How to use Google Mail Merge to send out swap emails

If you’ve hosted a crafty (or other!) swap online, there’s a good chance you’ve sent out about a jillion emails, each of which needs to be personalized with that person’s partner information. If you’ve participated in a swap online – you should just appreciate that this is a lot of work! In addition to setting up partners, checking on the status of packages, answering questions… Anyways, I’m here to tell you that there is a super fast short cut to writing, personalizing, and sending all those emails!

Bulk Personalized Emails

To start with, you’ll need a gmail e-mail address. If you don’t have one already, you can get one for free! Use it just for the swap, if you want. You can have it forward to your real email address if you want, also.

Using Google Mail Merge, if you have the information you need to send in an e-mail in a spreadsheet, you can have google personalize and send out all of your swap partner e-mails pretty instantly. Start by typing up a draft of the e-mail you want to send out to your partner. Instead of the personalized info, though, you’ll type a field name wherever you want personalized info. For example, where I want to have the name of the person I’m sending the e-mail to, I instead type $%Partner First Name%.

Gmail Mail Merge Canned Response

You’ll then want to save this as a new canned response by clicking on the little arrow in the bottom right of the above image:

gmail mail merge canned response

Next, set up a spread sheet with all a column for each field in your e-mail. This will generally not require all the information collected by the swap (i.e. you don’t need to include whether or not their partner is willing to ship internationally), so I like to make a separate sheet with only the info I’ll be including in the e-mail. I’ll copy all the info to a separate sheet, then delete columns I don’t need in the email and rearrange columns as needed. Here’s an example of that sheet for the Doctor Who Swap I’m helping host right now (#makeadalekmakeafriend) (I redid the order since the swap is still ongoing – so these are not the actual partner assignments!):

Personalized Bulk Email

Quick tip: once you have the partners in your sheet in order, just reference one line up or down in the email slot to get the e-mail address and name for the person you are sending the email to. So in this example, Kim is sending to Zoe, Zoe is sending to Kerrie, etc. I use the ‘order’ column as I’m setting up my partners, so I can sort on that column and see who is sending to who.

Personalized Mail Merge

Now, create a mail merge spreadsheet by saving this spreadsheet to your google drive. Insert as many columns as you need before the ‘mail merge status’ column, but make sure not to change, remove, or write over that column. Make sure that the title of each column *exactly* matches the field name used in your e-mail – i.e. since I typed $%Partner First Name% in my email, I need the title of that column to be ‘Partner First Name’, and so forth.

At this point, I would suggest typing in your e-mail address as the e-mail to send to and some test info in each column to make sure everything is working right. Once you send out the actual e-mails, they will all go out at once, and if you have a mistake in your setup, everyone will get it before you have a chance to catch it. First, in the google drive sheet, make sure the ‘mail merge status’ column entries are blank. If they are not, delete the contents in those cells. Then go to Mail Merge > Step 1: Initialize.

gmail mail merge for swaps

After this runs, go to Mail Merge > Step 2: Start Mail Merge. It will open up the following dialogue:

personalized bulk email for swaps

Here, you must select the name of the canned response you saved earlier and type in your name. You also get to choose whether or not you want to be BCC’d on the e-mails – if you check yes, it will send you a copy of each e-mail it sends out. Then click ‘Start Mail Merge’ and it will send out the e-mails. If everything works, it will send out all the e-mails and each entry will be updated to say ‘EMAIL_SENT’ in the Mail Merge Status column. If there is an error in e-mail address, you will be able to see that that e-mail and any following ones were not sent. Once you fix the error, start the mail merge again and it should not send additional e-mails to the entries that are already set as ‘EMAIL_SENT’.

mail merge sent

Then go check the e-mails and make sure they ended up how you expected. Once you know that it works, copy all your participants’ information, and you’re ready to start the mail merge by following the same steps as in my test above. Just make sure that you have everything set up right, in my sheet, ‘Partner First Name’ is making something for the person who’s name is ‘First Name’ ‘Last Name’ in the same line. The email address should be for ‘Partner First Name’, and the rest of the info in that line should be for the person who’s name is ‘First Name’ ‘Last Name’. Again, this is where sending out a couple of test e-mails is useful! Remember that you also need to clear the ‘EMAIL_SENT’ cells if you tested it on fake emails and want to resend new ones.

Quick Summary:

  • Edit this spreadsheet with the e-mail address and first name of person you want to send the e-mail to as ‘Email address’ and ‘Partner First Name’, and the info for their partner in the rest of the columns
  • Make sure the column titles in the mail merge spreadsheet exactly match the fields in your canned response e-mail
  • Make sure all cells in ‘mail merge status’ column are blank
  • In the mail merge spread sheet, go to mail merge>2. Start Mail Merge. Select your canned response email, type in your name, and click ‘Start Mail Merge’.
  • Check the  ‘mail merge status’ column to make sure all your e-mails have sent!

