What I’m Reading

Some people chuckle at the fact that my library card was one of the first things that made me feel like Charlotte was home, but I have devoured books as long as I can remember. Even when it meant Mom had to read “just one more chapter” before I would consider sleeping! I am a huge fan of our metro library system and almost constantly have something checked out. Usually multiple somethings!

20151013_205530Lately I have been rather selfish in my book selections, choosing to read a lot of “self-help” and personally uplifting materials. Currently on my nightstand – amongst the Bible, devotional, study book, puzzle book, Sudoku book, lotions and glass of water! – are The Happiness Trap by Russ Harris, For the Love by Jen Hatmaker, and Simply Tuesday by Emily Freeman.

Before I wrap up this post, let me remind you all that I am no superwoman. (Case in point – this post is going out at 9:30pm my time!) Reading is one of the first activities that takes a hit when I am tired, behind schedule on posts, or feeling overwhelmed. That’s actually part of the reason I’ve chosen to read these books!

As we work at things and get involved in various capacities, it can be hard to say “no” and to enjoy the journey that we’re blessed to be on. I know I have been so focused on growing Nothing Past Nine that I hit a wall and wanted to quit. The Happiness Trap talks about the stories we tell ourselves – like the idea that we aren’t good enough – and how to accept the thoughts without letting them consume us. For the Love discusses living gracefully in a world of unattainable standards like those we women tend to create for ourselves. Cough, social media cough, cough! Lord knows I need to give myself a break on some things! Finally, Simply Tuesday focuses on small moments when life is beyond fast-paced. I cannot believe how fast the last few years have gone, much less the last week! Appreciating the small moments takes me back to enjoying the journey.

Enough talk for now! Need to save a few minutes for reading before bed! What’s on your nightstand? Are you a non-fiction or fiction reader? I LOVE good book suggestions so please share!

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How to Stay Sane while Making Your Own Christmas Cards

20140320_211112It’s okay. I know you’re all thinking, “Becky, why are you posting about Christmas? It’s time for Halloween candy and fall decor!” Some of you that know me better are also probably thinking, “Becky, I thought you were totally against Christmas before Thanksgiving?!” While both of these statements are true and 100% accurate, I also believe it knocking things off the to-do list and being ahead of the game. That’s why I think now is the perfect time to start working on Christmas cards!

If you’re going to make your own holiday cards this year, here are a few of my tried and true tips for not losing your mind and actually getting the cards out on time!

1. Start early! Part of the reason for this post, hint hint, wink wink! You will be very disappointed and frustrated if you wait to start the project and aren’t able to complete it on time or as you would have liked to. (That embossed snow won’t finish itself, you know!)
2. Keep it simple! I love a good, elaborate, layered card as much as the next crafter. I also love my hair, my savings account, and my husband. For these reasons among others, I’ve learned to keep the card designs simple. My general plan is that I can purchase one new “toy” (be it stamp, punch, cutter, etc.) for each year’s card, and that usually becomes the one trickier piece to each of my cards.
3. Streamline! Continued from keeping things simple, make sure that your cards can be “mass produced,” especially if you have a long list of people to send them to! (More on that below!) Being able to break the design into steps that you can turn into an assembly line makes your project go much, much faster. Do all of your stamping at once. Cut all of the ribbon at once. Glue all the googly snowman eyes on at once. Whatever your design is, look for ways to make the process easier and create all the cards one step at a time.
4. Edit! This may sound harsh, but not everyone loves getting Christmas cards. Especially handmade beauties that could qualify for gifts on their own! Review your list of recipients and ask yourself the tough question – does this person NEED or WANT a card? And be honest with yourself! I cleaned my list last year and only sent about half the cards I normally do. People were on there that we had lost touch with, that weren’t involved in our lives anymore, and folks that just honestly weren’t the type to receive my card!
5. Set a deadline! Were you the type to stay up late writing papers the day before they were due? Did you tell people, “I work better under pressure!”? I may have done that a few times myself, but regardless, I am a firm believer that putting dates on things make them more pressing and more tangible. I send out my cards the second week in December. I know that I have to finish them before that so I can address, stamp and get them out. Gives me a little nudge when I realize the calendar has flipped to December!

Quick example. The photo is of our holiday card from 2012. I precut all the colors on the front. I precut the twine. I precut the rectangle that 2012 is on. I stamped all of the 2012’s at one time. I stamped and embossed all of the woodgrain one afternoon. I put all the brads in place before gluing down the brown strips. I put all the little 2012 signs on at once. I tied all of the twine bows last. (The inside of the card is blank for our personal notes.)

This was easily my favorite holiday card, in large part due to the streamlined, assembly line fashion in which it came together. So cute, and so little stress! Do you still make your holiday cards? What are your tips for beautiful cards that don’t take all year to make?

