Member Feature: BellaZahn

Contributor post by Ashley of French Soul Knittery

  Please join us in welcoming Sarah Collins of BellaZahn, our featured member!

bellazahn

bellazahn

Tell us about yourself.       

I am a New Zealander living in the sunny Hawkes Bay. Normally I am a teacher of French, English and Media Studies at an all boys state school, however this year I am on maternity leave with my second baby, a wee girl, now just 6 months old. I learned to sew when I was a little girl and this sparked a lifelong creative passion for me. I have previously designed and made ballroom and latin dance dresses, but two littles ones and Swarovski elements don’t really mix too well. Now my just turned 4-year-old has her own sewing machine and can often be found creating things alongside me as I sew. I have in the past had to send her creations to ‘a lady in America’ too as she loves to package them up and take them to the post office – maybe when she is older I will confess that I actually put our address on them so that ‘the lady in America’ always sends them back to our house the very next day!

When did you open your business and what made you decide to do so?

I had never made a quilt before but a friend was having her first grandchild and asked me to make one. Her reasoning was that I could sew and she couldn’t and so I should know what to do. I read a book, figured it out and loved the end result. Not long afterwards I had a miscarriage and then endometriosis surgery – during recovery I discovered jelly roll quilts. I was totally hooked and after all my friends and family got them, I started selling them.

The Bella and Zahn label was one I already had, for children’s clothing. My nephew wanted me to make him shorts that would make him go fast down the slide and he wanted a label in them. I didn’t feel I could put my sparkly dance wear label on boys’ shorts and seeing as he and his cousins adored playing with our dogs Bella and Zahn, making them jump a mini course in the show jumping arena, I started a new label named after them and so Bella and Zahn was born. Hence the puppy in the label. When I started selling the quilts online in 2010, I gave them the same label.

Tell us a bit about your products.           

I specialized initially in making baby quilts but am now also making quilted Christmas tree skirts, Christmas Stockings and Christmas Advent Calendars. I love creating new designs and seeing the new fabrics coming out each year. Now that I am at home full-time, and my second baby sleeps so much better than my first ever did, I am loving having the time to create and try new techniques, especially with my tree skirts. I use premium quality quilt shop cottons, and all my baby quilts are 100% cotton. I have been experimenting with using satin next to the cotton in my tree skirt designs this month and am loving the look! I love that fact that all my products can become much-loved family heirlooms and be brought out year after year.

Even the baby quilts are still used as snuggle rugs in the horse truck, or for watching TV with my older nieces and nephews.

What inspires your work?           

I love fabric and often find pieces that really speak to me. I am quite traditional in that I love nursery rhymes, storybook characters and traditional Christmas characters and scenes but I am branching out into more modern looks as I discover new fabrics and designers. Sometimes teaching 5 lessons of boys all day can be quite tough and I often say my sewing machine never argues with me anywhere near as often as teenage boys do.

Teaching can be quite negative sometimes with all the paperwork, the pressure of qualification statistics, marking etc and it is very rare that we get compliments whereas with my crafting, online and at the markets, I get so much positive feedback from my customers that it becomes very uplifting and therapeutic for me. I definitely have withdrawal symptoms when I go on holiday.bellazahn2

What are your future goals for the business this year? What is your dream for this business?         

I would love to eventually work full-time on my Etsy business, and am super happy with the way it is continuing to grow. I am thinking though that hubby might have other ideas as my teaching salary still brings in more each month and the mortgage hasn’t shrunk enough yet. This year I am trying to double my previous year’s income and extend my product range. I have a couple of ideas swirling in my head right now and will be spending some time this month researching viability.

What makes your business stand out from businesses that sell similar products?

I really try to produce a premium quality product, and have as wide a choice of designs available. I love creating things and get such a thrill when customers send me pics of them being used. I never send out anything that I wouldn’t be proud to own and use myself. I try to make the backs of my products as interesting as the front and most are completely reversible.bellazahn4

Tell us a bit about your work space. Do you have a separate studio?

I keep trying to organize my work space but it frequently gets out of control! I have supplies all stacked up in plastic boxes and both my girls have lost half of their wardrobes to quilts and things hanging up. I used to have a separate room but had to clear the machine out to the dining room table and a spare office at my hubby’s work. Most of my sewing is now done on the dining room table with the girls playing around me, but eventually we will be building a new home on a lifestyle block and having a separate studio for me.

What have you learned since opening your business that you wish you had known before hand?

I have had to learn a lot about SEO and marketing that I had no idea about before and I have had lots of help along the way from reading forum discussion and chatting with other sellers at craft shows. Knowing your rights and responsibilities as a seller is so important, especially when the bulk of my orders are international.bellazahn3

Any advice for those thinking about selling on Etsy?

Overnight success would be wonderful but the reality is it takes time to build your brand, product and style. Don’t give up hope and make sure you take good photos – if you have no clue about your camera, then check You Tube for a tutorial!

