21 July 13

A new custom bag

New Custom Bag for LC

A lovely woman with the initials LC requested that I consider making a custom bag for her last Christmas. As we began to talk about what her needs were for a bag and what she liked and what she didn’t like, I became intimidated. For two reasons.

New Custom Bag for LC

1— She is incredibly hard on bags. In the 7 months between when she asked for a bag and when I delivered one to her, I think she went through 3 bags. Thankfully none of them were terribly expensive, but when you pride yourself on your construction, finding out that someone harder than bags than you wants you to make one that will last a long time is a bit scary.

New Custom Bag for LC

2— She’s a stylish woman with a very preppy meets punk meets modern fashion sensibility. Yes, I know it is hard to get all 3 of those to merge together into one cohesive style, but somehow she does it easily. It took quite a while to figure out how to merge them into one style.

New Custom Bag for LC

I think this bag is a bit more preppy meets modern and not quite as much punk rock as I had hoped, but I think this bag looks great, contains a multiple of functions, and is sturdy and reliable. For at least an average user. I’ll see how it holds up to someone who is, what software specialists might call, and “advanced” user.

New Custom Bag for LC

I have provided this bag to her. She will use it for a few more weeks. Then I will get to see the bag again and once I’ve seen how it looks after a month in use, I’ll hopefully figure out where the construction flaws are and be able to make a new bag with any issues fixed and provide that one for sale on my website. Stay tuned. If you’re interested, leave a comment and I’ll let you know when it is ready for sale.

New Custom Bag for LC

Oh, and I need a name for the bag. Any suggestions are welcome. I’m stumped with this one.

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02 May 13

Seventeen Years

That’s how long Andrew and I have been together. It’s crazy to think about how long we’ve been a part of each other’s lives. In some ways, 17 seems SO LONG. And yet, in other ways, it is hard to remember a time when he wasn’t a part of my life. It’s not that every day with Andrew has been glowlingly wonderful. Nor was everyday before Andrew awfully dark.

But I have no doubt that Andrew has challenged, inspired, and sometimes dared me to be a better, happier person. I hope I’ve done the same for him. I like myself better with him in my life. I like my life better with him in it. I’d like him even more if he could put more dishes in the dishwasher, but I recognize how lucky I am to even have a dishwasher. (Seriously, we may not have made it 17 years if we didn’t have one. There were so many small bitter arguments over dishes pre-dishwasher.)

A friend asked me a few days ago what our secret was. “How do you get to be together that long? I mean, just HOW?”

And I had no answer for her. And even after thinking about it for a couple of days, I still don’t think I have an answer. But I think it mostly boils down to my recognition that because he is part of my life, I am better for it. He’s far from perfect. He’s got faults that many people I know would leave him for without hesitation. And while I love him despite the faults, it’s mostly recognition that his faults (while annoying) don’t hinder my enjoyment of life more than his presence in my life brings me happiness. That’s an awkward sentence, but what I mean to say is that the unpleasant moments I’ve spent with him have not kept me from enjoying the vast majority of the time we’ve been together.

There have been struggles, and troubles, and tears. There have been pained silences, tight-lips, and heartbreak. But we’ve found a way to grow and change through those times and come out still happy to be with each other. And I’m grateful for that. I’m grateful that he’s worked just as hard as I have (sometimes harder) to get to a point where the bad times can be talked about without causing more tight lips and re-breaking of hearts.

I have no advice on how you can get to be with someone for 17 years and still be happy with them, let alone still love and be in love with them. I think it is luck, honestly. There were so many times where we probably “should have” broken up. So many times where I didn’t think we’d survive a fracture. But we did. And it has been hard work, but we’ve both put forth the work. We’ve both wanted the outcome that we currently have.

But still, man, 17 years! It blows my mind. 17 years!

Next month we’ll have been married for 7 years. Even that seems like a really, really, really long time. And yet, it seems like yesterday.

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24 April 13

DIY Trunk Show: 10 Years Strong

10 years ago, Amy Carlton and I met up at Kopi Cafe and we drank pots of tea and ate some delightful cookies and we talked about how great it would be if there was an independent craft show that happened at the beginning of the holiday season where all of the crafty people we knew, and maybe some people who would be new to us, could get together and sell great handmade things to people they didn’t know. At the time, Amy was running a jewelry making business named “Stet” (she’s an editor geek) and I had just started Poise.cc. I don’t even think I’d registered the domain yet. So I guess I was just making bags and giving them away to people for silent auctions and raffles.

