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What Mon-stors are Made From: From Pajamas into Mon-stor Toy Storage Bags

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A lot of people ask me what I mean when I say I use textile discards, so I wanted to bring back my “What are Mon-stors made from” series! I’ve made a LOT of monsters lately and don’t always remember to snap a before photo, but I do have a few from when I received a lot of donated pajamas – some may have had missing buttons, a small stain, a tear or some every day wear, and would otherwise have gotten tossed & ended up in a landfill. Instead, I gave them new life & turned these funky pajama pants…

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Into these two cute, fiery Mon-stor toy storage bags! Small Mon-stors are perfect for taming car clutter in the minivan, toy storage in the playroom, holding pajamas & a book for bedtime routines or as an overnight bag for sleepovers with grandparents! Both of these cuties are available for adoption in my shop, along with several other Mon-stor toy storage bags, stuffed monster toys, sensory blankets and more – all made from upcycled materials!

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After I make the monsters, I turn the smaller scraps into stuffed monsters, sensory blankets, tooth pillows, etc. Once I’ve used as much of the materials as I can to create product, I use the smaller scraps for facial features like mouths, tongues or irises in the monster eyes, or cute little monster horns/ears! Once I deplete all the bits big enough for that, I take those super mega itty bitty scraps, go at them with the rotary blade, and dice them super fine to blend with polyfil for stuffing – so there is absolutely no landfill waste from their production!

I hope to bring back these posts at least once a week to demonstrate the sustainability and process behind making these toy bags, plush toys & such. That, of course, involves remembering to take “before” pictures and snapping photos of the process – I usually get so excited as I root through donations & salvage center scores after I wash them that I forget to snap a photo & dive right into making monsters! Ha! But I do have a few “before” photos stored up on my computer & will work to pair them with their finished monsters for weekly posts for you guys!

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Where do Mon-stors come from? Tacky jammies!

For today’s magical transformation, I’m sharing this funky leopard print nightgown turned radical and adorable Mon-stor! Yup, I converted this discarded nightie…

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Into this mega adorable Mon-stor toy storage bag! How cute is she?

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This month, I have been hard at work turning other textile discards into cute monsters, and I am stoked to be turning my textile recycling efforts into a fun keepsake monster project launching soon, called Memory Monsters!

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I still need to make a few more prototypes from various materials (Tee shirts! Receiving blankets! Sweaters!) before I am ready to launch, plus figure out what sizes of clothing I can feasibly turn into monsters (just in, newborn sized sleepers are too small to cut monsters from!). But be sure to follow along on Facebook or Instagram to check out the prototypes as I post them, and sign up for my newsletter to get an email when they launch, so you can send me your child’s special article of clothing or lovey blanket to be converted into a monster!

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Monster Mash! Easy Peasy Monster Halloween Costumes & Accessories

This year, I had the honor of collaborating with Opposite of Far for a monster themed Halloween photo shoot done by the lovely Qiana K! Opposite of Far launched her Monster Masks, which are fun, colorful, and when paired with basics from Primary.com & monster trick or treat totes or stuffies from my shop – make the cutest simplistic monster costumes ever!

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Aren’t these little monsters the cutest you ever did see?! Hurry to place your monstrously awesome Halloween orders – it’s spooky how soon it will be here!

 

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Making Back to School Monstrously Awesome – Qiana K Photo Shoot!

Just because we’re homeschooling this year, didn’t mean I didn’t get to have fun with back to school photos! I was honored to be able to send some of my monsters to the awesome brand photographer Qiana K to be a part of her Back to School shoot – and boy, I love love love what she did! Here’s a collection of images from the shoot – Qiana made it easy to make back to school monstrously fun, with cute clothing, great fall accessories and fun monster toys to give as back to school gifts from yours truly. 😉

Other brands featured:

Little Nugget KnitsThe Wishing Elephant Bright Eyed Baby  / Greyson & ColeFJ’s Pop ShopPegheads / Sunshine by Channon / Spunky Onion

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Aren’t these images darling?! Those grins! Gah, these little dudes stole my heart!

If you are a maker looking for awesome brand photos, definitely be sure to book a session with Qiana – her work is amazing, she is incredible to work with and her fun style & great attitude is infectious! Coming soon: A gallery of images from my monster mash Halloween collab shoot by Qiana, with Opposite of Far!

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What Mon-stors are made of – how many monsters can I make from a robe?

