Growing Pains

Lately I’ve really been feeling the strain of getting a small business to take off.  After much thought I made the decision to believe in myself, take a leap and open some wholesale accounts to buy fabric.  This means buying larger quantities, or even full bolts at a time, but it gives the buyer a significant discount on price.  

I made the leap and opened accounts with Ruffle Fabric and Riley Blake, both of which companies are fantastic to deal with.  Super helpful customer service and fast shipping.  Not to mention amazing product!  I wanted to open another 1-2 accounts to give myself some more diversity but it’s proving to be challenging.  Initial order minimums of $500 and annual orders of $1200-1500 is just out of my league right now; no matter how hard I believe in myself.

This is where I’m at a disadvantage not being close to a large city with more textile shops to purchase from.

I’m brainstorming to come up with creative ideas but I’m coming up empty.  Maybe this is something out of my reach for right now.  Maybe in another year it could be a possibility.

 

Ruffle Dress Sneak Peak

UPS dropped off Riley Blake deliciousness while I was out running errands with the girls last Friday.  Due to a jam packed weekend schedule — it was our wedding anniversary after all — I opened the packages but set the bolts of fabric downstairs in my studio, not even picking up my rotary cutter until yesterday afternoon.

Don’t worry, I had visions and ideas bouncing through my head most of the weekend!  So when I sat down yesterday I knew exactly what I wanted to do.

This is what came together after a couple hours of work.

Not fair, I know!  I will tell you that it’s a super cute peasant dress with half sleeves and a ruffle panel down the front of the dress.  Hopefully it will be ready to list in the shop within the next couple of weeks.  :)

Happy Sewing!

What a Week!

This has been one of those weeks that I’d like to either forget quickly, or have the option to re-do, in the hopes of it going better!  It all started last weekend with TWO emergency service calls on Saturday (a water leak and a circuit board that quit on the furnace), a Saturday visit to the pediatrician for both sick girls, a dog that ate the corner off of the afghan my grandmother crocheted for me 20 years ago, my husband out of town for work, a finicky gas gauge in my vehicle, organizing tax stuff, troubles with the postal service, me getting sick and a babysitter that bailed, leaving me to scramble for a replacement!

Which meant little time for Stitch To Stitch stuff, especially the blog!  Thankfully I could sneak in some sewing here and there as my sick girls napped and with my husband being gone at night I had free time after the house settled down for the night. 

To end the week on a good note though, I have my first wholesale order from Riley Blake coming today with FOUR BOLTS of fabric!  (I seriously could have ordered three times that many, but my bank account wouldn’t allow for it right now.)  And I managed to crank out a new dress for the shop earlier this week.  It’s on it’s way to a fabulous new photographer I’m excited to work with.

Happy Sewing!

The Extra Touches of Handmade

Sometimes, an order requires that little extra touch that can accompany something handmade.  When I make the Girls Heirloom Gown I add this little thank you card inside the package before shipping.

It takes a few extra minutes of my time but I think it’s well worth it.  I know, as a customer myself, that the little touches like this, that accompany a handmade order, go a long way towards making me remember the seller.  I hope this accomplishes the same with my customers!

At some point, I’d like to be able to do this with all orders.  Sometimes time just doesn’t allow for it when it’s quicker to scroll a simple, handwritten thank you note instead.

Happy sewing!

Saturday Pattern Sharing 2/11/12

I seem to be drawn to spring/summer stuff right now!  I don’t know if this weirdly warm weather has tricked my brain into thinking it’s further ahead in the year than it is, or if I’m just ready for nicer weather to be here.  Nothing against winter — as strange as it sounds, I absolutely love the season — but it’s harder to deal with nasty weather when you have small children.

But I digress…

Today’s tutorial is the super cute Pillowcase Nightgown featured over at iCandy Handmade.

Pillowcase Nightgown Tutorial

 

Last summer, my five year old started to finally want to wear nightgowns.  Truthfully, I think it’s because they feel more princess-like than standard pj pants and a top.  No matter the case it will be fun to make her some of these nightgowns for use this summer!

Happy sewing!

