Yo Momma Monday: Karen LePage

yo momma mondayMeet Karen LePage, 42, a sewin’ mama from Michigan. I met her through Oh My! Handmade and I instantly swooned over all of her work. She not only sews up a storm, but she also creates patterns, sells custom-made garments and shares tutorials on her website at One Girl Circus! Oh, and she also co-wrote a sewing book for boys, appropriately named Sewing for Boys.

Before she started working for herself, she sang at weddings, sold cars, managed a coffee shop, taught German and worked in Strategic Planning. To say she is well-rounded would be an understatement.

Karen started a blog after she read and loved blogs from other people. Initially, it started as a means for documenting her children’s special moments.

“I guess it’s not surprising that I’m not very consistent with it, however, because I was never a child who could keep a journal beyond “dear diary” for more than a few weeks.”

Photo from Karen LePage

Photo from Karen LePage

After her mother bought a sewing machine when Karen was five, she started experimenting and made every project in the booklet that came with the machine. From there, she spent several years making wardrobes for all of her dolls. As a kid, she started watching Sewing with Nancy when it came on PBS, a show she still watches to this day.

I always say Nancy Zieman taught me to sew…I still watch it.  I still love it.”

Karen still remembers her first sewing project – a drawstring bag – and she says there have been plenty of disasters along the way. When she first got started, she would wear her disasters; now, she tucks them away until she’s ready to try again. Her latest creation was a Japanese double-gauze newborn outfit that was in a box for six years because she couldn’t stand to look at it.

“I’m so happy I could rescue it!”

Photo from Karen LePage

Photo from Karen LePage

As a mom, Karen says that her children not only inspire her work, but also keep her balanced and admits that if she didn’t have her kids, she would probably just work all the time.

“I love making things, and having humans relying on me for comfort, food, and shelter ensures that I nourish myself with their companionship while meeting their needs, too.”

The creativity bug has definitely hit both of her kids, as her son likes to design the garments she makes for him, and her daughter is a quilter. Her son also shops at thrift and vintage stores, so he has become quite the master at button replacing, and he already has an eye for what can be fixed, and what cannot. Her daughter will often work up a patchwork when she’s in the sewing space.

“She has an amazing eye for color and pattern.”

Karen describes her workspace as chaotic yet comforting. While she is always moving things around in there, she still keeps an open space for her kids to visit while she’s working. She does like to take some time tidying up in between projects.

Photo from Karen LePage

Photo from Karen LePage

“But as soon as I have a clean space I’m inspired to start making again – immediately.

Although there’s no such thing as a normal day, there is one consistency in her morning routine – coffee (ain’t that the truth). Her daily activities are determined by deadlines, inspiration and commitments – and she does try to get some sewing in every day.

“I start to get twitchy when I’m away from my sewing machine for too long.”

Karen says that the best and scariest thing about running her own business is that everything – from what get made to what gets published – is all her.

Photo from Karen LePage

Photo from Karen LePage

“Sometimes it’s wonderful and sometimes it’s terrifying and sometimes it’s wonderfully terrifying.”

She started teaching classes after someone asked her to do it, and that is one of her favorite things about what she does.

“There’s something super-satisfying about nudging my students toward sewing confidence.  I love that it’s a skill they can use forever. I love holding their hands through the tough part and saying “Look how awesome you are!” when they make it through and realize they can make something they didn’t think they could make.”

When Karen is not teaching classes and making clothes –  or thinking about new classes and new projects – she loves reading, hiking with her daughter, yoga and cooking.

Photo from Karen LePage

Photo from Karen LePage

“Actually, strike that, I like reading cookbooks.”

And of course, she loves all forms of crafting. There isn’t a craft she hasn’t stopped, and thanks to Creative Bug and the craft section in her local bookstore, that won’t be ending anytime soon. She loves making anything from  baby clothes to formal gowns – all of it.

“If it goes on a body, someone will wear it and love it, and that’s something that makes me happy and keeps me going.  There’s always something new I want to try, whether it’s a technique or material I haven’t yet attempted; I incorporate my latest learning into each new project.”

She gets the majority of her fabric from local fabric stores and loves visiting new stores in any town she visits. When she cannot find a fabric she wants locally, she will shop online.

Photo from Karen LePage

Photo from Karen LePage

“I spend my dollars locally whenever possible.”

Karen loves being a part of the handmade community because she has always been just one of a handful of people she knows that love sewing. Of the four high schools she attended, she only found one friend who could sew. ONE! Now that she has a whole community of friends who also love the same kind of things, she counts it as a blessing.

“I feel so energized and inspired when working collaboratively; even when working on my own thing amongst fellow makers.  The handmade community is what has made my 30s and 40s the best years of my life.”

