Saturday, 19 February 2011

Focus on.....

Focus on.... Sew Handmade

Sew Handmade is a new fabric store in Knighton, Powys, right next to the owner’s knitting store First 4 Yarns. Having conquered the knitting market in their area they’ve now branched into stitching.

Sew Handmade stock a range of fabric, both sold by length or in charm packs, fabric bundles, jelly rolls and layer cakes from designers such as Amy Butler, Kaffe Fassett, Clothworks and Moda.

They run a sewing group on a Wednesday morning with a tutor on hand for any help in starting out or just general help. You will also find a ‘local makers’ section in their store where you will find items made by local crafters up for sale. Products include camper van cushions to bunting to quilts.

They also stock a range of patterns, sewing accessories, books and magazines. You can buy through their website as well as in store. Their site can be found at:

Sunday, 13 February 2011

Focus on.....

Focus on..... JM Sewing

JM Sewing based near to Aylesbury, Buckinghamshire offers both sewing services and sewing tuition. The business owner, Jeanne Monit, has over 40 years sewing experience so you know you’ll be in good hands.

On the sewing services front she can alter or repair clothing as well as making bespoke soft furnishings or altering curtains for her customers.

Tuition wise she runs 2 regular weekly classes on a Wednesday morning and a Thursday evening. The small class size (6 maximum) allows for individual support. Jeanne offers an introduction to sewing basics and then teaches topics such as making curtains, cushions and roman blinds and dressmaking skills.

She also offers individual tuition on an ad hoc basis when someone wants help with specific topics or techniques. For more information please view their listing on The Sewing Directory and contact Jeanne for more information:

Friday, 11 February 2011

Tips from a beginner

by Stuff Mummy Makes

‘OK, so I got this sewing machine for Christmas….’

Probably not the best way to start a blog post on a site with so many clever and talented people on, but hey, everyone’s got to start somewhere, right?  So I did! Well, actually, everyone was ill over Christmas, so I didn’t actually get to even look at it properly until well into January. I kept looking at it watching me from the table in the corner…and decided it was now or never!

So, although I really am a newbie at all this, (yes, it was Christmas 2010 I got the machine!) I thought there must be some more people out there like me, and decided to share a few things I’ve picked up through trial and error, friends, and Google along the way! 

Firstly, and most importantly – read your machine manual. Seriously. I fought with my machine for an hour (from somewhere I seem to have picked up the male ‘I don’t need a manual’ mentality!), and after broken nails, threads, and spirit, I decided to admit defeat and read. Twenty minutes later, she was whirring away like, well, a sewing machine! One for the ‘I told you so’ group….lol!

A good way to get started is to raid your wardrobe. I say yours…the husband, kids, pets, laundry…leave no fabric unturned! Rather than forking out for expensive fabric that you’ve just ‘gotta have’, only to ruin it because you’ve cut the pattern with arms where the head should go…cut up something old! You loved it enough to buy it once – why not turn it into something fabulous and get a whole new lease of life out of it?

This is the first item of clothing I ever made…a long sleeve tshirt for my son made from an old short sleeve tshirt of my partners! For a pattern I just laid one of my son’s tshirts on the big one and cut round it – I didn’t have a clue what I was doing, and it still turned out ok!

The internet is such a valuable tool for inspiration and ideas (well, you’re here, right? ‘nuff said!) – so use it! There are a plethora of free patterns, blogs, websites, etc, and everyone is so keen to help you out! Go surfing and see what you can find!

Now for a few little things that I’ve found helpful…

Have a bin or rubbish bag next to your machine. You don’t want to be picking little pieces of thread out of your carpet for weeks…believe me. I know.

Try and make sure you have everything you need handy when you sit down at the machine – there’s nothing more frustrating than having to keep getting up and down every five minutes!

Big pins with big coloured heads are GOOD. Tiny pins with tiny silver heads get lost in your clothing, carpets, etc, and end up in your fingers, feet….you get the picture.

Lastly…enjoy yourself! Before you get bogged down with making Auntie Mabel 20 pairs of new bloomers…make some things for you. Pretty things. Things you don’t need! After sitting and reading this post, you deserve it! There is no end to your creativity!!

You can follow Stuff Mummy Makes on her blog: or on Twitter here: 

Thursday, 3 February 2011

Where to sell your crafts

This is the first in a new series of guest blog posts.  We know that many of you are turning your crafting hobby into an income and there is such a range of places to sell online now so we've asked an expert for advice to help you choose where to sell:

Selling Handmade Online

Selling online has become easier and easier. A variety of applications and programmes are on offer to help create an online marketplace, from Wordpress plugins, Pavyment on Facebook, marketplace sites such as Folksy, as well as a variety of solutions for creating your own online store. It can be baffling to decide how and where to sell your handmade goods. Most of the options for selling online will require a Paypal account.

Handmade Marketplace Websites

There are a range of sites that enable you to sell handmade items or supplies under their umbrella, such as Folksy, Etsy or MISI, to name a few.

• CMS (control management system ie type in the box, no HTML knowledge is needed, for ease of management

• Listing fees, typically around 20p per item

• % commission on final sale fee

• Handmade and supplies only (some sites also allow Vintage items)

• Individual store with unique url e.g.

• Basic SEO and keyword knowledge needed

• Requires promotion and regular listings

• Opportunity for community and networking e.g. Etsy teams, Listing challenges, forums

• No moderation (although, Front page is often curated on these sites)

• A low-risk option for testing the water, as well as another outlet for more seasonsed sellers.

Gift Websites

Gift websites for designer makers are increasingly popular and offer a similar, but more exclusive, service to the handmade marketplace websites previously mentioned. A few examples are Gift Wrapped and Gorgeous  Not on the High Street, Swanky Maison

• Selection process for new sellers – quality of products and images need to be high.

• Membership fee (No listing fees after this)

• % commission on sales – higher than handmade marketplaces such as Folksy.

• Unique store

• CMS for easy listing and management

• Same amount of work as listing on sites such as Folksy e.g. Knowledge of SEO and keywords still needed to get full benefit.

• Increased chance of Press coverage from site owners’ PR. Before signing up, ask about costs of inclusion in promotional media e.g. fee for featuring in seasonal brochures

• For more established designer-makers.

Own website

• Domain name usually required

• Hosting costs may apply, but some offer a free trial.

• No listing fees or commission

• Control over design, categories etc

• No limit on what you can sell ie scope to add complimentary product ranges that are not handmade

• Can be a drain on time, but there are some quick, easy to use solutions eg Big Cartel, Super Simple Shop or Create are just a few examples. Many of these offer introductory offers, but read the pricing and small print for signing up.

• Requires promotion and SEO optimisation to a greater extent than any other option.

• Time and money make this a more serious venture when you are ready to commit to selling online. However, when you factor in listing fees and commission taken, it is likely to be less expensive in the long-run, allowing you to sell direct to customers without the middle-man. Just remember that the middle-man does work to drive traffic to their site, which gives you a head start that you can capitalise on with good use of keywords in your item titles and descriptions. Going it alone requires commitment to SEO and promotion.

Viv Smith, is the owner of Poppy Sparkles ( ), creating Handmade Birthstone Jewellery. 
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