Happy Birthday to Me! Happy Birthday to You!

Look what greeted me as I entered my studio recently! My fab studio partner, Maude May, created this gorgeous banner to celebrate my 40th birthday.

It made my day. Now it is my pleasure to turn this into an occasion for you to celebrate. For the rest of September, enter coupon code ‘birthday’ in my Etsy shop to receive 10% off any purchase. I have several new items to list in my shop, which will be appearing in the next few days. Check out my facebook page or twitter to keep abreast of new listings.

My children keep asking me if I feel old yet, but the reality is I feel better than I ever have. In my twenties I was unhappily searching to find myself, in my thirties I was exhausted by the pressures of young motherhood. Suddenly, I feel energized and full of potential. In fact, I’ve been posing as a woman in her forties for a couple years, trying to blend in with my friends and colleagues who have the confidence, experience and street credibility to be successful. Now I can finally own my age and stand proudly.

West Coasters

When a prominent museum gift store asks what new products you have for their store, the gears start turning. Taking a friend up on an invitation to wander around Capitol Hill for a morning, we went for coffee, wandered around Volunteer Park and then visited a few mid-century design stores. By the time I made it to my studio that afternoon, I had an hour to work on an idea that occurred to me as we drove through the city. Pulling out a felt remnant, I stitched some irregular shapes in imitation of topographical maps.

My first prototype received a green light from the buyer at the gift store, so I set to work on the real thing. Inspired by the distinctive colors of Puget Sound, the alpine meadows around Mt. Rainier and the paloose of central Washington, I imagined three colorways reflective of the colors in these regions.

After creating sheets and sheets of merino prefelt, I cut hundreds of circles. Pulling together the colors was the most fun I’ve had in a long time.

The riot of color was intoxicating. Once everything was felted, I cut the circles and machine stitched the lines to create greater definition and contrast.

The next project was deciding on the packaging. Price point and hand-feel were the two factors that led me eschew any fussy plastic packaging. People need to touch something this soft. Maude May designed the tags and branded the coasters, inspired by USGS map TWA 1627 Glacier Park,  TWA 1623 Frosty Meadow and TWA 1680 Methow Valley.

West Coasters felted topographic coasters are now available at the Bellevue Arts Museum gift shop and in my Etsy shop.

Mother of Invention

I have to admit to feeling particularly dorky posting this latest item, but it was inspired by true life circumstances. For the last few months, I have been making a concerted effort to commute to my studio by bike, a distance of three miles from home. There is a decent change of elevation between the two points, but with consistent effort, the ride has ceased to be a chore. My husband pointed out that I’m actually getting 20 minutes of free exercise. Driving the same distance would take 10 minutes, while my ride averages 30 minutes. The daily 40 minute difference is the only time I’m really exercising – the rest of it is just free time.

As the temperatures began to drop, I realized there had to be some tricks that made bike commuting manageable for the diehards who do it year round. My biggest problem was the chill from the wind whipping across my face. First solution: larger sunglasses, second solution: felt ear coverings. One of my knitting friends made a lovely pair for her helmet, but being a feltmaker, I knew I could put something together that was functional and I could finish it faster than if I tried to knit it.

After a couple of prototypes and several test rides, I can report that my ears are definitely warmer. The ride home yesterday was almost enjoyable. The next task is making a mitten design that lets me use my fingers when I need them, but still keeps my hands warm.

As I said, this isn’t the most flashy item I’ve made,  but if it works for me, there might be someone else out there who will find it useful. Granted, this is a very small niche market and I do feel very fortunate to live in a part of the world where bike commuting is possible year round. There is one set listed in my Etsy shop, and more will be posted shortly.

For the Love of Color

Last week, I was invited by a magazine to send some felt geodes to their offices to be photographed for the Spring 2012 issue. It was a good reason to finish felting the geodes I’d needled this summer while my studio was officially closed.

