Thursday, 19 January 2012

Logo Competition


The next phase of the re-focus is to come up with a new logo. I have a designer in mind but need to create a mood board for her to work from. I have rough ideas about colours and the structure of the 3 parts of the business below. But I'm looking for 3 words and a colour that sum up Bits and Bobs Crafts that can form part of this logo. All you need to do to enter is to visit my Home Page and fill in the contact form. I'll then show the completed entries to my designer and we'll design from there.

And what do you win??? The prize is a bespoke mobile phone cover. I'll contact the winner and you can then commission me to make a cover for your phone in your choice of colours!


 Reaching this point!

I've spent a couple of weeks really thinking about moving Bits and Bobs on so that it will run the way I'd like it to. So now its going to take a bit of organisation and discipline to implement it.

I want Bits and Bobs to be a social enterprise, to bring craft lessons to the community and make sure they're affordable. Even when I was working as an NHS manager, being a single mum spending £20 plus on a workshop then having to add on childcare and travel was something I would have had to think very hard about in terms of budgeting. Having needed to claim incapacity benefit for a few years has really enhanced that sense of distance from craft workshops I've wanted to try being way out of my price range.

However craft has been a sort of hand up from the challenges I've faced in the past 5 years. Being able to produce something is great for self esteem, especially when someone else falls in love with it and asks you to make them one! When it comes to learning to live life at a slower pace, crafts are invaluable because if you have to take regular breaks and rest, being able to lay on the couch and do something constructive, like knitting, crochet, cross stitch takes the sting out of the transition to being less active. And knowing its something I enjoy and having had the opportunity to experiment, discover ways to craft on a tight budget I want to share the opportunity with others.

Years ago we made our own clothes because it was cheaper. With the advent of cheap imports from the far east and cut price chain stores, now its not. Clothing is seen as disposable, throw away and not something to be treasured. I sometimes wonder how many little girls still have the thrill of putting on  their "best dress" to go somewhere special! I can still remember that and the dress wasn't downgraded until it was getting too short - then it was often taken up or let out or something to provide a play dress. And I remember the joy of watching my new cardi grow on Mum's needles and dreaming of the day I could do that too! Going and choosing the wool and knowing no-one else would have a cardi like mine was probably part of the thrill too.

It would be great to share these experiences with others and bring back a quiet craft revolution. To see skills again being passed from Mother to Daughter or Son! We have male knitters in the family although they prefer to be anonymous!

And that's why the focus of Bits and Bobs will be on making craft affordable!

I'm going to need to support the Social Enterprise arm of the business by generating more substantial income from other sources. So I'm developing relationships with bricks and mortar shops where I can sell my makes. I'll also be offering some of the intermediate and all of the advanced level workshops and courses at current market levels. I'm also planning to sell patterns for baby clothes, that will fit the smallest babies too!

I'm also exploring options for forming partnerships with other crafters and with charities and other socially minded businesses. These could lead to funding opportunities. By building up networks and building in space to explore new possibilities for working in creative ways this should in the longer term allow Bits and Bobs to continue to grow and meet the needs of the community.

Thursday, 29 December 2011

Reviews and Redirections

I've not blogged in ages as I've been so busy networking, teaching and building contacts to take Bits and Bobs to the next level and its been crazy at times! However I now have a sense of direction for 2012 which feels much firmer than the organic flow of 2011 where I simply drifted around various ideas and projects. But in someways I think that period of drift was needed. Its given me space to think and develop ideas and contacts and give me a feel of where I want to take the business....

So this last post for 2011 is about looking back at what I've learned in 2011, who I've met, what I've achieved and about putting in writing and committing to a plan for 2012.

Bits and Bobs Review of 2011

January - I finally got my new motability car and freedom to roam was mine! I was still drifting around but had started to pick up commissions from friends and had the odd surprise online sale - at a time when I was pretty low with life stuff and had almost abandonded E-marketing as too much effort. Plus I was busy making 50 heart, star and rose keyrings for a charity do the Tuesday Club ladies were organising!

