Friday, 23 December 2011

Sewing up some ideas

I get ideas in my head all the time for things I want to make.  Sometimes it's just not practical at the time to make these items so I keep the images/ideas tucked away somewhere safe for when I have the time/reason to make them. 

Some of the ideas I've had recently were for beautiful appliqued notebook or more relevant - diary covers.  Here are a few I've made lately....

A close up of the pretty flowers -

The love-heart cover also features a little bit of free hand embroidery, the word 'love'.  This was my first time doing this and it turned out pretty good!

I'll certainly be playing around with some more of this in the new year :)

And here's another notebook, this time featuring a sweet owl applique -

I love the way these have turned out.  They're all A5 size and are now all sold, but I offered each customer the choice of a diary or a notebook.  The covers are removable and therefore will last for a very long time!  I've also made another little one - A6 this time, but it's for a Christmas gift so will be yet another thing I'll have to wait til after Christmas to show you! 

Speaking of Christmas gifts - each year I promise myself I'll get my wrapping done nice and early and NOT end up doing the majority on Christmas eve.....well, guess what I'll be doing tomorrow?!!!  Oops!

Wednesday, 21 December 2011

My tutorial's been featured...

Just a quickie blog post to share something exciting...

But firstly, I'd like to say a massive 'thank you' to all of you who provided so much support following my last post.  I've had so many great (and valid) comments on the blog post, over on Twitter and even via text message! It seems we have all been thinking/feeling the same, but no-one said it out loud...until now! 

But, now on to something very exciting (for me anyway!).... Remember a while ago I told you I'd done some Christmas tutorials? Well, now the Christmas gift sack tutorial has been featured on The Guardian website!!!  Click here to take you straight to the tutorial.  Doesn't it look great?!

If you manage to make one of these pretty drawstring bags (perhaps for storing Xmas decorations...?) I'd love to see it.  You could send me a pic via the 'Contact Me' button at the top right of my blog :)

Sunday, 18 December 2011

A bit of a rant about 'craft fairs'!

My final craft fair (of 2011) has been and gone, and I'm afraid to say it was somewhat of an anti-climax to the end of my first year of selling. The location, the time of year and the fact it was the most expensive craft fair I've done meant that I hoped it would be a big hit. However, sales were pretty low for most stall holders I spoke to and footfall within the venue was poor as well.  The organisers had put a lot of time and effort into advertising the event with radio ads, posters, distributing leaflets, even handing them out in the street on the day. 

My stall at 'the event of the year'!
One crafter has already pointed out that it is almost as though members of the public need to be reminded how special it is to buy handmade.  Not mass produced, not cheaply made in a factory thousands of miles away, but lovingly designed and made by talented crafts-people who invest a lot of time into their creations - often earning less then minimum wage themselves.  It is sad, but it seems that people just aren't prepared to pay for someone to make a special one off item, instead they are drawn to the high street where they will give a gift that thousands of other people will also receive. 

I've gotten thoroughly bored of the high street this Christmas - the shops are full of the same stuff they are full of every Christmas.  Rarely do I see something and think 'oh, that's different, I haven't seen that before...'.  With each craft fair I've been to I always see something with that added WOW factor! 

Whilst we may not be able to compete with the high street's prices, us designers/makers/sellers can certainly show the high street a thing or two about originality. There is also something to be said for being able to actually talk to the person who made your item, and this can be to the customer's advantage - us designer/makers *love* being asked to make something with someones specific likes/tastes in mind!

I have a theory that perhaps the term 'craft fair' puts a certain image in peoples heads.  Not an image of pretty stalls selling modern, bright, beautiful products, but one of the complete opposite.  Cold, drafty church halls, stalls selling home-made jam and with rubbish tombola's.  (Don't get me wrong - I LOVE home-made jam!)  Today's craft fairs are full of the most modern crafting I've seen, the most beautiful and often designer fabrics are being used, new arty/crafty techniques, handmade jewellery made from a lump of silver, and fancy and beautiful looking cupcakes that would make your eyes light up!  There has also been a lot of criticism over a recent 'crafts' tv show that somehow failed to showcase the 'Best of British' as it actually promised.  (I won't go into it, the least said the better, but the images it portrayed of the British craft scene were hardly enough to change the public's mind about handmade.)  Eek, there, I've said it.....

It seems very apparent from reading other blogs and speaking to people via Twitter that the 'buy handmade' message is certainly getting out there - BUT it seems that only those who do actually 'hand make' realise just how important it is to support other crafts people.  The problem lies with getting the message across to everyone else that it is worth supporting handmade.  Yes, products may be more expensive, but that's because people in the UK are trying to make a living, it's not someone in a sweatshop hundreds of miles away. 

