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The Power of Polyvore – Why Makers Should be Collaborating with One Another + Other Tips

For today’s tip post, Beth of Wilde Designs is sharing how important collaboration with other makers & brands is, and how simple it is to increase your range & traffic to your shop by using Polyvore!

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We all love pretty things. Shiny things. We like to imagine that whatever we make will be part of a stunning collection of goods in a magazine someday. alongside larger known brands. 

The beauty of the internet is that we don’t have to wait and wonder what these beautiful collections might look like! There are so many ways to do gorgeous product collages, also known as “flatlays”, on the internet on our own, and so many ways to collaborate with other makers, designers & brands to make these collections go viral!

Why create a product collage? Not only do they allow our audience to see what our products might look like as part of a cute outfit or in a trendy room, it also lets us put ourselves alongside other larger known brands & makers that compliment our own products. Want your bohemian necklaces to be associated with Anthropolgie styles? Pair them with products from Anthro, headbands from your favorite hair accessory maker, a succulent planter from your favorite sculptor, and so on. Make sense? 

Why collaborate with other small shops? Small shops need each other. We can work together to get extra social reach, to find new customers, and to build each other’s brands and communities! Most importantly, the more brands you collaborate with, the greater possibility of your products going viral! Product collages are a fantastic way to encourage this! Not only do you build up other small shops, when you select items from big companies, you get extra exposure by tagging them in your posts and helping their audience find you & associate your products with that brand as well.

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My favorite avenue for creating quick, attractive product collages is Polyvore. Setting up an account is free, and you can add your products quickly and easily by installing the Polyvore Clipper button onto your browser. Navigate to the page of the item you want to add, click the button, and input the details.

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While you’re at it, add items from some of your favorite shops. You can even create a team of shops to create & share products from one another in various product collages, saving you a lot of work! For instance, if you sell necklaces, maybe you know someone who makes fantastic handbags or designs shirts that compliment your jewelry. Find a way to involve other sellers, and you both end up benefiting from the collection. When you’re building your product collage, you can search the items you’ve added or search all of Polyvore to find new things that match your brand’s style.

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Once you have selected your shops you want to work with & big brands you want people to associate your goods with, start building your collection and making it lovely. Polyvore lets you add text, borders, and other flourishes to spice things up. Even better? It works fabulously on desktop or mobile. Once you’ve created a flatlay, you can publish the set. You get the option to share it simultaneously on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Blogger, and a lot of other platforms. Instant reach with minimal effort!

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Do yourself – and your brand – a favor and go play. You’ll never look back once you see how easily you can boost the visibility of your productss and collaborate with both the small and big box shops you’ve always wanted to work with!

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Meet the Maker: Dani of Big Hugs, Little Envelopes – a maker every maker should know!

You guys, this Monday, you can thank me for starting off your week introducing you to a maker who creates supplies that makes running your business so much more fun & colorful, and soon, SO much easier! Get to know Dani & all the services & products she offers makers below, and be sure to visit her shop Big Hugs, Little Envelopes to view the full range of products as well – she is offering 20% off with code SAVE20 to all Lu & Ed readers through December 31st, 2017! Thanks, Dani!
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Heeeey Dani! Welcome to my blog! Let’s get started – why don’t you tell the readers all about yourself?

Hey, guys! I’m Dani, a life-long Colorado girl, mama of two rad boys, and wife to one totally amazing dude! I am a teacher by trade and actually taught elementary school for 12 years before deciding to take a break and stay home with my kiddos! I have taught every grade K-5 and loved them all, but 5th grade will always have a very special place in my heart! My schooling has all been centered around teaching, of course! I am certified to teach K-6 and, am endorsed in gifted education. With my Masters in literacy, I am also endorsed to teach reading K-12 (though I haven’t yet ventured into the land of middle or high school!). I also have a minor in French, but I tell ya what… that is definitely a “use it or lose it” skill. I’m bummed that I don’t get to use my French more often, and I fear I am forgetting it quickly! In my free time (wait… what’s that???), I love movies with my family, dance parties in the kitchen, scrapbooking, writing, reading, running (slow as a turtle!), and enjoying the gorgeous outdoors of Colorful Colorado. I couldn’t ask to live in a more beautiful place!!! I almost never watch live TV, but I love to pop on a show while I work, and my current Netflix/Hulu/HBO streaming addictions include America’s Got Talent, Shark Tank, Grey’s Anatomy, Big Little Lies, and This is Us!
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Have you always been such a wildly creative person?

Well, that is certainly a lovely compliment – THANK YOU! Yes, I have always thrived on creativity. For as long as I can remember, I’ve been making and writing and doing… It’s in my blood, as I think is the case for all creatives! I can remember making little dresses for my dolls when I was very young out of random things like toilet paper and yarn. Over the years, I have experimented with MANY creative outlets, including drawing, painting, clay work, sewing, cake decorating, jewelry making, embroidery, crochet… You name it! If it involves the creative process, I’ve probably tried it!
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How did you get started in digital design & print services?

