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Have More Fun // Meet Blondie Apparel

According to the women behind Blondie Apparel (our sponsors for the 2017 Etsy Made in Canada show!) I could also title this post “How to Operate a Business via Text Message.”

Because that’s how Blondie co-owners Brodie O’Connor and Michelle MacGillivray roll.

They don’t take things too seriously when they don’t have to.

And when they do, they get down to business…and get back to having fun doing what they love as soon as possible.

I sat down with the girls in the back of Brodie’s shop doree’s habit for a quick chat about all things Blondie Apparel.


These two met approximately 5 years ago when Michelle approached Brodie in her clothing store doree’s habit to discuss the possibility of selling her line of clothing.

They became fast friends and, shortly thereafter, business partners.

Brodie is like me.

An entrepreneurial spirit through and through.

So when she met Michelle and saw that they shared the same aesthetic and attitudes, her brain just starting ticking with ideas on the things they could create together.

“I asked Michelle if she’d be open to collaborating on a line of clothing. I had ideas, but not the pattern making or sewing skills.” Brodie tells me.

Michelle had been running her own clothing business vandentillaart clothing for a few years at the time and, despite a great deal of success, she was finding it a bit isolating.

“After making my own way in the fashion industry for a while, I liked the idea of a collaboration. It’s always easier to be creative with someone to bounce idea off of.” says Michelle.

The two decided to start small and developed a line of scarves for their first project, aptly named “col.lab.o.ra.tion” to be sold in Brodie’s retail clothing shop doree’s habit.


“One of the first scarves we made was called ‘the Lenny’,” laughs Brodie, “Because when we were making it Michelle grabbed the bolt of fabric and wrapped it around her neck like she was Lenny Kravitz.”

“You mean like this?” I ask, and show them a picture I’ve just pulled up on my phone.

“Exactly!” laughs Brodie.

The two sewed the line of scarves (which quickly expanded into tank tops, arm- and leg-warmers, ponchos+++) themselves in their home studio (whenever possible, on the porch!) until it became apparent that they had a good thing going.13322001_1709730495967126_8418409429433101236_n

They had so much fun creating that first line together, and were so inspired by the response that they decided to make co.lab.or.ation an ongoing affair.

And so Blondie Apparel was officially born.


“We started just by selling here at doree’s and at craft shows, then on Etsy. Now we also have a website and a list of more than 20 Canadian stockists that we wholesale to.” says Michelle.

“Basically we were getting more orders than we could keep up with.” says Brodie “I hardly ever even have our items in my own shop!”

Retailer demands, web sales, Etsy and a growing number of craft shows (including Etsy Made in Canada and the beast that is the One of a Kind Christmas show) meant they had to look for help.

And though they still do a lot of their own sewing, they have begun to outsource some of their production to keep up with demand.

“We employ a small number of sewers based in Toronto now,” Michelle tells me. “It took us a while to find a Canadian manufacturer who could compliment our brand and offer the level of quality we pride ourselves on, but we finally found them.”

It’s important to Blondie Apparel that all of their items are made here in Canada.

“So many clothing makers claim to be Canadian made, but really they’re just Canadian designed and made elsewhere.” says Michelle. “Our prices reflect not only the quality of the product we make, but also the fact that they’re made here by seamstresses who are fairly paid and work in ideal conditions. That’s not something we’re willing to compromise on.”


Michelle and Brodie in their booth at their first One of a Kind Show.

Michelle is a graduate of Fashion Design at LaSalle in Montreal.

She’s also Dutch which, when I asked her the significance of that little tidbit she replied, “I’m not a huge risk taker. When we make a new piece and we know it’s going to go into production, I’ll be like ‘Let’s order…a dozen.’ and Brodie will be like “Whhhhhaaaat? No. We need a hundred. At least!”

A literal truck load of East End sweaters.

A literal truck load of East End sweaters and ponchos.

