How to Buy the Best Birthday Gift

How to Buy the Best Birthday Gift

Buying gifts for people can be hard work.  Pressure to find a gift that the recipient will like and can use can take the fun out of the whole gift-giving occasion for me. If gift-buying is as difficult for you as it is for me, you’re in the right place.  I’m going to give you some tips for buying gifts that I recently learned from a very special person.

On February 18th, I celebrated my sixtieth birthday.  I wasn’t expecting any gifts, but I have a six-year-old granddaughter who was not about to let my 60th birthday pass without giving me a special present.  Her gift for me was a yard of rainbow print fleece fabric.  She and her brother were very excited to celebrate with us!

My practical nature is an asset most of the time, but not so much when buying gifts.  I have a tendency to try to find a gift that the recipient needs.  For me, the process involves finding a gift that can be useful and avoiding gifts that are frivolous.

It turns out that my granddaughter Aaliyah, at the age of six, has a better way to choose birthday gifts for the people she loves.  Here’s her gift-buying technique:

  1. Spend time with people.  Get to know them.  Observe their environment to see what they like.  Aaliyah has done all of these things with me, and she knows that I like fabric.  I like fabric a lot!  I have a lot of fabric because I like it so much. Most people would be aware that I do not need any more fabric.  Not one more yard.  But not Aaliyah.
2. Make a decision to buy a gift that the recipient will like.  Do not concern yourself with whether or not the gift is practical or whether it is needed.  Just be sure that the gift will be loved and appreciated!

3. Have fun while shopping for the gift.  We all enjoyed hearing about Aaliyah’s fabric shopping adventure.  Apparently, she had a difficult time choosing between the rainbow fleece and the Shopkins fleece.  She chose well.  It was fun hearng about her dad’s impatience at the cutting counter at Walmart, too.

There you have it!  A sure fire method for choosing the perfect gift.  This is a lesson that I plan to take to heart.


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My Top Sewing Machine Buying Tip

My Top Sewing Machine Buying Tip

Buying a sewing machine can be a challenge.  I’ve got some advice that can help with your decision.   Because I sew a lot and own several sewing machines, people ask me fairly often for advice in choosing a sewing machine for themselves.  Usually the questions are concerning the brand of sewing machine, the price of the sewing machine, and the features that I consider necessary.

I’m happy to offer my opinion on any or all of those questions, but my #1 word of advice for buying a new sewing machine has to do with WHERE to buy a sewing machine.  My advice is always that same.  Buy your new sewing machine from a sewing machine dealer.
Janome Magnolia 7330  

Recently, I decided to buy a new basic sewing machine so that I would have a back up machine for my “good” sewing machine that is getting older.  I wanted a Janome sewing machine so that all of the accessories would be interchangeable with the sewing machine I use most.  You might expect that since I knew what kind of machine I wanted and what features I would need, that I’d just log in to Amazon and have this machine on its way to me with that famous Amazon two-day free shipping.  That is NOT what I did!  Not only would I never buy a sewing machine from Amazon, but I also never recommend that you do that.

Instead of clicking that “buy now with one click” button, I drove to my local Janome sewing machine dealer.

Here are three reasons why I always recommend buying a sewing machine from a sewing machine dealer:

1.  At the dealership, I can see the sewing machine in person.  The dealer, who was trained by the sewing machine company will demonstrate how to use        the machine.  I can sew with the machine myself, just as I would test drive a potential new car.

2.  Sewing machine dealers offer repair and cleaning services to their customers.  Once a year when my sewing machine needs to be professionally                cleaned, I take it back to the dealer where I bought it.  I can also return to the dealer if my sewing machine should need to be repaired.

Last year, while working on a sewing project, I accidentally sewed over a straight pin.  My needle broke, and I could not get my machine to sew properly.  Because I depend on my sewing machine for my small business, this was a crisis.  I immediately called the dealer who is also known as The Sewing Machine Doctor.  He advised me of a few things I could try to get the machine working again. None of those suggestions worked, so he agreed to take a look at my sewing machine that same day!  Would I have gotten that kind of service from Amazon?  No way!

3.  I am supporting a small business in a nearby community.  As a small business owner myself, I know how important it is to support other small business       owners who can sometimes feel that we can’t compete with Amazon, Walmart, and other huge businesses.

