Tag Archives: handmade

Finding time

I have been reflecting over the last week on what it is that I am doing with my time!  When I worked full time I seemed to have more time to sew, to blog, etc. Now that I am self-employed I seem to be running in circles all the time.  I am not sitting idle, and am not spending hours surfing the internet, yet I seem to not get to the things that I want to do.  This was frustrating me for quite a while, until I realised that the things that I have added in to my days are the very reasons that I am no longer working full time.

Over the last few years I have had to shift my priorities.  I have had to change my parenting style. I have re-invented our day to day life.  (Not just once!).  The reason that I have less time available to sew, or blog, or return phone calls, or pay bills (oops!) is because I am more present in my children’s lives.  I am still not engaged at the level that I could be, and am certainly not a saint (heaven forbid) but I have come to realise that by spending more time putting the children first our life is better.  Now when my boy is starting to get angry and lash out I can normally pin point the cause within a few minutes.  I can usually remember the strategies that will help him to calm down without escalation.  (Usually.  Definitely not always.)   When my artist-in-residence is collapsing in a ball of spiky frustration I can see where it has come from and help her to unravel and calm down.  (Sometimes).  And when my eldest chick is having completely out of character episodes of appalling behaviour I have no idea.  Until I empty her rubbish bin and realise that she has been sneaking her little brother’s snacks – full of gluten – and her body is attacking itself.

Much easier to be kind to myself when I think about what we have dealt with each day and how we have resolved it!

I have had a couple of great moments this week that I wanted to share.  I was fortunate enough to be invited to see Mary Poppins, the musical, being produced by the Free Rain Theatre Company at the Canberra Theatre.  (One of the amazing up-sides of the Human Brochure experience has been invitations to so many wonderful events!)  I took the artist-in-residence and we absolutely loved it!  It was, to quote Mary herself, ‘practically perfect, in every way’. We even had a chance to have our photos taken with some of the cast afterwards!

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The artist-in-residence having a night at the theatre.

The artist-in-residence having a night at the theatre.

This weekend just past was also very special.  The Handmade Markets were on, in a new location here in Canberra.  I am still not at the point where I am ready to return to having my own stall, but I love my role in the background of the markets, which allows me to interact with all the market designers on an individual level.  The exposure to so many talented people is a true delight.  Even better, I was able to take the children with me and when we stopped to talk to different stallholders the children had the chance to interact with them too.  They got to taste beautifully handcrafted chocolate (thanks Cicada chocolate!), to receive hugs and rainbow roses from GG’s flowers (special hug thanks to Gayana), and the artist-in-residence was able to talk to different artists about their work and her own art.  Mick from Leafy Sea Dragon presented her with one of his cards depicting one of his own artworks as an encouragement to another artist.  She was thrilled!

The eldest chick and her two friends ran their own business throughout the markets, providing stall holder support.  They were exhausted but very happy and very proud at the end of the weekend.  This band of 12-year-old young women are learning about money management, customer service, hard work, planning, and innovation at a young age and I could not be prouder of them!!

I also managed to sneak myself a treat on Friday night.  I had an hour to fill between finishing helping with the market set up, and when I was to collect the children from their father’s house.  I thought about ringing friends etc but decided to take myself into town for a meal on my own.  We have an area here called ‘The Hamlet’ which is where the gourmet food vans park, and various funky shops are tucked away.  I went to the Mr Papa van – Peruvian Street Food.  Oh my goodness.

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The burger made with slow cooked pork belly, sweet potato, and a very tasty sauce and salsa combo is heavenly!   I then followed it up with a little trip to the Frugii Dessert Laboratory where the ice-cream alchemist creates beautiful ice-creams, and desserts!  (The owners are also delightful people!)

017b44bb4b29c63f9f742e0e02f00cabd99df22e73I had the choux pastry with hazelnut cream, and blood orange syrup.  And even better – I had time to sit and enjoy and just have time to myself.  Talk about bliss!

Baby set |a little bird made me

A custom order set for a baby overseas

After all this inspiration my plan was to sew, design, and create all week.  Hmmmm…… the best laid plans!  Between routine medical appointments, school meetings, housework, and general family commitments, I have managed only a very small amount of sewing.

Ipad case and accessories |a little bird made me

An ipad case, coin purse and key fob for a birthday girl in Melbourne.

The good news though is that I have created some new pattern templates, which is speeding up my process a lot.  (Instead of measuring and cutting each piece I am now using a template to cut each piece – such a simple thing but one I just hadn’t done!!)  I also finally made a key ring fob – something on my ‘to do’ list for a long time.  I like it!  Maybe I should make some more…..    where is that ‘to-do’ list again?

