Monday, 29 September 2008

Knitting + Tea + Cake = Sunday Afternoon Bliss

As Sunday afternoons go, yesterday was pretty darn awesome. I went along to a Knitting Marathon organised by Reading-based knitters Outcast and joined lots of lovely friendly people in knitting woolly hats for Innocent Drinks' Big Knit campaign.
The knitting took place at Picnic (a fantastic little cafe selling soup, sandwiches, salads and very very yummy cake) and drew lots of attention from passers by!
We even managed to have a mini Etsy meet-up, as Angharad and I had a good natter whilst knitting (needless to say, her knitting skills far surpassed my own).
Many thanks to fellow Etsian Knithappens for organising it and for the great photos!

In other news: the lovely people at Etsy featured one of my designs in their "Etsy Finds" shopping email today, which was rather nice. Apparently it has over 17,000 subscribers. My mum is very proud :)

Sunday, 28 September 2008

Changes...

I've recently been wrapping my head around lots of new features and other changes happening on the websites where I have my little shops... so I thought I'd write about that today and a few other business-related things (no craftiness today, sorry!).

Folksy changes almost every day or so, with great little tweaks and improvements happening to make it more user-friendly and preparing the site for launch. The Folksy guys were kind enough to waive our listing fees for July as a thankyou for all our "beta tester" feedback (ie all the nagging) and they have a fantastic status page where they let us know what's been changed and what's coming soon, and give us more updates in their forums. It's taking me a while to get the hang of the site & to get my stock listed (though the listing process is very speedy now they've added a "list similar" function) but I'm definitely pleased with it so far and I'm so, so happy to have somewhere that's in my own currency!

Etsy is having a few growing pains at the moment (staff changes and a few problems with the search function), but they've been rolling out lots of useful new features over the past few months - a "vacation mode" for shops, a way of leaving batch feedback and an auto-reply to stop people replying to Etsy conversations via email by accident - and they feel like a promising beginning. I love Etsy already but anything that makes my life easier and my selling process simpler is a bonus: I am keeping my fingers crossed for more.

DaWanda meanwhile has been having a total overhaul of their categories and search systems, which has meant a bit of extra work in the short term as I've had to reassign categories and pick what they call "characteristics" for all my items (style, main material, etc and then colours which I've blogged about before) ... but it makes searching for things so much easier! The main search reminds me of Ebay, as you get a category breakdown for your search results. For example, if you type in "squirrel" you now get this:
... all the results pictured and then on the left a breakdown of the numbers of items labelled squirrel in all the available categories (click on the image to view it larger). Seriously useful, even if you're not specifically interested in squirrels!

I've also made a few changes myself. I dipped my toes in lots of online-selling ponds this year as part of my new year's resolution to expand my business and try out different markets, including setting up properly on DaWanda and (more recently) trying out Folksy. Those two are making me happy thus far, but a few others haven't worked out.

I tried Mintd but found it just too buggy and hard to list things and it didn't seem worth investing in one of their seller packages just to sit cussing when things didn't load properly! Then I was really pleased earlier in the year at the arrival of PinkDoodle, which promised to be an English Etsy... but it was so dead quiet that the moment Folksy showed up I jumped ship and headed over there instead.

I'd also been working on a shop at iCraft, a Canadian site which I really do like the look of... but I've been so busy recently that I've neglected it badly, and now just don't have the time this year to set it up properly. So, to avoid stretching myself too thin I've closed up shop there for the moment but hope to lavish some attention upon it in the spring. I felt terribly guilty about this decision for a while, but I think I'd much rather concentrate on doing some things (Etsy, Dawanda, Folksy) well than run myself into the ground just for the sake of "having another outlet".

That's enough waffle for today, I think!