I ask Michelle if, now that they have some proven success, she has a bit more guts when it comes to purchasing larger quantities.

“Nope!” she laughs.

Both women agree that it’s this balance in their relationship that makes things work. And although there are some ways in which they couldn’t be more different, at the end of the day you begin to wonder if they’re separated at birth. And not just because they’re both blonde.

They have fun.

“Yeah. We have a lot of fun.” says Michelle.

In fact, having MORE fun is what Blondie’s latest line is all about. (Maybe it should be what we’re ALL all about.)

Their line of for Fall/Winter 2017 will be showcased at the Etsy Made in Canada Ottawa show. (They’ve even designed our swag bags!) Blondie’s newest creations include a range of beanies and a hoodie that I KNOW is going to become a new staple in a lot of women’s closets.

Blondie FW 2017-18_013_Web

Their versatile Poncho is back, and the perfect travel accessory.

Blondie FW 2017-18_057_WebBlondie FW 2017-18_056_Web

The long sleeved Riverbend Tunic is essentially the most amazingly comfortable and versatile dress I’ve ever owned.


I can dress it up with some boots and some accessories, or throw some leggings and a denim jacket (or better yet, a Trinity vest!) over this baby and I’m golden.


For me, the best part about Blondie Apparel is that all of their pieces work together. I’ve long contemplated the idea of creating myself a capsule wardrobe to make the morning get up and go easier (not to mention to finally quit it with the wasteful spending on disposable clothing!) and Blondie is the first place I’d start.

As sponsors of this years event (and participating as vendors for their fourth consecutive year), Blondie will have a larger dedicated space to accommodate the hoards of loyal customers that are looking forward to seeing them at the Bell Sensplex.

Etsy-13 I ask them what they think it is that makes their customers special.

“Honestly, they are SO loyal it’s crazy.” says Brodie. “It’s not uncommon for our clients to purchase the same sweater in multiples.”

“I think also, that we are super honest with our customers. We always tell them what looks good, and what doesn’t, and genuinely want them to love our clothes. I think they really trust us at this point.” say Michelle. “We don’t make anything we wouldn’t wear ourselves.”

“And we are also super excited when people put our stuff on and it looks good.” she adds laughing. “Like we say ‘yay!!!’ a ton.”

“Yeah. We say ‘yay’ a LOT.” adds Brodie. “And yippie! Most of our texts are just long strings of ‘Yay!’s and ‘Yippee!’s. Because we’re really are so excited to be doing what we love to do, and making people happy.”


The Blondie girls having more fun. :)

So let’s talk about mistakes.” I say wryly. “I don’t want people to think this maker stuff is always easy. Tell me something that you messed up…and maybe learned from.”

The two look at each other and shrug, until I see a flicker in Brodie’s eye.

“Pyjamas.” she says.

“Oh yeah. Pyjamas.” Michelle groans.

“We made this line of pyjamas a couple years ago and they just never took off.” explains Brodie. “Because they were handmade and we chose good fabrics, they were priced to reflect that. But not everyone wants to spend a lot of money on something they don’t wear out of the house. Those pyjamas were a perfect example of us trying to do something we THOUGHT people wanted, instead of sticking to the script.”

“We are so much better at that now.” Michelle chimes in. “We know our brand and our aesthetic and what our customers keep coming back for. We try new things, sure, but we never deviate from what we are good at.”

I ask them what they’re good at.

How they would sum up the Blondie aesthetic.

They have trouble answering.

Not because they don’t know I don’t think. But because it’s become so intrinsic in the way they create that they don’t have the words for it.

But I do.

Because I am a Blondie Apparel enthusiast.


I own the East End Sweater in three colours.

I have a Trinity vest, a pocket tee, a floral AND a striped Cross-Front AND a long sleeved tunic. I even have some leg warmers which, admittedly, I’ve never worn, but I enjoy owning nonetheless.

