New Birds…

I’m feeling a little melancholy today, not necessarily in a bad way, I’m listening to ‘girly warbling folk music’ as a friend of mine would say (she once made me a mix tape with this as the title, back in the olden days when people made mix tapes) and it’s raining outside which I LOVE.  I’m a big fan of rain, I kind of assume that’s because of being brought up on a farm in the Dales in the middle of no-where on a windswept hill…..maybe.

The music and weather fit the pace of my sewing perfectly as I’ve spent the last couple of days hand stitching flower brooches, which is generally taking a lot longer than I’d anticipated although it is nice to work at this slower speed.  I’m slightly worried about the pricing of these now though as there is a lot more work involved than appears, which is never good.

I’ve also been stitching eyes onto some new Lavender Birds, in orange

and pink

they can be found here and on Folksy.

On a completely separate note, F lost a tooth the other night, I wasn’t quite ready (I’d planned a Monster tooth pouch) so had to write a hasty note from the Tooth Monster (the Fairy was busy, apparently, or so the note said ;))

I *borrowed* (ahem) an image from Jamie Hewlett, because he rocks and so I could add a PS the note which reads:

‘I don’t look like the picture, that’s my cousin doing his shopping, I am green’

I plan to put a different photo on each time that isn’t the Tooth Monster so F can make up his own image in his head.  I may have created rather a chore for myself as he already has 2 more wobbly teeth but I couldn’t resist starting a Tooth Monster dialogue.  F doesn’t do Fairies.

I also wanted to show you this great Dotty Baby Bib I bought a while ago from Jenny from her shop Sew Vintage Obsessed, oh how I wish these options were there when my two were small, how fantastic to have such a stylish (and very well made) bib, it almost makes me want to have another baby (not really).  In case you don’t know her, Jenny also writes a lovely blog here.

Ok, the sun has come out and it’s time I stopped swishing around in my studio listening to lovely harmonies and wishing I still had long hair and not very short, very red hair instead 🙂

Nearly forgot, thanks for all your comments re housework, I’m glad it’s not just me and I’m a bit behind in my blog reading so apologies if I haven’t commented for a while.

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! 🙂

Little Monsters…

This is going to be a quick post with lots of photos, as quite frankly it’s too nice out there to be indoors working and this sunny, warm weather may not last (sorry if you’re not enjoying the same, especially those of you freezing in Finland, you know who you are :)).

Finally there is a neat little stack of monsters on my desk

In the true style of my own little monsters, each time a new colour appears they try to snaffle them and come out with phrases like, “Oh, I wish I had a red monster purse to go with my yellow one….” whilst gazing wistfully at the new creations and in C’s case, simply running off with them.

Sorry boys, not right now but given a little monster purse making break you may get a second one each.

Although they are called ‘Monster Purses’ C likes to keep a couple of Playmobil men tucked in his, so they aren’t just for pocket money,

and I would have loved to have been able to offer personalised versions, like the original, but sadly having a sick one at home today I am reminded how erratic my time is and prefer to have only completed work for sale (that and the 2 week long Easter holidays followed directly by ‘The Wedding’ weekend that are fast approaching, yikes!).

I did also consider making them slightly larger so they could hold a credit card as I’m pretty sure not all of these will end up belonging to children, but I really like that they can be squished into a child’s pocket, when needed, plus they are the perfect size for hanging off a pair of jeans (as my boys mostly wear theirs) or attached to F’s book bag for school.

They are listed on my shop and a few on Folksy.  There will be more coming in this range and some Monsters in other fabrics, given time; but I know there are quite a few people waiting so finally, here they are 🙂

Spring Birds…

I’m clearing more of my list in anticipation of not being able to do a lot of sewing next week.

This project has been sitting in a box since last March when I bought the fabric (Water Bouquet in mint by Amy Butler, bought from Saints and Pinners and blogged about here), cut out the pieces, made up the ribbon tails but got no further.  Quite simply I didn’t like my ribbon choices and never quite mustered the enthusiasm to stitch them together.

After a play around at my desk, I changed the tail colour and felt happy with my new choice.  It is very green but with the bright splashes of colour in the body works well, I did try some pink and some gold in with the green but it just looked messy.