It’s a funny story, really! Let me back up a bit… I’m super big on the idea of Happy Mail. It’s always been very important to me to send thank you cards, birthday cards, anniversary cards, etc. As a kid, I even had several pen pals around the world. I just truly believe that a simple card in the mail with a handwritten heartfelt note has so much power to make someone smile. So often, the mailbox is filled with bills and ads and other junk. Personally, I love getting a note in the mail, and I know other people do, too! It’s such a sweet way to brighten someone’s day, and the ripple effect of kindness is fascinating to me. I LOVE the idea that I can literally send a smile through the mail, which has the power to turn someone’s day around, and in turn, they could smile at someone else who needs it, and on and on… You just never know how far it’ll reach!
Fast forward to about 3 years ago. With the pause in my teaching career, I had more time to embrace some of my hobbies again. I’ve been obsessed with scrapbooking and paper crafts since before my first son was born 10 years ago, and with my newly found freedom, I picked up card making, which quickly became another obsession! I bought up a TON of stamps, inks, card stock, patterned paper… Oooooh boy! You already know how I feel about mail, so I found myself making cards for anyone and everyone! Eventually, people started telling me I should sell my cards. I thought they were CRAZY! Who in their right mind would pay actual money for them??? But, with some AMAZING cheerleaders behind me, I decided I had nothing to lose! I started up my Etsy shop, Big Hugs Little Envelopes, keeping in line with the idea that, although it may be a small envelope, it contains a big dose of love and kindness! Sure enough, my biggest cheerleaders became my first customers, and my little shop was up and running! Before long, people were asking me if I could make signs and shirts and other items. I’ve never been one to turn down a creative challenge, so I embraced all of the requests! One thing led to another, and before I knew it, most everything I was doing was digital. I now have a whole crew of machines here in my crafty space that help me do what I do! If you had told me three years ago that I’d be where I am today, I would have called you crazy! I never in my wildest dreams thought I’d be running a successful business doing digital and print work, but I wouldn’t change a single thing!
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What is your favorite products to design?

Oooooh…. That’s a toughie. I am completely fascinated by the sublimation process, so one of the most satisfying things for me to create is mugs. It’s so wild to me that I can design something on my computer, print it out using special ink and paper, and then permanently transfer it to a mug that then is dishwasher and microwave safe! Even though I’ve done it hundreds of times now, it still feels like magic to me every time I take the mug out of the press! On more than one occasion, I’ve found myself saying aloud, “That is so stinkin’ COOL!!!”
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Making for makers must be so inspiring – how many different shops do you work with in a month, usually?

Ohmygosh, it REALLY is! When I started this gig, I had NO idea there was such an amazing maker community out there, but I am so incredibly honored to have found it and become part of it! At this point, over half of what I do is for other makers! I would say in any given month, I work with 20-30 shops, which blows my mind! It gives me so much satisfaction knowing that my small business is, in turn, helping their small businesses! My philosophy is that we are all in this together, and that there is plenty of love to go around. It’s that whole “Community Over Competition” idea, and I embrace that wholeheartedly. I seriously love promoting other makers, as you’ll easily see on my social media platforms! My wish is for all of us to be successful, and if what I do can have a hand in that, I’m thrilled! I’ve also become amazing friends with so many other makers throughout the process, and have gotten to know some super sweet, highly talented people (like YOU!!!)! Sometimes I even get to meet them in person, and that is AWESOME! (This summer, I got to meet the lovely Sue from Glass and Stone – my heart was SO happy!!!)
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You are one of my favorite people to follow on social media – you are so positive! What sort of daily routines do you have in place to keep the happy flowing?

Oh wow, thank you! That is so kind! It involves a lot of coffee! Haha! But truly, I really just try to live in the moment. I have come to realize that life is so short and so precious and that we are all on this planet together. I personally have felt the effects of kindness and love, and I know first hand how powerful that can be, so I just want to do my part every single day to pass that along to others. I genuinely believe in the magic of a kind word, a hug, a smile… My home is filled with inspiring quotes, which I look at daily, to remind me of how lucky we are to be part of this amazing thing called humanity.
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You specialize in custom branded goodies for makers, so I have to ask. What are three MUST HAVES for makers when it comes to branding materials?

For me, my business is all about the human connection. So, while a true marketing professional might disagree, my must haves involve things that help people connect on a personal level. I love, love, love creating stickers for makers to use on their packaging as a fun way to say thank you to their customers.
I also believe in a handwritten thank you note with each order, so custom logo cards with a space to write are always a favorite of mine!
And of course, I think a key aspect of any business is the ability to be easily recognized, so anything that includes an identifiable logo is huge! I love creating logo stickers, notecards, mugs… you name it! 🙂 If people see your logo and immediately associate it with your high-quality products, I think you’re doing something right! 🙂
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Tea, cocoa or coffee?

Oh girl, why do you have to give me the hard questions??? Is “Yes, please!” an acceptable response? 🙂
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What is your favorite color?

Again with the hard questions!!! I love all things rainbow, and any color that is bright and happy is good with me! Current faves are any and all shades of teal/turquoise/mint/pool, pinks, purples, and sunshiny colors like yellows and oranges. I’m gearing up for fall, though, so I’m sure I’ll soon be surrounding myself with warm, calming browns, deep oranges, and dark greens.

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Is your home as colorful as your products & social media feed?!

Haha! Yes. Yes it is! Like I said, color makes me so happy, and I love surrounding myself with it. It really does have an effect on my mood! When I want to be calm and peaceful, I find myself retreating to my bedroom, which is done in pale blues, gentle browns, and soft greys. When I’m feeling energetic and productive, I’m most often found in my maker space, which is full of all things bright and cheery and motivating! A good bit of my decor in there is actually handmade goodies from other makers! My kitchen and family room are warm and inviting, with the reds and yellows and browns that make me feel comforted and safe at home. It’s all about color around here! And of course a good bouquet of colorful flowers in any room makes me smile, too!
It was so fun getting to interview Dani & introduce you all to her amazing shop. She has something very, very exciting in the works and you NEED to follow her on Facebook & Instagram so you don’t miss out when this project launches!
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Meet the Maker – Beth of Wilde Designs: geeky greatness & fandom fun!

I am excited to kick off the week showcasing one of my favorite geeky girls & fandom makers, Beth of Wilde Designs! On top of creating a huge variety of goodies for all sorts of fandoms, Beth also have a really cool blog that geeks of all genres will enjoy, from cosplay galleries to fandom facts, her blog is one of my favorites to read!

