Tag Archives: etsy

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!

A lot can happen in a week!

Since I last wrote all sorts of things have happened here in the nest, both with my business but also on the farm. Let’s get the colourful exciting pictures out of the way first! I have been busy playing with both fabric and wool, and trying out new things.    I made my first large batch of tea bags and listed them on my Etsy shop (the link is at the top of the page).

 

I also played with bright colours and bobble stitches to make a tea cosy for a custom order and then, because I like it so much, made another for the Etsy shop!

  

I also played with some new applique ideas and made cup cosies. This one uses a pattern by Flo and Dot on Ravelry called Flo’s campervan keyring and bunting for the applique.

On Monday I received a commission to make a series of tea cosies for a cafe!   I will reveal all when they are complete, but I have had fun developing a repeatable pattern which I will publish once I have ironed out all the bugs!    This is a picture during an early stage of development!

I have spent quite a bit of time at appointments and in waiting rooms this week so having my portable crochet habit with me has been useful. At the hairdressers on Wednesday I finished this water lily that I had been making using a pattern from Make my day creative.

On Thursday and again today I made lots of little hearts,

and kept perfecting that pattern!

On the home front much more has been happening.   Last Saturday we met and decided to trial (before formally adopting) a new dog.  It is exactly one year since our beautiful boy Milo contracted pancreatitis, and then died three months later.    My boy has been patiently waiting for another dog of his own but I was keen to make sure it was the right dog, and that we were ready. Shadow seems to fit the bill.  He is a Belgian Shepherd who was rescued after living rough in the bush on the outskirts of Canberra. Searches have not been able to locate his owners, so a rescue group set out to find him a new home.   He has the most beautiful nature and is completely dedicated to my son.  The downside is that he is not fully toilet trained at the moment, but that is possibly due to stress, as he is improving daily. With a week to go in the trial I think it will be hard to say goodbye to him and expect that he will become a permanent part of the family!

   

Saturday brought us other excitement with the discovery by the artist in residence of an injured kangaroo down near our chook run.  We cared for him during the day until the Wildcare rescuers could come and take him for treatment. A photo sent through last night shows him doing well, so we are all very happy that Roger (as the kids named him) is doing well!  His friends seem a bit suspicious of us though and seem to be keeping an eye on us all!

  

The other thing I can show you in photos is my new haircut.  It has been a while since I had it done  – a combination of finances, time and more time seemed to keep delaying me, which meant that by the time I got to the hairdresser she had a lot of hair to work with!   I love the end result!   I had to take a selfie to share the new look with you!

So there you have it – a week in review!  Now to get the fire going because it is cold today, and then to keep working on that pattern!   A cup of tea might be in order first though!

I hope that you have had a great week wherever you are!

 

A sale!!

The last few weeks have been full of all sorts of news, decisions and sewing.  I was laid low with a virus for a while which, while making it impossible for me to do anything, did give me lots of thinking time!  One of the results is a sale in my (slightly neglected) Etsy shop – 50% off any purchase over $10 between now and 14 September 2014 by entering the code SEPT2014 at checkout.

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After the sale I will launch fresh new products, so watch this space!!

I have had to make the heart-breaking decision not to hold a stall at the upcoming Handmade Markets in October.  I love selling at the markets, interacting with customers, getting a feel for what is working with my creations and what isn’t.  But to do that I would need to be creating and sewing flat out for the next month, and that isn’t possible while I am working to stabilize things for my children.  (If anyone ever says glibly that kids are fine and adapt to divorce easily please feel free to punch them in the nose from me!  5 years on and there are still new challenges on a regular basis.)  However it means time to work on new products without rushing, time to build up stock for the Christmas markets, and time to think about how we are living our life.  All good things to be working on and thinking about!

Today was Father’s Day here in Australia, so there has been much activity making in preparation for it.  In addition to the wallets I designed to be ready for gift purchases, I also thought that these ‘man-bags’ might be fun,

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and then spent some time playing around with a design for coin purse key rings, with a card carrying pocket.  I have been using the garment leather I bought from Fabric.com and it is sewing beautifully.