I didn’t actually realize HOW much Blondie Apparel I have in my closet until I started this inventory exercise.

What Blondie Apparel is to me is easy, ready-to-wear fashion. It’s all functional, but with thoughtful cuts and elements that make the pieces flattering and stylish. They’re the type of clothing items that you go to every time you reach into you closet because you know you look cute, you feel good, and you’ll be able to do whatever it is you need to do that day in them.


Whether I’m running to the gym, or working in the shop, picking up a half ton of candle wax or meeting a friend for lunch, I can do it all with the same outfit pieces.

I literally wear East End sweaters so often they’ve become my signature tops. I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve left one behind at the gym, or at a party, only to have it immediately returned to me because the person “knew it was Emily’s sweater”.


There’s something about that that makes me feel good.

I thank the girls for our chat, and leave the shop the continue on my day of planning for the weekend’s event.

I DO hope you’ll join us, and the 149 other incredible Etsy makers we are showcasing at the Etsy Made in Canada OTTAWA show this weekend. Introduce yourself to Blondie Apparel while you’re here, and come give me a hug!

(I’ll be the one huddled in the corner praying nothing goes sideways :)

In the meantime, you can check out Blondie Apparel on Instagram, Facebook and Etsy.

Join the Etsy Made in Canada Facebook Event HERE for all the details or find the Made in Canada event closest to you HERE!

xo Em


Life, Make, Show

Write a New Story // Etsy Resolution 2017

We are well into January and I’m still thinking about resolutions.

It’s something I kind of do all year really, always striving to do more, do better.

It’s a curse, and I know I’m not suffering alone with it either.

I feel you out there. Making plans, maybe even purchasing a few tools to get them going, and then letting life get in the way of actually setting aside the time it’s going to take to launch.

Generally speaking I’m actually quite good at accomplishing the things I set out to do, but there are still a many many areas of that need some work.

Because I think I am seen to be a bit of a “do-er” however, I get asked often how I get so much done. I get asked questions like “How did you know that would be a good idea?”, or “What made you so confident it would work?”, or “How did you know where to start?”.

I’m going to tell you something right now that would shock a lot of bank managers.

I didn’t. I don’t know. I just started.

Here’s my secret.

I have been blessed with the blind confidence that if I put my mind to something, I can make it happen. I dunno. Maybe I’ve watched Field of Dreams so many times, there’s a whispery little cornfield in my ear repeating “If you build it, they will come”  so often it’s become my mantra.


I get an idea, I tell myself I can do it, and I. Just. Do. It.

Sometimes I try it on for size by actually telling people about what I AM doing, even before I AM doing it. Then I kinda HAVE to do it, and so I DO.

Is that nuts?

That’s a bit nuts, but by golly Miss Molly that shit works.

And that’s what I mean about “your story”.

Those little things you tell yourself, or others that, good or bad, eventually become reality. Some call it “self fulfilling prophecy”, and I’m here to tell you it’s the real deal. The only problem is, more often than not we are telling ourselves the wrong things to be successful. We start writing the wrong stories.

Stories like “I’m not a morning person”, or “I’m so disorganized”, or (and this is one of the worst) “I can’t do that”.

The key to being a successful person, and reaching your goals is to flip the switch on this crap talk. I can’t make you a morning person (I’m not one either, but I sure can fake it), but I can help you become a “I am really productive between the hours of 1pm and 6pm” person.

“I’m so disorganized”? Flip that sucker on it’s bum and bing bang boom, we’ve got “I use tools like scheduled reminders and label makers for keeping my life in order.”

And “I can’t”? Well there are just SO many ways of dealing with that one.

My personal favourite is to just remove it from my vocabulary, but I know that’s not easy. I believe that everything can be tackled when broken into bite sized bits.

“When eating an elephant, take one bite at a time” (Creighton Abrams).

For me, that means research and lists.