Our farm |a little bird made me

Wandering on the farm is a delightful pastime

Dam | a little bird made me

The dam is the source of much entertainment – and home to some venomous snakes!

Farm life |a little bird made me

I love the skies out here!

I did spend time with my boy down at our dam finding rocks, sticks and long grasses to try and create ‘survival tools’ like spears and knives.  We haven’t been particularly successful yet but we have had a lot of fun trying!

And I indulged in some fabric shopping – with no particular project in mind!  It is just so lush!  The new range from Skinny la Minx, via Hawthorne Threads.  Drool.

01336619eb5f8a927b88032198547f2c2f9f3620e1Now to decide what to do with it!  Choices, choices, choices!

I hope that you have been able to find time for yourself in your week too.

 

 

What no one tells you about parenting a special needs child|a little bird made me

Wrapping up the year

This year has flown by!  I swear that as I get older, time speeds up and the year seems to have only just settled into it’s routine when it finishes!

My absence from the blog has been longer than usual.  Sometimes life gets so busy that something has to give – in this case it was my blog, and my business.  Not forever, just for a short time while other things work themselves out.

The big news is that as I am writing this I am taking a break from packing up my house.  I know!  You turn your back for one minute and all of a sudden I am moving house!    And that is part of the reason for the blog break – a whirlwind of decision making, house preparation, house hunting, etc has been occurring over the last few months.  With my significant drop in income this year, and some complications that saw me have my children live with me almost full time (no complaints here) my finances took a dive and it was time to say good bye to the ‘executive style house’ in the ‘good suburb’ and look at different options for my chicks and I.  Fast forward a few weeks and my parents (who live overseas) were visiting, and helping prepare my house for sale.  One thing lead to another and now they are moving to Australia (again) and coming to live with the chicks and I on a new property that we have bought together.  Again – I know!  Huge changes!

The new property is about 20 minutes from where we live now, and is in the country.  Yep – we are going to be ‘farmers’.  Well, not really – it is only 20 acres and the land around here isn’t particularly fertile, so we won’t be primary producers, but will have lots of room for animals as pets, room to run, ride (bikes), play, etc.  There are two houses on the property so my parents will have one, and the chicks and I the other.  The ‘big house’ as we are calling it is truly big – I have choices about which room I will use as my sewing studio, and the chicks will all have space for desks in their rooms.  The chicks will attend the same schools as they would have if we had not moved, but will catch the bus a bit more (it goes past our driveway).

A sneak peek of the front garden at the new house

A sneak peek of the front garden at the new house

2015 is looking very exciting as a result.  With my parents in residence I will be able to work more, earn more, develop my business more, and still continue to support my chicks.  The possibilities are endless!

Wrapping up this year and all that has happened would result in a blog post of thousands of words.  2014 has been eventful, to say the least.  A few brief highlights instead then:

  • The Human Brochure that I am part of is definitely a highlight.  I have met some wonderful people, seen amazing things, and been exposed to parts of my town that I didn’t know about.
  • Finishing up my career as a public servant was momentous, but right.  No longer being defined by my profession has been liberating, and I have enjoyed discovering more about myself and my strengths throughout the process.
  • Creating beautiful things continues to give me immense joy and my confidence grows on a daily basis.
  • My eldest chick has finished primary school and heads off to high school next year!
  • Selling my house has been emotional but is the right decision.

On the downside there have been some of the toughest times this year.  My previously reasonably amicable relationship with my ex-husband is now gone, and I have had to make some really hard calls about what is good for my children.  Adjusting my life to parenting a child with special needs has been a long process that has challenged me on every level.  I have been exhausted for a large part of the year.

But overall, looking at the good, the bad and the very ugly, this year has had more highs than lows, and I am finishing on a good note.

To entertain your eyes, a brief selection of some of my recent sewing projects follows – custom orders, Christmas presents, and new ideas.   I hope that this year is ending on a good note for you too, and that 2015 brings new adventures and excitement and love and laughter for you all.

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Time has passed

Things have been a little quiet here on the blog for a while, but my life has been very busy  The second explains the first.  If I try to share everything in one post you will be reading for days, so I thought I would start with some highlights.

Over the school holidays the chicks and I got stuck into our garden and created four vegetable patches – well, one herb garden and three vege patches.  Between chickens, birds and possums we were quickly down to two vege patches and one herb garden, but they are thriving well. I was particularly proud of our efforts in recycling and repurposing in order to protect the gardens!  (These are old junior hockey pop up goals).

