Polka Dot Cottage

Morning Coffee with Blair Stocker

Posted July 14th, 2014 by

The Morning Coffee Interviews at Polka Dot Cottage

Welcome! It’s time for another chat with another lovely creative blogger. Say hello to Blair Stocker of Wise Craft!

New to Morning Coffee? Monday mornings we sit down with some of my favorite writers & creative people, and get to know a little bit about their blogs and why they do what they do.

Once in a while I also interview Polka Dot Cottage readers, so if you write a creative blog and would like to participate some future week, drop me a line and we’ll talk about it!

Ready for today’s interview? Let’s go :-)

Morning Coffee With Blair Stocker, at Polka Dot Cottage

Why Wise Craft?

Add Wise Craft to the list of blogs I have been visiting for many years. Blair has her hands in many media, most of which are the same ones that appeal to me. So naturally, I’ve stuck around. I had a great time participating in Blair’s Granny Square Sampler crochet-along a few years ago (although, shhhhh – my blanket isn’t finished yet!) and I often find myself sharing Wise Craft links or Blair’s photos in my Weekend Favorites.

There is a book now: Wise Craft: Turning Thrift Store Finds, Fabric Scraps, and Natural Objects Into Stuff You Love, which is full of the kind of great stuff that has made Blair’s blog so popular.

Q&A with Blair Stocker

It’s so lovely to have Blair with us this morning. Read on!

Morning Coffee With Blair Stocker, at Polka Dot Cottage

Welcome, Blair!  When and why did you start your blog?

I started blogging in 2005, when my kids were small and I was home all day with them. It kept me connected to my creative side, gave me a place to share my work (originally with family, mostly). Days were often a blur when I was chasing small ones around all day, and my blog was proof to myself that I was still, in fact, making all kinds of things. I loved the journal keeping aspect of it.

Has your blog evolved significantly since you began it, and if so, how?

My blog has evolved quite a bit, which is inevitable when you’ve been blogging as long as I have. I wrote a book, Wise Craft: Turning Thrift Store Finds, Fabrics Scraps, and Natural Objects into Stuff You Love, in 2014, and now I regularly speak with groups and teach classes about creatively reusing all kinds of materials. My kids are now 12 (almost 13) and 15, so they don’t necessarily want to be a regular part of my blog, which I completely get. I have more time now to focus on creating a handmade business out of this obsessive passion of hand making that I have. I still post a lot of projects, but these days I post less about family, although they still sneak in there on occasion!

It seems that Instagram has become the place I share the more up to the minute, day-to-day glimpses into my daily life and studio work. I love the immediacy of Instagram.

Morning Coffee With Blair Stocker, at Polka Dot Cottage

How does your blog fit in to your daily life?

I try to make a blog posting schedule, but only manage to stick to it sporadically. My blog is specifically for posting my own creative work (I don’t have ads or sponsored content) so I don’t feel pressure to post every single day, but I like to be consistent. Often during big creative spurts I will write several blog posts all at once in a day. Other times I will use sitting down and writing a blog post to get me motivated. But I don’t ever like to post without thinking about it, those posts are never good.

Is blogging something you can easily explain to your family and friends?

It’s never been easily described, but then I also tend to stumble over a good description of what it is I do, exactly, to anyone. My father lives 3,000 miles away from me and doesn’t own a computer, so I’m sure I’ve never tried to explain a blog to him, because he would have no context. My mother checks in often, but only gets really excited when she sees pictures of my kids :D

Morning Coffee With Blair Stocker, at Polka Dot Cottage

How important are reader comments to you?

Commenting used to be the single most important conversational tool to bloggers. Reader popularity meant lots of comments, which was always the goal, right? I think that has drastically changed. I turned commenting off on my blog when I moved it to its new platform. Not because I didn’t want to hear from readers, but because it never feels good to measure a blog post by the amount of comments. Plus, the back and forth I have with my readers tends to happen on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter, but not on the blog. I read lots of blogs, but rarely comment, its just too hard on my phone.

In what ways has blogging enhanced your life, if any?

Well, I would have never written a book if it hadn’t been for my blog. It became an only CV of sorts, to show what I was capable of doing. After years of blogging about and posting projects I’ve done, it became clear that I had an aesthetic that I’d never even stopped to consider. (“Wow, I like a particular shade of blue- ALOT!”). I have made friends and connections that will be a part of my life from now on. Friends I know I can count on, who support me (and vice versa), and some of them I may never meet in person. It’s strange to think about, but blogging has made the world delightfully smaller for me.

