Wednesday, July 29, 2009

the non-schedule affair

I've been using the system in my last post since last Friday and it has been working perfectly. I'm really excited about what I can achieve with this. I can plan for things like markets and wholesale orders better, and try to keep new online listings a bit more consistent. That means I'm this much closer to making Heidi & Seek pay a full-time income.

I discovered that for me, five items per day isn't really 'starting small'. It's enough that I'm challenging myself but not enough to make me give up in a heap of frustration. It's perfect. I think eight things is the most I've made in a day, so for a while that was my goal for each day. I very rarely met that aim. It's too much to expect from every working day, so it made me feel overwhelmed and procrastinate-y.

I started back at uni yesterday. I'm doing fiction writing (which is half a day on campus) and couselling via correspondence. So I really have three and a bit days to work, rather than four, like I planned for in my weekly chart. I'm pushing myself a bit by making up the lost time and still maintaining my 'quota', as I've started to call it, of 20 items per week. It has been harder to meet today, because I've been flat out making up for lost time yesterday. I suppose it's okay to have just one day a week as a 'work your ass off' day. I am very motivated by wanting to see all those boxes coloured in, weird as that may sound.

I'm setting up a space at incube8r gallery on the 12th of August, so lots of my stock will go there, plus I'm working on a wholesale order. I'll still list a few things on Etsy in the meantime though, just as soon as I can fit in a photo shoot! Here's a look at a few of the things I've been making.

By the way if anyone in Melbourne wants a copy of the upcoming Handmade in Melbourne book, they're available from incube8r, hot off the press for $29.95. I haven't gotten a copy yet but will soon!

One more thing: I was included in a post about refashioning over at The Transit Lounge blog, check it out.

Monday, July 27, 2009

an little organisation tip for non-schedulers

Originally posted here (but changed up a bit for the blog).

I'm quite a procrastinator, so it has taken me a long time to get to this point. (Well, I'm not really sure what 'this point' is, because I've gotten much better since I started Heidi & Seek, but I still procrastinate.) I find that I'm a big workaholic when it comes to being online and promoting that way. But when it comes to making things, I've built it up in my head that's it's maybe more effort than it actually is, so often I have to use some strong willpower to get away from the computer, head over to my studio space and start making.

I've tried making timetables to schedule blocks of time, but I can never stick to them. I guess they just don't make me feel very in control. They don't cater for creative types like me, where sometimes I get an idea and just want to run with it, regardless of what I'm 'supposed' to be doing at that moment. So lately I've been working without particular goals, and not getting very much done consistently. I have spurts of making and spurts of procrastinating.

So I made a little notebook to help me instead. It's filled with weekly charts of blocks of time that must be completed by the end of the week. I don't schedule time, I just have a weekly goal that I can work on at any time. I colour in each block as I complete it. So far it's working better than any other system I've tried. Here's how to try it for yourself.
  1. Firstly, work out how much time, on average, your items take to create. Then place them in a box, using Word or Photoshop or whatever you prefer. It might look like this, for example:
  2. Work out how many of these you can realistically complete in a week. Then subtract a few, because we're going to start small. I worked out how many days a week I have to work on my label (4), then how many items I want to make each of those days (5). I'm using a conservative estimate to start with because I don't want to feel too overwhelmed. That's 20 items per week. That's my goal. Yours will probably be different.

  3. Put all the blocks in rows and columns on a page each. (I printed three weekly charts to a page to save paper, then cut them out). If you want to work four days a week and make 3 items a day, and your items take about 25 minutes to make, your chart will look like this:

    I've purposely not written the day dates at the top of each column, beacuse I don't want to feel 'behind' if I've not done all the day's work or too boxed in, just that I have to make some more by the end of the week.

  4. Paste the chart into a notebook with a week to a page, and write the week dates at the top of each page. For each item I make I will colour in one block, until all the blocks on the page are coloured in, hopefully by the end of the week.