I think I saw it quoted somewhere recently (can't remember where), but I have to agree that it's not necessarily my products that are 'wrong', but just that the people who visit the fairs I've done just aren't 'my' customers.  My quest for 2012 will certainly be to find new outlets for my products, designs and ideas and to expand on plenty of new ideas I have swilling around in my brain.  The Internet has certainly been my friend when it has come to sales these past few months, Twitter and my blog have been great advertising tools.  It is certainly very disheartening when I look at my sales figures from craft fairs only for them to drastically drop when I subtract the huge amount I have had to pay out for tables at such events.  If I hadn't had such great sales other than the few craft fairs that have been a bit disappointing, I'd certainly be looking closer to home and thinking that my products just aren't what the public want, but I get great feedback from customers, and I'm lucky enough to get repeat orders, so that does bring about a degree of confidence in what I make being 'good enough'.

So, all-in-all, a post that was originally going to be about cute t-shirts I've made lately, took an entirely different twist and ended up with me getting quite a bit off my chest!  I certainly feel a bit better now, but what do you think?   Is it as simple as thinking that we need to re-define 'craft fairs' or does it all come down to the turn in the economy?  And if you've never been to a craft fair, I'm just wondering what image the term actually brings to mind?

P.S - normal services will be resumed this week with blog posts including pretty images of the things I've made recently :)

Friday, 16 December 2011

*Another* button heavy post!

Well, tomorrow is my last craft fair of the season.  I'm really looking forward to being at such an event so close to Christmas, hopefully the atmosphere will be great, full of shoppers looking for some last minute gifts and stocking fillers.  The craft fair is in St Andrews, Fife which is a busy little town at the best of times so I'm hoping to have an empty table by 4pm tomorrow :)  (A girl can dream!)

I've spent the past week frantically finishing off orders (and accepting no more!) so that I could ensure they were all posted off in good time (I'd *hate* for anyone not to get their gifts in time!).  By Tuesday evening I was able to r-e-l-a-x, I'd finished!! 

I spent a little bit of time later in the week replenishing some stock for the craft fair - mostly smaller stocking filler items.  Funnily enough....they all feature one of my favourite items - buttons!

First up were some more shabby chic key rings -

Ooooh, lovely shiny buttons :)

And more..... - hairslides this time -

Loads of these little cute ones, these have been flying off my stall! 

I also used some self-cover buttons to make these pretty fabric ones -

And last, but certainly not least.....I found some giant self-cover buttons and *had* to have them!  I'd been planning to make some brooches for ages, and when I saw these buttons I knew they'd be perfect...

Aren't they cute?!

Well, by this time tomorrow night I'll certainly be sitting with my feet up.  My working year will be over!  (And what a year it's been!)  I still have a couple of Christmas presents of my own to make, but I have a few days next week to work on those.  Hopefully, I'll also have a little more time to spend on some blog posts showing you what else I've been making lately, there just haven't been enough hours in the day to design, create, sew AND blog! 

Monday, 12 December 2011

Scraps for buttons

I seem to have had a serious shortage of time for blogging lately, we've had a household full of illness, and I've also been up to my eyes with fabulous orders!  What a great feeling knowing that so many people will be opening 'Sew Ray Me' Christmas presents on 25th December!!

It won't be long until I can share with you a little more of what I've been making - today's projects included some bright children's patchwork and also some very pretty Cath Kidston inspired patchwork!  Both of these pieces will be used for very different end products :)

But now on to some photos I can share with you....

A few weeks ago I inadvertently arranged a little swap via Twitter.  I posted a photo of my (overflowing) scrap basket .....

....and asked if anybody wanted some!

I had some responses, and 3 lovely ladies offered me something in return....buttons! :)

I ironed and sorted my scraps...

Realised just how far my gingham obsession went -

Do I really have *that* much gingham in my fabric stash??!

I divided my scraps up and posted them to their recipients....and then waited oh-so-patiently by the letterbox to see what Mr Postie would bring me.....

My eyes just lit up when I received these 3 lovely parcels -

First to arrive was this MASSIVE package from Nikki.  Just look at all those lovely wooden buttons at the top!  Fabulous :)

Next up I received some lovely handmade fabric covered buttons from Emma

These will make great button closures on some fabric notebooks I've been making lately! 

And last but certainly not least, this is what I received from Julie -

Julie sent me this rainbow of buttons (doesn't the green one at the bottom look like a really juicy sweety?!) all wrapped up in a pretty piece of fabric. 

I am sooo  pleased with my little swap!  The recipients of my scraps have also put them to good use - Emma covered some more buttons - you can see some of them here in her Etsy shop and Nikki covered some buttons and then made them into fabulous rings to sell at craft fairs! 

