All of a sudden it is December and I am meant to be thinking about putting up the Christmas tree and getting my presents ready. Having just finished the celebrations for my boy’s 11th birthday it came as a bit of a shock when I realised that my eldest chick finishes school this week and that Christmas is only three weeks away! What have I been doing with myself?
The short answer is focusing on family and on making. The longer answer includes market preparation for a market that was cancelled for technical reasons, managing medical appointments for all three children, and trying to stay on top of the basics like feeding them and keeping the house clean. (Some of those have been more successful than others!)
My son turned 11 last week and wanted to celebrate with a sleepover with three friends. One of them couldn’t make it but the two that did come had a great time and he truly felt that he had celebrated his birthday as he wanted to. Phew! It was pretty low key – I took them to the movies then we came home and made pizza, then they played games, built Lego, shot Nerf guns and slept! Gone are the days of elaborate themed cakes and parties, treasure hunts and party bags, and what a relief that is!!
I have not started on my Christmas making or buying! With not a lot of money around there won’t be extravagant purchases this year, but there will be handmade gifts, made with love and with the person they are being made for in mind. Now to remember to actually make the list and make the gifts! I suspect that, like last year, pyjamas will feature heavily for the younger generation. I like to tell them that it means that they are wrapped in love when they sleep, but really it is because you can’t have too many pairs, and they don’t have to be an exact fit!
As for all the making – well that has been going well. When the market last week was cancelled I even managed to list quite a few of my products in my shop, so feel free to have a browse at what I have there now. A few new tea cosies, some new cacti, jewellery, and even bookmarks have found their way onto my workbench over the last few weeks. I did a big analysis of my products after the last market (just like I recommended in my last post) and did some streamlining of both products and processes as a result. While any handmade business will always be a work in progress, I feel better about my set up at the moment, and ready for the next market I am attending, the Makers + Merchants Twilight Market in Goulburn on 15 December from 5 – 9pm. Goulburn is about 40 minutes up the highway from where I live and I am looking forward to another regional market after the great time that I had at the Gundaroo Market. Being able to meet new customers and talk about my products is fun, and I know a number of the other stallholders who will be attending so catching up with them will be great too!
For now though, I am enjoying the sound of rain on our tin roof, the sight of our tanks and dams overflowing, and the ground soaking it all up. A great day to be at home making and planning and thinking! The danger is, of course, that it means that I am already putting in orders for supplies to use in new product ideas that keep popping up. Next year is going to be busy when all the parcels arrive!
I hope that you have had a great week and that the lead up to Christmas isn’t too crazy. This year my focus is on keeping our celebrations simple and meaningful. We won’t be spending money we don’t have on food we don’t need, or rushing around trying to see all the people we haven’t seen for the last twelve months. Instead I will be working with the kids on making our decorations, making presents for teachers and special friends, and talking about how we can remember the meaning of Christmas and live it in our daily lives. Lofty aspirations are better than none I have decided!
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!
I started this post a couple of weeks ago, when I was preparing to attend my first market (after a long break) but decided to wait until the market was over before completing it, so that I could share my experiences along with a check list. What I have put together is a general list of things to take with you, that you can use as a guide for your own market preparation. And hopefully you will learn from my mistakes!
I can report that I really enjoyed the market. I sold enough to make it financially worthwhile, got to test out my displays, my packing and my products, and I was able to talk to customers. I even sold one of the tea cosies that my mum knitted (as well as a few of my own!) Overall it was a great start on my journey back to markets. I made a few mistakes but recovered from them, and learnt a lot at the same time.
Is your market indoors or outdoors? If it is outdoors are you going to have shelter provided or will you need your own. In my case I have a 3m x 3m portable gazebo that I can erect for outside markets, so that is on my checklist. If you are attending an indoor market it pays to check whether you are allowed to set up gazebos inside as many markets will not allow it.
If you are outside remember to have something to secure your gazebo or marquee in case of strong winds. (Yes – something I forgot to take with me). You can buy weights for the legs or make them yourself – just remember them and remember to put them in place because it would be quite disastrous to have your shelter fly across the market ground if the wind picks up!
It also pays to think about whether you need walls for your structure. I had two walls with me, but as I ended up on a corner site I only used one, as a backdrop.
My set up at an outdoor market with the back wall up.
