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!

Saturday, 14 December 2013

Creating Felt Baby Mobiles

As regular readers of this blog will know, I have joined with a group of other UK based artists, designers and creators to try and highlight the quality of Handmade products in this country. The new website is called Uniquely UK

We have started a blog, to try and raise the profile of the site and I recently wrote a piece about the process of creating a bespoke item for a customer.

The item in question was 3 enormous cloud baby mobiles, definitely the largest things I'd ever tackled!

If you want to hear more about the steps I went through to get to this point of having a 3.5 foot wide cloud hanging in the only room in my house with a high enough ceiling to take a decent photo, have a read here

Monday, 2 December 2013

Tutorial: How to Ladder Stitch - The Secret to Hidden Sewing

I've been thinking about how good demonstrating ladder stitch would be for my first video tutorial and for anyone who's seen my Facebook posts this week will know that I've been manically producing large rainbow coloured raindrops for a collection of huge baby mobiles that are due to be sent off tomorrow to The States.

So I've created the following video to show how to sew up a stuffed object (such a soft toy, a cushion, part of a baby mobile like this) without your stitches showing. Ladder stitch is a wonderful took, that once learnt will make all your stuffed plush creations look so much more professional.


 Feel free to leave any comments below, especially if you have any questions. Hopefully as I get more practice at making video tutorials they'll get a bit more professional too!

 Thanks for watching :-)

Sunday, 24 November 2013

One Pitfall of Running a Small Business - Scam Artists

This blog post isn't a happy one really, although thankfully in neither experience did I lose any money, but I wanted to share a couple of potential scams that have been tried on me in the last couple of months.

The first was a lady who contacted me from a shop abroad, wanting to buy a large quantity of my products for her shop.

I was suspicious from the start because she only chose items that appear on my gallery page:

Which I thought was a bit odd as there's so many different things in my shop, but the one thing that wasn't listed at the time was the 'Specs' case.

However initially I couldn't see where the scam was, so I cautiously went along with it, got very quietly excited and started panicking about how I was going to fulfill this mammoth order!

The scam appeared when the buyer announced that her shipping company, who already had some of her goods from another small business, needed paying by me because of a problem at their end accepting her credit card using their machine and she did not use PayPal, so wanted me to pay the shipping company £300 which she would reimburse me.

It's such a ridiculously small amount in some way, but obviously to a small company that is a large amount of money.

This situation in itself did not upset me overly as I knew it sounded too good to be true really and I was just glad to be able to move on.

However the second one really has upset me.

A lady called, ostensibly from a children's charity, asking if I'd like to place an ad in their magazine, which is published quarterly. As it was a local (or so I thought) charity, I said yes and the fee was £100 plus VAT, which again, although quite a large amount for my business, was something that I felt comfortable doing given that it was advertising and it was helping a local children's charity.

When it came down to it though, it turns out that this is not a real charity and although they would have sent me a copy of the first quarter's 'magazine' - it is not actually published and distributed anywhere else!

I found a number of forums where people had experienced this whole scenario from start to finish, dating back to Feb 2010, all for the same alleged charity.

Again, I was lucky in that I found out before I'd parted with any money, but I am absolutely disgusted. I am quite a trusting person by nature and I know sometimes I need to be more cynical, but a children's charity?!

I really don't want to have to be the sort of person who goes into every situation doubting the truth and validity of people who approach me, but at the same time, not only could it be potentially very costly, but also such a waste of my time, giving thoughts & putting groundwork into these situations.

Anyway. This is the first post of this type I've done, but I thought it was worthwhile as there are bound to be other people who have already or will be approached by these despicable individuals and it's not something I'd really given any thought to in terms of being a business owner.

I'm going to cheer myself up now with some Terry's Chocolate Orange and a Cuppa, whilst reading everyone else's Handmade Monday posts. Hopefully more cheery news from me in the next post!

Wednesday, 20 November 2013

Crafty Christmas Tutorial Link Up - Free Christmas Tutorials & DIYs

Remember how I said that my Gingerbread Man Felt Gift Tag Tutorial was part of a link up?

Well I've got the details of all the other fantastic tutorials that make up the link up!

The Lovely Laura (BugsandFishes) has put together 30 amazing looking tutorials for you guys to have some crafty fun with over the festive period this year!