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First up, tell readers all about yourself! Hobbies, location, interests, any degrees or job history that may help them relate to you if you want.

I’m a graphic designer both by education (I have a BFA from Texas Woman’s University) and by profession since that’s my day job. It also figures heavily into the things I make in my shop since I love to have a healthy dose of shirts and posters and other hand-designed goods along with the handmade. It’s all visual art to me, and it’s all fun in different ways.

I’m also a through and through Texan. I’ve lived her all my life except for a couple of years in Ohio. It’s a strange dichotomy in some ways because I’m pretty liberal, but I still really love my home state. I’m glad that I grew up here and that I’m getting to raise my son Pike (he’s six now!) here as well. We live in Denton, so we’ve got great local businesses and a lot of people interested in moving the community forward. It’s a beautiful thing.

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dragon scale earrings for GoT fans

When did you first begin creating jewelry and art?

I was too young when I started drawing and stringing beads onto whatever I could get my hands on to be entirely sure. I’ve always had a bit of the entrepreneurial bug. When I was around nine, I started calling my “company” Liz (short for my full name, Elizabeth) and selling super random items to my family. By high school I had refined things a little, and I sold stretchy bracelets in our team colors – under the table, of course, since we weren’t allowed to do that in school. I even made jewelry and buttons for Los Bastardos, the Rocky Horror Picture Show shadowcast my husband was on when we met. Eventually I realized that  not only was making and selling things something I could do but that I had already been doing it. That took some of the terror out of starting Wilde Designs.

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What initiated your interest in fandoms?

Part nature, part nurture. I grew up watching Star Wars and Star Trek, and I wanted to be a paleontologist when I grew up. When my best friend and I played, we pretended. Basically, I’ve always been an imaginative geek who loves enthusing about her geeky stuff with others. The advent of the internet in our household (we got our first taste of that as I was starting high school) opened up whole new worlds for me.

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You make a wide range of geeky goods – when did you first begin to combine your love of fandoms and your creativity?

I always have in art. If you look at my sketches and projects from high school, Xena pops up quite a few times. Then I started writing fan fiction, and it was officially part of my writing. I realized eventually that I could do the same thing with the jewelry I made. It seems incredibly obvious in retrospect, but the idea of sharing my passions in that way didn’t strike me for years. I never really stopped to consider how many other people were just as excited about all my dorky passions as me.

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What is your favorite fandom/video game?

While I love gaming, I’m not a hardcore gamer girl. My sister probably takes the cake for gaming in our family. That said? When I have the time, I love to play World of Warcraft, Sims, and my friends recently talked me into purchasing Dream Daddy. Yes, I know, but it really is adorable. As for fandoms in general, I remain forever loyal to Star Wars and Xena, plus I’m adding new things all the time like Doctor Who (I didn’t start watching until “new” Who, though I’ve since watched a lot of the classics), Marvel (especially the cinematic universe, and especially Avengers and X-Men), and horror of many flavors and types, plus a healthy dose of fantasy and scifi in general.

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What are your thoughts on the new female Doctor?

I’ve put some real thought into it. Part of me is a purist and wonders if it’s being done arbitrarily just to do it. Most of me hopes that it really has been done because they cast for the very best person in the world for the job (which is how I think EVERYTHING should be hired for) and she’s it. I honestly won’t know how I feel about it or her until I see her on screen. I judge the Doctors as I get to know them not by their age or gender, so time will tell. Hearing all the hate that is based not on her ability or performance and only on her gender makes me really, really want her to be amazing.

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There is a huge community around geeky goodness – as a maker, how do you tap into that & build connections? (maybe use this as an opportunity to plug the geek girl pen pals or comic cons?)

Conventions are my absolute favorite way to grow my connections – admittedly, not just as a seller, but as a person. I love cons. I attended my first one for X-Files when I was around 11, and I’ve been going as often as I’m able ever since. Now when I go, I’m often selling, which is a whole new world. Talking to customers in person has been, even for an introvert like me, a really great experience overall. We chat, we geek out over things, and sometimes they buy something. I also get the chance to meet new sellers who are into the same things. Getting advice from other people in the con circuit has been an invaluable help to me not just for convention selling but for my business in general. I have a truly fantastic network of people behind me – and a lot of them are total geeks! Through one of my oldest geeky friends, Halo, I even ended up being on the planning committee for the Women of Wonder Con, which has been challenging and rewarding and a totally new thing for me.

​Do you make all your own cosplay costumes?​

No. I’m a gatherer. I thrive on finding the pieces I need on Amazon or in thrift shops or finding a great deal on a pre-made piece that will work perfectly. I often create the accessories from scratch, however. I have a particular fondness for making things out of foam and duct tape.

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​What/who has been your favorite thing to cosplay as? ​

Black Widow was my first “big” cosplay. I had done Dr. Horrible before, but I didn’t sweat the details quite as much as I did for Black Widow. I went all out for that one, and I even lost weight to feel more comfortable in the costume. Even though I’ve put together some fabulous new cosplays since then, I think she’ll always have the biggest place in my heart both because it was such a big undertaking for me to get the confidence to portray her and because the reception I got was overall so positive.

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Do you have any advice or tips for makers who want to begin selling at cons?

While we all want to hide behind our booths and not look up sometimes, it’s important to connect with people. Say hi, chat with them, and make a connection. Even if it doesn’t lead to a sale immediately, it might long-term, and it will definitely make you and the customer happier. The second thing that’s key is making use of the people around you. Talk to other sellers, look at their goods. If you love their display, say so. Ask questions and exchange cards. When you need a quick break to go to the bathroom later in the day and you’ve already been talking comics with the person next to you, it’s a lot easier to ask them to keep an eye on your goods.

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​Your entire family is in on the geeky-love – what is your son’s favorite video games/TV shows?

