St. Patrick’s Day Craziness

I probably should have guessed this would happen, St. Patrick’s Day preparation started and I completely abandoned my blog! In my defense-Damn was I busy!

Last year I made our school new performance skirts, well this year it was time to make the matching tops. You might recall that last year I made almost 30 skirts and completed two solo dresses-in two weeks. Crazy, right? I promised that there was no way that would happen again.

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Yeah yeah yeah…

With one thing and another it was suddenly the end of February and I had *Drum Roll* OVER FORTY PIECES TO SEW. And, just to be perverse, I once again had exactly two weeks to make them all. Well played universe. On top of the sewing, this year I was also in charge of making the matching headbands. Yes, thankfully headbands are a good deal easier… but I had around 20 to make.

 The new costume tops were to premier on March 11th, 8:00 Pm.

I finished sewing March 11th, 3:00 Pm.  A whole five hours to spare!

In the end I sewed 45 costume pieces (Tops, boys’ vests, and more of the skirts from last year) and made 20-25 headbands, I forget exactly. There were several days were a sewed for 15 hours…Whew!

The tops were a collaboration between myself and a local Irish Dance Solo Dress maker, LinDesigns of Florida. She did the embroidery and created the shirts. But enough talking, here are the pictures!

 

The front panels fresh from the embroiderer.

Embroidered with the Aranmore 'A'.

Embroidered with the Aranmore ‘A’.

The very first show to use the entire costume!

Boynton Blarney Bash, 2016

Boynton Blarney Bash, 2016

And from the parades!

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Photo credit to Melissa Price of Priceless Photography.

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My best friend and I ready to dance through the parade! Photo credit to Melissa Price of Priceless Photography.

 

In one weekend, my work danced in three parades and multiple festivals and then danced through St. patrick’s day. I know I like to complain about the work, but honestly, it’s worth every moment of it to see my hard work on stage and hear the dancers tell me how much they like it. I feel so lucky to be able to both dance and sew for my amazing school!

Hope everyone else had a wonderful St. Patrick’s Day season!

Let’s Wrap It Up!

The end of the year all ready?! It must be, WordPress sent me an end of the year look back at this blog. Apparently the majority of my readers live in Germany? That’s awesome! Hello and welcome!

So let’s take a look back at 2015!

I started an Etsy Shop!

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Yeah! Go me! Sure, I don’t have a street front shop and no lackey’s under my command, it’s just me and my business cards, and my sewing machine, but I’m so glad I finally took the step! https://www.etsy.com/shop/LadyShredsDesigns

I vended at my first show!

And I can’t wait to find more! I had my eye on a Pirate Festival that we always attend in Fort Pierce but the time crept past me and now it’s too late to find a cheap hotel. Oh well, now I know better, there’s always next year for that one and in the meantime I’m searching for other shows!

My first Solo Dress commission!

A happy dancer!

A happy dancer!

Yeah, I’m still excited about this!

This Thing!

Guess who found a tea bag and ate it on my bedroom floor?

Guess who found a tea bag and ate it on my bedroom floor?

"Nope ... not me ..."

“Nope … not me …”

we tried to explain to her that dogs who sleep under the tree get kicked out but she didn't fall for it.

we tried to explain to her that dogs who sleep under the tree get kicked out but she didn’t fall for it.

What didn’t get done:

Well, one of my main sewing goals this year was to recreate the dress in the painting The Promise, by Alan Maley

https://dancingseamstress.wordpress.com/2015/04/19/alan-maley-the-promise/

Sadly this didn’t happen, with everything else I was doing I couldn’t justify the money on the fabric. YET. I still very much want to recreate this dress. Hopefully I’ll do something worth rewarding myself for in 2016, and when that happens, it’s splurge time!

A Feis

I didn’t write about this, but I had sort of promised myself that I would finally compete in an Irish Dance competition. You have to understand, I’m not afraid to dance before a judge, (I love performing!!) my nerves are fairly cool. I simply don’t like the idea, or the way our competitions run. Mostly I don’t see the point or the waste of money. But lately I’ve been getting a little curious… How would I do?

