Making Project Life Work For Me

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I got caught up on Project Life this past weekend and finished my pages yesterday. Woo!

If you aren’t familiar with Project Life, CLICK HERE.

Here’s what works for me:

  • Printing my photos at home! I used this video tutorial to learn how to print two photos onto one page. I have this little printer and I *love* it.
  • Studio Calico Project Life Kit. This is the big one for me. If I spend money on a subscription, I have to use it. If it arrives in the mail, I’m SUPER excited to get home and use it. Each month is different so my book doesn’t look like all one theme which I really like. It’s also gotten me to try to use the filler cards more- they are just cute! And I like the journal cards, it’s hard for me to not use a million photos. Photos are awesome but if I just did them…it would be way smarter to just have an album printed at the end of the year! This way I can add more “real life” stuff to my book with out relying on photos to tell a story.
  • Smaller size. I use a Snap! Binder I bought in December at Michael’s on mega clearance. Sadly they don’t have any left and mine is now full! I’m debating buying a different binder type for May but I want it small. 12×12 is super overwhelming!
  • Printing photos every other day (because I use one sheet of photo paper for two photos). I tried once a week, once per month and once every two weeks. Every other day works for me, especially now that I’m using more journal/filler cards. I can share my thoughts super fast. I have a phone timer set on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Sundays to remind me. Once a month was SUPER tedious for me, I couldn’t remember half of what I’d done or the dates. Which brings me too…
  • I don’t date my cards. I have a first of the month card and an end of the month re-cap card. The re-cap card I talk about stuff that happened, books I read, food I loved. The first of the month card I usually write things I want to try or events happening. I don’t date my cards because sometimes there just isn’t ANYTHING to share or maybe one day was so neat that I have 4 photos.
  • If I’m not sure what to add somewhere or I’ve tucked away a movie stub somewhere special (aka now I can’t find it) I’ll add a little sticky note with what is supposed to go there.

What didn’t work for me:

  • Using a core kit. I bought the 5th and Frolic (I think that’s what it’s called?!) kit from Michaels. I used a 50% off + 10% off total purchase coupon in December which was awesome but by mid February, I was sick of using the same papers over.and over. And I was barely into the project! That was when I was *super* glad I joined Studio Calico, it freshened things up and made it less cookie cutter-y! Also, the S.C. paper is much better quality and more sturdy.
  • The Becky Higgin’s corner rounder. It hates the photo printer paper and kept chomping my paper. Super sad because part of my album has rounded corners, part doesn’t.

What I want to try in the future:

  • Adding text over photos in photoshop!
  • Making more layers of stuff on my cards. Right now they are pretty simple, sometimes I add a sticker, sequins or washi but I want to add more cute layers.
  • Make one page one photo!
  • More paper ephemera. Add more receipts, little tokens from events, etc.

Who’s projects I admire & finding inspiring:

In reality my Project Life kind of looks like a 14 year old with a brand new glue stick made it, I think I’m ok with that. I practically use up every little sequin or sparkle that comes in each monthly kit. My layouts aren’t fancy, they are fast and get the point across. I’d *love* to have a book like the ladies I linked too but…they are legit scrapbookers! I’m not so much or even remotely at that skill level! YET!!! BUT I am glad that I’ve kept up to date and my book is totally me. I like that I took so many photos when I was working on Follow Your Arrow because it documented the whole thing! I like printing silly things like cat memes. I like printing book covers and including them. I like jotting down daily thoughts- even though my penmanship is awful. I realllllly like knowing that at the end of the year I will have documented all of 2014!

How about you? Are you doing Project Life this year? How’s it going?

Let’s get cozy.

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First off, thank you for all your kind words and emails on my previous post. It was amazing how many friends reached out and said “YES. The joy of creating isn’t there anymore” or  ”Let’s all share MORE little things”. I have a few more thoughts to share on this subject but I’ll save them for another day k?

Second off, can I just share with you guys some stuff that is inspiring me lately?

