A Few More Crafty Resolutions for 2011

Happy New Year!   It's that resolution time of year and if you're anything like me your crafty life could use a resolution or two.  Here are five to get you started:
Knock Knock Studio
1. Get organized
You can't work if your space is piled high in supplies. If you're organizationally challenged, check out some of our past Workspace Wednesday blogs for inspiration.  Get crafty when it comes to space saving and storage solutions turn tea boxes into drawer dividers or cans into pencil holders.  Optimize your storage space by using wall space.  I was inspired by a pegboard design in Ready Made magazine.
Journal by BlueStitchBooks
2. Use what you have before buying more
How many times have you bought supplies only to find that you already had that item?  I do it all the time – I must have a dozen sets of number 8 knitting needles!  If you've got 8 balls of the same yarn – make a project with that first. Figure out what size brushes, needles or what color pencils you need before you buy another.   I’m writing a list of all the needles I have and keeping it on my iPhone ( I bet there’s an app for that).  Write down what colors you don't have in your silkscreen paints. Keep an easily tracked inventory if needed in a notebook if you are lo-tech.  Check out some of the journals available from The {NewNew}.
Pillow by AlexandraFerguson

3. Finish at least one unfinished project before tackling a new craft
Many of us have multiple interests and mediums. If you spin and knit, finish spinning that skein and knitting that hat before moving on to a new embroidery project. Don't buy expensive screen-printing equipment when you've got 4 unfinished quilts sitting in the corner in a basket.  In other words, just say NO, temporarily that is!
4. Donate unused supplies
Did you decide that sewing was just not for you but still have a box of fabric? Give it to a nursing home. Tons of empty sketchbooks that you’re ignoring in favor of beadwork?  See if there's a daycare that can use the extra paper. Pastels a thing of the past? See if your local elementary school can use them.  Schools, nursing homes, and women's shelters are always good places to contact about donating supplies.
5. Use your powers for good
There are plenty of charities that accept handmade goods.  Sew up a stuffed toy and give it to the women's shelter. Knit some preemie hats and give them to a local hospital. For inspiration check out the hats The {NewNew} and visitors to the Maker Faire donated to Bronx-Lebanon Hospital last fall.
Share your crafty resolution for 2011 with us!  We'd love to hear from you.

It's a {NewNew} School Year!

Head back to school in style with great gear from The {NewNew}.

Heading back to school doesn't mean shopping only at those big box department stores. There are plenty of unique hand crafted items that will have your kids (or you) going back to school in style.

Orange Fleece Hoodie $20
Let's start with the tiniest back to schoolers. Muppetloon creates hoodies and tees that all the kids in pre-school will be asking for. Since they're there to get smart, check out the selection of wise owl togs with appliques made from Eco-Felt. Stylish and eco savvy everyone will be saying "Now that's one smart kid."

VIP Tee $23
Have a little VIP who's all that and more? They'll head right to the front of the line (or class) in this Tee from Playground Rockstar.

The Urban Lola Tote $38
Need something to lug those books around campus? Then you really want to take a peek at the Urban Lola Tote at LolaFalkDesigns. It has plenty of room for all your essentials and it looks so much nicer than that standard issue backpack.

Call Your Mother Pillow $89
Send them off to college with a subtle reminder from Alexandra Ferguson. "Call Your Mother," "Clean Your Room" and other good advice on felt applique pillows. Made from 100% post consumer recycled water bottles, these pillows keep the equivalent of 4 bottles out of landfills. Now if only they can keep their dorm room from looking like a landfill!

Looking for more? Just head on over to Etsy and search on NewNewTeam (all one word). You'll find plenty of colorful magnets for their lockers and to display their A+ work on the fridge at LuCrafts and PurtyBird $6-12. Unique clocks that would look great on a dorm room wall from CantAffordEmClocks $20. Travel mugs perfect as they run from class to class at LennyMud $20 and a great selection of journals and day planners from PriaVanda $15 and up.

Have a stylish and successful {NewNew}school year everyone!
Holly (EllisDesign)

TUTORIAL: Re-purposed recycled felt helping your garden grow: now that's what I call ECO!

It is pretty safe to say that the Alexandra Ferguson studio generates a LOT of felt scraps in the process of manufacturing her collection of applique pillows. So when a local Master Gardener told Charlotte Ferguson (Alexandra's mom, and the brand's Roving Ambassador) about a clever trick to keep her spring seedlings well watered while depleting Alexandra's ever growing stash of scraps....well, it was too good to keep to ourselves.

