mommyhood moms

moms in the mommyhood - cynthia mann

we've got a new moms in the mommyhood today!  i'm super excited to bring this series back and to start off 2012 with the uber-talented lady behind both fabricworm and birch fabrics - cynthia mann!  this wife and momma of 2 is a super busy multi-tasker running both fabricworm - an online fabric shop, and birch fabrics - her organic fabric line and brick/mortar fabric shop of the same name! wowsa!  seriously...this is one talented and amazing woman.  it's an honor to have her as one of our luvinthemommyhood sponsors and as our newest mom in the mommyhood!  so excited for you all to read our fun little interview - cynthia is truly inspiring and it's been so great getting to know her. so grab a cup of coffee, put the wee ones down for a nap and let's all get to know cynthia!

You opened Fabricworm before you created your 100% organic fabric line Birch Fabrics and opened your brick/mortar shop of the same name.  How & why did you go about creating Fabricworm and do you have any tips for others looking to start an online fabric shop?

I created Fabricworm mainly because I was finding it difficult to find great designs in fabric online, and I when I did find one, it always seemed to be sold out. I would go on mad hunts for particular hard to find fabrics to sew things for my boys, like pajamas, bedding, etc. It was at that time that I decided that it would be a great business to start. However since I started Fabricworm the internet has completely changed for fabric buying. Modern fabrics are now dominating the craft scene and there are so many more options for buying these fabrics than ever before. For someone interested in starting their own fabric shop, I would recommend starting on Etsy or even better start small by buying a few bolts and cutting yardage at your local swap meet. In fact I just thought of that, and it’s a pretty great idea!

 I love the name of your online fabric shop. What's the story behind the name Fabricworm?

Aw, thanks Shannon! The story behind the name Fabricworm is that I truly consider myself a fabric addict. I was struggling to come up with a catchy name. I knew I wanted fabric to be a part of the name, and I started considering what other people that are addicted to particular things call themselves. The term “bookworm” immediately came to mind. I realized, it’s a shame there isn’t a term for fabric addicts or sewing addicts, since it seemed like there should be, I gave it my own name “fabricworm”. I think it works great!

My favorite thing about your fabric shop is that you carry modern quilting fabrics, Japanese import fabrics, retro fabrics and contemporary fabrics as well as notions and trims.  I drool all over my laptop whenever I visit it.  What led you to focus on this area of fabrics?

Modern fabrics and especially Japanese import fabrics were really the driving force behind why I started an online fabric store and a brick and mortar store. I’ve never been able to find Japanese import fabrics anywhere in my local shops and I was always drooling over them online. That’s when I decided to sell them both online and in my shop.

I respect and value the creation of fabric lines such as yours - Birch Fabrics, that is a 100% organic fabric line printed with low impact dyes.  What was your thought process when developing the creation of Birch Fabrics - and what led you to its creation?

Thank you so much! Birch Fabrics actually was almost immediately in the works after I opened The reason was that I was so passionate about organic fabric, and I was trying desperately to find any printed organic fabric that was 44” wide for baby clothes, blankets, etc. to make gifts for friends and clothes for my children. Since I had a fabric shop, I was hoping I would find them and be able to carry them, but also use them in my own sewing projects. I asked all of my reps and they all had the same answer. They just didn’t exist. I started researching beyond the manufactures that I was buying from and started researching organic fabrics globally. That’s when I discovered that I could produce them myself. It took me about 1 year to get my first collection in stores and we’ve been working hard at it ever since. We’ve now produced 6 successful collections and have 2 more on the way in February, 2 more in March, and another in June. We expect to produce about 7-8 organic collections a year.

What was the hardest part for you in the development of Birch Fabrics?  What roadblocks if any did you encounter and how did you overcome them?

The hardest part was the getting over the initial investment. I had to put everything that I had in to Birch Fabrics, and it was a huge risk. I have been so fortunate to have a family that supports me and never second guessed what I was doing. Their faith and belief in me, is why I get to do what I love today. There were a few roadblocks, but these exist in all forms of manufacturing. Colors not being exactly what you expected, or major delays in shipping. These can be frustrating but are a part of the process that I’ve become much more comfortable with now.

commute by birch fabrics
Where do you draw your inspiration from for Birch Fabrics?

My inspiration really comes from all around me, but mostly nature and my childhood. I love mid century modern design, and always find myself gravitating toward retro and vintage styles. I’m always inspired by Japanese fabrics and I my palette is almost always garnered from my childhood. I was looking at commute the other day and realized that it was the same colors as the wallpaper in my kitchen growing up. When I was young I had all of the crayons colors memorized. I’ve just been into color as long as I can remember. My mom was a great help because she new the names of every color for every shade, and I must have got that from her. I remember asking her “what color is this?”, “what color is that?”

Birch Organic Crib Bumper Woodcut Floral
You've also created a line of organic crib bedding called Birch Organic!  What prompted you to develop these as well as the Birch Fabric Line? 

This seemed like a natural evolution for the company to take. In our store in Paso Robles, we have a lot of young moms coming in that love the organic fabrics and would like to have crib bedding, but don’t know how to sew. We also felt that since it was so hard to find cute organic fabrics, it’s probably hard to find cute organic crib bedding.

Ok...spill the beans...are you are a morning, afternoon or late night sewer?

Jason, Keaton, Anderson and Cynthia
I am an all day sewer! I am the type of sewer that can’t leave a project until it’s finished. Usually that means if I start at 2pm, I’m still sewing at 1am. Hence I don’t get to the sewing machine much anymore. It’s kind of sad, but my boys are older now, and home made clothes by mom aren’t the coolest thing. I sure wish they were!

I'm sure we are all dying to know how in the heck do you balance running Fabricworm and Birch Fabrics at the same time as well as being a mommy to Anderson and Keaton and wife to hubby Jason?

It is tough at times, but things are a lot better now than they were. In this past year I've hired more associates, and handed over a lot of my daily tasks for Fabricworm to my newly promoted Manager, Andrea. Likely if you buy from Fabricworm, you've.had the pleasure of emailing or speaking with her. Jason is a huge help also. He manages all the website updates for Birch Fabrics and helps with advertising graphics, and of course also helps me design many of Birch Fabrics' designs.

I love to crank the tunes while I'm sewing do you sew listening to music, tv or just languish in the silence? If music or tv what are your top 5 to play? 

I love to listen to music and sew, these would be a few favorites: Death Cab for Cutie, Pheonix, Grizzly Bear, Band of Horses, Edward Sharp and the Magnetic Zeroes (too many favorites to list, I'm not even sure if these are the top 5!)

next stop by monaluna for birch fabrics

If you could design your dream fabric what would it be and what would you make with it?

This is a tough question. I would really like to design a whole collection around my 2 month backpacking tour through Europe, but it’s just a much to broad concept for a collection. If I did, I’d use the fabric to remodel the inside of our vintage trailer. I’m excited for our Next Stop... collection by Monaluna coming in March though, because it’s going to make great fabric for this purpose!

circa 50 by monaluna for birch fabrics
You're fabric lines have a definite retro vibe with a bit of this evident in your own home and styling’s as well?  How would you describe your own personal style? 

I would describe my own home as mid century modern with contemporary touches. It s a 1960 ranch house, but we've given it a lot of modern day upgrades.

Who is your design icon?  Who do you find the most inspiring at the moment in this wonderful creative community of ours?

It's really impossible for me to pick just one. I guess if I had to it would be Lotta Jansdotter. When I was living in San Francisco and working at Anthropologie about 10 years ago I used to walk over to her studio on Polk St. It was only open on Weds from 1-4pm as I recall. She was so sweet and just working away in this tiny little studio selling her silk screened tea towels and painted ceramics. I remember just thinking, "Wow! She is the coolest little lady"! and of course her artwork was stunning! She has just recently launched her first fabric collection, and of course it's a huge hit.

But I also love and admire the works of Alexander Girard, Charley Harper, Shinzi Katoh, Etsuko Furuya, and of course Monaluna and Dan Stiles!

storyboek two by birch fabrics
 What tips do you have for other moms looking to open their own businesses and go after their dreams?

I would tell them to talk to family and friends about their ideas, but don't get discouraged if they aren't as positive about your ideas as you might be. Don't let it get you down. The most important thing you can do is your research. I spent several months researching my field, and had 10 years of history buying fabric online. I didn't let anyone discourage me, because I was confident in what I knew and had researched.

I love shopping for fabric online.  Do you run across customers fearful of ordering fabric online?  What is your advice to them to have a successful online fabric shopping experience?

it's interesting, my surprise has really been the confidence in our buyers. We rarely come across a customer that is afraid to purchase online. We get an occasional phone order, but for the most part our customer base is made up of frequent online fabric buyers.

How has the fabric business changed for you now operating a brick/mortar shop as well as an online one?

Having the brick and mortar store has changed the business in the fact that we now get to physically see and touch our customers projects, for both me and my associates, this had made our business feel much more personal and more accomplished at the same time.

What has been the most enjoyable part so far of owning your own brick/mortar fabric shop?

Seeing customers projects and learning about what they are sewing. Also getting to know my sweet staff. I've made a lot of new friends and I love every bit of what I do!

 What is your favorite thing to sew and why?

My favorite thing to sew is baby pajama pants, the reason is because it’s the one thing that I  can sew in less than 20 minutes. And I never get frustrated:)

I named my sewing machine Poppy & will admit she is like my 3rd child....what kind of sewing machine/serger do you use and does yours have a name too?

Ive never named my machines.  I grew up sewing on a 1960 avocado green Sears Kenmore, Japanese made and was a great machine. I only recently gave it back to my mom. I now sew mostly on a Hello Kitty Janome that I bought because the Pfaff I bought intimidates me too much. I'm still just a novice sewer, even though I've been sewing for 20+ years.

thank you so much cynthia! it's been such a pleasure!  i can't wait to get sewing this year with all your wonderful fabrics and of course, buy them from your wonderful shop!  you are just so inpsiring my dear!!!  you guys can find all things cynthia below:


birch fabrics:

if you are new to the mommyhood, our "moms in the mommyhood" posts feature a new mom who currently has their own business (doesn't matter what kind). we try to sit down and have a virtual cup of coffee and ask them all the fun, little questions that we are dying to know. we also try to get a glimpse into their lives and what it's like to have your own business and be the boss of your kids at the same time. we are always on the lookout for new moms to feature. if you know someone or you would like to be featured in this spot, please send us an email at don't be shy - we can't wait to meet you!

moms in the mommyhood - jenny wilding cardon

it's back!!!!!!!!!!!! if you are new to the mommyhood, our "moms in the mommyhood" features a new mom monthly who currently has their own business (doesn't matter what kind). we try to sit down and have a virtual cup of coffee and ask them all the fun, little questions that we are dying to know. we also try to get a glimpse into their lives and what it's like to have your own business and be the boss of your kids at the same time. we are always on the lookout for new moms to feature. if you know someone or you would like to be featured in this spot, please send us an email at don't be shy - we can't wait to meet you!

our newest mom in the mommyhood is author jenny wilding cardon. this fun loving, sweet, funny and uber talented sewing & quilting maven is the author of two books and also a busy wife and momma to 2 gorgeous boys. her warm personality, talents and kind heartedness shines through in both her books and in her blog. never one to pass up a creative opportunity she shares her thrifting and refashioning/repurposing skills in her newest book resew. since i love sewing, thrifting and refashioning i thought what better person to kick off the moms in the mommyhood for 2011 then jenny? i could have asked her triple the amount of questions that are shown in the post below and believe me when i say i had the hardest time narrowing them down. she's just one of those people that you want to find out more about and get to know :)

so let's do that....let's get to know jenny together and welcome her to the mommyhood. grab a yummy coffee/tea, curl up in your fave spot, put the kidlets down for a nap, take a breather and let's chat!

1. Ok, Jenny I have to ask this first...what is your favorite item to repurpose/refashion?

I’ll use anything that will let me transform it into something I like! Jeans, corduroys, sheets, curtains, sweatshirts, and sweaters are always great basics to start up a new project. But more unusual items can be inspiring too. Items like bed comforters, vinyl tablecloths, rugs, belts, and men’s suit coats are plentiful at the thrift store… but what to do with them? Hmm. It gets me thinking. I love the challenge.

2. What is one project you've always wanted to make but haven't had the chance yet?

For months now, I’ve had an idea for a copycat LuvSac made out of thrifted comforters. But those “sacs” are huge; I guess I’m feeling intimidated by the size. Plus, I haven’t figured out how to inexpensively stuff it. I’m hoping an idea will come to me soon… if I wait long enough, an idea usually surfaces.

3. How on earth did you balance writing two books while being a busy mom to Jack (6) and Charlie (2) and a wife to your husband, Brett?

I don’t know. :)

Honestly, I think most moms struggle with balance. You adore your family and you want to give them your attention and care and love. And at the same time, you want those things for yourself. Writing a book is a monumental commitment, time-wise. And deadlines loom heavy. It took me about eight months to put ReSew together, from first to last page. What worked for me was budgeting my time, keeping my family in the know, and asking (and letting) other family members help. My sister and my mother-in-law took my boys a couple of times a week for a few hours at a time during that period so I could work on the book. Mommy guilt played its part, but it turned out to be a win-win for everyone—my boys got to spend more time with their Aunt Nini and grandma, and I got to FOCUS. When my boys came home I felt like I had accomplished something, so I could turn my focus back to them. The pace was still hectic, but my entire family—including my boys’ “go-get-‘em, mom!” attitude, made it work.

And then there’s my husband. Ever heard of a rock? That’s him. A really cute rock.

4. What tips do you have for others looking to find items at secondhand stores?

I’ve got a whole list of tips for thrifting in ReSew, but here’s my favorite, and it’s twofold. When you think about something you want or need—whether it’s a skirt to refashion, or a crock pot, or a bookcase, or whatever—write it down on a thrifting list. I keep mine on the side of my fridge. Bring the list along on your thrift store stops. (I thrift at least weekly—there’s a high turnaround for items, and there’s usually only one of anything you see.) I once had a water-bath canning pot on my list. It spent nine months on the list, but I finally got one in great condition for $8. Victory!

The second part of the process? When you’re done looking for the things on your list, ditch it. Go walk the aisles and just see what you see. You never, never know what you might find. A few weeks ago I was at the thrift store with my two-year old, looking through rounders of sweaters. I spotted something strange under a rack of dresses and bent down to take a look. It was an adult-size Stormtrooper helmet. Clean, sturdy, buttons still working (“I think we’ve run into some trouble, sir!”). For $3, it’s been entertaining my two boys—and my husband—ever since.

In conclusion: Use the list faithfully. Ditch the list faithfully. At the thrift store, it is imperative that you be responsible and spontaneous at the same time.

And finally, if you’re a mom, don’t fear—bring your kids along! I tell my boys if they stay close to me and follow my rules for being at the store, we’ll spend 10 minutes in the toy aisle when I’m done looking. Sometimes we leave with a small toy for each; sometimes we find one jackpot item to take home (latest example—a real-wood, kid-size acoustic guitar); and sometimes we leave with nothing. I want Jack and Charlie to understand that just because you walk into a store doesn’t mean you have to buy. That’s imperative to remember at the thrift store: sometimes you go, and then come back home with only the experience. And with some of the hilariously weird, wacky, and unbelievably strange things I’ve seen while thrifting, the experience alone can be its own reward!

5. We all have our fave thrifting haunts and I want to know where your favorite places are to find items to repurpose?

I’m lucky enough to live in an area where thrifting is big. The central offices of a church are located here in Utah—it’s kind of what our state is known for—and they run a chain of thrift stores where the items are wonderfully organized and reasonably priced. There are four or five stores within a 20-mile radius of my home, so I frequent those a lot. I also love Savers/Value Village, which is a chain in the U.S. and Canada, and I also love ThriftTown, which is national. But don’t forget those independent thrift shops that dot the retail landscape! You can search for independent stores in Canada and the U.S. here.

6. Where do you sew in your home and are you a late night, morning or all day sewer?

I am lucky to have a room in the basement of our home where I sew. It is always a holy mess. But I have a little basket of basic supplies that I can take upstairs to the kitchen table if I want or need to sew there. That’s where I typically sew if I’m watching over my little ones at the same time. It’s nice to be mobile quickly! As far as when I sew, I’ll take time whenever I can get it. I’m not an all-day sewing kind of person; I like to create in little bits, and then walk away from a project. It gives me time to think about construction, or design, or finishing details while I’m busy with the mundane tasks of laundry folding, dish drying, and the like.

One half of the holy mess. (I just can’t bear to take a photo of the other half.)

7. I love to crank the tunes while I'm sewing - do you like to listen to music while sewing and if so what are your top 3 songs?

Oh YES YES YES. I love music. It helps boost my creativity and gets me excited about making stuff, no doubt about it! I couldn’t begin to narrow my favorites down to three songs, but I can mention three favorite artists that I’m listening to now: the soulful, make me dance and cry Erykah Badu; the band coined as “The Most Rock ‘n Roll Rock ‘n Roll Band in the World,” The Black Crowes; and pre-1980’s Elton John. A weird mix, but good go-tos for my many, many moods.

8. When did you know you wanted to write a book & how did you take the steps to make it happen?

My first book—which is actually a box—is called The Little Box of Baby Quilts, and it was inspired by the birth of my first son, Jack. At the time, I had so many ideas for baby quilts that I started sketching them out so I wouldn’t forget them. It was my husband who encouraged me to submit my ideas for possible publication with the world’s largest quilt-book publisher, Martingale & Company. I had also worked for them as a copywriter, but I had left the company to stay at home with Jack. I put together my hand-drawn illustrations of baby quilts along with samples of fabrics, quilt blocks, and quilts, and I sent them off to the publisher. And then I waited. And waited. And then, I got the word—the project was a go! I was elated. (And quite terrified, as I recall.)

