Top 10 Posts of 2018

This year, I decided to put more energy into my blog to keep my writing skills sharp, but to also further explore topics I’m interested in, especially copywriting, quilting/sewing, and gardening. I deleted a bunch of posts that no longer felt “right” and started writing regularly on those particular topics. Because of this, let’s take a look at what YOU have been reading here this year!

Here are the top ten posts for 2018! (At least, as of this writing. Who knows? The last 2 weeks of the year might hold some surprises!)

1. The J. Peterman Catalog Makes Me Cringe

The J. Peterman Company early spring 2017 catalog.

I haven’t picked up a J. Peterman catalog since I read and wrote about this one. In copywriting, I feel like there’s tension between writing to the market as it is and writing as to how you think it should be. An example: yes, most women in a target market may say all the time that they want to be thin. But, you believe women should love and appreciate their bodies no matter what they look like. How do you write about a dress: promise that it’ll make a woman look slim and slender or explain how the dress will make them look and feel great with a universally flattering silhouette? See the difference? It’s tricky.


2. Catalogs Doing It Right

This 7-year-old post highlights some catalogs that put the spotlight on their “real life” models. It’s a good way to help the customer stop thinking, “I wish I was her,” and start thinking “I’m just like her!”


3. Copywriting Tip: Educate the Reader

My copywriting tips were a new feature in 2018 and I’m glad that a few have landed in the top ten list. Educating the reader is always a good thing. It’s inclusive (as opposed to excluding those who don’t understand a technical term), but also positions the brand as expert.


4. T-Bud Co. Quilts Ohio: March Ohio Star

March’s Ohio Star quilt block represents spring in Southwestern Ohio.

My Ohio Star quilt was a year-long project in 2018. I put a lot of love into not only sewing 12 unique Ohio Star quilt blocks, but writing the story behind each one. I’m happy that this project hit the top ten.


5. The 2017 IKEA Catalog

2017 IKEA catalog

This post is more about the plants featured in the catalog than the copy. Because of the popularity of this post, I was going to write about the 2018 IKEA catalog, but you know what? While I pored over it and tabbed some pages, I found I just didn’t have much to say about it at all. One of my new goals with this blog is to not write just to write, it needs to have some substance. So, I chose to pass on writing about the 2018 catalog. Maybe next year I’ll be inspired!


6. Cat Litter Pineapples

I can only imagine that this post is popular because I struck SEO gold. The post is more about spotting a piece of pineapple décor in a cat litter print ad than anything else. I’m sure people are looking for something else when they click on this. I googled “cat litter pineapple” and some really cool pineapple-shaped cat bed/houses pop up. Maybe that’s what they’re searching for.


7. Duluth Trading Catalog: A Caricature of the Midwesterner

Duluth Trading catalog

I just wrote this post and it’s been a long time coming. I’ve loved the Duluth Trading catalog for some time and I was finally able to put into words why it intrigues me so. Also, those “real life” models pop up in their catalogs, too!


8. Sans Models

This is another oldie, but not necessarily a “goodie.” I don’t know why I didn’t delete it when I cleaned up my blog. I also don’t know why it’s so popular. Haha!


9. Copywriting Tip: Tell Me About Yourself

Another writing tip and one that is so important. Tell your customers about yourself! If you’re a one-person business that wants to take on big accounts, I explain how to get around sounding “too small.”


10. Copywriting Tip: Turn an Idiom Upside Down

Victoria's Secret_02
Funny and playful with a value message.

Of course, a post where I praise Victoria’s Secret for using “get your panties in a bunch” is going to sneak into the top ten! Give this one a read and see if you can use an idiom to your advantage in your marketing copy.


That’s it, folks! Thank you for reading! Writing is fun, but it’s even more fun with YOU, readers! I won’t be writing here for the rest of the year while I look forward to 2019 and start working on new posts.



T-Bud Co. Quilts Ohio: December Ohio Star

December’s Ohio Star Quilt Block

December’s Ohio Star quilt block is for my daughter, who was born this month 5 years ago. I transformed the traditional quilt block to represent a ladybug, or ladybird. My nickname for my firstborn is “Ladybird” and I’ve called her this since she was an infant.

I was raised in a family of 6 children and we were nicknamers. Everyone had a long list of nicknames. Mine included Mush, Melly, and Tessie Lou. As if written in my genes, creating playful monikers for my kids comes easy to me. Without even thinking about it, “Ladybird” slipped out of my mouth one day as I talked to my daughter while changing her diaper.

Detail of December’s Ohio Star quilt block.