Friday, 26 September 2008

I Love My Customers

All my customers are awesome. Truly. But some make me smile more than others, and the ones who send photos of my items in use make me grin for whole days! The latest wonderful, grin-inducing photo comes from Jessica who is so lovely that she blogged it too:
You may notice that I've added quite a few links to my "interviews and features" section down on the right there in the last few days, as I've been busy compiling a proper scrapbook record of them all. It's taken me a while having lost lots of links etc during our last batch of internet browser issues but I'm getting there... As well as having guilt at using up all the ink in my dad's printer making said scrapbook, I'm embarrased to discover that there are so many kind people whom I neglected to give a shout-out too! Please accept a belated THANKYOU! for your sweetness, one and all. I will try harder in future I promise :)

Wednesday, 24 September 2008

Being On Trend

I have spent most of today staring at the computer and cursing at obscure printer error messages whilst printing out lots of things for a "press and features" scrapbook I'm putting together. So, to save my already squinty eyes I'll keep this short :)

I just wanted to mention that felt brooches are, apparently, very "on trend" this season. My much more fashionable younger sister informs me that they appeared on many a catwalk this month and there are even felt brooches selling in Topshop now: I'm not awake enough to comment on this very intelligently, but I thought it was quite interesting, especially the prices for something so mass produced compared with the more exclusive handmade alternatives!

Tuesday, 23 September 2008

Lovely Supplies: Fabric

Having finished my 365, I'm going to let my camera rest for a few days and write about some other crafty things instead of my works in progress - though they will be back soon, I promise - starting with a few posts about some of the fantastic suppliers on Etsy who sell so many kinds of yummy haberdashery goodness.

First up, I have to mention summersville: the new shop from artist lusummers, selling gorgeous handprinted fabric and other printed goodies. Summersville has had some fantastic blog press lately, showing up on Design*Sponge, Poppytalk and Modish [edit: and now decor8 too!], and it's not surprising: delicious looking prints, and some of the most charming and quirky product photos around! I've been dreaming up lots of things I could make with her Totem print ...
... any project would be made even better by a piece of that print, I'm sure of it! I'm also eyeing up some of her finished products, especially the pouch and notebook in this lovely turquoise blue:

Monday, 22 September 2008

Finished!

The final day of Crafting 365. Wow. I know it's taken me about 5 or 6 weeks more than 365 days to complete it (breaks taken for illness, broken boilers, and other domestic disasters) and I've not posted exactly every day (mostly because of my camera and internet connection letting me down, but sometimes due to laziness and forgetfulness too!) ... but WOW it feels so great to have those 365 days under my belt! I'm really pleased with all my pictures and how much I've sewn and how the Crafting 365 group has developed ... and I think my work has really progressed since the start of the project. I'm still going to be photographing and blogging my projects, but I may miss a day here and there from now on :)

I wanted to do something special for the last day, so I picked a project I've been wanting to work on for just ages - turning my big pile of bird sketches (made in June) into actual brooches. They need their beaks and eyes and, you know, sewing together but they're starting to look like birds already...
Very typical of me to post a work in progress shot! And very very typical to be blogging about this a day late! Ah well - thanks to the delay, I've got some finished birds to show off now too as yesterday I sewed together the coal tit, greenfinch and bullfinch. Here they are along with "one I made earlier", a blue tit:
Also late: my penultimate Crafting 365 pic, a box lid filled with craftiness ...
... I started a batch of little robins and then a bit of trial and error finalising my large robin design. Got there in the end after lots of tweaking!

Watch out for the whole flock of birdies arriving in my Etsy shop over the next few weeks...

Saturday, 20 September 2008

Question Time

I forgot to charge my camera batteries yesterday (oops) so no photos today! Instead, for your reading pleasure, here's the interview I did with Little Thing

Can you give us a brief intro of yourself, background?
My name is Laura Howard, I’m 26 and I live in a little flat with my boyfriend and lots of pot plants in Gloucester, England. I studied English Literature at University but instead of getting a “proper job” after I graduated, I decided to start making things instead! I now work part-time in a little gift shop here in Gloucester and spend all my free time sewing things out of felt. I have a shop for my work on Etsy, where I’m known as Lupin

What’s the inspiration for you to create the works? I love turning my obsessions into sweet felt objects for people to cherish. I adore anything to do with English teatime - tea, teacups, cake - and am currently being very inspired by woodland animals and all the flowers I’m trying to grow in my balcony garden.

