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Practically Perfect Planner Class

Thursday, January 22nd, 2015

Behind the Scenes at Funk & Weber Designs

This isn’t about embroidery; it’s about the Funk & Weber biz, which has been growing and changing. I think it’s a useful subject for many of us, so I thought I’d share this experience.

Are you a good planner or a poor planner? A list maker? A chronically harried and late person? How do you keep yourself organized?

The Problem

I have admitted to being a terrible planner. For the most part, it’s not a problem. I have a good memory, and I’m a list maker. Things get done and get done on time. I claim I don’t like last-minute scrambles, and, for the most part, I rarely have to do them.

In life, that is. In work, the story’s a bit different.

Contract work—that is, work for others—is no problem. I never miss a deadline. My work—Funk & Weber work—however, is the exception to the rule. Any creative or self-employed person will get it: There’s always more to do than one can possibly do; choosing what to do when can be hard; I frequently spread myself too thin because I underestimate how long it takes to do things. And so on and so on.

I find myself scrambling to get things done. I find myself being busy all day but not accomplishing the three most important things on my to-do list. I find myself wasting time spinning my wheels in indecision, searching for lost notes, and switching gears as I attempt and fail at multi-tasking.

Four pieces of paper crammed with lists and notes. A total mess.

My current planner system: lists and notes on scrap paper.

For years, my planner system has been long lists and notes scrawled on scrap paper. Sometimes it can take a while to find the number or note or list I want, but overall, the system works for me. I don’t throw the papers out until everything on them is done, transferred to where it needs to be, or otherwise attended to. I don’t hate this system because it works to some degree, but I’m pretty sure there’s a better system to be had.

Looking For a Solution

I’m looking for a better system. In 2013 and 2014, I downloaded several digital planners to put myself on track. I listened to organization and planning gurus tell me how I should be setting up a promotions calendar, an editorial calendar for my blog, etc. All sorts of things I still don’t do.

I did learn this: Digital doesn’t work for me. I need something printed. One of the reasons my current system works is because it’s written down on paper. I know what’s on those papers. Ask Mike.

I found a planner I kinda liked last year, printed it out, punched holes in the pages, put them in a notebook, and tried to use it. I made a construction-paper holder for the month-view pages so I could see the current month at a glance from my desk. That planner was not a huge success, but it was a start.

Practically Perfect Planner Class

A printable daily planner page that isn't quite right for me.

Nope, this isn’t for me. I want two of the elements on this page but not the other three. Good to know!

This year, I’m trying again. I offered myself up as a beta-tester for the Practically Perfect Planner class. Cara Vincens, creative biz owner at The Hooting Pirate, accepted the challenge of trying to help me replace my current chaotic list and note system with something more organized, helpful, and pretty.

Cara won me over immediately by telling me that my planner failures in the past weren’t my fault; rather, they were the fault of the one-size-fits-all planners. What I needed, she said, was a planner customized for my particular needs. Du-uh, right? That seems so obvious, but I confess it wasn’t something I had considered much.

So where does one get a customized planner, and—the Big Question—how do I know what I need?

Herein lies the magic of Cara’s class for me. Cara’s planner class did something none of the other how-to-use-this-planner instructions has done: It asked probing questions about my needs and habits so that I can identify what might be useful to me. It didn’t tell me how to use a given planner, but how to create a planner that’s useful for me. It’s the opposite of what the other planners and gurus do. My messy, wall-to-wall-chicken-scratch papers do something for me that a customized, Funk & Weber planner could do better. My own unique needs and habits—these papers!—are the key to the kind of planner that will best serve me, which, really, is the purpose of a planner.

No one has pointed that out to me before. No one has ever suggested that I evaluate my current practices and use those to create a planner system that works for me.

To Find, Alter, or Create

Printable monthly calendar page.

Yep. I use this. I love that I can use this page of boxes forever.

Cara provides advice about what to look for in a planner you can buy off the shelf; she offers papercrafting tips for altering one you have that needs some tweaks to be more useful; and she provides printable templates for the likes of me, someone who wants and needs to build from scratch. I don’t want a lot of frou-frou, and I don’t need a planner for my personal, family, or social life; I just want to my to-do lists to be more organized and tidier. I want a minimalist’s planner. I want my desk free of clutter. I want to stop scrambling and feeling overwhelmed.

It’s too soon to know if this will take hold for me, but I’m optimistic. I will have Cara’s help as I continue to shape my Practically Perfect Planner.

