I had made another one, with a flower! It was better... Hats became my focus. Within a month I was making hats I felt were sellable. I tried a few out in my Etsy shop and I couldn't keep them in stock. So I continued and became more and more addicted. Finally the crocheted items were taking over my jewelry and art shop and I decided it was time to open a second shop. So I started I listed one hat, and the first day it sold. Hooray! The rest is history. I have written my own patterns and have a house full of yarn.

You are multi-talented in drawing, jewelry making, knitting, as I am sure many other crafts. What do you wish you could do?
Although my husband would kill me, since I already draw, make jewelry, crochet, paint, take pictures, do a bit of lampworking, play with polymer clay, and just randomly create things that go through my head...I really want to learn to knit. At least I would be able to use the same supply stash right? (good justification?) I would also love to learn to make soaps or candles. I could also really get into vintage hunting if I didn't know it would be another obsession to drive my family members crazy with. For now I am holding off on learning anything new. My home is already overflowing with my stashes of addictions.

How do you view your shops, as hobby or business?
It is a business, in that I am committed to it and I am determined to make each customer happy and want to come back. But it is also a hobby, where I'd like to bring in extra money to use to purchase things I might not normally buy, or extra fun things for the kids. And to buy wonderful handmade things on Etsy that I can't resist. My husband is very supportive and is happy as long as it is self sustaining.
Where would you like to see your shops a year from now? 5 years from now?
A year from now I'd like to see my shop full to the brim with a great selection of inventory for every member of the family. I'd like to be able to offer a lot more custom listings. I'd also like to have a few craft shows under my belt. I guess I better get to crocheting! I honestly don't have a plan beyond that. Keep doing what I'm doing as long as I enjoy it and it is still an outlet for me. If it becomes too stressful and I don't enjoy it anymore, it will be time to stop. I don't see that happening, I've been doing this for over a year now and I love it more than ever.

-Thanks Beth for a delightful look into a great teammember, pal, artisan, military spouse, mom, and everything else you do!

See Beth in her multitude of shops!

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Pay It Forward by TheMadisonGallery

I’m happy to be a part of the Homefront Team’s bloggers!
I’m a jewelry designer, fairly new at this, and decided to focus on various resources that I’ve found over the past few years. When I say I found them, it’s not necessarily that I looked under every rock to discover these resources, but I have spent many red-eyed nights scavenging the internet, and clicking and clicking and looking and looking - I’m sure lots of you know what I mean!! First, let me say that I felt compelled to write about this topic because of a certain “non-conversation” I had with a fellow Etsy member about 9 months ago. Since I was relatively new to the Etsy world and still getting my bearings on the forums, teams…oh, and the quad-rillion other jewelry designers also selling their wares, I happened upon this specific jewelry designers shop, located in New Mexico, and began clicking away, honestly admiring her collection and getting inspired…not only at the various components she used, but also by the prices she was posting and SELLING!
Well, sure enough, her shop also listed her blog address, so I clicked on that and began to read her entries, which on occasion included comments about her visit to her favorite local bead shop!
So, I’m reading and clicking, and reading some more and clicking some more, wondering if this local bead shop she constantly referred to is the MECCA of all bead shops - based on the styles and unusual stones she was designing with. So, being the inquisitive person that I am, I decided to send her a “convo” on Etsy and graciously ask her what was the name of this shop? I offered that I was a new Etsy member, had honestly admired her work as a fellow jewelry designer, had enjoyed reading her blog, and it was there that I noticed her comments about the local bead shop - and wondered if she would give me the shop’s website or phone number so I inquire as to wholesale pricing, catalogs, etc.
Ok - so I did it; I sent the request, and sure enough, she never responded! That totally blew me away - not in a good way, but in a very confused, ill-feeling manner. I thought, was it something I said? I mean, I had actually contacted other Etsy artisans to ask for their resources, and NEVER did I receive a cold shoulder or a refusal to share their knowledge of the bead, gemstone, pearl & component world, as well as also receiving excellent jewelry-making tips.
So I figured it had to be one of two situations -- either her blog entries were not technically true, that this fabulous bead shop didn’t exist, or it did exist and she apparently was not willing to share this resource - and that in and of itself I thought does not do the jewelry designer’s world any good - I mean, wouldn’t she have wanted her favorite local bead shop to prosper & welcome more customers? Surely, she could not have been their only customer, right?
And that brings me to this article --- we are military spouses, we share everything --- the best hair stylist in a new town, the only place to take your car when your husband is deployed, the only place to register your kids for daycare, the only person to talk to in the housing office, etc., etc.! We network very well, and in some instances, we certainly could do better - but we are usually full of resources and are quick to help somebody out.
So, I thought I could pay it forward to those in the jewelry designer world - the little bit of knowledge I have from the thousands of late night hours I have spent online trying to find my own MECCA! While there are more and more websites popping up daily, these seem to be the ones I go back to over and over again, and are pretty user-friendly: - I stumbled upon this place over two years ago, and thought it was a pretty good supplier, and had placed a few orders but not on any specific repeat order. Then I discovered last year that had I entered my name and wholesale number, I also then qualified for discount pricing! Ok, didn’t know that and was then VERY happy because even though the pricing was somewhat good prior to that, it was now even much better! And, no minimum! - Great source for gemstones, and just within the last year, they have added Vintaj and Green Girl Studios brands to their inventory (at normal retail prices). Once you register as a customer, you receive emails that allow discounts on your next purchase; no minimum required; and they also offer half strands which helps when you’re on a budget. - ok- this site specializes in faceted, high quality gemstones, briolette & teardrop shapes, etc. I only purchase though when they send our their email offering their Deal of the Week promotions. - this is an excellent source for Swarovski, sterling charms, sterling alphabet letters, sterling charms, etc. They have no minimum purchase - and the shipping is only $1.95 - this is one I use to quickly purchase a handful of Swarovski, or a smaller supply of sterling without breaking the bank. Oh and I don’t know how they do this, but my package almost arrives the next day! Who doesn’t’ love that? - about my only source for sterling wire, chain, and larger sterling orders - they have LOTS - and that also includes pewter, copper, gold filled, etc. They are a wholesale company, minimum order of $100, but if you budget the right way, you will save money in the long run. Very user friendly, and they have coded items that are being discontinued or new, as well as an area when you can save the info of the items you usually purchase. - this is a really nice website specializing in Czech beads - the gentleman who owns this shop seems to be a very honest, hard-working guy. I appreciate his descriptions and pricing; he will tell you the honest truth about the beads, and will discount them when he feels they are irregular or the colors don’t match exactly, etc. If you sign up as a customer, you will receive updates on new stock, etc. - this is a manufacturer of raw brass components. Yes, they are the big daddy of where to get your brass filigree, dragonfly, sparrows, links, etc. The deal is you have to purchase 1 gross per item minimum. But, when you consider the wholesale cost of raw brass, and what you might currently be paying from other sites, I still think it’s worth purchasing from Guyot. Consider going in with another jewelry designer and you can split your order and each get the components you want. And there are various websites that can tell you how to age brass. I have used household ammonia, and liver of sulphur. - Greek leather cording (the best product for jewelry making); small minimum order required - great selection & very fast shipping. - their site sells items similar to Fusion beads, but I specifically enjoy their lampwork selection - very different - and great bargain. Also, great pricing on silk cording. No minimum, and when you sign up, you get emails offering discounts, etc. - this site is fairly new to me, but it offers the popular design stamps at the cheapest price I have seen online, as well as the sterling, copper and brass blanks use for stamping, tools & tutorials.
Hize Silver and Twinklehut shops on Ebay - they are excellent sources for Thai silver; no minimums, and free shipping @ Hize Silver when you order 7 items, which is easy to do when you need to stock up!