Vegetable garden|a little bird made me

A couple of weeks ago the chicks and I hosted some very long term friends for a weekend to experience Canberra as part of the Human Brochure.  I will write in more detail soon, but can report that the weekend was more wonderful than any of us expected!  Some photographic highlights to whet your appetite include:

Kids amazed that they can move a stone at Questacon

Kids amazed that they can move a stone at Questacon

 

My boy tempting a giraffe at the National Zoo and Aquarium

My boy tempting a giraffe at the National Zoo and Aquarium

Sienna feeding a lion - as you do - at the National Zoo and Aquarium

Sienna feeding a lion – as you do – at the National Zoo and Aquarium

My parents came to visit for a week about three weeks ago and are still here.  We decided that I needed to sell my house and move to somewhere that cost a little less to maintain, so have spent the last few weeks working flat out to spruce up the house.  All those little jobs that I have been meaning to do for the last few years have been done and the house looks wonderful!  At the time of writing we are re-thinking the decision to sell, so stand by for developments in that area over the next few months!  If I stay it means that I get to enjoy all our hard work, which will be great!

I haven’t managed a large amount of sewing, with everything else that has been going on, but have been creative in other ways, including making some gifts for my guests using some great quotes from an article about Canberra.

01a3caefaa7aa8ff89adca6a86199d5a746170eb4e Canberra tote bags |a little bird made me

This might be the briefest update in my blog’s history, especially given all that is going on, so I will have to provide more detail and more photos over the next couple of weeks.  In the meantime I have to share my latest hair colouring adventure with you.  My father asked me if it was ‘designed to attract or repel?’.  When I responded that it was ‘to amuse’ he informed me that it had done it’s job!

Jacaranda Hair|a little bird made me Jacaranda Hair |a little bird made me

I hope that you are all well, and being kind to yourselves!

Friday Finds – a list of tutorials on DIY gadget covers

Hooray – I have decided to re-start my Friday Finds posts.  This means that I provide a list of tutorials that you can use to make your own handmade whatevers.  (That is a technical term we bloggers use.)

Today I am cheating a little.  In my monthly newsletter (have you subscribed yet?  Why not!  Go on – over there on the right hand side!) for this month I included a list of links to tutorials for making iPad, lap-top and other gadget covers.  I was motivated to do this after I made my own laptop bag for my new laptop, affectionately named Reeba Toshiba.  I have roadtested the bag a few times now and am very happy with it.

Lap-top bag from re-purposed denim, leather and cotton

Front of my Lap-top bag from re-purposed denim, leather and cotton

 

 

 

 

Back of the lap top bag

Back of the lap top bag

Lining and strap detail of the lap top bag

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I plan to prepare a tutorial so that you can make your own, but in the meantime wanted to share some of the tutorials that I have gathered to gain ideas and inspiration on how to make your own gadget covers.

Tablet covers

A felt envelope case with a difference Purl Bee adapts to gadgets of different shapes and sizes.

Nancy’s Notions has a tutorial for making an Ipad cover that folds over the tablet to protect it.

A great tutorial that can be adjusted to fit a variety of tablets and gadgets is found in a guest post by Lindsay from Inspiring Creations on U-Create.

Jessi from Practically Functional has a tutorial for making an iPad stand and cover using a hard cover from a binder folder.

A different take on making a cover from a book is found on the V Spot blog in their free tutorial.

Creative Home Expressions has a tutorial on how to make a sleeve for a Kindle that closes with a loop and button.

Sew for Home have a pattern for an iPad or tablet case with a difference – it has pockets and room to carry a mobile phone along with the tablet. 

Dollarstore Crafts have a tutorial on making a gadget cover from a pair of old jeans.  (And you know how much I love repurposing denim!)  

Laptop covers and bags

A tutorial on Curbly uses placemats to make a laptop cover. 

On the Handmade Wagon you will find a tutorial for a laptop case that has a gusset (you know – a seperate piece that goes around the sides).

The Crafty Kitty has a tutorial for making an organice canvas laptop sleeve that closes with a button and loop.

Craft Habit has a tutorial to make a lap top bag with a strap.

Other lists

If you haven’t found something that you love in any of these links, then you can have a look at the list I have gather on my Pinterest board – Gadget Cases DIY or look at these lists that other sites have put together.

Sew Mama Sew – Gifts for gadget lovers

Shelterness – 15 Really cool DIY iPad covers

Topinspired – Top 10 DIY Laptop/iPad Sleeves

BuzzFeed – 28 Adorable DIY Gadget cases

I hope that you find something that inspires you to make your own case!

