Monday, October 5, 2015

I'm a BERNINA Brand Ambassador- What does that mean?

 Claude Dreyer CEO, Myself*, and Hanspeter Ueltschi Owner of BERNINA (2015)

 As I am nearing the third anniversary of my ambassadorship with the BERNINA company, I feel compelled to share what it entails & what this relationship means for me both personally and professionally. For those of you are aren't familiar with the sewing industry; BERNINA is 5th generation family owned Swiss company that manufactures the highest quality of sewing, embroidery, and quilting systems.

Long before I ever sat down and sewn a stitch on a BERNINA machine our relationship blossomed. Beyond the pride and precision they take from design to execution this company is the most sustainable sewing brand around. I contacted them directly to learn more about their initiatives both here in the United States and in their pristine factories of Switzerland. As you know, this is a sector I'm deeply passionate about. They are too and collaboration was born. I continue to be inspired by their practices and innovations.

How They're Made // Sustainability 

In close proximity to the Steckborn plant, machines are designed, developed, and prototyped cutting back environmental emission waste & maximizing the nexus which I believe lends itself to the undeniable quality of their products. The Steckborn plant recently was modernized in 2012 to be more eco-friendly and also changes were made to directly improve the work environment to be more ergonomic & easier. 

Machines have been produced at the Steckborn plant since 1890's and today some of the high end machines, parts, and presser feet are still manufactured there. BERNINA also operates a factory in Thailand which uphold the same company standards and policies. Employees there work in state of the art, air conditioned factories, are are paid above minimum wage. BERNINA employees are a vital part of my overall experience with company because it's family. Cliche as it sounds, but I've actually had the pleasure of spending time with people have worked within the company for 20, 30, 50 years. Okay, I realize that I probably sound like a walking advertisement but it's important for you to know what goes on behind the the fancy machines. It's important for you to know that I'm not being paid to tell you this, I'm not being paid to sew on a BERNINA. These views are my own. Just in case you needed a disclaimer. 

As a business owner myself, it is important to support organizations and brands who operate with not only our environment, but our future in mind. Whether it's the fact that they reinvest a large portion of cash flow into new developments, give back to communities around the world, or their mission is to create products that are used for generations to come. Transparency, authenticity, and the belief that we are always at the beginning, never at the end. Bottom line, our ethics and values align. These are the reasons why I loved BERNINA before.

Quality // Design // Legacy

There are so very many posts on the interwebs that will illustrate & validate why I love sewing on a BERNINA. Quality, innovation, consistency rise to the top of my mind immediately. Do you know that you have the option of receiving guide classes when you purchase or upgrade machines (or anytime if you contact a local dealer!) They're dedicated to teaching you & inspiring you to learn new techniques and masterfully create with ease. There's an accessible database available right on the website & app.  My relationship with BERNINA as a brand ambassador offers me the ability to contribute creative ideas to the We All Sew in exchange for a loan machine. However I've gained so much more than just that. If you're curious about the BERNINA sewing experience might I suggest a few of these testimonials: 
Sara Snuggarud How Sewing On A BERNINA Changed My Life 
Lola Pink Fabrics on her BERNINA 880 Sterling Edition
Mandy Leins loves her Q24 Long Arm Quilting Machine (video)

Family Values 

Family Matters. While my ambassadorship doesn't get me a round trip Switzerland it has opened up doors to an entire collective of people within the organization who have changed my life. I've found myself with opportunities to grow as a person, an instructor, and as a designer through this company and connections I've made there. From the educators to executives to the local shop owners most everyone you'll meet are approachable and down to earth. I love BERNINA because they've encouraged me (and so many others) to explore our passions. I'm here to change the way we consume and create, make things that matter, and leaving a lasting legacy for others. My relationship with BERNINA is a reflection of those beliefs and values, together we embark on creative endeavors that may push the status quo through innovation, hard work, and exceeding expectations. Because neither of us settle for hearing, "This is the way we've always done it." 

Please share your BERNINA love with me in the comments below. What other companies or brands do you support because of their values and ethics?  

*Arizona T-shirt Ball Gown Designed & Sewn by Angela Johnson

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Halloween Crafts to DIY For: Upcycled Jars

Crisp Autumn air is making it's way in and as we are all preparing for the fall festivities I'll be sharing fun & easy holiday DIY's to do with your family here on the blog. Today's project repurposes jars & candle sticks to create jack o lanterns. Add a battery operated candle to the jar to create a subtle illumination- perfect for any mantle or porch. Head over to Craft Bits for the complete upcycled pumpkin jar tutorial.

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Plant Flowers In Your Socks

Whether you believe in sock stealing trolls living under your washer or the myth of the monster washing machine- one thing is for sure we all end up with single socks. Instead of wearing mis-matched socks (which I see nothing wrong with!) or tossing them into the trash here's one quick and easy way to transform your fall flower pots into some spooky decor.

