Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Favorite Friend: Blair Stocker of Wise Craft Handmade

How is it possible that we haven't featured Blair Stocker on our Favorite Friends series?? Blair has been an Assemble role model and pal since the very beginning! A quilter and handmade guru by trade, Blair's blog and new book, Wise Craft: Turning Thrift Store Finds, Fabric Scraps, and Natural Objects Into Stuff You Love are a great source for projects that any level crafter can accomplish. Plus, she's one of the nicest ladies we know! We adore her and we know that you will too:


You have been a craft blogger for quite a while and have recently added "author" to your resume! Tell us about your new book, Wise Craft: Turning Thrift Store Finds, Fabric Scraps, and Natural Objects Into Stuff You Love.
Wise Craft is all about telling your family's story throughout your home with all kinds of handmade projects. There are 60 projects in the book, divided by four seasonal chapters, spanning hand crafts like quilting, crochet, knitting, and other unexpected ways to DIY your home. My hope in writing this book is that those who don't necessarily feel crafty, or aren't sure where to start will find color and project inspiration inside the pages. The book shows how I use repurposed, thrifted materials to make entirely new, beautiful things for the home.

Was there anything about the publishing process that surprised you? Did you enjoy it?
I loved the publishing process. It was challenging, no doubt, and there was so much to learn along the way, but I had an agent and editor who were incredibly helpful and supportive. The timeline allowed me to keep focused in my studio (I can tend to wander creatively) and really dig deep into what I love to do, make things!

What is your favorite project in the book?
There are so many favorites! I love the quilt projects at the end of each chapter. Quilt making is a passion of mine. But I also love the projects that peaked the interest of my husband, Peter, and son, Ian, like the leather-wrapped rocks.

Do you have any new projects coming up?

I may have started a new book proposal, I am also teaching projects from my book in Seattle and Portland. I will be teaching a class at Schoolhouse Craft Conference in September on writing a book proposal. I am also a regular contributor to the Creativebug blog.

What is your favorite aspect of the work that you do?
I love the actual creating and sewing part of my job. There is really nothing more satisfying than having a whole work day ahead of me to sew, or create something new.

What would you change if you could?
As great as it is to be your own boss, it can be incredibly frustrating. I'd love to hire out all the business-related tasks.

What is your dream job besides what you are doing now?
Actually I think I'm doing my dream job! I truly love what I do, making things with my hands will always be a passion. Working from home, I have the flexibility to be with my kids often. I love the ability to do what I love, and be present with the people that I love, at the same time.

If you could only eat one meal for the rest of your life, what would it be?
Cake. Any kind. Every day.

Dream vacation?
Japan with my husband. He and I both love traveling there, but have never been there together.

And finally, who are your role models in business?
My business role model is Denyse Schmidt. She has a focused aesthetic, a wonderfully keen sense of color, and is well respected for what she does. She has made a living creating beautiful quilts and fabric.

In life?
I think my role model in life is more of a combination of important people I've known and the qualities they have.


Thank you, Blair! Visit Blair's website, Wise Craft Handmade, and follow her on Twitter, Facebook or sign up for her newsletter.

Photos courtesy Blair Stocker of Wise Craft.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Crafty Project: Happy Cloud Felt Wall Mobile

Happy Cloud Felt Wall Mobile DIY Tutorial

I asked my husband what I should all this mobile project post, and he answered, "Cloudy with a Chance of Baby." Perfect! We've got a little one on the way this December, and after finding (and buying!) a few mobiles, I was never satisfied with any of them. Those awesome geometric mobiles? Yeah, they don't stay together. And even the cutest over-the-crib mobiles seem like they will get in the way with such a small crib. (We're using a mini). So, I went ahead and decided to make a wall mobile myself! See below for instructions for your own Happy Cloud Felt Wall Mobile.

Happy Cloud Felt Wall Mobile DIY Tutorial

You will need:
• about 1/3 yard of felt for your cloud
• several smaller sheets of felt in whatever colors you'd like for your droplets--one per color (don't forget to include black for your cloud's face)
• invisible thread or fishing line
• poly-fil or stuffing material
• scissors
• a needle
• pins
• a sewing machine

Happy Cloud Felt Wall Mobile DIY Tutorial

Cut out your cloud shape, depending on the size of the wall space you'll be hanging. Mine is roughly 21"wide x 14" high.

Cut out your little face for your cloud. I went with simple happy, but we had a lot of fun testing all sorts of smiley/frowny shapes.

Happy Cloud Felt Wall Mobile DIY Tutorial

Pin the face where you'd like it to stay, then stitch on your sewing machine or by hand with black thread to keep in place.

