Thursday, March 20, 2014

A Glasses Holder for a Glasses Hoarder

Don't judge me by my glasses hoard. At least they're organized!

I've been mulling over this idea for a while now, especially since my latest shipment from Zenni Optical arrived. Years ago I'd pay $300+ for a pair of glasses and wear them until they fell apart but now I spend $75 a year and get several pairs. They were starting to pile up in my bedside drawer, on counter tops, etc. so today I resolved to make this handy glasses holder and hang it next to my closet for easy access.

It only took about an hour to make. Here's how I did it:

First, I cut a rectangle of soft brown corduroy 14 inches wide by 30 inches long. Then I folded it in half lengthwise and stitched up the side.

  Next, I ironed it flat with the seam in the middle and inserted a vintage necktie with the front of the tie facing the seam and then I stitched the bottom closed securing the tie in place.

Then I turned it right side out, gathered the tie in increments, and straight stitched it to the corduroy. Later, I went over the straight stitches with machine embroidery stitches because I thought it looked better.

Finally I folded over the top, stitched a channel, and inserted a chopstick to hang it.  Viola!

This area is right next to my closet and faces the mirror where I apply my makeup. Now all I have to do is choose a pair to match my outfit/mood and go.

After I hung it up I found a few more pairs and added them to to top and sides.

I think I can stop buying glasses now.  Any more and I'll have to make another one of these. 

Friday, January 03, 2014

Another kokoleo banner/pillow update

That last post makes it seem as if kokoleo is kaput. Nope, just scaled back a little. Luckily, I have some longtime customers who keep me in business with commissions. I haven't done a personalized pillow/banner update in a while, so here's my latest batch:

The customer asked for initials so I did it monogram-style.


One week I got 2 commissions for the same name from customers on different sides of the country.

I made these pillows as a donation for an auction at my old summer camp Peterkin in West Virginia. They made $400!

 And of course, I had to make this...

to bring a little kokoleo into my new workspace.

Thursday, January 02, 2014

Out in front, behind the scenes.

Six. That's how many blog entries I wrote last year. It's an all time low. Let's see if I can do a little better this year. It's not that I wasn't doing anything blog-worthy. In fact, 2013 will go down in my mind as one of my better years, though there's little evidence of this on my blog. This year I learned that sometimes it's best to work behind the scenes.

In years past, this blog has traced the evolution of kokoleo - essentially, the things I make and sometimes sell online or in shops or at craft shows. I used to spend hours putting together detailed step-by-step tutorials in the hopes they would get featured on the well-known D.I.Y. websites or reblogged with a link and shoutout by some better-known crafter. These were the little victories  cherished in my effort to "build my brand", though they were rarely lucrative. More often than not, I was ripped off by people (some who I thought were friends in the craft community) with the same goal - to get featured, reblogged, recognized, published, etc. It's disheartening to see something you shared slightly repackaged by a fellow crafter or worse, reprinted word for word on a for-profit site with no credit given. It was enough to make me second guess sharing my ideas in the first place. So I stopped. Consequently my blog became barren and boring and "building my brand" got put on the back burner.

 As many hours as I used to spend crafting my online presence, in 2013 I spent it carving out a place for myself in my immediate community. I became the PTO secretary at my kids school and helped pull off a 30-act talent show. I taught a Mother Goose preschool class and Nature craft camp at the community center. I joined my Homeowners Association board and designed a neighborhood newsletter. I started attending city forums and neighborhood planning meetings and began to speak up for things I thought would benefit my neighborhood. I met repeatedly with city officials and developed a financially sustainable business model - a fee based program where the teacher (me) earns a living wage and the city shares in the profits - to convert an abandoned city building into a successful after school program - Club Teasdale. Four months into the program, and we're still going strong. There was a story about us in the newspaper and we were featured, along with the mayor, on the cover of the city services guide that goes out to every household in the city.

All this means little to anyone outside our city. There are no blog badges, page hits, or number of "likes" I can look to for validity. This is what life must have been like before the internet, when the impact you made among your neighbors was all that mattered. What a novel concept!

Friday, November 01, 2013

kokoleo-style Spy vs. Spy

UPDATE: My tutorial for these costumes won second place in the Instructables Halloween Costume Contest this year!