Well, I wimped out but just… maybe… next year?

Finish one of my ongoing manuscripts.

One is still neck deep in rewriting and others are half done. Pirate fest preparation really threw me off consistent writing. However, I am happy to report that I’ve quite suddenly made leaps and bounds in my rewriting-yesterday I had the best writing day in months!

So what about next year? Well, I’m not the type to make resolutions for the new year, but there are certain things I hope to accomplish in 2016. If I push myself I can maybe start querying again by, or before, summer, who knows? Maybe this will be the year I find an agent, and from there …??? I intend to further explore selling on Etsy and will be expanding my shop shortly. I also have some dance themed ideas in the works that will mix my dancing and costuming!

With so many possibilities, 365 days suddenly seems quiet short! Happy New Year to everyone!

Any writing/sewing/dancing resolutions out there? I’d love to hear them!

Vending: What Worked and What Did Not and a Square Review

As I’ve already stated, this was my first show as a vendor. I knew I wasn’t going to get everything right the first time and that the learning experience was going to be the true gain (though financially I didn’t do so bad!).

So let’s go back and talk about what worked, what did not, and what I’ve learned for next time. Some are pretty obvious but I’ll mention them anyway.

What Did Not Work

Dance table:

For this show I swapped services with the festival. We performed for the festival and in return we had a booth for the weekend. I was even given permission to split the booth between Aranmore and my business, (seriously, I can’t thank the festival coordinators enough, they were fabulous AND patient with a newbie who didn’t know what she was doing!). Anyway, since it was the dance school that was the reason behind the free booth I put the dance table front and center.

Now, I knew ahead of time this would probably hurt my personal revenue, but again, I owed it to the school so I did not mind! So the first day I made sure the Dance table was out front to get the attention. I made sure to try and invite everyone in the tent to look at my stuff but a lot of people would just glance at the dance pictures and maybe sign up for the raffle then move on without taking a look at my stuff.

Since we were raffling a month of free dance classes we would try to engage the viewers and encourage them to sign up. We were in no way egregious and pushy but being asked about dance lessons definitely scared some people away! (Others, however, were very interested and happy to put their names down)

Making the booth accessible:

Since the dance table was out front, stretching 3/4 of the way across the entrance of the tent, I think it looked like you weren’t allowed to enter. We realized this early on but again, I’d committed to the dance table so we did our best the deal with this. We left as much room as possible for people to get in and made sure to politely invite everyone who came by to step in and take a look. This worked to some extent. The solution is pretty simple for next time. We’ll line the walls/edges of the tent with the tables instead of putting one across the front. (This was my original idea but the tent layouts made this difficult for this show). I would then put my clothing rack and dress forms out at the front of the tent to catch people’s eyes and lure them in.

Hanging costumes of the same fabric together:

I had lots of skirts, shirts, and blouses made of cotton gauze for sale. Most of these were in black or red with some purple. I hung all these garments together thinking that made sense. On reflection, people seemed to pass right over that whole section without looking and I think this is because you couldn’t tell what each piece was because they were all camouflaged against one another. It also looked visually uninteresting. Solution: separate these pieces and find a better way to display them.

Not enough sizes:

This one I knew would be a problem, months before the show. However, I had already spent quite a bit on materials, to make a dozen versions of each piece in various sizes was financially out of the question as I had no idea what people would like/look at. With a better idea, I will slowly rectify this issue and strive to have more diverse sizes in my stock.

What Worked

A center piece:

My biggest piece was a beautiful Jacquard and velvet pirate coat with buttons down the side and working pockets. I wanted it to be  displayed front and center but with the dance table and no dress form large enough to display it, it ended up hanging in the back. Well, guess what? It still sold! This was my biggest sale of the weekend and I was so excited I almost flew right out of my boots. Even when I didn’t have it displayed correctly it still caught attention. I know I’m not always going to sell the most expensive piece but I will always make sure to have a garment that is the focal point of my booth.

