Welcome to my little corner of the blogosphere to share the ups and downs of starting a craft business, with plenty of tips, mishaps and the odd glass of wine!

Monday, 18 August 2014

How to Make a Star Badge (Happy St Seren's Day!)

Hello lovelies,

We're still on our annual Irish pilgrimage (i.e. staying with my lovely out-laws) and decided that we should hold a St Seren's Day celebration while we're here as Seren, our daughter, has always felt a bit put out that her younger brother has St Patrick's Day to celebrate his name, but she didn't have a Saints Day... so we made up one for her!



The little star brooch Seren is wearing is now the official symbol of St Seren and this year has been done in the Wexford colours of Purple & Gold and was really easy to make.

I've not done a template for them, but a little pictoral 'how to'.

You will need:

Small scrap of purple felt
Slightly larger scrap of yellow felt
Brooch back or Safety Pin
2 strands of purple embroidery tread
scissors
star shape - you can either draw around a cookie cutter or make a template freehand


How To:

1. Cut out a star shape from the purple felt and sew it onto the yellow felt using 2 strands of purple embroidery thread. I used running stitch, but you could also use back stitch or whip stitch:



2. Flip the yellow felt over and using the same purple thread, sew on a brooch back or a safety pin if you don't have any brooch backs.


3. Tie off the thread on the back and then carefully cut round the purple star, leaving a 0.5mm gap around the egde. And voila! You have a star brooch:

We chose stars because Seren means star in welsh and it's the emblem we use for our Seren whenever she needs a theme, but you could do this with any shape and contrasting colours.

Happy Sewing!

Thursday, 7 August 2014

5 Essential Things to Focus on in Quiet Times.

Quiet times. We all have them.

What do you do during a lull in your business?

Getty Images Stock

Do you panic? Do you take advantage of it and spend more time with your friends & family? Or do you use the time wisely?

I do a bit of all of them if I'm honest.

Here are a few of the things I do, to ensure I'm being productive during my quiet moments:

1. Update my Etsy & Folksy listings. Adjust the tags and descriptions to make sure they describe the creative process, the advantages your product can offer the customer, fully detail the measurements, cleaning instructions, restrictions, etc that are needed for your products.


2. Get my accounts up to date. I know, I know, it's a boring job (for everyone except those funny accountant people who enjoy all that stuff!) But it's one that has to be done to keep on top of your business. I just keep a simple spreadsheet with incomings & outgoings, and a front page with tables tallying up month by month, how much I've made & how much I've paid out. It means that come tax return time I'm much more organised and don't panic quite as much!

3. Make extra stock. This is something I do in limited quantities as most of my items are made to order, so it's difficult to know how much of any items to make and in what colours, but there are certains items, like the Campervans, which I know will remain popular all year round, year after year, so I do make some of those when I have the chance to.

A tower of Campervans

4. Research. Be it researching suppliers, retailers to approach, design methods, packaging & postal methods or how to divide your marketing & advertising budget... All and any legitimate research is good for your business. I say legitimate because it's easy to get distracted from your purpose and get caught up with looking at shiny pretty beads, for example, when they have nothing to do with your business. (Yes, I am speaking from experience!) Even if you aren't in a position to buy, change suppliers, branch out into retail markets, pay for any marketing, it will be useful to have some knowledge for when you are ready to take that step.

5. Design new items. Now this is something that I would like to spend ALL my quiet times doing, but I've put it last because although it's the point I like the best, if I started off on this one, I'd never get numbers 1 - 4 achieved! I'm one of those designers who always has ideas racing round my brain and rarely have time to get even half of them down onto paper.

I find I quite often have to refer back to this list when I hit a lull as although I know what I need to do, re-reading it afresh always helps me to focus.

On that note, I'm off for a couple of weeks on holiday with the out-laws and will be doing plenty of number 5, with a little bit of number 4 thrown in for good measure!

PS. If you want other posts along the same lines try these:

The Reality of Being a Work At Home Mum

5 Mistakes Most Businesses Make Using Facebook

Tuesday, 22 July 2014

Should I close my Shops for the Summer Holidays?

School holidays started here yesterday and my two little munchkins are very happy to have 6 weeks off:


Yesterday we ran some errands in Gloucester (and had Slush Puppy treats) and went to the local open air swimming pool:


Both of which were fun and lovely, but it did mean that there was very little 'work time'

What I wonder is whether it would be better to close up shop(s) completely over the summer holidays and just concentrate on being a Mummy and enjoy the time off, or whether, like most self employed parents, to struggle through and do as much work as possible in moments, like now, when the little darlings are otherwise occupied (mine usually in front of the telly!)

What do you do?

