Monday, October 14, 2013

Craft Show Disaster

I was at a craft show yesterday. It was, without a doubt, the worst craft show in which I have ever participated.

I have had a table at several craft shows where the sales were less than satisfying. It happens. And it happens for a variety of reasons. At Spring shows, if the weather is nice, no one wants to be indoors. Conversely, in the Winter, if the weather is bad, no one wants to go out.

Sometimes it’s my product. Not that my products are bad. They’re not—I know they’re not! But sometimes kitchen d├ęcor is not what the buying public is looking for. However, people still stop at my booth, and they still ooh and aah over my products. It’s not a total loss because I networked.

But this craft show was a complete disaster.

As someone who organizes craft shows, I know a thing or two about this.

I did what I tell everyone to do—I did my due diligence. I looked up the organizer: Carlene McCalla. She runs her own business called KaleidoscopEvents, organizing weddings, fundraising events, corporate functions. I didn’t find anything negative about her. I did have the sense that this would be the first craft show she organized, but I wasn’t going to hold that against her. We all have to start somewhere and if she can organize a wedding, she can certainly run a craft show.

So I signed up. The cost was $60 for a table. Not unreasonable. The application and contract stated that the event would be advertised, lunch would be provided for vendors and swag bags would be created for the first 50 visitors (we had the option of adding business cards and other pre-approved items).

I was disappointed when I arrived: there were only twelve tables. Then again, I reminded myself that I’ve been at small craft shows where I sold out, so I shrugged it off and set up. The show opened at eight.

I expected Carlene to come by my booth at some point, but at nine-thirty, there was still no sign of her. By ten o’clock, no shoppers had come through the door. The other vendors started getting a little anxious, and tried to contact Carlene by text and voice mail. There was no response.

Just before Noon, someone asked Dean (the man operating the snack bar) when lunch would be served. He wasn’t aware lunch was provided.

Around twelve-thirty, the vendors started getting angry. Many tried to contact Carlene, but to no avail. By two o’clock, vendors starting packing up. At this point, only six people had come through the door. A Google search of the event came up empty (other than our own Facebook notices), which means absolutely no advertising was done—not even local newspapers.

Someone commented that Carlene McCalla wasn’t in attendance because Saturday was her Sabbath. She did arrange for someone to be present in her stead, but that person left by mid-morning. Another person was asked to step up, but I think she only did it to be polite and the poor thing was left holding a very nasty bag.

I could accept this disaster as inexperience on Carlene McCalla’s part. I could say that it was a one-time malfunction. But now that I have slept on it, and I have made a few queries, I have come to the conclusion that the whole thing was a scam.

She collected our money and, other than sending us a floor plan (which, by the way, was not the same set up when we arrived), we never saw or heard from her again. When I got home, I tried to log onto her site (, but it has been suspended. I know it existed before—I looked it up. I would not have participated in a craft show if the promoter’s site was suspended!

I won’t be asking for a refund. I figure there’s no point because I am convinced that Carlene McCalla of KaleidoscopEvents swindled our money and we’ll never see it (or her) again.

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Sarah's Pillows - Part One

As you know, I'm making pillows for Sarah. She has two different pillow covers that she sent me to duplicate: one large square case and one smaller rectangular case.

"Three of the large, two of the small," she said.

Unfortunately, she only bought enough fabric for two of each. I hate disappointing a client, but she doesn't seem too upset about this, so I'm going with the flow.

I had a crazy week at work, and yesterday was a full day at the in-laws, so today I really needed to vegetate and get my head space back in order. Psyche myself up for work, so to speak. So, I didn't finish the pillows, like I'd hoped. But, Sarah (bless her!) assures me there's no hurry. Still, I'll work on them over the course of this week.

I have been putting a lot of thought into these. Each case has a zipper. There's nothing fancy about them, just plain zippers. I thought that since they're on decorative pillows, they should be lapped zippers. Thing is, I make items that don't require zippers. And I'm self-taught. So I have no clue how to sew in a zipper.

