Monday, November 30, 2009


That about sums it up. The show in Port Dover was absolutely amazing - not only did I have a wonderful time with the other vendors, but I sold almost everything I had AND added another half dozen custom orders to my list. I'm beyond thrilled. And now I'll be beyond busy! The next few weeks will be a frenzy of craftiness and I'm very excited about all the projects on my plate. Hats, bags, muffs, earmuffs...and a few customers calling when they've decided what they'd like me to do with the coats they have.
I am SO impressed with Merianne Fess, the glass artist who coordinated the show, and my fellow vendors Cristina Zanella, painter and weaver, and April Maxwell, potter. They all produce such beautiful and inspiring work, it was impossible to resist a few purchases. I was equally impressed with how supportive the community of Port Dover is of its artisans and craftpersons. I grew up in Waterford and I know how open and welcoming small towns are, but some are more inclined to artisans than others - Port Dover is heaven for us all! It tempts a girl to find a way to set up a studio there, there's something to dream about!
So I'm a very happy (and very tired) crafter, looking forward to getting down to business...and all of a sudden, it's December.

Thursday, November 26, 2009


I'm really looking forward to the show this weekend. It'll be nice to hang out with some crafty friends, meet some new customers and maybe rustle up a few custom orders. I have a good feeling about this weekend, it just might be the little boost I've been looking for. I took a few of my new trapper hats to the office today and the ladies went WILD for them - I've already had two requests to purchase in addition to the original request for my friend's father in Owen Sound. So it looks like hats may be the item that bumps up my finances this winter! I'm looking forward to experimenting with different patterns after this weekend (unless, God willing, I'm so busy with custom orders that I don't have time to mess around!).
Everything is packed up and ready to be loaded in the car tomorrow. Tonight I have my weekly choir rehearsal, which interrupts my schedule just enough to keep me from starting any other new projects. It's not a bad thing that it forces me to stop thinking about the business for a couple of hours. I lose a lot of sleep to fits of inspiration (not complaining) and exasperation (complaining).
The forecast for the weekend is lovely, sunny and crisp. I hope it's cool enough at the show that I can wear a hat, it's better to show them off on a live model. I realised today that I don't have any heads to put them on. In the absense of actual dummy heads, one of the ladies at work suggested styrofoam balls from the craft store - but they're not free, so I'll keep looking. I'm sure my mother has something lying around her house that I can commandeer (a topiary, maybe, or a stuffed animal with a big head?).
So I think I'm ready. I have my inventory list, my catalogs, my custom order forms, the items are tagged and stacked in the baskets by the door, and I cleaned out the trunk and front seat of my Echo hatchback (I use the term "trunk" loosely, as it is no more than a foot deep). The back seat is Charlie's domain, there's no room for anything but greyhound back there.
I hope I'll have lots of great stories to share when I get back next week.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

All the trappings

Behold, the Chocolate Raspberry Truffle Trapper Hat (chocolate brown sheared beaver with raspberry corduroy)!
Third time's a charm after all. Today I made yet another attempt at making a fur-lined trapper hat, and finally met with success after two exasperating failures.
I've always wanted one for myself, and in the last few weeks have had a few inquiries about whether or not I make them - so now is as good a time as any. I also wanted to have this one finished before the show this weekend in Port Dover, so I have an example (not for sale). Although if someone insists that they absolutely MUST HAVE IT they can buy it off my head at the end of the weekend! According to the trend-watchers, it is the must-have hat of the season. I'm all for functional fashion; I need to cover my ears when I'm out in winter, and I walk Charlie at least twice a day during non-sunny hours.
So one of my best customers has ordered a hat for her father who lives in Owen Sound - he can definitely use a furry hat up there. And I'll see if I drum up any new clients this weekend. The show starts with a wine and cheese on Friday, so before then I really need to get myself organized. I have a few more pieces to finish, need to make sure all my items are priced, draw up my inventory list, and remember to pack everything else for the stay at my parents' place for the weekend. Charlie will be in his glory, Grandma and Grandpa spoil him terribly and he doesn't even notice when I'm not there.
Here's hoping the show goes well, and that I'll have more cool custom orders to blog about!

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Pulling the rabbit out of the hat

There's no actual hat, of course, but there was some rabbit involved. Finally finished the custom black rabbit muff and have sent the last photo to my customer for approval; I don't know if she'll be as enamored as I am with the neck strap (a featurethat I don't usually add, preferring the hidden wrist strap), which I fashioned from a strand of pompoms from one of those scarves made of rows of furballs. It takes a certain kind of person to wear a muff in the first place, but a muff on a strand of pompoms might be a little we'll see how she feels. If she's not feeling quite up to the pompom challenge, I'll pick up some nylon/silk cording and go the more classic route.
So now that I've finished (unofficially) that order, I'm picking up where I left off with the lap quilts - I was going to churn out a couple of persian lamb bucket bags but broke the last of my machine needles and am going to have to wait til tomorrow to pick up another pack. I should probably find a wholesale source for needles.
The quilts I hand-stitch while sitting comfortably in my Ikea chair, by my nice big windows that offer plenty of sunshine. This is still an exciting novelty for me, after living in an apartment for two years where my only windows faced an alleyway and received no direct sunlight, ever. It wasn't good. Although I seem to recall getting a lot of work done, because I never knew what time it was. Anyway, this apartment is perfect for my needs. There are piles and baskets of fur and leather fabric all over the "work area" and the rest of the apartment is a craft-free zone. My only complaint is carpeting - there's a lot of vaccuuming involved. When I had only hardwoods, I'd wait til all the fur collected itself into a woolly mammoth in a corner or under a chair, then snork it up with the dustbuster; alas, here I require a real machine with a beater bar. Something about a vaccum with a beater bar makes me feel like a grown-up...