Having Sue out front:

I made sure to dress Sue up in nice pieces of my stock and set her out at the front of the tent. While nothing she wore sold she did earn a lot of attention. I saw a lot of people walk right past my table then stop and go back for a look at what Sue was wearing. I intend to have more forms for my next shows as I think being able to properly display the clothing (instead of just hangers) really makes a difference.

Accepting credit cards AND having a minimum:

We got the square credit card reader****read review below**** in preparation for this show. Without it I would have missed out on close to $200 in sales. Since the square system take a percentage out of each sale we set a credit card minimum of $20. This worked to our advantage as a few times someone wanted to buy a piece of jewelry with their card and on hearing we had a minimum they selected a second piece so that they could be over the minimum and use their card. No, I’m not trying to scam people into buying more, It’s just simply not worth accepting credit or debit cards for a tiny purchase when you lose part of it! Everyone understood and was more than happy to comply.

Having the small cheap items:

Most of my sales came from the smaller things, people are going to be more spontaneous and open to an impulse buy when its something affordable. That doesn’t mean price your wares too cheaply, just make sure you have some small stuff that anyone can afford.

I could list a dozen other small things, both good and bad (like the little brat who ran up and grabbed a big handful of jewelry, dropped it all in a pile then ran off… grr, I’d like to have chased him down and walloped him…) but I think I’ve covered the big things. Of course, having friends and family to help with the booth, and members of my dance school hanging around to support me was fantastic and added to the fun and success of the weekend. The next show I’m looking at is Jan/Feb so we’ll see what I can do better!

 

Square Credit Card Reader Review****

Ok, well first off, yeah, it worked. It accepted credit cards quickly (once I figured out how to use it) and I’d be poorer without it. However, I absolutely hate this service and recommend that people find a different way! I tried to sign up to get sent my free reader. I filled out the form correctly and it said it needed my who SS# to verify my identification. I was not thrilled at that, but typed it in.

It rejected me and told me to go check my information and try again. Checked everything over and tried again. Same thing. I searched for help, but the only help available was a useless little page that warned me to use my legal name. Duh, it’s not like I was trying to register under the sobriquet Fluffy McAwesomeness.

 At this point I stopped because I was afraid there was a minimum of times you could try (NOTE: It does not actually say if there is a certain number of times you can try, it just says ‘try again’. Getting desperate, I picked up a square from BestBuy hoping that maybe if I already had the square plugged into my phone I could somehow bypass this difficulty.

No such luck, rejected again and this time I got the notification I feared. I’d tried one time too many and was permanently locked out. Pissed, angry and frustrated with a useless square reader, I searched for some way to contact them for help. There is a phone number BUT you can only get access to it if you have a customer code, which you have to be signed up to receive. Bullshit.

At least I found a way to email them and shot off an email explaining my problem and begging for help. After a while I got a canned reply. “We wish we could help you but you have reached the maximum amount of tries. There is no way you can ever use this service to accept credit cards, you are permanently locked out, go screw yourself, best of luck.” (I paraphrased a little)

I have never seen such utter bull. Why was I rejected in the first place? Is it by some random draw? And how HOW can you be forever restricted from using it? How is there no way to get some help and have someone take a look at your account and hit an ‘activate’ button? Again, I was given NO warning that I had only three tries, each time I was Rejected it simply told me to ‘try again’.

After a lot of indecision and raging, we decided to have my mom try to get an account. We really did not want to do this as we did not want to support this fraudulent bit of trash at all. In the end we realized that with the show in less than a week we had no choice. It accepted her and after a long and frustrating hour of trying to get it sent up my square was set up under my mom’s name and bank account. Not ideal, all the money I made went into her account meaning we then had to transfer it but at least I could accept credit cards.

We intend to see if I can switch bank accounts so at least, while still under her name, the money will go into my account.

So, yes, it works, for now. And if the system likes you, you hopefully won’t have a problem with it. But I intend to search for a different way to accept cards as I don’t want to support this shitty system a day longer than I have to.

Haunted Pirate Fest 2015-Vending!