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I also finished preparing the pattern to make this lunch bag, sandwich wrap and snack bag set for the magazine ‘Love Sewing Australia’.  I got quite a bit of positive feedback when I posted it on my Facebook page, so will be making a few to sell in the next few weeks.

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I have also been experimenting in my free time.  I had a 24 hour period of no children this weekend, and while several of my friends thought I would be out partying (!!) in fact I used the time to try to work out how to put a zippered top in my messenger bag pattern.  I am not quite there yet, but think I have worked out how I want it to go in…..   after two hours, quite a bit of unpicking, some mild cussing, and a few light-bulb moments!  Hopefully I can share the story soon!

I hope that you have been having a good week.  The Spring weather has started here, with occasional days like today when you just want to bask in the sunshine, followed by days when you wonder whether winter has returned!  But that little promise of Spring is enough to see me booking a camping trip for October, and starting to think about gardening, mowing, and being outside more!

 

Feeling lyrical

I have been finding myself with lyrics of songs running through my head over the last few days. I made a treasury on Etsy yesterday called “Let me take you down, ’cause I’m going to….” (followed of course by “Strawberry Fields.) As I sat down tonight to write this post the first thought in my head was “Do you ever stop and wonder…” which is the first line from Gomez’ Sound of Sounds. I read many years ago that if you listen to the lyrics that you find yourself singing absently, they will give you a good indication of your where your subconscious thought is. Now the first song I can work out easily – not so subconscious really – I saw a picture of some felt strawberry food, the song came into my head and away we went. But I do like the lyrics too – “Living is easy with eyes closed” and “There’s nothing to get hung about”…. quite psychedelic for a sweet sounding song really!

The second song? Ah. That is a little more complex. That shows that I am trying to work out how much of the last few days/weeks I share, and how much I make veiled references to, and how much I just don’t write about. Part of me wants to pour my heart out and completely overshare, but the sensible, logical part of me knows that this isn’t just my life I am writing about. So my compromise is to say that it has been a tumultuous couple of weeks, dealing with my boy and the issues that travel along with him. I have had to take time off work again, as I am worn out and worn down. I hate walking away from my team and not being a consistent leader, but I also know that I have to put my chicks and my health first. Miss N is leaving us earlier than expected, which is a shame, but means that she is home for the snow that she is missing. The best part of all of this though? My amazing mother, with the blessing of my father, flew in today to stay with us for a little while to help support all of us. The house feels lighter already. The boy loves her. He is insisting that she sleep on his trundle bed tonight, as Miss N is still in the spare bed. And bless her – she has agreed to do it. I am so lucky to have such wonderful parents, and that they are still fit and healthy enough to be able to do this.

The chaos of the week was added to when the washing machine decided to stop working mid-way through a cycle on Monday night. Of course the extended warranty finished a few months ago. I have never loved this machine – it has leaked and was noisy and no amount of service calls have fixed either problem. So, with the powers of internet research at my fingertips, the new one arrived today and has been put through it’s paces and we LOVE it. It is quiet! So quiet that we have checked several times to see if it is on! I feel more relaxed already!

But amongst the chaos was also joy. I awoke this morning to a notification that I had sold one of my bags, and that it had sold to someone in Arizona! The chicks have been waiting for the day when, in their words “some random person from overseas” buys one of my pieces. The middle chick announced “You are big in America Mum!” I laughed and enjoyed their joy and celebration! The bag is all bundled up, with a couple of extra gifts added, and ready to mail.

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The part that I really liked though, was that the purchaser has asked me to include the story of the fabric, and my philosophy in making it, etc, with the bag, as it is a gift. What a lovely idea! I am thinking that it might be a nice touch to add to other pieces that I sell, to personalise the sale even more. He also gave me some feedback about my search phrases, and other information on my Etsy shop, so it was a lovely exchange on all levels.

