Tag Archives: planning

Quelling the inner critic

Are you your own worst critic?  I know I am.  I can immediately list all the things that I have done wrong, could have done better, should have done better, should have known better, but I have to stop and think before I can list what has gone well.  You may have noticed in my posts that I try to talk about the good things that have happened.  This is my personal training ground to focus on the good and put the not-so-good into perspective.

With that in mind let me share what I have achieved in the last few days!  I sat down on Saturday and made 5 and 3/4 handbags (the last quarter had to wait until the next day when I realised, late at night, that I had made a small error that required a lot of unpicking to rectify). And I am proud of them!

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One of them sold that night, so I made a another one from the same fabric the next day, and finished off the one that I hadn’t completed on Saturday.  So in one weekend I made 7 handbags.

Then I sewed up 14 bibs, without their snaps and chews.  I was kicking goals for those two days!  I even managed to do a load of laundry, undertake yet another (futile) search for missing items of clothing for the chicks, take the dog for a walk over to drop some things off to the chicks at their father’s house, and to talk to my Mum for over an hour on the phone.

On Monday morning I zipped around cleaning the house in readiness for a mentoring workshop.  (I will come back to that in a minute).  Over the noise of the vacuum cleaner I heard the dog going berserk and opened the door to find a courier delivering a large box from China.  My teething chews arrived!

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The colours are delightful and just as I ordered them, the quality is great and the sight of them had me dancing around the house (which meant that it wasn’t particularly pristine for my mentoring session but it wasn’t the end of the world!)

The mentoring session was fantastic.  (Yes, yes I will get to that in a minute.)  I felt inspired, energised and ready to tackle my own business when we finished.  And then….I tried sewing my new teething pieces onto my bibs.  Slump.  Big time.  The improved quality and flexibility means that, even after a lot of research and tension, needle and thread adjustment, my domestic machine can’t cope with them.  (The samples were okay to sew but I increased the thickness in order to provide a better quality…….without realising that this would impact the ability of my machine to sew through them.  Obvious now of course.)  Determined not to feel like a complete failure I drove across town to collect my good old workhorse Bernina that has been in for a long overdue service.  And discovered that the shop that was servicing it sells Industrial machines.  I have been researching them online for a while so took the opportunity to pick the brain of the shopkeeper.  Then I went back this morning with samples of leather, denim, bamboo, the silicone teethers, etc and tested them out.  What a difference!!!!!  The stitches through the teether looked perfect – and doubling over my thickest leather wasn’t a problem for the machine.  I am hooked!  But this particular shop has only just started stocking industrial machines, hasn’t built or set them up properly, doesn’t have a lot of options or choices, and they are quite expensive.  So…. back to the computer, more research, phone calls, searching, tagging, searching…….  My head hurts!  I finished off the new bibs with some of the original stock of teethers, and will have to hold off on launching the new teethers until I acquire an appropriate machine.  I have a solution, but it has exhausted me in the process!

The mentoring?  I told you I would get back to it!  As part of my reflection on what I have to offer, what strengths I have, and what excites me, while assessing how I want to live my life, and find that balance with the needs of my chicks, I realised that all the growth I have experienced over the last couple of years with starting and building my business, and researching every step of the way to the nth degree means that I have a large body of knowledge to share!  And I get really animated and excited when I get to share it with other people!  (My years of being a lawyer, manager, leader, etc don’t hurt either!)

Because I am working on quelling that inner critic it took me a while to form a firm plan, but the plan is taking shape, the inner voice is being told to pipe down, and I have started to offer my services as a mentor for other creative people in business.  I have held a couple of group sessions that have gone really well, and have more planned.  I have come away feeling energised just from the community that exists in a group of craftspeople and artists.  I am excited to see where each of these women will grow their business to, as their ideas and talents are inspiring.   At this stage I have only offered the sessions to a small group of people I know, while I assess structures, venues, approaches etc, but over the next few weeks I hope to launch this as a service that can be utilized by people in my local area, but also people anywhere in the world, through the wonders of Skype!  My feedback so far has been positive, and useful, but I am taking my time and not rushing in to oversell what I have to offer, and not undersell the value that I can add!  Another exercise in taming the inner critic is underway!