After months of prep my first show has come and gone! I’ve always enjoyed this festival as a patron and I enjoyed the experience of spending the weekend as a vendor. So how did it go? Financially better than I expected. I’m not rolling in money but since I secretly feared I wouldn’t make a cent I’m pretty happy! And again, first show, you can only expect so much. The learning experience was the true prize, I’m full of ideas for the next show. Most of all, I had fun. My family all pitched in to help, my best friend spent the weekend with me, my booth was right next to our friends’ booth, and I got to share the event with my dance school!

Fussing with the displays.

Fussing with the displays.

I rearranged the booth several times so that the dance table and my wares got equal exposure, and also to experiment with what worked best. I somehow forgot to get a picture of the dance table so you’ll just have to believe that it’s out front!

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Sue got to come out for the weekend, she seemed to enjoy the attention!

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Last time I hire a pirate to help with the booth …

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My main piece sold the first day!

008It’s badly displayed on a hanger, clearly some more forms are on my future shopping list.

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We performed Saturday evening, leaving my mom to watch the tent for me. We pulled together a pirate themed performance to suit the occasion:

Opening reel

Opening reel

My old Ren Fair dance costumes got an upgrade.

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The little girls were decked out as mermaids and danced to Pirates of the Caribbean 4’s Jolly Sailor Bold mixed with a light jig.

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And my friend and I were given permission to come up with a special pirate routine using a hornpipe, He’s A Pirate, and mixing in some sword fighting!

P1020091 P1020084 We had three practices to put this together and we had a few minor flubs on stage but we covered well enough and the crowd really got a kick out of it!

The second day of the festival my friend and I were asked on stage to dance with The Craic. My family and I have always enjoyed their high energy music and it was thrilling to be part of their last show of the day. Luckily we both had our hardshoes with us! Check out their facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/craicshow, they’re seriously the nicest people!

All in all a successful weekend!

Talk Like A Pirate Day and Other Things

I’ve been neglecting the blog. I apologize deeply for being a terrible blogger.

But it’s not because nothing has been happening! In my last post I mentioned my new business https://www.facebook.com/Lady-Shreds-Designs-461550964005686/timeline/ well since then I’ve landed my first show and made my first Etsy sale! Writers- don’t hate me but getting that email from Etsy was better than an agent requesting pages! (Because, let’s face it, you only have like 98% chance of that agent going for your work)

Next month I will be vending at the Boynton Beach Haunted Pirate Fest! This has been one of my favorite events since it’s inception. And it gets better, the wonderful people running the event agreed to have us dance there as well! Pirate fest-Irish dancing-my first show … yeah, I’m over the moon.

Anyway, with my first show in slightly more than a month, it’s time to crack that whip and sew, sew, sew. Seeing as today is National Talk Like a Pirate Day (I woke up to my parents having an ‘Arrrrrrgh’ off …) I threw together a quick photo shoot with a newly completed stock piece.

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I had a beach day planned in order to shoot some proper photos but the “Sunshine State”  *cough dripping sarcasm cough* didn’t feel like cooperating as we’ve had back to back rainy days. so I threw some old fabric and Halloween props together for an appropriately cheesy backdrop.

The coat/vest/bodice thing I’m wearing is actually a size or two to big for me, I relied on the belt to make it semi fit me. (This was deliberate, I’m selling it)

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Like this piece? Head over to https://www.etsy.com/shop/LadyShredsDesigns?ref=hdr_shop_menu for more pictures!

 

Aaaand I just realized exactly how bad a blogger I’ve been. Back in June our family acquired yet another member. Meet Molly!

Molly loves to dress up.

Molly loves to dress up.

She’s half dachshund, half miniature pinscher and all adorable. She came from a bad situation and has clearly been abused. Since we already had three dogs the last thing we needed was a fourth but… well… I mean, look at that face! She has become extremely devoted to me and fits into our household like she’s always been here. Apparently she’d been abandoned at the pound twice and was in danger of going back a third time (the boyfriend  didn’t want a dog or some nonsense ) but now she’s happy and has found her forever home.

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“Oh, hi, you wanted to take a picture of me, right?”

And she’s a terrible ham…

Me and my first mate.