Tubularity! Whyyyyy is Martina Behm so dang CUTE? This is such a neat little pattern, it’s something I can see myself wearing a ton. Also: I’m drowning in sock scraps. A quick dive into my scrap tub revealed these leftovers that I thought looked neat together. I probably will need to buy yarn or break into other full skeins today which I’m a-ok with! I’m not 100% sure I’m doing the increases correctly (she has a video but mine aren’t looking *exactly* like she shows them) but I like knitting it. I’m looking forward to moving from yarn blob to yarn blob. That’s a technical term k?

Ashburn! This is my summer knitting goal. I bought four skeins of Candy Skein Savory Fingering in Honey, Oyster, Grape Fizz & Plum. I got to meet Tami at Stitches West and she is just awesome! I can’t decide which combo of colors I’ll use but I’m excited to wear it next fall. This is one I’m really looking forward to just enjoying the process and relaxing with. I think it’s going to feel similar to Multnomah, that is my current shawl that I keep it in my purse.

Bertie Bott’s Yarn! Um WHAT! I was digging through my yarn bin and came across this cutie that Chop bought me…in 2012. WHY HAS IT NOT BECOME SOCKS YET?! Both pairs of socks on my needles right now at two at a time, which is totally fine but I want to have a single sock to keep in my purse. This is so sparkly. And Harry Potter themed. And a present from my favorite dude.

Reading. Reading. Reading. No seriously. I can’t stop. This is my Goodreads in case you are also into reading. Which I hope you are.

The reading frenzy started when I discovered BookRiot. I don’t know why it never occurred to me to look at book related blogs/websites but I fell down the rabbit hole and I AM SO INTO IT. Then I learned tumblr has a ton of YA book fandom. Now I’m using tumblr again and loooooving it.

My main reading goal this year was 75 books. But I wanted them to be REALLY GOOD reads. None of this “self published 100 pages stuff”. Don’t get me wrong, there are some super talented self published authors but I feel like the majority I read last summer/fall just weren’t for me.

Here are five of my favorite books so far- also, I’m the worst at explaining why I like books so just pretend this is super eloquent k?

  • These Broken Stars. I’ve never read anything space related before and I reallllly liked this. Only the first bit takes place in space and I liked the world building. I hope the rest of the series involves space ships because they just seem really neat.
  • Cress. Oh oh oh. This is the online fandom I stalk the most. It’s just such a unique series and it’s beautifully written.
  • Dreams of Gods & Monsters. This is my second favorite online fandom. Taylor very boldly inserts new characters and details into this book- the last in the series. Full confession- I rarely read the last book in a series. Especially if it’s one I love. I’m always too afraid the author is going to kill it for me. I was satisfied with this ending. I’m looking forward to re-reading the entire series again from start to finish.
  • The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender. This one surprised me. The writing is just DREAMY. Poetic. Haunting. Strange. I liked it because it was just really unique.
  • Half Bad. I read one person say that this book could have been the childhood story of Snape. I’m not sure about that but it is also a really unique read. White Witches vs. Black Witches and White Witches…aren’t the greatest. It’s a dark story, I think it would be a good October read.

I’m currently reading The Name of the Wind, good friends suggested it and I’m looking forward to a long meat-y read. Speaking of meat-y reads- I decided that this summer my goal is to finish Game of Thrones. I’m embarrassed to admit that I’m 59% through this book and just ARGH about it. I read it and I keep waiting and waiting and waiting for SOMETHING GIANT to happen but it’s a about a MILLION little stressful events CONSTANTLY happening! I’d find myself reading until 1 or 2 am just waiting for it (I don’t even know what it is!) to happen. It’s just super suspenseful but also not at the same time. Does that even make sense? Probably not. But I follow a few fandom blogs on tumblr about the books and it’s just a fascinating culture to me that I’m genuinely mad at myself for not just reading it! Also: 59%! That’s a ton. But now I can’t decide if I should start again or pick up from where I left off or WHAT!

Also, I’m currently cross stitching a new club pattern. And it’s awesome. It’s so kawaii and based on my favorite holiday EVER and I can’t wait to start sharing photos with you. We have everything ready to go and I don’t want to make any bold claims but this just might be the best thing Ashleigh has ever designed for me. Yes, for me. Because IT’S MY FAVORITE FLIPPING HOLIDAY IN MY FAVORITE COLORS. Granted, it’s her favorite holiday and favorite colors too but…I request CAKE and there is CAKE. I said OWLS and received OWLS. I said PUMPKINS WITH ONE TOOTH and…yup. It’s going to be good.

