Thursday, February 28, 2013

I thought I'd share this custom red & black colourway that I finished yesterday.  Normally I'm more of a fan of more subdued colours, but I really like how this turned out.  I hope my customer likes it as much as I do!

This morning is very snowy outside.  I'm starting to really get tired of the winter.  My parents and some extended family are vacationing in the Dominican this week.   It's nice to see my parents finally take some time for themselves... though I am experiencing a twinge of jealousy today.  I walked the dog this morning, and though the snowy trees were beautiful, my feet got soaked, my hands are cold, my lips are chapped... I just want sun, warmth, flowers...

I feel like the winter is affecting me more this year than any other year.  My business has also been especially busy over the last few months, which is incredibly exciting, but I'm starting to feel like I'm losing my stamina. Whereas a month ago, I could easily finish an order or two a day, I'm struggling my way through one.  Running a business is a lot of work! So many things I never really thought of.  Filing, taxes, shipping, brokerage, customs, bills, sourcing, problem solving... I'm just at the point right now where I need to plow through and get on top of things so I can put my mind at ease!


Sunday, February 24, 2013

Today is my wonderful husband's birthday.  Last night, I surprised him with an indoor picnic, complete with ambient outdoor sounds!  We had hot dogs, strawberry shortcake & champagne (I had too much I and have been snoozing all day). 

It was a lot of fun, made me wish for summer.  But also let me make up for the fact that I spent this past summer working, and didn't make much time for things that are really important... spending time doing the things we love together, like camping, hiking, just snuggling on the couch. 

Indoor Birthday Picnic

Dan and I have been together for Four Years now, a year and a half of those married, and the first year of that, long distance.  I met Dan for the first time over 10 years ago.  I was a nerdy 16 year old.  Dan was a super hunky older guy.  

Some things never change... Dan is still a total hunk and I am still a total dweeb.  I sometimes catch myself rattling on about some nerdy topic, and he just hangs on my every word.  It truly amazes me, still to this day.

a much younger Dan in his infinite Coolness
It's kind of neat, marrying that guy that you had a total crush on in high school.  It's even neater, learning as an adult that that guy who seemed so infinitely cool, is really just as big of a dork as you are.   Never would I have pictured Dan's ideal night being spent on the couch, gaming-headset on, deep in battle with a notorious monster in Final Fantasy XI, defending Vana'diel.  Oh, I hope I made all the right references!

Me in a myriad of photo-props
I sometimes flip through old photos of us when we were younger, and even just a few years ago when we first started dating.  It's funny how your life can end up, and how people and even the most minor of events can change the progression of your life.   It's just impossible to predict.

Scrawny 19 year old me (Legal drinking age in Canada is 19!) with Hunky Dan. Who woulda thought we'd end up married.
I am really glad that Dan and I ran into each other again four years ago. I'm glad we were both at rough points in our lives.  I'm glad for our history, it's made us both strong people.  I'm really glad we both stuck it through the rough points.

I had thought of Dan quite a bit throughout the years.  It was surprising to learn that he had thought about me too. It was funny, the night we "re-met." I remember asking him if he remembered me, and he just smiled and said "of course." 

I think this photo reflects Dan's true character best

Something a little different

Friday, February 22, 2013

I just finished this set up... it is a little different, but in some ways similar, to what I've done before.

I guess the part that is the most different is this collar harness.  It's a very simple style, but features something a little different from your average cage bra/harness that seems so popular right now: it's got a thick satin collar with a large black satin bow! I actually am absolutely in love with how it turned out.  I think the bow really adds some femininity to the piece.

The harness is worn over a short black, bias cut slip that has coordinating bows on the shoulders.

My original drawing for the set

The whole set is for a customer who was putting together a black cat themed outfit.  She provided me with half a dozen images of what she was looking for and I made an amalgamation of the items.  We changed the garters to something more simple from my original illustration, but the rest turned out pretty spot on!

It's got mini bloomers (yes! I used that '70's PJ Pattern!),  and a set of ruffled lace & satin garters to go with it.  The slip is just long enough to let the bloomers peek out below.

This was a really fun set to sew. The harness was my favourite part.  Having never sewn one before, it was fun to figure out.  I made the collar close with a bra-closure so it is adjustable.  I am pretty happy with how it turned out!    

When your hobby becomes your job

Good Morning and Happy Friday.  You might have noticed I've been blogging a little more than I had been... It's all in an effort to make time for the things I enjoy, like writing.

