What a fantastic week it has been so far, right? I have been really blessed by the participation and the feedback I have been getting from many of you here and over on the Facebook page.
Isn’t it a great year to support small businesses for your Christmas purchasing?

So many families are struggling to make ends meet right now, and let’s face it, Christmas is the time of year we love to give gifts to show love to everyone around us.

You COULD go and buy those gifts at a place like Walmart, or Target, and send the profits right to China or India. That is your choice. But who wouldnt appreciate a one-of-a-kind, handcrafted gift made by someone especially for them?
Would they really rather prefer something that came down an assembly line somewhere else, where people were paid pennies an hour to construct it? When you support the small businesses we are featuring this week and next, you are not just supporting THEM, but their families, and that is a very noble thing to do.
So thank you from the bottom of my heart, for your outpouring of love and support for the people we are sharing with you this week.
And they thank you too.
Remember, the Giveaway for a bar of Almond Cookie Soap from Kleine’s Country Store is still continuing through tonight, so if you have not entered already, please get your tushie over there and get yourself entered! You can find her post simply by scrolling down the page to the post below this.

And NOW, drum roll please, as we announce the winner for the handcrafted, one of a kind doll from So Sartina—made to your specifications for some little girl or guy on your Christmas list.

Would GRETCHEN CAMPOS please come on down??
As soon as this posts I will be sending Kristina an email with your email address, so we can connect you two and get your doll on its way to you before Christmas! Thank you so much, everyone for entering, and remember, Kristina is a busy mom of three who uses the income from her Etsy store to support her husband’s job and their household, so please, head over to her SO Sartina Store and finish up your Christmas list!
Today we are featuring another amazing small business, Checkerboards and Etc., owned and operated by Mary Larsen. She is a whiz with a crochet hook, and her genes just reek of craftiness. She is able to leap aisles filled with yarn in a single bound, and come up with inventive, unique patterns on a moment’s notice.
Mary and I were blessed to meet through the Canning for Christans Facebook Page, and I have been blessed to be a part of those folks who encouraged her to step forward in her craft and start her Etsy store. Hearing her testimony of how encouraged she was to do this, and in need of extra income, I feel very blessed that Mary has accepted my offer to showcase her talents and her store here on The Welcoming House. A few days ago we had a chance to chat, and here were her answers to questions I had posed to others as well:
How long have you had your business?
I received my first order on Nov 8, 2012 and opened my Etsy on Nov 15, 2012. I wore one of my blue-and-orange checkerboard scarves to the food center where I volunteer and one of the ladies asked how much and then gave me an order for two! When I delivered those, she ordered four more scarves! It was the encouragement I needed to get serious and Etsy seemed to be the best way to get started.
Has your inventory changed over the years?
 In other words, did you used to sew and now you crochet?
I have tried to make and sale items in the past. One year I sewed a bunch of patchwork trivets to sell at my children’s junior high Christmas bazaar and only made one sale to my neighbor. Everyone else picked one up and would say to whoever was with them, “Here’s something you can do” and then lay the trivet back down and walk away.  Those trivets did make great presents over the years. This is the first time I have really gotten serious about selling my handmade items and decided to start with the neck scarves. I have also now added dish cloths and baby blankets. I have even been given an order for aprons! So maybe the Lord is showing me what else I need to add. Just need to move all the yarn so I can find my sewing machine! LOL!
Why did you start your business in the first place?
I started crocheting back in the 1970’s. My grandma taught me how to crochet and knit. At that time, the crocheting was easier and more enjoyable. Over the years, I have continued to crochet and occasionally knit but usually just for family and friends. About 5 years ago, I started crocheting neck scarves to give to charities during the winter season. A local charity collects winter hats, coats, scarves, and other items to give to kids who need them. I had a lot of yarn on hand and figure that would be a good use of the item. I was also attending Boise State University at the time working on my bachelor’s degree and crocheting or knitting was a good way for me to wind down or “reboot” my brain after an intensive study session. I had several tell me I should try to sell my scarves but I kept putting it off. Now I find myself without a job and it just made sense to use what I had to try and bring in some money. I have been praying about it and I felt impressed to start it now.
 tell me more about yourself. What does having a small home-based business allow you to do that otherwise you would not be able to do?
Stay home in my bare feet!!  LOL! I have worked from home in the past, once as a medical transcriptionist for a local hospital and over the past five years doing contract work for a textbook publisher. I have become very spoiled and very much like working from home. For one thing, I get to sit, barefoot, during the summer and get to wear my warm slippers during the winter! I also get to just sit and listen to the traffic reports and not have to worry about any issues. Another plus is when it is snowing I don’t have to worry about sliding off the road or sliding into anyone else. I am so terribly spoiled. I haven’t had to work a 9-to-5 type job in over five years now, and I am having a hard time accepting the fact that I will probably have to do it again.  The textbook industry is changing and those jobs are becoming more infrequent. I have also wanted to homestead for the longest time,  growing and selling produce at a local farmer’s market. Since the farmer’s market is only open during the summer around here, having a home-based business based on my crafts will help fill in other times of the year and allow me the freedom to pursue all my interests. It also allows me the freedom to help my parents who are in their 70s and my grandma, who is 96, when they need me.

