Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Dreams Are Complicated

[This is a blog post I wrote 6 months ago after successfully enacting my big fashion business idea, and found myself ... unhappy? But this is my dream? I basically wrote this for myself, attempting understand and cope with how I was feeling.]

WOW, ok, here I am.

Yes, I am here, on the other side of the dreams I've been dreaming for so long. So why am I not bathing in the sunshine of making it here?

I have always wanted to work for myself. I have always wanted to start my own business. Now that I finally have, and I see and feel what it is like to integrate it into my life, I'm doubting myself. I'm doubting if I'm capable of handling it all. I'm doubting if it's what I really want. 

What do you do when you finally start living your dreams and discover that maybe it's not what you want?

- have a panic attack
- cry to your mama
- cry to your boyfriend
- cry to your cat
- beg your cat to trade lives with you
- ask your part-time employer to give you more hours
- self-medicate with wine and rom-coms all night on the couch
- doubt your ideas
- doubt your aspirations
- doubt your entire life
- give up on yourself

Other other option is to go back an re-read your own advice to yourself.

Ok, at least you're breathing again.

Work is work.

No matter what kind of work you find or create for yourself, it will come with common pitfalls. Things such as stress, deadlines, doing jobs you don't want to do, and generally taking you away from other life activities you want to be doing (see: hot tub). When you find that your dream job contains some or all of these bummers, does that mean it's not your dream job?

[actual dream job]

[actual dream job]

Well, maybe it wouldn't be so great to not have opposable thumbs, and the prune-iness from being in water all day might be a bit much ..... but am I traitor when I say that sometimes the idea of giving up all my dreams and becoming a loaf seems really appealing??


6 months have passed and I want to share where I have gone mentally (and literally) since writing this.

I found myself unhappy, overwhelmed, and uninspired by my original clothing-line business model.

After 6 months of actively executing my plans, I discovered that wearing all the hats needed for a well-rounded business was too much. Every minute that I was sewing production, I wasn't promoting and marketing my garments. Every minute I was crunching numbers on spreadsheets, I wasn't in my studio developing new product. And I found that there were some hats that I'm just not that great at wearing. (SURPRISE! the artist isn't a great salesman.) Not to mention, many of those hats took me away from what it is that I'm actually good at doing, and WANTED to be doing.

Then there was also the undeniable fact that where I stood in that moment, with that business, wouldn't make me much money. And I decided that I had gotten to an age where I was over the "labor of love" system of business I'd been running (for years) and was ready to act smarter with my time and skills.

So I took a hard look at the bullet points in my original business plan, with the practical knowledge I had fallen into the first half of the year, and came to a few conclusions:

            -- if I want to make affordable clothing then I need to look
at mass-manufacturing and delegating the cutting-and-sewing.

                 -- if I want to provide custom, if I want to hand-craft clothing myself,
then I need to look into a speciality, higher-end, higher-priced clothing line.

                  -- if I don't want to wear all the hats, then I need to either pay others
for their expertise or collaborate.

In a bizarrely-remarkable series of events, I have turned on a dime and begun aggressively pursuing these new ideas. I chose to end my lil clothing line early in order to put all my efforts in these new directions, much to my own dismay. I hate not following-thru on something that I commit myself to but ... I think it's been a good choice.

So you wanna know what I'm up to now??

I collaborated with a good friend, who also happens to have a successful clothing line in Durham -- RUNAWAY -- and we designed our first full-fashion garment together, and then held each others' hands while we learned how to work with a (NC-based!) production house to have them made. LOTTA learning, but we just got the finished product in the door and it feels soooo gooood.

Best parts: I didn't have to sew them all and he's doing the selling!

Check out the > video < Runaway made in support of our collaboration, as well as the art show they're hosting of *my* knitted work. I've been busy!


I'm developing a new clothing line with my buddy Anne (of Red Canary) where we're using her digitally-printed fabrics with her surface designs and my pattern-making and construction skills to come up with a line of speciality garments unlike anything you've seen before. We are still in the throews of development so not many pictures, but expect to see some stuff beginning of next year. For now, it will all be sewn in-house (by me) and will offer ready-to-wear as well as custom aspects.

