An article I wrote for the Springfield Sewing Examiner about the invention and history of the zipper.
This is an article I wrote for examiner.com about a great local quilt shop called Southampton Quilts. It is a very friendly place to take a class, get advice, or buy fabric! The last time I was there, I got a bit carried away buying fat quarters and small scraps to add to my stash, and it ended up being a lot more expensive than I had planned. If you are in the area, it is definitely worth a trip.
A slideshow I put together for an article on examiner.com of some fresh new fabrics for spring 2012.
-originally published in November, 2011
A Question of Why?
Sometimes I think back over the last three years since I started Bags of a Feather, and I ask myself- Why are you doing this? On days where I am feeling unmotivated or I haven’t sold anything in five weeks, or the quilt I made came out crooked and crappy, the why is a big question.
In my wildest fantasies, I dream of making twice the amount of money that I used to make working in corporate cubicle-land. Then I look at last month’s Income and Expenses spreadsheet, and realize that I made a whopping profit of $62.00. OK, it’s definitely NOT the money.
I worked with a consultant who calculated that I would have to sell 72 bags a week to make up for the amount of money from a regular paycheck for the old job. I am realistic enough to know that that won’t happen. Besides, as a friend of mine once pointed out- “You don’t want to become a factory.” There is nothing fun or creative about cranking out 10 zipper pouches per day.
Are the people who buy from my online shop or at craft fairs only interested in what I make? Or do I communicate to them my passion for sewing and creating and giving back by donating a portion of the proceeds to avian rescues and sanctuaries? The big question is- do they care about the why?
I think of my business as a creative way to indulge my love of fabric and sewing with “paying it forward”. We have a bird here in our home that was adopted from a couple in their forties who both passed away from cancer. Another bird was rescued from a crack house in a police raid. If I can help some of those rescues and sanctuaries by donating a portion of my sales, then I am happy. I cannot adopt more birds and I do not live close enough to volunteer at a rescue or sanctuary. Over the last 17 or so years that we have had birds, I have probably been offered 100 birds or more, and many non-bird people assume that the “inn” is always open, and I am always ready to take in more unwanted or homeless birds. It breaks my heart to say no, but I know my limits and the amount of time, money, and attention that I can devote to our little flock of four.
So back to the original question of WHY?
I started Bags of a Feather to combine my two passions in life- birds and sewing. I truly feel that it is my responsibility as a parrot caretaker to educate people on the growing problem of unwanted parrots and the rescues and sanctuaries bursting at the seams with more and more birds. I have been fortunate enough to hear from several rescues and sanctuaries that have ordered from me, and want to thank me for helping them out by donating to their organization. I am just blown away by those comments, and honestly feel it should be the other way around- I should be thanking them! They are the ones taking in the surrendered birds, the ones dumped at animal shelters or vet’s offices, the ones left to starve in an abandoned apartment. I get to sit at my sewing machine and create things out of beautiful fabrics, take pictures, and list it online for sale, or put it out for browsers at a craft show.
A lot of people would look at the bottom line of my business and think that I am crazy for continuing when it is not making much money. I guess it depends on your definition of success. Is success measured only in financial terms and a profitable year-end result on the tax return? Or is it a feeling and knowledge deep in my soul that I am doing the right thing?
If I can donate even a little bit of money to avian welfare causes, then I consider my business a success.
Please check out my new freelance writing job as the Springfield Sewing Examiner on examiner.com. I will be writing articles about all things sewing, with a focus on local fabric or quilt shops, events, and quilters or sewers. There will also be upcoing articles about vendor and product reviews, national or global sewing topics, and tips and useful information.
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I recently subscribed to MaryJanes Farm magazine, and love the mix of country living, quilting, crafts, cooking, collectibles, and profiles of rural businesses and lifestyles. I grew up on a series of dairy farms in Connecticut, and saw my father work very hard his entire life, not making a lot of money, but doing what he loved to do. MaryJanes Farm has a number of “Farmgirl” chapters around the country, and I proudly consider myself a farmgirl forever. Even though I no longer live on a farm, the values of hard work and a love for gardening, animals, and the outdoors are things that will always be a big part of my life.
As I was looking at the MaryJanes Farm website, I came across a section about Project F.A.R.M, and realized that this is a project near and dear to my heart- supporting rural artisans who find it difficult to sell their products in a competitive marketplace. Here is an explanation about the project from MaryJane Butters:
What’s Project F.A.R.M.™ ?
F.A.R.M. stands for First-class American Rural Made, and it’s a project that was conceived here, at my farm. As rural communities fade and farmers continue to disappear from our landscape, we decided something must be done to support those struggling to maintain their rural lifestyle. That’s where PROJECT F.A.R.M. comes in.
Rural America is full of unsung crafters — hard-working men and women, young and old, who deserve their fair share and find it hard, if not impossible, to compete in today’s marketplace. To that end, many of the products we sell on our website, or in stores “come with a face” — you can “meet” or “get to know” the person behind the product. As the concept grows and you see our PROJECT F.A.R.M. label on more and more products nationwide, you’ll know you’re supporting rural people like Miss Wilma and Friends, of Kentucky (who boasts she has burned up seven sewing machines making pillows for us), or the women of rural Idaho who sew our “Farmgirl at Heart” tote bags, or the people of Shiner, Texas who fabricate the products in our wireline.”
The criterion for being defined as a rural area was a town that has less than 40 stoplights. That was an easy one for the little town I live in- the answer is zero stoplights!
I sent in an application, along with one of my zipper pouches for review by the approval committee, waited nervously for a few days, and then got the word that I was approved. I am absolutely thrilled!
It is very exciting to be included in a group of rural artisans from all over the country who are working hard to produce high-quality, hand-crafted goods in their small communities. I truly believe it is those types of small businesses that will help get America’s economy moving in the right direction.
Please support Project F.A.R.M “First-Class American Rural Made” businesses!