Monday, 31 December 2007

365 / 134 - from sketch to stitching

I couldn't wait. Last night I just had to turn my sketches from day 133 (or most of them, at least - some are still giving me trouble) into pattern pieces and start stitching...
The fox, toadstool and two squirrels just need their brooch pins and backs attending to and they'll be done. Hurrah! The little primroses are test pieces - I'm still not happy with them but if I do any more tests though it will have to be with different felt as I only have one sheet of the soft yellow. I'm pleased with the beaded eyes on the squirrels and the fox, they look a little less crazed than in my sketches but still cute I think.

I was a little over-ambitious and cut out several more pattern pieces entirely intending to get them all stitched in the same evening. It's good to have the patterns finished and now I have a task for this evening all laid out for me (we like a very quiet New Year's Eve!).

Sunday, 30 December 2007

365 / 133 - sketching new ideas

As yesterday was my 1 year Etsyversary I spent much of the day musing on the past year, the progress of my business and craft and the plans I have for the year to come. It was my New Year's resolution to set up shop on Etsy in 2007 - a resolution made almost on a whim after finding Etsy via Flickr during a dull few days last Christmas. I don't know that I've ever had a resolution that's changed my life more.

This time last year I was unemployed, bored, not sure what to do with my life, making stuff occasionally to while away the hours... and now here I am with my own little crafty business, 133 days into my daily crafting & blogging project and with my house overrun with felt...

In 2008 I hope to be more serious about all this - to be more business-like (setting up a proper office space, doing my accounts etc) and less lazy in promoting myself. I'm only just starting to become confident about saying to people "this is what I do, look", don't even do simple things like wear one of my brooches on my lapel, and have been out of stock of my business cards for months so there is lots of room for improvement! I'll no doubt be wittering on about all this over the coming few weeks and months so I shall shut up about it now.

I am very excited about the plans I have for the New Year but above all I'm excited about turning all my sketches and schemes into real felt lovelies. It is just so awesome taking an idea in my head, drawing it over and over until it's just right, and then sewing it together for the first time. Lots of my ideas are still secret works in progress, but as I did a whole bundle of sketches yesterday here's a sneak peek:
I'm working on a range of English Woodland items, you see - botanical stuff to go with my oak leaves etc but also lots of cute woodland creatures. As you can see, this will include a slightly crazy-looking fox!

Saturday, 29 December 2007

365 / 132 - scrapbooks and some crafty gifts

First up, here are the cherry blossoms I failed to photograph yesterday:
There were a couple more but one was given to my MIL for Christmas and another is pinned to one of my blouses (the start of a collection of my work that I'm keeping for myself - astonishingly all I had so far was my own moustache disguise!).

Yesterday during all the rain I did lots of tidying up, pottering about the house doing odd chores, filing this, re-organising that. Finding a HUGE pile of old cuttings from magazines and newspapers I made a start on sorting through them but got a bit distracted and ended up sticking things in my scrapbooks instead.

I am a terrible hoarder of a lot of things, but I particularly find it hard to throw away images or patterns that interest me. Many of them get turned into cards and letters to friends, but some of them just demand to be kept and so I have a series of scrapbooks full of things that have interested me, or things that are too beautiful to throw away. My sister says that this makes me like the old woman on the Simpsons who cuts out pictures of cakes from magazines but I like to think of them as my own resource books full of inspiration. Here for your viewing pleasure are some pages from the most recently filled scrapbook (click on the images for a larger view)

And simply because I was on a photo-taking roll this morning, here's a picture of the cute-as-a-button pincushion I got for Christmas...
... and an excellent crafty book I was given:
Rather a delicious cover (the reason the boyfriend bought it for me - he is a sucker for a nice-looking book) but the contents are pretty extensive:
Reading the introduction is interesting, too. Published in 1960 it is obviously very dated but in feeling it reminds me of recent articles about the craft resurgence and the interviews with Etsy sellers and buyers about "why buy handmade?"