Buying a sewing machine locally, just makes sense.  If you find yourself in the market for a new sewing machine, I hope you will consider shopping at a local sewing machine dealership.  I can guarantee you’ll be glad you did!
 . My Top Sewing Machine Buying Tip
Do you have a local sewing machine dealership in your area?

What Customers Say About Extra Warm Car Seat Poncho

What Customers Say About Extra Warm Car Seat Poncho

I’ve been selling fleece car seat ponchos in my Etsy shop  since 2015.  The first year that I sold ponchos, I offered only one style of car seat poncho.  My regular car seat poncho was and still is made of two layers of anti-pill fleece.  Here in Pennsylvania, my grandchildren have found them to be cozy and warm.
Car Seat Poncho

Extra Warm Poncho

But what about those kiddos in extremely cold climates?  Would two layers of fleece be warm enough for a child in Minnesota or Wisconsin or Canada?  I wasn’t sure it would be.  That’s why, in my second year of poncho making and selling, I offered the option of choosing a layer of cotton quilt batting that I added between the two layers of anti-pill fleece.

Last year, one third of my poncho orders were for extra warm ponchos.  Most of those extra warm ponchos made their way north to colder states and to Canada.

This fall I asked some of those customers whose children used the extra warm ponchos last year to take a short survey.  The results were overwhelmingly positive, and every one who responded said that she would make the same choice to purchase the extra warm poncho again.

Survey Results

1.  In what state or province do you live? 

The women who answered my survey were from Nebraska, Michigan, New Jersey, Minnesota, Oklahoma, and New York.

2.  Did the extra warm poncho provide adequate warmth? 

Everyone agreed that the extra warm poncho provided adequate warmth.  One mom said that on the coldest days in Michigan, she would layer the poncho over a fleece jacket.

3.  Where there times when the poncho was too warm? 

Some responded that the poncho was too warm for fall and spring weather.  Another mom added that if the temperature were forty degrees or warmer, the poncho was not a good choice.  The others assured me that the poncho was not too warm in their winter climates.

4.  How would you describe the weight and feel of the extra warm poncho? 

I wanted to get some opinions on the feel and weight of the extra warm poncho since I’m often trying to describe it to potential customers.  My survey-takers described the extra warm poncho as a thicker fleece, not too heavy or thick, warm and cozy, substantial without feeling stiff or cumbersome.  One mom was concerned that the extra layer would make the poncho stiff, but it did not.

5.  If you were to purchase another poncho, would you choose the extra warm style? 

All of the survey participants agreed that if they purchased another poncho, they would, without hesitation, purchase the extra warm poncho again.

There was that one mom who said that since she already had an extra warm poncho, she might choose a regular poncho to use in spring and fall weather.  I like this idea!  Everyone should buy two ponchos:  a regular and an extra warm one.

Contact Me About a Poncho:

If  you’re interested in ordering a regular or extra warm car seat poncho, please contact me.  You can use the contact form here on this site, contact me in my Etsy shop, or visit my business page on Facebook.  I’d be happy to work with you to create a poncho for that special child in your life!


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Selling Licensed Fabrics

Selling Licensed Fabrics

Licensed fabrics that have favorite TV and movie characters on them are quite popular especially with children.  I often receive requests to make ponchos or bibs using licensed fabrics from Disney, John Deere, NFL teams and other companies.

The Facts About Licensed Fabrics:

If you’ve ever bought licensed fabric, you may have noticed that the selvage (edge) of the fabric is usually printed with these words:  “For home use only. Not intended for commercial use”.

That warning means just what it says.  Those characters, phrases, and even color combinations may have been copyrighted by the original owner.  Using those for business gain is not legal.  Some small business owners believe that a multi-million dollar corporation is not going to concern themselves with a small business’s infringement of their intellectual property.

The truth is that Disney, Marvel, and other companies HAVE filed suits against small business owners who have used their images, color combinations, and copyrighted phrases without first purchasing a license to do so.  

My Policy:

I have chosen not to sell items made from licensed fabrics.  It is so tempting to bend the rules to make a poncho with Ana and Elsa, Minions, or Minnie Mouse fabric.  But the bottom line is that I am not willing to jeopardize my standing with Etsy by infringing on the rights of other businesses.