Stitch Tips

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  1. Determine what speed your machine runs the best at.  The slower mine goes, the less straight my seams are; the faster it goes, the easier it is to make big mistakes and stray from where I should be sewing.  For me, it’s best if I sew with the machine on the highest setting but not at it’s fastest speed.  It’s about half way between the medium and fast setting.
  2. Play around until you figure out what stitch length works the best for your specific needs.  When I’m sewing cotton fabrics together I use a slightly shorter stitch length — it’s actually the recommended stitch length for a straight stitch on my machine; but when I’m top-stitching I lengthen the stitch length 1-2 settings so it looks prettier and more professional.
  3. Figure out the best seam allowance (the distance a seam lies from the edge of the fabric) to keep it from being pulled down into the needle hole on the needle plate.  This is especially important when turning corners without much fabric between the feed dog and presser foot.  On my machine a 1/4″ seam allowance is the minimum I can use.
  4. Learn how the tension works, and how to adjust it, on your machine.  At first it can seem quite intimidating but after some practice you’ll be able to quickly spot thread tension issues and fix them immediately.  No more wonky stitches!
  5. Change the pressure on the presser foot.  Learn what settings work best for different fabrics, different thickness and even the different number of fabric layers.  You’ll need to increase the pressure when sewing through heavier fabrics such as corduroy, denim, leather and decrease it when sewing through lighter fabrics such as chiffon and tulle.  I’ve found that when I’m top-stitching over a thick side seam, it helps keep my stitch lengths consistent if I crank up the pressure just to get past the seam.
  6. Every time you sit down to sew and change anything — fabric, thread, stitch length, type of stitch, etc. — sew some test stitches on a scrap piece of the fabric(s) you’re using.  This will allow you to get your tension, stitch length and pressure right before you start on your actual piece.
  7. When sewing corners, doing appliques or any other project where you’ll be moving the fabric in anything but a straight line, keep your needle in the down position — meaning that when you stop sewing the needle is down in the fabric and not up at it’s highest point.  This will keep your stitches in line when you move the fabric.
  8. Change your needle often!  Yes, it’s another (minor) cost but it’s well worth the money.  I change my needle after 6-8 hours of sewing or sooner if I’m having trouble with skipped stitches.
  9. Keep your sewing machine clean.  Lint buildup can affect your feed dogs and cause extra wear and tear on your machine.  A can of compressed air helps to blow gunk out of places you can’t reach; the small screw driver that came with your machine will help you pull the needle plate off so you can clean around the feed dogs.
  10. PRACTICE, PRACTICE, PRACTICE!  Sewing is just like any other skill — the more you do it, the better you’ll get and the more comfortable you’ll get with your sewing machine.  I’ve been sewing almost daily for just shy of two years and I still see improvements in the items I make.

Happy sewing!

Sewing Organization

One of the best ways to stay productive, is to make sure your sewing room/space stays organized.  When your stuff is easy to find you’ll spend less time looking for things and more time crafting!

Use storage containers with clear drawers to organize sewing notions.  The clear drawers allows you to see what’s inside them without having to rifle through everything.  The red unit is the type you buy at a hardware store; the white ones can be bought from your everyday, big-box store such as Target or Wal-Mart.

Keep all of your cutting and marking tools contained, yet close at hand.  This crock is perfect for holding scissors, pencils/pens, sewing gauges, turning tools, etc — it’s heavy enough that it won’t tip over and wide enough to fit a large amount of stuff.  It sits on the corner of my cutting table so my rotary cutters are always within reach.  My husband’s Aunt gave this to me years ago (it’s a piece she made), I love that I get to look at it almost every day!

Take advantage of unused space!  I used some of the removable 3M hooks to hang my rulers on the side of the bookshelf.  The bookshelf sits directly next to the cutting table so my rulers are within reach when I’m cutting (they’re also right next to my cutting tools).  I was continuously losing my rulers within stacks of fabrics so this has worked out fantastically!

Organize your fabric so it’s easy to see!  I put smaller pieces of cotton in these square cubbies, grouped (somewhat) by color.  Larger pieces are wrapped on fabric organizers and stored in laundry baskets or clear storage containers.  Just be careful of direct sunlight to avoid fading your fabrics.  You can always store them in closed cabinets, colored storage containers or fashion a curtain to keep them out of harm’s way.  With my sewing room being in the basement, the direct sunlight into the room is limited; my fabrics are stored directly under the window so they are shadowed by the sun coming through the window.

Happy sewing!

Saturday Pattern Sharing 2/4/12

Last week’s tutorials were fun (when you come across it, boy stuff is so adorable!) but we’re back to cute little girl sewing stuff today!

This tutorial by Simple Simon &Co would be the perfect project to make the transition into warmer weather.  That time where it’s not quite warm enough to go without a jacket, but after a LONG winter the kids are tired of buttoning up.

The Audrey Cape Tutorial

 

Happy sewing!