Tuesday 31 March 2009


Time for Tea Swap- goodies unveiled!

I received my swap package from the lovely Hannah yesterday and what a package it is! The kids were just as excited as I was, Jamie kept saying 'Happy Birthday, Mummy' with each little parcel. Same level of appropriateness as the 'Merry Christmas' wishes I get at bedtime every night, but hey-ho... It was jam- packed full of crafty goodies (and biscuits and tea!). I'm a very lucky lady indeed.

Robot mug

Tea cup bookmark

Four crocheted rainbow coasters

Two circular and two square- so pretty!

Lovely biscuits (note demented 'Open now!' face)

Oh, and lots of bubble wrap :)

She also sent Chai tea (which I love), five blue pearlescent buttons and a vial of adorable tiny pastels beads. Unfortunately, my camera completely refused to photograph the buttons or beads because of their shiny nature. I could post blurry pictures, but that would be silly.

And what did I send Hannah?


No pictures of the fruit tea and hand cream but I had to include this little tea house strainer just for being adorable

Draw-string project bag made with tea cup fabric

Tea cup buttons

Tea cup appliqued bookmark

Crochet hook roll made from funky cup fabric

I really enjoyed my first swap and hopefully I'll do some more in future. Thanks very much to Vonnie for organising!

Sunday 29 March 2009


For what it's worth

Probably one of the hardest (and most personal) decisions when you first start selling your handmade goodies is how to price them. Do you use formulas based on materials and an hourly wage? Study going rates of what people are willing to pay for similar things and follow the trends? Are they plucked from the ether? Trial and error? Consult your Magic Eight ball?

It's incredibly common when you first start selling to set your prices too low. You're not established, you worry that people might not buy your things if your price actually reflects your time and effort. Maybe you see how cheap things are on the High Street, and think, 'Why would anyone buy my ten quid t-shirt when they can buy a five quid one from Tesco's? I'm going to have to price mine at five too...' And even if you're comparing your things to other handmade goods, you might think, 'They're established, I can't charge the same amount because everyone will buy from them...' and you make your cheaper price tag the differentiator to try to generate business.

None of this thinking is bad or wrong, it's almost universal when you start out. I've only been selling for nine months, and when I started my prices were generally 50% to 100% lower than they are now. Sure, I sold a lot of things because I was cheap but I was hardly clearing any profit and was selling myself short. And probably pissing off other makers by devaluing handmade. In my experience, people buy handmade because they value handmade, not because it happens to be the same price as something mass manufactured in the developing world.

How should you determine your prices?

Materials are really your bottom line, you should at least try not to sell something for less than your material costs. Unless of course you're doing a loss-leader to generate more lucrative sales, in which case you won't need my advice and I should be reading your blog instead. If you have to sell at a loss to get rid of it, either your materials are too expensive or it's just not desirable enough. *feeling mean* It's worth saying though, that if you physically have goods that are already made, eventually it's better to sell it for something than keep it for nothing. Decrease your price gradually until you have a taker, re-coup some of your investment and learn from it. I hardly keep any stock now, because I don't like having things hanging around not selling. I'll make it once, list it, use the same materials to make other things, and thereby cover my back and make it more likely that my materials aren't sitting around either.

But what about time and labour? I personally don't have an 'hourly rate' rule. If I did, I'd have some crazy prices. For example, I could probably applique fifty t-shirts in the time it takes me to make a complicated three layer jacket. Materials nonwithstanding, should I therefore price my t-shirts at a fiftieth of the cost of my jackets (supermarket prices) or inflate the prices of my jackets to fifty times my t-shirt price (designer prices)? It wouldn't make for a very homogenous brand if I did either of those things. The key for me is to spread my time and profit over a lot of different designs. My ratio of time to profit might be poorer for complicated things, but they are what drive people to my shop, and increase sales overall... including things that have a higher time to profit ratio. As long as it doesn't ridiculously undermine the value of my time (and of course covers the material costs) if a particular item sells at a particular price then I'll generally go for it.

How do I determine the 'particular price'?

