Saturday, July 27, 2013

Mass-Producing Is Fun

... especially when it involves Real Bag Fabric (not cotton falsely strengthened by interfacing),

Real Bag Straps (not cotton falsely strengthened by interfacing),

and hardware.

What ... you've never worked with cargo netting, nylon packcloth or grommets? 
Well, then it looks like you'll need to come back here for the tutorial, doesn't it? See you soon - and bring a candle.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

10 Things I Wish They'd Given Me When I Left The Maternity Ward

That's 9... the 10th would be a universal remote control into which all 9 functions could be programmed and integrated. Motherhood would've been so much easier, don't you think? 

P.S. I thought of an 11th - a teleporter. But teleporters require quantum physics and molecular biology on some level, which sound expensive. And expensive probably couldn't make it into a Maternity Ward Goodie Bag. Pity. 

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

From The Tubs Of Yesteryear

Jenna,  2007

Since we're on the topic of blog birthdays and blogging and suchlike, let's talk about babies. No, I'm not having another baby. What I mean is that when this blog began, I had a two-month old baby. But she was our third and I was done with all those charming handmade crib bumpers and car seats and drool cloths and bloomers and teeny dresses and nursery decor two babies before her. Which was a pity, I guess, because ikatbag never became one of those blogs that are full of maternity upcycles, baby models or baby shower gift ideas. Which maybe kinda gives the impression that, in spite of possibly being the world's most sentimental mother,  I never sewed stuff for my babies. Which is, well, sorta true and yet not. 

Here's the story. Emily was born while we were living in Singapore, before we moved to the US. She was my first baby and I was working in an office and doing crisis intervention in schools right up to the day of her birth. Zero free time to do anything remotely fun, let alone creative. I didn't even have the time to shop for clothes to fit my burgeoning belly so I had my Auntie Laura tailor my maternity wardrobe and Mum sew the bedinen for Emily's crib

and all those little newborn things that grandmas are so good at thinking of, like these mittens -

a little crumpled after spending 8 years at the bottom of a storage tub, but still a proud testament of her love.

I remember cramming all my babyphernalia shopping into one harried weekend with Mum, not long after which Emily arrived, three weeks early. I spent the first hours of labor walking around the hospital with my cellphone, calling the office and colleagues with emergency instructions on handing over case files, assignments and duties. 

Not the most romantic baby-blogging scenario, huh?

The months after I got home from the hospital were the most bizarre I'd ever experienced. Sleeplessness, coupled with complete ignorance of how to care for a newborn was just part of it. There was also the sudden switch from manic government employment (translation: robotic efficiency) to the relative aimlessness of post-natal recovery and baby care. I almost went crazy trying to find some semblance of control. Very funny to look back on now, of course. As if babies could be made to behave consistently and follow schedules and standards like a government organization! Ha ha ha!

Needless to say, I eventually came to my senses and surrendered. So what if I couldn't get the whole nursing thing down pat. So what if I couldn't tell heat rash apart from measles. So what if I'd never get to exercise till my baby was in high school. So what if I didn't hand-make my own baby food in single-serve freezer portions. Bah. 

And with that surrender, I was suddenly able to take time to feel creative. 

Remember when I mentioned in this post that, because of my job, I'd taken a 10-year hiatus from creative sewing? Now that I had the time (yeah, baby naps!), I needed simple projects to ease me back into it. Like these bibs. I found them last week while sorting through the aftermath of my garage-sale-motivated spring cleaning. I made myself crack open those 13? 14? tubs of baby memories. I'd kept everything, I tell you! These bibs, for instance have been around the chubby necks of all my babies.  And these are just some of the total number of bibs the girls went through. Yes, all handmade - some by my sister-in-law and some by me. Later, I went on to make hundreds

Fortunately I didn't only sew bibs (or those baby ribbon balls that I also mass-produced without sense). I eventually diversified. Here's a sleeper I made for Emily. 

Good basic baby clothes are hard to get in Singapore. Either they're exorbitant because they're branded and have hideous fancy embellishments or characters or else you have to get an overseas-dwelling friend to buy them and mail them to you. So when Emily grew out of her last fitting sleepers, I panicked and made her this one in the next size. Very pleased to see that the stripes align - I may have been sleep-deprived back then but I was still anal. Way to go, LiEr. And aren't those press-studs funny? I got them from Dad's hardware stash. And since his craft area at the time was leatherwork, they sure look out of place on this baby garment. Still, how many babies proudly wear their grandpa's stash notions on their outfits? 

