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!


  1. Sounds like a busy but exciting year...and plans for 2012 even more so :-) Hope all goes to plan with lots of exciting developments along the way xx

  2. Awesome stuff going on for you, remember to look after Bev though and ask for help sometimes lol!! You have re-awakened my love of knitting and crochet and I have things going on in my head now of how to take this forwards too... To 2012 a year of golden opportunities xxx