Thursday, December 11, 2008

Possibly Closing Karabu's Etsy Shop in the New Year

Due to the new regulations in the Consumer Protection Safety Improvement Act, there is the very high likelihood that I will be closing down my Etsy shop early next year.

I have two small children of my own, and was just as outraged as the rest of the country at the ridiculous number of toy recalls we've seen over the past year. I've had to throw away recalled Diego toys in the night to avoid tears. I'm very pro-safe toys.

The problem is that in terms of this new law, it seems that using lead free supplies isn't good enough. All toys must be tested after they are made. Testing costs $75 per component (I wrote to a certified lab to ask). One of my I-spy security blankets has 27 components (26 different fabrics plus thread). Total = $2,025.00 for testing. Plus the tested item is destroyed. That's fine when you have a run of thousands. I make runs of one.

Many small, and ever mid-sized children's product companies are going to be in trouble early next year. There are a lot of folks trying to get the details changed so that smaller manufactures have a hope of being able to comply, but the law is already passes, and this process is slow. I saw one person comment that maybe the handcrafters of the country should ask for a bailout to afford testing costs. I got the giggles from that.

I've read the 63 page law and it is very difficult to understand. My local Small Business Development Center couldn't answer my questions via e-mail but recommended my coming in for individual counseling with their fabric product specialist. I'm going to try to work that meeting into my schedule somehow just so I can at least fee more informed.

There is a lot of folks trying to get the word out and get people to write to their representatives about altering this law. If you want more information see this article on Etsy:
http://www.etsy.com/storque/craftivism/handmade-childrens-items-unintended-consequences-consumer-pr-3056/

Thanks all.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Making scrap quilts out of old baby clothes

I've been saving old baby clothes for years now, with the plan to turn them into a quilt someday. I decided to only save clothes that were torn or stained so I couldn't give them away for someone else to use, or if an item had a lot of sentimental value.

I now have a drawer full of clothes, so I think it's time to get serious about making that baby clothes quilt!

I've seen a lot of scrap quilts that I like the look of. The problem is that most that I like have small pieces that are all the same size. Small pieces are good for small baby clothes, but many of the clothes I saved have cute applique or other images on them that aren't all that small. I was looking for a quilt pattern that would let me use mostly small pieces, and some larger ones.

Today I found this website:
http://www.ufo-rphanage.com/scrap_quilts.shtml

So many quilt pattern sites have old, out-dated, non-functioning links that it can get very frustrating to search for quilt patterns. One or two on the UFO website were dead links, but the rest were a gold mine!

So far, this is the pattern I'm leaning toward:
http://www.ezquilt.com/patterns/oldfashioned/oldfashioned.htm

Although, I think I may make my blocks slightly bigger than this pattern calls for. I like that I can use a bigger piece (like the pictures I want to save) for the center of the blocks, and then use up all the tiny pieces from sleeves, etc. for the rest. You need to use a little imagination to picture a scrappy finished quilt in color, but the picture in my head looks cool.

If you have a favorite scrap quilt pattern, share it here! I can't seem to part with my scraps, so I'll always be looking for great scrap quilt patterns!

Monday, November 17, 2008

Irish Chain Doll Quilt



I've been doing some sewing for my kids to get ready for Christmas. I love how this doll quilt turned out so much I have to show it off to the cyber-world.

It's a basic Irish Chain pattern. The small squares are 1 inch each, and the full quilt is 21 inches by 27 inches. I used a layer of flannel for batting to keep it from becoming too bulky and keep a miniature quilt look to it. I think it turned out to be a good choice, and our little dollies will be so snugly under it.

It makes me wish I'd made a full sized version. Maybe someday I will. In the meanwhile, I'm considering making another one to put in my Etsy shop. I have that quilt section in my shop that has been empty for far too long. A doll quilt still counts!

Thursday, October 30, 2008

National Novel Writing Month Starting this Saturday!

It's almost National Novel Writing Month again (or NaNoWriMo as it's affectionately known.) Despite being more overwhelmed in my personal life than ever before, I'm tempting fate (and major burnout) by participating again this year.