Step 1. Cut the sock just below the ankle creating a cuff- slip the cuff over a vase, flower pot, or mug.

That's it. Only one step. I used a kids tube sock to fit over a 6'' terracotta pot for the red mums. The smaller one is just slipped over the plastic plant container it came with. What do you think about this quick and easy way to dress up a potted container or vase? Have you tried it before?

Monday, September 14, 2015

Why Buy A Vintage Sewing Machine

Sewing on Vintage Antique Sewing Machines

It's a known fact that you never ask a lady her age, her weight, or how many sewing machines she owns. Maybe the latter is less widely known. I'm not known to be bashful though and will openly admit *about* how many sewing machines I own. Four-teen. Puuuuuleese, I have friends who own twice as many!

Show me your VSM by sharing a picture on instagram or facebook with #sewonvsm for a chance to be featured all month long! 

When you think about all of the wonderful programs, attachments, and advances made in sewing machines these days it might be hard to imagine why someone might want to use an ancient machine... you know those kind where you actually have to sew your own button holes. There are plenty of really great reasons why I think vintage sewing machines rock and today we're going to talk about why you might want one... or another one!

For starters; people literally give them away for free. Just this week I passed 2 on the roadside- and it makes my insides weep. It's history, people!! Sometimes 'free' machines are broken but sometimes (and whole lot of times) they just need a little TLC. Those of you who are looking to learn how to sew without a huge financial commitment or aren't sure where to start- vintage machines are an ace in the hole. Vintage machines are great because they can be found for relatively next nothing & easily picked up a yard sale, family hand me downs, flea market, or even on the side of the road like I mentioned. Sites such as Ebay or Craigslist (use your brain & best judgement here) often have quality machines for $75 or less. Keep in mind, there is a subculture of sewing enthusiasts who primarily sew & collect vintage machines who will pay $$$ for certain makes and models. I'll cover more about those desirable/valuable models later this month.

Vintage sewing machines are built to last. Haven't they already proven that? The don't have need wifi for upgrades or even electricity. Mechanics of a simple straight stitch machine make maintenance and upkeep for the home user both easy to DIY and affordable. Thank you youtube tutorials!!

Sustainability may not be your first choice or reason for snagging the next vintage machine that comes by, but it's a heck of a good one. Anytime you're able to use and love something second hand we're choosing to cut back on manufacturing demands and keeping them from our landfills. Also keep in mind that those heavy metal machines are made with solid metal working innards which will be a beast and continually produce perfect stitches *when maintained, unlike many of the mainstream options available today- which cheaply made plastic cases house cheaply made plastic gears that are likely to strip out within a year or two. See for yourself.

Vintage sewing machines hold a soft spot in my heart, while the majority of my sewing is done on a my BERNINA it's my opinion that if you can't afford an expensive well built machine then the only other option is to buy vintage. I've sewn on new school benjamin-bangers (that's equivalent to a $100 Brother from Walmart) and while they run well for a short while, they're kinda loud & sometimes cranky when it comes to different types of fabrics. Then it's time to turn them into sewing machine planters or donate to the Sewing Machine Project. My vintage machines on the other hand, even classified as household machines- have no trouble handling several layers of denim or a single layer of lace.

Do you love sewing on a vintage sewing machine, or VSM for short? Leave a comment below and tell me why. Then head over to instagram and let's connect & share our love for vintage machines by tagging #sewonvsm. 

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

T-shirt Shoe Laces: Customize Your Back to School Sneakers

One of the most utilized upcycling techniques has to be- t-shirt yarn! I've shared a few projects here on the blog & you can find even more creative and unique uses for your old clothes in my book The Upcycled T-shirt. Today the kids head back to school & today's project is the perfect way to add a pop of color to their kicks.

You’ll need:
1 or 2 t-shirts
Scissors/rotary cutter
Cutting Mat

  1. Start by laying your t-shirt flat onto the cutting mat surface. Gently pat out any creases or wrinkles. Next, fold the t-shirt in half lengthwise.  Tip: Shirts with no side seams are the best for making consistent t-shirt yarn.

  1. Cut horizontally across the folded shirt,  just above the bottom shirt hem. Remove the bulky hem and set that piece aside.

  1. Measure and cut 1.5’’ from the bottom edge- horizontally across the folded t-shirt. Repeat a second time. You’ll notice that you’ve created two large loops.