Happy Cloud Felt Wall Mobile DIY Tutorial

After your face is completely stitched, pin the cloud onto another piece of the same color felt. This will be the back of your fluffy cloud. Stitch carefully around all of the curves of the cloud with your sewing machine. Remember to leave enough space unstitched to fill the cloud with stuffing.

Happy Cloud Felt Wall Mobile DIY Tutorial

After sewing your cloud to it's backing (and left it's stuffing hole), cut completely flush around the cloud's curves for an even finish. Tip: around the stuffing hole, I like to leave a little extra for stitching, just in case the stuffing affects the amount you have to work with.

Happy Cloud Felt Wall Mobile DIY Tutorial

Stuff your cloud using poly-fil or a similar stuffing material. Don't over-fill your cloud. You'll want this to be a loose stuffing.

Happy Cloud Felt Wall Mobile DIY Tutorial

To make your droplets, create a template that you can use on each color to cut around. Mine was roughly 2" x 4". Cut each felt sheet in half. Place one half to the side for the backing of the droplet. I got about 5-6 droplets out of each half sheet.

Happy Cloud Felt Wall Mobile DIY Tutorial

Finish cutting all of your droplets. You will most likely have a lot more than you will use on your mobile, but it's always best to be prepared, especially if you want a very rainy cloud!

Happy Cloud Felt Wall Mobile DIY Tutorial

Pin all of your droplet's to the other half of the felted sheet that you set aside. Around 5-6 should fit comfortably with enough space for stitching.

Happy Cloud Felt Wall Mobile DIY Tutorial

Using the sewing machine, stitch all the way around each of the droplets. You can also use this time to stuff them with poly-fil if you'd like a puffier droplet, but I simply sewed them to a backing to add depth.

Happy Cloud Felt Wall Mobile DIY Tutorial

After sewing all of your droplets, cut flush around the edges of each droplet.

Happy Cloud Felt Wall Mobile DIY Tutorial

To tie your droplets together, cut a long piece of invisible thread, and knot the end. Thread this length into a needle and stitch into the pointy tip of a droplet. Pull the thread all the way out until the knot catches. Tie a knot at the top of that droplet to keep in place. Then with the same thread, thread a new droplet tip, and pull the thread all the way through until you are satisfied with the space between the droplets. Knot the thread at the tip to keep the second droplet in place. Continue this process until you have about four droplets on each thread (or however many you'd like). Then, stitch the end of the threaded/knotted droplets through the bottom of the cloud and tie a knot. Cut off any excess.

Repeat this process until you are satisfied with the amount of droplet strings you have hanging from your cloud.

To hang, simply thread a piece of invisible thread several times through the top point of the cloud and tie to a nail or hook next to the crib or changing table. Make sure it's tied super tight (I even put some tape on the thread over the hook). You don't want it falling onto your baby!

And there you have it! Enjoy!

Happy Cloud Felt Wall Mobile DIY Tutorial

Monday, July 14, 2014

Those Girls: If a Tree Falls In the Woods...

If a tree falls in the woods, and no one is around to Instagram it, does it make a sound?

We started our Those Girls series as a portal for reality, and it's been a while since we wrote a post--for good reason, of course. The reason being life! We've been working on a book project together; and separately, I've been working on my branding business and am in my nineteenth week of pregnancy, and Emily is busy renovating her house while chasing after two rambunctious toddlers. There are days that go by when we don't even touch social media, and I have to admit that this makes me particularly anxious. Will our friends and customers forget about us if we don't Twitter/Instagram/Blog/Facebook/Pinterest (TIBFP) every portion of our day? The truth: I don't really think so. Our readership numbers remain steady, even on quiet days. In that case, what exactly is the social media race for?

Lately (perhaps I can blame this on pregnancy hormones) I've been noticing that after I spend some time browsing TIBFP, I'm exhausted. I'm exhausted by the mirage of perfection. Before these platforms were made available, we were able to get our lifestyle inspiration in small doses: in a magazine, a craft book, on a TV show, in Martha Stewart's trashcan. The images and articles were pitched, styled, photographed and marketed directly to a customer that could consume at their leisure and discard at will. Today, however, these images of lifestyle glory are constant, and in our faces 24/7, mostly by our own allowance. I can't even turn on my phone without mindlessly pressing the "Instagram" app and browsing through photos almost first thing in the morning. A bright and early reminder that many talented people are doing life perfectly: a perfect meal, perfect floral arrangement, perfectly-styled pickling party that I wasn't invited to (but knew just who was, according to the tags), or perfect vacation. What kind of message is this to send oneself several times a day? Even the most secure, hard-working and cheerful person has days when "you're doing it wrong" is the main message being sent by these images. Why don't we feel this way when we look at magazines? Here's why--> because we accept that these magazines are put together by professionals, doing their jobs and being paid for them. Today, it's easy to dismiss an Instagram photo as part of a blogger or creative's perfect everyday life with no preparation or styling whatsoever. That's their life. PERIOD. Definitely not so...we forget what she's trying to sell us. This is her job.

