Financial Fumble

My laptop quit on me on Sunday.  No warning, no blue screen of death, just complete silence.  I walked away from it mid-afternoon to go do some sewing work and when I returned it wouldn’t power back on.

We tried everything we could in the hopes it was an easy fix.  My hubby tested the power adapter/cord, the battery and the computer in general with his voltage meter to see if he could pinpoint a problem.  I followed every directions for a reboot/reset I could find on the internet.  Skipping dinner I even drove across town in the hopes my friend’s power cord would work to boot it up.  (We originally thought the power cord had quit working, thus draining the battery and not allowing it enough power to come on.)

Much to my dismay, my great computer “geek” ran some diagnostics yesterday afternoon and came back to me with the news I dreaded.  The motherboard was done.  Shot.  Toast.  With no signs of damage it decided to just up and quit, leaving me high and dry with no business computer.  All recommendations were to purchase a completely new laptop instead of replacing the motherboard in a machine that was already over two years old.  On the plus side at least the hard drive was still good so all of my data could easily be transferred to a new laptop.

To say I’ve been in a foul mood the last 40+ hours has been an understatement.  I get it, it’s only a computer and yes my data was recoverable.  Worse case scenario my husband and I go back to sharing the macbook (although this presents some challenges as all of the software I’ve purchased has been for a PC) for the time being. Last night as I drove home from the store with a spiffy new laptop on the seat next to me, the realization of why this has been so disheartening came to me.

I paid for the first laptop completely using Stitch To Stitch profit.  As I opened the shop in June 2010 I financed it using 18-months “same as cash”.  Each month I scraped together enough money to pay my bill, never dipping into our personal accounts for funds.  The goal of opening the shop was to become self-sufficient.  To fund my own sewing/crafting addiction, to be able to spend “fun” money on myself and the family, and to help out here and there with our household bills.  When the end of my payments rolled around I was ecstatic.  I was so proud to say I’d bought it with money I’d MADE from the business.  Over the last 6 months the business has continued to take off and do well.  I’ve made a couple of wholesale fabric purchases — we’re talking buying full bolts of material with minimum order requirements — and paid cash for them.

I felt like I was finally getting to where I hoped the business would be.  Making money.  Being able to spend a little money here and there without worry about having enough to cover basic supplies.  More importantly I was feeling like I was successful in this venture.  And now I feel like I’ve taken a step backwards in my financial freedom.  That I’ve hit a huge stumbling block, business-wise.  I know this is all part of the growing pains that accompany being a small business owner.  You have to account for the unexpected and roll with the punches.  It still stinks though.  It still makes you want to cry and shake your fists at the sky.  And something that seems as trivial as having to buy a new laptop can make you feel like you’ve been knocked back down to square one.

At least it wasn’t my sewing machine that decided to quit, completely putting me out of commission the last few days.  At least I’m in a place where I can go finance another laptop with their 18-month same as cash program again, but this time with more confidence in being able to make the payments.  It just means I need to work harder and be more diligent about driving my sales up to offset this new expense!  :)  It’s motivation to push myself to do even better.

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.


Back to Square One

Over the last few months I’ve taken on more and more sewing projects that aren’t children’s clothing items — the camera straps covers, the purses and some other special request stuff.  There has been a solid interest from buyers to make some of these items available for sale but I’m against listing them in my current Etsy store.  I want the original STS on Etsy to be children’s boutique clothing.  Nothing more, nothing less.  And I’ve waffled about opening a second Etsy store to sell other wares.  On one hand I think the variety would be interesting, but then I sit and look at my schedule and contemplate the logistics of opening another shop.

I’m running on too little sleep and too much coffee as it is; the thought of two Etsy shops makes my heart rate elevate slightly.

My answer to this request was to redo THIS site.  To turn this webpage into an e-commerce shop where both my current Etsy items and the other crazy stuff I create could be sold directly to the buyer.

This place originally started as just a basic blog.  A place where I could talk about what inspires me to sew, to share ideas I think are fantastic and to just give everyone a peak inside this crazy head of mine.  The thoughts of turning it into something more was exciting and has kept me up more nights than I’d care to admit.

After jotting down some basic ideas and some rough design plans I set the wheels into motion.  Part of me wanted to take on the task myself but my husband oh so politely pointed out that my plate is already crowded and I spend more time on the computer than I should.  So I hired someone to redo the site for me.  The money, in my opinion, would be well spent to save myself the time it would take.

We worked out the details — me trying to convey exactly what I wanted the new layout to encompass.  Over the last couple of months I’ve watched the new site take shape.  Slowly it morphed into the picture I had in my head.

And then, just yesterday, when trying to get the actual boutique finalized, I’ve been forced to go back to square one.  To say that I’m disappointed is an understatement.

So in the next little while, this site will revert completely back to the old blog.  A new redo will be in the works.  As for it’s ETA…that remains to be seen.

Idea Overhaul

From the initial conceptualization of Stitch To Stitch, my hope was to stock the store with boutique clothes for both little girls AND little boys.  I wanted the store to showcase more than the typical female outfits — apparel for the brothers, coordinating sibling sets, etc.

Truthfully, it’s difficult to come up with good ideas for little boys clothing.

I found a great fabric line that I thought was going to work and started on an idea I’d had rumbling around in my head.  The skirt came out just as I’d envisioned it but the boy pants have left much to be desired.  Even my husband commented on how they just didn’t seem to “work” the way he knew I was hoping for.  I’ve scoured the limited selection of fabric stores in town to come up with an altered idea (nice pun, huh?).  Every trip has left me disheartened and empty-handed.  This pair of pants has hung in plain view for days, taunting me with their not quite right fabric combination and semblance.

