Organization, Part 3

Did you think I forgot about ORGANIZATION?? Here is my next (and last) installment of organization posts! Hopefully you caught my previous 2 blog posts on some cool videos I found – Stabilizer Savvy and How to Start an Embroidery Machine Business. Now back to Organization and Part 1 & Part 2 are on the blog…

Tips & Timesavers for doing monograms and appliques

Beth’s answer to this – if she has 10-15 minutes before school, carpool or a sports event, she will sit down and design monograms (in her software) so they are ready when she is ready to sew them. She also may cut fabric and iron on the backing (Heat N Bond Lite) so she’s ready!

This is also where having extra hoops comes in handy! When I first started, my PE700 came with 1 5×7 hoop. Of course I ordered the 4×4 and 2×3, but also eventually ordered extra 4×4 and 5×7 hoops. That way I could work on hooping the next item while stitching another. I now have 3 4×4 hoops, 2 5×7 and a variety of other hoops – Durkee 9×9 and 6×6. I also have a variety of Fast Frames so I have plenty of hoops/frames to get the next item ready!

hoops blog post

INSTEAD of cruising Facebook (or Instagram, or Pinterest…) while that 46 minute monogram stitches, see what else you have to work on and start preparing. Iron, mark your center, go ahead and hoop it or attach it to the fast frame, cut your fabric for appliques, iron them and apply Heat N Bond Lite. Go ahead and set aside thread colors for the next project! There are lots of ways to maximize your time while sewing. Try not to get distracted! 

I think I posted this photo before, but while the burp cloth was stitching, I went ahead and ironed the bib, marked the center and ironed tearaway stabilizer on the back. I knew I was doing a small patch applique, so I went ahead and cut that fabric, ironed it and applied my Heat N Bond Lite. It’s ready to hoop and stitch!

photo (22)

I was doing a few of these cute bags the other day from Ikea. While 1 was stitching, I went ahead and got the next one ready – center marked and attached to the fast frame! I didn’t have another frame to get the 3rd one ready, but I went ahead and marked my center. IMG_5574

Easiest Way to Pick out Fabric & Thread Colors

This can be hard sometimes and easy sometimes! For me, Sew What-Pro saves me A LOT of time in this department. When I am getting ready to sample or sew a NEW design, I always open it up in SWP first and change the colors around to get an idea of what colors I want to use. This gives me a head start in choosing fabrics. Here’s an example:

This is what the design looked like fresh out of being digitized, ready for me to sample. As most of you know, my husband Jeff does the digitizing and he makes each step a different color, but there’s no rhyme or reason to which colors he chooses.

Bicycle Patch5x7

The first thing I do is change the colors to help me visualize what color fabric and threads I plan to use. For boy designs I usually start with primary colors, or my favorites like turquoise, lime, orange, etc. For girls, I usually start with hot pink and then go from there – turquoise, lime green, orange. This is just a starting place!

Bicycle Patch5x7colors

This is one of our single fabric patch designs, so I typically use simple fabrics like ginghams, stripes & polka dots. As you can see, setting the colors I want to use before I sew it really helps!

bicycle patch

Sometimes you might be matching a pair of shorts, or matching a monogram to some trim on a bag. Those projects are easy! Sometimes I am sampling new designs and I will sort through every piece of floral fabric I own trying to find the perfect fabric. This is where organized fabric comes in handy! I have mine organized by design – polka dots, ginghams, florals, boy fabrics, textured fabrics (minky & chenille), etc.  Keeping your fabric & thread organized is a good start!

If your applique is several fabrics, start by nailing down the main fabric. If it’s a floral, see what goes with it – polka dots, ginghams, stripes, solids, etc. Most of our designs at Applique Cafe are very SIMPLE. Other than Turkey designs and a hand full of others, most of our designs aren’t more than a few fabrics which makes your job easier!

When do you not work or when is it OK to take the day off?

Beth tries really hard not to work when her kids are around! See my last post! 🙂 If her kids are playing outside, she might throw something easy and “safe” on the machine. If she is not in the mood to embroider, she tries to stay away from the machine. I agree! That’s when you make the most mistakes, or your machine will act up FOR SURE. Personally, I try not to work on the weekends. There are some Saturdays when we have nothing going on and the kids are down the street playing, so I might sit down and get some work done. I often have people call and want to come over at all times of the day, including when we are eating dinner. I try to avoid that! You need to keep family time sacred, and as much as you think you need to work for 12 hours a day, you need to pace yourself, be more organized and set a reasonable work schedule!

Another tip or suggestions that I got:

At the end of the day, put everything back in it’s place! Put your hoops away. Make sure your fabric is all back in the right basket. Throw away the scraps and things that need to be thrown away. Finish up the day by leaving your work space organized and clean, then you are ready for the next day!

