Posted on 4 Comments

Fleece Car Seat Ponchos Are Getting Bigger!

car seat poncho with hood

We’ve probably all had the misfortune of ordering a clothing item online only to find that when it arrives, it’s smaller than we expected it to be. This situation is especially frustrating when ordering for a child because children grow so quickly. An item that just fits today may be too small in three months! I’ve always been up front about the fact that my fleece car seat ponchos run small. I’ve spent a fair amount of time during my busy season urging customers to size up. But I’ve still had some customers who were disappointed in the size when their order arrived.

That is why, after selling my handmade fleece car seat ponchos for four years, I’ve decided to make a change in the sizing of my ponchos. This decision was not made on a whim, but is the result of careful consideration and concern for my customers.

The ponchos will be exactly the same design — a circular poncho with a two-way zipper and hand slits — made from premium anti-pill fleece. I will continue to offer ponchos with hoods and ponchos without hoods. The difference is that effective March 1, 2019, the ponchos will all be one size larger than before. This means that my car seat ponchos will now more closely correspond with typical children’s clothing sizes.

Last year’s size 8 will be this year’s size 6. Last year’s size 6 will be this year’s size 4T, and so on. Ponchos will still be available in five sizes, but this year, the sizes and front zipper measurements will be as follows:

3-6 months 12″
12 months 13.5″
2T 16″
4T 18″
6 20″

I’m certain that this change is going to be a positive one for my business and for my customers. I look forward to offering a generously sized car seat poncho in my Etsy shop beginning March 1, 2019.

What are your thoughts on this change to my car seat ponchos?

car seat poncho with arm holes
Posted on Leave a comment

Car Seat Ponchos Without Hoods

fleece poncho without hood

Help! My Kid Hates Hoods!

Last year, during the 2018 poncho selling season, I had a few customers contact me asking if I could make car seat ponchos without hoods. It seems that some kids don’t like hoods. Who knew?
Several moms who asked for ponchos without hoods said that their kids didn’t like the feel of the hood behind their heads while they were riding in their car seats. I agreed to consider adapting my poncho pattern after my busy season was over.

Let the design process begin.

Over the course of summer 2018, I made several attempts at a poncho without a hood. All of my prototypes lacked a neck finish that I would be happy to offer to my customers. I just couldn’t seem to get that neckband right!

I was determined to offer a poncho without a hood, but it had to look good. If I just removed the hood and finished the poncho with no neckband, the neck opening would be too large. I spent quite a lot of time contemplating how to make this work.

My light bulb moment

By August, I still hadn’t come up with a workable solution to my design problem. I had just one last option….I prayed. Yes, I’m a praying woman who believes firmly that it is God who has given me a talent for sewing and creating. I don’t know why it hadn’t occurred to me earlier in the summer to ask Him to help me with my dilemma. Not long after praying, I was lying in bed one morning, and a thought came to me about finishing the poncho neck edge with a method I had used before for finishing knit shirts. It worked!

fleece car seat poncho without hood

A successful product!

At the beginning of September 2018, I offered car seat ponchos without hoods. As an add-on purchase, I also offered the option of a detachable hood that snaps onto the neckband with six sets of plastic snaps.

During the last four months of 2018, my busiest time of year, I was surprised by the number of customers who chose ponchos without hoods. My ponchos with hoods still outsold the new hood-free ponchos, but not by a huge margin. Forty-two percent of the ponchos that I sold in those four months were ordered without hoods. I was pleasantly surprised by the success of this addition to my shop!

All of the feedback so far has been positive. Customers have appreciated the option to choose their fleece car seat poncho with or without a hood. I’ve even added hats to my shop, and they work beautifully with the hood-free ponchos.

The moral of the story

If you’ve got a need that a shop owner may be able to meet, don’t be afraid to reach out to a business owner. I’m very thankful that those customers made me aware of their need for a car seat poncho without a hood.

All of the improvements that I’ve made to my poncho design over the past few years have been made because of requests that I’ve received from past or potential customers.

If you’re not wearing a car seat poncho on your child instead of a bulky winter coat, you can head on over to my Etsy shop right now. I’ll be happy to work with you on a custom order.

