From Bolt to Hat

Some of the fleece we use is made in China and some in Taiwan. I order it from one of two wholesalers here in the US, and it arrives at my manufacturer in large rolls of around 60 yards each.

A partial roll of fleece as it comes from the wholesaler
This is a partial roll of fleece. A full one is larger around.

At the manufacturer, the roll is laid out on a long table and the pieces of each sleeve are cut out to be sewed. This leaves a lot of scraps. Some long strips, some blocks, some triangles and some a mix. I have asked them to save all those scraps for me, so I bring home at least 12 bags of scraps every time I place an order. Big bags! Huge trash can bags!

 
Then I sort them by size, shape, color, and offer them for sale to crafters and for free to organizations and groups like schools that will use them to make items for shelters, etc.
 
Some scraps went to an assisted living in November, and I just heard back from them.
 
“I just wanted to let you know that we made the scarves at the assisted living home and it was a big success.

“With your donation of the fleece strips and small pieces (and a piece of fleece that I purchased for $1 at the local thrift store) we created 35 scarves. And this week with the donation of some new fleece blankets (from an embroidery store, with corners cut out from their embroidery opps) and your strips we are making 30 hats. The hats and the scarves will be donated to a local food bank called FISH.

“The residents want to do this again.  They enjoyed doing something for others. 
I have contacted other agencies to see what we can do for them and so far the local hospital’s oncology department would like scarves for their patients too. 

“Thank you very much for your donations, it made many residents at the home feel useful and will keep many children warm!  Hopefully we can do more in the future.”

 
It really feels good to be saving the scraps from the landfill, giving the residents something to do that they enjoy and is fulfilling to them and keeping someone warm at the same time! Yes, it takes a little bit of extra time, but it is worth it! What could you do today that could help someone else?
 

 

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One of Those Days

Just so you know that things don’t always go well when you are starting a business…this evening has been one mess-up after another!

It started with an order for some monogrammed Sleepy Sleeves. No problem. Pull out my machine that does the monogramming, whip out the two Sleeves. Start packing the box. Oh no! I switched the names–the Small Sleeve had the name that was supposed to go on the M/L Sleeve. So how can I fix this? I tried to take the monogramming out, but it is so tightly stitched it can’t be done without damaging the fleece. So I decide to bring the label from the other side over and cover the old monogram then put the right name where the old label used to be. Perfect! It worked great with one Sleeve but I noticed as I was beginning to monogram the second one, a flaw in the construction of the Sleeve that I hadn’t noticed before. Great. Go get another one.

Prep, monogram, trim…Oh no, not again. There is a spot on the fabric–and a piece of tape from the manufacturer so I would know it was there–but why is it in the box with the regulars? I tried some spot remover that has worked on some of the Sleeves, but the spot is not coming out. OK. Again.

Grab another Sleeve, prep, monogram…I noticed on the last letter that the machine sounded different and slowed down. What is that all about? As I pulled it out from under the machine foot, I discovered that a section of the cuff had been doubled over and got caught up and sewed into the monogram, which meant that not only would I have to start over, but I couldn’t even cut it apart without damaging it!

Attempt #4: Back up to get the fourth Sleeve, and finally we have a winner! No stains, no defects, whew! Quick, get it in the box before something else happens to it.

I think I need to go to bed…

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You’re Getting Warmer Fleeces a School!

I could tell you the story, but I think I will let Mrs. Quinn do it. (She gave me permission to post this)

The 3rd and 4th Grade Sewing News

“The students have been working on a service project in sewing this trimester. We are making quilts for the cats and dogs in the Hillside SPCA. The fabric we are using is fleece and was donated by a local business called “You’re Getting Warmer”.

“You’re Getting Warmer” is owned by Linda McCabe and is located in Reading. She makes a very nice toasty warm product that is like a shrug, but only has the sleeves. (I bought one and it is wonderful for keeping warm when reading in bed!)

A Sleeve is the shortest distance between chilly and toasty!

Mrs. McCabe has the cuttings returned to her from the factory so that they don’t end up in the landfill. She was selling bags of fleece cuttings and scraps on Craig’s List in order to recycle them. Around the same time, I saw the article about the Hillside SPCA needing blankets for the animals, and it seemed to be a good project for the students. Their sewing skills had progressed very well to the point that they could make a quality quilt.