Here's something else I made from the same fabric. I think these are shorts but they could well be a diaper cover, judging from the high-cut leg openings. What was I thinking? Inferior stripe matching here (the other side of these shorts is even worse), though.

My baby years went by in a blur. I marvel at how some bloggy moms have like 17 children in 15 years, six of whom are twins or triplets or whatever and they sew baptismal gowns for all of them and have updated baby books and have imprints of all their children's little feet in plaster-of-paris plaques hanging in their color-coordinated rooms. I could barely put meals on the table many nights and it took me a long time to accept that oatmeal and pancakes counted as a decent supper. One thing I remember doing that really helped was having an official closing ceremony for my sewing machine about a fortnight before each baby was born. This means that I finished up all my utility sewing two weeks before each birth, cleaned up and oiled my sewing machine, unplugged it, put the cover on, cleared my sewing table and said some kind of sappy farewell speech over it. Once, I even sent it into the shop for maintenance. And I didn't touch it for the first month (ish) after birth. Maybe I'm weird-dramatic that way but I like resolution and formally putting away sewing for a time when I needed to focus on a new baby, mood swings, bizarre body reactions and transitions for everyone, was resolution for me. I told myself, "Sewing will not be your new normal for a while. If you feel like you want to make a bib three weeks down the road and the stars align and the baby sleeps and the other children are doing their own thing, go for it. That will be a bonus. But if you go a day without sewing, your day is still complete because that's your new normal now." It saved my sanity. 

That said, when I eventually did turn the sewing machine back on weeks later, I made quite a few other baby things for the girls that I never took photos of - mostly clothes but also crib linen, nursery drapes and stuff like that. The costumes and toys came much later, when they were old enough that their independent play inspired me to make them. 
Chef's hat and apron for Emily, 3 years old

Lab coat for Emily, 3 years old

The first of our halloween costumes. For Emily, 3 years old

I loved having my babies but, truth be told, older children are much more fun to sew for, and a lot easier to take care of. 

Here's another project I've never showed you before because it's from the pre-blogging and pre-DSLR era: hand puppets! They look oddly familiar so I think I must have fashioned them after the Baby Einstein ones that were so popular at the time. They were a gift for someone, which was the only reason I have a photo of them at all. 

Hope you enjoyed the tour!

And you know... if you have a new baby in your life (congratulations!), just enjoy him/her. This is your new normal now. There'll be plenty of time for sewing and blogging later but those chubby little bunch o' grapes toes will not stay that way forever, right?

Sunday, July 14, 2013


Hello! We have our internet back!

It was a lot of fun to read your comments to that Act 1 Blogging post. I am so relieved that you guys knew which parts were nonsense and which parts were real! Am still writing Act 2 but as it's not as frivolous as Act 1, it's taking me a while. In the meantime, I must fulfill my PR responsibilities and share with you some ikatbag sightings.

First is a republication of my cardboard sword tutorial on PBS Parents,

the parent-resource website associated with PBS KIDS that has educational games and activities.

Next is Huffington Post's roundup of popsicle stick crafts,

including my popsicle stick basket that Dad taught me when I was a kid.

Then, in the August 2013 issue of Family Fun Magazine

is another roundup of popsicle stick crafts

including that basket again,

along with its sister project, the popsicle stick mini easel:

And there I am! Although it should be spelt "Teigland". 

Finally, remember that 26-pocket "quilt" I made from all the pockets of our Pocket Series?

Here it is in the July 2013 issue of the Australian publication, Homespun:

Incidentally, Homespun has a lot of quilting in it. See?

All gorgeous. I am not a quilter so I feel especially honored and intimidated to be featured among quilters, whom I consider paragons of patience, perseverance and perfectionism  But then I found this non-quilting craft in it which got me all excited - so cool. Uh, I mean hot.

It is always thrilling to be featured and linked to, so when these all converged in one week, my head just about exploded. Every single one of the editors and writers behind those features was wonderful to work and correspond with - thank you!

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Quick housekeeping

Shhh... have snuck out of the house to use the library's wifi thingy because we have no internet access till Monday. If you are buying my pdf patterns, please note that if you run into download problems, I may not be able to help you till then. In fact, I may not even know you have problems because I won't be able to read your email messages. 