We were young and energetic and naive and we laughed and said “How hard could it be to run a craft show?” Oh, little did we know. Except, we were mostly right. It is easy to run a craft show. It wasn’t hard to figure out where to have it and thanks to all of our personal contacts, it wasn’t hard to find people who were interested in having a table. It wasn’t even hard dealing with the city to rent a HUGE room at Pulaski Park (although now that room seems so small). We gave them a money order, they gave us a handwritten receipt. We pulled in favors from friends and had a website designed. We answered emails. We went on WLUW and talked about the show and about handmaking items. We joked about awful it would be if no one showed up to shop.

And 2 weeks before the show, when we were doing all the last minute bits, we snapped. We were tired. At the same time, we turned to each other and said “Do you really think we need to do this again?” We didn’t answer each other, but we nodded knowingly. The night before the show we taped off the spaces on the floor (along with our ever-present and helpful guys Andrew and Jim) and then we went and slept the sleep of the dead before arising way too early and making it back to the space where we set up our own booths and then opened the doors and ushered in 32 crafters.

32! It’s a small number now. A tiny show. But it seemed so HUGE then. After everyone’s tables were display-ready and the crafters were fortifying themselves with coffee and had taking last minute show jitter pee breaks, we opened the doors and shoppers came through them. People we didn’t know came in the doors and bought things and high-fived us. College journalists interviewed us and tried to get us to say “Well, it’s not your grandma’s craft show.” (but we didn’t, or maybe we did, but we wouldn’t say it now) And we were high on endorphins. Literally high. I was dizzy with glee. And then, at the end of the show, as I was rushing people out the door so we could vacate the space on time, a complete stranger of a man came up and asked if he could give me a hug. I was shocked and confused and agreed. And he hugged me. Amy saw my fearful eyes and walked over to us slowly. When he was done hugging me, he grabbed my by both arms and said “Thank you. Thank you soo much. This was my sister’s first show and she’s had a horrible awful year and getting ready for this show brought her so much joy. I went from being afraid for her sanity a few months ago to seeing her soar with pride and confidence today. Thank you for her, but thank you from me, too. I loved seeing that side of my sister and I wouldn’t have if it weren’t for you guys and this show.” And then he ran away. (That woman he was talking about? Still selling stuff and she’s awesome!)

And we looked at each other and said “So? next year?” And we nodded while grinning from ear to ear.

And then the next year we wrote the Craftifesto. And there were 3 rooms of crafters. Almost 90 crafters in 3 rooms with several food vendors set up and people started making cute and awesome kids clothing.

And then the next year we did it again.
And then Amy started grad school and I did it mostly (and mostly half-assedly) by myself.
And then the Chicago Craft Mafia generously stepped in to help me make it better. (And I will forever be indebted and grateful to the original CCM crew for doing that. And if you have attended the show in the last 6 years, you should, too. Because if they hadn’t stepped in and carried the burden, it would have died.)
And then we got some new members who also helped.
And then we got bigger.
And then we moved to Broadway Armory.
And then I recognized that the DIY Trunk Show was a business. A business that takes at least 500 hours a year to run. And I was tired and burnt out and knew that I wasn’t up to doing it again. I just couldn’t. The thought of having to send out applications and accept fees and sign contracts and make sure tasks were completed kept me from sleeping.

And then I thought “There doesn’t have to be a next year. This doesn’t have to go on. There are other craft shows now. Maybe I should do what I wanted the second-wave feminists to do and hand over leadership to a younger group of folks.”

And that thought felt GREAT! And I timidly mentioned to a few of the mafia members who had been with me from the very beginning that I was thinking I was done. And they all agreed that it was time to move on. That the show could only be awesome if the folks organizing it were behind it 100%, and I wasn’t. We weren’t. And it would be better to have no show, than an awful show. And then I mentioned it to Rebeca Mojica and she said “Well, I am going to hire a new position soon and I wanted to find a way to make my shop more of an integral part of the community. And then we talked seriously. And we what-iffed. And we created lists and did math and looked at numbers and translated that to dollars and realized that this was the right move for both of us. I could get June back (hello backyard and glasses of iced tea). Rebeca could cement her biz as an integral part of community development.

