Tag Archives: crochet

Presenting…..

Fanfare please!    Da da da da dum…………Big news from the nest today.   Starting from 1 February 2018 you will be able to find a selection of my products stocked in Melbourne!  I know – interstate even!   I have signed an agreement with the wonderful in.cub8r gallery and emporium, found on Smith Street in Fitzroy,  to take over one of their ‘cubes’ and make it all about tea!

After that news everything else seems a little pale in comparison, but there actually is more news!  The holiday period has been delightful.   We have had a house full of visitors several times a week, lots of kids laughing and playing, and generally sharing time happily.   And this means that I have had time to get some work done on my business.  Planning, scheduling, making and a bit of dreaming have all been happening.  I even did my filing and bookkeeping (just a few months or years overdue – ahem).   Of course this is how I was able to make the arrangements to start stocking my products in Melbourne.   There are further plans like that in the works, but I am sticking to my plan and not getting ahead of myself.

All of that lovely time to work means that there are new products in the pipeline, while some will be quietly retired as not really representing my brand.  I am eagerly awaiting some deliveries before I show you part of the new range I have planned, but can share my latest crochet pattern here today.   This came about after watching a friend put one of my cosies on her steel teapot.  I realised that it’s different shape meant that she was likely to burn her fingers putting the cosy on when the pot was full of hot water, and started looking at a design that would address the massive range of different shapes and sizes that teapots come in.   A few different ideas clicked together and the end result is this new design – classic, flexible, a little bit different and ridiculously practical despite it’s beauty!

The theory behind the design is that if you can slip a hot teapot into a cosy without having to fit the cosy over the spout and handle, the chances of being burnt are reduced.   So instead of slipping it over the top of the pot, the pot slides in from the side of the cosy, and is then fastened with a cord to shape the cosy to the pot.

The design is so simple that it provides its own embellishment and doesn’t need any added if you want to maintain that classic style.

But of course I can’t just leave things alone, so there is a rainbow and flower version coming along in the next day or so too!

Speaking of rainbows and flowers, here are two recent creations completed and listed in my online shop.   The Ladybug’s garden cosies are always popular, and everyone is unique.

And rainbows lend themselves to needing statements, so this time I added a proper statement – “Tea”.

It isn’t quite world domination by tea cosy, but it is a good start!

The next few days here are going to be extremely hot, so my plan is to move between the pool that I bought the children for Christmas (honestly one of the best ideas I have had in a long time) and the beautifully cool family room where my wool is all set up waiting for inspiration to hit while I have downtime from supervising the children making whirlpools and floating in an inflatable flamingo.

Stay cool, leave water out for the animals, and look after yourself.   This year is definitely going to be a marathon not a sprint.    (And if you are reading this in the northern hemisphere do the opposite – stay warm, and make sure your animals have shelter, but still look after yourself!)

Time is marching on

All of a sudden it is December and I am meant to be thinking about putting up the Christmas tree and getting my presents ready.   Having just finished the celebrations for my boy’s 11th birthday it came as a bit of a shock when I realised that my eldest chick finishes school this week and that Christmas is only three weeks away!  What have I been doing with myself?

The short answer is focusing on family and on making.  The longer answer includes market preparation for a market that was cancelled for technical reasons, managing medical appointments for all three children, and trying to stay on top of the basics like feeding them and keeping the house clean.  (Some of those have been more successful than others!)

My son turned 11 last week and wanted to celebrate with a sleepover with three friends. One of them couldn’t make it but the two that did come had a great time and he truly felt that he had celebrated his birthday as he wanted to.   Phew!   It was pretty low key – I took them to the movies then we came home and made pizza, then they played games, built Lego, shot Nerf guns and slept!   Gone are the days of elaborate themed cakes and parties, treasure hunts and party bags, and what a relief that is!!

I have not started on my Christmas making or buying!   With not a lot of money around there won’t be extravagant purchases this year, but there will be handmade gifts, made with love and with the person they are being made for in mind.   Now to remember to actually make the list and make the gifts!   I suspect that, like last year, pyjamas will feature heavily for the younger generation.  I like to tell them that it means that they are wrapped in love when they sleep, but really it is because you can’t have too many pairs, and they don’t have to be an exact fit!