February - Saw me feeling more positive but struggling to understand how anyone could plan their business in advance - design wise too. What on earth was a mood board? Did it matter if I used the season's colours and trends? Could I crochet lace? If I learned what would I do with it?

March - I got off my bum and booked an appointment at a back to work project with the Wheatsheaf Trust. Had a chat with the advisor and also had a root through their leaflets..... the result was booking my self on a FREE Taste of Enterprise Programme with the West Itchen Trust. I duly went along and got the opportunity to meet a few people, network and chat. Plus I got myself mentoring and coaching as a freebie! In another aspect of my world the ladies group I was involved in on a Tuesday morning lost its funding and its support worker. We decided to carry on regardless and managed to persuade the local community centre to give us a very good deal!

April - Was mainly taken up with making things and meetings with the lovely Hammie Tappenden from Taste of Enterprise. Not sure if this is when I first me Lucie V who I'll hopefully be working with in the coming year or if that was later but Hammie introduced us. I also decided to announce to the local craft world that a knitting and crochet tutor was available, so sent off several speculative emails explaining who I was and what I could offer.

May - I was asked to meet with the crafts manager at C&H Fabrics and we negotiated a couple of beginners workshops for later in the year. The ladies at the Tuesday group were stars and allowed me to practice on them. The result was many of them rediscovered knitting or learned to crochet and are now making things for themselves!

June - My birthday happened this month with me flat on my back and finding standing a challenge but also prompted me to use the time to explore the world of craft sales - how did I book one, what happened at them, could I do it? The result was a summer of events booked, some sales, some new contacts and of course my daughter and best friend signed up to a period of slavery fetching, carrying and pitching the odd gazebo but that's another tale for August!

July  - Well into the swing of community festivals and crocheting flowers for hair accessories. I also got asked if I'd be willing to set up a Knit and Natter Group at the Art House and somehow with Hammie kicking me under the table ended up saying yes, whilst thinking -HELP!! But again more of that story later....

August - More events, the first trip out with the Gazebo, ably erected by G and L for me. And boy did it prove nedcessary with the first half of the event being marred by pouring rain. We made friends with the lads doing photography in the next tent and I got some help with my camera skills and the settings adjusted for me. I met them again at an event in December and it was good to catch up. Knit and Natter started and 2 commissions arrived - 1 for a crochet bag and the other samples of crochet lace for C&H.... crochet lace using a chart....... my brain screamed in terror but with a bit of perseverance and practice I got there and the finished board looks somewhat impressive! This was also the month of swirls and ruffles as I experimented with some crochet techniques and created bags and purses!

September - The first workshops happened and went well, leading me to consider running some myself and Crochet for Christmas was born. A few more commissions came in including recovering 15 caravan cushions!!! By Hand!!! Lets say my daughter was not popular initially but I learned a new skill and achieved it! A couple more craft fairs were attended and I met some of the lovely people who had supplied me with coffees at a very wet and windy event earlier in the summer.

October  - Clicking up commissions was the key activity. I'd also been asked to supply the Art House with some hats, scarves and mitts for their Trash Cocktail Boutique. So some rapid designing was called for as well as knitting up. I also created some pumpkin themed makes for the annual Pumpkin Fair in aid of the Jubilee Sailing Trust and rapidly learned that people like themed things! And cute baby wear. 2 more crochet workshops were commissioned by C&H too for November. I also did some lets try groups at the Art House, teaching simple crochet nets and learning lace making and dorset buttoning! That lead me on to working in plarn and learning to spin it - and hence the pumpkin pot was born. I wanted to develop the idea for Dec but ran out of time but its definitely on the list for next Christmas...

