The rest of this story is going to be word heavy and picture absent so I apologize for all of you skimmers.
It was about October 2010 when I entered Crafting with the Stars with my Baby Gym Makeover. I was chosen as a contestant among SO many other very talented bloggers, many of whom I’m friends with today. My “Star” advisor was Amy Huntley of The Idea Room. The first challenge was to do a knock-off version of something. I’m not sure how I came up with the idea but I made these Janie & Jack knock-off sweaters for my boys. And I made it through to the next round, by the skin of my teeth. Actually I think I made it through in last place each and every time….kind of weird. The next project I did my Alphabet “Sideboard” which was fun but extremely time-consuming. My third project was my Ziggy puff quilt which is still one of my favorite puff quilts. And finally my last project was the Peppermint Cupcake stand. In the last round I was up against Mandy of Vintage Revivals and Melanie of The Crafty Cupboard. Mandy, if you read her blog, is ALL ABOUT pulling out all the stops and creating these jaw dropping reveals. So I basically had no chance against her and her faux fireplace. And Melanie is a sewing wizard and made a beautiful tree skirt, so of course I got third place. Which was fine because I was actually really stressed out that I had kept making it through to the next rounds. I contemplated quitting several times because I had about 8 baby bedding/puff quilt orders to fill, and it was the holidays, not to mention keeping up with my own blog. I just didn’t know how to do it all. I guess if I had more gumption back then I would have hired someone to help me out but I think I couldn’t really afford that either.
Doing Crafting with the Stars was an invaluable experience though. I made connections with tons of bloggers which I already said I’m still friends with. It also got me a lot more noticed and involved with blogging. And I also learned that blog competitions are NOT for me. I would practically have a heart attack waiting for the results to see if I made it through to the next round, which was ironic because of how much I wanted to quit. But I guess there’s that part in everyone that really just wants to come out on top.
After the competition ended, I spent every waking hour of the next three weeks sewing all the bedding orders I had to complete. I was so miserable…I really hated being that busy with orders. So in the beginning of January, I said THAT’S IT! I’m done with taking orders. I choose the blog. I thought it would be easy to just close up shop. But then I got a massive influx of emails saying “Wait! I was saving up my money to buy a puff quilt! You can’t stop now!” So I took on about 5-7 more orders and finally finished at the end of April.
Meanwhile, I was connecting with more and more bloggers. I had chatted with a few people over Twitter and before I knew it, I was going to a Girls Night Out with several bloggers from Arizona. That’s where I met Sara from Mom Endeavors and Katie from Sweet Rose Studio, friends of mine who I still talk to on a regular basis. We ate dinner and chatted with people and one of the ladies suggested that I make a Puff Quilt Pattern for purchase rather than for free. It was something I had considered, but at that point my Puff Quilt Tutorial brought me the most traffic. However, I decided to bite the bullet and do it, which I think a lot of you were sad about. But ultimately I need to start making money for all my hard work, and deciding to sell the tutorial as a pattern was a great decision. It has earned me a regular income that is a nice little addition.
In April of 2011 I attended my first Blog Conference: Creative Estates. I had been hearing about blog conferences like Blissdom and seeing lots of my favorite bloggers attending them and seemingly having a blast. I wanted to go but the cost of trying to buy a plane ticket, the hotel, and the conference was just way too much for me at that time. Not to mention I would need to find child care. So when I first found out about Creative Estates, I was SUPER excited. It was a blog conference specifically for creative bloggers AND it was in Arizona so I didn’t need to buy a plane ticket or pay for the hotel. I bought my ticket and then connected with Katie and Sara and a few others and we spent the majority of the conference together.
The conference was weird for me, to be honest. It was totally awesome to meet SO many bloggers who I LOVED (Jen from Tatertots and Jello, Amy from The Idea Room, etc) and the first day was pretty fun. But I tend to get burned out fast from lots of social events so the second day I was pretty tired. I was also about 8 weeks pregnant with Ellie and SO tired any way. The second day…well, it just sucked. I felt very lonely, like no one really wanted to talk to me. I felt left out because I wasn’t staying in the hotel with them. And I found myself being disappointed that some bloggers whom I looked up to ended up being a lot less…nice than I was expecting. I felt like a nobody. Like I could just disappear into the wall and no one would notice.
