Thursday, September 24, 2009

The interview in which I dork out.

That's Pam (KittyKill) from Craftster, looking cute as a button and gettin' crafty with folks at Maker Faire!

I can't remember when I first found KittyKill's work on Craftster, but I know it was early on in my embroidery obsession. Her stitching is amazing. Like, painstakingly amazing. I've always been a bit of a fangirl for her.

We "met" online briefly while we both worked on the Secret Tea Towel tour for Jenny Hart , but I didn't get to meet her in person until back in May at Maker Faire Bay Area. She was there with Craftster, and I kinda stalked her for a few minutes while she helped hang their banner. I don't think I even called her by her real name (Pam) I think I just yelled out something like, "OHMYGAWDIT'SKITTYKILL!"

My coolness is unmatched, folks.

Pam's most awesome embroidery tattoo.

She was sweet and friendly, and it genuinely felt like we hadn't just met before, but that we were good friends. It was fantastic! She didn't even freak out when I instantly went to fondle her freaking amazing embroidery tattoo (really, my favorite embroidery tattoo - pictures don't do it justice).

Pam's just posted up a nice little interview with moi over on her blog, Faster KittyKill! I always thought that tv interviews would be painfully awkward, but it appears I can even come off as a huge dork in writing, so ... just bear with me.

Thank you, Pam, for this opportunity, and for being such a rad embroidery inspiration! :)

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Embroidery, art and vodka

I've been lucky to have some fun opportunities for a little freelance stitching in the last year, and even luckier to have those jobs involve some of my favorite things: vodka, art and Sublime Stitching.

First up: Sublime Stitching. I'll be writing more on this soon over at Craftzine, but last summer, I was one of four women who helped stitch the projects that were photographed for Jenny's newest embroidery book, Embroidered Effects. It was a thrill and a pleasure, and just down right fun. I'll have more on that stitching adventure in a later post, and even more over at Craftzine next week. (A little birdie would like me to tell you that we'll even have a free pattern from the book, so be sure to check out Craftzine next Friday, October 2)

Next: Tito's Vodka. When it comes to adult beverages, I'm a vodka gal, and when it comes to vodka, I'm a Tito's gal. So when my pal, Jennifer Perkins, passed my name on to the Tito's folks when they were looking for someone to embroider their bottle label for an ad, you can bet I jumped all over that opportunity. The ad was planned for the SXSW edition of BUST magazine, and I love that the folks at Tito's thought to incorporate hand embroidery.

The job was to completely stitch the Tito's label, but just as the job started (and it had a very quick turnaround) I became deathly ill. I was sicker than I had been in years - fever, chills, the works. I remember laying in my bed, surrounded by crumpled tissues, just stitching-stitching-stitching. I was able to complete the massive amount of satin stitch on the word Tito's, and began stitching the middle portion of the image when the deadline hit.

Fortunately, the Tito's folks were very nice and flexible and decided to work the "in progress" piece into the ad, complete with my needle still attached to the floss as it came from the fabric. I think it actually turned out even better this way! The ad ran in at least two issues of BUST last spring, and someone told me they've also seen it in a beer and wine magazine. If you happen to spot it in another magazine, let me know, and wave "hello" to the embroidery that reminds me of a time I was so sick, I wished I could just drown myself in .... vodka.

Finally: art! Austin's coolness never ceases to amaze me. We've lived here five years, and every single day I find new inspiring people and places. I feel very lucky to live here. Back in August, I had the opportunity to stitch for one of these inspiring people (and places!): Randy Franklin of Yard Dog Art Gallery on S. Congress. Randy was looking for someone to stitch his logo and a skull design on a cool, vintage-style western shirt. Jenny Hart referred him to me (thanks, Jenny!) and the stitching took off.

