Wednesday, January 30, 2013

A Little Fabric Acquisition

$4m quilting fabric! As soon as I saw those words I grabbed my wallet and keys and headed straight to Spotlight. The range wasn't as large as I have seen in the past at their fabric sales but I picked up a handful of fat quarters for some softies and a few metres of pretty florals. These florals will be perfect for the brownie-goose  Nelle pattern I bought recently and the Boo! designs twirly skirt. Now to decide which fabric and pattern to use first.

Monday, January 28, 2013

Where did January go?

So it's almost the end of January and I feel like the last few weeks went by in a blur. There were play dates, zoo visits and lots of family time riding bikes and growing vegetables. I squeezed in some sewing and got a few more business related things set up for the year ahead.

This was my view last week though.

Not bad isn't it? My husband and I spent five days at Maca Villas and Spa in Seminyak, Bali and it was a wonderfully relaxing stay. Five whole lazy days filled with delicious meals, mojitos, spa treatments and a little shopping, it was a perfect holiday. We missed our girls like crazy but I won't lie, the break from changing nappies, preparing food, washing up and saying the same thing repeatedly during the day, was a nice change. This was our first holiday in nearly five years and we are already planning to return as a family in the near future.

It's a good thing that I took time out to re-charge the batteries as I have a few sewing projects in the coming weeks. I need to finish the Pillowcases for Oncology drive organised by the Handmade Cooperative. After this I am participating in two showcases through Facebook, the first is a circus theme while for the second one I plan to release my new Easter bunny softie. I am also thrilled to have been accepted for the third time to have a stall at the March Perth Upmarket. My last two experiences at the market were really positive and I'd like to continue with what works for me and my business. Upon confirmation of my place at Upmarket I started one of many lists, what materials do I need, what/how many items shall I make and how to spread everything out over the coming five weeks to complete it all comfortably. So I predict my evenings will be spent cutting out and I'll squeeze my sewing in during the day. I plan to offer 3-4 different additional softies for this market so hopefully they will be well received. I also recently purchased a couple of clothing patterns to add to my collection as well as some fabrics so fingers crossed I can find some time to make some skirts and dresses too. Then there are birthdays, the TSL Dolly Drive and our eldest daughter starting Kindergarten.

Despite crazy busy February approaching I still plan to share some posts, updates and inspiration along the way. I recently signed up to Twitter, yes quite possibly one of the last people on earth to do so, but I'm going to try and embrace another social medium as the 'reach ability' of Facebook decreases. Now I just have to actually tweet something lol

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

The Emmaline Dress

I have continued to vary my sewing over the last week. I made some pear pin cushions (available now in my madeit store here) and I bought two patterns from Violette Fields Threads. I saw the Emmaline dress pattern a few months ago, the gorgeous girl in a ruffled maxi dress, too cute. So with a little discount encouragement, I bought the pattern and made one for Miss 4 over the weekend. I took my time with the pattern as it was the first time I have made my own bias tape and ruffles, both not nearly as frightening or tricky as I imagined. I used the size 5 pattern pieces and the overall fit is really good. I had two metres of fabric which was not quite enough to complete the dress with the extra two ruffles but my little model was certainly happy with the final result, and oh so cute too.

For a novice sewer like me, the pattern was easy to follow, the photos were clear and I expect that I would be able to make another within an afternoon. I have certainly caught the dress making bug, stay tuned for my next creation!

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Donate a Doll

A few days ago I lent my support to the Facebook page TSL Dolly Drive 2013. Their goal is to provide 1000 dolls/softies to children around Australia who are currently spending time in hospital. This page quickly gathered support from numerous handmade softie and doll makers as well as people who were keen to take up the craft and make their first cuddly creation.

Image courtesy here
I plan to make two softies. The first will be a doll from a pattern by Revoluzzza. I bought the book, We Make Dolls, several months ago but haven't had a chance to make anything from it so this is the perfect motivation to do so. I also plan to make a boy friendly softie, I'm still deciding between my Spaceboy or perhaps a little ninja.