Mosaic A

Mosaic B
The links to the individual tutorials can be found on Laura's blog or you can follow the links here, but you'll need to refer back to the 2 mosaic pics above.

(Links for mosaic A)

Christmas Trinket Hoop Mobile – Carina’s Craft Blog

Felt Polar Bear Ornament – La Creature and You

Christmas Hoop – Claire Payne

DIY Christmas Ribbon – Adventures & Tea Parties

Embroidered Mistletoe Ornament – Bugs and Fishes

Scented Salt Dough Ornaments – Retro Delicious

Polymer Clay Christmas Tree – Little Creatures

Felt Christmas Tree Toy – Pinwheels and Stories

(Links for mosaic B)

Let it Snow Embroidery Pattern – A Little Happy Place

Holiday Ribbon Pillow – Mrs. Saint Nick

Felt Gingerbread Man Gift Tag – Grace’s Favours (ME!!)

Edible Christmas Ornaments – Hydrangea Girl

Cross Stitch Christmas Trees – Made by Mrs M

Applique Love Christmas Card – Halcyon Threads

Christmas Mini Mitts – The Crimson Rabbit

Felt Reindeer Ornament – Pickle-Lily

Christmas Carousel – Aura Verde Crafts

Phewey.... that is a LOT of crafty goodness! 

I hope you get to visit some of these fab sites and would love to see any gift tags that you make using my tutorial!

Happy Crafting!

Monday, 18 November 2013

DIY Tutorial - How to Make Christmas Felt Gift Tags

Today I'm taking part in a Christmas Tutorial Link Up, hosted by the lovely Laura of the fab Bugs & Fishes blog.

Perfect timing as I was just about to create a new tutorial for you guys after the wonderful response I had to the Pirate Sword Tutorial and the Pirate Eye Patch Tutorial from September.

I decided to make a tutorial with plenty of scope for imagination and alterations, so I've gone for reusable felt gift tags for your Christmas presents. The one I'm sharing the step-by-step photos for could also be a Christmas Tree decoration and would look very tasty nestled amongst the greenery and twinkling lights!

To make 1 Gingerbread Man Felt Gift Tag

You will need:

- 2 pieces of pale brown felt 10cm x 15cm (4" x 6")
- 1 piece of white felt approx. 9cm x 5cm (3.5" x 2")
- 1 piece of ribbon 30cm long (12")
- 3 buttons or sequins
- 2 strand thickness of each of the following embroidery threads: Black, Pale Brown & Green
- Small length of white thread (for sewing on white felt name piece)
- Water Soluble Vanishing Fabric Marker Pen
- Gingerbread Man Cookie Cutter
- Needle, scissors, pins


Step 1: Draw round your gingerbread cookie cutter onto one of the pieces of pale brown felt using the water soluble pen. Pin both pieces of pale brown felt together and cut out two gingerbread men

Step 2: Take the top gingerbread man and draw a smile and two eyes using the vanishing pen and embroider using your black embroidery thread. For the smile using a simple back stitch and for the eyes a double french knot for each eye should make them in proportion with the head. (For instructions on how to do a French Knot - click here)

Then embroider the front of this gingerbread man piece with the three buttons or sequins:

Step 3:

Cut your piece of white felt so that it will fit comfortably onto the back piece of your gingerbread man:

Then, using your water soluble pen, write out the name you want to embroider onto the white felt:

Then using your green thread, sew over the writing working from left to right, don't worry if the purple writing is still visible underneath the thread, it will fade and completely disappear within a few hours.

Step 4:

Sew the white name piece onto the back piece of your gingerbread man, using the white thread and a simple running stitch:

Step 5:

Fold the ribbon in half and sew the folded part to the inside back piece of your gingerbread man, using the pale brown embroidery thread:

Then pin the front and back pieces of the gingerbread man together and using a blanket stitch, sew all the way round your gingerbread man, until he look like this:

Well done!!

You can then tie your gift tag to a present, if you are using ribbon round the gift... or if not, you can use scotch tape or washi tape on the ribbon, which will be easily removed after the gift has been opened, so the tag can be hung on the Christmas Tree and then reused next year:

I've also made up a couple of other gift tags, all using different cookie cutters as the templates:

I hope you've enjoyed this tutorial - these are such fun little personalised touches that will make your Christmas gifts stand out. I'd love to see any that you make - I'm just putting together a post with the various Pirate Swords pics that have been sent to me by lovely readers and would be really pleased to be able to include some handmade gift tags too.

