Needle Felting & Embellishing

Am having a ball with the new needle felting embellisher machine. At the last moment, I chose the Huskystar ER10 embellisher by Viking. Functionally, I couldn't find a substantial difference between it and the Babylock embellisher, but I liked the case style a bit better and the price was perfect...$249.00 on sale! I was able to bring it home and immediately start playing with it. Very little to learn. The instruction booklet is ridiculously simple.

Here's a little seascape I started with using some pencil roving and novelty yarn scraps I had laying around (I save everything - all the little bits and pieces I cut off). I started with a base square of green wool felt approx. 10x10" square. It's a somewhat crude landscape since I was just "winging it" - in future I would do a pre-drawing in chalk and pay a bit more attention to composition and color. I'm really excited by the possibilities, however. I've long been a painter and it was fun "painting" with wool as a new medium.

The second project was embellishing a felted handbag. This project is an "upcycled" wool sweater that will become a tote style handbag. I'd been tossing around the idea of adding select silk flowers as embellishments and the Huskystar machine did a splendid job of attaching those flowers as well as creating some nice flower abstracts. I used some scraps of variegated fuschia pink novelty yarn for those.

The embellisher needles did a fine job of securing the large flower, but for extra holding power I used some black/brown novelty yarn as a center. I attached the small pink and white flowers with embroidered French knots. The design is quite secure and I should have no worries about anything coming loose with daily use of this bag. I'm very pleased with the way this is turning out and so, so simple. I'll post a photo of the bag when it's finished.

The new art market season begins the end of May. The embellisher is going to help me add a whole new dimension to this season's creations.

Machine Needle Felting - Babylock Embellisher

Okay, I'm taking the plunge and spending another 300 hard-earned bucks to stretch my creative wings, again. I've decided to purchase a new Babylock needle felting machine to use as an embellisher for the felted handbags and the custom sweaters I create.

Have been searching for a fresh new design twist for the line of custom clothing and felted handbags I sell under the Irrational Exuberance name and, as often happens, I stumbled upon the answer quite by chance. On a visit to my local fabric store six months ago, I was admiring one of those terribly expensive Babylock embroidery machines ($5,000++) that (who am I kidding?) I'll never buy. In fact, it's become a running joke with the whole store staff that as soon as I'm ready for my husband to divorce me, I'll be in to purchase the top of the line machine! Still, the owner of the shop, Joanie, patiently shows me all the whiz-bang features and lets me play around with them to my heart's content. I suppose it's because we never fail to draw a crowd of lookyloos while I ask questions and Joanie demonstrates. If Joanie sells one machine to one of those women, I suppose she figures it's all worthwhile. Anyway, on my last visit, Joanie quickly pointed out the new needle felting machine she'd just received from Babylock and it really started my creative juices flowing. The price was certainly right and I had a blast experimenting with that machine. Unfortunately, the timing wasn't right for me to make the purchase right then and there, but I told myself that I would have one of those clever machines - soon. I'd done needle felted embellishments in the past - by hand - with happy results, but I found the process terribly tedious. The machine promised better results, at a fraction of the time and effort. I was sold.

Unfortunately, Mom's illness put all my creative endeavors on hold for about four months so the whole idea was quickly forgotten...until last week. I'd dropped into the store to purchase some magnetic closures for a couple of handbags in the making and there it was - the needle felting machine - sitting right on the counter by the cash register with a lovely "20%-Off Sale" tag on it. Kismet! I convinced Joanie to hold it for me while I went to my "Bank of The Old Man" to whine for a temporary loan. It took a couple of days worth of favorite meals and sweet talk, but my DH (dear husband) finally gave me the go-ahead. He muttered something about it being a Mother's Day-birthday-anniversary present all rolled into one. Oh, happy day.

I'll post some photos of the little gem and a 1st project, soon. Meantime, if you've been thinking about a similar purchase, you might be interested in reading this product review I ran across while researching these needle felting machines online. You can read it here. It's really informative, fair, and balanced comparison of machines by Babylock, Janome, Bernina, Brother, Husky, and the Fab Felter by Nancy.

Let me know if you answer the siren song of machine needle felting. I'd love to hear from you.

The Real Knitty Gritty - Amazon Bargains

Something new has been added...I've just signed on to be an Amazon Associate store and have put together a hand-picked selection of knitting & crochet books & accessories at bargain prices. There's some really splendid books listed. I own many of the titles & I'm sure you'd find them wonderful resources, too. The rest are on my "wishlist." Check out the knitting needles and crochet hooks, too. The prices are well under the prices at my local yarn shop. If you don't see something that you've been searching for, or if the size knitting needles or crochet hook is not currently listed, contact me via e-mail. If it's available, I'll point you in the right direction to get it.

I'll be adding more products to the store as time goes on, so check back often to see what's new.

The store, "The Real Knitty Gritty" is located at the bottom of the sidebar to the right. Enjoy!

Selling Arts/Crafts: Can I make a living?

I ran across a post on one of the forums this morning that (once again) posed the question, "Can I make a living selling my jewelry (knitting, crochet, paintings...) online?" As you might imagine, the answers from the other posters were all over the ballpark. Some said, "yes." Some said, "no." The vast majority, said, "maybe...", and while I think that's the correct answer, it's not the answer most of us want to hear.

To demonstrate my point, ask yourself whether you would have intentionally navigated to this post if I had titled it, "You MIGHT Profit Selling Arts & Crafts Online." No, of course you wouldn't. Neither would I. Even so, I contend that it is the most truthful & correct of the three. If that's not what you want to hear, I'll understand if you leave now.

A fundamental problem arises with the question, itself. It's a subjective question that seeks an objective (yes or no) answer. Read the question, again, & emphasize the words in bold type..."Can I make a living selling my (blank) online? See the problem? First of all, no honest person can say for a fact that YOU can do this or that without knowing whether you're willing, able, or even know how to go about it. If anyone tries to tell you that, ignore them. They are either a liar or a fool. Secondly, the question begs another question...what is this person's definition of "a living?"

I'd love to be among those cockeyed optimists who say, "Yes you can!" In honesty, I can't do that based on my own experience. I sell my work (fiber arts as well as paintings) through a website, Etsy, and group art shows. Through the spring & summer months, I spend 8 hours each Saturday manning a booth at my local art & farmer's markets. All this effort nets me a very nice supplemental income, but not enough that would allow me to quit my "day job." First of all, because the income can't be relied upon. Some months are good, some are not so good. Secondly, when I actually sit down to calculate my hourly wage, it's below what I'd make taking a job at McDonalds. Seriously! There's an enormous amount of time involved in creating the product, maintaining websites/blogs, making ads for Etsy or eBay, marketing myself in webrings and chat forums in an effort to drive traffic to my website or ads, etc. Last, but not least, self-employment means having the worst boss & the worst fringe benefits in the whole insurance benefits, no sick leave, no vacations, no 401K...

So why do I do it at all? Part of it has to do with the artist's need to have their talent recognized & accepted by peers as well as the larger community. Compliments are lovely, but can't be trusted. The best & most genuine compliment is when someone pulls out their wallet to pay hard cash to own something we've created. The second part of it does have to do with the extra income I can derive from my art which, in all truth, merely serves to keep me painting or knitting without dipping into the household budget. Most of the money I make goes right back into buying more paints, canvas, yarn, needles, etc., which we all know can amount to a pretty sizable expense.

Far be it from me to say that you can't make a living from your arts & crafts. You may well be be the exceptional talent who'll be quickly "discovered" & will rocket to fame & fortune overnight. Or, not. You could be just another "starving artist." My best advice...don't quit your day job until you know what the fates have in store for you.