That said, almost ALL your download problems will be eradicated if you actually use your desktops or laptops to access the pattern files you paid for. I cannot count the number of people who have recently emailed me because they bought my patterns and, in spite of being warned (see the very top of the page from which you buy the patterns), open the links on their remote devices (ipods, ipads, iphones etc). Listen up, people: some of these remote devices have file-saving capabilities and some don't. If you don't know if yours does or not, wait till you get home to access the links on your desktops, okay? Please? That way, the pattern files will actually open up and get saved instead of disappearing into oblivion.

Normally, I'd just respond to your emergencies when that happens and send you a second-chance link but with my internet access gone for the next few days... ball's in your court, folks. Good luck.

Monday, July 8, 2013

Act 1: How To Blog And Not Hate It

In this earlier post, I announced that ikatbag's 5th birthday just snuck up on me. It seemed like it should be a big deal, so I thought I'd throw a sort of birthday party for the old blog. After all, I do it for the kids, right? And the blog is a bit like a kid: needs constant attention, fun to be with but simultaneously leaves a person exhausted, a mammoth time investment, etc. So... welcome to the party - everyone's invited and maybe there'll be party favors at the end, even.

A warning before we start: this post contains some tongue-in-cheek content.

I've written posts in the past that have been somewhat facetious, only to find that some readers took them quite seriously and engaged me in earnest correspondence about them. I felt awful because these readers were so very earnest about something about which I was being so very flippant. So just in case the irony in this post escapes you, I thought I should include that disclaimer. This is also a VERY long post, incidentally. I considered breaking it up into a few, less epic posts but that would have made it look like a blog series. I generally take my blog serieses (see sidebar for some of them) seriously because I want them to be like curricula containing actual useful stuff. The content of this post, though, is going to be so tongue-in-cheek and full of hyperbole and rubbish in parts that I couldn't bestow upon it that same status. So one long post it is - with parts to be taken with a pinch of salt, okay? Consider yourself warned.

And now, let's party! I want to begin by talking about blogging. I've actually wanted to write about blogging for a while, after having been asked by quite a few people about it - you know, how to start a blog, how to find time in one's day to get online without neglecting the children, how to grow one's readership, how to open an etsy shop etc. So I started this post  -all those many months ago and let it sit on my dashboard as my thoughts distilled. There are many articles and blog posts on the internet on tips and other specific how-tos, so a person could surf for an hour or two and make their own notes. I thought it would be fun to instead write about how not to hate blogging, so you can keep doing it and not burn out (unless you want to :) - see later part of post). Note that this is not a "This Is How To Do It" tutorial; rather, it's an essay on bewilderment and the occasional flashes of illumination that could well have been titled "How I Got Here After Wandering Five Years In The Wilderness".

So.... let's begin with a friendly interrogation, like.

Some questions:
Why do you want a blog?

Actually, you only need that one question. Your motivation for starting your blog will be your motivation to keep going at it.

I can think of several of many reasons for having a blog:
  • You want to share, with the entire, boundary-less internet, private stuff about your family.
  • You want to share, with the entire, boundary-less internet, something in which you believe strongly (like your faith, or your favorite photography processes).
  • You want to share, with the entire, boundary-less internet, the things you make and do that you are proud of.
  • You want to make money.
  • You want to build a platform for launching something else: a shop, a book, a business of some kind.
  • You want it to channel people to your actual website, which is work-related, or commercial-profit related.
  • You have a lot of time on your hands and don't know what to do with it. You think blogging is a bit more fun than, say, joining a gym, so blogging it is.
  • Everyone else you know has a blog and you don't want to feel like the only one who doesn't. This is a stupid reason, incidentally, but it is real, so we must include it.
Let's dissect these!

1 Family Stuff
I have a family blog. It was my first blog and I started it on someone's suggestion that I post photos of our family so our other family members (the ones that don't actually live in our house but in faraway cities and foreign lands) get regular visual updates of our life. Even though very few people read it compared to the thousands that read ikatbag, the family blog remains, hands down, my favorite of the two blogs. I think it's because I know Mum and Dad are reading it and getting to see their grandchildren grow up even if they don't always get to hug them personally while that happens.
For that reason, there are no crafts on the family blog. Mum and Dad and my parents-in-law, who also read that blog, much prefer seeing pictures of their grandkids in action to seeing their grandkids posing stiffly in handmade outfits zoomed in on the pockets. Or -worse- some scrap of cardboard with dried glue stuck to it. Also, Mum and Dad were forced to live with my craft pursuits - and the resulting mess - for years when I was a child living under their roof. They've seen enough of that; they now want to see humans, thank you very much.

