May 06, 2010

New ribbons, new header, new life

Okay, so I exaggerate a bit, but the first two are true.  First the header.  I requested Jessica Jones come up with something new and she, to her own detriment, gave me a layered Photoshop file, which is perfect to give an amateur Photoshop person like myself the confidence to add my own bling.  I love it-- this will be my new bulletin board where I can tack up any random thing that is-- well, shiny.

And speaking of Jessica, I talked her into some more ribbons.

  Jones_ribbon_0510_2

Just between you and me, I think she is starting to dig ribbons.  I can't decide if the blue houses or the green golf carts are my favorite.  But then the brown tennis racquets really catch my eye as well.  Available by the spool from us and by the yard at the Fat Quarter Shop and CityCraft, a sewing lounge in Dallas, TX.

And congratulations to Krystin, who won the copy of Sewing Bits & Pieces.  She claims to have never won anything, ever, so I assume she will now start playing the lottery.

April 28, 2010

Back to Our Regularly Scheduled Programming

Okay, so I have been MIA for a few days, but I'm back.  Look what showed up at my house yesterday?

Sandi_1
Yes, Sandi's new book, Sewing Bits & Pieces.  It is gorgeous.  She photographed it herself and the book design is amazing.  But it just doesn't look pretty- it has 35 projects for fabric scraps that are darling!

My first favorite is the Garden Pillows.

Sandi_2

My next favorite is the Party Lights, which are decoupaged chinese latterns.

Sandi_3
And I didn't even show you the Scrappy Silhouette project, the Growing Tree Wall Hanging, or the Forest Owl. 

This book is real eye candy even if you don't do a project, but the projects can be your own personal eye candy.

Okay, so let's give one of these away, shall we?  Leave a comment and tell me the current state of your fabric stash.  Does it:  1) Fit neatly into a shoebox, 2) Fit not so neatly into a closet, or 3) Fit into a semi-trailer that you keep in your backyard?  Do you threaten to clean it up:  1) Once a year on Groundhog's Day, 2) Every week when it falls over on you, or 3) Never, because you have amazing powers of denial or tolerance for clutter.

Comment by Monday, May 3 at noon.

Save 15% When You Spend a $125 on Furniture

April 15, 2010

It's Tax Day!

Tax-form-1040-fbIt's that special day again!  The day that spouses all over the nation look at their special someone and say, "You got that filed, right?"  Well, I'm that special someone in my marriage, and no I didn't.  I filed my first ever extension.  Form 4868 if you need it.   And remember, it only extends your time to FILE, not to PAY.

So in honor of tax day, I'll rehash a couple of tax/accounting articles I wrote for Modish Biz Tips.  Jena stopped updating it last August (something about having a life and other things to manage or some such :-) ), but it is chock full of business and marketing advice for the creative business.

The first article is on accounting techniques and how you should keep up with it so you can file your taxes on time.  Too bad I didn't re-read that a month ago!

And now is a good time to look at your estimated taxes for 2010.  Review what you have set up for the year, because many times it is based on the prior year's income.  And depending on what business you are in, the income might be higher this year (hurray!) or lower (boo!).

You Can Make This!

April 14, 2010

The Wildflowers are Out in Texas

Bluebonnet_montage

This weekend I took my first ever "Texas wildflower tour".   They sure can grow those bluebonnets down here.  The fields of flowers are pretty unbelievable.  Thank you, Lady Bird Johnson, for starting that for us.

Still unpacking the new office, but I am beginning to find things.  Well, as much as I can ever find.  I do have a fun little project I'll share with you in the next few days.

Congrats to Lebec E Girl, who won the copy of Kari Chapin's Handmade Marketplace.  Be sure to email me with your address!  You also gave me some great business topic ideas.  I just might be so inspired to write some up and share them here.

And I do have a copy of Martha Stewart's new sewing book, which I'll be giving away in the next week.

Okay, back to unpacking.

April 06, 2010

Just checking in...

I think I had found most of the stuff from our move at the end of January, so we are moving again.  Hopefully will be done today and will start settling in tomorrow.  I don't handle the "un-done-ness" of a move very well.  Where is all my stuff? This downsizing is way more work than I expected.

