Renegade Craft Fair Holiday Sale 2008

Always the Forest will be at the Renegade Craft Fair Holiday Sale in Chicago this year!  It’s  at the Pulaski Park Fieldhouse, December 6-7, 11am-7pm.  There will be over 150 vendors in 5 rooms, great music, food, and goodie bags.  More info can be found at www.renegadecraft.com/holiday.
New at this show will be the hooded shawls that I have yet to name.  They’re made from super cozy, think knit fabric, and can be dressed up or down, depending on where you want to wear it.  They will be in an assortment of neutral colors, so you’ll be able to wear it with a lot.   I will also have more Robin Dresses, Robin Tops, and Weekender Bags.  This will be my first solo show, so come visit me!


Renegade Craft Fair Chicago Recap

The Renegade Craft Fair was lots of fun, and well worth the trip out to Chicago despite all the rain and wind.  Chicago got the most rain ever in recorded history that weekend! My mom and sister came with me to help, and I am so grateful they did.  It went very well, even for my first outdoor show.  The canopy I got off craigslist held up extremely well, even against the torrential rain.  The only problem I had was lack of weights, and that was all my fault.  I only used one gallon of water per leg, and apparently you’re supposed to have 40lbs per leg!  Now, obviously it won’t be a problem if you’re out on a nice calm day, but on the second day, the wind picked up and the canopy almost took flight.  So for the rest of the day, my mom, my sister and I sat at opposite corners of the canopy to brace it against the wind and rain.  Yikes.  But that was really the only problem.  None of my merchandise got damaged by the rain, nothing blew away, and sales were good.  Well, my poor little rug that was meant to look warm and inviting looked soggy and sad by the middle of Saturday, but that’s a minor issue, haha.  I was amazed at how many people came out.  I had never seen such a large collection of umbrellas and rainboots before.  Thanks to everyone who braved the rain!  And at the end of the fair, there were people that came around and took our rented table and chairs for us.  That was awesome, because I realllllly didn’t want to take them all the way back.  So a big thanks to you, Renegade helpers!  I would definitely do another outdoor fair like Renegade again, the rain didn’t scare me away.


Flint City Handmade Spring Market

Billy and I will be manning a table at the Flint City Handmade Spring Market this year. I’m pretty excited, since this is our first show of the year. So if you’re a local, or just in the area, head on down to the Lunch Studio and the Brown Sugar Cafe this Saturday between 10-4 to check out hundreds of unique, handmade items. And, goodie bags will be handed out to the first 50 shoppers who arrive at the Lunch Studio starting at 10am. There will also be a raffle to win one of 25 items donated by the vendors.


Getting Ready for Craft Show Season

Craft show season is almost here, and we’ve been very busy with production. We have some great new designs coming soon. In the picture on the left, I’m hemming one of our new dress designs, which still has yet to be named.  So to keep things moving right along, I’ve given myself a working schedule, lunch breaks and everything.  I’m the type of person who works well within a schedule, and it doesn’t make crafting/sewing/designing any less fun.
Our new clothing tags came in, and they look pretty spiffy.  Designing the little things like promos, business cards and clothing tags is one of my favorite parts of this business.  This year I decided not to print and cut them all out myself, that took way too long last year.  I ordered them through kittycrossbones.etsy.com. She has a wide variety of promo items, including stickers, buttons, scratch-offs, and mirrors. The prices are pretty reasonable as well, and buying indie is also a plus!


Review: Business Cards from Vista Print

We just received our new business cards from www.vistaprint.com and I am really happy with their service. I went with 250 Premium business cards, and the grand total was $19.69. They arrived quickly, even thought I chose the cheapest shipping option (21 days! but arrived way sooner). The colors were also accurate. I have heard some people say that the colors on their orders were off, but I think if your design is CMYK compatible, you should be fine. For more info on CMYK colors, check out www.printingforless.com/rgb-cmyk.html. Vista Print offers free business cards, but you have to use one of their images, and the paper quality is not as good. I uploaded my own image, but there is a fee for that. They also sent me a bunch of offers for free postcard printing, brochure printing, and 80% off my next order of business cards, so I will definitely be taking advantage of those. Vista Print has good prices and good service, so I will definitely use them in the future.


Goals for 2008

So we’re already well into March, but I figured it would still be a good idea to outline my goals for Always the Forest this year. I would say 2007 was a good first year. We did two shows, made some sales, started an online store, started a blog, and learned quite a bit along the way. So now that we have a better idea of what we’re doing, it’s time to improve!

1. Accept credit cards - Currently, our website goes through PayPal. So customers can use their credit cards to order, they just have to go through PayPal, and a lot of people don’t like to do that. By accepting credit cards, we would probably increase our online sales. Also, accepting credit cards at shows would almost certainly increase our sales.