The other joy is the support that people offer when you least expect it. After a relatively public incident with the boy earlier in the week I have had lovely texts, random hugs “just because”, long late night phone calls to discuss craft, kids, and life, and quiet smiles of support over the heads of children being picked up from school. My community is amazing. My chicks and I are loved and supported – all four of us.

Other lyrics that have stayed with me this week include “It’s such a perfect day, I’m glad I spend it with you” and of course, “Plucked her eyebrows on the way, Shaved her legs and then he was a she” but that is because I heard the news that Lou Reed has passed away. I was horrified to hear that Miss N (22) had not only not heard of him, but didn’t know his songs! Sacrilege! So I tormented the chicks and her with Lou Reed songs over breakfast and had a beautiful walk down memory lane. The best article I read about him was called “13 reasons why you will never be a cool as Lou Reed.” Says it all really.

With a bit more sleep under my belt, I hope to get back to sewing in the next few days. I have realised that with Mum here I can make all the Christmas presents for the family in New Zealand for her to take home. Which has focussed me on Christmas a little earlier than planned – which may mean that I am organised earlier this year. But let’s not hold our breath on that one! I am thinking of some Christmas gift lists I might put together for you all to help with handmade gift ideas – which as usual seems like a nice idea but is really my completely selfish way of working out what I want to make for my friends and family! I do have a head start though – I am a guest contributor on Sew Mama Sew as part of their Handmade holidays series for November, with my eco friendly gifts being featured on 10 November! (To say that I am excited is an understatement!!)

My final lyric that has been running through my head tonight is from Steve Earle’s ‘Every part of me’. “I love you with all my heart, all my soul, every part of me”. Sums up how I feel about my chicks really. No matter how much heartache I go through for them, I still love them with every fibre in my being. I am lucky!

I hope that your week is going well, and that the lyrics providing the musical score for you life are wonderful ones!

Its the little things

Half way through the week already? The long weekend means that while the week feels like it is just starting, it is half way over. Which, on a cold, wet day, when staying in bed with a good book, or curling up on the couch with a dvd and some crochet is more appealing than venturing out to school and work, is a good thing!

Tonight I am pondering the little things that can happen in a day to turn a frown into a smile. While my day was not a bad day (I didn’t have to leave work to address issues with any children – yay!) by the time I got home I was feeling a bit flat. Contemplating the ongoing juggle of trying to be a competent employee and leader while also being a supportive parent to a child with ‘issues,’ and the way this is perceived by my colleagues, had me overthinking my work-life balance once again. This is not a struggle special to me – so many parents face it on a day to day basis. Trying to be a good employee, and a good parent, when the two don’t always sit well together. Combine it with a healthy dose of judgement from the media, other parents, extended family, and so many of us feel that we can’t win, no matter which way we turn.

Of course, my life is actually quite good. I have a supportive work environment, where I can have flexible working arrangements, where my staff understand that sometimes when my phone rings I need to run out the door, where I am paid very well to do a job that I like. The ‘issues’ that my family face are not insurmountable. No one is terminally ill. My children are healthy, intelligent and loving. We have a warm home, good food, warm clothes and the ability to be safe. I have found a creative outlet that keeps me sane when the walls seem to be closing in. The fact that some of my colleagues don’t see it that way is really about them, not about me.

But my mind was working through all of this, and I was wondering whether I was kidding myself that I can keep making things, be respected professionally, keep my kids safe and supported, when one little thing came along to make me stop, celebrate a success and remember that, in fact, I don’t really care about my ‘image’, but I do care that I am succeeding in many ways in my life.

The little thing? I opened up the Etsy website, and there, on the front page, in a handpicked treasury of bright and lovely things, was one of my bags. Yes. One of MINE!! The kids were thrilled, I was excited, and the world stopped spinning out of control and returned to it’s normal axis.  (It was featured as part of a treasury that you can see here.)

I let go of all the overthinking, all the teasing the problem until a new angle could be found, and just smiled and got happy. Perspective is a wonderful thing!