I didn’t even really know what the name meant. I was aware that Hank, of “King of the Hill,” had a dog named Ladybird and that Lyndon B. Johnson’s wife went by “Lady Bird.” So, I suppose the name was buried somewhere in my subconscious, to be excavated by something about my chunky baby. It wasn’t until my daughter’s nickname was established that I learned “ladybird” is another term for ladybug.

Detail of ladybug-themed Ohio Star quilt block.

When starting this quilt, I knew that I’d make a block for each of my family members, my husband, my son, and my daughter. Brainstorming ideas for my daughter, I thought of ladybirds and ladybugs. I decided I’d make a ladybug-colored block, much like I did my cardinal block. Researching ladybugs, I learned that it’s Ohio’s state insect! C’mon, how perfect is that? This block is doubly Ohioan! And, the Ohio Governor’s Residence and Heritage Garden website reports the insect is “officially named the Ladybird Beetle.”

In my mind’s eye, I see a ladybug with black polka dots on red. But, when I Googled images and studied one that I found in my yard, I realized they have white spots on their heads. That’s why the top points of the star are done in white. I replaced the solid center block with another block of quarter square triangles. This adds to the “polka dot” look.

Ladybird I spotted in my yard.

This was a fun block to put together, since it represents my daughter who I delight in so much. It’s also the last block for this quilt! I can’t believe it. Next month, I will have lived in Ohio for 11 years. And, early next year, I hope to share with you progress on this quilt—the assembly of the top and quilting!

December’s Ohio Star Quilt Block

Mending a Fast Fashion T-Shirt

Mended fast fashion t-shirt.

I recently patched a hole in a t-shirt I purchased at Target this past summer. Sure, the shirt only cost about $8, but it was new: I didn’t want to pitch it or toss it into the rag pile.

I’ve become interested in mending and repairing clothing, but it’s rare that I wear a garment until it starts to come apart. (I’ll make an exception for the “chub rub” holes that appear in my well-loved jeans!) I figure it’s probably rare for a lot of people to wear their clothes until they need mending. Also, in some settings, it’s gauche to wear mended clothing. I’m particularly thinking of my husband’s shirts that I made into a quilt block because of the holes in the elbows. Sure, they could have been patched, but it wouldn’t be a professional look at the office. (I know it sounds superficial, but it matters!)

So, my new t-shirt was laying on the floor of the closet and came into contact with the vacuum, ripping a hole. (I’m being vague here to protect the party who left the shirt on the floor instead of tracking down the laundry basket and the party who was vacuuming. Haha!) I wasn’t ready to let the shirt go—I had just bought it! I had another fast fashion t-shirt that I had worn for several years, but it was pilling and it didn’t fit well anymore because of, ahem, some weight gain. That shirt became my patch material.

The first step I skipped was researching how to properly repair a hole in a knit fabric. From my memory of what reverse appliqué looks like and works, I decided to use that method—or at least how I figured the technique works! Instead of using a circle or square just large enough to cover the hole, I went with a heart shape.

Heart shape drawn; patch pinned; needle threaded.

I drew a heart around the hole with a water-soluble pencil and then pinned the patch to the wrong side of the shirt. Using embroidery thread of a complementary color, I stitched around the heart through both the shirt and the patch.

Stitching finished.
The wrong side of the patch, before trimming.

I trimmed the patch about ¼” outside the stitching. Then, I trimmed the shirt about ¼” inside the stitching.

Shirt and patch trimmed. Ready to wear!

The heart lands on the hip.

Not the best place for a contrasting patch, but hey! I didn’t choose where the vacuum tore a hole!

And, just for funsies, I appliquéd a tiny heart on the inside of the left sleeve so that when I flip it up, the heart is visible. Get it? Get it? I’m wearing my heart on my sleeve!

Fun! I want to do something similar with other shirts.

I don’t plan to wear the shirt anywhere fancy. It’s a weekend-type shirt. But, that’s what it was before I patched it anyway. I’m just happy I can still get some wear out of it!

Duluth Trading Catalog: A Caricature of the Midwesterner

Duluth Trading Holiday 2018 Catalog

The Duluth Trading catalog is one that I’ve had my eye on for some time because of the playful copy that is jam-packed with personality. The best way I can describe the copy is that it feels like a caricature of a Midwesterner. This goes right along with the illustrations that they use on their current website and the television commercials they’re known for. And, it’s a good thing.

Screen capture of their beaver illustrations–because websites change and links break.