Besides creating what else do you commit yourself to? I drink a lot of cups of tea! I also love to bake (homemade cakes always taste nicer than shop-bought ones) and to curl up with a good book. I think about my work a lot, even when I’m not busy sewing: I am always doodling new ideas on scraps of paper wherever I go.

What part of your job you like most? I really enjoy taking a small idea from my head and turning it into a real tangible item, it’s very satisfying when things turn out how I want them to. I also enjoy shipping my work to people - I love the thought of people far across the world wearing my accessories.

What types of material interest you most? My very favourite material is felt. It’s very easy to work with (I don’t have the patience for seams or hemming) and it is so deliciously colourful.

What’s your childhood like? What’s the dream you held when you were a kid?I always loved arts and crafts when I was a kid, making birthday cards for people, clothes for my dolls, all sorts of things. I hoarded any piece of shiny paper or pretty fabric I got my hands on in case I could use them to make things with! I never really knew what I wanted to do when I grew up and definitely had no idea I’d get the chance to be so creative every day.

Do you have some favorite games or toys? My boyfriend and I like to play a board game called “Trivial Pursuit” during the long winter evenings. It’s a general knowledge game and my boyfriend always wins because I know nothing at all about geography, history or sport!

What’s your favorite book, and music? I read lots of Agatha Christie novels, and lots of books that are supposed to be for children. Lauren Child is my current favourite children’s author - her illustrations are so charming. I listen to music to relax, and love folk music and singers like Joni Mitchell, Martha Wainwright and Sufjan Stevens.

Name some items you like to collect in life? I collect vintage tea sets and other crockery. My kitchen is full of bright retro patterns, it’s very cheerful.

What’s your favorite little things? Seeing things grow, letters from friends and a nice cup of tea.

Who has the strongest influence on your creative development? Before and present ? I’m very inspired by artists who work for themselves and make their own path in life, but I don’t have any particular creative influences.

Can you describe the so-called FASHION in your definition? Mainstream fashion can be very boring. I don’t want to be told what to wear every season; I want to choose for myself!

Do you have the support from your family ?Absolutely. My family have always been very supportive of anything I’ve done in life, and my mum is probably my best customer!

Given the choice, what place on the planet would you like to live?I would love to move back to Bristol (where I went to university), or perhaps to London - somewhere busy with lots of art and culture to soak up and people to meet.

How will you describe your Aesthetic ? My work is bright and cheerful, sunny and sweet and an explosion of colour. I hope it makes people happy.

Do you want to make your craftworks a famous big brand ? I’d like to be “just big enough”: earning enough to get by and not working too hard that I stop enjoying what I do. I am very proud that I make everything myself with love and care, I don’t want to turn into a mini factory.

Is there anything you can’t live without it? I have to be creative every day, even if I just spend five minutes sketching. Also I don’t think I could live without cups of tea!

PS no idea what's gone wrong with the font in this post - no matter how many times I try to change it just rebels! Oh well...

Friday, 19 September 2008

It's the Little Things...

A little while ago I did an interview for a fantastic new Chinese magazine called Little Thing and today I got to see what my pages look like!
It's my very first mention in real live print, and seeing my work amongst features of awesome artists like sushipot, jengsshop and kjoo (whose work you can see on the final spread) and the most gorgeous, whimsical fashion shoots ... *sigh*
I love what they've done with all my little pictures (especially the teeny tiny bluetit next to my web address). I'll put the English text of my interview up sometime soon - in the meantime see if you can spot the snippet of it here:
I am so excited about this, and have spent the whole day with a huge grin on my face. I'm even excited about appearing on a contents page! Right, calming down for a moment I did manage to take my 365 snap: On day 363, lots of lovely autumnal-looking poppies! I think "to poppy" is practically a verb now, I am so obsessed with making these. I poppy, you poppy, he/she/it poppies, etc. On second thoughts, perhaps not! Too much excitement for me today I think...

