You’re NEVER Too Old.

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My adorable parents.

Ever since I was able to understand aging and the role it plays in our acceptance in society, I knew ONE thing to be true: I couldn’t wait to turn 30. For me, 30 has always been the perfect age. At 30 you’re finally old enough to be taken seriously by those around you, but you’re still young enough to have moments of silliness and no one bats an eye. When the film, “13 Going On 30″ came out, I couldn’t wait to see it, because I GOT it: 30 is the age you want to be. 30 is the age when your life REALLY begins.

Then the reality of a society focused on the young set in. At my prime age of being noticed by society (ages 16 to 25), I was either an awkward teenager, or a young adult with two jobs and poor sleeping habits, or a new Mom with a newly acquired “pajamas are okay to wear all day long” attitude. I was at my most influential and most capable, according to society, and I squandered it away making ends meet and trying to survive my adolescence.

So busy I was that it wasn’t until a few years ago that I even picked up a paint brush and unlocked a part of myself I KNEW had to be in there somewhere, but I just couldn’t find. So busy I was that I’ve had my sewing machine sitting in a box for the last year before finally unpacking it, setting it up, and learning the ways of sewing, only to find I am REALLY good at it. So busy I was that now I’m 28, turning 29 in 2014…and according to society, I’m too old to chase down my dreams.

I call bullshit.

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Linda and Cecil Yancy of Yancy & Yancy and The Good’uns

If ever I feel like that, I’m fortunate that all I have to do is call my Mother. My Mom is Linda Yancy, of Yancy & Yancy and The Good’uns: Memphis based folk/americana musicians. She, my step-dad, and their band gig regularly, keep bizarre hours, mingle with Grammy award winning producers and writers, are on a first name basis (and “hug your neck when I see you out in public” basis) with the former head of Def Jam Records, and they’re doing it all in their fifties. Not only that, they didn’t even START until their fifties. They were raising 4 kids, you see, and like me, making ends meet.

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But, that didn’t stop my Mom from understanding that you’re NEVER too old to chase dreams. You’re never too old to take a look at your passions, your talents, and your opportunities, and MAKE those dreams become realities. And that’s something I want you to think about today: what dreams are you neglecting because you think your window of opportunity has closed? What passion have you set aside because you’re just “too old” to make it work now? What exists in your life that causes you to feel inadequate?

Whatever it is…whatever they are…STOP IT. You’re NEVER too old. It doesn’t matter what the media tells you and it doesn’t matter that advertising is geared toward the young. You are viable, you are BREATHING, and you are ALIVE until you’re not. Make every second of that life count, and live a life full of passion and dream chasing!

And in the words of my own Mother:

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Facebook 100 Followers Giveaway!

I’m so, SO stoked to announce my very first giveaway. I know, I know…you’re just as excited as I am. And you SHOULD be! This is going to be a giveaway held over at my Facebook page, Mockingbird Don’t Art, and to win some really cool FREE stuff, you’ve gotta go over and “Like” my page, share the official contest announcement with your own Facebook page, and  you’re officially entered to wiiiiiinnn….(drumroll)….

THESE THREE FREE UPCYCLED TOTE BAGS FEATURING MY ORIGINAL ART!!!

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Each of these bags is made from second hand materials, they’re all handmade, and they all feature original artwork by MOI! I want you to love these bags like I love them (and you!), so if you need something environmentally friendly to pick up your groceries in, consider heading over to my Facebook page and “Liking” it! This is a giveaway in honor of my hitting 100 Likes and I could not be more excited to give someone these tote bags!! Head that way and enter to win!!!

Click here to Like, Share, and maybe WIN!!!

SAHM: The New Jack Of All Trades

In the film, Wanderlust, starring Paul Rudd and Jennifer Aniston, Jennifer’s character has struggled to find her “niche”. She’s launched several businesses, tried all sorts of different hobbies, but nothing seems to stick. And while she’s pretty good at a lot of different things, she can never seem (until the end) to figure out what her THING is.

~ Source

I watched Wanderlust and I related to Jennifer’s character. I’ve not only tried my hand at several different hobbies, I’ve been blogging since 2006, and have gone through so many different blogs and blogging platforms. Even now I can’t settle down into just ONE blog: I’ve got this one, a design blog about my house, and a third I write humor from. I’ve tried my hand at everything and I’ve learned a lot about myself along the way. My interests and passions are wide and varied and at 28 years old, I’ve come to love who I’m growing up to be.