I don't actually care if I reach 50,000 words or not, so that may be part of the reason I'm going for it again this year despite a complete lack of time. I guess that's a bad attitude for NaNoWriMo, but it's the best I can do right now.

So if I don't care, why bother at all you may ask. Fair enough. Well, I've learned enough in the last two NaNos that I've participated in that there is lot I can learn, both about writing, and about myself, even if I don't hit that 50,000 word mark. It's good to push yourself in pursuit of something wonderful and creative that will very likely never amount to anything at all just to see if you can. Or rather if I can.

Again, my novel will be Sci-Fi. I had a dream last year during NaNoWriMo that I thought would make a great story. I wrote a summary of the dream in a notebook because it was complex and I didn't want to forget an important detail. Well, I lost that notebook. That notebook had a lot of writing in it that was important to me, and I still get upset about it's loss. So I may end up having to make up a lot of the story without my notes (although, I guess technically, I already made it up in my dream, so who cares, right?) It's a post apocalyptic, war, romance, time-travel kind of thing. Hope it turns out.

If you ever wanted to try to write a novel. Now's your chance!
Here's my profile at the official NaNoWriMo site, if you want to learn more about this whole crazy idea:
Karabu Writes a Novel

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Benicia Knitting Circle

Just a little plug for this knitting store that I didn't know existed a few days ago.

Benicia Knitting Circle

I went there to look for a gift for my knitting sister (I don't knit, but I crochet a little and I love pretty yarn.) First I love that there is such a thing as a knitting store. I'm not sure what it is about small, highly specialized shops that I love, but I find them so fascinating. I guess maybe because they represent a deep passion on the part of the proprietor, and enough other people to keep the place in business.

I got a little glimpse of those folks while I was shopping. A group of knitters were all working on their projects and a knitting debate started up over a confusing line of instructions in a pattern. You can learn so much more, and see the depth of a craft from listening to the debates of serious practitioners that you just won't ever find browsing in a big general craft shop.

While I have no great desire to learn to knit, if I did, this shop could be a very addictive place for me. If you love knitting, or crochet, or yarn, or specialty craft shops, stop by. They have dogs hanging out there too, and there is always a special place in my heart for shops with cats or dogs in residence. Ya gotta love that.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Easy to Make Baby Shoes that are Cute too!

I wanted to write this blog a long time ago, but I never got around to taking pictures of the shoes I made. Now that my daughter has outgrown them, I can't find what I did with them. So still no pictures to share.

Ah well. I loved making them so much, and they were so nice to have, I'm going to blog about this free soft baby shoe pattern anyway.

The baby shoe pattern was created by Stardust Shoes, and they are both darling, and simple to sew. Even if you're a beginning sewer, you can make these shoes.

Now I didn't exactly follow the directions (I'm not normally a troublemaker, but I am lazy, and I don't do things that I can get away with not doing). Also, I was not trying to make shoes that would last. I knew my daughter wouldn't be wearing the shoes I made for very long, so I didn't worry about cutting corners a little. While the shoes I made turned out very nice, and actually held up very well, if you plan to put them to serious use, or want them to last awhile, I recommend following the pattern's directions more closely.

I didn't use the bonded fleece for the sole; I just used canvas for the whole outside of one pair, and vinyl for another pair. I lined both pairs of baby shoes with flannel, and didn't bother with any interfacing since both the fabrics I was using were fairly thick. I liked how the fleece made the insides soft and cozy. The vinyl pair of baby shoes was cute, but probably wouldn't have been a good choice for a baby that was beginning to walk, as I think they may have been a little slick on the bottoms.

Soft baby shoes were much easier to make than I thought they would be. If you've ever been tempted to try it, download the free baby shoe pattern and give it a try. If you like the look of these dhows, but don't want to make your own, I know several great EtsyKids sellers have some really adorable baby shoes in their Etsy Shops.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Tiny Turtle Crochet and Raverly



My sister recently introduced me to Raverly. It's a social networking site for knitters and crocheters. My sister knits, and I crochet. Well, I used to, but it's one of my hobbies that has been far on the back burners in the past few years.

