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, 21 April 2014

Room on The Broom - another Julia Donaldson Forest Trail

Happy Easter everyone!

Hope you're all full of chocolate and excitement like these little munchkins:

There were a LOT of joyous whoops from the 4 youngest members of the party this weekend when it was announced after the Easter Egg hunt we would be going back to the same place as last year, which was then a Gruffalo's Child Forest Trail, but which is now a Room on The Broom Forest Trail!

All 4 of the children (we had two little friends staying for the weekend who are 2 and 3) love the Room on the Broom story and were really keen to see how the story had been brought to life... both by the magnificent chainsaw sculptures and the real life Witch & Dragon they saw:

Patrick inspecting the Wand and the Witch's Broom

Not sure about that Dragon!!
(but the row of Gruffalo's Children in the background are impressive!)

Seren, Evie and Patrick riding on the Witch's new broomstick

But far more fun was watching Uncle Olly try and climb the totem pole in the playground!

Not even Patrick!!
And of course who could resist dressing up
as the Witch?

The Forest of Dean Heritage Centre is definitely worth a visit if you are in the area and if you live close enough to visit twice in a year, then the annual family pass is a very sensible buy as our two request to go at least once a month and EVERY time we have weekend visitors (children or adults!)

We had a great Easter weekend... but now there is much chocolate to eat up and surely an afternoon film to snooze in front of!

Sunday, 20 April 2014

The Reality of Being a Work At Home Mum

A couple of weeks ago I was asked a series of questions by one of the lovely Mollie Makes journalists, about how Social Media affects one's creativity.

Before I really stopped and thought about it, I always viewed social media as a stupendously good thing.

Okay, yes, there is the fact that I have limited time to work and spending 79% of my time oggling beautiful images and adding them to my boards on Pinterest isn't really a productive way of spending my time... but it does get me in the mood for creating beautiful things. Even if I then remember that I have zero talent to create half of the beautiful things I've just seen as I don't know one end of a glass-makers-tool-kit from another and I totally failed woodwork at school. But still - they're SO pretty!!

But then I started to honestly think about what social media does to our creativity.

Take Facebook for example. In my news feed there are always at least two or three other WAHM's who not only have 16 more children than I do, but they also seem to find time to bake with their children (their beautiful efforts then being shared on FB), they manage to develop, create, product test, beautifully photograph and add to their websites new ranges of products on what seems like a daily basis. AND they also manage to find witty things to say, throughout the day, which generate loads of comments and likes, from around the same number of 'fans' as I have on my page.... all whilst apparently not even breaking into the nearest box of chocolates!

I on the other hand, never manage to get more than 10 minutes peace and quiet before WWIII breaks out in the playroom over whether the kids are watching CBeebies or CBBC (I know, I know - not to mention the guilt that I'm once again using the telly as a babysitting device so I can have some 'work time') and then when I do get some time to myself, I waste it turning green with envy over these 'oh-so-much-more-successful-and-productive-and-professional-and-well-put-together-domestic-goddesses' all whilst munching my way through a sneakily grabbed packed of chocolate hobnobs (hidden in part because a) Weight Watchers' doesn't really approve of eating a whole packet in one go and b) because the children aren't allowed chocolate during the week and certainly never at 9.30am!!!!)

Then once WWIII has threatened to break out more than 4 times in half an hour, I give up yelling down the hall for them to 'play nicely together or else!' and resort to stomping in (whilst brushing biscuit crumbs from around my mouth) and screeching loudly that I'll bang their BLEEPING heads together if they don't pack it in!!!

Then stomp back, feel totally horrendous for shrieking at them, email my husband and complain that the kids are behaving like little toads and that I have far too much to do in my busy, busy day and then get back to reading a blog post, showing a wonderfully put together tutorial for something I'd thought about doing, but once again hadn't gotten around to and realise it's pointless trying to get anything creative done now, so I might as well go to the shops for more hobnobs!