"As a reaction against so much ready-made entertainment and so many mass-produced goods, more and more people are turning to handcrafts for relaxation and pleasure" ... ""The satisfaction resulting from such creative work is something that we could find in no other way" ... "In a world of machine-made goods and standardization, it is a relief to be able to produce something that is an individual expression of personal taste, and cannot be found by the dozen, let alone by the hundred or the thousand in any shop"

My favourite passage has to be this one though - "The practice of hand-crafts, which was in the Middle Ages so much a part of the life of every man and woman is today often looked upon as a sort of occupational therapy or a harmless hobby. But how wrong-headed this view is! To do something well with one's hands is to achieve more than the mere doing. The practice of any craft or any art so heighten's one's perception, that new and rewarding delights are revealed. Making things well and in the appreciation of the fine work of others are among the finer pleasures in life."

365 / 131 - Cherry Blossoms

Last night I had a cosy night in, and finished off my batch of cherry blossom pins (now reactivated in my shop).

Unfortunately I then overslept this morning making me late for work and rushing around like a crazy person getting dressed etc when I should have been taking my crafting 365 photo and blogging about it. It was then raining so heavily when I got back from work that it was too dark for photo-taking, so cherry blossoms will have to wait until tomorrow for their moment of glory. Ah well.

As it's now past midnight it's technically the 29th of December and my Etsyversary! Hurrah! Remember, any purchase made on the 29th will be shipped with a free gift (or two free gifts if you mention my blog in the "message to seller" during checkout cos I loves you guys).

Thursday, 27 December 2007

365 / 129 & 130 - Crafting over Christmas

Back to work already, but the craftiness of course continued during our brief xmas hols.
Late on Christmas day, during the cheese and biscuits, I cut a few more little felt circles from my offcuts - using the biscuit box lid as my work tray!
Then on Boxing day we lazed about rather a bit and did some leisurely tidying up, including salvaging all the "useful" bits of giftwrap for rewrapping, and also making cards and tags for next year. I do this with any giftwrap or nice-looking paper, ribbon, cards etc that come into my house, I am such a magpie for anything shiny that I can use for crafty purposes...
Now that Christmas has passed, and the boyfriend has opened his presents I can show off the crafting I did on day 116 when he was out - two felt badges tailored to his political leanings:
He seems to quite like them. Hurrah!

Tuesday, 25 December 2007

Happy Christmas! (also 365/128)

Yesterday I did some secret sewing for my mother-in-law while she was attending a carol service and then while she was around I started cutting my felt scraps into teeny little circles:
I'll explain why another time :)

I also made us a Christmas "tree" of holly branches...
... and added the leftover holly pieces and to the mantelpiece:
We also have a few baubles hanging from doorknobs and a piece of mistletoe in the hallway but I guess we are a little minimalist over Christmas!

Monday, 24 December 2007

365 / 127 - beading cherry blossoms

Gosh I can't believe it's Christmas Eve already!

Yesterday (day 127 of this Crafting 365 craziness) I rearranged some furniture, decorated the house a little and wrapped a few presents (choosing giftwrap and tying bows is creative, right??) and also snuck in a little bit of sewing - adding the contrasting stitching and beads to my batch of cherry blossoms:
The cherry blossoms still need their leaves, the house still needs some fairy lights - lots still to do! :)

Sunday, 23 December 2007

Crafting 365, days 119-126 - sofa-bound sewing

So, time to catch up on all the sewing I got done whilst half-asleep on my sofa... I was ill for a whole week, so though I couldn't go into work and my housework piled up around me and my Christmas preparations lay, er, unprepared, I did manage to get quite a lot of sewing done!

First up, on day 119 (Friday) I finished my secret swap item. My swap partner received it a few days ago so now I get to show off what I sent - a bold flower pin, made as brightly coloured as possible as she said she disliked Laura Ashley-type prints:
Then on Saturday I was in bed all day so no crafting for me (sob!), but I was back on the sofa and sewing more flowers on Sunday&Monday (days 120 & 121). These flowers were started on day 114 but I had to keep them a secret as I'd decided to send a specially-beaded one to my swap partner. Here's my work in progress (stitched whilst watching a Harry Potter movie on day 114)
... and then here are the finished flowers:They'll be listed in the shop in January, available in five lovely soft pinks & purples. The beads add a bit of sparkle which I think works really well (it took me sooo long to decide which beads to use) and they've got a bit of shape to them, felicitously caused by my stitching pulling the felt a little too tight!

