Monday, June 29, 2009

6 days to madness

Compare the 6 days of the book of Genesis
to the 4 billion years of geologic time.
On this scale, 1 day equals about 666 billion years.

All day Monday, until Tuesday noon
creation was busy getting the earth going.
Life began on Tuesday noon
and the beautiful organic wholeness of it
developed over the next 4 days.

At 4 P.M. Saturday, the big reptiles came.
5 hours later, when the redwoods appeared
there were no longer big reptiles.

At 3 minutes before midnight, man appeared.
One-fourth of a second before midnight, Christ revolted.
One-fortieth of a second before midnight, the industrial revolution began.

We are surrounded by people who think
that what we have been doing for
one-fortieth of a second can go on indefinitely.
They are considered normal.
But they are stark. raving. mad
Found via the track 6 Days to Madness by Cloud Cult, which Tim showed me the other day. It is adapted from a speech given by the late David Brower, who founded Friends of the Earth and was a very big and important environmentalist. I love it. It always raises new questions in my head. It may be more powerful when you listen to the song. The words aren't lyrics; they're spoken above the music.

David Brower (image source)

I would like to study environmentalism more deeply. There's so much I don't know and so many ideas that would probably change my perspective a bit if I learned them. I suppose, though, I'll mostly have to be satisfied with occasionally coming across gems like this one, because I don't have the time, and probably the patience, to delve headfirst into it all. If only there were a Matrix-style plug in my head to download the information I want to be there...

Thursday, June 25, 2009

business plans: simplifying styles

First of all, thank you so very much for all your advice and help in response to my last post. It was a very pleasant surprise and oh-so useful.

A number of recent blog posts from my Google Reader happened to focus on running a business right when I'm more interested in the topic than usual, which is already pretty damn interested. I really like this quote:
People probably think that fashion designers make a ton of money. But in reality, for the majority of us, that couldn't be farther from the truth. (even if we're one of the lucky ones that "makes it" so to speak.) We spend more than we bring in. We're lucky when we break even. And we're one of the select few if and when we turn a profit. I'm still not there yet.

Buy directly from the designer. You'll not only save from the retail mark-up, you'll ensure the designer actually gets compensated for their work. Long live Etsy. Or at least, long live the non-evil retailers. I still realize I have so much to learn about this industry. And I'm learning, one mistake at a time.
From Leanne M of Project Runway America.

The most helpful piece of advice came from The Fashion Incubator, from the first in her series of How to Start and Homebased Handmade Sewing Business:
If you make up one-offs, you won’t get a picture of which styles and sizes hold greater appeal. The way I would do it is to only produce a few styles and make them in different sizes, meaning duplicates. I realize each fabric would be different but the basic lines and shapes of each style could be important indicators. I would keep careful track of which bodies sold first and in which sizes. This will be very useful information in the future.
I could kiss her. In my last post, my main gripe was not really knowing what will sell (i.e. what the market wants), and this is a promising way to rectify that. I've never come across this point and I'm kicking myself for not considering it before because it sounds so simple. I have read every piece of handmade business advice I could get my hands on - Etsy Storque articles, Handmade Business blogs, the Business Topics Etsy forum, the Craft Inc book, and so most advice I feel I've read before. Although, usually it's not directed at people who make one-of-a-kinds or clothing, and certainly not both. There's a lot more advice in the series so I really recommend you read it if you have, or want to start, a sewing business.

I'm going to apply that advice by choosing several favourite styles to focus on that can be made up repeatedly, in different fabrics of course, so everything will still be one of a kind. I'll make several of the styles, in different sizes and colours. This style is one of my favourites, and it seems to be popular so this will be one of The Designated.

I might make up a poll post so you guys can vote for your favourites that you'll be seeing more of if they 'win'.

I don't want everything I make to have to fit within my select group of styles, because that would take some of the fun out of designing, and maybe buying, too. So I'm still going to experiment sometimes as well. And sometimes the materials I use won't necessarily allow replication - I'm not sure to what capacity yet. This change is to give me some more direction, some more market knowledge, and maybe help the issue of people liking stuff that's not in their size.

Oh, the other entrepreneurship article I came across was an interview style post with Xenia from Lime Crime Makeup, which was more interesting (very) than helpful.

P.S. I've changed the logo/header on my blog and Etsy shop. I felt the previous was a bit too clean and 'perfect', so I've grunged it up a little (but kept the cute). What do you think?