Martingale gave me nine months to design, sew, and write directions for all 20 quilts in the “little box.” Jack was instrumental in the process, helping me choose fabrics and giving his opinions of quilts I had made in his own little two-year-old way. I remember when I finished one of the quilts, called “Inch by Inch,” I spread it out on the floor to show Jack. He lay down on the quilt, scooted up to a caterpillar face, and gave it a big kiss. What a stamp of approval for a baby quilt!

I was approached by the same publisher to write my second book, ReSew. The fantastically cool managing editor there, Tina Cook, had been following my blog and liked the refashioned projects I had shared there. It took me about three seconds to decide to repeat the book-making process all over again. It is an exciting, exhausting, maddening, scary, crazy, and rewarding experience. If given the chance, I would do it yet again, after a little more time to recover from ReSew. I still haven’t completely cleaned up from that yet.

9. Can we see what the first quilt you ever made looks like? Do you have good or bad memories on the process?

Oh, all good memories! The first quilt I made was from a book called Celebrating the Quilt. It was a tiny wall quilt from the design team known as Little Quilts. I didn’t have a sewing machine, so I hand pieced and hand appliquéd the whole thing. The colors clashed, the stitches were wonky, and the construction was shaky at best. I loved every minute of putting that little quilt together. That was back in 1997. I’ve been quilting ever since. Although I’m happy to say I got smart to the wonders of sewing machines.

10. Is there any craft you just don't like?

I’ve never tried a craft I haven’t enjoyed, but I have tried a craft that I just can’t seem to do right. Crocheting. I knit fairly well but crocheting and me really struggle together! A few people have tried to teach me, and it just doesn’t stick. The last time I tried I was shooting for a square shape, and instead I ended up with a half moon! How does that even happen? I won’t give up, though. I want to try amigurumi someday.

11. I think most of us have all at least had one dreaded failed project. Do you have a failed project? What do you do when a project just isn't working?

I’ve had dozens of failed projects. Dozens! To me, that’s just part of the creative process. I think to come up with something unique, you have to be able to experiment—and sometimes, that means screwing things up. You just have to know when to throw in the towel, walk away, and start fresh another time.

I do try and salvage what I can from failed projects, though. Last year I tried to make a funky monster stuffie from two thrifted sweaters. This was the result:

To me? A failure. But when I sewed button eyes onto the little guy and sat his sad little body on the couch in defeat, my two-year old, Charlie, picked him up, gave him a hug, and said, “I yike dis monster!” So, even failures can be fun!

12. What do you find the most rewarding about refashioning and repurposing?

Well, I love the obvious—saving money, playing a part in helping the strain on the environment, and going on the treasure hunt. But my favorite thing about repurposing is simply seeing the beauty in the broken. Spotting something that someone has tossed aside and thinking, that has life in it yet. Taking it home, and taking the time to make it into something that’s cool and unique and fun.

13. What is your funniest/most embarrassing crafting moment?

My sister and I were making a wedding quilt for my brother and his soon-to-be wife. It was our first try at paper piecing. If you’ve tried it, you know that it’s kind of a backwards way of sewing. It was tricky, but we were getting the hang of it and feeling proud of ourselves. We were at my kitchen table, cutting and sewing away. Suddenly, I accidentally dropped my rotary cutter. It carved into my leg on the way to the floor, creating a three-inch long cut. Ouch. I quickly attended to the wound and sat back at the sewing machine. The wedding wasn’t far away—we were on a deadline! Then, not two minutes later, my sister literally sliced the tip of her finger off with her rotary cutter. OUCH. After that, we decided to take a very much needed break.

My brother and his wife have been married now for 10 years, and have two beautiful daughters. Despite our gory fiasco, it was certainly not a sign of bad luck!

14. Spill the beans...what kind of sewing machine/serger do you use?

I have an old Kenmore that I use as my main machine. I also have a Pfaff that I picked up at a school rummage sale, but I haven’t sat down to learn how to use it yet (need to do that!). Two years ago, my husband bought me a Singer serger. After my neighbor taught me how to thread it properly one year later (yes, the machine sat in its box for a year), I really started enjoying it.

15. Do you have a sewing tip that you can't live without that you'd be willing to share?

I used to work with a wonderfully loud and gregarious woman named Rhoda Reynolds. She worked in sales, which was perfect for her—she could turn a “no” into a “yes!” with the wave of her hand. One day I was complaining to her about a half-made quilt that had been on my sewing table for months. I just couldn’t decide how to finish it. She said, “Just get it done.”

OH, I thought. Yeah.

I went home and finished that quilt over the weekend. I got it done. Rhoda’s simple answer has been one of the best pieces of advice about sewing that I’ve ever received. What you make doesn’t have to be perfect, or flawless, or immaculate. It doesn’t have to be something that you have to agonize over. In fact, I feel like what we make with our own hands should be somewhat imperfect—that is, in part, what makes what we create unique. What we create isn’t made by machines, isn’t made by the thousands, isn’t made to be put on display with 20 other items that look exactly the same. It’s one thing. It’s one special, thoughtful, soulful thing, from me to you. (Or from me to me, if you are treating yourself!) We may give what we’ve made to someone and say, “Oh, it’s just a little something I made.” But secretly, we know the truth. It’s handcrafted and heartfelt, imperfections and all. It was a one-of-a-kind experience to make it. And now, it’s done.

Sadly, my friend Rhoda passed away a few years ago from cancer. I miss her thunderous laugh, and her practical, no-nonsense approach to life. Thanks for the advice, Rhoda.

16. Time for the question I'm dying to hear the answer to. Being someone whose dream is to have her own book one day what advice do you have for those who would one day like to write their own sewing book?


If you have ideas, write them down. Sketch them out. Do whatever you need to so you can remember each idea you have. Then watch for an overarching theme. When you find it, build on it. Make that the topic of your book. Develop a vision for it. Pattern publishers want one wonderful project; book publishers want a cohesive collection.

by jenny wilding cardon

Don’t be afraid to contact publishers about how to submit a proposal; in fact, I suggest contacting them before you even get started. Different publishers will have different guidelines for you to follow; their guidelines are in place to help you hone your ideas. Many publishers even have information about proposals online. There’s no need to be timid about reaching out to get the information you need to get started; it will demystify the process and help you take the steps you need to take to make your dream a reality. If you’ve got a great idea for a sewing book, publishers want to hear from you. Be brave, believe in yourself, and take that first step! Who knows? In the future you could be up in the middle of the night, trying to keep your eyes open as you write the final step-by-step instructions for your last project so you can honor the deadline for your manuscript. Ah, sweet, sweet memories.

Shannon, thank you so very much for the opportunity to share a little bit of my life and my book with your readers. I’ve always loved your blog, but ever since we “met” by email I’ve been moved by your sincerity, your encouraging words, and your attention to the little things. You are a wonderful woman with an awesome outlook on life. Thanks, and thanks again, for letting me visit the mommyhood.

awwww, THANK YOU jenny! thank you for kind, thoughtful emails & posts that i have proudly printed out to keep in a special blog memory book. you truly touched me and i'm so thankful to have "met" you too. thanks for being part of the mommyhood and for inspiring all of us with your creativity and your spirit. your book has a proud spot on my bookshelf and i will treasure it always. congratulations my dear - let's celebrate!

you can all find jenny's new book resew: turn thrift store finds into fabulous designs here, her blog here and her previous book the little box of baby quilts here. make sure to enter to win a copy of your very own book in our resew giveaway too - click here to enter. have a happy weekend!

do you have questions for jenny? what's your fave thing about refashioning/repurposing? are you addicted to thrill of thrifting too?

moms in the mommyhood - rae hoekstra!

let's all say hi to rae from one of my all time favorite blogs "made by rae"! rae's blog was one of the first blogs i started reading regularly when i started blogging. i fell in love with her sewing, her tutorials, patterns and her sweet family. the icing on the cake - she's hilarious, and i mean funny! this girl cracks me up. she's a temporarily retired physics teacher that can make you smile while at the same time long to have a complete day to sew up a storm.

rae is a multi-tasking momma to a little boy and a girl. she calls herself a professional home executive - yep, we can give ourselves a title ladies! now if we only we could get a salary..haha. she's a sewing machine (not literally of course) who's patterns are to die for, her tutorials easy to follow and more importantly - fun to make! she's provided me with tons of inspiration and that extra little oomph that i needed to even begin sewing and believe me it wasn't easy to convince myself to put down the knitting needles and dust off my sewing machine, but she helped do it. so pop on over and say hi to rae and don't blame me when you add at least 5 new patterns to your "must make list". that's how she does it folks :)

so let's all welcome this fun loving momma to the mommyhood, feel free to share your thoughts and questions in the comments below. come sit on down and join us for a cup of coffee, put the kids down for a nap, take a breather and let's chat!

if you are new to the
mommyhood, our "moms in the mommyhood" features a new mom monthly who currently has their own business (doesn't matter what kind). we try to sit down and have a virtual cup of coffee and ask them all the fun, little questions that we are dying to know. we also try to get a glimpse into their lives and what it's like to have your own business and be the boss of your kids at the same time. we are always on the lookout for new moms to feature. if you know someone or you would like to be featured in this spot, please send us an email at don't be shy - we can't wait to meet you!

now, let's get sipping our coffee, heck grab a yummy treat if you so desire, pull up a chair and join in on the fun with me, have a few laughs and get to know rae:

I love that you call yourself a professional home executive, now if only we could all get a salary worth the time and effort we put in..hahaha. How do you as a mother to Elliot (3) and baby Clementine, wife to hubby Nate, blogger, shop owner and crafter fit all of this in?

Truthfully I often feel like I'm overwhelmed with everything and so really I'm the last person I would ask about balance. I try really hard to constantly remind myself that my real job is taking care of my kids. I have to push the other stuff (blog, patterns, sewing for fun) off to the side and do that stuff when I have free time during naps and after bedtime. the interest of full disclosure, as a "professional home executive" I do outsource a lot of the work around here. I have a cleaning service do the housecleaning and my babysitter comes over at least once a week for a couple hours before dinner to play with the kids while I frantically sew or design or blog. Mr Rae does the grocery shopping on Saturday mornings and cooks a lot of our meals. So those things that stay-at-home-moms spend MOST of their time doing? I'm not doing all of them. That gives me time to go to the park or pool or library with my kids, and more time later to sew.

I would like to say though that I'm not a TOTAL slacker. I'm not a great cook but I do occasionally make a couple meals a week, and I like to bake, especially desserts. I make almost all of Clementine's baby food from vegetable purees and do lots and lots of laundry. But Mr Rae helps with so much, he's such a great partner. I feel really fortunate to have a mate who doesn't plunk down in front of the TV when he gets home from work. Of course, if you know me, you know that I would never stand for that in a million years...

You're also a temporarily retired high school physics teacher. I wish I had teachers like you when I was in high school. How do you find that you incorporate your science background into your sewing?

It definitely has made me more meticulous in my pattern design. I try to think like a beginner and imagine every possible mistake that could happen and then try to write my instructions clearly to help people avoid them. That's a skill that all good teachers should have. Being a science teacher I also really prefer the metric system, so I actually measure most things in centimeters.

Spring Top Week is in it’s 2nd year. I love this competition and find it so inspiring and fun! What led you to start Spring Top Week?

Last year I started STW simply as a challenge for myself; I was pregnant and had no spring tops and thought if I say it out loud on my blog I'll HAVE to do it. I had done a week of tops the summer before and people had voted on which of mine they liked the best. I thought it would be better if people joined in and voted on everyone else's tops instead. I had no idea it would be such a popular just sort of took off.

You began your blog in 2007, what prompted you to start blogging and how have you found the process?

Like so many new moms out there, the transition from working professional to stay-at-home mom was really rocky for me. I didn't know many other moms with kids Elliot's age. I felt like I had all this time sitting and staring at the baby, who wasn't really doing a whole lot besides smiling and drooling. Mentally I was in a weird place with all the hormones and nursing and trying to figure out how I suddenly went from household earner to freeloader (yes I was a Crazy Woman to even think that, I know) and someone with oodles of personal time to only small chunks dictated by naps. So I started a baby blog where I posted pictures of Elliot for the family and then my sewing blog, Made By Rae. The sewing blog gave me a place where I could log my crafty achievements, something I could look at and say, see, I made THAT! And at first no one besides me and my sisters read it. But it's grown over the past three years and now, well good grief it scares me sometimes to think about just how many people are reading the stupid stuff I write.

I love blogging and I hate it at the same time. I love how many people I get to meet and hear from on a daily basis, and I love sharing new ideas and patterns. But sometimes I feel like I can't stop composing posts in my head or find I'm choosing sewing projects for the blog rather than because I really want to do them. It's work, definitely, which means it's not always glamorous and exciting.

Your patterns are, let me just say, lovely and addictive. I have made the Itty Bitty Dress like 3 times now. I also have a Buttercup Bag. When did you decide to start selling items and why? How have you found the process so far?

When I started my blog, I sat down and made a list of my goals. One of those goals was to open an Etsy shop. I just wanted to see what would happen, see if I could sell the stuff I made. I was originally thinking I would sell Itty Bitty Baby Dresses and Buttercup Bags. Turns out it was far time-efficient for me to make patterns (huge time commitment up front, smaller time commitment once they launched) and sell those rather than make and sell each of the items themselves. Some people thrive on finding efficient ways to pump out massive quantities of one thing. That's not me, I just get bored if I have to make the same thing over and over. I have more fun designing the patterns. So that's what the shop evolved into, a pattern shop.

What are your plans for the shop? The blog?

I have a list of about 20 new patterns I want to make, but who knows if half of them will ever make it to the shop. The blog, well, that just follows me around like a puppy dog, it's always just about what I'm sewing at the time. Not much of an agenda there. One great thing I learned from working with Dana for Celebrate the Boy month was that she plans ahead months in advance for what she's going to put on her blog. I think that shows really solid organization and I would love to do that more.

What’s next on your sewing agenda?

After these spring tops are finished I'm going to sew more for Elliot and Mr Rae. And some baby girl clothes, especially dresses. Clementine is going to have more outfits than days to wear them this summer.

What’s your fave pattern that you have designed?

Right now it's the Pierrot Baby Dress, I've made a couple for Clementine and I'm in love with the cuteness. The ruffles. The sleeves. If I had to pick one that is already available on my blog, it would be the Buttercup Bag.

I love that you sell the "license to sell" to some of your patterns. Not a lot of people do that and I think it's fabulous. What made you decide to offer this?

I decided to offer the license option because so many people asked for it after the Buttercup Bag became available on my blog. People would write saying, "can I pay you $3 for every bag I make and sell?" and I thought trying to keep track of all that would be Sheer Craziness. So I decided just to offer an all-you-can-make license and bundle it with the pattern and that's what I've done with the other patterns I've sold as well. It's really a bargain if you think about it that way, and it seems fairer if I can receive some compensation when other people are profiting from the work that I am giving away for free or selling for, in the words of one reader, "mere pittance". I have tried to keep the actual cost of the license really low so that even if someone never sells anything it's still worth the purchase of the pattern.

Ok, I love asking this one, how and when did you learn to sew?

My mom taught me to sew when I was young, I think I was probably about eight. Maybe 10? She made all kinds of outfits for me and my sisters when we were little. She grew up in a house of seven where ALL of the clothes were handmade so her skills were born more out of necessity than hobby but I'm so glad she passed that on to me.

What machine do you whip out all your creative goodies on? Do you use a serger? If so, which one?

I do most of my sewing on a Bernina Activa 220 (one of Bernina's most basic machines, it's a little pricey but worth every penny!) and I serge with a Brother 1034D. I do all my elastic-thread sewing on a Singer Featherweight II, which is also my travel machine.

What/who is your favourite fabric or fabric designer at the moment?

Heather Ross. Every time she puts something new out there it blows me away.

If you could have an unlimited time/budget to make one project what would it be? And yes, no kids around to interrupt!

I would make a wedding dress. I think that would be so challenging and fun.

Celebrate the Boy Month was so much fun, thanks for letting me be part of it. Do you and Dana (Made) plan on doing it again next year?

Oh I hope so! We'll see where we both are next year, right? Dana will probably be on her book tour. That girl is amazing!!!

What is the one thing you find yourself sewing over and over again?

Baby tights.

Do you ever do any sewing for the hubs? If so what? I find it hard to find great men’s tutorials. It seems like we all stick to women and kids.

My favorite thing to sew for Mr Rae is shirts. Unfortunately they take so much fabric! But he's always really thrilled with the stuff I make him and wears them all the time. I usually just use commercial (Simplicity, Butterick) patterns for him, but last year someone sent me a bunch of vintage men's patterns and I hope to make a few of those for him when I can find more time.

But you're right, there is a sad lack of sewing tutorials for men and even boys. It annoys me that our society has almost completely killed the use of color and embellishment in men's garments. I think homophobia and narrowing ideas about what is masculine are probably at fault. As a result we've veered into extreme blandness with menswear. Nowhere does that stand out to me as much as when I walk into a children's store and compare the boy's side to the girl's side. Little boys used to wear dresses and lace collars, but now if you put a little boy in anything other than mini-menswear he'll be mistaken for a girl. And then there's the baby boys wearing camoflauge and shirts that say "Little Slugger?" I mean, come on, the kid can't even hold up his own head yet. I guess what I'm trying to say is I'd like to see the number of acceptable styles, prints and colors for men and boys expand, especially beyond the prevalent sports themes. It would certainly make it easier to sew unique stuff for men and boys.

