Thursday, April 15, 2010

Do You Use a Dress Form?

I love Lifetime's TV show Project Runway. I don't have a lot of time for TV, but Project Runway is one of my little guilty pleasures, as well as dark chocolate!

Every week, I see the designers attaching pieces of fabric to dress forms before fitting their models. They make it look so easy!

In addition to creating handbags, I also like to design and sew outfits for myself. Fit is the critical difference between an outfit being a "WOW" and an "Oh, did you make that?" It's difficult to make adjustments while you're wearing the garment, so I've been thinking about buying a Dress Form to make my garment designing as easy as Project Runway. Well, luckily my design time won't be limited to one day or a specific challenge. has a few dress forms on sale at very reasonable prices. I've also been to, but they are slightly priced out of my budget.

I'd love to hear from you. Does anyone use a dress form? Any tips? 

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

The Crafty Panda featured on Handmade Spark

Check out The Crafty Panda interview on Handmade Spark. Thanks to Justine Smith for making it happen!

Where In The The Crafty Panda?

WOW, it's true that time flies when you're having fun or just really busy! I can't believe the entire March went without a post.

Here's what has been going on in the fun and busy world of The Crafty studio has been going through a re-design. Thanks to my helpful hubby, we've added a long shelf on one wall that holds a ton of my fabric bolts. It's the first wall I see when I walk into the studio and I love looking up at the beautiful fabrics with bright colors and prints.

On the same wall I have two craft organizers, a bulletin board and a small shelf for a few paint supplies. As you can see from the photo below, I still don't have all the fabrics on the shelf. We're still working on the studio, but it's inspiring to see it coming together.

I've been busy taking inventory of fabrics, zippers, trims, thread and more. I've also uncovered some great vintage fabrics that were given to me years ago but have been packed away since there wasn't space in the studio. I'll post pictures soon!

The kids were on Spring Break and it was the perfect time to head to the beach. We're lucky to live in a state with so many beautiful beaches!

Hope your April is full of creativity and renewal!

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Panda Bag Update

Things have been crazy at The Crafty Panda. Orders have been flying in and I am super busy.

Amidst all this craziness, we're also updating my son's room. He has outgrown his Lil' Firefighter theme and now wants a nature theme. My hubby is a city boy all the way, so my son and I are designing and hubby is the muscle/"go to" guy, as in "Honey, could you please run to the hardware store and pick up four of those big hooks?" :)

We're also repainting bathrooms, hallways and the living room/dining room. Don't you just love having more than one project going at a time?

The Panda Bag is now finished, but it's so cute I've decided to keep it! It's perfect for The Crafty Panda.

The bag is getting lots of compliments while I'm out, so I still plan to make a series of Panda purses. I love how this bag can go from a purse to a handbag to a wristlet! There are lots of Panda fans out there, so I'll keep you posted. Let me know what you think.

Not a Panda fan? What would you like to see on a bag?

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Girly Girl Wants New Clothes

My little girl loves clothes and accessories. This pint-sized bundle puts together styles worthy of a fashion magazine. Where does she get this talent? Most days, I'm hard at work in jeans and a t-shirt (shoes & jewelry optional).

Designing and sewing for The Crafty Panda limits my design time for this little fashionista. She has a unique, funky style that's hard to find in the children's department of most retailers. Every couple of months, I drop everything and design/sew new outfits in her preferred bright colors (orange, purple or pink).

I found these darling patterns from Pink Fig which will stitch up in no time. So, my girly girl is going to get a couple of new outfits - no design time needed for these - straight to the sewing machine!

The Olivia Top features 3/4 or short sleeve - perfect for any season. Even better yet? The pattern includes sizes 6 months to 10 years. Woohoo! Check out this link for more details and where to purchase: 

The Bella Pants are so sweet. Love the ruffles! A great way of combining striking fabrics worthy of a junior fashionista. The pants pattern is also sized for 6 months to 10 years. You can find the pattern and details at:

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Tax Time

Starting 2010 with starting your own business? Now is the perfect time to setup an accounting program to track your successes, fix what's not working and pay your taxes so you can sleep at night.

The Crafty Panda has been in business since late 2007 and it seems that I've had a new accounting program every year. I started with an Excel spreadsheet that my techie husband created. It was easy to understand and quick to update in the early days. But, as my business rapidly grew, days went by that I didn't have time to manually update the spreadsheet. Ship out 10 items to waiting customers or update financials? No brainer, every time I chose the customer first. Great for business, not so good for accounting.

My husband spent a month updating everything. It left us both grumpy.

The following year, he bought me an expensive version of QuickBooks. Wow!! Fantastic accounting software with a stellar reputation. What could make my life easier?

I was in way over my head. QuickBooks had too many accounting terms (I barely kept my sanity during an accounting course in college - I'm a creative person and there didn't seem to be much room for creativity in accounting), confusing options and it still seemed like a ton of work and manual entries!

This year I'm with (which I heard about on Etsy) and so far, I love it! I have three businesses and they are all set up with Outright. I am easily able to import merchant information, expenses, income and more. It's so fast that I actually don't mind doing financials! I thought that would never happen!!