November - the song for November was definitely the Bangles Manic Monday - though it was manic Monday to Friday really! With Christmas workshops,commissions to finish, a very recalcitrant pair of glittens to conquer and the 2 crochet workshops for C&H much time was spent slaving over a hot keyboard. And the Christmas Fair season was underway too. Plus I attended a social enterprise networking event and met a couple of people who I am going to be working with in 2012! and of course there was the voluntary workshop for Age Concern - using your digital camera  - taught with my camera holic friend Susie - she did the photo side and I got them playing with and sharing images on the computer. It was a great experience and we have a follow up workshop in January

December - more commissions, robin brooches that flew away, linking into Books for Free and the recycled craft makers in Southampton were highlights. Meeting the team at Step-Across and getting the support to develop into a Social Enterprise is also helping to open doors and has linked me into the Intergenerational Network and its opportunities for collaborative projects across the statutory and voluntary sector! I can't wait to try out some ideas about pulling communities together with knitting and crochet and also skill shares! I  also discovered a new outlet, The Lounge - a gorgeous cafe come crafty place, who sold many of my Christmas Baubles for me! And a blissful 2 weeks off to mentally unwind, take stock and think about how to move it on! Knit and Natter has grown and I've met some lovely people and strengthened existing friendships as a result. We're now a rowdy core group with different visitors coming to join us from time to time and we have a lot of fun. We've just been donated a bag of yarn and our next project is to do something with it for charity

Looking Forward

What does 2012 hold?

  • Knitting lessons at a Community Centre in Bursledon aimed at getting young Mum's to know each other better
  • 2 crochet workshops to organise for January, one in Eastleigh, the other in Southampton
  • A monthly crochet club - Workshop plus project support, so am venue hunting at present
  • Plus there are some exciting opportunities for working with various partners to offer wellbeing and craft workshops!

  • And the option of running a couple of crafting with recyclables workshops

  • I have 2 potential outlets for stock to explore 

  • And I'm working with other local crafters to develop a sort of co-operative network which will run its own events
  • Plus I finally appreciate the need for planning ahead for the coming season, having a core of key items that can be made up, adapted and customised to order and get stock sorted well ahead for key events. So watch this space for details of:

For You - The Bits and Bobs Collection of Hats, Gloves, Baby Wear and Homewears

Valentine - something special for all those in love!

Titanic - Some gift ideas to commemorate the 100th anniversary

Mum - Our Mothers' Day range of brooches, bookmarks and Decorative items

Easter  - Faith based gifts that celebrate the gift of Easter

Also in the pipeline is a review of the website and working with the amazing Stephanie Baker at French Toast and Beans to develop marketing tools and get some decent photos out there!

Wednesday, 21 September 2011

Commissioning Crafts

Its interestsing to receive commissions from people, either for handmade items to your design or to a design they have in mind. As a tutor, meeting the learners needs also demands flexibility and the need to adapt lessons or even devise them to suit the customer's needs.

Over the past few months I've had a few commissions for items as diverse as caravan cushions - reupholstery - which I've learned on the hoof!! to hand crocheted bags. Some customers give me a pattern and I simply get on with the job, others have a pattern that requires luxury yarns way beyond their means - so as well as finding a substitute yarn, lots of reworking needs to be done to ensure the tension is right. Others give me a pattern and yarn and say I love this but I want less colours. Others give me a size and come and rifle through my stash for their choice of colours. I then start playing with ideas and see how the design evolves.

Its also a learning curve for me about pricing commissions, I've used this series of work to calculate the time it takes me to produce an item or a piece of teaching. And I've realised I drastically undercharge most of the time. Its also making me query my pricings in my shop. I really need to sit down with an "expert" in the field and get them right. I think I'm beginning to realise that if I under value my work or my time, it leads people to wonder if my work is of a suitable quality and skill level. Quite how I'm going to "up my game" price wise I'm not entirely certain but I know I need to do something. I do have a bit of a "mates rates" policy and will also barter - you can see below the outcome of bartering in a very yummy way. But when I start to charge the wider public I can't quite get my head around asking them for what I'm worth! From reading forum posts on Folksy and Creative Connections, I know I'm not unique in this.... but as I want to make a living from crafting and teaching crafts I need to make sure I put my business head on when going forth into the world.