I was really pleased with how it turned out, and Randy seemed to be as well. One of the best parts about the project was getting to deliver the shirt to Randy at the Yard Dog gallery. This intimate gallery on Austin's well-know S. Congress strip is my kind of art gallery. From the Yard Dog web site:

The gallery's roots are in folk and outsider art from North America, especially the Deep South, but we show art by many contemporary artists who work in a folky, funky vernacular. The art we show is maximalist: colorful, edgy, representational.
Like I said ... my kinda art.

What's even better is that, starting November 6, there will be an embroidered art show at Yard Dog. Jenny Hart is curating the exhibit, called Over and Under, and it will run through December 6. You can follow more information about the exhibit here.

I'm incredibly grateful for these opportunities to stitch this last year, and will continue to thank my lucky stars for any future fun freelance embroidery jobs that involve some of my favorite things. Who knows, maybe NASA will come knocking next ....

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Patricia Zapata's Paper Perfection

I met Patricia Zapata one year ago at Maker Faire Austin, where she was demoing her diorama project from Craft 07. I'd followed her work for a while, and her pristine aesthetic appealed to my need for clean, simple crafting. I tend to be ... messy and a bit chaotic. Patricia's gorgeous, clean, modern paper projects were soothing and special.

When we met, we instantly connected over talk of juggling work with kids and mundane tasks of parenting life like laundry, oh ... the never-ending laundry. As Patricia explained it, her paper crafting and blog are sacred. They are her space to have a bit of calm and beauty in the midst of the often chaotic surrounds of family life.

I loved this about Patricia, and I think it's something that everyone needs - not just moms. Crafting, creating, writing - these things can provide the comfortable, inspirational reservoirs we all need.

I also remember Patricia talking about her summer that year, and how it was packed with fun family time and lots of work on her book. I've been waiting to see it ever since, and when I received my copy last month, I felt that same sense of peace and inspiration that Patricia's blog has always provided.

Home, Paper, Scissors is Patricia's first book, and has dozens of home decor paper projects ranging from quick and easy cupcake toppers to gorgeous wall clocks. There are projects for every room in your house, and the possibilities of working paper into you decor will surprise you. (a paper table runner!? how cool is that?)

One of my favorite things about Patricia is how she can find insanely creative ways to reuse materials that otherwise might just get tossed into the trash can. She's a master of the cardboard paper towel tube. I've seen her print with them, make gift tags out of them, and was happy to see they make an appearance or two in Home, Paper Scissors as well.

She also includes her famous magazine bowls that she presented at Maker Faire Austin 2007 (when I was too shy to introduce myself).

I also love that there are opportunities to take up some of the projects with your kids. She's posted some positively brilliant projects that she's done with her kids on her blog, and several of the projects in Home, Paper, Scissors are kid-friendly as well.

Patricia's skilled designer's eye and talent for creating 3-dimensional projects out of paper make Home, Paper, Scissors a book well worth adding to your craft collection. Enjoy!

Friday, September 18, 2009

Vintage Craft Thrift Heaven

When I was planning one of my early trips to Portland a few years ago, I remember when Diane mentioned a place she'd like to take me. Her description of the store immediately caught my attention and got me giddy:

"It's a thrift craft supply store with lots of vintage goodies," she said.

"Well," I replied. " You just named three of my favorite things!"

The Knittn' Kitten did not disappoint. During my first visit, I scored oodles of vintage bias tape and ric rac. I brought home a vintage embroidered table cloth that I still use when I'm doing embroidery demos or special occasions. (I even found, but did not buy, an embroidered table cloth that was in progress ... complete with the hoop still attached!) And I discovered loads of vintage embroidery transfers, including one of my most treasured vintage embroidery transfers: the Girl Scout Sampler.

The Knittn' Kitten in Portland is completely unique. It's a thrift store of nothing but craft supplies, and most of it is vintage. It's a dream. The Kitten suffered a bit of a slow summer in this struggling economy, and several of Portland's crafty heavy hitters have come out in force to support The Knittn' Kitten and encourage others to do the same.

Lots of laughter and finds at The Kitten during the PDX Craftgasm weekend back in April! From L to R, Lee Meredith, Kim Werker and Theresa Sullivan. Photo from Diane.

