Archive for ‘Crafts, Tutorials and DIY’

October 30, 2012

Updates with pretty photots

The reason for my rather sporadic blog posting is rather simple. Whilst I would love to tell an exciting tale of adventure and time lapsing away over the summer, honestly, life has just got in the way. Running a business whilst also having a wonderful part time job means my spare time is spent sleeping, waiting for buses, thinking about art, or all three simultaneously. I have been rather lucky and managed to utilise my travel time; my bus journeys are now spent answering email enquiries on my phone, or sketching out new designs or potential new product lines. I’ve even incorporated my post office trip into my lunch time routine.

In these busy times, keeping up-to-date with various online profiles seems to fall behind. For those who are interested, my facebook page for my etsy shop is usually rife with updates every few days, detailing daily activities and sharing photographs of sewing pencil cases and lavender pouches, pressing bags and finishing off pocket mirrors – this page seems to have taken priority, whilst blogging has been neglected. With (dare I say it) Christmas approaching, more and more of my time is spent making crafts than writing about them. Although I never think this is a bad thing – a day spent sewing or pressing is both enjoyable and satisfying – I do enjoy sharing creations and discoveries with followers. One of the great things about my part-time job is that I am exposed to so many talented and inspiring makers, so I am hoping to be able to share a few of my favourites in the coming months, alongside general adventures I’ve squeezed in during my free time.

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August 18, 2012

Craft Fairs

This past week has flown by in a flurry of new products and exciting orders, so that my update on my first craft stall seems to have taken a back seat. As I blogged last week about the preparations for my stall at the Made Market on Saturday, I have had many messages asking me how it went and asking for photographs of my stall. I have already posted a few on the Mystic Moose facebook page, but I felt a blog post was needed as well!

All the planning and foraging for display parts paid off, and I was delighted with the way the stall looked. By painting some of the wooden display boxes, which were all different kinds of wood, it gave a more cohesive look and made the products the focal point. Using upturned wine crates added height and depth to the display, and the mixture of large and smaller items drew customers in for a closer look. My one improvement for next time will be the find a better way of hanging the tote bags – I used hooks attached to the edge of the table, which worked really well, but because there were so many designs I felt it looked a little messy!

 I arrived with much more stock than I needed, and two boxes of totes sat under the stall waiting to replenish displays. Even through one never get used, I felt reassured by its presence, and would definitely bring more than needed again. As long as it can fit under the table, the worse that can happen is you turn up looking like you’re moving in!

 

I used the stall as an opportunity to launch a few new product lines; lavender bags, shrink plastic badges and new padded make-up bags. All three were very well received and have been launched in my etsy shop this week!

Selling fabric and paper crafts, and having an outdoor stall means the slightest breeze can cause chaos, which is where gaffa tape comes in. Honestly, my stall was held together with gaffa tape. I picked a spot that was relatively sheltered, but to be on the safe side I used it to tape tablecloths down, the hooks to the side of the stall, bags to their stands, price signs in their places, and to tape string around display boxes to keep cards from fluttering away. I used nearly a whole role, and gave some to my neighbouring crafters. I would recommend taking an emergency role of gaffa tape to anyone doing a stall.

Some things to bring next time:

More change – especially £5 notes!

Table clamps to save some of the gaffa tape.

A calculator – I had one perching on top of my bag before I left, but it must have fallen out!

Another calculator – in case the one you planned to bring goes missing.

A bottle of water, or a flask to tea.

Paper bags for customer’s purchases.

A card machine.

 

The wonderful thing about craft fairs is getting to meet your customers face-to-face. Selling predominantly online means you have some lovely email exchanges, but you never get the casual light heartedness of a conversation. You also have the opportunity to mingle with crafty peers, and meet some truly talented folk!

August 17, 2012

Vintage Spoon Business Card Holder

The night before I was due to do my first craft stall for my etsy shop, I had the sudden realisation that I had nothing to hold my business cards. I spent many hours working on the cards, and I am thrilled with how they turned out, so naturally, I wanted something lovely to display them in.

I remember walking around a craft show and seeing an ornate vintage display for a company’s business cards. It set them off beautifully, and I had an impulse to take one of the cards home as a token to remember both the products they sold and the carefully considered display. But with mere hours to go before my stall, I knew I had to whip something up quickly.

I’ve been collecting old spoons for a while, with the hopes of making something beautiful from them, but never finding the perfect project. I never wanted to waste them or ruin them of a craft that wasn’t right, so they just sat in my art cupboard looking lovely.