The obligatory ‘lined-up’ shot, minus the eyes in this case.

I spent today attempting to photograph all the new stock, but it was really hard to capture the colours.  In the end I went for an over exposed shot of the Lavender Bird, even though it washes the colours out a little they are truer than when using the auto settings.

For now they are listed here on Folksy.  As I’m still working on the new site, I see little point adding new stock to the existing one (which is still very much up and running, I should add).

Phew, that’s another thing ticked off, right what’s next? 😉

Neat and tidy, tidy and neat…

I am being good at the moment and working through my many open projects, it feels nice to gradually empty all those plastic boxes stacked with half finished bits and bobs, turning this

into this

Oh how I love these neat little birds all lined up and looking tidy, this is only a third of the ones completed so far, the glass bead eyes take some time to sew but it’s quite therapeutic just sitting there hand sewing whilst the wind howls outside (the wind!!? what’s with the wind?  I keep expecting to be woken by Munchkins giggling, sadly not in my case, it’s usually the boys yelling).

I’m even getting some birds finished for next Christmas, these ones have been sitting in a box for over a year, I just never got around to stitching them together.

The bright colours have also been a pleasure to work with, I love little bits of felt and ribbon, although I fear the pink birds will be  nightmare to photograph properly, the bright pink always looks so muddy.  It did spur me to finally order something I’ve been after for a while, this gorgeous crochet forever flower garland by Emma Lamb

Emma was great to buy from, she took time to help me select my colours, sending images so I could make sure I was happy with my choice.

In fact the above photos belong to Emma, I haven’t put my new garland up yet, I’m determined to paint our fire surround white and then hang it as a reward.

Even the packaging was a delight.

So for the rest of today, I shall be sewing seed bead eyes and making a second batch of marmalade, oh happy days 🙂

It’s raining, it’s pouring (again)…

Everything is sopping wet.  To be honest I don’t mind, the dirt on the roads and pavements after the snow was really quite depressing and I’m happy it’s all getting washed away, plus it means I can hole up in the house, sewing and baking and pretending I can’t see all the mess and dust that I should be dealing with (I so need a cleaner).

I have lists both on paper and in my head of things I’d like to make, new products, things that never made it into the shop last year and new colour ways of firm favourites.  I go to sleep each night with this list running through my head then I suddenly think of another thing to add, it never stops really, my head is very busy.

The big difference is I am under no pressure (other than my own) to do anything, I can make as much or as little as I like and I do prefer to work this way, especially after the madness of the end of last year.

For this reason I have a number of projects on the go, but most of the week I’ve been batching up new Lavender Owls.  I ran out last Autumn but after rustling some up for the Saint Patrick’s Trian Visitor Complex I remembered how nice they are and how cheerful the colours and I felt in the mood for bright stripes, so here they are

listed on Folksy

but for now, not on my Linen Cat site as I’m busy creating a new one with a different hosting company which I hope to make live soon.  Or not.  It all depends on what I decide to do off the list next 🙂

Supermouse..!

The snow means sewing had to be put on hold as the kids were off school most of last week and I had plenty to do including bake bread as our local village Tesco was restricting all customers to 1 bread product only (I kid you not). We survived, I was a Brownie you know and like a challenge; I must admit though, I am very relieved that our underfloor heating went in earlier this year as quite frankly, it’s a tad nippy out there.

So, as the title suggests, after a day of blatant TV bribery on Friday I finally finished the Supermice and here they are :

There is a definite nod towards retro Robin costume (as in Batman & ) and I like them, although I didn’t make many and some are already spoken for, the rest are listed here.  They are quite difficult to photograph in the dimmed light, the colours are maroon and yellow with capes in the same ‘Burlesque Red’ linen used for the Foxes suits.

C took a fancy to the mice all the way through and kept running away with capes, masks and eventually finished mice so I promised him one of his very own, I was thinking of a Christmas stocking filler but no, apparently he wasn’t willing to wait that long so I spent Saturday running up two extra mice for the boys (F also demanded one, his reaction to the originals was ‘cool, I like them’ which is praise indeed from a 5 yr old obsessed with plastic toys).

