Monthly Archives: January 2014

School holidays

The heat here is, as predicted, just that.  Heat.  Baking down, blowing in the window like a furnace.  I got in the car to go the shop for milk tonight and the temperature gauge read 50 C (122F).  Hot.  Luckily it fell rapidly to 39C on the drive!

With the heat tempers are fraying, voices are snappy, and little things become difficult.  Oh wait – that might just be me!  Anyway – when I found myself with a house full of children yesterday (my three plus three more) and the temperatures were soaring, it was time to pull out some activities to keep them all engaged inside where it was cool.  Luckily a friend had put me onto the fact that the Sharpie pen range includes “Stained” – a series of fabric pens.  I found a pack of brightly coloured ones (orange, purple, green, blue, red, black, yellow and pink) before Christmas (for about $16 at Big W for those in Australia) and had tucked them away thinking they might work as a present for one of the chicks.  I also had a pile of blank t-shirts from my experiment with appliqueing shirts for the shop.  And voila!  We had a craft ready to go. (And by way of review of the pens – they worked well, lasted to do the 6 designs with more ink in them, had good clear colours and a brush tip which allowed for different finishes.  I will be recommending them!)

I made them all stick a piece of cardboard inside the shirts, and sat them down in pairs to design their own shirts.  The two older girls (the eldest chick and her friend) were the first.  Somehow they decided that “I rock – deal with it” was the statement of the day, and proceeded to decorate their shirts with that, plus a few extra swirls and squiggles.  I told them that there were no mistakes when you are a designer, so anything they made was going to be great! The friend also added pieces of fabric that I then appliqued on for her.

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Then the boy and his friend went to work on theirs.  Strangely enough (or not) they also felt the need to announce to the world that they ‘rock’.  The boy’s friend did an amazing job of drawing, writing and colouring in (and I regret not capturing it in a photo).  The boy, on the other hand, made a mistake and would not accept any guidance to see that it wasn’t a mistake, it could be salvaged, etc.  Much yelling and crying later he tackled a new shirt and did a great job.

That left the middle chick and her friend.  By this stage I was out of pale shirts (and patience to be honest) and down to pinks and purples.  They decided to draw on white cotton that I will then applique onto their shirts (must do that – mental note).  Neither of them felt the need to announce that they rock in any way – what a relief!

 

 

 

So this is the middle chick’s offering.  She started with the idea of drawing bamboo…..

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With children running here, there and everywhere, and the heat (did I mention that already?) I haven’t made it into the sewing room other than to hunt for various things that have been required.  I have, however, been busy in other aspects of this little business.

The first edition of my monthly newsletter was sent out last night, and, in addition to a free tutorial, links to free printables, and various other bits and pieces, it held a bit of news.  I have been accepted as a stall holder for the next Canberra Handmade Market, on the weekend of 8 and 9 March, which is a prestigious market, and has been part of my aim for the last 12 months.  I am very excited!

I was also contacted by two different organisations yesterday and asked to be a contributor of patterns, tutorials and tips.  One is a craft magazine published here in Australia, and the other is an international website used by many crafters.  In terms of things coming in threes, that was a pretty big three for this little bird!

I have also taken my first step to add another dimension to my shop, and have started to list bag making components for sale in addition to finished bags and accessories.  I have started with adjustable strap slides.  I have had no success finding these in the local stores (and I live in a fairly well resourced city) and ended up buying in bulk.  So I have decided to make these bits and pieces available more easily to those of you who might like to turn your hand at trying a pattern but are put off by not being able to find the right ‘notions’ in your local shops.

My intention is to follow this up with other bag hardware and some interfacing.  There are other steps that will follow this, but these are the first little ones before I start running!

I am itching to get into the sewing room and finish some bags, complete my not-so-secret project of making some baby items on commission and generally disappear into a cloud of creativity.  But reality is that it is hot.  Oh – and it is school holidays.  Once the children are back at their father’s house on the next ‘rotation’ I will be complaining of the quiet and having too much time on my hands.  (Or not!)

Either way, I hope that you are surviving the week wherever you are, and that you are able to enjoy some creativity of your own kind.

Testing, testing, testing

Although I am still focussed on making the bags that I listed in my last post, and have in fact been able to sew a couple in between wrangling children in the midst of a heatwave, I have also been designing and developing a completely different type of product from my norm, in response to a request from a friend.  I have learnt to sew through plastic, to insert plastic snaps, and tonight am walking around the house with wet pieces of bamboo terry towelling sitting on my linen top so that I can see how much moisture wicks away!  The things we do!! (Don’t worry, all will be revealed when I have finished my testing!) It is perhaps fortunate that we are experiencing the heatwave – doing this in winter would be dreadful, whereas now it is quite pleasant!

