Friday, May 6, 2011

How to cut out a sewing pattern and preserve other sizes

Another sewing post! I really missed sewing, clearly. I took the day off from work and one thing I knew I wanted to do with the day was at least start the new blouse I have planned. I bought the fabric on Spoonflower and the pattern from Colette patterns. I bought 2 yards and was just able to squeeze the pattern pieces into the yardage.

The pattern is drawn out for 9 sizes, and although I am making the largest size I am hopeful that in the future I'll fit into a smaller one. Denial? It doesn't matter. The point is, I wanted to cut out the pieces in such a way as to keep my future options open. There's a way to do so, and I took pictures to document how I did it.

You would think that because I am using the largest size, all the smaller ones just nestle inside them. You would be wrong; in lots of places they cross each other. Here you can see on the right, all the larger sizes' outlines are outside the smaller ones'. But on the left, there is some crossover; if I were to cut along the largest outline I would lose some of the pattern info for the smaller sizes.

Here I show how I have folded back the other outlines. Because of the curved edge, it won't just fold back naturally; you need to clip the paper several times to allow it to expand along the curve. (This one is a concave curve. For convex curves, not shown here, clipping the paper allows the edges to overlap each other along the curve.)

Clip to the innermost outline, which is going to be the fold line.

Fold the pieces up along the fold line (your cutting line). Then when you cut out the pattern, carefully cut along the edge, making sure not to cut the folded paper.

And at the bottom of this picture you can see that the extra pattern information has been saved! This will also work if you are cutting out a size that is not the largest and you want to keep the larger outlines intact.

Okay, maybe I won't fit into a smaller size, but maybe my mom can use the pattern next time and take advantage of the smaller sizes (she's teeny tiny).

Happy sewing!

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Why I'm closing my Etsy shop

I've been operating my Etsy storefront for about four years now, and I've never been over the moon about its performance but I always assumed that was because I didn't do enough work to promote it. Last August I met a woman whose year-old Etsy shop was doing hundreds of sales, and it made me realize that just hoping that my shop would magically get noticed was, well, magical thinking. In our conversation she was super enthusiastic and encouraging, and passed on a few great ideas for improving my traffic. I started putting those ideas into practice. I started relisting items frequently; I posted on my FaceBook page for the shop about various items; I bought ad space on FB for my shop page (and later for my other project); I cross-linked between this and my other project; and I offered free shipping for "likes" on FB page. I worked on improving my photography. I read articles on succeeding with an Etsy store and tried to put their ideas into practice. And my sales did improve, but only a small amount. From a few a year to one a month or a little less.

The turning point came at my tax preparation appointment this year. My accountant gave me the usual speech about how I'm not making much money from my business and if I don't start making a profit it could be a problem. I said, "Okay, if I don't do better this year I'll call it a day," and she said "Fine, but we had this exact conversation last year," and I realized she was right. It was a moment when I woke up a little bit, and I decided to redouble my efforts to bring in more sales, and also to spend less on raw materials and instead just use up what I have on hand. I've done well at spending less and using what's in stock, but there's been no improvement in sales.

I have been mulling over this in earnest for a few months, and I have started to come to terms with it. Last week I said to my husband, "I think I'm going to close my Etsy shop," and the very next morning I checked my email and had gotten another sale, and I thought, well, that's ironic! Maybe it's a sign? I sent out the fiber to the buyer.

Two days later she emailed me on Etsy to say that she was "very disappointed" because the fiber was "very felted," she couldn't use it, and how did I propose to rectify the situation? Naturally, I realized there was no point in arguing with her. I didn't agree on the condition of the fiber (and will be spinning it up as soon as it arrives back to prove it), but there is nothing to be gained by arguing, and possibly she would give me a poor rating as a result, which I would like to avoid. I told her to send it back to me and I would refund her the purchase price plus the return postage. She put it in the mail and I gave her the refund.

