01 December 2008

Excellent Customer Service from Supercrafty.com!

Tis the season! The holidays are approaching, and in these tough economic times, retail businesses are looking for ways to get - and keep - customers. You will hear businesses tout their customer service, and no doubt many will be stepping it up to try to help sluggish sales figures.

I've recently had an experience with excellent customer service from an online merchant, and I had to share. When I find something good, I want everyone else to know about it!

Here's the backstory. Earlier this fall, I decided to knit my mom a gift for Christmas. (Momma - if you are reading this, please STOP!!) I found a pattern and casually began looking for yarn. Then I came across a note I had written to the effect that I'd make her an apron for a gift. I wasn't sure if she had mentioned it, or if I just thought it would be a good idea. I hated to ruin the surprise, but I wanted to make sure she got what she wanted, so I asked her. She gave me some specifics as to style, colors and patterns she would like, and I began creating a pattern and looking for fabric.

But I couldn't find what I wanted. Lots of great fabric, but just not right.

So I re-examined my knitting idea. If I'm going to knit something for her to wear, seems that giving it to her at Christmas, when she can wear it immediately, made sense. I could make her apron for her birthday in May (and I'd have more time to find the perfect fabric).

So, back to looking for yarn. On site I visited was Supercrafty. I've followed Allison's blog for over a year now, and occasionally she'll mention some new yarn she has tried out. A look through Supercrafty showed me the perfect yarn - Misti Alpaca. I knew that was what I wanted, and placed my order.

I soon received shipping confirmation and anxiously waited to get the yarn. It was early November, so I had less than two months to make this. I'm fairly new to knitting, so I'm rather slow. Add in a full-time job, trying to get my design business going, and single-parenting a 13 year old, and I don't have much free time.

And I waited. Veteran's Day holiday meant no mail delivery, but I hoped for the day after. But it didn't arrive then, or for several days after.

I finally checked online and noted that the post office had confirmed delivery a week earlier! Um, maybe delivered, but NOT TO ME! I was home at the time the delivery was noted, and no one came by. There was no noted left in my mail box to pick up a package. I double-checked my order, and it was sent to the correct address. So, I called the post office and reported it. I ended up calling my local post office four times; three times I was told that they would have to check with the mail carrier, and he wasn't in but they'd ask and call me back. But they didn't call back. So I'd call again.

Finally, I talked to a supervisor who told me that if there was delivery confirmation, the only thing I could do was file a claim if it was insured. This gentlemen even went to an address that is similar to mine to see if the package had been left there in error, but no one was home.

As soon as I found the post office had delivered it, I contacted Allison and explained what had happened. I thought that if it had been mis-delivered, it might be returned to her, and I wanted her to know that I did want the yarn. She said that it had not been returned, but she would look for it.

Once I finally learned that there was little hope of getting the package, I decided to re-order and try again. I contacted Allison asking if there was a way to add insurance to the shipping charge in case this package went astray also. Her reply left me speechless - in a good way! She said that she guaranteed delivery of all orders and she would replace the yarn! I really did not expect this - she had very promptly shipped my order to the correct address. The fact the post office mis-delivered it was not her fault. I received an email notice that the order had shipped last Wednesday. On Saturday, it was waiting in my mailbox!

I am thrilled! Not only is the yarn wonderful (oh, it is so soft!), but the customer service I received was outstanding! I will definitely order from Supercrafty again - and I hope that if you are looking for wonderful yarns or other knitting and crocheting supplies, you will check her out as well.

And now, if you will excuse me, I have some knitting to do!

21 November 2008

Tutorial: Granny Square Stocking

The holidays are fast approaching, and I often find I want a few more decorations - but little money to purchase them. I also seem to have quite a supply of leftover yarn. You know the part left over after you complete a project. Not enough to make anything with, but it seems too much to just throw away.

Here's an idea to use your leftover bits - a crocheted granny square. Sewn together, it looks a bit like a Christmas stocking and can add some holiday decoration around your home.



Granny squares are easy to make, making them the perfect project for someone who has learned the basic crochet stitches. They are a great project to carry around with you because they are small and easily transported - no need to haul that afghan with you.