When you’re not working, what do you like to do to unwind and have fun? Do you have any hobbies?

I love to hang out with my family, and often go back to the farm so that my girls can ride the ponies with me and enjoy the lifestyle that I had as a child. I love galloping through the paddocks with the wind going through my hair, and always seem to get my serenity back in the wide open spaces. I love to turn the music up and dance around the lounge with my daughter, even if she thinks I am crazy!

What is your favorite quote?

Reach for the stars!bellazahn5

Where can people find out more about your business?  

My shop: bellazahn

My facebook: BellaandZahn

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If you would like to be featured, please go to the CIJ Etsy Forum and fill out the questionnaire. Please note you must be a member of the CIJ Etsy team to be featured.

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Summer Activities

Contributor post by Alicia of AliciasFindings

Summer is right around the corner and with it all the activities of the season! Graduations, pool parties, beach time and so much more.

I asked Christmas in July members about their summer plans and I got varying answers.

Martha of HolidayCreations4U said:

In June my and my husband’s families have many birthdays, plus Father’s Day so we have one big picnic party for celebrate all.

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AliciasFindings states:

I am having family over around Memorial Day – we are going to celebrate my brothers birthday. It shall be a great time, good food and time together.

We plan to visit my godparents sometime during the summer. I love visiting them for many reasons, but one is for the Friday fish fry. It is so good!

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Sue and Misty of shabbyshopgirls says:

We usually have a big 4th of July party with fireworks and a day of swimming and picnic. Here are some fun trays for a great July 4th or picnic gathering!

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Sarah of bellazahn tells:

Heading in to winter for us, so hoping to meet up with family at the mountain. This year I will be teaching my 4 year old how to ski.

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Rhonda Tol of SimplyBeadifulDesign told me:

Hubby got bitten by the camping bug last year so we’re going to do as much of it as we can, and I am so excited about it!! I’m hoping to also get in a visit with my best friend at some point but we shall see about that!

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Sounds like there will be lots of fun and trips, no matter what the season!

May – New Arrivals

Contributor post by Michelle of EviesToolEmporium

Join the Christmas In July team as we celebrate May – New Arrivals.

Carolyn Eady from SproutsPressDesigns says:

I’ve always wanted to design and craft a line of journals that are completely my own. I feel this series of Fancy Coptic Journals is a step in the right direction. The covers showcase paper that I hand-dyed, yielding unique results, making each book one of a kind. And while the coptic stitch is fairly common, I’ve amended it to show off the spine of the book.

SproutsPressDesigns

SproutsPressDesigns

Sarah Johnson from BellaBoutique23 says:

One of my closest friends loves tea and many times as we spend time together she will offer me a cup of tea as we share, laugh, cry, or just enjoy each other in silence. As I made the card, I thought of her, “A cup of Tea warms the soul like a good friend”.

BellaBoutique23

BellaBoutique23

Annie from DesignedbyAnneliese says:

At the moment I have quite a few friends who are having babies! Havng 2 boys of my own (one of them a baby), thought why not make a baby boy card to welcome a new baby! The card is layered giving it a 3D effect.

DesignedbyAnneliese

DesignedbyAnneliese

Lin Collette from rhodyart says:

From a purely practical standpoint, I need to add more get well/encouragement cards to the shop, so that’s one reason I made this.
On a more creative level, though, I love to work with vintage photos and images of people from bygone times and imagine what they might be thinking, especially if their expression is very prim and proper.

This particular image, I think, is from a website called The Graphics Fairy and it’s one of a set of Victorian Shakespearean images of Shakespeare heroines. I did notice that Lady Macbeth is not included in this set (lol) and if you know the play, you’ll understand why.

I like to use vintage style patterned papers to evoke that mood of a time past, hence my choice of the red and white paper used here-the red pattern is actually flocked onto the paper so it’s raised and feels very nice. Adds a little extra touch.

Though I do other work that I don’t usually sell on Etsy, I always, always come back to doing these cards because I enjoy them.

rhodyart

rhodyart

Carola Bartz from CarolaBartz says:

I had this idea of including a compass on a graduation card. I like the idea of pointing to the right direction after graduation and finding a way through life. A graduation is a start for that, isn’t it? My daughter will graduate from high school next year, so this topic is currently close to me.

CarolaBartz

CarolaBartz

Cathy Hahn from CathysCraftWorld says:

I love making things for children. Although my shop is for everyone, I have a special love for creating things for babies and children. I love making frames that can either be picture frames or decorations all by themselves. I would love to have people come see what I do as I also love browsing other’s shops!

CathysCraftWorld

CathysCraftWorld

Tanya Hladovska from Unicard says:

With this set of postcards you will be able to congratulate all the members of your family or friends. Сolorful handmade card will please anyone. I make them in spring and summer and let all the warmth of this seasons be transferred to your close people on winter evenings.