Thanks for taking part ladies, it was lots of fun :)

Tuesday, 6 December 2011

Advent Goodies

I'm taking part in the Advent Swap organised by Lynda from Hookin' with Laa Laa and thought I'd better get round to showing you some of the goodies I've received so far! 

It's been great fun having one of open every day!

Here are the gifts I have opened so far -

We have - Christmas cupcake cases, the softest socks EVER!, a cross-stitch bookmark, 3 jingle bells, some 'Merry Christmas' ribbon and the piece of fabric that it's all sitting on.  The photo doesn't do it any justice - it's actually all glittery and sparkly and is a really beautiful wintery scene. 

I can't show you what I sent to my partner, Sarah, just yet as I took a group photo of everything together so it will have to go on the list of things I've to show you after Christmas. 

Tuesday, 29 November 2011

Socks and swaps

Following the fun I had taking part in the Cupcake Swap earlier this year, I jumped at the chance to take part in another when I saw Fran was organising one on her blog.   The 'Make Something' swap was open to anyone with any talent. 

Imagine my delight to find I'd been paired with an amazing knitter! (Unfortunately she doesn't have a blog but you'll see for yourself when I show you what she sent me!)  I've been coveting a cosy pair of knitted socks forever so I knew exactly what I'd be asking for....  In return, Claudia, my partner asked for a bag - across the body, big enough for books and with somewhere to keep her travel pass handy. 

I've never made a bag before (other than the occasional tote bag) but I found this simple tutorial for a messenger bag that I thought would fit the bill perfectly.  Here is my finished version of the bag -

The fabric is a heavy weight one from IKEA. 

The bag is fully lined with some stripey fabric from Sweetwater's Sunkissed range. There are 2 inside pockets and I also added a little key ring clip, handy for keys...

There's a big outside pocket on the bag too -

The tutorial didn't include any kind of closure for the bag so I decided to add a button and make a buttonhole.  I used a self-cover button and covered it with red felt.  I also used red to do all the top stitching on the bag as Claudia said she liked grey but also bright colours. 

And in return.....I received these gorgeous socks!

Pretty and pink.

And here they are being modelled -

So comfy...

And cosy :)

Thank you Claudia!  (and Fran for organising the swap!)

Linking up to -

Sew Happy Geek

Sunday, 27 November 2011

Experimenting with techniques - zipped purses

I mastered sewing in zips quite a while back, my first one was on a toddler sized bean bag I made for my son, you can see it here

Then I moved on to making zipped purses including lots of make up bags which you can see here.

More recently, I made a few zipped coin purses for craft fairs -

It soon became apparent that as with most sewing related projects, there's always more than one way to make something. 

I really like making zipped bags with square bases, just because it makes them so much 'roomier'. Up until recently I've been making box bottomed bags/purses etc by sewing up the ends as squares, then folding the seams together, measuring, sewing, cutting etc.  It's a painfully boring method and takes far too long for my liking!  Plus there's the added stress that you have to be quite exact in your measuring...pah!  It just wasn't for me. 

I've noticed in quite a few tutorials there's another method which involves cutting squares (of equal sizes) from the bottoms of all the squares - I'm probably not explaining this very well, but this is what I mean -

Pattern from 'Sew Pretty Homestyle' Tone Finnanger
So with Christmas gifts in mind, I started to think about how I could make make up purses look a little bit more special. 

The first one I made started out as these 2 patchwork squares - gorgeously pastel and vintage -

I then quilted them and turned them into a BEAUTIFUL cosmetic bag!  Unfortunately since it's for a gift, I can't actually show you the finished product, but as soon as it hits Dec 26th I will be showing all of my Christmas gift makes! 

I was so happy with the results from following this new techniques that I made another.... This time I dug out my Jelly Roll that I won and put together a brighter piece of patchwork.  Once quilted and sewn up into a purse, here's how it looks -

It's also fully lined - with no raw seams :)

And then I got an order for one so I got to make another!  I was asked specifically for one with pink, purple and blues with a pastel/vintage look.  So here's what I came up with -

Of course this one also has some pretty pastel lining - 

So, these 3 patchwork, quilted beauties are all spoken for, but just in case you'd like one (to give to someone as an extra special Christmas gift perhaps)  a colourway of your choice...please get in touch - £12.50 plus £1.00 P&P. 

Linking up to -

Link Party Sew Happy Geek

Friday, 25 November 2011

Recent finishes

I don't know where the time has gone lately.  Luckily, by looking back through all of the photos I take as I work on sewing projects/order, I can see exactly where some of the time has gone!  I'm glad I take so many photos as I love to be reminded of all that I've created.  The same goes for looking back through old blog posts at things I've made but forgotten about.  And I love the fact that in years to come I'll have even more to look back over and see just how productive I've been! 

Anyway, here's a few things I've been working on lately for customers. 

