Monday, August 26, 2013

A Sustainable Diaper Bag


twins bag full

I think a lot about sustainability.  My husband says I’m a hippy, I just think I’m practical.  It is so frustrating to buy something and have it fall apart. When my daughter was born we got two diaper bags – on one of them, the zipper broke within weeks, then the lining tore (which is why I don’t line my bags!  Lining fabric is notoriously a weak point in a purse).  On the other one, the space where you keep the wipes broke.

I understand not every piece put out there is perfect – sometimes stuff goes wrong, and that’s okay.  So, for the sake of argument, let’s say the diaper bags that I bought hadn’t broke, and I hadn’t given them to Goodwill.  After the kiddo is out of diapers, then what do you do with them? You’ve just spent some good, hard-earned cash, on something with lots of wonderful things like slots for diaper wipes and bottles, but you don’t carry those things anymore. So – to Goodwill it goes!

Since the diaper bags that I bought for my first kiddo broke before the second one came, I decided to just make myself a big ol’ purse instead.  The style that I came up with was the Travel Bag – based on a vintage stewardess bag. It is made out of a lightweight leather (2-3oz) so it doesn’t weigh much on it’s own, but since it is vegetable tanned leather and hand-stitched, it’s more than durable enough to outlast whatever you decide to throw at it. 

For a baby shower for a friend who is having twin girls, I designed the “Nesting” diaper bag/travel bag with little birdies on it. I filled it with some of the mommy essentials – Miracle Blankets, Sock Ons (amazing things – no more lost socks!) and some Planet Wise Wet/Dry bags, a Planet Wise changing pad, and a set of “buy one” “get one free” onesies.  There were a few other things – some wraps and slings from Baby Ette – and a nursing necklace from Kangaroo Care – that didn’t make the photo, but went in a separate package (and yes, they all would have fit in this bag!).

The true beauty of this piece is that once you’re done toting around stuff for your little peeps, you can use it as a purse. It’s still lightweight, it’s still durable, and it doesn’t scream “BABY!!!” to everyone who sees it.  Sustainability in my book is sometimes best described as “buy once, buy it for life” and when you’re able to have a single bag that can be both your “mommy” bag and your favorite purse, doesn’t that fit the bill?



Wednesday, August 21, 2013

ISO The Perfect Belt (the answer)


I’m always asked how I got started in leatherworking, and it’s a simple story, with roots in necessity.  I needed a belt. 

After college I started working at a law firm.  I wanted to be a lawyer, or so I thought, and figured I ought to at least try it out before committing to going to law school.  Yeah, possibly the best thing I ever did.  I got a job as a paralegal in a somewhat traditional law firm that actually had a dress code. It included provisions about the length of your skirt, nylons, and the like.  I don’t think they ever measured my skirt length, but I do remember getting a talking to on more than one occasion about not following the dress code.

So if there’s one thing I really hate it’s being told how to dress.  I was determined to find a way to push the outer limits of the dress code without being in violation. I was being defiant in a way I couldn’t get in trouble for.  I probably still had a bit of youthful rebellion left in me (which only drove me to do creatively rebellious things, like paint flames on my car). 

My boyfriends mother had given me a belt from her youth that I loved – it was probably from the 70s or something – but it was falling apart.  It was one of those belts that was multiple pieces of leather stitched together with a stiffener in the middle, and it just wasn’t going to get me through daily wear.  I looked and looked, but every belt I found was cheaply made and boring.  I did a post a while ago on how to choose a leather belt that will last and once you know what to look for, you’re not going to find many belts other than mine that will fit the bill!

In my creative solution finding, I bought a belt strap, some knives, paint, and dye and got to work.  My first belt was a simple black belt with roses (the photo is of a collar in the same pattern) and the second was one I called the Kitty belt, with carved dogwood flowers. I guess it sparked, or renewed, a love affair with leather.  It’s been ten years and I still have those first belts, and they look just as good as the day I made them.

The last few times I’ve done a show people have asked about belts, so this year, I’ll be sure to have some in stock.  Guaranteed to make you smile, and outlast your jeans, think of these belts as heirlooms.  You can pass these belts on to your children (or your son’s girlfriend) and they won’t wear out.



Monday, August 19, 2013

What are Moxie Bucks, you ask…


Our version of a “thank you” reward! Shop now and get 20% back in Moxie Bucks - Even on CUSTOM!

Shop now through midnight on September 1, 2013 and then on November 1, 2013 we will send you Moxie Bucks for 20% of your total purchase.  So if you spend $100 now, you will get a $20 to spend in November. Spend $500 now, get $100 to spend later.  Go ahead - get yourself something for back to school, and we'll give you a bit of help during the holidays!  This is the first time we've offered a special that applies to custom and personalized pieces, so be sure to take advantage of it.  And, enjoy!

We are adding new items every day so check back often!

    Leather Clutch Wallet - Alice pattern in orange, yellow, purple, white and antique blackLeather Clutch Wallet - Alice pattern in orange, yellow, purple, white and antique blackLeather Clutch Wallet - Alice pattern in orange, yellow, purple, white and antique black

    Fine print: All purchases must be made through to qualify.  No limit on cash back.  For every dollar you spend between August 15, 2013 and September 1, 2013 you will receive $0.20 in Moxie Bucks redeemable at  Moxie Bucks will be issued November 1, 2013 and will be valid through December 1, 2013 only. Not redeemable for cash.  Moxie Bucks may not be redeemed for gift certificates. Other restrictions may apply.