There will be another Christmas Tutorial coming your way, but through the Uniquely UK website, so keep your eyes peeled there, although I will of course link it from here.

Please feel to make as many of these as you like for personal use, but I would ask that you don't sell the finished items. Please do not reproduce any or all of the tutorial, without linking back to here.

To find the rest of the amazing tutorials that have been shared through this link up, click here.

Sunday, 10 November 2013

Remebrance Sunday - Crafting for Charity

You may remember that I mentioned a couple of weeks ago (here) that I've had a number of different poppy products in my shops specifically created for Remembrance Sunday. I do sell all the poppy goodies all year round, but any that are sold during October and up until Armistice Day are all sold on behalf of the Royal British Legion.

This year I have sold more than I ever hoped to and I'm SO grateful to everyone who's bought one and helped me raise such a wonderful amount for the Legion.

I promised that I would let you know how much money I'll be donating to the Royal British Legion and so as not to disappoint - the grand total this year, after raising £85 last year... this year, my lovely customers have helped raise a whopping £112!!!!

I am so overwhelmed by how many people have generously bought poppies from my shops - it's a tight time for everyone, but to know that we have done something really good for such a worthwhile cause has made me feel fabulous. I will be posting a cheque to the British Legion this week.

We are lucky enough to live in a village that has a wonderful Brass Band and a very active Church and community and the Memorial Hall, where the wreaths are laid each year on Remembrance Sunday is just up the road from our house, so we hear the band starting up for the service which is held almost outside our house. This is the first year we've taken our kids out to the service and they did really well, keeping the 2 minute silence and watching it all with an appropriate level of respect. I feel quite proud to be able to explain to them what today was all about and why we commemorate it.

I'm linking up to Handmade Monday for the first time in ages and I do promise to try and get round everyone this week and leave a message on all the blogs... I'm great at starting and then getting distracted by everyone's wonderful blogs!

Monday, 4 November 2013

How to Make Your Own Diwali Crafts

Happy Diwali!!

I've just spent the morning with my daughter's reception class and my son's pre-school class experiencing Diwali with 35 children - it was loud, chaotic, messy and great fun - just like all my experiences of Diwali!

I should probably explain, although I don't really look it, I am half Indian. My Dad is a Sikh and although he was born in England my Grandparents moved to London from the Punjab (which was then part of India, although now is part of Pakistan) in the 1940s during Partition.

I love all things Indian and it plays a big part in our lives, especially as we now live in Gloucestershire which is an area that doesn't have a lot of the culture locally, so we have to make sure that our children experience it at home.

So for Diwali, we have all the candles in the house lit, we decorate the patio with rangoli patterns (although yesterday was a bit too wet, so we'll have to do it tonight after school) and we eat traditional Indian sweets (a real luxury as they are so rich normally we don't have them - or none of us would be able to move for a week!)

Rangoli patterns are usually made from coloured rice flour
Diwali is the festival of light to welcome home Rama & Sita from the Forest
Gulab Jamun Sweets

So today I took into School some of these delicious Gulab Jamun sweets, bought specially at the weekend, they are sinfully rich, but so yummy - most of the children were happy to try them although not all of them liked them, but my two had second helpings (of course!)

The activities that their lovely teacher came up with included making clay pots, called Divas which hold the candles, traditionally lit to welcome Rama & Sita back from the Forest. These were made from air drying clay, which was rolled into sausage shapes and then curled round in a spiral to form the base, then another sausage shape was curled round to form the walls. Lastly some sparkly sequins and blingy hearts were added to decorate the pots.

Patrick's Diva
Seren's Diva

They coloured in colourful hands to depict the mendhi patterns drawn onto ladies hands with henna and the made rangoli patterns on the playground with coloured powder paint. The hands were made from coloured paper which the teacher had cut out and then they copied (ish!) some tradition mendhi patterns using felt pens.

The kids LOVED it! I'm so pleased to have been able to be a part of their day and really pleased to be able to share some of my heritage with a group of children who otherwise probably wouldn't have any connection to this festival.

Sunday, 27 October 2013

Guest Blog Tutorials for Halloween

I've been lucky enough to be asked if I'd like to create not one, but two new tutorials for different websites recently, both with a Halloween theme.

Both are really fun and easy makes, so there's still plenty of time to get them made in time for the spooky fun on Thursday.