Car seat poncho without hood
Posted on 11 Comments

Too Soon to Say Good-bye

Chad on his Harley motorcycle

Chad on his Harley motorcycle

These past six weeks have been difficult ones for my family.  On September 16th, my thirty-six year old nephew died from injuries sustained in a motorcycle accident, plunging our family into sadness like we’ve never known before.

Chad leaves behind his parents, a nine-year-old daughter, a six-year-old son, a sister, two nieces, and a lot of other family members and friends who will never stop missing him.  Our family has experienced loss before, but this time, it’s different.  And it’s different because Chad was what we all consider to be too young to die.  It was just too soon to say good-bye.

I know that life doesn’t come with guarantees, and young people die everyday.  Just the same, I fully expected Chad to be around at least another thirty-six years.  I wanted thirty-six more years of his goofy grins, his funny stories, his presence in our lives and at our family functions.
Chad with his mom and his kids

We all expected Chad to be here to enjoy hunting season with his father and his son, to take one more beach vacation with the whole family in tow, to teach his kids to drive, to help his sister choose his parents’ nursing home, and to walk his daughter down the aisle.  And so we grieve.  We grieve for missed opportunities.  We cry for all those things that might have been, but now will never be.

Our only comfort is in knowing that it is God in his sovereign wisdom who numbers our days. It is God who gave us thirty-six years to know Chad and to love him.  Why only thirty-six years?  I don’t know.  But I know the One who knows the reason why, and I trust Him.

These past six weeks have been dark ones, especially for Chad’s immediate family.  I don’t exactly know what it must be like to pick up the pieces of your life after the death of your son, your brother, or your daddy.  It’s heartbreaking to see their pain and to know that my own pain is just a shadow of theirs.

I’d like to tell Chad that I was proud of him.  He was a hard worker, a great guy, an awesome dad!  It’s too soon to say good-bye, so I’ll just say, “See you later!”Good-bye Chad

Posted on

A Swimsuit for a Special Doll

My Life doll in swimsuit

On the 4th of July, I decided to take a break from sewing fleece car seat ponchos and do a little sewing for fun.  I already had a project in mind.  I wanted to make a swimsuit and beach bag for my granddaughter’s 18″ My Life doll.  Aaliyah is six years old, and she loves playing with My Life dolls!  I enjoy watching her change their clothes and create scenarios for them while she’s playing.  I knew that she didn’t have any swimwear for her dolls, so the project choice was an easy one.

This is Aaliyah with one of her dolls that looks a lot like her.  The doll is modeling her new swimsuit and swimming goggles. Aaliyah is modeling her pink cast that she’s been wearing for the past three weeks.

Project Inspiration

My inspiration for the fabric selection for this project came from a kitchen towel that I found on clearance at Walmart.  When I saw the towel, it reminded me of a beach towel.  It was a little larger than most doll beach towels, but I knew Aaliyah wouldn’t mind.doll with beach towelMy Life doll with swimwear

I chose a yellow floral swimsuit fabric for the main part of the swimsuit.  I used a black and white polka dot fold over elastic for the edges of the swimsuit.  The polka dots in the elastic mimic the black and white pattern on the towel.

For the beach bag, I chose yellow with a black and white trim again.  But this time, I added a coral color print for the pocket to coordinate with the coral letters on the towel.  I chose blue jelly bracelets for the beach bag handles.

Swimsuit Details

Everyone’s favorite part of the swimsuit is the bum ruffles!  This detail on this particular pattern is just adorable!  The pattern is from Lee & Pearl.  It’s their Retro Ruffled Swimsuit Pattern.

I chose a black and white check swimsuit fabric for the bottom ruffle with a solid yellow for the top ruffle.  These particular fabrics were available from Lee & Pearl, too, and I’ve had them in my stash for a few years.

doll swimsuit with ruffles

This project reminded me how much I enjoy making doll clothes.  I love the process of choosing a pattern and fabrics with no complicated fitting issues to work around.

It’s pretty awesome to hear Aaliyah tell me how amazing I am, too!

If you like today’s blog post, please share it on Facebook or pin it on Pinterest.

Posted on Leave a comment

Car Seat Ponchos Changes for 2018

new shape for car seat poncho

Change can be scary!

In spite of our fear of change, sometimes change is good.  That’s certainly the case with the car seat poncho changes that I’m making for 2018.