But this was an emergency. I rummaged for a hammer from the tool box, and failing to find a large rubber coated one which would have been more suited to the job, used an ordinary metal one to hammer the spoon flat. A combination of pliers and hammering was used to make an ‘n’ shape from the spoon handle and form a basic stand. I was lucky enough to get some metal alphabet stamps for my birthday last year, and tried to stamp ‘business cards’ into the edge of the underside of the spoon, which was then bent upwards at 90 degrees to hold the cards in place.

The whole thing was surprisingly quick to do, barely taking 25 minutes. I was rather pleased with the last minute project, although I doubt the neighbours were thrilled to hear me hammering metal at 9 pm at night!

August 7, 2012

Craft Fair Preparations

It is with great excitement that I inform the lovely readers of this blog, and the wonderful fans of Mystic Moose, that the time has come for our first craft fair! If you are in the Cotswolds on Saturday 11th August, then pop along to Gloucester Folk Museum for the MADEmarket, an exciting new series of craft fairs in the local area!

I am a great advocator of buying beautiful handcrafted delights and vintage trinkets whilst browsing stalls at craft fairs, but I have never been a seller at one of these events. The thought had always seemed a little daunting, mainly because of the amount of stock I would need to make in preparation. I usually keep about ten of each item and design in my stock cupboard and make more when they sell, but for a craft stall, particularly with the smaller and less expensive items, I would need much more than this or the stall would look rather empty. Having read many articles on the matter, it seemed it was far better to overestimate and arrive laden with too much stuff, and hide it under the table ready to replenish the displays, than to bring the right amount of stock and have a stall that is half empty!

Having thoroughly raided my belongings for all interesting boxes, containers and knickknacks, I have begun to sort the ones that may be of some use. A small set of shelves lying flat on its back can hold a variety of pencil cases, a wine box tipped on its side becomes both a shelf for a cotton tote bag and a display box, an empty tea chest given to me last Christmas becomes a handy container for pocket mirrors and badges.

My only problem is all of these items are made from different coloured wood and materials, and when placed together, despite making an interesting, efficient and varied display, they look inconsistent. I’ve resigned to painting them all matt white (bar a few lovely old items made from wood), with the hopes of bringing attention to the products they hold. I know from experience that having different materials to create levels or backdrops can be distracting if they lack a consistent style or colour scheme. I remember stalls I have seen that unitised wicker boxes, antique wooden wine crates, painted white benches, plywood card stands and chequered fabric covered blocks, which all looked lovely individually, but they lacked cohesion when arranged together on a stall. I guess such details are not really noticeable to the average craft-browser, who may not think twice about the design and would hopefully be gazing longingly at a beautifully handmade craft item, it is something I have noticed whilst scrutinising fairs for ideas and inspiration for my stall.

Ultimately, I guess much of the display is dependent on personal taste, alongside the style of your brand. The best stalls I have seen have used backdrops made of one or two materials, such as the aged wooden crates and some white washed furniture items. Such stalls lured me in, especially if they had smaller items that enticed me to peer closer. Whilst rummaging for display boxes, I found an old fold-up table which, with the legs removed, became a lovely screen backdrop for part of the stall, which can also be used to hang some smaller items from.

For the last month or so I have had several product lines that I wanted to make but never found the time. The craft fair is a perfect opportunity to make some of these smaller items and get a feel for how popular they are and whether it is worth making more. If all goes to plan, the below items should be available to sale online by the end of next week!

On the top of my new products list is our lovely new badges. There are two kinds – large button badges, made using my badge and mirror making machine, and the shaped ones made from exciting shrink plastic! I am very happy with these shrink wrap badges, although they can be time consuming to cut out, bake and varnish.

I also have been making lavender bags, which have filled my studio with a delicious scent. They are filled with French lavender, with a heat pressed image on the front and a twine tag for hanging in wardrobes. I have been hesitant to make them because I was uncertain about whether I could export lavender to the USA and Canada, so when I start selling them online, I will only be shipping these within the UK and Europe for the time being.

And not forgetting Make-up bags, filled with wadding to protect their contents! I planned to launch these when I started to making pencil cases, but they spent longer in the development stage than I initially thought, whilst I found the right material to use as padding. (No photos for these as yet, but expect many more to come after the stall!)

This craft fair, alongside spending many hours developing exciting new crafty products for my shop, is part of my excuse for my lack in internet presence over the last month. Blog posts I have intended to write haven’t had the time to manifest, or are waiting to evolve from hastily scribbled blurbs in sketchbooks whilst travelling on public transport. With less than a week to go, I still have many more pencil cases to sew, mirrors and badges to press, and a little bit of painting to do, but all is going exceptionally well!

The MADE market is at Gloucester Folk Museum on Saturday 11th August 2012.

