Roses and Moo Minis…

Glyndebourne was EXCELLENT!  I didn’t take any photos.  Sorry.

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Since then, F has had another birthday (where does the time go!!).  It’s getting difficult to get gift ideas together for him, we’re reverting to Amazon vouchers so he can choose, later, what he wants; I’d rather that, than putting things on a list for the sake of it.  He is currently obsessed with Minecraft, Sonic and turning out bucket loads of drawings.  He has just started reading ‘Northern Lights’ by Philip Pullman as his school book, so at the moment we are all being given rings with our personal animal demons on, I got a cat, which is pretty spot on really.  Clever Boy.

I am not so clever and have just spent about a week wondering why I couldn’t upload any photos to my blog, then I realised my storage allowance is full – doh!  I couldn’t be bothered to upload images elsewhere and link back so I paid for extra storage (£14 per year), I stupidly didn’t take the ‘bundle offer’ thinking it wasn’t relevant, then remembered that I already pay for no ads (because they annoy me…but I may have to review that bit, having just realised how expensive it is!) so the bundle wouldn’t have cost much more and I could have done a lot of personalising to this page, which I would like to do in the future.

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I also wrote an entire blog post yesterday and then it got sucked into a black hole when I hit the publish button, which on the back of a crappy day, left me deflated.  All was fixed in the evening with carbs, wine and my continued watching of movies I’ve missed over time (M used to watch a lot on planes, so I’ve complied a list of movies I’d like to finally see and I’m working through them whilst I’m a football/iron man widow).

In the daytime, I have been sewing lots, mostly autumn things so I can’t show then yet as they aren’t photographed, instead here are their tags, which come in the form of Moo Minis.  Look!  They have optional rounded corners now – hurrah!  That made me very happy.  The cards came back much darker than the images I’d uploaded, which I wasn’t ecstatic about but they are usable and I ordered loads, as they were on sale, so they should last me a while.

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Forcing myself to get on with the half-finished autumn bits was great for my mojo.  I decided to spend a week doing nothing but sewing, during school hours, (I have to go into parent/cleaner/gardener/cook mode, when they get back) and the satisfaction of my half-finished project boxes emptying and my shop boxes filling is a joy, it has really got me back on track with renewed enthusiasm for The Linen Cat.  I’ve tried this method before, the you-will-not-leave-this-desk-until-the-box-of-things-you-are-avoiding-is-complete method and it works well for me.  I struggle to get going, sometimes, but once the tidy piles of completed work start to form, my enthusiasm returns.

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This box of roses is typical of things I have sitting in sewing limbo.  They were cut out and half-stitched last summer, to be fair I cut many other flower brooches that did get finished, but these were abandoned, incomplete.  Since then, they’ve travelled to Yorkshire, Centre Parcs and goodness knows where else, in the hope I’d get stitching, but after a little push and a couple of days hand sewing they are finally done, packaged and ready for the shop, come September – yay!

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It spurred me onto some purse making (I have been trying to finish acorns as well, they still need to be packaged).

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I had to abandon them mid-way as I ran out of interlining, I get through loads on purses and have just opted to buy a 25m roll.  I took this forced break to draft new cardboard patterns.  I always work on brown paper, but for things that will need repeat cutting, I often move to laminated card so the edges wont get worn.  It was also a good opportunity to stick interfacing samples onto card and label them, I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve gone to buy more and couldn’t remember what kind I’ve been using.

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I had planned to put my feet up and enjoy the latest issue of selvedge magazine.  It’s the only subscription I still get, having cancelled all my others over the past year, but I think my mini tidy in the purse making box has spurred me on the sort out the studio in general.  I now find myself clambering over boxes and piles of fabric as I try (yet again!) to re-jig the space to work better.  We’ve just given up our spare room to F as he’s getting too old to share with C and it was always his room anyway, so the excess furniture has to go somewhere.  In typical me style, I then got upset about the state of the walls in here, for those who have been reading my blog for years, you might remember that this room once had the spare bed in half of it, then half became the kids play space, before I begged to be allowed it all in return for removing as much of my clutter as possible from the rest of the house.  As a result the walls are covered in sticky little handprints, pencil marks and scraped paint, so to add to the chaos I am now attempting to paint it patch by patch as I move furniture around.

