Attitude of Gratitude

I have a Thanksgiving freebie (pdf) for you!

Last year, I hand-drew little thankful scrolls for our Thanksgiving dinner. Guests pulled one out of a jar and discussed during the meal. I had separate scrolls for kids and grownups, but it turned out that the grownups wanted in on the kid prompts too! Obviously, they had books and movies and superheroes they were thankful for!

This year, I decided to make some prompts for you and your family too — and these are for EVERYBODY.

Thankful Fill Cards Waste-Free Tips:

  • These aren’t just for Thanksgiving — REUSE them at any family meal, pop them in a lunch box for a gratitude boost, or put the stack in your own grown-up bag and pull a card when you need a gratitude-attitude shift.
  • Want to make these reusable? Laminate them and use whiteboard marker to fill in, erase, and REPEAT.
  • If your printer is agreeable (mine is), print these on the back of a piece of paper that was heading to the RECYCLING bin and then recycle them when you’re all done.
  • Don’t print these out at all. Read the prompts from your screen and answer them out loud.
  • Print one sheet of prompts and take turns writing answers and passing it around so the prompt is full of different answers. Then share the answers or make a guessing game of it.

Happy (American) Thanksgiving! We use this holiday as an excuse to gather with family and sit in gratitude, which is a practice I’m trying to incorporate into my everyday life too. It really has improved my attitude. Even if I’m grateful for the same things over and over — my husband, our backyard view, crochet time, my silly and sweet girls, being able to do creative work from my home studio.

Hope you find these cards useful for Thanksgiving or any other day!

Twin Sides of a Handmade Business: Back-To-School (Im)Balance

Shoutout to all the parents doing their best, showing up late sometimes, and still smiling! (Originally posted to Instagram and Facebook Sept 26)

My kids’ school has been having Spirit Week all week and this is our first day participating (Thursday) because I just figured out it was happening.

Of course I finally find the dress up schedule this morning to read that it’s Twin Thursday and I haven’t coordinated a matching friend outfit because… so many negative words flood my head, “I’m terrible, disorganized, flighty, a bad mom.” But the truth is that I’m not in work-life balance right now.

This isn’t my season for the beautiful work-life balance I imagined when I started this business years ago. Back-to-School orders come in like a tidal wave July-September, and my focus turns toward work to keep up. And at this point in my business, I know to plan for the big spike in sales this time of the year, but each year sees expansion and growth I never imagined. So no matter how much planning and preparation I do, we’re still caught a bit off guard.

But back to Twin Thursday 👯‍♀️. So there I am looking at this e-flyer with panic because I haven’t coordinated with my girls’ friends as I’m just seeing this dress up theme an hour before school starts. Probably not an ideal time to make a call to friends for this. But hey! We’ve got a built-in friend duo right here. Yay!

The struggle of a handmade business with a booming back-to-school season during back-to-school season with small kids

Both girls are so excited to match pants, shoes, and hairstyle — even if we couldn’t make a matching top happen. And I’m glad we showed up to Spirit Week even if we’re a little late.

Running a growing business and a family looks like this sometimes. But/And I think we are pretty happy! We figure it out and show up when we can, even if we are a little late to the party.

October 1st Note: Special thanks to YOU — customers who kept me busy; followers who cheered me on; family and friends who gave me space and grace — for your patience while I kept up with the massive tidal wave that was back-to-school orders this year. It was exponentially bigger than expected which was equal parts exciting and exhausting. Par for the course in business ownership! Now, I’m taking a breath and celebrating a bit as well as planning for the holiday season and 2020. New prints are coming and more of that #wastefreecurious content you love!

#WasteFreeCurious Wins

We’re more than halfway into this #wastefreecurious movement. Dare I call it a movement? I dare! And I’ve been getting messages of your wins and waste free inspirations nearly every day. They remind me that small changes like ditching paper towels, refusing paper and plastic bags at the grocery store, and getting our composting back on track are actually a BIG deal!

Your messages keep me going when I feel overwhelmed by the scope of our waste problem. So why should I keep your inspirational wins to myself?! Well, I shouldn’t. Moving forward I’ll be sharing your wins and inspirational messages anonymously, so keep them coming! They make my day and inspire us all!

Most of the #wastefreecurious talk, fun, changes, and challenges are happening over on Instagram so follow me @penandthimble and follow the tag #wastefreecurious!