Best parts: Anne and I make a great team, we encourage each other to show up and get to work, and did I mention custom-printed fabric of anything we can dream up?!?

I guess that it wasn't that my dreams were bad, maybe I underestimated that there will be hard work and struggles, even with your dream job. I am proud that I chose to reassess my dreams and make them better. If I had stuck to my original plan, out of some kind of loyalty, I wouldn't be as far along with these new ideas as I am now. Working with partners has been GREAT. When you work with someone else, you get a different viewpoint, as well as, they can challenge you to grow in ways that you otherwise wouldn't have pushed yourself into.

BOTTOM LINE: Never give up on your dreams,
 but never be too closed-minded to see when they need to change.

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Making A Wedding Dress, Part 2

OK, where was I?

Ah, yes, commence with the pleating!

When we left off, I had finished my under-pinnings and was ready to add the final fashion fabric to the dress. I had always envisioned a pleated wedding dress for myself but had never attempted intricate pleating before. I was lucky enough to find a article where a group had actually taken a pleating class with the former head of Madame Gres' couture workroom! AND shared the instructional on the internet!! I was so grateful for the instant (with paid subscription) tutorial, and it was the inspiration for me to also take the time to share what I've learned in this process with YOU.

I discovered that pleating requires A LOT of pins. I always prefer extra-fine glass-head pins; they're gentle on delicate fabric and won't melt if you iron over them. I don't even own steel-head pins because they feel thick going through fabric, I struggle to grasp them and they get lost in my pin cushion. I blew through my glass-head stash quickly and found myself scrounging on the floor for strays to finish the job. You start pleating from the bottom layer (the sides of the bodice) to the top layer (the cups), making it easy to hide raw edges. So, the ends on the right side of the image above just needed to be thinned of their fullness and would soon be hidden.

Once the pleats are pinned in place, now comes the curved needle. You gently fold back each pleat and run long running stitches onto the pleat directly below it. Thus when you return the folded pleat, it will hide the stitching. I put paper in between my dress form and my corset, so that I could hear and feel when I had sewn through all desired layers and NOT caught the fabric of the dress form itself. Oh, the sadness that would've been to do all this beautiful work and not be able to take it off the form!

I found the running stitches were much easier to execute if I could lay the form on its side and be able to work upside down. I initially tried this on my studio table but soon found sweat running down my body (due to maximum summer temperatures and minimal A/C) and, let's be real, sitting on a table is uncomfortable. SO, I hauled my form into the house, put on a long-running stream of Murder, She Wrote, and stitched away!

When I finished with the two side sections, 1) I breathed a sigh of relief, they were the largest sections of pleating! and, 2) hobbled my sweaty, determined, pin-pricked ass back into the studio with the form to set up the pleating in the center of the bodice. The house is more comfortable... but the studio has better lighting...

This area proved more challenging because of symmetry. As all dressmakers know, the front left and front right of a garment typically mirror each other down the center front line. But how do you achieve symmetry if your pleats all go in one direction? Follow me? Each side can't be treated in the same manner because the pleats are folding differently. So, I did my best to make them look the same practice letting go of perfection. I considered reversing the pleats down the center front but ultimately didn't like the look of it. It was worth testing it out though. I also had enough time time that, if I wasn't sure of a design idea, I would allow myself to stop and step away; giving myself time to mull things over.

On the left, Trial A.... just didn't win me over. On the right, the final design for the cups.

When you're in a hurry, it can be desirable to stick with your first idea, but remember the big picture, with an emphasis on the word "picture". These wedding photos will be up in your and your families' homes for perceivably the rest of your life. Make sure you're happy with your dress before your past the point of NO RETURN. hehe

The cups were the most challenging because they involved shaping over a curve. The corset was a blessing because I knew it fit me, so all I had to do was follow their shape make sure to not distort them at all during the process. And since I had all the pleat practice leading up to them, I was the most confident and comfortable as I would ever be!