If you have any other suggestions or tips, do share! Leave us a comment and I will be sure to share!

Organization, Part 2

I wanted to go ahead and do part 2 of my Organization posts, but first, I am excited about something new we are selling on our website. I looked back through my old records, and on June 4, 2007 I purchased my first embroidery (font) software. If you’ve read my blog, you know I use Monogram Wizard Plus for my fonts (names & initials) and I use Sew What-Pro for merging and editing. I bought MWP first and have loved it for almost EIGHT years!! I don’t have to tell you I love SWP too, as we’ve been selling it on the website (here) for a little over a year now and I mention it on my blog quite often. It’s become our top seller each month over any single applique design. We are now selling Monogram Wizard Plus too, and while it’s more expensive than SWP, it’s worth every penny! I’ve used it for the past almost-8 years, so it calculates to just $30 a year thus far. It’s a great investment if you are in the business of embroidery and monogramming!  Check it out – click HERE!

Here is just a sampling of what you can do in Monogram Wizard Plus. Lots of great fonts and motifs:

mwp4

Here is a screen shot of your workspace in MWP. It’s super easy to use and super easy to scroll through all of the various font options, sizes, etc. Again, a great investment! You can click on the TAG Monogram Wizard Plus on the right column, or search “Monogram Wizard Plus” on my blog in the search box. There is also a post or two in Helpful Posts.

mwp3

Now on to ORGANIZATION. As a follow up to my last post, Part 1, Kristi D. messaged me about a couple of apps you can download to help with to do lists and organization. They are: Evernote and Todoist (not “todolist”, but todo+ist). I just downloaded Todoist so I will try it out and see how it works! It looks like you can add tasks to certain days, set up reminders, etc. I just downloaded it so I haven’t gotten far yet! I may still be a pen and paper kind of girl but will give it a try!

OK…..

When is the best time to work?

I think everyone might answer this question differently because we are all in different stages of life and all have different schedules. Beth S. answered “I try to throw one or two things on the machine after my kids go to bed. I get a lot done when my husband takes my boys to practices.” (yay hubby!) Beth also works from home on Fridays so she tries to get 5 or more things on the machine on Fridays. For me, I try to get work done when my kids are at school. They go to a classical Christian school and they get out at 12:30 every day, so this is sometimes hard! Morning is my time to run my errands sans kids, go to bible study, volunteer at their school, etc. Usually 1 or 2 mornings a week I get to just stay home and work. I also try to work in the afternoons while they are doing their homework, but this is usually chaotic and I’m constantly interrupted and usually get frustrated. I try NOT to work much when Jeff gets home from work and throughout the evening, but sometimes it happens a day or two a week while the boys are at soccer practice. I also try to avoid working on the weekends unless we have NOTHING to do and I need to knock out a job or two. as I type this on Sunday afternoon…. If your kids are small and take naps, nap time is a great time to try to get a few things done! Maybe nights and weekend are your only time to work. That’s fine too! Just don’t sacrifice precious time with your family to work unless you have to.

Overall I think you have to look at your schedule and try to carve out time when you can get some work done uninterrupted! If you do this part time, you need to set hours and stick to them. I have a friend who lives in Atlanta who once told me that he intentionally gets up in the mornings, gets dressed and purposefully goes out for coffee or to grab breakfast. He then “goes to work” which is back at home. It’s hard to separate yourself from being at home when you work there! I am often distracted by laundry, cleaning, the dog, watching TV (I love The Today Show!), etc.

This is what happens when I try to work in the midst of kids!!

kids blog post kids blog post 2 garrison spider man

When is the best time to check email (other than every 5 minutes like I do sometimes….)?

I would add to this: Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram and all the other “distractions” I struggle with that are “for work” but can distract me for an hour!! When we first started Applique Cafe, I worked out of our dining room in our old house and felt the need to check email literally every time I walked by the dining room. It was out of control! Depending on what your business is and how important email is to you, I would say to check it 3 times a day. Set a schedule and try to stick to it barring special circumstances. Try to check it in the morning when you get up or sometime in the morning when you have a few minutes. Check it at lunchtime or in the afternoon if you are away from home during the day. Lastly, check it quickly at night before heading to bed. We do have to check ours often b/c the majority of our business is email, but I have found that if I check it too much, I am taking time out of my day to check it and may only receive 4 emails b/c I just checked it 20 minutes ago!

Social Media… if anyone is guilty of wasting too much time on social media, it is ME! There is no telling what I could accomplish in the hours and hours I’ve wasted since Facebook was invented! If you use social media for your business, try to stick with the same 3 or so times a day rule. Yes you might need to check Facebook to see if you have any messages or comments you need to check on. What you don’t need is to open Facebook in the middle of sewing a shirt and waste 30 minutes scrolling through to see what all your friends are up to! Same with Pinterest and Instagram! Both are great tools for business and most importantly they are FREE, but they can also distract you from your work and next thing you know an hour has passed and you haven’t even finished a single monogram! SET LIMITS!! 