It’s been a hot minute since I did a transformation post! I’ve been stockpiling before and after images but with baby on the way, sewing non-stop, babysitting 2-4 days a week… I just haven’t had it in me to sit down and work on blog posts. But this morning baby Z woke me up around 5am so I thought I’d get some blogging done!

So, today I’m sharing my latest transformation! From salvaged robe into…

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A big AND a small Mon-stor! Oh, and…

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A trick or treat tote/library book bag! AND!

Two mini stuffed monsters!

I was actually really surprised with how many monsters I was able to make from this one robe! Generally there’s some stitching, stains or holes that get in the way but this one was perfection!

I used the smallest scraps from it to make horns and features for other monsters, too.

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Keeping textiles & scraps from monster production out of landfills is a challenge, certainly more work than just heading to the craft store and buying fabric off the bolt – but it’s so much more sustainable and rewarding to give new life to textiles! Saving the world, one monster at a time!

All of these cuties are currently listed for sale in my monster shop – since I do only use upcycled textile discards, that means each monster is one of a kind – so pop over and snag one before they’re gone!

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500 Monsters in 2016 update & some really BIG news

Going into this year, I knew Lu & Ed would be my sole source of income, and that I would have to increase production & sales greatly in order to make ends meet. At the beginning of the year I set a goal to beat last year’s monster production (just over 350 monsters) & exceed it by at least an additional 150 products – for a total of 500 monsters made in 2016.

And guess what?! I just made more monster making history: my 300th monster this year! Shooting right along towards the big 5-0-0!

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The 300th monster of 2016!

While this is a super exciting milestone to hit, I have an even bigger, much more exciting announcement to make – the reason why I’m hustling so hard to meet this goal early!

And that is that I’ll be a mama again in a few short months!

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Whoa, right? I know people will have questions, so here’s the short & skinny version: Several months after I moved, I reconciled with my son’s bio dad. It’s been amazing for me & G, and we are so super happy! The timing of it all and how things just rolled together is so serendipitous, I can’t even begin to explain it. And apparently this is just how things were meant to be, because now there’s a beautiful babe on her way this fall, and we are all so happy together!

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I won’t lie though, it took a really long time for it to sink in that I had gotten pregnant. Gauge is ELEVEN almost & I never thought I would have another baby. I have chronic ovarian issues, and had been told the odds of me conceiving again were much slimmer than that of a healthy woman with normal hormone production & no ovarian issues. But somehow, this little miracle happened, against all the odds. And it’s only just now sinking in that in just 3.5 months (or sooner, depending on when the babe is ready to make her debut) I’ll be a mother to a newborn again, for the first time in eleven years. Which makes me stupidly excited!

But it’s, like, really starting to really sink in that in a few months, I’ll be the mother to a newborn again. And that my goals for Lu & Ed this year, and next, needed to shift drastically. So I did some evaluations, and while it will be tight, I think I can still make my 500 monsters in 2016 goal – if I make 90% of the rest of the monsters before mid-October, when the baby is due. No big deal, right? (Seriously though, send me all the productive vibes!) If I can meet my production goals, I’d be able to take almost the entire last quarter of the year off post-babe from sewing monsters & soak up those weeks with my own new little monster.

So, I decided I’m still going to push to meet my production goal for this year. As far as next year, the unofficial goal (I don’t like to set goals in stone until the end of the year, but this was sort of a must-do thing) was to move into a bigger place with a 3rd bedroom I could use as a studio. Currently, we are living in a tiny little MAYBE 700 SF home with two tiny bedrooms and one closet in the entire house. (Seriously, it’s so little you have to turn sideways to walk by the sink to get to the toilet, and we have less than 24″ of counter space in the kitchen). But if we do upgrade to a home with a third bedroom, I wouldn’t be able to dedicate that to my studio space for long with babe needing her own space eventually. So now I am considering other alternatives:

  • Rent a one room office downtown to use as a studio
  • Scale down production to make room for babe (though how, I don’t know, I’ve already went from six totes of fabric to two, and less than 8 SF of production room, and it’s really really really difficult to get stuff done in this teeny space already).
  • Try to afford a four bedroom house (in WNC? HA! I would need to win the lottery).
  • Buy a three bedroom home with either a main level office or place that could be used as an studio, like a sun room (light is essential for product photography so a basement is out of the question, unless it magically has tons of natural light) or convert a shed into a kick-butt fully functioning studio space with heat, AC and good lighting within a year or two of moving.
  • Buy a school bus/camper and convert it into a mobile studio, with monster graffiti all over the outside of it, of course.
  • Set up a Yurt in the backyard of our tiny rental, move studio to Yurt. Or move us into Yurt, turn house into studio.
  • The most undesirable option is to shelf Lu & Ed for several months until we are in a better position financially & space wise. I am loathe to do that and completely halt the growth I’ve made since moving. I’ll empty the living room and turn it into a studio before I shelf Lu & Ed.