Ever since I began sewing and selling car seat ponchos in 2015, I have used the same pattern.  That pattern has been well received by my customers.  On occasion, I have had customers tell me that they wish their poncho was just a bit longer.

That’s why, when late last year, my pattern designer made a few minor changes to her pattern, I knew I wanted to make the same changes to the car seat ponchos that I offer in my shop.

New for 2018

The new ponchos will be slightly longer in the front and back and slightly shorter at the sides.  The new ponchos have an elongated shape with the extra length where needed.
The photo below is a “old” size 2T poncho that I made using the pattern that I’ve been using for the past few years.

Size 2T car seat poncho

Now, this poncho below is a new size 2T in a beautiful gray and purple feather print.  You can see the slight difference in the shape of the ponchos.

Size 2T car seat poncho

For comparison, check out the photos below.

Two car seat ponchos
New shape of car seat ponchos

In the first photo, you can see the old poncho is approximately two inches shorter than the new poncho in the front and back.

In the second photo, notice that the new poncho is not as wide at the shoulders as the old poncho.  This allows for a better fit with less bunching at the hands when using the wrist snaps.

Admittedly, these changes are not earth-shattering, but both of the changes are positive improvements in the car seat ponchos that you can purchase here in my store or in my Etsy shop.  Anyone who purchased a poncho after February 2018 already received this style.  The measurements in the listing descriptions in my shop will reflect these changes.

I look forward to hearing your thoughts on these changes to the car seat ponchos.  Rest assured that the features that set my ponchos apart from the rest — the two-way zipper, hand slits, and wrist snaps — will not change.  I will continue to make ponchos that you and your children can enjoy for years!

Posted on 12 Comments

Springtime in the Country

Nothing says springtime in the country like green grass, blossoming trees, and the fragrant smell of …… an open septic tank.

We live in a beautiful rural area, and sometimes people are envious of our location.  We love our country home, but I thought I should clear up any misconceptions that country life is all sunshine and flowers.

Here at Grandma’s house, we recently received a letter from our local township office informing us that it is time for an inspection of our septic system.  We are required to pay a $75 inspection fee every five years for the privilege of having our  septic system checked out by an expert septic system inspector (talk about a dream job!).

Had it been five years already since Grandpa uncovered our massive septic tank?  Time flies when you’re busy flushing!

As soon as we mailed off our $75 fee, Grandpa commenced digging.  It was hard work, but thanks to Grandpa’s ingenious use of logs five years ago to displace some of the earth, it didn’t take as long as it did last time.

Finally, it was time for the inspector to inspect.  We knew this because he called us yesterday at 6:36 AM to confirm his appointment.   He arrived at our house in the afternoon with his assistant who is pictured below.

While his assistant waited in the truck, the inspector jumped right in and started inspecting.

 

If you’ve never had the joy of standing outside on a warm, sunny day staring down into a septic tank, then you haven’t experienced country life to the fullest!  The verdict is that our septic system looks good, at least as good as a septic system can look.   We passed the inspection!

Whew!  That’s over for another five years.

I hope you enjoyed this little glimpse of country life.  In spite of our septic system, I wouldn’t want to live anywhere else!

City life or country life, what’s your preference? 

Posted on Leave a comment

Why I Became an Entrepreneur

Why I became an entrepreneur

When I was a child, I remember people asking me what I wanted to be when I grew up.  I’m pretty sure I never once responded to that question by saying, “I want to be an entrepreneur.”  As a child, I had never once considered the possibility of owning my own handmade business.  Yet, here I am, sole proprietor of Elaine Searer, Sewing & Alterations, and I’m loving it!

Three Reasons I Started My Own Business

My top three reasons for owning my own handmade business are as follows:
1. Opportunity to work in my own home
2.  Setting my own schedule (except during my busy season)
3.  Satisfaction of doing work that is appreciated by my customers.
Making fleece car seat ponchos

Not only do I make custom items, but I also do alterations.  I find it extremely satisfying to take a garment that someone couldn’t use and turn it into something that fits and works for that person.  I feel that same satisfaction when I take two pieces of fleece fabric and make a car seat poncho that will keep a child warm all winter long.
Paperwork is part of my businessMy husband and I have created a comfortable, practical sewing studio in the basement of our home.  It’s one of my favorite places to spend time.  I am very thankful that I can contribute financially in a way that is enjoyable and fulfilling.
Choosing snaps for a car seat poncho

Flexibility

Before I became an entrepreneur, I was a high school English teacher.  I liked that job, too.  The time I spent in the classroom with my students was especially enjoyable for me.  I did find, however, that I was not well-suited to running my life by a system of bells.  I craved an opportunity to be more in charge of my own schedule.