The first is this super cute and rather apologetic looking ghosty finger puppet, that I have mentioned before, but I love him so much, I wanted to share him again!

This little fellow, who I think looks rather like a Graham, has been created especially for a new venture that I'm involved with, Uniquely UK which is a fantastic new website created by a group of artisans and designers who are all based in the UK and who make all their products by hand. The idea is to try and raise the profile and feeling of quality in Handmade goods within the UK.

Graham can be found here

Secondly, through a conversation on Twitter (where you can find me here) I was asked to create a special Halloweeny themed tutorial for NEDay Crafts Site, run by the lovely Vicky and here is the fun and slightly cheeky looking Paulie Pumpkin Brooch:

Paulie is one of a couple of lovely fun Halloween crafts that can be found here

Hope you manage to keep safe with the predicted bad weather heading for the UK in the next day or so and have a thoroughly spoooooooooooky Halloween!

Poppies for Remembrance Sunday

Last year I made a batch of poppies for Remembrance Sunday - they proved to be really popular and so I'm making (and selling as fast as I can make) more. This year I'm donating all the profits from poppy sales during October and November to the Royal British Legion. If you see any you like in this blog post, the links are next to all the pics to the relevant Poppy item in my Etsy Shop.

Last year I raised £85 by selling my poppies and I'm hoping to increase on that this year.

I've also increased the range of poppy items that I'm creating this year, so there are now Large and Small Poppy Brooches:

Large & Small Poppy Brooches with leaves:

Poppies as Keyrings & Hair Combs:

And Poppies as Baby Shoe Clips:

I love making these bright flowers and really love that I am doing something for the wonderful charity, The Royal British Legion. I'll let you know next month how much money we manage to raise this year.

Saturday, 12 October 2013

Spooktacular! Halloween Crafts a plenty!

It's that time of year again folks! The ghosts and ghouls are coming out to play (well my two little ones are!) and I thought I'd share a round up of spooky things for you, that can be found in my Etsy Shop or in the Uniquely UK Shop

Felt Bat Mask

Felt Ghost Finger Puppet (DIY Tutorial at www.uniquelyuk.co.uk)

Felt Pumpkin Mask

Felt Witch Mask - both finished item & PDF Pattern available at www.gracesfavours.etsy.com

There is also a very special Halloween Tutorial coming up on the lovely NEDay Blog in the next week, so keep your eyes peeled!

The ghosty finger puppet above is a free tutorial, just like the Pirate Sword and Pirate Eye Patch ones I've recently published but will be published on our fabulous new website Uniquely UK and is a really fun little Halloween craft that your kids will adore.

The Witch Mask Pattern is also available at my NEW Craftsy Shop :-D

The three masks are also going to be on sale next week at the absolutely GORGEOUS boutique in Glasgow, Rowdy Roddy Vintage

 So if you are nearby, why not pop in and say hello to the lovely lovely lovely Jolyne (who I met at the Mumpreneur UK Awards the other week) and check out all the wonderous goodies inside!

Think that's Halloween just about taken care of now... Off to bake a cake or 3 for my daughter's 5th Birthday on Monday!

Have a great weekend and make sure you pop over to Handmade Monday to check out some other fabulous blogs!

Sunday, 29 September 2013

Mumpreneur UK Awards Ceremony

Afternoon all :-)

Thank you SO much for all your support last week when I blogged to say that I'd been selected as a finalist for the Best International Trader at the Mumpreneur UK Awards this year!

I was really really really pleased to have got as far as the finals and to add to that excitement I got some lovely press coverage about it too which I blogged about midweek (although of course, being a woman, I hate the picture they used - but Patrick was happy!!)

So the awards ceremony was held yesterday in Birmingham, in the Holiday Inn, which was a lovely hotel inside, despite looking a bit less than salubrious from the outside!

Me by the entrance stand

Brian came with me as moral support (and to stop me from getting lost as I notoriously have no sense of direction!) and although he was a little dubious about the usefulness of the day (not being a small business owner and not someone who's into networking at all) but he quickly decided it had definitely been worth us coming, even if I didn't win.

