Saturday, 29 December 2012

Reflections on 2012

If you were following this blog at the start of 2012, you will know that, rather than set resolutions for the new year, I decided to give myself a word. 

The word was organised.

(If you'd like to read more about my decision, you can read the original post here)

You may be wondering how I got on with the word: whether the change of focus meant that I managed to keep to my resolution this year. 

I have had a look back over the year and with the magic of hindsight I have to say that it was reasonably successful. After a highly motivated start (Oh, for the love of... boxes and January round-up), the momentum definitely slowed. Sometimes I felt very discouraged at my lack of progress (and occasional down-right failures) but looking back I can feel that something in my attitude has shifted. 

So what areas of my life have become more organised?

My craft supplies, organised way back in January, have stayed reasonably well organised (with a bit of tweaking for new purchases) for the rest of the year. 

My second year's tax return was completed online a full two months before the paper form deadline (and five months before the deadline for the online form). This was a huge contrast to my experiences in January and, although I still had to fight myself to get started, it was much easier to complete this time. I also had the added pleasure of seeing tax deadline adverts/reminders and being able to congratulate myself! I have also set up better systems for organising receipts/invoices and another for recording income/expenditure. I hope that this will save me even more time when it comes to filling in next year's tax return!

I have made a start on decluttering and, although there is still a lot of work to do, I am beginning to find it easier to let things go. I have managed to get rid of lots of stuff but still haven't even started on the spare room!

And what has been less successful?

I haven't found a routine for cleaning and tidying that works for me. I go through phases when I'll stick religiously to a routine and then something will come up. Missing one day discourages me so completely that I tend to give up entirely and then I still have to clean or tidy frantically when visitors are due!

 Schedules also need more work. I have tried several different ways to manage my time this year and none of them have been 100% successful. I have tried Sunday Summits (planning every hour of the week ahead), the Pomodoro technique (writing a to-do list and then working through in priority order in 25min intensive sessions) and writing a schedule each evening/morning for the coming day. Although it is evident that I achieve far more when I allocate my time efficiently, I generally slip back towards days when I don't. Budgets and expenditure records seem to be just as hard to maintain as cleaning rotas and schedules!

Another thing that fell by the wayside this year was my participation in the Pintangle TAST challenge. Although it seemed like a good idea when I signed up, I had not really appreciated the effort that would be involved in completing the tasks each week. When the pintangle website moved, I rethought my involvement, decided that I wasn't doing the challenge for the right reasons and dropped out. This was a bit of a shame but I will continue to develop my embroidery skills at my own pace.

What have I learnt from my experience?
  1. Organisation is a very broad topic - during the year I have thought about most of the following: schedules for my work day, cleaning routines, personal finances, timing, procrastination, decluttering, tidying, business finances and paperwork.
  2. I have very high expectations. I am critical of failure in others but even worse when it comes to myself.
  3. It isn't possible to change everything overnight - some of my attempts at organising something didn't work the first time, often because I was trying to change too many habits at once.
  4. I want to be organised in some ways more than others. For example, I wanted my business finances to be organised more than I wanted to establish a cleaning routine. Hence, I suppose, the success of one project and the failure of the other: the stress of impending tax deadlines far out-weighs my need to have hoovered stairs. Maybe, now the most pressing areas are more organised, I can start work on the next priority.
  5. Some people set an impossible standard. My priorities are my own and I don't need to compare my way of being organised with other people.
A huge thank you to Alida at Your Powerful Mind for her help and encouragement in this (and other areas). I'm not sure I'd have kept up the momentum so long without you!  

How will this affect my 2013?

I will continue to experiment with daily schedules, cleaning routines and budget trackers until I find ones that work for me. I will continue to fight the urge to procrastinate. I will continue to work on my consistency.

This alternative to resolutions has been refreshing and I will definitely be repeating the approach in 2013. It has given me the opportunity to slip for a time and then pick up where I left off. I don't feel that I have "failed" to keep my resolution in any way because I have made progress and never expected perfection. Organisation will continue to be important in 2013, as I strive to raise the bar closer to where I'd like to be, and it will be combined with my resolutions for the new year. 