I'm discovering that making your hobby your job is a real challenge. Rewarding, but challenging!   It's really hard to tell yourself to stop.  And when you do stop, what do you do to relax? I still enjoy sewing for fun, but at the end of a day of sewing orders, or if I give myself a Sunday off, I often feel at odds.  First, I feel guilty because my to-do list is a mile long and growing, and second... I'm not sure what to do with myself when I am not sewing. Sewing was the thing I did for fun... now I do it for hours upon hours every day, it's not exactly the thing I want to do to unwind.  I find that even when I stop for the day, I get on pinterest and browse lingerie boards, I get on Etsy and mess around with my shop or the teams I participate in.  It is incredibly hard to turn everything off.   The workload of running your own business is challenging, and trying to figure out things like shipping brokerage, import numbers, accounting, etc. on top of your day to day duties can be hard, but the thing I am struggling most with the most is having time "off."

I just have so many things I want to do! I really want to give my blog an overhaul, I need to get ontop of in my inventory... and tax time is upon us! I am quickly learning that one simply cannot do everything themselves.  My best friend, Abbey, has been helping me with editing my images which has been a major help, and Dan has been helping me when he can with shipping which is one of those things that, I don't know why, feels like such a pain to do, so I am very grateful for the help.

Come Summer Time, I will feel better when I can get outdoors, play in the garden, go to the beach... This winter is really starting to drag me down.  We've gotten so much snow this year, it's hard to get around.  It's cold, it's dark... I'm just absolutely craving warmth and sunshine. And a little vacation time...   I am turning 30 this summer and am planning a week-long camping getaway... I am eagerly anticipating it, July can't come soon enough!

I've been working on lots of custom orders lately.  This is one for a customer who wanted something for daily wear that was pretty, yet subtle. I used a light weight ivory tencel overlaid with champagne lace.  The fabric is super soft, totally the type of thing I would like for myself!

Vintage Butterick 5744

Thursday, February 21, 2013

I love Pajama's... I have a nightly routine (well, nearly nightly) of having a relaxing bubble bath then slipping into some PJ's and snoozing on the couch while watching some cheesy UFO documentary... Snoozing on the couch in my PJ's is one of the best things in the world...

I bought this pattern on Ebay a month ago.  It reminded me of the Pajamas I used to wear as a kid, so light and comfy...

Yesterday was largely devoted to cutting out orders, so I snuck this in for myself.  It was so quick to sew! I'm totally addicted, I need to make more, and the bottoms are so, so, so comfy.  The fabric I used was this navy jersey I found in the clearance section of my local fabric store for $3 a meter.  It is light and silky soft.  I'm wearing my pajamas right now and I'm dreading getting out of them.

I don't know what it is, I just love 1970's styles.  They are so loose and flowing and flattering. The top turned out so cute, I'd almost wear it with a pair of jeans.

Because the pattern had a squared off neckline I had to face it with something to keep those sharp corners, so I lined the yoke in sheer white mesh so that you still get the lace effect, and the sharp corners.  I guess I could have bound it with bias, but that sounds like a lot of work...  I left the little flutter ruffles un-finished along the edge.  These are definitely the cutest pajamas I own...

How to ensure terrible customer service...

Monday, February 18, 2013

The town I am in is growing very quickly.  We recently got a new University, the college is expanding, and lots of new retail chains are coming to our little town.  I am not entirely anti-big-box stores, they have their place, but like most people, I have concerns of them running the little businesses that really make our community thrive out of town.

I also have some concerns about how absolutely ridiculously bad the customer service is.  As someone who has worked in retail, as someone who operates a business, and as someone who shops, I think I have some level of expertise in the matter.  I apologize in advance because this is a bit of a rant...

I've come up with a few tips on how business can provide utterly horrible customer service.

1. Pay your employees as little as legally possible.  Not only will they be stressed about making ends meet with every pay cheque, they will feel belittled and undervalued! A great way to put an employee in a positive mindset.

2. Provide little to no customer service training.  I had kind of an unusual experience at a check out at a big box craft store recently. I walked up to the cashier, who scanned my two items, then stared blankly at me for a few moments until she blurted, "How are you paying?". I was a little surprised because she never told me how much it was so I asked, "Aren't you supposed to tell me how much the total comes to?" to which she replied in a rather unpleasant "You can clearly read it for yourself on the screen."  Cashing out is such a simple thing but it it leaves you with your final memory of that experience, and in this case it was just a bizarre one...