And today she announced it officially. I’ve signed over the reins. What legal stuff exists is now in her name. I’m still helping with details as needed. I’m not walking away completely. I’m filling in gaps and providing history and working on answering really hard questions like “If you could start over, what would you have done differently?” (And I honestly can’t answer that. I keep trying, and I can’t.)

But I have no doubt that Rebeca and Blue Buddha Boutique are the right ones to run this now. Nor do I have a doubt that my stepping back was the right answer for me right now. I’m excited to see this show from the outside for once. I’m excited to see the magic that so many other people have talked about. I’m excited to look at the whole picture instead of worrying about details. It’s going to be great. I have not a doubt in the world. I feel lighter and excited. Just like I did 10 years ago when we got this crazy idea in the first place.


26 March 13

American Craftways Alliance

So after spending a little bit of time catching up on the Southern Foodways Alliance blog I had a flash of insight.

Somebody oughta do for craft what these folks have done for food.

Heaven help me if that person is me, but seriously. What the folks at the Southern Foodways Alliance has done for small makers of specialty, regional, dying food items is amazing. Because of them, I was able to eat “Cherokee mint” as part of a dessert at Big Jones on my birthday and cry because the flavor took me back to being a kid and sitting in a field near a cow pasture reading a book and sucking the juice out of blades of “weeds” that were growing around me. And I credit SFA, because I have no doubt that Paul F. (the chef of Big Jones) has gotten to source many specialty ingredients with his contacts at the organization.

Seriously, just read their Mission and Values and tell me that this wouldn’t carry over equally well to crafters as it does to food makers, tenders, growers, nurturers, and eaters? I mean, the fact that I’m considering getting a membership in the organization just because I love that they specifically call out fighting injustice in the food world makes me happy.


21 March 13

Fired for speaking out

So, I wasn’t sure I would ever read, let alone link to something on Jezebel, ever again. But then I read this story(and I can’t believe I’m linking to them) on a woman who was fired for complaining publicly about sexism at a tech conference. Sexist comments that were made while a speaker was discussing how important it is to make women feel welcome in tech, btw.

And now I feel like I have to comment. From the perspective of a manager, and from the perspective of a business owner (even without employees), but if I’m paying someone to attend a conference on my company’s behalf, and if my company is sponsoring an event, AND I find out that my employees were making sexist jokes at the event with my name attached to their body, you can bet I would dole out punishment. If they were making these jokes at a bar, after hours, without their badge on, I’d probably have a discussion and make sure my expectations were clear. But if they’re sitting in the audience within earshot of anyone who is attuned to the issues of sexism in the tech biz making sexist jokes and not caring about who is connecting MY business to their comments, I think I would fire them. At the very least, there would be severe punishment. But if after a discussion and they didn’t understand why their actions were wrong, I would have no qualms about getting rid of them. Especially in this economy where it isn’t hard to find someone else who can fill their shoes. So, yes, I do think these dudes deserved to be fired.

I would also say, that if she were working for me, I would prefer that she handle this situation privately. I don’t mean confront these guys (that isn’t her responsibility), but a DM to the conference organizers would have been better than a public calling out. That said, I think firing her was a bad move on SendGrid’s part. Now their name is brought into the story. Which is probably not what they expected. OR it is what they were hoping for and now they’re reveling in the publicity and the attention of all the dudes who are happy that she’s gotten fired. Either way, I would not work with their company. That said, Adria will be answering questions about this in every interview she gets for the next several years. But it shows how calling out sexism gets you punished in our society. And that’s the bigger problem here, eh?


20 February 13

Japanese 12-in-2, 6 years later

UPDATE Blue Buddha is generously giving away one free kit to make a Flowers Bracelet. To register to win, just leave a comment on this post and the winner will be notified. This is a great way for people who don’t live in Chicago and can’t participate in the free class offered in-house by BBB to receive something to inspire learning and creativity. Thanks, Blue Buddha Boutique.

Japanese Lace Bracelet 12-in-2

Six years ago, my friend Alison went on a massive cross-country road-trip and stopped in Chicago. Because she’s one of the most creative folks I know, and because I thought she’d find it interesting, I signed us up for a chain maille class at a shop in Evanston with Rebeca Mojica of Blue Buddha Boutique.

