Stuff and Nonsense

I participated in my first craft/maker fair over the weekend. I was expecting a cool September afternoon when I signed up for it in the spring, but instead got a humid day in the 80s. My sons were with me while I set up the table and my three-year-old was insistent that we leave the tent walls closed “for privacy.” “We need a breeze in here,” I kept saying while I opened them up. “Okay,” he’d say as he closed them, “We’ve had one.”

It was hot. Really, really hot.

I sat in the tent for six hours, I had fun visiting with my neighbors, and enjoyed hearing the band play next to us, but at the end of the night I had made exactly enough to cover the tent and the space fees. It was pretty discouraging. The forecast for the following day also predicted hot, humid weather, and scattered thunderstorms.

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The sauna, day 2

But the next day it didn’t rain. It wasn’t a huge success, but I made enough to feel like the endeavor was worthwhile and I came away from it with a better idea of what people would and wouldn’t buy.

The best part (other than the sangria my husband brought and the terrifying and funny car-birth story a fellow maker told me) happened when I was dropping my daughter off at a birthday party at one of those pottery painting places. A kid approached me and asked me if I was the one from the Made Fest. I said yes, and he asked for some help with an embroidery kit he had purchased the previous day. I was able to see the work he had done already and help him figure out a chain stitch.

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My best friend asked for the picture above. I’m pretty sure Marilla would disapprove of viewing one craft fair as a referendum on one’s work. Then again, she’d probably also disapprove of fabric pretzels.

LandPenguin, Maker of Hockey Fabric

I started playing around with Spoonflower a little more than a year ago as something to do while I was nursing my newborn baby. It took me a good five months to get around to ordering my first fabric, so I didn’t actually have anything for sale on the site until February. One reason for delaying was that I couldn’t find out how many people on the site actually make money from it. People don’t write much about how creative hobbies and jobs pay because the reality is that for most people the hourly rate is pretty abysmal. I’m in the middle of deciding on prices for handmade toys and concluded that I couldn’t pay myself minimum wage per hour because no one is expecting to pay that much per toy. On the other hand, I spend a lot of time in the early mornings sewing things up while watching HBO. Tradeoffs.

So, in the interest of helping out anyone else who is thinking about getting into designing fabrics, I’ll try to be upfront about how much I’ve made over the last eight months. Here it is:

$87.50

At this point, I have 67 designs available, so it all comes out at a tiny bit more than the cost of paying for the proofs. And most of that money comes from these:

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A tiny, wrinkled hockey empire

I’ve made other designs that I like better. Sprout Patterns picked one of my contest submissions for the sample for their Jaxon Bowtie, which was exciting. This is my favorite. Those designs have never sold (except to me and once to the people at Sprout, who purchased the design when they made up the tie). The hockey designs were an afterthought; I made them because my husband played hockey and I thought he might like one of the kids to have a quilt from the swatches. But florals are ubiquitous. Hockey fabric is hard to find.

So, I’m embracing those sports with hard to find fabrics and putting a lot of effort into making some beautiful, appealing designs for people out there trying just trying to find a nice rock climbing print, or lacrosse, or volleyball, or gymnastics.

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My favorite, so far

And that 87.50 number? It doesn’t sound like much, and it just covers the proofs, but I am really proud of it. There’s $875 in fabric and wallpaper out there that I designed. Some kid might be going out today in a tee shirt covered in skates. Another might go to bed on a hockey stick pillow. There’s also something fulfilling about the process, and I have learned a lot since I started.

So, I’m owning it: I’m the number one designer of print on demand hockey textiles. Thank you, hockey fans. And by this time next year, maybe I can add number one designer of team handball fabrics to that title.

(If you are interested in the sports series of fabrics, wallpaper, and wrapping paper, they will be available for sale sometime in October)

Painting Cakes

I’ve had this idea for a long time that I wanted to decorate my dining room with paintings of desserts reminiscent of those made by Wayne Thiebaud. I bake real desserts more than I paint, though, and my painting skills aren’t really up for complicated swirls of buttercream.

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A real cake.

After thinking about it for a while, I decided that the best thing to do was to compensate for mediocre painting skills with mediocre piping skills.

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The mixture I used was coarse molding paste, heavy structure gel, and fluid acrylics because that was what I had on hand, but a smoother molding paste mixed with paint would work just as well. The decorator’s tips have been designated for paint, as paint has a long history of toxicity.

How to Decorate a Cake