Attribution: I found all this info from this site: digital inspiration. The spreadsheet script was developed by digital inspiration, and I just changed some things around and included some swap-specific info. There’s a video tutorial there as well if you want to see how it works in real time.Hope it helps!

Wedding Shower Invitation

A while back, I had the honor of hosting a wedding shower for a friend (the same one this quilt was made for!) Since its getting close to the time of year filled with weddings and wedding showers again, I thought I’d share the invitations and how I made the little doily dresses.

Doily Dress Shower Invite

I drew out and scanned in her name for the top, then filled in the rest of the text. I made the cute little wedding dress out of some paper doilies, and that’s the part I’m sharing how to make today! You’ll need some paper doilies (I used the Wilton 4″ ones from JoAnn’s). I also used some skinny ribbon and some leftover white cardstock from the invites themselves. And, of course, scissors and a glue stick.

doilies for shower invite dress

The skirt of each dress is made out of a doily cut in half. Start by folding it in thirds, then fold the corner over a bit. Set this aside.

Skirt for Doily Dress

To make the bodice of the dress, I cut a couple of the doilies along the decorated edge sections. For this doily, that cut it into tenths. I used some scraps of the cardstock I used for the invites to back most of the bodice, and then cut out a little notch for a sweetheart neckline.

doily dress bodice

Then, I just used the glue stick to attach the bodice to the skirt, and glued a little strip of ribbon around the waistline. To make the dress stand out from the white card, I glued each one to some bright blue cardstock and cut out a little border around the dress.

doily dress for wedding shower invitation

The package I got of 30 doilies would make 50 of these dresses, so they go a long way! I think they’d make a cute wedding or shower card to go along with a gift as well 🙂

Lined Box Pouches

I have a huge stash of zippers from an awesome garage sale, and I love using them to make small pouches for gifts. My latest favorite zipper pouch is this cute boxy design. I love that it stands up on its own and that finishing the ends of the zipper in a tidy way is super easy!

Lined Box Pouch Tutorial

I’ve made three of these recently, for a Christmas present, a crafty online swap, and for me 🙂

lined box pouches

Start by cutting two pieces of fabric to the same size. I’ve been using scraps of different sizes, but a good size (what I used for the blue/purple one) is 8″x10″. Make sure you have a zipper that fits along the end you want it on (mine was for the 8″ side, so I used a 9″ zipper).

box pouch materials

Stack the fabrics right side together, and put the zipper in-between the two layers, with the top of the zipper facing towards your outside fabric. Sew the zipper in on this side, making sure the zipper is sewn in, but that there is enough room for the zipper pull to slide open. I did roughly 1/4″.

box pouch seam 1

To make the second seam, follow the pictures below. 1) Lay out your fabrics + zipper so that the right sides are facing up. 2) Fold both fabrics in to meet the unsewn zipper edge. 3) Pick up your stack by the three raw edges (both fabrics and the zipper), align the edges, and sew together. Make sure that the ends of the fabric meet the zipper at the same points as your first seam.

box pouch seam 2

Turn the bag right-side-out by pulling the zipper through the loop of outside fabric. The lining fabric should be on the inside of your tube, and wrong sides of the fabric should be together. At this point, I like to top-stitch along the zipper to keep the seams neat.

box pouch loop

To sew the ends, turn the pouch inside out by pulling the zipper through the tube created by both layers of fabric. Make sure the zipper is about half-way open. Fold both ends in as shown below. To do this, fold the loop in half so the zipper is at one edge, and crease the other end to find the middle of your loop. Bring this crease up so that it is directly under the zipper. Then fold in each side so that the tucks are right under the center of the zipper and the flaps on top and bottom are of even lengths.

box pouch fold

Once you have an end folded, sew about 1/4″ – 1/2″ from the edge. I like to overlock or zig-zag stitch the edges so they don’t fray on the inside, but that’s not necessary. Again, make sure the zipper is about half-way open before you sew the second end shut, or you won’t be able to turn it right-side out!

box pouch inside out

Then just fold the pouch right-side out and poke out the corners. On one of the bags I hand-stitched little knots at the corners of the side creases, but even if you don’t, the pouches will keep their shape pretty well as long as they’ve got stuff inside (when giving them as gifts, I’ve stuffed them with some tissue paper so the shape fills out nicely).

Lined Box Pouch

These could be customized in lots of ways! Obviously you can use whatever fabrics and zippers you like (I even printed my sister’s name in periodic table elements directly onto one of them with my home printer!). You could also make them really special by using an outer fabric with embroidery, applique, or patchwork!

Felt Tree Skirt

Today I’m sharing a tutorial for this amazing felt flower tree skirt to finish off your Christmas tree! I shared this as a guest post at Sugar Bee Crafts last week, but wanted to make sure you all saw it here as well 🙂 I saw one similar to this on pinterest last year, and was completely smitten. Unfortunately, it had been $320 and wasn’t even available any longer, so I set out to make my own.