Outright helps keep track of quarterly tax payments, sends reminders and best of all - it's free. Check it out at

During my research, these also came up with rave reviews which is $19 per month for a small business and QuickBooks Online Basic which has a 30 day free trial and then $9.95 per month. Very reasonably priced and definitely worth paying to keep your sanity.

Find an accounting program that you understand, one that will grow with you and give you the access to share information with your accountant and the time and resources you save will be all yours!

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Get Organized with Stack 'N Store Bobbin Tower

January is always a "get organized" month for me with a fresh start to the New Year. My blogs have been sporadic this month while I'm in this organizing frenzy (sorry!). After the craziness of the holidays and sewing/designing non-stop for the past couple of months, it's time to make sure I'm ready to do it all again this year :)

I have great organizers in my studio for ribbons, trims, beads, zippers, thread and fabric, but my sewing machine bobbins always drive me crazy! I use lots of different colors of thread on my bags - especially when I do freehand machine embroidery. That means lots of spools of thread and lots of bobbins. The bobbins are always scattered across my shelves, on the sewing table, tucked in closed boxes and unraveling everywhere. Frustrated with spending tons of time trying to find the right color, I usually just end up winding a new one.

This month I ran across a perfect storage solution for my bobbins. The Stack 'N Store Bobbin Tower from Clover and Nancy Zieman holds up to 30 bobbins, keeps the end of the threads secure and I can easily see all the colors. It's $15.95 plus shipping. Love it!!

Here's the link in case you want to order one (or more!) for yourself:

In future posts look for information on accounting programs if you own a craft business and a sneak peak at the paint color for my hallway and living room!

Thursday, January 7, 2010

New Panda Bag Design

After the rush of finishing and sending off bags for the holiday season, I'm finally finding a few moments to work on stitching my new designs. I'm starting off the year with a Panda Bag. How fitting for The Crafty Panda!

I love the way it's turning out. I'm going to make a series of Panda Bags and each one will have unique features and design elements.

Here is the first one on the drafting board....

There's more work to be completed on the Panda and on the bamboo. Once I have the design completed, then I'll stitch the bag, add the zipper and interior pocket. The handle design is a new one and I'm still making modifications to ensure that it is super comfortable to carry and multi-functional. Look for it on Etsy in the next week or two!

I sold a bag today to a customer in Taiwan. I'm fortunate to be shipping bags around the world and excited that we have now reached Taiwan. My little Crafty Panda Cubs love tracking our shipments on the globe (which is a great way for them to learn geography!). This will be a new one for them!

Glad you're sharing in our excitement as The Crafty Panda grows. Have a warm day!

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Market Your Handcrafted Business

Happy New Year! Is one of your New Year's resolutions to start your own handcrafted business or grow the one you currently have?

Marketing is a necessary component of any business. In order to be successful, you need to ensure that buyers are familiar with your company name and products.

Marketing does not need to be overwhelming. Some crafters are hesitant in marketing their business because they do not want to feel pushy or too aggressive. Use this easy two-point plan and give yourself a jump start!

My two-point plan consists of what I refer to as "mega" and "micro" portions. Each point, or portion, is cost effective and works for either a start-up business or an early stager looking to grow. The first point is "mega" - reaching as many potential customers as possible with a broad sweep.

You can reach many potential customers with free social networking sites such as Twitter or Facebook. With a little research for tips in setting up your free accounts and a daily investment in your time for maintenance, contacts are easily made. Also use Flickr (online photo management) to upload photos of your products. You'll be amazed at the different people you meet. Some may just be online to socialize, but others are editors and writers for publications and blogs that may be interested in showcasing you and your work or buyers for boutiques on the lookout for new and unique items.

The second point in the plan is what I consider "micro" marketing. Marketing to your friends, family, neighbors and acquaintances. For those that are shy, this can seem difficult but I have a few tips to make it painless and profitable :)

First, if at all possible, have samples of your handcrafted items with you at all times. Since I design bags, I only carry my own. That way when someone tells me they "love" my bag, it's the perfect conversation starter to talk about The Crafty Panda. I change my bag often and it's a great way to test new designs. If I carry a bag to several different places and receive no comments, I know it's back to the drawing board. My big sellers always receive comments wherever I go :)

I have a friend that designs jewelry. She was wearing one of her bracelets when she went into a boutique that specializes in handmade paper. The owner loved the bracelet, bought one for herself and referred her to an owner of an upscale jewelry store. The owner is now purchasing wholesale from my friend. Not bad for a day that started with shopping for a few handmade cards!

When a gift giving occasion arises, I like to give a gift from The Crafty Panda. I design and handcraft something special for the recipient. The teachers at my children's school received bags from The Crafty Panda for Christmas. Inside the bags I tucked my business card and received several custom orders for additional bags from teachers and parents.

Three of the six bags that were delivered to the teachers for Christmas!

Need marketing ideas? Want to share a tip that has worked for you? Let me know. Marketing can be stress-free, economical and profitable!