Some folks have a single blog that has posts on everything from family pictures to crafts to recipes to poetry to religious documents to guest posts from strangers to copied photos of entire living rooms and kitchens to product reviews. Many of them do this because one blog is all they have time for, so they include everything. That's totally cool (and smart).

2 Speaking Your Mind (and Heart)
Some people say passionate stuff on their blogs. They discuss politics. They quote Scripture and write sermons. They compose poetry and muse about life and death and everything in between. They share opinions on the best places on earth to visit, the best times of the year to plant turnips, the best countries from which to adopt children. Some of these blogs are gloriously delightful and some are plain depressing (to me, anyway). Some are so wonderfully written that you wish the authors had books to their names so you could buy them and keep reading. Some... not so much. Either way, they are the outpouring of real people's passions. At best, they are inspiring to a huge and appreciative audience; at worst, they are the self-healing journal of a wounded soul.

3 Showing Off Stuff
Ah, like this blog. ikatbag started because I attempted to share a few simple crafts (here, go and see!) the kids and I made, way back when the family blog first began. Then I was overcome by the urge to write tutorials. And, as I said in Point #1, having tutorials on the family blog and subjecting my family in Singapore to ridiculous photos of unrecognizeable bits of fabric when they so desperately wanted to see the faces of their grandkids, was just cruel. So I started Blog#2: The One On Which I Show Off.
ikatbag has come a long way since its inception. I am happy to say that I am still overcome by the urge to write tutorials. I am also happy to say that ikatbag is exactly the same kind of blog it was when it first began. Except maybe a bit neater and with a less blinding font.

4 Money and Free Stuff
Mmmm. Blogs are good for business. Blogs are a commercial organization's friendly face to a potential market. There are so many ways to make money from a blog e.g. ads, sponsored posts, product reviews and affiliated content - opportunities that involve other vendors sharing your blogging space. You can also sell things straight off your blog - artwork, sewing patterns, ebooks, for instance. Or you can use your blog as a storefront for another site, at which your merchandise is stocked, like etsy or ebay or other online stores. Whatever the case, the success of your online business venture is hugely dependent on your readership - the more readers you have, the more likely your shop will succeed, or the more often you will land product deals and get sponsors. This also means that you now have a responsibility to those sponsors and readers to ensure there's good stuff to be read on your blog - and that it's fresh and frequent. Some part of this obligation is external - e.g. you agree to publish x posts per week in order to secure a particular ad company's business. But some part of this obligation is also internal - and harder to quantify. This is the part that makes bloggers feel guilty about not posting regularly, or incompetent for not having any new craft to share, or insecure for losing their mojo. Or feeling compelled to invest in new fancy photographic equipment and sergers and tools to make their products look perfect-er on the blog. Because, after all, you're building a reputation by what people see on your blog, right? E.g. "If they see lousy thread tension or murky photos, they won't buy my stuff!" Can you tell I've been there?

I've followed quite a few blogs since I first discovered crafty blogland in 2008. I loved so many of them because the authors made incredibly creative things and shared stories of their kids crafting with them. So many of those same blogs are now just a jumble of ads and sponsored posts. Their content is now largely roundups of other people's crafts. Of course they have every right to do whatever they want with their blogs and I respect that. And, fortunately, some of them are well-laid-out so I can still find their blog content amidst the little sponsor buttons and announcements. But I also miss the way they were because the way they were was the reason I became their fan in the first place.

Back when I was starting out on my blogging adventure, I knew that I wanted a family blog that literally chronicled my family's day-to-day doings. I also knew exactly who my audience was - my family and friends in Singapore and my family-in-law here in Minnesota. So I wrote that blog for them and took the sort of photos I thought they would enjoy looking at. 

My craft blog, though, I wasn't so sure about. I only knew I wanted to write tutorials and that I hoped my girls would someday enjoy reading it and teaching themselves to sew and craft from my tutorials. But would anyone else someday read it? I hoped. And just in case that might happen, I thought I should try to be a bit like the other blogs that were around at the time. Based on what I saw, I distilled a sort of formula (I love formulae!) for craft blog success as I saw it.

