Tuesday, September 29, 2015

I Caught a Glimpse...

The other day, I went bowling with my church friends, we were ten, including moi. We met a wonderful family there, they were invited by one of our church members. They were  a family of four: mom, pop, an eleven year old girl and a boy. The girl was so beautiful and well spoken; a dancer. I couldn't believe she was only eleven. We talked about dance technique; chasses and ronde de jambes. It was the most intellectual conversation I had that night. 

Then I caught a glimpse of the boy, the cutest kid. Tall and skinny, like Dan, soft brown hair, also like Dan, I asked his mom how old he was, he was eight, just like Dan. So, I caught a glimpse. A glimpse of what Dan might sound and move like if he didn't have autism. This boy was funny and witty, I could imagine Dan being like that. He spoke fast and had the cutest expressions; I could imagine Dan speaking like that...and for that second, I could feel tears begin to well up. But just for a second. As quickly as these feelings came, they left. They left with the thought of my sweet Dan. 

Dan and I had the most amazing time, earlier that very day. We had a wonderful water play session in our back yard and I remembered his smile, the sheer joy over his face and body playing with the water; his chuckles and laughs. Later on,  I remembered his touch, leading me to the sofa, so I could tickle and massage him. I remembered Dan, my son, his face, his laugh, his gaze, his smile, and in that moment, I did not want him to be anyone else. That beautiful boy I had met in the bowling alley had his own name (which I actually forgot now) and his own life, and his own face. 

He was him and Dan was Dan 
and he is mine and 
I love him for who he is.  

At this time in my life, I would not recognize Daniel if he talked and stood still.This doesn't mean that we don't aim for this and work hard so he can be the best he can be, but at this time, it's not him and I want him to be him. I want Dan. 

So I caught a glimpse of what Dan might have been and I looked away, content.

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Easy "Cut and Paste" Dress/Jumpsuit Refashion

This was a super easy refashion, my last for the summer, and very much in line with my other jumpsuit creation. The only difference is, that in the previous design, seen here, I made the pants from scratch and bought the top. 

In this one, I used a dress given to me, and a jumpsuit I bought from a thrift shop which turned out to be too large. 

The flowery print on the dress was too overpowering for my frame and the hem was lopsided. I just didn't like how it looked on me, it also showed all my chichos (love handles). It    was made from jersey fabric and had very little structure, but I did love the top. 

The opposite was the case with the jumpsuit. The top part was too big but I loved these balloon, jeannie pants. 

Since I loved the snugness of the top, I decided to keep that part of the dress, it hugged my small torso, and I love the way that feels. This is the very reason I learned how to sew, I often felt like my body was swimming in my clothes making me feel uncomfortable. 

Heres's a close-up without the belt and with Dan hanging off my arm
Anyway, I added the top to the balloon pants to form a collage of sorts of the two outfits. 

...and with the belt, it looks even cooler! More and more, I am loving this sillouette on me, small top and giant bottom. That's actually the shape of my body and I love it. 

I also loved the little surprise in the back. 

There were, however,  some things to consider. First, was the opening of the dress big enough for me to pull over my hips? Check! It was. Would I lose the stretch of the elastic once I stitched the two? I wasn't sure. 

Normally, if you stitch two pieces of fabric together, even if it's two stretchy pieces, the stitches will not stretch unless you use elastic thread, which I had run out of, but luckily, I didn't run out of ideas!  I figured that if I cut the pant part of the jumpsuit above the elastic, I could stitch the two on the elastic and this might continue the stretch. Here's a short video I made showing this process. 


This is the first time I am working with video, so excited! but I didn't realize the audio was so low, so here is the transcription: 

"I am now attaching the top to the bottom, the underneath, of course, is the blouse portion and the black is the pants. Now, I'm stretching it so I actually get the stretch when I actually put it on." 


The only audio here is "weeeeeeeeee", lol. I stitched both pieces on top of the elastic.