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

frustrations and stepping up my game

I can be a very impatient person. I also have the tendency to want to take on the world. These traits can make me frustrated because a) inevitably, things I want don't happen right away and b) high expectations lead to overwheming feelings.

Tim is returning to study postgrad law in August, which I am utterly proud of him for. Though it means he can only manage three days of work per week after then. He currently manages a bookshop that's so hectic the job can't be done in three days a week. The best offer they could give him instead was a hefty pay cut and a demotion (which, if I may say, I find quite ridiculous given his experience and skill there). In any case, he resigned and will no longer be working there in four weeks time. This is worrying in two ways: what if he can't find another job, and even if he does find one, how will we manage without a steady full-time income?

The best way out is for Heidi & Seek to start earning a steady income to make up the difference. I really don't want to have to start applying for jobs elsewhere, because as bloody difficult as it is to run your own business, at least it's mine and runs on my own terms. It's flexible for when I have to be home for Ellie, and since I work from home I don't need to waste time commuting. I don't want to put it on the backburner, as it inevitably will be if I get another job.

So, I've been trying to figure out how to step up my game. I worked out how much I'd need to sell per week and per month, and honestly, the figure feels so far away it's not funny. I'm half moping at the futility of it all and half planning (and continuing to sew winter stuff in between) because I can't get these issues out of my head. Things I want to do:
  • Get to know my market better. This is the one that's troubling me the most, and also what I think is the most important. There is a difference between the things I make and the things people buy, and I have no real idea what that is. I just guess and experiment, and while that's cool some of the time, it's not good enough for every time. I'm not sure how to go about this yet.

    The survey I put up a while ago wasn't as helpful as I anticipated, maybe because I didn't ask the right questions. I need to understand the difference between people saying 'that's cool' and people actually buying something. Maybe it would help to study what things of mine have sold quickly and gotten attention, and try to mimic their features in new pieces, but that's harder than it sounds: How do I know if something sold because that one customer liked it a lot but most people wouldn't?

  • Post new listings every day. I've been good with this the past couple of weeks, though to be honest I'm not sure it's helped sales. But I do think in theory it's better to give lots of choice. What do you think?

  • Open up my Made It shop again. I'm trying to make enough winter stock so I can fill my Made It and Etsy shop. I'd like to try Made It again because it's smaller, therefore easier to get seen, plus it's local and I seem to have gotten mostly Aussie sales recently.

  • Start doing a market. This idea freaks me out a little because it's new and I've never done one before. Plus it involves me spending a whole lot of time finding display things, making signs, arranging the stalls, and so on and so on. But, given my previous income calculations, I don't think I can rely solely on online sales.

  • Work on wholesale accounts.
Wow, I'm not sure if I feel better for having written that all out or worse for the sheer amount of work I have ahead of me.

P.S. Heidi & Seek is in the new Frankie mag, out tomorrow (squee!). Check it out, there's also details to enter a competition to win one of five Heidi & Seek tops! I don't have a scanner, but I'll try to grab a picture of it soon.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

ethical style feature: rejenerate handbags

My ethical style feature has been MIA for a while on my blog, but it's back! If you have no idea what feature I'm on about, it involves me handpicking and interviewing entrepreneurial ladies and lasses with gorgeous products and responsible business practices. This means fair trade, handmade, recycled, organic, second-hand, and vintage galore!

I've chosen reJenerate for this one, which is a handmade handbag label run by Jennie Smith - a fellow Aussie! Each gorgeous piece of hers is made from recycled materials and she's passionate about sustainable fashion.

Tell us a bit about yourself and what you make.

Well I'm a self-confessed recycling junkie. I have this uncontrollable need to save things from landfill. I used to love things that were shiny and new, things that had a blank slate but the more I became aware of environmental issues the more I started to lean towards using things that were pre-loved. Now I find these things to be so much more charming, they have a personality and a history of their own that you just don't get with new stuff.

This recycling obsession quickly developed into my label, 'ReJenerate: Vintage & Recycled Creations by Jennie Smith'. Now I spend most of my time saving unloved curtains, clothing, fabrics and linens from their one way trip to landfill and turning them into pretty new things that are handmade and usually one of a kind.

How did you start making bags?