Thursday, 18 September 2008

Crafting vs Housework (C365/362)

In a battle yesterday between household chores and lovely craftiness, the housework came out on top! I spent most of my day doing laundry and ironing and other delightful tasks. I did manage to squeeze in a bit of crafty prep late in the evening though - cutting out pieces to make beards and fox brooches:
Even just a simple task like that is super-relaxing and made me feel so much more productive than the big pile of finished ironing (though that was nice to see: no more ironing for me for ages, yay!).

In other news: lovely blog reader Lynn dropped me a line to say she'd spotted one of my lavender teabags over on Serious Eats, illustrating a story about the 100th birthday of the teabag. Thanks, Lynn!

Wednesday, 17 September 2008

Show and Tell (C365/361)

Lots of lovely pictures to show you today! First up, here's the product of last night's sewing session:
Sprigs of mistletoe! It's lovely to be making these again this year, and it's always interesting to revisit old designs. This year's are sewn onto thicker red felt to make them a bit more sturdy and I've decided that I rather like the bolder, more solid shape made by leaving the middle bit of red as it is. Of course I only worked this out when I'd cut out the first one and had it side by side with the others for comparison! Ah well. I may list both options and let the customers decide which is best!

Next up: some shots of a few special items I've been working on recently...

I got a fun custom order this month to make an embroidered teabag - the reverse is embroidered with details of the occasion & the reverse of the tag (rather obviously) says "tea". A simple but very sweet idea for a gift I think!
I also finished some long-delayed gifts made as a "thankyou" to the girls who did some felt modelling for me back at the start of the summer... some sets of hairclips...

... and a couple of snowy owl brooches:
Here's a peek at some of the owl sketches I've been doing since making that last brooch (I'm plotting a whole little series of owls for my shop) - this was pinned to our noticeboard today by my boyfriend who was slightly annoyed and greatly amused at how I'd scribbled all over his to do list in my owl-sketching frenzy: "typical!"

Tuesday, 16 September 2008

New Stuff, Old Stuff

Oops, I forgot to blog yesterday: sorry! I am blaming this on working a different pattern of shifts this week (it's thrown my routine right out) but really I'm just naturally a bit forgetful :)

Sunday's craftiness largely involved custom items (photos another time) but at the end of the evening I made a quick prototype of a new design for my shop: a treestump pincushion! I sewed a mini one just to see what it would look like (sometimes these things just don't look how they do in your head) and stuffed it with the teeny scraps left over from the day's sewing:
Then yesterday (day 360! how exciting!) I worked on some old designs: cutting out pieces to make Christmas ornaments that I designed last year...
I do have some new Christmas designs to reveal soon (to join the robins, wot I made earlier) but it's nice to be reviving the old ones in the meantime! All this cold weather we've been having makes it seem much nearer December than it really is: I'm feeling festive already! (Psst: if you're interested, the large mistletoe will look something like this)

Sunday, 14 September 2008

Getting the Giggles

Last night (Crafting 365 day 358 - getting close now!) I worked on a big batch of masks from my wip box and those crowns...
... I finished the crowns, a bandit and a bear mask, and new camouflage and leopard masks (made with fun printed felt) and stitched lots of ear details on other masks ready for when I buy more elastic (the woman who runs my local haberdashery stall looks at me very strangely whenever I go in and say "Hi, can I have another 20 metres of elastic please?" but she's never asked what it's for and to be honest I'm a bit afraid to tell her).

It was great to finish the crowns especially. Everyone I've mentioned them to has said "oh, you mean for little girls?" and the elastic at the back can be easily adjusted with a bit of easy sewing to fit small heads but really I meant them for not-quite-grown-ups like me: such fun for costume parties and birthday laughs. I couldn't even keep a straight face while trying to take pictures of them this morning...