Granny squares can be joined to make scarves, blankets, and wraps. An internet search for “crochet granny squares instructions” will turn up many results, often with pictures, so I'll only cover the basics here.

You can select any yarn and hook size you want. The larger the hook, the larger the final square will be. Play around with different yarns and hooks to find the look you like best. You can also use one yarn throughout or change yarns as you go, depending on how much yarn you have and the look you want.

To begin, make a foundation ring by chain 4; join the last loop to the first chain with a slip stitch and pull through. There is another way to create a foundation chain here; I've used this a couple of times, but am still trying to get comfortable with it, so I often still use the traditional method.

Round 1: *3 double crochet in ring, chain 2; repeat from * 3 times.
Round 2: *3 double crochet, chain 2, 3 double crochet in the 2 chain space, chain 1; repeat from * 3 times
Round 3: *3 double crochet, chain 2, 3 double crochet in the 2 chain space, chain 1, 3 double crochet in next space, chain 1; repeat from * 4 times
Round 4: *3 double crochet, chain 2, 3 double crochet in the 2 chain space, chain 1, 3 double crochet in the next space twice, chain 1; repeat from * 3 times.

(You can use the same yarn throughout, or you can change - with each round, only on one round, or for the single crochet edging. Play around with it and see which look you like. This is also a great way to use up leftover bits of yarn you have around. If you have enough for two rounds, use it, then switch over to another. Experiment, play, and see what you create!

The granny square is now finished!

To make the stocking, fold the square in half. With the same hook and same or different yarn, join the bottom and side together with a single crochet stitch. Put the hook through a chain on both layers; pull yarn through both layers and finish stitch.

When you reach the top of the “stocking” continue with the single crochet stitches, but only go through one layer (so you will need to circle around the top of the stocking. When you complete the round, join with a slip stitch to the first single crochet. If you want a hanging loop, then chain stitch to twice the desired length of the loop you want; bring hook down and slip stitch next two first chain of the loop. Finish off.

Or, you can thread a needle with yarn and sew the edges together.

You now have a granny square stocking! Isn't it cute!



And now - what can you do with these?

They look really cute hanging from the Christmas tree:



They can also be used to hold the To/From cards on holiday packages:




As well as placecard holders for your holiday dinner table. Add a few pieces of candy and let the guest takes these home.




What other uses can you thing of for these?

16 November 2008

Weekend Review

My son was at his dad's this weekend, so I took advantage and accomplished several things on my to do list. The fact it was cloudy and cold Saturday helped keep me inside and working. But it was very nice to see the sun today!

Here's what I did over the weekend, in no particular order:

I learned to play mah jongg! I first heard of this game when I read about it in a Nancy Drew mystery. Can't even begin to remember which one, but I've always wondered about it. No more - I now know how addictive it is!!

I worked on a couple of clutches using upholstery samples from a furniture store. Here's a sneak peak:
















I made tarn! What's that - t-shirt yarn! Cut old t-shirts into strips and use the strips to knit or crochet. Not sure what I'm going to do with it yet, but at least it is ready to go:

















I attended this. It was nearby, and I hoped to get some inspiration. Instead, I was overwhelmed by the beads available! Such gorgeous colors and stones that I haven't seen before. Since I prefer to reuse materials, however, I think next time I'm going with money to purchase findings. The prices seemed to be good compared to the local stores, although I really need to research that some more.

And I watched this:




A documentary about Karl Lagerfeld released in 2006, it follows him through setting up and photographing ads, sketching (he uses correction fluid to get the look he wants on some sketches!), packing, traveling, talking about some of the Chanel shows, and interviews with him about his life. Love him or hate him, agree with him or not, this is a fascinating look at one of the great influences on fashion today.

My son is back from his dad's, and I'm going to wrap up this weekend with this blog post!

What did you do this weekend???

10 November 2008

Yarn Transformation - part 1

A few months ago, a friend was cleaning out her closet, and gave me several items to take apart and remake. Included was a sweater she had knit from wool yarn. I asked her if she wanted to unravel it and reuse the yarn herself, but she wasn't interested. Because I've had a hard time finding thrift store sweaters that can be unraveled, especially wool ones, I gratefully took it. Instructions for unraveling a sweater (and how to identify a hand-knit one that can be unraveled) can be found at Neauveau Fiber Arts.