When I first began thinking about opening the shop, I got super excited, followed almost instantly by totally overwhelmed. But I knew I wanted to do it so I had to chop that baby up into tiny little nuggets. Location, Funding, Staff, Product.

And then I broke those nuggets into smaller nugettes like store front on Mill Street, Line of Credit/Family Loans, Tamara/Friends, Local Makers I know, and 3 months later I opened the doors to Hello Yellow (now Cheerfully Made Goods + Markets).


Opening day at Hello Yellow, July 2013

So what do you want to do differently this year?

Write it. Say it. And start making a conscious effort to banish any negative talk from your mind.

You are so powerful.

You’ve just gotta start using that power for good and good will come.


Me, happier than a pig in sh*t on opening night.

A lot of you seem to have “grow my business” on your list, and some have already begun asking me about upcoming craft shows, specifically Etsy Made in Canada. We WILL be hosting the show again this September (get on our mailing list and stay in the know!) and if this is something you have been dreaming about applying to, I’m going to give you a great tool to DO IT.


Shopper among the crowds at Etsy Made in Canada / Ottawa

It should be noted that you do NOT have to have an Etsy shop to participate in every one of our shows, but for the Etsy: Made in Canada, you do. If you’re not especially savvy with technology, opening up an Etsy shop can feel overwhelming. Not to worry, you’ve got lots of time.

In an effort to help all of us, Etsy has come up with a series of steps and tutorials to help you launch and/or perfect your Etsy shop. It’s called Etsy Resolution and this is the 2nd year in a row they’ve run it.

All you have to do is visit, enter your email address, and beginning January 27th your inbox will start receiving little bite sized steps, tips and tricks to both launching, and killing it on Etsy.

No, I am not being paid to endorse the program.

Yes, I have done it myself and, as a result, can attest that it’s exactly what you need to get off your wee crafty tush and start selling.

So there you go.

This year’s story is going to be different because you’re going to take action one step at a time. Whether it’s growing your business, or spending more time with your family, or making new connections, or ALL of those things. You can DO it.

I’m here if you need me.

xo Em


Etsy Made in Canada // Ottawa 2016

This will be my third year organizing Etsy Made in Canada here in Ottawa.

I don’t know where the past 3 years have gone, but here we are less than a week out of the biggest show of my year. Again.


What is Etsy: Made in Canada?

Etsy: Made in Canada is “a national grassroots initiative celebrating the crafters, collectors and artisans in local communities across Canada.” Unlike other shows I organize, every maker who participates in Etsy:MIC is an Etsy seller. This year we’re celebrating in 38 cities from coast to coast (Find the market closest to you at and I can’t even begin to express to you how proud I am to be organizing this show for the third year in a row.


With 150 sellers participating (we had 316 applications for this show!) it’s a huge undertaking, but the experience of watching so many hardworking hand makers in my community be successful doing what they love to do is something that I can hardly put into words.

It’s awesome.

Here in Ottawa, our show will run for TWO DAYS instead of just one. It’s the only way we could see managing the hordes of Ottawa (and area) Etsy enthusiasts, and it gives us even more opportunity to raise funds for our 2016 charity of choice: 13 Muesli. More about them HERE.


Etsy Made in Canada Ottawa takes place September 24th + 25th from 10am to 4pm at the Bell Sensplex (1565 Maplegrove Road, Kanata MAP IT).

Cost of admission is $5, kids and parking are free and 50% of our door goes to our charity.

(Last year we raised more than $25K for the Ottawa Inuit Children’s Centre!)


So who’s going to be in attendance at Etsy Made in Canada?

The Made in Canada editorial team at Etsy has made their Canada wide picks (check them out here!), but I have a few favourites that will be at our Ottawa event. You can search the whole line up by visiting here and clicking on ETSY MADE IN CANADA. Obviously :)

I’ve chosen my faves based not only on talent, but also on the personality, attitude and overall awesomeness of the maker. Cuz that’s super important to me when I host a show. As I think I’ve made clear a few times now, this is about me having fun as much as it is about putting on a great event.

