Monday, January 28, 2013

The dawning of a branding blogger, or why I am no longer a part of the Mood Sewing Network

Things tend to happen when you expect them least, readers. Private issues and family emergency made me refrain from blogging and sewing for the entire month. Yet, luckily, everything seems to be returning to normal and I am able and happy to return to my home, blog and sewing routine.

One thing at a time now - Happy New Year and I really hope you had a great start into 2013 and are keeping up with your resolutions. I haven't made any, to be honest. Instead, I decided to do it step-by-step and focus as much as possible.

Let me first update you on one of the most noticeable changes here: you may have noticed that yours truly is not a member of the Mood Sewing Network any longer. Yes, I did start doing custom work and make couture garments for clients, but this is not the only reason I left. One day in November I looked back at the time I spent making the projects for the Network and realized that I am not spending it wisely.

I know there are bloggers who can sew several projects a month and I am truly fascinated by their productivity. As for me, I can make one or two couture garments a month, depending on their complexity. This alone made me crave for more flexibility in my choice of projects, which of course depend on fabrics. Mood has a wide selection of fabrics for competitive prices, but I was equally attracted to my favorite Paron Fabrics, B&J, or Gorgeous Fabrics as an online alternative. Naturally, as Mood Network blogger I had to do one project a month with Mood Fabric. The fabric allowance I was getting was a nice incentive, but I already have a significant fabric stash and after the first few projects I knew I don't want to purchase new fabrics just to tick the box, especially when I occasionally spotted a better choice elsewhere.



Being honest, exposure was another reason I joined the network. Let's admit, exposure may be the more significant incentive for a present or aspiring Mood blogger, especially since the times when the number of sewing bloggers was in double digits are long gone and there are many hundreds, or even thousands, of sewing and DIY blogs out there. Yet, despite this exposure and mostly positive experience, I came to conclusion that the deal with Mood didn't work for me, and that by the nature of what I personally do I was compromising my creative (and to certain extent, editorial) freedom by engaging myself in a long-term and exclusive relationship with a brand.

As the number of blogs grows so does the nature of self-promotion, advertising and consequent cooperation with brands... Looking beyond this particular relationship, I think it is time for sewing bloggers to understand the value of what we do and to re-assess (or to establish) our promotion and marketing strategies, because the recognition of blogs as an advertising and marketing channel is growing, and there will be a rewarding deal for every creative and hard-working blogger, beyond a free book or a class in exchange for a review.

I have learned a whole lot from being a part of the Mood Sewing Network, and, with its highs and lows, I think it was a very valuable experience. That's why I would like to thank Mood, and, especially, Eric Sauma for recognizing the potential of and embracing the blogging community, as well as setting an example of brand cooperation for many fashion industry vendors. Finally, of course, I wish all the best to my fellow bloggers who are still part of the Mood Sewing Network.
  
As always, I would be happy to hear what you think! Especially with regard to the present and the future of blogger cooperation with brands...

56 comments:

  1. I honestly didn't feel like the Mood Network was a good fit for you. I have to say I was envious when others were gushing about being chosen. Then I realized that I don't sew very fast at ALL and I can't commit to making one thing a month out of their fabric. I can't even commit to making one thing a month. Sometimes its two months apart, then I might make three things in a weekend. It just depends.

    Personally, I feel like sewing bloggers/online community should help spread awareness of quality vs. quantity, why people should take good care of their clothing, and buy with consciousness if they aren't inclined to make clothing for themselves. With yet another garment factory fire happening, this has been on my mine a lot.

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    1. I so agree about quality vs quantity, especially for advanced sewers. Writing a post about it is a beginning - let me know if you post something about it, I will be happy to link to the post.

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  2. I am just glad to hear that you made the choice that is right for you!

    I am currently taking the Susan Khaljie couture dress class and just loving the techniques, but it does take much longer to complete a garment. (it is worth the time when you begin seeing the outcome though). I am at the point of catch stitching the seams, so I am really beginning to see how amazing my dress will be.

    I am looking forward to seeing everything you have to offer us in the future. I have learned a ton from your blog and will continue to read it religiously!

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    1. Thanks, and I love Susan's classes. As you go beyond the muslin and start feeling the garment come together it becomes such a rewarding experience

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  3. You create lovely things. While I can't say that I'm against any such network, I no longer visit the blogs that are part of the "Mood Sewing Network', simply because I'm not interested in what people who are provided fabric to sew choose to create. I want to see things the average person creates and makes do with what they have. I've also found that many of the sewing blogs are written by people whose work is no better than my own. I want to see things that I aspire to create, the sort of thing that the experts create. Good luck with your future endeavors.