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It’s proving to be hard work and I’ve rather abandoned the rest of the house in the process, but there is a sense of satisfactions as each little bit becomes clean and white and the accompanying furniture is put to good use and tidied.  I even brought some roses in from the garden to pop on the desk as that simple detail makes me smile (as long as I don’t turn around to look at the rest of the room!!).  Hopefully there will be some photos, when I’m done, but for now it’s back to the grind.

Making my life easier: Postage & Packaging

I’ve just come back from the post office and have picked up the lists for new postal pricing, it prompted me to finally start writing a selection of posts that have been in my head for a while about the things I do to try and make my life easier, starting with P&P.  I will point out now that most of this is obvious, so you may want to skip this entry, but I always find it interesting to read similar things in blogworld so here we go.

I’ve written about P & P before and not a lot has changed really but I am becoming more efficient as I get busier.  When an order comes in, I like to turn it around within 24 hours, ideally even quicker; I also like to avoid going to the Post Office unless it’s absolutely necessary as the parking in our local village is a nightmare.  This means the more consistent and organized I can be the better, especially as mornings in a household with small boys can get quite hectic.

I have 3 sizes of brown cardboard boxes bought in the early days from Rajapack, they felt like a huge investment at the time as you can only order large quantities but I have to say, I couldn’t manage without them for my bigger items such as Foxes and Linen Cats.  At the same time, I bought jiffys (or the cheaper brand equivalent) in various sizes and, more recently, PIP boxes (from Defendapack).  PIP (Pricing in Proportion) Boxes are designed to fit within the guidelines given by Royal Mail for a Large Letter, so you don’t have to worry about them being over the allocated 25mm deep and as long as the weight is below 100g these parcels only need a Large Letter stamp.  The majority of my orders fit into this category.  PIP boxes also allow me to post out the ‘Little Birds’ and ‘Lavender Birds’ without the ribbon tails getting crushed which is something I always used to worry about.  

In all cases it is cheaper to buy in larger quantities to reduce the cost per item, although storing it all is quite a headache and it’s really all about how much you are going to sell.  I also decided on a ‘colour’ theme in the early days – green – and I’ve stuck to this for my internal wrapping and details, I am inclined to swap and change things a lot but I’ve kept very consistent here.

Where I score a big fail is in the eco friendliness of my packaging, the cardboard is obviously bio-degradable but it’s held together with quite a lot of parcel tape (I’m paranoid about it coming open in transit) and as weight is such an issue (as well as cost) I do use horrid plastic lined jiffy and not the greener (heavier and pricier) alternative.  I would say, when my current stock runs out I will take time to re-think this aspect and I’m on the hunt for a reliable sturdy paper tape at the moment.

Inside boxes, I usually wrap the contents in apple green tissue paper, fastened with a Moo mini card and green sticker.  On larger items, I often include a ‘little bird’, either inside the parcel or attached to the front.  I also always include a copy of the order in the form of a printed packing slip from the appropriate PayPal page and often a home printed business/thank you card with my details on the back.

Smaller items are put into a green paper bag, again usually fastened with a Moo mini (which also acts as a business card), and then into a Jiffy for posting.  I struggle with the items that are in-between and ideally need to go in a Jiffy bag but that need a bit of extra padding (this included cashmere bears and wool bunnies), I wrap them in brown paper with tissue lining.

For the address labels I use the ones I designed whilst in Yorkshire last year, they contain a return address and it saves me having to add this separately.  I do have an address stamp (from the English Stamp Company) and some green ink which I use on the odd occasion, I prefer a green ink pen for writing.