2. Display furniture
How are you displaying your products? I will be taking a table, some shelves, a screen and some boxes that provide different heights for displays. Doing a run through at home is always good so that you know how things will look on the day. Make a list of all your props so that you can check them off in your packing. Then be prepared for changes. My stall was moved to a corner position on the night, so it would have been useful to have a second table – something I will definitely be taking next time. I am also thinking about floor covering – it makes a difference!
The shelves worked well to display the tea cosies but I wasn’t happy with the rest of my display – tweaking is required!
3. Cloths and props
A table cloth that reaches the ground is an important part of a good market set up. Apart from making your table look good it also gives you an excellent storage spot that is out of sight. I find it handy for hiding the storage boxes that my products are carried in so they are at hand for packing up at the end of the market.
If you are using props for your display these need to be on your list. Most of my props are teapots for displaying my tea cosies so I need to remember these otherwise there will be some floppy crocheted piles on my shelves!
It is a bonus when your props double as storage
Lighting is important whether you are at an indoor or outdoor event. Events indoors can sometimes be gloomy so having some lighting to brighten your display is a great way of attracting customers. Outdoor events that go into the evening will definitely benefit from lighting, and even daytime outdoor events can be gloomy so some lighting to brighten your space will help.
The range of possibilities for lighting is wide. If you don’t have access to power during your market then the range of solar lighting is large and affordable these days. I have some rice-paper-style globes from Ikea that are solar powered that cost about $15 and add light in a nice way. Another option is battery powered lights – rechargable or not. I have a rechargable flourescent light that gives great lighting (from the auto section at a hardware shop) and fairy lights from Big W that run on two AA batteries. All of these provide flexible lighting solutions……if you remember to pack them. Ahem. If the bright light is still plugged into it’s charger on the bench at home it isn’t much use when night falls…..
If you do remember to take your lights, make sure you know how you are going to attach them to your display and pack cable ties, bluetack, hooks etc, depending on your needs.
I have a banner with a stand lets people know who I am and what I am selling. One of the best responses I had to my banner was from a man who said ‘I know that name, ‘a little bird made me’. Let me think – your mother is Elizabeth, and you are Theresa and you live out in Bywong.’ It turns out he is the local courier who delivers my parcels – that my mother always signs for.
6. Bags and packaging
When people buy your products it pays to be able to package them so that they will travel home from the market safely. Paper bags with handles suit most items, but have a think about the size of your products and make sure you have bags that suit those items best. I have carry bags that will accommodate cups and saucers, and tea cosies but a pair of earring would be lost in them, so I will have smaller bags for those small items. If you have a fragile product it is good to be able to wrap it in tissue paper or bubble wrap to cushion it on it’s trip home. Having your packaging branded is good to do before hand too – in my case I use a stamp with my logo to mark the bags as being from my business.
7. Admin Box.
This is the box that holds all the things that you will need for each market, so that you don’t have to find and pack them everytime. The admin box is where you put:
(a) Business cards or fliers
People like to take a card so that they can look you up when they next want a product like yours, so having a pile of cards or fliers is an easy way to ensure return custom. They also provide a great discussion point with customers who are asking whether you sell on line etc.
You need to be ready to give change to the first customer who comes along! And it helps if you remember the KEY to your cash box and don’t leave it sitting on the bench at home, 20 kms away. Ahem. Luckily my parents willingly drove home, found the key and returned it to me. After all of that I didn’t have to make change for any customer – they all had the right money or used my card facilities!
(c) Credit card facility
Again – if you have the facility for people to pay by card they are more likely to purchase from you. Make sure you have any connecting hardware, that you have tested it and that you know how to operate it. If your eftpos facility gives paper receipts carry a spare roll.
(d) Notebook and pen
For taking orders, fo writing reminders to yourself about what has worked and what hasn’t, for writing out notes for customers, or taking down phone numbers, this is important to have.
(e) Repair kit
Accidents happen, both to your products and to your display. Having a small kit with sticky tape and duct tape, a screwdriver, scissors, pins, and whatever else you might need for your set up is sensible.
Because there is nothing worse than running out of battery on your phone, your eftpos facility, your lights etc. Having the right charger cords and plugs, plus a power bank if there is no power provided, takes a lot of stress out of managing your stall.
8. Price tags
The best way to ensure sales is to have the prices for your products clearly marked. If people have to interrupt you serving another customer to ask how much something is they will often walk away instead of asking. If you can’t put a price on each item, make sure that you have clear and easily visible signs that announce the prices. Ikea picture frames are handy for making your signs look professional without breaking the bank.