  

As for all the  making – well that has been going well.   When the market last week was cancelled I even managed to list quite a few of my products in my shop, so feel free to have a browse at what I have there now.  A few new tea cosies, some new cacti, jewellery, and even bookmarks have found their way onto my workbench over the last few weeks.  I did a big analysis of my products after the last market (just like I recommended in my last post) and did some streamlining of both products and processes as a result.   While any handmade business will always be a work in progress, I feel better about my set up at the moment, and ready for the next market I am attending, the Makers + Merchants Twilight Market in Goulburn on 15 December from 5 – 9pm.   Goulburn is about 40 minutes up the highway from where I live and I am looking forward to another regional market after the great time that I had at the Gundaroo Market.   Being able to meet new customers and talk about my products is fun, and I know a number of the other stallholders who will be attending so catching up with them will be great too!

      

For now though, I am enjoying the sound of rain on our tin roof, the sight of our tanks and dams overflowing, and the ground soaking it all up.   A great day to be at home making and planning and thinking!    The danger is, of course, that it means that I am already putting in orders for supplies to use in new product ideas that keep popping up.   Next year is going to be busy when all the parcels arrive!

I hope that you have had a great week and that the lead up to Christmas isn’t too crazy.   This year my focus is on keeping our celebrations simple and meaningful.  We won’t be spending money we don’t have on food we don’t need, or rushing around trying to see all the people we haven’t seen for the last twelve months.  Instead I will be working with the kids on making our decorations, making presents for teachers and special friends, and talking about how we can remember the meaning of Christmas and live it in our daily lives.   Lofty aspirations are better than none I have decided!

To Market To Market Part Four – After Market Analysis

Yesterday I attended the Collected and Created Gundaroo Market as a stallholder and am pleased to report that it was a great day!   Not only was the venue lovely (the historic Soldiers Memorial Hall in Gundaroo) but the whole market was well planned, attended by beautifully talented local creators and collectors, and had the whole community supporting it.   All my thinking about attending markets, branding, displays, etc, came together seamlessly and I had a lovely day telling the story behind my products, selling to interested customers and generally enjoying the whole experience.

Of course although I am the face of my business the reality is that it doesn’t happen without the team behind the scenes. My parents provide such huge amounts of support that make it possible.  Yesterday Dad drove over to Gundaroo (about 15 minutes cross country from us) to help me unload my car, then he came back with my two daughters in the afternoon to help with the packing up.  In the meantime Mum looked after the children, tidied my house, and gave me the peace of mind to be away from home for the day.

Now we are the in after market phase and although my first inclination is to sit back and chill for a few days, the reality is that I don’t have time!   Last night after going through and counting my sales, working out the overheads and determining the level of profit (important so that you know whether you truly made money or just had fun) I also sat and assessed stock to determine where the gaps are that need to be refilled before the next market in two weeks time.   A quick online order to supplement my supplies, a list of products that need to be made, and a plan is starting to come together.

After market analysis is important so that you can see what sold well, what didn’t work, what you need to change in your display and what you forgot!    One of the stall holders I spoke to yesterday said that she was surprised by what sold and what didn’t, and I had to agree.  Even with knowing your target audience, and researching what you think will sell best, until you actually hit the event the predictions are just that, predictions.   Things that didn’t move at all at my last market went like hotcakes at this one, and items that I thought would really appeal to the community didn’t move at all!   This doesn’t mean that I will abandon those products but I will think about how to make them more accessible, appealing, and inviting to my customers.

Things to think about before your next market:

  • How do you keep track of your stock?  Is there a better way to track what sold and what didn’t? Do you need a spreadsheet that you mark off as items sell, a notepad that you make notes on as things move, or an inventory system connected to a point of sale that provides a full retail experience?
  • How did your display work?   Where there products that didn’t move because they were lost in the display, or items that customers couldn’t easily see?   Do you need more height variations, more signs, or different ways of showing pricing?
  • How did your stall set up work for you as the seller?  Did you have a place to take money and wrap purchases without crowding customers?  Did you have a place to sit when you had a few minutes break?  Did your cashbox and credit card facility work for you or was it too unwieldy and awkward?
  • Do you have supplies to replenish your stock, and how long will supplies take to arrive?  If you have enough for the next event but none for the event after that, assuming you sell the same amount, is it time to order more now so that they are ready when you need them?
  • How did you feel about the experience?  Were you happy talking to customers or did you feel overwhelmed?  Did you find that people were queuing to pay for items because you were too busy?  (I know – there are worse problems that can happen, but if customers get tired of waiting they will just walk away instead.)  Do you need to have someone else to help you serve customers for the next event?   Were you tired, hungry, thirsty or stressed?  What can you do to change that for next time?
  • What was your most frequently asked question?   If the question was about how much something cost, it is time to rethink how you display your prices.  If it was about what a particular item was, it is time to rethink how you package and display that item.   If it was whether you made all of this yourself then that is a great conversation starter!   Thinking about these questions can help you to be better prepared for next time.

