Tuesday, June 14, 2011

The Sewing Circle Interview with Marigold from Hideous! Dreadful! Stinky!

Via Hideous! Dreadful! Stinky!
Back today with another interview with a fantastic blogger who sews for my occasional series, The Sewing Circle. I discovered the blog Hideous! Dreadful! Stinky! within the last few months, and a few things struck me about it. First off, the great Summer of No Pants event. I loved reading all the tutorials for skirts and have since been making my own well-documented allotment of skirts and dresses. The thing that really made me want to interview Marigold though was her humor. Marigold writes -- and sews -- in a way that makes me wish I could hang out with her. She's funny. Even her email was funny. She said to me, "Sorry it took me so long. I had to go back and edit some things to make sure I didn't sound like an asshole." Haha. But serious, I can't imagine.

Marigold lives in Southern California with her husband and two sons Huck and Milo. Besides sewing (check out her tutorials here), she also does felting, paper crafts and other crafty things. You can connect with her all the typical places -- Facebook, Twitter, flickr and her Etsy shop Stinky Boy! She is also nominated for a spot in the Babble Top 50 Craft Mom Blogs, so go vote for her!

Read on to see what Marigold has to say about using a broken sewing machine, stocking an Etsy shop with only items she truly wants to make and what inspired her to inspire so many others to wear skirts all summer long.

Tell me about how you began blogging. What was the impetus for you?
I started my first blog in 2004 because my friend Cory told me to. He sent me a link to Blogger and told me to do it, and I did. I have always been one to cave to peer pressure! Back then blogging was different. This was pre-Facebook. Pre-MySpace, even! Blogging was the online community, and it was before people felt self-conscious about what they were putting out there for anyone to read. So there was a lot of diary-like confession going on, and you would form these intimate friendships with other bloggers. My blog was a personal blog for many years. I wrote about my daily life, my jobs, my pregnancies, my mother's death, my boys' first years. I even live-blogged the homebirth of my second son! Everything about my life was on the Internet. But as my readership grew, and I became less comfortable with who might be reading it, I felt that I had to close the blog. I loved the friendships I had made through it, but once I had kids I had to consider their privacy above my own. Things on the Internet don't go away, and 15 years from now, my boys might not want potential employers or girlfriends or whomever else to read stories of their potty training experiences.
I started Hideous! Dreadful! Stinky! in 2008 when I participated in the Thing-a-Day challenge. It was supposed to be a simple portfolio. If you look at the earliest posts, they are just a picture of the work, materials list and maybe a small, impersonal description of the process. I had never intended to be a craft blogger! But as I was ending my personal blog, I still needed an outlet to write and I began to focus more and more on my craft blog. I had started reading other crafty blogs and I thought that I was just as talented a crafter and writer as the big ones out there, so I decided to focus on Hideous! Dreadful! Stinky! and make it into what it is today: a semi-popular crafty mommy blog with tens of readers!

Haha. (Looks like more than 1,000 followers through feedburner, and 500 more through Google.) And what about sewing? When did it become a serious hobby?
My husband bought me a starter sewing machine for Christmas back in 2005. I had it on this little side table and within a day or two, my fat, stupid cat knocked it to the ground and broke the light and bent the thread holder thingy. So ever since I have had it, the thing has been falling apart! I used it a few times over the years, but I didn't get the Sewing Bug until my second pregnancy a few years later. Somehow my nesting instinct manifested itself in the form of making baby booties. I made soooo many baby booties in that final trimester and started selling them on Etsy. I eventually got sick of that, which is what I do once I feel like I've mastered something, and I began to experiment with making other things.

Robert Smith softie and booties set. Hilarious adorable.
What’s your favorite type of project to sew? Is there something you’ve made you’re most proud of?
I rarely sew anything for myself and I really love to give handmade gifts. It's hard to choose a specific type of project, as I cycle through obsessions-booties, softies, lap quilts. I often move away from sewing and into crochet or felting or papercraft. I'm into shrinky dinks right now! Hmm. A favorite project? That's a toughie! I recently collected all of my favorites into a Flickr set that I plan on eventually making into a real portfolio. My very favorites are probably the Robert Smith softie & booties set that I eventually sold on Etsy and the Hobby Horse  I made for my boys. I also recently made a patched skirt that I am very proud of because it was the most challenging piece of clothing I have ever made, and also the most well-constructed. I'm not usually one to follow a pattern, so having to make facings and use twill tape and installing an invisible zipper was a big change for me!

What if anything in your life gets neglected so you can find time to sew?
Wow, what doesn't get neglected? I despise housework and I am naturally cluttered. My New Year's Resolution this year was “Wash dishes every night if it KILLS me.” And I did really well for several months. I've been slacking lately, though! I do love waking up to a clean kitchen, but washing those dishes truly feels like torture sometimes. Much of my crafting happens when there is a pile of housework that needs doing!

Me too! You started the Summer of No Pants last year as a challenge to sew yourself some more skirts or dresses and to wear them all summer. Did you really wear skirts all summer long?
Absolutely! Although, for decency's sake, I did wear pants to my kickboxing class. But that was it! I am really motivated by short-term goals. I always set them for myself: wear skirts all summer, wash dishes every night for a year, no ponytails for three months, etc. Even when I quit smoking many years ago, I did it with the stipulation that I can start again when I turn 70. As long as there is an end in sight I am willing to do something that I don't want to do.

Marigold's first skirt for The Summer of No Pants 2011.