I was on a bit of a beaded flower roll this week, as on day 122 I made a big batch of poinsettias (almost past the season for these I know but it makes me feel very organised to be already laying in stocks for next winter) ...
... and days 123, 124 and 125 were spent finishing off loads of red poppies and making some new white ones as well:
I had completely sold out of the poppies during my Christmas rush so it's great to have them back in stock. I've got a big list of out-of-stock (or almost) designs that I need to work through methodically making batches of them, but no doubt I will be breaking out and making lots of crazy new things as well to stave off repetition-induced boredom. While I've been feeling poorly though making the same things over and over has been the ideal thing to keep me contentedly occupied whilst not having to think too much!

Now I'm a little more awake, I'm making a batch of slightly more fiddly flowers - my cherry blossom pins:
Sewing them is still a lovely soothing process but there's more thread-colour changes and leaves to add and so forth. No way I could have made them earlier in the week!

Right, that's everything caught up I think... on with the crafting...

Saturday, 22 December 2007

Back tomorrow!

I'm finally feeling better, just in time for Christmas and just in time to get all my presents wrapped and the house decorated with lovely sparkly things, hurrah!

I've mostly spent the past week sleeping, watching seemingly endless episodes of Project Runway, and then sleeping some more and having weird PR-inspired dreams. I did however manage to get some sewing done while I was wrapped up in blankets on the sofa, and I'll be doing a proper catch-up post with photos tomorrow...

In shop news: my paper goods are now on sale (many now half price) as I've decided to concentrate mostly on my feltworks in 2008. I'm taking a small shipping break over Christmas (until Jan 7th) while I work on restocking many of my designs, but I'm still answering convos and packaging up orders.

It's my one year Etsyversary on December 29th so all orders made that day will be sent with a free gift! If any of you lovely lot make a purchase that day, please mention my blog in the "message to seller" during checkout and I'll send you two gifts instead of one :)

Monday, 17 December 2007

Back soon...

I am ill! I am trying to still be a little crafty every day but mostly I am just being ill. Very dull.

I shall return to this blogging lark in a few days, hopefully brimming with health and with lots of crafty news/photos to witter about :)

Be good... xx

Friday, 14 December 2007

365 / 119 - felt tip pens

So I'm still not feeling very well, curled up in lots of blankets sleeping rather a lot and watching far far far too many episodes of Project Runway than a sane person should. I'm not really awake enough for full-on craftiness but I did manage to get in some felt-tip pen action handwriting all my thankyous - 208 of them to be precise:
Oh, and I did manage to (finally) get my secret swap item finished but now I'm too ill to go to the post office. So frustrating! Ah well. Back to bed for me... zzz...

Thursday, 13 December 2007

365/ 117 & 118 - sewing, schemes and sleepiness

Yesterday I wasn't feeling too well so no blogging for me! :(

The day before (Tuesday/Day 117) I was working on my final few Xmas orders, adding finishing touches and parcelling them up - one even got gift-wrapped in this fancy Paperchase paper I bought once in a sale:
As you can see I also finished some poppies so I could put them back in my shop (they'd sold out before). The box of beads was for my secret swap item, now finally finished but still not posted (sorry!).

Then yesterday (Wednesday/Day 118) as I was feeling overwhelmed by a horrible cold and generally Quite Poorly I curled up in lots of blankets and watched many an episode of Project Runway on Youtube (I have such classy taste!) and did some cutting and sticking. White card + prittstick + old hoarded pieces of gift wrap and other decorative papers = 200 little thankyou cards for sending out with my orders. The perfect project for my sleepy afternoon but I dread to think how long it will take me to use up all 200 of these!
I still need to get out the felt-tip pens and write the actual thankyous on them (they will be colour co-ordinated to the paper, because I am a bit anal about colour-matching) but it is deeply satisfying to have them all "finished". I very much want to use the next few weeks / months to build up stocks of "useful things" like thankyou-cards, business cards etc as well as my items themselves, so you should be seeing lots of pictures of batches of things...

Before all that though I need to attend to my own Christmas preparations! I've been so busy sending out orders etc that I've not written a single card (I love to send cards), wrapped a single present, put up a single decoration or baked a single festive treat (mince pies... yum...). Tsk tsk.