Our sewing classes needed fabric, so I emailed her to buy some. I told her about the school, and then explained what we wanted to make for the animal shelter. She checked us out online and really liked what we do. When I went to pick up the fabric, she decided to donate the cuttings to us instead. She gave us 7 giant bags of cuttings! (They really were giant bags! My basement breathed a huge sigh of relief when they were gone)

The students are making very good use of them. Ms. Bassler’s class is making quilts out of brown and tan cuttings, and Mrs. Shanoskie’s class is using the purple and lavender fabric. The quilting projects should wrap up by the 9th of December. We also have something called “Bus Stop Sewing”. It is comprised of students that are waiting for their bus in the afternoon and using the cuttings from Mrs. McCabe, they make small, quick projects during their 15-20 minutes of waiting.

I have really enjoyed sewing with your child this trimester! I hope we get to sew together again. There will be an after school sewing club when we come back from Christmas break, so keep an eye for the information.

Thank you, and enjoy your Thanksgiving!”

Mrs. Quinn

Gi l l i n g h a m   C H A R T E R S C H O O L

 915 Howard Av e P o t t s v i l l e , P a 1 7 9 0 1

 

 —————————————————————

Bookworm Sleeve - Cold Relief You Wear!

How cool is that? I am planning to get some photos of the children in the next few weeks and will post them. (The photos in this post are for illustration only and are not related to Gillingham Charter School.)

Oh, and if you have missed it, our most popular blog post ever was the alligator steak demo I posted last Thanksgiving. Our ‘gators are soaking in their swamp, getting ready for the big feast tomorrow! Hope that whatever you have to eat, you eat it with those you love.

Thankful for my blessings,

Linda McCabe–You’re Getting Warmer

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Drinking from a firehose

The first year of being a full-time entrepreneur was spent fighting to get the information I needed. I think I probably wore Google out, looking for tidbits and clues to the answers I sought. That was then.

NOW, I feel like I am drinking from a firehose! I discovered www.savorthesuccess.com, where entrepreneurial women from all over come to ask questions, answer questions, support and encourage in all manner of businesses, ongoing and startups. There is so much support and so many resources that I never even knew existed! Have a question? Post it in one of the cafe’s and you will get an answer from (usually) several women who have been there and figured it out. Need a resource? Need a coach? Need a professional writer? Whatever you need, you can either find it there or find someone who can help you find it. I have been blown away! (Example: Sarah Shaw has taught me more about moving from idea to retail than I ever thought possible. In this blog post she talks about the advantages of bootstrapping–starting a business from scratch. Her blog and her phone seminars are amazing. http://theentreprenettegazette.com/2011/11/17/bootstrap-or-bust/)

The biggest problem has been information overload. I have been in on 10-12 teleseminars, gone to NYC for a selling training event, spent dozens of hours reading and processing, and sometimes it is overwhelming. But in a welcome sort of way.

Fear is a big problem in starting a new business, but sometimes the fear is just a result of lack of knowledge. And that kind of fear can be solved by information. Knowing what to do and how to do it gives a sense of freedom and triumph! And then there is the fear that comes from self-doubt and internal messages–something different altogether. That can take a little longer…

So that is what I have been up to. I am currently trying to figure out what company to use to keep track of my customers/potential customers, starting with the hospital gift shops. And whether to switch to Google Mail from my current Yahoo account. It is frustrating that you have to make a decision before you really know how it will play out…but I guess that is like life. We don’t totally know how any of our choices will play out before we make them.

So what in your life would you like to change? What resources do you need to do it? Resources are out there, and sometimes you just have to ask the right person or click the right link to find them. Don’t hesitate to ask–life is short. Live it!

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Just Call Me Caesar

If you could describe yourself in three words or less, what would they be? Just one word?

One of mine would be “Tenderhearted”. When I was 4 or 5, I cried and cried at Ice Capades when the clown kept falling and everyone kept laughing at him. I hate to see someone humiliated or left out.

But the one that would have to be “the one” is not even a word, according to dictionary.com. I am a “Siezer”. (pronounced like…you got it…Caeser) I have a gift of recognizing opportunities and doors that are open even just a crack, and making something more out of them. In business, friendships, learning opportunities, whatever.