She currently has two patterns in the Stitch Magazine Spring issue and there will be another one in the Summer issue. She is also working on a handmade garment line and is hoping to hire some local people to help with the sewing and sales of her products.

“I’m really excited about it, but I’m also thrilled to have a steady stream of consultancy projects.”

Photo from Karen LePage

Photo from Karen LePage

Karen hopes to inspire people by being an advocate of all things handmade – whether its making, buying, spreading the word, or all of the above.

“I also hope I can inspire people to try something new every once in a while, and to really enjoy the process of making.”

Thank you to the lovely and wonderful Karen for participating in this series! You can find her blog here, buy her stuff here and read the book she co-wrote here.

If you enjoy this series and would like to be a part of it, or know someone who should, please leave a note in the comments or connect with me on Facebook, Twitter, Google +, Pinterest and Instagram. Next month, I will be talking with Jane Skoch from Maiden Jane!

Finding my Style

Last week, it dawned on me. It was past 9 pm on any given night, and I was still in my PJ’s. No, I’m not depressed. I’m a happy stay-at-home mom who doesn’t get out and about as much I used to and sometimes I forget to change out of my PJ’s. And sometimes I shower and then put clean PJ’s back on.

And this is when it dawned on me. “Wow–I have really let go of myself,” I thought. But have I?

Me, my baby, and my PJ's

Me, my baby, and my PJ’s

I’ve never been a big fan of fashion. Style, yes. Fashion, no. Only recently did I discover there was a difference. I always just wore what I thought was cool – and sometimes other people dug it, and other times, random people would say “uhhh…what’s that on your head” “It’s a head wrap, people! I just don’t know how to wear it. Dang!”

During high school, we Catholic school girls had it pretty easy in the outfit department. We wore uniforms and sometimes I would paint my shoes with nail polish and wear argyle socks to be different. I’m a real rebel. I had a small group of friends and we cared more about music than anything else in the world.

After high school, I got a job at Picture People. If you’re unfamiliar, it’s a photo studio chain that specializes in babies and dogs. I worked there for four years, and by the time I left, I could categorize the customers by what time of day it was. Weekday mornings – afternoon: stay-at-home moms and dog lovers, weekday afternoons – business moms who schlepped their kids from school to the mall for their annual photos, weekends – dads.

Again, the outfit choice was easy. We had a uniform (I’m seeing a theme here) and a spinny hat. Nothing else I could wear would ever distract anyone from the spinny hat. I would snicker at all of the stay-at-home moms, swearing that would never be me. As if I was doing any better.

Then, there was College. In Humboldt. I could honestly say I don’t even remember what I wore – it was Humboldt.

Then, there was my 20s. Oh, the 20s. Where I wore patterned tights with a patterned skirt and a tiger shirt. All different patterns. Because I wanted to, dammit. I would wear fedoras with jean shorts that I cut myself and were all jagged and rough. And I didn’t care.

Fake fishing near Lake Tahoe. I had a little boombox shaved into my head

Fake fishing near Lake Tahoe. I had a little boombox shaved into my head

And now, here I am. In my jammies, looking at my chipped nails and too overwhelmed by my closet to confidentially pick out an outfit. But look where I’ve come. I shower daily, I learned to cook and clean all in a little over a year, I’m going to the College of my dreams and I have an amazing kid and boyfriend. Not too shabby. But still, I miss that fearless abandonment I had every time I went through my closet. I miss wearing something truly unique instead of the same ol thing.

Kate Payne wrote in Hip Girls Guide to Homemaking that work-at-home-ians should shower and get ready like they’re going to work every morning. Make yourself look all business-casual and you will be more productive throughout your day, she says. Well, it can’t hurt.

I’m going to make it a point to go through my closet and stick with the clothes I truly feel speak to me. The rest, I can donate to our clothing recycling program we’re doing as part of our fundraiser for Vox. Then, I’m going to make it a point to get fancy during the week. To actually put on some adult clothes and maybe even brush my hair.

Because, as I tell Sam all the time – if it’s important to you, you will make time for it.

What is your style? If you’re a mom, do you feel like you lost any of it when you had your babe? How did you find it again? Let’s talk about it.

Thrifty finds

I think the men of Creedence Clearwater Revival were clearly underestimating the amount of thrift stores in Lodi when they wrote the song Stuck in Lodi Again. I’ve been so spoiled by all of the good prices here, that I have a hard time thrifting in Sacramento because everything is so overpriced. There are so many good stores, and I will have to remember to get photos of them all.

It was actually during a thrifting excursion when my friend Kandyce and I were talking about how much we both love taking trash and turning it into something awesome that we decided to start Sweet Mariposa together. Now when we get together, that’s what we do. Go grab some lunch in Lodi and thrift around town. It has become one of my favorite rituals.