The last 3 years my kids have wanted to do brother/sister team costumes for Halloween. In 2011 they were Finn and Jake from Adventure Time. In 2012 they were Mordecai and Rigby from Regular Show. This year, they wanted to be these guys:

They don't read MAD magazine but they watch the animated sketch show on Cartoon Network and love the stop motion Spy Vs. Spy vignettes. This may be the last year they want to do a team costume so I had to oblige. I took a few pictures throughout my process to help anyone else who
 may want to sew some Spy vs. Spy masks too. Here's the gist of how I made them: 

I started with some stiff fusible interfacing - one layer in the shape of the mask and one smaller layer for stablity. Between the two layers I inserted a piece of sheer black satin and straight-stitched around the eyes, then trimmed the excess satin. 

Next on top of mask-shaped interfacing, I lightly ironed (be careful - if your iron is too hot the fleece will melt) some white fleece about an inch larger than interfacing, traced and cut out eye holes, and embroider-stitched around the eyes (then went over it with a Sharpie to make it even darker). 

Then I traced with a pencil some eyebrows and a mouth and sewed an embroider stitch over top (and again went over those stitches with a Sharpie to make it darker. 

Next, I sewed the nose part into the shape of a cone and folded the fleece over the interfacing and sewed all the way around the edge of the mask. Then I hot-glued it to the inside of a hat. 

Lastly, I made them these bags to hold their candy.

And here they are, ready for mischief:

Sunday, September 22, 2013

I built this.

Whoa. It's dusty in here. I need to brush away the cobwebs. I just remembered I have a blog that I should update. I can't give up now. I've invested 7 years into this cyber-diary, I might as well update it from time to time.

A lot has happened since the last time I posted. The whole summer, in fact.  We went camping at Ocean Shores


and Deception Pass

and flew back home to West Virginia...

and Washington D.C.

 and Shepherdstown...

 And Peterkin...

And then we came home and had birthdays..

And then I started a new job.

It's a job I fought for. (I blogged about it here.)  I've never fought for a job as hard as I fought for this one. But when there's an empty rec building in the park that's right next your kids' school that doesn't have an after school program, you have to convince them to let you have it. I did!

I spent all of August moving in. Erik was happy to see the craft supplies I've been hoarding in the pantry and garage finally leave the house. Ikea donated some of their Renton River Days booth leftovers to the City and my boss made sure it got to our then-empty building. Couches and bookshelves make all the difference. And so do kids. I adopted the "If you build it, they will come" mentality and they did! Suddenly we're 3 weeks into the program that for the past 3 years was just a pipe dream for me. And it's just as I imagined it. Suffice it to say, I love my new job, and I don't want to say much more to jinx it.

So that's where my focus has been this past year. It's not a kokoleo production, just me, KB, working for the City. Kokoleo though, is always a part of me.  I'm still hoarding fabric and notions so there's no way around it. I'll continue to sew random things and sometimes attempt to sell them in places like stores and craft shows and I'll still do personalized pillow and banner commissions, especially for my return customers who have become friends to me. I'm simply moving in a new direction that for now,  seems like the best place to be. Finally!

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Take-Your-Daughter-To-Work day @ The Renton Spring Festival

I did the Renton Spring Festival on Saturday. Last year, after I found my handmade one-of-a-kind items  amidst the likes of Mary Kay and Cookie Lee, I swore I'd never do it again. But this year I heard it would be different - handmade and fair trade only - so I decided to give it one more chance. I'm glad I did.

In the past, I would spend weeks frantically  making things before craft shows. This time, I didn't make anything. Not because I'm lazy, but because I'm busy doing other things that are suddenly more important to me. McKenna was on a bracelet-making kick though, so I set her up with a pile of pipe cleaners and my container of beads and let her have at it. She made 24 bracelets.  I told her she could set up a table in my booth and sell them.

"For money?" she asked.

"Yep." I said.

"And what can I do with the money?"

"Whatever you want."

She thought this was a fine idea and promised to be well-behaved and helpful and no whining or interrupting me when I'm talking to customers. She's always been too young to have with me at craft shows all day before. But we thought we'd try it. She decide to name her jewelry line McKennaMade and charge $2 per bracelet.