The geode kit has been a popular item in my Etsy shop for several years. Currently, each kit contains 1 oz of wool, 2 felting needles, a 3″ foam square and instructions for needling and wetfelting a geode. However, when I create geodes for sale in my studio, I use more wool than offered in the kits because they just seem better that way.

Incidentally, the black walnut cutting board is from Gray WorksDesign. I love the footed design and the curved sides. More than simply functional, it is a beauty.

After a bit of tweaking, I’ve decided to reformulate the geode kit, swapping out a few colors and increasing the amount of wool. This will mean a small price increase, but I think the results are worth it.

This new collection of geodes is available in my Etsy shop and in my studio this Saturday during the Ballard ArtWalk from 6-9pm. Should you be in the neighborhood, make sure to stop by BallardWorks at 2856 NW Market St.

Cool Wall, Warm Space

Waiting for my appointment on Wednesday, I was struck by the contrast in structures and textures at Nola in Fremont. Located next to the Burke Gilman Trail at the corner of Stone Way and Northlake Way, the original structure was built as a depot for goods shipped to Fremont by train.

With a lot of vision, pluck and faith, Brandon and Jennifer Trimble renovated a dark, scarred premises vacant for more than a year to create a space that is both chic and warm. Exposed timbers, painted brick walls, vintage upholstered pews and classic gym lockers pull together a look that is hard to label. It was exactly the sort of place I wanted to photograph my new collection of sheepskins, pillows and wall hangings.

The wool for these pieces was all sourced from Island Fibers on Lopez Island in May. Several intrepid friends responded to my request for help wrangling the bags of raw fleece. I am deeply grateful for their enthusiasm.

Seeing is believing, but to touch these pieces is to fall in love with wool in a way you didn’t know was possible. Sink your fingers into the wool during the Ballard Artwalk this Saturday June 11 from 6-9pm at 2856 NW Market, Studio 2b. If you are too far from Seattle to visit, each of these pieces will be listed in my Etsy shop.

Thank you Jennifer, Eunice, Brandon and Chad!

Design and Redesign

It is no secret that running a profitable business is about efficiency: how to get the most work done in a limited amount of time. After running my Etsy shop for a year, and watching the sales pile up in the shops of successful Etsy sellers, it became clear that creating items easily duplicated greatly reduced the work load and increased the efficiency of a shop. The sellers with the greatest number of sales weren’t creating unique items, they were either selling supplies, kits or artists who sold prints of their work. Just like mass-market retail, if you can replicate a good idea, you have the ticket to profitability.

A large  chunk of the Etsy customers are also sellers. They see a good thing, then think ‘I could do it that’. Kits and tutorials are a good way to break into that ethic and capture the enthusiasm that is already lurking in the marketplace. As an Etsy seller, I spend lots of time cruising through the shops looking at interesting items, and generally turn to a favorite shop when I have an occasion to buy a special gift.

Over the course of the last two years, I ‘ve developed four kits which sell very well in my shop, certainly better than any of my one-of-a-kind, handmade items. When an item sells, I can relist it with a single click, launching it back into the marketplace with little effort. Images sell kits on Etsy, not the packaging: stage a sample of the finished product and show the kit contents. The extra work comes from packaging and shipping the sales, especially if multiple kits are sold to an international buyer. If I was to turn my energy into selling kits for wholesale market, which I’d determined was the next logical step, I needed to work on my packaging.

A slip on New Year’s Day which injured my thumb, and the exhaustion that followed the Christmas holidays forced me to take a break from felting. I decided it was time to work on the kits, creating a cohesive look for my line. A single box and variations on one label design would enable me to expedite shipping and project an image of quality for my brand.

I am fortunate to know several excellent graphic designers, so deciding what I wanted and who I wanted to hire for the job was a concern. After considering some options, I hired Cathy Rundell of Run Cat Run to do the job. She is a parent at our school, who lives nearby and has extensive knowledge of packaging design. She suggested the wrap-around label, with product information on both sides so no matter how the kits were stacked on a shelf, a customer would see enough information to be pulled in. I am thrilled with the results.