Probably the most important factor for me when determining prices (and indeed deciding which designs it's worth pursuing) is the going rate. And that's not just the going rate for all sellers of a similar item, but the going rate of my items (because I'm special, my Mom says so). I have been suitably nervous each time I've increased my prices, but sales have increased as well. That just proves to me that I have been underestimating my product worth. Of course, it can go the other way too. You might think your stuff (especially if you're basing it on an hourly rate) is worth more than people are willing to pay. For example, what if I decided to stop buying blank t-shirts to appliques and sewed them myself? It just wouldn't be worth my while, because an extra two hours to make a blank t-shirt to applique is unlikely to impress a buyer enough to spend twice as much.

It also goes the other way though. One thing that's always quite shocked me is the price of 'boutique' children's clothing in the States. Most commonly seen on Ebay (but also Etsy to a certain extent), they are listings like this one:

The listing is only the dress, none of the accessories. It does have a lot of applique work to be fair. So what do you think... what's it worth? Well, according to the seller: $325 or best offer. I've checked out her feedback and although she hasn't achieved this price for any of her recent sales, she's having an awful lot of sales at around the $100 mark . I always tut when I see the prices that 'boutique' clothing sells for, but their value is based on what people are willing to pay.

If only I had the stomach to make such things, I could be raking it in too...

Saturday 28 March 2009


Being slightly less secretive, and then more again

I mentioned on Thursday that I was working on some top secret stuff. My Time for Tea goodies were posted yesterday but I don't think Hannah will get them until Monday so the pictures for that will have to wait... However, I can reveal the other project I was working on!

I was approached by Caley, the editor of Fave Crafts, to submit a guest project on an Easter theme. They are compiling an e-book of Easter projects to send to their subscribers (16,000 I believe!) and it's now live on their website. So if you want to make an Easter chick applique, the template and instuctions are here. This is the finished t-shirt:

And then something else exciting happened yesterday. I was approached by a magazine that wanted to feature my reversible woodland matinee jacket. He wanted the picture on a white background and un-modelled, and I was very lucky that I have one in stock as all of my other pictures were on Maia. I took the jacket and a white sheet outside (in gale force winds and a brief gap in the rain) and took some photos. This is the one that I sent:

I will let you know the name of the magazine once it's published!

Friday 27 March 2009


Competition winner revealed!

I'm really pleased there was so many entries in this draw, and even more pleased to reveal the winner... Pickled Weasel!

Thanks so much for all your comments and suggestions for my birthday break, I will be directing Steven towards the post. Multiple times. With increasing menace.

Thursday 26 March 2009


Sorry, it's classified

I wish I could show you pictures of what I've been working on, but it's a secret. 'Oh no, here we go again,' I hear you say, 'not more of her melodrama...' But it's true, I've been doing not one, but two, secretive things. Well, three if you count eating the icing my mother in law kindly gave me but I think my cover was blown days ago.

Firstly, I've been invited to do a guest feature on a big crafty website. It's on an Easter theme and I submitted it last night. From what I gather, I'm meant to be secretive about these things lest I spoil the surprise. I'm hoping that once it goes live though, I'll be able to post a link.

Secondly, my Time for Tea Swap organised by Blottedcopybook is due to be posted tomorrow and I've been making a number of tea themed items for my swap partner Hannah. It's my first swap, so I'm suitably nervous... Once we've received our goodies, I'll be able to post pics. Unless it turns out that the things I've made are completely sub-par, in which case I won't post pics and I'll never mention it again.

Wednesday 25 March 2009


Well, that's a relief...

I've been feeling pretty bad for two years or so about Jamie's poor eating habits. In these health obsessed times, it's all five portions this, two portions that, and it's enough to give anyone a complex.

So I was relieved to receive these new guidelines:

Phew... right on track.

Tuesday 24 March 2009


Free giveaway of my asymetrical jacket pattern

I'm so excited that it's back from testing and good to go! If you follow my blog, you'll know that each time I release a pattern I have a free giveaway competition, so here we go...