From this:




To this:



What comes next??


I think I want to knit something, although I may crochet. But so far, I haven't decided. A hat? A scarf? The yarn is really soft and warm, so I want to make something special. If you have any suggestions, please leave me a comment!

08 November 2008

Fall Photographs

The leaves are turning in Memphis, and this year they are very colorful. We had quite a bit of rain in mid-October, followed by some cold temperatures, then warm. Apparently the combination worked to produce some gorgeous shades of red, gold, and yellow.



This is the view from my front porch. I took the photo a week ago, and more leaves have turned. I need to get another photo today before they start falling.







I want to collect some of the red maple leaves and put them in a bowl for a splash of color in my apartment.

29 October 2008

Moo Cards!

Look what came in the mail yesterday:



My Moo cards!! They are so cute - now I understand what the fuss is all about.

These lovelies were free from Moo and Flickr when I upgraded to a Flickr Pro account. That was over a month ago, and honestly, I was beginning to think they were lost in the mail somewhere between London and Memphis. I was disappointed not to have them, but since they were free, I wasn't out any money.



And then they arrived - and I am so very happy they did. Now I have to decide how to use them. There are only ten, and since I am not selling much right now, I don't have the funds to buy more. So for now, I'll wait for the right time to hand them out.



Lovely!

08 October 2008

Inspiration - Autumn Leaves



I found this leaf while on a cardio walk last week. I had started my cool down, and was going to slow enough that I caught sight of it (because I had walked past the same place three times already!). I had to stop and pick it up - the colors and the shape caught my eye. And while I hate the fact that the days are getting shorter, I celebrate the cooler temperatures which mean I can begin to pull different clothes out to wear. Almost like having a new(ish) wardrobe.



Later that day I pulled out some of the upholstery samples in darker colors, and planned out some new clutches and wristlets to make. I'm inspired to create new looks for the new season.

Where has everyone else been finding inspiration lately?

03 October 2008

Tutorial: Coffee Dyed Fabric

It all began when I decided to make new covers for the living room throw pillows. The colors were exactly what I wanted, but after, I noticed that the blue curtains I had hanging did NOT go with the new color scheme.

The blue curtains were made from a garage sale sheet. I just cut stripes and hung them over nails. So, what could I replace them with? Given the size of my budget (um, zero!), I went through all the fabric I have ---- and find nothing I can use. Then I remember another garage sale sheet I have. There is plenty of fabric, but it is a white sheet - too bright for my scheme.

Since the sheet is 100 percent cotton, I decide to dye it. I first consider tea dyeing, then decide to try coffee dyeing to get a darker color. I've never tried coffee dyeing, so I go to my standby - Google. A search turns up several tutorials, and I found this one to be most helpful. What I really like about this is I can reuse the grounds that I normally throw away after I make my coffee each day. So I am able to recycle a sheet that is getting too thin to use on my bed and the coffee grounds that normally get thrown away each day.

I drink several cups of coffee each day, so saving coffee grounds was not a problem! I took a large plastic container, and added my grounds to it each day. If I had a bit of black coffee left, I poured that in as well.


Here is the container with the saved grounds and coffee, and an old, plastic storage container.








To do the dye, first take everything outside!!! I am serious - it will make a mess. Into the old storage container, I dumped in the coffee grounds, leftover sludge, and some additional water.





Mixed it well and added the fabric, making sure there was enough liquid to cover the sheet. Then, I mixed it around and rubbed the grounds into the fabric to get a bit more color.

Then I let it sit and soak. After about 15 minutes, I shifted the fabric around. And waited some more. Another 15 minutes, and more shifting. And more waiting.





In all, I let it soak over an hour, trying to get the color dark enough. Then I added some vinegar to the water (the tutorial I referenced suggested using alum, which I did not have, or vinegar. I didn't really measure it, just poured some in - probably about 1/3 cup) and let it soak about 15 more minutes.





I pulled out the sheet, wrung out as much liquid as I could, and draped the sheet over my patio table and chairs to dry. Since I did not rinse the sheet (because I did not want to remove the color) there were a lot of coffee grounds stuck to it. They do fall off as the fabric dries which is why this project should be done outside! I dumped the grounds and liquid in the grass.