And I thought, that's it! The last straw. I realized that this is just a complete waste of my time and money, I'm making NOTHING from it, losing money in fact, and I don't see a need to give the owners of Etsy another dime. (Unfortunately I then had to pay my fees for the last month, but there wasn't much I could do about that.)

Finally I went into Etsy and put my store "on vacation." I don't know that I am ready to Close it but I can and did take an action to take it out of circulation, from Etsy but more importantly from my mental processes. I realized how every time I look at my yahoo mail account, I'm scanning first of all for emails from Etsy in hopes of a sale. Every time I buy something via Paypal I hope to see a balance in there. How much energy that takes! I can stop doing that now. I have started to feel a weight off my shoulders.

I don't have to feel guilty that I haven't done any dyeing in a while or that I haven't relisted my products lately. I don't have to feel lame that I am not making any sales. Well, I feel like I failed at this endeavor, and that feels lame, and I feel disappointed. But I also feel like I finally admitted defeat and I can take this energy and put it in some new direction.

The one remaining issue that I'm not sure about is whether to continue the dyeing workshop project as well. Because the truth is, I don't feel like dyeing fiber very often. After interviewing a bunch of dyers, and reading about their processes, and how much time and energy they devote to their work, I also realized that I'm just not as interested in doing it as the pros are. (Or even as much as the serious amateurs are.) I like it … okay. Not a lot.

What I still really love is looking at pictures of beautiful colorways. And maybe that is where I will stay - a devotee of color and fiber who loves to look (and occasionally buy). Maybe I'll keep experimenting in my dye lab in the basement, but without any pressure to have it Be Something More.

So that's what's been going on. I'm closing down the Etsy shop. As to the inventory: I took a bunch of skeins of yarn over to Stix 'n' Stitches in Montclair, and they are always so complimentary to me about them and happy to sell them on consignment in the shop. Which amazes me in itself! And the fiber? I can spin it! I made a bunch of colors that I like!

I'm going to keep posting here, by the way. Lately I've been doing some sewing and have posted about some of it, and now that I don't have to be all professional about the shop I can just post what I like and that will be that.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Vinyl Repair. Vinyl Repair! THE FIXER!

Okay, not vinyl - microsuede, much nicer than vinyl. (The title is a call out to an ad in the '70s they used to play constantly on TV. Anybody remember it?)

We have this sofa that is going to charity tomorrow (although they didn't call to confirm so I'm a little nervous that they won't show up). It's a great sofa - sofa bed, actually - but after we put in the door in my office, it was too wide for any wall in our house. So we have to get rid of it. Now, I was eventually able to curb them of the habit, but for a while the cats were sharpening their claws on one corner of it. Here you can see the damage they did to the microsuede cover.

They only damaged the cover, though, not the sofa itself underneath. So that's one good thing. Anyway, when I called the charity that is taking it I told them that the cover had some cat scratch damage and said I was thinking of patching it, and they said it would be a good idea if I did so, otherwise the foreman picking up the thing might not take it if it looked too damaged.

So I removed a piece from the center back pleat, and then just sewed the pleat halves back together without folding them back. I removed the worst-scratched piece from the corner pleat, and replaced it with the piece from the back, but in front of the folded side pieces. It looks fine, if you didn't know you might not even notice.

I had to patch the corner as well. Here is a closeup of the patch:

One great thing about ultrasuede is you don't have to worry about edges fraying, and you can just top sew the seam and let that be it.

I didn't want to spend a huge amount of time doing this, and I think if I were doing it for us to keep I probably would have been a little more "precious," as Adam accuses me of being, but at the same time I was thinking of the people who would get the sofa and I hated to think of them getting something that was crappy. You can still see a little bit of scratch damage on the right side, but it's not horrendous, and hopefully will pass muster.

With the pillow on top, the patch is hidden, and the whole thing looks pretty much restored to decent shape.

Oh yeah - one more thing: I have to give credit where credit is due: My Kenmore, yes that's the Sears brand, sewing machine is fraking badass and can sew through half a dozen layers without complaint. I couldn't pin through it, but I was able to sew. I love my Kenmore (made by Janome, behind the scenes).