Tag Archives: bags

The Market!

After months of wondering whether I was doing the right thing having a stall at the Christmas markets, whether I would have enough stock, whether my stock would sell, what to wear on my feet, what to wear on my body, how to carry money, and every other worry you can imagine, plus a few extras, I have successfully finished day 1 of the two day markets – and survived!

Having my super-assistant Mum in residence has been such a blessing. In the last week she has sanded, painted, hammered, sewn, and then still made cups of tea and sandwiches for me each day! With her help my shelves were finished, the screen that I bought from the recycling centre at the tip was completely renovated, a perfectly fitted tablecloth for the trestle table was made, labels were sewn onto my packaging calico bags, price and care instruction tags were attached to each item, necklaces were packaged, plastic crates were washed, bags were cut out for me to sew, and……lots of other things were achieved! (Oh my – as I write the list of things that she contributed to help me out I am overcome with emotion. I have a very, very, special mother.)

In the meantime I was sitting at the machine producing just a few more bags, a pile of zipped pouches and coin purse key rings, and sleeping a lot! (Gee – Mum did do a lot didn’t she!!) Wait – I also drilled holes, screwed hooks in, prepared inventory, priced the goods, made discount coupons and price signs and a few other things. (Phew – I feel a lot better now!) As my last bit of sewing preparation, last night I made us an apron each – mine with a zipped compartment for cash. I made mine first – and then worked out how to do it better and made my assistant’s apron with a lot less fuss and error!!

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The chicks have been spending time with their father and his fiancé this week, and settling into the new routine of having two houses. But they were still thinking about me and my stall. The eldest chick bought these shiny Christmas ornaments to add to my decoration (and sticking with the bird theme) and the middle chick presented me with this origami ornament that she had bought at a stall at school. The boy just gave me a hug. Pretty good all round really!

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The Christmas markets hold an interesting mix of goods, stall holders and customers. A few other Etsy sellers also have stalls, so it was lovely to meet people and put faces to the names and voices to our communication! Mum and I attended last night and set up our display furniture,

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then took the boxes of goodies this morning and set up the display.

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I decided yesterday to be sensible and purchase a trolley. I love it! I haven’t taken a photo of it yet but will be showing it off within a day or so! It converts from an upright, hand-cart style, to a flat platform style so it is very versatile. I discovered this morning that I can load all my stock onto it and move it in one trip (if there is someone to help me over the bumps…….).  And the icing on the cake?  It is bright orange!  Perfect for me!

The question of course is ‘How did you go?”. The answer? Quite well. I sold a number of bags, pencils rolls, pouches, a cushion cover, and pendants. (The pendants are made up with the fabrics that I use for the bags etc, mounted under glass in a silver tray, or under resin on a scrabble tile. The Dr Who ones and children’s fabrics were the most popular.)

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But more importantly I was able to talk to people and hear what they liked, what they were looking for, and to talk to them about the different possibilities with bags, art folders, etc. I took three custom orders – two for pencil rolls and one for a bag. (We had a great time designing it on the spot with fabric from three different bags to be used in the style of a fourth bag!). I handed out cards and postcards to people, and had some wonderful conversations with people who didn’t necessarily buy anything but were interested and had great ideas. And most important of all – I had fun!

I had two official assistants – Super-Mum was with me for set up and the morning and then my wonderful friend and supporter Ms C took the afternoon shift. Mrs J also arrived to deliver coffees, admire our work and do a little shopping, and other friends and colleagues dropped by – and some even bought things! I really am blessed! We will be back there again for the day tomorrow, so it will be interesting to see what the day brings. One thing is for certain though – after dipping my toe in the water to test it out, I can confidently say that I will be applying to sell at other markets next year. (And that I will finish my business plan so that my path is clearly set out!!)

In the midst of all of this excitement I am also turning my mind to Christmas presents for my chicks and my family. Hmmm….could be time for just a little bit more sewing…….

I hope that the lead up to Christmas is treating you kindly and that you are finding joy in the simple things.

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Catching up

I have realised that after all the hype about the boy’s birthday last week I didn’t report any of the details! It was a great success – he loved his quilt (and I promise that a photo will follow within a few days – I just need to remember to do it when he isn’t sleeping under it!) Mum ended up doing the quilting, and attaching the binding and then we both handstitched it down together. She used the girls’ very basic Singer sewing machine – no fancy feet, attachments or anything special and it all worked really well, so I have the confidence now to try one myself at some point in the future!

