Wednesday, 30 June 2010

Answers on a Postcard is here!

Hello everyone! I'm feeling far more chipper today because the latest issue of Answers on a Postcard is in my Etsy shop and ready for sale! This month's question received a huge range of responses, and the burning issue was: crafting and home life, do they always mix? To find out how those of us running a part time or full time crafty enterprise alongside all the demands of keeping your home reasonably ship shape, click through to the Girl Industries Etsy shop to pick up a copy!

We've even got some new contributors this month, in the shape of Frayed at the Edges, who I met for the first time at a notebook-making taster class recently - that's an example of Julie's lovely stiching above - and Laurafallulah, whose floral logo (see below) I first spied on the excellent Bugs and Fishes blog absolutely yonks ago, but still makes me smile every time I see it.

As ever, contributors to the zine can pick up their discounted copy here. You can pick up this month's edition, and any from the last few months that catch your eye, too. Just let me know in the notes to seller bit which ones you'd like - or if you're anything like me - convo me after you hit the big green button and go aaaargh with forgetfulness. Hurrah!

Thanks go to all my readers and contributors for their input and support - this wouldn't be half as much fun if I was just making them for myself! Although I'm kind of nosey like that, so I think I'd probably still do it anyway.

Sunday, 27 June 2010

Update on progress - I think I'm winning!

Update: Actually, I did win something! This lovely contest held by the Mayberry Sparrow. Hurray! You can get your own here, and as something of a frequent flyer with Corrabelle's etsy store, I can heartily recommend her.

Friday, 25 June 2010

My craft room

I'm hoping to get this in even better shape for the forthcoming Answers on a Postcard crafting space issue, but in the meantime, here's how my attic craft room (complete with ensuite!) is coming along...
I'm hoping to add a sofa bed, eventually, so it can do double-duty as a guest room. And I definitely want to display all my crafty treasures on the walls, too.

Wednesday, 23 June 2010

A new project

I've been starting to think about packing my bag for the hospital, and one thing on the list that I didn't have yet was a little blanket for the baby. My personal preference is for traditional cellular cotton blankets, the type you get in hospital, they are so warm and durable. But, I am a knitter, and I do have something of an abundance of yarn, so I decided to knit up a cot-sized blanket in the next few weeks while I'm resting up.

Here's my progress from day 1 - I was hoping to get through a ball of yarn a day, but I'm working in my favourite stitch, moss stitch, which takes more time than a stocking stitch would. It's a bit cheesy, but I'm looking forward to giving the baby something I made just for him or her as a very first present. And what says 'welcome' better than a lovely snuggly blanket - in a tasteful gender neutral colour, of course!

For those with an interest in that kind of thing, I'm working in Rowan Calmer, a shade called Delight, which I would describe as a lightweight springy yarn with a buttermilk kind of colour. I'll keep you updated as I go! Because, you know, that way I'll get it finished.

Monday, 21 June 2010


Here's another shot of me, this time me and the bump are modelling my new constant companion, an Asking for Trouble shopper, which I bought on I bought the organic shopper version, but there are bookbag versions and allsorts, or you can even buy the design on a t-shirt.

I also picked up some cards with the same design, which are now available directly from the Asking for Trouble website shop. They make a great alternative to a postcard if you're having a staycation this year!

Saturday, 19 June 2010

A little bit of crafting

I'm a regular collector of rubber stamps from Corrabelle's Etsy shop, and made these little thank you cards for tucking into packages and notes using one of her beautifully carved stamps, as a little present for a friend with a circus-themed shop.

It's so hot here, I've not been able to do any really complex crafting, but it's nice to be organised, and my craft room is certainly coming together. New photos of that particular project coming soon!

(translation: it's still a flippin' mess, but hopefully not for much longer!)

If you'd like to get hold of some of Corrabelle's lovely stamps, you can visit her shop on Etsy, or you can enter her contest right now - over on her blog at The Mayberry Sparrow.

Wednesday, 16 June 2010

Paying It Forward - mini super sale

I'm having a mini PIF sale on tiny stationery enclosures in the Girl Industries etsy shop. These are ideal for slipping in with online orders, if you sell your crafts online, or for those occasions when less (info) is more! For only 25c plus postage you can snap up a few bargains, click here to find the special items!

Tuesday, 15 June 2010

Good causes

While I'm keeping my feet up and finding patterns hard to follow, I've been working through my stash and my odds and ends of wool and putting it to good use.

I started off yesterday afternoon with a ziploc bag full of scraps of yarn, and came up with these stripey and patterned hats for the annual Innocent Drinks campaign to help out older people.

Then, while taking a break on Twitter, Cat from Wildcat Designs pointed me in the direction of people who were looking for squares for a range of community and charity projects. So now I'm busting my stash in earnest, and hopefully spreading a bit of knitting cheer out in the world. Maybe I'll even get involved in the International Fiber Collaborative's efforts to wrap a space rocket in yarn!

If you're a bit of a knitter, like me, you have a few hours left to enter the competition over at the Glasgow Craft Mafia blog. And if you were taking part in Knit in Public Day on Saturday - I hope you had a good one!