Owning my own business doesn’t mean that I can work only when I feel like it, but my schedule is flexible.  My husband, Jack, and I start every day with coffee and a “business meeting” in our living room.  We love our local customers whom we see face-to-face.  It’s fun to follow our packages that are sold in my Etsy shop and here in my own online store as they travel across the U.S.A. and Canada.  Our customers often make our day with their orders and positive feedback for my products.
Handmade fleece car seat poncho
For right now, I’m fully convinced that I’m doing exactly what God created me to do right here in the space that He’s given me.  If anyone would ask me what I’d like to be doing with my life, I’d proudly tell them, “I’m already doing it!”

Did you enjoy today’s

blog post?

Share it on Pinterest to spread the fun!

You can find me on Social Media!

Join my Facebook group for special VIP updates and sales!

Posted on 8 Comments

How I Found an Extra $100

[et_pb_section bb_built=”1″ _builder_version=”3.0.89″][et_pb_row _builder_version=”3.0.89″][et_pb_column type=”4_4″][et_pb_text admin_label=”Blog Post Text” _builder_version=”3.2.2″ background_size=”initial” background_position=”top_left” background_repeat=”repeat” background_layout=”dark” text_text_color=”#000000″]

When I need an extra $100 or sometimes even $200, I look in my pantry.  Money hidden in the pantry?  Don’t be ridiculous.  If I hid money in the pantry, I certainly wouldn’t advertise the fact online.  I find money in my pantry by doing a month long pantry challenge!

Pantry Challenge—>intentionally limiting grocery spending in order to use items that are already on hand in the pantry, fridge, and freezer. 

You probably won’t find that definition in the dictionary since I just composed it myself for this blog post. The pantry challenge principle is quite simple, but it works because most of us tend to overspend a little at the grocery store from time to time.  We buy more than we need, and that excess piles up in our cabinets, pantries, and freezers.  Instead of using up all of the groceries that we buy each month, we add to it the next month.

I have found that I can trim $100 or even $200 from my grocery budget a couple times a year by committing to eat from our surplus rather than buying more food at the store.  During a pantry challenge month, I still buy some groceries.  I have found that the best way to do this is to budget a set amount that is about 50% less than what I would normally spend.  For instance, I might aim to spend $25-$50 a week instead of $100.

If you are different from the vast majority of people I know and you never overbuy, then a pantry challenge will not work for you.  You’ve got to eat, and you’ve got to feed your family.  If you have no excess in your pantry and freezer, then this method for freeing up a hundred dollars is not for you.

In the past, I’ve done a pantry challenge when Jack and I wanted a little extra money, and we didn’t want to take the money from any of our regular spending categories. We once paid for a weekend getaway using money from our grocery budget, and we certainly didn’t starve in the process!

This month is pantry challenge month at our house.  If you’d like to try a pantry challenge, here’s what you can do to prepare:
1.  Do a quick inventory of your pantry, fridge, and freezer.
2.  Make a meal plan using ingredients that you have on hand.
3.  Make a note of any ingredients you may need to purchase to round out your meal plan.
4.  Set a weekly grocery spending limit.
5.  Enjoy the challenge!

Who knows, you just may find some money in your pantry!  

What would you do with an extra $100 this month? 

[/et_pb_text][/et_pb_column][/et_pb_row][et_pb_row _builder_version=”3.0.47″ background_size=”initial” background_position=”top_left” background_repeat=”repeat”][et_pb_column type=”1_2″][et_pb_image admin_label=”Pinterest Graphic” src=”https://www.elainesearer.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/09/How-I-Found-an-Extra-100-Pinterest.png” _builder_version=”3.2.2″ /][/et_pb_column][et_pb_column type=”1_2″][et_pb_text admin_label=”Call To Action” _builder_version=”3.2.2″ quote_text_align=”center” quote_font_size=”10px” header_text_align=”center” header_line_height=”1.5em” background_color=”#ff87b8″ custom_margin=”150px|||” custom_padding=”|||” box_shadow_style=”preset1″ global_module=”5512″ saved_tabs=”all”]

Did you enjoy today’s

blog post?