Today’s Stay-At-Home-Mom is a lot like me, I’m finding. Especially women in my age group. We grew up in a time when we were told over and over again that we could be whatever we wanted to be (something our mothers didn’t often get) and many of us went for it, and have gone on to become politicians, journalists, writers, actors, scientists, engineers, and more. They’ve gone to fantastic colleges and earned fantastic degrees and are doing fantastic things with their careers.

But, then there are those of us who may have gone to college, but when we married and had kids decided not to return to the workforce. There’s a strange kind of pressure that exists when you’re a woman who decides to become a SAHM. On occasion, women who did choose to return to the workforce treat you as if you’re no longer quite on their level. Many in our society today think SAHM’s are lazy, or that we’re just incapable of doing anything other than make and raise babies.

I strongly disagree with this. Today’s SAHM is the new Jack Of All Trades. Thanks to Pinterest and much of the internet at large, we’re now able to learn about sewing, canning, gardening, beekeeping, painting, cooking and more. From our own home we can purchase materials to do the things we want to do. We can join online communities to share and trade ideas about our interests and by connecting with those communities, hone our chosen craft. Every SAHM I know is more than “just” a SAHM: several are award winning writers, a few are published, some are small business owners that started with “just” a hobby they picked up while being a SAHM, and most are accomplished in not just one, but several arenas.

If you’re a SAHM, don’t ever get down on yourself or feel like that’s “all you are”. Just like if you’re a mother who works outside the home, don’t ever feel like somehow you aren’t good enough either. Do what you love, and be who you love. The rest will fall into place.

T-Shirt Refashion: A Subtle War Eagle!

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I purchased this shirt from Maurice’s, a clothing store with a great plus-sized line, a little over a year ago to wear during football season. However, since the beginning of this season, I haven’t worn it once. There’s nothing wrong with it. I simply don’t wear shirts like that anymore. So, I’ve had it sitting in my closet since last Winter, with plans to donate it eventually.

The other day I was out at a thrift store picking up materials, when I came across these darling navy blue pants in my daughter’s size. I picked them up, thinking I’d eventually find a way to put an Auburn-ish outfit together for her and use those pants in the outfit. And right there in the thrift store it dawned on me: my shirt! I can make a dress to go over the pants out of my old shirt!

And that’s what I did!

First, I laid the shirt out, and laid one of my daughter’s t-shirts on top of it to get an idea of the size I need to make it. I gave about an inch past the shirt so I’d have room to sew it, AND so she’d have a bit of room to grow.

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After tracing half of the shirt, I folded it in half, and cut along the lines I made. After unfolding it, I checked to make sure it was even, and then started pinning.

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I sewed the sleeves, collar, and bottom of the dress first, before sewing up the sides. This helped hide the seams and make the dress look relatively even and “clean”.

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Sewing with t-shirt material causes the edges to ruffle a bit as they stretch. There are materials you can place while you’re sewing to keep it from happening, but this time I wanted to go with the ruffles because I thought it would soften the look of her dress. And it did! This dress is very basic and very simple. I wasn’t looking for something fancy or blatantly Auburn, just more something she could put on, run around it, and I could easily wash if/when she gets it dirty.

And here it is!

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She LOVES this dress. I sewed it at night after she’d already gone to bed, and then hung it on her bedroom door to find when she woke up. As soon as she awoke, I heard her down the hall going, “Ooooooooh!! Is this dress for me??!!” She threw it on, and truth be told, hasn’t taken it off in two days. It’s so light and easy to wear, and because of the way it’s sewn, there aren’t any seams or tags to bother her.

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I’m really proud of how the bottom seams turned out. The connection where the edges meet is nearly flawless and that makes me SO happy!

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This sleeve isn’t quite so pretty though. The other turned out like the bottom hem, but this sleeve didn’t go quite right. You can see a bit of unevenness there, but it isn’t terribly noticeable, really.

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We both love this because it’s stretchy. She can pull at it and play in it and it gives with her, while retaining its form. And the length hits just above her knees, making it easy for her to run in without impeding her movement at all.