June 26, 2012

British Summertime and Vintage Caravan Drawings

There is something unmistakable about holidaying in Britain, and this time of year brings up memories of childhood trips with surprising fervour. I believe it may be partially due to the weather, which seems to change its mood hourly; the smell of rain mingled with cut grass and sunshine, wet sandal-footed feet and BBQ’s that end with in a crowded kitchen, or sheltering under a porch. This June I’ve found myself looking at holidays in Devon with a kind of longing, whilst mulling over old photographs and doodling vintage-style caravans decked with bunting and flowers. The caravans and trailers owned by parents and their friends were always decorated and altered with personal touches, in honour of their travelling days.

Having a dog throughout most of my childhood meant we felt compelled to  take relatively local trips which allowed our furry friend to join us, and so I have a great nostalgia for British holidays. I can safely say that those planned for July and August share the same possibility of being dictated by the weather as those booked for June. Alongside that, however, they equally have the potential for some amazing memories. On the occasions where the sun shone and the heat was almost unbearable, we would hike to high places so that the deep blue of the sky stretched for miles around, or make dens in the fields surrounding the campsite or play hide and seek in apple orchards and have picnics on chequered blankets. The rain tested our innovation and our ability to conjure up new ways to make fun; board games were always a firm favourite, building forts from the chair cushions, or making up stories, like that one time we were oceanographers and our caravan was a submarine lost in the Atlantic. In later years we got Gameboys, and would trade Pokémon and narrate our adventures; when the rain cleared again, we would explore the long grass.

I am certain things were not always so rosy as I remember – a bunch of children in a confined space is never wholly pleasant – but the boredom and childish squabbles are easily forgotten and only the wonderful bitter-sweet moments remain in my memory. Such is the nature of nostalgia.

A few years ago a small group of friends and I stayed in a caravan in Devon for a week in June, and a half-hearted attempt to celebrate our collective childhood British holidays. That June bought thunderstorms and torrential rain instead of the usual intermittent drizzle and showers. We spent half the week in a caravan with water pouring down the windows, busying ourselves with games of scrabble and Artist Charades, (in which the players use famous artworks – installations, paintings, sculptures, sound and video, – instead of the usual books, films and TV shows,)  and when the clouds cleared we donned wellingtons and took walks across country fields, discovered secret beaches, explored rock pools and ate cheese sandwiches under the shelter of oak trees.

Although I have no time for a holiday this year, I have been looking for some kind of caravan escape for next summer, or even scraping together some impromptu weekend camping before then. Last night I discovered a website for an enchanting campsite in Cornwall, which offers some truly beautiful converted vintage vehicles as accommodation, which I feel is definitely worth perusing by anyone considering a holiday soon. In the mean time, I wanted to make a bag that would encompass these happy memories, which I could take on my outdoor wanderings to carry my spare leggings and jumpers for when the weather turns! I found it difficult to decide whether I wanted a blue or mustard colour on the illustration, and settled with making both so I could mix-and-match depending on my outfit. Even when it is raining I am now able to have cheerful little reminder of summer with me.

June 19, 2012

Lovely Things

A few more lovely things I’ve been looking at recently:

Between Folks: British Butterflies is just beautiful. Take a look at some of the other works in this series.

These delightful chicken footstools from The City Girl Farm. I also love the design of the website.

Mystic Moose’s new Folksy shop!

 Oh Comely magazine. Who couldn’t love such a delightful collection of charming articles?  I can lose myself for hours in these stories.

June 18, 2012

Woodland Animal Totes

It is no secret that I have a great fondness for foxes, and regular readers may remember several posts outlining or illustrating various reasons for this. Although it has been many months since I have mentioned them, do not assume that this is because I no longer think of them; it is merely because I cannot seem to find the time to make as many declarations of my love as I would like!

I have, however, been taking quite a few country walks recently, and these have given me some lovely quiet moments with a sketchbook. In true British summer style, the weather has been a little intermittent in the last few weeks, pouring with rain one moment and overflowing with warm sunshine the next, but on the dry occasions I have taken a few art essentials with me on my wanderings. There are some lovely worn footpaths which trace lines across fields of long grass and it is not uncommon to spot wild rabbits and deer in-between the occasional dog walker.

I quite often find a seat on a dry-stone wall or patch of mossy grass and fill a few pages with doodles and thoughts. The process verges on therapeutic, and these quiet moments are wonderful for planning new designs for my shop. Last week was perhaps a more obvious example of this, when I caught sight of a red fox along the edge of the wood across the field from me. Without my glasses on she looked like an orange smudge in the distance, but she slid into focus once I had retrieved them from my bag.

Perhaps she wasn’t used to humans, or perhaps she didn’t see or smell me sat upwind, or perhaps she simply did not care that I was there, but she came towards me in an unconcerned trot.