Unicard

Unicard

Carmen from Mipezluna says:

Lately I have become an addict to make these pouches with amigurumi.
My little daughter loves them and uses the first one that I made to keep her “castañuelas” that she uses in Spanish dancing class. Now all her friends want one for themselves!

Mipezluna

Mipezluna

Theresa Holland from KraftyGrannysHome says:

I love creating these and they are so useful, always looking through my stash of fabric to find a combo that I like.

KraftyGrannysHome

KraftyGrannysHome

MissMinù from TinyFeltHeart says:

It’s very, very warm here, it seems Summer has already arrived! And I prefer rainy days and cold weather!

I’m always thinking about Christmas, especially in Spring-Summer.

It’s one of my Happy thoughts!

I’m sewing some Christmas items and I’m listening to ‘Have Yourself a merry Little Christmas’ sung by Judy Garland in ‘Meet me in St. Louis’.

TinyFeltHeart

TinyFeltHeart

Sarah from bellazahn says:

 Don’t you just love the Scandinavian feel of all these stockings? They remind me of the handknitted jumpers my mother used to knit when we were kids. Sadly my knitting skills are not up to making them in wool so this advent calendar in cotton will have to be my new favourite instead!

bellazahn

bellazahn

Patricia from TheOldBarnDoor says:

I have started to ramp up my Christmas listings already. This charming pillow cover is made with a section of one of my antique postcards and adds just the right vintage touch to the upcoming holiday season decorating. Actually I think it is charming enough to leave out for the entire winter season. Soft and cuddly the pillow cover is made from velveteen – ahh, just perfect to cuddle with on those cold winter nights (yup, those cold nights will return).

TheOldBarnDoor

TheOldBarnDoor

Candy Rauber from WickedlyCreative says:

I love vintage items and when I found this sweet honey bee pattern, I just had to embroider it! I picked a new fabric for the back that had a mod style to it which adds to the retro feel. It would be a lovely spring and summer decor item and would be a fabulous gift for a bee collector or gardener.

WickedlyCreative

WickedlyCreative

Ildi Garay from PitzicatVintage says:

I love all vintage things and summer dresses are high on my list to love. This seersucker sundress is so typical of the 1950’s 1960’s .
Beautifully made and so perfect for summer.

PitzicatVintage

PitzicatVintage

Natalia from KMalinkaVintage says:

I believe this skirt was a custom made piece, it’s so extremely well done. The fabric is so rich with eyelet ruffles and silver eagles. I found this skirt in Thrift store in Palm Spring, CA.

KMalinkaVintage

KMalinkaVintage

Rachel Palmer from 910woolgathering says:

I love this soft organic cotton for spring and summer hats. I designed this hat using the common fan pattern striped in such a way to produce the ever popular chevron pattern. The muted colors complement each other and the style and texture remind me of Victorian era fashion.

910woolgathering

910woolgathering

Sally Manke from SallyManke says:

Newbie today: I have a new couching foot for my long arm sewing machine. My VAST stock (hoard is my hubby’s word for this pile) of sari silk ribbon works so well with it. The result of my silk and huge pile of pics of the local sunset over Lake Michigan.

SallyManke

SallyManke

Becky from LollysCubbyHole says:

Starting off the summer with some newly created wreaths. This one is a great way to honor the USA in your home!

LollysCubbyHole

LollysCubbyHole

Irith Mashiah from rioritajewelry says:

I have had this ancient Roman coin showing the image of Roman empress Julia Domna on one side and Roman goddess Diana on the other. As I love to set ancient coins in my sterling silver rings, I have set it in a predesigned ring I made for the coin and decorated it with a hammered. silver thread. I believe that mainly women can wear it with pride.

rioritajewelry

rioritajewelry

Rose Baker from RosebudsOriginals says:

There’s something about the quiet, yet elegant simplicity of antique white china bowls. Found recently in a Victorian estate sale, these beautiful bowls celebrated many a holiday meal with family.

RosebudsOriginals

RosebudsOriginals

Dawn Whitehand from DeeDeeDeesigns says:

This cute little bowl is made using the pinching method – I love making pinch pots because they are very intimate and hands on, and the shape of the finished bowl reflects the shape of the makers hand…. it is almost a document in clay!
I also love pinch pots because they are very organic, and the green glaze used on this bowl serves to heighten this natural feel.

DeeDeeDeesigns

DeeDeeDeesigns

Karen from KarenLovesAntiques says:

This is a rare 1st edition book that was recently found at a local
estate sale in Nevada County, Ca. Amazing find!

KarenLovesAntiques

KarenLovesAntiques

Valentina Cáceres from JuguetesEloisa says:

This was originally a custom order made for one of my regular customers. I was really happy when she asked me to do it. When I took the picture of the whole order I saw it and I thought, well that is a very good spring set!

JuguetesEloisa

JuguetesEloisa

Walter Silva from WalterSilva says:

This items was inspired by Fishing trips with granddad! It’s a great keepsake / valet box.

WalterSilva

WalterSilva