Last summer, I put all my shops on vacation for a month before doing the Harrogate Home & Gift Fair


So after that had ended, which coincided with the school holidays I felt I needed to re-open my shops and get going with some work. I don't remember struggling too much last summer, which is good. I do remember spending a good portion of the holidays in the swimming pool with my two little fish!!

This year though, we will be going away for 2 weeks over the holidays, so I will have to make a decision.

I hate the idea of all the hard work I do during the rest of the year, building up followings on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Blogger, Google+, etc all dwindling down to nothing if I go on radio silence for 6 weeks and then having to really work hard again in the run up to Christmas, typically my busiest time, to build up interest again.

BUT.... I don't want to end up stressed out completely because the kids want to do stuff and I'm trying to manically keep up with everything. That leads to  A LOT of Mummy Shouting (we've learned the hard way!)

I think for this summer break I'm going to take it as it comes and if I'm struggling too much then put my shops into 'vacation mode' for a couple of weeks.

Maybe I'll just concentrate on getting some more patterns in the shops and then deactivate everything but those (as they don't require any input from me)


Decisions Decisions!

I'll let you know when I decide on anything!!

In the mean time - enjoy the sunshine!

Sunday, 13 July 2014

Headscarves for little girls

You might remember that I've posted before about going into Seren's class at school to help when they're having arty crafty days...

Well, I was asked to do something a little different a couple of weeks ago. Seren's teacher asked me if I'd make a handful of headscarves for some of the girls in Reception as one of the little girls had been off school unwell and one of the results of her condition was that some of her hair had fallen out. This little one was coming back to school, but in order for her not to feel left out, the teacher asked me to make a special headscarf for the little girl who'd been ill and also some for the other girls to wear.

I was so touched to be asked to make these headscarves, so I made a really pretty one with flowers and the little girl's name.

Here's my favourite of the plain ones:


And here's a photo of Seren & her friend at their school sports day:


I had actually googled to see if this sort of thing existed quite a while ago, when I thought about making myself one after I sunburned my parting one very hot day (don't ask!) but there wasn't anything very pretty or fun at the time and certainly not for kids, so I really liked the challenge of making these.

Not only did I need to design them (without pinning the material to Seren's head this was a bit of a challenge at times!) but also as it was working with cotton, not felt.... most of you will know that one of the main reasons I like working with felt is that it doesn't fray!!

I think it's quite good to come out of your comfort zone every now and then.... it makes you so proud of what you can achieve!

What have you done recently that was out of your comfort zone? And if you haven't... what could you try? You might just surprise yourself!!

Monday, 30 June 2014

How To: Christmas in July Felt Candle Tutorial

I know, I know.... it's the middle of Summer (and yes, it even feels like it here in the UK!) but it is July and that means only one thing..... Christmas In July!

This is an American 'thing' that's become quite big, especially for us designers and makers of handmade goods.


For the last couple of years I've taken part in the the Etsy-wide Christmas In July sale and this year I've also teamed up with a lovely bunch of ladies for a tutorial link-up, run by the fab Deby at So Sew Easy and this is what I'll be showing you how to make:


You will need:

1 Piece of White Felt 10cm x 18cm
2 Pieces of Yellow Felt 2cm x 3cm
2 Pieces of Orange Felt 3cm x 4cm
Seed Beads
Ribbon
Embroidery thread to match the felt
Pins, Scissors, Templates

Instructions:

1. Using 2 strands of yellow embroidery thread, sew one yellow flame onto one orange flame, with a simple running stitch. Repeat with the other yellow & orange flame.

2 & 3. Place the ribbon in between your orange flame pieces (with the yellow flames on the outside of your sandwich) so that the loop is at the top and the tails are both at least an inch below the bottom of the flame sandwich.

4. Sew up the orange flame pieces using 2 strands of orange embroidery thread. Again use a running stitch.



5. Fold over one of the short ends of the white felt rectangle, about an inch in and pin the ribbon to one end.

6. Sew the ribbon into place with a couple of stitches. These won’t be visible when you are finished, so don’t worry about colour or neatness.

7. Then roll up the white felt piece as tightly as possible. Pin it together to stop it unravelling while you sew up the edge with a single strand of white thread. Sew it using a neat whip stitch. Then tie off the thread, but don’t cut it.

8. Then using a very slim needle, thread seed beads along the white thread until you have enough to wrap around the candle in a spiral. Wrap the seed bead thread around the candle in a spiral and sew the end of the thread tightly to the bottom of the candle. 



WELL DONE - YOU HAVE A CANDLE CHRISTMAS DECORATION!


This tutorial is for personal use only, but please feel free to make as many of these candle decorations for friends and family as you would like. If you would like to reference this tutorial anywhere online or in person, please feel free to borrow a picture, but please do link back here for the full tutorial.