And TypePad has totally changed how they handle comments and I'm not adapting well.  It isn't sending me emails any more when people comment, which I hate (even though in my feeble assessment, it looks like I have that option checked!).  And I was just trying to email someone back via their comment and it doesn't take me to their email-- it goes to some TypePad Connect nonsense.  Great-- yet another interface to learn.  Do they think I'm 20?

Anyway, the winner of the two Henriksdal Chair Covers is Courtneyandian.blogspot.com.  Please email me and we can discuss what covers you want!  Thank you to all who answered-- it really did help solve the mystery.  Now I can just start measuring the front of the chairs to determine which version it is.  Thank you also to those offering to send covers.  Actually, I want the actual chair so that we can make sure it fits snugly (in my humble opinion, the Ikea ones don't fit that great).  So if you have one of the older (20") versions and you are close to Houston, let me know!

Back to moving...

March 30, 2010

Spring has Sprung

Spring

I keep seeing signs of spring in the blogosphere, so I thought I would contribute my own.  The azaleas burst forth last weekend and the last two days here have been gorgeous.  I love the two weeks that are spring in Houston!

How about another giveaway?  I'd love to give you a copy of Kari Chapin's The Handmade Marketplace that I contributed to, as I bragged about earlier.  According to Kari, my section is very popular, which can only mean two things.  She is sucking up to me OR people are drinking while they are reading the book.  Maybe both.

Handmade_marketplace
But I want something in return for the giveaway.  I need ideas for a talk I'm doing this fall and I want to make sure I cover topics of interest to creative business owners.  So tell me what you wish you had known (from a business perspective) when you started your craft business (or any kind of business, for that matter) or what frustrates you the most from a business/accounting perspective. 

So leave a comment on this post before April 6 at noon CST and I'll pick a winner at random.

March 27, 2010

Help Needed, Dear Readers

Henriksdal

I need your help, but I am offering something in return.  Did you know there are two versions of the Ikea Henriksdal Chair?  Funny, I didn't either.  From what I can put together, it seems to have changed recently (maybe last November?) and it doesn't look any different, but the dimensions have changed.

Here is where I need your help.  This is the Henriksdal chair I bought in November.  I've shown you the dimensions that I measured.  (Note:  I measured the chair with the cover off and only measured where the foam was-- where there is exposed leg, I did not include that in the measurement.)  If you own one of the chairs, please tell me if your dimensions are the same.  If not, please share your measurements (of the chair :-) ), designating a,b,c and d.  And if you can remember, tell me approximately when you bought this chair.

What do you get in return?  My undying gratitude.  And you'll be entered in my drawing to win two free Henriksdal slip covers in the fabric of your choice in the size that fits your chair.

Leave your information in the comments by Friday at noon, April 2.  I'll pick a commenter at random and notify you by email.

Thank you.  I'm anxious to solve this mystery, because I'm tired of running around Ikea with a tape measure.

Image from www.ikea.com.

March 26, 2010

Melanie's Service Project

About one year ago, Melanie from Sewing For Scarlett emailed me requesting some fabric for her service project in the Bronx.   She told me she was working with her church to teach teenagers to sew and she needed fabric.  I didn't know Melanie, but her project sounded useful and I always have some fabric around, so I sent her some.  I think I even found some notions lying around as well.

Last month, she sent me pictures of some of the girls and their projects.

Melanie_project
They made tag blankets to donate to babies (some blankets are going to Haiti) and they made bags for themselves.  I love the picture of the girls hiding behind their bags.

Melanie told me she got involved through her church (LDS Church) and was assigned to work with the female teenage youth.  Most of these girls are from single-parent low-income households and Melanie observed how they lacked the opportunities she had as a child, including sewing, baking and cooking with her mother.  Her goal was to introduce them to sewing and give them enough basic skills so that they could continue on their own if they wanted.  She is the wife of a graduate student on a tight budget, so she asked some online fabric companies to donate fabrics. Sew Mama Sew, Fat Quarter Shop and jcaroline creative! did, Melanie put together the projects and look at what the girls created!