Then I went to a amigurumi workshop and it was so much easier and more fun than I expected, I've been sneaking little bits of crochet into my life again. My first completed project is Ted the Turtle. It's a free crochet pattern I found on Raverly, by KristiKids.

I thought my kids would like the little turtle more than they did, but he was still fun to make. The baby likes him the most, but I only let her play with him while I'm watching because I don't think I put his eyes on very strong. I'll probably sew on yarn eyes on future projects.

I know I'll never list my crochet projects in my Etsy shop, but it's almost neater to keep this as just a hobby I do for me. No pressure to make anything at any special time. Not that I really pressure myself much for my Etsy shop either, as you can probably tell by how infrequently I list new stuff.

In that same line of thinking, I have a cool idea for a wall quilt I want to make for my daughter. If it turns out like the picture in my head, I'll try to make a pattern and post it here. I'll have to practice foundation paper piecing, something I haven't done much of, but that's another reason it'll be fun.

I think that's a big reason the crochet projects have been such hoot. It's learning something new, a little bit of a challenge, but not an overwhelming one. Plus I love amigurui. I see cute ones on Etsy all the time, and want to buy them, but then see that they're only patterns, not finished dolls. I passed them by because I didn't think I was a skilled enough crocheter to pull the patterns off. Now I'm a little more confident, and may give some a try.

If you like to knit or crochet though, you should definitely give Raverly a look. They have a ton of patterns listed, many, like the tiny crochet turtle, are even offered for free. Heck, even if you've just wanted to try knitting or crochet one day, go for it right now! Learning a new craft is always a good idea!

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

At Last - I'm Having a Sale!



So - I almost never have sales or discounts. My profit margin is low, and I never know what kind of offer would make sense, so I don't bother. But for the past several months I've wanted to do one. I have so many wonderful customers, and I want to do something. Plus I have a bunch of pretty new fabric, and I want to make new stuff, but I hate doing that when I still have so much already listed.

So I gave it some serious thought. I can't ever have a store wide sale because I list stuff for my mom too. I can't make her accept less money for what she makes, that isn't nice (plus, I don't think she charges enough to begin with for her wonderful work.) So what to do? What I want the most is to make some new books with new pictures. So that means clearing out some of the books that are listed now.

So here's the sale:

All Pre-made Soft Fabric Books Only $15.00 Until the End of August!

I'm off right now to change the price in all my soft fabric book listings from the regular $18.00 to $15.00 so there will be no need for anyone to go through the hassle of waiting for an updated invoice or anything confusing like that. Even if I get a few new books posted, they will still be included in the sale price.

Thanks everyone!
Here they are: Karabu's Soft Fabric Books for Babies and Toddlers
Yea for sales!

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Why It's Important to Prewash Fabric

Especially for Projects for Kids and For Quilts.

I use 100% cotton fabric for almost all my sewing. I just really like it. Occasionally I'll use a blend or another kind of fabric if it's something sentimental for personal use. Some fabric requires special care, or dry cleaning. I'm not talking about those fabrics in this post - I just don't know enough about them. But cotton fabrics, quilting fabrics, cute novelty prints, etc all should be washed first, and here's why:

There's lots of tips out there for quilters about the importance of pre-washing fabrics. Different fabrics may shrink at different rates, even if they're all 100% cotton. If you want your quilt that you've spent hours and weeks and months making to hold up over time, you don't want different parts to shrink and other parts not to, thus pulling or distorting the quit, even tearing it in extreme cases.

While this is an excellent reason to pre-wash all your fabrics, it isn't the most important reason, in my opinion.

When fabrics are made, all kinds of chemicals are used during production, and dying. The chemicals treat the fabrics, and help the colors stay true, and generally assist in production at many stages. However, those chemicals are still there when the finished bolt goes out to stores. The most famous of these is formaldehyde, but other chemicals are used too.

There is no way I want to snuggle under a quilt full of formaldehyde and other chemicals. And there is sure as heck no way I'm letting my child snuggle under that quilt or play with a toy that hasn't had the chemicals washed out of it.

While it may sound too easy that all you have to do to get rid of these horrible chemicals is throw the fabric in the wash, that's really all the experts say you need to do. In all my research, every authority and expert I've found says that as bad as these substances are, washing gets rid of them. It's that simple.