I also made the boy a hat from various Star Wars themed fabrics. It is reversible, so there is different fabric on the inside and he has had great joy in flipping it inside and out! I used this free pattern from April Cobb Designs and it worked really well. The pattern includes adult sizes, so I might have to work on a few more (you know – in all that spare time I have!).

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I have had a slow return to sewing this weekend. I started doing a few little bits and pieces on Saturday but was making lots of mistakes and was not feeling great. I then had an email from my ex-husband who has never had good timing, so decided on the spur of the moment that it was time to get out of the house, get some fresh air and look at beautiful things. Mum and I were out the door a few minutes later and off to the National Portrait Gallery where the 4th annual Undercurrent Design Market was being held. I knew about it as one of my fellow Etsy sellers, Kyoko from So Soap, had told me that she was having a stall there, but that was about the extent of my knowledge. It was great! Full to the brim with beautiful, innovative and colourful design – jewellery, homewares, clothing, ceramics and more.  I got to talk to a number of stall holders whose products I have stalked online. I have to give a big piece of praise to Briana from Mrs Peterson Pottery who not only has just beautiful pieces (one of which is now hanging on my Christmas tree) but was so generous with her knowledge of all things to do with market stalls. I walked away full of ideas and inspiration! (And determined to buy one of her bangles one day soon too!)

Mum really enjoyed the markets and seeing all of these beautiful designer items. She bought beautiful ceramic pieces from Tania at Kittila who uses vintage hand crocheted doilies made by her family to imprint on the porcelain – just beautiful! Mum bought a candle holder to use on her prayer table and she and Tania had a beautiful conversation as a result. It added to the experience for both of us.

I was able to talk to Kyoko who makes the most beautiful body products – she is a qualified herbalist and the smells are just lovely! I also ran into another couple of people I know and talked to a number of stall holders about all sorts of things (where to get digital prints on fabric in Australia, colours, market stalls, etc!). It was a delightful outing and I arrived home tired but full of inspiration again. The results? Little pieces of sewing – because I need some smaller things for my market stall. I am still not producing anything at my normal rate, but have accepted that I can only do what I can do, and as a result am not putting too much pressure on myself. I have been making little coin purses that can have a key-ring attached – and made sure I got some ‘boy’ ones in there, and some zip up pouches that can be pencil cases, make-up bags, charger cord organisers – anything you want really! It is a good way to build back up to constructing larger things – and they are cute!

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However the best bit of creativity that has happened this weekend was after the chicks returned from their trip to Victoria. As it is the first day of Advent and December – ta-da! The tree is up, and the Nativity is in place (before it is rearranged multiple times a day by children.) This little tree was purchased for our first Christmas after the eldest chick was born – and until this year the chicks have resisted any efforts to replace it with a larger one. Of course every year we add new ornaments – so it is getting quite full. Each ornament has a story – and the chicks have amazing memories for the stories.  The middle chick’s favourite ornament is a little wooden angel that I have owned for at least 25 years.  She searches for it every year to hand it beside the glitzy, the handmade, the artisan and the pre-school produced.

Mum and I tried to redistribute them a little bit but gave up so the decorating is well and truly as the chicks wanted it. They have agreed that we might need to think about a bigger tree next year…….

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Thank you to all who have reached out to offer words of support over the last few days. I am following all the advice of the professionals and am on the road to recovery. Lots of sleep, good food, exercise (the dog is in seventh heaven) and listening to music – with the occasional browse of a crafty website – is great medicine.

I hope that you are enjoying the beginning of the festive season. A friend of mine who has some health issues noted that this year she couldn’t do all the extra stuff (cooking, presents, parties, etc) and that Christmas had been stripped back to the most important focus – family. She and I agreed that this will be a great Christmas as a result. Keep it simple and remember what is important. Feel free to take our advice!!

All sorts of developments

This week seems to be flying past quite quickly, yet at the same time a lot is happening. I am still off work so have been trying to focus on resting and recharging so that I can return to work on Monday. Of course this would not be possible without the support of my delightful mother. Part of recharging involves remembering to focus on just one thing at a time, especially while the chicks are at school. Would you like to hazard a guess what I chose as my one thing????

