Friday, February 27, 2009

CPSIA-The Gift that Keeps on Giving, Business ICU

One of the best gifts we gave our daughter this Christmas was a six month subscription to the best play dough on the market. It comes packaged in a reusable tin, and my daughter gets a new color each and every month. Not only does she look forward to getting her present in the mail, something kids at her age adore, but the colors are not exactly what you find in the store. This month it happened to be a charcoal color with sparkles mixed in. I can't tell you how much enjoyment my daughter has gotten from this monthly surprise, and this stuff is amazing!

I'm sure there are lots of homemade play dough recipes out there, but I just love the fact that I don't have to do it, and the "mail thing" is an added bonus for my daughter. This dough stays supple (as long as you promptly put it away, like all dough) and goes through all her molds like a dream. Better still, it doesn't take too much to clean it up, and leaves very little mess behind.

I haven't checked in with the proprietor of this wonderful shop to see what she might do about the CPSIA. Clearly, her products are intended for use by children under 12, and even more clear is that they are not toxic in the least. In fact, they are most likely made with things everyone probably has on hand in their pantry. To lose these sellers in the wake of this inane law would be a real tragedy. There are so many non-toxic, imaginative toys, made and sold in this country. I hope we can all keep the pressure on to get the law amended.

By the way, that isn't charcoal gray play doh on my daughter's fingernails. She ate about a half a package of frozen blueberries last night, and the juice stained them purple. Hey, at least she loves fruit!

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Sewing Expeditions

That may seem a silly phrase, but it’s exactly how I feel when I embark on a new pattern or new style. After being inspired by The Polish Wife’s photo of a recently completed farbenmix pattern “Geske”, I decided to tackle some patterns that I had in my stash that I had never done before.

All pattern sewing for me is a learning experience, which is why it’s such fun to try new things. Better yet, I had some fabric that I had been meaning to use up. A one yard cut of one of my favorite prints in turquoise, hot pink, and coral was just waiting for my brain to have enough time to decide what I wanted to do with it. So after I finished up an order, I focused in on the pattern “Henrika.” It is a dress pattern that buttons down the back, and I wanted only short sleeves as it would be a summer dress.

All went well until I realized that I had been thinking about the ruffles completely wrong. So, even though I had stitched and top-stitched the thing to where it was nearly finished, I ended up having to rip out two skirt panels on both sides in order to insert the ruffles themselves into the side seam. It would never work to have them not enclosed in the seam and just kind of hanging there in space.

After that little mishap, it was smooth sailing, and you can see the results! Honestly though, I will not be making this particular style again in a woven cotton. Certain patterns just work better with knits, and this happens to be one of them. As it happens, I purchased some great striped knits from the Oilily Outlet outside of Amsterdam, and I think this will be a delightful use of the fabric. My daughter's favorite color is blue, but I'll be doing this in a white and red stripe, and with a woven cotton ruffle, and might even applique something on the front if I can find an idea I want to do.

What is my next “expedition”? I have a cute halter style dress in mind, a modified Xenia if you will, but I have to change the back from a zipper to a button back, because I have not mastered the zipper. Being the perfection freak that I am, if the zipper doesn't look professional, I want no part of it. Stay tuned...

P.S. Our dog is now insistent that he be photographed right along with my child. A star is born...

Monday, February 16, 2009

Seven Random Things...

Awhile back I was tagged by Patty from L&B Accessories. If you haven’t checked out her Etsy shop, you should. She makes gorgeous wallets, handbags and accessories, and I love her style. She’s been doing some new styles with black that I love. And I can attest to the quality of her work. I own one of her beautiful deluxe wallets, and every stitch is in place. Perfect.

Anyway, back to the tagging. I can’t pass this along, because I honestly don’t know seven people who blog, but I thought it might be fun to divulge seven random things about myself that you would never know…

Number 1: I speak Japanese. Yep, that’s right, Japanese. How did this come about? Back in high school I was planning on majoring in Spanish, when I heard of a course being offered through St. Paul’s School Advanced Studies Program in Concord, NH. It is an intensive six-week course offered to students from New Hampshire in the summer. I was accepted into the Japanese program on the wise advice of my Father who said (back in the 80's) that the demand for Japanese speakers would be greater than those who spoke Spanish. So, I took the course, headed to Georgetown University, majored in Japanese, and spent a year in Japan teaching English to junior high school students. Now THAT was an adventure. I am in need of some major brushing up on my skills though, so I need to go spend a month over there or more…wish I had the time.