What’s next for you?

I will continue to produce more quilt patterns, teach, DIY our home and blog about it, and hopefully write more books!

Morning Coffee With Blair Stocker, at Polka Dot Cottage

Thank you, Blair, for taking the time to answer my questions and for allowing me to use your photos to illustrate our conversation. It’s been a pleasure!

Want more?  You can find Blair in the following places:

TWiP: Driving and Swimming

Posted July 12th, 2014 by

The Week in Pictures

Welcome to TWiP, aka This Week in Pictures.

This week, the boys and I have been out a lot. We took few short trips and a longer one, all of which has meant there’s been plenty of driving and plenty of swimming. Yep, it’s definitely summer!

(FYI, my Project 365 this year has changing monthly themes. July is “Summer” and I am using Tracey Clark’s daily photo prompts from her Picture Summer class.)

Saturday

Instagram: The best part of the magazine section as far as I’m concerned :-)

365: Summer 5/31 – Tall Drink of Water – (Translation: Capture the details that make a drink refreshing) Four years ago when I did this prompt, I took a picture of a blended coffee drink. Nowadays, though, I’m a convert to ice water. So refreshing :-)

Sunday

365: Summer 6/31 – Wide Open Spaces – (Translation: Take a picture of a vast landscape.) I was going to use by back yard, photographed from low on the ground, but I realized I did that exact same thing last time I did this project. So instead I chose the sky. I’m not entirely sure the sky qualifies as "landscape" technically, but it certainly qualifies as "vast!"

Monday

365: Summer 7/31 – So Subtle – (Translation: notice the understated colors of summer.) I guess there’s not much about a bright orange lily that is understated, but I like how there are subtle variations of color within each petal.

Tuesday

365: Summer 8/31 – Treasure Hunters – (Translation: take a picture of natural artifacts you’ve collected.) These days, when we pick things up off the sand, they don’t make it in the house. We have a perpetual collection of treasures still in the beach buckets in the back of the van.

Wednesday

Instagram: Yes. Yes it is. #lifeisgood

365: Summer 9/31 – The Shape of Things – (Translation: take a picture featuring a favorite shape). I am drawn to circles a lot.

Thursday

365: Summer 10/31 – Making Memories – (Translation: take a picture of a summer memory you want to look back on, and try to give it a dreamy feel in post-processing.) This morning we had our collaborative mp3 cd in hand, and set off on a little adventure. For processing, I used a photoshop action I found on deviantart by Jules1983, called Cinnamon. I’ve been playing with that one a lot over the last few days.

Instagram: Settling in for the night with a library book from home.

Friday

365: Summer 11/31 – Treat Yourself – (Translation: Do something special for yourself and capture it.) I took myself to my favorite used book store and came home with a couple of treasures from the crafty aisle.

Thanks for taking a peek at this week’s photos! If you want to see this stuff as it happens, please feel free to follow me on Flickr.

I may already have plans to blog about some of these things in greater detail over the coming week, but be sure to leave a comment if there’s something in particular you want to know about!

Weekend Favorites

Posted July 11th, 2014 by

Soft colors, fabric, flowers… these seem to be the themes of the week, if you look at my Flickr favorites. It’s interesting to me that when I compare the style of the photos that really grab me to the style of my own photography, it’s quite different.

I love to look at vintagey, washed-out, cross-processed, pale aqua kind of photos, but in my own images I favor realism.

The funny thing is that in theory, I would like my photography to look more like the vintagey photos that catch my eye. And yet, when I am sitting in Photoshop, looking at my unedited pictures, my first impulse is to improve it while still keeping it real.

Maybe it’s time to challenge myself to experiment with dreamier post-processing more often.

On Flickr

The mosaic below represents other people’s pictures that spoke to me this week. Be sure to click on the titles below the mosaic, if you want to know more about the image or the photographer behind it.