I’ll be back hopefully soon to share my million photos of Once Upon a Time Sampler & Tea Time.

One last thing, Tracey suggested I try Young Living Deep Relief roll on essential oil blend. I’m pretty excited to give it a try.

<3

 

Quietly Creating & Missing Pickle Chips

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Hi!

Happy Sunday!

What are you up too?

Yesterday Chop & I went and saw The Grand Budapest Hotel! We very much loved it. As always, it was like an amazing visual feast.  I’m always such a sucker for his palettes and details.

I’ve been slowly but surely working on my Romi Hill Mystery Shawl.

Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot lately about “purposeful” & “quiet” creating. The kind of projects where you focus a lot on the process and not so much on the end result. I’ve also been thinking about seasonal flavors of potato chips.

2014 is turning out to be my year of purposeful creating. Everything I’ve done so far has been a slow journey.

Part of this is because my hand gets cranky if I knit or stitch for long increments of time. Part of this is because I literally don’t have the energy to do a million things. And part of it is because I work full time on Pumpkin stuff- my personal crafting time is limited, therefore I want to make it count and be special.

Here is what I’m doing differently:

  • Love it or leave it! If the project I’m working on doesn’t give me 100% satisfaction- it’s a goner. I’ve always been pretty ok with this part, I’ve frogged countless knitting projects and taken apart many quilts but now I’m being more diligent than ever. See you later lame projects!
  • Use materials that bring you joy: Special yarn, special fabric, favorite sewing machine. Let’s use all the favorites! I’ve been debating destashing stuff I no longer love because it stresses me out to have a ton of things that I’m not using. I literally put 95% of my fabric stash into storage because I felt like a jerk.
  • Make the process count. My knitting time is limited (my left hand gets sore) so I make it special. Favorite music or an audiobook, cup of coffee, new project bag, cute stitch markers, etc. I’ll knit uninterrupted for an hour, rather than “knitting” for three hours but really I’m not knitting, I’m looking at  facebook or getting distracted by other stuff. This is the hardest one for me.
  • Figuring out which part of crafting brings you joy and focusing on it. I personally do not enjoy full sized quilt making. At all. I never have. We sleep under a down comforter, not a quilt for this exact reason. I enjoy it even less if I’m making the same block.over.and.over.and.over. But I *love* fabric and I love small patchwork, especially if it tells a story. So this year I’m taking traditional blocks and making a sampler. Just from scraps. When I have time. I don’t have a giant master plan, I have some loose ideas. That is how quilting brings me joy: handfuls of scraps, loose plan, favorite small blocks.
  • The WHY. I think the number one question I get when I’m stitching or knitting in public is why? Why craft? Why create? Can’t you buy socks at Target for like, a dollar?!  WHY DO YOU DO THIS?! Example: Why am I knitting a shawl? Because I absolutely love these two yarns. Because I want to support the designer. Because I wanted to support two indie yarn dyers. Because I like getting a little piece of the puzzle each week. Because I love taking photos of WIPs. Because my favorite feeling is watching something newly finished floating in bubbles of Soak Wash & anxiously tapping my fingers because I want to see how GIANT it gets. Because I absolutely want a navy & purple shawl to wear next fall. Because it’s cozy! Totally cozy!  Because I hate being cold! Each project I’m asking myself WHY. But this doesn’t mean “justify yourself”. That’s totally different and you should never have to justify your creations. Ever. Which brings me to the next part…
  • Enjoying the result. I have a confession to make. (I’m making my “serious Amanda face right now”) I don’t share many of my finished projects because it makes me uncomfortable when people ask me things like “do you sleep?!” “how do you knit so many socks, you must not have kids!” “do you even make quilts anymore or do you just knit”? or comments like “you are a machine”! It makes me feel almost ashamed about how much I do and don’t create. And then I feel like I have to justify how much I create, why I spend my time/money/etc creating and well…that sucks the joy right out of it! I recently talked about this with a few online friends. They shared similar stories about how they’ll finish a quilt, take DOZENS of photos but only share three because they are afraid of people commenting about the mistakes or asking why they chose certain fabrics instead of more “matching” prints. Or the fear of “overgramming” a project.  One knitting friend said for every finished sweater she shares, she’s actually knit two but she’s embarrassed  to share them all after someone added up the cost of her finished sweater collection! Who even does that?! RUDE! I *hate* feeling like social media makes me not want to celebrate my finishes. I *hate* that my friends don’t share 9 million photos of their finished quilts. I hate that I’ve only seen like, 5 of my friends finished sweaters when I now know she’s knit a dozen! I’m not sure if this sort of negativity happens offline, I only have three local friends and so far none of them have been like “AMANDA WHYYYYYY ARE YOU MAKING HALF A DOZEN PINK QUILTS!!!!!” (correct answer: Why WOULDN’T you?!) The things we create we SHOULD celebrate. We should be proud. Technically, in the age of $1 Target socks, we don’t HAVE to create. But we do. It doesn’t have to be fancy. I truly feel so inspired when I see someone do something like turn handspun yarn into a sweater. Or switch from aida to linen and *get* it. Or make a quilt and share their favorite block, even if it’s not perfectly pieced. There is something WAY more inspiring to me to watch a project grow and turn into something than see three photos of a finished quilt with the pattern name, fabrics used and that’s it. I guess I want to see more of why we create and more of us enjoying the things we make!

