Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Craft Project #10- Cinch Sack

Beginning in April, spring definitely put some bounce in my business. Orders picked up almost overnight, most of them local, and I've been hopping from one job to the next ever since. My day job has also kept me just a notch under hectic with deadlines looming in my near future. Needless to say my poor blog and my Etsy shop have both suffered some negligence because of it, and it's not over yet. My family vacation is coming up soon (taking the kids to DISNEY!!)and I was debating what to carry my necessities in while walking all day at the parks. I have one of the old 'fanny packs' but I think I will need a bit more room for this trip. I tried searching Etsy for small totes and came across one of those really cute light weight drawstring bags that you can wear on your back and thought - this is perfect! But, the creative voice in me said "Hey, why buy it when you can probably make it for free using some of that scrap material you have shoved in a drawer?" Ok, so I searched tutorials and found this one for a toddler sized cinch bag. I briefly thought to make one for my daughter, but she has several small bags already. So, I readjusted the measurements to what I thought would work for an adult size bag and started digging through my material scraps.

After about an hour, this is what I ended up with.

It was really easy and this is how I made it....
The original measurements from the tutorial I found were for a toddler sized bag, so I increased the material length and width by 4" both ways for a small adult size, but you can adjust measurements however you like.

Here's what you'll need...
- 2 blocks of material each approx 15" x 17" (I used some left over scraps I had)
- 2 thin (1/8" wide)ribbons approx 62" long
- Sewing machine, thread & scissors

place the two pieces of material right sides facing each other so you can sew the stitching from the inside. Sew down each side and across the bottom leaving aprox 1 1/2" open on each side at the top and a small 1/2" open space at the bottom corners. (If you forget, you can always use a seam ripper to pull out a few stitches where needed.)

Fold over approx 1/4" on the top of each piece and sew the hem. Then fold again approx 3/4" and sew in place. This creates the sleeve for the drawstrings.

I found it easier to feed the ribbon through while the bag was still inside out. So, attach a stick pin to the end of one ribbon and stick it in the eraser of a pencil ( a safety pin works too) to feed it through the casing. When it comes out the opposite side, continue to feed it through the back side of the bag as well.

Repeat this step with the other ribbon, starting at the opposite side. Make sure your ribbon lengths are even and then flip the bag right side out.(I made the mistake of cutting my ribbon too short initially, so I knotted a bit of blue ribbon on the end to lengthen it to the needed 62")

Now, if you left the little holes at the bottom corners, feed just the tip ends of your ribbon into the holes on the corresponding sides and secure with a pin. If you forgot to leave the holes, just use a seam ripper or scissors to rip out a few stitches at the bottom to insert the ribbon ends.

Flip the bag inside out one more time to sew the corner ribbons into place and its done in a cinch! If you need reinforcement, you can sew a zig-zag stitch around the sides and bottom to secure the seams.

This project was quick, easy and a lot of fun to make. It's light weight, soft and can hold several necessities for our vacation without breaking my back, so I am very happy with it. I may go back and add a small velcro pocket to the outside, if I can find time. If you want a simple sewing project, this one is a cinch!

Until next time, happy crafting!

Saturday, March 31, 2012

Craft Project #9- DIY Laundry Soap

Ok, this may not actually qualify as a 'craft' project, but it is a very awesome and money saving project none the less, so in my opinion, it counts. I have spent enough time this winter on Pinterest and have come across a plethora of useful information which I have diligently bookmarked or 'pinned' to my virtual pinboards which now contain a good variety of things I have yet to try. During the cold months, I did use many of the new recipes I found and pinned many more decorating ideas, spring cleaning tips, and gardening tricks. Now that spring is showing it's face, I'm ready to jump in and try some of those other favorite pins I've saved up.

My first attempt has been to make my own laundry soap. You can google this, or search on Pinterest and find different variations of how to do it, but I wanted to share my experience too since it really got me excited about doing laundry!

Why would I make my own laundry soap when I can conveniently buy it at the store?
-It is EASY
-It saves money
-It lasts for a very long time!

You can find all the ingredients at your grocery store in the same isle as the regular detergents and for less than $20 you can make aprox 10 lbs of soap that will last for months, or maybe even a year depending on how much laundry you do.

Here is the recipe:
1- 4 lb 12 oz box Borax (2.15 kg or 76 oz) found in the detergent isle

1- 4 lb box Arm & Hammer Baking Soda (1.81 kg) found in the cooking isle

1 box Arm & Hammer Super Washing Soda 55 oz (3 lb 7 oz) found in the detergent isle

3 bars of Fels-Naptha soap, found in the detergent isle
(you can also use pink Zote soap instead of Fels-Naptha. Found at Home Depot)

2 small containers of Oxy Clean or store brand Oxy Clean (try to get about 3.5 lbs total (1.58 kg)) found in the detergent isle.

You should be able to find all of these items at your grocery store.

The first and hardest thing you have to do is grate the Fels-Naptha soap using a regular cheese grater or food processor. This task took me about 20 minutes to grate 3 bars of soap. The little bits of Fels-Naptha will dissolve in your washer with no problem.