As a result a few new bags have been produced, and the cross body bag featured in my recent tutorial has been produced in all sorts of different styles and fabrics.
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I also discovered a lovely piece of burnt orange linen in a pile of fabrics I had been given, which inspired a new style of bag that I am enjoying playing with. Canvas and linen makes such a lovely combination!

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I had a mild panic on Monday, wondering if I am completely mad to think that I can have a stall at the Christmas markets, whether I will have enough stock, etc, etc, etc. Instead of making a rash decision to quit, I decided to lay out all my stock to see what I had. And guess what? I have quite a bit! It also helped to see that the things I am passionate about, and that hang together best as a collection, are my bags. All the other ideas – pencil rolls, pillowcases, t-shirt, etc, are fun, but I don’t have the same passion for them. Which was the first of several lightbulb moments I have had this week. I also addressed my dilemma of stockpiling rather than selling – I will stockpile until the markets then list the remaining stock online for sale. And I will take custom orders in the meantime too. Phew!

This also prompted me to get organised and accept that if I want to take this whole making and selling thing seriously, I need to act seriously. So I now have registered business, and a registered business name!! Oh my! I have also had the next light bulb moment in where I want to take this all next year, so stand by for announcements, developments, etc after Christmas when I will be completing my business plan.

Then, to celebrate all of this in style, I received my copy of the latest issue of *bespoke* magazine which includes a feature on handmade holiday escapes – and features overnight bag, in the lovely fabric by Sally Roydhouse, aka Peppermint Patty from Spoonflower!

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I have also realised that I need to draw a distinction between sewing for sale, and sewing for family and friends.  That way I don’t miss out on the fun stuff like making quilts or clothes, that doesn’t have anything to do with making money!  On that note I am off to make the boy a sun hat with Star Wars fabric as it is his birthday on Saturday.

I hope that your week is going well, and that you are having your own light bulb moments!

Being productive and colourful

There is a lot of activity in the nest this week. Having my mum here means that we are tackling those jobs that I never seem to get around to. She has de-cluttered my shelves in the family room, I have sorted my fabric stash, I have had tradesmen in to quote on repairs, things that were put in the hall to be put away, and ended up becoming permanent fixtures, have been put away, and lists have been made. The house feels lighter already.

I started to write that I have little to report on the sewing front. But when I looked at my photos, and my sewing table I realised that I have actually produced quite a bit in the last week! I have felt that I haven’t been able to sit and do any major sewing, but have managed little projects along the way. I decided that instead of beating myself up about not making things, I needed to have small goals. So I have been making little zipped pouches. I can do one in the evening before I go to bed. They are quick, they are cute, and I can feel that I have achieved something. I haven’t been listing them to sell, thinking that I would use them at my craft stall. Then a friend dropped around, saw them and bought 4! I guess that validates that they are going to be attractive to buyers!

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I also wanted to make a farewell present for Miss N. She has left us much earlier than expected, but was of help when she was here. She loves tea, and was travelling with an overfull suitcase, so I decided to make her a cushion cover, that will pack flat, and applique it with a tea-cup. I am quite happy with the end result! I think she liked it too.

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A friend dropped by for a cup of tea (I am a bit partial to tea myself) and asked if I could make a superhero cape for her nephew. So that was ticked off the list next.

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Amongst the menagerie that lives at my house we have a budgie called Frill. Frill belongs to the artist-in-residence and has been living in her bedroom for the last year. He makes a dreadful mess – seeds being flicked all over the place, and she is not the best cleaner-upper you have met. With the arrival of Nana, we decided to move Frill out of the bedroom, to reduce the mess in there. A quick internet search found us a very reasonable price for a stand to hang his cage from, so we can now easily move it around the house. Which meant that the seed scattering had potential to spread all over the house. The solution? A fabric ‘skirt’ of sorts for his cage. While I will tweak the design before making another one, it is doing the job quite well!

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I also had a lovely experience in selling another piece to a buyer in the USA. One of my bicycle cushions is winging it’s way to Washington DC.

