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31 July 2013

The latest handkerchief design...



Similar to my Letter 'Chief Handkerchief, I have also designed and created a classic, white handkerchief with the option of personalising it.  


Instead of choosing the fabric, with this design you get to to choose the colour your letter is embroidered in.




There are currently a choice of four colours (green, blue, pink and yellow) but if you would like a different colour, please do drop me a line and I will be more than happy to pick another lovely bright colour for you!


This new range is available in both my Etsy and Notonthehighstreet shops. 

Are there any other colours you would like to see? I'd love to hear your thoughts folks!
Cheers!



30 July 2013

What's on the jukebox, Jo?

This is an old classic but an absolute cracker!


How amazing it must have been to watch this gig live! This song totally puts in me in the creative mood. Does music do the same for you?


29 July 2013

The Letter 'Chief Handkerchief!

Since I received the fabulous, helpful feedback on my handkerchief designs, I have been beavering away, using the suggestions given to improve my designs with. My handkerchief designs have basically had a complete make-over! From the way I machine sew the handkerchief square to the design of the embroidered motifs to the type of fabric used. In fact, they are officially all new and improved! Woo!

To celebrate this, I have just released my latest handkerchief design - 'The Letter 'Chief Handkerchief'. 


The Letter 'Chief is a completely personalised handkerchief, where you the lovely shopper choose the fabric and one personalised letter. I will then create your bespoke 'chief by machine sewing your handkerchief square and hand embroidering into one corner your choice of letter. Currently, I have 4 fabric choices on offer but I am more than happy to take custom orders depending on the range of fabric I have in stock. Just drop me a line if that's something you are interested in. 







As ever, I'd love to hear what you think? Do you have favourite out of the 8 fabric choices on offer?
And for those of you who like a little giveaway, the Letter 'Chief will be featuring in a big giveaway I'll be running soon! If you don't want to miss out, you can follow me on Bloglovin', Twitter and Facebook to be kept in the loop.

Happy Monday everyone!




27 July 2013

Blog Gem - Tobyboo

I'm actually a little speechless for this month's Blog Gem. What? Really, Jo? Yup, totally speechless! In fact, I couldn't believe this lovely lady said yes to taking part. Yes, it's fair to say, I am a HUGE fan! So, lets dive on in and find out more! 

Hello there! Who be the face behind Tobyboo?

Hello, name is Tina, I'm short, married to a patient bloke and have a 5 year old called Toby. Oh and I'm the hands and brains behind Tobyboo. I use free-embroidery to illustrate, no drawing or prep before hand, the needle is my pencil and I take straight to the machine. I love the unpredictability of it, detail, scale - I've no idea what the end result will be like.



What's your creative space area like? 

My studio is the spare room but it's 100% mine and even has a lock on the door so no one else, not even the cat, can enter! Before I started Tobyboo and pre Toby, the room was the guest room and was kitted out in expensive wallpaper, Ralph Lauren £100 a roll of old postcards of New York but it makes great for staring at the wall and thinking!

My room reflects me, it goes from major chaotic mess to organised and tidy and alternates each week. I've got 2 sewing machines, one set up for free-embroidery, so the teeth have been taken out and the other as standard but both the same, Singer. My stock is between here and a storage unit, and it's just had a cull of fabric, four full bin bags have gone to new homes. I just couldn't keep it all!



If you had to take only one of your crafts to a desert island, what would it be and why? 
Hmmm, island - well that rules out the machine.... unless some parrot has got electricity. I'd probably start knitting again which has nothing to do with what I do now and I sort of miss it but it did ache my hands a lot and I had to stop but it might be a magic island ... (I've taken this too far haven't I?)


How do you work and get inspired? 
I don't stop coming out with ideas but I try to because sometimes it gets expensive when it involves getting stock made! A long time ago in a world before we had a clue what the internet was, I was studying jewellery at St Martins and I managed to annoy tutors by having to have some story or something behind my pieces. I could never just do something that looked pretty, which was the point of jewellery. I think because half the time my ideas aren't visual ones they are story based or very personal and they have to take a visual form. Wish You Were Here (the summer design with the gull and chips) came from my childhood memories of holidays - we had one. It was a Pontins holiday and as grim as can be and it was the idea that even though it was grim, it was still beautiful in memory for what it was. I've never known anyone to have a bunting and beach huts holiday in Britain but everyone knows evil gulls and most know sad looking chalets and coach trips - but the end design looks pretty. 



