Friday, July 10, 2015

I's a Rollercoaster: the Ups and the Downs of a new craft business

Just a few weeks ago, after a moment of success at my first craft fair, everything went quiet. 

Deathly quiet.

I had no more new orders. Great responses on social media were not leading to sales. My Etsy shop had wind whistling through the shelves. Cash flow was becoming an all out no in thing.

I had a huge pity party, feeling very sorry for myself and wondering if I should just go and get a job at the local Co-op.

Then, quite out of the blue I opened a link on Facebook, which I think came from my friend Sarah's Dottery Pottery page. That link was to a local group called Hidden Talents Craft Fayres, run by two local crafters - Nicky and Clare, who set up the group to promote the work of local makers, including themselves, after finding there was a definite need for good quality, well-run fairs in the local area.

I joined the group and immediately felt at home. I also immediately booked a table at their next craft fair on 25th July. This group is quite possibly the best thing to have happened to me so far with my business. The other makers are so wonderfully supportive and positive. Their work is beautiful - to the extent where I wonder if I'll manage to get away from the fair without spending any money I may make!

One direct result of joining the group was me being contacted by a lady who fund raises for Labrador Rescue and an order for Labradors on All The Things!

Another new development has been my phone covers. 

Ages ago a dear friend of mine suggested I make phone covers and I kind of consigned it to the back burner while I thought it out. It took a while but I got there in the end and of course, could not just stop at one! These have already become a great seller and I wonder why it took me so long!

I now have two weeks left until my first big craft fair and am ticking things off my list on a daily basis. 

I can honestly say I haven't worked so hard or been so absorbed in my work for years and I'm loving every single minute of it. I know there are bound to be dips as well as peaks because that is the nature of the beast but at last I feel like I'm headed in the right direction.

Happy weekend one and all,

Moogs xxx

p.s. if you wonder what I'm up to between blog posts take a look at the links in my sidebar - I'm constantly on Instagram, regularly on Facebook and Pinterest and am trying (!) to get to grips with Twitter.

Friday, May 22, 2015

Hello Blog

My poor blog.

I've been thinking about you a great deal since the last time I blogged but it's taken me until now to come back and actually make contact again.

Since being at home, taking steps to set up my business, time seems to have grown wings and although I'm constantly on Instagram, regularly on Facebook and even occasionally on Twitter, there never seems to be quite the right moment to sit down and write a blog post.

Somehow it feels like it needs to be more involved, more time consuming and to have more structure and quite frankly, it even feels a bit indulgent. So, whilst thinking about this I realised it doesn't necessarily have to be all those things.

It can be just like Instagram (which I LOVE) but just a bit more and I don't need to plan a great big essay with lots of meaningful content. It's my little record of life and my creative process.

I'm going to start with just a few photos of preparations for my first proper craft fair, which I did this past weekend.

A recent holiday in beautiful Pembrokeshire inspired some little applique and free-machine embroidery pictures of those beautiful Welsh cottages, two of which sold at the fair. I have lots more of these in my head needing to get out and several more awaiting frames.

I can't stop making little fabric brooches - they seem to have become a bit of a thing for me and I love making them. I have dozens of them! Now I just need to sell them.

Taking Janet Clare's advice I decided I needed one of her Artisan Aprons to wear to the craft fair and had great fun making it and then adding some embellishments to make it mine. It was much admired by visitors and other stall holders and it did feel right to be wearing a 'uniform' of sorts.

A trial run at home was an incredibly useful exercise as it took away a lot of stress on the day, even though the table at the fair turned out to be smaller than expected. All in all it was a successful first fair, with lovely people and I sold enough to cover my costs and give the children their overdue pocket money!

My head and all six of my notebooks are full of ideas for things I want to make. The making is fun and it's the easy bit. It's the getting out there and selling that seems to be the hardest part but then I think that's true for anyone trying to start a creative business.

I've never been a natural salesperson (which proved interesting in a former job as a sales rep!) but it's a skill I now need to develop, alongside becoming organised with paperwork....*cough*.