Here are the commissions:

Red Bolero

Knitted for the customer from a pattern. However the customer wanted to cardigan knitted in a machine washable, reasonably priced yarn. The original pattern was written for Louisa Harding Silk. I did search for it online but the colour had been discontinued - had I managed to get some surplus stash from EBay I would have been very pleased. However I did manage to find the standard meterage for the 50g balls of silk yarn, so this made it possible to estimate the quantities of a replacement. I started off knitting a tension square and quickly realised that the yarn was going to give a much looser tension that the silk yarn. A few mathematical workings later, I arrived at the solution of knitting the cardigan 2 sizes smaller - 12 - 14 instead of 18 - 20.
The bolero is knitted in one piece from the bottom of the back to the bottom of the fronts. It was surprisingly easy to put together at the end too!

Caravan Cushions

My daughter sort of volunteered me to recover a set of 15 cushions from a caravan. am very much on the home straight now with only a few left to do. Some are the same size as a single caravan bed so have been quite time consuming. I devised a method of covering the tops of the cushions and then whip stitching the fabric to the thick piping around the base. They've turned out really well. Some cushions can also be entirely covered so again they've proved fairly easy to sew up on the machine - once I'd figured out that it didn't like upholstery thread anyway!

Crochet Bag

Made of from granny squares, the customer liked the pattern in principle but not the colours. Also instead of 6 colours she wanted 4. So with a few suggestions and ideas from the ladies at the church "granny sport" club I came up with the idea of having 4 solid coloured squares and the rest 2 coloured. I worked the coloured squares in pairs so I could keep count - so when I worked a pink and white, I would then work a white and pink and so on. When I put the bag together I chose 2 solids for each side and then worked out a pattern with the coloured squares to so that the featured solid colours dominated their side of the bag. The bag is lined in a white silky feel fabric. I'm strongly considering making another to my own design and putting it in my shop as granny squares seem popular at the moment. They're also portable so I can take my work wherever I tend to roam!

Mobile Phone Case

I make mobile cases from small amounts of left over yarn in my stash. In the summer I made a rainbow zigzags one. The lady who commissioned this one, loved it but wanted one made with a cord so she could hang her phone around her neck. It meant she had her hands free to cope with her small children. So I knitted up an I Cord on 6 stitches and worked in some rainbow stripes symetrically on the cord. I turned out really well.

Bartering for Cake

The final piece is very much a work in progress. I was asked to knit and crochet a bag as a birthday present for a friend's mum. She chose chocolate, raspberry, soft pink and cream. She wanted the main bag to be plain with a hint a contrast colour with the flap and strap in all the contrasting shades. I've knitted the main bag in chocolate stocking stitch. I then knitted in a raspberry stripe every 14 rows in moss stitch. The strap and sides are worked in crochet in 2 continuous loops which I'll then join together. I then need to get the flap completed. Its actually flowing together really well and I hope she'll be pleased with it. The same friend was then commissioned by my daughter to make her 18th birthday cake. So in the end we decided to do a trade - the cake for the bag. I think in terms of time, effort and materials its a fair exchange. 

And the cake!!!!!!

Can you believe the cute baby on the left is the teen on the right! Its not been an easy journey for either of us at times but I'm proud of my beautiful 18 year old daughter!

The Folksy "Commissionaires"

As well as "blowing my own trumpet", I've decided to give some fellow makers over at Folksy an opportunity to let the world know that they too take commissions:

Unique Beaded Gems

As well as offering a beautiful selection of handcrafted jewellery featuring beautiful gem stones, owner Jo Walters is always ready to take commissions. This beautiful Blue John Sterling Silver Ring is just one example of her beautiful work:

NofKants Curio's

Natalie Ofkants produces beautiful hand crocheted bags and accessories including the fab "witchy woo hats" pictured left. Natalie also polishes and mounts fossils and gemstones into fabulous keyrings and trinkets. Her shop is well worth a visit and she is always happy to take commissions.

Kawaii Boutique UK

Kawaii in Japanese means cute, pretty, lovely, charming and Kawaii Boutique UK definitely deliver. There is a fantastic range of handcrafted jewelerry, which in the words of the owner is "handmade kitsch and kawaii jewellery, inspired by animals, cupcakes, sweets, anything cute and colourful. I also make custom-designed pieces so you can have something entirely unique."
The Pink and Blue Rainclouds especially appeal to me, I think they're really cute!