And lastly, an action shot of my little girl running with our family dog!

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I’m very proud of this dress. It didn’t take long (about an hour, I guess), she can wear it on Game Days around the house, and if it isn’t during football season or on a Saturday, we can still wear it out without having “War Eagle!” and “Auburn” plastered across her body. It’s subtle, comfortable, and upcycled!! I’m so happy with this dress!!!!!

Waiting Your Turn!

A few months ago I sent over what was, essentially, a resume, to a relatively successful, small, locally owned business that sells custom/original furniture and home decor. I actually have two of their items in my home. When I saw a status update on their FB page encouraging artists to send in their resumes for consideration in being included in the “family”, I was over the moon. I gathered photos of my best pieces, included all my social media links, and emailed them promptly.

And heard nothing.

I wasn’t disappointed at first. At first I didn’t even care that much. I figured they were just busy or had higher expectations than what they felt I could offer.

But then a few weeks after their initial posting, they began announcing the “artists” they’d chosen to join their “family”. And that’s when jealousy trickled in.

Yes, I’m big enough to admit I was jealous. But, it wasn’t because I was envious of the talent these other artists had. I was jealous because of the talent they DIDN’T have, but the exposure they were getting INSTEAD of me! (And, no, I’m not proud of myself for this.)

DIY blogs and basically all of Pinterest are awesome. I’m not going to sit here and rag on either because they’ve all inspired and encouraged me to kick creative ass. But, there’s a dirty underbelly to those things: people tend to rely on them for creative ideas, they replicate them, and resell them. I’ve talked about this a little bit before, but this time is a bit different because sewing something actually does take some skill and experience.

But painting a piece of scrap wood one color, writing an overused quote about family on it, and reselling it for $50 does NOT an artist make. And that’s the kind of stuff that was accepted over my own art. I have a special name for this:

Pinterest Bullshit.

And the Pinterest Bullshit was strong with each of the individuals selected to sell their wares at that store. And let me reiterate that I DON’T think making items like that doesn’t take some form of skill. I know it does, because I’ve created the same items for my own home. But, as mentioned in my To Pattern, Or Not To Pattern? post, it feels unethical to borrow patterns, or Pinteret ideas, someone else had, and then make money off someone else’s hard work and creativity. And, again, this isn’t “art”.

I vowed never to shop their again. I fumed at all who would listen to me for a few days straight before finally settling down and accepting that this just wasn’t the time or place for me. And guys…it wasn’t!! This was before I started sewing again and realized how much I love it. This is before I really had a clear and concise vision in mind for my business and blogging.

You know that Garth Brooks’ song about “Unanswered Prayers“? This was an unanswered prayers moment! While I never prayed they’d accept me, I still hoped for it and thought that’s what I wanted. But what if they had accepted me? Eventually  I would find myself painting pieces of fence post, attaching hooks and quotes because that’s what they wanted. And for me, that’d make me a sellout.

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I know it’s hard, but sometimes we just have to wait our turn. If you pluck that pear before it’s ready, you’re going to bite into a hard, bitter fruit. But if you wait until it’s just about to fall, you’ll nibble on a firm, juicy, sour, but sweet pear. I want my art, my sewing, and my life to be like biting into that pear that was finally ready to fall. And I want that for you as well.

To Pattern, Or Not To Pattern? Or Is It Really That “Simple”?

Today while scrolling through my Facebook feed, I came across a listing on a local statewide “yard sale” page for handmade tote bags. Of course, I immediately clicked the link because I wanted to study the bags and admire them. After clicking through a few, however, I realized something: I’ve seen this all before.

The tote bags she had listed were cut from a common Simplicity pattern you can pick up at Walmart, Hobby Lobby, Michaels, or most hobby/craft/sewing stores. It felt familiar because it WAS familiar. I’d seen the exact same pattern and exact same tote (albeit in different fabrics) all over Etsy and Pinterest.  And how much was this particular person charging for her tote? $40. She was charging $40 for something that she didn’t actually “create”. Yes, she sewed it. She coordinated the fabrics, picked the button, bla bla bla. But she didn’t CREATE the pattern. She purchased it for a relatively cheap amount and replicated it.