What top tips would you give to any novice bloggers and those thinking of selling their designs? 
Keep the day job! Er well, that's part true because doing this is a stress filled ball of empty sometimes and I have to do it because after becoming ill in 2000 I couldn't go back to my day job (working in television) but I think what ever I've done, I've tried and tried and knocked on as many doors as possible. I think if you're the sort of person that can't find a supplier in the age of Google, I'd say "this isn't for you"! I've knocked on doors and I've had my bell rung (that sounds odd) but I've been approached as well, which is lovely. If it's something you really want to do, then knock on doors and help as many people on the way... 



Is there a story behind the name 'Tobyboo'?
Not much! After becoming ill we tried seven years for a little one. Three goes of IVF later Toby was born and well - we called him Boo (we also called the cat Boo so it could have been Pookieboo) and Tobyboo was born!



If you could go to a Creative Blog Award dinner with any 5 people/fictional characters (dead or alive), who would you choose? 
Ooh, I'd choose two Potters, Beatrix and Walter. Beatrix Potter because I think as a child she influenced me hugely with her tales and illustrations and Walter Potter is the taxidermist behind such masterpieces as the Kitten Wedding and Bunny School - fantastic works of art. I'd like to know where his ideas came from. I'm trying to think of someone alive... my friend Viv who is a mixed artist and would just laugh at me and so make me laugh. St Lucy (I do like a saint story) she gouged her eyes out because they were too beautiful and they grew back (well that's a party trick) and Paul Smith, who I think is a genius (and he likes my work) and an amazing company.



And finally...book & tea or film & wine?
Can I say tea and film? I'm rubbish at reading and can't drink wine!

Thank you so much, Tina! It's been truly wonderful getting to know more about you, your work and what inspires you. I've been to Pontins (as part of a music festival), so can picture those chalets! Your studio sounds and looks incredible. I even spy an overlocker in there! What brilliant advice for all of us trying to make a go of our indie businesses - get knocking on those doors folks! Thanks m'dear!

I hope you've all enjoyed this month's Blog Gem and feel as inspired as I do by Tina! Next month we're going down the illustration route, so stay tuned and until then happy blogging!



All of the images and interview answers are the copyright of Tina at Tobyboo, with the exception of the beach shot which is copyright of Kellie Spicknell and the last image, which is the copyright of Viv Richards.  Please do not use without seeking permission first. Thank you.

22 July 2013

Starting an online shop, part 3: organisation

A key element to running your own business is organisation. It may seem like an obvious thing to say but that's because it's essential. If you want to progress, be taken seriously and provide excellent customer service, then you simply can't do it without being organised.

If you've been practising, experimenting and researching your product, then you've probably built up quite a collection of tools, materials, and paper work. Well, I can tell you now this "stuff" is going to multiply as you test out new designs and ideas further down the line. So, before it gets chaotic (if it hasn't already), put a whole evening/day/weekend aside to organise yourself. Now, I'm not going to tell you how to rearrange your desk because we all have different ways of working and different ideas of what constitutes space. What I will advise, however, are some key areas to focus on and few top tips for good measure.



Paperwork
Don't let your paperwork pile up whatever you do. You've chosen a lovely new ring binder, right? So, get filing - in sections! And remember to keep all those receipts for your tax return.

Supplies & tools
Whichever way you decide to organise your supplies and tools, remember to put those items you use regularly within easy reach, not buried at the bottom of a drawer. For example, my key tools - embroidery hoop, needle, threads, scissors and pencil - are all within hand's reach. Trust me, this saves energy when you're asking who saw your scissors last kind of a scenario!




Photos
This might seem like a strange one as you take a photo of your product and upload it, right? Unless you're a whiz with the camera, then you'll probably start out by taking quite a few photos. There's nothing wrong with this. In fact, it's good practice and with time, you'll speed up. Whether you're experienced or not, make sure your photos are organised into folders on your computer. Do this as soon as you upload a batch. Trust me, this really takes the agony out of it when you're looking for that great product shot to upload on to your online shop/blog/website.

Notebook/calendar/diary
If you have an idea a minute, then make sure you have a notebook to hand to jot those thoughts down on. You may feel a bit overwhelmed or lacking in time as you're starting up your business or even as you progress! Just remember you're not a robot, so break those tasks down into bite size pieces and schedule them into your calendar/diary. This works both for procrastinators and those who don't know when to stop. Talking of time, you may find my recent post all about the lack of time interesting.