Melanie emailed, "You made a difference in several girls' lives in the Bronx."  Well, I think she did most of the hard work, but I'm so glad to see the results.

Which has gotten me to thinking about what I could do in my community along the same lines.  Sewing or any kind of crafting could be a great outlet for children that don't have those opportunities at home.  I think their sense of accomplishment would be a great esteem-builder as well.  So, I'm putting it out there and I expect you to keep me honest-- my goal is to do something in the next year that shares what I know about sewing and crafting with people who would enjoy it and wouldn't otherwise be exposed.  Do you want to join me?  If you do, email me and let me know what you are doing.  I'll keep you posted on what project I come up with.

March 25, 2010

Warm Fuzzies

She_cover

A friend gave me this book yesterday "just 'cause she likes me" and it is awesome.  It is full of little vignettes celebrating woman and their accomplishments.  This is her favorite.

She_inside 

I believe this is my favorite.

She_inside_2

It's a nice feel good book to keep on your desk or nightstand when you need a little encouragement.  It is a great gift for those women that inspire you.

She is written by Kobi Yamada and designed by Jenica Wilkie & Steve Potter, published by Compendium, Inc.  It is available at Amazon.com and on Compendium, Inc.'s website, Live Inspired.

Thank you, friend, for a little dose of inspiration.

Photos from Amazon.

March 18, 2010

We Settled Out of Court

Olivia_liberty_1Okay, there really wasn't any settling to be done.  Once she promised to never cut her hair again and then smiled, the arbitration was over.

This weekend I hit Target to check out the new Liberty of London collection.  They have some really cute things-- children's dresses, swimsuits, stationery, notebooks, hatboxes, umbrellas.  I got Olivia two darling dresses.  This one is a little frillier than I normally like, but she adores it, of course.

But I have two observations after viewing this collection at Target.  I bought these because I like the concept of Liberty of London and was thrilled to be able to get some at a great price.  But, I am so spoiled by the prints I get to see everyday from the great indie designers making fabric these days.  Liberty of London's prints are fun and really stand out in Target, but I can name dozens of fabric designers whose prints are as cute (if not cuter) than what I saw at Target.  I won't even attempt to name names because I'll leave someone out, but we know who they are-- they are designing for Michael Miller Fabrics, Westminster/Free Spirit, Moda, Andover, Marcus, Robert Kaufman, Windham, and Clothworks.  That makes for a lot of darling prints.Olivia_liberty_2

My second observation is that the ruffles on this dress are very soft and well, ruffle-y and it made me think of the post Anna Maria Horner wrote last week about the virtues of voile.  She explains why she chose to do her last collection, Little Folks, on voile and how for apparel and light quilts, it behaves so much better than standard quilting cotton.  And, I'm sure her voile is better quality than what is on this Target dress, so I'm anxious to imitate this pattern out of her fabric.  If I do, I'll share my pattern and how it went.  Just don't rush me- it may be a few weeks.

March 15, 2010

Olivia gets her own cease-and-desist letter

Obviously, cease-and-desist letters work so I am going to start using them when warranted.

Ceaseanddesist

 
Olivia_exhibitA

(And yes, that pink dress is on backwards because she likes to see the bow.  Until she cuts it off, of course.)

March 10, 2010

Knock Off Wood 1; Williams-Sonoma 0

Ana at Knock Off Wood has gotten the not-unexpected cease and desist letter from Williams-Sonoma, owner of Pottery Barn, West Elm, Pottery Barn Teen, Pottery Barn Kids.

The letter tells Ana she must remove all Pottery Barn pictures, trademarks and furniture collection names from her site by March 12.  

There are several things about this that fascinate me and it all has to do with how companies are either embracing or completely screwing up social media.  

I am not a lawyer *, but I do play one on TV,  and I think Ana does have a defense under "fair use" which among many rules, allows you to use copyrighted material in your work as reference for commentary, etc. as long as it is cited.  There is also a some legalize about whether or not you profit from the other party's copyright, etc. etc. etc.  But, let's be honest, regular people don't have the time, or more importantly, the money to defend it.