However, I'm my father's little girl, and my father always had the attitude: "How hard can it be?" The same attitude that led him to build the three-bedroom bungalow our family lived in for more than fifteen years. I inherited the Over-Achiever Gene.

So, I flipped through some sewing books I have, and I looked up lapped zippers. After reading the instructions, I thought I better do a few test runs. I pulled out some scrap fabric and I practised.

The instructions weren't very clear and I admit, I struggled. After watching a few tutorials, I realize I'm not the only one who thought the written instructions were confusing. Unfortunately, I didn't watch those videos until I sat down to write this blog. So, my seam-ripper was well-used. However, I figured out how to make a lapped zipper. And that's all that matters.

It's a little worn after taking it apart so many times, and I haven't cut off the threads, or finished the ends...and I don't even know why I'm apologizing for this. It's a scrap, after all.

All that matters is that it looks like it should. See? Peek-a-boo zipper.

Now to sew the real thing. Soon, Sarah, I promise.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Sarah's Drapery

I finished Sarah's drapes last night and delivered them to her today.

When I first saw the fabric, I immediately knew it was Sarah's personality. Bold, vibrant, colourful. Me...I'm a much simpler gal and I like something a little more low key.

But I have to say, after working with the fabric for a few hours, and once the drapes were done, I really like it. It's a bit like a Monet painting, with swirls of colour that bring forth emotion.

I have an unhealthy affection for fabric. My therapist says I'm handling it well.

Sarah picked bronze grommets:

The lining is lovely!

And I got to use my new labels.

Sarah sent me an email once she hung them at home:

See? Monet.

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Drapery and Pillows for Sarah

A friend asked me if I could make her some drapes. It's not something I normally do. Keeping my product line simple and minimal is what keeps me sane. I work a ridiculous amount of overtime, I spend every Saturday looking after my aging inlaws and Sunday is the only day I can catch up with my own house chores.

But for Sarah, I'll make an exception. Have you met Sarah? She's adorable, and it's impossible to say No to her. Not to mention, I don't think she'd accept a No.

So, I agreed to make drapes for her.

She said she would buy the fabric, lining and grommets. All I had to do was cut and sew. Not a bad deal, I think.

I cut out the drapery panels yesterday.

My in-laws have an open basement with tons of room to spread out, so I thought I'd take advantage of that and bring the fabric to cut.

I brought all the tools I thought I'd need: measuring tape (both construction and fabric), rotary cutter, pinking shears, ruler, weights, snippers. In the end, I didn't need all of that, but it doesn't matter. Much better to have it all than to wish I'd brought something.

Today, I'll have to cut out the pieces for the pillows.

Oh, did I mention she wants pillow cases, too? No problem. Urban Contessa is all about customer service.

Of course, I had a moment of panic when I opened the bag of fabric she sent to me. I spread it all out to get a better look:

Then she sends me a text message: The drapery fabric is the one with the pattern. The pillow fabric is the solid green fabric.

I don't know how many of you know this, but I am blue-green colour blind.

For instance, the drapery fabric you see there is blue to me. And the "green" pillow fabric...not so green. That looks yellow to me...mustard yellow. Dijon mustard, to be precise.

I asked Chris which one was green and he looked at me like I had three heads. He points at the yellow fabric. "That one."

"Oh. Uh...thanks."

Maybe a business that relies on colour isn't such a good idea.

I should probably stick to writing. Black and white. Simple.

Did I mention I'm writing my first novel? See why I need to simplify my life?

Tuesday, May 7, 2013


Craft shows, if nothing else, are great for networking.

One of the wonderful people I've met is Laurie Livingston, the owner of StitchWhich. Laurie recently posted on her Facebook wall that a new shipment of garment labels had come in. I cannot begin to tell you how excited I got when I saw that post! I've been toying with the idea of labels, but hadn't had the chance to investigate the matter. Perfect timing!

I commented on her post, asked her if she'd share her contact. She was generous enough to hook me up with John Laidler of Laidler Labels, who made me these:

They're exactly what I wanted. Now, the question is, how should I use them?

