P-p-p…picking a penguin

by Helen on September 9, 2014

Hmm … think I might be showing my age! British readers of a certain vintage will know exactly what I mean – remembering those p-p-p-pick-up-a-penguin biscuit ads from the 1970s.  But I digress.  One of my patterns for the current magazine is a cute little penguin softie ….

I was thinking very much about my new son-in-law (still not quite used to typing this) when I created this little fellow as Dan’s favourite animal (OK, bird) is a penguin.  And I’ve been wondering about making some Christmas PJ bottoms for the happy couple – and whether Dan might like a penguin version.  I spotted this really nice flannel by Stella Jean for Wilmington Prints over at the Fat Quarter Shop

Reminds me a bit of my softie!  And then (because I’m quickly becoming a bit of a Pinterest addict) I started putting together a little Penguins board ….

PicMonkey Collage (4)

There are some great Penguin ideas around – hope you like my selection!  Just click here to take a look!


Recycling ….!

by Helen on September 8, 2014

One of the things I most love about fabric is that it’s so versatile, and can be re-used over and over in so many ways.  I have been researching American quilting for a series of short articles in my the Bustle & Sew Magazine (August – October issues) and was amazed and humbled at how those pioneer women incorporated even the tiniest pieces – that had often been recycled two or three times previously – into their quilting projects.  And this week I’ve been doing my own little bit of recycling.

As you may remember, I’ve been making Rosie some dresses to take on her honeymoon next week.  She purchased two new lengths of fabric, but funds were tight and she couldn’t manage another length although she would have loved a third dress.  So I had a little rummage in my cupboard and came up with the fabric we used for her wedding cake table ….


Seen here complete with yummy cakes and pin cushion mice standing guard (photograph courtesy of Emma Case Photography)  It’s a very pretty white cotton printed with tiny pink flower sprigs.  And I thought – that will make a lovely summery dress …..


And it has!  Seen here just waiting to have the hem taken up.  Lightweight, fresh and pretty – and (nearly) free –  RESULT!


Lovely mellow Sunday ….

by Helen on September 7, 2014

Early September is one of my most favourite times, and this year it’s been especially lovely down here in south Devon with misty mornings, heavy dews and beautiful golden days … so welcome after the horrible grey days towards the end of last month.  The Newfies love this time of year too.  Now the weather’s a little cooler they can go out and about more, and as there are fewer visitors I can relax and let them run free again.  It’s not that they’re unfriendly – no – the problem is quite the reverse, in that they can both (but especially Daisy) be rather too friendly which can be a little alarming if you’re not used to, or don’t particularly like, dogs.

Today we went up to the woods at Woodleigh, about 20 minutes from home.  This collection of four woods is very extensive, and we haven’t by any means explored them all yet.  I’m hoping to find the path down to the river now I’m able to walk longer distances again (with the help of my trusty walking pole).  That’s the River Avon, the same river that I blogged about a couple of weeks ago.

This is the path down through the fields into the woods, which stretch right down to the river along the valley floor.  And if I were to turn round and cross the lane, then I could walk another two or three miles the other way too.  The woods at Woodleigh were the first to be acquired by the Woodland Trust and are grouped on the outer edge of the tiny village of Woodleigh with its twisty lanes and picture-perfect English cottages …

And on the way home there’s the chance to stop at the garden centre, which like so many has diversified and so, after browsing bulbs, bushes and other gardening goodies, it’s fun to pop into the little deli and choose from a lovely array of local  ……

and some not-so-local produce …

Before heading home for a gentle snooze (the Newfies) and some seasonal sewing (me).

Here’s the first two completed projects for the October issue of the Bustle & Sew Magazine and I do hope you like them.


Ask the Bunny ….. Pricing

by Helen on September 5, 2014

A little while ago I invited people to “Ask the Bunny” here on my blog, and by far the largest number of questions related to pricing your handmade goodies for sale. This is definitely the thorniest of areas and there is no real right or wrong … or is there?

Although I personally don’t make to sell any more, I’ve attended plenty of craft fairs in the past (as DevonBear Designs), and sold handmade items both on my website and through Etsy. Like so many people I have always struggled to put a value on my work. I wonder if that’s perhaps because we’re taught from a very early age to be modest and self-deprecating about our achievements? This then translates to us feeling uncomfortable about asking what we think is too much for our handmade creations – perhaps feeling that this is a bit like showing off about how good they are.

100_4919 fixed 500w

In some ways I think under-pricing is a worse “sin” if you’ll forgive the word, than over-pricing. Let’s face it, it’s easy to reduce your prices if something isn’t selling, but nobody has ever (in my experience anyway) suggested paying more than your asking price. I’ve been told I wasn’t charging enough, but wasn’t offered more hard cash to make up for it! And if you under-price you may be only just covering your costs (or not) and by undercutting other sellers making it harder for them to charge a realistic price for their work. But before I go off on one about this (as Rosie would say), I think it’s worth having a look at how much it actually costs to make your softie/bag/cushion or anything else…..

When you’re working out your cost price then there are various elements you need to consider:

  • Cost of supplies – self explanatory
  • Time taken/your hourly rate – what is a basic living wage where you are?
  • Hidden costs – promotion, packaging, utilities, costs of attending shows, website costs, PayPal fees etc

Many makers are happy with the first element and price to cover those costs, but forget all about paying themselves and all the other costs incurred in making something. If you’re serious about selling your makes and achieving a profit, no matter how tiny, then you simply can’t ignore these second two elements. If you’re going to give your time away for free then you will never develop a successful crafting business. Instead of lowering your product price to compete with others – especially hobbyists who only sell to cover material costs – you will need to think of ways in which you can develop a strong brand with a good reputation, making sure that customers will see your items as special and desirable, especially if you’re not the cheapest in the marketplace.

An added complication is that your pricing should also be appropriate to your target market, and where you’re selling your products. If you’re selling at local craft fairs then you’ll almost certainly find that you have to charge less than you would online for your products to sell. People go to these events for “a nice day out” and to “pick up a bargain” whereas online there is much more awareness, thanks at least in part to sites such as Etsy and Not on the High Street, of what a fair price should be.

Charlie Barlee Studio makes my Fabric Deer Head design to sell and credits Bustle & Sew on her FaceBook. That’s absolutely fine, and her deer heads are lovely. 

And finally … don’t forget to consider copyright when you’re making to sell. I know that Disney, for example, are very tough on people selling Disney-themed items without their consent.  Many pattern writers also don’t allow commercial use of their designs unless you purchase a special licence, which again you will also need to build into the cost of making each item. As I don’t sell myself, I’m more than happy for you to make items from my patterns to sell – provided you have made them yourself and that you credit Bustle & Sew with the design – I think that’s only fair, don’t you?