It was a warm and windy day, so the fabric dried in a few hours (and out of the sun, so it wouldn't bleach any of the color out). I shook it well to get all the dried coffee grounds off and looked at the color. It was pretty much what I expected. I'm still not sure it will be dark enough for the look I want in the living room, but that is a different issue for another time. Then I used a dry iron to iron the fabric and help set the color.

The final step - sweep the patio! I'm still finding coffee grounds in corners, but eventually they will all be gone.

And that's it - dyeing with coffee. It really was easy to do, a bit of a mess, but easy to clean up if done outside. And as an added bonus - it cost nothing! I was able to reuse an old sheet and used coffee grounds instead of throwing them away.

Now, to go through my fabric and see what else could benefit from coffee dye-------

05 September 2008

Carnival for Green Crafts

The fourth Carnival for Green Crafts is currently up at Whip Up - and they've included my Crocheted Hanger Tutorial!! Thank you!! It's great to help spread the word about reusing things instead of throwing them away.

Check out the Carnival - there are several amazing tutorials on there and great thought provoking articles. On my to-do list for this weekend is to go back through the first 3 Carnivals and check them out.

The Carnival is run by Crafting a Green World, and they are taking submissions. Have something you want to share? Head over there and send them the info!

04 September 2008

What's New - Redux Designs for Autumn

Thanks to the remnants of Hurricane Gustav, we've had several cloudy, rainy days in Memphis. In fact, it is cool enough this morning that the air conditioning is off and the windows are open. Not a typical day in early September for us, but my cat is loving it!

With cooler temperatures and evenings getting noticeably shorter, I'm reminded that Autumn is truly on the way. With that in mind, I'm beginning to list some of my hand-crocheted scarves.






The perfect thing to wrap around your neck for warmth on cooler days, and to add a bit of color to your outfits - such as this scarf made from yarn in the colors of the rainbow.







And for times when you need something warm around your shoulders to keep the chill off? I've got a burgundy shawl that reuses squares cut from a sweater and alternates with hand crocheted squares.










Warm and cozy!










Watch my Etsy shop over the next few days to see more items for Autumn.
.

01 September 2008

Treasures!

Look at what I received - a gift from a friend! Jewelry, yarn, and a cardigan just waiting to be remade into something else. For me, this is the best kind of treasure!


Here is a close-up of the yarn-----with fall and winter on the way, I'm already thinking about what I could crochet and knit with this.....


A close-up of some of the jewelry - this box is mainly earrings. I spent several hours just sorting through this, to see what was there. In a nutshell - a lot of raw material just waiting to be taken apart and make into something else!


Of course,this was all done under the supervision of my CCI (Chief Cat Inspector). Nothing missed his sharp eyes, and the yarn was found to be easy to play with!


He approves!! Now, let the creating begin----

27 August 2008

Brown Tweed Purse


Here it is - my completed entry for the Delta Art and Music Festival!! I am really happy with the finished product, and was relieved to be able to drop it off Saturday morning. But getting this entry ready has a bit of a story......

About 20 years ago, I bought a skirt. I always liked the brown tweed fabric, and even when the skirt no longer fit, I kept it. By the time I lost weight and the skirt fit again, it was seriously out of style. But because I loved the fabric so much, I kept it to use to make something. I never could decide what-----until a few years ago when I got the idea to make a purse. Lucky magazine had a page of tweed purses and bags in one of their handbag features, and something clicked. I decided to make a purse, and since that wasn't enough of a challenge, I also decided to come up with the pattern for it.

The original purse was the same shape as this one, but it was larger, and I used the waistband of the skirt for the strap. Overall, I was happy with the results, but realized that I needed to line the purse with something stiffer - it needed more shape to it. And, I never liked the way the strap looked. So I took it apart and set it aside.

Somewhere in all this I saw Susan Khalje on a TV program make a purse and lined it with buckram. That was what I needed!! So I promptly waited a year or so to finally purchase some. Then it sat around a few more months, until I finally decided this was what I wanted to make and enter in the Delta Festival.