Happy weekend one and all,

Moogs xxx

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Looking forward

Well, here were are in January and I'm finally getting round to blogging again. We had a lovely Christmas, with Mr Moog and the teenagers at home for a full two weeks. We caught up with lots of family and friends and all of a sudden my lot were back at school and work and it's nearly halfway through the month!

The in-laws were thrilled with their Christmas quilts and they came in very handy as both of them were poorly with colds over the holiday. Father-in-law slept under his shirty quilt on their sofa for three nights, bless him :)

I seem to have been on a bit of a go slow getting back into my work but I'm now back in the swing of things and am busy working on some orders. This little lot of free-machine applique filled a very happy afternoon and is soon to be turned into zipped wash-bags, lavender bags, and the little dogs are to be framed pictures.

One of my good customers asked me to make her a penguin embroidery. I ended up doing these five, as I struggled to get one that I liked. My customer loved them and ended up having all five! There were five more that looked even more weird and demented and they've gone over to the States as Kristi at Schnitzel & Boo fell in love with them!

I'm also taking part in the Schnitzel & Boo mini-quilt swap on Instagram and this is my little offering for my swap partner. To be in the mail in the next few days. It's my second attempt at foundation paper piecing and is far from perfect but I loved making it.

I'm beginning to feel like I'm going in the right direction with my little business. Once I'm through this batch of orders I'm going to be working on some samples to take into a local shop whose owner is interested in seeing my work and I have a thousand and one other ideas that I want to develop.

The admin side isn't proving to be my strength (!) but I'm getting there. I've now got a Moogsmum page on Facebook so do pop over and say hi if you do the Facebook thing :)

I've also had a 'business meeting' with my good friend Sarah today. Sarah is a brilliant ceramic artist who I first met at toddler group 15 years ago! She's now working full time on her business and posted a Folksy update on Facebook this week - I just couldn't help myself when I saw this gorgeous little pin cushion.
It feels so good to finally be doing what I love and I'm looking forward to a busy and creative 2015. I can hardly believe the change that I've gone through this last few months and all the tears and anxiety seem like a dim and distant memory. Here's to a great new year!

love Moogs xxx

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Doing the right thing

 I didn't anticipate taking three weeks to post an update on my 'Open Studio' day but I'm delighted to say it was a great success.

The night before I could not sleep and so I got up at 3.30am! After several huge mugs of tea I set to and by 6.15am everything was set up and ready - leaving me nearly 5 hours to wait until it all started!

As I said in my previous post I had no idea who would turn up. I'd invited friends and family only as I wasn't feeling brave enough to throw the doors open to the public just yet.

It turned out to be a really lovely day, with visits from lots of my neighbours, the in-laws and several very good friends. By 4pm it looked like this!

I'm still astounded at just how much went and also the number of orders it generated and so so grateful to everyone who came and supported me.

The past few weeks have been so busy with orders that I haven't had chance to add anything new to my Etsy shop as planned. I was getting myself a bit stressed about this until I reminded myself this is my business and it's up to me to decide what I do and when. So I've now let myself off the hook until after Christmas and have been able to crack on with some Christmas sewing.

A shirty quilt for Father-in-law, backed with a cuddly fleece blanket and hand-quilted because my baby machine hates quilting, which leads me neatly to the fact that shortly after my Open Studio I managed to sell my dear little car - now gone to a happy home, helping a young man get to his first job since graduating.

Although sad to see it go, it was totally impractical to keep it as Mr Moog commutes on his motorbike and I'm no longer doing miles and miles of work driving and was only using the family car to ferry dogs and teenagers about.

The very exciting result of selling my car is this:

Oh my word, she's gorgeous! Her name is Bessy and I know we're going to be very very happy together, especially as the very first thing she helped me finish was a quilt for Mother-in-law.

Machine quilted - because I can!!

In other news, I seem to have developed a liking for making fabric notebook covers just lately and yesterday whipped up five more, two of which are for my resident teenagers for Christmas.