Once the pleats were done, a lovely bridesmaid came over and helped me play with strap ideas (and convinced me to take the time to clean up the hem with a rotary cutter). I chose this standard strap design because I had gotten pretty badly burned at the beach earlier in the year and decided to match my straps to my tan.... (PROFESSIONAL WEDDING TIP!!!). I sorta made up a little twisty thing with the excess fabric from the back pleats to cover up the zipper teeth. I used a plastic separating jacket zipper that I shortened to attach to the corset. Then the back skirt crossed over the center back opening and got a hook-and-eye closure over near my left side body.

It was a comfortable dress to wear, easy to get in and out of, and thank goodness for those front slits because every time I started getting hot, I was able to stick my leg out and cool myself off!! Seriously, it helped! The only uncomfortable-ness I felt was when a hidden mob of guests bombarded us with uncooked grits flying at our face, which proceeded to get lodged in my cleavage for the rest of the night. Pretty sure they were fully-cooked by the time I took my dress off!!

I also made Adam's linen shirt and jeans. I honestly think working with the linen was harder than my entire dress! The tissue cotton worked beautifully to pleat, thin but stable. 

Thanks for following my journey on this most-ambitious project. I thoroughly enjoyed the process and would recommend any enthusiastic sewer to give it a shot! Set manageable goals (in terms of fabric choices and techniques), understand your work ethic and how much time you need, and don't be afraid! Be willing to seek out advice (I'm an open door!) and maybe have a backup plan just incase. If only for the easement of your mother's nerves :)

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Making a Wedding Dress, Part 1

Let's get one thing straight here, I never intended to make my own wedding dress.

But, when you're as particular as I can be, the idea of shopping for a wedding dress already sounded disappointing, and, having spent the last 3 years honing my clothes-making skills, I was feeling confident. I also knew that a nearby sewing ally, Brooks Ann Camper, was available for consultations so I didn't feel so alone in my quest.

These are some Madame Gres originals that were the inspiration for my own dress.

GOAL: to look like a Greek statue, to be done before the wedding, and to not talk to my Mom about my progress so she wouldn't stress out.

Also, I didn't want to stress out either. This was supposed to be a joyous occasion and I was gonna have fun, dammit!

I knew (and feared) the first step: figuring out the underpinnings.

This would be crucial to holding the dress up on my body. With the amount of pleating I wanted to do, I knew this thing could get heavy quick, and I was determined to avoid the dreaded hoisting-up-the-strapless-dress dance us women can fall victim to. And, yes, I did end up adding straps but at this point I was designing as I went along, and had no idea what bodice iteration I would land on. Better prep for strapless rather than rely on straps to hold me up.

I also didn't want to have to find/buy a bra to go with the dress. So my plan started with mashing together basic corset principles and foam cup bra-making. Amy (of Cloth Habit) is your go-to woman for great bra-making tutorials and advice. I used her website to guide me on where to buy materials and I followed her foam cup and underwire bra info. I did look at various corset and bra patterns but ultimately decided to draft my own.

Yes, I have never worked with these materials.

Yes, I have never even worn a corset, much less made one.

But I knew that if I approached the construction in the same way that I approach any of my flat pattern-making projects, I could make it work. You're mapping the body in the same way, just this one would be the ultimate in form-fitting.

5/8 inch spiral steel boning! Brooks Ann said later I could've gone with narrower boning but what's a wedding without a little overkill??

The muslin and foam mock-up of the corset took about a day, with much-needed help from my partner to pin it on me for review. My biggest error was only making one cup in my mock-up. I really needed to do both sides so I could see how the entire thing would pull together, knowwhatImean? It's like when you're making a shirt and you only put one sleeve on. It doesn't allow you to see how much room you have across your back unless both sleeves are attached. As a result, when I made the corset out of the final fabrics, I had a bit of gapping between my breast plate and the bridge (the spot in between the 2 cups). If this was going to be a bra that I was planning on wearing every week for the next 2 years, it would be a problem. But I knew it only needed to be successful for one day.

Don't you love working on projects entirely for yourself?! 
You can choose to let go of perfection much more easily, thank GOD.

I had a consult with Brooks Ann to see how I was doing so far and to hash out a plan for the rest of the dress. She helped me add the finishing touches to my corset (it was worth paying a professional just to help me pin on myself!), it was looking like a corset, and feeling comfortable to boot.