First up is another cute little apron, this one was to be personalised for 'Evie' who is only 18 months old, hence the reason it's just so teeny!  (But oh-so-cute!).  I was also asked to make a matching chef's hat....this turned out a little bigger than I'd expected - it looks massive in the photo - but the good thing is that it's adjustable at the back so will last her for years to come too :)

You can see some more of the aprons I've made for craft fairs in this post. 

More personalisation next in the form of a pretty t-shirt.  Lydia's mum supplied the t-shirt and asked me to make it really girly.  (Yipee!)

I used the butterfly design, kind of similar to the one I'd made for Daisy (you can see it here), but still different enough to be unique.  

I just love how cute and girly these butterflies are, I think I'll be using a lot more of them in some future projects I have in mind.

And since Lydia is a friend of my son's, I got to see this t-shirt modelled by the little lady herself!

So cute!

In between making and creating, I've also been busy preparing for the Advent Swap which was organised by Lynda over at Hookin' with Laa Laa.  It's been so much fun choosing 24 little gifts for my partner to open each day of Advent, then coming up with something special for her to open on Christmas Day itself.  Of course I'll have to wait until after Christmas to show you what's actually inside this little lot -

Stay tuned and I'll show you more of what I've been making lately :)

Linking up to -

Wednesday, 23 November 2011

Christmas Tutorials

A few weeks ago, I was asked if I could produce some tutorials for Christmas projects to the Make with Me website.  I haven't really done any proper tutorials before but I fancied the challenge!

First up, I made some little tree decorations -

Cute little Christmas presents!  I think these would look really sweet tied with ribbon to special presents too.  This is a really simple idea that even children can make with a little supervision. 

The second project is for a drawstring patchwork gift sack -

This is an ideal project for anyone looking to begin making patchwork but doesn't know where to begin!  I love these sacks, they're a great 'eco' alternative to paper gift bags and not only can they be used year after year, but they can also be used throughout the year to store things in - i.e. decorations or even children's toys etc. 

The message behind the Make with Me website is all about promoting crafting and creating together, as a family, with friends or as part of the community.  Why not hold a crafting morning, charging a little entrance/participation fee and donate the money to Mencap which is the charity behind the initiative. 

To view the tutorials that I've submitted, hop on over to the projects section of the Make with Me website to find 2 of my designs with easy step-by-step instructions.

And if you make any of these projects, there's also a facebook page so that you can upload photos of your crations! 

Linking up to -

Sunday, 20 November 2011

Find me on Facebook

Just a short post to let you know that I've finally gotten round to setting Sew Ray Me up on Facebook!  You can find me under 'Sew Ray Me UK'.  Or you can click on the 'Like' button on the right of this blog page.

I feel that I'm more likely to keep the page on Facebook - more up to date with my creations than I do with my Folksy shop.  Probably because it's just so quick and easy to arrange everything into albums. 

I will be updating the photo albums with stock that is available to purchase and that can also be ordered and/or personalised - I have listed the price along side each item.  Postage and packaging costs will also apply depending on what is ordered. 

Mainly I'll be using the page to keep track of the vast amounts of things I'll be making, my computer is full of folders which all need a good sort out, so by putting the photos into albums on Facebook I will feel somewhat more organised! 

I won't just be using the page to sell from, but I'll be using it for general chit chat with my 'Likers' and if you have a page, I'll be sure to 'Like' you too! 

Here's a photo of my craft fair stall from yesterday -

I was delighted to have a lovely bare wall behind me and a wall bench to put my quilt on, and a mantle piece to put more cushions on!  If only every venue offered me this :)

Friday, 18 November 2011


Do you find yourself putting off the silly little jobs - the ones that you know will only take you a few minutes to do...but you just keep putting them off?

I'm the worst culprit for this - especially when it comes to the finishing off on projects that just need a tiny bit of hand sewing or a buttonhole sewn in. 

With a craft fair tomorrow, I desperately needed to replenish a few items of stock - including my felt/fabric hanging hearts, so I finally sat myself down with my sewing roll and sewed on the final buttons and hanging loops -

It took me a while as I kept getting slightly distracted with Twitter.....

Another little job I managed to get done today was a buttonhole.  I can't say too much about this project as it's for a specific recipient so I'll show  you properly once they've received it.  Here's the fabulous buttonhole alongside the lovely felt self-covered button I made to go with it -

I also managed to whip up some little lavender sachets for the craft fair, I've been meaning to do these for ages but not had the time.  Now that I'm at the end of my first week of self-employment, I am finding I have plenty of time to get creative :)

If you're in the Fife/Dundee area why not pop along to the Christmas craft fair which is being held at the YMCA in Broughty Ferry tomorrow, 10am - 4pm.  There will be mince pies all round!  Hope I manage to get one - it'll be my first of the festive season!

Linkin up to -

Link Party