5 April, 2024

A Day in the Life of an Artist: Friday

2024-04-05T17:43:24-05:00An Artist's Life, Everything Else|Comments Off on A Day in the Life of an Artist: Friday


The absolute best part of quitting my job and deciding to work for myself is being able to listen to my brain. Creative work can be exhausting and sometimes I just don’t have it in me. This week has been a lot of brain work: teaching, planning, designing and when I sat down today to figure out what my plan for the day was, I realized that I don’t have the bandwidth for more of that work. So I am going to finish up a little of the website design I was working on yesterday and then spend the day sewing. My boss (aka me) gets to make sure I can do my best work every day by listening to what I need to do that day. That never happened at my previous job.

My Etsy shop is pretty low stock on a number of things so I am going to see how many zipper bags I can make today. I have a stack that I cut out weeks ago, so that step is done, which means I can put on a season of something to watch and binge it while I sew. I get asked a lot who does my sewing and people are always very surprised when I say I do it myself. But sewing days are a much needed mental break from the intensive work of designing and planning. I’ve got a couple of brand new zipper bag designs and so I will probably post to Instagram throughout the day as I get those done. A long time ago I sat down with a stopwatch and timed myself and it took me 7 minutes to make a zipper bag start to finish and I think I’m even a little faster when I do a big batch assembly line style. Why time it? Because that’s the way I work out my prices. I have an hourly rate that I pay myself for sewing (it varies on how complex the item is) and that way I can make a realistic price that covers my time, the materials and a profit to pay for the overhead on my business, like that darn new email provider I have to budget for.

Lunch & art drop off

I grabbed a quick lunch and then I needed to jump in the car to drop off art for an upcoming exhibition. I have a piece that was accepted into an exhibit with a game theme, called “The Art of the Game” and I created a box inspired by the game Chutes & Ladders. You can see a little more about the piece “Likes & Follows” here.


And back to the sewing machine and watching some episodes of Star Trek Discovery. I took a walk and mailed a couple of small things. I didn’t get a lot of things *finished* today but I did get a lot of things in progress. And that’s progress!

2 April, 2024

A Day in the Life of an Artist: Tuesday

2024-04-02T17:38:27-05:00An Artist's Life, Everything Else|Comments Off on A Day in the Life of an Artist: Tuesday

In March there is a month-long Instagram event called “March Meet the Maker”, started by Joanne Hawker. Each day there is a prompt like “brand” or “product story” or “tasks” and you post something about your small creative business that fits that prompt and tell your story. I have participated for a number of years, but this year I just couldn’t get very excited about it. Maybe the prompts were just too much the same as things I feel like I’ve said before. Maybe it was a little too product focused for me this year and I feel like my maker story is more than products. I’m not sure. So I decided that I would follow that up by doing a series here on my blog of “A Day in the Life” and talk about what my week is like.

One of my goals this year was to write more blog posts and it always seems to fall to the bottom of the priority list, so for the next week I am carving out a little time to check that goal off my list. People ask me very often “how do you do it all?” so here’s a little peek at how that happens.


I got up and drank a very large cup of tea. Breakfast Assam is my favorite. Then I say “Good Morning” to Stanley, my yellow lab. This is a funny game he invented where he grabs a toy and marches round and round gurgle-growling his happy song while you say “Good Morning Stanley!” and scritch his ears. It’s part of his morning routine.

I then had breakfast and worked out. I never in a million years would have thought that working out would be a regular thing I did, but I have realized that I have hit the age where if I don’t do something with this beautiful body of mine it stages an all-out mutiny. And if I don’t do it right away in the morning, I will procrastinate all day and never get around to it.

Organization & communication

My art day starts by cleaning off my desk. I am messy when I work and I like to work that way. But I have discovered that it helps to start the day with a little less chaos. I do a round of checking and answering quick emails. Today was a solicitation to move my online classes to a new platform (no thanks), an email trying to get me to pay for some kind of marketing program (no thanks), the Zoom link for my class this afternoon and a notice that UPS will be delivering something when I am in the middle of teaching that class live on Zoom (arghh). I also popped in to all of my social media to see if there were comments to respond to or messages.

Class prep

I am teaching a Modern Blackwork embroidery class for Dakota County Libraries this afternoon. We do a virtual class program where I put together materials kits which they mail out and then we all get together on Zoom for the class. I love teaching online classes because people really have so much more flexibility to be able to take it from anywhere and make it work for them. And embroidery is so much better when you can see my hands close up on that overhead camera. I spent about an hour rounding up some photos, video and some other resources for class. I don’t usually do that the day of class, but I had a crazy week last week.