Formula For Making Your Blog Like Everyone Else's:

1 Post photos of mugs of tea or coffee. Like this:
Accompany it with introspective prose about taking stock of life, new year's resolutions, or having a bad day.

2 Write with strange grammar rules e.g. Start sentences with And or So. Write as if you're speaking. In fact, write as if you are on Twitter and someone suddenly lifted the 140-character limit. Liberally sprinkle, in your text, the words "woot", "anyhoo", "unrelated" "excited" and "And". End your post with a short, punchy, supposedly-poignant phrase like, "And so did the azaleas." Unless you want more comments, in which case you should end with, "What about you?"

3 Have a DSLR and take moody shots using the 1/3 rule. Then increase the exposure using photoshop so that the photo is washed with light and only the eyes have any color. Also zoom in on topstitching (if present and if you've done a decent job with your needle).

4 If you have a child (a baby is even better), use him/her in all your photos as this ups the Awwww Factor and automatically makes any handmade garment look fabulous, irrespective of the fit or workmanship. 

5 Share photos of your raw materials - typically new fabric purchases - and hint at what you're going to be turning them into. Provided you shop at places everyone else shops at (I usually fail on this count) and your fabric is designer-grade (I fail again) and you remember the manufacturer's and designer's names (double fail), this builds solidarity with other fabric- and craft-minded readers. Also lament self-deprecatingly about the obscene amounts of fabric you already have and, therefore, how irredeemably undeserving you are of your newest acquisitions. Note that I have only noticed this among blogs authored by female people. Male blogging people don't usually take photos of their shopping loot and wax rhapsodic. Or share tips like, "So, check out this delicious two-by-four I got at Lowe's. I like the quality at Lowe's more than Home Depot's - the wood grain is nicer and doesn't crack in the rain and they accept 40% off coupons every third Wednesday in April."

6  Talk about how your tutorial/invention/epiphany solves some world problem. Example: "So, I've always been befuddled by garments that have sleeves. And they've always bugged me because why do we need sleeves?  Plus I heard that everyone else on the internet/world/solar system has had no end of trouble with sleeves. So one day, while cooking boa stroganoff in coconut husks over a charcoal fire, it hit me: from now on, I'll only sew dresses without sleeves! Or with sleeves that are detachable! And after using my tutorial and seeing how life-changing it is to be sleeveless, you will never wear sleeves again!"

7 On a regular basis, show your human side. Better yet - take a photo of your house before you picked up, or your kitchen sink 2 minutes after breakfast and before rushing the kids out the door to catch the bus, or your non-color-coordinated dungeon-lit sewing space.

But don't do this too often or it will look like you don't have anything else to post about. Get extra Humanity Points if you show photos of failed craft projects and ill-fitting garments in bad-choice fabrics. Remember not to photoshop any of these "human side" photos. They are, after all, about how "actually-incompetent you are most days". Don't ruin the effect by secretly showing off your photoediting skills.

8 Closely related to #7, occasionally allow yourself to experience blogging burnout (and blog about it). Burnout is not fun but it's possible to make it sound trendy. Preface it with something like, "Hey, everyone! I know I haven't been posting in 12 years! So much has happened in my life and I couldn't keep up with it all and blog, too. Anyway, Anyhoo, I'm taking a break for the next dozen years or so until I figure out what direction I want this blog to take." Then be all enigmatic by not taking an actual hiatus (that's way too radical) and lining up guest posts instead. For the next dozen years.

9 Show evidence of many different creative pursuits on your blog. Nobody wants to read a craft blog that's only about weaving three-sinnet square-knot macrame plant hangers. At least diversify to half-knots. Or four sinnets. Or, if you're really aiming high, include your grandmother's recipes, knitted socks, crocheted sweaters, tatted tablerunners, Mod-Podged lampshades, cardboard play kitchens, tie-dyed maxidresses, gumdrop door wreaths, Silhouette-cut elephant-shaped fabric bunting, reversible zippered pouches in designer fabric, raku pottery class samples, coppertooling wall murals, vintage evening gown sewalong entries, hand-embroidered bedroom drapes, wooden rocketship playhouses, fimo clay bead necklaces, the four classical symphonies you composed entirely on a hammer dulcimer and that heirloom quilt that took you only 11 years to finish. Oh, and also your children's handiwork - shaving foam sculptures of famous landmarks, paper-plate interpretations of all the world's continents, melted-crayon renderings of the NGC 2770 galaxy and curry-powder infused playdoh. This is a good way to make your readers feel that "there's something for everyone" so they keep coming back.