DIY Felt Flower Tree Skirt

Supplies needed:

  • craft felt (I used 2.5 yards for a 36″ wide tree skirt and all the flowers)
  • scissors
  • needle and thread (in same color as felt)
  • fabri-tac or other felt adhesive
  • optional: pearls or beads to decorate flowers

Felt Circle for Tree Skirt

First, you need to figure out how big you want your tree skirt to be. This is for a small area in our house and a relatively small tree, so I only wanted my tree skirt to be 36″ wide. I folded some red felt in quarters, and used a piece of string to make a quarter circle with a radius of 18″. This will actually give you a solid circle piece, so if you want it to fit around your tree you’ll need to cut a smaller hole (mine is about 4″ wide, so 2″ radius) in the middle and a slit from one hole to the other so you can get it around your tree.

Felt Poinsettia Tree Skirt

These flowers are the main awesomeness of this tree skirt. It can take a while to make enough of them for a full tree skirt, but they’re not hard to make. I used two slightly different sizes – a larger size mostly for the outer ring, and the smaller size mostly for the inner ring of flowers.

Poinsettia Petal Template

Each of my felt flowers has three of these felt pieces. You can download a printable template to trace here if you want, or free hand yours based on the shape above. To download the printable template pdf, either click on the image above or click here. It will open up the image in a new window in your browser, and you can right click then ‘save as’ to save it to your computer.

Felt Poinsettia Flower Petals

To make each flower, cut out three petals. Fold the center of each petal in half long-ways, and then fold the edges back up (see right photo above).

Felt Poinsettia Instructions

Then fold each of these petals the other way at the center, so that the two individual petals are next to each other. Sew through the center of three of these a couple times to make each flower, making sure to go through all layers.

Felt Poinsettia flowers for tree skirt

The flowers look nice from both the front and the back – just pick one to use for all your flowers. I chose what I think of as the front – the one on the left in the photo above.  Once you think you may have enough flowers (I used 60!), start arranging them around your tree skirt. I did two overlapping layers, but more could look awesome on a bigger tree skirt.

Hand Made Poinsettia Tree Skrt

Once you have figured out where you want them, it’s time to start attaching them. I started using a needle and thread to attach each one, but that was taking a really long time. I ended up using fabri-tac. It worked great on the felt! I had a couple fall off initially, but just stuck them right back on with fabri-tac. I actually made this skirt last year, and I didn’t have any more of the flowers fall off through presents on the tree skirt, putting it away in storage, and pulling it back out this year.

Handmade Felt Flower Tree Skirt

I also used fabri-tac to stick on little pearls in the middle of each flower. I think it makes them look more festive and a bit more like flowers.

Tree Skirt Buttons

For the edges of the tree skirt, I covered some buttons with the same red felt and sewed on loops of red/white baker’s twine.

DIY Felt Flower Tree Skirt

Bathroom Mirror

One of the updates in my guest bathroom makeover was putting a frame up around the mirror to make it a little less builder-basic.

Framed Bathroom Mirror

I think it really helps transform our bathroom from builder-basic and plain to sophisticated and custom. I didn’t take any before or during pictures (bad blogger!), but I used a combination of these tutorials (and the pictures were great for convincing my husband that this was actually a good idea!): Design galThis thrifty houseA little of this, a little of that, Impatiently praying for patience, and Thrifty and chic.

Seafoam guest bathroom

Basically, we got some trim from home depot to match our door molding ($8 for two 2.25″ thick, 7′ long, pre-primed pieces). We cut them to size and mitered the corners with our table saw, then painted them with some high-gloss white paint (left over from our bedroom shelf). We glued them directly to the mirror using this product, reinforced the glue with painters tape, and let it dry overnight. I then caulked the corners and touched them up with more paint.

bathroom mirror from home depot trim

Some tips I want to reiterate in case you want to do this your self:

  • Use a product labeled to work on mirrors for attaching the trim to the mirror. I went in just thinking ‘liquid nails’ because that’s what a lot of the tutorials I read used, but our store had many varieties of liquid nails, none of which said they were good for mirrors (they didn’t have the liquid nails mirror variety, but it does in fact exist). Again, we used this kind.
  • Check that your corners all line up by taping the trim pieces around your mirror before you glue anything down to make sure they line up. I found that keeping the other pieces taped up as I untaped/glued each piece helped keep my corners perfect.
  • Pay attention to the angling on the corners – front/back as well as the angle of the miter cut.

bathroom trim mirror

  • Make sure not to put the glue too close to the inside edge of the mirror – otherwise you’ll see it in the reflection (I have one spot where this happened – shown above). On the same note, paint at least the inner half inch or so of the back of your trim!
  • If you want the corners to match up, you need the trim to all be flat. The easy way to do this is to have the outside of your trim frame line up with the edge of the mirror, but I decided I wanted to have my frame extend over the edge of the mirror. The bottom edge of my mirror was flush with the granite sink top, though, so I had to sand down part of the back to make it flush. Hope that makes sense!