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    1. Thank you, Anonymous. I must say I am still a big fan of quite a few MSN bloggers. By the way, they get allowance, not some specific fabric and they choose what to create themselves, so the variety is there. It didn't work for me because, besides other reasons, I am not as productive as some of them :) But overall, it's a diverse group and it is always interesting to see what they come up with.

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  4. Thank you for your honesty; I always appreciate hearing fellow bloggers' honest opinions and not just blind gushing or sucking up. I think your work is beautiful and I find your technical posts to be very useful and frequently go back to them for my own couture sewing learning. I'm a 'slower sewer' myself, and I hate being told how much I have to sew and by when and with what...so I can see your dilemma with Mood. I too marvel at the prolific sewers out there, but that's just not me either so it's nice to find a kindred spirit. I very much enjoy the process of couture sewing and really don't care much if and when I get a garment at the end, so I don't like to be rushed - it's not about filling my closet it's about filling my soul and expressing myself and my creativity to the benefit of others. It is my opinion that if you do something for the sheer love of it and the joy it brings to both yourself and others; the fame and fortune will come. So I wouldn't worry - you've got all the ingredients to be successful, Mood or no Mood - just keep doing what you love. I'll be following along eagerly.

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  5. You bring up such interesting points. I think there's something to be gained by the blogger/brand partnerships, but just as much that could be lost. While I'm sure that sponsors wouldn't try to ask a blogger to only give favorable feedback, the pressure still is there for most people, I would imagine. I like that Mood is experimenting with their sewing network, but over time, it will hopefully evolve. It would be nice to see, for instance, a guest person with maybe a one-time sponsored posting, or an expert/couture category where the time-line would be more conducive to the slower construction processes.
    The whole sponsored-posting thing is partly a reason why I think I prefer to follow sewing bloggers as opposed to style bloggers. For every really interesting, creative, original style-blogger out there, there seem to be 10 or more whose outfits look like they went to the store and grabbed right off the mannequin. Even worse, when you get to the fine print at the end, many of those are all sponsored by whatever companies, so they probably were put together like a mannequin.
    The blogger/sponsor partnerships have the potential to help out the on-line sewing community by showcasing good work and creativity. They also have the potential to stifle creativity by imposing limits and by overexposure that could make all of us start to think that the only right way to do things is the same way as those who have sponsors. I think it's a personal choice whether a blogger accepts a deal with a company. I have a lot of respect for you though, making the choice, and when it didn't feel like you were being true to yourself, making another (very public) choice, and keeping it classy throughout.

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    1. Excellent points! For now, the Mood Sewing Network is one-of-a-kind initiative for sewing blogger, but I am sure it will trigger changes in blogger/brand relationships, with standards evolving along the way.

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  6. I really appreciate your honesty and forthrightness regarding this topic. You must do what is right for you. Being a quality over quantity girl, I totally understand your dilemma. This must put terrific pressure on those who partake of the program, particularly if they have other work outside of their sewing sphere.. But the tease of that fabric each month, hmmm,,,,,it can be pretty seductive, I am sure. Props to you for doing the right thing for your creative style.

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    1. "This must put terrific pressure on those who partake of the program, particularly if they have other work outside of their sewing sphere.."

      I can't imagine the pressure of cranking out two, or even one couture-level garments a month, if one has other work and obligations, such as a family.

      New York Sewer

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    2. Thanks, Bunny! The fabric is a tease indeed :) I am now free to dive into my stash, half of which is Mood fabrics anyway :))

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  7. I think your decision is smart and not especially surprising. It makes sense that as certain bloggers develop a following they'll want to be in a position to benefit from it directly. When I first read about the Mood Sewing Network, here, or elsewhere, I expressed a little skepticism. Let's face it, how critical can you be about fabric that has been provided for free? What about the projects that don't work out, even if it has nothing to do with the fabric? I also thought: Unpaid labor: women are so dumb. (I'm sure it's flattering and gratifying to be asked to be part of the network.)