It worked and I absolutely love the results. I've already worn it   several times already; to church, my museum job, and the other day, to my son's school open house. 

It really is a versatile piece and so easy to make. 

Listen, if you have clothes you don't wear anymore, chances are there still might be something about it that you love and can possibly refashion into something else. There are too many clothes that end up in land fills. Lets do something about this. Teach yourself basic sewing skills or hire someone to help you refashion your wardrobe (not me though - my plate is currently full).  Over 80% of our clothes are made over seas in Bangladesh and China and they are paying big time for the cheap clothes we buy. Recycle, refashion, it's not just a fad and although it's also about the planet, it's more about our fellow human beings. The planet doesn't need saving, we do. I plan to talk more about this in future posts, I guess it just spilled over here. 

What do you think? 

Friday, August 21, 2015

Crafty Moms, Your Creative Business, and Summer Breaks: Tips on How to Continue Making Sales when your Kids are Home from School

Like many moms this time of year, summer camp has ended for my two boys and I find myself home with them for three more weeks until classes begin in September. So what's a crafty girl with a creative business to do during this time? Close up shop? No! Here are eight tips to help crafty moms stay creatively active, sustain an online presence, and continue  making sales while caring for their children during summer break, or any break for that matter.  

1. Renew, renew, renew. 

When the kids are home, I am busy planning outings and playdates for them so I don't have time to create and add new listings to my shop.  However, low and behold, Etsy has this amazing "renew" feature that allows you to refresh your listings. When you renew an item, it moves to the top of your shop and appears on your site just like a brand new listing. Etsy charges 20 cents per renewal but it is well worth it. It keeps your shop looking fresh and not abandoned which is a turn off to customers. If you have an Etsy shop, this is the way to go.  If your shop is not on Etsy, there might be other ways to work on SEO during this time so your shop can be found by potential clients.

Night time sewing

2. Engage in night time crafting

I have items in my shop that I offer on a custom order basis and sometimes they are ordered when the kids are off so I need the sewing time. 

After a long day at the swimming pool, the zoo, or the museum, the kids are usually tuckered out (hopefully) which means early bed time, and mama can get that order out!  I engage in nighttime crafting a lot during the summer. It's also a great time to experiment with new ideas as the kids doze off to lala land. 

Spring Break 2014

3. If you are a blogger, blog about your activities with the kids.

I've done this a couple of times, you can see one such post here.  I blog about our vacations, our outings to the park, the library, whatever. It makes you a real person to your readers/customers. You have a life, you are not a machine. I like sharing this part of myself with the world. I want people to know the context I create in. My attempt at authenticity has brought me into community with other moms and if I can inspire anyone along the way, even better...and don't forget to insert a link to your shop somewhere in the post. That's the whole idea! 

4. If you don't already have one, create a kids version of your craft. 

Why not? They are there so they can act as a focus group. Ask them what they think about a particular material, style, pattern, whatever. Make something for them, have them serve as models, put them to work, lol. 

From time to time, I do make clothes for my boys and have been toying with the idea of a kids line. The idea actually started last year while they were home during winter break. I made this color block sweatshirt for my younger son and many people became interested in buying one for their kids. I got busy with my museum job and wasn't able to bring it to fruition at that time, but it is something that will happen, eventually, when the timing is right. The point here is that the idea was sparked during a school break.

5. Comment on blogs, post pictures of "ready to ship" items on your social media platforms

If you have "ready to ship" items, by all means, call attention to them on your social media platforms. This is a great way to continue making sales during school breaks. All you have to do is package the item and take a trip to the post office which might turn into a fun outing with your kids. 

Also, when you comment on blogs, you can add a link to your shop, if it is allowed and appropriate. This also helps bring traffic to your shop. 

6. Create WITH your kids

Break times are great times to do some crafting with your kids. I whip out my printing supplies and other craft materials and go to town. I usually have to coax my older son to join me in this but the little one loves it. He has autism and these kinds of activities are great for his sensory issues. 