10 Drop names. Recount all your run-ins with famous craft celebrities at the supermarket, the rest house toilet and inaccessible-to-the-rest-of-us-stuck-at-home-craft-moms Bloggy/Sewing/Scrapbooking expos. Remember to mention how completely floored you were at how completely down-to-earth they were when all along you'd considered yourself completely unworthy of even groveling at their Walmart-bought-but-cunningly-Mod-Podged-to-Anthropologie-esque deliciousness strappy-sandaled feet.


I've believed them all. And tried to do at least some of them.
And while I feel quite ill just thinking about just how long I'd spinelessly conformed to The Formula, there is some truth to it. It works. After playing the game, though, I think I might have discovered one small piece of wisdom to share and it is this: there is a reason for why the formula works - we don't want to be too different from other people. We like well-trodden paths, yes, even those of us who like bucking trends. Or, rather, some of us prefer to safely buck trends by first slightly embracing said trends and then running away, screaming. And some of us don't want to stop the embracing. The world is made of both kinds (and every other sort in between). It's all good.

However, I knew that if I, personally, continued blindly following the formula, I was eventually going to hate blogging. Here, then, is my own cheatsheet. Feel free to adopt any of these tips. Or not.

How To Blog And Not Hate It

1  Don't care about what other people think of your blog. If you blog for comments, you're going to be disappointed on a regular basis, especially with the advent of Pinterest. People are probably going to pin you more often than they are going to talk to you! Also people will sometimes be offensive - and not always deliberately. And then, following a crest of well-wishes and warm fuzzies, you might hit The Trough Of Taken-For-Grantedness: where you get the feeling that people come to your blog just for the (free) projects. Don't take it personally. Roll your eyes if you must but remember that blogland is FAKE. It is a mirage. It is not real life the way your family and friends are real life. If you get a nasty (and usually anonymous) comment, say, "Well, phooey. I'm going to hug my children/parent/spouse/pet/pillow now. That's real-er than you!" Then eat chocolate. Or nutella.

2  Write whenever you want and about whatever you want. If you write about something you're passionate about, you'll naturally write well. Don't be like me  - trying to write about quilting or commercial patterns and then getting writer's block and translating that into "blog burnout". Epic idiocy.

3  Don't try too hard be funny. Some people are naturally funny and some people are naturally witty and some people are blessed to be both. And some are triply blessed to be funny, witty and empathic. They write things that crack us up without taking digs at the sensitive parts of other people. If that's your gift, yay for you because you make us laugh. If it isn't, and your words are weightier, tell your story anyway, because you make us think.

4  Don't get too hung up over increasing your readership. Let's be honest: readership is a big issue for bloggers because we all like to feel that we're not speaking into a void. But if you started your blog to chronicle your craft adventures, then you'll continue enjoying it whether it's being read by 7 or 700 followers. If, however, you intend to earn money (or freebies) through your blog, including using it as a platform to launch and market a book or a business, then readership becomes quite a bit more important. And there are sensible proactive steps you can take to nudge it along the direction you want. 

One very common way to increase readership is to literally solicit it. It's very to-the-point: you run a contest on your blog and, as an entry requirement, you say something like, "follow this blog for an added entry". Tying this with other social media sites (Facebook and Twitter, for example) spreads your name and fame even farther. If this sounds intimidating, know that more of us than you think are scared out of our pants at the thought of dipping our feet in social media. See this post for reassurance. 