...trying hard not to laugh...
... then totally failing ...
... I had to give up in the end! I'll try another day and think more serious thoughts next time :)

Saturday, 13 September 2008

Odds and Ends (C365/357)

I'm still working my way though my work-in-progress box, digging out lots of things that need finishing...
Last night I finished the batch of pirate eyepatches and my first Christmas ornament of the year (a design from 2007), and finally sewed brooch backs onto a small viola pin and some layered flower corsages (based on peonies and camelias) which I made just ages ago!

We've also been busy attending to the work-in-progress that is our flat. We've been buying a few little bits like nice light pulls and picture frames, and getting on with some long-overdue DIY tasks like tiling behind the cooker and putting up shelves. These picture shelves have been sitting around since May waiting to be put up - it's great seeing them finally up on the wall and filled (as planned) with nice books:The lovely (and rather appropriate) Penguins print is by The Lapwing Printworks, a definite birthday hit with my book-obsessed boyfriend!

Friday, 12 September 2008

Bits and Pieces (C365/356)

Yesterday I went for a rummage in my work in progress box and found lots of things to work on:
I finished a big autumnal oak leaf brooch, started sewing a batch of pirate eyepatches and began stitching my new crown designs (one standard crown, one princess crown: just need their elastic adding & a teeny bit more stitching and they'll be finished).

When I wasn't sewing I was tweaking a few things in my various shops , changing some photos, rewriting a few descriptions, adding new tags and keywords, generally having a bit of an autumn tidy up. I've also started making lists of stock to add to my shops over the next few weeks, and have been taking lots of photos of new things coming soon to my Etsy shop. It's a bit embarassing how long some of this stuff has been lying about waiting to be properly photographed and listed, but better late than never right?

Psst, I'm creeping towards another nice round number over on Etsy. Whoever buys my 1,100th item will get lots of free goodies in their parcel! :)

Thursday, 11 September 2008

Special Requests (C365/355)

Yesterday I finished all the teacups from the day before, then drank a celebratory cup of tea and settled down to work on some custom orders... I've had a sudden flurry of them recently, and they're proving a nice bit of variation from batch-sewing. Last night I worked on a special fawn-coloured version of my squirrel pins ...
... and a pincushion version of my forget-me-nots brooches:
I made a bit of a mess of the kitchen table in the process!

Wednesday, 10 September 2008

Teacup Factory

Yesterday I worked my way through sewing lots of teacup brooches, step by step until they were (almost) finished:I like lining them up in rows as I go along...

Tuesday, 9 September 2008

In My Absence...

Lots of photos to catch up from the past week!

When I had to break off from my daily blogging last weekend I kept myself entertained whilst ill by doing nice relaxing crafty things like cutting and sticking (making thankyou notes to send out with my orders) and doing a bit of knitting...
... then I went to visit my mum for a few days to get looked after & took lots of sewing projects with me. I made a start on finishing these ...
... and then I got scratched on my sewing hand by my mother's giant cat Ollie and was stuck unable to sew for a few days. This is the beast wot dunnit (normally very sweet tempered!)
Now I'm back and (almost) fully healed and getting stuck into some sewing again. On Sunday I made a batch of specially ordered poppies (including one little poppy in "orchid", which turned out rather nicely) ...... and then yesterday (Crafting 365, day 353) I finished some bluetit and badger brooches that had been sitting in my wip box for just ages awaiting their eyes and little noses: all the fiddly final touches.In other news: you can now send an e-card featuring one of my photos over on DaWanda, in English, French or German. I didn't know in advance that my product would be featured, so it was a very nice surprise when I went to check out their new e-cards!
Plus a big shout out and congratulations are due to fellow UK crafter Bombus who was Etsy's Featured Seller at the weekend and (drumroll please) to Memake who is I think the first Crafting 365 member to actually complete their 365 project! She managed to stick very strictly to the task and completed it within a calendar year (unlike me!) and took some fab pics along the way. You can check out her amazing crafting photos HERE.

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