I have finished the blue canvas satchel, adorned with blue police boxes, that I gave you a sneak peak of earlier in the week and will take proper photos of that, and the other bag I am working on tomorrow, using my new light tent, but for now, as you have already seen at the top of the page – ta da!

My other news is that I received my photographs from the delightful Grace Costa, a wonderful and very talented photographer here in Canberra, who gathered a group of creative souls together last Sunday and took photos of us so that we could update our websites etc.  I have updated my ‘About’ page, but thought that you might like to see the shot that I selected to use.  (So glad that I went to the hairdresser that day!)

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I hope that you have had a good weekend.  Ours has been a combination of cleaning out and driving a trailer to the rubbish and recycling depot (where I demonstrated quite successfully that my ability to reverse a trailer has deteriorated) and organising the complex school holiday social lives of my chicks.  This week has temperature predictions reaching 39 C (102F) so I am aiming for lots of cool indoor activities to help keep tempers and temperatures under control.  Wish me luck!

I hope that you have a great week!

Catching Up – and my lessons

Between moving the website, writing my business plan, re-installing my website, and various other necessary evils like sleep I feel that I haven’t had a chance to sit and write a proper post for weeks!  (That would be my overly dramatic side showing through again.)  So many little things have happened that I would normally share with you that I thought it was time for a catching up post!

First of all I hope that you all had a peaceful holiday period.  I certainly did!  The chicks were off visiting their grandparents with their father and I had this quiet, clean (except for my mess) house where I didn’t have to be responsible for anything or anyone except the animals and myself.  It was just what I needed after the turmoil of the weeks/months/year before Christmas and just what my health needed.  I didn’t do any sewing until about the 4th of January!  Then I made this bag which was a custom order left over from last year.  I love the colours that she chose!  I also made myself a new cushion cover, given that all my sewing recently has been for other people.  I love this fabric!

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I did however set up a new sewing room.  I have commandeered the spare room that had been occupied by the eldest chick earlier in the year, and then by the au pair, and then my mother when she came to our rescue.  Although it would be nice to give the chicks a room of their own each, I have decided that I need to start putting myself first a little more (one of my recent learnings) and that most of us survived sharing a room with our siblings until we left home, so the two chicks who are sharing a room will be just fine!  I have a little tweaking to go with the set up, but so far am really enjoying the space.  It also has the best light in the house – especially in winter when it becomes a sun trap.

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I also spent a few days focussed on working on my business plan.  You know – the one I started back in July and then kept meaning to work on?  I am still not finished, but I do now have a clear vision of what I want to achieve with my making and selling, and how I need to think about overheads and pricing.  The Right Brain business course that I did encourages you to make collages to capture things like your competition, perfect customer, brand values, etc.  I enjoyed that much more than I thought I would!  It also helped when I was writing an application for a Handmade Market – I just had to turn my pictures into words!  Another good lesson learnt!

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Part of the planning process is looking at your money.   Hmmmm…..at worst depressing and at best thought provoking.  That process prompted me to also look at setting up accounting software etc….. but after a day or so of trying to do that I realised that I am not ready for any of that.  My buying, making and selling can be accommodated in a simple excel spreadsheet.  When I become a mega-industrial mogul with warehouse sites etc maybe I will need to use the software products I was exploring but until then keeping it simple is just perfect!  Phew – one less thing to worry about, and another lesson to add to my list.

One of the ideas that I have been playing with for a long time and that I am putting into action soon, involves developing some graphics that are precise (like pattern pieces for example).  So I downloaded a trial copy of Adobe Illustrator and did some tutorials to see what I could do.  Many, many hours/days later I finally came to the realisation that I am not a graphic designer and that I need to outsource that to someone who is!  The upside of all of those hours?  I now understand what is needed to give really good instructions to the graphic designer!  Yep – another useful lesson!

In the midst of all of this I realised that I wanted to move the site to be self hosted.  In hindsight I could have taken a different approach to that and made it easier on myself, but after learning all sorts of new jargon and processes it seems to be up and running!

I also did a bit of assessing my stock.  I took an inventory of my fabric (boy was that hard – trying not to get distracted by pieces I had forgotten I had!), and of my bits and bobs – zips, slide buckles, etc.  A bit of time on Ebay saw most of that addressed, so the parcel man has been a regular at the front door and will be for another week or so!