Does your hubby play any roles behind the scenes of the blog?

He helps me with HTML stuff; he's a programmer and when I can't get something to work on my sidebar he'll write the code for me. He helped me find E-junkie, which is the site I use for my instant downloads (so that my PDF patterns get delivered as soon as they are purchased). The biggest thing though is the moral support. He's encouraging to me and is always very positive about my ideas and new projects, always pushing me to do what I want to and say no to what I don't. Also, I found out a few months ago that he was actually READING my blog. I thought it would be too boring, you know, with all the sewing stuff. So I have to be careful what I say about him, haha.

Is there something in the big wide world of sewing you have always wanted to learn but haven’t had the chance to yet?

Smocking. My grandmother used to make dresses for us that were smocked (not with elastic thread, I'm talking real smocking with the embroidery over top) and they were so cute and a real treasure. I'd love to learn how to do that.

This question is always tricky to answer, but I’m dying to know where do you get your inspiration from?

A large part of my inspiration comes from fashion magazines and catalogs. I flip through the pages and dog-ear the things I like the best, cut them out and paste them into a book or stick them on my wall. A second source of major inspiration of course is design blogs and websites. A picture of a living room with good color can get me thinking about color combinations I want to use in a garment or bag. Your blog is great for that too, Shannon! I love the pictures and links you post, so inspiring! And I have to mention just one more source of inspiration: Small Magazine. Every issue is so inspiring.

I think your blog was one of the first that I subscribed to and started oohing/ahhhing over. I don’t know many bloggers who don’t know who you are. Do you have any tips for other bloggers looking to start a blog?

Aww shucks, that's really sweet. It's hard for me to see my blog that way. I often feel like I'm plunking away on the campiest blog in the world and it still kind of amazes me that people actually read it. I guess the advice that I would give to new bloggers is to work on taking good photos. If you think about all the really great blogs, that's the one thing they all have in common. It's hard to get excited about blurry or poorly-lit photos. To effectively show people what you're doing they need to be able to SEE it!

What’s the one sewing tip you wish someone had taught you when you were first starting to sew?

I JUST (as in this year) learned to gather fabric by putting the tension on my machine on high with a long stitch length. What a huge timesaver!

We all have a bit of nosiness in us and I am dying to know where in your home you do your crafting? Are you lucky enough to have a crafting/sewing room? Can we have a peek?

I have a sewing room that is also a guest bedroom, which means that most of the time the bed is covered with fabric. It works out so that I have a cutting table, a sewing table, and an ironing board, and the closets have been completely taken over by fabric and notions and it's right next to Clementine's room so if she wakes up I can hear her. Unfortunately that also means my serger sometimes wakes her up.

thanks so much for being part of the mommyhood rae, it's been so fun getting to know you! i'll be in touch soon for some caillou bashing, survival tips on having 2 kids and still finding time to sew and just for some good ol' chuckles. thanks for all the inspiration!

you can find more about rae on her blog, her shop and also a few fun photo flickr pools for her patterns on her sidebar!

click here to see what rae had to say about the interview)

*all images © copyright made by rae

giveaway winner to the cottage mama!

a big thank you to all of you who commented to enter into the cottage mama giveaway for $25 off any item in her shop! that was exciting! i only wish i could have entered myself..haha, i adore lindsay's stuff so much! now don't hesitate, check below to see if you were the winner.......................

Wow! all so cute - I love the 60's inspired Mod jumpers - love the interview as well!

congratulations tanya!!! lindsay will be in touch with you soon!

you can find more on "the cottage mama" lindsay on her blog, at her etsy shop, facebook group and on her flickr page. thanks again for being part of the mommyhood lindsay!

moms in the mommyhood - lindsay wilkes & a giveaway!

we have a new "moms in the mommyhood"!

let's all say hi to lindsay from the etsy shop "the cottage mama" and the blog "the cottage home"! the first time i spotted lindsay's blog i just swooned, not to mention her etsy shop, i think i frothed at the mouth...haha. i love her style, her taste and her lovely family. i wish i was lindsay's neighbour so that i could pop over and be part of the cottage home.

lindsay is a busy mom to two adorably sweet little girls and a wife to her talented hubby brett. she's a stay at home mom who adores sewing, crafting, cooking, music and life. her persona is irresistible and you just can't help but want to be friends with her. i think i might have even begged her to let me interview her just so i could get to know her better. it was worth the begging though, it's been a fun interview and i hope you will all enjoy getting to know the wilkes family as well. let's head on over to the cottage.

*the giveaway is now closed*

but first we've got a giveaway for you! lindsay is such a sweetheart that she's offered you all a giveaway for $25 off any item in her shop. all you have to do to enter is comment on this post what item from her etsy shop "the cottage mama" you would spend your $25 on and/or for a double entry head on over to "the cottage home" and pick your fave tutorial/recipe and then come back and comment below again with your choice (make sure you leave an email address to contact you at). easy peasy! i wish i could enter :) *the giveaway is open until saturday, april 3rd.*

so let's all welcome this fun loving momma to the mommyhood, feel free to share your thoughts and questions in the comments below. come sit on down and join us for a cup of coffee, put the kids down for a nap, take a breather and let's chat!

if you are new to the mommyhood, our "moms in the mommyhood" features a new mom monthly who currently has their own business (doesn't matter what kind). we try to sit down and have a virtual cup of coffee and ask them all the fun, little questions that we are dying to know. we also try to get a glimpse into their lives and what it's like to have your own business and be the boss of your kids at the same time. we are always on the lookout for new moms to feature. if you know someone or you would like to be featured in this spot, please send us an email at don't be shy - we can't wait to meet you!

now, let's get sipping our coffee, heck grab a yummy treat if you so desire, pull up a chair and join in on the fun with me, have a few laughs and get to know lindsay:

I love the look and overall style of your blog and shop. Where did the aesthetic behind The Cottage Home and The Cottage Mama come from?

I really was going for a mix of modern and vintage style, which is some-what hard to come up with since they kind of contradict one another. I knew I wanted to open up my etsy shop soon after I started my blog, so I wanted to make sure the look, feel, and style was cohesive throughout. I played around with designing several things myself, but couldn't nail-down the look. I contacted Emily (The Blog Fairy) and, through a series of conversations, she figured out the perfect look for The Cottage Mama/Home. First she came up with the old-fashioned silhouette of the little girl and kitty, then added the dress onto the girl in the modern fabric and the look grew from there. When I saw what she had done with the silhouette, I realized that Emily had really figured me out - bingo - perfection!!

I love the vibe of the items in your shop! What made you decide to start selling your handmade goods and what drew you to kid’s clothes and the vintage/classic style they have?

Thank you - that is so sweet of you to say! Ever since my daughter, Savannah was born I have just LOVED sewing clothes for her. I just think little girls clothing is so diverse and fun and I truly enjoy sewing and creating beautiful things for little girls. Clothing that isn't like what everyone else is wearing, pieces that are timeless and make them feel truly girly and special.

I had many people see my handmade clothing on my daughter and say that I needed to sell it. I would say it was a turning point for me when I made my daughter's first birthday dress. I brought the dress into Gymboree to find some shoes to match the pink, Amy Butler fabric. The manager in the store just went nuts over this dress. She said it was like nothing she had ever seen before, why wasn't I selling these dressses and that she knew lots of other mothers that would love something like that for their daughters. And the same thing happened when I took Savannah for her 1st birthday photo shoot. The women in the studio had the same comments as the manager in Gymboree. Yes, the dress was pretty, but the Amy Butler fabric helped for sure - Gorgeous! So those few examples planted a seed in my head in regards to wanting to sell my goods and thinking that someone might actually buy it!

I am a classic, traditional girl at heart. As much as I would love to be cutting edge and super-trendy, it's just not me. I am drawn to many old fashioned things - I love antiques and I love vintage style. There's just something so timeless about things from the 1940's and 50's.

What came first for you - the blog or the etsy shop? Have you found having a shop on etsy a positive experience?

I have had several friends over the years tell me that I should sell some of the things I make. And I had thought about it, but with have two little girls under two, I just didn't know if I could find the time. The 12 other Moms in my playgroup joke around with me and call me "Martha Stewart" and one of my photographer friends in the group had said "hey, I'd read a blog if you wrote one". And that got me thinking.....hmmmmm.....maybe others would be interested in what I have to say too. Thus, the creation of "The Cottage Home".

So I started The Cottage Home with the thought in the back of my head that this might be a good gateway into opening an etsy shop. I could see if people responded well to my sewing and crafting and if so, then I'd go ahead with my etsy shop. And sure enough, I started getting people reading my blog and four months later I opened my etsy shop, "The Cottage Mama".

So far I have found etsy to be very positive. The customers I have interacted with have been wonderful. In the future I hope to join some of the etsy groups and become more active in the forums. I have also found etsy to be very user friendly in regards to uploading photos and information to my shop.

When do you find the time to do your blogging/sewing with 2 little girls (Savannah Rose, 2 years and Matilda Jane, 8 Months) and hubby (Brett) running around?

I tend to do my blogging in the evening. I usually will take pictures for tutorials during the day, but then I will edit photos and write my tutorials at night. In regards to sewing, I definitely try to utilize naps and occasionally my girls will entertain themselves long enough for me to at least get some of my designs cut.

When did you first start sewing and how did you learn?

I actually only started REALLY sewing about two years ago. My Mom is amazing - she always made the most incredible costumes for my brother and I. So I grew up around it and tried to take it up several times as a child, but I never took it any further than sewing a straight line. When I was pregnant with my oldest daughter, Savannah, my "nesting instinct" was kicking in big time and I felt this huge desire to sew and craft things for her nursery. So my Mom and I live across the country from each other, but I am blessed to have my Grandmother nearby. So I talked with her and she agreed to help me sew some things for the nursery on her sewing machine. She really gave me some great advice and foundational tools in our day of sewing together that I still think about every time I sew. For instance, the importance of pining, the importance of pressing all seams, guiding the fabric as I sew and not forcing it, and other truly valuable advice that only a seasoned sewer would truly know.

What were you previously doing before Cottage Mama?

I was a Realtor prior to having my daughter Savannah Rose, once she was born I became a stay-at-home Mom. But if we want to go way back, I used to do musical theatre (singing, acting, and dancing). Maybe that is where some of my love of all things vintage comes in - I have always been drawn to the old-fashioned musicals, even as a little girl - 42nd Street, Crazy For You, Singin in the Rain, The Pajama Game, Guys and Dolls and the list goes on.

I noticed the fabric you use right away when I first spotted your shop. It’s gorgeous and so fresh and modern. I love the fact that you combine the flair of vintage with fun and fresh fabrics. Who is your favorite fabric designer?

Wow, that's a really tough question. Right now, my favorite designer is Pat Bravo for Art Gallery Fabrics. I just LOVE Art Gallery! They have so many gorgeous prints that have an amazing mix of old and new. Right now I am creating many of my designs from their "Girly Girl" line, but I am considering creating some things from their "Sugar" line as well. I think "Sugar" would be perfect for summer!

I dream of one day having my own craft room as I’m sure most of us crafters do. Where do you craft and sew?

We live in an old 1930's Cottage style home so, like many older homes, it has lots of little rooms. I currently have most of my sewing/crafting materials in what we call the "office", although my sewing machine, serger, and cutting mat are spilling over into the dining room. My father-in-law has agreed to help me covert our "office" into my "studio" in the next month or so. Right now that room is basically used for sewing anyway, it just needs some serious built in organization to help me function better with my new business.

You and your hubs are high school sweethearts (so romantic) and sound like such a fun couple.
Your hubby is a writer who works in advertising who is also an award winning beer brewer! What a combo! You both seem like such a creative couple, what other hobbies do you share and what role does he play in the Cottage Home?

We are both really into music. We used to both be into a lot of indie stuff, but as we have gotten older, I tend to gravitate towards some more mainstream music that I can dance around to with my girls. Brett, however, is still really into the indie scene. Brett also plays guitar (he was in a punk rock band when we got together in high school), so he will play the guitar for the girls and Savannah just loves it! We both really love food and wine (as well as his beer). I just love to cook and Brett loves to eat - perfect combo!! We honeymooned in Napa and Sonoma and just
love wine tasting. Brett planted a small vineyard here at The Cottage Home and he makes wine as well as beer.

Brett is an AMAZING Daddy and is so good to me on the weekends. He pretty much changes all the diapers and really gives me a break all weekend long. Also, if I need to do some sewing, he will definitely entertain the girls to let me get whatever I need done. I am very lucky to be married to such a great man!

When it comes to sewing I have a fear of zippers and button holes. Is there something that you still have to conquer when it comes to sewing?

This is kind of embarrassing to admit, but I cannot seem to conquer sewing with elastic thread. Everyone I know that has conquered this tells me how great it is and how it is SO easy............maybe it's easy for them, but not for me! I have tried everything......winding the bobbin loosely, winding semi-loose, winding it semi-tight, and the list goes on. Let me tell you that I don't usually give up on things, but after two days and two entire spools of elastic thread, I just decided maybe it wasn't for me. In the back of my head it is still something I would like to master because it looks like so much fun!!

What are your future goals for Cottage Home/Mama?

My goals for The Cottage Home is to continue to increase the number of readers. I would also like to come up with some great new sewing/crafting tutorials. Many of my readers have emailed me talking about being new to sewing, so I hope to inspire them to keep on trying and perfecting their skills. In regards to The Cottage Mama (my etsy shop) I would love to become more well-known in the etsy community and I would also like to promote my business here in the local community. I would love for my business to become so wonderfully successful that I need to recruit my Mom to come up from Texas to help me :-).

Does the overall style of your shop/blog flow through into your home/fashion sense?

Yes, I definitely think it does. I love classic style. Granted, being a Mom of two little ones, I am not always putting my best fashion-foot forward. I love pretty florals, girly ruffles, classic cardigans, ballet flats, khakis, vintage jewelry. Well, I do actually live in a cottage (I didn't make that up!), so my home is very much decorated in a "cottage style". It feels cozy and comfortable and is decorated in mainly warm rich tones.

What kind of sewing machine do you use? What would be your dream machine and do you use a serger?

I do not have a fancy sewing machine. My Mom and husband got me a Brother CS-6000i for my birthday and it's awesome! I believe it sells for under $200 on, but it does everything I need. It has many fun stitches, a great button-hole foot and is super user friendly. I recommend this machine to anyone I know that is considering taking up sewing. dream machine. I would love a Bernina - I think the Bernina Artista 730 would be nice!! I would love to have a machine with an embroidery function. I love monograms and personalized items, so I think that would be really fun!

Yes, I use a serger. I am somewhat new to serging, but I think I may be addicted. All of my items in my shop have professionally serged seams or they are completely lined. I use a Brother 1034D - it is a great, fairly inexpensive 4-thread serger. Again, I can't say enough about the "user friendliness" of the Brother machines!!

If you’re not sewing goodies for the shop what would we find you making?

Clothes for my girls or right now you would find me making birthday presents for my daughters little friends. Like I mentioned before, we are in a playgroup with 12 other Mommy's and they all have little ones born within a month of Savannah, so right now it is birthday party season. You would also find me making lots of food! I love, love, love to cook - my favorite chef is Ina Garten, The Barefoot Contessa.

How do your kids react to your sewing/blogging time? Any tips for other mom’s on how to get it all done?

Some days are better than others. Right now we have a baby gate up between my sewing machines and the family room. This helps because I don't have to worry about the girls getting into anything dangerous, but yet they feel like I am right there with them if they need anything. Before, I was having to put everything up if I needed to take my little one, Matilda Jane, upstairs to take a nap. Well, I was wasting WAY too much time putting away and getting it all back out again. So, until my craft space is completed, this works really well for us.

Many of my friends ask me that very same question, "how do you get it all done?" and let me be totally honest with you, there is no way to "get it all done". If there is a day where I need to do a lot of sewing to keep up with my etsy shop, well then maybe the housework gets neglected a little. If one of my girls is needing more of my attention, then my sewing/blogging is going to have to wait. My girls and my hubby are truly my #1 priority. If I truly was able to "get it all done" I would need three of me!!

Where do you turn to for sewing advice and inspiration?

I am new to the blog world, but I am LOVING it. I cannot believe how many amazingly, talented women are out there - it is totally inspiring! My Mom is a great source for sewing advice. I also have a subscription to "Sew News" which is wonderful, especially if you are into sewing clothing, as I am. "Altered Couture" is another really fun publication for those that are into sewing upcycled goods.

Do you shop for fabric online or in a brick/mortar shop? What is the name of your fave shop?

I buy most of my fabric online. There are several etsy shops that are great - for example Gina from "Fabrics I Love" is so sweet and "FernandIna Fibers" is another great resource with great prices. It really depends on what fabric I am looking for. Hawthorne Threads is another great source with a HUGE selection.

Any words of advice to other mom’s considering taking the plunge into opening their own handmade shop?

I would say to definitely do some planning and think about your vision for your shop. I really made sure that I had a look for my shop/blog that reflected my personal style and had developed somewhat of a brand identity. It would be so sad to set up your shop under a name that you didn't really think through and be stuck with that forever. Brainstorm, write down your thoughts, dream about what you want and then just do it!! Take the plunge and get out there. It so important for us to make sure we maintain our personal identities after we become Mommy's, so if you have something your are interested in, put your mind to and make it happen.........don't end up being 80 years old, thinking, I wish I would have.......

thanks so much for being part of the mommyhood lindsay, it's been so fun getting to know you! the hubs and i will be right over for some beer/wine, guitar playing, sewing and lots of laughs. too bad it would take me a plane or long road trip to get there...haha.

you can find lindsay on her blog, at her etsy shop, facebook group and on her flickr page.

