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Using a Kanban Organization + Productivity Board for your Business


Have you ever heard of Kanban? Well if not, right now can be your most recent “ah ha!” moment because kanban is an incredibly simple and wonderful way to organize your work time. Kanban was originally developed by Toyota back in the 1950s as a way to maximize productivity and encourage the development of new ideas and concepts quickly. A true challenge in the car industry and a true challenge in own own handmade business.

I first heard of kanban from a sewing friend of mine, Monica Donahue of Monica’s business has grown really fast (no wonder since her products are super stylish and beautiful!) and after her 2013 holiday season, I asked her how things went. She said she was grateful for all her orders but felt like she had just been through an exhausting storm and barely made it through to January!  She mentioned she was going to try a kanban board to get more organized and prepared for 2014 . Of course, I wanted to know more about kanban boards and after Monica gave me a simple explanation, I did some of my own research.

All that is needed to make your own kanban board is a white board, a pencil and some sticky notes. Of course, being a creative person, you may want to makes yours pretty! But make sure you also make it changeable. You basically just draw 3 columns that are titled to do (or ideas), Work in Progress (WIP) and Completed. When you have a task that needs to be completed, you write it on a sticky note and place it in the TO DO column. After you have begun, move the sticky note to the WIP column, finally when you have finished the task, move the sticky note to the Completed column. So easy, right?? Of course, kanban can be much more complicated and huge businesses (like Toyota!) use it to create new technology, but it also works great for creative people like us working on a small scale.

My friend Monica is a production sewer who develops new products and sews them herself in her home studio. Although I only production sew a little around the holidays, I wanted to try kanban for myself as a pattern designer and creative business owner. The basic concepts of kanban are to encourage new ideas, reduce works in progress (WIPs) and help you achieve the completion of your projects. Easy right???

The real genius of kanban for us handmade business owners is to really work on those pesky WIPs that muddle up our time and clog up our creative spaces (physically and mentally!). WIPs are a business bottleneck that plague Toyota and Microsoft as much as it plagues someone trying to come up with a new sewing pattern. The idea is that visually seeing all those WIPs on your board will help you to move them through to completion and make your precious work time more productive.

My board is divided into the 3 columns discussed above but also into 3 additional sections to make my board look like a grid. This grid helps to remind me that not only do I need to design (favorite thing!), but also sew(a close second!) and work on the marketing(not my favorite but VERY necessary) of my handmade business.

So, will you try kanban? I love the visual organization of my board and it gets me focused in a way that I never had before. The concept is so simple but truly helpful. Want to learn more about kanban? I have only scratched the surface here so there is a lot more to discover. Here are some links so you can learn more about the concepts and how to apply it to your life and work…


Virginia Lindsay — Gingercake Patterns and Design

Virginia Lindsay designs sewing patterns for Gingercake Patterns and Design.  She loves the to sew practical, fun, and stylish things!   Several of her patterns have been published by Simplcity and she has also written 2 books. Sewing to Sell ( to be released in Nov 2014 ) and Fabric Stash Cuties:  Pretty Little Birds (to be released January 2015).


DSC_4227Hi dear readers,

Today we’d like to share with you a quick and simple way to organize your desk with style whilst refurbishing an old dress. Sounds like a weird match but I promise the result will be as pretty as functional. So I cut out an old dress of which I loved the floral pattern and just couldn’t throw it away! You’re free to use whatever textile you prefer 😉

Here’s what you’ll need:

– medium sized frame with base (mine was a standard A4)

– textile of any kind

– scissors

– glue

– sewing machine (or textile glue)

Start by measuring a piece of textile big enough to fit all of your frame. Cut it out slightly bigger so we can fit it without having problems. Since mine was an old dress it had an already established pocket which I decided to implement in my desk organizer. If you want you can create it using an extra piece of the same textile and sewing it on (not so simple I bet!). Next, we want to add an extra big pouch to the bottom of the organizer, to have more fitting space. So cut out a peace that will cover the second half of the frame and lay it over. Again, I went for an edge which had already a hem: if it’s not your case, you’ll have to do it yourself before moving on (sewing or with textile glue).