How to Deal with Product Errors

enhanceBeing a perfectionist in the crafting industry is dangerous. I consider it a blessing because it means that I care about the quality of the work I produce, but it can also be painful when I have moments that remind me I’m human. Which are much more frequent than I typically care to admit! There will inevitably be times when something doesn’t go as planned, however, and you’re going to be frustrated. Quality control is extremely important, but take it from me, letting those frustrations get you down can be even more detrimental. Even if you weren’t planning on selling the item!

When I find an error with a product (keeping in mind that I create a majority of my projects to sell), I’ve established four basic ways to “resolve” my frustration with it:

1. Start over. I do this much more frequently (and successfully) with knit or crochet pieces. When you’re working with paper or fabric, it can be difficult to start over and salvage your materials. While I certainly don’t want to waste anything, for personal sanity and customer satisfaction, sometimes it’s a necessary evil. Many times I start over because I’ve learned a thing or two about my process, and the end product is even better than I imagined it the first time!
2. Change it. There is nothing that says you can’t change your plan while you’re creating something. That’s part of why you’re doing it – to be creative! So you start out with a plan to make an infinity scarf and you don’t have enough fabric or yarn. The police will not come knocking on your door if you alter your product to be a beautiful cowl instead! Stamp not come out clearly? Maybe the missing portion is “hiding” behind another layer of your paper craft!
3. Keep it. 
Since I design most of my items within the realm of my own personal taste, many of the items I don’t deem worthy of being on Etsy make their way into my personal collection. Doesn’t earn me any money, but it keeps me from spending money on new items when it feels like I just gave myself a gift! (Fantastic logic, right?!)
4. Discount it. Not the best option in the craft world, but especially if you’re tight on resources, it may be best to at least recoup the cost of your materials if the final product still functions. Just remember to use this as a last resort as you don’t want to diminish the perception of your work. On the other hand, you also don’t want to lie about the quality of the work or deceive a buyer into expecting more than they will receive.

This entire post was actually prompted because of a scarf I made recently. I was trying a new technique on a cotton scarf and silly me, did not think to change the color of my bobbin (the bottom or “wrong side” thread). So I’m trucking along and suddenly realize that while my white stitches look great on the top – which is white – the underside that’s still visible is dark gray, and the white stitches don’t look so hot. Does that ruin the piece? No. Does it make me less than thrilled and consider it below my shop’s standards? Yes. Solution? I will sell it in person at a lower rate, but not online. This will provide a great way to be honest about the product’s “flaws”, while still promoting the quality of the material and craftsmanship that went into it.

The next time you find yourself disappointed with the quality of your work, I hope you’ll consider one or more of these solutions! Or maybe you already have a go-to method for beating the blues. I’d love to hear how you tackle these human moments! I promise it happens to us all!

Why I Took Beginner Knitting

20150816_145952I admit it. I signed up for Beginner Knitting and already “knew” how to knit. (Never fear – this was disclosed to the instructor!) So, why on earth would I take a basic class in a skill I already knew?

1|  I know my weaknesses. Yes, I had a working knowledge of the fundamentals, but did I know how to knit effectively? Heck no! It was all self taught, and I knew I could be better.
2|  I believe in foundations. Not only did I know that I could do a better job of accomplishing the skills I already had, but I knew that if I started from the beginning and learned properly, I would have a solid foundation for tackling more advanced tasks down the road.
3|  I wanted to slow down. Anyone who interacts with me for five minutes realizes that my brain goes 100 miles per hour around the clock. Going into the first lesson with the expectation that it would be slow, simple and straightforward kept me grounded. It made me focus on each step of each stitch in each row of each project. I began to understand concepts and processes – the why’s – as opposed to simply knowing how to complete a pattern – the how’s.

Do I recommend taking a beginner class in all the skills you think you know? No. That’s not practical, and you’d easily become frustrated. However, if you’re just starting out on something, picking something back up after a few years, or are self-taught and want to have a higher quality product – consider a basics class! It takes a lot for me to admit I need help, but with the proper guidance, I have made huge strides in my knitting in a few short weeks! When we open ourselves up, there can be huge rewards. I’m so grateful I took a chance and did something outside of my comfort zone. I’ve met new people, have more confidence in myself and my abilities, and am simply enjoying a craft that used to be more of a struggle for me.

Do you have a talent you want to be better at? Have you always considered taking golf lessons or basket weaving or Soups 101, but never made the commitment to yourself to do it?! Tell us what you want to learn, and we’ll be here with encouragement the whole way! Connect with us on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest too!

**UPDATE** I wanted to add that the day after I posted this, I was at my local yarn shop and there was a beginners’ class going on. As I quietly observed the session from the back of the shop, it struck me that another huge benefit of a class like that is the questions that are brought up. None is considered too basic, and I know not many people think like I do, so it’s wonderful to get their fresh perspectives!