I start out to upholster a friend’s sofa and end up owning a thriving upholstery shop in a wealthy suburb of Chicago.

I read an article in Mother Earth News about a guy with a nursery in his backyard and ended up with 10,000 rooted cuttings and a propagating nursery.

Some would call them lucky breaks. Or chance. But I have been blessed with people and opportunities that many wish for, and looking back, I see that sometimes the difference between success and not success (see, I am too tenderhearted to write the word “failure”, because no one should have to feel like a failure :-)) is diving through a small opening–taking a calculated risk. Knowing that it could fail and doing it anyway. The older I get the more I see how rare that is. So many won’t take those kinds of risks.

Part of the reason I can is that I have self-confidence in areas that most people have self-doubt. And self-doubt where most people have self-confidence. Which I have viewed as a curse for much of my life, but am realizing now it might not be a curse.

Cody and I after tackling a particularly greasy job on his car

Maybe this is a trait I share with all entrepreneurial types–this “seizing” thing. If you have it, use it! If you don’t, find what you do have and use that. Life is too short to spend it doing something you hate or that you are not really good at.

So how would you describe yourself in three words or less?

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We’re Shedding!

So over the last couple weeks Mike completed the base for the new(used) shed. That consists of building a frame and filling it with 3-4″ of gravel for drainage.

The frame

The gravel arrives

It's ready!

The shed was delivered a couple days later.

The trailer could tilt, swivel and extend way out to put the shed right where he wanted it! (I want one like that!)

He set it down on pipe at first so he could lever push it around to where we wanted it.

Then on Monday, Mike and I tore out the part that was rotten and replaced it.

We finished it after dark so I don’t have any after photos yet.

Yesterday we rented a UHaul and went to Allentown to pick up our new inventory.

I will let you know when all the Sleeves have tucked into their new little beds–hopefully to stay there just a short time until they are shipped to their new homes!

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Just Call Me Alice

Woke up before 4 and couldn’t go back to sleep so I decided to get up and do some research on marketing that I started yesterday morning. By the time I finished, I felt like I had been down several rabbit holes and decided to describe the journey for you. This is how it went…

Marketing is probably the least favorite hat I wear in this business. I had been trying to figure out if I should spend $500 to exhibit at a Fearless Caregiver Conference in New Haven, CT in 4 weeks (http://caregiver.com/fearlessconference/conferences/index.htm) or take that money and spend it on some coaching from an entrepreneurial expert such as (http://asksarahshaw.com/entreprenette-options).

I use the word “expert” loosely, because it seems that anyone can call themselves an expert nowdays. Build a snazzy web site and write a glowing report of yourself and you are an expert! Sarah Shaw certainly qualifies, as her experience in starting a successful business is documented, and I have no doubt she could move my business along very quickly if I hired her.

A story with a link on that web site led me to www.savorthesucces.com, which bills itself as “The premium business network for women entrepreneurs”. I didn’t spend a long time there, but I did a search on the difference between that site and www.ladieswholaunch.com which I have been aware of for awhile. That brought me to this blog post– http://strategicmktgconcepts.wordpress.com/2009/12/30/9-powerful-social-networking-sites-for-women-entrepreneurs/ which listed a bunch of other similar sites that were new to me. So I browsed some of them as well, trying to see what was free and what was not.

This one, www.womanowned.com –Business networks for women, caught my eye. The rabbit hole branched and I clicked on the “Growing” tab, scrolled down to “Promoting your Business” and “The Crazy Game of MetaTags” jumped out at me. When I developed my website, I read that I needed to put in “metadata tags” which would help push my site closer to the top in internet searches. Everything I read about it was so technical and complicated that I just gave up. But this title made me think it might be more simple. (See how marketing works?)

The article was really helpful and pointed me to the site www.scrubtheweb.com that would analyze my current meta tags for free. I came out with a 33 out of 100–not bad for not even putting anything in there in the first place–but could be improved. But first I researched that site to find out a little about it…age, track record, negative feedback, etc. It seemed legit, so I started using it to build code I could insert on each page of my site. I had to do some searches on where to put it because the program I use is not one of the common ones. But before I could finish that….

