Unorthodox Crafts
 "Where do you get all of the ties?"  I hear this question a lot.   I wish I had a simple answer, but I get ties from so many different places.  When I first started making necktie purses, I bought individual ties from thrift shops, trying to match them as I picked them out.  Then, having bought all of the good ties from the local Goodwill,  I gambled and bought a few bags of ties from eBay starting with "small" lots of 60 ties, then progressing to more impressive shipments of 200 ties.  Once, on a lark, I advertised on Craigslist , offering to pay fifty cents per tie.  I was shocked by the number of responses I received.  I never imagined there were so many people with bags of ties sitting around their houses.  One man drove up from Massachusetts with 3 boxes of ties - 167 total - which had belonged to his father who had recently passed away.   Another woman mailed me 2 ties.  I sent her a check for $1 and included a link to my on-line album of purses.  After seeing the pictures, she started buying ties at thrift shops for me.  She continued to send 2-3 beautiful ties at a time, making little to no money on the transaction.  She told me she enjoys shopping at thrift shops.  I have a relative who mails boxes of ties from thrift shops and estate sales in California.  She and her husband enjoy the hunt for ties, and I reap the benefits.

More recently, I have been getting bags of ties from people who have seen my purses or heard about my business.  In the past two weeks, I have received ties from 5 different people - some of whom I have never met.  I have found that I can often match several ties within a  bag donated by one person.  For instance, The Case of the Golden Opportunity and The Case of the Rustling Leaves were each made with two ties donated by one person.  The colors match perfectly.

At first, I was surprised by this.  After all, men are not wearing more than one tie at a time.  Why should they own ties that match?  But I suppose that most people are naturally drawn to certain colors and this is reflected in their wardrobes.  I welcome these donations, knowing that I will almost always be able to make several purses or cases without digging into my stash of ties. 

Occasionally, I come upon a tie that is so unusual I am almost certain I will never be able to use it.  Surprisingly, I have found matches for some of these ties. 

Arizona Sunset
Arizona Sunset is one of the best examples.  I never thought I would find two ties featuring orange and purple.  Who would have worn such ties?  And after I made the purse I wondered, who will carry such a purse?  Perhaps nobody - it is still available...

I still shop at thrift stores occasionally - you never know what treasures you will find.  But I also love being known as "the tie lady" and coming home to find a bag of ties hanging from my door knob. 

I stood in line at the fabric store last week feeling completely out of place.  I held my single bolt of interfacing, surrounded by carts piled high with bolts of material in coordinating colors.  I watched and waited as small amounts of each bolt were measured and cut, wishing they had an express line for those of us with just one item.  I chatted with the woman ahead of me in line, and asked her what she was planning to make with the material in her cart.  She sheepishly admitted, "I'm not sure what I will do with it, but I simply fell in love with the colors and designs.  Maybe I'll make a king size quilt." I told her what I make out of ties, showing her my purse and she said, "Oh, it's so nice to meet a fellow quilter."  Hmmmm.....  I never think of myself as a quilter - certainly not in the same league as someone who makes a king size quilt.

Moses hides in the jumble of ties
When I got home, I walked into my sewing room to put the interfacing away.  In an effort to control the chaos of disorder that threatens to overwhelm me, I have come up with a system for organizing my tie collection.  Every time I enter the room, I must remove at least 5 ties from the laundry basket and sort them by color onto hangers.  This time, as I did so, I realized that my collection of ties is not that different from the piles of small cuts of material that quilters bring home from the fabric store.   Each tie is a single cut of material.  Each hanger holds coordinating cuts.  Each item I make is a small quilt, with carefully chosen colors and patterns. 

My favorite - and most challenging - part of the design process is matching ties.   Visitors are always surprised when they see my tie collection and I enjoy watching their eyes grow wide as I open the closet door.  Occasionally I worry that collecting ties has become an obsession.  I am simply unable to drive by a thrift shop without stopping in to see if they have ties - and it is uncommon for me to walk out empty-handed.  I never pass up a good tie (indeed, if you peeked in my closet you might think that I never pass up a bad tie either!).  In order for me to coordinate colors and patterns, I must have a huge variety of ties to choose from.  The process of building my stash might be different from that of the quilter I met at the fabric store - she chose colors and patterns with purpose, whereas I buy ties randomly, hoping they will match something I already have.  But the result is similar - an ever-growing collection of material to organize, store, and hopefully use someday. 

_Two days ago I received an order for two dozen pairs of earrings and six dozen Christmas ornaments. I also found two new shops to carry my products.  I went abruptly from having boxes overflowing with inventory, to wondering whether I have enough stuff to make a spring craft fair worthwhile.  I feel a bit like Goldilocks, searching for Baby Bear's bowl of porridge.   I have too few orders, or too many;  too much product, or not enough.  I wonder if  Baby Bear's "just right" bowl of porridge actually exists in this business. 

January and February were slow months for me.  I packed away the Christmas-themed items, anticipating that I would not see them again until next fall.  I worked on new products and new displays, mulling over what worked well - or fell flat - last year.  I put old things on sale.  I cleaned up the workroom and organized my inventory.  I bought new supplies.

Then March arrived and, in spite of the foot of snow on my driveway,  I realized that spring is just around the corner, but marketing season is already here.  All of a sudden it's time to make decisions:  Which craft shows will I do?  Should I sell to the same stores as last year?  Scope out new markets?  Change prices? 

As I see my inventory dwindle, I suppress my worries and calm myself with the thought that there really aren't too many jewelry or purse emergencies.  I remind myself that I can continue to make things at a pace which suits me - focusing on the quality of my products and taking pleasure in the design and production process.   I realize that for my inner Goldilocks, "just right"  means working at home with uncommon materials and creating unique objects which make people smile.