So while it may be a bit time consuming, and, yes, it may require a little bit of pressing if the fabric wrinkles, it's just too important a step to skip. If you are making something that a baby may possibly put in their mouth, (like everything I make) please, PLEASE, PLEASE pre-wash your fabrics.




Thursday, June 26, 2008

Etsy For Animals Round Robin Quilt Project


Etsy for Animals is working on another great fund raiser. Members (including yours truly) are sewing quilt squares that will be assembled into a finished quilt and auctioned off.

Etsy for animals is a group of Etsy sellers who are passionate about helping animals. We donate a percentage of our Etsy Sales to animal charities, and find lots of other ways to help animal organizations. There's even a special Etsy for Animals Shop that sells items donated by artists and crafters, with the profits going to charity. The group was created by Michele (mvegan5), and the huge task of organizing the quilt round robin project is being tackled by Jonny of dogonwear.

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Free to Good Home - Mini Soft Fabric Colors Book



While making some new Mini Soft Fabric Books for my Etsy Shop I made an "oops". While trimming a thread, I accidentally cut into the blue page of an almost done mini colors book. While it wouldn't have been impossible to take the book apart and replace the blue page with a new one, it would have been a lot more work and headache than to just make a new book from scratch. I decided I didn't want to remake the whole book.
The same page also got a snag on the fabric somewhere alone the way that left a tiny pin point hole when trimmed up.
I did sew the approximately 1/4 inch cut closed by hand, but didn't do anything to the snag hole - the needle would leave more holes than the original snag, so it seemed silly to stitch it. This photo points out the flaws:


The little fabric colors book isn't up to my standards enough to sell in my shop. The rest of the book is in great shape, and I hope someone out there will be interested in having it, even if it has a little 'oops' factor. I'm offering it to the first person to request it. I'll pay shipping - even international. I don't recommend anyone leaving personal information, like an address, in the comments section here, so I ask that you send your request to me privately by clicking "contact this seller" in my Karabu Patchwork Creations Etsy Shop.
Hopefully this little book can find a loving home.
My kids (who normally get my 'oops' projects) already have a mini fabric colors book. I haven't done a giveaway for awhile now, so I think my mistake was really a reminder that it's time to have one!

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Super Easy to Make Reusable Fabric Shopping Bags



Making reusable fabric grocery bags has been a project on my personal to do list for way to long. I'm proud to share that this weekend I finally got my rear in gear and made some bags. Now that I have the hang of the pattern, I'm going to get more creative with the next ones I make - maybe some applique or pretty fabrics.

Last year Salome at Seven Veils Studios told me about Morsbags. They have a super easy, and free pattern for reusable totes. They can really be used for anything, but I'm going to use mine for shopping bags.

My mom gave me reusable Target bag - the kind they sell in the store for $0.99. I ended up using it to hold sand toys for when they kids and I go to the playground. I was always tempted to buy the reusable bags they sell at the grocery store too, but I knew I would feel to strange about using a bag printed with a specific store logo to shop in another store. I use about three different grocery stores depending on which one I'm closest to and didn't want to collect bags from them all. Then there's my paranoia that if I bring my bag back into the store later on, I can't prove I'd already paid for it the last time, and I'll have to pay for it again (I know - not likely - but I never claimed to be rational.)

Making my own bags solves all these problems. I just had to get working!

I also asked my daughter if I made her a bag, would she help me carry in the groceries? She said sure, if I made her a 'kid sized' tote bag. Her reusable bag also had to be yellow. The little yellow Dragon Tales bag in the photo is what I made for her.

I did make one modification to The Morsbag Free Pattern that my mom recommended. I added a pleat into the bottom of the bag so it has more of a flat bottom. It should be a little easier for wide items to sit in the bag. It's very easy to modify the bag.

With the bag inside out, just pull out one of the bottom corners and measure however big a bottom you want to make. I made mine about 4 inches. You could use pins or chalk to mark the fabric, but I just held the sides in the right place with my fingers. Worked fine, and it's fast.