Gaia Noir

Owner Jane Faye makes an eclectic range of unusual makes from ethically sourced / green materials. She does not work with plastics or other toxin based materials. Jane especially welcomes commissions that have an ethical basis. She also has a range of beautiful vintage style made to order items in her Folksy shop.

Girly Bunches

Oliva, owner of Girly Bunches, has a shop full of crocheted delights. From traditional doilies to funky coasters and hair accessories. She welcomes commissions and says "I love making things that I wouldn’t have normally thought of…. helps me to keep my work evolving!"

The Press Gang

This beautiful handbound journal is created by owner Leanne and her collection of presses. Leanne loves to take commissions for bookbinding and you can see from the quality of this journal, that it would be worth the outlay for a treasured item like a wedding album or special journal.

Baggie Aggie Too

Designer, maker Rosie has a wide range of beautiful covers and cases, from specs to kindles. The Mushrooms Business Card Wallet pictured is just one example of her work. Like the other makers featured, she can share photo's of previous commissions with you. She welcomes custom orders via her Folksy Shop

Friday, 16 September 2011 Well Prepared!

Today's been spent finishing off the pics and postings for Craft Fest and I can safely say I am copy and pasted out!! I spent yesterday evening getting sorted for a craft fair with cream tea today. Its in aid of a Christian charity - Evangelical Action Brazil. They do amazing work providing education and support to kids who grow up in some pretty horrendous conditions and are suffering because of it. One of the best things - in my opinion - is the extra schooling they provide. Families all over the world sponsor a child and the money pays for extra education and support. Kids who were not expected to achieve anything much end up leaving school with qualifications that give them a real hand up, out of poverty. So will be more than happy to donate 15% of anything I make tomorrow to send to the kids. And to keep costs down and make sure the money goes to the kids, all the admin is done by a small army of volunteers - of which I'm 1! We're just mentally gearing up for the Christmas update, so I'll soon be up to my ears in paper and envelopes instead of yarn!

Here are a few more examples of the work I'll be selling via Craft Fest and you can view a side show HERE

Please Click on The Photo to Visit My Stall




And for my Folksy Friday, here is a treasury of Folksy Sellers who are also taking part in Craft Fest. Again please click on their photo to visit their stall:

1. Diomo Glass       2. Dottie Designs          3. Infiniti Jewellery
4. Lynwood Crafts   5. Martha Moo Beads     6. Nofkants Curios

DIOMO GLASS Dottie Designs Infiti Lynwood Martha Moo Beads Nofkants Curios

Wednesday, 14 September 2011

Relax at Craft Fest

How many of us love to shop online? Beats trudging round the supermarket, competing with the "demon old ladies" with "trolley rage", the confused single man who has no idea what anything other than oven chips are, tantruming toddlers, stressed out mums and dangerous women in wheelchairs like me! I know I'm hopelessly sterotyping here but you get the idea. Online shopping means a relaxed look through the cupboards to see what you might like, a cuppa, maybe some biccy's, no having to fit round opening times, bedtimes, naptimes and all the other restrictions we have on life.
And when it comes to Christmas shopping, it gets worse - I know I become evermore invisible in my chair - the temptation to fit it with airhorns and a "people plough" always surfaces around mid-November and gently fades away by mid January! The shops are more crowed, you get jostled as you browse, tempers seem shorter and the struggle to find something nice for Great Aunty Maud, that won't be hidden in the cupboard and recycled to another relative next year seems even harder than last year...
So what if there was a solution? An online craft fair where you put your feet up, log on anytime in a 48 hour period, email the makers for advice and help, maybe even to ask if they could possibly make something in a different colour etc... Well the clever people at Creavite Crafting / Creative Connections have put their thinking caps on and come up with such an idea. On 17th and 18th September there will be a showcase of shops all in one place for your browsing pleasure. Many of the makers will be around, and if they can't be at their PC all the time, message them and they'll respond. And I'll challenge anyone not to find the perfect Christmas present for the most hard to choose for person on their list.

