And the big announcement is…

My knits have a new home!

I’ve thought for a while that all the items I knit or crochet don’t really fit into the “recycled and rescued” philosophy of my Etsy shop, so I decided to give them their own shop, Mary Marie Knits.

As Mike can tell you, I have a real passion for knitting, and I love experimenting with new designs that are both stylish and useful.

So please check it out when you get a chance. I have so many goodies just in time for fall and winter, and lots more to come.

Meet a reader: Jordyn of Jadewink

Jordyn and her mom, Lana, run their Etsy shop, Jadewink, together in Seattle. Lana does the embroidery while Jordyn makes the jewelry and pottery.

This character seems to help out, too.

Jordyn wrote a while back to say that she, too, had quit her job in the pursuit of independence and craftiness, and I have to give her an Internet high five for that.

Check out the details on this embroidery.

She also agreed to give away a few samples of Jadewink’s work to Failed Feminist readers, and that’s what I’m going to do!

I have here three lovely embroidered bookmarks just waiting to mark a page in your next book.

Each winner will also receive a copy of the newest issue of Readymade magazine, which has the most amazing spread on a fashionista’s apartment and recipes for homemade pickles this month.

Please leave a comment telling us about the last book you read and I will randomly select three winners.

Go, go, go, and don’t forget to stop into Jadewink’s shop for more goodies!

Freelancing: month one

Talking with a friend last night, we both realized it was almost August already. And that made me realize that I’ve made it through my first month as a freelancer!

It’s been good. Really good. Kind of strange, given that a week of it was spent in Lawrence doing basically nothing, a week in Nia training and another week getting ready for and then riding in Ragbrai. But considering that I’ve spent this week actually working, and almost being overwhelmed by work, I feel like things are going well. I even got paid for a couple things today.

There’s always this fear that hangs over you. Like, OK, I can pay my bills this month, and next month. But what if shit hits the fan in October and I’m totally screwed? Which is not a very positive place to hang out, so I try to keep those thoughts as fleeting as possible.

Another interesting tidbit. This month I had time to thrift, and then I put up a bunch of those items on Etsy just to see if anyone would buy them. And they did! My handmade stuff rarely sells as quickly as this stuff has. So now I’m pondering making vintage a larger part of what I sell. It’s hard, because you want to stay committed to your original plans, but eventually you have to decide what’s worth your time. And I so love the thrill of the treasure hunt when I find this stuff at garage sales, so I’m happy to keep doing it.

I would say, though, that the number one reason I’m doing so well right now is that I did take several months to plan my departure, and move my debt payments into saving for this change. I would highly recommend that you do that if you’re pondering working for yourself. A lot of things have not panned out yet (though I believe they will eventually), so you need to be ready if you’re not making a full income right away. Don’t do something crazy like go without health insurance or start spending your 401k money – that is last resort type of stuff.

I’m also still struggling with time management a bit. I’ve checked quite a few things off my to-do list, but I’m finding that the less desirable things (like working out!) will still fall to the back burner if I don’t schedule them in. Because who’s gonna make me do it but me?

If you ever have any questions for me about how I’m making this work, feel free to ask.

How I make recycled candles

Candlemaking has been quite the learning process, especially with my somewhat unorthodox method. Basically, one day Mike and I were driving either to or from Wisconsin and I got this idea that maybe I could melt down old candles that no one wanted anymore and make new ones out of the wax. And what I really wanted to do was put the candles into found objects I collected while thrifting. I looked on etsy and found that others were pouring their wax into teacups and jelly jars, but no one was really using recycled wax.

So I bought a bunch of supplies and dove into it. I discovered that making a candle is actually pretty easy, but making a perfect candle is a lot harder. And when you’re using a slightly different product for every single batch, you are going to get a slightly different result every time.

But, I love a challenge, so I’m still tweaking my process and experimenting with new containers. In case you were interested in how I do it, I thought I’d give a little tutorial.

In my craft room I have a stockpile of candles that basically look like this.

I have just about every color, shape and style – leftovers from weddings, bags of half-burnt candles people give me, garage and estate sale finds.

If they’re too large to melt whole, I start by putting the candle in the freezer for 15 minutes to an hour. When it comes out, it will be really brittle, and sometimes even crack.

I put it in a plastic tub and whack the crap out of it with a hammer until it breaks into chunks.

To melt it, I have this little setup with a burner and a pot with a lid. This keeps everything completely separate from what I would use in the kitchen. Trust me, everything gets too waxy to use anywhere else.

I bought a couple of metal pitchers so that I could do two colors at a time, and this has really helped me since I started making candles with stripes.

So I fill my pan with about an inch of water and heat that to boiling. This melts the wax with a double boiler effect. Then I drop in the chunks and wait for it to melt. I usually stir it a bit, and if there is any debris in there, I’ll pull it out.

Meanwhile, I heat up my glue gun so that I can glue the wicks to the bottom of my containers. I usually use a pencil to push the wick into the exact center of the container without burning my fingers.

