Friday, December 20, 2013

Negative Nellies - Don't Be a Victim

You've encountered them at work. You've heard them on public transit nattering away to some poor trapped soul. You might even be one (hopefully not). But they can kill your enjoyment of life in general and your sewing hobby in particular, and that would truly be a huge shame.

So as we head into 2014, you are probably thinking of things you would like to do and others that you would like to avoid.

On the "to do" list I recommend taking in a sewing show with the intent of fully exploring all there is to see and do. Don't go with a friend whose interests are different from yours or who will drag you down. Better to agree to meet up at the end of the day for dinner and go on your own merry way the rest of the time.

If there's a Negative Nellie in your sewing group, limit the amount of time you spend listening to her complaints. Give her two to five minutes and change the subject. Otherwise you will find yourself sucked into her world of darkness and go home feeling down, rather than energized. That's not what you signed up for, is it?

What will you do differently in 2014 so that you can get more enjoyment out of your sewing?

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Consumer Show Etiquette Revisited

With the largest Canadian sewing and crafting show just a few days away, I thought a repost of this article was warranted. Most people who visit my booth are wonderful, courteous and mindful of the enormous effort it takes to be there. Some unfortunately are not. Read on.
I love doing consumer shows and the Creativ Festival is certainly one of my favourites. Held twice a year, it takes about six months of ongoing planning and preparation to create a really great experience for consumers.

There is an enormous amount of preparation and expense that goes into exhibiting at these shows. There are a lot of unknowns, and vendors have only three days to educate consumers about their products and help them make informed choices. In order for the vendor to have a successful show they have to make sufficient sales to cover all their expenses: booth rentals, carpet and fixture rentals, electrical supply, lighting, advertising, signage, shipping expenses, hotels, parking and staffing. An average cost per 10 x 10 booth before the show opens is $3,000. What if you had only three days to recover $9,000 or $10,000 of investment just to break even?

The Networker:

Some individuals are looking to get into the creative industry and figure that they will meet all kinds of people who can give them advice or buy their product. And that's not necessarily a bad thing, except when the individual monopolizes the staff's and owner's precious time. The best approach is to come prepared. Spend some time educating yourself about the potential contacts' businesses so you are sure there is a fit. Next visit the show and browse the aisles, taking in what's going on and making notes.

Lastly, pick a slow time to visit the contacts you are interested in. The best time is Friday evening after 6:00 pm. Approach the booth and ask to speak to the owner. Quickly introduce yourself and state your purpose. Ask the owner if he or she has a few minutes to speak with you. If the owner says that this is not a good time, politely hand over your business card and ask if you may contact him or her after the show. If she or he agrees to speak with you, take exactly three minutes and offer to contact the owner after the show. You may then wish to stay to browse or make a purchase. If you are not shopping, leave the booth and go to your next contact. You will make a good impression and the owner will be much more receptive when you do call.

The Opportunist:

Some people like to come to the show to become educated and get inspired. That's what it's all about. It's a great opportunity to try out a sewing machine before you buy or learn about a new notion. Take all the classes and attend the free shows and seminars. But don't take advantage of the vendors. I overheard a consumer announce to a vendor who had just spent 15 minutes demonstrating a product, providing lots of tips on how to get the most of it: "I'll use my 40% off coupon at Michaels to purchase that product." Everyone likes to save money, but this isn't the way to go about it. It is highly unlikely that anyone at Michaels would provide the level of service that vendor had just given. I'm sure the service from that vendor was worth more than the 40% off coupon. Be considerate. If you're not going to buy from the local independent vendor, they won't be there to give you precious advice the next time you need it.

Support for Small Business

"Nothing in this world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not: nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not: the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent." Calvin Coolidge

Persistence in today's economy is tough. Sometimes it is overwhelming when the bills pile up and the sales are down. And one wonders how to continue to bring the passion for their art to work every day. I think President Calvin nailed it.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

I Don't Do Cross-Border... Yeah Right.

I have had a few individuals give me grief because they don't like that I take a group of sewers to the American Sewing Expo just across the Ontario-Michigan border. I usually don't get into it, as I pick my battles. And of course, the customer is always right, right?