My son can’t get enough Overwatch and World of Warcraft right now. He’s also a big Minecraft fan. Our whole family watches Steven Universe and Adventure Time together – we even cosplayed as Rose Quartz, Greg Universe, and Stevonnie earlier this year. I’m so glad he’s got the geek bug too so we can all have fun with it together!

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​And a serious question to wrap up this interview – Star Trek or Star Wars?

Both. Star Trek (the original series) came first for me, but in the end I probably have a deeper obsession with Star Wars.

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Isn’t Beth & her geeky gang so fun?! You can visit Beth’s shop here, and be sure to follow her on Instagram & Facebook because she is constantly posting fun geeky games, conversation starters and of course peeks at new products!

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Meet the Maker – Erin of Create Custom Critters

Today, I’m interviewing Erin of Create Custom Critters. She designs & sews sustainably made bedding children using fabric that is designs and printed in America with non-toxic, biodegradable inks & organic materials, as well as a line of baby clothes! I’m so excited to show off her amazing products & help you get to know her.

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First, tell us about yourself!

Most of my time and energy goes to my three kiddos. I have a 2 and half year old daughter and 8 month old twin boys. I live with my family in New York State and thrive on the fast pace that is associated with the area. I love hiking, DIY projects and continually learning and exploring.

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When did you first begin to create?

I have always loved trying different crafts and projects. It is so fun to explore different colors and textures. In the past I have tried painting, knitting and other needlework crafts before falling in love with sewing.
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Have you always worked in textiles?

Before starting CreateCustomCritters I spent 4 years working in a fabric shop. This gave me a lot of insight into different color and style trends. I also learned how quality of fabrics and manufacturing processes can greatly differ. That is why it is so important to me that I create an exceptional eco-friendly product.

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You create beautiful bedding sets for children – How did you discover that niche market?

Once I started sewing I quickly fell in love with making baby blankets. I find that they make such an adorably useful gift. It warms my heart to know my gift will provide years of comfort and warmth. It wasn’t too long before I had given a bunch blankets away as gifts to my friends and family. I soon decided to start selling baby blankets on Etsy and have grown greater than I ever first imagined! I have made a great effort to listen to my customers wants and needs. Almost every new item I have developed began with the desire to help a give a customer what they were look for. .

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What is your favorite thing to sew?

Hearts of Hope! I started Hearts of Hope Program after my own painfully emotional NICU experience. I decided I wanted to help and offer a free pair of fabric hearts to those parents enduring the NICU experience. Parents are able tuck the hearts against their skin to transfer their scent to the heart. The hearts are then placed alongside their baby leaving the familiar scent of mom or dad with their baby. My HOPE is that these hearts will bring comfort and healing to those enduring the NICU experience.

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Tell us about your tee shirt line – what inspired the venture into apparel from your traditional home decor item?

As a maker, I love to test and try new processes. Starting an apparel line has given my the opportunity to explore different design elements. I love pushing my abilities to new limits. I am now working to expand my apparel offerings to more products.

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You have small children at home and run a booming nursery bedding & apparel business – what is your best advice for maker moms trying to balance mothering toddlers & running a business? 

It takes a whole lot of structure,flexibility and grace. A clear plan allows me to dig deep and get quality work done in small increments of time. When my kids are sleeping that is my time to hustle and get the work done.

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How many quilts that you have made that you use in your own home?

None! As a maker, there are often too many creations to keep. Many of the things I make I either sell, give as customer gifts or baby shower gifts for friends and family. Though I have made blankets, curtains, upholstered furniture for our home.

What is your favorite sewing tool you just could not create without?

My sewing machine! I would be lost without it.

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What is your favorite kind of music to listen to while you create?

I get most of my work done while my kids sleep. It sounds lame, but most of the time I just enjoy the silence since my days are filled with chaotic noisy little ones. However, if I am in a singing mood my favorite playlist is energetic alternative 90 hits.

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As a mama maker, tell us what a work day looks like for you: 

My workflow is constantly adjusting as my kids grow and change. There’s a fluidity between work and home life and the two are often blended together.

 

It is so cool to meet & learn about fellow makers & mothers, and especially sustainably minded makers like myself! If you want to follow more of Erin’s adventures balancing motherhood with twins & being a maker, be sure to follow her on Instagram & Facebook! And don’t forget to pop over to her shop & check out all of her amazing work!

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Meet the Maker: Marie of Feeding Pickles

Today, I’m smiling ear to ear as I introduce you guys to Marie of Feeding Pickle! She makes the most innovative fabric postcards & other mixed medium sewn goodies, and as I was interviewing her I fell in love with her whimsical, wild soul personality & kind heart with a deep love of family and creativity. I hope you enjoy getting to know Marie as much a I did!
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Hi Marie! First, why don’t you tell us a bit about yourself?
I was the kid who always said I would be an artist when I grew up.  I devoured art classes at our local art center, and my parents provided opportunities to take classes, inhale art museums, enter contests, supply me with all the paints, pastels, paper, glue, scissors, needles, fabric, yarn, books, and patterns and the freedom to create.  Weirdly enough, I ended up spending more time practicing violin in my formative years, even pursuing music in college.  But as much as I found my voice in music, I still couldn’t put down the knitting needles or the thrill of creating whatever I dreamt up with the next bolt of tantalizing fabric calling my name.
 
Fast forward to marriage and our first child.  With a nickname of “Pickle,” feeding her creativity was something I could hard wait to begin when she was born.  I had paintbrushes in her little chubby hands as soon as she could swipe them across Christmas ornaments for the grandparents.  Now, six children later, we still “do and make things that feed creativity” in each of the Pickles’ own unique way every day.
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How long ago were you bit by the creative bug?
Growing up where creative supplies and tools and pieces were always at my disposal, I don’t remember life before that bite!  Something was always calling to be created!  Even from early on, I had a strong innate drive to make things that were useful, but with an extra artistic flair.  If it could be made, it could be made creatively, I believed.  Little me, in my mussed-up hair and mismatched shirt and knitted vest, proudly proved this one day with a loaf of bread, baked in the shape of a turtle.  That was where I started.
 