(follow me on flickr)

Weekend Favorites at Polka Dot Cottage

1. spring flowers baby quilt, 2. , 3. 183-365, 4. 06.26.2014, 5. Oscar’s Towing, 6. 27/6.2014 – ahh, summer, 7. Pretty Potent by Anna Maria Horner, 8. Tiger, Tiger handmade fabric, 9. bringing in the peonies, 10. Good Afternoon!, 11. sparkler heart, 12. Collar vintage verde-naranja, 13. 192/365 treat yourself, 14. 205/365: plenty, 15. “Never be afraid to sit awhile and think.”, 16. so fine, 17. his & her shoes., 18. “I’ve never been this far away from home”, 19. 203/365 Summer rain, 20. Picture Summer 2011 | Day Nineteen

Around the Web

I spend some time earlier in the week sharing my favorite crafty links through social media. And then I repeat them here on Fridays.

  • Rees self portrait – impressive millefiori from Adam Thomas Rees, via Polymer Clay Daily. Whoa. This giant cane is really super impressive. Cynthia shares all of the details.
  • How to dye yarn with Kool-Aid – a clever tutorial from FreshStitches. Ok, this is neat. Stacey shows you how to dye self-striping yarn using a method that gives you nice long stripes. The changes between color can be a bit abrupt, but I think that’s something easily adjusted with experimentation.
  • My DAY-to-DAY scheduling strategy to get things done – by Jena Coray, via Oh My! Handmade. I love this. And goodness knows, I need to do *something* differently if I want to reach my long-term goals! Going with the flow lately is not really working in that regard.
  • Fluorescent Pink Goes Metal – color-mixing with Syndee Holt, via Sculpey. I am not someone who is likely to have much fluorescent pink polymer in her stash (if any) but I am surprised by Syndee’s results combining it with bronze, gold, and silver. It’s enough to make me buy a pack or two.
  • still growing… – crochet blanket progress from a creative being. I love the colors Wink chose for her motif-based blanket, and in this post she shows how all of her little circles are growing. They look so lovely! I can’t wait to see more progress.
  • Spring Flowers Baby Quilt – a show-and-tell from house on hill road. Ooh, another lovely quilt from Erin, this time with triangles. The quilting is simple, but effective. Love it!

Have a happy Friday!

Book Review: Makery

Posted July 8th, 2014 by

Book Review: The Makery by Kate Smith, at Polka Dot Cottage
I hope you are prepared for a tiny avalanche of book reviews this summer. I have been receiving a veritable treasure trove of books recently! My goal is to share a book a week, or as time allows.

Up for review today? The charming Makery by Kate Smith!

As a rule, general craft books don’t speak to me. I prefer books that specialize in a particular subject, like an entire book on crochet garments, or polymer clay bracelets. That said, Makery completely drew me in.

Kate Smith is the founder of The Makery, which hosts craft workshops and sells fabrics and notions. If I am ever in Bath, England, The Makery is going to be one of my first stops. Or maybe my only stop. I could probably spend days there…

So, what’s in this book?

Let me show you a few of my favorite pages:

Book Review: The Makery by Kate Smith, at Polka Dot Cottage

Book Review: The Makery by Kate Smith, at Polka Dot Cottage

Book Review: The Makery by Kate Smith, at Polka Dot Cottage

Book Review: The Makery by Kate Smith, at Polka Dot Cottage

Book Review: The Makery by Kate Smith, at Polka Dot Cottage

Right off the bat, the Decopage Pendant (aka the first project in the book) hooked me. I’m adding dimensional Mod Podge to my shopping list ASAP.

You know that I’m a sucker for handwarmers and coffee cozies, both of which are represented here.

And the fabrics! Oh the wonderful fabrics she chooses to use on her sewing projects are to die for. I want to buy all of the fabrics and make all of the things.

There is more (so much more!) but I can’t show you everything, can I?

There are projects here made from yarn, from fabric, from paper, even from shrink plastic, and all of them share the same appealing aesthetic. Sometimes general craft books can feel a bit schizophrenic, but not Makery. The designs here are cohesive, even as they vary in medium.

I highly recommend Makery. You can find a copy at your favorite local book store or at Amazon.

(The usual disclaimers apply re: books received, reviews given, and links provided.)

Morning Coffee with Liz Smith

Posted July 7th, 2014 by

The Morning Coffee Interviews at Polka Dot Cottage

Welcome!  Is it warm where you are? Maybe during the summer I should be offering you some morning iced coffee? Well, whatever your poison, grab yourself a cup and have a seat. This morning we’re chatting with Liz Smith of Made in Lowell!

New to Morning Coffee? Monday mornings we sit down with some of my favorite writers & creative people, and get to know a little bit about their blogs and why they do what they do.