As you can see, I have a lot to figure out in a few short months about what path I need to focus my energy on – while still getting the house ready for babe. Renting a one room office space is so far the most appealing option for space requirements but I would have to greatly increase production & sales to make it a viable option for my budget which will be tough with a new babe – and the added rent & utilities for a space would be equal to what we’d pay on a mortgage for an additional bedroom or two…. so much to think about and decide on!

Right now? I’m just focusing on meeting the production goal. I have a lot of work & planning ahead of me, in order to keep Lu & Ed functioning at full capacity, but hitting that goal is the first step. After that, we will see what we are able to make happen after the babe gets here. It’ll be tough, but I’m excited to share this journey of new motherhood & small business ownership with all of you!

Got small space living tips? Please, share them with me in the comments – we need to make this tiny house work until at least March of 2017. Got space saving tips for babies (besides using lots of Mon-stors to hold clothes and toys?) – share those in the comments too! I’ll need all the help I can get!

 

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10 ways to save money, raise nature loving kids & live a more sustainable life

I get asked a lot about our efforts to live a more eco-lifestyle. Being on a budget it makes it surprisingly more difficult to live an eco0friedly lifestyle, post move and divorce, but I’m slowly finding eco alternatives for daily staples like soap and shampoo, dish soap and even coffee, here in WNC – which is luckily a very earth friendly, sustainably minded place! We are always trying to find ways to reduce our impact on the Earth with our consumption & every day habits, plus opting for ecofriendly alternatives to hobbies.

For all of you who want to start making easy changes with your children, teaching them how to protect Mother Nature, but aren’t sure where to start, here is a list of ten ideas for some easy habits to eco things to do even on the tightest budget that are good for you, your bills, the Earth & your family. Some I’ve blogged about before, but they are worth reiterating here. Enjoy, and feel free to add your eco-life tips in the comments! Together we can be like a superhero team all saving the world together all at the same time, which would be pretty rad!

3418c-10562963_10203220525292133_2713131494612030695_n1. Grow a garden! Not only is it great family time together outside building beds, prepping pots, planting seedlings, weeding, picking and preparing, it teaches your children about earth sciences, compassion for nature & how fun mud and bugs are! I have a Pinterest board for gardening tips and ideas here, including lots of container planting for small spaces!

No matter the space you have, you can save a lot of money growing your own food – even if it’s just a staple item in your house in a pot on your porch, like a few pepper plants or beans if you use them a lot. Pre-move, we had a vegetable garden each year with some staples like cucumbers, squash, zucchini, peppers, eggplant, tomatoes, beans, and peas. We also had blackberry bushes & blueberry bushes. Now that we rent and can’t totally invest in a full size garden, we have a small bed with cucumbers and green beans, and also volunteer at my mom’s house helping in her garden, which has potatoes, onions, peppers, corn, beans, tomatoes, cucumbers, squash, zucchini, grapes, blueberries & a few other staples. My sister in law also grows a huge garden, plus has pear & apple trees – come crops, we will all work together and swap food, meaning an entire fall & winter’s worth of stock piled dried fruits, canned apple sauce and vegetables, veggie soups, frozen veggies to add to dishes, jams, jellies and canned fruits – all just for the cost of weeding once a week!

2. Take a (biodegradable) trash bag and go for a hike through your local trails, a park or the woods to pick up litter so existing vegetation can thrive. Make sure to put on some bug spray & wear (reusable) rubber gloves! Use two bags – one for trash, for one recyclables, and use this unplugged family time to teach your children about the importance of recycling & protecting water ways and natural habitats.

3. Shop from thrift stores & consignment shops whenever possible – not only do you save loads of money but you also prevent air pollution, energy use & landfill waste from the creation of new products when you purchase gently used items. It also keeps money directly in your community instead of funding international trade for cheap clothing & home goods, which creates a ton of emissions and consumes lots of fuel. By shopping locally at community thrift stores you are directly supporting people who live in your city while having an positive impact on the environment, while saving a boat load of money. Doesn’t that make you feel all warm & fuzzy inside?!

