Back Up Your Hard Drive!!!

Thursday, June 26, 2008

I own a Dell laptop, a hand-me-down from my very generous sister, who gave it to me about 4-5 years ago. Though it was in great condition when she gave it to me, other than being a couple years old, it now has a lot of little quirks to it. For one, the Ctrl button doesn't work, which means all the nifty shortcuts, like Ctrl-C to paste or Ctrl-alt-delete to get to the task manager, all don't work.

Also, no accessories can be plugged into it when it's turning on--or it doesn't ever make it to the Windows screen. So I have to pull out the printer cable and the mouse cord, and any other USB cables. After it's turned all the way on, then I can plug everything back in. Yes, it's a pain in the butt.

But I have loved this computer and hope to be able to squeeze a few more years out of it. HOWEVER, a couple weeks ago, it started to act a bit funnier than usual. It gave me a dreaded blue screen, saying bladdadee blah blah. I didn't really pay very much attention to it.

Dumb, dumb, dumb, dumb. A few days later, I found it in a horrible state. It was making a LOUD buzzing noise, and the screen had an ugly message, saying that my hard drive had failed. My hard drive, and all the information I had stored on it, was gone.

Because I am a super cheapomatic person, I wasn't about to take my computer to a fix-it shop and pay hundreds of dollars to fix it. I got on eBay, found this replacement hard drive, with 2x the memory of my old one, and with Windows pre-installed on it--for $40. Plus $10 shipping and handling (the S&H people charge on eBay is highway robbery).

It came from across the US in just 2 days (I guess USPS isn't always slow), and I popped my old hard drive out, and installed the new one in under 3 minutes. I did have to reload all my drivers and software--but now my computer works 10x better than before. It is so quiet and fast, and I love having Windows XP (I only had Windows 2000 before).

For any of you reading this, though, I hope you will learn from my mistakes--and back up your files!!! Thankfully, I didn't lose too much information (I store most of my files on an external hard drive)--but I did lose all my emails and email contacts, and all my bookmarks, which had tons of research for shows and events. An easy way to back up your files is through a service called You sign up with them, and for different fees (they also offer a free service, I think), it will automatically back up your computer every night, or however often you decide.

A few days before my computer died, I had met a wonderful woman in Florida who sent me all kinds of information on sewing machines. But I lost all the information she sent me with my hard drive failure. She was telling me about Bernina and Pfaff sewing machines on CraigsList and had found my blog by accident. If you are reading this post, please email me because I don't remember your email address, and it was one of the things I was saddest to lose!


One of My Favorite Sewing Tools

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Certain members of my immediate family (actually, all members of my immediate family) scoffed at me when I recently purchased this wear-on-top-of-your-head flashlight. Sure, it makes me look rather goofy when I wear it, but it is one of the best pieces of equipment I have bought for my purse making business. At the bargain basement price of 99 cents on eBay (plus $10 shipping), it was well worth every cent.

I don't wear this contraption ALL the time, but it's great for when I'm hand sewing at night or working on black fabric. Even with good overhead lighting, sometimes it's still hard to see what I'm doing. This tool came in super handy while I sewed in the lining of the Amy Butler bag with cranes from my previous post. That bag is DEEP, and it's hard to direct light in there. (The lining needs to be handsewn around the zipper.)

Plus, my husband and daughters will all be jealous when we go camping this summer. They will have to lug their flashlights around in hand, while my arms can swing freely and unencumbered. Who will have the last laugh then?


Custom Order for Overnight Tote

This is a custom order for an overnight tote that I made from Amy Butler's pattern. Being that it's the second time I made it, I added some improvements that take it from "good" to "great."

As the pattern calls for, it has 4 outer pockets, all topped with rigid welting for terrific structure. I increased the length of the handles slightly for easier over-the-shoulder wearing.

I added inner pockets, these shown (great for undies and socks, in my opinion), and also an inner zipped pocket.

And the best improvement of all--a vinyl bottom with purse feet, to help keep the bag clean on dirty airport floors.

I like this bag so much, I think I'm going to have to make another one for myself!


Obsessed with Vinyl

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

I'm obsessed with vinyl! Why? Don't ask me, I don't know. Well, okay, I guess I do know why. It's because vinyl's properties are so low maintenance. Like felt, it doesn't fray (sometimes it does, but just a tiny bit, and I use scissors to cut off any offending threads). This means that it can be cut and punched in all sorts of configurations, and it doesn't have to be hemmed or stitched down. It's also got a lot of shape and stability to it, so it doesn't require interfacing.

Here are some coin purses I made with the amazing stuff.

I'm so glad I didn't get rid of all my scrapbooking hand punches because with a little coaxing, they work great (not super great) on the vinyl. I have a Zip'E Mate die cut machine, too, which I think is the ticket--but I don't have many dies to go with it. Gotta save up those Michael's coupons when I get 'em!