Another way to increase readership is to Get Noticed. I prefer this method because I think it allows people to choose for themselves whether or not they truly want to be repeat visitors to my blog. It's a simple principle: if people know about my blog, they might visit; if they don't know about my blog, they will never visit. Whether they stay and become regular readers or followers will depend on whether they like what they find here but at least they came at all. Here are some practical ways to Get Noticed:
  • Post regularly. This seems to go against Tip #2: "Write whenever you want". Remember, you're reading this list because you no longer want to just blog for the sheer joy of it - you now need more readers because you've just launched your Toddler Dress Sewing Pattern Business and you want lots of buyers. Posting doesn't have to happen every day (heaven help us - as if we have nothing better to do with our lives). But not posting for six months and then popping back to say sorry is not going to bump up your readership in a hurry. People who discover you will want to know that they can get excited about coming back for something new every now and then. This is especially important in the beginning - those first few months to a year of getting your blog started are when you need to be seen frequently about town, so to speak.
  • Get seen on the internet. I remember happily doing my own thing when a couple of readers emailed me to (in no uncertain terms) order me to get featured on some of those round-up craft blogs. One of them actually wrote to the author of one of those round-up blogs and invited her to come visit me. That was one of the nicest bloggy things anyone had every done for me at the time and I still get all warm and fuzzy remembering it. So then I thickened my skin a bit and very hesitantly introduced myself to a couple of other round-up blogs, asking if they'd like to someday feature me. Most awkward thing ever, let me tell you - I was like, "who am I to try to promote myself?" Good news: this community of crafty bloggers is as nice as they say it is - nobody turned me down and everyone was incredibly receptive and helped put my name out there. It was just a start, but over time, more people became familiar with this blog and they started emailing me to ask if they could shout out about ikatbag. I was floored. I remember flagging all those email messages as if they were gold. I still occasionally - like when I've made something I'm especially proud of (and when I can squeeze in the time to remember to do it) - still write to a website or two to ask to be featured. And I still feel awkward! 
  • Get seen in print. This doesn't mean you have to publish a book. Not many of us have the time to do that AND be responsible for publicizing and marketing the blessed thing after it's published, either. Even without being your own author, you can be a contributor to no end of books, magazines and other publications. Sometimes you read on people's blogs about how they were "contacted by so-and-so to appear in their magazine" or you notice that the newest craft book features some blogger you've been following for the past year. Here's a secret: sometimes they get headhunted but often (especially before they're particularly well-known) they have to write in and submit projects for consideration like the rest of us craft plebians. We all have to start somewhere. 
  • Get seen on other people's blogs. Guest post on other people's blogs and let other people guest-post on yours, if you are so inclined. Or participate in sewalongs and craftalongs and cardboardalongs. Resist the urge to feel as if you're trying to infiltrate high-school cliques. People in crafty blogland are generally nicer (being older and no longer pubescent, I mean). I wish I had more time to organize blog parties because, practically speaking, they're excellent for networking. If you've ever wondered why I've hardly ever had guest posters on ikatbag, it's only because it's a lot of work to coordinate. Which translates to time. Which is a precious commodity in short supply when one has three small children who are constantly trying to sneak into one's cardboard stash. Bottomline: I wish I could initiate guestalongs but I know my limitations- they constantly smack me in the face, especially at 530pm when I need to cook dinner. 

5  Stick to your original motivation for blogging. If you're in it for the money (even if you didn't want to admit it initially), then plan to post good content that will satisfy sponsors and still set you apart from all the other blogs that are  also sponsored. If you're in it for the showing off, then do good work, try not to stay just a one-project wonder and take your time to create unique things in addition to jumping on the various craft bandwagons that will always be trundling through the internet.

6  Remember that there are many aspects of blogging that can be therapeutic at different times. I've often heard people say they blog to "stay sane while being a stay-home mom to small children". 
Um... how? 
Doesn't happen to me, at least not blogging per se (time-consuming, must check spelling, must take photos, must edit photos, most post photos, must think of fun title, must archive posts in pdf format, must moderate vituperative comments and filter off vulgar spam etc). People stay sane by doing something that's enjoyable and that recharges them. I think different people enjoy and get recharged by different aspects of blogging - some need the catharsis from talking about themselves, some like sharing the challenges and blessings of loving a child with special needs (and finding support in the process), some thrive on the sense of achievement in showing off the life-size fabric replica of the Eiffel Tower they constructed from calico yo-yos, some like the relief of seeing the checks and paypal payments from blog sponsors and shop patrons. I always know which parts of blogging keep me sane at different times of my life. Some times of the year, I am excited about sharing a new project or pattern because of the gratification of feedback and monetary returns for hard work. Other times of the year, the thought of creating anything new raises my blood pressure and I'd rather just post about my children's art projects or my newest bicultural face-off. And other times, I love writing a good, rigorous sewing curriculum much more than preparing a toy for sale in the shop. So when one part of blogging starts getting you down, it might be a good time to switch tracks to another aspect that's still enjoyable. 