That might sound selfish, but I think we could all stand to surround ourselves with as many awesome people as possible, and when you come to a show hosted by yours truly, you’re only going to meet the best of the best folks.

First up,


The first time I met Anick was at our Spring show here in Almonte. She arrived bright and early for set up, parked right in front of the load in door, and promptly locked her keys in her car.

With all of her stuff still inside.

That’s not what I like most about her though.

What I like most about Anick, is how she handled that situation. There she was, in a strange little town, standing in front of her car packed with all this product she’d just slaved over, and she’d locked her keys right in that darn thing.

But did Anick freak the freak out?

No she did not.

We called CAA, had ourselves a wee coffee break, helped a few other vendors load in, and before you knew it, help had arrived. Anick is my kind of people.

Total bonus: she makes awesome stuff.

And obviously practices what her tea towels preach. V important.

Shop Anick Bauer on Etsy HERE



Greg and Jennifer Swaine (AKA the nicest couple you will ever meet) are the creators behind STOUTHEART Shave Company. These guys are two of the most cheerful, friendly folks I’ve ever had the pleasure of working with. They work hard, are super open to feedback (not that they need any) and make every customer they come into contact with feel important.

Sometimes I just walk past their booth just to perk myself up. No kiddin’.

Also, sometimes they send me nice texts late at night when they think I might need one.

They are thoughtful, good people who make a fantastic product and, one day, when they’re millionaires living the dream, I just know they’re not going to forget about any of us.



JBFord Studio

Reasons I like Jeremy Ford:

ONE He makes sweet little pottery homes for otherwise neglected things like air plants and cooking utensils.

TWO He sometimes does things like host a spontaneous neighbourhood cocktail party on an abandoned couch in front of my aunt’s house.

Hanging air plant holder, black and white hanging planter potteryUtensil holder / vase pottery black and white / white clay with black design

Shop JBFord Studio on Etsy



Jennifer Bennett of LaLuciole has participated in several of our shows now, and I need to take a minute to give a little shoutout to this woman.

First of all, her stuff is amazing. Let’s just get that out of the way.

Secondly, SHE is amazing.

Jennifer comes to every event I’ve hosted her at, with THE most breakable product ever.

But does she ask for a wall? Or whine about electricity? Or fuss about the fact that her booth neighbour is a hand talker and might just knock down her entire display?

No she doesn’t. She just shows up, and sets up and is as cheerful and easy going as all flipping get out.

She is what I like to call a show organizers dream. (I know, so creative.)

I wish all makers could be a little more like Jennifer Bennett.

Four Blown Glass Stemless Tumblers. Free Ship to Canada. 3" by 2" in greens. Hand made for wine, spirits, scotch, port, juice.

Shop LaLuciolle on Etsy HERE.



Sarah Jaynes is a high school art teacher who is talented beyond belief (you have to follow her on Instagram and watch her do a time-lapse video of one of her drawings at some point before you die) and is also quite possibly one of the most thoughtful people I’ve ever met.

She’s so thoughtful in fact that just a few days ago she put a casserole on my doorstep so that my family won’t starve this week.

And once? Once she hacked a package of Starburst candies so that it would ONLY have pink ones just because I posted this dorky quote about not letting anyone treat you like a yellow Starburst. (What?! Like you’ve never been in a mood.)

That’s not why she’s in the show though.

This is why she’s in the show:


Shop Mississippi North on Etsy


Last but not least, BLONDIE APPAREL.

Oh Blondie, Blondie, Blondie.

Blondie Apparel is owned by Brodie O’Connor and Michelle VandenTillaart. (We’ll just call her Michelle V.)

Brodie owns a little shop across the street from my own called doree’s habit, full of everything I’d ever want in my closet. We’ve been friends for several years now, and she’s one of the reasons I love running a business in Almonte.