Up next: building the final fabric onto the corset.

I chose an organic cotton tissue knit fabric because, like all my clothes, I wanted maximum comfort and I knew the odds that a July wedding in NC would be HOT.

I've discovered that my motion-censored deer camera is the best way to take pictures of myself!

One problem with making your own wedding dress is that you don't get the chance to try on the final product until you finish the thing. So you better figure out a way to design something that will look good on you BEFORE you finish. Whether that's reviewing your current wardrobe for great necklines/silhouettes/etc options, going to a bridal store and trying on various pre-made designs, or my favorite choice, the quick-and-dirty method. This time, the quick-and-dirty method meant excessively pinning scraps of the fabric in various sloppy iterations onto the corset, delicately securing the damn thing to myself, and ignoring the repeated stabbing of said plethora of pins until I got a chance to look at myself in the mirror. (Adam kept getting so nervous about poking me when I would force him to pin together the back, Me: "JUST DO IT!")

It sounds messy but I was able to instantly get a read on what was working and what wasn't. For example, my first idea for pleating the breast cups made me feel like a seashelled-Ariel from Little Mermaid, so I worked hard to cut out fabric fullness as much as possible and avoid any clam-shaped designs.

By the end of the day, I still hadn't decided on cup designs so I put it off and began building the skirt. I added a flat layer of cotton over the corset so no color would show through to the final dress (that was Brooks Ann's idea, thank you!). The tissue knit was pretty sheer and, being that it's white, I didn't want to worry about that being a problem! I created 2 layers of skirting attached to the bottom of the corset, one flat and one pleated, with slits sitting over both thighs.

Let the pleating begin! 

This would be the last time I would have the speed and luxury of using the machine to sew.

UP NEXT: curved needles, the great straight pin shortage, and me vs. the heat.


Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Spring Design Inspiration

Ann Tilley Handmade's spring collection is here!

Take a look here.

I'm still hanging on with this clothing line idea, I feel like I've created my own personal grad school with how steep my learning curve has been. Attempting to stay in front of the season change has been crazy! Mother Nature got me all scared cuz we started having spring/summer weather like weeks ago and I was panicking cuz I was still trying to sling long sleeve tops. It cooled down again but it certainly got my butt into gear!

A central start for my designs is looking to my own wardrobe and what I love to wear again and again. 

Enter my all-time favorite black pencil skirt, made out of a stretchy black knit that was starting to look worse for the wear. I had never been fond of the way the waistband fit, hence I'm hiding it with a big belt ~ prime inspiration for an update on a classic. I had also been fantasizing for some time now on a great wrap skirt (check out my Pinterest board inspo!). Thus, the Goddess Drape Skirt was born. 

I wanted maximum drape, full of texture and maximum comfort. Folding the fabric allowed me to get a clean edge on the front drape panels and doubled the fabric; acting like a lining.

On the opposite end of designing, there's starting with a fabric and trying to figure out what to make with it. I had planned to design a wrap dress but discovered the fabric I intended to use was much too stretchy for my original intentions. Then I just started playing and discovered how much I loved the look of an over-the-boob wrap top. Being large-chested, a standard wrap that crosses your breast can easily put you into lady-of-the-night category if you're not careful. I love that here you can get the ease of wearing a wrap with the benefit of full coverage. Having your arms exposed and the cropped hem length keeps you from looking too matronly. 

This dress was inspired by a vintage girl's dress I found in a shop in downtown Pittsboro. 

It was much tighter and shorter and had red stripes -- the neck was so tight I had to cut it larger to get my head in! It proved to be a little too small for regular wear and it got cycled out of my closet. I think we all know what it feels like to find a great garment that had that one flaw you wish was different. The beauty of designing from your own wardrobe is getting a chance to fix that flaw!

I'm strugglin' a little because I made this dress months ago after finding the perfect striped ponte fabric, and now I'm having trouble getting my hands on more fabric, to be able to offer this look to my customers. I'm gonna have to play it by ear and settle on another fabric if I can't get anymore.

Hope you enjoyed a peek into my spring collection and design process that went into it all!