9. Drink bottle and a snack
Keeping hydrated helps you to maintain your energy levels while you serve customers. A low mess snack to help keep your energy levels up is important. High protein snacks like nuts are a good option here.
No point going to a market if you have nothing to sell! Make a list of your products and then tick them off as you pack them, so that nothing is missed out and left behind, Then check that you have packed all your boxes in the car so that you haven’t left one behind either (not my mistake but a very common one for other people I know!)
Having a box for each product category helps keep track of what you are packing
If you have other ideas that you think should be added to the list do let me know!
Thank you to all who reached out to share and support when I was having a tough time last week. The great news is that things have continued to improve since then, so much so that I had one morning this week when all three children were at school! Of course I had left my crochet bag at home, so wasn’t quite sure what to do with myself for a while!
I have managed to get into the sewing room, and my other favourite making place, my armchair, and produce a few new things this week. After a special request I made another pineapple tea cosy – tweaking the pattern as I went, and am very happy with the results.
Then I decided to play with the idea of a cactus tea cosy and love this result!
Some time in the sewing room meant some dome style tea cosies and a wrap around cosy! My fabric stash is being re-discovered and I am loving it!!
A few more tiny cacti have grown in tiny teacups and I made some trivets with recycled t-shirt yarn. You might say that it has been a productive week!!
In the midst of all of this Spring has sprung (finally) so that might explain the additional energy I have had – all that vitamin D soaking in! My ‘to-do’ list is long at the moment – cleaning the house, finally painting a couple of rooms, getting some more sewing done, listing things in my shop…… so let’s hope that the sun stays out for a few more days!
I hope that you have had a creative and inspiring week.
The resurgence of my creativity has continued! Over the last couple of weeks I have made more tea cosies, have poured tea-scented teacup candles, have potted succulents in tea cups and have crocheted succulents in tea cups! I have also made more reusable tea bags. The idea of using a theme and creating around it is working well! And being creative continues to be the best therapy for my busy, overwhelmed brain. The last few weeks have been hard, with both my boy and my middle child experiencing difficulties that have impacted on the whole family. Having something creative to sit and do while the world is crumbling really helps my sanity! The fact that people also give me lovely feedback on the output doesn’t hurt either!
This was highlighted this morning when I ducked out to deliver a tiny teacup crocheted cactus to someone who I have communicated with online but haven’t met in person before. On the drive into town I was feeling awful – tired, overwhelmed, and close to tears. But after meeting with this delightful young woman who was genuinely interested in meeting me and in what I do, I walked away with a smile and a much lighter heart. In discussing what I have been doing I also had some ideas on a new product (still in the tea cosy line) that I am going to work on over the weekend. Replacing my feeling of stress with the feeling of being creatively inspired was the best medicine!! That and a cup of tea when I got home and the rest of the day has been much better!
I had a similar experience a few days ago when I received a message from a friend who lives interstate, telling me that she and her husband love what I am doing and want to invest in me, and could they order a pineapple tea cosy like the one I had just made. Now this message on it’s own would have been a highlight, but the author of the message is a very talented artist, whose work I have admired for about 20 years, so to receive that sort of compliment just made me glow inside!!! I am happily working on a new pineapple, tweaking the pattern as I go, because I think I might publish this one too! The lovely thing is that the first pineapple came about as a a result of a comment that one of the women who follows my Facebook page made about another cosy, which has a succulent on top (the green one above). So the collaborative process has been lovely!
Growing this ‘tea obsession’ has meant visits to various op shops, and more frequent visits to Spotlight to buy wool. The funny thing is that I have enjoyed tea and the rituals around making tea for a very long time. But it is only now that my children are noticing how much I enjoy tea – or in the words of my boy, how much I am ‘obsessed’ with tea! I have been taking them op shopping with me, which they enjoy as they get to find things for themselves, and my boy likes to tell the shop assistants that his mum is obsessed with tea and tea cups and tea pots. Then he tells them about all the things I make that he thinks are awesome, and everyone comes away with a smile. I complimented him on his social interaction with some counter staff yesterday, after he told them about the delivery I was making, and he said ‘you are really good at talking to people too Mum.’ To receive such lovely compliments from this boy who has worked so hard to overcome some significant battles has really been lovely. He tells me that my obsession with tea is quite nice really!