  1. Carefully cut the loop to create one long strip of t-shirt. Gently pull the strip from either end creating a length of t-shirt yarn. Jersey knit material has unique characteristics which will prevent the fabric from fraying- instead the fiber curls in onto itself creating a tube.  >No Sew Hack: If you’d like to create shoe laces without sewing- you can wrap a small clear piece of tape around the edge or add a little pizzaz with printed washi tape. Doing this will help you feed your new shoe laces through the eyelets on the shoe or sneaker.  
  2. We’re going to finish your laces by using a tightened zig zag stitch on your sewing machine to create an “aglet.” That’s the actual word for that hard plastic piece on the end of your shoe laces. Zigzag stitch 1’’ and then reverse stitch back to the beginning to secure your aglet. You may need to help guide the t-shirt yarn depending on the width of your feed dogs.
    >Tip: Pull the shoe lace 1.5’’ past the needle. This will prevent the edge of the material from being pulled down into the machine and creating a nesting effect.
  3. Trim excess off, be sure not to cut your stitched aglet.  

Friday, August 28, 2015

Why Book Reviews Are Important for Craft Authors

©Ken Shelton via Pixabay // CCO 

It's been a few months since my first book, The Upcycled T-shirt was published and made widely available by the lovely folks at C&T Publishing. I set out this morning to share a little bit of insight in what goes into getting published, the lengthy process, and some of the hurdles I've crossed along the way. That's when I sat down with my cup of hot chocolate/coffee and did a quick Amazon review check of my book- there it was a shiny new... 1 star review.

Gah! 1 star? Go ahead see for yourself. This particular reviewer says,
"thought the projects in this book were a little too crafty and not very fashion forward - seemed More appropriate for teens or kids to do. I was very disappointed in the skill level for these projects – they seemed very basic – not for seasoned sewists" 

Okay, ouch- well that stinks. One thing I promised myself while I was writing this book was that I would never, under any circumstances respond to any review negative or positive. Instead I'm going to shed a little light on why book reviews are so very important for craft authors and why you should take time to write them (even if you don't love the book!) 

I'm excited as ever to be a part of this revolution, where our society is leaning towards craft. I'm not specifically limiting the conversation to needle art, sewing, knitting but keeping in mind broad spectrum ideas of homesteading, technology, design, and so much more. You might have heard of this 'maker movement' and heck if you're here reading this- you're probably already a part of it! I know one thing for sure, doors are opening and we have potential to turn more and more people into makers instead of just consumers. Based on history alone, when you give makers the right tools and inspiration- they have the potential to change the world. Basically- that's the entire premise of the book too! 

Avenues of influence abound from your favorite blogs, pinterest boards, and outlets like Instagram. With some motivation and the help of a friend, the local library, craft studio nearby you could learn a new skill today and still have time for cocktails with the girls. (Or more realistically kick back with the kids and eat popcorn while watching Star Wars for the 23,814th time!) Internet opens up the world of one on one instruction via classrooms like Craftsy and youtube- could it possibly be that books are no longer the way to go? Maybe. Why do people still bother writing books anyway? 

What it boils down to is that there are advantages & disadvantages to every media, and if reading or browsing books works for you or you prefer to watch a video tutorial- it's important that you take time to leave a review. Just like those old days when you would check with Siskle & Ebert before heading to the movies we now prefer to check of Yelp! before deciding where to eat dinner for 'real' reviews by people just like us. Reviews are no longer left for professionals. 

Book reviews are are important for craft authors because:
1. Unfortunately people online are more willing to rant about things they hate than post about something they actually enjoyed. (What's up with that?!) If of the 100 people who read my book 98 of them found it interesting, inspiring, and useful but 3 of them were unimpressed with the craft caliber and left low star reviews- guess what? People who check out book on Amazon are going to think it's garbage because they don't know about the awesome projects you've made or about the teachers in Indiana who developed an entire recycling/sustainabilty curriculum focused on your book. Bottom line is negative reviews will turn away potential buyers and jepordize book and event sales which allow authors to put food on the table. 

2. Visibility is important in a saturated market. Anytime positive reviews are left it boosts the credibility of the author & their rankings within the world wide webbernet - including Amazon & Google. 

3. Word of mouth will always be the best form of social media and powerful influence that ultimately will help authors cultivate their community and make valuable connections. 

Anyone who has purchased my book The Upcycled T-shirt, taken a class online or off, supported TrashN2Tees or simply stopped by the blog: I am forever grateful for the love you've shown me. I know that it takes valuable time to share your honest thoughts, to write and post reviews, and to connect online. If you're given the chance please share your love with a friend or by posting a review of my book or someone elses.


Tuesday, August 25, 2015

TrashN2Tees designs gone M-I-N-I!

Everything doesn't have to be big and bold to make an impression. I've been slightly obsessing over mini embroidery designs & even hosted a lecture at BERNINA University 2015 explaining why. Machine embroidery can be intimidating and I'm always looking for a way to get new friends to sit down at the machine & have fun! Well, what's more fun than a geeky fox?! I'll be sharing a few fun ideas & tutorials for stitching out mini embroidery & making pretty awesome things. Keep your eyes out for those & be sure to head over to Embroidery Online to order the complete TrashN2Tees Whippersnapper embroidery collection today. If you missed last weeks post, catch up and read why I'm giving my designs away. Who does that?
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