Tuesday, 11 December 2007

365 / 116 - lots of secret stuff

Last night the boyfriend was out all evening so I worked on his Christmas present which is a secret and meant to be a surprise so photos will have to wait until after he's unwrapped it! :D

I meant to get my uk etsy seceret swap item finished to post today but totally failed to and then felt super-guilty when the post arrived and my swap item arrived! Lovely parcel...
... and inside was two gorgeous notecards and a super-sweet bag from the lovely Katy. Oh I do so love this swapping lark.
In the boyfriend's absence - either because I was lonely and needed cheering up or because I knew he would veto it - I did some Etsy shopping. I have been starting to properly decorate and put my collection of prints and postcards etc up in our flat, and it's making me want to buy even more art. So, in the past 24 hours I have treated myself to a gocco print of mugs of tea by the ever-awesome Kate Sutton, a print of assorted apples by the endlessly talented Bombus and just the cutest little dolly-mixture loving bird by one of my new Etsy favourites, Kate Wilson. I'm already planning where to put them...

Monday, 10 December 2007

Catching up: days 111-115

So, five whole crafty days to catch up on, and some Etsy shop news too!

Wednesday (day 111) was mostly spent tearing my hair out at the mess created by the plumbers, and moving everything back into the spare room after they'd taken up the carpet. I did manage to squeeze in a nice soothing bit of craftiness before bed though: cutting out pieces for making lots of poinsettias...
Thursday (day 112) we were still tidying up and also doing a bit of spring cleaning (prompted by seeing just how much stuff actually was in our spare room!) but after lots of hoovering and moving boxes and other such tiring chores I curled up and cut out lots and lots of pieces of felt to make poppies of varying sizes. Here they are a few days later when I'd sewn lots of them onto their black backgrounds:
Friday (day 113) I stitched a few poppies whilst watching an episode or two of Jeeves and Wooster and I also went shopping for a few supplies:
Black thread (always useful), black seed beads (for poppies), suitably festive felt (for poinsettias, mistletoe, holly, etc) and matching ribbon. The ribbon comes from just the most awesome cake shop in town. I had never really thought of cake shops as somewhere to buy ribbon but I couldn't do without it now. They have a whole wall of the stuff in amongst their cake-baking and cake-decorating supplies and you can basically take any colour in and find a near-perfect match for it, it is rather wonderful.

Saturday (day 114) I made a start on a new design, doing lots of cutting out of pieces during a lazy morning of tea drinking and biscuit nibbling and then sewing away like a crazy, er, sewing-person during the evening (while watching the 5th Harry Potter movie for the first time). I have decided to send one of them as part of the UK Etsy Christmas swap, so I can't show you pictures just yet as it's meant to be a surprise for my swappee. Here's a sneak peek at the back of it, work-still-in-progress:
Then yesterday (day 115) we had people over to stay so I only managed a quick bit of poppy-stitching during coffee, and in the afternoon I made a few festive thankyou cards to pop in with my orders:
I in no way snuck out during dinner (just before pudding) to check my Etsy shop and reply to customer emails, not at all, would I do such a thing? How rude I am! Haha.

Other news missed out over the past few days - one of my items was on the Etsy front page as part of a Storque feature on items from the UK (part of their "shop local" series), and I hit two very exciting numbers during the week: 500 items sold and 2000 hearts! Much celebration in my house.

Also, some shop news: a few of my designs are currently not in stock because I have sold out, but I am planning to do lots of sewing over the next few weeks and the Christmas hols so most things should be back in stock very soon. In the new year I will be concentrating mostly on my feltworks (LOTS of new designs due in the spring!), so most of my paper goods are now on sale and will not be relisted when they're due to expire.

I've also been thinking long and hard about the amount of love and time that goes into my pieces and as a result I have decided to put some of my prices up in January. If you want a bargain buy it now, hehe :P

Thursday, 6 December 2007

Back in a couple of days...

The Christmas shipping deadline from here to the US is coming up pretty fast now, and I have a few parcels still left to pack before it arrives.
Also in my "actual" job we're working on a project with a deadline for early next week.
And then finally the plumbers came round again to fix a problem with our heating that they themselves caused when installing our new boiler. They took our carpeting and floorboards up for what turned out to be no good reason, and half of our possessions had to be moved to enable them to do it.