Other lessons so far this week include that taking a fresh look at branding and marketing my business is useful.  A reminder from the lovely ladies at Shop Handmade (where I sell my bibs and bags here in Canberra) about packaging saw me re-evaluating what I like in a product and looking at my products from that perspective.  Today I spent some time designing a new package for the bibs.  They will now be packaged in a clear bag (that can be resealed if customers want to open it to feel the fabric) with a sticker on the front telling them who made it, and an insert inside with the care details and the story of the bib (you know – where it was made, what music was playing, etc!)  I am not sure if this is the final design for the packaging, because everything is evolving, but for now I am happy to put them on display in the Shop!

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After a few days of highs, and then lows, I think that tomorrow is a day for even-ness.  Hmmmm…. lets see how that plan goes!

New directions

I was going to start this post with a lovely poetic piece about the rain.  But while I was writing it I had a phone call from the boy’s school.  Again.  His father is handling the situation, but the very fact of the call is enough to make me change my direction.  For the post, and for my/our life.

I have been on leave from work for some months now for a combination of reasons.  Trying to support a child with special needs, getting more and more worn down myself from constantly keeping all the balls in the air – working full time at a high level, being a full time single parent, the boy’s need for extra everything, the fact that the girls miss out on so much when the boy needs so much, keeping everyone fed, clothed, alive……  It all got too much at the end of last year and I fell apart.  So my leave (thank goodness I have worked as a public servant for so long) was needed to get me back to ‘normal’ (whatever that is) so that I could go back to juggling the balls again.

Except that I have realised that, as a wise woman I know says, ‘If nothing changes, then nothing changes.’  If I go back to juggling, I will fall again.  And next time I might not get back up.  Something needs to change.  The boy and his sisters won’t change.  They will always be my top priority.  Whether we live in this house or another, the same basic level of housework, maintenance, and general ‘home-ness’ will not change.  Although my ex-husband is back living in the same country, so I am not a full time single parent anymore, that change is not enough to balance it all out.  That leaves work – my paid employment and my creative business.  I am not yet sure what the answer is about which of these will need to change the most in order to build a new direction for me/us but it is obvious that one or both will need to.

I have applied for some further leave (of the long service type – again – so glad that I have worked for so many years!) so that I can work this question out.  Because life as a parent of a child with a disability can’t follow the plan that I previously had.  We have to find a new path, and a new approach, and a new plan.  This plan has to put my health near the top of the list of priorities, to allow flexibility so that the boy can have the support he needs when he needs it, to produce enough income to pay for the necessities in life, and to be manageable.  Expect to see a lot of idea bubbles floating around above my head, growing or popping as I work through all of them, weighing up, assessing and looking at how to build a new life for the chicks and I.  Although it is daunting, it is also exciting.  The possibilities are endless!

Meanwhile, back in the sewing studio (sounds posh doesn’t it?!) in between periods of intense chaos, some goods have been produced!  I have completed some custom orders, delivered a pile of bibs to restock the Handmade Shop (the first lot almost all sold out in under a month!!), and am ticking things off the list I made on the weekend.  This custom order was delivered today, in time for the birthday of a girl who loves Dr Who, and who loves the willow pattern.  I can’t wait to hear how she reacts to it on her birthday!

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And, after all my protests about bibs not being ‘in scope’ they are selling well, I like making them, and I have some plans to expand my ‘range’ for older children and teens.  Stand by for that development (once my new fabric order arrives!!).  In the meantime how gorgeous are these fabrics?

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Another thing that I ticked off my list this week was listing my new stock in my Etsy shop.  I was so busy making things in the lead up to the Markets at the beginning of the month that I didn’t stop and photograph many of them – a good lesson for the future!  Here is a small selection of the newly listed bags.

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And finally, my big news of the day is that I have been accepted to sell my bags through Shop Handmade!  This was part of the plan that I created last year, so I am proud that I have followed my plan, and that I have been accepted to sell in such a wonderful shop.  The biggest danger is that each time I deliver stock I will have to be careful not to leave with just as many pieces of other people’s work!

This week’s plan is to finish more custom orders, sew up some new designs, and get some planning happening!  I hope that your week goes well (and that you get the rain that is so badly needed if you are in Australia!)