This year I’m probably going to create less. But I’m definitely going to try and enjoy every single second of it!

And I’m also going to throw a mega hissy fit if the Safeway in town doesn’t bring back pickle flavored Lays potato chips.

SO! to summarize!

More creating with less pressure, enjoying the process, sharing more, more favorite stuff being used and hopefully pickle flavored chips being consumed while doing all of these things.

<3

 

 

 

 

 

Behind the scenes at The Frosted Pumpkin Stitchery

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Is there anything happier than a little pile of finished projects?

Today I’m going to share a few behind the scenes personal thoughts and some inner workings of The Frosted Pumpkin Stitchery!

Last  Fall Ashleigh & I decided to do things a little differently and I wanted to share some business-y stuff with you today! And a lot of it is personal but let’s have a real life talk this Friday k?

When we design a pattern, it’s now stitched three times before it’s available for sale. Yup! Three times! One of us will stitch it using whatever specific floss the pattern calls for, then one of our sample stitchers will use all DMC and one sample stitcher will use all Cosmo.

We started doing this for a few reasons:

  • Sometimes colors don’t convert quite right. Example:  we pick a DMC pale pink and we think we’ve matched the Cosmo pale pink version but when it’s stitched up, it doesn’t look the same.
  • Testing the thread quantities. Everyone stitches differently and depending on your method, you could use more or less floss than we do. When we have *big* projects, we want people to only have to purchase supplies once and have those supplies last the entire year.
  • We have the budget to help two stay at home moms earn a little extra money. We pay them the industry standard, give them all the materials and we let them keep the finished project. In return we have the peace of mind knowing our pattern works well!

When we decided to stitch in addition to hiring people, I was more than happy to let Ashleigh do the majority of the stitching. She’s a beautiful cross stitcher. I am *not* the best stitcher. And I’m *really* hard on myself. I overly analyze every single stitch, I’d stress out that I was too slow, I’d compare myself to friends who have been stitching 20 years, etc. But! Partnership doesn’t work like that! I felt super guilty because Ashleigh already has a ton of work (she does all of our PDF building, graphics, shop maintenance, etc) and hello, I spend 70% of my day encouraging people to try cross stitching or go from aida to linen. Time for me to BUCK UP!

Sooooo in September/October I started stitching The 12 Days of Christmas with the knowledge that we’d be using my project for all the photos, pattern covers, etc. NO PRESSURE OR ANYTHING RIGHT?!

It ended up being a really enjoyable project. I’d get up in the morning, have coffee and listen to podcasts and just STITCH. It became relaxing and I started to learn what works for me and what doesn’t. I think this project I fell in love with cross stitch and now it’s pretty much all I want to do!