      Tuesday, August 13, 2013

      New Guitar Straps for Picky Pickers

      aloha strap 4butterfly strap 3linea carved strap 4worker bee strap 3

      Usually right after Christmas I start making straps for the bluegrass festival that happens in Bellevue, WA every February. This year I took a break from the festival – it’s four days, and it is a lot of booth time each day (I think around 12 hours or so) which was fine and dandy the first year since I was pregnant with our daughter.  The second and third years, my husband came with to watch our little girl, but pregnant with a little boy and watching a 2.5 year old seemed like more than I wanted to bite off.  So, I took a pass.

      What I’ve been noticing is that the handy racks we built at the studio for the guitar straps have been terribly empty this year.  Usually I make 60 or so straps for Wintergrass, and I always have extras.  Now, though, I maybe have 10 straps in stock.  We still make a lot of personalized and custom guitar straps. It’s not the same, though, as having a wall of straps to look at.

      So I’ve decided for the next two weeks to focus on making a few new guitar straps.  I’ll be adding them to the website as they are made and you can find them in the Guitar Straps section of the site.

      The adding to the website might not go that quickly though – that baby I was pregnant with during Wintergrass is now four months old, and has entered the “Wakeful” period!  Oy.  Apparently this corresponds with my “sleepless” period.

      Anyway, I’m doing a combination of some branded and some carved pieces, so head on over to check them out – even if you don’t play, I am sure there is someone in your life (perhaps someone special) who does.



      Thursday, August 8, 2013

      Tooling Leather– it softens up!!

      alabama purse

      I think when I tell people what I do I should say “leatherworker/educator” since I spend a fair portion of my work time helping people understand what vegetable tanned leather is, what to expect from it, and why it’s so far superior to the chemically treated chromium tanned leather that is the alternative.

      One of my favorite aspects of it is that it softens up with use.  The two pictures above are my bag – the Alabama Travel Bag – which was modeled after my favorite vintage stewardess bag.  The top image is the bag when I first made it. It was boxy and looked a heck of a lot like luggage.  My husband even tried to pack our cat (and yes, she fit).

      The lower photo is my bag today – just about a year later – it has that soft, old glove feeling, and I use it a lot more like a tote.  My husband zips up the zipper, I always leave it open so I can easily access all my stuff.  It doubles ad a diaper bag, too, with the help of a wet bag.

      I think it  looks better all broken in, and it started to happen pretty fast.  Within the first few days of using it as a purse it started to fold in at the top like a tote. I haven’t done anything to it to encourage the softening process, which is what I recommend.  Just use and love your handmade leather goods.  I’m sure you’ll get tons of compliments on them, just as I do!



      Monday, August 5, 2013

      Orange + Sage = Obsession

      alabama clutch 4

      I get fixated on colors. Like, really fixated.  I have to paint everything these colors until I am sick of them, and then I am on to another set.  Right now, the current obsession is orange and sage.

      For want of a new wallet (and need – carrying around too many different cards and paint chips!) I made myself the Alabama Oversize Clutch in, what else, but orange, sage and silver with an antique black finish.  It works perfectly because I also carry as my purse/diaper bag the Alabama Travel Bag. I love that the two pieces match, but aren’t exactly the same.  Both have sage and silver, but they are in different places in the pattern, and one is antique black and the other antique brown.

      Checking on the Pantone Color Report for Fall 2013 I think I may have to switch my obsession to Emerald and Koi, or maybe Linden Green and Koi?  Those are close.

      But on to more important things – what to paint next.  How about the house? An icky beige house couldn’t want anything more than to be a wonderful sage green.  So that’s how I’ve spent my Monday – can of paint and brush in hand, and a little helper by my side.



      Can you tell where my three-year-old helped me with her little foam brush?  Too cute.  Most of it ended up on her feet, though, and with this initial round my husband decided that I was painting the house “mint chocolate chip” so we took a detour to the paint store, went a shade darker, and it’s a little sagier this time.  Got the orange for the doors, too.  My helper is really excited about that!

      More to come soon.  And I’m listing those Oversize Clutches on my website, with the option of wrist/shoulder straps.  I’m thinking I should add one to mine, since my arms are mostly full of children!


      Saturday, August 3, 2013

      Saturday at the Studio




      So when we set up the studio, we didn’t really set it up for baking.  I bought these gluten free cake mixes from Wholesome Chow  that I decided to bring to the studio to try.  But I have no measuring cups.  And I have no  baking pans, so I had to improvise – I used the scale to measure out 10oz soy milk (1.25 cups, if you’re wondering) and 2oz oil.  I totally guessed on the vinegar since it was only a teaspoon.  I love apple cider vinegar like nobody’s business, so I figured a little more wouldn’t hurt.  And I baked it in a le Creuset enameled pot

      The end result – It’s good for gluten free. We did the chocolate lavender cake a few weeks ago, and I think that one was better, but it might just be because it’s chocolate.  I enjoyed this one but wasn’t quite so tempted to eat the entire thing.

      So on to the leather creative endeavor!  I’m working on a “diaper bag” for a friend, who I hope isn’t reading this post.  If so, I suppose she’ll have something to get excited about for the week.  She’s pregnant for the first time – any guesses what’ she’s having?  The last shot above are the front and back of her bag (though truthfully I’m not sure which is which).  Time to dye it and put the hardware on to prepare for stitching!

      Tomorrow:  pressure wash and paint the house.  Hard labor day!