I stitched up the samples for this class a couple of weeks ago while I was listening to another meeting. I love when I can get a couple of things done at once because making samples takes up a lot of my days. When I made class kits, I also make one for myself and so I have a basket I will pull out with my class kit and I’ll be all ready to go.

Making some content

Once I had all of the class prepped, then I started to write this blog post. I also ran some updates on my website. I do all of my website work myself. I’ve taught myself how to do all of it, because I wanted to be able to update it whenever I want or need to. I know so many artists who haven’t updated their websites in literally years because they have to rely on someone “techhie” to do it for them.

Class setup & lunch

I teach many of my classes from my studio on Zoom. I have an articulated arm that is attached to my desk that holds my webcam and my overhead camera. (I wrote a whole blog post about my setup) I have a vinyl mat I put down on my desk surface because it is a bright red and white vintage formica table and it’s distracting on camera. Today is pretty overcast so I will pull out my extra light to make sure my desk surface is brightly lit. I’ll take a few minutes and make some brief class notes about things I don’t want to forget to mention and sketch out a rough timeline so I can make sure we are staying on schedule. I also have a whole checklist of devices to silence, shut down extra apps running on my computer and so on. Today I will put a post-it note on the door to let the UPS guy know that I am in class on camera because there is something I have to sign for.

Teaching class

I love teaching for Dakota County Library because my students are always so awesome. This was a two hour class and I think we had a lot of fun. When I first started teaching virtual classes I was really thrown off by everyone turning their cameras off. It’s really challenging to teach to an entire panel of black rectangles with no feedback. But I have gotten so used to it now that I don’t even really notice anymore. Today’s class was an unusual bit of chaos. My husband and I both work at home usually, but he had a meeting to go to today, so the labrador decided he was lonely and pushed into my studio just before class started. He was a very good boy but he kept scratching and wiggling the table and my whole camera setup. He has allergies and this time of year with spring mold is terrible. I kept poking him under the table with my toe while I was trying to carry on teaching. Then out of nowhere my camera crashed and my video froze. In 4 years of teaching with Dakota County, this is the first time that’s happened! I got it back up and running in about 3 minutes, but it was unexpected. After class I usually take a half an hour to just zone out. I make a cup of tea and read a book. It takes a lot of work to keep up the engagement and energy of a class when you have blank screens on the other side. No complaints! I don’t need anyone to have their video on, but I just know I need a few minutes to recharge after a class. Then I take a few minutes to put away the class pieces; I’m teaching this one again in a couple of weeks so I’ll need the samples and materials again. Then I post a photo and a thank you to my students on Instagram and check any emails that came up while I was teaching.


While I was teaching I got two samples of Spoonflower’s new metallic wallpaper delivered; that was the UPS package. I seriously want to drop everything and make a couple of books covered with this new paper. It’s seriously gorgeous. I can’t wait to try it, but I have other things that have deadlines.

Etsy Orders

Next is a check-in on the Etsy shop. I usually make a post office run everyday about 4:00 if I have orders to ship out. Today I was skunked. Nothing to mail.

Class launch

I didn’t have time to get to it earlier today, but the rest of my work day will be spent launching my new Strawberry Needlebooks class on my website. The live Zoom version of the class starts next week, but I also offer an on-demand version on my website that’s pre-recorded. I have it all put together except turning on the registration page, so that’s what I’ll do next. I collected emails from people who wanted to be notified when the class launched so I’ll send that out too.

Sadly, my newsletter got absolutely trashed last week by blacklisting. I use a shared server to send the newsletter email and someone sent a whole bunch of spam from it at some point, which meant that it is blacklisted everywhere and probably more than half of my emails went into spam filters or never made it to inboxes. You should see all of the spam reports and block notifications I got. And there’s absolutely nothing I can do to fix that. I’ll be honest and say it’s pretty devastating when that happens and I am beginning to realize that it’s going to keep happening with this particular email service. I was counting on the newsletter for more class registrations and hardly anyone got the email. So I’ll also make some social media posts and take photos for some more to post later in the week promoting the launch of the on-demand class. Researching a new email provider is on my agenda for later in the week.

24 April, 2023

It’s Stanley’s 2nd Birthday!

2023-06-28T14:55:45-05:00Everything Else|Comments Off on It’s Stanley’s 2nd Birthday!

Make a treat box party favor to celebrate Stanley’s second birthday with me. We all know it’s important to always have treats, especially on your birthday.