There's been lots more sewing going on and there's a whole load more planned. I'm so amazed and happy with how things seem to be taking off and am busy making all sorts of plans for 2015. I have no regrets whatsoever for walking away from a job that was not right for me and I just know I'm doing what I should have done for years!

To round off, here's the only bit of Christmas knitting that is likely to get done around here this year. A pair of Little Alpaca Little Cotton Rabbits from Julie's brilliant pattern - made by special request for my cousin's daughter who fell in love with mine in the summer....she's 14 :)

If I don't manage to blog again before Christmas I'd like to wish you all a very happy and peaceful Christmas and thank you so very much for cheering me on over the past few months.


Moogs xxx

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Open Studio!!

As usual time seems to fly by and I suddenly find it's ages between blog posts. However, right now that is a very good thing indeed as it means I've been far too busy with my new business!

My little brooches flew off the shelves in my Etsy shop and even led to some additional orders - thank you so much everyone who bought them, I really cannot tell you just how much I appreciate it :)

I've been sewing like mad, getting ready for this coming Sunday when I'm taking the plunge and hosting a Christmas Open Studio here at my 'studio' (kitchen/dining room!). Amidst all that sewing I also made up another big order of floral wash-bags.

My dear little sewing machine has worked her socks off and performed miracles. I've told her she can have a bit of a break after this weekend but then forgot I have a quick quilt to make for Christmas!

So, here's a taster of my sewing for my Open Studio..

Loads of bags, purses, brooches and key-fobs.

An army of Dammit Dolls - made from my old Recycle for Hampshire work shirts - delicious irony ;), with some little Red Robin Christmas Scented Sachets, made with fabric I had printed up months ago by Spoonflower, from a little sketch of mine.

A trio of patchwork cushions made with gorgeous Janet Clare fabric.

A quartet of fabric covered notebooks.

Four tiny framed embroideries...from a grand total of 19 - and this doesn't include the three that sold within a few minutes of me posting them on Instagram :)

I think it's fair to say I'm enjoying getting my little business up and running! I don't think I've ever been happier and am so excited to see where it takes me.

Finally, to welcome my Open Studio visitors I decided I needed a new wreath for my front door. Made in the same way as my previous one, using carrier bags taped together (yes, really!), it cost me nothing but time - the cotton reels were a very happy freebie when I bought an old sewing machine years ago and they'd been waiting in the loft for just the right thing  -and the denim was from a very torn pair of Minx's jeans.

So, now I just have to scrub my home and tidy like mad, bake a mountain of mince pies and make a gallon of mulled wine and hide all the usual rubbish that clutters up the corners....and hope that someone comes!

Moogs xxx

Monday, November 3, 2014

Christmas Decorations Blog Hop November 2014

Well, it's pouring with rain, the teenagers are back at school after a lovely half term break, and the naughty Wobblydog (who celebrated her 1st Birthday yesterday) is busy with a stinky bone...after waking me at 3am, ripping up the offcut of carpet that sits underneath poor Merlin Moog's bed.

I'm on strong coffee and lots of sewing to get me through the day but first I have a slightly different blog post to do.

A few weeks ago I was invited to take part in a Christmas Decorations Blog Hop being run by Stitch Craft and Create. It's not something I usually do but I thought it would be fun to take part and encourage me in my endeavour to blog a bit more. The blog hop is taking place throughout November and all bloggers taking part have been asked to make a Christmas decoration from one of a number of Christmas craft ebooks offered by Stitch Craft and Create.

It wasn't easy to choose which ebook to go for as they were all very tempting but after some deliberation I chose this one as the cover photograph really drew me in:

This is a beautiful book, the photography is stunning and the images and text really evoke the kind of Christmas I would love to have. There are over 120 craft projects in the book, including papercrafts, knitting and crochet projects, edible gifts, gift-wrapping, some lovely food and drink recipes and even a section on making bird feeders to keep our wild feathered friends well fed at Christmas! The projects are all very accessible and most could easily be done by the whole family.