The jacket is reversible (what else would you expect from me?!), with wide sleeves and a more cropped fit than my double breasted coat. It fastens to one side of the chest with two buttons and has a asymetrical collar. The pattern includes sizes 18m / 2T and 3T/4T and the generous cut and rolled up contrast sleeves mean the jacket will get plenty of wear. In fact, I tried it on my childminder's daughter (who is thin and wears a 7/8 yr) and it fit like a super cute swing coat with cropped sleeves and hitting at the waist.

The tutorial is eight full-colour pages, with very detailed step-by-step instructions and sewing tips. I would rate it advanced beginner / intermediate, although the cutting layout is a bit tricky because of it being asymetrical and reversible.

If you want a chance to win this pattern, just leave a comment on this post (make sure to include your email address if I can't contact you through Blogger). As I'm hoping Steven will take me away for my 30th birthday this summer (hint, hint), suggestions for a weekend break from the UK would be greatly appreciated...

I'll use Randomizer to chose a winner on Friday!

Monday 23 March 2009


Buttonholing when your machine hates you

My sewing machine has about a million different buttonhole functions that automatically calibrate and / or sew a variety of different buttonholes at the push of a pedal. Allegedly. If I'm feeling optimistic and good-natured, I might trust it on something thin like quilter's cotton. But it never works for my coats as the thickness of the fabric confuses the machine and the only things that are automatic are screw-ups, tears and lots of time with a seam-ripper. As buttonholes are often the last thing done to finish off a garment, I've started playing it completely safe and I sew them manually with a tight zigzag. So I thought I would share how I do it for any of you that also have untrustworthy sadistic machines.

Place your buttons as you wish them to be. Using tailor's chalk, draw a line to the left and the right of the buttons.

Using a ruler, draw a line perpendicular to the side edges. This will be your guide for stitching the buttonhole.

You can't see this terribly well, but I then baste along this center line with a contrasting thread. I find this easier to follow than the chalk.

Using a tight zigzag stitch (I use 1.5 for the width and 0.2 for the length), sew down the right hand side of your guide line.

Repeat down the left side of the guide line resulting in two parallel lines with the basted line in the centre.

Carefully cut along your guide line. I used to do this with a seam ripper but it pulls at the fabric and can make it warp or wrinkle (and it's so much easier to rip too big a hole). Now I use a sharp craft knife and the result is so much better.

Test your hole with your button to make sure it's the right size. Increase the hole at the edges in very small increments if it's too tight.

Once you are happy with the length of your buttonholes, use the same zigzag along the open edges of your buttonhole, making enclosed rectangles.

Increase your zigzag width (I use 2.5 for width and keep it at 0.2 for length). Starting at the top center of your buttonhole, stitch down the right side again, using your fingers to open the buttonhole. The blue lines in the picture shows how the left side of the zig zag will fall at the outer edge of your original zigzag and the right side of your zigzag will go into the hole itself. This will bind and enclose all of your raw edges where you cut and give it a neater finish.

You're done!

Sunday 22 March 2009


Mother's Day: take one

I hope all you UK mums are enjoying your lie-ins, breakfasts in beds, flowers, presents, pamperings and general spoilings today. No, really, I mean it... I'm not bitter or twisted to be left on my lonesome with the berserkers on Mother's Day. It's no big deal to put your own card in an envelope to open. I still heard those precious words, 'Happy Mother's Day'. I might have had to tell Jaim to say it, but it still counts. And sleeping past six is overated anyway. Honestly, it's fine, really. Because one of the good things about being American but living in the UK is that I get two Mother's Days. And courtesy of Steven's ill-timing in going away for the weekend, guilt should mean that the one in May is extra special. 49 days isn't long to wait. I'm keeping on top of it with a new widget, just below my profile.

Saturday 21 March 2009


Batten down the hatches

It's been 45 minutes since Steven left for his weekend away, and we're coping. Maia cried, 'Daddy, Daddy' forlornly for the first 30 minutes but she has some Cheerios now and consequently, a brighter outlook on life. The Teletubbies DVD is on, which makes two of the three of us happy. I have had two cups of coffee. I'm ready.