It is perfectly legal to make gifts, donations, and personal items with licensed fabrics.  It is also legal to make items from licensed fabrics if my customer purchases the fabric and delivers it to me.  In that case, I’m performing a service, not selling a product.

Just this morning, I made this Paw Patrol bib for my sister’s granddaughter.  While I was happy to indulge little Brinley’s obsession with Paw Patrol characters, I can guarantee that you will never see licensed fabrics in my Etsy shop or in my Facebook group.  I’m playing it safe with my business!

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What’s So Great About Bibs?

What’s So Great About Bibs?

Bibs.  Either you like them or you don’t.  Allow me to share three good reasons why I think kids should wear bibs for all messy activities.

No bib kidToddler BibBibs save you time. 

Foods like peaches, apples, and chocolate can permanently stain fabrics.  The best way to prevent these and other foods from landing on your kid’s clothing is to use a bib that covers all or most of his shirt.  Granted, it can take a few seconds to tie a bib on your hungry little one, but it can take minutes to treat stains before laundering clothing.  It can take hours to work long enough to buy new clothes to replace the ones that are ruined by food stains.

Bibs keep your kids comfortable. 

Soggy clothing is not comfortable!  Would you want to spend the afternoon wearing a wet, sticky shirt?  I know I wouldn’t want to, but I’ve seen plenty of kids walking around with shirts that are soaked with drool or milk or juice or food.  Yuck!

Save your kid the aggravation of a soggy shirt by tying a bib on her before she starts to eat or drink.

Bibs are cute!

Bibs come in all shapes and sizes with all kinds of pictures and cute sayings on them.  Some bibs, like the ones I sell in my Etsy shop, are cute enough to be considered clothing.

If you’ve got young children or grandchildren, I urge you to make a habit of tying on a bib at mealtimes.  You’ll be surprised how much better your child will look and feel with clothes that are clean and dry!  You’ll feel better, too!

What’s your opinion on bibs and kids?


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What’s in a Name?


What’s in a name?  If the extent of my agonizing over whether or not to change my online business name is any gauge, then a name is pretty darn important!

Last month, I made a big change in my online business.  I made the decision to re-brand my business using my own name, and I hired a graphic designer to make a logo that suited my business.  I’m very pleased with the work my designer did for me, and I’m pleased that my business name is consistent locally and online.



I have three main reasons for changing my business name, and here they are:

 Number One:

My official business name, the one that I use on my tax return and on any official paperwork is “Elaine Searer, Sewing & Alterations”.  I chose that name, not because it’s cute or catchy, but because it’s free.  In Pennsylvania, I do not have to pay a fee to use my own name as my business name.  If I choose a fictitious name (like My Grandma Sews), then I have to pay to file that fictitious name with my state.

Number Two:

Because I never paid to use the name My Grandma Sews, it wasn’t really mine.  I had no legal claim to it, and if another businessperson wanted to go into business using that name, I would have no recourse to stop them or to protect my use of that name.  I considered it highly unlikely that I would ever get into a business fight with anyone wanting to use that name, but just the same, the possibility was there that I could work to build a brand and then have it snatched from me. Some people might ask why I didn’t just register that name.  I could have done that, but I’m already operating a successful local sewing and alterations business under a different name…you guessed it!  Elaine Searer Sewing & Alterations.  What are the chances that my local customers would ever begin to refer to my business by a fictitious name?  Slim to none.

Number Three: 

The last reason is just that the word “grandma” was not the image I wanted to portray to my online customers.  I like being a grandma, but I was concerned that the using the word “grandma” would make potential customers think “old-fashioned”.  While I do consider my choice of patterns and projects to be classics, I do not consider them old-fashioned!

My other concern is that while the word “grandma” seemed cute to use for a business that makes children’s items, it would not suit me if I decided to list items in my shop that are not for children.With the help of my graphic designer, I made the decision to brand myself with the business name that I already own and use:  Elaine Searer Sewing & Alterations.

Some people have mentioned that they miss My Grandma Sews, and I miss that name a bit myself.  I am, however, convinced that I made the right decision for me and my growing business.

If you’d like to see the rest of my new graphics, please visit me on Facebook at and  and my Etsy shop at .

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