18 April, 2023

Review: Spoonflower’s Fleece vs Polartec Fleece

2023-04-24T17:18:29-05:00Everything Else, Fabric Reviews, Spoonflower & Fabric Design|Comments Off on Review: Spoonflower’s Fleece vs Polartec Fleece

Spoonflower recently launched a new fleece fabric made by Polartec. Polartec is the company known for “inventing” fleece fabric and I remember hearing that their fabrics were the “best” back in the 90s. So I was super curious to see a swatch when Spoonflower recently launched their new Polartec fleece fabric.

Spoonflower now has two fleece fabrics: fleece and Polartec Fleece. I am going to refer to the regular fleece as “classic” just for clarity as I talk about them. I have made several projects with Spoonflower’s classic fleece and I have been a little disappointed with it. The Polartec fleece is a slightly higher cost per yard than the classic, but in many other ways they are nearly indistinguishable. And I mean that pretty literally. Both are a bright white, made from 100% polyester, super soft on both sides. The print quality looks the same as far as color saturation and sharpness. I had to keep referring to the labels on my swatches to make sure I was looking at the right fabric as I was thinking about this review.

Differences I can see

The Polartec Fleece (bottom) is heavier/thicker than the classic fleece (top), but the difference is pretty slight when you feel the two fabrics. The classic fleece is 56″ printable width, Polartec is 60″.

There is an almost unnoticeable color difference between the two fabrics. I only mention it because I was really looking for differences I could talk about. Some of the colors look very slightly warmer on the classic fleece vs Polartec fleece. I really can only see it in the brown/tan shades and not the other colors.

The thing I was most interested in looking at was the amount of pilling. I have made myself two hoodies from the classic fleece and I hardly ever wear them anymore because they look really pilled. This is definitely more noticeable on a darker colored design. This adorable polar bear is this design by Scrummy and you can see the pilling really clearly here.

I washed both of these swatches several times before writing this review so I could try to see how they held up. I put them through regular wash and dry cycles with my everyday laundry. The results are not very clear. In the photo below, the Polartec fleece is on the left, classic fleece on the right. You can definitely see some texture/pilling on the classic fleece, but I can also see some on the Polartec. As of writing this, Spoonflower has the classic fleece fabric detail page with a pilling rating of 1.5 (with 1 being severe), but that detail is missing from the Polartec fleece detail page. Maybe it’s too new to have that information yet.

I think I would definitely order a swatch of a design in darker colors and wash it a bunch of times before I decided to invest the time making another project from the either fleece. In general it’s everything you expect fleece to be in how it sews and keeps its softness, but I am turned off with how it looks after a few washings. This is true of MANY other fleece fabrics for me, so this isn’t a knock against Spoonflower’s fleece choices specifically.

If you want to read more about Spoonflower fabrics and my experiences with them, be sure to check out my other fabric review posts.

22 February, 2023

Construction Update: Waiting on the Snowstorm

2023-02-24T16:23:13-06:00Construction, Everything Else|3 Comments

When last we checked in with our construction adventure, we had floors. We now have plumbing and electricity and paint and bookcases! The project is actually really close to being finished at this point. But then we had to wait for the snow.

So once we got all of the floors done, they immediately covered them all up with brown paper so they could continue to work without anything getting damaged. Then our carpenter came in and started doing the woodwork. The whole downstairs of the house has all of the original 1920s oak woodwork and we asked them to match downstairs with all of the new stuff. And it’s just gorgeous. They recreated the wide base mouldings and the trim around all of the windows. And the paint crew color matched the trim downstairs too. Even though it’s brand new construction, that little detail really makes it feel like it all belongs to the same house. I am never in to popular trends and I really don’t like the minimalist/modern/Scandinavian style that’s everywhere right now, so that meant creating custom mouldings and so on. We figure this is a once-in-a-lifetime project so we are doing it “right”.

This little nook is a fun detail. There was originally a hole in the wall here where the previous owners had a space heater. It didn’t pass inspection when we bought the house so they ripped it out and there was just always just a hole here where you could see the original chimney from the old furnace. Instead of just covering that up, we added this electronics nook. It will have a glass shelf inside and it’s got USB and regular outlets wired right into the side of the cabinet. So we can charge all of our phone/iPad/watch devices. It is right next to where the foot of our bed will be so it’s perfect to drop things off when you go to bed.