And having a clear head means that I can celebrate my other small successes of the last few days, and that we had a lovely family evening because I was no longer flat.  At dinner we have a tradition of each of us reporting our ‘best thing’.  The artist-in-residence had us enthralled with the report of her drama class, the boy had a list of 16 ‘best things’ that had us all smiling, and the eldest chick waited patiently to tell us the news of her class’ work in preparing for their theatrical performance.  So lovely to just sit and enjoy our time together – no TV, no fighting, and no stress.

On a personal level, I  had my first appointment with a personal trainer yesterday in a new bid to start improving my fitness.  I was very upfront about the need for the children to attend the sessions with me, and I think (hope) it is going to work.  The amusing part was watching the boy, at 6, spending most of his time wanting to lift weights in front of the mirror.  It starts early!

My recent efforts in getting more organised about this blog have paid off too, with a few new followers (hi and welcome!) and realising that sometime this week I passed the 200 follower mark (combining facebook and the blog). Another sign that I am doing okay in my own small way!

On the crafting front I am making up a custom order for a colleague who wants a bag for weekend wear, and wanted a zip up pouch to go in it (at my suggestion). So, here is the pouch I made – without a pattern. Something small – but I am proud of it!

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And finally – I offered to crochet a beret beanie for a friend who dropped in the other day and was admiring the black one I made for the artist-in-residence. While the children were training at martial arts last night I sat and started a new hat. And, in a first, did not have to unpick it once! I have about three rows to go to finish it, but for now – looking a little like a purple sea creature – here is the beret.

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So, as the mid-week ‘hump’ goes, my week is alright.  As I fall towards the weekend my approach will be to continue putting one foot in front of the other, remembering that my family is more important than anything else in my world, and that I am one of the lucky ones.  I wish you a great second half of the week, and lots of things that you can celebrate as successes.

Getting my mojo back

This has been a week of personal growth and revelations. It coincided with having to miss a lot of my paid work to care for children. Could be something in that!  I should post a warning that this post contains very little about sewing (for once) and more of my self-revelation musings!!

Having time at home gave me time to clear my head a bit, to think about various aspects of my life that I tend to tuck away into the ‘when I have time’ basket, and to rediscover parts of myself. I have written before about how I have found the process of making things gives me a chance to de-stress, to focus and to work through issues in my mind. What I hadn’t really appreciated before this week is that once I start that process, I also gain in creativity.

What have I achieved this week? As I wrote earlier in the week I came up with a plan for managing my blogging more regularly. I also spent some time preparing some posts for weeks when I don’t have as much time. I looked at my Etsy shop and realised that I didn’t like the overall look and feel of it. So I did some reading on taking photos, played with my camera a bit, tried out an Etsy App for ‘fusing’ photos (and abandoned it) and then re-shot all the photos for my Etsy listings. Instead of the outdoors backgrounds I had been using,  I have gone with white. I have used the macro setting to get some close ups, and to gain different perspectives on my pieces. While I can still spot room for improvement, I am much happier with it now. (And am happy to get feedback if you have time to have a look!)

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Before and After

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Before and After

I was feeling a bit virtuous by this time, so decided to keep going. I joined some Etsy teams, and created a couple of treasuries (curated collections of other people’s listings – not my own), and enjoyed that so will try to keep it up. Then I made the decision that I am still a bit directionless with all of this, so registered to attend a Right Brain Business Plan workshop with Canberra Creatives.  The timing is perfect as it is on while the chicks are visiting their grandparents during our July school holidays.  I am hoping to create a plan and focus my energy in one direction instead of stopping to look at every bright and shiny thing that comes along!

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Hey look – better light today!

All of this made me feel a lot more connected with the business side of my creating.  Which lead to my creation of the new bag design yesterday (in my last post) and a feeling that I had ‘got my mojo back’.  Which was interesting as I wasn’t aware that I had lost it!  This is a recurring theme in my life.  I think I am happily pottering along, then something happens and I find myself being truly happy again and realise that until that point I have been slowly sinking into survival mode for a while, without realising it.  A year after my husband left me some dear friends gave me a gift with a card that read “Celebrating the becoming of Theresa”.  It was a sharp reminder that by the time my marriage ended I had lost so much of myself, and hadn’t realised it.  Although the pain and grief that came with the end of my marriage was so strong, and still lingers these years later, the rediscovery of myself and the things that make me feel happy and alive was a gift that kept me going.