During our last trip, we hit up our two favorite shops – Lodi Junction and New & Again.

IMG_0127

  • I got a 1st Edition Farm House Book that  at New and Again for a $1 and it has a lot of good tips for self-sufficiency, canning and a whole bunch of recipes.
  • I got the embroidered hat box for a $3 at Lodi Junction, and I have completely fallen in love with it. Kandyce and I decided we’re going to keep it and use it to transport our stuff when we attend craft fairs and whatnot.
  • I got two tote bags for $1 each and I’m planning on screen printing something on them. Not sure what yet, though.
  • The records were 6 for $5 and I got some good ones – Johnny Mathis, Babs, Sound of Music. Not sure if I’m going to collect them or sell them. I already have so many records and I’m sure it’s giving Sam an ulcer. So I might have to sell.

So, I got all of that for $10. Kandyce got some stuff at Lodi Junction, so our total came to $15, and we got $5 off that with a coupon. It’s kind of amazing.

Did you score any good thrifts lately? Share them in the comments and on your social media sites with the hashtag #staythrifty. I love sharing good deals! And as always, stay thrifty my friends.

Creative Business Journey: Project 2014 (Week two)

Image from Oh My! Handmade Goodness

Image from Oh My! Handmade Goodness

It’s the second week into Project 2014 at Oh My! Handmade Goodness, and I am loving it. I have an Accountability buddy named Lenore, who runs A Small Bird Designs. You can read more about her Project 2014 journey here and here. She is a freelance graphic designer and we are both working on some ginormous projects, so I think we will both be a huge help to each other.

I know I talked about my plans for this month, but I wanted to focus on a specific goal for the week. Finally complete a design board for my blog! I have some ideas of what I want it to look like, and now it’s time to really pinpoint what I want. And I wanted to share my inspiration with you!

Theme:

Image from Henry Happened

Image from Henry Happened

I don’t remember why I landed upon Henry Happened. I don’t remember if it was a tutorial, a recipe, or some sort of handmade fashion tip. What I do remember, is how beautiful and simple the theme is. I love how each category has a hand-drawn symbol, and I love how all the posts are visually categorized. It really excites me and makes me want to look for more. And I want people to feel that way when they happen upon my blog – I want them to feel like they found a magical land that they must explore.

Colors:

Image from Design Seeds

Image from Design Seeds

If you are into design at all, and you haven’t been to Design Seeds yet, you should probably visit. I am always so inspired by how Jessica can create an entire color palette from one object or photo. You can get the code for each color, so you can use that color in your design work and you can also adjust the colors by adjusting the RGB values. It is quite honestly one of the most resourceful sites I have found since I started caring about design. I love the color palette above because it’s rustic and includes my favorite color – teal! It’s bold yet not obtrusive.

Font:

Image from Betty Red Designs

Image from Betty Red Design

I absolutely love the cursive font in this design, probably because that is exactly how I write in cursive. I would love to use a font like this as my header, and I could probably even write it myself, scan it into my computer and incorporate it in my design. That seems a lot easier than searching all over for the font. Betty Red Design is an amazing site too, by the way.

Now, it’s time to work all of these into a design board. I can’t wait to see what Amy from Amy is the Party comes up with! So far, she is the only person I have trusted to touch my blog besides me (no pressure or anything), so it’s all very exciting! I also found a new site while hanging around Lenore’s website – XO Sarah is run by a designer who also focuses on helping bloggers and small business grow their businesses. Check out her Ebook and WordPress plugins for small businesses.

What are your major goals for your business this week? Anything specific you are working on, or is there an ongoing goal that you are chipping away at? Let’s talk about it. I would love to work on our projects together, and be sure to check out Lenore’s site, too!

Coffee and Muffins

coffee and muffins

Last weekend, my mom and I embarked on a new challenge. We must avoid all drive-thru eateries for an entire month. This wouldn’t be difficult for me, but I have a secret addiction to drive-thru Starbucks. Because sometimes when we’re on the road, I need a coffee. And almost all the time, I don’t want to have to lug my daughter out of the car and then back into the car to get a simple coffee.

The thought of walking to a little, hidden gem of a local coffee shop is a beautiful thought, except for the fact that I live nowhere near one. When I lived in downtown Sacramento, you could just turn in any direction and point, and a coffee shop would magically appear. But this is not the case.

So, it’s time to broaden the horizons. Since I will be more dependent on my at-home coffee-making skills more than ever, I’ve come to a conclusion. It’s time to stock up on some coffee from rad coffee shops when I come across one, and then get some rad travel mugs.

Photo from Mugoos

Photo from Mugoos

First of all, I love Mary Tyler Moore. I used to watch that show on TV Land before all my of childhood shows somehow wound up there, and before there was a DVR. This coffee mug not only brings a smile to my face and brings back memories of no responsibilities, it’s also kind of a perfect quote for my life right now. This ceramic mug has a plastic lid and is double-insulated. MC Simon, who made the mug and runs Mugoos, is a mama-of-two who was welder before running her own handmade ceramic shop.