Okay. Some of that may be a teensy bit exaggerated. I mean, obviously, I'd never eat a WHOLE packet of chocolate hobnobs without being found out (my youngest has a homing beacon like nothing you've seen when it comes to the rustle of a packet of something yummy being opened!) but really, other than that, it's pretty much spot on.

The problem is, I suspect, we ALL feel like that quite often. What gets reported online is often not the actual truth, but the sanitized, more idyllic version of what we'd like our lives to be like. Like the advert for a national hotel chain says... there's the real you and then there's the online you.

But when everyone else seems to have got their shit together and you're having a pants day, it really does zap a lot of creativity out of you.

So, the end result is often that I give up on trying to get the children to entertain themselves, end up taking them out (because they behave so much better out of the house) for the day, sneaking emails and a bit of social media time in on my smart phone from the playground and then trying to make up for it in the evening, after they've gone to bed and when I'm tired and not feeling much like doing anything except for slobbing out in front of Nashville with yet more chocolate and some wine!

Don't even get me started on where to fit in some exercise in all of this hive of inactivity... that's simply too much to bear.

Thursday, 3 April 2014

Welcome to Spring!

Well, it's the 3rd of April, so Spring is definitely here and hopefully we'll not have too many April showers as we've seen quite enough of them for a while!

The Penny Rug Pattern I was working on last week is now finished, you can find in my Etsy Shop

I really really enjoyed making this and I hope to start creating more of these gorgeous candle mats, or if you'd rather just good old household decorations... I've all sorts of summery ideas buzzing round my head now, but in the mean time have a lovely batch of orders to work on, including name banners, wedding campervans and baby shoes:

In other exciting news.... I've got an Easter Tutorial up my sleeve which hopefully I'll be publishing early next week - Yay!

Thursday, 27 March 2014

Felt Penny Rug Pattern for my 100th Blog Post!


I knew today was auspicious and I've just discovered this my 100th blog post - so that's a pretty good start! (Can't believe how far I've come since that 1st Blog Post back in 2012!)

I'm working on something completely new for me - a penny rug (candle mat) - for those who haven't come across penny rugs before, they were made popular during the Civil War in America, when women would use scraps of material (clothes, bedspreads, etc) and using pennies (hence the name) and other coins, they would make table decorations, runners, bedspreads, wall hangings, etc with patterns made out of the cloth circles, all sewn together.

These are examples of some of the early penny rugs:

Source: The Savvy Seeker

Source: York Mountain Mercantile Blog

Source: Primatives By The Light of The Moon Blog

These early style penny rugs are very primitive and don't necessarily appeal to that many people nowadays, but the more modern style is very popular in America and is starting to filter over here (the UK) with the increase of hand crafted homewares rising in popularity.

Here are some beautiful examples that I've seen whilst doing some research for creating my own pattern:

Source: Flickr

Source: Pinterest

Source: Etsy

As we're approaching Easter, I thought I'd try an Easter Bunny Rabbit pattern for my first Penny Rug pattern.... here are a couple of work in progress shots:

Please excuse the 'not-great-taken-with-my-phone' pics, but I'm keen to get on with it and try to finish it up today... Hmmmm....!

Hopefully I'll have the pattern ready for my Etsy Shop by the weekend.

Sunday, 23 March 2014

And the Winner Is........

Drum Roll please......

Congratulations Carol Massey!

Your very own cuddly rainbow will be winging it's way to you tomorrow.

Thank you so much to everyone who entered - it's been a real pleasure running this giveaway as so many people have entered and left such lovely comments. So I thought I'd organise a little treat especially for those who entered... keep an eye on your inboxes tomorrow!

Saturday, 15 March 2014

Spring Giveaway - Felt Rainbow Plushie Cushion

It's HIGH time I organised another giveaway, I thought to myself last September (and even more so when I made this).... and, erm, it would now appear to be March! Whoops!

Which could make me any of these:

Hehe, only kidding... but I was playing about with the letters and these were the, ah, more polite versions of the silly words I was creating!