Sunday, 13 June 2010

Calling all contributors and collaborators

As you know, I'm nearly halfway through the year of Answers on a Postcard zines. It's not too late to join in, or submit more answers, if you have already taken part.

I have an email of the remaining questions, plus some new ones, lined up and ready to go, if you're interested! Drop me a line to katy at girlindustries dot com, or leave me a comment here with your email address and get involved.

The zines have been a great success so far, but I'd love to make the rest of the year bigger and better. As ever, it's a fab opportunity to get your name out there with the rest of the crafty community and those all important customers. And with only ten weeks to go until the patter of tiny feet hits Penman Towers, I'm itching to get organised before I really find out what busy is all about!
And don't forget, as well as being available right now in the Girl Industries Etsy shop, you can also pick up a copy of the zine on special offer over at Asking for Trouble. Until tomorrow, the buy one get one free deal on all of the zines on offer in Marceline's shop means you can pick up one of the zines in the Postcard series and discover something new, too.

Friday, 11 June 2010

Lucky dip

I'm such a sucker for tombolas, lucky bags and surprises. So how could I resist when the proprietor of Hannah Zakari was having a clearout of her fabric stash, prior to the exciting launch of her new bricks and mortar shop in Edinburgh?

After placing an order yesterday, I was delighted to see a little red van pull up outside the house this lunchtime with a big old parcel just for me!

And here is a selection of the delights inside:

I've been itching to get back behind my sewing machine for a while, but I have a feeling it needs a service and a new needle before I let it loose on such lovely fabric. If you'd like to score a similar (but entirely different) addition to your own fabric (and notions!) stash, hit up HZ's ebay shop, where you can pick from entire bolts of designer fabric, alongside the mystery bags. To visit the new shop in person, keep your eyes on the website for launch details.

Photo via SBJM

And speaking of good times in Edinburgh this summer, why not do your bit to improve cross-pond relations and help two Brooklyn-based comedians on their way to do almost daily free shows at Whistle Binkies during the festival? I'm hoping to get along to catch a show and say hi, as long as I'm not busy having a baby while they're on, I can manage the stairs and remember if any embarrassments from my student antics preclude me from entering WBs. Last time they were here, Leah and Katie were named "Biggest Revelation" by The Guardian, became addicted to haggis and deep fried mars bars, and even got SUED! Help them make all their dreams come true, and more, by pledging as little as $5 to help them on their way.
As a side note, I'm really impressed with as a model for creative types to fund their endeavours - have a look at the main page for an explanation of how it works. It's kind of a justgiving site for the arts rather than charitable organisations. I wonder if Wired UK or one of our Dragons might be interested in a British outpost of the same type of site...

Thursday, 10 June 2010

Attention knitters!

There's a new competition over at the Glasgow Craft Mafia website, to win a copy of In the Loop - a fantastic new coffee table/academic book about the edgier side of the revival in knitting. For a full review (by yours truly) and full details of how to enter the competition, go to the Craft Mafia blog before Wednesday 17 June.

Wednesday, 9 June 2010

We Make London

I have such mobility envy at the moment! Quite apart from tonight's trip to Dundee I really wanted to make this evening, I'd hoped to hop on a train to London before the baby arrived but circumstances have conspired against me. I would really have liked to pop along to some of the great crafty events taking place this summer, and We Make London in particular caught my eye.

On Saturday 26 June, at Chelsea Town Hall, Etsy will be sponsoring this showcase of nearly 50 indie crafters and maker. Answers on a Postcard regular, Hatastic!, will be there, alongside the long-admired Laurafallulah (she of the exquisite flowers), star knitter Strikk (cable cushions to die for) and some new to me artists like ILikeSleeping and boutique of postable pressies, Love Post.
Of course, all of the exhibitors have a web presence so I can always indulge myself at home instead. Those of you in the area, I'd encourage you to check it out on my behalf!

Tuesday, 8 June 2010

Retail therapy

Image courtesy of Spring Chick Designs

I really enjoyed watching last night's episode of Mary, Queen of Shops. I've always been passionate about retail - when I wasn't taping songs off the radio, knitting myself ill-designed jumpers or reading under the covers as a child, I was most likely selling buttons to my unwilling sister, stuffed animals and dolls in my "shop". My first ever job was in a supermarket, and I worked my way up to store manager in 5 years, taking time out to start an MBA in New York, with placements in product development (Blackberry, VOIP technology) and high-end retail (heritage French couture, luxury goods websites). Regular readers will know that I started my first business at the age of 15, designing and selling stationery and making and selling small haberdashery projects -the business went on to win a national Young Enterprise award and, cringe, a computer for my school!

I kind of stepped away from it all for a few years to work in the public sector as I felt that it was a waste of my energies to make other people rich, if I couldn't make a ton of money for myself, I was going to make a little bit of money and try to improve the quality of life for those who needed it most. The ethics of big business and the absence of morality and compassion I'd observed in the board room and management team meetings weren't something I aspired to emulate, or have my name associated with, and I took a step back. And then with the advent of online outlets like Etsy, I realised that I didn't need to keep putting that night class at web design school on the back burner.

