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All My Peeps

Isn't this guy the cutest?

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I've been excited to make him for weeks. I've been wanting to learn needle felting for a long time, and when I saw a felted peeps class on CreativeBug I knew my moment had arrived.

I bought a ton of supplies. Amazing colorful wool roving and some gorgeous wood tools... I'm a little bit enthusiastic that way. I had six beautiful Easter-y shades of wool, so I was going to make six super cute little peeps for my son's basket.

I made one. It took me over three hours (almost half a night's sleep!) and caused a number of minor injuries. It turned out really cute – I love it, and more importantly, my son loves it – but I fear it is fated to be an only peep. Because lo and behold, I discovered that I don't really like needle felting all that much.

Kind of sad.

But you know what? That's just how it goes sometimes. 

If you have flirted with the joys of craftiness, you probably understand. If you have walked down the aisle and promised to love, honor and obey your craftiness, then you definitely understand. How often do you swear something's going to be your Next Big Thing, only to try it and discover it's much harder than you thought? Or that you have absolutely no skill whatsoever in that particular area? Or it's kind of physically painful (when they warn you about how sharp felting needles are, they're not kidding), too technical, messy, time-consuming... whatever. 

Ah well. That's just how it goes sometimes. Because part of the joy of making things comes from appreciating how truly wonderful it is to find those few you have a real affinity for. Like true soul mates, they can always be counted on to keep you company and spark a little passion, and are especially good at helping you show off your best self.

As for all the rest, I believe there's great value in following your curiosity and trying new things, no matter how they turn out. I don't think it's cheating to enjoy some harmless banter with a new little cutie you just met at the craft store. Your true love knows you'll be back.


Checks and Balances and Speed Bumps

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I remember learning about how our government works when I was in grade school. The concept of checks and balances. Sounds like a good plan... put in a whole bunch of speed bumps and road blocks and detours so that as few dangerous and rickety contraptions as possible make it down the side streets and out into the main thoroughfares. It's funny, but we take so much pride in coming up with an idea that just happens naturally in the real world.

I think about the incredible amount of time and effort it takes for an entrepreneur to get a product from idea stage to reality stage. The ideas come fast and furious – it rains, hails, ideas regularly. But to move forward you have to navigate all the checks and balances set up by our good friend reality. Most decent ideas make it over the first speed bumps pretty handily. Is this really as cool as I think it is? Will anyone else agree?

Sure, why not?

Then come the road blocks. So, what's it going to take to make this work? What's it going to cost, where's it going to happen, who's going to do it? What's the bottom line look like?

Er. Let me get back to you on that.

And then the detours. It just takes so long to get all the details of the doing done – all the bits and pieces that take an idea from a picture in your brain to an actual product in someone else's hand. 

I get tired just writing about that part.

I think every creative person, every small business person, is shocked and dismayed initially by this rocky process. It takes a while to realize that life is just like that when you want to make something happen – there's the big idea, and then there's the huge mountain of work needed to make it so. I've known a lot of small business owners and it's never been easy for any of them.

I would never discourage anyone from believing in their own ideas and starting down the path to making them real. It's a lot of work, a lot of crazy. But sometimes you just have to take that road, bumps and potholes and all. 

Because the ideas keep coming, and some of them are pretty good.  


Fun and Gifts

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There's something about making a gift for someone that lets me feel I'm off the hook for being productive and needing a practical purpose for what I want to create. So, I love making gifts for people!

I found these really cool wood heart-shaped blanks a while back and just needed the right excuse for playing around with them. Found: one lovely and talented 12-year-old-to-be, whose favorite color is blue and whose birthday is super special to me, 'cuz I was one of the first people who got to meet her.

Happy birthday, Miss O! Hope you enjoy.


1.24.13            Learning Curve

I've been working on a website for a client and decided to use Squarespace (which is what this site is built with). I love the clean simplicity of their templates and found one that I thought would work great.