Friday 20 March 2009


Folksy finds home decor

This week's Folksy Finds are lovely handmade items to adorn your home!

This beautiful Reclaimed Elm Wall Clock by KnottyBurr Woodcraft Handmade has been finely sanded and finished with Danish oil to bring out the grain. So sophisticated!

I love the colours and textures of this Lonely Tree art print by Sascalia. It a print of a mixed media collage painting using collage papers, ink and acrylic paint.

Folksy's resident decoupage artist extraordinaire, Ooops a Daisy, has created this beautiful Black/cream toile de jouy wooden side table from a recycled wooden side table and I think the result is stunning!

This eye-catching set of six Wooden butterfly coasters by Lino King Cards are limited edition and made from environmentally friendly and sustainable resources. The design is from a lino print which has been reproduced onto the coaster.

This beautiul White ceramic oil burner from Lauren Ceramics has a lovely round shape with holes that allow the candle to shine through while producing enough heat to burn the oil at the top of the burner. Functional and gorgeous!

I fell in love when I saw this Concentricity Mirror by Dig the Earth. In the artist's own word's, "This 10 inch square pine mirror frame has been lovingly (and very painstakingly!) decorated with beautiful hand drawn concentric circles, using waterproof permanent ink. A very graphic, bold statement piece! I absolutely love this mirror and am secretly hoping it doesn’t sell, so I can keep it!" I don't blame him!

I smile whenever I see this adorable felt Traffic jam bunting by Nickynackynoo. It has two double decker buses, two black cabs, two blue cars and two button traffic lights on a red grosgrain ribbon. Perfect for a funky little boy's room!

This sweet Polka dot cushion by Linen and Roses would be perfect for a little girl's bedroom, with it's pink and red dots, little floral hearts and buttons.

Another item to make the kids (and adults!) happy is this is a friendly chicken doorstop made from pre-loved fabric and filled with UK grown pearl barley. His name is Wilson and he's made by Jenny's Textiles.

And for the nursery, these ABCD Giant Soft Blocks by Sleep Dream Play are both understated and beautiful. Made from a digitally printed collection of fabric of her own designs, these blocks promise to be well-used and treasured!

Thursday 19 March 2009


Okay, I'll indulge you

I mentioned last week that I needed a hair cut and (six months after my last one) I finally got around to it. A lot of you have probably been wondering what it would look like if a fully grown woman got the haircut of teenager, so I'll put you out of your misery:

I could be sixteen! Well... if you disregard the face and the body. But let's not split hairs.

Apologies in advance, but I might not be able to post for awhile. Any moment now I'm expecting to be sectioned under the Mental Health Act after a number of bystanders witnessed me sitting in the window sill, smiling and taking pictures of myself for a considerable length of time this morning.

Wednesday 18 March 2009


'Stop chatting and get back to your sweatshop'

Can you believe my childminder said that to me today when I was procrastinating hanging about after dropping Maia off?! Why would she say that?! I mean, people in sweat shops work incredibly long hours in squalid conditions, with few bathroom or meal breaks, churning out garment after garment after garment... All right then, she has a point. I've had thirty orders in the last week (italics denoting shock, gratitude and exhaustion). Sixteen were patterns, but fourteen were clothes. I am more or less keeping up, to the detriment of my beauty regime, social life, determination to keep the house clean, and sleep schedule. For dramatic effect I'm ignoring the fact I haven't had a beauty regime or a social life for years, and I've never had any determination to keep the house clean. I did used to sleep though. It was a while ago, but I remember liking it.

And here's what I've made:

The Hoodies:

Yippee Cowboy Zippy Hoodie

Panda Power Zippy Hoodie

Retro Boombox Hoodie

The shoes:

Sage babycord apples and Turquoise and chocolate spots

Organic t-shirts:

Yippee cowboy applique
The tunics:

Blue apple babycord

Red leapfrog (two of 'em!)

Mossy green babycord with cherries
The peasant dresses:

Yui Kokeshi Japanese dolls

The asymetric jackets:

Orange bird print with black and white polkadot cord (another three!)

The buttons are always different, I like these best!