Any thoughts?

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

The Aftermath

Well, after a weekend packed with craft shows, I managed to sell almost all my placemats (I have two sets left) and most of my bookmarks. I do have about six tote bags left and several tooth fairy pillows.

All in all, I think that's not bad. It's what I had hoped for, so I can't complain.

Now, I need to think about things. Think about what I want to focus on, what my new line will include and perhaps change a few patterns.

In the meantime, I noticed today that I am now the proverbial Shoemaker.

I have spent a lot of time, lately, working on my novel. I take advantage of my time on the train and type during my commute to and from work, so I haven't spent much time reading. But I felt that I needed a bit of break, so I bought a book on Monday.

While eating my lunch and reading, I was mortified (and ashamed) when I noticed that I'm using the store receipt as a bookmark. ACK! I make one-of-a-kind bookmarks, for Pete's sake! Why aren't I using one?!

As the saying goes...the Shoemaker's children have no shoes. Though, in my world, it's more...the Owner's novels have no bookmarks.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Out with the Old, In with the New

Things are going to change around here. The Summer Solstice will be the turning point for Urban Contessa.

As of June 24, 2013, Urban Contessa will focus on the heart of the home: The Kitchen. We will continue to carry favourites (like our reversible tote bags and one-of-a-kind bookmarks) but most of our products will be hand-sewn items to decorate your table for every day living, entertaining, and celebrating special occassions.

With this new focus, we need to make room. That means clearing out our inventory.

This is your chance to own Contessa designs for a great price.

This weekend (April 27 and 28, 2013), we are attending back to back craft shows. Visit the Events page at our website to see where we are this weekend.

Come by our booth and help us clear out our inventory!

Sunday, January 13, 2013


I don't know about you, but for me, the Christmas holidays went by like that! (picture me snapping my fingers.)

I had so many things I wanted to do, none of which I managed to accomplish. Needless to say, a lot of guilt went with that.

But today, I managed to cross something off my to-do list. I desperately wanted to clean up my sewing room. It was out of control. So out of control, in fact, that I didn't take "before" pictures. It was too shameful.

But I feel so much better now!

What I did manage to do over the holidays was get to the Dollar Store and buy a ton of clear boxes and some tiered bins. I may need more, but for now, I'm happy.

The table is cleaned up and organized:

I used some stacking bins to store the few things I need at hand. A mini-tree holds the scissors and rotary cutter I use most often. The others are stored in a cutlery tray. Pins are in magnetic trays on either side of the sewing machine. Wooden point turners and seam rippers are close at hand. Rulers are nested in a file folder tray.

I do need to clean up the cork board, but that's another job for another day. I definitely won't be getting rid of the finger painting. That's something my step-daughter, Cathy, painted when she was four. She's twenty-two now, and probably paints much better, but I still have a soft spot for this one.

There is a useless alcove in this room. I have no idea what the previous owners intended to use it for, but Chris put up shelving when we converted this to my sewing room years ago. There's a VCR, hooked up to the television (did you notice that in the previous picture?). It's a little lonely in the basement and since I tend to spend hours down there, I like to have the t.v. on for company.

And check out the retro phone!

I will clean this up a little more, but for now, this is much better than it was. There are some French and Spanish text books, but most of the literature is sewing, beading and general crafting books and magazines.

Opposite the alcove are two utility shelves. At the top are bags of batting and pillow forms. Smaller boxes have miscellaneous crafting items and thread (one box of white and black, one box of brown/beige and one box with everything else). Larger bins hold ribbon, elastics, glue gun and glue sticks, jewellery supplies, cut bookmarks and cut tooth fairy pillows. There are four baskets of fabric in various stages: uncut metres, cut patterns and scraps (which are eventually cut into bookmarks).

It took me all day to clean it up. I took everything out, then brought it all back in as I found a home for each item. I still have some work to do, but I'm very happy and relieved.

It's late, and I know I have to go to bed now, but all I can think about is going downstairs and sewing.

Do you think the bosses will believe me if I call in sick tomorrow?