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Clothing Line Launches Amid Procrastination, Anxiety, and Ever-Neglected Household Chores

I sorta love this picture. It really captures me in a candid state -- having fun but probably not sure what I'm doing, haha. 

There is one thing that I do know how to do, and do well, that is make clothing. But trudging through the process of building a website, taking professional photographs (do I have to wear makeup??), learning the ins-and-outs of credit card processing, NOT TO MENTION how do I get my product to customers in the first place??

I'm slowly finding answers to these questions, in my own way. This whole clothing line is me doing it all in my own way, with the help of uber-talented friends that have brought me guidance and a helping hand. I didn't realize how badly I'd need that helping hand. 

The anxiety and procrastination I've developed over the past couplea weeks has surprised me. That's not me, why do I feel this way? I ain't scared if that's what you're thinking ... or am I? I've double-checked everything so why can't I just pull the trigger on this bitch? I don't have anything to fear cause I don't even know what I'm getting myself into!

I'm just gonna say to myself that feeling all these feelings must mean I'm stepping outside of my comfort zone and I've heard that it's good to do once in a while.

So without further delay, I'd like to announce that my clothing line is officially open for business, with the first garment being released TODAY! Wahoo!! Take a look at the new site!

I've got some thank you's I need to get out there.

Seth Tice-Lewis, you're tha bomb, your photography skills made it easy create a great-looking site.
Skram Furniture Co., for letting us use your space and hog the radio even though I didn't ask.
Brittney O'Brien, you made me feel so confident with a great new hair-do before the shoot, and for showing me what makeup is even though I hardly put any on.
Chris Martz and Benjamin Reed, for advising me in the ways of HTML script.
Anna Daigneault, for proof-reading, trouble-shooting, and giving lots of hi-fives.
The Tilley/Thornton families, Haley Harned and Jenny Ellis for giving me your honest opinions about my clothes and telling me my ideas are good.
Adam Joyce, for orchestrating the wonderfully-instructional measuring video, for srsly holding my hand through this process, and for continually wiping sawdust off my ass.

And for all of YOU, who have been excited about my ideas, who have shared your clothes and fit stories with me, who have followed me through my career journeys, hell, I wouldn't have started this thing if it wasn't for Instagram and the feedback I got there. THANK YOU FOR PUSHING ME TO THIS POINT.

And this is only the beginning. Once I start to work through these first 3 garments, and get a chance to tweak and troubleshoot, I'm hoping this clothing line can become a well-oiled machine that can last through the year, if not longer. My initial goal was to release at least 1 garment a month for the whole year. I don't know where I'll go from there but I'm excited to see where I find myself this time next year!

Sunday, January 3, 2016

New Clothing Line!

SO, I know some a y'all be thinking that I'm fully-focused on my art career right now ... I was thinking the same thing too. Well, I can't explain it but I got this bug (or rather a really good idea) to play with making clothes for others. I have been having a fabulous time these past 2 years making my own garments and honing my pattern-making skills. It's like a super-practical 3-D puzzle that engages my brain in wonderful ways. After my peanut shorts experiment earlier this year, I started to seriously consider developing a clothing line. And I finally got fed up working with clients on their ideas and decided to find an income with my own ideas.

Starting January 2016, I will be officially launching Ann Tilley Handmade clothing!

Here's how it works:
Ann Tilley Handmade is a small-batch, made-to-order clothing line focused on everyday, easy-wear-easy-care garments. We will release one look each month via social media and other online marketing tools, with particular emphasis on direct e-mail. Customers will place their order on a first-come-first-served basis online, and will be prompted to provide their body measurements. The garment will be cut and sewn to fit their specified dimensions and mailed out to them. As soon as all the fabric is gone for each garment, the product will come to an end. We're striving to exist between $30-$100 price range per garment.

To be the first to know about new products, make sure you are signed up to my email list! Those on the list will get a 24-hour heads up to make a purchase before I post publicly on social media. There's only going to be 8-20 garments offered for each look so you gotta move quick!