3. Provide no product training or store operations training.  It is almost useless to ask an employee at a department store for advice as to which coffee maker is the best for your money, or to ask an employee at a clothing store if they will be getting any more of a certain blouse.  They don't know.  They aren't usually even given that information.  There is a fabric store here in town that exemplifies this... I have worked for this chain in the stores and in their design department so I am somewhat familiar with how it runs.  I was in there recently looking for a specific item that I knew was a re-orderable item. I brought up a different colourway of the item and asked if they had more in the back in the colour I wanted, or if they knew if they would be receiving a shipment soon.  The answer I got, "We don't have any. We just get it when we get it."  Uh... THANKS! Totally unhelpful, and totally wrong.  I searched and found more on another shelf, and I knew it was a re-stockable item.  It was frustrated because either a) the employee just didn't care to check or b) she wasn't given the information about what items they can get more of and what items they can't.

4. Make your employees work long hours and holidays.  I used to work at very popular clothing store in a large mall in Toronto.  This mall was open every day except for Christmas day.  That meant you pretty much had a good chance of working nearly every stat day. I figured working in retail I'd work some crappy hours, but missing out on family events all the time to stock shelves and peddle cheap clothing can really get to you. Sure you get time and a half, but when you're making minimum wage it doesn't really account for much. Today is family day, which is a statutory holiday on Ontario, and yet so many stores are open.  Why does Walmart need to be open on a day that is supposed to be spent with your family?

5. Outsource everything! Remember that problem I had with Canada Post? Well, it's resolved and they refunded me my money! Happy ending! However, it was really, really difficult to get to the right person who could give me information about my packages. I eventually found out that I dropped off the missing packages at a "franchised" post office location, which caused problems because the call center cannot communicate directly with the franchise locations.  UGH! It makes is nearly impossible for anyone to help you.  So, unless you are a total pain in the butt customer like me and do all the leg work yourself, it is really hard to get things resolved!

6. Have 12 Cash Registers, but only have 2 operating.  This is a grocery store pet peeve.  I hate grocery shopping to begin with.  It angers me to no end when I see 12 lanes, but only 2 cashiers working, with line ups a mile-long at each.  That's 10 more people who could be working, and I could get half an hour of my life back.

I can't just blame employees for bad customer service, I know that it is a hard job that rarely gets any thanks.  I absolutely believe much of the bad customer service that is out there today trickles down from the top.  You pay your employee crap, you don't train them properly, you're going to provide a crap experience.  Everyone wants to do the best job they can do, but it is hard when you are not given the tools to do so.  It seems so basic to me!

All of that aside, I have experienced some really great customer service lately too! The one that really sticks out in my mind is when I went with Dan to buy work boots.  We went into this little work-wear store downtown that sells coveralls and steel toe boots and stuff that construction workers wear.  It was small and packed and I wondered what the big deal about this store was, until the guy who was working there asked us if we needed any help.  Dan said he needed boots that had good grip for working on oil surfaces, were waterproof, steel toe and comfortable.  This guy knew everything, absolutely everything about boots! I wanted a pair of steel toed boots by the time he was done.  He was pleasant, friendly, knowledgeable .. he actually cared about what he was doing!!! He was excited about boots!!! Any time Dan needs anything for work, that is the place I'd go.

There are a few other shops downtown that I just love to be in.  The people are friendly, they care about what they do, they have pride in their shops and their job, and you can clearly see that by the service they provide.

I am not a perfect person or a perfect business owner, but I always take the approach that I should treat people the way I'd like to be treated as a customer. We all have our moments where our patience runs thin, our tone isn't as nice as it should be, or we forget to say 'Thank you' but as a whole, I feel like the service we receive is really sub-standard, and it's frustrating!  There are actually some places that I shop at that I dread going to because I feel lie I am wrecking the employees day by shopping there!

Have you received any horrible or amazingly awesome customer service lately?  Do you think there is any going back to the days of good customer service?

Almost done!

Saturday, February 16, 2013

My corset is almost done! I hammered the grommets this afternoon and finally was able to give it a try.  It is actually a very comfortable corset!  I need to get some proper lacing, and lace it properly so that it ties at the waist, but for now, the ribbon will do!  I really like the curve it gives to the back and sides of the waist.

Back View

I am still waiting for my garter clips to arrive (thanks to UPS, they won't be here until next Wednesday! Oh the agony!).  It will have two straps at the center front and two at the side. 

Curvy Waist!
 I cut and sewed a seafoam satin version last weekend.  I need to finish stitching the bone casings, cut and tip all of the bones, bind the edges and finish the bias binding.  It looks really pretty in satin, less sweet & more sophisticated.

Close Up!

Go away winter!

Friday, February 15, 2013

How was everyone's Valentine's Day? Mine was actually really nice...

I normally am not much into Valentine's Day.  I like flowers and all, but it seems so overdone.