Me and my first mate.

How To Make Your Ghillies Smaller.

Ghillies are what Irish Dancers wear for their soft shoe dances. It is pretty crucial that these shoes fit very tightly to show off the contour of your foot. If they are too loose than judges will not be able to see if your foot is pointed or arched.

     My American shoesize is usually 7 1/2, my first pair of soft shoes were Irish size 6 (equivalent to American size 8, I don’t remember how this happened). Way too big, my foot was lost inside them. So I went down a size for my next pair. Nope, still to big.

   Long story short I’ve owned several pairs of soft shoes and not one has fit me properly. I mean, yeah, I could just go order yet one more size down and that would probably do the trick, but I’m getting really tired of shelling out $45 minimum for shoes.  It is possible to temporarily shrink them with water and heat but by the end of your dance they’ve stretched back out.

So grab your seam ripper and a sturdy needle, I’m going to show you how to make your shoes smaller.

Please do not try this without parental approval! I don’t want to be responsible for children getting murdered by their parents because they cut up a hundred dollar pair of shoes!

The unaltered shoe heel.

The unaltered shoe heel.

First thing’s first, determine how much smaller you need your shoe to be. I could easily fit two fingers in the extra space in my shoe.

Look at all that room.

Look at all that room.

Here is the back of my shoe, a strip of leather was sewn over the main seam. Carefully pull the stitches out of this to reveal the big seam at the heel.

 

The back flap unstitched to reveal the main seam.

The back flap unstitched to reveal the main seam.

Pull those stitches out, opening up the back of your shoe. 

 

The heel unstitched and laid flat.

The heel unstitched and laid flat.

Here’s the point of no return, find a sharp pair of scissors and carefully cut down the back of the shoe, following the existing shape. Cut just a tiny bit at first, going slowly and testing the fit. Take your time here and don’t make it too small.

When you’ve cut it to where it needs to be it’s time to sew that seam back up. Use thick thread and don’t stint on stitches, this shoe takes a lot of abuse. You will probably want to find a thimble and a pair of pliers to help get the needle through the leather. It wasn’t actually difficult on my shoe, the leather is fairly thin and soft, but after a while my fingers become super sore from pushing the needle through. Seriously, they hurt as I type. Save yourself the pain and use thimble and pliers.

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Once you have sewn the heel closed (hopefully trying it on as you go) it’s time to put the supporting strip back in place. Secure it with some glue first so that it’s not moving as you try to sew it.

Sewing the back strip back into place. I made use of the holes that were already punched in the leather from the previous stitches.

Sewing the back strip back into place. I made use of the holes that were already punched in the leather from the previous stitches.

 Ta da!

The altered shoe.

The altered shoe.

I don’t have a picture of the shoe on me but I have since worn them to dance class and the alteration made all the difference. I *actually* have a point! They fit much better and feel nice and sturdy, I will keep an eye on my stitches though, ‘cuz it would be just my luck to have a stitch pop during a show 😉

 

My Night Fury Solo Dress

I’ve been working away on this one since the beginning of the year and I first hinted at it here: https://dancingseamstress.wordpress.com/2015/01/

This is the most elaborate dress I’ve done so far and definitely my favorite. Plenty of mistakes were made of course but I took what I learned from this dress and used it to make the black and purple dress (previous post) the best quality dress I’ve sewn yet.

But who cares, pictures!

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Close up of bodice detail.

Close up of bodice detail.

This was the most complicated embroidery I’ve done. My machine hasn’t forgiven me yet.

But this dress has a little surprise …

NIGHT FURY! GET DOWN!

NIGHT FURY! GET DOWN!

 Yes, I’m obsessed and I don’t care who knows it. Now Toothless can come to all my performances! The sash isn’t 100% done, I’m going to add a Celtic knot to the top where it attaches to my shoulder. That was one task too many to finish before St. Patrick’s day so for the moment it’s safety pinned.

The dress in action. Photo taken by Jennifer Saikley Miller-Raeth.

The dress in action. Photo taken by Jennifer Saikley Miller-Raeth.