I pulled it and and made sure all the pieces were there. I cut down the tween fabric to make it a better size for my purse. I sewed the buckram to it, then sewed the pieces together. I loved the way it looked, the stiffness it had, but damn! Going through two layers of fabric with buckram was tough at times!

Since I wasn't using the waistband for the strap, I had to come up with something else - and figure out a way to attach it. I decided to use an old belt I had for the strap. I took two belt loops from the skirt and sewed them to the sides of the purse. Through these I ran D rings which I looped the belt through. Buckling the belt closes it, and also allows for a bit of adjustment in the length.

(I know the D ring isn't straight, but I was trying to hold the strap up while taking the photo!)

Then I had to try to fit my lining. I originally made the lining from an old blouse I had. It was a bright yellow, and I liked the contrast with the brown tweed - a bit of sunshine when you opened the purse. I tried taking up the seams of the lining, but it would NOT come out right. I finally resigned myself to the fact that it would have to be taken apart, cut down, then sewed back together again. By now it is three days before the entry is due, and I didn't want to take the time to redo the lining, but had to.

But the fabric didn't come apart easily. There were a couple of tears that I wasn't sure I could hide in the seams. I cut it down, but it still didn't fit right. However, taking it apart again proved to be a mess. It tore, there were stitch marks - it just would not do.

In a mild state of panic, I considered my options. Somewhere in the back of my head, I could hear Tim Gunn saying "make it work"! So I pulled out my fabric stash to look for something to make the lining from.

I soon found something I thought would work - a taupe/grey silky polyester. It looked great with the brown tweed. Once I pulled it out and looked at it, I realized why - it was the lining that was originally in the skirt!! Yes, the two fabrics were going to be paired together again. Using the bag as a pattern, I cut out the lining and interfaced them, and began sewing it together. I soon discovered, however, that I needed to quit for the day - I was sewing the pieces together the wrong way. Enough!!!

Now it is the day before entries are due. Amazingly, things went rather well. I got the lining stitched together, put it inside the purse (where it looked great!), and attached it to the purse. After getting everything turned and sewn, I trimmed all the loose threads, then I added the belt as the strap - and I loved the way it looks on the purse. Now the only thing left to do was sit back and enjoy looking at it while I had a drink.



Saturday morning I arrived at the venue and submitted the bag in the recycled clothes competition. Judging is this week, and the festival opens this weekend. I'll let you know what happens.....

And the future of this purse? Do I use it myself, or do I list it in my Etsy shop?? I haven't decided yet. It could be great advertising to use it myself. If anyone expresses interest, I can tell them I made it from an old skirt, and offer to make one for them, and use an old item of clothing they have or find something at a thrift shop. Come to think of it, I believe I have a couple of thrift store skirts tucked away in my fabric stash that would make awesome purses. Time to get to work!

12 August 2008

Life Gets In The Way...

Sometimes, stuff just happens. Nothing bad, just stuff. This week is an example.

Monday, my son went back to school. Yes I know it is not even mid-August yet, but that's how it's done here. While being back in a routine is good for me, getting up an hour earlier is tough. Neither one of us does very well in the early morning, but we are managing. However, couple that with the fact that I have had to be in the office first thing in the morning yesterday and today (and for the next two days as well) and my schedule is completely shot. I'm trying to get a few Redux things done, along with relisting items in my Etsy shop, but there is no hope of getting anything major accomplished this week.

Please don't think I'm complaining - I'm not. I'm tired and trying to accept that I won't be able to accomplish what I had hoped. I've gone through my "to-do" list for Redux Designs and re-prioritized what HAS to get done this week ( entry for the Delta Fair and for Craft Corps). Everything else will have to wait until the weekend - including my every growing podcast playlist on iTunes and some more clutches to add to Etsy.

But-----at least I managed to get a blog post up! Hopefully, more to come later in the week....

08 August 2008

Blog Changes - and Weekend Plans

I've been playing around with the Blogger template, to see if I can find a look I like better. I want something that is distinctive and stands out, but I want to make sure that my designs are what get noticed. I don't want them lost in the dark background. So I've made some changes.......and hope to work on it some more over the weekend.

Speaking of the weekend, this one looks to be very busy! The day job has kept me very busy this week - and next week is going to be even busier. So anything I want to get done for Redux Designs must get done this weekend - or wait until the next one.