We sat at a table with some lovely people... Jolyne from Rowdy Roddy Vintage & her husband Richard who'd come down from Glasgow yesterday morning (and I thought we had an early start!) and who's shop was up for the "Best Green Company" award. Fiona Hatton from The PR Garden and Sara Kennaugh from Counting Sheep

We had some amazingly inspirational speakers during the morning - Hazel Cushion from Accent Press, Ben Blackman from Very Nice Things and Anna Kennedy from Anna Kennedy Online

One thing that stood out from all of them, was not only did they not feel that they were anything special, but that they all genuinely felt that all the delegates there were seriously impressive people, managing to run businesses and families at the same time. It's one thing to hear that from your own friends and family, but to hear someone you don't know saying it and meaning it, really made me feel empowered, strong and determined.... I really feel like I've achieved something impressive and I might actually start taking some notice when people tell me now!!

There was a lovely lunch and the bar was open - hurrah! And then we had two more very interesting speakers after lunch.... and then the moment we'd all been waiting for.... the awards.......

Sadly I didn't win my category, but after all the talking up the speakers had done during the day, all the wonderful and inspiring people I'd met (and having an order placed for 30 of my Halloween masks!) I really truly didn't feel downheartened by not winning. I can honestly say I went home with a smile on my face!

I'm sorry this hasn't been a very visual post - I got too carried away tweeting people yesterday and listening that I forgot to take many photos!

So instead I'll leave you with a picture and link to my very first PDF Pattern for sale in my Etsy Shop - I was terrified of releasing this into the shop, being my first, so I'll be over the moon if I get some sales in the next couple of weeks - given the timing couldn't be better!

PDF Pattern for Felt Witch Halloween Mask

I'm off to link up with Handmade Monday and hopefully I'll get to comment on a few more this week! Enjoy!

Thursday, 26 September 2013

Press Coverage

For those of you following the blog, you'll know that I found out (at a bit of a late stage) that I have been selected as a finalist for the Mumpreneur UK awards - Best International Trader - see post here

Well I (for once) got my act together quickly and sent out a press release to all the local news outlets and one of them called me and managed to organise a journalist & a photographer to come out and see me on Monday.

Yesterday the article was published in The Citizen, a Gloucestershire based newspaper!

I hope that's clear enough to read!

As you can see Patrick managed to get in on the act and swaggered into nursery yesterday and told them all about how "he" was in the paper... no mention of me at all!!

I'll be back on Sunday with results of the awards - I'm not expecting to win (there are some seriously good companies that I'm up against) but I'll let you know :-)

Sunday, 22 September 2013

Mumpreneur Awards - making the finalist group!

Well, I have so much to share this week I don't really know where to start!!

This is my 3rd blog post this week (almost unheard of!) as I shared two Piratey tutorials for a Pirate Eye Patch and a Pirate Sword in honour of International Talk Like a Pirate Day on Thursday (September 19th)

pirate eye patch tutorial - diy felt pirate eye patch
pirate sword tutorial - diy felt pirate sword

Then I found out on Tuesday that I had been selected for the finals of the Mumpreneur UK Awards!

I was in total shock!

I entered back in January and then promptly forgot all about it and when the finalists were announced on the Mumpreneur Facebook page I had a nosey, wasn't on the list for either Best Product or Best International Seller (the two categories that I'd entered) and slunk off to lick my wounds in private.

BUT.... I got an email on Tuesday saying they'd been having some problems getting in touch with some of the finalists and here were the details of what they needed from me as I was a finalist in the Best International Seller category!


Out of approx. 1500 entries, each category is whittled down to 8-10 finalists and I was one of them! I'm over the moon :-)

Quickly put everything they needed together and emailed it all over, whilst also writing a press release for the local media, to see if it wasn't too late to get some publicity and I got a phone call yesterday saying one of the local papers will be sending a reporter & photographer out to me on Monday (tomorrow!) and the piece will be in the paper on Wednesday!

Yay.... but... wait..... "What about the tip you call a workshop?" my helpful husband asked, last night, while we were away celebrating our anniversary!

So today, I have lugged, shoved, tidied, junked, retrieved from the bin, found homes for and put up on walls all the stuff that had been covering the floor of my workshop! I still have a big pile of paper to sort though, but it does now resemble a room that someone works in, not just a fabric dumping ground gone wrong!

Need to make a curtain to hide everything under the workbench!

Sign stolen from the Home & Gift Exhibition

Finally got some of my work displaid!
So my lovelies, that's me for now... off to make some dinosaur cushions, put more things up on the walls and try and hide this big wodge of paperwork!!

Enjoy Handmade Monday!

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