Anyway. As I failed miserably last year, I'm giving away one of my newest and most favourite creations to one lucky winner:

It's a cushion, a cuddly toy or a wall hanging, depending on how you want to use it! But it brings smiles to everyone's faces and it could be yours!

It measures 12" (30cm) wide by 10" (25cm) tall (not including the ribbon)

The competition runs from midnight tonight (Sat 15th March) until Midnight on Sunday 23rd March and is open to entrants worldwide (includes free P&P)

To enter, follow the instructions below, but as a hint, you'll need to have a look round the Etsy Shop

To give you an idea of the size - here it is being modeled by my 5 and 3 year old's

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Wednesday, 12 March 2014

St Patrick's Day Decorations

I LOVE St Patrick's Day. Not just because I'm married to a 'Plastic Paddy' (for those of you new to the term, it means one who was born outside of Ireland, but to Irish parents and considers the Emerald Isle to be Home with a capital H!) but because I love the colour green and I love any excuse to decorate and be silly. Oh and it's a reason to base some excitable drinking and singing, which is always good in my book!

You may remember last year, I wrote a post introducing some new, limited edition items to my store:

These two are still available in my Etsy Shop until the end of March.

I've not managed to add to the St Patrick's Range this year, but I have created a Lucky Shamrocks tutorial for the lovely folk over at Felt Makes Magazine

There are loads of cool things to make in this quarterly magazine, so it's well worth having a look at!

Hope you have a wonderful Paddy's Day and...... Enjoy the Craic!

Tuesday, 11 March 2014

5 Mistakes Most Businesses Make Using Facebook

My friend and college over at Uniquely UK, Erika (she who makes divine jewellery!) recently wrote a blog post about Getting Facebook Updates and it prompted me to think about how we use Facebook as small business owners and where we all typically go wrong.

Using Facebook as a promotional tool, a marketing tool is a new concept to a lot of us. Especially those who are used to traditional marketing methods, like advertising, direct marketing (leaflet drops), press releases and sponsored links. All of these cost money and for most small businesses out there, especially newly formed businesses with little or no capital backup, these are simply unattainable.

I recently shared a post whereby the 'payment' for some work was a quarter page advert in the Craftseller Magazine:

This advert would have cost me £250 plus VAT which is far more than I could afford for one month's worth of advertising, even in a great magazine like this.

So we are left with the ever popular 'free advertising' that can be done on social media sites like Facebook.

Here are 5 of the things that most business page owners will do on Facebook, why they're not good and what you can do instead:

1. Liking from a business page

A like from a business page doesn't count towards your total number of likes, as seen here:

Now while this isn't really a problem for the business page doing the 'liking' it will potentially bother the owner of the page you are liking. Whilst it isn't all about the 'likes' counter, it is important to most of us as a reflection of how many people potentially we can reach with our products and how many potential customers we have. You are much more likely to get a visit (and hopefully a 'like') in return if you like the fellow business page from your personal page and leave a comment such as "Just visiting your gorgeous page, love the XXX you make! Simmi from @Grace's Favours xxx"

2. Not posting often enough

In order to keep up interest in your page, you need to be posted content at least once a day in an ideal world. This is easy for some of us, who like me, are practically glued to their computer or smart phone... ahem... but for others, this poses a real time management issue.

Did you know you can schedule posts? It's really easy:

Write your post as normal and then click on the little clock icon in the bottom left hand corner of the box
Choose the date and time you want the post released and click 'Schedule'
Note: UTC means Coordinated Universal Time or as we more often know it, GMT - Greenwich Mean Time.

3. Just posting product links

One thing that puts me off quicker than anything else on any social media platform (twitter, facebook, blogs, etc) is when a business just posts links to it's new products and listings. Nothing else, no behind the screens tidbits, no work in progress photos, no chatty posts to help you get to know the person behind the business, just links to products.