Share it on Pinterest to spread the fun!

[/et_pb_text][/et_pb_column][/et_pb_row][/et_pb_section]

Posted on 3 Comments

Tee-Shirt Memory Pillow

Memory pillow made from a tee shirt

I’ve been making some memory pillow covers from clothing since December.  Until last week, all of the memory pillows I’ve made were fashioned from men’s button up shirts.

On more than one occasion, I’ve had someone ask if I could make a memory pillow cover from a tee-shirt or a sweatshirt.  My answer to that question was affirmative, and last week, I finally gave it a try.
Memory pillow made from a tee shirt

My sister, whose husband passed away two years ago, gave me one of his tee shirts so that I could make a pillow cover for her granddaughter.  The shirt she gave me held sentimental value for this particular granddaughter who liked to tease her pap when he wore this shirt.  I think she’s going to enjoy having this special reminder of her beloved grandfather.

The shirt had the same line “Old Guys Rule” on the back, and I was able to incorporate that into the back of the pillow. memory pillow from tee shirt
A covered zipper on the back of the pillow cover allows easy removal for laundering.  This pillow cover was made to fit a 16″x 16″ pillow form.

pillow made from tee shirt

If you’d like to have a memory pillow cover made from a clothing item, please contact me.  You can use the contact form here on this website or you can find me on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/elainesearersewing/ .

I’d be happy to work with you to make a memory pillow that you or a loved one will cherish.

Did you enjoy today’s

blog post?

Share it on Pinterest to spread the fun!

Posted on Leave a comment

My Top Sewing Machine Buying Tip

Buying a sewing machine can be a challenge.  I’ve got some advice that can help with your decision.   Because I sew a lot and own several sewing machines, people ask me fairly often for advice in choosing a sewing machine for themselves.  Usually the questions are concerning the brand of sewing machine, the price of the sewing machine, and the features that I consider necessary.

I’m happy to offer my opinion on any or all of those questions, but my #1 word of advice for buying a new sewing machine has to do with WHERE to buy a sewing machine.  My advice is always that same.  Buy your new sewing machine from a sewing machine dealer.
Janome Magnolia 7330  

Recently, I decided to buy a new basic sewing machine so that I would have a back up machine for my “good” sewing machine that is getting older.  I wanted a Janome sewing machine so that all of the accessories would be interchangeable with the sewing machine I use most.  You might expect that since I knew what kind of machine I wanted and what features I would need, that I’d just log in to Amazon and have this machine on its way to me with that famous Amazon two-day free shipping.  That is NOT what I did!  Not only would I never buy a sewing machine from Amazon, but I also never recommend that you do that.

Instead of clicking that “buy now with one click” button, I drove to my local Janome sewing machine dealer.

Here are three reasons why I always recommend buying a sewing machine from a sewing machine dealer:

1.  At the dealership, I can see the sewing machine in person.  The dealer, who was trained by the sewing machine company will demonstrate how to use        the machine.  I can sew with the machine myself, just as I would test drive a potential new car.

2.  Sewing machine dealers offer repair and cleaning services to their customers.  Once a year when my sewing machine needs to be professionally                cleaned, I take it back to the dealer where I bought it.  I can also return to the dealer if my sewing machine should need to be repaired.

Last year, while working on a sewing project, I accidentally sewed over a straight pin.  My needle broke, and I could not get my machine to sew properly.  Because I depend on my sewing machine for my small business, this was a crisis.  I immediately called the dealer who is also known as The Sewing Machine Doctor.  He advised me of a few things I could try to get the machine working again. None of those suggestions worked, so he agreed to take a look at my sewing machine that same day!  Would I have gotten that kind of service from Amazon?  No way!

3.  I am supporting a small business in a nearby community.  As a small business owner myself, I know how important it is to support other small business       owners who can sometimes feel that we can’t compete with Amazon, Walmart, and other huge businesses.

Buying a sewing machine locally, just makes sense.  If you find yourself in the market for a new sewing machine, I hope you will consider shopping at a local sewing machine dealership.  I can guarantee you’ll be glad you did!
 . My Top Sewing Machine Buying Tip
Do you have a local sewing machine dealership in your area?