*all images
© copyright the cottage mama

moms in the mommyhood - lucy sweetland

we have a new "moms in the mommyhood"!

let's all say hi to lucy from the etsy shop {a black pepper} and blog of the same name! i've been a long time reader (and drooler) of lucy's blog and her hand knits and was super excited when she agreed to be part of the "moms in the mommyhood". i find lucy's knitting so clean and modern, but also classic at the same time. her photos are stunning and so her is her work.

lucy is a busy stay at home mom to two little ones, a girl and a boy, who knits and runs her etsy shop while parenting and doing all the other things us moms do. it's been fun getting to know lucy and having an excuse to spend a lot of time just ogling her lovely knits and wishing i had the time to make every single one of them. you can read more about lucy on her website, where you can join her on ravelry, flickr, facebook, check out her photo blog and design page as well as on tumblr - this talented lady has got it all.

so let's all welcome this fun loving momma to the mommyhood, feel free to share your thoughts and questions in the comments below. come sit on down and join us for a cup of coffee, put the kids down for a nap, take a breather and let's chat!

if you are new to the
mommyhood, our "moms in the mommyhood" features a new mom monthly who currently has their own business (doesn't matter what kind). we try to sit down and have a virtual cup of coffee and ask them all the fun, little questions that we are dying to know. we also try to get a glimpse into their lives and what it's like to have your own business and be the boss of your kids at the same time. we are always on the lookout for new moms to feature. if you know someone or you would like to be featured in this spot, please send us an email at don't be shy - we can't wait to meet you!

now, let's get sipping our coffee, heck grab a yummy treat if you so desire, pull up a chair join in on the fun with me, have a few laughs and get to know lucy:

Ok, you know I’m going to ask you - when did you first start knitting & how did you learn?

I was knitting pretty early since I was a little, around 8 or 9 years and continued to knit through my teens. I just picked it up from friends then, who really taught me the first knit/purl basics (aka garter stitch) and then later, taught me how to knit baby booties, sweaters and shawls etc. Then I took a break for a long time and started again 12 years ago, during a visit to my in laws in the US. My mother in law is a knitter and she started me up again by taking me on a trip to Michael’s to buy some yarn. I haven’t stopped since.

What eventually led you to start designing patterns? What was the first project you designed and sold?

Well, that just came naturally as I continued to knit. I always had this great need to wear something hand knit that fit my taste and style which I could never find in the store. That coupled with my own creative desire to express myself independently though knitwear led me on the designing journey. I never initially planned to design for others, but just for myself. Still, I design for solely for myself in mind (selfish, I know), but that’s just how I work.

The first project I ever designed and knit was a Merino sweater with a lacy pattern which fits me no more, but my daughter will wear it when she grows. I never really sold any of knitted designs from early on although; I have knit a few of them for friends and just charged them for the labour.

Your website {a black pepper} is gorgeous and I love stopping by to sit and drool all over my monitor. When did you develop your site and how long have you been blogging for now?

Thank you! “a black pepper” started in early 2009 when I decided to switch from my first knitting blog which was limited to knitting only. I wanted a newer and fresher place to document a much broader view of my life. Three years prior to that is when I started blogging.

What’s the story behind the name “a black pepper”?

Ironically, there is no hidden meaning to the name at all. I just went around in circles trying to find a name that defined me and what I wanted to do and somehow, “a black pepper” was befitting. Really, it just means one tiny little black pepper which when used to spice up food, can have a dramatic effect on the overall taste of the food.

What is your all time fave thing to knit?

Sweaters are probably my ultimate favourite. I am also a winter accessory fanatic so I fill in the gaps between sweaters with lots of hats.

What yarn do you find yourself using over and over again?

I am only drawn to wool of different kinds, ranging from scratchy virgin wool with a character like Rowan Scottish Tweeds to the softest of alpacas, merinos and recently, some llama.

Your most indulgent knitting notion/supply? If you don’t own it yet, what would it be?

I would have to say my large collection of Addi Turbo circular needles, which I seem to collect in every size with different lengths. In some cases, I have multiples of the same sizes that I use the most. Yarn is a necessity. No matter how much I have, it doesn’t bother me at all because I always have something I can create with whenever needed.

I’m not a big fan of intarsia knitting, it stresses me out, do you have a style of knitting that is your nemesis?

Yes, I am with you on intarsia and fair isle knitting. I love the effect it produces but unfortunately, I have little or no patience for it.

When do you find the time to knit while being married to hubby (Spike) and raising two active kids (Big T. age 9 and Little T. age almost 4)? I’m mostly a night time knitter, what about you?

The majority of my knitting takes place at night over a movie or an audio book. A few days a week when Little T. is at preschool, I absolutely rush home (no house work whatsoever takes place during this time) and use that time to knit or finish a project I am working on.

I know that you are quite the creative lady. You crochet – I love the granny squares, sew quilts with stunning African fabrics, clothes for your family and you, adorable bedding for your little ones and you take the most breathtaking photography. What’s next on your list? Is there anything you have always wanted to learn that you haven’t attempted yet?

Oh, there are quite a few things on the list. This year I plan to make a crochet granny square blanket once I have accumulated enough leftover yarns; finish a vintage quilt that was given to me; work with some silk fabrics I brought back from Thailand and I guess, work on my little collection of hand knitwear for my store.

You sell your patterns on Ravelry as well as in your etsy shop. How have you found both sites for aiding you in sales? Have they been assets?

Yes, both have been great to places to start selling my patterns. I love the Ravelry knitting community and the feedback I've received. I am still learning about Etsy where my patterns have been considerably well received amongst the multitude of sellers there.

Do you have a craft room or are you like me and stash your wool everywhere and anywhere? Where would we most commonly find you knitting?

No, I don't but I seriously dream of my very own craft room neatly arranged and decorated but in reality, I have two shelf corners in our basement – one corner stashed with fabric and sewing stuff and the other, stashed with clear containers each containing one type of yarn (colour), neatly stacked.

I knit in the family room where the side table and the area around it is usually strewn with baskets of yarns and projects etc.

I’ve mentioned that you take wonderful photography. I can tell this is a passion of yours. It caught my eye and I have been a faithful lurker of your site ever since. What kind of camera do you use? Are you self taught or did you take classes?

I have a Nikon D80 with three different lenses. I am a self taught photographer by far and I generally lack ability to read instruction manuals and technical books (mind you, I know how to read, in case you wonder!). I am more of a trial and error kind of individual.

What inspires you? Which designers work do you find yourself drawn to the most?

I love texture, color, detail and all sorts of shapes in a knitted garment that flatters my personality. I love creating something challenging, either in technique or detail. Also strangely if I may say, the yarn itself inspires me to create something – it’s almost like it tells me what it wants to become.

To be honest, there are many designers out there that are very talented and their work is admirable. Long ago, Debbie Bliss and Melissa Leapman were a few whose work I knew and admired. Now, there is a growing number of new independent designers, including Tikru and Villapeikko (both on ravelry) whose work I like.

Most of us have a hard time finding that perfect pattern for our hubbies or little ones that tend to be a bit picky. Have you made any that you recommend? I know I could use some tips!

I probably have made a lot of kids knit wear from Debbie Bliss books and you can’t go wrong with her designs. I think a classic Tomten jacket by Elizabeth Zimmernann can take it’s own individual character depending on the knitter. Right now, I don’t knit much for my kids because they refuse to wear knits, so it’s frustrating not to be able to pick the cutest patterns I see out there.

Do you have any tips/advice to other moms looking to branch out into selling their own knitting and patterns?

*Sigh*! I am such a novice at marketing my own stuff so I'm probably not very versed at giving someone else advice. However, it took me a long time to get started and take the plunge, but once I started, it became a little easier the second time around. So I would only say, don’t be afraid to start your business, whatever it is.

Where do you buy your wool? Are you more of an online shopper or a brick/mortar kind of girl?

Online, unfortunately. It’s easier that way since I know the yarn brands that I like. Lately, I have been trying some hand dyed yarns from independent smaller vendors.

I see that you are a fan of English Classics and I, being a book hound myself, couldn’t resist asking you what your favourite classic is.

It’ll probably sound corny but Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice is one of my favourites among others of her books (which I love too). Additionally, Wives and daughters (Elizabeth Gaskell) and Daniel Deronda (George Eliot); Jane Eyre (Bronte) are my favourites as well.

From reading your blog I know you are an avid tea drinker. What is your all time, love it the most, drink it whenever you can, would buy it in case lots, tea?

Tea to me is like yarn. You gotta drink in different flavours, blends or even colours (black, red, green etc). It’s hard to choose my favourite because I like variety. I drink less of the caffeinated black teas (like earls greys, Ceylon, assam etc) usually in the mornings, fruity teas for the afternoons and/or green teas for the evening. My local Wegman’s has a teashop and try all kinds of teas from Japan, China and India to Egypt, Brazil or South Africa. I’ll have to share some of the recent flavours I like on my blog soon.

What’s the next step for “a black pepper”?

Hmm, you know the people in your life that are non committal, indecisive, or a little less goal oriented....I am one of those. I have at least an idea (or two) of what I want to do but am a bit fuzzy on the rest of the details. As with a lot of things in my life, I tend to just flow with the waves, wherever they take me. That’s how I like it.

thanks so much for being part of the mommyhood lucy, it's been so fun getting to know you! oh, and i'll be right over for a giant, warm cup of tea and a chat about our fave jane austen books! i think you should design a jane austen inspired pattern, now that would be a must knit in my book!

you can find lucy on her blog, etsy shop, ravelry, tumblr page, facebook page, flickr group, design gallery and photo blog.

*all images, unless otherwise stated are © 2009 {a black pepper}, all rights reserved. please do not use any photos from this post without explicit permission from {a black pepper}.*

moms in the mommyhood - melissa laster

we have a new "moms in the mommyhood"!

say hello to melissa from the shop "indie sunshine"! from the first moment melissa emailed me i knew i had to fit her in as a "mom in the mommyhood". from her business making custom ring slings and mei tais, to running a daycare, raising 2 children, being crafty and the inspirational story of her family, she won me over hands down. i just had to find out how this cheerful mom does it all and with a giant smile on her face.

i've had tons of fun getting to know melissa and thank her for her patience as i delayed her interview over and over again due to my being joined at the hip with my toilet in the first trimester of my pregnancy. she was a sweetheart about it all and so kindly just checked in on me every few weeks. her loyal customers speak volumes for her and her business ethic, and in fact, one of them is posted below for winning a photo contest hosted on indie sunshine. besides selling her stylish baby carriers she also gives other WAHM's a portal to sell their handmade goods for all us mommies to ohhhh and ahhhh over.

so let's all let some sunshine in our homes and welcome this fun loving momma to the mommyhood, feel free to share your thoughts and questions in the comments below. come sit on down and join us for a cup of coffee, put the kids down for a nap, take a breather and let's chat!

if you are new to the mommyhood, our "moms in the mommyhood" features a new mom monthly who currently has their own business (doesn't matter what kind). we try to sit down and have a virtual cup of coffee and ask them all the fun, little questions that we are dying to know. we also try to get a glimpse into their lives and what it's like to have your own business and be the boss of your kids at the same time. we are always on the lookout for new moms to feature. if you know someone or you would like to be featured in this spot, please send us an email at don't be shy - we can't wait to meet you!

now, let's get sipping our coffee, heck grab a yummy treat if you so desire, pull up a chair join in on the fun with me, have a few laughs and get to know melissa:

You have 2 gorgeous kids, Lillianne (Lily), 5 years old and Dillinger (Dillion) 1 year old, are married to hubby James, run an in-home day care and an online business – how in the heck to you manage it all and stay sane at the same time?

Time management! I know there are a millions things I have to do in a day. So I prioritize, with my family always coming first, then put everything else in its place. There are days when I wish I could have gotten more accomplished, but as long as my family is happy and my business a success…I have done alright.

What prompted you to start your online business IndieSunshine and tell us a little about it?

When pregnant with my son I cut back on my daycare a lot. Taking care of a newbie is a lot of work! But I still wanted to be a baby wearer, bring in some money, and make time for my favorite hobby, sewing. IndieSunshine was the next logical step. Most of the baby carriers on the market are so expensive. I make affordable carriers and provide space for other WAHM’s to sell their products.

When did you first learn to sew and what type of machine do you use?

My high school offered a sewing class and I took full advantage. After that I sewed with a tiny handheld model. Ha. Eventually my mother in law gave me the most sentimental sewing machine ever. It is the one she used to make my husband’s clothes when he was little, a Sears Kenmore. It requires frequent oiling and service calls, but works like a charm.

What was the first ring sling/mei tai you made? Why did you decide to begin making baby carriers to begin with?

The first sling I made was for my son. I found this gorgeous polka dot fabric. It was unlike any sling I had ever seen. I like to be subtly unique and one of a kind items really appeal to me. That is why I offer custom linen slings. To give each mom a chance to design her own carrier to match her style.

How long does it typically take you to sew a carrier and do you use a certain pattern or did you design it yourself?

I have to admit I have never just sat down and made a carrier start to finish. With two kids running around there is always on interruption. I would say total time on a sling is about an hour. A mei tai is more like 5. Designing my carriers though was the hardest part. I received great feedback from early customers. After lots of trial and redos I am very happy with my end design.

You mention AP (Attachment Parenting) on your site. Can you tell us a bit about Attachment Parenting and what it is?

When most of people refer to attachment parenting they are thinking of Dr. Sears and his “7 B’s” Birth Bonding, Breastfeeding, Babywearing, Bedding close to baby, Believe in the value of your baby’s cry, Beware of baby trainers, and Balance. To me attachment parenting is about being present for every moment of your child’s life. Parenting doesn’t stop at bedtime when they “should be sleeping” and babies don’t have to conform to mommies wishes. Every baby is different and our job as parents is to nurture them into well rounded human beings.

You have a personal blog "documentations on life"where you have some lovely photography. What kind of camera do you use?

Canon Rebel Xsi. I love it! I have always been interested in photography and this camera has allowed me to really get creative.

You sell a vast array of great products for wee ones such as burn busters, custom diapers, hats and accessories, how did you decide what to sell along with your baby carriers and how did you find the products you chose?

It is hard getting started with an online business and any little leg up helps. So I choose moms who have rock solid products and the will to make it work. I go about the internet looking for ladies who are just starting out, maybe they haven’t even opened an etsy yet. A lot of them were selling to other moms via swap boards. After I have tried out their product and chatted with them about how hard they are willing to work, then they are offered to be part of the IndieSunshine team.

Your team is comprised of a very talented group of mommas with wonderful products! I love that they are all creative moms that you have brought under the IndieSunshine umbrella. Do you have any future plans to add more products? How do you find working with the group of moms whose products you currently sell?

These moms are great! I will occasionally google IndieSunshine to see how our name is getting put out there and often times I find one of the other moms promoting my slings. Just as I promote their products anytime I have a chance. And really that is what makes it work. Having lots of people selling the same site. In the future we are going to add homemade soaps, more diaper products…the sky is the limit. I am willing to listen to any WAHM’s pitch and try out her items.

When we first started chatting you mentioned how close your family is and how your husband James suffers from cancer. He’s due to reach remission in March of this year, how have you managed to stay strong and positive for your family during this time and through the birth of your second child?

Life is hard and everyone has a story. When people hear Cancer they always feel sorry for the family and think how hard it must be. I won’t lie, it wasn’t easy. I took our 3 month old daughter to chemo appts so my husband wouldn’t have to be alone. But looking back, what doesn’t kill us makes us stronger and I am one strong mama!

Does your hubby play a role within IndieSunshine?

James is key in making my business work! He designed my original website and showed me how to use it. At this point I have completely taken over, but anytime I have a problem he rides in a white horse to fix it. Also when I have a new idea he is great to bounce it off of and gives the constructive criticism I need.

Why did you decide to develop your own site and not start on one with a site such as when starting up your company?

That I also have to credit to James. I started selling from my blog, but soon I was getting to many requests. What do I have in stock? What fabrics do I have? Can I do this or that… I had to expand. DH is a computer technician who does web design on the side. He offered to set up a site and I jumped on it! I feel like sometimes etsy or hyencart stores can get lost in the mix. But once people buy from IndieSunshine they remember where to come back to.

When do you find the time to sew during the day?

Most of my sewing is done on the weekends when I have help with the kids. If I have a custom order during the week I set Dillion to playing in his room which is attached to my sewing area. He will interrupt me from time to time, but that is what keeps me on my toes.

What do you find the pros/cons of starting your own business while being a busy mom to two young children?

Well the obvious con is how busy I am. Finding time for me during the day is nearly impossible. However I love it! I am firm believer in a rolling stone gathers no moss. I just want to keep going,growing, and living life to its fullest. Having IndieSunshine can be frustrating, but the benefits far outweigh the cost.

If you aren’t sewing baby carriers what would you be sewing?

For Christmas James gave me "One-Yard Wonders: 101 Sewing Fabric Projects" and I have barely cracked the cover. So I would love to get into that and make matching mommy/daughter aprons for when Lily and I bake.

What is your one biggest indulgence as a mom?

My camera/photography. The camera was not cheap and who knows how much I have spent on prints. But I love documenting my children. I hope when they grow up they look at the pictures and appreciate them. Rather than think “wish that lady wasn’t flashing the camera in my face all the time!”

I love that your customers are such strong supporters of your products. You currently have a facebook page, have you found this to be an asset to your business and if so how?

It is definitely an asset. Moms who have already bought my slings join, then all their friends see that they joined and want to join to. Well then they need a sling! It is a great domino effect.