I somersaulted off to the right at another fork, checked my business email and found notice that my domain name registrations are coming up for renewal. Which reminded me that I had changed the name of the third sleeve model earlier this year from “travel sleeve” to “summer sleeve” so didn’t want to hold on to the domain name travelsleeve.com. So I went to www.dreamhost.com and canceled it. While there, I took a left and remembered that my son Ryan had told me that I should be able to set it up so that all my other domains (sleepysleeves.com, bookwormsleeves.com, yourgettingwarmer.com and eventually summersleeves.com) would automatically take people to my main domain at  www.youregettingwarmer.com.

So I poked around until I figured that out, then decided that I was freezing and needed to go back to bed. Two hours had elapsed, and I was not much closer to figuring out how to spend my mythical advertising budget and the website is still a sorry 33 on the metadata scoring, but if you enter www.sleepysleeves.com, you will arrive at my website! Mission accomplished–sortof.

I’m going to need a nap today…

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Growing Pains

When we moved here to Reading, PA 5 years ago, we chose to downsize our home. With our boys both headed for college, we figured we didn’t need as much room. It has worked well–until You’re Getting Warmer showed up. The spare part of our one-car garage is full of boxes of manufactured Sleepy Sleeves and the boys bedrooms each have a stack of boxes along one wall. With another 1,000 or so Sleepy Sleeves showing up in the next couple weeks, I knew it was time to check into a storage unit.

After a couple calls, I was looking for alternatives. Paying $80-$100 per month was not my idea of wise spending at this stage in my business…maybe not ever, actually. I went on Craigslist and found a used 10×16 shed for sale for about 20% of what a new one would cost. It needs some new T-111 siding on the back and eventually some new roofing, but it is in good shape otherwise.

Mike called city hall to get a permit, and the lady told him that since we already had a 10×14 shed, that we could only get a permit for another 10×14 shed, since we were limited to 280 square feet of shed space on our property. To go before the zoning board to request a variance would cost $1000, so that was not cost effective either. We have 1/2 acre in our lot, and it seemed weird to be limited like that but we are used to city rules not always making sense 🙂

Back to the drawing board. I still wanted that used shed, so I wondered if we could cut a couple feet off the end of it to make it compliant. After looking at it, I thought that it might be easier to cut it down the middle and then push the shortened halves together. (Only half joking..) Then my dad suggested that since we needed to replace the siding on the back of it anyway, we could just cut a foot or so off the back side, which would be easier than either of the options I had come up with. So we bought the shed, with Mike figuring it would give him an excuse to buy the tiger saw he has wanted for years!

He made an appointment with the zoning official and waited several weeks for it to arrive. He had to take a diagram of our lot, where the current structures are sitting and where we would like to put the shed, photos of the location and a $50 check. He called me on his way back home, to say that the zoning person said he had no idea why the zoning office phone lady said we were limited. That we could have a third shed if we wanted it–which I don’t, but that means we don’t have to remake the one we are buying! Great news!

So Mike has constructed a 12×18 pad with 4×4’s and we have 3 yds of gravel coming on Tuesday. Hopefully the rain lets up and that the truck doesn’t sink up to its axles in our yard. Then a few days later the shed will be delivered. We will fill it with our mower and tiller and assorted yard stuff so we can put the order of Sleepy Sleeves in our other shed, which is newer and cleaner and nicer.

Just another in the list of things I never thought I would need to do when I started a business! Oh, and Mike still hasn’t gotten his saw…

New home for Sleepy Sleeves

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How to Crochet a Rug

In this ever evolving business, I found myself with loads of fleece scraps and strips. And, wanting to be as zero landfill as possible, I figured I could make crocheted rugs with the strips. Until I saw just how many there were.And this is not all of them. There are 4 more colors and lots more strips of each color. I would have to close down the sleeve business and just sew strips and crochet. Which defeats the purpose of starting the business. So I hit upon the idea of selling strips so people could make their own rugs! Like this one…

But I needed to have a pattern for them to use, and none of the ones I found online seemed to be just what I wanted. So I decided to make up my own. How hard could it be? Start with around 4 lbs of strips, sew them together and roll them up into a big ball…(those floor tiles are 14″ across, just for reference–that ball is quite a bit bigger than a basketball)

Then crochet and write it down as I go for a pattern. I had made several rugs without a pattern so this should be easy. Not. Four rugs later, I was still tweaking–or overhauling the pattern. I think I finally got it figured out but have asked 5 volunteers to make it for me, following the pattern, and to let me know if it is OK. I am posting the pattern here so I can just refer them to this link, but if any of you are interested in making one, email me and I can ship you enough pre-cut strips AND the right size crochet hook (size Q if you want to know) for just $15 plus the actual shipping cost.