I was surprised at how steep the learning curve was for me when I built this site for myself – I've done basic design for print for years, and have slogged my way through learning enough skills in Photoshop, InDesign, Illustrator, etc. etc. to get by. But for whatever reason, I found that understanding the basic principles of how to design a website totally confounded me at first. I think it must be the medium. The first few websites I wrote for, I also found it was a real challenge to think in the sort of layered format – this page has to work with this other page, because there will be a link there, and how do you organize the information so it all flows seamlessly for the user... It's a cool organizational challenge, and new for someone whose career started out entirely in print and broadcast, where things unfold in a very linear way.

Anyway, I learn best by just jumping in and splashing around. It can be crazy-making – but I do find the reward of figuring things out is not only worth the moments of frustration, but has its own great payoff. I love that I did it! moment. 

Anyway, the client's website is coming along nicely and with much less hair-pulling and gnashing of teeth than this one required. I find I'm really enjoying the process this time.

I'm already looking forward to I did it! 


1.16.13            Playing Tag

I've been trying to decide how to best present my necklaces for retail shop displays. I love things nicely packaged, and had some really fun ideas for fabric and paper cards to mount these on. I was all fired up to make some samples today and see how they looked.

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And then I thought about the craft fairs I did this fall and winter, and the things I learned about people and shopping, and engagement with objects.

People like to pick things up and hold them in their hands. Once someone has held something, it seems to create a kind of attachment. When we've gotten as far as holding it up to feel it and see it better, we are already envisioning owning it.

The first craft fair I did this year, I had all my samples displayed perfectly in lovely easels, all set up the way you'd do your fireplace mantel. Too perfect to disturb. And indeed, no one did. My sales at that fair were dismal. So for my next fair, I displayed my items on trays and in shallow boxes, and the necklaces hung loosely so they were easy to pick up. And sales picked up too!

I almost forgot all that, planning how my necklaces should look in retail stores. But just in time, I remembered. And this morning I came up with a cute little tag, with a nice logo and some information about the product on the back. Easy to pick up, try on, and take up to the register.

How does that saying go? 10% inspiration, 90% preparation, and 50% presentation? Something like that...


1.15.13            Hmmm...

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Look what happened the very next day after my last post! Not really quite enough to cancel school over, but it clearly shows some effort. Way to go, snow!

Today we did have a bit of early morning glee, with a late start for the schoolkids due to icy roads. This is the only place I've ever heard of that cancels school when it just sort of gets too icky outside. I used to make fun of Portlanders for their weather squeamishness, but after 19 years I'm afraid I've become one of them. And in any case, it's always nice to wake up and discover you don't really have to get moving quite yet.


1.9.13            Off to a Gray and Rainy Start       

I live in Portland, Oregon, and the funny thing about January here is that is really doesn't feel all that much like a NEW anything. It's mostly quite soggy and dismal –  kind of a discouraging atmosphere to begin anew. I think the ideal January 1 would be a cold, bright snow day as a symbol of a fresh start... either that or an 80 degree day with lots of sun and some beachfront lounging.

However, we have to work with what we've got. And we've got ahead of us a nice long stretch of the kind of weather that makes you want to be inside, concentrating on your inner priorities. Which I guess does seem like a good way to start a new year.

My small business group had our monthly meeting monday and it was really good to connect and get that burst of motivation I always get after sharing ideas, getting and giving some much needed encouragement, and realizing how much we all have to look forward to. I have also recently discovered Rena Tom and her blog/website/newsletter: http://blog.renatom.net/  I can't find it on her website or blog – perhaps it was only in her newsletter – but she has a great goal-setting worksheet that I'm looking forward to spending some time on. Actually, she has a great big lot of information and thoughtful writing on her blog/website and I plan to spend some time reading and thinking about what she has to say.

I have been feeling a bit lost about some things, and between the meeting and discovering Rena Tom, and the idea of a new year, I realize that what I want the most – to shove aside the chorus of competing voices in my head and sit down to figure out what I want to do and how I'm going to proceed – is exactly what will help me get back on my way. I am always amazed to discover that what I want and what I should do are often the same thing. Lovely. 

So today is the official start of 2013 for budgiegoods, and the thinking and goal-setting has begun. I'll make sure to keep you in the loop!