Now over to the sewing machine to stick together the two parts we just prepared. Help yourself with pins to keep them in position. If you’re no-sew ladies, just use textile glue and it’ll do fine. There’s no need to sew perfectly and also you only have to fix together the two edges and you don’t have to worry about closing the bottom part at this point. You might need to iron the cloth as mine was a bit creased.

Finally, take the glass of the frame away. Lay the frame facing upside down and place the textile. Add the back part of the frame, check the correct positioning of everything and fix it as you were normally hanging a poster. If you have a lot of textile popping out cut it away and help yourself with glue to make it stick to the back of the frame, especially in the edges.

Turn around and we’re done! Ready to be filled with stylishly organized stuff. Who said organizing was boring?

Lots of love,

Chiara & Irene









The Juggling Act

doubledubsReclaimed Barn Wood & Mason Jar Wall Art Hand-Painted Wood Sign from The Double Dubs

When I first opened my shop on Etsy, I was working a full time job and taking care of my 6 month old daughter. I was looking for a hobby and in the beginning had no expectations of creating a real business. Flash forward just over a year, and I’m still working a full time job, chasing around my energetic little girl who’s turning 2, and running a successful online store; The Double Dubs.

My shop has grown far beyond my expectations, but with the increase in sales comes the increase of stress and decrease of time. There have been moments when trying to manage everything has been overwhelming, but as time goes on I have been able to develop ways to stay organized and balance the many areas of my crazy, wonderful life.

When I told my husband that I was writing an article about balancing a business with your day job and home life, his response was “Let me know when you figure that out.” I’m certainly not an expert, but I have made great strides and hopefully I can help others find ways to do the same!

Get Crazy Organized

I still remember the day I brought home my label maker….such fond memories. I quickly began labeling everything in my studio from the garbage/recycling bins to the space reserved for my hot glue gun. While labeling every little thing in my studio may not have been necessary, it made me think more about how I was utilizing my space.

I’m very lucky to have a designated area in my house for the business, I realize that a lot of people starting out aren’t as fortunate. But it’s important to organize your work space whether it’s a spot at the kitchen table or an entire building. Keeping my studio organized helps me to find things quickly, get to work quickly, and clean up quickly. And let’s be honest, when juggling multiple roles time is of the essence.

That’s not to say my space is always spotless. I mean there are days when I can’t avoid letting my daughter pull out all the recycling or unravel the bubble wrap while I package orders. But by putting in the effort the first time to organize (and label like a crazy person) my studio, makes it easy to get it back to its meticulously organized state fast.

Method to the Madness

There are countless ways people have found to stay organized and juggle busy lives. None of these methods are necessarily the wrong way or the right way to do it. The key is finding the method or style that works best for you. So experiment and adapt until you find the right mix. To give you a starting point, here’s some of what has worked for me:

  • My best friend the label maker– Giving everything a place has increased my efficiency
  • Writing lists– I have created a template that I use for writing my to-do list every day (and laminated it….I know I’m a nerd!). The front goes through everything I’ll need to accomplish for the shop, to what’s for dinner that night. The back has an overview of big projects for the whole week.
  • Calendars – Keeping track of important dates and deadlines is essential! I make sure to have separate calendars for the business, our personal life, and finances (when those obnoxious bills are due).

Don’t be Afraid to Ask (or Scream) for Help

You need to know your limit, and more importantly, to ask for help before you reach it. Whether that’s help from your spouse, your kids, your co-workers, or online community. Without a great support system, my business, day job, and home life all would suffer. When the shop is really busy and I’ve had to put in a full day at work, my husband steps in to make dinner and do laundry. If there’s a project at work that I’m just too stressed about, I solicit other perspectives. You should never feel guilty about asking for help!