For now I am off to think about new directions over a cup of tea.

 

The whirling head

Arrrggghhhh….I have a head that is whirling with ideas and dreams and plans, but have lost the ability to translate it into action!  A house full of children all day, with their demands for food, water and time (such demanding little creatures they are) is sucking the ability to create out of me!  Throw in some hot weather, some unwelcome news on a different front, and a nice dash of burn out and hey presto – nothing is being made.

Well – that is not quite true.  Today I actually finished a bag that I started two weeks ago(!!).  But I have made more mistakes in this bag than any bag I have previously made – including forgetting to put one half of the magnetic snap in the bag before finishing it all up!  Then, after unpicking, inserting the snap, and resewing, I realised that it was not quite centred!  Doh!  Two things I just haven’t done before!  (A sign that I need to keep sticking to doing one thing at a time). I love the fabric in this bag, but after all the endless unpicking and restitching, and re-doing (because there were other errors too) I can’t bring myself to sell this one to a customer who is expecting good quality.  So it looks like I have a new bag for the new year!  Oh well – there needs to be a silver lining after so many mistakes!

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The good news is that I am loving my new sewing room.  I go and sit in there and it is like a little wave of calm flows over me.  It continues to be a great move, even if I am not actually making much in there.

And that means that I have been sitting in there to calmly work my way through my planning/thinking/dreaming workbooks.  I mentioned these in my last post.  A fellow creative friend put me onto the site run by Leonie Dawson who produces these wonderfully illustrated workbooks and calendars that you can buy as digital downloads for a very reasonable price. Given that I am a bit stuck at the moment ( you know – the whole burn out thing) and that I am pretty much allergic to planning (which is part of the reason that I tell you so often that I am doing it – partly to hold myself accountable and partly to desensitise myself to the concept) I was a little sceptical.  But I am a sucker for clear vibrant colours and messages of hope and inspiration and support.  So after reading testimonials, examining the site, and loving the illustrations, I decided that the risk was minimal and the colours were worth it.  (How superficial can one planning-avoider be?!)

I was just intending to buy the business workbook, but given that I have announced to you all quite emphatically that 2014 is my year, I bought the life workbook on a whim too.  I am working my way through the Biz workbook first (because I printed it first!) and have already had some lightbulb moments.  Some of them turned out to be blown lightbulbs when I re-examined them, but that doesn’t matter – I was thinking and reviewing and not breaking out in hives.

You start by a review of the past year.  Wow – I had lost track of how much I had done in the last year!  Then start on your goals, dreams, and plans for the new year.  Uh-huh.  Now we are talking.  While you might be able to do this with lots of different tools and planners, I am loving this one so far.  It has me thinking about what I need – not just what the business needs.  Powerful stuff being reminded to make time for yourself!  On that basis alone I am happy to recommend the products (which I don’t do that often).  Then of course there are the beautiful illustrations by Leonie.  I would be happy to just be surrounded by them all day!  So I have become an affiliate and put a link up on the side of my page so that if you want to buy them for yourself you can!  (I am also thinking of the meditation course she sells – I would love to go to a health spa and do it that way, but on my current budget think that an e-course might be a more realistic place to start!  I will let you know what I decide!)

I have talked before about how much I love lists – and this workbook involves making lists.  So in my next post, all going well I will share my ‘list’ with you – again working on that accountability thing!

The other thing I am doing is buying fabric!  Oops!  When I sat down and did an inventory of what I had I realised that I am actually in need of updating my stash, replacing some that are almost at an end, and embracing the new season’s fabrics.  What a task!   (Mwahahaha as my son would say!)  So online orders have been happening, and tomorrow we will hit Spotlight – which starts the new catalogue sale tomorrow and has goodies on sale that I need (because when it comes to fabric we always need, rather than want, don’t we?!)

In school holiday updates – the boy has beaten me in Uno, but lost to me in Carcassone in a close run game.  The two girls joined us for a game of Carcassone tonight with two add-ons (extra tiles and rules and pieces that you can add to the basic game) and it was hilarious.  I went all out and strategized my placement of pieces and for the first time it worked!  I cleaned up and won convincingly.  Yes – I know that it is sad that a grown woman is gloating about beating three children who are all under 11 – but they have been beating me in everything so it was time for a win for the oldie!