De-stash and de-clutter
You may get to the point where you have tools and supplies that you simply have no need for or you've just run out of space. Put some time aside and have a proper clear out but before you chuck anything, why not have a de-stash sale, either online (e.g. ebay) or at a carboot or even a craft swap with friends. That way you're not only helping someone else out but you can also recoup some of the money spent on supplies.


I hope you find this post helpful. If you have any top tips, please feel free to share them below. Next month, as part of this series, I will be looking at the scary topic of Money!

Until then, happy organising!



21 July 2013

Handkerchief giveaway review - the results!

Back in June I ran my biggest giveaway to-date. Three lucky winners were in with a chance of winning three personalised handkerchiefs each! The only catch being that each winner had to complete an anonymous questionnaire for each handkerchief and post it back to me (in a pre-paid envelope I hasten to add!), essentially reviewing what they honestly thought of my designs.

Some folk thought I was crackers making and designing nine handkerchiefs. So, why did I do it? Well, I was looking for some useful feedback or constructive criticism on the design, presentation, price and overall impression of my handkerchief designs.



And I'm so glad I did! Lots of folk entered and the three lovely winners sent back their questionnaires straight away. Not only that but Emily of Strawberry Patch Ramblings even sent me the cutest part of handmade button earrings with her questionnaire and Zoe of Floral and Feather has done a gorgeous blog post about it. Thanks ladies!

I was both excited and scared when the completed questionnaires were returned. Picture a lady who has just spent a busy day at work, walking through the front door, the door is barely shut before she rips open the envelope to read the questionnaires, handbag still in one hand, house keys still in the other. Well, that's what happened on three separate occasions. Now I think back, I'm surprised I didn't faint with anticipation and anxiety.



Sooooo, the completed questionnaires were fascinating and extremely useful. They were essentially split up into questions on the overall impression, quality of hand embroidery/fabric/machine sewing, price, packaging and further comments on my handkerchiefs. There was some agreement on certain questions but differing opinions on others and it's certainly helped achieve what I set out to do - look at how I can improve my best selling design, which I've fed straight back in to my handkerchief design process.

I would wholeheartedly recommend seeking helpful and constructive feedback to anyone who sells their designs. Yes, those online marketplaces do allow customers to review your products but, as lovely as the positive comments are, they don't really answer specific questions. A questionnaire allows you to do just that, ask those questions you're dying to ask your customers. Now, I'm not saying it's a painless process. It was a tad stressful organising and also anxiety ridden wondering whether a) anyone would enter and b) what the feedback would be like. But, if you put time aside by scheduling it into your diary, plan your questionnaire in advance and promote the competition regularly, then it's a win-win idea.

With this feedback, I feel that I am now designing and making a much improved handkerchief and will soon be releasing a brand new selection of designs! I'm super excited about this, so thanks to Anna, Zoe and Emily for your immeasurably, helpful feedback and to everyone who entered. If however, you're a tad sad not to have won, well don't worry, on the release of my design ranges, I'll be running another giveaway competition. This time, no questionnaire, just a straight forward win, so stay tuned folks!






14 July 2013

Wish list - home sweet home

As most of you will already know, I am currently buying my very own home. I'm a first-timer, so it's all very exciting (and stressful). The house hasn't been decorated in a VERY long time, so it needs attention and boy-oh-boy, I cannot wait to get my hands on it! As a result, I'm keeping my eyes peeled for lovely accessories I can make or buy to give the house some life. Rather than keep my finds buried away in a favourite list, I thought I'd share them with you all through my regular Wish List blog series. Today's Wish List is on doormats and wow who'd have thought, there are some awesome DIY projects out there.


I absolutely love this doormat! It's a DIY project from Lowe's. I love the mixture of bright colours they've used but any colour combination could be chosen, especially if going for a particular colour theme.


This braided door mat tutorial from Martha Stewart is gorgeous! I really want to give it a go.


What a brilliant idea from Better Homes and Gardens, a stencilled doormat. This would be a relatively cheap project and would be so much fun coming up with a stencil design.


This idea from Thirfty Fun could work well, especially if we have carpet remnants. 


And finally, this braided rug from A Beautiful Mess would work just as well as a doormat. Ooh, I think this might be my favourite so far!

There sure are some great ideas out there. I can't wait to try some of these projects out. Happy crafting everyone!