We also built in bookcases specifically for our board game collection. We have a lot of them and they need a deeper shelf than a standard bookcase. These took a little back and forth with our contractors because, not being big board game geeks themselves, I think they didn’t understand when we said they needed to be both extra deep and extra sturdy. We had them paint the inside of these a color called “Indigo Batik“, which so far is the one little pop of color upstairs. The shelves aren’t there in the photo because they are still working on them, but they will also be blue with a little oak strip across the front.

And finally the bathroom is finished except for a last little bit of grout and caulk. One of the treats that I wanted as part of this remodel was to get some tile from my friends at Clay Squared to do a detail in the bathroom. I love tile and as much as I would have loved to do the entire bathroom in one of their tile colors, that was a little out of our budget. So instead I got 5 boxes of their “seconds” tiles in two colors (Pesto and NorthShore) and two sizes and I worked with our tile guy to make a stripe pattern that goes all the way around the bathroom. You can see that in the photo up at the top.

We paired that up with some creamy white subway tiles on the walls and tiny hexagons on the floor. I couldn’t love it more. The last few tiles we added to the back of the shelf nook inside the shower. The electrician came back and finished the lights and the heat last week. We’ve had no heat at all in the space since October, so that has been really nice and cut down on the drafts downstairs. The plumber hooked up all of the plumbing so the bathroom is all ready to go. And both the plumbing and electrical got final inspections.

Today they were supposed to put in the rest of the windows but with 2 feet of snow on the way and lots of crazy wind we all decided that it would be better to wait for next week. So it’s been really quiet the last couple of days for a change.

8 February, 2023

Comparing Spoonflower’s Celosia Velvet vs Renaissance Ribbons Velvet Borders

2023-02-08T14:00:55-06:00Everything Else|Comments Off on Comparing Spoonflower’s Celosia Velvet vs Renaissance Ribbons Velvet Borders

Edith from Renaissance Ribbons reached out to me a little bit ago with a question. She had read my post comparing Spoonflower’s Celosia & Performance Velvets and wondered if I would share my thoughts about the digitally printed velvet borders that Renaissance Ribbons makes. I thought it sounded like a great follow up to that post, so I asked her if I could share my thoughts here. Edith sent me a couple of samples the next day. (In the interest of transparency, other than providing those samples, this post was not sponsored in any way.)

First impression is that the Renaissance velvet borders are beautiful. Which is exactly what I would expect because their entire shop makes me feel like a kid in a candy shop. The color is rich and vibrant and the print quality is outstanding. There are very fine details in the two designs I saw and those are crisp and precise. The one thing for me that was unexpected was that the pieces were unfinished on the edges. Coming from a shop with ribbons in the name, I assumed that they would be like ribbon with a finished edge, but they are actually just cut pieces of velvet with a built in selvedge of extra color at the edge. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with this at all, I was just surprised and this wasn’t mentioned in the descriptions of the velvets that I saw on their site.

How do they compare to Celosia Velvet from Spoonflower?

I started by laying out a piece of Renaissance Ribbons Border (top) next to a piece of Celosia velvet (bottom) that I had printed in one of my designs. The first thing I noticed was that the RR Border has a very matte finish compared to Celosia. At the bottom of this photo you can see a little of the sheen that my camera picks up in the Celosia. Other than that fabric finish, the colors are very comparable in the vibrance and saturation.

I flipped them over to take a peek at the back. They are both a woven fabric with a very similar look from the back side. The back of the RR Border is a deeper cream color, but the white parts of the design on the front are a nice crisp white. Unlike Spoonflower fabrics, which you can get in a variety of sizes, the Renaissance Ribbon borders come as a 5 inch strip, 1 meter long, which is ready for you to add into your project.

When I crumpled and played with the drape and hand of the fabrics, both were very soft. The RR Border has a little stiffer hand and has less drape than Celosia. I think this is a great feature in something designed to be a border. I would expect that to be pretty stable. Spoonflower says that the pile height on Celosia velvet is about .5mm and I would say that the RR Border is maybe half the thickness of that. I held the two up next to each other so you can see an edge on view. I also think a slightly thinner fabric is probably good for a border, which is designed to be sewn on to something else. Celosia is meant to be a little more like an upholstery weight fabric, so that makes sense that it needs a little more thickness.

Overall, I think these borders are a great idea and the two dozen or so designs they have on the site are all rich and decadent looking. You can’t design your own like you can on Spoonflower of course, but they have an impressive collection of guest designers (Kaffe Fasset, Tula Pink, Mary Engelbreit, Amy Butler) so there’s a lot to choose from in velvet or their other woven ribbons. It was fun for me to have an excuse to look at some digital prints from an entirely new source.

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