Thursday, 5 December 2013

My Folksy Shop is Open!

I have been busy for the last 6 weeks working on my Folksy shop! I had dreamed about selling online for a long time and decided that 2013 was the year I would step out of my comfort zone and do it!

I have sold brooches, finger puppets, purses and necklaces at local craft fairs for the last few years and had already chosen the name "marta's eco crafts".


The biggest hurdle for me was not in the making of craft items to sell but the business side of things. I wrote up a business plan first, which really helped me to see what I needed to do and what my goals were. I then contacted several banks about setting up a business account. Setting up an account with my chosen bank took about 4 weeks, there seemed to be endless admin problems, the funniest one being that they set it up with my first name spelt as "Magda"!




Opening a shop on the Folksy website was straight forward because they have a frequently asked questions page which really does answer everything! My sister's partner Mat helped me with my avatar and shop banner. I think he did an excellent job and I'm really happy with the colours. I spent a lot of time photographing my work to give clear pictures of my necklaces and brooches before listing them with their descriptions.




Sales have gone well so far which I think has been helped by promoting my page on facebook and instagram. Once I started selling I registered with HMRC for tax purposes (something I'm not looking forward to submitting in January!). I'm looking forward to making new items in the New Year ...

If you'd like to take a peek at my folksy shop, the link is

www.folksy.com/shops/martasecocrafts

Tuesday, 22 October 2013

Amigurumi Pattern Writing

I haven't blogged for a few weeks because it has been school holiday time. The boys had two weeks off school and we did a mix of everything from pyjama days, friends round to play, swimming and crafts to family days out. They went back to school yesterday and the dog and I are thoroughly enjoying the quiet house once again!

I began to write my first crochet pattern at the end of term but found the noisy background of the holidays too distracting for what was proving to be a far more technical challenge than I had anticipated. I decided to put it aside, enjoy time with the boys and carry on once the holidays were over.

I began to crochet amigurumi (amigurumi is a japanese word for a small knitted or crocheted stuffed toy with anthropomorphic features) about 5 or 6 years ago. After following patterns in books for 6 months or so I began to design my own amigurumis, which usually took the form of cute monsters, making the designs up as I went along.


One of my early monsters

Recently I decided it would be good to write the pattern down to enable other crafters to make my designs. I took one of my favourite amigurumis and began to make a duplicate, writing down the pattern in row by row form. I ended up with a page of scribbles that I understood and could follow again if necessary but it would be hard for anyone else to follow! I powered up the computer and began to type it up in the traditional format. An hour later and I had only managed to write up instructions for the head ...  I knew then that it was going to take a while ...


The amigurumi pattern I'm developing


So, the holidays are over and it's time to return to pattern writing!

Thursday, 3 October 2013

Bramble Jelly

I made strawberry jam for the first time in July this year and although it didn't quite set properly the smell and taste was enough to have me hooked on jam making! I tried making raspberry jam next and bought the berries directly from East Scryne Farm, just outside our town. This time the jam set perfectly and I decided to enter it into the local Flower Show. I was very surprised to find it came 2nd place and this really encouraged me to carry on preserving!

Over the next few weeks I made redcurrant jelly and another batch of raspberry jam. Some were given away to friends, others I have kept aside to remind me of the warmth of late summer when it's cold and dark in the winter months. The young plum tree in our garden produced an abundance of juicy plums for the first time this year. As soon as they were ready they went straight into the pot!




At the moment I am regularly out foraging for brambles (in Scotland we call blackberries brambles). I pick brambles from many different locations which gives a bigger range in taste and sweetness levels and also ensures I leave plenty for nature to enjoy. When I get home they go straight in the freezer and when there are about 4-5kg I will turn them into bramble jelly.

I have been making bramble jelly for about 10 years and it's something I anticipate with excitement every year. Throughout the summer I check on all my usual patches to see how they are developing and look forward to that first taste of bramble jelly. I made redcurrant and bramble jelly last week which was a good combination of flavours, producing a sweeter jelly than brambles on their own. I think I have about one more  week to go out foraging before the brambles are left for the birds to finish off and it will be bramble jelly time again!

Friday, 27 September 2013

Works in Progress

I was having a big tidy up in the middle of the week and one of the most frequent items I came across were half finished pieces, 'works in progress' or WIPs. Some of them had only been put aside for a few days, others cast aside for a few months, one or two I have had hidden under a pile of crafty supplies for a few years!!

Once I had tidied everything else back in its place I examined these WIPs and tried to decide what to do with them. One or two simply needed ends sewing in which I dealt with in half an hour (why had I put this off for so long?). Others needed a specific item, most frequently badge pins which I have now ordered. With some WIPs I had run out of wool or changed my mind about the pattern. I will need think about what to do in these cases. I have a small piece of felt ready to begin embellishing with embroidery thread. There is a crocheted wrap around cardigan which needs its sleeves finished but I stumbled across problems with it and flung it aside. I really like the look of this pattern and the yarn is super soft, 70% wool, 30% alpaca, so I think I'll dust it off, sit down with a large mug of tea and work out where to go with it. The granny squares are the start of a large granny square blanket using up scraps of wool. I have crocheted 76 squares and  run out of scraps!

Secretly I like having all these WIPs because I enjoy bouncing from one project to another, it keeps my ideas fresh and stops me from getting fed up with something.  However, my aim is to finish as many of these as I can in the next few days so that I can create space for new pieces ... and the cycle will begin again ...

I am sure I'm not the only one with lots of WIPs on the go. Do you like to move from project to project? Leave a comment to let me know and alert me of any self help groups out there!

Tuesday, 24 September 2013

Time to start blogging ...

I have been thinking about starting a blog for a while and decided to start today as it's dull and misty outside and seems like a day to be indoors.

Lately I have been finalising my plans to open a shop at www.folksy.com, a UK based craft site. I decided to start with a piece of handmade felt with embroidery detailing for my shop's banner. Mat, my sister's partner, has been a fantastic help with the graphics.

I am going to sell my up-cycled necklaces and felt brooches to begin with. The necklaces are made from many different beads from other necklaces, together with beads I have embroidered and felted. The felt brooches are made from shrunken wool jumpers with needle felting and embroidery details.

I love to rummage in charity shops for necklaces and jumpers. I take the necklaces home, free them from their elastic or ribbon, scrub them up and add them to my huge box of beads. I can then run my hands through them and spot colour combinations which look good together and begin to pull out beads which work well together. I then add to theses by making some wrapped, crocheted or embroidered beads, picking out embroidery thread to compliment the colour scheme. I use the wet felting technique to make one or two felted beads, adding more texture to the necklace. The finished necklace is on a joint thread of leather and is very tactile, ranging from super smooth plastic to bumpy thread and wool.

My next steps in starting up my business are the more technical issues of setting up a bank account, HMRC registering and from filling. I'm not looking forward to this side of things, but hope to finish them quickly and get back to crafting soon!