What got you into sewing and experimenting with textiles?
I don’t remember a moment in my life without a humming sewing machine in the background.  My mom sewed the majority of my clothes, doll clothes, and so many toys and home items when I was young.  My grandmother and great-grandfather were fiber artists as well in the knitting and crocheting realm.  I sewed my first skirt when I was about seven.  Knitting was what kept my hands busy while reading my high-school textbooks.  In college, I fell in love with a high tenor and we married.  As he directed choirs and led music in several churches, I became the costume lady and took on the challenge of creating my own patterns for whatever the children’s choir drama needed.  A full lobster costume?  Bring on that layered tail design!  Full body sunshine or flowers?  Plant the seed, and I’ll make it grow!  Acorns?  Oh!  The adorable little caps!  I couldn’t wait to get out my tracing paper and begin!  (And by tracing paper, I mean recycled music copy paper.)  Most of my pattern designing experience happened during this time and further honed my sewing skills.  I love to feel the line of stitching on fabric and see the colors combine.  I love the longevity of a well-made fabric item.  I love creating practical items from scratch, making them over from a new perspective, and infusing them with originality.
 
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Your fabric postcards are so unique!  How did this idea come about?
I love mail.  It’s that plain and simple.  My husband and I wrote letters during our long-distance dating phase post-college.  My great-grandfather, even though he lived nearby, took the time to mail thank you notes to me for the tiniest little gifts I gave him, and my grandmother would send postcards from her travels all over the United States.  For reasons like these, mail has always been dear to my heart.  I just adore knowing someone will get to open their mailbox and find a tiny piece of my heart for them in there.
 
When I found an old crafting book with the idea of scrap fabrics being crazy quilted into a postcard, I was smitten with the concept!  The seed has always been there for mail–special mail that would stand out and convey the heart of the sender.  It took me a few years before I actually wrapped my brain around where I wanted to go with the idea, but the challenge was accepted.  I wanted to make fabric postcards that would embrace the endearing heritage of classic postal mail, with a breath of fresh, new contemporary life.  Like I said before, if it can be made, it can be made creatively!  That idea thrived on the idea of fabric postcards!
 
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I love the idea of fabric postcards traveling through the mail—what sort of research went into this design to figure out how to mail them?
I love when people ask this!  Fabric with a stamp on it masquerading as regular mail sounds so….intriguing!  It stops us in the tracks of normality:  “For real?!”  (I hear it a lot.)  “I can MAIL this?!”  I had seen beach balls and flip flops and other crazy things get delivered by the postal service.  I knew that what could be mailed was pretty broad, and suddenly, a card made out of fabric instead of paper didn’t sound nearly so far fetched.
 
Beginning with the USPS website, I researched size and weight requirements.  I brought in samples and discussed with the postal clerk about the use of the clear plastic envelopes to mail the postcards (I loved that the clear envelopes allow all who see them on their mail journey to also enjoy art in unexpected places!) and discussed the need for hand stamping them there.  The final step, of course, was the maiden voyage to test mail some postcards to friends.  And them some more.  And more!   The response is always the same delight.  It was a winner.
 
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Do you have a ton of mixed media textile art throughout your house?
Do all the projects in process count?!  Ha! I think I could be described as “mostly minimalist” (as minimalist as I can be with eight people and all of our basic necessities under one roof), and so my home décor is minimal.  But when I stop and take a look around there’s…
–an antique tennis racquet woven through with ribbon bits and hung on the wall
–a fabric “family portrait” of sorts, of a birds on a branch made from our life’s fabric scraps
–the handknitted throw blanket that gets drug around and used for making tents as much as for making us warm
–Oh yeah, the crocheted basket I made out of t-shirts, and ironically holding more t-shirts waiting for a re-vamp in life
–my knitted bag by the door, of wool yarn dyed with Kool-Aid by all the Pickles
–and, of course, the Pickles’ artwork dispersed throughout our home.
 
How often do you mail out your own fabric postcards to friends and family?
Honestly, not enough!!  When a moment strikes when I know someone is especially hurting, when I want to thank them in a super special way, or when I want them to know they were specifically on my mind that day, a postcard gets addressed and taken to the post office!  I still write paper letters, but fabric postcards punctuate those mailings.  There can’t be enough happy mail being shared in the world, of all fibers and textures!
 
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As a textile artist with a stunningly unique product idea, how do you handle copy cats/protect your product’s integrity from mimicry?
Here’s the funny thing about my business:  I genuinely hope to inspire others to also be creative, to dive into all the stuffs, to make something!  Anything!  If making fabric postcards to spread more joy in this world looks like something they want to do, I’m absolutely going to cheer for them!  Just like there are many jewelry designers out there, each with their own flair and level of product quality, there are more fabric postcard designers out there as well, each speaking to a specific style trend and making their people smile.  Obviously, I do love my own personal designs; they’re my signature, and stealing them would not be cool.
 
Fabric postcards are somewhat complicated in their own right—to find the materials that give them huggable softness, yet stability for writing, and of course they require a tough yet tender persona to survive the postal system trek and still deliver a smile.  Like any product, time and practice and research are needed to offer a quality product.
 