Number 2: I love jazz music. Not the watered down stuff you hear on the radio, but hard driving, crazy loud, live jazz. After I got back from Japan I worked at Blues Alley in Washington, D.C. that saw the likes of McCoy Tyner, Joe Henderson, Al Dimeola, Pat Metheny, Branford Marsalis, Dizzy Gillespie, Stanley Turrentine, etc., etc., etc. come through and play. I worked in the office during the day, and hung out at the club for the first set, sometimes both sets in the evening. I must have 50 or more promo headshots of the artists autographed to me. Sweet.

Number 3: I adore sweet food. Seriously, if I could start at dessert and work my way back through dinner that would be fine by me. I have a serious ice cream habit, and my favorite of all time is Starbucks mud pie, a concoction of the most delicious coffee ice cream in the world with a healthy dose of oreo cookies mixed in. Absolutely divine.

Number 4: I am a flight attendant by day. I work for Northwest, soon to be Delta, and I have been at it since the early 90’s. My job keeps my wanderlust at bay, and allows me time to my independent self, which is just what I crave.

Number 5: I have project finish-itis. It may not seem it, but there is something about finishing a project that I find deeply satisfying and maddeningly difficult to do. I have about four dresses cut and ready to sew, but do you think I could grab those to work on instead of moving on to the next pattern? Oh no, not me. I wish I knew why I did this, but no one has ever provided me an answer. Must ponder…

Number 6: I love to travel. This may seem obvious given number 4, but many of my fellow flight attendants would rather just stay at home. Don’t get me wrong, I love coming home, but I love going away just as much. My ideal trip involves me telling my husband where I think we should go, and him doing all the planning. I take care of the flights; he takes care of the rest. I can’t stand doing all the nitty-gritty details planning. Odd really for someone like me who loves the details when it comes to my projects.

One of my favorite trips ever was to Iceland. We did this amazing trek from hut to hut through the interior, and every day held a new and fascinating landscape. It was like nothing else I have ever experienced, and far exceeded my expectations, which is saying a lot.

Number 7: I love gardening and flowers, and while I can’t keep a houseplant alive, save for the Phalenopsis orchid that is growing right next to my kitchen sink, I delight in growing woodland plants and native species outside my living room window. We have trillium, bunchberry, lady slippers, jack-in-the-pulpits, and princess pine growing behind our house, and although I can’t stand the biting insects in the spring, I thrill at seeing those wildflowers in their natural state. My daughter, who just turned 4, is learning all about her native New England wildflowers, and I couldn’t be prouder. My friends joke that she could survive in the woods for weeks if she had to. A gross exaggeration for sure, but she definitely knows where all the wild berry brambles are.

So that’s it, now you know me a little better. Feel free to leave your own list in the comments section; I’d love to know more about you.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

CPSIA, Here we go again...

I'm up early, trying to assimilate the latest roller coaster that is known by all as the CPSIA legislation. Last week, a "stay of enforcement" was issued by the CPSC because they were swamped. I was hopeful that a rational approach to this law would ensue, but oh no. The stay really will not affect me at all at this point. The stay merely prolongs the agony of misinformation, lack of guidance, and flip-flopping regulations.

Case in point: phthalates. These are chemicals that soften plastic, and are found in things like vinyl and PVC. I have largely ignored this class of chemicals, because it doesn't really affect my business. My button supplier does not use these in their buttons, so I haven't worried about it too much. Besides, the third-party testing for phthalates is astronomical, way worse than lead. So if I did suspect that a component had them, I would be substituting it anyway.

Here's the problem: The NRDC brought a suit against the CPSC in its retroactivity ruling regarding inventory with these chemicals. And they won. Previously, lead needed to be tested and certified in existing inventory, but not phthalates. Well, now companies have 3 days, 3 DAYS, to get their inventory tested and certified. And I thought 3 MONTHS was ridiculous. So, now again, we have a situation that is going to be devastating to large and small businesses alike. If retailers have nothing to sell from the large companies, they WILL NOT be able to stay afloat. If retailers don't stay afloat, more people will be unemployed, and if more people are unemployed, they won't be able to spend money on all of those ETSY businesses like mine.


Sorry to yell, but it is so disheartening to work so hard on something, and see the special interest groups win again. I support safety in children's products wholeheartedly. I have a child, and I want her to grow up in a safe, healthy environment. But to be told you have 3 days to comply with a broad sweeping law is just insanity.

In some good news though, the CPSC put out a press release yesterday. I'm still trying to figure out exactly what they have said, so here is an exerpt:

In an effort to provide clear and reasonable guidance to those impacted by this important law, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) is announcing its enforcement policy on the lead limits established by the CPSIA.