Here's my mission statement because, yes, I wrote a business plan so you have to read it now :)

Ann Tilley Handmade strives to provide the general public with ethically-made clothing that are unique, stylish, and comfortable, with an option for custom fitting.  ATH is for those who otherwise can’t afford to shop ethically or don’t know how.  ATH is for the person who has a unique body shape and is unable to fit in clothing off the rack.  ATH is for the person who wants to dress like a true individual!
In lieu of photos of the actual clothing I will be offering (the photoshoot is January 9th!) here are some shots over the last year of clothing I have made for myself and loved ones.

One of my biggest regrets about pursuing a fashion career is that a lot of times it does not fall in line with my moral and environmental values. I see all these wonderful people around me are following careers that contribute to the greater good and I'm making clothes? And when you hear about all the tragedies surrounding cheap, overseas labor (watch The True Cost documentary on Netflix) or the fact that the fashion industry is the 2nd largest waste-producing industry, second only to the coal industry, it makes one feel sorta sick to their stomach walking through a Target or a TJ Maxx.

I can't change the industry -- one little girl in rural NC -- but I can choose to not support it with my money. I haven't really shopped for new clothing in 2 years, occasionally I crumble but less and less frequently. I'm lucky because I can make clothes for myself but my friends don't have that option, and me reprimanding them for shopping at Old Navy doesn't really change anything. We need some clothing and we want other clothing because it's fun, it makes you feel good, like yourself, it's a fundamental way that humans present themselves to each other.

I'll be sewing all purchased garments by myself in the lil 9 ft x 15 ft home studio barn behind my house. The fabrics are being sourced based on their uniqueness, comfort, and price, and each product will be available until I run out of its allocated fabric. Then that keeps me from getting burnt out on the same thing and a chance to try out new designs and fabrics. I guess it's the artist in me bleeding over to the fashion side. I don't have a ton of control (for now) about how ethically the fabric is being produced, especially if I am considering cost, but usually that aspect of manufacturing is less reliant on human labor. And as this project moves along, hopefully I can educate myself more on this aspect of the business and make thoughtful changes.

So... LET ME KNOW WHAT Y'ALL WANNA SEE! What garment are you missing from your wardrobe that you just can't find?

I'm ready to take your orders!

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Fall Activities

Gravy once again finding my work table, and all the projects I'm currently working on, a pleasing place to nap.

Hey everybody! 

I have been up to a ton of stuff this fall and am very pleased to say that not much of it has been freelance work-for-hire crap. I am whittling it out of my life and it feels great! Still got a couple loose ends I have to finish up before I can state that I am completely free. And I'm serious when I say free. Doing work for others comes with a level of stress -- knowing that someone else is holding you to a deadline, the need to live up to others' expectations, etc -- and those things had a way of weighing heavily on one's shoulders. I think that's why school wasn't such a great fit for me. I work a lot better holding myself to deadlines rather than to be pressured by others, which I have recently realized about myself. AND it is a very crucial thing to have some insight on when you are attempting to work for yourself.

See how much the original lining had disintegrated?

I recently finished up a project that I was somewhat stressing about, so much so, that I put it away and promptly forgot about it (psst for a whole freaking year!). Ok, ok, lemme explain. It was for a friend, someone who had done favors for me in the past and I was wanting to do it for free for him. What happens when you lack financial compensation? You put it off.

Of course, that all seems so silly now because was it not nearly as difficult or time consuming as I had dreaded it to be ---- re-lining a leather jacket including all the pockets. It actually was kinda fun! Well, after the tedium of seam-ripping the whole thing, and trying to do a clean job of it so I could use the original pieces as guides to cut the new fabric.

And what I was dreading the most was if my sewing machine could handle all that leather. It worked so well it blew me away. I do have an industrial machine but I don't have a walking foot. Sweet relief! And I'm now thinking that I have some room to ask him for another favor... 

I met a herd of knitters in Greensboro, working on a large yarn-bomb intended to cover the whole Walker St bridge. They were very relieved when I showed up with my bulky hobby knit machine (did I mention someone gave me one? As in fo free??). I let them borrow it to help with the boring stuff. We met in the back of Shelf Life, a new, independent art supply store in town, and how great is the atmosphere? I just thought these pictures were fun and colorful.