These days it is hard to know how to write about the difficulties that my children are facing. They have a right to privacy, and I have to weigh up the greater good of sharing their/my struggles with mental health to reduce stigma, versus their right to privacy. I think that this in part is why I haven’t blogged as much over the last year or so. What I can share is that I have learnt a new appreciation for the public school system, where they have no choice but to embrace diversity and be flexible in their approach to educating students who don’t fit into the ‘normal’ box. While one of my children has thrived in the Catholic education system, the other two have not, and it has been detrimental to their long term mental health. Luckily I know more now, so have felt comfortable making the latest round of changes for my middle child, and she is already happier and more positive. But it means I have to re-establish relationships with yet another school, getting to know the staff, keeping track of how she is being supported, and generally starting from scratch again. That in itself is exhausting, but on the bright side, the new school is the one that my boy will probably attend for High School so at least they will know me by that time!
My collection of tea pots to use as models and for trials is growing!
The other exciting news to share with you from the farm is that it snowed last weekend! With no snow all winter it was nice to have an afternoon of it just before winter ended! The kids and dogs had a great time out in it – even if they refused to dress warmly for it!
While I am still uncertain how all of this tea obsession will go in the longer term, in the short term it is providing joy, and that is what I will focus on! I hope that you are taking care and finding joy in small things around you too.
Well, I have done it – completed my order for a set of tea cosies for the beautiful cafe Le Bon Melange. In the process I think I have perfected my pattern for making the tea cosies, so decided it was time to share it here. This is the first time that I have published a crochet pattern, so please be gentle with me – and let me know if you find any errors!! If you do make a cosy from this pattern I would love to see the end result!
The two sizes of tea cosy plus a coffee press cosy too!
This pattern is for a flat topped one cup tea pot, but I have fitted it to a more rounded one cup pot and it worked just as well. To adjust it to a larger two cup pot the instructions for the top remain the same, it is just the number of rows for the body that change. Once you have the basic body you can then decorate it with whatever you like! Flowers, hearts, frogs – the sky is the limit!
The red pot is the one cup pot and the aqua is the two cup pot. How well do those colours match the wool?!
I used a 4mm crochet hook and 8 ply wool to make this pattern.If you use thicker wool the pattern will still work – it will just end up slightly bigger.
dc double crochet
To start chain 4 and joined with ss
Row 1 Ch 3 then 11 dc into the ring, ss to join to top of the first chain 3 (creating 12 stiches in round)
Row 2 Ch 3, 2 dc in each stitch of round 1, with last single dc in base of initial chain 3 stitch, ss to join
Row 3 Ch 3, *1 dc in next stitch, 2 dc in next stitch* repeat 11 more times, with last dc in base of first ch 3, ss to join
Row 4 Ch 1, ss in next stitch, ss in next stitch, 3 ch and skip stitch, then 1 dc in next stitch, 2 dc in next stitch, *1 dc in next stitch, 1 dc in next stitch, 2 dc in next stitch* repeated 10 times and finish with single dc in last two stitches of round. (This is the top of the cosy)
Row 5 Ch 3, turn and 1 dc in each of next 21 stitches (22 in total)
Row 6 – 8 repeat round 5 then finish.
Return to round 5 and attach wool three stitches from the first half of round five and then repeat round 5 – 8 in order to create the second half of the cosy. Do not finish off at the end of row 8 but continue on.
Row 9 ch 3 dc in each stitch until reaching the end of the row then ch 3 and dc in each stitch of other half of cosy. This creates the join under the spout.
Row 10 – 11, ch 3 dc in each stitch of row, including the joining 3 ch from row 9.
Row 12 3 ch, ss to other side of cosy, then 3 ch, turn and dc in second chain from ss, dc in each stitch until reach the beginning of the row. This joins the cosy under the handle.
Row 13 – optional – ch 1, skip first stitch then ss in each stitch of row 12 and finish with ss into fist ch.
To make this pattern fit a larger 2 cup pot the pattern is the same until row 8 when you should stitch another row before creating the join under the spout in row 10 rather than row 9. Then add in rows so that the final row with the join under the handle is row 15. You can adapt the basic pattern to fit larger pots by adjusting the size of the top and then the length of the body.
I did add a crown to one of the small cosies – I just couldn’t help myself! Here the pattern is shown on a different shaped one cup pot – it is fairly versatile.
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!
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!