If you shop at Wal-Mart, Home Depot, Michael's, The Bay or Target, guess what? You are cross-border shopping. And you can argue that they employ Canadian locals, but at what cost? Minimum wage jobs with few benefits. They put many locals out of business, so that you can have cheap goods from China.

Many quilters buy cheap fabrics online from U.S. retailers and show up at the local quilt store for blenders or backings. Garment sewers order Kwik-Sew, McCall's, Butterick and Vogue patterns online. Online shopping from the U.S. is cross-border shopping too.

Like it or not, the U.S. is our neighbour, and we could do a lot worse. Most of the exhibitors at the American Sewing Expo are small to mid-sized businesses. The teachers are creative individuals without whom there would be far fewer resources for us. Even the sewing machine companies are small players on a global scale. And none of them caused a global recession.

And if you don't think your local retailer is buying the majority of their goods from suppliers in the U.S., you are mistaken. My point is, a little weekend of fun and shopping at an independently run sewing show in Michigan is hardly unpatriotic.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Don't Copy Wrong ...Respect Copyright!

Copyright is a complicated and misunderstood topic. Most of us want to stay on the right side of the law but many of us are not sure where the line is drawn.
The National Needlearts Association (TNNA) is an industry group that has created a brochure about copyright to educate members and the public.
Although the association is based in the U.S. and refers to U.S. laws, it is helpful for all North Americans.
The brochure is written in plain English and begins by explaining the difference between patents, trademarks and copyright. Sharing patterns, copying patterns from magazines and giving them out, emailing downloaded patterns to others or posting them on the Internet, all are copyright infringements.
Since I am acquainted with so many wonderful and talented garment and pattern designers, I know how hard they work. And none of them are making a killing at it. They deserve to be paid for their work, just like the rest of us. And their work is what makes fashion sewing so enjoyable for so many consumers.
While independent designers may not have the resources to pursue violators, the U.S. authorities do. So be warned. This is taken directly from the TNNA brochure: "Although copyright is covered under civil law, violations involving more than 10 copies and valued over $2500 are considered a felony in the U.S."


Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Colour Blocked "Wear With All Jacket" How To

The Wear With All Jacket from Saf-T-Pockets Patterns is a lovely, classic, flattering style that anyone can wear with a skirt or pant. It is fully lined with zippered and inside pockets to free your hands from having to carry--and therefore worry about--your purse. View 2 has pieced fronts and sleeves originally designed to appeal to quilters. My immediate thought was that colour blocked in solid suiting was the smarter way to go. This is the original pattern illustration.

Before I committed my idea to fabric, I scanned the illustration into my photoshop computer program and removed all but the outline of the jacket. This is the outlined illustration.

When I looked at the fabric requirements on the back of the pattern envelope, it wasn't obvious to me where Fabrics 1, 2, 3 and 4 would be located on the jacket. So I looked at the pattern pieces, figured it out, and put the fabric numbers on the outline illustration.

I then started playing with colour placement until I found some that gave me the most balanced looked. Here is the result of that colour play. Click on the picture to see an enlarged view.

I chose to make the third version in charcoal, black, dove gray and plum in Astaire Suiting, which I carry in my online store. Here is the result.

I was also very tempted to make a Mondrian version a la Yves St Laurent by adding additional charcoal grey strips over the pieced seams.

I hope this has inspired you to look beyond the obvious when it comes to your pattern choices. If you don't have a computer program that helps with the process, old fashioned tracing and colouring is just as effective.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Ten Great Ways to Crush Creativity

Following on my earlier post about the importance of creativity, this article by Paul Sloane nails it.

Here's a good one:

"9. Promote people like you from within

Promoting from within is a good sign. It helps retain people and they can see a reward for loyalty and hard work. It means we don’t get polluted with heretical ideas from outside. Also if the CEO promotes people like him then he can achieve consistency and succession. It is best to find managers who agree with the CEO and praise him for his acumen and foresight."