2. Streamline our products - Right now, we sell a large variety of things from purses to skirts to leggings to paintings to vintage finds. By narrowing the selection, it would allow for faster production, because we wouldn’t have to design something new every time we made something. It would also allow for more clothing sizes because I could easily grade patterns of say, five designs, instead of doing twenty one-offs.

3. Do more shows! - First of all, craft shows are fun. I really enjoyed the ones we did last year. I like meeting the other vendors and shoppers. Second of all, we make a lot more sales in person. People like to see the item up close, feel the fabric, and ask questions. I would like to do at least four shows this year.

4. Update the site and blog more - Nobody likes to see a site/blog that hasn’t been updated in forever. It probably even feels a bit sketchy to them. Well, we’re definitely not sketchy, just bad at updating. And that needs to be fixed, pronto.

So I’m going to start off on the right foot and get right to grading the lovely dress pattern I recently made!



Thing-a-day is almost over! If you haven’t heard of it, it’s basically a collective blog where artists and creators of all types and backgrounds make one thing per day and share it online. It’s a pretty neat idea, and there are some pretty cool things floating around on that website. And the fact that it’s just plain fun to participate in. You have to sign up for it before February, so if you missed it this year, you have to wait for next February.

From Thing-a-Day.com:
“This project was started as a class thought by Ze Frank at NYU’s Interactive Telecommunications Program in the Fall 2005. Every day, the twenty something grad students of this class has to post something new. In February 2007, inspired by the Ze Frank effort, we created the thing-a-day platform and opened it up to the public.”

Some of the items I made, starting at the top left, are: stitch art, whole wheat bread, a needle case, a portable/flexible tripod, fabric flower pin, painted chia herb planters, blueberry-frosted cupcakes, and homemade veggie stew. To see the rest of it, my thing-a-day page is here.


Our Blog Has Moved!

9/7/09 ETA: I moved it back here again! Technical difficulties.

Intentionally, of course. I moved it over to www.alwaystheforest.com/blog. I won't be updating this one anymore. All the old posts, links, ect. have been transferred, and the blog has been spiffied up a bit. So keep your eye on it for more interesting awesomeness!


Grading Patterns

Pattern grading: making sets of patterns to fit a range of sizes, the next step in the design process. Ever since the 1950's, there have been machines that will do this for you. But, having your patterns graded professionally can cost a lot. Luckily, grading one manually is not too difficult. The website www.burdastyle.com has some great tutorials on grading all different kinds of patterns.

Burdastyle has a ton of great free patterns, as well as a sewpedia, a comprehensive tutorial section, and a place for members to showcase their creations. It's definitely a site worth checking out, and maybe spending some time there learning a few new things.

Grade a skirt and pants pattern
Grade a sleeve pattern
Grade a bodice pattern


Places to Buy Fabric Online

I'm fortunate to live in an area that offers a variety of fabric stores other than the usual Jo-ann Fabrics and other craft store chain giants. Those are nice for getting basics like lining and thread, but if I want something unusual and unique, I go to one of those other independent fabric stores. There are also some really neat fabric shops online, in case you don't have a local fabric supplier. Here are some of my favorites:

www.reprodepot.com - great source for vintage reproduction fabrics.
www.kitty-craft.com - really, really cute japanese-inspired prints.
www.kiitosmarimekko.com - great source for buying Marimekko fabrics, my favorite design company.
www.melinamade.com - neat vintage inspired prints.
www.denverfabrics.com - lots of everything.
www.purlsoho.com - a ton of really nice fabric, and you can search by the type of print. Good resource for yarn as well.
www.wazoodle.com - great prices on knit and jersey fabric.

And if you're still looking for more places, craftster.org has a whole directory here, with about 85 listings! If anybody knows of more places, feel free to post them in the comments.


Business Essentials

There are a few things that help the business end of Always the Forest run smoothly, I call them business essentials. Not to be confused with craft essentials, which would be the obvious sewing machines, fabrics, thread, etc. They are:

1. Computer with internet access. I use my MacBook all the time for ATF related activities. I used it to build the website, and then to edit photos for the site and blog. With 24/7 internet access, I'm notified of orders as soon as they come in. I can also keep track of the latest craft shows and opportunities.

2. Shipping center. I have my very own shipping center in my hall closet. Inside, I keep bubble wrap, packing tape, postage labels, and different sizes of shipping bags and boxes. I also keep promo buttons, stickers, and business cards in there. When I get an order, I can go straight to my shipping center, package everything up, and it's ready to be sent out. I ordered all of my boxes completely free of charge at www.usps.com. I didn't even have to pay for shipping!

3. The Switchboards. The forum at www.theswitchboards.com is a wealth of information ranging from legality issues to website help to helpful hints from other indie businesses. It has proven to be indispensable whether I'm baffled about taxes, business insurance, suppliers, and most every other aspect of running an indie business.


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