At the time, BBB was a company of 1. Rebeca sold supplies, but mostly to the people who attended her classes. And she didn’t have her own studio so she travelled to bead shows around the area to use their classroom space. There were only 5 students at the class I attended. And we sat around a very tiny table tucked in the corner of a basement. But Rebeca made the most of the situation and almost every single one of her students left that day with a finished bracelet.

Japanese Lace Bracelet 12-in-2

I was one of the ones who didn’t leave with a finished bracelet. I knew I was about 20 minutes away from finishing my bracelet, but the time in our classroom was up and I had to take my almost-finished project home with me. I’m quite a bit embarrassed to say that I left the project sitting on the top of a stand beside my sewing table where I knew that if I had to see it on a regular basis, I would finish it. After all, it really was going to take less than half an hour to finish, so why would I put that off for long?

But, alas, my procrastination skills are wickedly unstoppable. And so, despite my best of intentions, the project say unfinished and quite literally in my way every time I needed to get out a new pack of sewing needles or a new blade for my rolling cutter, or a variety of other items that I use quite frequently. I would think to myself “One of these days, I’m just going to finish this.” right before I would put it back in place, in my way.

When I found out that Blue Buddha Boutique (which has since grown to having a soon-to-open retail space and a cast of almost 2 dozen employees) was doing a blog bomb, I thought this was the final reason to quit procrastinating and actually finish this bracelet. I’m wearing it now, as I type this. And I’m thrilled with it. And it took me exactly 22 minutes to finish. Which isn’t bad, considering that I had to read the steps to figure out how to do the clasp (which I did slightly different to make it fit snugly). But I’m thrilled. I now have an empty spot sitting on top of my cabinet. I may never take this bracelet off to remind myself that procrastination just keeps me from having nice things.

Japanese Lace Bracelet 12-in-2

And to encourage learning and making new things, I can’t suggest highly enough that you enter this giveaway at Blue Buddha Boutique. I’m participating in a small blog-bomb to encourage people who may not otherwise know about the great classes they will be hosting in their new retail space on Granville right near the Red Line very, very soon. Even though I procrastinated for years, I thoroughly enjoyed taking the class and I wish I’d finished my project sooner. And I’ve had several ideas for small bags that incorporate chaine maille details kicking around in my head and plan on creating some of them very soon since I’ll be able to go into her new shop in person and pick out the ring sizes I want to use, try it out, and then buy what I need before I head home. Buying chain maille supplies online has just been very intimidating. And if you’re fortunate enough to be in Chicago and are interested in a class, you’ll do great to sign up for one of Blue Buddha Boutique’s classes.

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27 January 13

Bugs and Julius (and Rocky?)

So Andrew and I have decided that Rocky is not the cat that will be happy living alone. So we set out to see if we could find a pair of kitties that we thought might get along. Instead of getting one cat, friends who have worked for animal shelters suggested two cats to work with Rocky’s “issues”.

Since he is so aggressive, getting one cat would make him the automatic dominant cat and therefore a bully. Having two cats who are pretty confident would make it harder for him to be such a bully and so aggressive as he was with Boos. If he attacks one of the pair, the other would likely stick up for him.

The other thought is that having two cats who have a very playful and non aggressive relationship may make it easier for Rocky to figure out what his limits are and permit him to play but not play so rough.

So we went to a cat shelter today to meet some kitties we saw online. The ones we were hoping to meet were no longer there, but they introduced us to this pair of kitties:


Julius is 4 (about the same age as Rocky) and Bugs is just a little over 1.
Neither cat had any friends at the shelter and didn’t get along well in foster homes with other cats. Bugs was too active for one foster cat’s puppy. (A cat too active for a puppy? That must be a wimpy puppy, eh? Not judging.) So they were both taken to the shelter and ended up in the same room and became fast friends. They adore each other and play very well with each other. They get along well with other cats, which makes us hopeful that they’ll get along well with Rocky, too. They’re also not timid or shy in the least. While Andrew was playing with Bugs, Bugs nipped at him and gave Andrew a very stern face. But we’ve learned the body language of a cat about to bite with Rocky so we think we can handle it.

We didn’t have everything we needed today to go pick them up, so we’re going to go down after work tomorrow to finish the paperwork and bring them home. We’ll have to see how we can do about keeping them apart and getting the new cats to feel comfortable in the space. But thankfully we have a big enough place with enough doors that I think we can keep them apart while we’re gone and give them some interaction when we’re home to make it okay. My hope is that Rocky is so bored and lonely that they’ll become quick friends.