  5. I've come up with a reward (mine is a visit to an op shop or second-hand market), which I may only happen when the week's blocks have all been filled in. I can then 'cash in' my week's chart for the reward.
I'm treating it like homework. If I've been slow making during the week, or even if I have to take a day off to do something else, I have to catch up by the end of the week and make sure all those blocks are coloured in. Whenever I have a spare however many minutes, I'll make one thing, and these will add up. This is why I recommend you don't try to push yourself too hard when you're starting this. If it seems too overwhelming you might give up.

Make it fun! Use a cute font for your charts and colour the blocks in with your favourite colours. If you're using a plain notebook, dress it up by making a collage on the front or covering it with fabric. I haven't decorated mine yet, but I'll post it when I have.

The benefits of this method are:
  • It encourages you to set goals. Most successful people set goals for themselves.
  • You can track your progress in a fun way. You can see exactly how you are or are not meeting your expectations of yourself.
  • Writing how much time it will take puts the task in perspective and makes your creating seem more achievable. Sometimes when I have an hour or two to spare I don't think to make an item because it seems like a bigger committment. With the blocks you can see right there that it's really only about a ___ minute committment.
  • It's not just for makers, you can apply it to any project if you can accurately estimate how much time it will take you to do, then break it down into small pieces.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

plastic shopping

I ended up in Target the other day to look for some stationery for class, not really knowing what I was signing on for. I got clobbered in the brain by "Australia's biggest toy sale" marketing and almost run over by a woman with her trolley piled high with plastic fun for her children. The lay-by line was made about five times longer than it usually is, and there was red tape along the aisles marked 'toy sale line'. As I walked along I only spotted one item made of something other than plastic.

As well as making me annoyed with the consumerist state of the world, it got me thinking about the effects of plastic. And I did some research. I think we generally know that manufacturing plastic is a not-good for the environment. But here are some reasons to try to avoid buying or using plastic that you may not have thought about:
  • Plastic is made from fossil fuel, which is rapidly depleting. What we're going to do when we've used it all up seriously scares me. There's more gone than left, in just the short time we've used it extensively, and our consumption of it is growing. We depend on fuel for things we don't really need, but we also depend on it for food and safety. Without power for agricultural machinery we can't feed our massive population. (Tim has been reading up on this a lot as he's interested in doing environmental law, and the reality of it is freaking me out.)
  • In 2006 in the US alone, 30 million tonnes of plastic were disposed of, most of which was packaging.
  • Degradeable plastics might not actually degrade upon disposal. They require appropriate conditions, like exposure to light for example. And if they do degrade, they release the greenhouse gas methane.
Check out this helpful link for what you can do about it. My advice (which you can probably guess from reading this blog) is to buy less, and what you do buy, try to find it second-hand first. Also check out the Life Less Plastic blog, it's a good read.

(As a side note, I got the stationery I needed from Tim's mum's unwanteds. Didn't have to buy a thing!)

Friday, July 24, 2009

christmas in july sale: 30% off

The Etsy Down Under Street Team is holding a huge Christmas in July sale and my shop is participating! There's 30% off the listed price of everything in my Etsy shop, but only for this weekend. So if you want something, hurry on over - there's only one of each!

A very cool thing about this promotion is the giveaways forum thread on Etsy. You just have to post a comment to enter the draws, and there are 10 different items being given away each day of the sale. About every 3 hours (excluding sleep time) something new will be up for grabs.

Here is the list of all the shops participating in the sale, or you can search 'dust team' on Etsy for participants.

Have fun!

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

studio sorted

I was featured on Indie Art and Design ( today! Check out the post here. Big thanks to Carolyn.

I have finished organising my studio and it's inspiring me to go make things already. Too bad the rest of the house is still a mess. But, one thing at a time. The best thing is that I didn't buy anything. With everything sorted I can see what I really could use, so now I can keep an eye out for second-hand pieces I need.