Follow these easy steps to create your own low-maintenance indoor greenhouse:

1. You will need a panel of felt about 24" x 16". We pieced two smaller panels together to get the right size. I thought it would be fun to use up all the tiny scraps in rainbow colors to create a patchwork, but Charlotte was in a hurry. One quick seam did the trick. You won't see the felt once all the plants are on top of it, so don't worry about making it look beautiful.
2. Using a medium sized waterproof container (we used clear storage bins), place the black trays your plants often come with upside down (shown on left side of photo). The idea is that you need to get about 3" height, so anything you have around the house that would serve that purpose would work as well. Place your felt panel on top of your riser, making sure that the edges of the felt go all the way to the bottom.
3. Pour water into your waterproof container. Soak the felt thoroughly, with about 2" height of water in your tub.
4. Place your trays of seedlings on top of the soaking felt, and you are done! The felt will draw water up from the bottom as the seeds drink, so your seeds will always be perfectly watered and you don't need to do a thing!
Your greenhouse should be placed in a sunny spot indoors. We added a grow light, easily found at Home Depot or your local gardening store for extra oomph.

Two weeks later

To celebrate spring, Alexandra is giving away one of her botanical-themed pillows. Don't have a garden with windows full of seedlings? The 16" "Tulip" pillow in cocoa that she is giving away should more than make up for it! The best part? This flower blooms all year long.

Check out the rest of the alexandra ferguson collection on her etsy site,
including many other floral styles as well as her popular "Pillow Talk" line of sassy words and phrases. Alexandra works exclusively with recycled felt made from plastic water bottles. Every applique shape is meticulously cut by hand and stitched down in her studio based in Westchester County, NY. Just like everything in nature, no two are ever the same!

You must be a FOLLOWER of this blog. Visit Alex's store HERE. Come back and leave a comment on this post and let us know what your favorite item in her shop was. One entry per person BUT if you twitter, blog, or facebook about this giveaway and leave a link it will give you extra entries.

This giveaway is the last on our series of March Madness giveaways-- It ends Tuesday, April 6th- winner announced on the April 6th blog post. Please scroll for two additional giveaways from the team that will also end April 6.

Meet your {NewNew}

meet alex of alexandra ferguson!

alex and i had a really fun chat the other night, dishing about everything to do with her business and her fantastic, eye-catching, recycled-felt applique pillows.

so, let's start at the beginning... were you crafty as a kid? do you remember the first thing you ever made?
My mom was always super crafty with us as kids---I'm not sure if I was crafty by my own inspiration, but there was always some project going on. She was a patternmaker before she got married, so she would make loads of clothes for us, and we were subjected to fittings, which were really annoying because we kept getting stuck with pins. And there was always something baking in the kitchen. The first thing I made...that's really hard. I was in art classes since I was a baby, but my memory hadn't kicked in yet...it was probably a painting

did you study arts or design in college?
I went to NYU, which doesn't really have a good art program, but they do have an amazing photography division in the Tisch school. I did a mixture of photography and sociology because I wanted to be a photojournalist. I did do a summer at RISD to do fashion illustration and computer graphics, that turned out to be much more relevant to my career since the New York Times didn't hire me and fashion did...

so what is your day job currently?
I work freelance as a tech designer for a huge fashion company that sells to Kohl's and Walmart. Before that I worked at Rebecca Taylor and Zac Posen as a tech designer and studio manager. But I am reducing my hours more and more as my pillow company takes off. I now only work 2 days a week in the city, and the rest is pillow time.

oh, that's fantastic that you're able to make the transition to more pillow time... do you find that anything you do in your day job influences your pillow work?
For sure...making a pillow and making a dress aren't all that different really. As a studio manager, part of my job was to look over the sewer's shoulder and check the quality as they go. It also gave me a really good understanding of how to run a company, from initial concept through production. Working in fashion developing a product that would be sold in the market has given me a lot of confidence to put my own product out there for sale.

did you ever consider doing clothing as your personal craft/design work?
NO! My housewares company is my ticket out of fashion. Fashion can get really rough.

so when and how did you decide to get into the pillow biz? and how did you settle on pillows over any other kind of housewares?
It was totally by accident. I decided to make my best friend some pillows to girl-ify her apartment and it was so fun so I kept going and made everyone pillows for Christmas, and then just when I had put my sewing machine away my best friend's sister saw my original pillows and told me about Etsy and....you know the rest! Now that I have the aesthetic down, I am slowly expanding into other categories beyond pillows. Next up are tote bags and little zipper cases, and after that I want to tackle table settings. I have a table setting fetish.

did you know from the beginning that you wanted to use recycled materials?
That was an accident too. I ordered so much felt from my supplier that they just sent the whole bolt, which had the manufacturer information on it. So I looked them up and discovered all this information about how it is recycled! It is such a win-win situation--it is really great quality felt (so much better than the store-bought stuff that my friend got) with a beautiful color palette AND its recycled?? Awesome.