All of that really did take up a lot of time and headspace!  I was a hermit for most of the holiday period, with the exception of a lovely dinner with friends on Boxing Day, and visits from Ms C, one of my dear friends who also helps me to brainstorm and problem solve.  I was feeling great and thinking that perhaps I didn’t need to be on leave for long while recovering from all the events of last year.  I got a bit cocky, forgot that I have limitations on what I can and can’t do, and organised a bit of socialising.  I caught up with the MIML, and a couple of really good friends, and that turned into eating three meals out in one day.  Mmmm…fun but very, very foolish.  A good reminder that I can’t run around like I used to, and need to pace myself and do only one thing at a time.  Really.  Timely really, as the chicks are returning this week and I need to be able to look after them properly, on my own.  So my mantra is two edged.  Keep it simple.  One thing at a time.  Wish me luck!

All of this means that my sewing, despite my very best of intentions, has been slow.  However the small bits that I have done have also helped me to look at my processes, assess them and think of ways to refine them.  Two more purchases have resulted.  (And probably the last for a while given that there is a lot of spending going on and not a lot of making/selling!).  The first is a photographic light cube tent – a white polyester box that pops up and is used to take product shots with even light etc.  After having my professional shots done I realised that my own photography is very inconsistent, so this is the first step towards addressing that, and reducing the time spent trying to get it right!  (I just keep learning don’t I?)

The second investment?  A steam press.  One of those gadgets that irons your clothes/fabric etc between two surfaces.  I am hoping that it will dramatically cut the time I spend attaching fusible interfacing and fleece!

Oh – and a third purchase as a result of a request by a friend to make up a particular product for her (that I will share if it works) is a cast iron press for attaching plastic snaps to fabric.  The potential for replacing hook and loop was enough to make me think that it is a good long term investment!

Now that the bank balance is so drastically reduced it is probably time for me to simply knuckle down and get back to the stuff that I actually love – sewing!

Oh – I had another lesson during this time.  It is VERY difficult to give chickens oral medicine.  The ridiculous antics that I got up to in trying to achieve this were worthy of a comedy sketch, but completely hopeless at actually treating my poor chooks who have been infested with lice.  However today the vet set me up with syringes with needles to inject them and that took seconds to administer, required no antics, ridiculous or otherwise, and will hopefully see them healthy and well again very soon.

I also had to break it to the boy that his favourite climbing tree is a little less than it was following a big storm.  Think we will be off to the garden waste place with a trailer this weekend!

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You might have seen that I have started a newsletter subscription thingy.  My plan is a monthly newsletter with links, tips, some giveaways, etc.  I am gathering together all my ideas for the first one, so do sign up so that you can enjoy the things I am finding for you!

Now it is time to go and sew.  I hope that your week is going well and that any lessons you are learning are positive, affirming ones!

Making new things!

After spending far too much time fixing up my own mistakes in moving the website I can now return to focussing on the fun stuff – making things!  Over the quiet holiday period I have spent hours brainstorming, planning, right things down, making lists and dreaming.  Exhausting work!  As a result I have plans for more bags – some different styles, and some quite distinct collections.  (Sounding so professional!)

First up I am making a series of geek chic bags to replace those that sold out so quickly before Christmas.  Those blue police boxes lend themselves to so many different ways of being displayed for Dr Who fans!  I have also found some lovely police box blue canvas so expect some sturdy yet suitably geeky bags from that (perhaps even a ‘man-bag’ or two!).

Then I am restocking my overnight bags.  I have more of that gorgeous retro camping fabric in different colours, plus a few new ideas.  I will also be cutting out a few bicycle shapes to restock on cushion covers, and to start a series of bags with the handcut appliques on them – bikes, words,  and other images.

My brain is buzzing just thinking about it all!

So stand by for photos over the next day or so as I kick off my plans for 2014!

And we’re back

Phew.
What a day!
After spending most of the last week preparing the site for the domain transfer so that it would be seamless and professional, I got a bit carried away with my own technical prowess and just as it all finally went live in the planned seamless fashion…..I deleted some files…..and brought the whole thing to a crashing halt.

So, in between hairdresser appointments and photo shoots (’cause I am a super model in my spare time dontchaknow) I have been starting from scratch and reloading and resetting the whole thing. All of the beautiful finessing that I had done over the week is gone…..so there isn’t much to show for all the work except that (once I label the buttons properly) you can now subscribe for a monthly newsletter. That I will be re-writing. (It really was a thing of beauty – photos, tips, links, freebies….)

Anyway – it appears that I am back up and running, and instead of a great ‘ta-da’ moment it will be a gradual creep over the next week.

The lovely irony is? Today is my blogoversary! Ah well – there will be time for celebration when it is all working properly.

In the meantime a very belated Happy New Year to you all! I will share my musings on the whole thing after a good night’s sleep!