I’m addicted to my printer but have to remind myself how expensive ink is.  I have stickers, labels, and cards home printed

I also have professionally printed postcards (with rounded corners – of course!) which to be honest I don’t use all that often these days.

I stamp and weight as many things as possible at home and this is the single most important time saver for me.  I really should just print postage (which you can do from Royal Mail website), but sometimes the printer has a huff and refuses to work so I have a tin full of stamps to cover most postal costs which I keep topped up.  All my items up to and including the cashmere bear fit into a post box that is on my school run, it’s an old one but for some reason has a slightly larger opening than many in this area.  Anything over this size (and price) is taken to the post office so I can get also obtain a proof of posting certificate or send ‘Signed For’ as appropriate.

Finally, I now design with packaging in mind, especially the larger items.  For instance I made sure the Linen Mice fit nicely into one of my existing boxes.

Things I need to work on?  I need to design a new banner and logo for my shop and carry this through on the packaging.  I am always running out of the mini Moo’s with their beads and thread attached , in future I would like to fasten these directly to the products and instead design a ‘thank you’/business card to attach to the front of parcels, it would also cut out the need for a separate business card.  As already mentioned I need to get more eco-friendly.

I hope that was of help to some people, it feels like a bit of a long waffle but there you go.  OK, need to go and collect C from pre-school and then M will be back and it’s Thai takeaway night tonight – hurrah! 🙂

Hurrah! The Cavalry have arrived…

I’m not superstitious, in fact I laugh in the face of superstition frequently putting new shoes in table, allowing the boys to open umbrellas indoors and regularly looking at the new moon through glass (although my Gran took this one so seriously I do have a flutter of panic when it happens).  However, I don’t like to mock it all too much, because you never know and after my, “oh, the boys slept soooo well” comments on recent posts F woke yesterday at 3.30 and decided it was time to get up, yes 3.30!!!! (is it morning yet – no got to sleep – but it’s getting light outside and I can hear the birds – go to sleep – is it morning yet….grrrrrr).  Still, yesterday the Cavalry arrived in the form of my Mother and (twin) Aunt who are here for a little holiday.  Although they live ‘Up North’ they visit frequently, enjoying staying at my Sister’s house which is a 5 min walk away and means ‘Gran’ can see the boys every day but have some peace in between.

Here are the ladies above, looking rather splendid.  I love this photo, my Mother won a trip to Florida by creating a slogan for orange juice and there is an album of publicity shots, all of which I would love to frame and display when we finally finish our decorating.  Whilst hunting for the above photo I checked my old scanned ones and wanted to show you this

my brother dressed in my ballet gear.  I was enjoying reading Rachael’s recent blog entry where one of her boys is dressed in a lovely blue tutu and it reminded me if this shot.  My brother did spend rather  a lot of time in dresses, something we frequently remind him of at the most ‘appropriate’ moments now he’s a burly Yorkshire farmer 😉

I love the photo so much I’ve printed it off to go on my recently covered notice board,

it was a large cork pin board and wasn’t in the spirit of my Zen (I wish) like Studio so I removed the frame and covered it in white linen which makes all the difference.

Back to the point, I have just dropped the boys off and have been told not to come back until later this afternoon, which is great as I have a lot to do.  The above Moo arrived in the post this morning, they are new care labels for all the softies and cushion covers.  I used to print the instructions on transparent paper and attach along with a regular Moo Mini business card but I decided to just get a batch printed.  All I have to do now is attach them all.

And I hope to get one of my open projects finished….hum, ha, hum, ha, can you tell what it is yet?  This one has been planned for some time but not actually worked up into sample stage so I need to just get it done.  I was, of course, thinking of Mother’s Day as well as Easter but I am being so slow I may just aim for Easter for the new designs.

Right, I plan to treat myself to a sausage sandwich with a couple of my brother’s home made sausages (which are rather wonderful, he recommends the HFW River Cottage Pig in a Day course, I can recommend the Mushroom one) and then sew whilst watching an old black and white, maybe a Cary Grant, will make a nice change from CBeebies!