At the end of the day, I really love creating together.  The world has more than enough room for more creative people!  Can you imagine how fun it would be to see the whole mail system suddenly become flooded with a vast array of inspiring, encouraging, and absolutely unique mail, with fabric postcards at the helm?!  You better believe that I’d be over here with stickers on my feet cheering them on!  …oh wait, I haven’t gotten to the part about stickers yet have I?  I can explain that in a bit!
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As a mother and a maker, how do you balance your days?
“Doing and making things that feed creativity” is not just the tagline of the business; it is the lifeline of our family.  Blending family into the making process is normal here.  Daily tasks get an ounce of “creative” injected into them.   With Feeding Pickle Ltd, the mommy and the maker get to be one cohesive unit.  While I create products for the business, there is at least one Pickle at my elbow, creating something of their own design.  Most of the business’ “thinking work” gets saved for after Pickle bedtime hours so that I can hone in and focus.
 
From turtle bread to lobster tails to making cards made of fabric, the mom and the maker are not at odds, but rather in harmony.  They are not separate directions, just one teeter-totter I find myself on.  And sure, I have fallen off one end or the other occasionally.  But coming up laughing or having a little cry never hurt, and I get back up and keep going with what I’ve learned and I try again.
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What advice do you have for mothers of young children who want to pursue a creative business?
My Pickles are a constant flow of “What if…?” questions.  And usually I respond, “Well, what if?!”  Meaning, let’s pursue that thought and find out!
 
One Pickle in particular always asks, “How did you get so good at…?”  Now that question is a joke.  She rolls her eyes now when it pops out of her mouth and laughs, “Oh yeah, you’re going to say ‘practice,’ aren’t you?!”  I try to keep all the creative tools available for them to use at their leisure and when inspiration strikes.  The Pickles will practice most what they love.  And in time they will begin to make something that stands above the rest.
 
My take on feeding their entrepreneurship it is this:  Walk the road with them.  Set an example of digging deep and trying things!  Help them steer when needed and be honest about what you learn in your own business.  Help them learn to be honest about their strengths and to recognize areas that can be strengthened.  Help them find sources for more research to further grow them in their interests.  Let them learn along with you.  They learn best by watching how we handle our own businesses, clients, and any hurdles we face and then they build off of what we have learned.  Be an honest example for them, and watch where they go with it.
 
Oh and about all those available creative tools.  Yeah.  Word to the wise—those stickers I mentioned earlier?  Be prepared to find them floating around the bathtub.  I regularly fish them out of the bath water as they come off my feet at the end of the day there.  Because the supplies were available, they played all through the day with them, and assuredly some pieces are left about and pop up again in the most unexpected places.  Embrace the maker lifestyle.
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Tell us about a “work day” in your life
It usually starts and ends and is filled in the middle by the littlest gherkin nursing. And Pickles doing school, and Pickles doing play, and me grabbing moments between checking school books/doing field trips to update the business’ social media or finish paperwork.  Or maybe sewing as many seams as I can while they practice their musical instruments.  Most of the bulk of sewing happens in the evening hours and weekends.  Usually.  Mostly.  Sorta.  Every now and then there’s a sew-a-thon for a big order to fill.  Oh, there’s also an interjection at least twenty times a day of a Pickle asking for a piece of paper (literally just happened as I typed that sentence—I can’t make this stuff up!).  Then a request for a sketch of a dog.  Then a doodle of a cat and mouse.  Then the Pink Panther.  And eventually she returns with a melt-my-heart doodle of her own octopus.
 
Oh, oops—rabbit trail.  Yes, my days have a lot of those too.  I’m a mom and a maker.  It’s about as random as you might expect it to be.
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How do you take your coffee?
Plain, boring, and black.  Coffee is one thing I don’t feel the need to reinvent!  Unless I can find some cream…
 
And my final question:
Mountains or Beach?
Beach.  The secluded rustic type.  Just my husband, our Pickles, and me soaking up the water and ocean breeze.
Isn’t Marie just the sweetest!? If you loved getting to know this beautiful mama & maker, please be sure to visit her shop & snag a product handmade with love by Marie to support her creative business. You can also follow her on Facebook & Instagram and say hi!
Want to be featured in a Meet the Maker showcase? Email me at cody@luanded.com!
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3 Ways to Market your Online Shop – Offline

I work directly with a lot of makers, and often they are struggling to get their online shop found. They make Facebook pages, Instagram accounts, start blogs, and even join eleventy million groups for entrepreneurs, buying and selling, and all things crafty – but they still struggle to drive traffic to their online store.

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Some of the most impactful things I have done to grow Lu & Ed online has nothing to do with wi-fi, computers, or social media. Those things were done outside of my home, away from my laptop & face to face with other humans – and I want to share some ways you can leverage offline marketing to grow your online shop, too!

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Vendor Events

Craft shows, exhibitor events, markets, pop up shops, even weekly farmer’s markets – setting up shop for local in-person sales is a HUGE way to grow your brand in an affordable way while generating revenue.

There is typically a cost involved with setting up – the booth fee or vendor fee. Keep in mind, the higher the price, while intimidating, typically means the event is better promoted, in a good venue with lots of traffic, and brings in higher quality wares which means established sellers with wide audiences are most likely the vendors. The better the vendors, the better the event, so a higher cost is typically a really good thing and should not deter you from trying an event.

In order for in-person events to be successful, you need to have a visually appealing display, which can also involve costs to get props to properly display your wares, but these are tax deductible and you will use them for DOZENS of events so the ROI is very high on them! But before you head to IKEA and whip out the check book, keep in mind: Most displays for craft shows can be found at thrift stores or garage sales for very cheap, often less than $10, and can be spiffied right up with a coat of paint that matches your brand colors & given a new life as your display. My entire display cost less than $30! My table cloths are colorful sheets I found for less than $1 each, my tables were gifts from family, the shutters and shelves and racks all cost less than $5 total. So I cannot recommend visiting various thrift shops locally to find pieces to tie into your displays!