I have so much planned for next year - I'll be back in 2013 to tell you all about it!

Roll on New Year! I'm ready!

Wednesday, 12 December 2012

2012 Lessons


 Another year is drawing to a close. 

I have been doing a lot of thinking lately about my business: how far I've come, where I'm going, what I'd like to achieve.

But, mostly, I have been reviewing what I've learnt. 


Just to recap - this year I started selling my crafts on Folksy and Wow Thank You. I participated in 2 on-line Craftfest fairs and 2 real life craft fairs. I now have a facebook page, a Twitter account and a few other social media accounts.

So I have learnt quite a lot of techie stuff...


.... I have learnt how to set up RSS feeds so that when I post on Folksy or WTY, a post automatically appears on my FB page....

.... and I have learnt how to schedule Tweets and FB posts so that they appear when I want them (and not all at once)....

.... and I am beginning to get the point of Twitter although I am still not sure if I will ever find it particularly useful as a marketing tool.



These lessons have been useful but they are overshadowed by some of the things that I have learnt about selling and about myself. These things are what I would like to focus on today.

So here's what I have learnt this year:
  1. People value what I value - I have no reason to apologise for the price of items that take a great investment of time and love. The price I ask is fair and reflects the value I place on my skill and time.
  2. People who cannot value what I make are not worth my worry - even if I were to sell my craft items at a price that just covered the cost of materials, I would still be undercut by poorly made imports. If that's what people want then they will settle for the cheap alternative, but I will not stoop that low.
  3. Giving something away can be as satisfying as selling it - whether as a gift to a special friend or as a prize in a competition - knowing that what you have created has gone to a good home is always a special feeling.
  4. Parting with an object made with love can be hard - this is especially true with the bears: I find that I develop a strong attachment to each little character and it becomes very difficult to part with them. Benny has become part of the family and will now only be used for promotional purposes. Another reason why valuing your wares correctly is crucial: selling them for less than they are worth is soul-destroying.
  5. Consistent marketing produces results - I know, I know, I shouldn't have needed a year to work this one out but sometimes I cannot be told! When I consistently listed new items, blogged, tweeted and posted, I made sales; when I stopped listing, blogging, tweeting and posting I made no sales! Surprise, surprise! 
  6. Selling is hard - it's hard to find your customers, it's hard to convince them they need what you are selling, it's hard not to become discouraged. But no-one ever said it would be easy, did they?
  7. Love what you do - if you create with love, describe with love, package with love and sell with love your customer will also love what you do. What could be better than that?
  8. Make things for me - sometimes I just want to make something for the sake of it. Just for me. And that's OK.
  9. Make someone smile - sometimes it is enough that my bears make someone smile. The chance to brighten someone's day is a precious gift and a worthy goal.
  10. My time is limited - There is only so much time to make things and to develop new ranges. This year I have floundered a little and lost the path. As my OH pointed out recently "Bears are supposed to be your thing... so list some bears!"

Some of these lessons have been harder to learn than others. Some I seemed determined to struggle with even when I could have learnt them quickly from other people. I am sure that there will be new challenges to face in the year ahead but they will not seem so daunting if I can remember how far I have already come.

What lessons have you learnt this year? I'd love to hear about them!

Wednesday, 28 November 2012

Work in Progress Wednesday

In an effort to get myself back to blogging more regularly, I am going to start showing more of the things that I have been working on. 

This week has been busy with craft fair preparation, as well as other bits and pieces, but I have also been making another bear. Recently, I have been feeling inspired to make large fabric bears: they are about 11in tall when standing so much bigger than my usual itty bitty creations!

The first I made was this one,...


...quickly followed by these two.


They are all made from Moda flannel fabric and thread jointed with large buttons forming external joints. They have black glass eyes and hand embroidered noses. They were great fun to make and my newly refurbished sewing machine made the whole process much quicker.