Do you have any advice to other moms looking to start an online business? Any lessons you have learned during the start up process that you would like to share?

Be creative. You have to have a sales pitch that is totally unique. People aren’t going to buy a widget from you if a more well known company is already selling widgets. You need to not only have the best widgets in the world, but offer them with a free cookie! People love cookies.

I’m a firm believer in baby wearing; I carried my daughter and still do. Why did you choose ring slings and mei tais instead of many of the other styles of baby carriers to make out there?

The town I live in is as crunchy as Indiana gets. When at Farmers Market I saw 3 main types of carriers, Ring Sling, Mei Tais, and “crotch danglers.” Since babies need to be positioned correctly in carriers to prevent hip problems I knew a forward facing front carrier was not for me. So I set out to make ring slings and mei tais. To me they are the most versatile carriers around. The MT James and I use has a man side for him and a slightly prettier side for when I am using it. So few carriers offer that option. As for slings, after my c-section everything ached and carrying this tiny baby seemed like such a chore. The first time I put on the sling I felt so much better. I stood up straighter, my back didn’t hurt. It was heaven. After our first trip to the grocery store I was sold. There is no way I could have carried him in my arms the whole time and putting babies in infant carriers on carts is dangerous. Not to mention he would have been so far away from my heart. I love snuggling my little man and these carriers make it so much easier.

thank you so much for being part of the mommyhood melissa, it's been so fun getting to know you - keep in touch! i wish you and your loveable family all the best! thank you for all your kind words and sweet emails over the last few months - ya better keep 'em coming, it truly means a lot to me and you are an inspiration to all moms out there.

you can find melissa on her website IndieSunshine and as a special treat to all you readers she is offering 10% off any product at IndieSunshine for the month of february. just use the code "luvinthemommyhood" and get shopping!

{all images courtesy of melissa laster}

moms in the mommyhood - vanessa christenson

we have a new "moms in the mommyhood"!

say hello to vanessa from the blog "v & co." and the etsy shop"v& co." & "uptown jane". i'm super excited to share this interview with you and i'm not embarrassed to admit i did the "happy dance" when vanessa agreed to do the interview. i feel funny introducing her because i am sure many of you already know who she is, but if you don't, she is one super talented, funny, creative, smart, multi-tasking momma blogger that i have seriously envy for. it's an understatement to say i am a fan of hers and i hope you all will be as well.

i had so much fun coming up with the questions for this interview because i knew vanessa was going to be so interesting to get to know. it was a hoot to read her answers and to share emails with such a great blogging friend during this month when i have been under the weather. she is truly one of those rare sweet, honest, and kind women out there that i just wish i lived closer to. her quilting is to die for and the icing on the cake is that she's hilarious to boot and man does she look fine for having 4 babies!!!! wowsa!!!

so let's all welcome this fun loving momma to the mommyhood, feel free to share your thoughts and questions in the comments below. come sit on down and join us for a cup of coffee, put the kids down for a nap, take a breather and let's chat!

if you are new to the mommyhood, our "moms in the mommyhood" features a new mom monthly who currently has their own business (doesn't matter what kind). we try to sit down and have a virtual cup of coffee and ask them all the fun, little questions that we are dying to know. we also try to get a glimpse into their lives and what it's like to have your own business and be the boss of your kids at the same time. we are always on the lookout for new moms to feature. if you know someone or you would like to be featured in this spot, please send us an email at don't be shy - we can't wait to meet you!

now, let's get sipping our coffee, heck grab a yummy treat if you so desire, pull up a chair join in on the fun with me, have a few laughs and get to know vanessa:

1) Ok, seriously, you are a wife to hubby Jake & a mom to 4 busy kids - Nate (9), Ryan (7), Kyle (5), Katie (3), how the heck do you find the time to run an etsy shop, blog, design tutorials & still stay sane?

HA, well whoever told you that I was sane, gave you false information. But I guess I should explain how I make time for it all. While Jake was gone over seas I started my blog and as the months went on I started up my etsy shop to sell some of the things I was working on and others had liked. I would work late at night into the morning while the kids were sleeping. Since Jake’s been home, I’ve scheduled my life so that it’s a part of my daily routine, to blog and to work on new things, and do all the other things that come up during the day. I have a really scheduled day. but what’s great is that I can be flexible as well.

I always have about 5 projects going, and I always am writing down more ideas. So really if I just work one project a day I usually can keep up with family, volunteering, and my business.

2) How long have you been quilting for & what sparked you to learn?

I’ve been quilting for about 6 years. Sewing for 7. what started this whole mess was when we were in graduate school, and I couldn’t afford to buy some simple stitchery patterns. I started to make my own, and learned how to make a simple pillow, (and that was the start of my embroidery pattern business) around a year later, I made my first quilt it was a rag quilt, I made it with 5 highly experienced quilters. I cried when I had to cut into fabric the first time (because it was so pretty and I was afraid I was going to mess it up)…I made simple block quilts for a few years and just recently have fallen in love with pinwheels and ohio stars, and grandmother garden flowers…and and and..the list just keeps going. Just recently have I been able to feel a little more confident in making instructions for my ideas on those.

3) Your blog V & Co. is one of my fave daily reads. What prompted you to start one and what came first the blog or your etsy shop "Uptown Jane"?

Why thank you! Jake was getting ready to deploy in February of 2008, I started my blog so that I could keep him posted (as well as my friends I’ve made throughout our many moves, a lot of them are military wives so we’ve been spread out all over). My blog was first a lot of personal stuff about us in general, then I started to post things I was working on…and well now it is what it is. Me talking a little about us (the hilarity it is to have kids and a husband all the while living in the middle of nowhere), and a lot about my passions.

My blog came first. I started to mention on my blog when it had an audience of about 10 girls I’ve known personally throughout the years, that I had some moda charm packs I wanted to sell, and also a few things I had made if anyone was interested. Money was an issue…”it would be so much easier if I could just pay you though credit instead of mailing a check” so I opened up my etsy shop to help with that.

4) How have you found your etsy experience so far?

Sigh. Well , at first it was hard, I made a lot of the same things, and I got burnt out on making the same thing over and over. I loved what I was making but the repetition got to me. I also tried to make things I thought other people would like. became frustrated that I couldn’t find “my thing”. Then I decided I was only going to put things in my shop that I would use and want. if something doesn’t sell in my shop…well, that’s alright because I love it and I would use it somewhere. I’ve also found “my thing” of fun down loadable projects of things I’ve made and I give you step by step instructions on how to make it too!

5) Any tips for other moms looking to start their own etsy shop?

Yeah, do it because you love it, and make things that represent you… don’t do it to make money, making money off of it sometimes doesn’t happen but when it does it is the icing on the cake.

6) Give us a sneak peek into a few of your favourite small pleasures.

Chocolate, uh chocolate, CHOCOLATE. Feeling sore after a great workout, reading a really good book outside in perfect weather, and sitting in bed with the husband watching our favorite shows eating popcorn.

7) What is the fabric line you find yourself drawn to the most?

Oh wow I have to pick one? Uh yikes. Well I love a lot of lines. But I’m drawn to bright colors, my favorite colors are, lime green, red, turquoise, pink and a dash of orange. A lot of polka dots some flowers, and gingham's and vines (oh I love vines!)I also need a ton of white to off balance all my crazy colors. I’m really drawn to 60’s and 70’s linen sheets (can you tell with my color palette?) Uh yeah so any line with all those at the same time would be my ideal line…I guess what I’m trying to say is I REALLY like to mix fabric lines to create exactly what I love.

8) As moms, we rarely find the time to pamper ourselves. Having 4 kids must make it tough, but if you could sneak away for time on your own what would you indulge in?

I would go garage sale-ing and second hand store shopping. Yeah that’s like my perfect dream day.

9) You have some wonderful photography on your blog. What kind of camera do you use?

Why thank you! A Cannon Rebel XT worth every penny.

10) Do you have a favourite quilting pattern you use?

I have never used a quilt pattern. I just have made up my own as I go. Some day I will use a pattern. I have quite a few of Camille Roskelly’s quilt patterns but I would love to get my hand on her new pattern she just put out "ala mode” as pinwheels and ohio stars are my favorite!

11) What resource do you turn to for sewing/quilting?

Oooh good question there are a few books that are great but I love the simplicity of instructions in this book: “Quilter’s complete guide” by Fon’s and Porters. I also LOVE to look at books dedicated to vintage quilts.

12) What kind of sewing machine do you currently use?

BERNINA 185 - I still don’t know how to use it’s full potential.

13) What are 3 small things we may be surprised to know about you?

1) Spanish was my first language, and now I suck at it. 2.) I was a real tom boy all growing up, I didn’t really do to much girly things till I got married (well except decorating…I’ve ALWAYS decorated) 3) I get some serious nerves (sometimes I’ve even made myself worried sick) over etsy shop updates.

14) I believe music can play a big role in the creative process. Do you listen to music while sewing and if so, what's your must have on the stereo?

OH I LOVE music! Yes, I usually have one ear phone in when I’m sewing for long periods of time (so I can hear the happenings of the 4 kids in the other ear!) some of my favorite bands to listen to are Maroon 5, all American rejects, the Killers, and I just found Veronicas (who I love!)

Also my kids are all into rock band so I am constantly singing along with some rock band stuff, or some of the bought singles that my husband downloaded to the program. Usually weezer. He’s all about weezer.

15) You contribute regularly to "moda bake shop" (which I love), how/when did you get involved in with moda?

I love moda too! About 7 months ago I got an email from a wonderful woman from moda saying she saw my tutorial for my celebration flags using charm packs. She wanted to know if would be interested to contribute to the moda bake shop. I jumped at the opportunity and have loved working for such an awesome site. I’ve done a few tutorials for them and have a few more up my sleeve, so keep a look out for that! ;)

16) What advice would you give to those looking to start quilting or just learning like myself?

Find women around you or sign up for a beginners class. Honestly I would not of even tried had I not had some wonderful friends telling me “no really YOU CAN DO THIS!” and then keep going and never look back. quilting is just using what you learn, and then adding on to it.

17) Most of us have had our fair share of sewing blunders & wonders. What is your most treasured project & your most hated you've worked on?

Oh gosh. Well I have so many projects I love, but one project that turned out exactly how I envisioned it in my head, is my pinwheel quilt that lays at the bottom of my bed. To this day it’s by far one of my favorite things I’ve made and it makes me happy to see it every day.

Something that was a blunder would have to be a handbag I “tried” to make before I had a sewing machine. Yeah, I attempted to sew it by hand, and no pattern…uh not pretty and quickly earned me repentance time with the all swear words that came out of my mouth during that project. Yeah, that baby made it in the trash. To this day I’m not a huge fan of making handbags.

18) What are your future goals for V&C & Uptown Jane"?

To continue doing what I’m doing...create, laugh, and enjoy the friends that blogging and etsy brings.

19) When did you first learn how to sew & what was your first project?

Well, I “learned” to hand sew when I was in high school, I do quotation marks on that because really, it was ugly. And I hated it after trying to hand sew like 5 quilt blocks together. I gave that up quickly and didn’t like to touch any kind of sewing till 7 years ago, When I used for the first time a sewing machine. That project was a pillow to show off my new embroidery of our family’s last name.

20) If you had an unlimited budget/time what would be your dream project to work on?

Ha, simple…a crafting room for all my mess to be. oh wait did you mean like a sewing project? ;)

21) What inspires you?

EVERYTHING and ANYTHING can be inspiring. I love to look around me and think “wow, those colors look kind of fun together. That would look kind of cool in a quilt” I could be looking at an orchard or I could be passing by some billboard, color is amazing and it is all around in fabulous combinations. Also I like to think what inspires me is to look at the ordinary and change it to make it un-ordinary and mine.

22) I know this is a tough one, but hey, we all want to know so I have to ask - what are the top 5 blogs you read daily?

Lol! Okay I don’t have that much time to actually look at blogs because I’m so busy with all my crazy life of creating and crafting, blogging, volunteering at my kids school, volunteering at my church, and parenting that I really don’t have that much time. but there are a few blogs that whenever they come up on my google reader I stop and take a minute they are:

**nienie dialogues: That woman is amazing. She’s so real. and… amazing. Yeah, I cry often, tears of joy and sadness, and I always walk away grateful for my LIFE, my FAMILY, and my FAITH every single time I read her blog.

**ssew mama sew: great on advise and on sewing projects.

**MADE: she’s amazing with re-purposing clothing, I love how she thinks outside the box.

**cake wrecks: because I love to laugh and if I get to cackle and a snort, even better

**awkward family photos: see above for explanation as to why

thanks so much for being part of the mommyhood vanessa, it's been so fun getting to know you - keep in touch! oh, and i'll be right over for that cup of hot cocoa and some quilting fun! i wish that one day i can have just a sliver of the talent you have! you rock girl! thank you for all your kind words and sweet emails over the last few weeks - it truly meant a lot to me.
you can find vanessa on her blog, her etsy shop.

{all images vanessa christenson unless otherwise stated}

winner of the *shey* [b] giveaway!!!!

thanks to everyone who entered the giveaway and who commented on this month's "mom in the mommyhood" - shealynn benner of the benner daily and the etsy shop *shey* [b]. i had lots of fun reading the comments and drooling over shealynn's camera straps right alongside you all. cause shealynn is so sweet she kindly offered a lovely $10 gift certificate up for a giveaway for the interview and the winner is..........................

commenter #8

Shannon said...

It's so hard to pick a favorite...I love the fall apple one or the pom pom flourish one. Thanks! Fun post!

congrats shannon!!!! and just so you all know, i didn't pick her cause she has a rockin name (which she does and which happens to be my name), picked the lucky winner, no cheatin' here :) shannon - shealynn will be in touch with you in regards to your gift certificate! enjoy your camera strap and thanks for being part of the mommyhood!

stay tuned readers, we have another giveaway coming your way this week as well....ohhh, what will it be???? plus, another "remake, reuse, repurpose" tutorial is in the works and if all goes as planned i hope to have it up in the next 2 weeks - lots of fun!!!

moms in the mommyhood - shealynn benner

we have a new "moms in the mommyhood"!

say hello to shealynn from the blog "the benner daily" and the etsy shop & photography business *shey* [b]. shealynn is a bubbly, loving, talented and hilarious mom of 2. a photographer, business woman and twilight addict with a flair for the handmade! how could i resist adding her to the moms in the mommyhood section? i've had tons of fun getting to know shealynn and spent many a hour drooling over her gorgeous photography - it was a tough to limit my pics for this interview! i also love the fabrics she uses for her lovely camera straps and hope that one day i will have a gorgeous camera to sport one on!

because shealynn rocks and is so awesome she has offered all you luvinthemommyhood readers a chance to win a $10 gift certificate to her store! all you need to do is check out her shop and pick what item you want the most and then leave a comment on this post stating your choice! the winner will be picked on monday, august 31st! so make sure to get your comments in!

so let's all welcome this fun loving momma to the mommyhood, feel free to share your thoughts and questions in the comments below. come sit on down and join us for a cup of coffee, put the kids down for a nap, take a breather and let's chat!

if you are new to the mommyhood, our "moms in the mommyhood" features a new mom monthly who currently has their own business (doesn't matter what kind). we try to sit down and have a virtual cup of coffee and ask them all the fun, little questions that we are dying to know. we also try to get a glimpse into their lives and what it's like to have your own business and be the boss of your kids at the same time. we are always on the lookout for new moms to feature. if you know someone or you would like to be featured in this spot, please send us an email at don't be shy - we can't wait to meet you!

now, let's get sipping our coffee, heck grab a yummy treat if you so desire, pull up a chair join in on the fun with me and get to know shealynn:

Your photography is stunning! What kind of camera are you currently using?

Thank you! I use a Canon Rebel Xti. While I love my camera, I am hoping to get a new camera soon. Maybe for Christmas? :) My husband gets many hints throughout each week. ha!

When did you start doing photography professionally and what prompted you to go professional?

I started to do professional photography a couple of years ago. I haven't had a chance to really pursue it hardcore yet, but I hope to soon. I have been so busy with my business, life and moving that I just haven't had the chance, but I truly love photography so I hope to have my website up soon, and really pursue it. I have been doing photography since I was a sophomore in high school, and it's just "my thing". I loved it instantly, and I know I always will.

I decided to go professional, because I really think I can help share a story of some one's life through my camera lens. Seeing a baby or older child truly smile at me without forcing a smile from them just makes my whole photo shoot! As a photographer it's my job to make my subjects feel at ease, for that is where the best pictures always are... the ones where they are cracking up, or staring off in the distance, or laughing at my silly faces. I always walk away from a shoot smiling.

Which came first - the blog or the etsy store ?

My blog came first. I have been blogging for about 2 1/2 years, though, as you can see, not on the same blog. This is my 3rd blog, actually. ha ha!

You sell gorgeous handmade camera straps! I love them all! How did you start selling them and how have you found the experience of having an etsy store?

Thank you so much! Well, this is truly funny, because I really just thought of the idea while we lived in North Carolina. It was summer, and I was doing a photo shoot in Downtown Raleigh. It was really hot and humid. My camera strap was rubbing on my neck for the 2 hours it took to do that modeling shoot, and man! I remember how red my neck was from my strap. It was raw, and hurt really bad. I also remember thinking that there had to be a way to prevent that from happening. I didn't think I was the only person out there that had a serious hate for the stock camera strap, but I truly didn't know. That is literally how *Shey*[B] started.