Postcards and new Moo…

I spoke too soon on my last post and the boys have caught another ‘bug’ so poor F was off school yesterday and was sent home today after having a nasty coughing fit in the playground.  Typically he is now running around the house, showing no signs of illness except a slight bunged up nose, but that’s the way it goes.  C is holding up well and is just a tad snotty so it could be worse.  Well it was worse with the house alarm going off at my sister’s (whilst I fed her cat), police turning up and plenty more but that was this morning and I intend to make the most of my afternoon now everything has calmed down.

I came home from picking F up to lots of lovely parcels, mainly of supplies (tweed, felt and beads) and a second batch of postcards ordered from Overnight Prints.  I’ve noticed that they have put their prices up (or more accurately, their sale prices are no longer available) on Offset print quality postcards.  On past orders, I have paid £9.98/100 A6 and £19.94/100 A5 but on my last order placed just before Christmas, I opted for the new (cheaper!) Digital Print Quality instead of the pricier Offset for my A5 cards to mount the new felt birds on, I am happy with the result, I also opted to pay to have the corners rounded (£2 per 100, I think) but it’s not quite as nice as using my own corner cutter.

There has been an offer on A6 postcards Prices (DPQ 20% off 50) so I decided to take advantage and order some prints of the new Linen Boy Mice (of which I haven’t blogged about the new brown/yellow version yet – he’s soooo cute).  They arrived this morning and although not as good as the Offset quality, the price difference more than makes up for it.  I also decided to cut the corners myself so that’s a nice job for this afternoon, I find it strangely relaxing.

Whilst ‘updating’ my packing for spring, I ordered new Mini Moo cards, in the past I have choosen a large mix of photos but this time I have opted for just the two, a linen cat and bunny in nice bright colours, one matching the new postcards (the mice hadn’t been made at the point of ordering or I may have used them as well).

Finally, thanks to a tip off from Flora who has just been picked as a Folksy Featured Seller (well deserved) we have become addicted to Okido magazine, so much so that I have subscribed and ordered any remaining back issues, which arrived this morning.  F LOVES it and that’s a big deal as he is mainly into plastic things and cartoons so to get him to sit down and enjoy an art and science magazine is a miracle plus the design is fabulous.

Right, best get on and tidy…a much needed order of tweed arrived this morning and it’s very musty so not sure how I’ll deal with that but I can’t use it as it is!

That packaging post I’ve been promising for a while…

DSC_0248When I first decided to sell on-line, I realised I needed good postage safe packaging so after hours pricing up different packing combinations, I placed a large (for me) order with Rajapack.  This consisted of brown cardboard boxes, tissue paper (apple green – I decided early on to choose a main colour and stick to it), small green kraft gift bags (one of my best buys), a large roll of brown paper, Jiffy bags and some green circle stickers for sealing packages.

I made plenty of mistakes such as cutting patterns for new designs according to whim and not thinking about posting them (so having to go and buy yet more packaging) and going a bit overboard with boxes not realising then that my main sellers would be lavender bags that would be better sent in Jiffys.  As a result, I now have 4 sizes of cardboard box (2 of which I hardly ever use), 4 sizes of Jiffy, 1 size of bio-degradable ‘plastic’ bag all of which have to be stored somewhere.  My husband loves all my shop stuff 😉  Having learnt some lessons,  I now design with existing packaging in mind and I also try to pack so I don’t have to go to the post office as this involves driving around our village for 20 mins trying to find a parking space, so ideally I stamp small items at home.

Everyone reading this will know (I have failed to buy anything homemade which hasn’t been packaged beautifully) the packing is a key part to selling homemade goods, I frequently buy mass produced things that are also well packaged but it’s nice to have a personal touch with the little details.  I’ve written about this before here and here, in fact I see I am slightly repeating myself so sorry if you pop back to read these posts, however I am a MOO fan, in the mini cards and business cards, if you pop back to the links above you can read all about my corner cutting tools used to add the finishing touch to my (then) new MOO business cards.