Friday night came and rather than meticulously prepare, I opted to have dinner with my ladyfriends, then came home and packed the car with everything I could think of that was kokoleo or a way to display a kokoleo. This was all done around 2 in the morning.

7:42 a.m. I woke up and went back to sleep.

8:54 a.m. woke up again. Showered, hair, make-up, dressed myself and McKenna.

Ack!  My phone was only half charged. I needed a fully charged phone for this. So I plugged it in and make a cup of coffee and ran around the house getting last minute items, twiddled my thumbs and then...

9:59 a.m. We were out the door.

Ack! I had no money.

10:11 a.m. I'm at the BECU machine. I withdrew $40.  Ack! I needed ones!

10:24 a.m. I'm at McDonald's. I'm not hungry, so all I order is an iced tea, unsweetened. I pay with a $20 and ask for all ones back. McDonald's makes a great McBank. Except the line is looooong.

McKenna told me I got a call while I was at the ATM. I checked the message. It's Erik. Our across-the-street neighbor found a tray and a bunch of pipe cleaner bracelets scattered in our street and thought it might be ours.

Ack! I totally drove away from the house with a tray of McKennaMade bracelets on the roof. (In my defense, it was hard squeezing her in to her seat in my stuffed-full car and I was distracted.)

10:38 I turned around and went back to get them.

10:48 We headed back to the show. For real this time. Luckily,  I got all green lights and found a parking spot by the entrance.

10:58 I arrive, find my spot, and with the fancy farmer's market carts (I love those) I fill my spot with the contents of my car. A festival volunteer offered to watch my stuff and daughter while I parked in the garage and I returned within minutes.

McKenna set up her table and bracelets and sold one before I'd even begun unpacking.

I stopped caring about the time and started setting up. It's always at this time that I wish I was one of those crafters that made small things, not giant pillows and massive quantities of kids' clothes with crazy elaborate contraptions on which to display them.

The hectic rush of the morning dissolved as my display took shape. No one was beside so I spread out a bit, okay, a lot.

 I even found some time here and there to slip away and visit other vendors. The Rely on Renton Family Fair inside the Piazza station was so well organized and chock-full of information on local resources for kids and families. I stopped by the Renton Community Center booth and saw the flyers for my summer craft camps on display. I caught glimpses of the performances throughout the day and loved hearing Casper Babypants on the loudspeakers outside.

McKenna sold 9 bracelets and spent all her $18 at other people's booths. I saw glimpses of teenager in her as she took her little purse to tables and picked out things to buy. She got (in order) a pink sugar cookie, a one tiny vial of Jasmine oil from a perfume soap stand, and hand-painted Hello Kitty barrette from from the accessory lady, and a big crayon in the shape of a car from the crayon people, and a purse and bracelet from a lady two booths down.

I did a little shopping and trading too. After McKenna got her tiny vial of perfume, I went back to the booth and bought a lavender one for me.

 From the metalsmith man, I got two decorative metal stars for the planter by my front door where I have the iron dragonfly I bought from him last year. He always gives me great deals. He said Mayor Law bought a big piece from him that morning and it made his day. I got a heart-linked silver bracelet from the vintage jewelry lady. The owner of Candle with Care lady fell in love with my last Sesame Street sundress and I sold it to her for half price plus a candle.

I also bought a $3 bag of Kettle corn and when I went to pay with a $20 the kettle corn couple looked troubled. They asked if I had any ones and I said Yes! I got a bunch this morning. The woman came back to my booth and I gave her $3 and then traded 10 more ones for a ten. The McBank came in handy! She was as grateful for the ones as I was for customers like these:

Before I knew it it was 5:00 and time to pack up. I ended up making the most profit I've ever made at a Renton festival and got a few new Facebook likes for kokoleo. The best part though was that my first-ever Take-Your-Daughter-To-Work day was a great experience for both of us. We both saw our creations go out into the world and with the money we received, we went around and bought other people's handmade and fair trade creations. I have a feeling this won't be the last kokoleo/McKennaMade business collaboration you'll see.


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