Jen Spilly Designs
handmade for woman and home

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Handmade for Woman and Home
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Instagram Best Nine 2016

Instagram Best Nine 2016

It's been a while. Checking in to share my Instagram Best Nine of 2016, the posts that received the most likes over the past year. It turns out that these images are some of my favorites too. It seems the moments and achievements that touch us most deeply are the things that speak to others about ourselves the most deeply too. Over the past year I started doing some block printing and hand dying, I had a couple of awesome vacations with beautiful vistas and tasty cocktails, I took a stab or two at building daily creative habits, my kids grew (and I have the pics to prove it!). And two things will forever be so: 1) I am a sucker for pics of my kids from our annual Christmas Tree Trek (especially with silly faces and Santa hats) and 2) my husband sure knows how to light a tree... he's always the most popular guy on the block this time of year.

For anyone reading, I wish you a Happy New Year and leave you with a list of thoughts on where I am in my life right now, Taking Stock inspired by Pip of Meet Me At Mike's. Make your own list, it's fun and harder than you'd think...

Making : lists
Cooking : Enchiladas
Drinking : coffee and wine, what else is there?
Reading: In The Company of Women by Grace Bonney
Trawling: Hot for Food Blog and Lauren Toyota... I'm not vegan, but she's inspirational.
Wanting: a new couch
Looking: forward
Deciding: on my "one little word" 
Wishing: people find peace
Enjoying: twinkly lights
Waiting: to speak
Liking: fresh flowers
Wondering: how to get it all done
Loving: my old dog
Pondering: a cleanse and a better fitness plan
Listening: to old vinyl with N
Considering: classes and workshops... for me!
Buying: groceries... really, it never seems to end
Watching: family movies with the kids
Hoping: it all works out
Marvelling: at the freedom of birds
Cringing: when I think ahead to January 20
Needing: nothing
Questioning: my direction
Smelling: geranium
Wearing: my Blundstones almost every day!
Noticing: friends who seem to have it together
Knowing: that they probably really don't
Thinking: about classes and workshops
Admiring: creative people
Getting: rid of extra stuff, making room for the Holiday haul
Bookmarking: One Little Word
Disliking: the tween years
Opening: Holiday cards
Closing: the year
Feeling: a little stuck
Hearing: my own voice
Celebrating: new beginnings
Pretending: that I am not a procrastinator
Embracing: my babies who aren't babies anymore

Goals, Intentions & The State of Things

  Palms in the Evening

...tempting you with a pretty pic to get you to read my long analysis of the state of things.

My friends and family get semi-regular glimpses of my home and creative life on Facebook and Instagram, and my local school community stays connected with my business through my class offerings, but it is no secret that the original intention of my business seems to have gone by the wayside.

My original goal and intention was to run a creative business in which I design and produce textile goods - bags, purses, pouches, camera straps and other original fabric items - and sell them online, at craft fairs and eventually in local shops through wholesale accounts or on consignment. I planned to market my work the same way as many other creatives with Etsy as my shopping cart linked to my website. The site would feature a blog bringing interested people regular content with behind-the-scenes glimpses into my process, tutorials, lifestyle features, and inspirational links. All of this would be augmented by a presence as a business on Facebook and Instagram.

Instead, I ended up teaching a lot of classes and not making much of my own work and, in turn, not selling or writing much at all. I look at my shop and I have a mere 20 sales (there have been other sales via personal contacts and craft shows, but still, not many). I have a handful of inventory left over from the last couple of years because I never applied myself to the relisting process on Etsy and I lost steam doing updates on my Facebook business page. By spring of this year, I found myself extremely burned out on teaching classes as well.

With teaching, it started out as a side thing - a couple of years ago a few people asked if I could teach their kids. I figured, "Why not?" One day a week in my living room quickly grew into more until I had to rent a studio just to keep my household sane. I was eventually scheduling four days a week plus private lessons on weekends to accommodate everyone who had interest. So many students were happy to sign up again and again that they became "advanced" and wanted to choose their own patterns but still work in a group setting to benefit from my help.

