The Price of Handmade

skull earrings

Most of you reading this make things, and know the time and skill involved in making something well. But I’m sure most of us are also guilty of looking at the price of a handmade item that is not in our field and being slightly aghast at the price tag, thinking, wow, that’s an awful lot for such a little thing!

skull earrings 2

Click here to find out more!

Recently, I had the opportunity to stay with my daughter for a week. We had a lovely time together, and ended up having our own craft week (in addition to going ice-skating!) She is a jewelry artist, and one day I had the privilege of watching her in her studio. She needed to make some more of these cute little not-so-scary skull earrings to send to a gallery, and I saw for the first time all of the steps involved. Keep in mind that even this lengthy list doesn’t include ordering and stocking supplies, or the years of practice it took to develop the skills. So, here we go – all the steps involved in making these little earrings…

  • Use hydraulic press to cut multiple shapes from sterling silver sheet
  • Trim tab extensions with metal shears
  • File edges to remove burrs
  • Sand edges and surface
  • Stamp skull features – large eye circles, small eye circles, nose, teeth, and skull suture, with each mark placed individually
  • File nub off end of surgical steel earposts
  • Solder earposts to back of skulls with torch
  • Cool and check to see that posts are secure – in this case, one of the ten was a bit loose and needed to be re-done
  • Soak in pickle (which is an acid solution) to remove the flux needed for soldering and to remove oxidation caused by heating
  • Sand the earposts
  • Immerse in liver of sulfer (a stinky antiquing solution used to darken the silver and highlight the features,) rinse and clean with a brass brush; repeat one to four more times to get the desired color
  • Sand surface of earrings to remove some of the darkness on the surface from the previous step, but leave it in the indentations

Now the earrings are done! But, before they are ready to sell, there’s more…

  • Photograph and edit multiple views of each piece to document, and for displaying online
  • Mount on branded display card (business card)
  • Package in plastic bag, place in gift box, and decorate gift box
  • Upload to websites and write descriptions
  • Communicate with potential customers
  • After a sale, print shipping label and receipt
  • Box up and address box
  • Drive to post office and wait in line to ship

While the specific tasks may be different, similar steps apply in large part to most well-made, hand-crafted items. While not all things are precious just because they were made by hand, remember this process before you automatically pass by hand-crafted work as over-priced!

P.S.  I also got to watch her make this gorgeous copper autumn leaf pendant!

Copper leaf pendant

Click here to purchase beauties like this!





My Raincoat Dress!

A few days ago, I posted on Facebook that I was taking a couple of days off from quilting and writing articles, and was going to sew up this pattern.

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It’s from Lekala. You choose your pattern, enter your measurements, and are emailed a pdf for a personalized pattern. I’ve tried them before, with moderate success. But the style lines on this dress were so interesting, I had to try again. I really wanted to use those bust darts radiating from the left armhole!

I knew I wanted to use a solid-colored fabric so the darts and seams would show up. Several months ago I ordered this lavender fabric from, thinking that I might use it for this pattern. The only description of the fabric was that it was a poly/spandex woven.

I spent most of the first day tiling and taping my pattern, and making a muslin, and altering it to my taste. I was pleased that the muslin fit pretty well, straight off the pattern. Yes, it’s made for my measurments, but there are still little alterations needed, specifically for my slightly wonky right shoulder, which is a bit lower than my left, and for my right shoulder blade, which protrudes a bit more. I also had to take a little in at the upper chest. (Note: In my experience, Lekala patterns are made to fit much more snugly than I like, so I cheat by adding a little to the measurements I use. Also, the armholes are higher and tighter than I like. I haven’t quite figured out how to change my measurements to allow for that.) I also decided that I wanted the dress to be longer than the pattern, so I added 2.25 inches in length.