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With all the ups and downs in our household the chicks have been suffering a bit. The artist-in-residence needed a day at home with her mum to rest and collect herself. She sat and did some drawing and created such a lovely piece that she and I decided we needed to make some fabric from it. That inspired her further, so she did another drawing for fabric. We have ordered samples of each of the pieces to check for colours etc, and once they are proofed, she will be able to list them for sale on Spoonflower! She is very excited, and I am very proud!

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Of course, through all of this, and various appointments that needed to be attended, I am trying to make my Christmas lists. Things to make for sale, things to make for gifts, things that I want to make. The lists are long! Until I have time to publish them with links, I highly recommend looking at the lists of Handmade Holiday ideas that Sew Mama Sew are publishing each day. My list of eco-friendly gift ideas will be featured on 10 November. There were a number of ideas that I had collected that didn’t make the post, and some ideas that I have found since then, so I will do a follow-up post here with some further ideas for eco-friendly gifts to make!

I hope that your week has been productive and colourful!

Ticking things off the list

You will be pleased to hear that I am ticking things off my list from earlier in the week. Not a lot, but something is better than nothing!

I made two more cushions
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two of my smaller bags

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and then decided to create a new design for a “Big Bag”.

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I also did some ‘research’ and attended the Handmade Markets here in Canberra. Although I did break my self imposed rule and purchase a ceramic egg holder, a gorgeous tea towel, some beautiful soothing cream, and some very delicious locally made organic chocolates (so good!!)  I also did a lot of observing. I looked at how stall holders held themselves and interacted with their customers (the ones chatting to their friends rather than to customers lost sales), which stalls attracted my eye, how items were displayed, and how frustrating it was to not see the name of the stall holder prominently displayed. I also met a couple of my fellow Etsy sellers who I had interacted with online, got tips from a few other stall holders, and had a lovely chat with a fellow bag maker about the processes we use for our bags – so lovely to talk to someone who understands the practical issues!

I am ticking things of my list at a much slower pace than I would like, but am also listening to my body which keeps telling me that I need rest.  As is so often the case, I didn’t realise just how tired and run down I was until I stopped.  I thought that a couple of days rest after the kids left would do the trick, but apparently that is not the case!  My eldest chick rang me today and asked if I would like them to return a few days early from their trip so that they can be here with me for my birthday.  What a dilemma!  I would love to have them here, but I also know that this is my only chance to rest and catch up before school starts again, and that if they return early that will mean that I lose 4 days of rest…..  So I explained to her why I thought they should stay for the time they planned with their father and assured her that I would be fine on my birthday, even though they won’t be here.  Their father and I don’t always communicate effectively so trying to explain to him that I need the break didn’t go as well as it might have, but I think the eldest chick understands my reasoning.

I had missed a few things off my list when I wrote it – but have achieved a much needed haircut today.  Some medical appointments have been attended or are scheduled (I strained my back earlier in the week – looked like a 95 year old trying to get out of bed for a couple of days there!) and friends have been phoned for a catch up.

But for now, it is a long weekend here, so I am going to listen to my body and get an early night knowing that I can sew tomorrow!!

I hope that you have had a good week.

Getting down to it

Very exciting news in the nest with the announcement that the eldest chick and her classmates have made the finals in the Wakakirri competition! This little bird is (not-so) secretly pleased that all those costumes get another outing! We will be off to the theatre again on 26 August for the regional finals. I am so proud!!

I am also pleased to report that I am achieving my crafting goals for the week quite well! I have made a super-hero cape for a little girl called Emily,

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a bag with matching zip pouch to donate to the auction at the ball I am attending on the weekend,

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a pencil roll as a separate donation to the same auction,

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and have almost completed the sashing on the memory quilt top!

I also managed to get another three rows on the crocheted afghan while watching the martial arts class last night. Feeling quite satisfied with my efforts!

In the midst of all my planning and thinking I have missed doing what I love doing – making! I have a few other orders to fill now, and am looking forward to making them.