I was inspired by delicate vintage doilies and napkins and was captivated by the thought of transforming them into quirky, girlie clutches. From there I was hooked and handbags became my world! I have lots of different styles now and my bridal clutches, made from divine vintage fabrics, are my most popular items. I've also started moving into homewares lately which I'm finding really fun. Interior design is my latest obsession!

Tell us about your materials. What new supplies do you use? What recycled?

I aim to keep things entirely recycled. I do use new cotton thread to make sure that I have a really sturdy, quality product and sometimes I will use new magnetic snaps, rings and zips but often these are recycled too. Absolutely all of my fabrics are vintage, recycled or salvaged.

Why do you use recycled materials?

Well, like I said before...I'm a recycling junkie! Thinking about the amount of waste every human goes through in their lifetime completely freaks me out. My aim in starting ReJenerate was to provide an alternative to fashion accessories that were made off shore from chemically laden fabrics under horrendous conditions. I try to keep my prices accessible to the average Aussie she has no excuse for not buying sustainable!! ;)

Which item of yours is your favourite?

My favourite item is always the one I created last! I tend to get a little attached and get a bit sad when I send my creations off to their new home. Crazy I know! But the lovely thing about selling online is that I get to have contact with my customers and many of them keep in touch, updating me on all the fabulous things my handbags have been up to! I have had handbags go to Paris for a holiday, get sent to Iceland as a gift, attend A-list events and lots of other crazy adventures! One of the best things about my job is emailing with all of my gorgeous customers.

But in answer to the original question (!) right now I'm having so much fun working on my bridal range. It makes me so happy seeing so many brides working towards a sustainable wedding.

What advice would you give to designers who want to start working for themselves?

Do it! I have never been happier than I am now. If you really want something then don't give up. Just make sure that you're really self-motivated because you don't have a boss looking over your shoulder making sure you're getting things done! And don't expect to be an overnight success, it takes time for customers to find you. Just make sure you do something every day to get your work out there.

What's your best eco-tip?

Everytime you are tempted by something shiny and new, ask yourself if you could find something similar that is pre-loved. Usually you can find something even better with lots of character and individuality and people will admire your unique style. Pay attention to everything that goes into your bin and assess what you can do next time to avoid creating that waste. No one's perfect, certainly not me, but that doesn't mean you can't try!

What a great response. Thanks Jennie!

Visit to shop (Etsy & Made It) and for more info.

sneak peek at winter collection

I don't tend to make 'collections', since I put new designs up daily. In the past I've made whichever season clothing I feel like making, with the assumption that I'm selling all over the world, so there are multiple seasons going on at once.

I have since realised that I have pretty much zero winter clothing in my shop, when it's 5 degrees celcius in Melbourne right now, and subsequently, that this is a really dumb thing not to plan ahead for.

So I'm working on a winter collection, which will all be launched at in my Etsy shop in a big bunch, instead of my usual 'few here, few there' method of listing. After that I'll continue to make and list winter clothing and summer clothing. Here's a sneak peek at some of the upcoming winter designs.

They'll be launched in a week or two along with the rest. In the meantime, if you have any suggestions about what you'd like to see for winter (in the way of dresses, jumpers, and tops), please do let me know. I'm still making, so I'm very open to ideas!

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

the uniform project

It's rare that I find something online that makes me inwardly squee. But this has done it because it's fashionable, it's ethical, and it's just a really cool idea. From 'About the Uniform Project':
Starting May 2009, I have pledged to wear one dress for one year as an exercise in sustainable fashion. Here’s how it works: There are 7 identical dresses, one for each day of the week. Every day I will reinvent the dress with layers, accessories and all kinds of accouterments, the majority of which will be vintage, hand-made, or hand-me-down goodies. Think of it as wearing a daily uniform with enough creative license to make it look like I just crawled out of the Marquis de Sade's boudoir.

I'm jealous of her superb style and admiring of her ethos all at once. At least it's motivating me to get my style together, because lately I've just been wandering around in as many layers are clean. It is freezing here in Melbourne and I am not a cold weather girl. I suddenly want some cool sock/tight combinations...

You can add the Uniform Project via RSS to your blog reader for daily doses of sustainable style inspiration. Or just visit the site at The Uniform Project.

Monday, June 15, 2009

cosa verde

I just found out about a newish online shopping site for eco-friendly handmade goods. It's called cosa verde (meaning 'green thing' in Spanish) and it's clean, easily browsable and filled with items that are all gorgeous because they're approved by the site's admin first. It's a great way to look for earth-friendly handmade products online because they intentionally keep their site small and easily browsable.