When I had received the fabric, I pre-washed it, thought it was just a little odd, and put it away. But I really wanted this color to go with the necklace my daughter made for me for Christmas! When I cut out my altered pattern, I thought again that this was unusual fabric. It’s a tight gabardine weave, crisp, with a little stretch, and a very cool, smooth feel. I tested it with the iron, and it handled medium heat well, with no iron marks, it pressed in good creases with steam, and seam allowances barely showed through. I thought it should be easy to sew, although I still wondered about the odd feel.

On the second day, I got to sew. This pattern is really very simple to put together, but DO NOT follow the (very minimal) directions included with the pattern! The directions for the armhole and neckline facings absolutely will not, cannot, physically work! If you know how to sew, you’re fine, but for someone not sure of how things are put together, this would be a disaster.

I’m pretty pleased with this dress! It’s not meant to be a special occasion dress, more of a let’s-go-to-our-favorite-Mexican-restaurant dress.

Lekala 4

Lekala 1

I considered making the flap into a real welt pocket with flap, then decided that I really wouldn’t use it, and to just save myself the time. So it’s just a decorative flap.

Lekala 6

Lekala 5

I’m not sure what I was doing here, but it shows the right side of the dress!

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I’m not entirely thrilled with the fit of the back, but it’s not bad. I added a couple of vertical darts to give it a bit more shape at the waist. But this dress isn’t special enough for me to want to spend any more time fine-tuning the fit.

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I absolutely love the fit through the chest and bust! And look at those diagonal darts! I edgestitched the darts to make them just a bit more visible, because, after all, they are why I made this dress.

And here’s the necklace for which I made this dress. Isn’t it awesome! My daughter is a jewelry artist, so I’m the happy recipient of many of her lovely pieces.


This pendant was made with polymer, acrylic, silver, tiny pieces of gold leaf, and a citrine! You can see her fine jewelry at, or contact her for ideas for custom work. She has also recently started a new line of fun, whimsical pieces with RadishFightJewelry, where you can find necklaces made from the same kind of colorful polymer mosaic as mine, although without the silver and semi-precious stone.

Now, back to my dress, and that unusual fabric. I discovered why it just seemed strange. When I stitched those darts in the back, I made the first ones too long and too far from the center. So I took the stitches out, and started to press out the creases. Steam alone didn’t do it, so I spritzed it with water.

Lekala 3

The water beaded up and didn’t soak in at all! (Sorry, the color is wrong, but this is the same fabric.) I didn’t notice it when I pre-washed it; I just threw it in the washing machine with other fabrics I was pre-treating. This fabric is almost completely water-repellant. It’s rainwear fabric!!! I have a raincoat dress!

I would like to ask online fabric sellers to please, please, write more accurate descriptions of their fabrics. Some sites are very good; EmmaOneSock and Gorgeous Fabrics are two that I’ve ordered from often. Others, like, are obviously not great. I would never have purchased this fabric if it had been described as rainwear fabric! It all turned out fine for this dress, although I wonder if the dress will be hot to wear. Will I make the pattern again? I don’t know; I like it, but I don’t wear dresses all that often. But if I do, you can be sure that I won’t make it as a raincoat dress!







Important Things

It’s been almost a week since I returned home from a delightful vacation with my daughter. You may remember that I wrote about our vacation to Arrowmont School of Arts and Crafts last year and the “stitching” that entailed! (Here and here…)


We’ve made such wonderful memories on our previous Arrowmont trips, that when I read about an upcoming class on making shoes, I knew it would be perfect. So on Oct. 29, we boarded our planes to go to Gatlinburg, TN. And of course, our favorite pizza!

Just like last year, we arrived a day early so we could drive through the mountains. Wow wow wow! I’ve been through the Great Smoky Mountains a number of times, but never in the autumn. And we were there at absolutely the right time! Annie and I descended into speechlessness for much of the time. Take a look at some of these photos (and realize that these photos don’t even come close to the reality!)


Of course, being the tiny-detail-oriented people that we are, we found a plant with dozens of ladybugs.