I picked up another two sets of these awesome vintage filing drawers from Tim's mum, which were hanging out unused in her attic.

These two stacks don't really work for me. I'd much rather have another set of wire drawers instead of the big tub, and a narrow dresser with lots of drawers to replace the right side. Drawers are so much easier to access, plus I can organise the contents so that when I pull the drawer out I can see everything at a glance. Really helps with matching colours and patterns.

The little green box is actually a tissue box I repurposed to file my garment patterns, which I make from interfacing. Yes I know I'm supposed to make them from card, but I like that they can all fit in this box - which I might cover with something pretty. All that's there is a basic t-shirt pattern, with long and short sleeves in a range of sizes, plus patterns for my yoki tees, which I haven't made recently because they're time-intensive. I adapt the basic patterns each time I make something, or work on it as I go along.

As I was sorting my fabric and clothing, I came across this darling little cardigan I bought from Thailand, which I love but looks terrible on me, and I hadn't the heart to part with it. I decided to 'frame' my inspiration poster with it. Now I can enjoy it without needing to wear it.

I picked up that vintage book, 'The Awful Dressmaker's Book' from a little second-hand bookstore off Gertrude Street, as well as a sewing shortcuts book and a sew your own wedding book. The mannequin I got from Camberwell market and painted. Not sure I'm feeling the black now, but I suppose it could be worse!

The black pot is for an indoor plant that we never used for its purpose. I lined the inside with a few layers of scrap fabric, so my tools don't get damaged. The ceramic 'sew' tags are from mudcakes on Etsy - they were my first Etsy purchase I think, way back in 2006. I tied them up with black ribbon and hung them on the pot. The tree print is from littlestflower on Etsy, and the stones are from Ikea forever ago. The little figurine is a tiny carved wooden bird, which I claimed from my dad's things.

Huge wire basket for shipping supplies. Next to it is a gorgeous vintage sewing machine I picked up at a garage sale on the weekend for $5!

So I didn't really need another sewing machine, but it might come in handy and it makes me giddy just thinking about the fact that it's mine. Waiting until I get a bigger studio so I can put it on display when not in use.

Right. I'm off to make things.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

more to-do than done

My to-do list:
  • Make more 'buy ethical' badges
  • Finish sorting fabric & store it, so it's not taking up half the living room floor.
  • Organise my offcuts into boxes/drawers/shelves - sleeves, applique pieces, cuffs, necklines, etc.
  • Figure out if my studio furniture is working and if it's the best use of the available space. If not, replace/alter/move it around.
  • Finalise new hangtag design & finish making the batch.
  • Clear my desk & find a home for everything
  • Organise papers into filing cabinet, to be picked up soon (thanks Jess!)
  • Find a home for all blank paper and notebooks and things.
  • Donate the next 5 shopping bags of clothing & fabric.
  • Take a pile of stuff I can't donate to my local recycling centre.
I'm recovering from the flu, but I can't quite relax. I've been organising myself - writing down plans when I can't fully execute them. I have a bit of a one-track mind sometimes. Until most of this is done I won't be able to focus on making.

I've been reading a book called Sorted! The Ultimate Guide to Organising Your Life, and I'm finding it's helpful. I like that it's recent and relevant and Australian. So far, one idea from it that I've found useful is that I need to slow down and devote time to being organised regularly, instead of saying I'm too busy. I'm too busy not to be organised. Another idea is to work out how many of something I actually need (like t-shirts for example) and keep at that number. Meaning if I get a new one, one has to go.

I'm finding it pretty easy to let go of things, and make decisions about what I keep and throw. I think that my 'buy less' ethic has helped that. Yes, I like getting new things, but only if I feel they'll add value to my life and if I adore them, hopefully for a long time. I know that I if I don't love or need something, it doesn't matter to me. If it's just stuff, it can go. I can hardly remember the things in the 16 shopping bags that went earlier this week.