I've signed up for a bunch of events to sell my bags at (that's bad grammar, those dang dangling prepositions). I don't know if selling at events is really my bag, though. Especially those 2-day events, which are mentally, physically, and socially exhausting. If only I had an extrovert button I could push on myself, and voila, I'd be so excited to be out there, face to face with thousands of people. I'm in a quandary about whether to try to pursue more wholesale accounts, or sell them myself at the shows. No answers forthcoming today.


Craigs List Crazy

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Anyone who knows me well knows that I have a bit of an obsession with Craigs List. I just like to look. I like to look at jobs (even though I'm not looking for one for myself), I like to look at gigs (even though I'm too busy to do any of them), I like to see what people are giving away for free (even though I don't have room for any more stuff).

Well, I got it into my head that I need an industrial sewing machine. My bag business is going really well, and I work the heck out of my expensive Bernina. I love my Bernina, but it has its limits. It would be great to have an industrial machine that will easily go through 4-8 layers of heavy fabric, especially when it comes to topstitching on straps and things like that.

So, yesterday on Craigs List, I found a pristine-looking Juki industrial machine for only $250. An alterations shop was going out of business, about 45 minutes from my house. Even at this price, I wavered on whether to take the plunge (I'm extremely cheap). I decided that it would definitely be worth it, and I drove all the way there. Gas is so expensive, so even though it was close to 90 degrees, I didn't even turn on the AC in my car! Alas, I got to the alterations shop, only to be told that she had already sold the machine a couple hours before!!!!!

Ugh, I was SO disappointed. SO SO SO disappointed. And of course now I will never find another machine in such good condition for so little money. I snoozed, I loozed.

But I cheered myself up by making a couple vinyl bags. I love working with vinyl, and even though I might love it even MORE on an industrial sewing machine, I was happy with the way these turned out. I broke out some of my old scrapbooking paraphernalia--a circle punch, my EK Success circle scissors, and even my eyelets and eyelet setter.


I Heart Audiobooks

Sunday, June 1, 2008

This is something I've been meaning to blog for a while, so I thought I'd just do it, instead of procrastinating it any further.

One thing that has been such a joy to me is listening to audiobooks while I sew. For one thing, I LOVE to multi-task. And sitting and sewing in the garage for hours can get a bit lonely at times. But listening to audiobooks allows my mind to stretched, entertained, and engaged, while my fingers guide the fabric and my foot presses the sewing machine pedal.

Lately, I purchased a good pair of wireless headphones. They recharge automatically when I'm not using them, which is awesome, so I don't have to keep recharging AAA batteries. Headphones are crucial when sewing, because it's hard to hear over the racket made by the sewing machine. Wireless is great, since I'm constantly moving from the sewing machine to the iron to the cutting table. Sure, these are all inches from each other in my tiny little sewing area--but still, it's nice to not be impeded or obstructed by wires.

I used to pay a lot of money for audiobooks. I had a membership on, and I also bought a lot of used audiobook CDs from eBay. BUT NOW...(drum roll) can download audiobooks from the library website for FREE!!! Can I tell you how happy this makes me? Yes, it makes me super happy. It's cheap, and it's just about inexhaustible because more and more books are being recorded all the time.

My last listen was The Sex Lives of Cannibals, which I recommend highly. It's funny, it's true, and it's educational. I had never heard of Kiribati before, and the author's description of life on this tiny island is hilarious, and also sad at the same time. What a crazy world we live in.

I am giving my listens a star rating system, in case anyone wants to know what all the asterisks are after the titles. I like being able to keep track of the ones I've listened to here on my blog. Even my blog likes to multi-task!


Arts & Crafts Fair Successful!

I just finished selling at a 2-day event on Sonoma Plaza. Although I'm exhausted, the show was successful, and I realize how far I've come in the past year. I remember how scared I was at my first event, wondering whether ANYBODY would be interested in my bags, much less buy any from me. I imagined myself standing there, alone, while everyone passed by my table. I worried that I would feel stupid and embarrassed.

Now, after 4 events under my belt, at least I'm past the fear. My bags are always well-received. Though not everyone buys, the ones that stop to browse are very complimentary, saying that my workmanship is terrific, they love my fabric choices and styles. They say my prices are good (an area I'm still working to get a better grip upon), and that I have a wide range of price points for all types of shoppers.

Even though the economy is crappy and the gas prices get higher by the second, I feel like my little Sheekoo biz is doing quite well. If only I could make more items! I always have way more ideas than the time to bring them to fruition.

I had a lot of friends come out to keep me company--which is SUCH a big help. Thanks to Lisa, Teresa, Karen, and all the Knuths!! And my husband and daughters also came and helped me. And thanks to Theresa Rhodes for all her talking me up to all her mommy friends!


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