Do you want to help? Well, it's easy, simply offer your support through the TSL Dolly Drive Facebook page, find a pattern and get sewing. You'll find additional information on their page as well as some patterns to get you started. My advice for making a doll/softie for this drive is:

  1. Consider the boys. Let's ensure there is an even dolly-superhero ratio.
  2. If you are making a softie intended for a young child, remove all potential choking hazards including buttons and small felt/fabric pieces that may come loose. Use fabric that can be surface cleaned with ease and won't shed (ie fur)
  3. Double stitch all seams for strength and durability.
  4. Perhaps include a little note with your softie telling the recipient a little bit about their new friend.
If you are keen to make a dolly, here are a few of my favourite free online patterns to use:

  1. Ruby Doll courtesy of One Red Robin
  2. A Gingermelon Doll
  3. A Black Apple Doll
  4. A simple Matryoshka Doll by Snipsnaphappy
And for the boys:
  1. Superhero doll from Shwin&Shwin 
  2. Pirate doll from One More Mushroom
  3. A Lorax Stuffie from Crafty Kitsune
  4. A friendly monster from Revoluzza
Happy sewing (and stuffing) !

Sunday, January 6, 2013

My Creative (& clean) Space

This weekend was nicely productive. I increased the pattern size of my hedgehog pattern (previously mentioned here) and made a boy, Herbert, and girl, Holly, who has already found a new home. The faux fur is a messy and tricky material to sew with but it is also more forgiving than cotton and I really enjoy making them.

I added some fabric to my stash last week after a sale at one of my favourite online stores. Lots of florals, funky chevron and Amy Butler arrived, a wash, dry and iron and I was promptly cutting out pattern pieces for two dollies. They are from the Big Book Of Softies, pattern by two little banshees.
As is always the case, a busy couple of sewing days results in a pretty decent mess. So before I start my next project (I hear some pin cushions calling me) a good clean up was in order. I bought this Ikea cabinet off Gumtree a couple of months ago and I absolutely love it. It is the perfect place to store my fabrics, threads, books and bits n bobs. Not sure how long it will remain this organised but I do love looking at my pile of pretty fabrics!

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Going Green

Since I began making softies over three years ago, I have become more selective with the materials I use. While this often means my materials and supplies cost more, I feel that the quality of my items has continued to improve to ensure longevity. I will only use wool felt, 100% cotton quilting fabrics (usually designer names too) as well as good quality threads, ribbons and trims and buttons. When I began making softies I used a polyfill from a large craft store, I soon realised that this was a low quality item, it didn't hold its shape, clumped and even started to 'seep' out of the fabric. I then sourced a better quality polyfill which was nicer to work with and didn't have a mind of its own. However I have now decided to use a 'green' filling, made from recycled bottles, has not been altered by chemicals and is consequently hypoallergenic. The impact of the environment is a definite positive for me too. The only downside to using this type of filling is that a minimum order of 5kgs is difficult to find storage for!


Friday, January 4, 2013

Some More Dresses

I am on a bit of a roll with dresses for the girls, I've made three in the last week and a half and hope to make two more for Michaela in the coming days. I'm enjoying this sewing and plan to make birthday presents this year for the girls' friends. I haven't branched out beyond the peasant dress yet but I'm working up my confidence to buy new patterns as soon as I overcome my fear of buttons holes and zips.




Thursday, January 3, 2013

The Pillowcase Challenge

I took part last year in the Pillowcase for a Cause which is a drive organised by the Handmade Cooperative to assist Pillowcases for Oncology Kids. They are asking for donations of handmade pillowcases (or decorated store bought ones) which will then be given to children around Australia who are undergoing Cancer treatment in hospital. You can get inolved too by visiting the above website link. I have a cute idea for including a softie with my pillowcase this year so I'll share it with you in coming weeks.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Plans for 2013 (and a little reflection)

Firework image source here
As another year comes to a close, the natural instinct to make plans for the year ahead begins to kick in. In terms of little cloud factory, my hobby/business and blog, I have lots of goals and exciting ideas.