Photo from Heartbreak Coffee

Photo from Heartbreak Coffee

Heartbreak Coffee is not actually local, but I read about this online coffee shop on Design*Sponge and I fell in love with the story. She brews and sells everything from her kitchen, and the first comment on her Coming Soon post was from her mom. I mean, come on.

So, I think this would be a great time to start reviewing different coffee shops – both local and online.

And what goes better with coffee than…

IMG_1458MUFFINS!!!

I used a recipe from The Granny Girls for these apple blueberry muffins and they were delicious – and good for you! I count them as a success because my boyfriend – the enemy of all that is health food – even enjoyed them. My muffins tend to be dry, but these were simply delightful. Moist (I know, I hate that word too), and every bite was filled with fruit.

The ingredients are below and you can get the full recipe here. I’m thinking of adding bananas next time (like, tomorrow).

  • 2 cups whole wheat flour
  • 1/4 cup turbinado sugar
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 cup raisins or currants blueberries
  • 1/2 cup chopped walnuts
  • 1 cup apple juice (I didn’t have any so I used almond milk)
  • 1/4 cup maple syrup
  • 1/4 cup apple sauce
  • 1 tablespoon canola oil
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 large egg, beaten (or 2 egg whites)
  • 2-3 medium apples, unpeeled, finely chopped (or grated)

What healthy steps are you taking? Share them in the comments and on social media. If you are writing about it, share the post with me! I would love to help motivate each other!

My February Wishes

Beautiful balloon photo from AC Photo. Design by me

Beautiful balloon photo from AC Photo. Words by me

Wow, that first week of school was brutal. It made me question if I really wanted to be in design school a couple times. But, I stuck it out, completed all of the crazy assignments I had and now I’m ready to conquer another week. Also, if I dropped out, I would have to pay back all of my college loan now – so that’s a surefire way to keep me in school. I see why they do that now.

The more that I think about it, the more I realize how similar that is to running your own business. Or anything, really. When you put all of your time and effort into something, when you truly believe in and want to accomplish something, you stick with it. When you invest money, or you are borrowing money (bank, school, parents, friends) and you have to pay it all back immediately if you just back out, you stick with it.

I have stuck with the things that are most important to me, and I have let go of things that would not be the best for me now. Maybe sometime in the future, but definitely not now. So, I am finally focusing on the things that matter, and I am fearless in pursuing what I love.

I have categorized each aspect of my life I need to focus on, and here’s what I want to accomplish this month:

Blog: The transfer to a self-hosted site is happening on the 15th and I could not be more thrilled. I need to organize my blog better and get rid of what has little or no importance at this point. This transfer is the perfect time to let go and start fresh. I will have a couple sponsors when I move over and I’m hoping to be at ten by June. So my goal for this month is just to get my new site up and running and add the sponsors I do have.

Vox: The fundraiser is happening in May. We have the time and place set, now I just need to come up with a name, and start working on all of our promotional stuff. We need to visit local businesses and get the community involved. So, this month I will focus on spreading the word.

Sweet Mariposa: We are going to get a booth at the Vox fundraiser and we have a couple other shops who want us to vend at their Second Saturday street walks, and maybe even sell a few items in their stores. So, this month we’re focusing on adding to our inventory. I hope to get at least one new item in the shop each week this month. I also have a few people who want me to sell things for them on eBay, so this will be the perfect way for me to get more comfortable on the site.

Pampered Chef: I would love to get four parties under my belt this month, one each week. I already have three people who want to host, I just need one more. This is going to be the perfect way to get me cooking and baking more, and to get me used to talking to a bunch of people at one time. I’m used to writing – not talking – to a large number of people at once.

Health : My mom and I started a new health challenge (I will talk more about this tomorrow), and our challenge for this week is no drive-thru. This should not be too hard for me, except for when it comes to my coffee. I must admit, when I’m driving, I have a problem with going through Starbucks to get my coffee fix. This will motivate me to go find more little coffee shops in town and not depend on the drive-thru Starbucks that’s just down the street. When I lived downtown, it was easy for me to just walk to a little coffee shop to get my fix, but here…it’s a little harder. I make my coffee at home, too, but I like a little pick-me-up when I’m out and about.

So, this should be good for the month. I’ll be writing more about each of these in detail during the week, I just need to remember to stick with what I love, and let go of the rest. It will save me time and unnecessary stress. What are you working on this month – what are your goals? Share them in the comments and on your social media sites. If you wrote about it, share the link with me so I can see! It’s a wonderful way to check yourself, and get support from others.