I'm having to resist buying more storage boxes and furniture. I think there's often this urge to get all this new stuff to organise yourself, when that just may add to the clutter you're trying to get rid of. I'm going to wait until I've gotten rid of the excess, then see what's left behind and what the best way to store it is. It's taking a lot of willpower to get this finished, but I'm excited about the result. Change is good.

Half my studio, a month ago

The 'after' picture will come later.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009


Aren't these tags adorable? They were made by Carolyn from leftover card and paper and inspired by my recycled hangtags. I can think of a bunch of uses for these. Nice work, lovely!

A few weeks ago my clothing rack broke because I piled too much stuff on it. (Avoid the ones from Freedom, guys!) It was handed down to me so it was less frustrating than if I'd bought it new myself.

Anyway, after checking eBay consistently since then, I still hadn't found a replacement. I was after a double rail one. So I decided that today would be the day! (Because do you know how annoying it is trying to hang more clothes on a crooked rack that would fall to the ground without the support of the wall and a carefully-placed piece of furniture.) I went to a used shop fitting place in Dandenong, and they did have what I was looking for... unfortunately it was new. I bought it because there is only so much energy I can spend looking for a single necessary item second-hand. While I was there I picked up a used metal basket that I liked the rustic look of, for storing my shipping supplies.

I took apart the old rack to drop off at a local recycling centre, along with my old computer. I read recently that only one in five computers are being recycled, and the rest are going to landfill. I had no idea these recycling centres existed until today, but they're such a great idea. Have a look online to see if there's one in your area, and tell your friends not to throw their computers away!

On the way home I noticed an ex-display furniture place across the road from where I used to work. They were having a sale on antique furniture and I found a few pieces I loved. But Tim would kill me if I brought more furniture back to our already packed place, plus we didn't really need any of it. But if anyone in Melbourne wants to check it out, it's in Clayton near the corner of Blackburn Road and Princes Highway.

I did find part of a cupboard door huddled in the corner among bed heads, and I thought it had potential. Five bucks later and I have a cute inspiration board hung above my computer.

I got these tiny pegs a little while ago and now finally have a use for them! Knew they would come in handy.

I donated 16 shopping bags worth of items today - what a relief to have them out. It was cleared from mine and Ellie's closets, with some fabric in there, but I haven't gone through the majority of that yet. I already feel much better. I tried to just get to sewing this morning, but I was a procrastinate-y mess because I wanted to organise. Once I have an idea in my head it's probably better just to run with it. I got a lot done today, once I got over fighting with myself.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

organisation & clearance sale

I just reduced the price of a bunch of stuff in my Etsy shop, check it out here. I'm feeling a change is in order (yes yes, I know I always say that).

The trouble with working from home is that if your house is cluttered or untidy, or if there's dishes that need doing in the sink, those unfinished businesses can distract you from work. Until we can afford a bigger place, my studio takes over half our living room. I think that makes the whole 'separating work from home' thing more difficult.

I'm the kind of person that will let those things get to me, because I was brought up in an unrealistically tidy and clean home (kudos to mum for keeping it that way). With everything else that's on my plate, I find it really difficult to keep organised. Dishes and washing and papers pile up, and I often find it difficult to prioritise.

I came across this article that talks about how pysical clutter can clutter up your mind and I really related to it. I sometimes put jobs off because they seem too large and I don't know where to start. And I'm sure that has something to do with my organisation.

So. I wanted to have a week set aside for just organising everything. Mostly Heidi & Seek related things, but the home-life things that affect my productivity, too. I'm seem to always be working on the next job, concentrating on making and listing and everything that comes with them, that I put off everything else and get kind of burnt out.