I was able to donate some practice knits that I didn't want to throw away. Those green-and-white swatches forming the "H" were from when I was just learning how to use my fabulous standard gauge knit machine.

Speaking of knitting machines...

Did I tell y'all I got picked to be a pop-up artist-in-residence at the Greenhill Center?? 10 days in their ArtQuest space, to set up whatever work I wanted to do and to interact and engage with the kids and families that came through the space.

I attempted to try and get the kids to draw their own knitting designs on graph paper, with an emphasis on drawing houses, since I've been making a lot of houses this year. It failed miserably but I had a back-up plan consisting of using those pot holder loops to teach finger knitting and a bag-full of pom-pom makers. Isabella did draw her guinea pig and I was thrilled to use the machine to knit it for her.

So maybe I wasn't able to get the kids to directly interact with a project that I was working on, but I at least promoted the name of fiber arts. And who doesn't like pom-poms?? 
If you can see in the earlier picture of my knitting set-up, I had that bulky hobby machine out (bottom right) for anyone interested and during my time there I had 2 groups of kids that got really into knitting on the machine. As in, one group (consisting of 2 brothers and a grandpa) came back the next day just to work on the machine! It surprised me, I wasn't sure how they would take to it but the older brother especially (probably 9 or so) could use it with minimal help from me. And they were able to knit an entire scarf to take home with them!

At the end of my time, I had done more socializing, networking, and playing with the kids, rather than making any art. It still felt like a success though. It's always exciting to share activities with kids that engage them. As in...

 ...this one little girl that came to family night was finger-knitting, and I was basically putting the loops on her fingers for her. .. and doing the knitting part ... she was pretty much just holding her hand there. Then slowly she started taking over for me, one step at a time, to the point that she didn't need me anymore. And every time that she would finish a "row" of fingers, she would hold it up for me to see and just beam with joy and satisfaction. I got a lot of enjoyment out of watching her.

Family time out in the backyard.
This photograph is titled "How to keep the 2.5-yr old entertained and outta trouble". I am jealous of that full-split, Susan! Talk about open hips! She must be made of playdoh :)

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Don't. Give. Up.

Working for yourself can be a daunting excursion into a dark and unknown place. There are reasons to give up at every corner. I have been working for myself in some form or fashion for the last 6 years, that business has encompassed making t-shirt quilts, hand-tooling leather stools, developing prototypes for other peoples' ideas, custom clothing, trying to make and sell my own art (and don't even get me started on my attempt to get into the upholstery business) .... it's been a lot of eggs in a lot of baskets. And my brain and heart have likewise felt equally split. Some days are harder than others, and it's tough to keep the bad thoughts out...

...when you are reminded that doing what you love probably won't get you rich. Or even just financially comfortable.

...when you learn that your Affordable Health Care is going up another $100 because you have a job that doesn't come with benefits.

...when you pour your heart into your ideas and projects and some people just don't get it (especially if said people are your friends and family).

...when you tearfully search job listings on Craigslist in a fit of desperation.

...when your perceive others as having more success than you.

...when the uncertainty of your future bears down on you with the weight of the world.

All I know to do in these times is remind myself to just not give up. Not today, at least.

Don't give up.



Think about it. What else would you rather do with your time on earth? Work an unfulfilling job just for the financial security, always putting your dreams on the back burner.

But it would be so easy to give up...

Ok, ok we can't listen to that voice.

Ann's Top 5 Reasons NOT To Give Up

1) ...because there are too many things in the world I haven't done yet. And I want to make everything at least once (yes, one day I will make a bra!)

2) ...because I know I am capable of something great and not proving that to myself would be the biggest disappoint of my life.

3) ...because fear of failure is the dumbest reason EVER. It's the unknown, so why fear something that has not even been written yet?

4) ...because at the end of it all, money is not important. Study after study tells us that ultimately happiness does not come from our bank accounts (that is, once you're out of poverty. If you are reading this, then you're probably doing okay).

5) ...because I wouldn't want to be doing anything else.
Remember when you worked for other people and it felt like treading water? Like you were waiting for your life to start? Yeah, you don't want to go back there. You're going to figure out how to make this work, and it's going to happen!

And because there are cotton fields out there to sit in!