It’s the little things

unnamedIt isn’t always easy to find the time to make a whole new garment, but there are other ways to create clothes that are extra special and that little bit different.

I have been known to buy myself a bog-standard t-shirt from a well-known supermarket and adjust the length or add buttons and other trimmings to make it into something that differentiates it from everyone else’s.  I’m still plucking up the courage to do a full-scale alteration challenge – I think that potentially this is something I need to do with a friend which would force us to do something in a specific time-frame.

I do have a large stock of buttons, but I’m always on the lookout for more and I came across these from Kate Holliday on Friday.

As it happens, I know Kate through mutual friends so it was lovely to catch up with her at Olympia. But I was also completely blown away by her hand-made buttons.  And they are completely hand-crafted. Starting with a lump of clay, Kate flattens, cuts and fires these gorgeous little pieces of loveliness.

I couldn’t resist this little chap – and he will definitely be featuring on a garment at some point.  I also fell in love with the shirt buttons Kate herself was sporting so I am going to be investing in some of these as well at some point in the very near future.  Bye bye plain white shirts forever!

Cat x

What’s that lurking under the bed…?

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As you may, or may not remember from one of my previous posts, I have confessed to having rather a large stash of sewing/creative magazines under my bed.

Capture1Many of these are staples that you would find at any newsagents, such as Sew magazine ( which is great for free dressmaking patterns) and Mollie Makes (a nice quirky read guaranteed to bring a smile) the big favourites that didn’t go anywhere near the recycling bin were from US brands Interweave and Stampington.

Capture2I first came across these titles while visiting one of my favourite stitchery dens, Rainbow Silks in Great Missenden (of Roald Dahl fame). They carry a huge range of magazines from both publishers and their beautifully produced covers are very hard to resist.  Stampington do a wonderful range of really quirky titles, including whole magazines devoted to rejuvenating clothing – Altered Couture – as well as eclectic soft toys and the melding of 3D artwork using paper, fabric, painting and dyeing techniques to produces some wonderful pieces of art.  The photography is always amazing and the writing enthusiastic, it’s a bit like National Geographic for creative types!

STF-200x200The other title which I always buy is Stitch from Interweave.  I like this magazine because it is absolutely jammed full of projects with the patterns included or easily downloaded from their website.  There is just a little chat at the front and a few product reviews, but other than that it is all about the sewing.  I have made lots of different things (including Bob, Fred and Bert the reindeer) of various different levels of complexity and there is little that I haven’t been pleased with.  There are even free bonus projects on the web like the Feel Good Love Pillow

If you can handle working in inches and the frustration of not having as easy access to crafting materials as is apparent in the US marketplace, I can heartily recommend these publishers for pushing you outside your normal sewing/creative comfort zone.

Cat x

It seemed like such a good idea at the time

20140212-110733.jpgI bet the marketing team at Seasalt thought this was a really good idea back in June… Poor old Cornwall, like most of the south-west of the UK is currently being battered by horrendous weather and I suspect that floral anoraks and funky wellies aren’t cutting it in Wraysbury or Marlow right now.

But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t take joy in gorgeous design and the optimism of small businesses.  It isn’t just passion and an eye for style that creates a great brand.  Having a consistent story and a clear business head are essential.  I only came across Seasalt five years ago, courtesy of a wonderful hemp long-sleeved shirt purchased in a bijou boutique but a little scoot round their website tells me that they have been around for 30 years.

Seasalt wellies

I’m in the market for a new pair of wellies for walking Destructa Dog because this weather doesn’t look like it is going to end any time soon and Mr Cat’s are just a tad too big for me.  What do you think of these?

Cat x

 

New Year Optimism

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There’s something inherently smiley about the hyacinth, especially in the long winter days after Christmas when all those necessary journeys seem to take place in the dark. It doesn’t matter that you know the days in the Northern Hemisphere are getting longer, the appalling weather makes Spring seem such a very long time away.

If you are lucky, however, someone will have bought you some bulbs that arrive sleepily but full of promise on Christmas Day. Less than 2 weeks later, in the warmth of an ever busy kitchen they have sprung to life and in a day or so the room will be full of scent.