Having a good week has also given me time to reflect a bit. Over the years, through trials and tribulations, my girlfriends have supported me, picked me up, given me perspective, told me not to be melodramatic, and generally kept me going. I am so lucky! So many people ask me ‘how do you do it’ – work, parent three children, etc, without any family support in town. Apart from the answer that my parents give me a huge amount of support even though they aren’t local, I am always able to say that I have amazing friends. They keep me going. Celebrate the highs, and prop me up during the lows. This week a couple of those amazing women had to face their own challenges. I felt so helpless, being able to do little except try to make one laugh, and offer food for another. Then I remembered the times that my friends have done just that for me. Talked to me about inane things to keep my mind occupied. Did airport runs to pick up or drop off people. Dropped in with a bottle of wine. And I realised that to be a good friend you don’t always have to do BIG things. Just being there, in the quiet times when you need another voice on the end of a phone, or to email you a silly story, or to drop in and say hi. Those are the things that make us friends rather than acquaintances. The things that keep us going. So to my girlfriends – thank you. Please know that I will always be there to help prop you up, to drink wine when required, and to make you laugh (either at yourself, or at me) to keep you going. Because what goes around comes around.

I can also report that we have maintained our ‘cache a day’ target. Despite rain and late work days!  The kids are committed too, so we are having fun!

Enjoy the rest of your week and remember to celebrate the people in your life who are your true friends.

Getting my mojo back

This has been a week of personal growth and revelations. It coincided with having to miss a lot of my paid work to care for children. Could be something in that!  I should post a warning that this post contains very little about sewing (for once) and more of my self-revelation musings!!

Having time at home gave me time to clear my head a bit, to think about various aspects of my life that I tend to tuck away into the ‘when I have time’ basket, and to rediscover parts of myself. I have written before about how I have found the process of making things gives me a chance to de-stress, to focus and to work through issues in my mind. What I hadn’t really appreciated before this week is that once I start that process, I also gain in creativity.

What have I achieved this week? As I wrote earlier in the week I came up with a plan for managing my blogging more regularly. I also spent some time preparing some posts for weeks when I don’t have as much time. I looked at my Etsy shop and realised that I didn’t like the overall look and feel of it. So I did some reading on taking photos, played with my camera a bit, tried out an Etsy App for ‘fusing’ photos (and abandoned it) and then re-shot all the photos for my Etsy listings. Instead of the outdoors backgrounds I had been using,  I have gone with white. I have used the macro setting to get some close ups, and to gain different perspectives on my pieces. While I can still spot room for improvement, I am much happier with it now. (And am happy to get feedback if you have time to have a look!)

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Before and After

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Before and After

I was feeling a bit virtuous by this time, so decided to keep going. I joined some Etsy teams, and created a couple of treasuries (curated collections of other people’s listings – not my own), and enjoyed that so will try to keep it up. Then I made the decision that I am still a bit directionless with all of this, so registered to attend a Right Brain Business Plan workshop with Canberra Creatives.  The timing is perfect as it is on while the chicks are visiting their grandparents during our July school holidays.  I am hoping to create a plan and focus my energy in one direction instead of stopping to look at every bright and shiny thing that comes along!

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Hey look – better light today!

All of this made me feel a lot more connected with the business side of my creating.  Which lead to my creation of the new bag design yesterday (in my last post) and a feeling that I had ‘got my mojo back’.  Which was interesting as I wasn’t aware that I had lost it!  This is a recurring theme in my life.  I think I am happily pottering along, then something happens and I find myself being truly happy again and realise that until that point I have been slowly sinking into survival mode for a while, without realising it.  A year after my husband left me some dear friends gave me a gift with a card that read “Celebrating the becoming of Theresa”.  It was a sharp reminder that by the time my marriage ended I had lost so much of myself, and hadn’t realised it.  Although the pain and grief that came with the end of my marriage was so strong, and still lingers these years later, the rediscovery of myself and the things that make me feel happy and alive was a gift that kept me going.

A few years later, after being a full-time single parent for a couple of years, I am conscious that I have lost a bit of myself again.  Creating things, and having another focus in life seems to be a good way of keeping those bits of me sustained when everything else is getting a bit much!  So the realisation that I had lost a bit of my creative mojo, when it returned this week, was a good reminder that I need to nurture that side of my life too.  I am not quite sure how to do this yet, but am mulling over a few ideas as I sit and sew bags and match fabrics and colours, so I will see what pops out at the end!

These are the fabrics I am playing with for my next set of bags!

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I hope that your week is full of love and support – and that you are able to nurture your mojo too!