It was one of those instances when you daren’t move for fear or spoiling it, so I sat very still as she approached. She was a healthy fox, unlike the ones that has moved into my garden some years ago who had been covered in mange. She had a sleek coat, and a thick tail, although she was a little smaller than I had expected so I wondered if she were young, or if it were just because she was a vixen? I briefly wondered what she was doing out, being a nocturnal animal, but then decided it was relatively early in the morning and she may be on her way home for bed.

When she was about five meters away she caught sight of me and froze. We had one of those frozen and assessing moments, that seem to last longer when you’re involved in them than they do to those on the outside. Then she turned tail and melted into the shadows of the wood.

I had been thinking of heading back to my studio at that point, but instead I rummaged in my bag for my flask – for I sometimes bring a flask of tea with me on these occasions, never knowing if I will stay out longer. It is a lovely mustard coloured flask that came with a picnic set I got last winter in the sales, and I am very fond of it. Settling down with a cup of tea, I began another series of drawing of foxes. But once I had finished a few, I moved on to rabbits, who had been frolicking on the other side of the field during my drawing, and then an Eurasian Eagle Owl, which I had not seen, but had been on my mind a lot these days.

When the weather began to turn, I packed up my sketchbook and pencils and continued my walk home. Back at the studio, over another cuppa (raspberry and Echinacea herbal tea, this time, my favourite right now,) I coloured my drawings and scanned them in for preparation to transfer them onto tote bags for my etsy shop.

June 9, 2012

Making Pencil Cases and Websites

After many weeks with long hours in front of the computer, I am so pleased that the Mystic Moose website for my craft shop is finally up and running. It was a wonderful place to put all the lovely photographs of totes that never quite reach the etsy listing photos – usually because they are too detailed or busy for the thumbnails. It links to my etsy shop, since that is the only place I sell my things online at the moment, but I really enjoyed making and designing the site, and will sell things from it directly someday soon!

On the theme of lovely new things, I have also branched out from the cotton tote bags I sell in my shop. For the last few weeks I have been perfecting my designs for pencil cases and purses, heat pressing my illustrations onto un-dyed cotton and sewing them in my studio. I had a huge delivery of zips at the end of last week, but couldn’t start immediately because I was searching for the zipper foot for my sewing machine. Even though I used the normal foot for the trail runs, and it looked okay, I felt it was important to take extra care when making something I was planning on selling. I visited my local sewing shop hoping to by a new zipper foot, but they had sold out of that morning. Eventually I found it last night when I crawled into the attic to look in the box the sewing machine originally came in. The box now holds a collection of beloved children’s books I can’t seem to let go of, and right at the bottom of the box, nestled between The Lorax and The Cat Who Walked By Himself, was the zipper foot. It was still in its plastic zipper bag with a needle threader, and apparently had been left behind in my excitement to use my new sewing machine two years ago.

After that little adventure, the pencil-case-making road had few bumps, and it wasn’t long before I had quite a selection to choose from. Not using a pattern or instructions meant that it was an interesting learning experience, working out how to have all the seams on the inside and yet leave a space to turn it inside out. I tried various places for this visible seam, including along the zip and on the bottom of the lining, but eventually settled on the side of the lining since it is least visible, and it meant I could sew in a lovely little Mystic Moose tag. I altered designs that are currently used on my totes, such as the typewriter, and the vintage map hearts, but I have some new designs floating about in my head right now.

I am hoping to order my new business cards soon, but I’ve been waiting for the perfect photograph of my products, and this wider range of sizes should making interesting compositions more exciting!

Also, don’t forget to enter the Mystic Moose giveaway over at Lazy Explorers! You could win your favourite Mystic Moose cotton tote, and the winner will be chosen on 13th June 2012, so head over to find out how to enter!  This giveway is now closed, and the winner can be found here.

June 8, 2012

Mystic Moose Tote Giveaway

Giveaway Time!

I am delighted to announce that the lovely Chloe from Lazy Explorers is hosting a Mystic Moose giveaway!  Which is your favourite cotton tote from Mystic Moose? You can have up to four entries per person, and be in with a chance to win the tote of your choice!

Take a peek at her latest blog post to read an interview with me about Mystic Moose, and make sure to comment on her post once you have entered. (The rest of her blog is full of beautiful and inspiring things and is well worth a read as well, so make sure you wander through!) The lucky winner will be chosen on 13th June 2012 over at Lazy Explorers.

This giveway is now closed, and the winner can be found here.

May 25, 2012

Lovely Things

A few lovely things I’ve been looking at over the last few days:

A wonderful music video for Østersøen by Ödland.

 The beautiful packaging of Zodiac Tea.

Charming cards from Whit & Whistle.

Our new Mystic Moose pocket mirrors.

This delightful guinea fowl apron from Stephanie Cole Design.

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