Do the same thing on the other bottom corner of the bag, then go ahead and cut off the excess fabric at the corner.



When you turn your grocery bag right side out again, you'll see the seam that adds the bottom. I hope this is understandable. If I'm not clear enough, or you have questions just leave a comment and I'll do better.



I also didn't always use the exact measurements that the Morsbag pattern gave. The yellow bag is the closest. Obviously the kid tote is much smaller, and I for the pink bag, I just wanted to use up the last bit of that fabric that I had, so it turned out a little taller. It's all good - and I know no one will have reusable shopping bags that are just like mine!

Monday, April 28, 2008

I Spy Forever

I think I've made it clear by now that I love I spy quilts. I've loved them since I was a little girl snuggled under the quilt my grandma made. So I don't know why it should surprise me that my girls love them to. Maybe there is something universally appealing about all those neat pictures and patterns.

I made a twin sized I spy quilt for my first born when she moved from her baby bed to her big girl bed. My second daughter is still in her crib, and will be for quite awhile, but I'm already planning quilts for her too. I'd imagined that I'd make her something different. Couldn't decide what exactly, but just different.

Then yesterday we were playing on big sister's bed and she was just fascinated with the I spy quilt. We often play with the smaller I spy security blankets I made for her, and she just loves that. But the big bed quilt was even more amazing to her. She would point at a square and look at me waiting for me to tell her what the picture was. I was surprised how long she stayed focused and kept wanting to play (although I shouldn't have been).

I think she'll be getting her own I spy quilt one day too. Different is overrated when the good old stuff still brings in so much fun.

I'm actually working on an alphabet quilt for big sister now. It's taking a while because I got the hot idea to find fabric with pictures for each letter (apple print for A, Blue fabric for B, etc.) Turns out some letters are a bit tricky to find. So that can be my fun and different quilt to make for now. Baby sister will get a different quilt too one day. It's fun making new kinds of quilts, and no matter how careful we are, everything still needs to be washed from time to time. But the I spy is a necessity in this house.

Monday, February 25, 2008

I'm Tagged

Nanjodogz 'tagged' me so now I'm supposed to tell 7 things about myself.
So with my 'IT' hat on, here we go:

1. I'm training myself to get up early and write even though I'm REALLY not a morning person.

2. I talk to my cats like people.

3. I hate clutter, but I'm a packrat. This is a problem for me.

4. As sappy as it sounds, I like to call my husband in the afternoons just to hear his voice.

5. Whenever a new season begins, I always think that's my favorite season (except for summer)

6. I don't exercise as much as I plan to. ( i actually don't do anything as much as I plan too - maybe I over-plan?)

7. I don't forward e-mails that tell me to, and I don't tag other people in games. Sorry.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Personalizing and Customizing



For many months in my Etsy shop, I had a note in my announcement section that I was happy to take custom orders. After one or two custom I spy blanket requests I realised that making custom orders involved a lot more work, and frequently involved buying additional supplies, like special fabric. The problem was that I felt uncomfortable asking for more money than my regular listings were priced at.

The solution I came up with was to create a special listing for a custom I-spy blanket that took into consideration the extra time and money I had to invest. Another problem, that I hadn't thought about that creating this special listing created for me was that about the timing of payment.

Because I'm a wimp about asking for money, I'd usually spend all the time corresponding with my clients about their request, gathering sample fabrics, and even making the item before asking for payment. I'd create a listing for them when the item was done. Luckily, all my buyers are wonderful and honest people, but I'm sure there was the potential for me to be left with an item that was to personalized to resell.

Now, I'll still work out the details of an order with someone, but once we're ready to start actually cutting and sewing, I can ask for them to purchase the listing from my shop. Once payment clears, I start sewing. Even timid little me can handle asking that, and so far every single client has paid for their listing the same day I asked.

Soon after making the custom I spy blanket listing, I also made a listing for a custom Soft fabric book. I'll be creating a custom soft jingle block listing soon too.

The very best things that creating special listing for my custom work has done for me is that I now get far more custom orders than I used to. I think people don't always like to ask questions. Maybe they don't want to take the time, maybe they are worried that the answer will be no, maybe they feel silly bothering someone else, I don't know what all the reasons are. I just know that now that I have custom listings, I am almost always working on a custom order.