So here goes! Basic Instructions for Crocheting an Oval Rug. Finished size, roughly 2’x3′.

Chain 12.   Round 1:   sc in 2nd ch from hook, sc in back loop only of next 10 ch, work 1 sc, ch 1, 1 sc, ch,  1 sc in the last ch; 9 sc, work 2 sc in next sc, ch 1, work 2 sc in next sc, ch 1, work 2 sc in next sc. (From here on out, crochet through both front and back loops) Also, stop and attach a twist tie or some other yarn or wire so you can identify the end of the rug where the rows stop and start. Trust me, you will be really glad you did! Round 2:  10  sc, work 2 sc in each of next 3 sc; 11 sc, (work 2 sc in next sc, 1 sc in next sc) 2 times, work 2 sc in next sc.  (Helpful hint: as you start down each side, put another twist tie around the first sc of the run, so you have a starting place for your counting. Like this…)Round 3:   13 sc,  ch 1, 2 sc, ch 1, 2 sc, ch 1;  14 sc, sc 1, ch, 2 sc, ch 1, 2 sc, ch 1.

Round 4:   15 sc,  ch 1, 3 sc, ch 1, 3 sc, ch 1; 16 sc, ch 1, 3 sc, ch 1, 3 sc, ch 1.

Round 5:  17 sc, ch 1, 3 sc, ch 1, 3 sc, ch 1;  18 sc, ch 1, 3 sc, ch 1, 3 sc, ch 1.

Round 6:  18 sc, ch 1, 3 sc, ch 1, 3 sc, ch 1, 3 sc, ch 1; 19  sc, ch 1, 3 sc, ch 1, 3 sc, ch 1, 3 sc, ch 1.

Round 7:  20 sc, ch 1, 4 sc, ch 1, 4 sc, ch 1, 4 sc, ch 1; 19 sc, ch 1, 4 sc, ch 1, 4 sc, ch 1, 4 sc, ch 1.

Round 8:  22 sc, ch 1, 7 sc, ch 1, 7 sc, ch 1;  21 sc, ch 1, 7 sc, ch 1, 7 sc, ch 1.

Round 9:   24 sc, ch 1, 10 sc, ch 1; 29 sc, ch 1, 10 sc, ch 1, 4 sc, sl st in each of next 2 sc, cut off strip, leaving 4-6” tail, pull tail through last loop to end crochet, weave tail through loops on back side to end rug.

Misc tips and tricks:

When sewing the strips together, trim and sew the seams on a slant. Note how I have reversed at the beginning and end of the seam, otherwise it will pull apart under the tension of the crochet process.

place right sides together to sew 1/4" seam.

Then clip off the corners that stick out. You will have a smoother finished product.

clip off the corners that stick out

This is what it looks like when laid out flat. (This is a trick we used in upholstery when stitching yards and yards of fabric strips together to make cording for the cushions and trim)

finished seam

The strips will tend to twist. Don’t worry about whether the inside or outside of the fabric is showing. It will not make any difference to the finished rug. They will also vary in width and thickness. Don’t worry, when it is worked into a rug, it won’t be a problem.

As you pull up each loop, whether chaining or making a single crochet, pull a little extra through each time so that the loops are not so tight.

pull some play into each loop to keep it from being too tight=

And as you reach each seam, turn the fabric so the seam doesn’t show.

Don’t be afraid to experiment, even if you don’t like it and have to take it out again. You will learn a lot as you go. It should take a couple hours to sew the strips together and another couple to do the actual crocheting. That is if you already know how to crochet. Longer if you are learning. If you have problems, ask someone with more experience to help you with it.

Happy crocheting!

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