    Not that I blame Mood for trying to develop more of an online presence with sewers. It's a shrewd initiative as home sewing apparently increases in popularity. I think Mood's doing a very nice job with the network and the seminars it has hosted on topics like the use of lace. I've wondered if the effort to reach out more online also wasn't intended to continue interest once Project Runway is canceled, which is bound to happen sooner or later. I personally don't watch anymore; the show long stopped being about sewing.

    So are you continuing with Burda?

    Best to you,

    New York Sewer

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    1. Interesting to see it from your angle - and I see what you are saying. Fabric (or a portion of fabric, depending on the price) was free, and I understand that it is difficult to be negative about a gift. On the other hand, we (did) choose fabrics ourselves, so if the choice was wrong we were to blame ourselves. We blogged about every project made with these fabrics and it was up to readers to judge whether it tuned out well or not. So I don't see any integrity issue from this point of view.

      But then, you come to those other points. Unpaid labour? Depends how you see it. We are not sewing for an abstract model but for ourselves. This is where I was struggling a bit. I had a loose plan of what I wanted to make for myself or anyone else this month, and every now and then I would not be able to find fabric for that project at Mood. Call me picky, if you want, but this is how it is. So, I had to change plans. Or I would not be able to find navy crepe-de-chine that month... Or there would be only stretch charmeuse in the color I wanted. If I was not part of the network I could have bought those fabrics elsewhere,.. and so on. Prices at Mood are good but these were some of my little frustrations, so, with some projects I had to compromise on my choices.

      As for Burda, I will be continuing as a guest blogger there.

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    2. I'm a former professional journalist, so I may be more sensitive to potential conflicts or pressures from receiving free goods, even when disclosed.

      As for my "free labor" comment, if you have a deadline, and are producing projects with your own equipment, supplies, and uncompensated time, what else is it? I don't see how that's an unfair statement.

      I am not singling out Mood. How many companies use unpaid interns? And half the time they're doing drudge work, without their bosses showing any interest in their development.

      New York Sewer

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  8. Good for you. Creativity has no timeline and the monthly requirement obviously was dampening your creative talent - that could not been much fun when your creative juices kicked in! Sewing couture takes time and I can see how Mood would not fit when there were other worthy sewing projects you wanted to pursue as well as other worthy fabric stores you want to remain loyal to, not just one. Of course as a sewist (not a quilter) you have more than one fabric source. In some respects I agree with Anonymous(Jan. 28, 2013) regarding sewing blog sites, (and video YouTubes). I like them for the ideas, seeing new techniques; but IMO many sewing bloggers and sewing YouTubers don't need to be putting out anything - the quality is just not there and a waste of time. But this is an era of being seen and fame. I was glad to come across your blog especially as it was not a quilting one, thank you very much! Still considering myself new to the online sewing community in particular, I was frustrated as all the so-called sewing sites I began to search for were dedicated to quilters. Then I came across PR, Silhouette Patterns, you and other professional sewing sites(not quilting). I hope you'll continue this blog for us serious sewists; even if it is less than weekly.

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  9. marina, i'll tell ya, i had no idea how you produced such a stunning garment every month for MSN, PLUS intricate posts for burdastyle! seriously, i'd clatter away on my machine with my glass of whatever's handy, and every time i stopped to hand sew i'd think of you as my progress suddenly came to a slow... C.....R.....A.....W....L.... a rewarding crawl, but still. i lika my serger. and it's very different, of course, if like you said, you're making multiples a month versus two couture works. i can't imagine a diet of only two stores a month. my stash, (and this is, by the way, for some commenters that might think otherwise) comes from mood and paron's and chic and fabrics-for-less and 21st century, and it's in constant need of replenishment. (much like my bar.)

    way, way, WAY more importantly than all that, i'm glad to hear that you and your family are returning to normal in whatever you were going through, and sad to hear you had to go through anything at all. you've always been such a warm and gorgeous presence, and i always smile when i think of you. yes...even when hand sewing.

    :)

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    1. Oona, I see you one of the most inspiring bloggers out there. You have very original ideas and they work. And your sense of color and pattern! Fast sewing or slow sewing is a personal choice. Creativity is more important.

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    2. creativity is all important! and you inspire me daily, right down to your voice in my head when i'd rather rush through a step... what would frabjous do (it like the ring to it).

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  10. Sewing what you want without pressure trumps free fabric. I look forward to more fabulous projects from your studio.

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    1. Agree, Nancy! By the way, I got something for you - drop me a line with your email address, please.