What seems to be out of nowhere, the idea finally came to me.  I need to step back even further away from the original concept and the original fabrics and start from the basic building blocks.  Perhaps coming up with coordinating sibling outfits doesn’t mean using fabrics from a single design line.  Perhaps coming up with them means broadening my creative horizons, pulling in fabrics from different designers and line.  Perhaps even throwing in some varying textures as well.

The creative thought process has started from scratch but I think it’s going in a much better direction.  My hope is to have something pulled together in the next few days.

A Plea for Help!

After the craziness of the last year (brain surgery and all), three of us started a new business in early June –Amanda, Jan and I (Viki). With her newly expanded brain, Amanda is trying her hand at being an honest to goodness seamstress and has opened a shop on this place they call Etsy.  She certainly loves what she does.  Although I’m a little biased, I think her work is fantastic.

It’s quite simple really.  There’s a division of labor amongst the three of us that rarely changes.  This division works well and when running smoothly, the three of us work together really well.

  • Amanda is the creative center: picking patterns and fabric, cutting everything out and coordinating the production/manufacturing.
  • Jan does the grunt work: serging raw fabric edges, gathering fabric for ruffles, rolled hems.
  • Viki (yours truly) does the aesthetic finishing work: top-stitching, decorative stitching and other fine techniques that are too delicate for Jan to handle.

We have a problem right now though.  Lately Jan doesn’t want to cooperate and is giving Amanda fits.

We’re supposed to be sewing this gorgeous fabric into a beautiful twirl skirt:

Instead Amanda’s fretting. Muttering about “loopers” and “tensions” (with an interjected curse word here and there).

Turning fabric over and scrutinizing stitches.  Muttering about “loopers” and “tensions” (with an interjected curse word here and there).

Twisting knobs to the left and right.  Muttering about “loopers” and “tensions” (with an interjected curse word here and there).

Feeding the same piece of beautiful, albeit scrap, fabric through the machine over and over again.  Muttering about “loopers” and “tensions” (with an interjected curse word here and there).

Did I mention the muttering?  And the cursing?  Okay, I did.  Just checking…

You can tell that Amanda is NOT happy.  And the saying is very true around here…when the boss ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy!

This unforeseen and highly frustrating slowdown is forcing me to sit in the corner, neglected, and not so patiently wait for my turn to sew.

It makes me sad.  I just want to come out and play!  I’m too pretty to sit in the corner with the dog hair and forgotten dinner crumbs.  I want to sew beautiful stitches on that delicious Freebird fabric by MoMo.  I want to put the finishing touches on that adorable skirt and make Amanda proud.  In the time that we’ve worked together she’s never muttered at me, never cursed at my work nor gotten up and walked away to regain her composure.  I’m steadfast and reliable — swooping in to save the day when Jan is too sick to fulfill her responsibilities.

On a more serious note though (and the intent of this post), I think Jan is really sick.  It’s been going on for a few days now, this giving Amanda fits.  We thought she was fixed the other night but I guess that isn’t the case.  This is the second time she’s had to be taken into the doctors in the last 3 months.  I think this time she won’t come home with us; she’ll have to stay until they figure out what’s wrong and decide how to fix the problem.  With Jan gone, our creativity will halt considerably.  When creativity halts, business does the same.

Although I appreciate the extra attention that comes with her absence, I know it makes Amanda sad.  I keep thinking that maybe if we got a new partner, one who has my work ethic, we wouldn’t continue to run  into these problems.  We could serge and sew to our hearts’ content.  Making beautiful twirl skirts, peasant tops/dresses and pretty fall ruffle pants.

I guess I’m in a common place that so many people find themselves in–working alongside a coworker who calls in sick more often than acceptable, seemingly slowing the entire team down but never getting fired because when they DO work, their work is invaluable.  I long to be on a team that runs efficiently but I know that Amanda’s not in a place to replace Jan.

Out of my loyalty to her (I really do have life well here, I can’t complain at all about her expectations and treatment of me) I’m going out on a limb and trying my hand at winning her that beautiful new Husqvarna Viking s21 Serger thatwill be given away over at Sew Mama Sew’s Blog in September.   So please, readers, throw in your two cents about how much Amanda deserves a headache-free machine to work with and help me win this for her.  It would be really wonderful if she could have a beautiful new serger to work on our team.


Amanda’s Husqvarna Viking Emerald 203 (aka “Viki”)


**Disclaimer: Amanda wants family that contributed to the purchase of her Janome serger to know she truly appreciates the gift and has gotten great use out of it.  She just really wants something nicer and less temperamental to work with considering her workload now.**

Bump in the Road

Wouldn’t it figure that the needle plate on my serger breaks a week before my launch?  Yeah, that seems to be the luck of the sewing world.  When you need everything to work efficiently and smoothly it gives you fits and fights you like a toddler not wanting to take a bath.

To add insult to injury, the repair tech at the local store is on vacation until next week.  Even more awesome!  Thankfully the wonderful sewing ladies helped me to determine it was just the needle plate causing me troubles.  Unfortunately though, they don’t have one in stock and it will take 10 days for them to get one in.

I came home though and immediately found myself searching the world wide web for the needle plate.  Fifteen minutes later I had the same part ordered for about 60% of the cost AND priority mail shipping.  My hope is that the package is here tomorrow or Friday, giving me the weekend to pound out some last minute items.

So in my down time I’ve been working on taking/editing photos, writing listings and organizing all of the notes I keep writing on random scraps of paper and tucking into my sketchbooks.  You can see the new photos on my flickr photostream.

As for the listings, I don’t plan on posting anything until late this weekend or early next week.  Official launch is June 1st but I think I’ll spread the listings out over a couple of days to get more exposure.

Tomorrow I want to get fabric cut for some new items as well.  That way I’ll be ready to sew as soon as the postal carrier brings me my serger parts!