I hope that your week is going well and that your head isn’t whirling!  Remember – one day at a time.  (For me and for you!)

Answers to riddles

After the rather obscure references to burnt bits of meat in my last post’s heading, I thought I should clear up some other vagaries in this post!

For those of you who have been reading along over the last year, you might recall that I did my Right Brain business course last year and had all sorts of lightbulb moments that I promised to tell you about.  Then life, and my boy, got a bit chaotic, and all lightbulbs had to be tucked away for a while.  With a new year, and a lovely card (that ironically was in a gift from my ex-husband) stuck to my pin board to remind me that 2014 is my year, I have been dusting off the lightbulbs and adding to them.

The first lightbulb to share with you is that I love making bags.  I love playing with colours, textures and shapes and making those little pieces of art that people get to use.  No surprises there – but a really good reminder about what gives me that zing in my day.

The second lightbulb is that I love to share ideas, to pass on tips, and to help other people to find their creative niche and passion in life.  The first tiny step towards that is my monthly newsletter where I hope to share ideas, tips and links that I find so that you can explore creative ideas until you find ones that resonate with you.  (Heavens knows that making bags was a complete accident for me and now I can’t imagine not doing it!)

The second step in shining the light of that lightbulb on my world is that I am developing some kits so that you can make your own ‘things’ at home, and learn some skills along the way.  Of course there will be bag kits – with everything you need to make a funky, practical and personal bag for yourself.  But I will also be adding in some other kits so that you can make personalised things (like superhero capes) of your own.  I am so excited about this!  I am hoping to have my patterns with testers by early March, so stand by for updates!  (Those who know me understand that I often want to rush in and do everything at once, so the fact that I am doing this in stages is sensible but excruciating at the same time!)

Then last week I was teasing you with images of me walking around the house with wet bamboo fabric on my shoulders to test absorbancy and wicking.  The answer?  I accepted a commission from a lovely business owner to make some bibs for her shop.  She wanted bandana bibs with teething chews attached as she had customers asking for them regularly.  I brought my analytical brain out of hiding and looked at the problem from several different angles and decided that cotton tops, with bamboo/cotton French terry towelling as the lining would do the trick.  The style of a bandana bib is that the folds that naturally form then trap dribble, spills, etc.  Having the bamboo, with it’s super-absorbancy means that all that wetness gets held in the bib, rather than going straight through onto the baby’s clothes.  As for the teether being attached?  Well – I can now say that I have sewn plastic onto fabric (and remembered to change the needle before sewing cotton again)!  Then the question arose of how to close the bib.  Ah-ha!  My days as a mother using modern cloth nappies (diapers) came to the fore – plastic snaps with two snaps on one side makes the bib adjustable.  So I am now the proud owner of a press and die set to install the snaps.  (And we all know how much I love a gadget!)  The trial run of bibs is on its way to be photographed ready for listing at www.LittleBubbalish.com.au – who will sell them exclusively.  Another bit of excitement!  (And while a small deviation from my bag plans, is a great way to play with fabrics for small people that I don’t often get to use!)

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In reviewing my business plan from last year, and working on it a bit more I have been focussing on what is important to me at home, in my business and in my working life (you know – the job that pays the bills!)  I had a think about this blog.  You might have noticed that I have been blinging it up a bit over the last few weeks – creating the home page, adding some other tabs, putting up a shiny new header and tag line.  Hmmmm…..perhaps I got a bit too focussed on the ‘business’ aspect of it all, and forgot the stuff that I like doing – writing to you and talking about what is happening here in the nest.  You can expect a return to ‘normal programming’ soon!  (I am still undecided about the ‘home page’.  All feedback welcome!)