Crafting with the kids allows them to see what you do, be part of it, and inspire them in the process. Let's face it, at the end of the day, the people you want to impress most is your family...and once again, take a photo, post it on social media and don't forget to link to your shop!

7. Be transparent.  

If you're overwhelmed with the kids and you sense that you can't get your orders out in a speedy fashion, please, state this in your shop announcement section and social media platforms. A simple message saying that your kids are home for break and it might take longer to make and ship your items will due. Most people understand and this might even start a conversation with other crafty moms about work/life balance, I know it has for me. I have never had a problem with a customer when I am open and upfront about my current situation.

My son continues to be proud of me and that makes all the difference. 

8. Show "behind the scenes" images with your kids.  

Since I am not creating new items and listing them in my shop during school breaks, I like to, at least, update my photos or take new ones during this time. Since the kids are around, they inevitably make their way in a couple of the shots. In the past, I would delete these but, in recent years, I have included some of them in my shop or blog. You can see some of these kinds of photos in this post

I like sharing this part of my creative operation for the same reason as no.3, it makes me a real person, relatable, especially to other moms. You are a mom and you have a creative business. This is a great way to show how you balance the two. I love seeing social media posts like these in my feed and, I assure you, I am not the only one, and once again, insert your shop link in your post, I can't say this enough, or maybe I can and I'm beginning to sound annoying :) 

So there you have it. You don't have to close up shop and hang a "Gone Fishing" sign when the kids are off from school (although sometimes you do, that's for another post). You can have the best of both worlds and enjoy them while still maintaining an online presence. I have realized, in recent years, that these school breaks fuel my business, not hinder it. My boys are the reason I do what I do and I am reminded of that every summer. 

When you have time, check out my shop at www.nelesc.etsy.com   

Monday, July 27, 2015

Easy DIY Jumpsuit

Sometimes I like to take a break from reconstructing existing garments and sew from scratch. This is a very easy DIY jumpsuit that I wore to work the other day. Super comfy!

I apologize for the crazy curl that has a mind of its own.

I made the pants from scratch using this beautiful, earth-toned fabric given to me by Gloria ( we call her Bennie), a wonderful lady from my church who used to be a factory seamstress and eventually worked her way up to being a manager, traveling for the company and overseeing production. Bennie has given me lots of fabric over the years and I have made some great outfits with them. She is amazing at 90 years young! I mentioned Bennie in this post from 2013 and also in this one from 2014.

Anywho, I made the pants and also the top part of the jumpsuit with the same fabric. However, after trying it on, before stitching the top and bottom together, I felt that the overall pattern of the material was too overpowering for a one piece garment. It needed to be broken up, but I still wanted a jumpsuit, so I decided to buy a black shirt and attach it to the pants. 

The trick was to find a top that was stretchy and had a wide enough neck that could fit over my butt when I put it on!  I found this great black top with this cool back detail. 

So I attached the store-bought top to the pants and voila! Instant jumpsuit. No elastic necessary. You could even make this even easier to make by buying a pair of elastic pants and a stretchy top from a second hand store and just stitch them together. 

I also love the way it looks with a belt. It would look even better with a fab necklace but I didn't have time to accessorize as I took these pics five minutes before the school bus was due. 

I did manage to accessorize here with my ID tag, lol
I love jumpsuits because they are so comfortable and give great coverage. At my museum job,  I often sit on the floor  while discussing artworks, I wore it the other day for a tour and workshop and felt so at ease the whole time. I think jumpsuits are going to be my new work uniform. 

Do you like jumpsuits? I would love to know either way. I am thinking of designing some jumpsuit patterns and would appreciate your feedback. 

Monday, July 13, 2015

"I Need Pets Like You Need Art"

I have had the pets discussion on lock down for a while now. Whenever my beloved brought up pets, I would reply with, “I cannot fathom taking care of one more living creature!” There is a lot involved in caring for a special needs child, let alone two. I can't even care very well for a plant these days, lol. 