I was lucky and these lovely blooms are acting as a cheery reminder of all the good things that are to come. I’m not a great maker of resolutions (normally ‘eat less chocolate’ features in the number one slot) but I’m going to make this the year when I remind myself that there are lots of things I can, and do, do well and that I don’t need to beat myself up about the rest. Not everything I make can, or should be, department store perfect and not everything needs to be made with a sale in mind.

I am going to continue to buy copious numbers of sewing and crafty magazines (a girl has to have a few vices) and more fabric/ribbons/buttons because I like them. I’m not going to make protestations of projects that will be undertaken during the year because then I won’t feel a failure if I just don’t get round to them. I am going to embrace the slow movement and use the time spent sewing and making as more of a meditative journey rather than a chore which needs to be completed. And I’m not going to spread myself thinner than KC’s marmite on his morning toast.

So you’ll just have to watch this space to see how things pan out. Who knows what might happen. Most of all I hope that the happy atmosphere generated by these three simple little bulbs lingers the whole year long.

Cat x

Guilty pleasures

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Yesterday, one of my favourite fellow crafties, Rachel from Foxglove and Gingersnap was chatting about how she reads her crafty magazines. I found myself blushing slickly because I have to confess that I’m a really big magazine addict

In fact all of us in the Cat household are. Suggesting a trip to WHSmith or the local equivalent would not be considered odd at all. KC’S is currently a big fan of The Phoenix, Kid likes triathlon and rugby, Kitty often buys Vogue and Belle Armoire, Mr Cat has to share Top Gear and his cycling magazines and guards his sailing ones jealously.

And then there is me! My primary excuse is that the publishing industry has been a fundamental part of my entire working life and I love it. I still have the cover proofs for the first publication I was ever wholly responsible for (a weighty little tome about European advertising) and I still love Thursday mornings because that was the day of the week when the new issues would be delivered. As part of my current consultancy I read about 3 magazines a week, more when I’m writing on a topic I know little about.

Which brings me to my confession about crafty magazines. A little while ago a friend asked if she could borrow a few to look for inspiration. Well…. I had to deliver them by car because I couldn’t carry them all. And that wasn’t even a third of what I could have offered her. I now can’t open one of the drawers in my bedside cabinet because of the pile of reading matter in front of it. However, I am on the case. I have started culling my collection, taking out the relevant pages and using a specialist scanner to create my own digital collection. It’s an ongoing project on which I don’t expect quick progress because of course I start reading the darned things as I go through them!

Also, with my professional head on, I find I am intolerant of poorly produced publications. One particular offender was printing articles with white out of yellow text in a minuscule font that was almost impossible to read, which when taken in tandem with their inability to print inside the magazine what they had said they were going to, had me pulling my hair out. I now try to restrict myself to a few gems… Selvage is a real delight and I love all of the stuff produced by American publisher Interweave so much that I am considering importing it regularly for my own commercial venture.

Now all I need to make me really happy is some freelance work with a crafty/sewing publisher. Any offers gratefully received!

Cat x

Al fresco sewing

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Following on from last year’s truly disastrous summer here in the UK (topped off in this household by a holiday in North Wales) it is a thorough delight to be able to languish in the garden until late into the evening.

Not only have I been able to decamp to the deck with my sewing machine, but I suddenly find myself surrounded by inspiration. There are wonderful sunny photos from my friends on Facebook, gorgeous looking berries and fruits in the farm shop and a bounty of flowers that haven’t been beaten into submission by constant rainfall.

I’m sure that my life is no busier than anyone else’s, there seems to be a constant grind to get somewhere fast, and when there are four other people’s itineraries to organise I think I need to remind myself that thinking slowly is time well spent.

The Slow movement embraces just this, most famously through food. The philosophy that fruit, vegetables and animals grown at their natural pace makes perfect sense to me. Perhaps it is time to embrace the concept in other areas of our lives. Taking time to build and make things ourselves that define us as individuals rather than the retail buyer’s creation.

Maybe, in due course, we might even see haberdashery and hardware shops an integral part of our high street once again. I for one won’t be complaining.

Cat x

Al fresco sewing

20130716-225423.jpg
Following on from last year’s truly disastrous summer here in the UK (topped off in this household by a holiday in North Wales) it is a thorough delight to be able to languish in the garden until late into the evening.