And finally – I have been planning.  Let me explain something first.  I am a list maker – I love to tick things off.  I used to be highly organised  (before I had children) but sitting down and developing plans just isn’t my forte.  So to be working through plans step by step is a little unusual for me.  But I have found a workbook that resonates with me (and will share more about it when I am finished) so am actually using it!  The point I am up to today is to list the things that I will do each day.  There are suggestions in the workbook, that are so simple and obvious and yet reading them gave me such clarity.  I haven’t yet finalised my list, but the ones that resonated (yes I am aware that I am using that word twice in one paragraph) with me were to step away from the computer, to spend 15 minutes each day decluttering a part of your house,  to allocate time for emails, etc.  So obvious, but such a good reminder!  There is also a challenge to reduce emails to 5 lines.  (Thank goodness it wasn’t to reduce blog posts to 5 lines – you know how verbose I am!)

While there hasn’t been a lot of sewing (apart from the bibs) happening, there has been a lot of mental activity going on.  I am struggling a bit with the constancy of children due to the school holidays but am trying to find time each day to just focus on being present with them.  It is harder than it sounds.  I am so burnt out from the emotional demands of the last couple of years that dealing with their demands all day means that I am retreating a bit in order to cope.  But a daily reminder to myself is keeping me from falling away too far.  A three day Monopoly game with the boy was hilarious – even when I finally managed to bankrupt him.  The middle chick thought she would make meringues using a recipe from her Science book.  It was an experiment in more ways than one – the electric hand held mixer I received for my 21st birthday died in a puff of smoke and the smell of burning sugar and rubber.  The eldest chick is doing her own version of planning.  She is writing, cutting, sticking and writing some more.  I think she is making lists to try and help her make sense of the transition we are all going through.  Or maybe she is just her mother’s daughter.

Ah look – another long rambling post from me.  If you are still here – thank you.  I hope that your week allows you time to be present with the people who are important to you.

Interrupting the schedule

It has occurred to me tonight that sticking to a blogging schedule takes the fun out of it. I look back at my first posts and I like them! Now, they feel more like a list of what has happened in the last week. Not paint-drying boring, but not great to read either. So I am abandoning my structure in favour of a more free-flowing blog. I choose to view this as an evolutionary step rather than a reversal! (C’mon, work with me here!)

I started the blog to have a place to talk about my crafting, sewing, parenting and the ups and downs of life. Along the way I think I forgot for a bit that sharing tidbits of life as it happens and impacts on us is so much more interesting that watching the evening news….. hence the decision to take the regulated nature away, and go back to writing when I want to, or need to. Chances are that you will get more photos that way too!!

I have been in a great space for the last couple of days. I have been soaking up the sudden onset of Spring weather and am sure that it is all that extra sunlight that is making life seem so achievable again. I have also decided that I need to find an au pair. I looked at this at the beginning of the year when my usual babysitter took up a full time job, but was worried that further instability would disrupt the boy. As it turns out, the introduction of an au pair would probably have made little difference to the boy, but hindsight is a wonderful thing. So now I am focussed on the benefits that would come from us having an au pair, even if it just until Christmas. I could go out at night occasionally – whoa! A radical concept! I could also have time to get my sewing done while the kids were still busy, happy and occupied! I could also have more flexibility about my office hours, and be in a better position to give my team time when they need it. (Don’t worry – I am sure that there are downsides too, but listing them would bring me down!) So the search is on – feelers have been put out on websites, through family, and on facebook. Now to find the magical person to be part of our crazy, colourful, creative family life for a few months! Wish me (and the chicks) luck!

Part of the Spring energy also means that I want to make lists and get organised and clean up the house and garden. I also want to sew, and research, and design and plan. My solution to all of this? I have made a list. Yep – a stroke of genius! I have planned what I want to have made for my market stall and mapped out what I would like to make each week in order to reach that target. I think it is doable. The hope is that with a plan I will have time for a camping weekend or two, to work on the garden, and to keep the decluttering process going. And the list is pretty too. It is on a proper piece of paper, rather than the back of an envelope. That has to make a difference!

Before I go to clean up my sewing area and prepare for making something new (I think I will start with some small zipped purses/pouches) I can share that the creativity suitcase for my special little friend who is turning 6 is finished. Her mother, who commissioned it, collected it today and has promised photos of it being unwrapped on Friday morning. I can’t wait!! I made it using the tutorial prepared by ‘By Night’ on the Whip-Up site for a creativity suitcase

The photos were taken with my phone, at night, but you get the general drift I hope!

I hope that your week is going well and that you are also finding happiness and focus.