However, today I heard him.  I listened and really heard my husband loud and clear. He continued to tell me how he grew up with pets, how much caring for God's creatures helped him to be a better person, to learn about himself, how wonderful it will be for the kids to care of another living creature, etc. This all helped me to understand. 

But really, what really got me to listen was the above quote. Whenever you tell me you need something like I need art, well, I’m all ears. He finally spoke my language! 

He and my older son came home with a pet today... a snake! I'm fine with it. It's in it's own tank and I don't have to do a thing to care for it. 

Since the purchase, some have questioned why I would rather say yes to a snake, a pet that requires live mice feedings once a week, rather than a cute, cuddly dog?" Good question. My answer? A snake won't jump on top of me and lick me, I already have one of those and it's not a dog. I also don't have to walk the snake or feed it, I made sure my husband and son agreed to that term. So having the snake works for all of us. Perfect compromise...and I got my husband off my back for at least a month until he starts asking for another pet.   

Thursday, July 9, 2015

T-Shirt Refashion: Regular "El Bar Rio" T-Shirt to Bat-Wing Draped Pocket Top

My latest t-shirt refashion!

The "El Bar Rio" (El Barrio) t-shirt started out like this. It is designed by Luis Cordero, Founder of PRIDA. Cordero is a graphic artist and photographer, among other things. He also designs, produces, and sells his own line of t-shirts with Native American Taíno and other Puerto Rican cultural icons. You can purchase his tees here

PRIDA stands for Puerto Rican Institute for the Development of the Arts, a Project of Comité Noviembre. Their mission is to promote and provide support for the Puerto Rican artist and the arts. I happen to be a proud member. You can find out more about PRIDA here

Okay, now back to how I redesigned the tee. The first thing I did was to separate the front from the back, sleeves and all.  

 Next, I separated the graphic and cut it into this shape. This is all that I used of the t-shirt itself. 

I had this long black 2X dress which I used for fabric.

I used the fabric from the dress for the sides, back, and pockets  of the new top. There are no side seams, just one single seam in the back middle.  

 I then added the pockets on the sides and professionally hemmed the neckline, bottom, and sleeve openings with my handy dandy hem machine (did I just say handy dandy? lol)

 And here it is. The neck line is wide enough that I could also use it as an off the shoulder top. 

I really love it and so glad I decided to add pockets.

 Here's a side view

I love these tunic-like tops and the "El Bar Rio" (El Barrio) graphic really pops. What do you think? Would you have done anything differently? As always, I appreciate feedback and respond to all comments. 

Have a great day! 

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Enjoy Captivity

Since it's my 7th year as a creative entrepreneur, I have been thinking a lot about this life. I am an entrepreneur, an artisan/artist, and I am a special-needs mom. These are all lonely ventures and sometimes, being the social person that I am,  this can be quite hard to deal with. 

Lately, however, I feel that God has been asking me to give in to the lonely, to "enjoy the captivity" as Austin Kleon says. There are things that you can only do if you have long blocks of solitary time. 

The other day, I got a call from Dan's school that he was throwing up and needed to be picked up. He's much better now, but, I'm not going to lie, it totally messed up my day! I was supposed to have breakfast with a friend, sew a couple of refashions, take some pictures, possibly work on a new collection... things I can only do when Dan's not around. I had to redirect. When he's sick and clingy, the only thing that brings him comfort is to sit with me on the couch or computer chair, so that is what we did. This is not self-imposed captivity, it is very much imposed upon me, I would not choose it for myself. However, if Dan had not been sick, I would not have worked on this here index card project that has been in my head for a while. I'll tell you more about it soon. 

index card project that has been in my head for a while. I'll tell you more about it soon. 

So there you have it, sometimes you have to give in and "enjoy the captivity."