13 July 2013

Vintage Button Swap

Back in June I mentioned that I was taking part in a Vintage Button Swap run by the lovely Taz of Butter and Buntings. I was a little excited to say the least, what with my slight addiction to buttons and my love of all things vintage. Match.made.in.heaven.

Taz hooked me up with my button swap buddy - the fab Samantha of Madness and I. After a few emails discussing what buttons and colours we both like i.e. we love EVERYTHING, all colours, all buttons; Samantha and I went to work on selecting a lovely bundle of buttons for each other. I had soooo much fun finding a collection of buttons, then the joy of attaching them to card....not sure why but I love attaching buttons to card. There's something very satisfying about it.

Anyhooo, off to the post office I went with my button parcel, popping it in the mail, all the way to Australia! Then I waited "patiently" for my parcel from Samantha. Lets just say I was like a little puppy sitting by the door, getting very excited whenever the letter box rattled. Well, today it arrived, along with my copy of 'Making' magazine - double whammy! 


And oooooeeeeeeeoooooooooo, isn't this the most gorgeous packaging! I'm a total sucker for lovely packaging and stationery. Just look at this gorgeous envelope and writing paper. Even the cute Robin sticker!


And my oh my! The buttons!! The buttons!!! The buttons!!!!


Aren't they simply gorgeous!!!I'm going to struggle deciding which is my favourite.


Samantha's lovely letter detailed exactly where each one had come from. The 4 red buttons are hand made by someone in Australia. I will be finding out who and will share because you need to know, right?! ;-)


Have you taken part in a swap recently? I'd love to hear all about it!

Happy sunshiny Saturday everyone!


8 July 2013

Busy bee


I'm a bit of busy bee at the moment. What's happening? Lots of things really (there's always that to-do list, right?) but mainly it's a combination of shop orders and reading paper work (surveys and shizzle) for our very first house purchase! In between that I've got to squeeze in some bunting making for my bro's wedding in August. Phew! Anyhooo, this is more a heads up to say that the blog posts are going to be a bit thin on the ground for the next few weeks but don't worry, there are some exciting posts coming up over the month; such as how I got on with my hanky giveaway/review and also a food focused Blog Gem!

Until then, enjoy the sunshine and hello summer!


1 July 2013

“How did it get so late so soon?”





Time is a funny ol' thing. Sometimes it drags. Sometimes it flies. Sometimes it's infuriating. Sometimes it's wonderful.

Recently, I've been finding myself going for the infuriating option.

I don't have enough time for this. I don't have enough time for that.

"How did it get so late so soon?" !!*

I have to confess, I've got to the point where I need to address it head on. In fact, every now and then Mr Time and I have to have a chat. In other words, when my brain is racing a million miles an hour with all the things I want and should do and yet my brain and I don't know where to start. 

So, this weekend I spent with my Mum. We discovered that we're both feeling in a muddle with time and that, independently of each other, we have both decided to tackle it. Now, I don't mean finding Dr Who and asking him a favour, I mean getting more organised, so that our brains settle.

Here's what we've both decided to do. At the start of each month, write down three lists.

List 1: tasks that are nagging at us e.g. ordering more paper for the printer or maybe something that has to be done that month.

List 2: creative stuff we want to do e.g. write blog posts, sew ...

List 3: none creative stuff we want to do e.g. seeing friends, going for a swim, reading a book...

Next step is to look at our monthly calendars and schedule in one thing from list 1 per week. If week 1 is particularly big, say you're moving house or something**, then split the jobs up and spread them out or perhaps dedicate one whole day/evening to those tasks.

After list 1 is dealt with, the picture of the month ahead starts to become clearer but this is where realism needs to kick in. Items from lists 2 and 3 musn't be jam packed in or the time issue will rear its ugly head again. If it's too daunting, simplify it. For example, Monday = write blog post/s, Tuesday = go for a swim, Wednesday = see friends and so on...

If something on the schedule doesn't pop up, for example, your friends are all booked up on Wednesday, then don't go crazy trying to tick everything off the calendar. Pick only one thing you'd like to do and do it. Finding you've got time on your hands for once surely is a good thing, so go and have a soak in the tub!

That's the plan anyway! We've both written our lists, scheduled stuff in and are going to try and stick with it. I'll let you know how we get on!

Is time an issue for you? Do you have any tips and tricks for dealing with what seems like a severe lack of it? I'd love to hear your thoughts!




*Quote from Dr Seuss
** I am currently bang in the middle of buying my very first home = exciting and stressful. Also possibly the cause of this blog post! ;-)

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