I mean, who wouldn't?

but the best of all is:

"1. Criticize

When you hear a new idea criticize it. Show how smart you are by pointing out some of the weaknesses and flaws which will hold it back. The more experienced you are, the easier it is to find fault with other people’s ideas. Decca Records turned down the Beatles, IBM rejected the photocopying idea which launched Xerox, DEC turned down the spreadsheet and various major publishers turned down the first Harry Potter novel. The same thing is happening in most organizations today. New ideas tend to be partly-formed so it is easy to reject them as ‘bad’. They diverge from the narrow focus that we have for the business so we discard them. Furthermore, every time somebody comes to you with an idea which you criticize, it discourages the person from wasting your time with more suggestions. It sends a message that new ideas are not welcome and that anyone who volunteers them is risking criticism or ridicule. This is a sure fire way to crush the creative spirit in your staff."

Seen it a million times.

Don't be a creativity crusher, no matter how important or how right you think you are.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Creativity is a Life Skill
Creativity is a double-edged sword. I have been a creative soul my entire life. Marching to the beat of a different drummer got me into trouble at school and in the workplace. Teachers interpreted my inquisitiveness as rebellion and bosses thought my desire to explore alternatives as insubordination.
In life we get so many mixed messages about the importance of creativity. In the corporate world, bosses and consultants told us to "think outside the box" and "challenge the status quo". They also claimed to have an "open door policy". Well good luck with that. Anyone who dared take them at their word was quickly admonished, told to "follow the chain of command" and at worst, fired. Tell me what I want to hear, was more like it.
I didn't know at the time that my creativity was getting in the way. It wasn't until a very enlightened boss (rare, I know) sent me on a marketing executive course at Queens University that I finally understood why.
Before the course, we were required to take the Herrmann Brain Dominance Test. It is an instrument used to measure your preferred thinking style. There are four modes of thinking style: Analytical; Sequential; Interpersonal and Imaginative.
While I scored high in the first three, the fourth, imaginative thinking, was literally off the chart. At the start of the class we were asked to gather with the others who scored in our dominant class of thinking style. No surprise that the imaginative thinking group was the smallest.
Creativity is difficult in a world that is based on following schedules, obeying rules and staying within social norms. Thankfully creativity can still co-exist with routine and be nurtured, and appropriately applied.
I find sewing, fashion sewing in particular, to be a fulfilling creative pursuit. Even if I am following a pattern, I am choosing the fabric, the buttons, the embellishments. The analytical and sequential thinking is required to put it together. But the creativity is envisioning the finished product and adding the personal touches.
Creative pursuits have sustained me and nurtured my soul. It has allowed me to finally be doing exactly what I want to do. And I feel a wonderful connection to all the other creative people I meet because of sewing. Creativity is not a hobby. It's a life skill.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

What I Know About Work Now That I'm In My 60s

This is an excellent article written by Ann Brenoff of The Huffington Post. And it contains excellent career advice. For those women, or men, in their later working years, you will likely relate to it. I could easily write my own story, with examples, under each of her titles.

This one is a truth that I found difficult to accept when I was in the corporate world, but you can, if you put your mind and multiple talents to work,

"4. Sometimes, you just have to navigate around the assholes. Not every boss will be someone you admire. Not every boss will be nice, understanding, supportive of you and your career. Not every boss will be as smart as you, let alone someone you can learn from. None of it matters. All that matters is that you know how to navigate around them. It's a skill you should have picked up in kindergarten when Billy wouldn't share his crayons and then told the teacher it was your fault. What did you do then? You swallowed hard and then went home and told Mom about the injustice that befell you, right? So swallow hard and go out for drinks with your co-workers. Crappy bosses either self-destruct or get promoted but eventually you will be rid of them. They are a blip, just a blip, in your life. Don't empower them to be anything more."

I had many bosses over the course of several careers. Some of them were good. Most of them weren't. Many of them were downright awful. One was a true star, who was pushed out by someone who wasn't. And just when I thought I couldn't possibly be assigned to a boss who was less competent, I'd find myself proven wrong, again. I resented the extra effort it took to navigate around them, because it wasted so much precious time, and the end result was often compromised. But navigate I did. It's a life skill.

If you are in your twenties or thirties, take what you can from this great article, because as Ann says, "what you do for a living is just of part of who you are."

And by the way, having sewing as a hobby will help keep you sane.