What works:

  • I love using hand dyed floss. I find it inspiring in the same way I find hand dyed yarn inspiring, it’s subtle and it’s beautiful to watch each stitch develop. If I had the chance, I’d stitch EVERYTHING using hand dyed floss. But I know not everyone has the budget for it which is why our patterns contain DMC/Cosmo conversions. 
  • I prefer to make each individual stitch, rather than the Danish Method of doing a row of  bottom stitches, then coming back and completing the stitch.
  • Loop start method. It doesn’t work for hand dyed floss and some traditional stitchers don’t like this method because your causing half of the thread to twist into it self but I really like it.

What doesn’t work:

  • Waste knot method of starting. I somehow never catch my ends.
  • Stitching on smaller count fabric, I tried 32 and thought I was going blind. This is constantly drama between Ashleigh & I because she LOVES smaller count fabric!
  • Stitching at night. I just can’t, I prefer daytime stitching.
  • Big blocks of color! I prefer stitching lots of little bits of color.
  • I haven’t found my preferred hoop/frame/stand yet. I love the tight tension of QSnaps but they can hurt my hand after holding them for a while and they do squash my stitches (I stitch loosely). Scroll bars are awesome but mine is a strange size.

So back to business, before we release a pattern, it’s been stitched three times which is awesome! From a business stand point, this is a big deal.

Why?

Because before the pattern is even sold, we have a fair amount of money invested into it. Smaller projects we have $200-300 and larger projects like Once Upon a Time we have easily double that.

In terms of business, this where we are different and it’s risky. We could very easily post on facebook and ask for sample stitchers in exchange for free patterns, we’ve done this before and it’s totally fine, lots of designers do this and there is nothing wrong with it. At all! We could provide the materials to our stitchers but keep the finished project to use for our photos. We could ask for free thread, fabric and supplies from the shops we work with to keep our costs down. There are a LOT of options that would involve less monetary risk for us but at the end of the day, I want to be the best small business owner I can possibly be. I want to be fair. I worked for many, many, many years for free and you know what? It stunk. So my business = my rules. Are our sample stitchers getting rich? No. But they have a regular income that they use for fun money or dance lessons for their kids or whatever they want. This way there is no question of what we expect from each other!

In addition to sample stitching we have a team of three proofers! These ladies check all the patterns for errors. We have two who proof exclusively larger patterns and one who works just on the smaller patterns. They are paid per PDF. Why do we hire people to proof our patterns? Because when you buy a cross stitch pattern for $19.95, I want to be dang sure you are getting the best we can personally give you for your hard earned money. Ashleigh & I literally look at these charts for 8+ hours per day, mistakes slip by us. And since our charts now come in color + b&w, printer friendly + mobile device friendly, that is a LOT of things that have to line up and keep track of! Do little things still sneak by eight sets of eyeballs? Sure! We are human. But we try really hard to avoid that at all costs!

I still get butterflies in my stomach right before we release a new pattern, what if we missed something! What if no one likes it? “What if” is a line of thought I’m constantly struggling with, especially now that we do have people who depend on us! Ashleigh just bought a house. Chop & I are currently saving for a down payment for a home. We have three shops who carry supplies for the patterns, that’s a leap of faith on their part. What if everyone downloads it illegally and we only sell two copies? (this is a major concern 24/7 for all designers. Seriously.) It’s a little nerve wracking (ok, very scary sometimes!) but at the end of the day, I realize we are working harder than ever and I truly believe that hard work pays off. We both have become big on taking leaps of faith, celebrating small successes and enjoying what we do. After a particularly trying time, a few facebook friends said “you guys should just design what you LOVE, with materials that make you happy and ignore the rest” and they were absolutely right. I think when you love what you do, it’s infectious. I know I personally support small businesses who I watched go from a tiny shop to a legit big deal. I am SO emotionally invested in their success. I’ve never even met half of these people but watching them achieve their dreams is so incredible. I am a huge small business cheerleader. Sometimes I take a step back and see that we have our cheerleaders too, I can think of five people off the top of my head right now who have bought every pattern we’ve ever made since the beginning. These are the people who I wish I could hug (I got to do this at Stitches West to two girls!) and say “hey, thanks for believing in us when we kind of had no clue what the heck we were doing but we really wanted to do this”. These are the people who I want to look at our patterns and think “dang, I’m proud of you girls!” It’s kind of cheesy but it’s totally true. Because I know I have friends who when I see their success, I want to squeeze them to bits.