So I found myself in business as a homepreneur, but missing the direct social interaction of face to face contact with the customer. So last night's TV show really got me thinking, and like most 'reality' business tv these days (I'm thinking Country House Rescue, Ramsay's Kitchen Nightmares too), it appears to have a three part formula.

Know your competitors and the wider market
Actively expand your customer base
Trust or nurture your employees' expertise, and empower them to work hard for you

One thing I think the programmes tend to gloss over is that you need to be doing this stuff all the time, not just when you set up shop, or when you get a TV show intervention.

So how would I translate these ideals into actions for the sole trading, non-b&m marketplace?

Identify and maximise your USP - find what sets you apart from your competitors and refine then promote this angle. It could be your unique skills, training or process, the superior quality of your product, your responsiveness to customisation, your packaging, presentation or photography style.

Think laterally about your customer base, and how to draw in the internet equivalent of passing trade. Provide guest posts for blogs which complement but don't compete with, your product or range. Collaborate with people you admire, and be selective about how and where your promote your work.

You are your workforce! Sharpen your skills and stick with what you do well. You can't do everything, but you can network and skill swap as well as buy in the things you need. Remember you wouldn't be expected to do certain things in paid employment without having training or coaching, so don't put unrealistic pressure on yourself to do well at things you haven't done before. I'd be lost without buying in design services and off-site printing, for example. Be your own cheerleader for the stuff you can do well, and don't be scared to reevaluate and even walk away from a product or process that's no longer working out.

For more business advice from successful indie businesses like t-boo, Asking for Trouble, Swirlyarts, and Charlotte Hupfield Ceramics, consider picking up a copy of the latest issue of the Answers on a Postcard zine, where I asked contributors what hard-won advice they'd give themselves, looking back.

Monday, 7 June 2010

Bump shot

The first and only photo we have that looks good enough to share!

Sunday, 6 June 2010

Look what I made!

So this pregnancy malarkey means that I've picked up a nasty habit of eating between meals, something I've spent the last ten years untraining myself to do, with varying levels of success. I've been trying very hard to stick to things that are good for me, like fruit or seeds or whatever is in my graze box, but sometimes you just need something a bit more... substantial.

So I adapted a recipe for oat and raisin cookies to use up stuff we had in the cupboards. And here's how it turned out:

If you want to make your own, here's what you need:

4 tbsp butter (see, not even that much!)

125g caster sugar (but no-one's going to tell if you use granulated, or whatever you have to hand)

1 egg, beaten (I didn't beat mine first. I don't think it mattered)

50g plain flour

1/2 tsp salt

1/2 tsp baking powder

175g rolled oats

125g dried apricots (originally raisins, but we have loads of apricots, and I didn't fancy picking the raisins out of the dried fruit mix we bought them in)

2tsp flaked almonds (originally sesame seeds but almonds just seemed like a better idea)

Start off by lightly greasing 2 baking trays with butter. Or oil spray, if you prefer. Put the oven on to 180 degrees, gas mark 4, or if you have a fan cooker like our new one (can't get used to it), about 160 degrees. Using a food processor, I then chucked in the ingredients in the following order: sugar, butter, egg, flour, salt, baking powder, oats, apricots (which I chopped in the mini food processor), almonds. This isn't how the book says to do it, but they still turned out lovely and tasty and only took me about four minutes to make.

You should manage to get about 12 dessert-spoon sized ball shapes out of these. If you cook them for 12-15 minutes in big lumps, they stay nice and chewy in the middle and crunchy on the outside. For a more biscuity, less flapjacky texture, shape them into biscuit shapes. I made half and half, and the biscuity ones went more quickly. I had to play about a bit with the timing because I'm not quite up to speed with how our oven works yet, but I took them out of the oven once I'd finished washing up, and when they started to look toasty-brownish on top.

For my next batch I'm going to use up some apples and throw in some cinnamon. What's your favourite flavour mix?

Saturday, 5 June 2010

I'm back!

Oops, I seem to have disappeared for a while there. Not only did our new internet connection at the new house get messed up by our provider (but we kind of expected that), the problems I've been having with my back, hips and pelvis have unfortunately become a lot worse in the last couple of weeks. So much so that I've been signed off work for the next month, as well as having had to take it easy for the last two weeks when I was supposed to be on holiday.

This also means I can't do anything too crafty, not just on my doctor's orders, but also because it is bloomin' sore and affecting my concentration, as well as frustrating. The worst thing is not being able to bend over, I'm a very clumsy person and always dropping things. I'm not sure what is worse, having to wait until my husband gets home from work to pick up a dropped needle or pair of scissors, or the indignity of having to ask! But I'm in good spirits and able to blog briefly so I'll try to be a bit more disciplined about keeping up to date over the next month or so - it's very easy to fall into bad habits if you lose the hang of things for a while.

I'm going to try and take lots of photos of the new house, including the craft room as it comes together, and if I manage to get out and about, some of the local scenery - for example the lovely Ochils which you can just see from our back garden.