Dan ended up having the day off, so we did some running around in the morning, and other un-romantic things like renewing drivers licences, etc.  When we got home he presented me with a list of things he would do for me, including cook me dinner, be my personal assistant for the day, give me a backrub, take me to an antique store... all the things I always want him to do but feel a little guilty asking.  So I put him to work! He cut out my Thank You tags, stamped my wash instruction tags, helped me preparing shipping labels, cooked me spaghetti, and gave me a desperately needed back rub (any other sewists get aching backs?).  It was the perfect Valentines Day.  I just love little gestures like that.  I have a good husband.

This morning I have been working on listing more new items, including this ruffle set:

Clio Ruffle Set

Clio Ruffle Set

Something you might not know about me...  Before studying fashion design, I spent some time in University studying Classical History.  Yep, classics - the only thing more impractical than fashion! I joke, I am grateful to have an understanding of Latin, and classical art and mythology are very inspiring to me... So, you'll see the names of nymphs, goddesses, muses, and other classical deities popping up in my new collection.  It was an excuse to do a little research and reading :)  Indulge me, are there any other Classics Geeks out there?

Stilbe Cotton Bra and Panties Set

Stilbe Cotton Bra & Panties Set

Valentine's Day Sale

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Happy Valentine's Day! Hope everyone's day is off to a good start. 

I am offering FREE SHIPPING today! Use coupon code BEMINE13 at checkout to receive Free Shipping on your order! Click here to visit the shop.

Lily Bra & Panties Set

Ohhh Lulu pour chien?

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

If you are familiar with pugs, or similar breeds, you'll know they kind of have a weird shape... They have these big wide chests and shoulders, necks that are wider than their heads, and a healthy pug should have a tapered waist.  Oliver is a pretty fit boy, though he has gained a little weight this winter... Oliver has also always had a hair-less tummy, so he gets pretty cold pretty quickly in the winter!

My beautiful rendering of the shape of a pug

This year Oliver has discovered how much fun playing in the snow can be... it only took him 5 years to figure it out!  His favourite thing to do is to push his toy into the snow then dig it back out again! Doesn't that sound fun?!  Unlike the last few years, we have actually gotten a lot of snow this winter! We have carved out some little paths for Oliver in the backyard, otherwise he'd be swimming through it!

Dig, dig, dig...

So, I thought it was probably a good idea to finally get a coat.  Oliver actually has a whole wardrobe full of coats that don't quite fit.  If they fit his chest, they are way too long.  If they are the right length, it won't fit around his chest. Some are too tight in the neck, others dig into his front legs...  

Yesterday I decided I would try my hand at making him something functional.  I wanted a coat with a waterproof belly for when he jumps in the snow (or when his chest drags in the snow!), something that would be easy to wipe down when it got dirty in slushy conditions, and something that would keep the little guy warm. I had an old simplicity pattern for a dog sweater that I used for the general shape, some red PVC left over from my goth days, cotton quilt batting, grey jersey, and grey flannel.  I made the belly part out a layer of PVC so that it would be waterproof, then interlined it with cotton batting for warmth, and lined it with a layer of jersey.  I added jersey strips to the sides so that it would stretch, and made the back portion out of two layers of flannel.  I added elastic around the "waist", arms and neck so that it would pull in snug over my dogs rather voluptuous curves.  Of course, I had to add a little applique and some quilting in my attempt to make it "pretty."

I am proud to say that this is the first coat that Oliver will happily wear! 

So, it's maybe not the most stylish coat in the world, but it's functional! It keeps his bald belly warm and protected against the icy-snow. 

Spring Has Sprung at Ohhh Lulu

 I am literally squealing with delight this morning.  One of the best things about my job is the amazing, talented people I get to work with.  I was contacted by Caitlin Morey a few months ago about doing some photography work for me.  When I browsed through her facebook page I felt like it was a match made in heaven.

I nearly fell off my seat when I saw the first few photos from her shoot.  The settings are just beautiful, and everything feels so romantic and airy.  I love love love it! I am very excited to be able to share these with you, as well as just a few of the new pieces I have listed in my shop this morning.

Luna Bra & Panties Set
Seafoam Coordiantes
 I really focused on making pieces that are easy to mix and match - which is something that I also did with my last collection but I think I did a better job of this time.  Unlike last spring, It took me a little while to get into the groove of things.  I am still adjusting to this full-time-self-employment thing, juggling a pretty hefty workload (thank you!), and life... sometimes it's hard to get into that creative mindset, but once I got it, it came on with full force and I have so so so many new things to come.

Another thing I wanted to add are more of my "3 for" deals, so I'm going to be adding lots of new Cheeky Panties, Bikini Cut Panties, and a few High Waist Panties.  My personal preference is for lower waist panties, so you often will find fewer High Waist Panties in the shop.