Win a Spot in the Practically Perfect Planner Class

Because I was a beta-tester, and because I was pleased with the class and found it useful, Cara has offered free class enrollment to one of our readers here.

This class is for you if you are interested in either of the following:

  • papercrafting and making/altering a planner for yourself, your family, a vacation, whatever
  • getting and staying organized

Cara also uses planners as memory keepers, which may be interesting and useful for some of you. It could be a way to keep track of WIPs, finishes, gifts to make, guild meetings and events . . . you get the idea.

We’re going to make the contest super simple: To enter, leave a comment telling me how you stay organized and on track. Have you ever used a planner for embroidery? Can you think of a way that might be useful? How about for keeping track of supplies? I’d never do that, but I can imagine it being helpful! The winner will be randomly selected from commenters on Thursday, January 29th.

The Class

February 9 to March 22, 2015

Registration is open right now for the Practically Perfect Planners class. Check out the sales page for more detailed info about class content. I glommed on to what I needed and gave short shrift to other parts, I’m afraid.

Note: There’s an Early Bird discount until January 29th, which is the day we announce the winner.

See? If I had had a PLAN, I would have been on top of this and had the drawing earlier, but I didn’t. However, Cara does have a plan, which is to give a refund if the winner happens to be someone who booked early to take advantage of the discount. Thank you, Cara!

The regular price for the class is $47. If you take advantage of the Early Bird discount, it’s $35.

Mark. Set. Go!

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What Will We Stitch In Alaska?

Sunday, December 28th, 2014

Are you thinking about joining us for the Stitch in Alaska tour, August 5–11, 2015? If so, hooray!

Are you wondering what we’ll stitch during the tour?

Well, I’ll tell you.

Two hemstitched pieces.

We’ll hemstitch a fabric or canvas pocket to hold treasures on our souvenir sampler.

The Theme

The theme will be An Alaskan Stitchy Adventure.

Makes sense, no? Alaska is full of adventure and adventurers. The trip is an adventure. Heck, the company organizing it has the word “adventure” in its name (Alaska Wildland Adventures). I think it would be disappointing if our needlework weren’t also an adventure.

“But what is a stitchy adventure, exactly?” you ask.

It is an exciting or very unusual stitching experience and a bold, perhaps risky, undertaking. That means we’re going to risk trying some exciting and/or unusual stitching techniques.

To make it an Alaskan Stitchy Adventure, we’re going to approach the adventure as Alaskans would: independently. You will receive the materials, some patterns, and some instruction, and then you’ll be given free reign to do your own thing. You’ll be given lots of choices to make a unique souvenir sampler, one that memorializes your trip while expressing your personal style.

Souvenir Sampler

Photo attached to embroidery

Attach a photo to an embroidery sampler.


The sampler will consist of as many as six sections, how many you use will be up to you:

  • A photo: Learn and devise ways to combine photos with embroidery.
  • A pocket: Learn to finish and attach a pocket (expect some hemstitching), perfect for holding moose hair, feathers, flowers, a poem, or something else.
  • A stitched picture: Choose your favorite Alaska image to cross stitch, needlepoint, or otherwise embroider.
  • Text: Have your say, and stitch it, too: a word, a phrase, a date, a favorite quote. You decide. You design.
  • Tracks: Explore freeform embroidery and negative space.
  • Found objects: Learn and devise ways to attach found objects (read: treasures) to embroidery.

A Guided Adventure

Sketch of moose tracks in seed stitches

Hoof tracks using negative space. We can fill the rest of the space with oh-so-many things!


Does any part of that worry you? Relax! That’s why you’re coming with me: I will guide you through the process just as I’ll guide you on hikes. It won’t be too hard, and it will be great fun. I promise!

What if you’re simply not into pockets or found objects? Then you’ll skip those bits. Remember, you’re free to make your own choices.

You will also be able to choose how much time you spend embroidering vs hiking, kayaking, sightseeing, etc. After all, it’s your Stitch In Alaska adventure!

Make Your Reservation Now

Learn more about the trip and make your reservation today.

Call: 800-334-8730

Email: info@alaska-wildland.com

Fill out the form: AWA Reservation Form

Remember, space is limited. The summer season in Alaska is short, and trips fill early and fast.

Scrapping Stitches

Saturday, November 29th, 2014

While awaiting my flight at Dulles International Airport in D.C., I had time to open and play with the Little Feet Digital Designs contribution to the Creative Christmas Bundle. It’s a digital kit for scrapbooking—my first one!