Another great thing about it is that you can search by your values, such as organic, repurposed, recyclable or cruelty-free. There's a daily front page curation, plus a number of gift guides to look through. It's not an e-commerce site, so the items you see in any shopfront there will probably only be a selection of what the sellers have available online, and clicking through will take you to their Etsy shop or other selling website.

I love this realistic and down-to-earth point of view from cosa verde's 'About Us' page:
"First, who we're not. We're not radicals. We're not preachy. We don't always seek out organic products, and we (gasp!) still have a few non-CFL bulbs at home and drive our fossil-fuel burning (high mpg, but still...) cars to work each day. But, when it comes right down to it, we're two kids who like the Earth. We think it's a nice place. We'd like it to be a nice place for our (future) kids. And we believe that while big changes happen slowly, it's the small changes that pave the way."
I just opened up a page at cosa verde, which you can check out here. If you sell eco-friendly handmade wares, I really suggest you check it out and open a shopfront. It's free for 3 items at a time in your shop, and there's a fee for more than that, but to begin with they give you free credit. Plus you can find an extra coupon code online if you look hard enough (*hintetsyforumshint*). Tell them I sent you and I'll love you forever! (Just put 'heidiandseek' in the referrer text box when you sign up.)

Happy browsing!

Sunday, June 14, 2009

a to z on my browser

From Nikki-Shell, Veronica Darling, Crafty Librarian and Meet Me at Mikes, that order.

"So what you have to do is type each letter of the alphabet one by one into the URL line of your browser. This will bring up your most visited site of this letter, or the letter being used within the address. Use the first site that comes up, or the second if you have privacy/security issues. It's like a little outline of your favourite web sites!"

A - Armour sans Anguish on Etsy. A very talented eco-fashion designer who I interviewed a while back.
B - Big Cartel Dashboard. Apparently I don't visit B sites much, because I stopped using Big Cartel a while ago! (I opened one up then changed my mind, if you're curious.)
C - Craftcult. Yes, I check this everyday with the excuse that I'm doing 'market research' by seeing which items get hearted the most (it doesn't actually help).
D - Design Sponge. I spent an entire evening last week looking through every DIY home decor project there and marking my favourites to try. I'm on a 'making my house pretty' kick at the moment (but haven't gotten very far yet). Will post progress!
E - I don't really use eBay that much, but I've been checking it a lot lately to find a good second-hand Bernina sewing machine.
F - Frankie Magazine forum. I used to post there regularly but I don't seem to visit much anymore. There are lovely people there though, it's where I met my penpal, Stepstotheleft. Letters in the mail are the best.
G - Goodlife Health Clubs. My gym, which I have been very bad at attending lately. I check the site to see what the class schedule is.
H - Heidi & Seek and Ethical Fashion - Yep, my own blog.
I - I'm Your Present on Etsy. I don't mind her work, though it's often too girly for my taste, but mostly I have a look every now and again because I just can't believe how many sales she makes and processes. It's a good kick-up-the-butt for me to work harder.
J - Jenny Vella on Etsy. Apparently J is a little-used letter, too. I've visited this shop for its cute backpacks a few times recently. Still deciding about them.
K - Kara Smith handbags. So I know Kara's bags are a bit out of my price range, but I still love looking at them! They're made from vintage and reclaimed fabrics and she's a fellow Australian, so I've been following her work and her blog since I started this biz.
L - Monash library. Monash is the university I attend.
M -
N - Nikki-shell's blog. You may know this is one of my favourite blogs from the link list on the left. A lovely local crafty lady.
O - OzBushfireAppeal on Etsy. Another little used letter, because this shop has been closed for a while. 900 donation sales to a great cause is such a great achievement.
P - Paypal
Q - Call My Agent Query letter post. Firefox just pulled up the Q in the title because apparently I don't visit any sites beginning with Q. Still, I love this blog for an insiders look into the publishing industry.
R - Replicca on Etsy. I'm quite in awe of what Rebecca has achieved with her label, plus I love her designs.
S - Supayana on Etsy. Same as above!
T - Twitter
U - Urban Outfitters. I visited a couple of times to check out their bag selection for backpack inspiration for making my own. I found a cool design of theirs via Google image search (see below) and followed it up but it's been discontinued. Not digging the pink, but I like the design.