4. If possible, let your kid ride the bus to and from school rather than driving them. This reduces a ton of exhaust pollution from the commute and idling in the pick up and drop off lane. If you can, arrange to have them carpool to after-school activities with friends or volunteer to be the carpool driver! If you live close enough to school, the park, a store, or any place you frequent, walk or ride your bikes whenever possible for some unplugged, active family fun!

5. Reduce the electricity you use & encourage your kids to do the same! Turn off your heat/air and open the windows on days when the temperature allows. Open the curtains rather than turning on lights. Unplug things that are not in use – this alone can account for up to 40% of your electric consumption! Turn off your computer & unplug it when you aren’t using it. Instead of drying bedding in the dryer, line-dry laundry, especially heavy linens. This will greatly reduce energy consumption plus give your linens that sunshine fresh scent.

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6. My first option is to buy products with little to no packaging. Beyond that: Recycle or reuse whenever possible –  paper, plastic, glass bottles, cardboard, and aluminum cans. This conserves energy and reduces air pollution & electricity consumption from production. Before you recycle something, make sure you can’t reuse it first. Don’t spend money on mason jars when glass jars from pasta sauces & pickles are perfect for drinking glasses at parties or simple vases, pen holders or containers in the bathroom to hold cotton balls, tooth brushes & other items. Hit up Pinterest for tons of great idea for upcycling & repurposing items. If you can’t reuse something, see if you can compost it. Most paper & cardboard (even toilet paper & paper towel rolls) can be composted. Even paper towels that have been used to clean up water can be composted! Jenelle of TN2T has several awesome boards on Pinterest for upcycling & creatively recycling items.

7. Also, on composting… Did you know that 20% of human produced methane that damages the ozone layer comes from food in landfills? This shocking number is hard evidence of why every home should compost! All raw vegetable & fruit waste can be composted, along with coffee grounds, grass clippings & leaves that typically end up on the curb for trash pick up. So skip the “all-natural” plant food and go for the truly all natural plant food. Leaves can be used as mulch around your garden & plants year round, too, providing nature-intended nutrients for plants that eliminates the need for chemically saturated fertilizers, so it’s a double whammy of Earth saving goodness and saves you money because then you don’t have to buy mulch! Yay! There are so many good resources for composting out there. It’s so easy to get started, it greatly reduces landfill waste & has a huge impact on the environment. Give it a Google & see how you can get started! Kids will have fun watching the process of foods decompose & learning how bugs, worms and mold help break down the organic matter.

8. Purge. Make it fun and reward the kids with one new item or special event (like a trip to the movies) for purging unused toys, clothes, games. Get rid  of (donate, sell or give to a friend) anything you absolutely don’t need or use. Since we are living in very tight quarters, I purged more than half of mine and my son’s clothes  & all but a few linens – now everything has a purpose, plus less laundry to do means less water and electricity used! Fewer toys in my son’s room means more space to play with things he kept, like Legos and Nerf guns.

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9. Use all-natural cleaners – Apple cider vinegar is an amazingly versatile cleaner and at less than $3 a gallon, is a super cheap alternative to expensive, chemical laden laundry soaps, floor cleaners, surface wipes and more. We use it for laundry and our floors! Stop using dryer sheets full of harmful chemicals – Nerd Felt makes reusable dryer balls that soften your laundry for hundreds of loads. Infuse them with essential oils to add a lovely scent to your laundry!

10. Build a backyard haven. A small investment up front for major savings and fun in the long run! Get a trampoline, swing set, pool, whatever tickles your pickles and fits your budget. Don’t forget to check FreeCycle and CraigsList for items before heading to the big box stores! Build a fire pit and pull up seating for relaxing evening fun. Spring through Autumn (or even in the winter, snuggled under blankets with cocoa while it snows around you!). Create a space that’s just as fun as the local park, and invite friends over! You’ll save a ton of money not going out, your kids will want to spend more time outside, and it’s about time we return to a life of having neighbors over for coffee on the porch or beers by the fire. Building a home filled with functional spaces you love & inviting others to enjoy it with you is a great way to build community, foster friendships and have free, ecofriendly fun!

These are just a few of the ways I try to live a more sustainable, ecofriendly lifestyle while on a super tight budget. Do you have any eco-budgeting tips for home life, activities, or shopping? Please share them in the comments!