I confess I’ve wanted to see and play with a scrapbooking kit, either digital or paper, for a while now, what with hanging out with scrappers and paper crafters. The kit contains a number of file folders with a gazillion “papers” and “embellishments” and “masks.”

Digi-scrapped embroidery

The Funk & Weber Silent Night pattern embellished with digital scrapbooking bits.

“What are those?” you ask.

They’re images in PNG format so they can have transparent backgrounds. This enables users to layer them on each other and personal photos to create interesting and sometimes complex pictures. This is digital scrapbooking, and I’m using it to make interesting digital images of my needlework that I can then use in holiday cards, letters, video, and to share online, etc.

I can also print the scrapped embroidery I create, embellish the printed paper with stitches, and use them as ornaments. There’s something crazy that appeals to me about going from embroidery to paper and then back to embroidery. In the picture above, I envision the flower and leaves in the lower right corner embellished with stitches and beads.

Janet Carr is the designer behind Little Feet Digital Designs. In addition to image goodies, she offers some great photography tips including the following:

  • Top 10 tips for better holiday photos
  • 13 Tips for using angles to add impact to your photos
  • Photo prompts

These are intended for scrappers and general crafters, but many of the tips can be applied to photographing embroidery, tips like shooting close up, at angles, and without a flash indoors, if you can swing it.

“That’s lovely, Jen,” you say, “but you lost me at ‘PNG format’ and ‘layer.’”

Digi-scrapped embroidery

Silent Night again embellished with digital scrapbooking. Can you imagine this as a Christmas card? I can!

I hear you. While I’m not a scrapper, I have been playing with digital images for years and know my way around PhotoShop. But if you aren’t familiar with image editing, this is where Melissa Shanhun comes in. Melissa is the Queen of Digital Scrapbooking HQ, where she teaches digi-scrapping with PhotoShop Elements, a smaller, easier, cheaper version of PhotoShop.

Melissa’s contribution to the Bundle is a collection of 31 layouts along with another digital kit (we know what those are now, right?) as well as samples to look at for ideas and inspiration and video tutorials to help us use them. Ding-ding-ding! That’s the ticket right there!

“Again, Jen, that’s lovely,” you say (you are so polite and patient), “but I don’t have PhotoShop Elements.”

That’s okay. Adobe offers a 30-day free trial of the software. Melissa will tell you how to access it. This way, you can try it out, put together some cool holiday images, and see if it’s something you’d like to buy. I recently saw that Costco had the PSE program for sale for $50, which is the lowest I’ve ever seen.

And that’s my latest adventure with the Creative Christmas Bundle, on sale now through December 1.

Janet’s kits and tips and Melissa’s kit and video workshop are just two of the fifteen products in the Bundle. You can see the complete contents and get your own Bundle here.

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Creative Christmas Bundle + Contest!

Wednesday, November 12th, 2014

Crafty Matchmaking

Snowy aspens

Yeah, this doesn’t go with anything in particular. I just thought the post needed a picture here, and I like this one.

You know all about my matchmaking and how I marry crafts, taking inspiration and techniques from one and introducing them to another.

Well, I’ve been hanging out with scrapbookers and paper crafters for the past year. I know about Washi tape, gelli plates, Project Life, digi files, and cut files (sort of). I see all sorts of possibilities for combining paper crafts, scrapbooking, and stitching.

One of my new crafty-scrappy friends is organizing a super-fun crafty Christmas package. Initially, I expected I’d dance around the fringe, watching and cheering my friends on. As the sole needleworker in the group, I’m on the fringe a lot. Don’t get me wrong, they love me and welcome me (and laugh at my jokes), but I don’t do many of the things they do together: I don’t take the classes they take or attend the events or listen to the podcasts.

But I am part of the Creative Christmas Bundle. They talked me into it. In fact, they thought it was a no-brainer: of course I should participate. “There are stitchers amongst paper crafters,” they assured me. “And there are some who will want to learn.

“It’s not about scrapbooking or paper crafts: It’s about crafting a creative Christmas.”

After serious contemplation and waffling for 2.6 seconds, I was all in.

The Creative Christmas Bundle

Creative Christmas BundleFifteen craft teachers, designers, and bloggers (including me!) have contributed their favorite holiday projects, designs, and classes to make the fun-, idea-, and activity-filled Creative Christmas Bundle. And because every single one of us is an overachiever, there are a gazillion bonuses included and still being added. I’ve added two bonuses, and I still feel like a piker. Hmm . . . what else can I add?