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I am also a bit addicted to our printer, again you can read more here, but I do like to print postage labels and cards, that is until I have to replace the ink and remember how much it can cost!

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In fact this is a great opportunity to show you a lovely package that arrived this morning from Kirsty at Kirsty Elson Designs.

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How nice it that?  and the contents are great, I especially love the Reindeer card.

I recently had a packaging problem in that I didn’t have a way to send my new Christmas Birds, I was worried their beaks would get bent if they were packed in a Jiffy and they are too small to pack in a box (the minimum postage for which is £1.62) so I decided to order some postcards to fix them to from Overnight Prints. I highly recommend these guys, the order was produced in Germany and I had progress emails throughout the whole process.  I should point out though, they are not overnight unless you want to pay extra and the other rub is there is a set postage of £10. I ordered 100 x A5 (I see they now have an option for reduced number and quality in A5 size) along with 2 lots of A6 postcards (sets of 100 on sale for £9.18 each).

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The arrived just before we went to Yorkshire and I’m impressed by the quality.  I paid for the very basics so no extra gloss, one-sided and I opted for cutting the corners myself, although next time I will pay the extra £2/100 for this.

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I kept to a simple design for the mounting cards, on the basis that I will probably be using them next year so I took a photo of ribbon with a vintage bauble and one of my sewing tags.  I then attached the birds with removable glue dots on the beads and placed the lot in a cello bag.  Perfect, job done and they take up a fraction of the storage space they did.

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The A6 cards are for a special ‘treat’ for some of my regular customers and those who placed lage orders in the past year.

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I made up 2 new colour birds which are attached to the cards with punched holes and gold ribbon, they will hopefully be sent out next week as a little Christmas card and gift.

Lastly (this is a long post, hope some of you are still with me!), I thought I would copy out my individual pricing list which I keep so I have an idea how much my packaging is costing per order.  In most cases I have included a percentage of the delivery costs in the price as well and obviously some pricing may have changed, but here it is:

Rajapack

Good for large orders and has a next day delivery (in a LARGE lorry) but you have to place an order on-line and they call you back to take payment, also delivery is £8.95 so you need to factor that in.  The prices below include VAT and may well have changed since I bought mine.

Brown Standard Postal Boxes (bought in 50’s)

A6 215 x 155 x 50  –  35p each

A5 310 x 220 x 50  – 50p each

Lrg Flat 430 x 310 x 50  – 80p each

Lrg 430 x 300 x 120  – £1-65

Rajabul Mailers (their Jiffy)

White 300 x 450 (50 /pack) – 44p each

I also buy tissue, green small kraft bags (8p each) and rolls of brown paper from them.

Smart Packaging Store

I bought Jiffys (Jiffylite) from here simply because I needed them in a hurry and they offer free next day delivery.

Lrg Letter 220 x 320  – 26p each (min 50)

Lrg Letter 170 x 245  – 15p each (min 100)

Simply Envelopes

They allow you to order small quantities and delivery is £4.50 for next day (optional).  I had struggled to find a supplier of mailbags in small quantities, more importantly they had a good price on large Biodegradable Poly Bags.

Clear Cello Bags 230 x 167 (A5)  – 7p each (exc VAT)  – no min order

Jiffylite 115 x 195 (A6)  – 19p each (exc VAT) – no min order

Biodegradable Poly Bags – 595 x 430 (exc VAT) 36p each – no min order

Overnight Prints

Love em!  Price below include VAT and allow £3 postage towards each 100 cards on the basis 3 orders covers the £10 set delivery

A6 postcard, one-sided, no extras – 13p each

A5 postcard, one-sided, no extras – 30p each

Moo

Moo Mini – £11.99 (box of 100)

Moo Business – £12.99 (box of 50)

Plus Delivery

Hope some of that helps, I am sure there may be better options, these are just some options that I have used in the past.