Why are you participating in this giveaway?

In Acts 9:36-42, there is the story of a woman by the name of Dorcas who used to make things and give them to the poor. Her example made a huge impression on me and I have never forgotten it.There was also a time in my life where I had very little and some strangers helped me when they didn’t have to. I consider giving away my scarves as paying it forward and following the example of others who have gone before me. I have been giving away my scarves for several years now and have always been blessed by this. I start crocheting or knitting scarves in January and work all year. Some of them are just random and go the various local charities. To be able to bless someone else makes my day special and gives me a chance to share what God has given me with others.
 What are you offering for the giveaway?
I will be giving away a $25 gift certificate. They can choose the item they wish to receive from what is currently offered online and if it isn’t in stock, I will make it for them, as long as I have time.
I will also be offering a 10% discount through Dec 22, but reserve the right to finish on a first come, first served basis in case I get so busy I cant keep up with the orders.

What is your favorite thing about your craft?

Wow, this is a good question. I am in control…   lol (unless the cats grab the yarn that is, and goes running across the floor with it!) I get to create something from nothing. I get to experiment with different designs. I have found myself doing one thing and then suddenly having an idea come to mind to try and I want to stop whatever I am doing to go try it. I have been known to have as many as 10 different projects going on at the same time because I want to try them all at once! LOL! I will work on one and then switch to another one just to keep things interesting. But I think the best thing is the smile on the face of another person when they get it. I always pray over them and ask God to bless the receiver.  I also like that it is something I can share with my 96-year-old Grandma. When I go to visit her, I try to take my latest project or if I have a question, I can ask her. She doesn’t do as much anymore but she has been very helpful when I get in a bind.

If there was one thing you would like to tell the Welcoming House readers,

 what would it be?
Give and it shall be given unto you… by giving and blessing others, I have also been blessed and received from the Lord. I don’t always understand His timing (yes, I can be like the little 2-yr-old who wants it now! LOL) but God is always faithful. He does require that I also follow His word. It is a two-way street but what He expects in return is so little to what He gives.
It is a lesson I am still learning and occasionally need to be reminded of.
I grew up on a farm and learned at an early age that hard work has its rewards. I also know the satisfaction of creating something with my own hands, be it a scarf, or pie or planting the garden. There is something special in being able to see something from start to finish. I can go to bed at night with a good feeling of accomplishment. Having my own business is something I have wanted for a very long time. I have explored many different options to include business such as Amway and Mary Kay but they just didn’t work for me. I also tried a goat milking service once that didn’t get very far either – lol! To be able to work with my hands and create something someone else can use is in keeping with my upbringing and childhood. I helped my parents and grandparents on the farm and it was a good life. I guess I’m trying to recapture part of that. To be my own boss is also a good goal. Now seemed like a really good time to try it again.
Mary also wanted me to add this:
 Some afterthoughts:I am just an everyday Jane who is trying to live the best I can according to the Scriptures. I know I have a lot of growing still to do in the Lord and I do fail occasionally, but He is faithful to forgive and help me along the way. I have tried to live my life according to Proverbs 31 for a long time and even though there have been some major changes in my life and others have not continued on with me, I still try to live up to the standard presented in those verses. They are part of the guide I follow. My children are now grown and have started their own families so I do have more time on my hands.
Helping others is one way I do that.
What an amazing lady Mary is, isnt she? I think there are many of us who can relate to her, wanting to take care of and be around for elderly family members, starting something new at a different stage of life, trying to do the best we can with what we have, and always thinking about what we can give to someone else out of what we have. Mary Larsen, you are an inspiration, and I want to thank you for participating in this giveaway to The Welcoming House Readers.
Are you read to enter the giveaway for that $25 gift certificate?
  Just like all the others, this giveaway will last for two days, and some of the options you can actually enter today AND tomorrow, so be sure to check it again with tomorrow’s post!

Ready, set, GO! 🙂a Rafflecopter giveaway

Many Blessings to you and yours!!