Words like “gumption” and “wimpy” along with wordplay like “a notch above the rest” used to headline a spread of belts, have a corny feel, but are also charmingly Midwestern. (The company is based in Duluth, Minnesota.)

“Give Gumption by the Gift Load” (Not going to lie, “gumption” is one of my favorite words.)
“Take a holiday from wimpy jeans.”
“A Notch Above the Rest”

Duluth doesn’t shy away from its geography; the company embraces it. The copy speaks directly to people who, yes, actually enjoy winter, or who are at least willing to handle the weather with optimism. Wait! Isn’t that the definition of a Midwesterner?

The opening page of the catalog. This is just a nice piece of copy.
“Frolic” is another charming word, but this headline has a tough attitude with a positive outlook.

But, the copy isn’t all fun fluff. One thing that I took note of was the fabric weight callouts within some of the product descriptions, like the Fire Hose Work Pants.

Duluthflex Fire Hose Work Pants

This copy calls out the “tough yet flexible 8-oz. fabric” and the pocket bags that are “made from 5-oz. cotton so they won’t bust a hole on you.” The use of specific fabric weight of these pants puts a technical slant on the offering. Whether you know the difference between 8-oz. and 5-oz. fabric, it sounds tough and technical.

Flexible 8-oz. fabric.

Now, every fabric has a weight, but you probably won’t see the exact weight listed for the average ready-to-wear piece. The most common callouts are lightweight, mediumweight or heavyweight. So, including the numerical weight of the fabric these pants are made from is a nice touch. As I’ve written, copywriting is often all about including the right details.

Duluth Woman

Another thing I’m glad to see Duluth Trading continuing is their use of “real life” models. I snapped a pic of this particular woman because she’s from my home state of Alaska! When you see a real user of their products featured in their catalogs, it’s easy to believe that their clothing is tested and trusted. I’ve written about using real people in catalogs before. It’s a nice way to add extra interest to the catalog and make a reader see themselves wearing/using the items because, hey, these women are just like me!

With a strong brand and copy that expresses it, the Duluth Trading catalog is an interesting read–even if you’re not in the market for work clothing or outdoor gear.

Considering Length When Choosing a Baby Name

Baby names have been getting shorter since 1990, reports Dan Kopf in his Quartz article “The rise of the 4-letter baby name.” The November 1, 2018 article examines a series of data and quotes naming expert Laura Wattenberg. It’s a fascinating take on the usual “top names of the year” articles I see popping up around this time of the year. In short, baby names are getting shorter, but this apparently is a return to a length that was popular before.

I’m guilty as charged! My kids have names that have 4 and 6 letters in them. While I did focus on whether their names were in the top 100 for the few years leading up to their birth, I didn’t focus on the popularity of the length.

Trends are trends—whether it’s a particular name or simply a particular style of name—we have cultural preferences. While some expecting parents will peek at the popular name list and steer clear (like I did!), I don’t know if parents would either choose a name with a style that wasn’t on-trend or, the opposite, select a name with a style that is on-trend so the name doesn’t stand out too much. (Surely some parents pass on a name simply because it’s too unusual, just as they’ll pass on a name that is too common!) Is popularity of name length a consideration, though? I don’t know, but I think style is a factor to consider. And, just by nature of names, length plays into style.

From this article, I learned about “liquid” and “raindrop” names, which are short and smooth monikers. Focusing on the style and not the length may be easier for parents while sifting through name options. If choosing the name for a second, third, (or more) child, sticking with a particular style of name may be a way to ensure the names of multiple children in a family “go together,” yet another consideration for parents adding more children to their family.

How about you? Did you consider the length of your children’s names? Were name length trends a deciding factor (whether you were on-trend or purposely avoided the trend)? I know subtle cultural trends do influence our decisions (and not just for our baby’s name!), but when it comes to choosing the most perfect name, it’s not an analysis of data that sways our decision, it’s our hearts.

Want to know more about honoring your heart when choosing a name for your baby? Read my short e-book, Choosing the Most Perfect Name for Your Baby. It lays out the groundwork parents can do to discover what type of name they want to give their baby. The guide describes the different types of names and details different evaluations parents can do as they sift through their baby name list. By following some or all of the process described in this guide, parents can find the most perfect name for their soon-to-arrive bundle of joy while listening to their hearts! Choosing the Most Perfect Name for Your Baby is available at*.


Choosing the Most Perfect Name for Your Baby: Demystifying the Naming Process & Honoring Your Heart by Theresa Budnik Combs

*Of course I earn money with each purchase of my guide, because I wrote it. I appreciate your support and I hope that my guide helps you select the most perfect name for your baby!