Manufacturers, importers, distributors, and retailers should also be aware that CPSC will:

*Not impose penalties against anyone for making, importing, distributing, or selling

**a children's product to the extent that it is made of certain natural materials, such as wood, cotton, wool, or certain metals and alloys which the Commission has recognized rarely, if ever, contain lead;

**an ordinary children's book printed after 1985; or

**dyed or undyed textiles (not including leather, vinyl or PVC) and non-metallic thread and trim used in children's apparel and other fabric products, such as baby blankets.

Because I add buttons and snaps to most of my products, I must still test and certify. Luckily I have done this, and am prepared to produce my GCC's. But again, we still need to push Congress to amend the law to allow for component testing and accepting supplier certifications. This is CRUCIAL to the health of the industry and my business specifically.

PLEASE CALL YOUR SENATORS AND ASK THEM TO SUPPORT/CO-SPONSOR JIM DEMINT'S LEGISLATION REGARDING THE CPSIA! I know they are busy with the stimulus package, but they haven't seen anything yet with corporate bankruptcies...more on that in a minute.

So who is in trouble here? Makers of bibs are really in for it, because if they use laminate or vinyl, they have to test for both lead AND phthalates. Guess I won't be introducing bibs into my line any time soon. Sellers of vintage books for children...Dr. Seuss anyone? And pacifier clippies may not be immune either, as they constitute a "child care" product. Retailers are in BIG trouble. They are going to have to dump their inventories in a hurry.

Here is an excerpt from the press release regarding phthalates:

CPSC Issues Guidance For Complying With Phthalates Requirements In New Child Safety Law

WASHINGTON, D.C. - Starting on February 10, 2009, children's toys and child care articles cannot contain more that 0.1% of six phthalates (DEHP, DBP, BBP, DINP, DIDP, and DnOPA) regardless of when they were manufactured. The CPSC will abide by a court decision (pdf) issued yesterday ruling that the prohibition on phthalates in the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act of 2008 applies to products in inventory. Phthalates are a group of chemicals (oily, colorless liquids) that are used among other things to make vinyl and other plastics soft and flexible.

A "children's toy" is defined in the statute as a product intended for a child 12 years of age or younger for use when playing. The Commission has previously stated that it will follow the definition of toy in the mandatory toy standard which exempts such things as bikes, playground equipment, musical instruments, and sporting goods (except for their toy counterparts).

The statute also prohibits phthalates over the limit in "child care articles," which include products that a child 3 and younger would use for sleeping, feeding, sucking or teething. By way of example, a pacifier/teether would be an item that would help a child with sucking or teething; a sippy cup would facilitate feeding; and a crib mattress would facilitate sleeping.

Companies produce a product in full compliance with the law, and then Congress, Special Interest Groups, and the CPSC pull the rug out from under them and make that product a "banned hazardous substance." So the huge "elephant in the room" here is the issue of existing inventory. We already knew this was a problem with lead. But everyone has been scrambling to make sure they were compliant with the law, and most found a way to do just that. But phthalates were not even on the radar screen. Large companies take loans out on existing "saleable" inventory, and when that inventory isn't saleable, banks are going to have an even bigger problem on their hands. Defaults on more loans, and conflicts with accounting procedures being just two issues they will face.

I could go on, but again, the best thing we can do is to call our representatives in Washington, and alert the media. This is the only way to get this law changed. Please continue the fight, and thanks for your support!

Monday, February 2, 2009

So, I'm taking a photography course...

fanfare apron dress, originally uploaded by littlegirlPearl.

because I got a new camera, a Nikon D80 as a matter of fact, and had absolutely NO idea how to use it. I mean I had some clue, but my pictures were still not where I wanted them. So, as luck would have it, a Nikon Pro is just down the street from me, and he mentioned that he was starting up a beginner's class. Wahoo! Even luckier for me, i was the only one who signed up, so I am getting 6 weeks of one-on-one instruction.

So last week, I was explaining to him that my daughter never sits still, so the majority of the photos were blurry. And of course when I made the shutter speed faster, there wasn't enough light. He replied, "Did you change the ISO?"

Well, duh. Even though I've had a digital point and shoot for quite some time, I don't think this was an option on my camera, so while I was aware this was possible, it just didn't occur to me. This one was taken indoors, on a bright overcast day, at ISO 320. Probably a little overexposed, and my camera as much as told me so, but I was just so excited to get brighter pictures indoors that I left it that way. I think I photoshopped this slightly darker, but I still love the light quality on her face, and I'm loving that expression.

This dress is part of my Spring/Summer '09 line, and uses the colors I love to put her in: deep aqua, magenta, pink, and a dash of red. Every time I have to go to my day job, my mind whirs with everything I have ready to sew. I've been concentrating on cutting, and so I have about 4 garments ready to be sewn. I'm trying to be a bit more efficient and cut two colors out at once. This really cuts down on the workload. Here's to finding snippets of time...