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  11. Congratulations on knowing what your soul needs! I am not very good at this and often find myself doing things(even sewing for others)that I would rather not be doing. I think there is a wonderful peace that comes with self-care. Feel good about your choice, and may we all gain insight from your inspiration. Sew on girl! Darby Logan

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    1. Thank you, Darby! I don't mind sewing for other occasionally, by the way, as long as they appreciate it - can be challenging sometimes, especially if it is your daughter :)

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  12. i'm so glad to see a blogger be honest and professional about their relationship with a sponsor. to spell it out so simply on your blog -- you and mood were just not a good match this time around -- is really refreshing. i see it more on style blogs, the blogger acquires a sponsor or two and then looses their voice, but i really dig that you've stepped past this so gracefully.

    looking forward to more couture sewing this year!

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  13. Much respect to you for having the wisdom and courage to step down from something that wasn't working out for you.
    I never felt, when reading your blog, that your relationship with Mood compromised your integrity in your blogging. There are some bloggers I used to read - note the past tense - where the sponsorship aspect was sort of taking over the blog - everything was becoming a "product review". Let me say again that I never got that feel from you. And your open-ness in explaining why you're severing this particular cord only re-inforces the good vibes. A loss to the Mood Sewing Network, but I'm sure that they too understand that you need to do what's right for you.

    I'm sorry to hear that things have been rough on the personal front lately. But I'm glad to hear things are getting better and look forward to seeing what you get up to next :)

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  14. Marina, You do such quality work and I was wondering if you'd taken a break.
    I still look forward to following your work because of the quality work you share.
    Thanks for continuing to share your work.

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  15. Have missed you. Hope all is well with you and your family.

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    1. things are returning to normal now, Vicki! Thanks

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  16. It´s great to hear from you again. Love the comic strip you chose. Sorry for the family emergencies. Hope things will get better. I love following your blog because of your style and the extreme experience you have in sewing. Your thoughts about stopping being part of the network are really well written. To me I guess it depends on the our sewing goals: for some it´s a full-time job (or you hope it will become so) but for others is a hobby. Though you love sewing and may even get paid to sew for others, it still remains an additional job on top of your full-time schedule. If that is the case it comes to a point when you need to be realistic about priorities and available time...and only commit to what you can. Sometimes I feel many of us bloggers end up suffering from the celebrity dream (or the adult equivalent of high-school popularity) and end up doing things they wouldn't otherwise take on.

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    1. yes, everything is public if you blog :) You make an interesting point about 'the celebrity dream', but at the end it is hard work and original voice that leads you to success. Brand collaboration may support you and provide some exposure but I believe it is helpful only if it plays that secondary supportive role.

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  17. I am glad to see you back, and hope that things smooth out for you. Thank you for your frank honesty - I saw nothing negative in your dissolution from Mood. It wasn't a good fit for you. I also see nothing wrong with a blogging relationship with a sponsor - I would love a fabric allowance - but one garment a month can be a lot - maybe one every 6 or 8 weeks is less pressure for our blogging sewists who have jobs and a life on top of their love of sewing (but then I wasn't consulted ~ LOL ) I look forward to seeing your next creation.
    Blessings,
    Patti

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    1. Thanks, Patti. I don't see anything negative either - it was a valuable experience that taught me a lot. A more flexible arrangement would have worked for me, and not only for me :) And, yay, I can finally sew with wonderful fabrics from my stash!!!

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  18. Like those before me, I find your candor refreshing. As someone who sews for a living simply posting can be a strain on my schedule and a drain on my personal sewing time. It is a difficult balancing act and one which seems to require constant evaluation. Rest assured it is the quality of your character and not the quantity of your posting that your followers respond to you:)

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    1. Thank you, Lynne - I really appreciate your warm words!

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  19. Marina, just to clarify for your readers: 1) Participation in the Mood Sewing Network is entirely voluntary. We realize that our bloggers have busy lives and that making one garment a month and then posting about it may not be realistically doable for some bloggers. 2) At no time have we ever dictated what you or any of the other bloggers were or are to sew. The MSN bloggers are free to create what they like as long as they use our fabric. 3) Mood only edits or revises its bloggers posts to remove excessive links or mentions of non-Mood brands, or to add links to comparable Mood fabrics found at our online store. At times we may have removed extra photos to keep post lengths consistent among MSN bloggers. We do not edit blogger content.

    Best of luck to you in your sewing endeavors. I hope your readers stay tuned to the Mood Sewing Network. We'll soon be announcing the addition of two new bloggers and they're both really great!