Even though I'm in Texas, I can't express my love of The Knittn' Kitten enough. When I returned to The Kitten during the PDX Handmade nation weekend, I had a blissful visit. We arrived with a full entourage of folks, and the store was alive with laughter and gasps of "OHMYGOSHLOOKWHATIJUSTFOUND!"s. Everyone found some kind of treasure that day, and everyone had fun.

That's me and Betsy Greer browsing the amazing vintage craft books and magazines. Most of the pictures in this post are from the magazine I'm holding in this picture. Picture from Diane.

Most of the pictures in this post are from some of the things I brought home from my trip to The Kitten in April. You can see the things I discovered in my first trip to The Kitten back in my post from that trip.

One of the coolest things that the Portland craft community is doing is coming up with free patterns for projects that can be completed using things you can find at The Knittn' Kitten. Some of my best crafty Portland friends are sharing their ideas and projects. Here's the schedule of contributors so far:

September 22 – Heather Mann

September 29 – Teresa Sullivan

October 6 – Diane Gilleland

October 13 – Joey Groendes

October 20 – Christine Blystone

October 27 – Susan Beal

November 3 – Lee Meredith

November 10 – Bridget Benton

Be sure to check out the projects, and check out the Knittn' Kitten Flickr pool where people are posting pictures of things they've found at The Kitten or made with things they purchased at The Kitten.

If you live in Portland, or have friends who do, please pass this information on. If you don't live in Portland, drop The Knittn' Kitten gals a line to show your support. And if you have the opportunity to travel to Portland, be sure that The Knittn' Kitten is at the top of your list for places to visit. You won't be disappointed

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Sister Diane brings you the *real* way to "market" your blog

Since starting Average Jane Crafter two years ago (what!? look at that! I missed an anniversary ... again! heh!) I've been lucky enough to connect with fantastic crafters all over the world, I've had the privilege to receive review copies of dozens of awesome craft books and products, and I've somehow landed the dream job to end all dream jobs (for a craft blogger) of blogging for

I've had a lot of people email me and ask things like, "How did you do it? What are your tips? How can I get a larger audience on my blog? How can I get more followers on Twitter? How can I get/do/accomplish more!?"

I'm always kind of stumped by those questions. My gut reaction is to just say, "Uh .... have fun? Do what you love? Be nice to people?" And, at the very basic level, that's how I've done it.

I realize, though, that folks are looking for a more structured, thorough answer than just "have fun," and now I can now point them to the second book in Diane Gilleland's blogging e-book series: Creating a Blog Audience: An unconventional marketing guide.

I reviewed Diane's first e-book on blogging (Making a Great Blog) over on Craftzine, and any time someone asks me about starting a blog, the first thing I tell them to do is purchase that e-book. I think it should be required reading for any blogger.

Creating a Blog Audience carries the same prestige. I can't tell you how many bloggers I've come across who could benefit from the golden information Diane shares about how to build a blog audience. What I love about her premise is that at the root of it all, building a blog audience boils down to being a strong member of the crafting community.

Diane and me at Maker Faire. Crafting community connections and great friendships! It's why I love what I do. photo by Kristin Roach

One thing that I love about Diane is her ability to hone in on the specific roadblocks that face bloggers. She's exceptional at being able to get bloggers to focus, to think clearly and to move ahead with purpose.

She starts the e-book off by getting bloggers to sit down and truly think about why they want a bigger blog audience (she even has a set of worksheets that help guide readers through the process of figuring all this out). Diane's approach is all about engagement marketing, a new way of marketing that builds relationships and connections and growth through genuine partnerships. As she says, "A little genuine friendliness goes a very long way in the blog world."

