Monday, 24 March 2014

4 years ago today...

....I was at The Sewing For Pleasure show setting up my stand ready to launch The Sewing Directory.  It's hard to believe how much the site has evolved since then. I found this old mock up of the site from 2009 when my concept was for a directory only website, which would focus on dressmaking businesses.

At the show I launched at I soon realised that people didn't want just a directory, they wanted content and lots of it.  So I soon added interviews with sewing entrepreneurs and authors, technique guides, sewing projects, details of sewing events, competitions and more.  Luckily as a small business I was able to adapt quickly to what people wanted.

A couple years ago I realised it was mainly crafters using the directory wanting sewing classes or supplies so I removed the dressmakers and launched the workshops database instead. I also started writing business guides for people who wanted to make money from their love of crafts and this ended up leading to a book deal, and a new website which will be launching by the summer.

Article in Craft Focus Magazine written by me

I then started writing for magazines, and working with the Craft and Hobby Association as an affiliate business expert, running my own sewing meet ups as well as traveling the country training people on SEO, marketing and social media.

I now have friends all around the country that I have met through The Sewing Directory, have traveled to places I've never been before and done things well outside of my comfort zone - such a giving a seminar at the Autumn Fair in the NEC! Plus by the end of this year I will have achieved my life long dream of having a book published.

Making bags for charity at one of my sewing meetups

It has been a real rollercoaster over the last 4 years but I have loved almost every minute of it.  I am so grateful that I had an idea which sparked a whole new life for me.  I get to wake up happy and do something I enjoy.  I actually enjoy weekdays as much as weekends because work doesn't feel like work to me.

I won't lie, there have been hard times, really hard times where we've had no money and big business loans, or I've been sick for months on end from being so run down.  I have forgotten what it feels like to have free time because I work constantly and at times the stress has been really bad.  But looking back over the last 4 years I wouldn't have had it any other way.

Here's hoping there's many more years of The Sewing Directory to come.

Friday, 14 March 2014

The book is finished! But the hard work isn't....

Woohoo, the first draft of the book is finally finished and with the publishers!  It has been pretty all consuming the last few months which is why I haven't gotten around to writing any updates.   I won't lie, writing tens of thousands of words is pretty physically and emotionally draining and makes it hard to write anything else.

When I started this book I thought I can easily write this in 3-4 months.  What I hadn't counted on was life getting in the way, with both my son and husband being hospitalised and very ill, suddenly deciding to move house (which wasn't planned when I started the book) and The Sewing Directory being busier than it ever has it was hard to find the time to fit in writing.

When you are writing ideally you need several hours of uninterrupted silence so you can really concentrate and get into the flow.  When you have a small child, and a husband who also works from home it is pretty hard to get that!  I ended up going to the library for a few afternoons just to get that peace and quiet.

But now that the book is finished it is still not the end of the work.  I have been sending the book through to my publishers one section at a time.  So now they have had chance to edit the first few sections and will be sending them back to me to go over again, one section per week starting from next week.

I will need to review any changes they have made, respond to any questions and expand on anything they have asked me to cover in more detail.  Once I've done that for the whole book, which is going to take around 2 month, it then passes to the art team so we can work on the design side of the book.

The book finally goes to print in June (for a November release date).  But the work doesn't end then, the next step is the marketing of the book.  If I want to secure press coverage most the magazines work at least 3 months ahead so I need to be working on that from June onwards.  I bought a very useful book called How to Market a book by Joanna Penn.  Hopefully that will give me lots of useful advice for the marketing stage, plus I have a few ideas up my sleeve.

The book itself comes out in November so I will be marketing up to the end of the year at least.  So all in all the book writing process will have taken 2 years from start to finish. 

Tuesday, 11 March 2014

Exeter Sewing Meet Up

Well the plans for the move are going well, hopefully we should be moving in the next 2-3 months.  Just waiting for the buyer's mortgage to be approved and then we are all good to go. :-) So as you can imagine with the move looming, and the book deadline the same month it has been pretty crazy here!

View from our holiday cottage (looks better on a sunny day but we didn't have many of them!)

However, because I had thought it would take a lot longer to sell our house and find one in Devon I had already booked a week in a cottage in Devon for half term, followed by another sewing meetup at the end of that week.  So despite already having found a house we spent the week in Devon and re-visited our new house, and went to see the school. My little boy loved the cottage we stayed in because not only did it have a stunning view, but there were loads of rabbits.  Every window you looked out of you could see bunnies!

Rabbits viewed from the cottage windows

The meet up was on the Saturday and went amazingly well.  We decided to do an 'ask the experts' session where people could bring along their projects and get help or demonstrations for certain techniques, from quilting to dressmaking and alterations plus I was on hand to answer SEO or social media questions.

There were 2 skirts made on the day, one upcycled from trousers and one little girl's skirt made from scratch by someone new to sewing.  Plus there was an amazing cushion made on the day, and very colour quilt in the works by Trash.

Trash's colourful quilt
Tina's first skirt
Will from Abakhan Fabrics came along again as Abakhan were sponsoring the event and made a reversible ipad case, and he also bought his girlfriend Rosie.  Rosie had never sewn before but with a couple of hours tuition from Jenna she had made an amazing patchwork table mat and is now hooked!  I foresee a new sewing machine in her near future...At least she has access to lots of fabric!

Rosie's tablemat in the making
We had lots of amazing raffle prizes, a big thank you to Becky from Storey Publishing who came along to the meet up armed with piles of books to giveaway,  Jenna from Exeter Sewing Centre who gave her time, advice and some lovely gift vouchers, Minerva Crafts  and Search Press for kindly providing prizes.

Everyone busy sewing and chatting
Everyone had a great day and we have decided that now I am moving to Devon we will make it a more regular event.  I am currently booking the hall for 4 dates over the coming year and have now got a few of the regulars helping me plan and run the meet ups.

If you fancy coming along to any (they are held in St Matthews Hall, Exeter) do drop me an e-mail and I will add you to the e-mail list so you get all the details. The next one will be start of June.  If you are already on the mailing list the details will be sent out to you this week.

There are a few other posts from the attendees here if you'd like to find out more or see some more pics:

We had a lot more sewing machines this time.  Rosie (far left) learning to quilt

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