This floral set is one of my favourites.  I just adore the colours and the print.

Flora Bra & Panties Set 

Pink Mix and Match Coordinates - just a few!

'Lily' Bra & Panties Set

Something you're gonna love...

Monday, February 11, 2013

If you haven't already heard the news, Madalynne has released her first pattern! And it's an adorable pair of undies.  The best part? She is offering it for free!! So head on over to her blog to and get sewing!

Madalynne's Amerson Undies

So Fun..

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Wow... I totally forgot how much I LOVE making corsets. I drafted and sewed this little little cincher yesterday. 

 I was inspired by the shape of early 1900's corsets, with the curved seams and flat front.  When you look at a close up of this style of corset, it has s-shaped seams, but the bones run up and down, not following the seam lines.  This was a little different from the standard princess-seam corsets I had sewn before.

I only used a total of 16 bones in my corset, and it is made of just 5 panels, but it has quite a curvy shape.  

I did a few other things differently.  I used flat felled seams on the front curved seams.  I then placed bone casings vertically  intersecting some of the curved seams.  I flat lined the whole piece in cotton twill.  I did not add a waist tape to this one (I didn't have any!), which I will put in my next one.

All that's left to do is add 4 wide garter straps, and possibly some lace!

Taking it easy...

Friday, February 8, 2013

This week has been very stressful - a true test of my business skills!

First, my sewing machine died in the midst of a rush order.  I was lucky to remedy that the same day with a new machine.  I was a little sad to have to spend the money, but happy to have another machine.  I got a call from the Sewing Machine Shop last night letting me know that the sewing machine I purchased would be going on sale next week, and they would refund me a good portion of what I spent! Talk about amazing customer service!  So, that was a happy end to that story.  Also, I really like the machine!

I had some issues with Canada Post this week.  I had two rush orders last week that I mailed on Wednesday.  I purchased tracking for both, printed my shipping labels at home as I normally do, and dropped them off at the Post Office... Well, I guess they never got scanned in, so the tracking was never initiated  and I received an email from one of my customers on Monday asking about the status of her item. I nearly had a heart attack when I checked the tracking.  Canada Post was rather unhelpful, I got different information from everyone I spoke to.  I wound up remaking one of the orders yesterday morning and sending it Express, but sadly one of the orders was just to late to get out...  What a bummer! So, that was stressful and put me a little bit behind.  I spent nearly an entire afternoon trying to sort it out.

Also, as I had mentioned a while ago, my old day job is in desperate need of some office help so I have been going in for about 5 hours a week for the last three weeks.  The business I worked for was very small, kinda like my own, so I felt bad that she was in a bind and wanted to help out where I could... So that has kept me busy.

I had a bit of a "I'm tired and stressed" melt down yesterday so I am trying to take it easy to day.  Alleviate some of the stress.  Everything this week has been a rush! I skipped my yoga class on Monday and yet my body still feels like I had an awesome workout!

On the positive note, I was able to come through for two customers, despite some unforeseen set backs.  The customer I couldn't come through for was understanding, and I hope to work with her in the future! In the end, I think I provided some pretty good customer service, which is something that is really important for me personally and for my business.  Treat others the way you would like to be treated... it's a good motto to live by.

On another positive note, I got an awesome new custom built sewing desk! For Christmas, Dan painted portraits of my cousins kids for her in-laws.  Instead of paying us, we asked that we do some kind of a trade of skills... I have to admit, I really am the one who benefited from the deal, which was a little unfair to Dan!  But happy wife = happy life, right?

Anyway, my cousins husband is an amazingly creative carpenter.  We talked about the basic things I needed in a desk: L-Shaped, with some compartments for scissors etc.  He added dowels to hang fabric, and garments, compartments on the sides for papers and bits and bobs, and even inlaid decorative trim around the edges! I just absolutely love it!

I haven't decided whether I will paint it, stain it, of just leave it natural.  Either way, I absolutely love it.  Oliver thinks it smells great and likes walking through my hanging samples.

I am finally getting a system that really works.  I have a designated cutting area, a sewing area that is functional, my supplies are organized, I have bins with elastics and threads at an arms length so I never have to go looking.  My next goal is to create an inventory list so I don't have to scramble to remember where I bought a specific trim last time, and to see how much stock I really go through...

This morning I am feeling very content.  I managed to wash my hair for a 2nd time this week, which is a major feat for me! I'm going to spend the morning editing some photos, snuggling with Oliver, and preparing a sample sale, then sit at my machine for the afternoon...

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