Currently, I’m working on getting the new kits loaded in my Etsy shop with a separate listing for each colorway. Next comes the fun work of walking the streets looking for wholesale accounts. If you know of a yarn store, children’s boutique, gallery shop or DIY craft venue in your neck of the woods that would be a good match, please pass along their address. I am happy to send a sample kit to prospective retailers.

Your Name In Letters

A few months ago, the editor from LMNOP, a cool new Australian lifestyle magazine, invited me to submit some felt balls for their 2009 Holiday Gift Guide. Their inquiry was my first introduction to the magazine, but a quick browse through their most recent issue was all I needed to see. The photography and styling is gorgeous, just the sort of eye candy I love.

My custom felt letter balls are featured in Issue 9, page 13 of the gift guide and page 38, in ‘Summer Hits’. Each of the nine issues are available for free download from their website.

Their latest issue also includes articles for families traveling to New York and Tokyo.  The piece on Moomah, a restaurant/art-space in Tribeca, caught my eye. It looks like a feast for the senses and a great place to spend the afternoon.


I spent hours and hours yesterday working on an idea that had been buzzing around in my head for several months. When it started to appear in my dreams, I knew it was time to start working it out in the studio.

I first saw feltmaker Tash Wesp wearing a bracelet she made of felt dreads at a workshop we took together in May. While I didn’t want to knock off her idea, I couldn’t stop thinking about how to make my own version.

My felt workshops always generate lots of scrap bits of roving, and often when I create a work, there is just a tail end of a handpainted colorway too precious to throw away. The pile of ends was spilling out of its plastic bag, so it was time to put them to use.


When they are spread flat, the locks remind me of strange seastars washed up on the beach.


The best part was pulling the colors together to make different combinations. I spent two hours working on the color pairing for fourteen pieces. These are now available in my etsy shop and will also be for sale at the upcoming holiday fairs (watch here for a save the date announcement coming soon).

My daughter wore one in a ponytail to school this morning; the best I could do was pull together two tiny ponytails on top of my head. Walking down the sidewalk this morning, I couldn’t help skipping.

Felt Pebble Soaps

Back in stock at long last, the limited edition felt pebble soaps that were so popular at last year’s Phinney Winter Festival are in my shop again.


Made with pure olive oil soap, these unscented bars weigh just over 2oz each. Each bar is  unique, varying slightly in color and shape, just like your favorite beach rocks.

Mystery Package Birthday Contest

The mail carrier brought three packages yesterday. The contents of two were easy to identify: buttons ordered from MJ Boutique and two custom shirts and some poppy pins from ModestMaven (a birthday present from my mom).


The third package was a surprise from an old friend, the guy who lived in the apartment above ours during college. Mark was just the sort of guy you hope to meet in your early twenties. He was eccentric in a good way: interested in old movies, esoteric music, Paul Klee, typography, Indian cuisine and vintage cameras. While he majored in Art History, it was clear that his talent lay in something more creative. His keen eye for the overlooked beauty in a rusted factory led him into photography. I never get tired at paging through his portfolio.

Mark has always been fascinated by the marginalia of life: an abandoned refinery, vintage Elizabeth Cotton recordings or cans of condensed aged cheddar sauce. When his package arrived yesterday, I was delighted but not surprised by the book. Candy Jernigan is cut from the same cloth as Mark, picking up bits of ephemera from her wanderings to document her swim through daily life. However the other objects in the package, wrapped in a brown paper bag from an antique store in Texas have me stumped. What could they be?Measuring 10″ long, hollow with a brass tip.

This is where the contest comes in. Leave your best guess as a comment and I will randomly select a reader for a mystery package. The drawing will happen on Thursday, my birthday. Gotta share the love that flows so abundantly my way.


Maya of Springtree Road. Not only did Maya correctly identify the mystery object as textile spindles, the number one was selected by two different random number generators. A surprise package for felty goodness is on its way to Maya. Thanks for all the fun guesses!