Tag Archives: research

Two steps forward, one step back

My small start back into sewing went quite well last week.  I made a few more iPad covers, remembered (well – was reminded) that I still ‘owed’ my kids a few promised sewn projects, and started developing some new designs.

One of the products that I want to develop is a man’s wallet.  (I also want to make a woman’s wallet/purse but with Father’s Day around the corner thought that the men’s products had to take priority!)  I played around with some ideas and then made this prototype.

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I put it up on my Facebook page and asked for feedback.  Quite a few of my lovely female followers responded, with many of them commenting that it needed a closure of some description.  There were also comments on fabric, leather, colour etc, but I am not too concerned about those as simply making items with different combinations addresses that issue.  However I was concerned about the fastening issue, so I put a post on my personal Facebook profile, asking for input from males on the question of fasteners on wallets.  The first response was ‘No fastener for me. If you need one of those you’re not a man.’  And the following 40+ responses followed that pattern, except for one friend who responded that he had a fastener, then read the other comments and made various ‘manly’ statements to reclaim his manhood.  The respondents were of varied ages, educations, locations, backgrounds etc, so I think this is a fairly definitive indication that men do not like fasteners on their wallets!   I will tinker a bit with the design and hope to make some more this week, and will be sure to label the wallets as ‘man approved’ so that the women buying them don’t think they should have a fastener!

I also put out some feelers on whether people preferred baby bibs to fasten on the back or the side.  The responses were mixed, so I have decided for my next range of bibs to do a bit of both!  This was a custom order, but I plan to make a few more, and make some square ones with teether chews.

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I then had a great Saturday afternoon and produced a Kindle cover, shoulder bag, and library bag for my chicks (finally!!)

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The shoulder bag as a work in progress

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Kindle cover

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Library bag for the boy using the fabric he chose some weeks ago.

My steps forward were going well.  But I feel like I am going backwards this week.  The boy only managed to last 40 minutes at school today.  Last week he was there most days for between one and two hours, so I had some time to get things done.  This week, although we have only just started, I am feeling much more dejected about my ability to sew, to earn a living on my own terms, and to keep everything afloat.  I have finally decided to apply for some government benefits to help out.  While part of me feels grateful that the services are there, the other part of me is falling into a deep well of self pity wondering how I went from high-flying lawyer to government benefits.  Of course I know the logical answers – parenting a child with special needs means a change of course – but it is still sucking the energy out of me.    My mission this week, then, is that, in between filling out many, many, many forms, and organising my financial records for my tax return, I will find time to make things that are fun, and will re-energise me.

One of my ideas is to make a few more stencilled bags.  I made these two over the weekend as gifts, and enjoyed it, so a few more will be fun!

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I have also been playing with ideas for handwarmers and road tested a couple  with my boy and his friend yesterday – and received positive feedback from them, so will try to make a few more – sure to get me up and going!

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Right.  Here I go, off to get re-energized and move forward again!

 

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!