The first day of the rest of my life

Today marks a ginormous step in my life.  Three weeks short of 22 years as a public servant, from today I am, by choice, self-employed.  (Well I did hint at changes that were coming!)

The last couple of years have been particularly challenging at work and at home.  One challenge on its own would have been fine, but being challenged on both fronts left little room for respite – which is how I came to be in the state I was at the end of last year.  With amazing support from my employer I have been able to take leave for the first half of this year, to rest, recover, and think about how I want to live my life.  Having green fields in front of me has been an uplifting experience – I have sorted through so many different possibilities in my mind (sea-change, tree-change, runaway-from-it-all-change) and am very happy that I have settled on the right path for the chicks and I.  I am going to spend my time focussed on my family, on building my creative business, on supporting other creative people to reach their potential, and on living life in a meaningful way.

And that, my friends, is why I died my hair blue!  That outward expression of claiming my life as my own was a small step towards looking at how I want to live, who I want to be, and how I want to grow.  The sense of freedom is immense!  My biggest fear is I will get into a habit of slacking off and playing instead of working – but I suspect that my bank account will motivate me to get over any tendencies in that area!

The first step is getting past this weekend successfully.  It is the second Handmade Market for the year, and I am working very hard to prepare new stock so that I can have some wonderful selections on offer.  The new sewing machine has been in overdrive!  It arrived last week, and after a bit of learning, tinkering, adjusting, etc I am getting the hang of it!  I will write more next week to give you all the details and do it justice, but for now – some shots of the arrival and set up!

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Two very big and very heavy boxes!

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I did it! (All by myself!)

I have also been able to use my new teether bits as a result of the new machine.  I am very happy with the way they look, feel, and handle – so will be launching them at the markets this weekend!  I had a bit of a production line (manned by my staff of one – me) yesterday so have a good range of colours and patterns to showcase the new bits!

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It also sews leather and denim beautifully so I am working on executing some of the ideas that I have been carrying around for a very long time in my head!

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This bag is made from supersoft leather, with the fabric detailed flap. Sewing the leather was a dream with the new machine!

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Other exciting news in this very brief summary of an amazing week, is that the launch of the Human Brochure that I spoke about last week was extremely successful.  Since then we have attended a number of delightfully wonderful discovery events and started to get to know each other – and really I cannot imagine a nicer bunch of people to be hanging out with!  I will write more in the next week about the events so far as I want to do them justice.  At the moment I can happily report that I have a huge crush on a part of Canberra called New Acton, have had my eyes opened to so many, many, many wonderful things in my own town, and am learning on a daily basis!  If you are interested in seeing what we have been up to have a look at the Human Brochure website where you will see so many beautiful photos from my fellow humans you will want to visit here straight away!

Phew – this might be the shortest summary of the most exciting week I will ever write – but the sewing room is calling me, and the Market countdown is on….so stay tuned for more updates!  (and if you are on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter, following @alittlebirdmademe is a great way to see quick snapshots of what is happening during this exciting time!!)

I hope that you have had a great week, and that you are also finding little bits in your life to give you joy and excitement.  Just remember – today is the first day of the rest of your life too.  Get out there and embrace it.

 

Ruminations on value

If you ever want to start a heated discussion between craftspeople, bring up the topic of pricing.  How to determine the value that you will charge for your chosen craft is an extremely emotive topic for many people.  There is a well thought out ‘formula’ that is suggested as the model for calculations.  A post at Ink and Spindle (just one of the many, many places you can find this discussed) explains it well (and if you read the comments following that post you will begin to see the passions that this topics can arouse.)

In simple terms, the theory is that materials plus labour (charged at an hourly rate between $10 and $20 here in Australia) provides you with your cost price.  (I note here that for many craftspeople that rate is covering their skills as a designer, maker, marketer, cleaner, material sourcer, etc.  Just sayin’.) By doubling it you arrive at your wholesale price – a price that allows you to cover your overheads like electricity, insurance, rent, machine maintenance, accountants fees, bank fees, advertising, marketing, product photography, packaging, labels, care instructions, and all those other little things that go into the production of any product.  That means that if you are able to sell your product to a retail outlet to on-sell, you aren’t selling at a loss.  (Because that would actually defeat the purpose, surely?!)  They, having their own overheads to cover, will sell it for double the price they buy it for.  And that makes this your retail price.