In the last six months I have dedicated a lot of time to creating. I've created new patterns, adapted others, honed my sewing skills and been significantly more involved in the handmade market scene. And I've loved all of these things. I've tried to balance family life, Penelope-life and business life as best as I could. Consequently I feel that what was a hobby at the start of 2012 is now a small business.

I learnt a big lesson this year when I took part in one market. I completed an application with the Dept of Commerce in order to trade on that particular day. A routine application to verify that my stall was handmade/craft. I filled out the business name section little cloud factory and had verbal confirmation from the officer that my wares fulfilled the application requirements. A few days later the officer (very kindly) called to inform me that the name little cloud factory was already registered to a couple in another state and due to recent changes to the business name registration board, I could not trade under this name or register it within this state. The name had been registered in October 2011.

I was so upset with this news. Registering my business name had been on my list of things to do but having had an 18 month break between markets and selling on line I naively kept putting it off. I also felt that my business name was so unique that I wouldn't encounter any problems when I did get around to it. I created this blog in June 2010 and began selling at markets later that year. When you do a google search for little cloud factory the first pages are solely linked to blog posts, my Facebook page, etsy and madeit stores so I was confused as to why someone, looking to start their own business, would choose a name that was obviously quite clearly taken. I guess they liked my name so much that they bought it for themselves. You can read the background story to my name here. So, long story short, little cloud factory handmade is now registered! I actually like that handmade is the additional word that I added to allow the registration to occur as it has positive connotations. I'd like to look back on the last few busy months as ones which turned my hobby into a business. I'm looking to continue 'building' my business in 2013; continue participating in markets, designing new softies and other items, learning from others and  maintaining a balance that makes me feel that I'm in control.

I read this article recently about plagiarism and the handmade community. Within the handmade community there have been a few occasions where I have seen copycats; people using another's creative ideas and practices for themselves, using other people's images to promote their 'future' projects and others who specifically use 'for personal use only' patterns and tutorials and sell them through their business. I had a recent experience with someone clearly using a softie of mine as 'inspiration' for their own and promoting it on their business page. Unfortunately there is very little to prevent others from stealing your designs and ideas. Copying someone else's work shows a total disregard for the time, effort and original idea that someone put into their work/product. While you can find inspiration in another person's work, staying uniquely different is important in order to establish a reputable business.

My softie design process begins with lots of drawing and scribblings of various body shapes and facial expressions. Before turning these drawings into a pattern I look through online stores to see if there are other softies similar to my drawings so that a) I don't appear to have copied anyone else and b) my design stands out as unique. By continuing to be unique and honest with my designs I hope that my handmade business is viewed positively and 'ward off' any would-be copycats.

My 2012 resolutions were:
  1. Learn to crochet - did not get to this one at all. I have some wool and crochet sticks in a drawer waiting for another day
  2. Create new softie patterns - I designed quite a few new patterns this year which forced me to be creative with ideas and new materials.
  3. Participate in a couple of hand made markets- Four markets in four months was a massive effort and absolutely worthwhile for a multitude of reasons. Can't wait to be involved again in 2013.
  4. Learn to use Photoshop (and take better photos with my camera!) - Umm, didn't get to this one either but I did purchase an SLR camera and have improved my basic photography skills.
  5. Make more clothes for my girls- Yes, I made a start on this one, I purchased an overlocker and have begun making simple dresses and skirts. I really enjoy making things for them.
And so to the 2013 crafty resolutions:
  1. Create new softie patterns
  2. Take part in handmade markets
  3. Learn to take better photos (do a photography course? photo editing programs?)
  4. Learn to use blogsy better (there are quite a few things that I haven't worked out yet)
  5. Learn free motion machine applique
Thank you for dropping by my blog this past year, I hope I haven't bored you too much! I wish you a truly wonderful, happy and fulfilling 2013.

Penelope x