As a taster I've chosen some beautiful makes from some of the registered sellers:

Bits and Bobs Selection Pack


Guest Selection Pack 
1. Aingeal Designs       2. Ann Chandler Designs       3.Buttercup Boutique
4. Colour Me fun          5. Daisy Beth Creations         6.Egyptian Inspirations

Aingeal Designs Ann Chandler Designsbuttercup boutique Colour Me Fun Daisy Beth Creations Eygyptian Inspirations

Monday, 12 September 2011

Showcasing Finesse

Some weeks back I blogged about a commission I had to create some crocheted lace for display in a local store. I handed the work in a coule of weeks ago but holidays, return to college for one disorganised teenage girly and life in general has meant I've only had time to edit the pics today.

I said I was looking forward to the return to college but its oddly silent here this morning - so have dear old Homes Under the Hammer running in the background for some noise lol! Only because I'd been watching Helicopter Heroes over breakfast though - I have a real thing for the gorgeous presenter - am probably old enough to at least be his aunty though lol <blush>

Anyway enough digressing into parts of my mind best left unshared and onto some beautiful lace work:

A beautiful butterfly - was a real challenge to read the chart for this one but I was determined!

Shelf edgings, butterfly, circles for cushion covers, tablecloth edgings

Close up of the filet work for the table cloth edging - you'd need at least 20 panels to do one cloth! But would be well worth it.

Lace for trimming towels or cushions

It really makes me take my hat off to the number of Victorian and Edwardian ladies who pioneered crochet lace, often by candle or gaslight - what must their eyes have been like?

The pieces above were created on 1.0 and 1.5mm hooks, which were fine enough. I then received a commission for a bookmark - to fit the wording in, I had to go down to a 0.75mm hook - which raised some eyebrows in the yarn shop - the lady thought I'd be crocheting with human hair! But the effort was well worth it and this was the result:

 If you would like to commission your own lace pieces please email me with your requirements

Adventures with Henrietta

Before I move on to the fab intricate work offered by the September Embers over on Folksy, I'll just share a tale or two of my experiences related to "Henrietta" my polystyrene head:

Having just finished a craft fair, I loaded up the wheelchair with all my stock but just couldn't squeeze her into a bag. Having arrived there before 9am, she's already sat on my lap en route, so not thinking that I had 3 pubs / cafe bars to pass at 4:30pm I decided to repeat the idea! As I'm trundling along the pavement avoiding running over those who seem to think wheelchairs come complete with their own Harry Potter style invisibility cloak - very common in seaside towns - I heard a comment "There's a woman in a wheelchair with 2 heads" lol! Obviously some alcohol had been taken and I couldn't help laughing!

Small children and Henrietta

I did a community fair yesterday and had Henrietta modelling a hat for me. Some friends' children came along and were fascinated by her - in fact I had to go on a hot pursuit with a walking frame to reclaim her from one child!
The main question was "Why have you got a head on your stall?" Being a bit of a wind up merchant and already suspected by the kids of being barking mad, I then told them that I used Henrietta when I had a headache - my real head could go and have a rest and Henrietta could keep working. Great discussions then ensued about how I managed to take my head off and do the swap! Fortunately I wasn't asked to demonstrate!! One little boy gave me a look that said it all! A sort of old fashioned sideways frown often reserved for maiden aunts of a certain age who are definitely becoming eccentric!

September Embers

This is the Folksy daily listings club for September - I aim to list "dailyish" depending on other demands on my time.  For those who want to see more, there's a Flickr Group with many more photo's

Here's a showcase of work that I feel, echoes the intricacies of lace making:

1. Lilac Elephant       2. Diomo Glass Gifts      3. NofKants Curios
4. Clouberry Gems     5.TheCrafty Warren       6. Pip Designs

Please click on the image to visit the makers' beautiful stores

Lilac Elephant Diomo Glass Gifts Nofkants Curios Cloudberry gems The Crafty Warren Pip Designs