So, being a student of social media and how it is changing the way brands interact with consumers, I offer my advice to Williams-Sonoma.  Legally, you win.  Socially, you lose big.

First, your claim that "The reference to WSI's product names throughout the website convey the misinterpretation that the website is somehow affiliated with WSI." is weak.  I doubt any reasonable person going to that site thought it was in any way affiliated with WSI and knew exactly what it was-- a do-it-yourself site that imitated WSI products.  Besides, this is often solved quite easily on other sites with a disclaimer:  "This site is in no way affiliated with WSI and all trademarks and copyrights are owned by WSI."  (Check out Regretsy and IkeaHacker.  And trust me, Regretsy is not complimenting Etsy sellers, but it sure is selling their products.)

Second, according to Quantcast this blog reaches 2,416 people per month.  That is 2,416 more eyeballs that see your products and say "Wow!  That bookcase really is cool."  Wait, that's 4,832 eyeballs if they all have two eyes, but you get my point.  And most of the content is quite complimentary to your products, except for the reference to price.  But I'm sure it's not the first time you have heard you are expensive.  In the social media world, you are missing a big opportunity, in my opinion.  Don't make her pull out your name-- make her run a sidebar ad on her site in exchange for the use of your pictures.  The ad could say "After you try to make your own, just buy ours."*  Because I assure you, everyone looking at the site is not going to succeed at making their own.  Or "I don't care how good you are, I don't think you can pull off a couch."  And despite their protestations, there are regular folks that buy your stuff, even if they don't admit it in public (or on a DIY site).

Third, the web makes everything you do very transparent.  Thus why your cease-and-desist letter is now an image on the World Wide Web that will never go away.  And quite frankly, it's hard to send a cease-and-desist letter to someone in such a different position than you without looking like an ass.  A letter along the lines of  "We are aware you are using some of our trademarks and copyrighted images and would like to discuss how we can achieve our goal of protecting our brand while letting you achieve your goal of making furniture that attempts to be as wonderful as ours available to everyone." would have looked so much better as a jpeg than your letter.

Lastly, I have seen many a site use your images and collection names as they fawn over your latest offerings.  Heck, I'm pretty sure you would ignore me reprinting your entire catalog on my site if I ooohhhed and aaaahhhhed about which pieces I wanted.  Unfortunately, in the world of social media, you've got to take the things you don't like with the things you do.  It is a conversation and not all conversations about you will be positive.

And, by the way, you didn't invent the bookcase.

* My legal and ad copy services are always available by emailing me.  Since I have no training in either, my rates are quite reasonable.


Edited to add 3/14/10:  Mike Masnick at TechDirt has a great article about this with a much more detailed analysis of fair use.

March 03, 2010

My Next Obsession

For those of you that know me in real life (or IRL, if you are cool!), I tend to go in obsessive phases.  Upholstery, sewing, knitting (that's been awhile), painting (walls, not the art kind)-- there's a long line of these.  Something catches my interest, I learn about it, start doing it, go crazy for a few weeks or months and then move on.  Sometimes I come back to these phases and re-visit the obsession.  Why do I explain this to you?  Because I feel a new obsession coming upon me.

FreshNestDesign, written by Erin and Deb, featured this site yesterday. (And if you don't follow Fresh Nest Design, you should.  It's an interior design blog for regular people.  By regular, I mean people who don't have a 5 digit budget to re-do a room-- more like $200 and a Home Depot gift card!)  Anyway, Ana at Knock Off Wood knocks off furniture she sees in Pottery Barn, West Elm, Land of Nod and puts the plans on her site.  Her readers are pretty talented at making the stuff and are posting their projects in her Flickr group.

Here is the Farmhouse bed she made:

Farmhouse_bed

She spent $120 making this bed.  Ikea can't even beat that!

These bookcases Ana modeled after those cute Pottery Barn ones.

Bookcases

$60 for both of these.

Plus, she uses Jessica Jones Blue Leaflet as the design motif on some of her mock-ups.  She obviously has a great eye!