I need to write up my entry for Craft Corps, due next Friday. The application for the Delta Fair and Music Festival is due next Thursday - and while the application won't take long to fill out, I've got to work on my entry to make sure it is ready to turn in later this month. The deadline to enter the Venuszine "Make A Bag" contest is August 20th (which will be here before I realize it!). And I've got several clutches to sew, photograph and get ready to list on Etsy. That should be enough to keep me out of trouble!

But the temptation to simply sit outside is strong! The weather has finally cooled off in Memphis - with lower humidity - and all I want to do is be outside again. I'll try to take as much work outside as I can - and do the rest inside in the evenings.

Hope everyone has a great weekend!!

14 July 2008

Today's Tip - How to Not Publicize Your Business

I may never learn...........

Saturday, I made an appointment to take my car to the shop to find out why the "check engine" light kept coming on. I normally sit there at least two hours, so I decided to do something smart: take some of my small crochet projects with me to work on. The idea was someone would ask me what I was making, and I could explain it to them, talk about Redux Designs, give them my business card and encourage them to check out my Etsy shop. I had several small projects to work on, some to crochet and some to sew together, so I put them in small bags, ready to go.

You may see where this is going. In getting everything together this morning, I completely forgot to pack them in my backpack. Even worse - I didn't realize I had forgotten them until I got home and saw them neatly stacked on my desk!!!

Really, I may never learn. If someone complements me on something I am wearing that I made, I have no trouble thanking them and saying that I made it. But for some reason, I have trouble taking the next step and telling them it is for sale, and giving them my card. If I am ever going to get Redux Designs going, I have to do better.

So, I begin again tomorrow - looking for opportunities to talk about Redux Designs!

12 July 2008

Sewing for the Home

I pulled out the sewing machine the other day, and finally finished a project I began several months ago. But it wasn't something new to wear - well, not for me to wear! I made new covers for the pillows on my sofa!



Earlier this year, I began cutting pictures from magazines that represented how I wanted my home to look. I found I was drawn to similar images and colors over and over again. For the living room, it was a white/cream colored sofa with accent colors of light green, tans and browns. Well, my sofa is tan colored, but the throw pillows were dark blue. And I had no extra money to buy new ones.

Then I remembered the upholstery samples I had tucked away. Yes, the same ones I used to make this and this. I had plenty of them and found that the colors I was drawn to were readily available in the samples. I pulled out several of them, and picked the ones I wanted to use.

I played around with the design I wanted, but in the end decided to sew four of the pieces together, then trim the edges to the size I needed. I even decided on the layout I wanted and pinned them together.

Then they sat for several weeks. And sat. And waited for me to pulled out the sewing machine and finish them. With my son away last weekend, I decided to get them finished.

I sewed the four pieces of each side together, trying to get them to line up in the middle. It didn't always go as planned, but ripping out a few seams didn't take too long. Then I removed the blue covers, and placed the pillow form on the wrong side of one of the pieces. I'd put another piece on top, wrong side down, then pin around to see where the side seams went. A quick sew-up, then another fitting, this time right side out. If it fit well, I'd take the cover, turn it inside-out, trim the excess from the seams, and replace the pillow form.

To finish the opening, I sewed in some hook and loop fastener.


I am so happy with the new look on my sofa! I was able to use something I already had around (that would have been thrown away if it hadn't been given to me), it didn't cost me anything, and I got a look I am very happy with.

10 July 2008

Ice Blended Coffee


Yesterday morning I sat on my back patio to do some work. I had my patio umbrella up, so I was in the shade, but it was in the mid-80s with 75% humidity. And I was drinking my morning coffee. Yes, as hot as I was, I was drinking hot coffee. When I went inside for another cup, I decided to put it in a glass over ice and drink it cold.

Then I thought again - why not put that in the blender and make an iced coffee? So I did.

Oh my!!!!! That was just what I needed!! It was so good, I didn't drink any of my coffee hot this morning - I let it cool awhile, then blended it with ice and flavored creamer.

Yummy!!!

Not only did I use the coffee yesterday morning rather than throwing it out, I also saved several dollars over purchasing a similar item. Always a good thing in my world!