Not only have I been able to decamp to the deck with my sewing machine, but I suddenly find myself surrounded by inspiration. There are wonderful sunny photos from my friends on Facebook, gorgeous looking berries and fruits in the farm shop and a bounty of flowers that haven’t been beaten into submission by constant rainfall.

I’m sure that my life is no busier than anyone else’s, there seems to be a constant grind to get somewhere fast, and when there are four other people’s itineraries to organise I think I need to remind myself that thinking slowly is time well spent. The Slow movement embraces just this, most famously through food. The philosophy that fruit, vegetables and animals grown at their natural pace makes perfect sense to me. Perhaps it is time to embrace the concept in other areas of our lives. Taking time to build and make things ourselves that define us as individuals rather than the retail buyer’s creation.

Maybe, in due course, we might even see haberdashery and hardware shops an integral part of our high street once again. I for one won’t be complaining.

Cat x

Leaping the divide…

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Like many fabric addicts, I often find myself musing how life would be if I could devote myself 100% to sewing.

  1. Would I be disciplined enough to work when there is no boss to tell me what to do?
  2. Can I create enough of what people  want to buy?
  3. Have I got the time to devote not only to the creative process but also to the marketing and administrative side of the business.
  4. Is it possible to make sufficient income to justify the time commitment.

I can answer the first point very easily.  This is most definitively a yes since I have run my own successful freelance/consultancy business for the last ten years.  It’s extremely hard work, not least because when you aren’t an employee clients have no problem telling you at 6pm that they want something on their desk by 9am the following morning. Running your own show is certainly not for the faint hearted and I’m extremely lucky in having a partner who is very supportive of my efforts (though I still haven’t managed to teach him how to cook a meal that the children will eat!).

Point two is more difficult as with most creative pursuits there is always a twinge of fear that people are only making appreciative noises to be polite. Plus with so much choice both in traditional retail and the online craft communities, is it possible to create a unique enough product which stands out from the crowd?  My other problem is that I am both a perfectionist and a creative polymath, a combination of traits which mean I don’t really have a singular style or product.

Time! I am sure that some being comes along and steals hours out of my day.  Juggling pets, kids, day job and a plethora of volunteering commitments already accounts for almost every hour right now.  The marketing and administrative parts of running a sewing related business are not remotely frightening or new to me (see point one) but I don’t have any spare minutes for just thinking and creating and that is a bigger problem.  I could of course give up the day job, but actually I find it rather exciting so that’s a non-starter.

And finally – income.  I’ve participated in a number of (heated) online debates about this and I know that many full-time craftspeople get very cross about individuals who run their kitchen-top business without running proper accounts or declaring their income for tax purposes.  Since I run my own business already I can ‘fess up here that I don’t fall into that category.  I can tell you just how much deficit I am in at any one time!  It is very, very hard to make money from a craft business because time is the biggest expense and very few people feel able to charge for the hours they are putting in.  There are occasions where I have made something and then had to price it competitively which means I would earn something like 50p/hour for my labour.  I don’t want to make industrial quantities of the same product over and over again – it’s not enjoyable for me at any price.

So what’s the conclusion then?  Yes I do think that at some point I will find a way to create a sewing related business, but right now I’m really happy producing a small volume of unique products which I sell via Etsy and by commission.  All you have to do is get in touch!

Cat x

Day 36

Little MonsterPinterest is a wonderful thing, isn’t it? Inspired by a picture of a monster a bit like this, Kitty set about making her own little monster using the materials Cat had at home. Though there’s still room for improvement, this is the finished result. Christened Howard, or Howie for short, this little monster has raised quite a few smiles in the past day. He’ll be keeping Kitty company as she goes through all the possible new makes for the remainder of this challenge- they could have a big job ahead of them!

Day 28

Union Jack buntingOur 28th day is a string of bunting very reminiscent of the whole 2012 vibe.

These were left over from when Cat was very busy with all the Jubilee celebrations last year and discovered in the box when hunting out bits for the Megan bunting. It’s is a wonderful reminder of a great British summer. I loved the sight of our own flags strung up on the porch-  so this new set reminds me of the Olympics, the Jubilee and a rare sunny summer here in England. Strawberries, tea, sugar, picnics and summers by the river. What’s your idea of a perfect summer, in Britain or otherwise?

Kitty x