She has dozens of plans on her site based on what she has seen in catalogs and what her readers have suggested.  As you might guess, it is all very basic squared furniture- no intricate Victorian styles- but would you really want to make that anyway? And don't worry-- these are no New Yankee Workshop plans that require 8 very expensive power tools.  The plans I looked at need a chop saw, a finish nailer and a power screwdriver.  Cuts requiring a table saw she has done where she buys the lumber.  (Though my husband would be easy to talk into a table saw!)

So, I feel a little of my junior high Wood Shop training coming back to me and I am going to make a piece of furniture this year.  Maybe two.  Hey, I've alway considered a sewing machine another power tool-- to me sewing and woodworking aren't that far off.  Measure, cut, stitch (or nail).  Except fabric stretches and wood doesn't.  But that is what wood putty and caulk are for!

Though I will have to work this around my modeling career.

March 01, 2010

What I'm actually up to

Jessica of How About Orange sent me this email on Friday:

"So I see that you're shutting down fabric operations, ostensibly due to economic challenges. I think you and I both know it's so that you can launch your career as a supermodel. You've been playing it close to the vest, but it's been leaked that you're going to be on the next season of America's Next Top Model. 'Fierce' is really the only word to describe you. I am totally supportive of your new career move and have already put in a good word for you with Tyra. Her reaction is below."

Supermodel-caroline

What really killed me is I kept looking at the picture on the left thinking "Who is that model?  She looks pretty freaky."  Of course, I finally noticed that was my mug staring back at me.  Ewwww.  But I am totally getting hair extensions.  I might also look into rhinoplasty and a procedure to make my mouth smaller.

February 25, 2010

More Mad Design Skilz

Jenean Morrison shows us how she developed a design in Illustrator based on an Art Brush she created.

Jeanenn_morrison

Tula Pink shows us how she developed a design in Illustrator for her Plume fabric collection for Moda.  This woman has some serious Illustrator skills.  The detail on her design is incredible. 

Plumeswatches
 

And Patricia of A Little Hut shows us how she developed a leaf graphic and a logo-like graphic in Illustrator from a sketch.

Alittlehut
 
Michelle Engel Bencsko of Cicada Studio shows her work on a deer print.

Michelle
 
And finally, Jezze, a block printer, shows us how she digitally prepared a design rather than cutting a block and doing the layout on fabric like she usually does.  Her results are pretty stellar as well.

Jezze 

And ages ago (like June of 2008!) Jessica Jones gave us a slight peek into how she goes from a sketch to a digital print layout.

JessicaJonesSample

I LOVE these process posts.  First, it is giving me such insight into Illustrator which I think may be the most difficult program to master in the world.  Secondly, I love how different the designs are, but they all tend to follow a very similar process-- a rough idea that is manipulated until it becomes an ah-ha! pattern.

Fabric Sightings

Family_fun_march
Family Fun shows a little Jessica Jones fabric in their March 2010 issue.  Just a peek of Red/Orange Fireworks and Red Parade.  (And why am I not linking to the Red/Orange Fireworks, you ask?  Because we are dangerously low on inventory.  These prints are moving fast, so hurry.)

February 24, 2010

Onward and Upward!

Thank you for all the kind comments and emails I have received after my last post.  I have to tell you that I am in pretty good mental and emotional health after finally making the decision.  Two months ago?  Not so much... but I didn't want to bore you with those details!

But I am excited about the opportunities that brings about and can't wait to spend more time on this blog and on creative projects.  I'll be able to get to it towards the end of March, I promise!

I'm making a conscious effort to re-enter the web world-- blogs and twitter.  (I have kind of ignored Facebook, but I'll get back to it eventually.  Sorry Facebook, you just aren't as interesting to me.  Not the people, the format.  Not linear enough for me, I guess.)

So around the webs this week, I found some cool things that I'll recycle here.  Hey, I can't come up with the good stuff all the time!

Daisy_janie_doodles
Jan over at Daisy Janie followed Jessica's and Stephanie's blog leads and showed how she went from the doodle on the left to the design on the right.  Very fun to see what a quick sketch can turn into.