I want to find a second-hand filing cabinet to organise my papers, get rid of fabric I know I'm never going to use, find an easier way to manage my finances, clean out my wardrobe, and mostly, work out my storage so that everything has a home, and things I use regularly are easy to find. And this might be too much to ask for a week's work, but I want things to be pretty. I've been eyeing off Etsy home decor finds over the past few weeks. Like these:

I'm going to try to make do before buying anything, though. The plan is that after that week I can return to my regular work refreshed and best able to be productive. I think my schedule right now won't allow me to block out a complete week, but maybe I can do a day here and a day there..

Saturday, July 11, 2009

etsy featured seller & recycled hangtags

I'm the featured seller over at Etsy right now, how excitement! Click the link to read the interview. What a crazy press week or two, with Frankie magazine, the Handmade in Melbourne book and now this.

Anyway, yesterday I planned to sew up a bunch more stuff to list before the Etsy feature went up, but since I'd gone to bed at 1am the two nights before, I was completely buggered and couldn't bring myself to crank up the sewing machine. Since I'm up about 7am every morning, late nights don't work for me too well.

So instead I spent the day fretting about not being organised enough, arranging to rent a space at Incube8r (scored, starting in August, woo!) and designing my new hangtags while watching How I Met Your Mother online. I'm not completely sure on the final hangtag design yet, but I've come up with this to start.

They're waiting for a coloured stamp (I have these cute faux button ones from or machine stitching or some other kind of adornment, I'm not sure yet. I'd like to incorporate fabric, but I'm not sure how. I like their simplicity and handmade-ness and that they're completely recycled.

I made them by punching large circles of Ecocern reycled card with my big circle punch, printing the text on the blank side of used copy paper, cutting that into strips, then putting them through the circle punch. Then I glued the pieces together.

I'm planning on using the same process on the back for a chunk of text I wrote to inspire people about ethical buying.

Even though these are taking me a while to make, I think it's worth it for the impression that people get of my work when they see them. That they're obviously different to mass-produced ones, and that I take care to make things. And due to the process, each one is a bit differently placed. I'm starting to realise the value of the small touches that distinguish handmade sellers from large companies.

One more thing! I was tagged by Renee Anne from art4friends to post what I'm wearing today. It's this, plus skinny jeans.

I stole the cardi from my Etsy shop because it's really warm and simple and cute and has handy huge pockets. This has been my uniform for the past week or so, because it's way too cold here in Melbourne to be trying anything creative - I just put on a bunch of layers, chuck this cardi on top and rotate my scarves. Here's a better pic of it.

It might have sold if the pictures were better, not so yellowish. (I'm keeping it, though. :P) Can anyone fill me in on why that happens and how to prevent it?

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

heidi & seek in 'handmade in melbourne'

How freaking amazing is this?! (Hint, bottom right corner.)

The book comes out in August. I'm containing myself from running around the room squealing. Ahh, what the heck, you only live once...

Monday, July 6, 2009

the downside of new crafty things

I feel like a bit of a crappy frugal buyer at the moment. My order just arrived from and it is rather large. But I did look for quality, study things that will hopefully last for a long time. Spotlight has a really, really sucky range compared to these guys.

I had never delved into the scrapbooking world before and I was boggled by the things out there. I arrived at because I was looking for a circle paper punch for my new hangtag designs (and was way overcharging for them), and then I discovered all the other cool stuff there is. I'm not going to start scrapbooking, but I am interested in paper goods like notebooks, journals, cards, calendars and whatnots.

I spent like a day figuring out what I wanted - really wanted - and what I could do without. Mostly I bought tools. Like the Crop-A-Dile eyelet and snap punch tool, which can punch holes in almost anything that will fit between the blades. I'm not so interested in the eyelets, but I bought it for the durability of the hole punch. I want to make reclaimed, altered journals and notebooks with this, as well as punching holes in my hangtags.

I got the Crop-A-Dile Corner Chomper Tool, which is a punch that rounds off corners by cutting the excess.

