To say I have been anticipating the release of Handmade Hostess is like saying ”I like chocolate” — a slight understatement. Kelly Lee-Creel and her sister, Rebecca Soder are incredibly talented girls with a knack for just about everything. Together with their husbands, they have created an entertaining book that rivals the likes of Martha Stewart.
But I digress.
I asked Kelly what it was like to write this kind of book – a very different sort of book for us! Cakes? Recipes? Themed parties with napkins to match the piped frosting? Ooh and aah with us as she recounts the 7 things they learned about planning the perfect party!
My sister Rebecca and I learned a lot while writing Handmade Hostess, and I realized that there might be some tips mixed in here that you could use for your next get-together. In the book, we devote a full chapter to party planning, but these are the tricks we learned in the field!
7 Things We Learned about Planning the Perfect Party.
We took a full year writing the book – much longer than most sewing or craft books, I think. This turned out to be a real gift – and it allowed us not only to polish the 37 projects + recipes, but to really pack each page full of inspiration. Our goal was to put on a real party for each of the 12 chapters and sneak in lots of extra decorating ideas and bonus tips.
However, one of the challenges was that Rebecca lived in San Diego, and I was in Los Angeles (at the time of writing). We were planning everything over the phone, and very often, would not see each other’s work until the day of the photo shoot when we packed everything into our cars and met on location.
Fortunately, we talk in a special “sister shorthand” which is unintelligible to other people, but makes perfect sense to us. (At least, most of the time!) There were a few other tricks we learned along the way.
1. Decide on a color scheme up front. Narrowing down the colors for the party was always our first step. It’s easy to get caught up in too many ideas. Color is a great way to edit. Then, you are ready to shop for fabrics.
Tip: Use swatches. I taped swatches of my fabric selections into a small notebook and carried those into the store with me along with any sketches and checklists. I mailed a second set of swatches to Rebecca so we were always on the same page.
2. Draw your vision. At the beginning of each month, Rebecca and I held a super long brainstorming session over the phone (the kind of phone call where your ear is numb at the end!). We went over The Checklist (found in Chapter 1) to make sure all of the basics were covered, and then made up a wish list of extra projects, props, and decorating ideas we wanted to fit in if we had time. I drew a very rough sketch of the projects and the layout of the party and e-mailed it off to Rebecca.
Tip: Even if you don’t sketch, you can still have a master plan! Create a mood board on Pinterest just for your event and pin all of your ideas and projects in one place.
3. Shop first, then make. As Rebecca and I hunted for the supplies for our book projects, we gave ourselves one long shopping day to explore every nook and cranny of our favorite craft and sewing shops. Sometimes we found extra project ideas that way or discovered something pre-made that we could use in a pinch. Knowing what is available really helps – and prevents last minute panic when you discover that something doesn’t come in the size, color, or shape you had hoped.
4. Location, location, location. In the book, we talk a lot about prepping your home for a party – but sometimes, you are throwing an event somewhere else – like a friend’s house or a nearby park. (We traveled all over the place so the photos would all feel different!) We always made a point to visit the spot ahead of time and snap a few pictures. For the book, we were worried about things like afternoon shadows, distracting eyesores in the background, and where we would set up. However, you might use this time to come up with a plan for unexpected weather and to make a list of anything you’ll need to bring from home.
5. Bring a kit. Shooting in natural light with food and flowers was always nerve-wracking. Very often, we had driven long hours to get to our photo taking spot and knew we had one day to pull it off. We each had “emergency kits” full of stuff like needle and thread, scissors, picture-hanging putty, lint rollers, staplers, hot glue guns, tape, and of course, Band-Aids! Rebecca usually brought extra frosting, piping tips, and garnishes, too.
Tip: You can make a kit by grabbing extra tools and supplies, and putting them together in a plastic tub. If you add to this kit as you work, you’ll be prepared for almost anything!
6. Stand back. After the crazy sewing and baking marathons, it was time to arrange everything for the photos. By this time, we had sent each other lots of cell phone pictures, but now we would finally see it all together. Rebecca’s husband, Jordan, turned out to have a great eye for photo styling. Rebecca and I loaded up the table, and then we each took turns fiddling with the arrangement. The trick is to stand back and view your set-up from different angles. Make a small adjustment, and then – you guessed it – stand back. How does it look?
7. Make a photography checklist. We were so lucky to have my husband, Kekoa, take all of the photos for the book. I am so proud of him. He did such a wonderful job! A few chapters in, we learned to shoot the photos tethered to a laptop so Rebecca and I could see them as he was working. The other thing we did was to make a checklist of everything we wanted to photograph including the sewn projects, desserts, and any special moments like my nephew Kaden blowing out his birthday candles. This is a great idea for any party – especially if you have friends or relatives helping you take pictures. Make a list of all of the moments you’d like to record – from a shot of your tablecloth all loaded up with treats and goodies – to a close-up of the darling cupcakes you made. This way, you won’t miss a thing!
There are lots more tips in Handmade Hostess, but we hope these help get you started. We are both so excited for you to open it up and get ready to invite people in.
Lots of love,
Kelly & Rebecca
The giveaway – To enter to win a copy of Handmade Hostess, leave a comment here telling us if you love to style your parties as much as we do! Deadline to enter is 02/18/13. The winner will be drawn at random from the comments section and will be notified by email. Our winner’s name will also be listed here as an update to this post. *Note: Only entrants with U.S addresses are eligible to win this book. Winners with addresses outside the U.S. will win the e-book version!