Note: This contest is now closed. Our winner is mrsquiltingb! Thanks for participating.

We did it! The new Sew Mama Sew is live! Just a little over two months ago I announced that I was closing the shop to focus my attention on the blog. Shutting down a business is much more difficult than I ever imagined– physically, mentally, and emotionally. Lots and lots of late nights, quite a few tears and many trips to the post office as well as the Goodwill. Thank you so much to everyone who helped clear out our inventory and encouraged us through that process. Beth and I will always be thankful for your support!

Shortly before I made the public announcement to close the shop, I had started working with Alyssa Lichner of Pile O’ Fabric on the new Block of the Month series. She and I were exchanging emails about her post one day and she said, “By the way, have you ever thought about redesigning your site? That’s what I do for a living.” The timing was perfect. I had just told my employees about my decision, but hadn’t even begun to look for designers. I knew Alyssa had just completed the amazing Modern Quilt Guild website in record time for a launch to coincide with Quiltcon. To me, it is the perfect site for the MQG– clean, fresh and intuitive. I was impressed by her other work as well as all the ideas she had for our site– including functionality and tools I didn’t even know existed!

And so the process began. My wonderful friend, Monica of Happy Zombie, has been making our buttons for a couple of years. She squeezes us in between her fabulous blogging, pattern writing, and fabric designing. I asked her to do our logo and of course she knocked it out of the park, setting the tone for the rest of the site.  I couldn’t love the logo more! She also made the fantastic “Sewing Tutorials” graphic. The logo was designed with seasonal changes in mind, as was the header graphic, so you’ll probably see us freshen things up visually more often, without changing the overall structure of the site. As a non-designer, it is really really hard for me to even imagine what I want when it comes to fonts, colors, and styles, but I know it when I see it. Monica has so much patience about this when we work together, and I am so grateful for that. (Thank you, Monica! ♥♥)

As I’ve mentioned, Alyssa had tons of ideas for making the most of all our existing content (over 2500 posts!), which was one of our goals. There are SO MANY WordPress plugins that we didn’t even know where to start. Alyssa gave us several options for functionality she thought we might like, without overwhelming us with choices. If you take a look around, you’ll see there are now several ways to view content, including the Browse option and the Tutorials page. Everything has been categorized and tagged so you can find what you’re looking for easily and intuitively

When we first got started, I knew I wanted to get rid of the forum, but wanted more interactivity built into the blog itself. Alyssa set us up with a great little community that we’re calling The Sewing Room. You can sign in, form groups, load photos, ask questions, etc. I’m sure we’ll use it for participation with some of our sew-alongs and contests. In the meantime, feel free to jump in and share! We are starting out with basic functionality right now, but if you think of something you wish you could do in The Sewing Room but you can’t, let us know! We’d really like to adapt it to meet the needs of the community.

Even though we officially closed our fabric shop, you might have noticed that we’re still selling books! Supporting the publishing industry, including promoting sewing books and authors, is such an integral part of what we do on the blog that we really wanted to stay involved in getting awesome books into the hands of customers. There are very few independent online craft book retailers, and we think we curate pretty well, so we’re really pleased to have that portion of the business still available. Alyssa transferred everything to a new cart that works with WordPress, which  is much cleaner and better-integrated.

I could go on and on, but let me sum it up.

6 Tips If You’re Thinking About Redesigning Your Blog

  1. If possible, find someone who understands your industry. To me this was the #1 benefit of working with Alyssa.
  2. Start Pinning logos, labels, stationary and websites to some design boards on Pinterest now. It doesn’t matter if you won’t be ready for a year. Looking around for a bunch of things that inspire you days before you need them is too much pressure.
  3. Work with someone who is familiar with your blog platform already. Like “knows-it-like-the-back-of-their-hand”  kind of familiar, so they can help you imagine the full potential of your site.
  4. Be prepared to limit you desires to time and budget, but think about Phase 2.
  5. Hire someone who can deal with databases, knows code, understands redirects and backups and uses the word “configure” a lot. 😉 Alyssa actually works with her husband, Jacob, who owns Tenable Designs and Development. They were a fabulous team and I always felt really confident that any technical problems that came up would be taken care of . (With 7 years of content, I know it wasn’t easy!)
  6. Work with people who are kind and patient.

Scavenger Hunt

We want you to have a look around and become familiar with the site. Just for fun, we’ve put together a little scavenger hunt quiz with 10 questions. All the answers can be found right here in the blog. By completing the quiz with a passing score, you’ll be entered to win this gorgeous set of Amy Butler stationary from Chronicle Books. It includes writing sheets and envelopes, a journal, and a set of sticky notes & to-dos.

Amy Butler Stationary

 

Take the quiz now. (Link will open in a new tab so you can switch back and forth.) The winner will be announced the week of 6/24.