You’ve Got (Eco-Friendly) Mail! Switching To New Eco-Friendly Mailers

In a previous post, Can Shopping and Shipping Online Be Eco-Friendly, I talked about the carbon-emissions side of shipping. But today it’s all about another concern — mailers.

Costs of doing business and small profit margins means eco-friendly packaging isn't always the easiest choice. A #wastefreecurious blog post at

Counting Costs + Keeping Prices Low

As a small handmade business, I’m always counting. The price of a product isn’t just the materials. I count the materials, my time, packaging costs, shipping costs, accounting costs, business license costs, marketplace fees, web hosting fees, office supplies, and so much more. Keeping prices competitive and profitable is a tricky business in and of itself. And more so as I move toward more eco-friendly options rather than just low-cost items.

For example, organic fabric costs about $15.50-16 per yard, while quality cotton fabric of the same weight costs about $9.50-10 per yard. The bubble mailers I have used for a long time cost $24.50/case. Switching to a more eco-friendly bubble mailer costs $49.50 for the same amount. The bottom line, going green costs more money and that is tricky for small businesses with low margins. I don’t mean this as an excuse. Just to state a fact.

Costs of doing business and small profit margins means eco-friendly packaging isn't always the easiest choice. A #wastefreecurious blog post at
Working Lunch. The last time I was counting Etsy costs.

Holy Bubble Mailers, Batman

Mailers are important for online businesses. My primary job after making an item is making sure it gets to my customer safe and sound. So to be honest, when I started this business, my priority was to find quality mailers at bulk prices. I just wasn’t thinking about all the extra plastic I was sending into the world.

Last year, when my business kicked up during back-to-school shopping, I was struck with the realization that I was shipping a good deal of plastic out. Like wow!

Costs of doing business and small profit margins means eco-friendly packaging isn't always the easiest choice. A #wastefreecurious blog post at
One day’s outgoing. Yay! And also oof!

But I’m not one to just shrug my shoulders. I started looking into alternatives. I found an awesome company called Eco Enclose that specializes in making eco-friendly packaging and they send FREE samples! So even though I still have nearly 100 mailers to work through, I ordered some samples to try out. That way, when I run out (I haven’t yet), I’d be ready to make an eco-friendly switch.

Mailer Testing

I sampled everything. I tried thick 100% recycled/recyclable/reusable cardboard and padded mailers but they were too heavy and increased shipping costs by a significant amount.

I tried a more thin 100% recycled/recyclable Kraft paper mailer but my tester kindly let me know the mailer arrived with a tear. So no.

I tried a 100% recycled/reusable/recyclable poly mailer but my products don’t fill it out and it felt too flimsy.

Finally, I tried a bubble mailer made from 32.6% post-industrial recycled content (51% recycled content in the outer layer, 8% recycled content in the bubble layer, and 8% recycled content in the capping layer). These can be recycled and have an extra adhesive strip to be reused! I’ve sampled all the sizes and found one that will work for most items. It is smaller than my preferred mailer size so I’ll have to fold things up more than I prefer, but what a small sacrifice for more peace-of-mind.

No, 32.6% recycled content is not perfect, but it’s better. And it’s honest. And although they cost twice as much for a smaller size, I know they are the right choice. This options blends my desire to waste less and get items to my customers safely and at a low cost. Eco Enclose is also actively working on increasing the recycled content of these mailers. Look out for these mailers coming from pen&thimble soon!

Pen&thimble is Rolling Out Green Packaging Soon!

So that’s the story about mailers. If you have questions, feel free to ask! I’m always open to tailoring the way you get your mail too! When making a purchase, you can always leave note like “no extra packaging please” and I’ll be happy to send you your items with minimal packaging! More on packaging inside the mailer in a future post.

Are You Waste Free Curious Too?

If producing less waste is something you might be into this year, I’d love if you’d join me! Follow my personal and business waste-free journey from the comfort of your inbox. Sign up to so you don’t miss a thing: Click here to sign up! You’ll get a plastic-free produce storage cheat sheet just for signing up! Also, I’m using the hashtag #wastefreecurious on Instagram to share our waste free journey. I’ve just started the hashtag and I’m sharing our waste free wins and fails and tough spots with a mix of posts and Stories. So come on over!