If I come across a business doing this, I unfollow and unlike quickly. As a customer/potential customer you need to feel interested in the business page and engaged with them. The best pages for this are the ones who share a great mix of product photos and links, information about their workspace, or what they find hard to motivate themselves to do for their business or stories about disasters - everyone loves a good disaster - it's happened to us all, but we do like the reassurance that even the most organised, together of business owners don't get it right all the time!

4. Not interacting with networking pages

This is a debatable issue as some people get a lot more out of this practice than others. I have wasted many many hours (more than I care to admit!) on networking pages like UK Mums Who Make or I Run A Small Business trawling through posts, leaving comments with links to my products, posting about new products that I've made, etc BUT.... there are times when it's really worth putting up a post on a networking page. If you have a new product to shout about, especially one which is relevant to an upcoming event like Easter or St Patrick's Day, it can boost your reach enormously to interact with the appropriate networking pages.

If you are a new business, or just new to Facebook, it can definitely be worthwhile checking out some of these networking pages and seeing if your products are of interest to customers (a lot of customers do post on these pages when they're looking for something specific) and if they're sensibly priced, appealingly photographed, etc.

Last year, when I released my St Patrick's Day Cuddly Campervan I posted it to a couple of the different networking sites on Facebook and within 1 week it generated me 7 sales! (luckily I had some already made up!)

5. Paying to promote your page

This is another contentious issue. The 'reach' (the number of people who see your posts) is dropping and Facebook have admitted that this is because they want businesses to pay to 'promote their page' Most small businesses don't feel that this is fair and can't afford to. I was lucky enough to be given some advertising by Facebook and as it wasn't going to cost me anything, I did use it. My 'likes' went through the roof. But, although they were genuine people, they weren't really potential customers as most of them have never interacted with my page and have never made a purchase. This seems like a false economy to me. I would have been really put out if I'd paid for the advertising and got no sales as a result.

I hope this has been of some use to you, but if you do have any questions, please feel free to drop me a comment here or come and pester me on Facebook

Tuesday, 18 February 2014

Craft, Hobby & Stitch International at the NEC

Yesterday was the start of the 2014 CHSI event at the huge and amazing NEC:

I hadn't planned on attending this year, as it's more relevant to retailers, looking for suppliers of craft and stitch products, but I was invited to attend the British Craft Awards, which was being hosted by Immediate Media, who I made the hearts for last week so I thought it would be a good networking opportunity.

I met up with a friend who lives near Birmingham and we had a lovely, child-free, husband-free day, we nattered, shopped, drank copious cups of tea and had a great time!

I stopped by the CRS Fur Fabric stand and bought a small fortune's worth of teddy bear making materials (guess what'll be coming this way soon?!) and also some lovely ribbon from Unitrim which I'm really excited about getting my hands on!

I also had a very exciting conversation with a lady who manufactures soft toy kits.... but more of that to come soon (hopefully!)

The awards ceremony was a lovely event:

The awards were mainly for retailers, best retail websites, best gadgets and most useful products, etc but it was hosted in a conference room just up from the main hall the exhibition takes place in, there was a lovely buffet and free bar laid on and the amazing Singing Waiters who had us all in stitches!

For me this was just a nice extra at the end of a good day at the show and a bit of gentle networking, which is always useful.

All in all, a great day.

Oh, and I nearly forgot... the rest of the hearts that I made for Immediate Media!!

All packaged up, ready for the postie :-)

I might be a little quiet for the rest of the week as it's half term and we're out everyday (trying to keep my little monsters busy and wear them out!) so have a lovely week everyone!

Saturday, 8 February 2014

Hearts for Craftseller's owner Immediate Media

Well, I had a very exciting moment on Thursday when I responded to a post that I'd seen CraftSeller Magazine's Facebook page:

So I emailed Jane straight away and was delighted to receive a reply within the hour saying, yes please, they'd love me to make the hearts!!


So I immediately had a panic... 50 hearts in 5 days, I could manage that, right? Er, lets hope so!

I wanted to make them a bit more exciting than just gingham so (having first confirmed that they were happy for me to be more adventurous!) I set about creating my hearts.