Then I string the top of the wick through a clothespin, center it on top of the container, and pinch the end to keep it secure. If your container is wider than the clothespin, you can twist the wick around a pencil and rest it on top.

When the wax is completely melted, you can use a thermometer to test the temperature. Often with big batches sitting there a long time it can get a bit too hot, which can effect the wax when it cools, so I try to keep it below 175.

At this point, if my wax is unscented I usually add a fragrance. In this case I used apple because it seemed to go with the green color, but I have tons of others, and sometimes I will use a few drops of essential oil, like citronella. Originally I thought I would only use essential oils, but I found that too limiting so I added the fragrances.

When wax cools, it actually creates kind of a sinkhole, so you really have to pour twice. The first time you fill it a little lower than where you want it. Let it cool for at least four hours.

Then pour the second layer to fill in the hole, and let that cool. With this candle I poured white for the second layer, and then did a third layer in green to create the stripe.

When it’s all done I put a safety sticker on the bottom that has room to write in the scent. For my tins I also print off logos and stick them on the side.

My initial investment was probably about $100 for a starter kit with a pitcher, wicks, scents and colors, plus the burner and the pot. Later I bought a heat gun, which is great for cleaning out old containers or fixing any bubbles that come up to the surface. It’s basically like a hairdryer, but not for your hair!

Cute cards

Yesterday I decided to skip the stifling heat of our outdoor arts festival and go to a smaller, indoor arts and crafts fair called Market Day. I found these adorable cards and just had to buy a few.

“I whaley love you.” Too cute!

I don’t see anything in her etsy shop right now, but I’m hoping it will be full of these cards soon.

My best-selling item

So far my best-selling item on Etsy is not what I set out to make (candles) or what was in the Country Living article (gingham thumbtacks), but the vintage fabric thumbtacks. It’s so interesting, what sells and what doesn’t, but I’m glad for anything that does well. Actually thumbtacks generally are a good seller for me, even though they are pretty ubiquitous on Etsy. I think it’s a myth that you HAVE to create something original. You just have to do what you do well.

And I have to get back to work because I’m all out of vintage tacks (although I do have a set of magnets in stock).

Have you had any Etsy surprises?

Update

I have about fifty million things to blog about and lots of photos to share with you, but unfortunately my photo server has been down all day. Maybe if I blog about it, it will come back up?

It has been storming all day, which might be a factor. The dogs have been huddled up against me or Mike most of the day. I thought they were supposed to be the protectors.

He’s making jambalaya for dinner, and I’m making rhubarb crisp for dessert (no strawberries this time). I saw the reddest of red rhubarb stalks at the grocery store and thought I just had to go there. So. much. butter.

Craft Saturday went well, more for the interaction with other crafters than the sales in my case. Me and the vendor next to me both agreed we were probably not projecting a good vibe since we were both stressed and moody when it first started. Shortly before, I was frantically trying to find a post office where I could mail a package and never did. Plus my head filled up with snot, and the neverending cold was starting to get to me.

Anyway, I think when you have a modest sale day it’s helpful to put things in perspective. Some items sell different days, different venues, different times of year. And some things just don’t sell. I’m probably going to stop making some items that in all my efforts have never sold. And I’m going to keep selling the things that do sell, and hopefully experiment with carrying some more vintage items that I find at garage and estate sales. I am finding out just how much I love the treasure hunt. And crochet! I was very inspired by another vendor to keep at that because even though it is crazy time consuming, I do love it.

I’m currently working on a ripple blanket. I’m calling it the retro stripe ripple because it’s got the sort of ’70s colorway that my crochet stripe blanket had. I looked on Etsy and I couldn’t find anything quite like it.

So, I apologize if you are trying to read my blog and no photos are showing up. I promise it will be resolved soon, and I’ll have more updates for you. Until then, I’ll be baking, crocheting, and trying to enjoy the last of this rainy weekend before I go back to the grind.

New items in my Etsy shop!

TGI-Furlough because I’ve actually had time to work on some more crafts this week. I wanted to do something spring-y, and because I was on a thumb tack roll, I thought I would make some more of those. I also made some in magnet version. A few of the sets use vintage fabric or vintage buttons.

But I am in love with the little orange polka dot ones. Can you tell?

I’ll have more of these for sale later this month at Craft Saturday. Hope you can come!

My thumbtacks in Country Living

This is pretty exciting. When I first heard about it I wasn’t going to believe it until I saw it. And then today I saw it!

The May issue of Country Living magazine features my little gingham button thumbtacks in a spread about all things gingham and adorable. Mine are the blue and purple ones.

I have plenty of these little guys in stock and can make more (or make them into refrigerator magnets).

The story behind the fabric is that it was used to make a baby blanket years ago. My mom gave me all the leftover scraps, and this is what I did with them. I always thought they were cute, so it’s nice to know someone else does, too.