I think rounded corners makes things look much more professional, so I'm going to attack my business cards with these, and use it for other paper/card projects too. From all the reviews I've read online, Crop-A-Dile tools are very sturdy and work really well, so I went with this.

I also got the Marvy Uchida Clever Lever Extra Giga Circle punch for my hangtags, which punches out a chunky 3.5 inch circle.

I'm still trying to figure out what design to use, because the recycled Ecocern card I have won't go through my printer. I don't have forever to make hangtags, but I do want them to be unique, recycled and obviously handmade (in other words, with more care taken to make them that the plain printed card ones at every department store). I'll post pictures when I've worked on the design.

I also got some stamps for Heidi & Seek packages, stamp pads (I looked EVERYWHERE for vegetable based stamp pads, and even plain veg-based ink, but found nada), date stamps for making calendars, mod podge for upcycling some of our boring furniture & homewares, a paper craft knife and some craft scissors. Thus begins my adventures into recycled paper crafts.

Now I'm off to go buy more new things off the equipment list for my course. Crap. (But I'm excited regardless.)

Friday, July 3, 2009

bernina and the melbourne school of fashion

Two large and costly impulse decisions this week: a pattern-making and garment construction course at the Melbourne School of Fashion and a new Bernina Activa 220. Well, the second wasn't quite as much impulse, because I have been following eBay for a Bernina a while now. It's the model I was unsure of, I had to do some quick web surfing to see if the machine would be a fit for me. It was 'buy it now' and it was brand new (won in a competition and unwanted) and it was at like 30% off the retail price, so I acted quickly.

It arrived a couple of days ago so I haven't had much time to get to know it, but I adore it so far. Runs through thick fabric like it's butter, unlike its clunky predecessor that would chortle and halt and get stuck in a clump of thread half the time. The Bernina is computerised, which is new to me. The manual calls it a sewing computer, rather than sewing machine. I think that's cute.

I found out about the course at the MSoF this morning. I called up, got my place, and it starts next Tuesday. Crazy. I got the last place. I'll have to run around on Monday gathering the required equipment. There are several good things about doing the course:
  • I get to hang out with my new Etsy-buddy, Anne, from Pins and Thimbles.
  • I get to learn the things I don't have a handle on yet (and don't quite have the patience to teach myself). There are a lot of them and it limits the things that I make.
  • I'll get the skills to make my wedding dress!
  • By the end (hopefully) I'll see myself more as a professional dressmaker, rather than DIY-er. I think that's pretty important. At the moment I see this huge gap between myself and other designers who have had training. I remember at the fashion show I did, the other designers mostly made elaborate dresses and I felt so out of place with my casual wear, having only sewn like 4 zippers in my life. (That was mostly my own fault, not doing any research into the show before signing on.)
  • This feels like a defining step to fashion as my career. I've always tiptoed around that, saying that I'd do fashion as long as it worked out, then I'd get more 'realistic' if I had to. I've never said I definitely want fashion to be my career because it didn't seem safe. Well, bugger that. This is what I want to do. I'm treating it more seriously, otherwise how will I expect to make a living from it? Having said that, I'm not sure where, or if, my arts degree fits in. But that's another anxiety-ridden kettle of fish. Might tackle that decision next week.
Who knows, maybe the course won't give me all those things. But I'm still bloody excited.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009


Yes, I know I'm a bit late. Forgive me; I have pretty things for you to look at. I listed 40 cool winter threads in my Etsy shop today (and holy cow it took almost an entire day, crazy). Here are a few of my favourites.

Several of the oversized collar jumpers have disappeared already (which is awesome for knowing what to make more of next). So there will be more of those coming soon!

This is obviously not a traditional 'collection' where I make a bunch of things then I'm finished and done designing until the next season. That means I'll be making new things (from Friday) and will continue to list new things regularly again once I've caught up.

So! If you have any suggestions about things you'd like to see more of or less of, I'm all ears. Okay, now I'm imagining a person covered in ears. Gross.