So how did you decide to start the Summer of No Pants project?
I was in a play area at the mall with my kids and I looked around and all of the moms looked so tired and we were all in the same uniform: t-shirt, jeans, ponytail, no make-up. It was Frump City! It really bothered me. I had become so consumed in my Mommy-ness that I wasn't giving myself those five extra minutes in the morning to choose an outfit that didn't have something crusty stuck to it. I thought, there are others who are like me, who want to feel pretty again and do something creative, and thus The Summer of no Pants was born!

I love the way you inject humor not only into your writing, but actually into your sewing. Your projects all have that “funny but still practical” vibe. How has that developed?
Whenever I make something, I try to think about how I can make it a little bit different. I really love ridiculous things, kitsch, and I'm fascinated by pop culture, so I suppose that's where a lot of the “funny” comes in. I do try hard to avoid crafting cliches (put a bird on it!) and even if I truly love something trendy that is happening in the indie craft world, I spend some time thinking about how to go beyond what I have already seen. As far as being practical, I think I just tend to favor functional things over purely decorative objects. Whenever I make something decorative I end up thinking, “Umm. Sooooo what do I do with this thing now?”

Cracks me up. the Faux-y Lady Scarf

Do you look at a project, like a scarf (thinking of your Faux-y Lady scarf), and think, How can I make this funny or ironic?
I don't know that I would necessarily think that outright, but, yes, I definitely do try to add a funny or ironic twist to many of my projects. You know, I call myself a “crafter” all of the time, but at my core I do think of myself as an artist. I do traditional folk arts & crafts, and I am a married, stay-at-home mom, so I think it is easy, even for me, to dismiss what I do as something that is not “serious” art. And much of it isn't. Much of it is purely decorative or functional where my only thought was, “OMG! That would be so cute!” But there are pieces that I have thought deeply about, and that have a goal of provoking an emotional response. I'm certainly not doing anything to revolutionize the contemporary art scene, but I think I have a few pieces that could be gallery worthy! Or at least funky gallery giftshop worthy :)

Your Etsy shop is a little bit different. You’ve made a decision not to do any custom orders and want to keep your business strictly about selling things you’ve made for the sheer enjoyment of it. How did you come to adopt this business plan?
I'm not sure I would call it a “plan” exactly...that seems to imply something that has a focus and goals and such. My Etsy shop is not a money-making endeavor for me. For awhile I thought it would be an actual business, but the truth is that I am not interested in production work. I used to do customs until one day it clicked that I hated doing customs so, so much. My joy is in the creative process. Ask me to make the same thing again, or worse, ask me to make the same thing a hundred times again, and I will immediately curl up on the couch and watch Twin Peaks and eat Cheetos until I am in a coma. Plus, and this sounds awful, I really despise working with clients, especially clients who are not visual people themselves and familiar with the limitations of a creative project. Even with the best clients, custom work is a time-consuming process, and you never know who will be a great client and who will be a nightmare! It sounds so terrible, but it's true! I was able to tolerate it when I was younger and didn't have kids, but now my crafting time is so much more precious to me.

Felted monster bowl available in Marigold's shop.
Have you at times thought about expanding and making the shop more of a focus?
Ha! Yes. All the time. And as soon as I do, I freak out and the shop goes totally quiet. I had big plans to make it into a boy-centric shop. I planned my projects and started production on a lot of cool stuff. But I quickly got bored of doing it and haven't put anything in the shop for months. What I really need are some minions to do all of the production work for me. I would just come up with the the ideas and they would work their fingers bare, sewing away in a little room under the stairs, and I would pay them in table scraps! I think that's about the only way my Etsy shop could be a commercially viable venture.

What has sewing and blogging about it brought into your life that you might not have had otherwise?
Sewing gives me a creative outlet and some selfish time, which every mom in the world knows that you need! Blogging, and the fact that people (strangers!) are interested in my work is humbling and gives me a great sense of accomplishment. I love the online crafting community. I've virtually “met” so many women who inspire and motivate me. And having a lot of eyes on me makes me push myself to do better work, too. I don't want anyone to get bored with me and leave!

Non-sewing question! Your son’s name is Milo. I love that name. How did you and your husband pick it? Was it difficult swaying him to it? (My husband vetoed every non “traditional” boy’s name.)
I am a total name snob and still faithfully read The Baby Name Wizard even though I am so done making babies! But I think baby naming is such a fascinating social study. As for Milo, my favorite book as a kid (and still one of my favorites today) was The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster. Milo is the main character. He's a bored little boy who never notices anything wonderful in the world around him until one day when a mysterious toy tollbooth arrives for him. He drives through it and goes on to have an impossible adventure, and in the end he learns to use his imagination. I always said I would have Milo. But first I had a Huck (who's first name is actually Henry). My own name is pretty uncommon, and I believe that helped me to feel that I was different and special my whole life. “Marigold” always stood out in a sea of Jennifers and Melissas, and I have always appreciated that my parents named me something a little bit different. So the goal both times in naming our kids was for names that were uncommon, but not unusual, difficult to spell or outright made-up. Does that make sense? Nothing wacky, just something you don't hear every day. My husband, who has spent his life as a common Steve, was right on board with both of the boys' the names.

That's it! Thanks to Marigold for joining us here and giving such interesting, thought-out answers to my questions. I enjoyed this. Hope you did, too! Oh and by the way, if you're wondering if she still uses that broken sewing machine, yes, Marigold reports that she does. I would have been whining for a new one ages ago.

Have a suggestion for who I should interview next? Drop me an email at tharshesews @ gmail.com.

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  1. Fantastic interview, Krista. I really love reading about how/what other crafty bloggers think and how they came into blogging. Marigold is really talented.

  2. Oh, Marigold. Make STEVE do the dishes, silly!