Basically I am saying that I am going to be a bit busy for a couple of days! I will still be crafting though, never fear, so I will be back on Sunday or Monday with lots of crafty photos :)

Wednesday, 5 December 2007

365 / 110 - Successful Schemes: Poinsettia

This time last week I was working on Secret Schemes, aka new patterns. A couple of those patterns are still very much schemes (the exact designs are still being tweaked) but one is ready to be revealed:
A lovely bold poinsettia brooch, with two layers of red leaves on a dark green background (meant to represent the rest of the plant) and lovely bright yellow beads in the centre. The whole thing was sparked off in my brain by finding those yellow beads in my stash when I was testing out beads for my new cherry blossom pins.
I'm quite pleased with this one, and it was an absolute pleasure to make. Delightfully there is even some half-decent light out this morning so I've been able to photograph it and shall be adding it to the shop this evening.

More photos for you, which should have been in yesterday's blog post... My new accounts book, with the old one on top:
And my latest felt purchase, including really lovely pinks and purples and a gorgeous soft yellow:

Tuesday, 4 December 2007

365 / 109 - shopping for supplies

I continue to be sewing lots of things and packing lots of parcels - so many parcels in fact that today I had to go out and restock on jiffy envelopes. I like to buy so many of them that I hardly have room to store them as that way there's almost always another pack of them lurking in a cupboard somewhere when I "run out", so there are currently rather a lot of envelopes sitting in my hallway waiting for a home!

It seems to be quite the week for stocking up on supplies as so far this week I have bought two types of elastic, many many sheets of felt (some needed but most just too nice to resist), address labels, parcel tape, "sticky notes" (an own brand version of Post-It notes) and a new accounts book because the other one was about to run out of pages. Oh, and I went and stood in the library and photocopied a big stack of copies of My Library Project. The library staff always lurk nearby when I do this as I take so long and make so many copies that they think I must be up to something most suspicious.

I will take a nice photo of my supplies haul tomorrow when it is daylight - I left this blogging lark far too late today and it is pitch black outside now, and I do so want to show off the pretty shades of felt I just bought and the nice book I found for my accounts. It's not quite as fancy as the old one but as I no longer live near a branch of Paperchase I must be content with lesser paper goods!

Monday, 3 December 2007

365 / 108 - soup and soup-strainers

I continue to be making a lot of disguises. Lots of moustaches. Lots of beards. I dream that one day two of my customers will attend a party whilst each sporting one of my disguises and a great romance will be born, sparked by a mutual love of fake facial hair. Well, maybe not!

I do genuinely dream of evenings spent making exciting new things instead of the same old soup strainers (making anything over and over gets terribly dull and I am running out of good films to watch whilst making them!) ... so yesterday I got creative with my dinner and made a big batch of yummy soup.
Soften a leek or onion in a bit of olive oil. Add about 350g of chopped root vegetables (last night I used parsnips), three sliced carrots, a 400g tin of chopped tomatoes, 1.5 litres of vegetable stock, rosemary and thyme and lots of oregano, and some black pepper. Simmer for 30 minutes, add some baby pasta, bring to the boil and simmer for about 6 minutes, add a 400g tin of borlotti beans, cook for 2 more minutes... and you're done! Tasty tasty stuff. Supposedly enough to last me several days but it's already been devoured.

Sunday, 2 December 2007

365 / 107 - brooch backs and beards

I went out babysitting last night, this is what I worked on while I was there:
I sewed some brooch backs onto finished brooches & stitched the fronts and backs together, and I did some work on beards and moustaches which are not very exciting to look at I'm afraid!

Today it is raining rather a lot so I am staying indoors and doing some housework (the house starts to fall apart a little when I am busy making beards etc) and later on I shall be curling up somewhere warm with a nice cup of tea and my work-in-progress box so I can continue to feed the beast that is those parcels.

365 / 106 - Tending to Parcels

These parcels are my master. I am their slave.
I have a big pile of jiffy envelopes with post-it notes stuck to them with order details scribbled all over them - what they want, what colour it should be, where they live, whether or not they've paid (and how many £ the $ converted into), all the important info. These jiffy envelopes go in piles, they get addressed and filled with items wrapped in tissue paper (current colour: blue), handwritten thankyou cards get added, the envelopes get sealed and customs labels get added and then I add fun stickers (I like stickers). Then I fill out proof of posting forms and head for the Post Office. The Post Office staff like the stickers quite a lot :)

I would have taken photos of the things I made yesterday to go in the envelopes but they were already packed up by the time I got around to taking the photo!

PS: upon request, you can see some of the thankyou cards here. The rest are just covered in yet more stickers :)

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