Once in a while I also interview Polka Dot Cottage readers, so if you write a creative blog and would like to participate some future week, drop me a line and we’ll talk about it!

Ready for today’s interview? Let’s go :-)

Morning Coffee with Liz Smith at Polka Dot Cottage

How I found Made in Lowell

Back when I started the Morning Coffee interviews, “how I found them” was a fairly easy blurb to write up. Now, though, so much time has passed, and many of the people I am interviewing have been on my radar (if not a major part of my social network) for some time. Who can even remember where it began anymore?

I have known today’s interviewee for several years. We’ve been each others’ Flickr contacts and Twitter friends since the early days, and we actually met in person briefly a few years ago when I was in the Cambridge area and she was doing a craft show there. Liz is a polymer clay and crochet artist who uses the colorful properties of both polymer and yarn to super effect. I have always found her aesthetic appealing, and her pieces are some of the first that I saw to combine the two media.

Q&A with Liz Smith

I’m thrilled to welcome Liz to Polka Dot Cottage this morning. Read on!

Morning Coffee with Liz Smith at Polka Dot Cottage

Welcome, Liz!  When and why did you start your blog?

I started my blog in February of 2007 primarily to promote my new business and Etsy shop. In that year I also started making arrangements to rent a studio at Western Avenue Studios a converted textile mill a mile from my home in Lowell, Massachusetts. I was finally going to try running my business full time, (I had always made and sold things on the side of my various jobs) and I started the blog as a journal to let folks follow along on my progress, to show that there was a real person behind Made in Lowell.

Has your blog evolved significantly since you began it, and if so, how?

Yes, my blog has gone through a few transformations. When it started I was showing a lot of products I had for sale. Then I chronicled getting a studio. Then I figured out that offering a free tutorial was a great way to get eyeballs to the blog so I did a bunch of those. I also ran some posts that I thought would be helpful to other makers like All I Know About Doing Craft Shows which is fairly outdated now, but still has some evergreen content.

When I went on the Martha Stewart show I blogged it afterwards so anyone else who might go on could know what to expect. Because as soon as I found out I was going to be on it, I immediately searched online for other folks’ experiences going on live TV with Martha and what I found was so helpful but sparse so I wanted to be a resource for that.

After an intense holiday craft show season I wrote a post on why handmade items cost what they do and why that’s OK. The post went totally viral which was NUTS! I really enjoyed that. It was like winning a jackpot on a slot machine, very intense and fun and a bit disorienting.

Then for two years I had a local access interview TV show called Makers in Business (links available in my blog sidebar) which I also offered as a podcast. My blog became the primary location for gathering all the interview information (links, photos) for people who were interested in the show.

Now Makers in Business is over and I’m back to sporadic posts about things I think will interest both my customers and other sellers.

Morning Coffee with Liz Smith at Polka Dot Cottage

How does your blog fit in to your daily life?

I totally fly by the seat of my pants and blog whenever the mood strikes! I will admit to wishing I blogged more frequently. I don’t feel any pressure at all to be a consistent content provider, but I do enjoy writing and sharing and there are people who like reading my blog so I’d like to work on posting more often.

Is blogging something you can easily explain to your family and friends?

Oh sure! All my friends are makers who probably have blogs of their own. My families, mine and my husband’s, are all writers! I’ve never had to explain blogging to anyone.

Morning Coffee with Liz Smith at Polka Dot Cottage

How important are reader comments to you?

I know that it’s been discovered that social media has recently sort of killed blog comments and from what I’ve seen that’s totally true. I always appreciate blog comments but I understand they are a dying trend right now. What can ya do? If someone comments I always try to take the time to reply. But even more than comments, I really appreciate people sharing my links.

In what ways has blogging enhanced your life, if any?

Blogging has connected me more deeply to a community of makers and given me a platform to communicate in long-form the things I can’t convey through Etsy listings, Flickr/Instagram pictures, or even Twitter alone. Blogging has been a journal and a conversation. I feel totally free to post whatever content I wish with no pressure to follow anyone else’s rules. I feel helpful there, like a valuable resource to the maker community.

Morning Coffee with Liz Smith at Polka Dot Cottage

Thank you, Liz, for taking the time to answer my questions and for allowing me to use your photos to illustrate our conversation. It’s been a pleasure!

Want more?  You can find Liz in the following places:

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