Having now addressed all of those questions myself I am off to conduct another Distance Education session with my son, then start making lists.  There are some packages that need to be rethought, some signs that need to be made, and a shelf unit that needs to be painted to provide more height on one table.   Plus some blue wool and fuzzy green ‘cactus’ wool to be sourced!

I hope that your after market analysis gives you lots of inspiration to keep growing your business.

Real life, markets and tea

I am preparing to attend my second market in this, my revitalised small business life.  And while I would love to report that all has been smooth sailing i would be lying because that is not how life happens.   For anyone!

On the product development side I have lots of positive things to report, including new earring designs, key rings, wine charms, stitch markers, and more ideas that are coming together.   I have enjoyed finding new ways to make tea related paraphernalia and the process of sourcing supplies, learning new ways to craft things, and thinking about packaging and branding.  The products in the following photos are all available in my shop, with more if you would like to see the whole range.

I have also been crocheting away, making tea cosies and delivering orders.  This cosy is my current favourite and sold very quickly so I am inspired to play with this style a little more.   You really can never have enough ladybirds in your life!

That is all pretty positive isn’t it?   What has real life got to do with all of this?   My chicks and I have been having a bit of a rough life over the last few weeks.   My eldest ended up in hospital for a week unexpectedly (she is receiving great treatment and support for what ails her and will be fine) and the ripple effect through the family is still being felt.   Existing struggles with school attendance have been magnified, and anxiety levels are high.   I saw a friend briefly this morning after a horrible couple of hours at home and answered her query about how I was with a very breezy ‘I am great’, then realised that I was great in that exact moment, standing in the sunshine on her front step, even though a couple of hours earlier I had wondered if the sky was about to fall in.   It is a useful reminder that there are lovely moments even in days of stress.

Big changes are happening in the latest round of strategies to make life better for my chicks. My beautiful boy is now doing a combination of Distance Education and school attendance, which makes me his supervisor.   Not a fun job but we have had some nice moments in amongst the tough ones in the short time we have been doing it.  The long term challenge here is to understand how he learns best so that I can support him to gain the right skills to go on and succeed in life.   He hates to make errors so any process of asking questions or asking him to give answers is fraught with anxiety, and therefore aggression, for him.  In order to give him the best chances I need to stay calm when I really want to scream at him to just do it.   Oops.   Best keep working on not saying that!

Oh how I wish this was true!

My biggest girl is planning a huge adventure, going to live with their father for a while.  She will be living overseas, attending an International School, and being exposed to all sorts of amazing experiences.  I am going to miss her but this is the best decision for her at the moment and she deserves to have a chance to live as a teenager without feeling responsible for her siblings and her mother.  I keep stressing to her that she is not to feel responsible for her father, and that it is his job to look after her, not the other way around, but only time will tell how that one goes.  This is not a decision that I thought I would be making, but it was my suggestion that she go, and I am really comfortable that it is the right decision for her, and that we need to try it as an option for her.   And seriously – what teenager doesn’t get excited at the thought of moving to the other side of the world and getting to see and do amazing things for a few months or longer?!   (I admit openly that I am very envious of the experience she is about to have!)

As for my middle chick, well, she is still struggling at the moment.   I haven’t quite worked out the next strategy for her, to help her to feel safe and secure enough to attend school, but I do have a project to keep her busy for the next few weeks.   Today we had a  blank library box delivered to our house, as part of a larger community project to see 10 little libraries installed in our community.   She is going to design and then paint our box before it is installed, possibly at our driveway, to hold books for passersby to borrow, swap, etc.  I am really excited about this project so am keeping my fingers crossed that she maintains her enthusiasm too!

The blank canvas is so exciting in its possibilities!

That is the real life part of running a small business.   Family and homelife will always have priority, and plans for products and for growing a business will always be affected by whatever surprise event comes along.   And that is where the tea comes in.   Over the course of the last few weeks as we have moved in and out of crisis mode, tea has been a constant theme.   Sharing a cup of tea with a friend as we talk over the latest development in our lives, finding time to sit and drink a cup of tea as a break from being in a hospital room, or sitting at home with a book and a cup of tea to clear my head.   Tea has kept me going in the way that wine would have in my younger days.   My favourite flavours at the moment are a Red and Green Vanilla Rooibus, and New York Breakfast (a black tea with almost maple syrup notes) and a refreshing herbal green tea.   In my younger days (when wine was the answer, not tea) I was a focussed clothes shopper.   I could be in Melbourne for a meeting and pop out at lunchtime and buy my year’s wardrobe before getting back to the meeting.  (I was living in Darwin and shopping wasn’t great there!)   These days I don’t buy clothes and shoes like I used to, but I can hit T2 and stock up on flavours, present my loyalty card and be back at the car within an impressively short space of time.   Same focus, just different products!