In the past two years, we’ve grown SO much as small business, as designers and as a partnership. Am I saying we have it 100% figured out or we are the best in the business? No way! I don’t think we ever will. We are constantly evolving and learning what works for us. We have a lot of things we are trying and some things work, some don’t! Are there days when I want to cry when I see someone taking our hard work and copying it? YES. I wish I could say I’m joking but there is another monthly sampler that is literally a copied & pasted version of ours. NIGHTMARE! But are there days when someone I admire mentions us on their podcast and I do a dance and call Ashleigh screaming with excitement? YES. Do I see someone who’s blog I *love* cross stitching one of our patterns and fall out of my chair thinking “how do they even know we exist?!” YES. The excitement typically outweighs the negative because…well, I get excited real easily. We’ve sold patterns to over 20 countries world wide and I get REALLY excited when I have to google where one is located (Andorra! <3!) Do I sometimes text Ashleigh and say “Did you see so & so’s finished project?! omg so cute!” YES. CONSTANTLY.

This little pile of finished projects will hopefully provide some eye candy for you today. I guess the point of this post is just to share with you what we try to do as Pumpkins and maybe inspire you this weekend to try something new or take a leap of faith on something you’ve been thinking about?! Or maybe make you excited and think about your own personal success! Also, I struggle with sharing and being personal on my blog. I went from being incredibly open/bordering on TMI to sort of becoming a clam. I sometimes think that blogging requires a cape and a monogrammed leotard because being open about your life, goals and how you choose to do things takes courage.

I hope you have a good weekend <3

Zombody Loves Ewe Socks

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I finally finished a pair of socks!

I feel like these took me so long, my left hand gets super grouchy if I knit a ton so I have to take days off which is totally a bummer. Nothing makes me happier than a pair of plain socks on my needles, I like being able to work on them with friends or in the car and not have to do a whole lot of thinking!

The yarn is Zombody Loves Ewe by Desert Vista Dye Works it was a Valentine’s Day present from Chop. I liked working with it because I’m such a sucker for a speckled yarn, the decayed bits cracked me up!

I truly love knitting the Fish Lips Kiss Heel, it fits so well and is really fun to knit. I know I sound like a broken record but if you haven’t tried this heel yet, give it a try! It’s super satisfying.

Naturally I’m already plotting a new pair of socks. I saw this braid of fiber a few months ago and pretty much died. I loved the colors so much but I’m absolutely not a spinner! I tried in college and just failed at it. I’ll just live vicariously through you guys. I fell over when I saw that Mutant Flamingo was now available as sock yarn! I literally texted Ashleigh and did a little dance of excitement. Can you see the little speckles?! It’s so cute, plus I’m a sucker for anything zombie/mutant themed. Also: cat label!!! <3

My knitting time is also slim because I’ve been cross stitching so much and to be honest, I’m addicted! I’ve been enjoying my afternoons just cross stitching and listening to music. I feel pretty lucky that people seem to enjoy stitching our patterns, it just makes us design more and work harder. When I go a few days without stitching I start to miss it! I’ve started becoming border line obnoxious to Ashleigh, I text her cross stitch work in progress photos about a million times per day. It just doesn’t get old!

I took a few photos of a new project we dropped off to be framed, I’m going to share them later on this week. Cross stitch is surprisingly tricky to take photos of! One of the projects is on this hand dyed green fabric that is so hard to capture, it’s really unique. I think I love indie dyed linen just as much as I love indie dyed yarn. We recently contacted two different thread manufacturers to hopefully work with later on this year. Both are really beautiful and smaller companies who I think if you like to stitch, you’ll like to use their thread!

Are you guys familiar with Welcome to Night Vale? It’s a very spooky pod cast that is presented like a community broadcast and it.is.weird. In the very best way! Chop & I have been listening in the evenings and sometimes we just look at each other and go “WHAT THE WHAT!!!!!” It’s very dry and twin peaks like. I’ve also started reading The Coldest Girl in Coldtown which is also spooky and strange. I read The Darkest Minds this weekend and I was kind of let down. I loved Liam (darlin’) but I couldn’t muster any feelings towards Ruby.

:):)