Well, I guess I could really go on and on, but I tried to include a cross-section of various jewelry making sites. If you really are looking for a specific bead or component, you can certainly contact me ( and I will try to help! In the meantime, I hope you get a chance to browse these shops and tell me what you think - and if you also have a great source you’re willing to share, please pay it forward! I promise it will make you smile when you do!

To see TheMadisonGallery's work:

Friday, April 3, 2009

Getting Inspired from Your Supply Stash by MooseThreads

Every crafter has one. For some it receives no more than a curious nod or casual glance. For others it can draw an "Oh wow" or "Yikes" from those who see it.But for the rare few - such as myself - a crafter's "STASH" can result in the following.....
"OMG! Do you think Jimmy Hoffa is buried in there?"
"What did you do, knock over a JoAnns?"
Or my favorite.
"If yarn were crack you'd never make it out of rehab."

As you can see from the pictures, I'm not hurting for supplies. HOWEVER, what I am lacking is inspiration. When it comes to crochet projects I'm often like a hyperactive hamster with short term memory loss. At the store I have all these idea running through my head, thus resulting in purchasing enough yarn to provide King Tut with a new technicolor wrap job. But once I get home and the yarn gets sorted into the correct color-coded bin it often gets lost or forgotten about. I can not tell you the number of times I have bought the same skein of yarn because I forgot I had already purchased it. So after some careful thought, some prodding from my husband ...and well.... nearly losing a cat amid the chaos... I made a promise to myself that unless it was a custom order for a client, I would only make projects from my stash. And so far I can say it's better than Christmas. I'm discovering things I completely forgot I had -or even better - finding uses for yarn I purchased for no reason.

In February I was asked to donate a sweater to a local silent auction. As soon as the words left my friends mouth my eyes glazed over, I started to twitch and my friend realized she had just given the addict a reason to visit her local crack den "aka yarn store.""WAIT!" she practically screamed while pulling my back from my yarntastic fantasy."I will only let you use what you already have."Darn. I forgot I had friends actually committed to helping me stay fiber-free. After some moping and some chocolate to dull the pain of a yarn store trip foiled, I began to dig amid the bins and boxes. I discovered a bulk skein of chunky turquoise acrylic purchased on sale nearly two years ago. It was soft and cushy and slightly inspired I set it aside and began to dig further into the depths of my stash. I found a bright hot pink skein bought during a brief flirtation with reliving my 80's glam days. And then I discovered a piercing skein of purple. Paired with the turquoise they somehow managed to tone each other down. A small remnant of bright green and some sunflower buttons I found shoved in a forgotten bin and TADA! I was inspired. Not only did I manage to use up most of the turquoise skein but it's texture prompted me to attempt a new cardigan design.
My next "stash" project initially started with my idea to make a blanket for my friend's daughter.Being that she is a bright and fun little girl I started looking through my stash for anything that reminded me of the recipient.Way in the back, behind some boxes I discovered BAGS of this TLC Wiggles yarn. It's an acrylic yarn that sports these crazy loops made from tightly wound colored thread. I had multiple skeins of it in nearly every color of the rainbow and just new using the right stitch I could crochet up a fun blanket. As for why I had so much I have no idea.After some thought I decided to pair it with some white worsted acrylic I again had in a 16oz skein. The end result, which used a slanted shell stitch was not only cushy but one that I loved so much I'm ashamed to say I have yet to give to the intended person. I'm debating on making a second one for my store, but that's only if I don't get distracted by yet another project inspired by my stash.
Come see the knitting genius of MooseThreads at