If you haven't been following Kim's posts on fabric pattern types at True Up, you are so missing out.  She has been posting examples of one-way, two-way and four-way patterns.  That is something I look at all the time, but never had the terminology and can never find examples when I need them.

Several of Heather Ross's great prints are now available on  Spoonflower!  You can order them on anything from an 8" x 8" test switch to continuous yardage.  You can also get it printed on five different cloths, including quilting weight to a linen/cotton canvas.

Enough already.  I've got to ease back into this blogging thing!

February 13, 2010

Not What You're Expecting

I have been dragging my feet telling you, but jcaroline creative! is significantly downsizing its operation and eliminating many of its offerings.  We will clearing out our inventory through March 15.

Okay, I've give you a minute.

What's going on, you ask?  Well, the bulk of our business has always been crafters that make and re-sell items and for those of you in that world, you know what is going on.  Retail on any level is not doing well and hasn't for at least a year.  We noticed a significant change in buying activity last March and by my own stubbornness and conniving were able to plow through any way waiting for the uptick.  Well, in my humble opinion, the uptick isn't coming soon and it isn't going to be significant enough to undo the hurt caused by operating by the skin of our teeth for a full year.  So, after much consternation and hand-wringing, I have made the decision to bring the site to a soft landing before other parties force us to crash land.

Where we go after we significantly reduce our inventory is still somewhat uncertain.  I do plan to keep the jcarolinecreative.com website up and running with some selection of items-- at this time, I plan to offer webbing, some hardware and our jacquard ribbons.  The tutorials and how-tos on the site will also still be available and I do plan to add more.  At this time, we do not plan to offer fabric or as large of a selection of ribbons.  Jcaroline Home will continue to operate, but probably with fewer fabric selections.

The jcaroline blog will also still be around and updated.  In fact, it should get updated more as I can focus more time on sewing and other creative endeavors.  I also have some ideas to expand its scope as a fabric/sewing/crafting blog.

So, yes, I and my business in some form will still be around, but we are proceeding with a necessary transition at this time.  Thank you for your support for the last eight years and I'm hopeful for another eight years in some form or another.

The upside of this is we are holding one heck of a sale.  To beat all sales.  Until it is all gone.  Start shopping.

I'll keep you updated as the adventure unfolds.

February 12, 2010

Kari Chapin's Handmade Marketplace is out!

Handmade_marketplace

A new book has descended on the crafting world by Kari Chapin called The Handmade Marketplace:  How to Sell Your Crafts Locally, Globally, and Online.  Her book addresses the handmade movement and how, if you choose, to turn that into an income stream.  It covers everything:  branding, marketing, creating your community, basic business practices, as well as actual selling venues.  It features contributions by Grace Bonney of Design*Sponge, Holly Becker of Decor8, Natalie Zee Drieu of CraftZine, and Amy Karol of Angry Chicken.

But wait, there is a special section on accounting related issues from yours truly.

Page_56

How I ended up in the company of these contributors is beyond me, but apparently my mindless ramblings on Twitter caught Kari's attention.  Or she couldn't find anyone else in the craft world that would touch accounting with a 10-foot pole.  Anyway, don't miss my seven pages of profundity.  But don't hold that against the book, because there is another 210 pages of good information!

January 28, 2010

Jessica Levitt's Timber is here

Timber

Jessica Levitt's debut fabric collection for Windham Fabrics, Timber, is here.  The design above is Dogwood and is offered in three colorways.  She has some great colorings in this collection-- I vacillate between picking the blue/gray group and the brown group as my favorite.

She is one clever designer and crafty person.  Check out the darling construction-themed party she put together for her son and these darling felt owl ornaments she made for Christmas (which I say you could easily make and display all year round).  And the darling nursery she did for her son with handpainted mosaic tile border.  Well, just check out her blog, Juicy Bits, because she offers lots of ideas and tutorials.

And don't forget-- bidding for the Fat Quarter Shop's Helping Haiti benefit ends tomorrow, Friday, at 12 noon Central time.  They've got 26 items (mostly quilts) up for auction.