Last year our little insect find was butterflies!


When class started, we had lots of fun choosing our leather colors for our shoes. Then came cutting,




and more punching!


These pieces are lined, punched, and ready to put together.


We laced (this is where the stitching comes in)


and laced,


and laced.


Some of the students’ uppers ready to be stitched to the soles (mine is second from the left, Annie’s is third from the right.)


They look kind of like duck feet at this stage, right?!


Stitching the upper to the sole. This isn’t exactly a needle and thread for heirloom sewing, is it?!


After the lasts were slipped into the shoes, they were heated in a very low-temperature oven. It was pretty funny to see all these shoes “baking” in the oven!


Then it was time to prepare and glue on the heels and taps (with some very stinky glue.)


The sole and heel edges were dyed and waxed and burnished, and…finished shoes!


The shoemaking was a blast, but not the real reason for the vacation.


These vacations are not inexpensive; in fact, for what I’ve spent over the years on “crafting” vacations with my children, I could have bought a very nice car. But that car would depreciate in value the moment I drove it away from the dealer. And over the years it would get dings and scratches and wear, and would eventually be worth very little monetarily. But the value these vacations have brought to our relationship doesn’t depreciate. In fact, it increases in value. So I happily drive my 14-year-old car, and realize that my money was spent for the most important thing.







Anyone Can Make A Quilt Like This!

I haven’t written a blog post for quite a while. I’ve been super busy getting ready for – and taping! – my new Craftsy class! It should be online within a few weeks. I’ll be sure to tell you more about it soon, and I’ll have a free class giveaway, too!

But, in the meantime, I thought I would share this little quilt with you. Anyone can make a memory quilt like this!


Three of the blocks were obviously made by Annie, who was probably about 3 or 4 years old at the time. The clown applique block was from a book of applique which I used to make many bibs and t-shirts for the kids. It is fused, and not even stitched around the edges. My Mom put it together and did some very simple machine quilting.

Let’s look at those three “original” blocks!


I have no idea if that is a swimming pool, or a yard, or… next to the house.


This is obviously a Christmas tree. What I like best is that the blond, green-eyed girl has white teeth painted in her red smile!


And here we have a pretty detailed bicycle, although I have no idea what those other objects are!

So folks, don’t always worry about coordinating fabrics, or consistent block sizes, or workmanship. While this quilt will never win any contests, it is still most decidedly a treasure!

Christmas Outfits 1987 – 1989

Here are some brother/sister Christmas outfits from years ago! These are from 1987. Annie was four, and David was a little over a year old.22

I didn’t sew these; my Mom did. The red-and-black-plaid-with-pandas fabric was a soft cotton flannel. I have no idea what patterns she used. The knit shirts were purchased.

The next year, 1988, I made red jackets for them.


The jackets were made from an easy-care twill, probably poly/rayon. They were lined, of course. I made Annie’s pleated skirt, but not David’s pants. I don’t think I made either of their shirts. My Mom and I always thought that in this picture, David looked like he was scared that he was about to fall off that rocking horse! I love his little saddle shoes!

Here they are in 1989.


During that year, I had discovered heirloom sewing! And I still have these garments. (But apparently, we didn’t have shoes that Christmas!) Annie’s dress was made from Imperial broadcloth. I don’t know what the smocking plate was, but I loved the way the ribbon sash was woven through slits in the smocking.


She had a gray ribbon sash (in the photographer’s picture) and the pink ribbon shown here. I made tiny light gray piping for the yoke and collar. The sleeves were smocked, and the cotton lace was some I found at an old Ben Franklin store! (I had no sources for heirloom lace locally, and this was before the internet.)


David’s overalls were made from fine wale corduroy. I’m not sure what pattern I used. The insert was smocked with what I think was an adaptation of Candy Canes by Ann Smith.


Like Annie’s dress, both the shirt and overalls were piped with tiny gray piping.


Cute outfits, cute kids! 🙂