Toss all ingredients in a large bucket lined with a garbage bag. The original recommended a 5 gal bucket, but I only had a 3 gal and it worked fine. Then you simply twist the top of the garbage bag and MIX IT UP! I had help with this part. :)

Once you have the powder mixed to your liking, just store it in a container of some sort. I filled an old cookie jar with the laundry powder and labeled it with one of my vinyl decals to store in my laundry room, then funneled the remaining powder into an empty cat litter container I had washed out for long term storage. I labeled it as well and attached the recipe to the container so it's easy to find when I'm ready to make more.

Keep in mind, you only need to use 1-2 Tbs per load. I know that doesn't seem like much, but this recipe doesn't have fillers like the store bought detergent so you don't need as much.**

I marked a line on the little plastic cup that came in the Oxy Clean container and use it as a scoop. For really dirty loads I use a bit more than the standard 1-2 Tbs. and although it's not necessary, I also add fabric softener to most loads to make the clean scent a little stronger. If you feel so inclined, you can check out the blog where I found this wonderful recipe for some Q&A and comments from others about it's awesomeness.

This recipe has a light fresh scent and works just as well as the store bought detergent so I know I will be making more. If you decide to try it out, I'd love to hear how you liked it, and if you like it so much that you decide to stop by my Etsy Shop and purchase any vinyl wall expression, just mention this post during check out and I will send you a FREE "Laundry Powder" decal like mine in the picture above to put on your awesome new laundry soap container!

Happy Spring!

Thursday, March 1, 2012

The Total Package

Ok, so today I have been thinking about packaging. I wish there was a better way to transfer my wall decals into the hands of my customers in a somewhat stylish yet inexpensive manner. Aside from investing in clear bulk tubes that are expensive and take up a lot of storage space that I don't have, I can't think of anything better than my current method.
Currently I use clear poly bags with a decorative label that is printed with my website and simple installation instructions for any wall expression displayed publicly for sale. This works really well for small to medium expressions, but it doesn't work at all for the larger ones. I thought this subject was worthy of a blog post, so here I am.

How much does packaging influence your purchasing decisions? If you purchase a hand made item, are you happy to receive the item in a standard brown box/bag with no additional frills or do you expect that extra special touch (like decorative labels, tags, bows, gift boxes etc) simply because it is a hand made item?

Any item that I ship (primarily those orders through my Etsy shop) is loosely rolled and fitted into an appropriately sized box along with a business card, sample practice piece and the receipt.

I haven't had any complaints so far, but if I jazz it up a bit I may have to increase my prices slightly to cover the added cost. Since I'm a somewhat frugal person, I tend put more stock in the quality of the item than in the way it's delivered, but on the other hand, I will admit that an eye catching label or box does draw more attention. Keeping in mind that shipping regulations are not so tolerant of pretty bows and ribbon adorned packages, I'm thinking more like adding a ribbon tied around the rolled up decal, or maybe just some twine with a nice hand stamped tag then placing it in the shipping box. So whether you sell handmade items online or you just like to buy hand made things (who doesn't?) I would love to hear your opinion on the matter!

Until next time,

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Bring It On!

Well, a new year is here again. Yes, I realize we are already a month into it, but I still have the tendency to write 2011 on my dated paperwork on occasion. It just hasn't sunk in yet I guess. Regardless of if you are ready for it or not, here it is, staring us in the face with all the bright new possibilities it can bring. Most people make a heartfelt resolution to turn over a new leaf and set a goal to better themselves in some way over the coming months, but I don't often join in this tradition. For me, it's always been 'just one more thing for me to do' that I will most likely forget about all too soon. But this year, I am acquiring a small desire to make a change in my life, so what better way to start than with a New Year's resolution right? So I am attempting it with not just one, but three. My first goal for this year is to exercise more (even if it is only on my Wii).

My next goal will be to save more and spend less of my earnings each week. So far, I've managed to put a little bit back each week in this new year and this feels great after several years of not doing so. In an attempt to spend less each month, I have absolutely written off my bi-monthly trip to Wal-mart with the family. They tend to add things to the cart that are not needed and I am the one who has to foot the bill, so if I must make the trip, it will be alone. This will hopefully aid my goal of saving more.

The last goal I plan on tackling (and it's a big one)is to keep my book keeping organized. I used to be very organized in this matter, but somehow over the years I've let the task slip away from me, as it's one of my least favorite, and it gets put off as long as possible before I try to climb up and out of the paper stack I've created. So it takes hours, when it should have taken only a few minutes each month if I had made time to do it when I should have. I know this is a very bad habit, which is why I am determined to break it this year. This also includes keeping my tax information organized. I wrote a post last year with some great tax tips I had found at the time and I am revisiting it again this year before tax time sneaks up on me. Here's the link if you're interested.

So that's it. My New Year resolutions for 2012.
- Exercise more.
- Save more, spend less.
- Get (and keep) my book keeping organized.

I hope you all have found new goals to set for your own personal and professional growth this year or vowed to retry some of those old forgotten goals and also, that you haven't given up on any of them yet. Good luck to us all!