We’re not sure if we’ll keep their names the same. And I’m trying to prepare myself to take them back if Rocky really just hates them and can’t accept them. But this feels hopeful. And the volunteer warned us that both cats were likely to play with us, but not let us pet them. But instead they were happy to get some light scratches and they smelled us. They both rubbed up against both of us while we were standing there. And Bugs only went after Andrew because he was feeling playful. So hopefully these two active but gentle guys can teach Rocky to calm down a bit.

All in all, we got the sense that the people who come to this shelter to adopt cats only want kittens or cats that will just curl up in your lap and not do anything. They were describing Julius “questionable” behavior with a foster mom who said she was getting ready for bed one night and Julius kept enticing her to play and then nipped her when she didn’t play with him. “Not one enough to draw blood, but enough that we have a safery waiver you will need to sign.” Seriously! This is what it takes to have questionable behavior and get some black mark put in your permanent record?

Rocky has NOOOO idea how lucky he is. I realized today that if he had ended up in a shelter and then bitten anyone with half as much vehemence as he bites us, then he’d never be adopted and might be put down for being too aggressive and untrainable. Our dude seriously doesn’t realize how lucky he is. Hopefully these cats teach him some gratitude.


23 January 13

Lonely Guy

The 3 faces of Rocky: 2

Rocky has been an only kitty. He is OMGZ! SO BORED! ARGH! HELP! WAH!

He’s a bit of a dramatic guy. He doesn’t lay down, he lines up sideways with what he wants to lie on and then he flops on it from a standing position. He’s done this since he was a kitten and it hasn’t changed. During mealtime he rolls around on the floor practically grabbing his stomach and wailing “I can’t believe you made me wait so long. I’m DYING!”

He loves just as dramatically. He’s the cat that will try to smother you in your sleep because he needs love NOW and if you don’t wake up he’ll just lie on your face until you move and then he’ll be all “OMGZ! YOU’RE AWAKE! I LOVE YOU SOOO MUCH!”

But the dramatic boredom? It’s getting to be a bit much. There was a bit of hope that maybe we could be a 1-cat household. That maybe Rocky would be happier and less bitier as a single kitty. But he’s not happier. He is less bitier, but that seems to be a fading benefit.

So we’ve done some thinking and some talking and some talking with rescue folks and gathering of opinions and they all seem to point to getting Rocky two cats instead of one. (I have no shame in admitting that I’m one of THOSE people who will be getting my cat a pet. He’s big enough to handle the responsiblity.)

There are 2 main thoughts we’ve been given that resonate:
1. If we get 2 bonded cats, if Rocky tries to attack one of them, the other is very likely to come to the defense. Rocky will likely be able to take just about any single cat we can find. But I’m not sure he can take two.
2. If we get a pair of bonded kitties, there is a chance that Rocky will see them exhibiting healthy limits with each other and he may learn to develop them for himself. Yes, I hope to be able to peer-pressure my cat into behaving better. It seems to make sense to me.

We haven’t chosen a pair. We had a lead on a set that seemed to be exactly what we were looking for, but their foster mother decided to keep them forever. Which is great. There are now 2 fewer cats who need to find a home. Unfortunately the decision to make this move came at a time when I can’t easily get off work to cat shopping and Andrew has a conference and other activities. But on Sunday I think we’re going to go meet cats.

This will mean that I break my very long-held rule that we only have 1 cat per lap so there is no jealousy and no fighting. I’ve been assured by others with 3 cats that 3 is just as easy to deal with as 2 in this regard. So I’m hoping they’re right. If they’re wrong, I’m never talking to them again. (Just kidding. I’ll probably just ask them to clean the litterboxes when they come visit.)

This will also mean that for the first time in my life I will go out seeking to find a cat. Every other cat I’ve ever lived with (and I’ve lived with a LOT of cats) have found me/us/their person. Every other cat has literally found us, or been found by neighbors who suck other neighbors into taking them into our home and I fall madly in love with them. This time I’ll have to resist the urge to not fall in love with the first cat(s) we see but actively figure out which cat(s) will have the best personality to live forever with our problem child. It’s going to be a challenge. I fall in love with cats the way some people fall in love with cupcakes.

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