Right now.

Thursday, February 28, 2013

A few weeks ago, I quit my job at the hospital. Had anyone told me several months back that I would do this, I wouldn't have believed it. I was so determined to make it all work - the nursing, the breastfeeding, the Etsy shop, the being a wife and mom and friend and daughter.

I went back to work for about a month and got to experience just what it would be like for the foreseeable future had I stayed. There was the 14 hours away from Liam, the trickiness of securing childcare on different days every week, the pumping breastmilk every three to four hours in a utility closet, the responding to Etsy convos on my phone during breaks, then sewing as soon as I got home. As much as I wanted to make it all work, it just didn't feel right. I was utterly exhausted and felt like I had about 3 full-time jobs, and none that I was doing well.

I feared both decisions - the decision to stay and the decision to go. I feared that the current setup wouldn't work for long, and that I'd live my life balled up in stress. I wasn't doing anything well, and that's not a good feeling. I also feared the prospect of being a stay-at-home mom, with long periods of just me and Liam at home, which I do not handle well. I also feared that if I didn't continue to work, I'd lose my nursing skills and job prospects for the future. I'd worked so hard for the past 2 years to become a nurse, and now I would just walk away? Needless to say, it was a tough decision and I went back and forth for weeks. I have so much respect for moms in all situations - working moms, stay-at-home moms, work-at-home moms. None of it is easy.

Ultimately, I had to make a decision. With Shawn's support, I gave my two weeks' notice. The profession of nursing will always be there. But Liam won't always be little - and I don't want to miss this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to be the most incredible mom I can be for him, while working from home.

Another major component - and the real tie breaker in this decision - is Brighter Day. We did the math and figured that I could make just as much, if not more, through Brighter Day than working as a nurse, for which I am so thankful. And that sealed the deal. (I have so many of you to thank - your support over the past couple years has been unbelievable and is now allowing me to work full-time hours from home... incredible! Thank you!)

I was hesitant to write about this, mainly because I didn't immediately feel confident about my decision. But the Lord has been faithful to bring peace. And joy. Will I miss aspects of nursing? Absolutely. I worked for the greatest people in the sweetest community hospital out there. But I have no regrets, and I'm moving forward with this dream the Lord has given Shawn and me for our family and for Brighter Day. We have some big dreams this year in regards to Brighter Day's future (which I'll talk more about soon), and I couldn't be more excited. Thank you so much for your constant support and for coming along for the ride!

Brighter Day giveaway.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Right now until Saturday, there's a giveaway going on on Ashley's blog, The Shine Project, for a $75 store credit to Brighter Day!

(I'd not-so-secretly love a blog reader of mine to win.) Good luck! And to those who don't win, feel free to use the 15% coupon code from her blog post.

4 months with Liam.

DIY: Simple product photography.

Monday, February 25, 2013

I had every intention of putting this post up last Friday to finish out DIY week, but when we didn't get home until after 11pm after a double date, it just didn't happen. I'm not exactly sure what I was thinking committing to 5 DIY products in a row with a baby and a small business, but it sure was ambitious. Thanks for hanging in there with me. :)

So here we go! The last DIY of this series. It's been fun - and so challenging - for me. I hope you've enjoyed it and been inspired!

I've gotten several emails asking how I take product photos for my shop, Brighter Day. While there are a thousand ways to go about this, I'll show you the basics of how I typically photograph the purses in my shop.

But first, a quick tour of my always-a-mess-but-extremely-functional craft room. It's a cheery place where Liam and I spend hours a day, and I'm so thankful for the space, the view, and the fact that I only have to walk about 50 feet from my bedroom to "go to work."

So here's the humble photography setup: a large white posterboard (that desperately needs to be replaced) and an extra white shelf I found in our garage. I told you it was simple! I place the shelf on top of our piano bench, lean the poster against it, position the purses, and photograph them. I have a Canon DSLR camera, but even a point-and-shoot camera can work really well with this setup.
I then upload the photos to photo editing software (I use Lightroom) and typically crop the photos to a square shape, add a little brightness if needed, up the contrast, and make other minor adjustments.

A few tips...
+ Keep the white balance as consistent as possible from one picture to the next. Along the same lines, try to make sure the photos represent the true colors of the item. This can be so tricky, but very important to the customer.
+ For Etsy shops, I recommend cropping photos to a square. Etsy automatically crops them to a square anyway, so you might as well take control of how your photos are cropped.
+ Try keeping a similar background for all of your photos, but changing up the positions of items. This keeps it clean, simple, but still visually interesting.
+ Try to take photos with similar lighting conditions every time. For me, it's usually in the morning to mid-day because there's indirect sunlight coming in the windows. Try to avoid really dark times or direct light. Both can be difficult.
+ Don't use your flash. Try to use natural light if at all possible.
+ Remember... a good picture sells! Looking at your photograph of your item, would you want to buy it based on what you see? If not, what needs to change?