There's an emphasis on using natural found materials in many of the projects and it makes me want to head to the woods for twigs, cones and berries! The twig stars and hearts in the first chapter 'Preparing for Christmas' are something I really want to make and the dried orange and apple slices in the 'Scent of Christmas' chapter are going to have to be tried this week.

There are also some lovely knitted and crochet projects, in gorgeous natural and typically Scandinavian colours - the infinity scarf on page 47 and the cosy hat on page 49 are going to be cast on very soon too...and then there are all the fabulous sounding recipes I need to try, especially the White Mulled Wine and the Winter Warmer Hot Chocolate. I can see me dipping into this book many times in the run up to Christmas.

Even if you didn't make anything from the book, browsing through it would get you in the festive spirit in no time - you can almost smell the spruce and cinnamon! 

It took me some time to decide which decoration I wanted to make from the book. I was very tempted by the crocheted candle holders and the little heart decorations made from Dad's old socks (some rather gorgeous not at all old looking Scandinavian colourwork knitted socks!) but in the end I opted for a project out of the 'Cut and Glue' chapter - the Bird Garland.

It was a great quick make that, I think, captures the simple Scandinavian style so well - it was also an absolute pain to get a decent photo of! This is the best one:

This one definitely isn't!

Full details of the blog hop and the other bloggers taking part can be found here. If you fancy treating yourself to the book you can find it here in the Handmade Christmas Shop, where you can also find lots of craft materials, kits and gifts as well as ebooks and downloads. If you sign up to the Stitch Craft & Create newsletter you can also download a selection of free ebooks.
If you're a new customer you can click here and use the code SCC525 to get a £5 discount on your first order over £25.

£5 Off £25 at Stitch Craft Create with Offer Code SCC525

I'm really looking forward to seeing what the other blog hop bloggers get up to this month - I think we're in for a treat!

Before I head off to start drying apple slices I just wanted to thank everyone who popped into my etsy shop this week - I cannot tell you how much I appreciate you purchasing some of those little brooches - I sold 11 on the first day!

Moogs xx

Thursday, October 30, 2014

We're in business!

Thank you all so much for your kind messages of support after my last blog post, especially those of you who had gone through a similar experience. You truly helped and I love you for it :)

It's been a very busy few weeks here. 

I've been settling in to being at home and quite honestly I have loved every single minute of it. It feels so right to be at home sewing, designing, making and forming plans - lots of plans that are getting me to where I have wanted to be for so long.

Today has been a very useful day. While the teenagers carved their Hallowe'en pumpkins, with no motherly interference, I dusted off my Etsy shop and refilled it for the first time in several years!

I'm starting things off with a batch of little fabric brooches that I couldn't stop making last week!
 I still have a few to finish off and post in the shop, so it will be a gradual restock.

I'm planning to make lots more of the brooches as they are so much fun to make and my head is full of ideas for new designs.

After years of trying and failing, I finally seem to have got to grips with free-machine embroidery. Give me a pencil and a piece of paper to draw with and I flounder but I absolutely love sketching with the sewing machine.

I've completed an order for 30 scented Christmas sachets for Enchanted Plants, filled with dried cinnamon, cloves and star anise - they smell incredible and my whole house was smelling very festive for a few days.

To go with the Christmas sachets were 30 free-machine embroidered lavender bags, filled with wonderful dried lavender from a local lavender farm. 

There will be some of these and the Christmas ones going into the shop very soon. 

The tiny twirly-bird brooches gave rise to an overwhelming urge to upsize the birds, which were given the classy moniker of Fat-Arse Twirly-Tailed Colourful Birds by my dear friend and head cheerleader Trashy. A few of these are in the pipeline too.

I've got a list as long as my arm of all the things I want to make and am getting so much brilliant feedback and support from friends on Instagram, Facebook and in real life. It feels like I can really do this and I'm so excited to be going for it at last.

Please forgive me if I plug my makes and my shop on here for a while. I promise I'll still do the normal stuff too :)

I'll be back on Monday when I'm taking part in my first bloghop.

I hope you have a thoroughly spooky Hallowe'en, if that's the way you like it!

love Moogs xxx