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Custom order - Black Rabbit Muff

Have I mentioned that I love custom orders? This is how the message began:
"We ran across your Etsy store and reFurbished & RE:PLAY store while looking online for traditional ladies fur muffs available in Canada, something that we're having a frustratingly hard time finding. We were pretty excited to find your website — your work is beautiful and your use of recycled fur is a wonderful idea." Woohoo! Niche market!

My new customers are looking for a black muff with a neck strap and some zippered pockets, to be worn with a long black wool coat. I had originally thought of a red silky lining but the vintage buttons that I found that I like for the accents are silvery-blue, and I decided to go with a navy satin lining instead. I love the combination of navy and black, I think it's beautifully dramatic. And I'll make the strap adjustable - a thicker coat or a different collar can make a huge difference to the length of the strap, and I want her to be able to wear it with other coats if she wants to. So I finished yesterday's custom order, the Flower Power book bag, and have pieced together the fur for the muff from what used to be a truly hideous eighties nightmare of a coat that had alternating strips of fake leather (which was decomposing and producing a disgusting sticky residue) with strips of rabbit fur. I love taking something ugly and making it into beautiful things!

I was delighted to stumble over a bag of quilt batting when I was looking for something else last night - I thought I'd run out and was going to have to make a trip to Fabricland, but there it was tucked behind a chair. The only thing better than finding what you need accidentally is finding what you're looking for when you're looking for it.

Anyway, I've set my deadline for the end of the week. I have to sing at a wedding Saturday afternoon and I'd like to have the order done before then. I like to offer a quick turnaround time for custom orders whenever possible - it builds up good customer rapport and it forces me to get my ass in gear and get things finished instead of procrastinating.

Here's the finished flower power bag with a load of books in it for stress testing. I was undecided about adding a snap or buckle close, until I filled it and could see how it hangs. Because of the shape and depth of the bag, it slouches closed of its own accord. I'll let the customer decide though - she can wear it for a while and see if she wants me to add a close or not. I don't mind doing minor alterations after the sale, if it makes it a better bag for the wearer.

Happy crafting!

Monday, November 9, 2009

Flower Power - custom book bag

One of my loyal customers is a friend at work - I made a custom patchwork carryall for her a couple of months ago, she purchased a smaller bag last month, placed an order for a fur throw for her aunt who is in a wheelchair, and has requested a custom book bag for her twelve-year-old grand-daughter. When I make a custom bag as a gift, I like to get an idea of the recipient's personality as well as physical attributes - I don't want to make a huge bag for a petite girl, or a small bag for someone with a larger frame. For personality, I need to know if we're talking ponies and fairies or skulls and crossbones, primaries or pastels, funky or subtle. In this case, the request is for a large cross-body book bag for a willowy 5'6ish girly-girl. I suggested a black patchwork with flowers scattered on one side - cute cartoony ones that look like bathtub grippy flowers. The idea met with a resounding YES! and I've cut out the flowers so I can start stitching them on tomorrow. When I add an applique I don't use the machine. I know I could, but I find it meditative to sit in my comfortable chair and stitch. I feel the same way about putting together the fur quilts - yes, it takes time, but it feels right doing it that way.
I think I might put one giant flower on the other side but I haven't come to an official decision. Of course my hope is that this will become a Favouritest Bag EVER, and that it will last through adolescence - in which case, maybe the flowers should only be on one side so there's a plain black side to face out. But then again, by then she'll be old enough to buy her own handbags...

Wednesday, November 4, 2009


I was having trouble motivating myself this afternoon. Some things that I know about myself when creating:
1. I can't make the same thing twice. When I try, bad things happen.
2. When I feel truly compelled to create a specific item, I typically execute one perfect example of it before succumbing to 1 (see above). Having attained the desired result, I lose the compulsion.
3. Despite these truths, I repeatedly attempt to create more than one of a given item. I can trick myself by using different colours and different hardware, but then it's not an exact replicate so it doesn't count.
Today's issue comes from my determination to make half a dozen CarryAll bags before the end of the month. I was at least going to aim for similar size and shape, and I would REALLY like to have a few classic black bags for those less adventurous no avail. I couldn't work up the enthusiasm for the black bag until I came up with the idea of having different coloured pockets around the outside. The bag I always carry is black, with black pockets (see photo above - each pocket is a different style or shape, or has a different closure). I sometimes have to search in multiple pockets for what I want because I can't remember which black pocket I put it imagine if there were four or five different coloured pockets! Keys in green, lipgloss in pink, business cards in blue...and just like that, I was off the couch and back at The Machine.

Of course, that means only one person will get a CarryAll with rainbow pockets, and then I have to come up with another new idea. My hope is that I will never run out of ideas, because as long as I know I haven't done everything, I'll be able to motivate myself to continue to create and improve my craft.