All of this sounded great, even successful, in theory. The reality was that I was dreading class because I knew it would be an hour and a half marathon each day of racing from pattern guide to pattern guide, sorting out pieces and steps, and troubleshooting problems when steps were skipped or done wrong only for lack of teacher attention. An hour and a half on any given day may not seem like a lot, but when you figure in all of the additional time it took to prepare projects for classes, help select and often shop for fabric and notions, guide students through pattern steps and troubleshoot, clean and prepare the studio for each day's class, manage all different kinds of personalities, not to mention schedule and publicize the classes for each session so they get filled... well, it's A LOT!! At one point I had 24 students (6 per class) and almost all of them were doing different projects...

Complaints? No! Whatever frustration or burnout came from this process is my own fault. I simply wanted everyone to be happy and so I let my students pick their own projects as they gained more knowledge. This was a mistake. In fact, most of the time I really enjoy teaching sewing to truly interested students. There is nothing quite like the moment a true beginner completes her first project and clearly can't wait to run and show her mom that she actually made something useful. Ultimately, I needed to put more time into finding a way to streamline the process so everyone continued to learn and have fun, but so I could stay relaxed and sane.

With regard to designing and creating product, I'm not sure if it's lack of time, lack of inspiration, lack of energy or something altogether different that has killed my momentum here. I really don't know. Looking at how classes have been going though, it's no wonder that after all the preparation and execution needed for classes, I didn't have the drive to make my own work.

I suppose some people might find themselves in this position and think it may be time to give up, but I have no intention of doing that. What I am going to do is take this as a sign that I need to reevaluate my business, restructure my class format, set some real goals and streamline my schedule in order to maximize my creative time. And so, I begin again on this blog if for no other reason than to document my own thoughts, to remain accountable to myself. It's not as if I have a huge audience here, but if I put it all out there - even if no one else reads this - at least I will have some record of the process.

New Sewing Schedule Now Online!


An official newsletter is coming soon with updates on sewing classes, the new studio and a possible VERY last minute holiday shopping experience and studio warming! Until then, I wanted you all to know that the updated sewing schedule for Winter and Spring is now available on my website. Check out the Sewing Lessons page for more information. If your child is new to my classes, be sure to complete the registration form and pay as soon as possible to hold your child's spot. Repeat students can forego the form, but still email and pay right away for your preferred class.

You'll also find updated and simplified information and pricing for Private Lessons and Lessons for Two (Sew & Sew). Email me to schedule a time!

All lessons now take place in my new studio located at 875 Fourth Street #7  in downtown San Rafael.

Keep your eyes peeled for more information about classes during the Winter Break, a confirmed "Crash Course" schedule and Open Studio hours. Feel free to email me if you are specifically interested in Winter Break sewing or the addition of a Weekend Kid's Sewing Basics class.


This tiny little space (to go along with the tiny little picture of it) is about to become what it was always meant to be... Miss G.'s very own bedroom! Nope, I am not going to quit sewing - although the from the looks of my shop, one might think I had. No, in fact, the thing I have talked about with so many friends, family and acquaintances for so long has finally come to pass. I will be moving my sewing studio out of our house along with my entire operation, including all of my sewing classes!! The big move will likely happen VERY soon - like within the next week...

That's right! Last week The Mr. and I went to check out an amazing little space on Fourth Street right in the stretch of Downtown San Rafael that I have been hoping for. The building is clean and nicely put together with a lovely entry staircase and waiting area. My space has two glass entry doors, big white walls, a partitioned storage area, clerestory windows and adjustable gallery lighting. I am crazy excited! How can I not be? I'll be able to spread out and spend my days doing what I love, set up all my teaching machines and leave them out, and expand my offerings now that the use of my space will not be dictated by the needs of my family. I am looking forward not only to the ability to work in a dedicated and focused environment, but also the chance to participate in all the Downtown San Rafael has to offer for artsy craftsy folks like myself.

What else? Well, the obvious and even bigger bonus is being able to give my kids the space they need. They have both been wanting their own rooms for so long and I feel this move has come at just the right time. I am really happy to be able to provide this for them. I know it will be a great opportunity for them to grow in ways they never knew possible.

Photos of all three spaces I am sure will be coming soon! Stay tuned...