The other problem was that the conference was pretty disorganized. This one was my first conference so I didn’t have anything to compare it to, but looking back now, there was WAY too much downtime. I was lost, never knowing what was going on. Finally, around 4:00 pm, I called my husband to complain about how miserable of a day I was having. I nearly started to bawl right there at the conference. But instead I decided to go do a necklace craft lead by Bev from Flamingo Toes. I walked up to her and introduced myself and she knew who I was! It was a big deal to me. We didn’t get to chat very long but she really made my day. And I ended up having a pretty good time after I hooked up with my friends Leanne from Organize and Decorate Everything and Natalee from Design to the Nines.
So it was a little weird, going to a blog conference because I didn’t exactly have the best time but on the other hand I met SOOOO many fabulous bloggers whom I have the pleasure of knowing and being friends with today. And the friendships that I’ve made are one of the best parts of blogging. I really can’t even describe how great it is to have the community of bloggers that I’m part of…and I know that’s what I would miss so much if I ever quit.
After that conference, I made the switch to WordPress, which I have really loved. It’s much better for Search Engine Optimization which is a way to have your blog be found better through search engines. I also started participating in Crafterminds Twitter chats which is where I met my friends Amy from Mod Podge Rocks and Heather Mann from Dollar Store Crafts and so many others. I learned SO much about blogging from those Twitter chats and talking to the Crafterminds ladies. I really started learning the best ways to monetize my blog and how to run my blog more efficiently. Although I’m not gonna lie, sometimes being so…structured in blogging is what drains the fun out of it for me, so I occasionally have to pull back and find the joy again. But I have learned a lot about blogging and am always at how much there always is to learn.
2012 was kind of a pivotal year for my blog, although it kind of seems like a blur to me. The first several months were spent on lots of baby-related posts, since I had just had Ellie. I also wanted to be more open and honest, which led to a lot more open criticism. I was the victim of a hate forum. These little forums exist solely for people to rag on others and they don’t just leave it there—they go to the blog and leave nasty mean comments. I could tell that these commenters didn’t even know me or read my blog regularly. They were just…mean. I actually cried about it. But then I talked to Jenna from That Wife about it. She was the one who discovered that it was from a hate forum because she is frequently a victim herself. She writes a lot of very honest posts and is often somewhat controversial so that’s where the haters like to go. Now whenever I see a comment, I have a tendency to brace myself for the worst. And I’ve had mean comments every now and then. I’m better at brushing it off, since it’s usually not a bombardment like it was with the hate forum, but it’s still not fun and I still find myself thinking about the comments every now and then. I really don’t understand why people feel the need to express negative words when us bloggers spend a lot of time and effort bringing you free entertainment and inspiration. If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all. Even if you can hide behind the internet.
In May of 2012, my sister-in-law died unexpectedly from childbirth complications. It still hurts a lot and it has changed us all a lot. But it was then that I realized how powerful blogging can be. I wanted to help raise money for my brother and his kids to help pay for all the expenses, so I wrote a blog post about Alice and the Alice Hansen Family Fund and then sent the html to many of my blogger friends, most of whom have very large followings. Most of them are mothers themselves and were very sad about my news so they agreed to post about it. The response was incredible. That day alone I had nearly 50,000 pageviews. And after about two weeks we had raised almost $50,000. I hesitate telling you this because I don’t want anyone to think that we were trying to profit from her death. Because obviously if there was anyway to have Alice back we would trade that in a heartbeat. I am just telling you because I was just blown away by the power that bloggers have to reach people. Especially when it’s for a good cause.
That summer I had my wonderful contributors start to contribute once a week. They did such a great job and it was fun to do that for awhile, but I ultimately decided to discontinue having contributors. I want this blog for 2013 to be just me (well that doesn’t include guest posters.) We moved from Arizona to Utah, meaning that we left my dark and ugly apartment to a beautiful and spacious apartment with glorious natural light. That changed my interior photography SO much. And photography is everything with creative blogs. I channeled the power of pinterest and created some pinnable posts that really helped out my statistics. And I’m very excited now that the holidays are behind us to show you all the home projects I’ve been putting on the back burner. I’ve been working so hard on these projects (until the stupid flu caught up to me and grounded me.)
As for my business, I’ve gone back and forth with it–sometimes creating pre-made quilts to sell and sometimes doing custom orders. I’ve found that custom orders are pretty time consuming so for now we’re doing only pre-mades. I hired three wonderful ladies to sew for me and they have made my life SOOO much easier. I really appreciate the work they’ve done for me. They have given me the freedom to mostly focus on my blog while still selling quilts.
Whew! Thanks for reading all that, if any of you made it to the end. I have always wanted to share that so now that’s off my chest, onto the projects! Here’s to 2013!