12.11.12          Crafty Underdog  

Sunday's Crafty Underdog event was probably the most fun craft fair I've done thus far. The vendors were great, and they had movies, music, food, beer... Well, anything at McMenamins is automatically going to be more fun than anything NOT at McMenamins, so I shouldn't have been surprised.

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What did catch me off guard was how great the Crafty Underdog folks are. They were all so full of positive energy and obviously committed to their cause. I felt like I'd met some old friends for the first time. I've been super sad that I Heart Art has lost its funding and is going away – they were such a great resource for local craft businesses. But finding the Underdog folks has given me a lift – I realize that the people and the commitment are still out there, just maybe in a different form. I hope to get more involved with them in the future.

I wish I'd thought to write down the names of the musicians who played and sang during the day. They were all great, but one duo in particular was extra charming. You have to love "Silent Night" done almost a cappella with just a few guitar notes and two very fresh-faced and earnest young people singing. And of course in the background, The Blue Brothers was playing... Can't ask for a better holiday mood-setter than that!

The vendors on either side of me were lovely – one was a first-timer; the other has been in it for 40 years, and her work truly showed her level of experience. She made such amazing beadwork that I have to send you to her etsy shop to look: http://www.etsy.com/shop/KiowaRoseBeads.

Best of all, my little items proved popular with shoppers – especially the super-easy ornament kits. Lots of parents picked them up to have some fun projects to do with their children over the holidays. I love knowing that there are a dozen or more moms and kids out there right now making cross stitch heart ornaments together! Hope they find a great spot on everyone's tree.


12.4.12          What a Waste 

I've had a packet of waste canvas in my stash for years, but I've always been intimidated by it. I don't know if it was the limited range of stitch sizes that troubled me, or the fact that it would have to be basted on... (horror! extra work!) In any case, I am sorry I wasted so much time avoiding what is now my very favorite thing. 

I want to show you how great this stuff is – and how easy! Imagine being able to cross stitch onto anything fabric... I'm thinking about monogramming a coin purse, putting a sweet old fashioned design on a cotton blouse, stitching simple hearts onto felt to use for gift tags... The best part is, you can choose the background color, texture and shape of your finished piece. And since you can stitch onto just about anything you can get a needle through, the possibilities will keep you up at night. Or maybe that's just me.

Waste canvas is a little bit different from regular aida fabric in that it is designed to allow your stitches to end up in another fabric. It's torn away when you're done stitching, so the background fabric remains with your stitches on it, and all the really not so attractive canvas fibers are gone. Another minor (and helpful) difference is that there are large and small openings in waste canvas. You stitch through the small openings, going right over the large ones and leaving them empty. It takes a minute to get oriented, but really does help keep track of where your stitches go.

Waste canvas does seem to be available in fewer stitch-per-inch options. I have some in the 8.5 and 14 count sizes, and have been finding plenty of great ideas for both of them. The 8.5 has been super fun for making my recycled wool pendants and rings (see below), and I'm using the 14 for initials and words, which require a bit more detail.

The only real hurdle with waste canvas is, you have to baste it to your fabric before you can start stitching. You want to make a pretty close guess of how much canvas you'll need, and cut that out of your large sheet. Hold it right where you want the stitching to be on your background fabric or object, and pin it in place if you need to make sure it will be straight or placed in a particular way. Get some bright thread in your needle and zip some nice big running stitches all around the perimeter – not all the way to the edge, because it will unravel, but close.

Once you have your canvas basted to your background fabric, you'll just follow your cross stitch pattern as usual. One other nice advantage to waste canvas is, because you most likely have a solid base for your stitches, you can use a knot for the ends of your floss. I love that, because knots make me feel more secure. They're good.

The most fun part (for me, anyway) about this kind of cross stitch is at the end, when you get to take your waste canvas out. I'm one of those people who likes to get all the icky white stuff off the tangerine sections, so maybe this is more of that kind of strangeness. Anyway, if I'm using the 14ct canvas, which is a bit smaller and tighter, I use a tweezers to gently ease the fibers out. Also, if I've stitched multiple letters, I trim carefully around and between them so I'm pulling out shorter lengths of fiber. There's a very small learning curve, based entirely on just doing it and seeing what works best for you. But I just love taking out the canvas fibers and seeing my stitches against the background fabric. It's very satisfying to see your work emerge and realize it looks exactly as you hoped!