How many items do you do each day? Goals are good!!

Beth S. says that she sets small goals. If she has 11 baseball bags on her to do list, then she tries to complete 2 to 3 a day. If she finds some extra time here or there, she can usually exceed her goal. I agree with Beth in that small goals are a great idea! I not only do this with embroidery work, but I do it with my every day stuff as well. Every day I either think about what I need to get done that day or write it down. It might be: go to the bank, send out X email, bathe the dog, monogram Leslie’s 2 items. Doesn’t it feel good to mark those things off the list, 1 by 1? I might have 32 embroidery items on my to do list, but know today is sort of a busy day and I don’t have a lot of time. Set a small goal of monogramming 1 thing, or 2 or 3 things. A lot of times you might be able to squeeze in 1 more and that’s great, but if you can’t, then at the very least you can accomplish the small goals before the day is done!

That’s all for today! I will continue next time with time savers & tips for doing monograms and appliques and the easiest fastest way to pick out fabric and thread colors! I would love to read your comments or suggestions for ORGANIZATION, so comment away!

Organization, Part 1

A couple of months ago, I did a blog post soliciting help, tips, shortcuts, whatever… on being organized and efficient. Just to show you how efficient I am, 2 months later I am finally back to share what I learned! I have to give a special SHOUT OUT to Beth S. who took the time to answer my plea for help in this area. Her answers were organized by questions by the way, so 2 thumbs up!

To give you a little background on Beth, she works full time and got her first embroidery machine 5 years ago. She upgraded to a Brother PR650 6-needle after 2 years, uses Monogram Wizard Plus and also has several extra hoops (I will touch on that later). Her biggest business is logos on baseball stuff (bags, pullovers, etc.) She’s an accountant by trade, so she is super efficient and doesn’t like to have inventory sitting around the house. Her goal is to create a sizable business so she can retire from her “real job” and still have income for vacations! I think that’s how a lot of us start out… embroidery “on the side” until we can see if we can really do it full time and still contribute to the family income or make a decent living. On the side, making extra money, is always good too!

Here is the first question on organizing orders! I will continue to answer the questions from THIS POST in future posts. I don’t want to overwhelm anyone! 🙂 A lot of the answers came from Beth, some from my own experience and a few others from emails and comments on the post.

How do you organize orders?

Beth has a to-do list on her computer that she keeps open at all times. It includes to dos for her house, real job & embroidery and she updates it throughout the day. She organizes her orders in the order in which they were received, but will sometimes switch between customers based on which hoop she is using on her machine. Beth’s turnaround time is a standard “2 weeks” but she often finishes early! Personally, I get overwhelmed with big orders! If I have a big order staring at me, and a couple of onesie twosie items on my to do list, I sometimes knock out the 1 or 2 items and then work on the big order. As long as I’m getting my orders done in a timely manner, it doesn’t really matter and it feels good to mark items off the to do list!!

to do list

I sometimes carry a little notepad or notebook around with me where I keep all of my to dos! I am 40-something years old, so if it ain’t written down, it ain’t going to happen. I can have someone bring over a bib to monogram and tell me they want bubblegum pink thread and a Master Circle monogram. Fast forward a few hours, and I cannot tell you what color or what font they want if it’s not written down. Truth.

As far as organizing orders, you need to have a system for writing stuff down. Whether it be a notepad where you write down the date and what the customer wants, or something more sophisticated like a typed up order form with the date and all the important details included on it. I believe you also need a PLACE to PUT your orders and a way to keep them organized. I got this nifty thing at Hobby Lobby on clearance a couple of years ago… The numbers come in handy!

order organizer

It helps that I have a dedicated sewing room now, but years ago I worked in our dining room and I had a wire industrial shelf from Target (see photo below) and baskets from Walmart where I kept all of my orders. That’s when I was doing customer work full time, and Jeff would sometimes hide stuff from me because I would become overwhelmed at my to do pile on the shelf. I think the key is to be organized as best you can! Put a date on everything. Keep a spreadsheet with important order info on it. Print emails if people email orders to you. Develop some type of system that works for you depending on where you do your embroidery, where you keep your to do orders, when you find time to work, etc.

wire shelf

If you aren’t organized, find a friend who is and ask for help! I have a friend who is super successful in the embroidery business. Her sister is super organized so she came in and helped her develop a system to keep track of all of her orders!

Keeping a good calendar is great too! Jeff and I have have 2 of these dry erase calendars on our wall in our office. We have 2 months going at a time. I know smart phones can do all that for us, but we like things written down.

calendar blog post

Chime in by commenting if you have any more specific ideas! Next I will cover the best time to work and juggling the computer stuff – email, social media, etc.