I took them all to a craft fair at the weekend and sold the bear with the red bow. The others I have listed in my WowThankYou shop.

So my "Work in Progress" this week is my fourth large fabric bear. I managed to leave myself a rather macabre scene when I stopped working last night:

 

...a slightly disturbing vision for first thing in the morning! I was so carried away yesterday with stuffing and jointing, that I completely forgot that I hadn't sewn the head yet. I usually leave the footpads until last (the bit I dislike most about making bears), so this was a very unusual occurrence.

Today then, I have slowly completed the bear: I have sewn, turned and stuffed the head; added eyes; embroidered a nose; positioned, pinned and secured two ears; closed the head and secured it firmly to the body. 

I sat back and looked at the completed bear...

 

... then, with a sigh, I unpicked the nose and did it again.
  
 

And then it was finished. The darker nose is better; it stands out from the fabric. At the moment, the bear is sporting a lace bow: that may change, but no bear wants to appear in public completely naked.

This bear is made from a cotton print from Moda (from the Rural Jardin range by French General) and the colour is... green...blue...greeny-blue with a floral motif. 

I'm quite pleased with him...

...her...

....it...

I can't decide! I suppose it doesn't really matter.

Anyway, that is what I have been working on today. I hope you like it!

What have you been working on today? I'd love to see what you've been doing.


Linked with Handmade Monday

Friday, 23 November 2012

CraftFest Christmas Extravaganza - Blues part 4


It's here! CRAFTfest has arrived! Open one day early for Black Friday, now you can browse the full collection of loveliness!

Just a few more Blue team stalls to show you today

Beadyize


JandJ Alpacas


Kim Jacques Designs


Personalised Rag Dolls and Bears


Sparkly Fairy


And of course there's my stall

Silent Companions


Please come and visit to have a look around


Wednesday, 21 November 2012

CraftFest Christmas Extravaganza - Blues part 2

After a day of heavy rain and power-cuts, I don't feel that I am much nearer to being ready for CraftFest but some progress has been made!

Here is the second installment of Blue team CraftFest stalls...

Beadscrumptious


Black Country Crafter


Busy Bees


Kiln Fired Art


Manfymoo


Printed on Ribbon


Stitchstuff


VaVa Neckwear

 

That's enough for this installment of CraftFest stalls! Remember to visit CraftFest between 24th November and 1st December to browse over 200 stalls.


Not long to go now!

Tuesday, 20 November 2012

Christmas CraftFest Extravaganza - Blues part 1

In just 4 days, CraftFest will be live for a whole week. Once again I shall be in excellent company - there's a huge range of lovely gifts and other lovely things! Ideal for your Christmas shopping!

As usual, I am poorly prepared and running out of time to complete everything I wanted to achieve but that's hardly news...

Anyway, the point of this blog post is to promote stalls from the Blue team - so here goes!

Bluestone Crafts
 

Find more photos like this on Creative Connections

Bobbydog Art


Cola Creations


Decorque


Enoch and Plonk

  
Outta Our Minds


Steph Made it for You


Willow Eyes


Well, that should be enough to be going on with! I'll be sharing more great stalls with you over the next few days. It would be great if you could visit CraftFest between the 24th November and 1st December: there's so much to see.


See you there!

Thursday, 13 September 2012

Flowers

It's strange to think that, with autumn just around the corner, we are enjoying some of the best weather we have seen for months. 

The bees and butterflies are making the most of every sunny minute to gather nectar from the last of the late summer flowers. They must have really suffered this year with the constant rain, the high winds and the low temperatures. 

It's been a memorable summer nonetheless. I have enjoyed watching the Olympics and Paralympics far more than I expected and can only be proud that the British games were so successful, safe and enjoyable. The energy and dedication of the athletes was somehow infectious, and the enthusiasm of the immense crowds of supporters would lift anyone's spirits. You'd have to be pretty hard-hearted to not be touched by the spirit of the games. And now they're over, I have to admit to feeling a little flat.