Happy Christmas (In July!)



Wednesday, 25 June 2014

Teaching Pre-School Sewing

Just a quickie today as I'm putting together a Christmas in July Tutorial (I know - seems FAAAAAAR too early to think about Christmas!!)

But last week and the week before I went into my son's nursery class to teach them some sewing - they LOVED making their creations. (You may remember that I did this last year with my daughter when she was in the pre-school class)

The first week was quite simple, they just sewed a heart onto a background using a simple running stitch:

I then added their names, using a sharper needle as I'd had to punch holes in the felt for the kids to sew using plastic needles.

The the following week they made piggie finger puppets, which they LOVED doing and according to all the Mums & Dads, they were incredibly proud of their puppets, which made my heart sing!

Patrick's Girlfriend :-)
Just like his Mummy, Sewing & Chatting!!

























Can't caption the two pics above, but they are Patrick's best friend and his girlfriend!! It's SO cute how much these 4 love each other!

Anyway, I digress.... for the pig finger puppets, I made up the faces & ears and punch the holes in the puppets and then the kids sewed them up, using plastic needles again and with a whip stitch (mostly!!)


What's also really fantastic is that the nursery owners have asked me to go back next year, when I won't have any children at the nursery! Will be so nice as this age are SO excited to be doing new things and show such joy when they do it well!

Now.... for me, back to Christmas decorations!!

Monday, 9 June 2014

Superman How To - Father's Day Felty Tutorial

I was thinking about Father's Day the other week, late as always in this household! And I realised that there aren't many things that I make that my husband would be that into receiving... but something made by the kids, is always a hit.

As I was trying to think what I could do a little tutorial on, I over heard my kids playing a make believe game. Seren was Bat Girl, Patrick was Spider Man and Daddy was Superman... because as Patrick pointed out - he can do ANYTHING! So sweet. Also, so helpful when designing this:


This will join the others on my Tutorial Page and is a nice easy one, so plenty of time before Father's Day this year (or SuperDad's Day as it's now going to be known in our house!)

You will need:

2 pieces of royal blue felt (15cm x 10cm each)
1 piece of red felt (15cm x 20cm)
1 piece of yellow felt (12cm x 9cm)
Embroider thread in royal blue, red, yellow and black (2 strands of each colour)
1 piece of ribbon (optional)
Scissors
Pins
Templates (at the end of this tutorial)

NB: If a younger child was making this you could omit the sewing at each step and use glue instead. They would just need a bit of help with the embroidering of the word 'Daddy'

Process:


1. Cut out the red 'S', the yellow background and the red back ground. Pin the 'S' onto the yellow background.

2. Blanket stitch (or whip stitch) the 'S' onto the yellow felt. Don't do the outside edges of the 'S' as they will be done in step 4.

3. Embroider the word 'Daddy' or 'Dad' (your choice) in black thread onto the 'S'. If need be you can use a pencil or disappearing ink pen to mark the letter placement and then sew over the writing.

4. Blanket (or whip) stitch the yellow felt onto the red background. This is where you can sew up the outside edges of the 'S'


5. Pin the whole lot onto both pieces of the royal blue felt and cut out leaving a 1/2cm boarder around the edge.

6. Blanket stitch (or whip stitch) the red felt onto the blue felt, all the way round.

7. If you are using a ribbon, place the ends between the two blue felt layers, pin in place and then stitch up. If you're not using the ribbon just pin the two blue layers together and blanket stitch together.

8. WELL DONE - you're finished!

I hope you've enjoyed this tutorial - obviously you don't have to use the Superman colours, it would look great in any colours and could be adapted for a SuperMum or SuperGran or anyone Super!


Please feel free to make as many of these as you'd like for personal use, but please do not make them to sell or reproduce this tutorial/templates without referring back to this blog - thanks.

Tuesday, 27 May 2014

How to Entertain your kids on Rainy Days - Treasure Maps

Predictably for the UK, the Whitsun half term has started with rain.

So to keep the kids entertained this afternoon and using the Treasure Map that I'm making for Patrick as inspiration, we've been on a treasure hunt!

The map I'm making for Patrick is for his wall (and to be taken down ans played with) as he has a pirate themed bedroom in the making. So far I've got this done on it:


Which Patrick is over the moon with (phew!) And Seren helped him make this treasure map after lunch:


Once they were suitably distracted, tidying up (wonders will never cease!) I hid two kinder eggs and they happily spent the next 35 minutes being pirates on an expedition.

Their reward? Well, I captured Seren before hers disappeared, but wasn't quick enough to get a snap of Patrick!