Which all makes sense until you start doing the calculations.  Amongst the many, many craftspeople I know, who make items to sell, I can count on one hand the number who actually apply this formula without modification.  Sometimes the modification is sensible – very low overheads for example, or absolutely no intention to wholesale, so a lower retail price that still allows for reasonable profit to put back into the business.  But often the modification is based on a statement like ‘but no one would want to pay that much for this’.  And there you have it.  A self-licking ice-cream, as a colleague of mine once put it so nicely.  Craftspeople sell for lower prices thinking that people won’t pay for higher prices, so the customers expect those lower prices to be the usual price.  Some craftspeople feel guilty charging ‘higher prices’ and will make statements like ‘but I only want to cover my costs so that I can keep making things’.  Which is all well and good if you are making things as a hobby, but is that self licking ice-cream if you are in business.

I am guilty of all of these things.  I have said, both out loud, and in my head, “I couldn’t charge that because people wouldn’t want to buy it at that price.”  I have said ‘oh but I am unknown, so I will have to have lower prices to start with’.  How ridiculous is that when you think about it – takes the same amount of time, materials and skill whether you are known or unknown.  I have improved my processes, reduced my material costs, and streamlined some practises so that my making is more efficient, which means that the gap between my ‘retail price’ under the formula and the price that I sell my products for is slowly getting smaller. (I still couldn’t ‘wholesale’ my bags and properly cover my costs at this point though.)

But I had a revelation tonight.  I was comfort browsing on a discount website that I like (sad but true) when I saw that they had handbags on sale.  I was having a look at what styles they had etc when I looked at the prices.  These bags, made in a factory in China, from synthetic materials, and on a discount site, were selling for over $200.  And no one was commenting ‘oh that is too much for a bag made in a factory out of fake leather that will peel after I use it for a while.  I don’t know the person who made it, or how long they have been making them for.’  Most consumers would look at it and said ‘I like it’ or “I don’t like it” and “I am prepared to pay that” or “I don’t want to spend that much on that bag.”  End of story.  The brands, while well known as being ‘fashionable’ are not necessarily known for having high quality.  Often you are paying for the cachet of the label, the trendiness of the design, and not the care with which it was crafted.

My question is then, why so many craftspeople, myself often included, spend so much time worrying about how much we are going to charge for an item made with skill, love, original design, integrity, and made locally and ethically?  If a customer likes our product they will buy it.  If we are worried about whether they will think it is ‘worth it’ then maybe we need to think about how we are marketing and presenting our product.  Is it a ‘handmade tea towel’ for example, or an ‘artist’s original design hand printed on eco-friendly ethically sourced cloth, that is a piece of art in it’s own right, but can also dry dishes’?  (You will note that I don’t print tea towels so am not using my own work as an example!)

I am not about to hike my prices up to over $200 for a tea towel, but I am going to remember that if I don’t value my work, why should my customers?  Ruminations indeed.

The Makers hub

Last night I was privileged to attend the opening of a new creative space in Canberra, and the celebration of the vision, dreams, hard work and creativity of the brains behind the space.  Mikaela Danvers from Canberra Creatives launched The Makers Hub last night in a perfect way – champagne, soft drink, a craft project to make and take, and cupcakes that you could ‘pimp’ with icing, popcorn, easter eggs, etc. (for the record I had a caramel cupcake with caramel icing and caramelised popcorn – see a theme here?)

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Of course as usual I was so busy talking to all the exciting people in the room that I managed to take only a couple of pictures, but there are many doing the rounds on blogs, instagram, and facebook this morning! (Have a look at Canberra101 and Blonde Ink as a starting point!)

The Makers Hub is a space where you can buy craft supplies, attend workshops, have exhibitions, hire the space for your own functions, and have access to amazing resources like moulds for resin jewellery, and, if the fundraising goes well, you will be able to access a kiln, letterpress, and more!  I am already eyeing it off as the perfect venue for tweenie birthday parties – having a craft session in a sophisticated and inspiring space and getting to go home with something gorgeous that they have made has success written all over it for me!

Mikaela has researched, planned, dreamt, inspired, and researched a bit further in order to put this together, and if last night’s opening night crowd was anything to go by she has hit the nail on the head in terms of having an audience who is excited about the possibilities she has just created for our community!

I got to talk to so many amazingly talented people – Jane who makes lampshades, Wita who designs gorgeous printables, Angie whose quilts are to die for, Anne who is a jeweller, Melissa who collects and sells classic children’s books, Grace who is a fabulous photographer, Nicole who has creativity running out her pores and will be running a workshop there soon, and so many more!  There were idea bubbles floating around above everyone’s heads, I swear!!

If you are in Canberra, go and check it out!  It is in Wiseman St, Macquarie and all the details are on the website – www.canberracreatives.com.au!