Some of the highlights of the e-book for me are the following:
  • exploring "not being nice just to get something"
  • her 3 rules of blogging success
  • the single most important thing you can do to promote your blog
  • commenting on other blogs, and how not to comment
Her take on sharing ideas and projects is refreshing and dead on and reminds me of the adage about getting back ten fold what you send out into the world.
In this age of rampant sharing, ideas and techniques are like air - they're everywhere and free for everyone. You will not prosper by trying to clamp down on your creativity. You will prosper by being open and striving to build relationships.
She also has great sections on participating in online forums, building your blog archives, connecting with other bloggers and submitting links to large crafting web sites.
Remember, the craft blogosphere is a community. If you treat people like potential friends, you'll have a much better experience and make many more connections. If you treat people as merely potential customers, you'll mostly turn them off.
Even if your goal is not necessarily to build a huge audience, make money or land a dream job, the lessons laid out in Creating a Blog Audience are valuable for any blogger. Heck, many of the lessons are valuable just on the being-a-good-human-being level!

I've said it a million times before, Diane is my craft guru. Her writing is clear, simple, easy to read and follow and filled will a million gold nuggets. Grab your copy of Creating a Blog Audience (and Making a Great Blog if you don't already have it) today.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

A weekend filled with craft & community

Lace up yer craftin' shoes, 'cause this weekend, Austin is chock full of seriously awesome crafty events. Let's get right to it, shall we!?

Handmade Nation Austin Premiere
I've heard a lot of "Finally!"s with the announcement of the Austin Premiere of the documentary, Handmade Nation. Austin is home to at least four of the folks featured in the film, so it's hugely satisfying to see it finally making its premiere here. Jessica and Mary of Sublime Stitching (and their own production company) have been working tirelessly to put together a great series of events around the two screenings of Handmade Nation. There will be a book signing party, and craft bazaar, two film screenings with Q&A sessions with director, Faythe Levine, and a post screening shindig. You can get full details on all the events over at the Sublime Stitching Web site.

I'll be there all day on Sunday, representing Craftzine and doing embroidery demos and a couple of demos on the Yudu with Jennifer Perkins! Stop by and say, "Hi!"

I attended the Handmade Nation premiere in Portland back in April, and it was a fantastic opportunity to connect with other crafters and celebrate the craft community. The film is great, and having the opportunity to see it and have a Q&A with Faythe is awesome!

Swap and Sew + Sweeets
The Austin Craft Mafia, Space 12 and Communicrafting are hosting a clothing and craft supply swap and bake sale on Saturday from noon to 6PM at Space 12 in East Austin. From their event page on Facebook:
Clean out your closets and your craft supply drawers and come participate in a community swap! Bring any unwanted clothes - both adult and kids clothes welcome, and crafting supplies like fabric, thread, yarn, notions, buttons, etc. etc. Get rid of stuff you don't want and go home with new stuff that you love. Any suits or professional clothing and accessories left over at the end of the day will be donated to Dress for Success, a non-profit organization that helps disadvantaged women get dressed up for job interviews. Any crafty supplies left over will be donated to "Sew What?", a free after-school sewing program. Everything else will be donated to a local charity shop. Bring your sewing machine or knitting needles or embroidery hoops or whatever and spend the afternoon hanging out with other crafty types fixing up your swap finds, having fun and sharing ideas.
This sounds like a total blast! It combines all my favorite things: crafting, community, charity and ... BROWNIES!

Creative Spark Gathering - Mini Lego Movies
This is a picture I took at the massive Lego display at Maker Faire.

This is at the same time as the Book Signing party, but it looks like it would be worth shuttling between events. My son is obsessed with Lego, and I've caught his obsession. I'm hoping to be able to go so I can make a mini-Lego-movie for him!

From the event's Facebook event page:
Think flip books, think clay-mation, think spaceships and adventure! Please join our special guest, Creative Spark Stephen Bohls for the low-tech magic of stop-motion animation--and some serious fun! Bring your camera and make your own mini movie—or just come and play with one of the best Lego collections in Austin. The Creative Spark Gathering is a FREE opportunity to have fun, learn, and meet other creative Austinites.
Whew! That's 36 hours of insanely rad, crafty, creative, community events. Rest up and get ready to have some fun!