As happens every time creatives collaborate, the ideas and projects grow like zucchini in July, coming on quick and fast, and in a quantity that demands sharing.

  • There is a blog with profiles of the 15 designers.
  • There will soon be podcast interviews. (Mine’s already recorded.)
  • There will be email tips (if you want ‘em, get on the mailing list at the Bundle website).
  • There will be blog posts. (You’re reading one now.)
  • There’s a contest to win a free Creative Christmas Bundle.

And I don’t know what else. I’m having a hard time keeping up.

Bundle Contents

While it’s true that I’m the sole embroidery designer in the group, be aware that “scrapbooking” and “paper crafting” are broad categories, certainly more broad than I understood a year ago. The truth is, these ladies do all sorts of fun, crafty things. Here are just some of the products in the Creative Christmas Bundle:

  • Santa’s Helpers Workshop: quick, inexpensive gifts
  • Printable Christmas Cards
  • Printable Advent Calendar w/activity list
  • 12-Day Advent Envelope Project Tutorial (Printable PDF)
  • Calendar-Making Class
  • Flower Calendar
  • Upcycled Christmas Workshop
  • Cricut Cut Files/phone tutorial
  • Art Journaling Basics online class
  • December Album Template/Sketch kit with digital Supplies, inspiration, and tutorials

and, oh yeah . . .

Silent Night and The Night Before Christmas pattern cover

The pattern cover for the Creative Christmas Bundle patterns.

Without a cutting machine (I’m thinking about getting one), I’m not sure what to do with cut files (I’ll work on it), but I can make use of everything else. I will be all over that art journaling class (Kristie, you’ve been warned!).

The Contest

There’s a ton I want to share about this project—I am having so much fun!—but not all in one post. There is a timely thing, though, that wants attention now: The contest.

Lisa, the Creative Circus Ringmaster, is giving away not one, not two, but three Bundles through a contest on Facebook. I wish I could tell you how it works, exactly—something about sharing the link, which is how social media contests work—but I’m a social media zero. In trying to figure it out so I could share details with you, I think I just entered the contest, which means you’ve got some stiff competition. (Take that!) If I win, we’ll have another contest here to give away my prize. I’m already getting a Bundle. (In that light, my entries are an entry for you. Who knew I was so generous?)

Hand-stitched gift tags

See? Embroidery, paper, and ribbon playing together nicely.

I’m excited to have Funk & Weber patterns in the Bundle, but I’m also excited to explore all the crafty fun the Bundle offers. I’m playing on both sides of this game. (That makes me all-time pitcher or something, right?) I think you’ll like this Bundle, too—especially if you win one of the free ones! If you’ve got a crafty friend who isn’t a stitcher, my patterns in the Bundle could be a way to slip an embroidery suggestion into his/her consciousness. Sneaky you! That’s a big part of what I’m after: The prospect of making new stitchers.

So pop on over to Facebook to enter the contest and stay tuned for more details of this crafty adventure. I’m eager for you to meet my new friends, and I’m looking forward to some crafty matchmaking and stitchy adventures.

What on the (incomplete) list of Bundle contents appeals to you? No, I won’t be hurt if it’s not our patterns. I’ll just assume that’s a given!

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Stitch in Alaska, August 2015

Monday, November 10th, 2014

What do you get when you combine mountains and glaciers, whales and bears, hiking and rafting, midnight sun and fresh-cooked meals, cozy cabins and fun companions . . . and needlework?
Answer: The trip of a lifetime!

Pederson Lagoon from Kenai Fjords Glacier Lodge

Pederson Glacier and Pederson Lagoon. The view from Kenai Fjords Glacier Lodge. You could be here!

Who: Me, Mike, stitching friends, you?
What: A customized Alaska Wildland Collection tour: spending seven days and six nights visiting all three of AWA’s lodges on the Kenai Peninsula.
When: August 5–11, 2015
Where: Alaska’s Kenai Peninsula. (If you’ve got more time, you can add a trip to Denali to your itinerary. Talk with your reservationist.)
Why: Because Alaska is spectacular—a trip of a lifetime. And what better way to experience it than with fellow stitchers?

Trip Details (and your guide)

As many of you know, I originally came to Alaska to work as a Natural History Guide for Alaska Wildland Adventures (AWA), and I never left. Mike was a natural history guide and a fishing guide on the Kenai River. Read more