This week, however, I've have had a little boost in the form of my new niece who was born on Tuesday. I am very much looking forward to meeting her and have many plans stored up for lovely things to make for her as she grows! I can't really show you what I have been making while watching the sports - that would spoil the surprise! 

So instead, I will show you some flowers I made after my visit to Waterperry Gardens

My route home from the gardens happens to take me past a Hobbycraft. It is VERY hard not to pop in and I invariably end up buying something! This time I had something in mind though for a project I've wanted to try for a while. 

So I bought some floral wire so that I could have a go at making some of these wire and fabric flowers

My first attempt, following Arlette's instructions, was (I have to admit) a complete disaster. They were far too fiddly (yes I know, this coming from someone who crochets miniature blankets for her teeny teddies!) so I decided I'd make the flower head a complete unit instead of making the petals separately.

All the petals are made from Liberty scraps.

Here is my first attempt: 

 

A little wonky as I hadn't really thought out how I would wrap the wire to hold each petal in place. Plus I'm not used to working with wire.

My second attempt was a tiny flower:


It's a bit hard to judge scale here but the shape is better I think.

And here's my third attempt:


This one came out very well and I really like the colours. I think I shall be making more - once I can think of something to do with them!


 I have also been meaning to have a go at Kanzashi flower making (see tutorial here) so I made my first attempt recently.


I had to add a 6th petal as I couldn't get 5 to work but again, I'm quite happy with it as a first attempt.

Flowers seem to be a bit of a "thing" for me recently, perhaps it's the lack of exposure to real ones this year. Or perhaps I'm just trying to cling onto the idea of summer for as long as possible!

Do you have a favourite flower pattern/embroidery/tutorial? Perhaps you'd like to share a link in the comments below.



Monday, 27 August 2012

Waterperry Gardens

Last week I met up with my sister and we visited the lovely Waterperry Gardens in Oxfordshire. Luckily, we happened to go on one of the few days recently that have not been plagued by monsoon-like showers. In fact, I managed to get a little sunburnt!

We had a nice lunch in the cafe and then went for a wander around the gardens. They were very beautifully arranged, with a great variety of colours, heights, textures and shapes. The breeze added movement to the grasses and water features created sound.






I took some close-up photos of some interesting flowers. Their colours are not entirely to my taste but I was fascinated by the striking contrasts that the flowers show. 



They reminded me of the warning displays of wasps and other creatures!


Wednesday, 1 August 2012

August

August is here and, as I write this, so is the sunshine! It's been so lovely to see it. 

I am also trying to write this while watching the olympic fencing finals - men's epee and women's sabre today. So hopefully I won't be too distracted.

July passed by in a bit of a blur to be honest. 

We spent a lovely week in France visiting my parents and although the weather wasn't brilliant we at least escaped the torrential rain and storms they'd had the week before! And we did spend one glorious day enjoying the unexpected sunshine by the seaside!

But other than that I haven't got much to report. 

Motivation for crafting has ebbed since I don't have a pressing deadline at the moment (I'm very much a last minute sort of person - it runs in the family!). I have been playing around with some Scandinavian style embroidery which I am quite pleased with. 


I enjoyed making these even though the embroidery itself took a while.


There are some new stitches for me in there which is always nice. The swirly pattern is stitched in whipped backstitch and the dashes around the outside of the heart are bullion stitch. 

They are stitched onto felt (my favourite medium at the moment it seems!) and I stitched the pattern through tracing paper. This was a reasonably successful strategy but picking out the teeny bits of paper was rather annoying and did fluff up the felt a little too much. Will have to rethink that for next time!


I think they might make a good addition to my shop range for the mid-winter-festival-that-will-not-be-named-so-early-in-the-year. Or maybe smaller versions for Valentines day. We'll see.

As it's August, it also means that I have now been blogging for a year (and 11 days to be exact). So I would like to take this opportunity to say a huge thank you to everyone who has read, followed and commented on my posts over that time. I really do appreciate it.

I have big plans for a competition or a tutorial in the near future (so many 'big plans' for the summer - wonder if I'll get them all done!) so watch this space!


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