The listing makes it easy for buyers. It tells them they type of information I need to start. It lets them know what I'll be doing for them and how long it will take me. It gives them all the information they need to decide to buy. It also gives them permission to ask for exactly what they want without feeling pushy or picky. Everyone wins!

Sunday, February 3, 2008

Business Plan

I never finished writing my business plan for my crafting business. When I crunched the numbers awhile back and learned that I'd never be able to make this the kind of business I wanted it to be, and also be able to give up my day job, I stopped working on it.

I won't go into the details about that decision again - it's in a previous blog post if you missed it and are interested.

I'm not stopping or giving up on this business. I love it too much for that. But I'm no long putting all my energy into growing or developing it any further than where I have it right now. I will do all the work I need to do to keep it as successful as I already am. I love the happy e-mails from customers, and the pictures of kids enjoying something I made. How could anyone walk away from that? But I'm not expanding. This is good, this is where I want to be.

I did promise you all some advice on writing a business plan. So I'm here tonight to fill that promise. Even if you don't 'need' a plan ( if you're small and don't plan to seek investors or a loan there's no business law that says you must have a written business plan to be legitimate) it can still be a good idea to help you focus and organize your business. It may get you to think about things you haven't addressed before. Anything that helps your business move forward is helpful.

I am going to wimp out of actually walking you through the whole process myself. I found these links that do a great job of detailing what goes into a plan. They explain it probably better than I could myself anyway.

Another wonderful resource to look into is to find your local Small Business Development Center. My husband took a class on how to write a business plan from them for his IT business and it helped a great deal in focusing our marketing efforts. Ours offers all sorts of classes, and free one on one counseling too. Don't ever feel that you're company is too small to talk to someone at a Business Development Center. I've taken a class and also spoken with them on several occasions. Helping small business is what they're all about. They've probably seen plenty of businesses that are smaller and less organized than you.

Business plan instructions:
http://www.isitebuild.com/simplebusinessplan.htm
http://www.businessplanning.ws/

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

The Quilted I-Spy Sceurity Blanket



When I was little, I remember laying in bed and studying all the different pictures, prints, and fabrics on my bed quilt. Some zigzag lines in orange and blue. Little girls in hats - there were several different versions of this same print, each with a different accent color. Then there were some solid colored squares. Even though there weren't that many different patterns, I loved to look at them over and over again.

So I blame my grandmother, who made that quilt, for instilling the love of patchwork in me. The only thing that could have made me love that quilt more would have been even more neat fabrics to look at.

When I had my own baby, I was a fairly new quilter myself. I started collecting neat prints so that I could make her a bed quilt with as many different fabrics as possible. The one I made her has literally hundreds of pictures. And she loves it.



But, I also wanted something simple we could play baby games with. Learn colors. Make animal sounds, and learn animal names. Play peekaboo. The idea for the I spy security blanket was born.

I always include one square each of the basic colors. Colors are easy to learn, and babies love to show off when they know where the red square is. I think it breaks up all the prints to throw in some solid spaces too. The other squares are full of as many different, bright, fun prints as I can find. The easiest way to cut squares is with a rotary cutter, but I just can't settle for that all the time. With larger prints, it's too easy to get only the bottom half of an animal - or just an ear. What fun is that? The extra time and effort it takes to carefully cut out specific images from fabric, so that I get a perfectly centered animal, or truck, or whatever, is what makes these so special. I really love the way they look in the end.

Because they are so small, only twenty inches square, they would be to bulky with batting in them, so they aren't true quilts. Yet two layers of thin cotton would be flimsy, so I use flannel for the backing. It's soft, and provides just the perfect weight. Then I go ahead and stitch around each block, just like it really is a quilt. Those extra stitches let my blankets stand up to all kinds of rough treatment, and wash after wash after wash.

I keep thinking I should make new blankets for my new baby, but the ones I made four years ago are still in great shape. They aren't just used for peekaboo anymore though. They're superhero capes, and baby doll blankets. Something new everyday it seems at times.

And that's why I love to make them.