I know, I know. This all sounds very judgemental. And, well, maybe it should. I know I’m a newbie and I have no room to judge accomplished and experienced sewers, but I don’t want to be someone who just copies the hard work of other creators and then turns around and sells it. It feels like cheating, somehow.

 But then again, why not use a pattern? As I said above, I’m a newbie sewer. I’m not experienced enough with fabrics, stitches, machines, and materials to build my own patterns. One day I will, of course. That’s the ultimate goal. But my hang-up isn’t really over the use of patterns, but the selling of items created using someone else’s patterns.

 It’s like those Etsy sellers who purchase cheap jewelry in bulk from Alibaba.com, throw some glitter and a chain on it, and then resell it as “handmade”. It isn’t handmade…not really. And it isn’t unique. Go to Etsy and search “vintage owl necklace” and something funny will happen: you’ll see the EXACT same owl featured over, and over, and over again, everytime touted as being handmade, and by dozens of different sellers.

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 These are neither vintage, nor handmade. Ask Alibaba.com.

 Yes, I’m comparing the reselling of items sewn using a pattern you bought at WalMart to the reselling of a cheap owl pendant bought in bulk from a website that specializes in that sort of thing.

 I know it’s a business. And I know not everyone wants something completely unique and one of a kind. Some sellers, like the one on my FB feed, know their target demographic/customers and they do pretty well.  But, for me, it’s not just about making money. I would be lying if I said I didn’t want to make money doing this. I do. I want to support my family by creating custom and original pieces that are beautiful, functional, and upcycled.

 However, here’s where I want the difference to be between myself and that other seller (and all like her): I don’t want to be just another entrepreneur with a decent business model; I want to be an artist, a creator, a designer, AND an entrepreneur. And maybe it’s naive, but I still believe there’s a place left in this world for people like me.

 And maybe it’s naive, but I still believe there are people out there who value  the true creative spark, over the ability just to emulate.

Second tote and first square bottom!

Hello! A few days ago I finished my second tote and I LOOOOOOVE it. It’s not perfect, but it’s a damn good second tote ever so I’m taking the win!

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Like everything I do, I didn’t use a pattern. I can appreciate the use of patterns and I probably will eventually, but for the time being, I love figuring things out myself. And using a pattern someone else created feels like stealing. I FULLY understand why people sell their patterns! You put a lot of working into making something and you deserve to get paid for it! And it’s all fine and good if other people want or need to use patterns, but I’m a bit of a stubborn girl, and I just really want to do this myself, as much as possible.

This go ’round, I knew I wanted a square bottom. I looked for a few tutorials on square bottomed totes, but didn’t find exactly what I needed/wanted. So, I sat down with the t-shirt I wanted to use, and basically just held it up between my fingers at different angles, folding, pinning, unpinning, until I had an idea of how to make it work.

Sewing the square bottom was NOT pretty. And it doesn’t look pretty either. For the bottom, I sewed it shut, and then sewed it much like one would wrap a present. I placed a piece of cardboard at the bottom of the tote, made sure the seam was in the middle, and pinned the triangles that formed at the ends down, and sewed them. I was doing all this with the bag inverted, so next I turned the bag right-sided-in, measured the appropriate distance, pinned, and sewed up the sides of the tote, starting and the corners of the square bottom shape and working my way up. This created some dimension to the bag and made it obvious it was meant to be square.

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I’d picked out two other t-shirts besides just the brown one I wanted to use for the straps and embellishments. One was this faded lime green and the other was a faded burnt orange. I cut the bottom hems off both shirts and used long scraps from the brown shirt to make stripes. I sewed them together and then sewed them on, evenly spaced and with even lengths.

Next up, the embellishments. I love the rosettes I always see floating around, so I made some out of the green and orange scraps and they really made this tote pop! I’m very proud of this bag and I already got a compliment on it at the grocery store!

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I used a zigzag stitch and the bag held up really, really well under pressure. I carried a bottle of wine, a bottle of orange juice, and a few other items in it and it did fine. It did stretch (it’s t-shirt material, after all) but thanks to the zigzag, it didn’t give at all! So proud!!!

This bag took about 5 hours altogether. I’m embarrassed at how long it took, BUT I wasn’t using a pattern and I was very much doing it all on the fly, so that ate up a lot of my time. My next one won’t take nearly that long!