These are the first 3 designs:

I'm really pleased with them so far, although they're SO fiddly to make as they're only 6cm by 6cm!

This is what the backs look like:

They're taking quite a long time, but definitely worth doing right as they'll be going to advertisers and agencies that Immediate Media work with as part of a promotion for Craftseller, which is very exciting as it means my little hearts will be heading out to all sorts of different companies and will also be passing under the eyes of the editor of Craftseller and the other crafty publications that Immediate Media run.

Normally I try not to work too much at the weekend, so I can spend time with my husband and my kids, but this weekend my lovely husband has taken the kids out for a day of fun (which I'm secretly jealous of missing out on) so I can crack on.... So I suppose I'd best go and make sure I have lots to show for my alone-time!

Have a good weekend xxx

PS. I've already had an enquiry about turning these little beauties into Pincushions, so keep an eye on the Etsy Shop and the Uniquely UK website for them!

Monday, 3 February 2014

Sewing for my Kids

When I first started sewing, I made loads of things for my kids. Since it's become my day job, I make less and less for them, which I constantly feel guilty about, especially when they ask if every pretty, brightly coloured object is for them!

So this weekend I did some sewing just for them, and just because I could.

Seren had spotted this gorgeous 'make your own kit' on my Facebook news feed:

From Clara & Macy: Do you fancy a 'get your very own squirrel kit first before they are available anywhere else and at a super marvellous price' kind of offer. You do? Of course you do! 

Okay so I'm offering 20 squirrel kits with a super pre-launch offer of 30% off their usual price of £18. That makes them a mere £12.60. 

P&P is £1 for the UK, £2.50 for Europe, £3.50 for everywhere else.

The lovely Laura from Clara & Macy has designed a new kit which is going on sale soon and this was a chance to get one before they were on general release.

Initially I said no, I wouldn't buy one for Seren as I could make her something similar without needing to spend anything (as I already had the felt, threads & stuffing), but then I thought that a) she said she liked this and copying it would be wrong and b) it would be quite nice to sit with all the things I needed, with the instructions and pattern all worked out for me, by someone else and just do what I was told, rather than trying, reworking, retrying, getting annoyed, leaving it for 2 weeks, coming back to it later.... etc!

So I got the kit. I was thinking maybe Seren could try sewing it herself, but it's a bit too advanced for her (the packaging says 8+ and I think that's about right) Seren is only 5 and although I like to think she's advanced... I didn't want to set her up to fail with something too fiddly.

I was really pleased that when I measured it all out, there was actually enough felt in there to make 2 squirrels, because of course as soon as Patrick saw it, he needed one too!

So here are the two finished squirrels: (Ellie, Seren's one on the left and Bertie, Patrick's one on the right)

Front and back of the squirrels

Irritatingly not as neat as the one on the box!!

The gorgeous packaging the kit came in, including a Clara paper doll and clothes (Seren's claimed that!)
I think the kits are lovely. They do expect a level of experience, not in terms of understanding the instructions, but in terms of getting the finished product looking anywhere near as cute as the one on the box... my first attempt shows Bertie (on the right of the pic above) with very skewiff eyes and not the neatest of stitching. But Ellie (2nd attempt) fared better!

In terms of the time it took me to create these little critters... I started at 5pm on Saturday evening and finished at about 11.30pm the same evening.

As I'd expected, I needed to add more stuffing and a tiny bit of extra brown felt for the second one, but to make one squirrel, there's more than enough of everything you need in the kit and I'd definitely recommend them to anyone who wants something cute and fun to make, without needing a sewing machine or too many fancy stitches.

The other bit of sewing I did was in honour of Chinese New Year and it was to make a couple of dragons on sticks to be taken into school today:

I spotted something similar to this funny little dragony chap on a google search and decided that I could adapt it quite easily to make up a couple of dragons on a Sunday evening... so that's what I did.

The kids loved parading them off into school today and I really enjoyed the stress free experience of making things this week, just to be enjoyed and played with by my two little monsters!

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