My experience owning an Etsy shop has been great, actually. Etsy makes it really easy to open a shop and start selling right away. It's very user friendly, and I recommend it to everyone. My husband is, however, working on a website for me. He is a software developer, and a complete genius when it comes to computer everything, so look out for my website coming soon. I need to finish a photo shoot for my site and then it will be up.

User friendliness aside, I have also found that Etsy has so many buyers and sellers that it's the best start for a small business like mine.

Favourite camera accessory? Favorite subject to photograph?

My favorite camera accessory? Wow. That's a great question. I am definitely going to have to say my lenses are my favorite camera accessory... though, I don't know if I would put them in that category or the necessity category. Either way, I am nothing without my lenses. And I must have fixed lenses. I have found those are my favorite, and capture crisper cleaner images.

Well, if you've seen my blog, you'd likely know that my favorite subjects are obviously my girls. :) I love taking pictures of them, whether they love it or not. ha ha! I can capture their essence any time of the day, which is very convenient... If you want to know professional what my favorite subjects are to photograph, then that answer is easy. I LOVE photographing pregnant mama's and newborns.

I noticed you also do quite a bit of sewing. I loved the pillows you made. How long have you been sewing for and how did you learn?

Believe it or not, I have only been sewing for a little over a year. I started sewing last summer, and then started my business a month later. :) My husband's grandmother was an AMAZING seamstress. She even made my wedding dress for me, which was completely amazing. I know that she inspired me a lot while she was alive. I loved watching her create something from nothing. That's how I feel when I sit down to create something. Make a flat piece of pretty fabric into something useful and pretty. I love that! And a lot of times you can sit down, and a couple hours later you have transformed that fabric and breathed life into it to become something amazing. When purchasing my first sewing machine last summer, I taught myself how to sew. I made lots of mistakes. Lots! But, that was OK with me, it was how I learned. And I am so happy I did!

Do you have any plans to branch out from camera straps to other items in the future?

Yes I do, actually! I can't really say a whole lot right this moment, but I have actually contemplated it. Many of my friends tell me or insist that I must open another Etsy shop to sell some of my other creations other than camera strap slipcovers. I say different shop, because I don't like to mix merchandise. ;) So, stay tuned!

You have 2 beautiful girls, Angelina and Zoe and you are a wife to husband Mike. How do you balance the etsy shop/blog/photography with being a mom/wife? Any tips for us?

Thank you! I think my girls are beautiful too. ha ha! Ah, balance. This is hard for me, because so many things demand my attention, and sometimes all at once. When I first started my camera strap slipcover business I had NO idea how big it was going to get. So I just made them when I made them. We had just moved to Arizona, so there wasn't much in the way of photo shoots. But, very quickly my business began to grow and grow. I quickly found myself sitting at my sewing machine more and more. I have realized that I can't do everything, and I am totally able to accept it. But it was me who had to tell myself that I couldn't do it all, and to let it go before I actually did. Once I did, then life was OK again. Even though my house was a disaster. :) I just have to put what's important to me first, and that is my family. No matter what, they are my number 1 priority, and I don't want anything taking away from precious time with them. They grow too quickly.

Which photographers inspire you? Any faves?

I have a couple favorite photographers. One being DrewB Photography. She captures everything beautifully! I always feel inspired by her photographs.

I also love The Pioneer Woman's photography. Every time I look at her photographs I feel like I was there witnessing what she had photographed. She makes everyday ranching seem extraordinary and glamorous. I love that!

Your dog Luna is so adorable! I loved the mat you made her. What’s your most treasured project you have made for you or your family? We all have a project that just didn’t turn out no matter what we tried, what’s yours?

My most favorite is definitely the skirt I just made my daughter. It turned out so much better than I could have ever hoped. Now I want to make myself one! :)

There have been a couple projects I have made in the past year that weren't great. At all. I made my daughter, Zoe a dress. After sewing the armholes shut, I almost gave up on it, but decided to finish it. Her arms barely fit. ha ha!

I also made my mother a quilt that was bound to be the death of me. While I still ended up giving it to her for Christmas, and she cried over it, I swore I would never make another quilt again. ha ha! It practically fell apart the day I was going to mail it. I cried over it, and then fixed it. Was glad to see it go. :) I didn't stay true to my promise of never making another quilt, though. I did make a quilt top and backing very recently, but I sent it off to a company that actually finishes the quilt for you... so, I see many more quilts in my future. :)
Do either of your daughters have an interest in sewing?

My oldest does! She even has her own Hello Kitty sewing machine that "Santa" brought her. She has sewn on it a couple of times, and I plan on helping her more with it soon. She doesn't quite get the concept of threading and re-threading the machine. But with more practice she will.

What line of fabrics do you sew with the most? What kind of sewing machine do you use?

I use a lot of Michael Miller Damask prints. I love Damask! It is a timeless fabric that doesn't go out of style... at least it never has for me. I generally use a lot of Michael Miller prints in my projects... there are a lot of designers that are picked up by him that I like a lot. I have recently fallen in love with Studio E. But I pretty much love most fabric, so I just buy what I like.

I have 2 sewing machines. I have a Singer Confidence. I LOVE this machine. It can sew and sew and sew forever. I also have a Singer Futura embroidery/sewing machine. I use that for embroidery only.

If you had no budget or time constraint what would you do - a photo shoot or sew a project?

Can I do a photo shoot of a project I have sewn? ha ha! In all honesty, I would rather do a high end modeling shoot. I love super creative "out there" photo shoots like you see on America's Next Top Model and other shows. The crazy make up, hair and the extreme situations. That is my all time dream.

Do you like to listen to music while you work and if so what tunes get your groove on?

Yes, I LOVE music! I listen to anything from Linkin Park [one of my all time favorite bands, and I happen to know the bass player, which is cool!] to Claude Debussy. Just whatever I feel like. Most of the time I start with Claude and move on to something more up beat like Linkin Park, Daughtry, 3Oh! 3, Black Eyed Peas, etc. etc.

Do you have a fave outfit?

While I one day would love to be a fashion photographer, I am not huge into fashion for myself. I am a super casual dresser. Workout pants and a t-shirt, or cotton/linen capri pants and a t-shirt. I also wear jeans and t-shirts sometimes, but I am at home most of the time, and sitting at a sewing machine for a couple hours and chasing after my almost 3 year old is just so much easier dressed comfortably.

What are your top 5 blogs/websites to read daily? Sorry to ask this, I know it's hard, but hey - enquiring minds need to know!?

Wow! This is tough! I read at least 100 blogs, and I love them all for different reasons. Hmmmm... OK, I will give you the blogs that I can't wait to read...

* Make It And Love It * Joy's Hope * Bakerella * Happy Together * Lil Blue Boo * Flickr Ooops, I think I snuck in an extra ;)

I see that you and I are both big time Twilight fans. I love that you have a countdown to the new movie on your blog! Which book in the series is your top pick? Who do you heart - Edward or Jacob?

Sigh. Twilight. I LOVE Twilight, yes I do! I think my favorite is definitely Eclipse. While there are parts in each book I adore, I just love all of Eclipse. I have read each book in the Twilight series 5 times. Hilarious, I know. I am an avid reader. More like a book worm. And it all started with Twilight. ;) I am now a Young Adult/Teen Fiction book junkie! 2-3 books a week sometimes more! Thanks Stephanie Meyer for making an addict out of me. :) I am totally TEAM EDWARD! Can I get a woot woot ladies? ;) Can't wait for New Moon in theatres in November. OK, I will stop. I sound like a walking advertisment now. ha ha!

thanks so much for being part of the mommyhood shealynn, it's been so fun getting to know you - keep in touch! i wish we could see "new moon" together, i'll be thinking of you as my sis and i are drooling at edward on the big screen. we must email after we see it to dish the dirt!

you can find shealynn on her blog, her etsy shop and on twitter.

{all images *shey* [b] photography unless otherwise stated}

moms in the mommyhood - jessica fediw

we have a new "moms in the mommyhood"!

say hello to jessica from the blog & etsy store "happy together". her cheerful blog always brightens up my day and is sure to add another project to my "must make" list. she posts wonderful refashioning tutorials, great crafts and her daughter is just scrumptious. i have been an avid fan of hers since the first time i popped over to her blog. jessica's etsy store features lovely accessories, purses, handmade goods and toys and she also does custom orders. i want one of her fun headbands - i am a headband girl all the way!

in between all her sewing and being a mom the lovely jessica is also a proud wife whose husband is often away serving her country leaving her to take care of their daughter & home alone while adjusting to a new town - talk about hard work! so let's all welcome this crafty momma to the mommyhood, feel free to share your thoughts and questions in the comments below. come sit on down and join us for a cup of coffee, put the kids down for a nap, take a breather and let's chat!

if you are new to the mommyhood, our "moms in the mommyhood" features a new mom monthly who currently has their own business (doesn't matter what kind). we try to sit down and have a virtual cup of coffee and ask them all the fun, little questions that we are dying to know. we also try to get a glimpse into their lives and what it's like to have your own business and be the boss of your kids at the same time. we are always on the lookout for new moms to feature. if you know someone or you would like to be featured in this spot, please send us an email at don't be shy - we can't wait to meet you!

now, let's get sipping our coffee, heck grab a yummy treat if you so desire, pull up a chair and let's have some fun getting to know jessica:

1. Jessica, you write one of my fave daily blogs to read called "happy together". what prompted you to start the blog and how long have you been doing it for?

Well, last summer I had found out about all these crafty blogs there are out there (I don’t know why I didn’t know about the crafting blog world before then!). I really enjoyed seeing what others were doing and getting lots of inspiration from that. I had always been “crafty”, but the way life went, every time I had tried to try and make stuff to sell, etc., crazy things happened and I just did crafts occasionally. After my daughter was born in July 2007, I really started to put more into perfecting some craft skills I had (ie: sewing, crocheting, scrapbooking). It was a nice “break” from the monotonous role that motherhood can sometimes bring. Once I started reading others blogs, I decided that it would be great to be able to do the same with what I made.

So, last summer in July, I started my own blog having no idea if I was even really going to be
able to do it. My husband is in the military, and he was gone that whole summer through the end of the year, so I just leapt into it to help keep my mind off of his deployment.

2. Why did you name it "happy together"?

I named it Happy Together for a few reasons. Obviously, I am VERY happy when my little family is all together. My husband has had to be away from us quite a bit for the past three years, so I really enjoy when he’s here with us. Also, I am very happy with my crafts. It gives me a sense of accomplishment and is such a great outlet. Then, for selling purposes, I want the people who buy what I make to be happy with the products too. I could just imagine a little girl being happy together with a doll I made or something.

3. You also have an etsy store "Happy Together", which came first - the store or the blog?

My now one etsy store, has the same name as the blog, Happy Together . The blog came first. I started the etsy shop the same way I did with the blog. I had no idea how it would all work out, but I needed to just do it and get going.

4. How has your experience been having an etsy shop thus far? What are your future plans for the store and the blog?

I really love etsy and only recently have begun to put more into it. I have thus far only put a few things in here and there and have met some great people. Now that my daughter is older and I have a better planned schedule, I’m able to do more and am trying to add things weekly for sale.

For my blog, my goal now is to do a tutorial on Sundays and blog every other day. I want to be able to have a good informative blog, but also make sure that it doesn’t take time away from my family.

5. I love your recent headband tutorial! I noticed you have a flair for accessories. What is your favorite must-have accessory?

Hmmmmm…this is a hard one, but I’m going to say it’s the headband. I have crazy wavy hair and here in Florida, it’s hot. So, I wear my hair up, but it frizzes and all, so headbands help keep the hair back but also add some style to my attire (which my husband likes).

6. I caught your refashion shoe week on the blog and thought that it was so fun! How many pairs of shoes do you currently own? I know I would have a gazillion after that project!

Lol. I actually don’t own that many pairs of shoes. I mostly wear flip flops. Ever since Jaala (my daughter) was born, high heels are a rare occasion, even though I love how they make a lady look. I’m looking to add more, but ones of better quality now.

7. When did you start doing tutorials and what sparked your first one? I have to say my favorite one is the red long sleeve shirt refashion.

I am one of those people who love to create great things, but at a good price. Not to be cheap and lack quality, but just smart with the money that I have. I always loved sharing with people I know how I came up to do something cheaper, etc. It started out with wedding things. Then it just grew from there. I decided to start doing tutorials to share with even more people what comes to me. I don’t believe in hoarding good information all to myself. I want others to be able to use their money wisely too and create amazing fun things at the same time.

8. I just recently started to learn how to sew and have been having a hard time finding classes/groups to learn from. How long have you been sewing and how did you learn?

My grandmother and mother both sewed, but my grandmother was the one who kind of taught me when I was little. Of course, then, I wasn’t that interested in it. Once I got to college and started to “find myself”, I decided to take on sewing (that was around my 2nd year in 2004). I kind of played around on my mom’s sewing machine and started to teach myself. I didn’t really stay with it though. I had to focus more on school, plus I met my husband and he took up a lot of my time. I jumped back into it though in 2006 after we got married.

9. What's your favorite thing to sew? Worst project experience?

I love to sew anything that won’t take a long time! I have a short attention span and like to have very quick gratification when it comes to making things.

Worst project experience….there have been so many! Lol. It was some things back in the beginning when I was teaching myself to sew and would do things totally wrong and look back and think what an idiot I was for doing it that way. I can’t think of one in particular, but I remember throwing a lot of unfinished projects away because it just wasn’t worth trying to fix.

10. What would you sew if you had an unlimited budget?

Could I get unlimited time too? Well, I would make a lot more clothes for me and the little one. I would also like to make myself a Christmas quilt, nicer curtains for all the rooms in my house, and all the things on my list that I would love to be able to make for presents. And, I have always wanted to do some sort of project where what I made would go to some sort of cause, like hospital gowns for children who are in a hospital long term (it’s on my future goals list). I get the most joy, honestly, out of making thoughtful things for others.

11. I noticed a lot of us have been turning to Anthropologie lately for clothing inspired refashions. What inspires you when creating a new garment?

I’m one of those Anthropologie junkies too. I love their style because it’s kind of artsy, but still grown up. I also look in magazines like Vogue, Elle, and Lucky for more sophisticated style inspiration. For things for my daughter, I check out boutiques, European clothing lines, and Flickr groups.

12. How would you define your style?

There are so many I like, I have a hard time with that myself. I definitely swing more towards a vintage type style though. And I like accessories, because I like to wear more simple clothes on the daily and they help dress that up.

13. What is your absolute fave article of clothing that you own?

It is the amazing black velvety vintage dress that I wore to the Coast Guard ball with my husband last winter. I found it on EBay and knew I had to have it. Once I received it, I was even more excited that it was handmade. I’m never giving that dress up (well, until my daughter asks for it).

14. You have a little girl, Jaala, when do you most often find the time to sew or work on your crafts?

Jaala (pronounced Jayla) and she will be two at the end of this month. I can’t do anything when she’s awake. Period. So, we go out and about then. I sneak in time during her naps, as long as I have other things in order that take priority. I also take every other night once she goes to sleep to work on things, usually. The other nights are for me and my hubby to spend together.

15. Any secret sewing tips you would be willing to share?

The only thing that comes to mind is this: I bought a cone thread stand for my machine (I just have a regular machine) to be able to buy the cones of thread instead of the little spools to use. I get way more for more money and the cones last forever! (at least for me)

16. What are your top 5 blogs/websites that you read faithfully?

I have more than five, but I will share the blogs that I found first because they helped me figure out what I was going to do with the whole craft blog thing.

-Grosgrain (I found her by searching for vintage curtains on Flickr. She had made a shirt for her daughter out of one).

-Wee Wonderfuls (I first read about her in a magazine from JoAnn’s fabric store. That is what actually brought me to the craft blog world).

-Hello My Name is Heather (by Heather Bailey)

-Jenny Garland I found her via Craftster and I liked watching her make things for her daughter. It also helped me imagine what my daughter would be like when she was older (her girl is about a 1 and a half older than mine)

-Ohdeedoh I get lots of “kid” inspiration here.

17. How do you balance the challenge of blogging/etsy with being a mom/wife?

It has been ever changing as the needs of my family change, but at the moment I try to stick to a schedule but have also learned that family comes first and if I can’t blog or get to some project, IT IS OK. I know I have limitations and I blog for free, so I can’t let it consume my life. Etsy is coming into my life, but hasn’t been a priority at all yet.

As I stated in a previous question, I use nap times (which she only started to actually take well this past February/March, but we won’t go there) and every other night after she goes to bed to work on things. I’m solely dedicated to her and house things while she is awake. I will not rob her of me. Then my husband and I take the other nights to have at home dates. We still don’t know anyone well enough at this new station to trust with that yet. But, we are happy and it works out. While I craft, he does music. We both feel that we receive what we need from each other, yet still have time to follow our own creative dreams together.

18. What's your advice to other mom's looking to start their own etsy shop?

I’m not an expert, but I have met some who are pretty successful on Etsy. They spread out their postings to try and hit more of an audience and will have sales occasionally (what women doesn’t love a sale?). Have a fun storefront, because it won’t make or break you, but it does make me want to look around more if someone’s store is attractive. Take the best pictures you can. And, just go for it! Even if it never goes anywhere, sometimes you just have to take that first step and see where it goes.

19. What's your favorite sewing resource (book/mag/website) that you use? Fave designer? Fave material?

Favorite sewing resource: Whatever I can get my hands on! I think that I keep almost every single craft magazine that I have ever bought (it’s not too many, but still a lot). I love books to look at because sometimes I don’t want to look at a computer.

For websites, I love Flickr, Craftster, Craft Stylish, and Burda Style to peruse on.

No favorite designer. Everyone is so different, I take something from everyone’s style.