V - Vogue Australia forums. I'm not actually a member because they have this newbie censorship thing going on and my account for some reason got suspended before even having my posts appear anywhere. I tried finding out why but got no reply. However, the forums do have some great content.
W - Project Wonderful. An online advertising website, if you haven't heard of it before.
Y - YumiYumi on Etsy. A cute shop for art, but not one I regularly visit.
Z - Zingaling on Etsy. Cute upcycled bags. Again, I've only visited once or twice, but Z isn't very popular in my browser!

Feel free to do this on your own blogs, it's fun!

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

new clock and diy pyramid pouch

I was just looking at an Etsy shop that said something like, "we only use the finest quality cow skin. You'll never want to stop touching it!" I'm not sure if I found it gross because I'm a vegetarian or because it is actually gross. I'm suddenly really uninterested in leather now, even vintage/sustainable leather. Almost all of my shoes are leather, but I'm not going to replace them all. I guess I'm used to them and I'll try not to think about it. But I won't be buying anything leather any time soon, new or second-hand. This makes it even more difficult to find a backpack, because the ones on Etsy that I did like were in leather, and the sellers aren't interested in making them in anything else. Back to the drawing board...

Here is my first attempt at making something bag-like. (Baby-steps.)

It's squashed from being at the bottom of my bag and because I forgot to put interfacing in it, but let's just ignore that. I'm vaguely happy with the sewing, despite the fact that my machine is completely uninterested in sewing zippers (I broke two needles in the process). Looking for a decent second-hand Bernina. Also not so impressed with the colours I chose. I looked at it as a test piece and didn't want to waste especially cool fabric if I buggered it up. I found the tutorial here at, which is such a great site. They have a bunch more quality DIY tutorials there.

I'm going to use it for Heidi & Seek petty cash and receipts, because I'm currently horrendous at keeping my money and business money separate.

By the way, I adore my new upcycled clock from pretty green. I used to have to keep my mobile phone in this corner to check the time and I still sometimes forget that I can just look at the wall now!

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

music. and free shipping info

I'm finishing up the Australian free shipping offer at my etsy shop, so if you're an Aussie and you've had your eye on something, now's the time! I'm ending it this weekend.

Just so this post isn't exclusively promo, I thought I'd share some tracks I'm loving at the moment:
The Knife - Got 2 Let U
I usually find The Knife a little boring, but this song is just so catchy and gets me in a good mood.
So They Say from Dr Horrible's Sing-Along Blog
If you haven't seen Dr Horrible's Sing-Along Blog, you have been missing out! It's available to watch online and doesn't go for that long. It's created by Joss Whedon of Buffy and Angel fame. Here's the trailer. Anyway I have been listening to the soundtrack (it's a musical) and it is so so catchy (and funnier in context).
Cloud Cult - Journey of the Featherless
I left you a love poem
The best I have written
My favorite words
Were the ones I couldn't spell
Sigur Rós - Inní mér syngur vitleysingur
I love singing along to this even though I have no idea what the words are.

Friday, June 5, 2009

things i would like to be mine

I've been working fairly non-stop this past week, so I treated myself to a bit of Etsy browsing. Very much considering buying that yaelfran print for my studio. Utterly adorable.

I love the idea of a contemplation garden. It wouldn't be too hard to find some sand and a pretty dish and a cute fork from an op shop.

I recently bought this belt from utilitywear on Etsy.
I think it will come in very handy for short trips.

I used to be quite happy lugging around kilos on my shoulder in a tote or handbag, but since I've had Ellie, I'm a little more wary of putting too much pressure on my neck and back, since they're already overworked. A backpack is the best option for everday use for me. I've been searching high and low on the net (plus just about every search page on Etsy with the tag 'backpack'. You'd understand how tedious that was if you knew how many non-backpacks come up in the search) to find something cute and unusual, because this one isn't wearing very well. I've found absolutely nothing I like. Bugger all.

When I have some spare time I will a) try to teach myself bag-making techniques b) design one I like and c) make it. I think it will be a long while away.

Monday, June 1, 2009

clearance sale at

There's a big 25% off clearance sale happening at my Etsy shop right now, on a range of my older stock. I've been in a creating frenzy recently but haven't done a photo shoot yet, so this is to make way for more new stuff! Here are a few of the things on sale:

Click to go directly to the sale section.