Ready to learn more about events? Read my article 20 Tips for Craft Shows to get more info on what you can do to make an event a success, including scouting events, building your display and what to take with you on the day of the event!

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Get Involved in your Community

Join your local small business association, join a local moms group, teach a class at your local library or community center, join a yoga class, go to a weekly event a venue near you hosts. Get out of your house, get offline and go meet real people in your area.

I cannot stress enough the importance of being active locally to grow your online business. I’m in no way advocating telling everyone you meet about your business – please, don’t.

I’m advocating creating meaningful connections within your community. Get active. Meet people. Make authentic connections with other humans. Find people you relate to & get to know them – strike up conversations with people at the coffee house, volunteer at the animal shelter, join a class at your local college doing something you love, go to yoga in the park,. Find something you love to do, and connect with other people who love to do that as well.

For instance, I started a moms group here. I am also a member of a local home school group for my son. This has been an invaluable resource for me. Connecting with moms gives me a sense of belonging, helps me decompress when my online shop stuff stress me out – but also, spending time with people who happen to be my target audience has brought me numerous sales & even a wholesale opportunity from play date acquaintances and word of mouth! In any group setting the “what do you do” question comes up – and if you have perfected your elevator pitch, that is when you can create ties within the community that will revibrate points of contact back to you.

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The Spider Web Affect

Think of community involvement like a spiderweb. You are at the center of it, and every connection you make is a string that works to the outer circle. All of the connecting strings are people that they know, that knows someone else, that knows someone else. Every string you create, the bigger your web gets. Every time you pluck a string (initialize discussion about your online shop, products or what you do with a connection) the entire web connected to that string vibrates. It creates a ripple effect, with more and more people learning about your online shop & what you do through word of mouth and referrals.

Word of mouth is still considered one of the most valuable forms of marketing, and you can tap into that goldmine by becoming active in your local community & making authentic connections with other humans. This is not about telling people about your business. This is about creating a real connection, maybe even making friends, referring people to the connections you make, and strengthening community ties! A rising tide lifts all ships, and all that!

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Teach or Volunteer

One of the best ways to get your business out there is to share it! Here are some examples of how to use your trade skills to grow your online business while generating revenue or donating your time:

Jewelry makers: teach a simple workshop teaching Girl Scouts or home school children to make bracelets. Send the finished works home in bags with a coupon for your shop!

Potters: have a thumb print ornament making work shop. Have your other items out on display and let people know that they are available for purchase, or say maybe if they make a purchase they can make a second ornament for free. Get creative!

Toy makers: host an art hour for children at your local library. Put together goodie bags for the moms with your business info & a coupon, perhaps a small sample.

Artists: offer a wine & painting/creating session for women, and have an art print sale going during the event!

Fiber arts: offer basic skill classes at your local community center, and have finished products available for sale. In everyone’s kits, include promotional materials for your shops.

Clothing: put together a “party” at a local venue where people can shop your goods, try them on, and receive a swag bag with jewelry, gift cards, etc in it from local or other handmade businesses. Make it a fancy, exclusive event like those legging parties (you know the ones!) with food, fun & best of all, YOUR clothing! This would be a great way to collaborate with other local businesses to borrow their venue – maybe a jewelry boutique or a winery would be willing to let you host a party at their establishment and market it to their customer base.

Homework: set goals today!

Don’t put it off! Set some goals today – make a list of things you think you would like to do to grow your business offline. Then research ways to make those a reality, and start making some phone calls, turning in show applications or signing up for local events!

I would love to hear from you in the comments – how do you feel about growing your online business offline? Does it make your uncomfortable, or is it something that you are excited to try? If you already are active offline, share how in the comments, too!

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Meet the Maker: Anne of Lolli and Grace

Happy Monday, friends! Today in my Meet the Maker series, I am SO excited to introduce you to Anne Oliver of Lolli and Grace. She is a fine embroidery artist that got her start in doll making, fell in love with the art of needle work, and decided to create unique, easy to follow patterns for creatives of all skill sets so they can create their own beautiful embroidered dolls, hoop art & more.
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Hi Anne! Before we dive into the crafty questions, tell everyone a bit about yourself!
Hello! My name is Anne Oliver, and I’m the artist/designer/pattern-maker/dreamer behind Lolli and Grace. I live in Texas, where it’s HOT in the summer, but we make up for it with LOTS of air conditioning, lol. I just celebrated my 30th anniversary with my wonderful husband, and we have an amazing, smart, funny and beautiful 14 year-old daughter. I’ve been drawing, painting, stitching, sewing and creating since I was a kid. I’ve always enjoyed teaching myself new creative skills, even before the internet existed, when the only way to teach yourself anything was to go to the library/bookstore or find a class or a teacher. THANK GOODNESS for the internet – the wealth and breadth of available knowledge now is the best thing ever for an endlessly-curious, creative person! Before I picked up embroidery again, I was a photographer. I’m so grateful for everything I learned in that medium, because I use those skills every day as a maker. 
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Embroidery is such a beautiful artform – when did you first find your love for it? 
I did needlepoint in Junior High and cross-stitch in college, but I was in my 30’s before I made the switch to embroidery. I love how embroidery can either be very rigid (following the lines exactly) or it can be very free-flowing (you can literally stitch outside the lines if you want to). 
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How long have you been selling embroidery patterns? 
Well, I’ve been selling embroidery patterns for about a year and half. But my “gateway craft” to embroidery was dolls. Almost out of the blue one day a thought struck me – “Hmmm, I’d like to do something with wool felt and embroidery.” Little did I know what a life-changing thought that would be! So I began creating doll patterns (some out of wool and some not, but usually incorporating some sort of embroidery) and LOVED it. I gradually transitioned to more straight-up embroidery patterns because dolls/doll patterns take a long time to go from idea to reality. I truly love designing dolls. But the shorter amount of time for embroidery designs and patterns is really appealing to me. 
 