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    1. Thanks, Meg.


      New York Sewer

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    2. Thanks for clarifying and best wishes, Meg! I am sure everyone understands that participation in the network is voluntary. And for my readers, the details about the Mood Sewing Network are on the network website.

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  20. As an avid couture sewer, I follow your blog avidly. Frankly, there aren't many couture sewers around...at least that I know of. I, too, study under Susan Khalje, and keeping up with my own self-imposed projects in addition to a full-time job is sometimes daunting. But I press on because I'm trying to learn as much as possible, which is one of the reasons I follow your blog...with or without the MSN. I totally understand your decision. I look forward to your future creative projects!

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    1. Thanks, Jamie! I am so lucky to have Susan as my teacher - you understand. and thanks for following

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  21. It sounds like you made a good decision for you, Marina. I too marvel at those who are so very productive; I would feel very pressured having to sew a garment every month.

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  22. Oh man, I'm so sorry that you've had family emergencies to deal with. I really hope that everything's better.

    I'm glad that you've been able to figure out what works for you. There's such a limited amount of time in each day, and so much what we all want to accomplish, so I'm glad to hear that you've refined your priorities and will be able to commit more time to what you want to do. Of course, I'm always excited to see your projects and I'll look forward to seeing them in the future! :)

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  23. I'm so glad you are back and I so admire that you are doing what's best for you, your heart and your craft. I admire all the work you do (and show us) and look forward to continue following your blog. Happy New Year!

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  24. Great that you know what works for you! After all, it makes room for someone else who does want that opportunity, while you pursue what makes YOUR heart sing! A win-win, all around!

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  25. I think we are going to miss you - terribly - at the Mood Sewing Network. Your contributions through 'couture sewing' added a dimension that is now missing.
    However I completely understand your reasons and am pleased you've made a decision that suits your life. Best wishes for continued success and I look forward to future Frabjous Couture posts!

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  26. I admire that you are following your heart and doing what you are passionate about. And yes, sometime you have to take a step back and look at what you are doing before you can go forward. I wanted to know how are finding your couture clients? I would love to make a living sewing for clients that appreciate this skill. Please let me know. I really enjoy your blog and hope you continued success!

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  27. Hello there :) I really love your blog. Maybe we could follow each other on Bloglovin and/or GFC?

    Please leave me a comment on my blog and I will follow you!

    http://kstylick.blogspot.com

    Thank you!

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  28. I'm sorry to hear about your family emergency! Hope everything is going well for you and your loved ones. I imagine that keeping a montly production is not so easy. So I'm sure you chose what's best for you! However I hope that at some point the sew-along will continue... Getting no update, not even a word why it was delayed was kind of very strange... Like many commenters said I really enjoyed your "couture" comments and insights...

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  29. As a marketing professional, I have to say Mood was brilliant. For what probably amounts to a very small expenditure (in advertising terms) they have reached a very large, engaged readership with many messages each month, all pointing to Mood. They have piggybacked on the following of some great bloggers and used it to add to their own brand awareness. There is really no downside for them -- the benefits of what they are getting far outweigh the costs. Like I said, a very smart move.
    As a long-time follower of many of the Mood bloggers, however, I don't know that their benefits outweigh their costs. Each one of them seems to have lost their voice; some in small ways, some in larger, more obvious and heartbreaking ways, as they work to be worthy of the free fabric they have received. Everyone has their own goals and their own price, and I'm not judging anyone's decision to be or not to be part of MSN. I do regret the fact that the community has lost some inspirational bloggers, though, as those bloggers have now simply become Mood's hired hands.

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  30. It's excellently mentioned in the picture itself that how much you love blogging.

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  31. Having sewn both "regular" and couture style garments, I can fully understand why you made the decision you did. To choose to sew exclusively couture means things are going to take longer, simply... and staying true to yourself is by far the most important thing :)

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  32. What an interesting post! Recently I discontinued advertising on my blog. One day I woke up and asked myself, "why am I marketing margarine?". I had been a part of the Blogher network and it is a very nice group of people with what appear to be ethical guidelines. And the money added up after a few months so that I could buy myself a Kate Spade handbag. But I really wanted to let go of that side of blogging and give myself complete freedom to do my own thing, my own way. I feel more peaceful about my creative process now.

    Now, I am going to read the rest of the comments! Cheers Marina!

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