very cool. do you plan to stick with recycled/repurposed fabrics for all of the items in your line as you expand?
If I can keep to organic or recycled fibers I will, but I don't want to price myself out of the market either so it depends on what I can source with a quality that I like. Realistically, I am sure I will have to have non-recycled materials at some point in the collection. But I'll be sure to note for the consumer what is recycled and what isn't.

how do you come up with the inspiration for your designs?
They come from everywhere. You can put anything on a pillow, really. I always keep my ear perked for neat lyrics or expressions for the pillow talk collection. For the botanical collection, i have a bunch of books with gorgeous flower photography that provides endless inspiration. sometimes an idea will pop out of nowhere--sometimes those are the best ideas.

do you have any creative thinking tricks you'd like to share? when you get stuck in a creative rut/drought, how do you get out of it?
My best creative trick is to invest in the right tools for your trade. I kept struggling with my sewing machine stretching and and distorting my applique shapes, and then I decided to buy a teflon foot and, much like a cheeseburger, the stickiness went away. Amazing. Jumping on the rotary blade bandwagon had the same satisfaction. I am so lucky to have not gotten stuck in a creative rut yet, but I am sure it will happen. In the meantime, I am keep copious lists of all my ideas now, so that when I run out of new ones I can go back and reference those ones.

i saw that your "i heart my soldier" pillow is inspired by your brother. is he deployed at the moment? have you sent him a pillow?
He was in iraq for 15 months but came back in October. He is stationed in Germany now with his wife. He does have a pillow but not that one ;). As soon as I have time to build up my inventory I want to send him both that one as well as the Army Wife one. I'll be advertising every time they have a dinner party. The military community is really tight knit...

glad to hear your brother is somewhere safer. have you gotten any feedback on those pillows from military families so far?
People in the military that know me through my brother really dig them, but they havent been big on Etsy. It must be a demographic thing.

so you make everything yourself at this point, right? would you like to get to the point where you have people working with you? where do you see the business in five/ten years?
Yeah, I am a one man band, although my friend will cut out patterns for me sometimes, and my boyfriend once assembled some hangtags. I plan to bring in an assistant to work side by side with me part time soon, I have some calls out. I'll still cut everything out myself because I can't let go, but I'll let them do the stitching.

do you sell mostly on etsy now, or are you selling wholesale/consignment as well?
I have a showroom in Dallas that I started with about a month ago, so I am definitely keen to build my wholesale business. Once that gets set up, I want to find showrooms in NY and LA, but one at a time. I always want to sell on Etsy though, not just out of fondness for the place that started me off, but also because it is a great way to read the market, see what styles people respond to and which ones they don't. Plus, selling retail is better than selling wholesale ;)

speaking of selling, what is your biggest seller? what design do people seem to love the most? Hands down, my best seller are the monogram pillows. It is so fun working with my customers as they pick colorways. After that, the Bud Explosion series as well as the Be Nice or Leave pillows are a big success.

tell me about your workspace—where do you work? what would be your dream workspace? I think I am in my dream workspace! I work out of my mom's house in her separated two car garage that she turned into a studio for herself a couple years ago. now its my studio, mother/daughter relationships are awesome that way. We hand painted the walls and stenciled the floors, and I have a wood burning stove to keep me cozy, and when it is nice out (like today!) I open up the sliding glass doors and move my sewing machine out onto the deck and sew with my sunglasses on.

i'm completley jealous. so what do you find to be the most challenging part of running your own business?
Keeping up! I am trying to hit all the grass roots marketing resources like blogs, flickr, twitter, facebook....I definitely spend more time on the computer working than I do actually designing and sewing. I also need to redesign my website to get that up to snuff, and I want to make it an e-commerce site, but I just have to find the time. Right now I work 7 days a week until 1 or 2am every night trying to get through it all. The hours are the same that I put in when I worked as a studio manager in fashion, but it hurts so much less when you are doing it for your own company. I guess the discipline to work hard is another thing fashion industry did to prepare me for this....

if you were trying to convince someone to shop handmade, what would you tell them? and what is your most beloved handmade item that you own but didn't make yourself? I love handmade because it is so much more interesting and different than what you can find out on the market! Mass manufacturing has its place in this world, but not so much in my apartment (when I can avoid it!) Plus you can work directly with the artist and custom make something just for you. Walmart can't do that. I grew up around antiques that were all handmade, so its super hard to choose a favorite. But I think it would have to be the dining table that I grew up with. It was an old work station for a carpenter, and has all his dings and dents. Plus we contributed as kids--my brother's name is scratched down one of the legs.

and lastly: what is something about you that surprises people when they find it out? That I went out on a Saturday night! They just assume now that I work 24/7. But after several years in fashion, my friends are used to it. :)

you can find alexandra on etsy and at alexandraferguson.com.

reported by:
- cakehouse