In a nutshell, Brodie is the girl who starts the dance floor.

In the good way.

I got to know Michelle a bit better in April of this year when the 3 of us and our husbands took a spontaneous trip to Halifax. (Because Porter). She’s kind of like a tiny comedian who repeats the same joke over and over, but instead of it getting annoying, it gets funnier.

That’s a very unique skill.

I’m not sure there’s another person in my cache of friends who can get away with that brand of lazy humour.

I own literally (but not literally because, who am I, Melania Trump?) seven of every item these girls have ever made. Because they get me and my body and all the things I want to highlight (upper body) and not highlight (buuuuummmm). Every piece makes me feel casual, comfortable, and somehow, like I have my fashion act together.

Ps. I own both of these pieces.

East End Sweater in Salt & Pepper

And this one in a few colours.

Shop Blondie Apparel on Etsy HERE


So what’s that? Six?

A mere SIX of 150 truly awesome Ottawa area handmakers who will be participating in the 3rd annual Etsy Made in Canada (#etsy613 yo!) this weekend at the Bell Sensplex.

For more info, to ask questions and to map the event, hit up our Facebook Event page HERE and don’t forget to follow me on Instagram and search #etsy613 to see what our makers are up to this week!

Hope to see you this weekend Ottawa!

xo Emily

Life, Show

An Open Letter from the Organizers

I’ve been organizing Cheerfully Made Markets (formerly the Handmade Harvest Craft Show) for 6 years. I’ve actually lost count of the number of shows under my belt, but it’s somewhere around the 20 mark. At this point I consider myself a professional. I hope the makers who participate in my events would too.

In 2013 I began working closely with Etsy Canada to organize the Etsy Made in Canada show, and it brought the whole thing to a new level. My audience grew, I befriended dozens of new Ottawa makers and I became someone people think of when it comes to handmade goods and craft shows in the area.

As fun as it is to watch my little craft show baby grow these wings, it also comes with a lot of responsibility.

It has become increasingly difficult to put on a show without a great deal stress. I’ve developed sleep issues and anxiety attacks, I’ve gained weight and have developed some seriously awful nail biting habits.

It’s gotten to a point where I’ve had to seek counselling to deal with the juggling of it all.

This probably sounds incredibly dramatic, but it’s something that I’m really struggling with and have decided to “get it out there” in order to move forward. I’ve become great friends with some fellow show organizers through my Etsy partnership. One of those girls is Melissa Lowry, the top-notch organizer behind Makeology. Melissa and I have become sounding boards for one another and have co-written a blog post that, if you are a maker who participates in crafts shows, you might find enlightening. Or enraging.

I hope it’s the former.

You can read it on the Makeology blog here.



Shop, Show

Reinventing the Brand

When I opened Hello Yellow in the summer of 2013, I couldn’t have anticipated any of what was to come over the course of the following two years. All I had really wanted to do was be part of the evolving downtown Almonte scene again, and create a new vehicle for the hand-makers I’d met over my years organizing the Handmade Harvest Craft Show.

What began as a small little shop filled with handmade items from across North America (mostly local) rapidly grew into something much more. I quickly learned that by purchasing products from actual people instead of faceless importers, I was connecting with individuals who became immediately invested in my success. And bonus! They all had Facebook, Twitter and Instagram accounts. Some of them knew how to work with retailers (ie wholesale, package and brand their product), and some of them needed guidance, but despite the obstacles I came across originally, working with them was so rewarding, and improved my brand’s reach tenfold.

But what was my brand? I had Hello Yellow, Handmade Harvest Craft Show and I had recently begun working with Etsy Canada as a brand ambassador here in Ottawa. I had multiple websites and email addresses, and keeping up with all of that communication was becoming an increasingly daunting and confusing chore.

I longed for cohesiveness, and simplicity while still having the flexibility to grow.

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