Anyway, that is it from my little corner of the world.   Preparing for the Collected and Created Market in Gundaroo on Sunday 19 November from 10 – 4, living a real life, and drinking lots of tea.  I hope your real life is in solution mode rather than survival mode!

Making stuff – again

Thank you to all who reached out to share and support when I was having a tough time last week.  The great news is that things have continued to improve since then, so much so that I had one morning this week when all three children were at school!   Of course I had left my crochet bag at home, so wasn’t quite sure what to do with myself for a while!

I have managed to get into the sewing room, and my other favourite making place, my armchair, and produce a few new things this week.   After a special request I made another pineapple tea cosy – tweaking the pattern as I went, and am very happy with the results.

Then I decided to play with the idea of a cactus tea cosy and love this result!

Some time in the sewing room meant some dome style tea cosies and a wrap around cosy!  My fabric stash is being re-discovered and I am loving it!!

A few more tiny cacti have grown in tiny teacups and I made some trivets with recycled t-shirt yarn.   You might say that it has been a productive week!!

In the midst of all of this Spring has sprung (finally) so that might explain the additional energy I have had – all that vitamin D soaking in!    My ‘to-do’ list is long at the moment – cleaning the house, finally painting a couple of rooms, getting some more sewing done, listing things in my shop……  so let’s hope that the sun stays out for a few more days!

I hope that you have had a creative and inspiring week.

Tea obsessions

The resurgence of my creativity has continued!  Over the last couple of weeks I have made more tea cosies, have poured tea-scented teacup candles, have potted succulents in tea cups and have crocheted succulents in tea cups!  I have also made more reusable tea bags.   The idea of using a theme and creating around it is working well!  And being creative continues to be the best therapy for my busy, overwhelmed brain.   The last few weeks have been hard, with both my boy and my middle child experiencing difficulties that have impacted on the whole family.  Having something creative to sit and do while the world is crumbling really helps my sanity!  The fact that people also give me lovely feedback on the output doesn’t hurt either!

This was highlighted this morning when I ducked out to deliver a tiny teacup crocheted cactus to someone who I have communicated with online but haven’t met in person before.  On the drive into town I was feeling awful – tired, overwhelmed, and close to tears.  But after meeting with this delightful young woman who was genuinely interested in meeting me and in what I do, I walked away with a smile and a much lighter heart.  In discussing what I have been doing I also had some ideas on a new product (still in the tea cosy line) that I am going to work on over the weekend.  Replacing my feeling of stress with the feeling of being creatively inspired was the best medicine!!   That and a cup of tea when I got home and the rest of the day has been much better!

  

I had a similar experience a few days ago when I received a message from a friend who lives interstate, telling me that she and her husband love what I am doing and want to invest in me, and could they order a pineapple tea cosy like the one I had just made. Now this message on it’s own would have been a highlight, but the author of the message is a very talented artist, whose work I have admired for about 20 years, so to receive that sort of compliment just made me glow inside!!!   I am happily working on a new pineapple, tweaking the pattern as I go, because I think I might publish this one too!    The lovely thing is that the first pineapple came about as a a result of a comment that one of the women who follows my Facebook page made about another cosy, which has a succulent on top (the green one above).  So the collaborative process has been lovely!

Growing this ‘tea obsession’ has meant visits to various op shops, and more frequent visits to Spotlight to buy wool. The funny thing is that I have enjoyed tea and the rituals around making tea for a very long time. But it is only now that my children are noticing how much I enjoy tea – or in the words of my boy, how much I am ‘obsessed’ with tea!  I have been taking them op shopping with me, which they enjoy as they get to find things for themselves, and my boy likes to tell the shop assistants that his mum is obsessed with tea and tea cups and tea pots. Then he tells them about all the things I make that he thinks are awesome, and everyone comes away with a smile.  I complimented him on his social interaction with some counter staff yesterday, after he told them about the delivery I was making, and he said ‘you are really good at talking to people too Mum.’   To receive such lovely compliments from this boy who has worked so hard to overcome some significant battles has really been lovely.  He tells me that my obsession with tea is quite nice really!