Don’t Strive for Super Hero Status

It’s easy to set ridiculously high standards for yourself and feel defeated when you fall short. There are going to be days when you accomplish more than what you had expected, and days where you feel like you’ve only added to your list rather than complete it. It’s okay to have those days. It certainly doesn’t make you a failure, it makes you human! So set goals, work your butt off, and keep trying.



Stephanie Wotachek – The Double Dubs

We have reclaimed barn wood that would have otherwise been destroyed and given it new purpose.  Through our artwork, we are able to share a piece of our family’s history with others.

Making Your Space Work For You In 2013

workspace inspiration via

Do you ever find yourself overwhelmed by your workspace or home? If you work from home, is it sometimes difficult to focus because of everything around you? Is your workspace so cluttered and disorganized that you dislike being there?

In the New Year, not only do a create lists of goals but I also like to create themes. I want this year to be about finding comfort and peace and since I cannot control the big wide world around me, that feeling will be created in my home and my relationships. I am committed to maintaining a home and studio space that works for me, speaks to my soul and that I am proud to share with others.

Happiness to me starts in the comfort of our spaces. If you take daily steps to keeping your home/office/studio an efficient and motivating place then waking up in the morning is just that much easier. Closing your eyes at night is done with ease. Having friends or neighbors just stopping by doesn’t result in a sense of panic.  When you know where things are you don’t waste loads of time looking for things. Crazy! Without all the meaningless mind chatter that comes from clutter and overwhelm you have more space for creativity and awesome discoveries.

If you do a little organizing everyday can make this whole adventure a lot easier. Create a drop space (desk, box, etc) near your front door and go through it every evening. Go ahead and sort through the mail as soon as you take it into your space and avoid massive mail piles.

If your space is a little drab and boring, commit to making it a lively, inspiring place to be by creating mood boards and changing the artwork seasonally. What kind of feeling do you want to create in your home? Play with color and flowers to give it a little punch.

The best way to keep this practice in place is to become and stay aware of how your space affects your mood and work level. Recognize your habits and note how you feel after a few days in a tidy, motivating space. Feeling a little down or crabby? Take a look around. Is there something in your physical space that you could change?

Enlist a friend or a professional (like me!) to help if you don’t want to work on your space by yourself. Having someone to assist you in getting rid of clutter and to see your space in a new and enlightening way can be really life changing.

What wonderful changes to you want to make in your space?

Shelly Kerry — Creating Space, Mindful Living

Shelly Kerry is the founder of the program Creating Space, Mindful Living – motivating and inspiring people to run their businesses more efficiently. She helps others look at their personal and professional lives and explore what is and isn’t working. As a jewelry designer she has spent many years testing and honing the skills and discipline needed to run your own creative business while still having time for friends, family and fun. She puts her wealth of experience to use in the Creating Space service – healthy living advice to help keep you motivated and make the most out of your already busy schedule. She will help you find both the physical and emotional space so you can pursue your dreams and she’ll always insist there’s time for yourself.

Shelly writes guest posts on living your best life on well-known blogs such as Kanelstrand, Handmade Success and Awfully Grand and is pursuing a Core Strengths coaching certificate through San Francisco State University.

You can now find Creating Space on Facebook.

Get Organized Giveaway from Fresh and Organized!

Are you looking to get organized in 2013? Monica Estrada from Fresh and Organized is here to help! We are giving away one of her Household Binder Printables Set to a lucky reader! From calendars, to menu planners, to financial worksheets and more; this set contains all the basics you need to effectively manage your household. This kit contains 22 pages of printables to put in your binder.  It will be available for instant download and will include a personalized cover page.

To enter please leave a comment below about how you hope to get organized on 2013! To learn more about the planner go here. You can also get organizing tips on Monica’s blog and by liking her Facebook page.

The giveaway will end Wednesday, November 21st at 6pm PST.  The winner will be announced on the blog Friday, November 23rd.

Editor’s note: Thanks so much for sharing a copy, Monica!!!