My favorite material is fabric, especially ones that make me happy. Those kinds are either bright and happy or elegant.

thank you so much jessica! you are such a sweetheart! it was so fun to interview you and i can't wait to see what you are going to make next week. i wish i lived closer to you so we could really have that coffee together, let the girls play and dish about how much we miss our hubbies when they are working. anytime you need an ear to listen - you shoot me an email :)

{all images jessica fediw unless otherwise stated}

moms in the mommyhood - vely zajec

we have a new "moms in the mommyhood"!

welcome vely zajec from the blog "velgnettes" and the "zajec design studio". it has been fun getting to know vely and what it's like to be a mom to 2 kids and a wife all while running her own architecture design business from home. her blog velgnettes is filled with touching humour, real life honesty and her gorgeous, adorable munchkins.

vely's sister thought she would be a perfect fit for "moms in the mommyhood" and i agree! she's sweet, down to earth, hilarious and a darn hard worker and it's been so informative to learn about the world of architecture from vely's perspective and how it relates to her life as a mother - i hope you enjoy it as well.

if you are new to the mommyhood, our "moms in the mommyhood" features a new mom monthly who currently has their own business (doesn't matter what kind). we try to sit down and have a virtual cup of coffee and ask them all the fun, little questions that we are dying to know. we also try to get a glimpse into their lives and what it's like to have your own business and be the boss of your kids at the same time. we are always on the lookout for new moms to feature. if you know someone or would like to be featured in this spot, please send us an email at we can't wait to meet you!

now, let's get sipping our coffee, heck grab a yummy treat if you so desire, pull up a chair and let's get to know vely:

1. vely, you're an architect with your own business...i'll admit i don't know very much about the world of architecture so i am very excited and curious to get a glimpse into the life of one. what led you to become an architect?

I was in the midst of pursuing a mechanical engineering degree in Sofia, Bulgaria and I thought “why the heck am I doing this to myself??” I always loved to draw, design and construct things, and as a kid I constantly “remodeled” our house and designed utopian islands. So eventually I connected the dots on the fact that it’s the profession of 'Architecture' where it all comes together for me.

2. you didn't always have your own business, how did you end up on your own?

It was a case of compulsive behavior actually... I wasn’t ready to plunge into self employment just yet, but I saw an awesome opportunity for a project in my home country and I couldn’t pass it by. I quickly put together a team, sent a proposal and got set up with my home studio. It wasn’t until we signed the contract that I’d wake up in the middle of the night thinking “and why in the world do I think I can handle this?”…but I have. With lots of help and support. It has been fun, it also has been very intense at times, but apparently I had it in me to navigate through large projects and through self-employment in general.

3. how the heck do you manage to do the intricate work i imagine an architect does with your little ones running around? do you put them in daycare sometimes or are they at home with you full time?

When I started my business my daughter was in pre-school full time so that was easy. Now she is a kindergartner, which means ½ days and meanwhile we added another little pumpkin to the equation! Currently my mom is helping me a lot with the kids during the day. My best hours, however, are still at night when everyone is asleep. My creativity gets unleashed past 8pm. My son was kind enough to start sleeping through the night for me at 4 months so that really helped in claiming those quiet hours of the night back to myself.

4. this may be a silly questions but do you get to make those lovely models? how do you keep those safe with the kids around and have they ever demolished one?

I do! And I love it. When I was at school I spent 2 years interning with this amazing firm as a model-maker so it totally became my thing. I wouldn’t call them ‘lovely’ though, they are more like a quick design tool to help me figure things out, I have a few here but my dad’s garage is full, he may have one suspended from the ceiling. Final presentation models however, those really pretty realistic looking ones, are usually digital and done by a 3rd party.

No, the kids have not demolished any models yet but my daughter has actually demanded models from me. She kinda’ became one of my clients. It seemed so cool to her that I can make little houses out of foam board. We’ve made a doll house for her barbies and a beach set.

5. who is your favorite architect and who/what do you turn to for inspiration?

I love Antoni Gaudi, Aalvar Alto, Eero Saarinen. Also Santiago Calatrava – I love the fact that he was a sculptor and a structural engineer before he became an architect and i love what that does to his architecture; and Kenzo Tange for his awesome work in urban planning and his Olympic Arena in Tokyo .

6. do you miss working with a firm?

Rarely. Pre-motherhood I may have answered differently, but having this freedom and flexibility now is absolutely priceless to me. It by far outweighs the lack of social lunches or wearing mascara and high heels. Ok, I do miss my cute outfits a little. And as far as the ‘stability’ of a corporate job, so much for that right now, huh…

{casa battlo - left, right}

7. what is your favorite/least favorite thing about being an architect?

Architecture, when at full throttle, does not mix well with family life at all. I did 12-14 hour days last year and flew half way across the world while pregnant. It can exhaust not just you, but everyone around you. What I love about architecture is the opportunity to make a difference through thoughtful and innovative design.

8. how has the economy affected your business?

We were doing well since our projects were all abroad but our economy here did eventually catch up to East Europe as well. Things have slowed way down ... my business partner was able to get us 3 or 4 small jobs locally but it is still a struggle right now. Once in a while I go after small graphic design jobs. Unfortunately Architecture is one of the first professions to go down when the economy slows down and one of the last ones to go back up when the economy recovers.

9. do you have a favorite outfit to work in?

Black! It has to be black and comfortable. It’s funny, there’s actually a stereotype about all architects always wearing black, but it works and I now know exactly why that is for me. When you design you become hyper aware of yourself, and that’s not good, not in my world. I think as an architect you have to become ‘the backdrop’ of your thoughts and designs. Color is distracting, you have to make yourself disappear. To me good architecture is never, ever about the architect, it’s about the people who will experience it. Oh, this is hilarious, I am currently in black yoga pants, black turtleneck and black flip flops. See, I can’t escape it!

10. do you listen to music while working and if so give us a sneak peek into your playlist?

When I work I am in the habit of listening to Cake and to David Bowie. If it stretches into a long night.. I add Madonna and hip-hop to the mix. For some reason in the earliest stages of design I need a little Mozart.

11. coffee or tea? sweets or salty?

Espresso with a spoon of liquid heavy whipping cream, no sugar. I usually have 2 shots in the morning and another two at around 4pm. I love having Trader Joe’s chocolate chip dunkers with my espresso!

12. how do you keep your ideas fresh and new?

Reading, going to exhibits, running things by my 5yr old daughter’s pure little brain. When in the midst of making design decisions I love bouncing ideas of my husband. He is not a designer per say but he has great intuition and a wonderful sense for design. He and I are incredibly different so talking to him always adds a different twist to my ideas.

13. how do you balance home/hubby/work with 2 kids?

We have a very supportive family and I am so grateful for it. Mom, dad, and sister (our babies are the exact same age) are all within 15 minutes. My husband John is the most supportive and sweet individual ever (he is my best friend of 17 years) Sometimes I look over and I realize he’s been taking care of the kids for 12 hours straight while still bringing food and coffee to my desk. He even froths the milk. Things are currently very busy for him so thank goodness it is a bit slow for me now, I don’t know what I’d do without him! As far as our 11 month old son Ian and our 5 ½ year old daughter Emma, they just go with it, they are so used to our crazy schedules. They know they are always a priority though.

14. walk us through a day in your life?

I am up at 7 with my son, hubby is usually already on a roll. Emma sleeps until 8:30. The baby and I stroll her down to school at 11. She is there until about 3 so I try to extend his napping as much as possible within that interval of time. He also has a play pen in my office which really helps. He is a pretty self sustained kid. From 3 to 6 is serious quality time with the kids, i block out the whole world. Then it's dinner, bath, books and bed time for the kids and a 9pm jog for me or hubby, we alternate. Then, if needed, mommy opens the office again.

15. when did you start your blog velgnettes? how have you enjoyed the process? tell us about it.

My sister bullied me into it 3 years ago. She has a cute blog called ‘be the change’. I didn’t know what to write about so I kept reading other people’s blogs until I realized: my blog just needs to be funny. I LOVE funny. When in doubt – just go with ‘funny’, that’s my motto. So it became a blog about funny conversations with my daughter and about getting a 5 year old's perspective on life in general. Blogging has become one of my favorite ways to unwind.

16. what has been your favorite project to be a part of?

BlackSeaRama Golf and Villas in Balchik, Bulgaria. The most gorgeous location, an awesome client and it is in my home country. After I studied Architecture in the US I always wished for a project to help me reconnect with Bulgaria and its centuries old architecture. This project is at a Gary Player Golf Course in the Northern part of the Black Sea Coast. Zajec Design Studio (me), in collaboration with JJC Design (my very talented business partner), so far have designed a 35 room boutique style hotel, a 3 story restaurant, a small spa complex (partially underground, partially open to panoramic views), 21 villa clusters and 11 detached homes, all inspired by Tuscan architecture while reflecting Bulgarian tradition. We also got involved in the concept design of the hotel interiors. With BlackSeaRama my team and I had more challenges and more fun than words can describe!

17. if you could design any project what would it be?

A crazy looking performance hall or some insane-never-been-done-before arena. Well.. designing my own house would do too.

18. favorite architectural book/magazine/website?

I subscribe to Architectural Record, Dwell, Art News and Nash Dom. Back when I had more time my hubby and I used to spend countless hours at this awesome bookstore. It is the best place for architects and designers! I like this fun website too.

19. do you have any tips for women looking to leave a comfy job with a company to go solo?

In the beginning, it is not the easiest road to take but at the end It is so worth it! I would recommend it to any mommy who can do some type of work from home! No matter how hard it may get, working for yourself helps you find yourself, and to me that’s where true happiness is, not in ‘comfort’. Just do it, you can figure out your own health insurance and investment fund, there are so many options out there. The flexibility you can have is absolutely priceless. You really just have to want to do it and it can all work out beyond your expectations.

Stay inspired and good luck to all of you devoted hard working mommies!!! Only we truly know what it takes to make it all work!

thank you so much vely! i appreciate all the nap time emails we shared, and all of your kind and sweet words. hopefully one day we can share a real life espresso - i am dying to try one of those trader joe chocolate chip dunkers!

{all images vely zajec unless otherwise stated}

moms in the mommyhood - dana willard

we have a new "moms in the mommyhood"!

welcome dana willard from the blog "made"! the lovely, funny and super talented, dana has quickly become one of my fave pen pals after she posted her men's shirt to girl's dress post a few weeks ago. after chatting a few times by email, i didn't hesitate in approaching her to be the next mom in the mommyhood. her wonderful blog, super cute children and kick ass sewing and refashioning skills made me want to ask her so many questions, i had a problem cutting them back! it's been great fun getting to know dana, and hopefully it will be the same for you as you read the interview.

if you are new to the mommyhood, our "moms in the mommyhood" features a new mom monthly who currently has their own business (doesn't matter what kind). we try to sit down and have a virtual cup of coffee and ask them all the fun, little questions that we are dying to know. we also try to get a glimpse into their lives and what it's like to be have your own business and be the boss of your kids at the same time. we are always on the lookout for new moms to feature. if you know someone or would like to be featured in this spot, please send us an email at we can't wait to meet you!

now, let's get sipping our coffee, heck grab a yummy treat if you so desire, pull up a chair and let's get to know dana:

1. you mentioned that your grandma taught you to sew when you were 10 and that even though you always enjoyed it, you really found your love of sewing when you had kids. What was the first project you made after you had your kids that got you hooked?

i've always sewn here and there and even when working full-time, i often daydreamed about days when i could wake up and just sew instead of going to work. so the sewing bug has always been there, but i think it really caught on when a few things happened in my life:
a) i stopped working full-time and became a stay at home mom. the day-dreaming of sewing projects has become a reality (at least when the kids are sleeping)!
b) i signed up for wardrobe refashion . there were piles of "refashioning" items growing in my bedroom and once i committed to their 2-month challenge, i actually started tackling them and felt more confident with each project i worked on. that got my fire going. i started buying less and sewing more.
c) i started the blog "made". having an outlet to showcase my projects, share ideas, and get feedback from others is a great motivator. often times i want to sew something just so i can share it with everyone! maybe that's an ego booster? i hope not :) i find some great inspiration from other's ideas, so i love being able to share mine too.
d) i realized that sewing kid's clothes takes 1/2 the time, 1/2 the fabric and you don't have to fit it around a woman's bust and curves - so i started sewing for my kids. i honestly wish i could make their whole wardrobe, but since they'll outgrow it every 6 months that's totally unrealistic.

2. what is your most loved/hated thing to sew?

i love projects that i can get done in one nap-time period ( a couple of hours or so). a simple gathered skirt for my daughter or lounging pants for my little guy. of course i also love the harder projects know, the ones where i'm crossing my fingers the whole time, hoping it will turn out, and when it does - what a victory!

I HATE to sew buttonholes and buttons as well, anything by hand for that matter. i'm too impatient.

3. do you like to listen to music when sewing and if so, what is your favorite album to listen to?

when it was just me & my daughter i listened to music while i sewed and she napped, but now that she is 3 and doesn't nap, it doesn't always work out that way. i often give her "quiet time" in the other room while my son sleeps but i still keep the music off so i can hear if she needs something.

if i could listen to music though, it would be a random mix of...weezer, george michael, chris issak, amiee mann, bob marley, beck, madonna, u2, songs from movie soundtracks, pink martini, buena vista social club and more...

4. whose work as a designer (fabric/clothing) do you find inspirational?

definitely kate of the "katie did" blog. oh wow, i don't even know where to start...her color palettes, her design work, her amazingly cute daughters - i have serious envy for her work. is it wrong to say she is my sewing idol? that i almost want to be katie? okay, not really, but i just adore everything she touches.

5. when and why did you decide to start selling your handmade goods?

before i had kids i had the idea to start a small business sewing and selling simple throw blankets. it was going to be called "late joon". no reason for the name, other than i love the late june season and spelling joon with two o's was more aesthetically pleasing. because i didn't have kids, i'd never had an interest in sewing baby items, especially since i didn't know what mom's were really looking for in their baby gear, but once i had my daughter, i quickly caught on to what was out there & discovered what i felt was missing from the baby accessory world. i started sewing my own blankets, burp cloths, etc and opened an etsy shop. i named my little company "joon bug" (a mini version of late joon). most of my business has been word of mouth and friends, which has kept me plenty busy with my mom-schedule. which leads me to a big "made" announcement!.....

we are reopening the "joon bug" shop! so come stop by! browse around; enjoy yourself. you can find "joon bug" here.

6. which came first - the etsy store, your website or blog? which one has been the most successful at attracting new customers?

well, the etsy shop and the joon bug website came about at the same time. i could have just gone with the etsy shop but i wanted something stylized to my line of products. i decided to make the site through blogger, using funny loopholes to make it look more like a website rather than a blog. then i linked everything to my etsy shop so that all the purchasing goes through them.

the made blog came after that. it's currently my true love, and probably attracts the most readership. i'm not sure joon bug is my end goal. i really love sewing children's clothing more than baby gear. i hope to somehow marry the two sites/ideas together in the future.

7. what tips/advice do you have for other women looking to sell their handmade goods?

do it! but just know what you're getting into. it's a lot of work, which sounds like, "duh", but what i mean is that there are many steps that go into it. aside from actually just making or sewing the item, you have to package it in a cute/clever way, take nice pictures, upload the pictures, list the item, purchase packing supplies and then ship the item too! i get tired just thinking about it. but honestly, there is nothing more rewarding than knowing that someone loves what i created and that in a small way, i'm making their life a little happier. that is what i love about sewing/selling/gift giving.

8. i adored your men's shirt into a girl's dress tutorial, what do you have planned for your next refashioning project?

funny you should ask...i'm actually going to try YOUR tutorial for the dress-shirt sleeve pants! i am thinking of making mine shorts or knickers though. i always appreciate people taking the time to put tutorials together. having done one, i know they are time-consuming, but it's wonderful to share our ideas and little tricks with others. so thank you for putting yours together!

9. you have two gorgeous kids Lucy (3) and Owen (18 months) - that equals a busy household. when do you normally find the time to do all of your sewing?

busy indeed, i'll never know how my mom did it with 6! i guess the more kids you have, the more you prioritize what is most important to you and let the other things fall to the sideline for a later period in your life. right now i'm lucky to still manage a lot of sewing time while my son sleeps or when the kids are in bed at night. it's not always easy. lucy is awake during owen's nap time but she is a good player. she can easily entertain herself and doesn't seem to mind the sound of my sewing machine. my son however, is a different ball of energy, i can never sew with him around. maybe in the future....

10. if you could sew anything, unlimited time & budget, what would it be?

clothes for me. i rarely take time to sew for me because it takes longer to complete. if i had long stretches of interrupted time i might do more of it and still manage to get my other sewing in too. maybe i should make a future goal...more dana clothes.

11. which pattern do you find yourself using the most and why?

i don't like to sew with store bought patterns so i usually use whatever current shirt/skirt/dress are in the closet and use those as pattern guidelines. it's really not hard to do and i recommend it to others!

{image: corrie bond}

12. if you were an item of clothing, what would you be?

something very feminine. a simple shirt with girly sleeves and ruffles somewhere.

13. being a wife, mother, and having your own business is tough work, how do you balance it all?

it's hard when i'm 10 minutes away from finishing a project and i hear my son crying/waking from his nap, but i have to stop and remind myself that right now, i am a mom. i have a wonderful life with 2 kids and a great husband. they are my number one priority. one day in the future i will have so much free time that i'll wonder when the kids and grand kids are coming over for a visit. so get your sewing time in, but enjoy those sweet people around you.

thank you so much dana! it's been a lot of fun! dana also has a new flickr group for those of you interested in posting pictures of your creations, it's always so much fun to see what others are making! click here to join!

thanks for the coffee and we'll see you in the mommyhood!

p.s. dana has a post up today linking to the interview here, and wow, she just made my year! big hugs to you dana, you are so sweet, i am glad you like it here in "the mommyhood" because we love having you!