See you back soon for Act 2 (because -bah - it's turning out to be a mini-series after all). Also Acts 3A and 3B (where I hand out party freebies). And now, over to you, since we're all partying together: what blogging tips can you share? 

Thursday, July 4, 2013

When The Busy Work Gets To Me

I sneak into the sewing room and make a small fabric person.

I am soooooooooo tired, friends. It's my own fault for staging a garage sale (translation = involuntary spring cleaning) in the middle of summer. There's sooooooooooooo much to do in order to get a sale going, and then sooooooooooooo much to do after, what with tying up loose ends and dealing with the unsold stuff. And then sooooooooooooooo much to catch up on that I'd put aside while garage saleing, like attention-needing small children and general family nutrition and swimming and sitting and tea-drinking and laundry and the filthy carpets and the tubs of 18month-24month baby clothes that have spilled their innards all over the basement (unfondly termed The Garage Sale Prep Room). But now that it's all over, of course I'm glad I did it. And of course I like how much junk isn't in the house anymore. And while it was happening, of course I swore I'd never again have another garage sale. Which of course I told myself the last time I had a garage sale. 

And then there's Independence Day (I am refusing to call it the 4th of July - surely it means more to the people of this country than that? I mean - in Singapore, we NEVER call our National Day "The 9th of August") - we're heading out of town to be with family at the lake. This means more packing but also lying in a blissful coma on a hammock with music in my ears. Now that I am looking forward to.

Two things before I sign out:

1 Thank you all for browsing and buying my stuff in the shop last weekend. They flew off the shelves faster than the stuff at our garage sale! They have all been mailed out so you should be getting your buckets in a couple more days (barring the holiday delays, I mean). I am so grateful for the support you guys give me whenever I stock the shop. And also for your ongoing support with my pdf pattern sales. It makes the work worth it!

2 ikatbag turned 5 years old sometime last week. Imagine that - I've been here talking to you from my drafting-and-cardboard soapbox for 5 years. When I wrote my first post, Kate was 2 months old. Just born. When I really had no business to be starting a new blog or sewing, really. Shoulda just sat and nuzzled her fuzzy head 24/7 because - guess what - those 5 years went by in a flash and she's big now and writing stories and learning to read and doing hip-hop moves on the deck that sap our energy just to watch. You guys have watched my children grow up and followed along as I stumbled through motherhood, nutella addictions and growing roots in this new culture that's now a second home to me. Has it been a fun journey? Have we left you breathless with exhaustion at our mania? I hope you've loved our company as much as I've loved yours.

So what's up with the small fabric person?

I just made her because I wanted to do something completely different from the busy work of the last couple of months. You know, something that wasn't cleaning, organizing or shopping for/sewing clothes for a wedding. Or drafting slopers. Or altering shirts. Or planning a party. Something without a deadline, in other words. Something that didn't tempt me to procrastinate.

Ironically, once I didn't have a deadline, I didn't procrastinate. This dolly was done in under 3 hours - from the moment my pencil touched the paper to sketch her 

to the moment I replaced the needle back in its pincushion after the last stitch. 

And are you wondering about her lips? It's called lipstick. The girls all draw their princess-figures with lipstick these days. Here's an example: Kate's "Cinderella".

Anyway, then the kids saw her and started interrogating me. 
"Did you make that new dolly?"
"What's it for?"
"Why did you make her?"
"Can I have her?"
"She has no clothes! When are you gonna make her clothes?"
"Is she for the shop?"

So I dollnapped her briefly to the sewing room and made a wearable muslin for a dress. Took only about an hour but, boy, it's awkward drafting a sloper for a dolly with indistinct shoulders! 

Obviously there are quite a few things I'd change if I made this doll again - her mouth clearly needs to be more delicate, her arms might do better curved upwards, her thighs a little skinnier to accentuate her cute shoes. And the dress! It's muslin-standard at best. That said, I thought it was, overall, not bad for a no-deadline project. It made me think of how incredibly efficient I'd be if I removed all deadlines from my life. Hmm. 

I'm off to crash now. 

Hope you had a happy Independence Day, friends-in-this-country!