I wasn’t entirely excited by the boys colour combinations but I said they could choose and both were very happy with their Supermouse & Starmouse (as named by F who asked for stars on his Christmas Elf Mouse sorry, I mean Starmouse).

They played with them for the rest of the day and took them to bed, what more could I ask for 🙂

Fairy and Ballerina Mice…

First, huge thanks for the response to the monster purse in the last post, sorry I haven’t replied to any of the comments yet, I’m a bit stressed at the moment and slightly loosing the plot.  Basically, it sounds like if I made these and popped them in the shop they might well sell, it simply comes down to time, first I need to crack on with promised Christmas commissions and we’ll see how it goes.

And so, as the title suggests I have finally finished the Fairy and Ballerina Mice.  I have to say, for some really odd reason these little ladies rather stretched me to the limit, I have broken 12 needles (yes, 12!!!!), thrown 10 little ballet shoe wearing legs in the bin (ribbons too short or twisted and unrecoverable) and twice stitched the fairy wings into a side seam.

The turning out of each Mouse was a squash and a squeeze.

But, I got there in the end and every little bit of effort was worth it as I love them.

So here they are.

Listed here

and here.

I couldn’t resist adding little ribbon roses, so they come with the obligatory ‘not suitable for children under 36 months’ but you could always remove the roses from the Ballerina mice.

I’ve shared them out between Folksy and my shop (as linked above) and now I feel a well deserved pink silk break, it’s on with Superhero Mice next!

PS, Spot the mistake in that last photo 🙂

New Winter Lavender Birds…

Well, as the title suggests I have finally completed the new lavender birds

they are both in fabrics I bought last year specifically for the project, the fabulous Snow Flower/Blossom (which is the nicest Christmas fabric ever, not too over the top but the perfect shade of red) by Dena Designs for Free Spirit Fabrics and Amy Butler’s Wall Flower in gold.

I’ve exchanged the usual brown bead eye for black glass, I love the little glass bead eyes on my felt birds, they always seem to really bring them alive so I’m following suit here.

Although the designs are led by the fabrics used, I also took inspiration from this postcard which faces me every day as it is pinned to my noticeboard; it’s by ‘Belle & Boo‘ and I love the mix of red, beige and white,  so decided to use a similar combination for the Snow Flower bird tail.

In fact, whilst I’m mentioning Mandy Sutcliffe’s lovely work, I should also show you this cushion bought really quite a long time ago but never blogged (at least I think not blogged, apologies if I’m showing you this twice).

These colours are all very ‘me’ and fit perfectly into our house, I love the hand embroidered detail on the tree.

Back to the birds.  Again, I’m struggling to get decent photos, I really need to invest in some professional lights, not just for photographs but it’s becoming quite difficult to work in the evenings as I can’t really see what I’m doing,

still, I figured it was more important to get the new birds listed, I can always change the images at a later date.

Both birds can be found on Folksy and at my on-line Shop and any Lavender Birds from past Seasons are now in the SALE section so grab a bargain whilst you can.

Flying Bunnies….

I feel a bit guilty writing this post as essentially I’m writing to say that the Tweed Bunnies are finally listed in The Shop….only most have sold 😦 Sorry.  I listed them the other night and planned to follow up with an immediate post, but the photos aren’t great and I was hoping for better light today to get some new snaps and then show you the new additions but as it’s tipping it down right now, that’s not going to happen.

And so, here we have the new green purse, after an age searching the internet for decently priced feathers (as used in my own version) I had to abandon that idea and opt for a gold and bead collar similar to the brown purses.  Although these have sold out on my site, as this time of writing there are still 3 available on Folksy.  I have enough fabric to make a couple more, but these have already been promised to Family.

The turquoise and pink version (shocking photos, sorry) are also listed on my shop.  Again, this is the last of them as I only had limited amounts of tweed in these colours.

Right now, the brown tweed version has sold out but I will (hopefully) be making more.  To be honest, I need to concentrate on Linen Mice this week, but as a general rule the Bunny Purses are here to stay and will pop up every now and again in new seasonal colours, it just might not be for a while.  At least that’s that plan 🙂

Right, back to work, orders to pack and little boys to pick up.