{all images: dana willard, unless stated otherwise}

moms in the mommyhood - jane richmond

some of us knit & some of us who knit sell & design their work & patterns while some may dream of one day doing just that. i have always been curious about pattern designing, but suffer from a very bad case of "i just can't seem to get this whole freaking math thing figured out" syndrome. i can visualize my end piece but can't get my head around the numbers.

i envy those who can get past that stage and wonder how they do it. i figured i can't be the only one who finds this interesting. when i spotted jane richmond's patterns on ravelry, i couldn't resist writing the gorgeous, creative & talented lady behind "alterknits" and asking her. it seems we both live on the west coast, have little girls and love knitting. this is what followed:

i am a ravelry addict, judging by the fact that you are a volunteer editor you must be as well. how has ravelry affected your sales & designs since you joined?
ravelry is an ideal place to sell my patterns, people are very enthusiastic about them and they give me really great feedback and a big boost of confidence. in return i've made sure to offer some of my patterns for free to ravelry members as my contribution to the community.

did ravelry help play a role in you deciding to sell your own patterns?
ravelry opened up the knitting world for me. before i received my invitation i felt like the only knitter on earth, or at least the craziest! seeing what other people were doing with their knitting and designs is what inspired me to do my own thing.

you currently reside on vancouver island. does living here come into play in your design aesthetic? i noticed your love of cowls and hats.
absolutely. my designs begin with a basic need. if there is a gap in my closet or some wonderful knit i long to be wearing, i start sketching. all of the hats, cowls, scarves, and mittens that were published this winter were designed as christmas gifts; each design is named after the receiver. it just so happens that the things i knit are worn locally so they must be practical garments for island living. west coast casual is very much my style, i like to be comfortable.

most knitters dream of one day selling their handmade goods/patterns. how did you get started and what prompted you to start your etsy shop "alterknits" last year?
i began designing my own patterns simply because i am so picky. when i work from a pattern i like to follow it to the t, i rarely modify anything because i feel it was written that way with good reason. these two traits combined, lead to endless knit garments that didn't measure up. i won't wear something just because i made it by hand, it has to be something i want to wear, would love to wear. and so i began designing to satisfy my own particular taste. as each finished garment would make it's debut as the latest addition to my wardrobe, i would receive compliments and inquiries, this pushed me to self publish.

you say your nerdy love of math played a big role in you deciding to design your own patterns. give us an example of how this comes into play?
my patterns begin with a swatch followed by an elaborate spreadsheet. i spend hours or sometimes days crunching numbers in excel. when my figures have me stumped it doesn't frustrate me, i enjoy the challenge and relish the satisfaction of knowing that everything adds up, nothing was overlooked, and most importantly, my raw numbers translate into a wearable finished garment.

i started knitting when i was a young girl, how old were you when you picked up knitting?
my mother taught me the basics when i was 5 years old on a pair of wooden chopsticks and some scarp yarn. she bought me my first set of needles and i would make these little swatches. i must have lost interest eventually because as a teenager i had to relearn on a pair of metal grilling skewers. i haven't been able to stop since.

what are your favorite needles & wool to work with?
for christmas this year, my mother (also a knitter) bought me a set of nickel plated interchangeable circular needles from Knit Picks, everything else has been collecting dust since then. i'm sure if i had ever had the privilege of knitting with addi turbos our life savings would be gone by now, i am a huge fan of slippery metal needles with zero drag!

as for yarn, i seem to fall in love with whatever ends up on my needles (with the exception of acrylic - i'm not against it, it just isn't nice to work with). i am incredibly passionate and picky about colour, constantly sacrificing my first choice of blend for that perfect colour.

do you spin as well?
i have yet to learn to spin. i have a feeling i would acquire not only a spinning wheel but a farm and a new lifestyle! it's a dangerous prospect.

we all love etsy. have you found having the shop a positive/negative experience?
after spending days on my computer getting my files in order, cleaning up my photographs and composing descriptions for my sale items, i was ready to launch alterknits. within minutes of the shop going live i made my very first sale, i was elated. i love the community feel of etsy, everyone is very supportive. it has been a very positive experience.

what is your favorite/least favorite thing to knit?
i love to knit sweaters and cardigans, nice big projects that i can settle into. they certainly get the most use out of all my finished objects.

my least favorite thing to knit would have to be gloves, i love the end result but aside from the cuff, there isn't enough "down time" in a glove pattern where you can get into a rhythm.

i don't enjoy fair isle knitting (sorry fair isle lovers out there), do you have a technique/style of knitting you dislike?
i don't enjoy fair isle knitting either. i rarely ever use more than one colour in a knitting project and i have yet to publish a pattern that involved more than one colour. it's a personal preference, just thinking about working with more than one ball gives me a headache.

the photography for your projects caught my eye on ravelry. do you do your own photography?
it's funny because i didn't realize i was taking good photos! thank you. i model my designs and take my own photographs simply because it is convenient. i am quite picky about how i want the shots and the garment to look so i like the control it gives me. nice clean photos are so important and i spend an embarrassing amount of time posing, taking pictures, and reviewing to get pictures i am happy with.

the one exception would be the photographs for my design "elsie". my oh-so-talented brother nicholas, was kind enough to stage a photo shoot with my daughter elsie for those fantastic shots.

how do you find balancing being a mom/wife with running the shop? when do you find the time to knit?
running the shop is fairly easy to juggle with the rest of my motherly/wifely duties. shipping orders, responding to customer inquiries, and keeping the shop up to date can normally be accomplished during nap or bed time. designing and launching a pattern is a different story. for these things there is never enough time.

i find myself the most creative at night, what time of day do you find yourself the most creative?
just like people daydream, my mind wanders to patterns and design ALL the time. when a design is "haunting" me at bedtime i often make a sketch and jot down a few notes just to get it out of my head.

what tips/advice would you give other mom's thinking of selling their handmade goods?
i love designing knitwear. it is a constant source of happiness. i feel very lucky that there are people out there who are willing to support me in this endeavour by purchasing my patterns. i only charge what i would be willing to pay for a pattern (considering the outrageous amount we spend on yarn as well as the use the pattern will get). my perspective is more of an artistic one rather than of an entrepreneur. i can't live off of my designing income at the moment, but i don't try to either. if there was that much pressure for my designs to succeed, i don't think it would be enjoyable anymore.

what is your favourite knitting resource?
ravelry is a wealth of information. every day i set aside a half hour for "research". i log onto ravelry and browse my friends activities to see what everyone is in the "mood" to knit, i pour over their latest finds and favourite things, it inspires me. i can discover new designers and follow old favourites. checking out ravelers' modifications to existing patterns always leaves me in awe!

what project have you been dying to knit but haven't started yet?
i have this nagging desire to design the perfect cardigan. something light weight that could be worn under a jacket during the cooler months and over a tee-shirt once the weather warms up.

we all have had to do the dreaded unravel, what is your worst knitting experience?
louisa harding's fitted textured sweater from her book modern classics. the sweater was knit in pieces and then seamed together, so trying it on mid way was not an option. the pattern instructed me to block the pieces with an iron before seaming, after that nothing would fit together properly, i must have ripped out the armhole seams a dozen times.

the end result was very disappointing, the body was ridiculously short on me, yet baggy and unflattering. it sat in my closet for two years before i decided the rowan kid classic deserved better. the yarn was quite fuzzy and stuck to itself constantly while i tried to unravel the garment. after all it had been through, i had to borrow a knitty knotty and make skeins so that i could give the yarn a warm bath to get the kinks out. once dried and wound into balls, this very expensive yarn has new life as the drops cardigan. i can honestly say it was worth it, i wear it every day.

a lot of us start out knitting and then broaden out to learn many other crafts. do you have any other favorites besides knitting?
on occasion i will draw, sketch, or paint but i don't actually do any other crafts other than knitting.

what is an average day in your life like:
8:00 elsie eats breakfast while i check my emails and deliver etsy orders that were made during the night. 9-12:00 play time while mum tidies the kitchen, house work, etc. 12:00 lunch then nap time. 1-3:00 elsie naps while i update alterknits and my ravelry store. if i am in the middle of a design i work intensively on that for the whole 2 hours. if i am between designs i will use the time to do "knitting research" to get inspired and learn new techniques. 3:00 elsie up and with any luck we spend the rest of the afternoon in the yard. 5-6:00 dinner. 6-9:00 play time with dad. 9:00 off to bed for elsie. 9-11:00 more catching up on emails, sending out orders, and working on current design ideas.

you can buy both patterns and finished products of jane richmond's at "alterknits" here or on ravelry here. you can also find jane on ravelry under the username janeyfromcanadia. a big thank you to jane for agreeing to let me ask her my many questions and for being such a sweetheart.

so dust off your needles, find a colour of wool you adore and knit up some west coast cool. if you pop by jane's shop leave her a message - say hi and tell her we sent you! happy knitting & hopefully - one day designing!

are you a mom with a business you would like to see featured here? we would love to hear from you!

***note: alterknits has now moved to a new store! you can find all of jane's patterns and her new ones over at "jane richmond" on etsy. click here for the link.

moms in the mommyhood - jordan thomson

i started this blog when my daughter was born and it has followed our little family from 2007 until now. only recently did luvinthemommyhood truly start on it's path of what i had envisioned for it when i started a few years ago in my jammies with a baby on the boob, chores piled up and a significant lack of sleep. i have a lot of exciting things that i would like to feature on here, so new things will be popping up every few weeks. i am sincerely hoping you are all enjoying all the new changes and will continue to stay with the mommyhood as we grow and learn, just like we do as parents.

there are a lot of things that us mom's do along our path of parenthood and starting a business is one of them. mompreneurs are a huge part of the business world and a force to be reckoned with. i have always been fascinated by the behind the scenes of these incredible women's lives who are pursuing their passions and dreams and i have longed to read what normal press releases or simple interviews don't ask. so i decided to see if i could get a sneak peek myself. i pictured myself sitting with the mom featured today, having a coffee, as we have in the past, and what questions i would ask her if i had the chance today. i have been blessed to meet a lot of great moms since mackenzie's birth and this post is written about one of them.

jordan thomson is a beautiful, kind, funny, loving, and talented mother and wife and she is also a business woman. she runs brightstars, a dance school for children aged 1 - 13, in vancouver, bc. besides running the regular classes at brightstars she is also one of canada's newest producers/choreogrpahers working on her musical extravaganza for "tweens". she brings 28 years of dance education , music and performace experience and qualifications to the brightstars program.

brightstars offers parents who are looking for a fun dance, music and movement class instead of the scary, big dance school a place to enroll their child. they are the perfect "little" dance school made just for "little" kids. jordan's newest feature at brightstars is the unaccompanied 2 years and up dance class, something that i have yet to see anywhere in our province. the chance for mom's to get a rest while their young ones boogie is a welcome relief and a sign that jordan herself truly understands what a parent/child are looking for from a great dance class.

when did you start brightstars & what prompted you to start your own performing arts school?

brightstars started in vancouver in october 2007 but was born out of "dance america, school of performing arts", the business i created in sydney, australia in 1999. i started brightstars specifically because it filled a gap in the market here in vancouver and i absolutely adore dancing and working with children!

i think i met you when hennessey was about 5 months old and you definitely did not look like you had just had a baby. how did you get back into shape after the birth of your daughter? and did you continue to dance while pregnant?

i continued to teach dancing into my 41st week!!!! in fact, i was the lead choreographer/judge on a reality dance tv show at 6 mths pregnant! i went back to an exercise routine shortly after the birth of my daughter hennessey which included walking 10 days after birth and jogging from 6 weeks or so.

what's an example of your normal exercise routine?

i dance 6 days a week for at least one hour, run 3-4 times per week (mostly with hennessey in the stroller) and do weight training 2-3 times a week. i also really like doing pilates and yoga and love squash and tennis.

being a mother and a wife while running a business is sure to be stressful. how do you manage the balancing act of all three?

for me, balancing the 3 things is about prioritizing, constant planning and great organizational skills! i consistently evaluate what is important to me and what makes me and my family happy, and then go with that. i follow my heart more than my head sometimes and make sure to take some time for myself to regroup. for me, all of these roles are as important as the other so i must make sure to work on each one.

most of us only dream of having our own business, never mind starting one while you are a new mom. do you have any tips for new mom's thinking of starting their own business?

identify your skill set and do what you love. if you can combine these things, the money should follow. however, it is essential to do your research and make sure there is a market for your product service. keep educating yourself about your industry, new skills, products etc and network with other mompreneurs/business owners who are where you want to be! finally, take a look at franchises as they have done the hard work for you in the start up and are normally cheaper to start.

there are a lot of dance school's out there all offering different things and it can be overwhelming to pick the right fit for your child. what should parent's look for in a dance school and what should they avoid?

for the young ones, say 2-5 parents should look for a fun, nurturing and age appropriate environment that encourages these values over competition. in the beginning, it is better to provide littlies with a broad curriculum to identify what the child likes/is good at. often, it can be "mommy" who wants the child to be the budding ballerina rather than the child!! avoid a very strict structure, really large classes and an impersonal approach by the teacher/director.

as children get older and they have identified that they enjoy dancing, look for a school that offers qualified instructors/classes, a nurturing environment and a wide range of dance styles. this really is dependent on how far your child would like to take his/her dancing. what it will come down to though is: is your child enjoying him/herself and are they being provided with quality tuition.

a lot of us never truly figure out what we are meant to do with our careers, when did you know you wanted to be a dancer?

i didn't know...i just am. it became evident though at 6 yrs old that i had a true talent and from that point on it has been how i identify myself.

does hennessey like to dance?

she loves music and instruments and is just starting to really move to the beat. it's not really evident though yet, but fingers crossed.

what's the one piece of dance clothing you couldn't live without?

my tap shoes! i would feel like i'd lost a limb if i didn't have them!

you must listen to a lot of kid's music throughout the day, does it ever get to you? what is your most loved/hated song?

more than anyone i know, i love kid's music!!! no, it doesn't get to me which is why i can stand listening to it all the time. i love australian hi-5 the most!! i don't know of any song i really hate though.

i'm curious to see how you fit this all in your normal day. what's an average day in your life?

7:30-8am: up with hennessy and snuggle time (i breastfed until she was 21mths, she's now just 24mths but i have kept this routine). 8:30-9:30am: breakfast, lunch packing, emails and preparing paperwork for that day's classes. 10am: hennessy off to daycare and mom off to teach. 12:30-5pm: home for a quick lunch and off to my daytime classes or lunch then brightstars administration work in the office. 5:15pm: pick up hennessy. 6pm: dinner. 7pm: hennessy snuggle and bedtime routine then off to bed. 8pm: finish up day's office work, then clean the house and do laundry etc. 10:30pm: bed with a book.

what prompted you to offer dance classed for toddlers unaccompanied?

at 2 yrs plus, children can start working on their own and can use brightstars as an opportunity to start developing this sense of self and personal exploration. toddlers are amazing and are such sponges that they can learn so much so quickly. as a teacher, i am willing to "go there" in terms of movement which most mom's feel silly doing or just can't due to physical restrictions or having another child present. i'm also finding that mom's want this time for their child to learn being on their own and following another authority figure so that they can transition into daycare/preschool better. finally, it provided an alternate to the mommy and me classes offered by most other children's programs!

working with toddlers and children should add up to a day that is never boring and definitely not the same. what's the most memorable/funny moment you have had working with brightstars students so far?

well, you've hit the nail on the head. i absolutely love working with toddlers as they are so joyous, loving, warm and can often say and do the funniest things. i am never sad or stressed at a brightstars class but often in awe of my students. a "memorable" moment shall we call it, was when i was having a great chat with one mom who was being pulled at the sleeve by her daughter. they were speaking in spanish so i was not fully aware of what was being said. as it turns out, the little girl was obviously desperate to get to the washroom which became apparent when she peed all over the floor right through her lovely pink leotard! poor thing!

do you feel that you are doing what you truly love?

i do, but i miss working with professional performers so that is why i'm producing a teen musical group call the jump kids. it combines my love of professional performance and children. check out the website

what has been the hardest part of owning your own business? the most rewarding?

the hardest part of owning my own business has been the need to always be the person in command and at this point, having to do and be everything within the business. i must always be on top of everything and constantly working toward improving and growing the business. i am not satisfied unless i am doing this. the most rewarding is definitely doing what i love and being able to earn a living following my passion! it also affords me the ability to work around my family life so that i am constantly in harmony with these things that are most important to me.

a big thank you to jordan for doing the interview - you're the best! you can read more about jordan and brightstars at and you can get a peek of them in action at the yaletown baby and toddler fair on april 14th at 11:30 am and again at 12:00 in the please mum fashion show in vancouver, bc.

look for more interviews of moms in the mommyhood to come! are you a mom with an interesting story to tell? we would love to hear about it :)

here's a clip of jordan and some of her brightstars on breakfast television.

moms in the mommyhood

if you are new to the mommyhood, our "moms in the mommyhood" posts feature a new mom who currently has their own business (doesn't matter what kind). we try to sit down and have a virtual cup of coffee and ask them all the fun, little questions that we are dying to know. we also try to get a glimpse into their lives and what it's like to have your own business and be the boss of your kids at the same time. we are always on the lookout for new moms to feature. if you know someone or you would like to be featured in this spot, please send us an email at don't be shy - we can't wait to meet you!