Let's acknowledge the fact that social media isn't going anywhere, and that a person can choose to either acclimate to the current culture or completely reject it. Neither is the right or wrong answer, but I find the former easiest because let's face it:

1. I truly enjoy remaining connected with old friends.
2. Deleting accounts leads to social ostracization merely by default, not by unkindness.
3. It's kind of my job.

So where do we go from there? I find that the culture of popularity, and the inherent need for acceptance is at the root of this problem. We all want to be told that we're doing it right. That's what that trusty "like" button is for. It's almost ironic that these words are being posted via blogger. This is how we communicate, and how we understand each other. Our posts say a lot about how we view ourselves and how we want to view ourselves. Here are two completely possible scenarios:

1. "I made the most perfectly deliciously gorgeous birthday cake with perfect frosting and sprinkle 'scatterage' and I'm going to share it with everyone because it's awesome. I am a great chef and a fabulous hostess. SHARE. like. like. like."
2. "My house looks like The Purge happened there and I am way too lazy to lift a finger, other than to put that Trader Joe's O into my mouth and then back to the box for more. I am a failing at making myself and my family perfect, organic, grassfed meals. This may ruin my personal brand. DO NOT SHARE."

My mother and I have always agreed that women would rule the world if we would just stop trying to one-up one another! I know what you're thinking. "Andie, that's just a picture of an adorable toddler's ice cream social catered by Target with a professional photographer, stylist, and product endorsements--it has nothing to do with shaming other women. Get a grip!" Don't get me wrong, I love a good ice cream social (just kidding, I can't eat ice cream), but the fact that lifestyle bloggers have cornered the market in lifestyle products and books makes me very wary, especially because we still insist on viewing them as "regular people." In reality, most of these very successful career bloggers have a lot of money and sponsors with which to style events, decorate rooms in their home and buy outfit-of-the-days. They are the modern-day celebrity, in a very sweet and "normal" disguise. There are so many campaigns out right now defending young girls and women from comparing themselves to models in magazines. Where are the same standards about comparing ourselves to lifestyle bloggers that are packed with sponsorships? These are lovely women who are making their careers work for them, but emulating their public personas is not the answer to originality or happiness. Not even for themselves! I feel fake when each photo we upload is carefully arranged, slapped onto Instagram, and tagged. There's a time and place for this, but I fear an oversimplification is becoming reality, and cheapening what life really offers.

A lot of the most interesting women in my life are not avid users of social media. They don't know how to use Twitter, or ignore Facebook, calling it "boring." These women support orphanages in the slums of India, or play in orchestras in Scandinavia, or create beautiful works of quilted art, or have wonderfully messy, happy lives right here in Seattle. When we get together we talk about everything: classic literature, science, politics, religion, sappy beach reads, crafts, our families, exercise, food, etc. Our tables are never pretty or photogenic when we're finished, with torn open sugar packets, dirty coffee spoons, and bags of sliced fruit in Ziploc bags that I bring to every meeting so I won't be tempted to eat bagels with cream cheese. We forget to take photos until everything is eaten and drunk, and at that point, our conversation seems too sacred to be shared with the world.

There's nothing wrong with styled photos and beautiful blog posts--in fact, we love them, it's part of what we love the most about our jobs. These pictures of perfection inspire us to make our world more beautiful, and see light in simple joys. These only become wrong when our identity or the identity of others is hinged on public likeability. Let's try to remember to be liked by the people we like, be loved by the people we love, including the whole unphotographable mess that goes along with us.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Assemble on Great.ly!

 Great.ly, the brain-child of our dear friend, Sarah Bryden-Brown (formerly of Go Mighty) is a place where "tastemakers" and "makers" come together. (Which one are you??) And, if you had the pleasure of reading Danielle Krysa's interview, you already know this wonderful, little gem's creative director!

Great.ly collects some of your favorite tastemakers like Uppercase, Oh Happy Day and Design Milk in one online space, and displays brand new lovingly-curated online shops, utilizing handmade goods and designs by independent makers. We are so proud to be makers in this fabulous creative marketplace! Make sure to pop over to Great.ly and check out all of the great shops, and freshen up for summer!

Photos courtesy of Great.ly

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