I hope that helps put you on the right track!

DIY: Bear softie.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

When I first started sewing a few years ago, one thing that frustrated me was that I didn't feel I could be  very creative with it. There seemed to be so much measuring and marking and cutting perfect lines and following rigid patterns. But once I got the basics down, I found that there's actually lots of opportunity to think outside the box or sew outside the lines, so to speak.

So here's an example... this little friend. He's assymetrical, his face is lopsided, and his left leg is stitched together pretty haphazardly. And he wasn't even made using a pattern! But Liam got sooo excited about him as soon as he got his hands on him, and that made this mama pretty happy. All that to say, this is a project that can't fail. As wonky as your softie gets, as long as it's still huggable, it's ok!

While I didn't use a pattern, I'll show you the steps so you can easily make your own. As an aside, I will say I had about an hour to come up with this and actually make him (and photograph it along the way). If and when I do another bear, I promise to fatten him up a bit. This one got a little skinny for my taste.

I started by sketching out my ideas. The one on the left was cute with its own suspenders and shorts, but way too complex for my time frame. The one on the right was simple enough. I then sketched it out on a larger sheet of interfacing to make a very loose pattern. I chose to use striped linen and went ahead and cut out both body pieces (without the ears) all at one time with my rotary cutter.

Once I had the body pieces cut out, I cut a white felt oval for the muzzle and stitched it on with the sewing machine. I also attached safety eyes (purchased on Etsy) that bolt into the fabric so that little people can't pull them out and choke on them.

Next I worked on the ears, starting with a very loose pattern made from interfacing (from the original drawing). I cut two pieces for each ear, stitched them together with one side open, then turned them.

I then pinned the ears to the top of the head and worked on the nose and mouth with my sewing machine. I basically used my machine to outline the nose and mouth then went back and forth over it several times to fill it in. I also stitched on a belly of white felt.

Finally, I pinned the two body pieces right sides together (with the ears tucked inside) and stitched all the way around. I did leave a 3-inch space on one leg to be able to turn the bear and stuff it with filling. I then stuffed him, stitched the hole closed, and added a bow tie from my shop
So as you can see, he's far from perfect. But I'm pretty sure my little guy could care less. He's got yummy ears to gnaw on, a bow tie to grab, and a neck to hug. 

DIY: One hour tote (in two sizes).

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Are you new to sewing? Have a sewing machine but haven't dusted it off in years? I came up with this project for you. It's not a huge commitment in time or fabric, and turns out pretty cute (if I do say so myself). This bag is not lined, but because I'm using duck cloth (a type of canvas) and finishing the inside seams, it is casual but sturdy, simple but elegant.

First, you'll need to choose which size bag you'd like to make. They're just slightly different sizes (and the measurements below are just the bag's body... without the handles). Also, you'll need to make sure your machine can handle duck cloth. More heavy duty machines will have no trouble with it, while older or cheaper machines may not be able to handle it. If you're worried about your machine, try using sewing needles made for denim or try out a lighter fabric before attempting the duck cloth. Other good options would be linen, a linen-cotton blend, or a lighter home decor weight fabric.

For the bow, I used linen - but you can use any home decor weight fabric or even quilting cotton. 
Now that you've finished the bow, it's time to cut the pieces for your bag. Here's where you can decide which size bag you'd like. For a smaller bag, cut two straps 3.5" x 23" and 2 body pieces 12" x 15". For a larger bag, follow the instructions below.

As always, I hope you enjoy! Please let me know if you have questions in the comment section. I'm happy to clarify any part you may be stuck on. And if you've made the bag, I'd love to see! Leave me a link in the comments section or shoot me an email!

DIY: May Flowers Necklace.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Anyone else ready for Spring? I know it's still February, but I'm more and more ready every day. I think this simple, flowery necklace ushers in the prettier weather in just the right way.

*The one step I left out in this photo tutorial is to glue the flowers onto the metal backs. I use E-6000 glue to do this and let it dry overnight before using my pieces.

Let's get started...

Sources for supplies:
Flower cabochons - search flower cabochon on Etsy and you'll find thousands! I used 11mm sized flowers.
Lace edged metal bases - search lace edge flat bezel on Etsy 
Chain, jump rings, lobster clasp, pliers - Joann 

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