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You sell beautiful doll patterns in addition to your hoop art patterns – was there ever a point where you sold the finished dolls? Is it an option you offer for people who are unable to create at such a skill level? 
Well, first of all, thank you! I have sold some finished dolls. It’s a bit tricky to do so, because you have to weigh the increased amount of time it takes to make one vs. what you can charge for it. (I’m a strong believer in charging what you’re worth..admittedly, that’s hard to do sometimes, but it’s really important.) But even though I’m mostly creating embroidery designs now, I still have the urge to design dolls. In fact, there are at least 3 ideas for dolls itching to come to life as I type this, lol. 
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How does offering patterns instead of finished works of art set you apart in the maker community?
I enjoy being able to provide items for two related but perhaps different markets when it comes to patterns vs. finished art. Some people have the skills to make something but just don’t have the time or the inclination to make it – so finished pieces are great for them. Some people don’t have the skills, so finished pieces are ideal for them, too. But I love providing patterns for all the creative makers out there, too. I’ve been on the other side – having the urge to make something fun and colorful and challenging and searching for a pattern that makes my little creative heart say, “Yes! That one! That’s what I want to create!
As far as it setting me apart – perhaps. Creating patterns is a whole separate skill set from simply drawing/stitching a design. Hopefully it’s the quality of my patterns that sets me apart. It’s really important to me to provide patterns that are clearly written, easily understood, and simple to follow, with great photos and all the information someone needs so the experience of making my design is rewarding, not frustrating. 
 
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I see in a lot of craft groups that buyers purchase patterns thinking they are finished items a lot, and want a refund. What advice do you have to makers to prevent this from happening, or to rectify the situation if it should arise? 
I’ve been very fortunate because that scenario has only happened to me twice. Both times I just quickly and politely messaged the buyer to tell them it was a pattern as opposed to a finished piece and I was refunding their money, and they were very gracious about it. I try to state very clearly, “This listing is for the PDF pattern only. It does NOT include the finished hoop/doll/whatever.” Also having “PATTERN” primary in your title is very important.
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What do you do with finished pieces you create to photograph for pattern listings? 
Well, currently they are cluttering up my house! But recently I finally made my own embroidery wall, which makes me happy every time I look at it. It includes my own embroidery, but the most precious things to me up there are the simple embroidery my daughter completed when she was 5 years old (of her favorite stuffed animal), and the set of dolls she made for us as a surprise one Christmas using patterns I had just recently designed at the time. They are of me, my husband and our two dogs. Best. Present. Ever. 
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Do you ever teach in-person embroidery lessons to groups like Girl Scouts or home school co-ops? 
I haven’t yet. But I LOVE chatting with people about handwork, stitching, sewing, etc. That’s just one reason I love Instagram so much – discovering and “meeting” so many talented people and striking up a friendship with them while talking about all matters creative is such a source of pleasure for me.
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What is your favorite thing to embroidery? Flowers, lettering, etc
I never, ever tire of flowers – colorful flowers, bunches of flowers, single flowers, big flowers or small flowers. But because I do so many flowers, it’s always refreshing to do something different. It’s good to force myself to go against my first instincts sometimes. 
Embroidery is a mobile skill – where do you usually get your stitch on? 
Usually I stitch at my work desk with a very bright light. The older I get, the brighter the light needs to be. (Let’s don’t even talk about the plethora of reading glasses that are scattered all over my house, OK?) But if I’m ever traveling when I know I will have some uninterrupted time in a hotel room, I love to take my stitching with me. Hotel light is usually FABULOUS, especially if you’re on an upper floor with a big window. 
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Your instagram feed is so colorful! Is you home equally as colorful? 
Oh, it’s colorful, as long as you also call it cluttered. Gah! I hold very firmly to the adage that the messier your house is, the more creative you are, LOL. However, having said that, I love cleaning off my work desk at the end of a project and starting with a nice, clean space to start the next project. 
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Tell me about a day in the life of a pattern maker – what does the “average work day” look like for you? 
One of the best things about being a pattern maker is that you get to do so many different things, all related to your craft but requiring a variety of skills. I start out by sketching my design, then scanning it and taking it into Illustrator. There, I turn it into a clear, precise drawing. I use that to transfer the design onto fabric, then I stitch it, photographing each step as I go. (This is a time-consuming process, since I like my patterns to include photos for pretty much every step of the project.) Once I’m finished stitching, then I photograph the finished piece in a variety of ways. Some photos are for Etsy and some are for Instagram. I edit/crop all the photos and write the instructions. Then I can turn it into a PDF. 
If I’m making a supply kit for a pattern, there’s even more work to do to get the pattern printed, then gather/cut/package all of the supplies. 
Of course, all of this is wedged in between being a wife (kudos to the aforementioned patient husband), mom to an active teenager, and daughter to my own wonderful mother that was diagnosed with Alzheimers last year. 
What drink do you order at Starbucks? 
Well, since I’m not a coffee drinker, I don’t often go to Starbucks. Hard to believe, I know! But give me a glass of good, strong iced tea (lots of ice!) and I’m a happy camper.
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Last but not least – pick a colorway: Rainbow, candy colors, or citrus shades?
Color…happy, happy color. Colors are what drive me, regardless of what medium I’m using. I tend to use similar…OK, the same…colors most of the time. But when I get a chance to design something in totally different colors, it’s a breath of fresh air for my brain. But candy colors….yeah, gotta love candy, right?
It was so cool getting to know Anne and explore her creative mind. You can follow her on Instagram & Like her page on Facebook to keep up with all her beautiful new designs (plus her feed is just so insanely colorful and pretty, you’ll want to follow it anyway!) and be sure to visit her shop to snag a beautiful pattern to stitch on this fall!