 

These days it is hard to know how to write about the difficulties that my children are facing.  They have a right to privacy, and I have to weigh up the greater good of sharing their/my struggles with mental health to reduce stigma, versus their right to privacy.  I think that this in part is why I haven’t blogged as much over the last year or so.  What I can share is that I have learnt a new appreciation for the public school system, where they have no choice but to embrace diversity and be flexible in their approach to educating students who don’t fit into the ‘normal’ box.   While one of my children has thrived in the Catholic education system, the other two have not, and it has been detrimental to their long term mental health. Luckily I know more now, so have felt comfortable making the latest round of changes for my middle child, and she is already happier and more positive.  But it means I have to re-establish relationships with yet another school, getting to know the staff, keeping track of how she is being supported, and generally starting from scratch again.  That in itself is exhausting, but on the bright side, the new school is the one that my boy will probably attend for High School so at least they will know me by that time!

My collection of tea pots to use as models and for trials is growing!

The other exciting news to share with you from the farm is that it snowed last weekend!  With no snow all winter it was nice to have an afternoon of it just before winter ended!  The kids and dogs had a great time out in it – even if they refused to dress warmly for it!

While I am still uncertain how all of this tea obsession will go in the longer term, in the short term it is providing joy, and that is what I will focus on!   I  hope that you are taking care and finding joy in small things around you too.

 

Free Crochet One Cup Teapot Tea Cosy Pattern

Well, I have done it – completed my order for a set of tea cosies for the beautiful cafe Le Bon Melange.   In the process I think I have perfected my pattern for making the tea cosies, so decided it was time to share it here. This is the first time that I have published a crochet pattern, so please be gentle with me – and let me know if you find any errors!!   If you do make a cosy from this pattern I would love to see the end result!

The two sizes of tea cosy plus a coffee press cosy too!

 

This pattern is for a flat topped one cup tea pot, but I have fitted it to a more rounded one cup pot and it worked just as well. To adjust it to a larger two cup pot the instructions for the top remain the same, it is just the number of rows for the body that change.  Once you have the basic body you can then decorate it with whatever you like!  Flowers, hearts, frogs – the sky is the limit!

The red pot is the one cup pot and the aqua is the two cup pot. How well do those colours match the wool?!

 

Pattern

I used a 4mm crochet hook and 8 ply wool to make this pattern.If you use thicker wool the pattern will still work – it will just end up slightly bigger.

Key

ch chain

ss slipstich

dc double crochet

To start chain 4 and joined with ss

Row 1 Ch 3 then 11 dc into the ring, ss to join to top of the first chain 3 (creating 12 stiches in round)

Row 2 Ch 3, 2 dc in each stitch of round 1, with last single dc in base of initial chain 3 stitch, ss to join

Row 3 Ch 3, *1 dc in next stitch, 2 dc in next stitch* repeat 11 more times, with last dc in base of first ch 3, ss to join

Row 4 Ch 1, ss in next stitch, ss in next stitch, 3 ch and skip stitch, then 1 dc in next stitch, 2 dc in next stitch, *1 dc in next stitch, 1 dc in next stitch, 2 dc in next stitch* repeated 10 times and finish with single dc in last two stitches of round.   (This is the top of the cosy)

Row 5 Ch 3, turn and 1 dc in each of next 21 stitches (22 in total)

Row 6  – 8 repeat round 5 then finish.

Return to round 5 and attach wool three stitches from the first half of round five and then repeat round 5 – 8 in order to create the second half of the cosy.  Do not finish off at the end of row 8 but continue on.

Row 9 ch 3 dc in each stitch until reaching the end of the row then ch 3 and dc in each stitch of other half of cosy.  This creates the join under the spout.

Row 10 – 11, ch 3 dc in each stitch of row, including the joining 3 ch from row 9.

Row 12 3 ch, ss to other side of cosy, then 3 ch, turn and dc in second chain from ss, dc in each stitch until reach the beginning of the row.  This joins the cosy under the handle.

Row 13 – optional – ch 1, skip first stitch then ss in each stitch of row 12 and finish with ss into fist ch.

To make this pattern fit a larger 2 cup pot the pattern is the same until row 8 when you should stitch another row before creating the join under the spout in row 10 rather than row 9.  Then add in rows so that the final row with the join under the handle is row 15.    You can adapt the basic pattern to fit larger pots by adjusting the size of the top and then the length of the body.

I did add a crown to one of the small cosies – I just couldn’t help myself! Here the pattern is shown on a different shaped one cup pot – it is fairly versatile.

The hearts on these cosies were made using the pattern found on Salt of the Spirit blog and the tiny crown was made using the pattern found on Kim Lapsley’s blog.

If you would like to see some ideas of crochet appliques or flowers then check out my pinterest board – I have collected a lot!

 

Let me know how you go making your own cosy!