You may remember last year I shared a Pirate Eye Patch and a Pirate Sword tutorial on the blog, have fun with those for your little pirates' adventures!




Thursday, 22 May 2014

Flower Tutorials Link Up

Earlier in the week I posted my Felt Pansy Bookmark Tutorial which was created as part of the Link Up over at Bugs and Fishes... sorry for the delay, but here are the rest of the flowery tutorials that were created by some very talented ladies:

I love all of these tutorials, but being a feltie, my favourite has to be the Felt Poppies!

All the links are below the following pics

Dandelion Puff Embroidery Pattern - Hugs are Fun

Paper Flowers - Life is Like a Triple Chocolate Cookie

Super Cute Scandi Style Embroidery - Hoogally

Felt Flower Brooch - Little Black Duck


Buzzzzz - Unexpected Kitty

Felt Pansy Bookmark - Grace's Favours (Me! Yay!)

Flower Power - Pickle-Lily

Easy Love Heart Cozy - Sara's Texture Crafts


Felt Poppies - i ManuFatti
Flowers Embroidery Pattern - Bugs and Fishes
Fabric Flower Necklace - Made by Mrs M
Improvised Foundation Pieced Posy Block - Two Little Aussie Birds


Hope you all enjoy going through these as much as I did - I'm off to make some felt poppies now :-)

Monday, 19 May 2014

How To Make A Felt DIY Pansy Flower Bookmark Tutorial

You may remember at Christmas last year I took part in a Link Up run by Laura, who pens the gorgeous blog Bugs & Fishes

My contribution was How to Make Reusable Felt Gift Tags


Well, Laura's running another Link Up today and this time the topic is Flowers.

I had been trying to decide which flower to work on, when I went past a friend's garden last week and saw these beauties:


So I thought I'd share a tutorial on how to make a Felt Pansy Flower and turn it into a bookmark:


You Will Need:

Small Scraps of Yellow Felt
Small Scraps of Purple Felt
Ribbon
Button
Purple Embroidery Thread
Glue

Instructions:

1. Cut out all the felt pieces using the template at the end of the tutorial and arrange the pansy pieces as follows:


2. Using 2 strands of purple embroidery thread, start sewing on the detail. Use a combination of small and longer straight stitches, pulling the thread as tightly as you feel you can (without it snapping!) as you want to ruck up the petals a bit to give them some definition:


3. Cut a length of ribbon, using a book as your guide. I used a book that is typical of the size books I read, but if you wanted to make this for a child you might want it a little shorter:


4. Glue the front of the ribbon to the back of your pansy and then glue a circle of purple felt over the back of the ribbon and the pansy:


5. Add the button of your choice to the bottom of the ribbon using the purple embroidery thread:


Well Done :-D You have a Felt Pansy Bookmark!!


Hope you've enjoyed this tutorial. As always, it'll be on the main Tutorials Page along with all the others and linked up over at Bugs and Fishes... I'll do a post later in the week with all the others in the link up if you've come here via a different route.



PS. I did make some other sizes of pansies when trying out this tutorial - the medium one is on the template, but the two little ones I just did freehand:


I have also got a range of patterns that are for sale which you can find in my Etsy Shop and my Craftsy Shop - if you'd like a pattern for something specific, do let me know and if I think it'll be a popular one I'd be happy to draft it :-D

Thursday, 15 May 2014

Felt Rainblow Cloud Baby Mobile Pattern

I am taking part in the Etsy School SEO Month at the moment. As part of that, we have to look at the stats that Etsy provide for us sellers and disseminate them into something meaningful, about what works, what doesn't, where we might be able to improve, etc.

One of the things that I noticed was that my two most popular items in the last couple of months are these two (click on the pictures for links to the listings in my Etsy Shop):



The multi cloud mobile is actually the more popular of the two, but in order to turn that one into a pattern I'd need to provide instructions for making the hanger, which at the moment is the weak link, in that I get a friend to make them for me!

So onto the 2nd most popular item, the wall hanging.

This was much more straight forward to turn into a pattern. So last week, I locked myself away for a couple of days and....... Voila!


Making a pattern is a funny thing. You know exactly how you make something you're familiar with, but designing a pattern is quite a different thing. You need to be sure that the order you're giving people is actually the most sensible, because whilst I might be able to sneak something to an item after I've supposedly finished an hide the evidence that I did it that way, it's not ideal to suggest other people do it!

You also need to take good clear photos and label them all... this takes a LOT longer than I'd like, but as they are essential to my patterns, they're a necessary evil!

You can find the pattern in my Etsy Shop and also on Craftsy, along with all my other patterns for sale.

Any of the finished items that I make are potentials for being turned into a pattern, so if there's anything you'd specifically like to see, please feel free to shout out suggestions!

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