A few years later, after being a full-time single parent for a couple of years, I am conscious that I have lost a bit of myself again.  Creating things, and having another focus in life seems to be a good way of keeping those bits of me sustained when everything else is getting a bit much!  So the realisation that I had lost a bit of my creative mojo, when it returned this week, was a good reminder that I need to nurture that side of my life too.  I am not quite sure how to do this yet, but am mulling over a few ideas as I sit and sew bags and match fabrics and colours, so I will see what pops out at the end!

These are the fabrics I am playing with for my next set of bags!

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I hope that your week is full of love and support – and that you are able to nurture your mojo too!

Getting organised

With winter weather comes winter health, so this week I have had two of my chicks sick for a day each (so far) with throat infections.  I have also been dealing with some behaviour issues with the remaining chick.  All of this means unexpected time at home.  While the downside is knowing that my work is piling up in the office, the silver lining is that I have been using the time to be productive and get a bit more organised about how I want to manage the business side of my crafting.

The first thing I have done is added to my Tutorials page on this blog.  From now on it will have links to any tutorials I produce (quite aspirational as I have only managed one so far), any posts where I list links to other people’s tutorials (also aspirational with only one so far), plus links to any tutorials that I have used myself.

The second thing I have decided is to have a plan for when I blog – a blog timetable if you like.  Sunday nights seem to be when I am able to sit and write about the crafting and family activity of the week.  Friday nights seem to be a good spot to add posts with links to the many tutorials that I have collected from other generous crafters.  So that leaves mid-week.  I have lots of ideas for a regular mid-week post, so might leave that as slightly random initially until I work out what is working best.  (Some ideas include reviews of tutorials I have used, tutorials I produce myself, links to other great blogs etc.)

Then I downloaded an Etsy app so that my Etsy shop now appears on my Facebook page.  I had previously been loading photos into a separate album on Facebook and marking them when they were sold.  This is much more efficient!

I also worked out how to put my photos into collages, so that I can post multiple images within one image.  (Feeling a bit proud of myself at achieving all of these technological things and ignoring the fact that I could have done all of this ages ago as it really wasn’t that hard!)

Being home is also a bit dangerous…… too much access to online shopping.  Even though the Australian dollar has dropped a bit, the exchange rate with the US, and the amazing fabric range available there means that online orders are still worthwhile.  I have to praise the postage system used by Fabric. com – I ordered some fabric from them a couple of weeks ago (they are based in the USA) and it arrived at my house (in Australia) within 48 hours!   Given that it can take up to two weeks for a parcel to cross the country domestically I was blown away!!  So I have placed another order….. wonder how long it will take to arrive?

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A couple of dandelion pouches, with pockets inside – playing with fabric and playing with ideas!

Finally, having some extra time at home has provided a bit of extra sewing time (of course) and crochet time.  I had a chance to play at making some pouches as gifts for friends, and also made my first zipped pouch – just a bit bigger than credit card size, as a little gift for a friend who is about to travel.  It matches a bag I made her last year.  I forgot to take photos but can assure you that I found it so straightforward I will be making more!

I also made another bag for the shop – and added two pockets to the outside of it.  I like the extra storage they provide and am thinking of making one with a number of different fabrics to give it a different feel.

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Dealing with the behaviour issues of one of my chicks, and the impact on the school, my work, and the other chicks that flows from the issues can wear me down and take its toll.  I have written before about how crafting helps me to clear my head and maintain some sanity.  This week crochet has been my escape.  The results are a few more rows on the afghan (that should be finished while the weather is still cold!)

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Now that I am feeling a bit more organised it might be time to plan the next thing to make!

I hope that your week is going well, wherever you are.