I've been playing with waste canvas primarily on felt, because it's winter and felt is cozy and warm, and I love its earthiness. You can use any fairly sturdy fabric – and in fact, if you want to stitch on something that's a bit stretchy, like a pair of jeans, a thick t-shirt or a hoodie, this should work just fine.

I'm working on some kit ideas, which I hope to have coming out early next year. But in the meantime, you can pick up waste canvas just about anywhere regular needlecraft supplies are sold.

Let me know if you decide to give it a try – I'm happy to answer questions, and I'd love to see what you make!

1. Determine how large your final design will be and trim out a section of waste canvas about half an inch larger on all sides.

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2. Position waste canvas onto background fabric and baste into place.

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3. Follow your cross stitch chart as usual. 

Make sure to stitch only through the small holes, leaving the large holes empty.

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4. When you're done stitching, gently tug the waste canvas fibers out of your stitches. Done!


11.26.12          'Tis the Season

One of the main considerations behind budgiegoods is that while I love to make things, I don't especially love to make the same thing multiple times. As in, the thought of cross stitching a fun retro apple to hang on my kitchen wall fills me with joy... but the thought of stitching it twenty times to sell to others sounds like pure drudgery.

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I'm sure that's ADD. Or possibly just poorly toned brain cells. Either way, it's probably not the most helpful personality quirk, but I can live with it. More importantly, I can build a business around it.

Kits!

All the fun of starting a new project – developing an idea, figuring out the details, gathering the materials – and then someone else does the finish work. Perfect.

However, when holiday bazaar season came along this fall, as I was prepping my inventory, I suddenly thought, "Hey what if some of the people who go to craft fairs don't like actually making things?" Sounds crazy I know, but it occurred to me that it's possible some folks like their handmade already made.

Ergh. I had nothing for these people.

Being the savvy business person that I am, I quickly decided that uncrafty customers are just as welcome as crafty customers, and I'd better come up with something those folks would enjoy. Something I would have to complete myself. Something cleverly irresistible, but simple, that I could enjoy making over and over. The crazy thing? I found it!

These great little cross stitch heart pendants are made with recycled sweaters sourced from a lovely woman I found on etsy. Each one is different (ha!), using unique combinations of felted wool and floss colors. They're super fun to put together and make up pretty quickly. 

I love them! They're warm and sweetly cozy... the perfect little gift item to pick up at your local holiday craft bazaar. We'll see how they do – I'm excited to show them off!


11.20.12          Introductions

Where to start?

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Hello. I'm Lauren. 

I  have a son and a boyfriend, and a dog and a parakeet and some fish. We have a modest but lovely mid-century house surrounded by trees and friendly neighbors, and there's an actual forest pretty much right next door. We live in Portland, Oregon, where it really does rain as much as people say. 

I spent many years working in marketing, writing and creating and managing all sorts of projects to help all kinds of organizations grow and succeed. I learned a lot of useful and interesting things throughout my career, and then after years and years of learning how it's supposed to be done, I learned that I wanted to do it differently.

As much as I loved the collaboration and intrigue of working in a busy office with lots of other people, I realized that I was working mainly on things that deplete me, and not nearly enough on things that fill me up. I thrive on the beginnings of things, the brainstorming and the strategizing. I want to sprint away from a meeting with a list of things to take care of, and then get right down to it. Working with large groups of people means a lot of discussing and evaluating and careful considering. I like to get things done. And so as much as I love having whole communities to share ideas with, I prefer the energy of working hand-in-hand. Which lends itself perfectly to working with very small businesses and the people who really, really want to see them succeed.

So here I am. I do freelance marketing for small companies looking for creative ideas to help them get bigger, and I work as much as I can on my true love: budgiegoods – my small (but growing!) business creating needlework kits.

I'm just getting started. My days are long and overfull, sick leave and paid vacations are a thing of the past, and I have to do math sometimes.

And every morning when I wake up, I can't wait to get to work.

Welcome to budgiegoods. I'm so happy you're here.