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Blog: 6 Months Later

I really have been neglecting both the blog and the website. The thing is, I am enjoying the live interaction of social media so much that I sort of forget that its here! In the blink of an eye, I am 6 months in to the Sew 8-Bit journey and so much has happened that I thought it would be a good time to take stock and get things down on paper (well…digital paper) for prosperity, learning, sharing and just to remind myself of the journey I have been on. As with my other blogs I will probably sub-divide in to themed paragraphs in order to keep it clear. There will be projects that I go in to detail over in separate blogs too. I’d love to know which ones you would like to know more about.

Traffic

I’m using the term traffic to refer to any ‘presence’ that I have online with the business and generally via word of mouth or events. Bascially speaking, the people who hear about the business and then any custom that is generated from that. As I mentioned above, the website has sort of been a bit of an afterthought these last few months. I think it doesn’t have the interactivity of the social media routes which makes it harder to remember to use. Actually it is getting a few hits a day…not many but then pushing content would generate more hits. Vicious cycle. Its an important method of sharing a ‘portfolio‘ of work and getting in to meatier projects. In future, I’d love some tutorials on here for basic sewing projects and to tie that in with YouTube and Patreon. However, as with all things, I am very limited on time until my son starts school in September (eeek!) so I think that is going to be the long game. In the immediate future though, assigning time to maintaining the site once a week is key. Social media ticks over anyway as its part of my daily habit over a coffee or three. I’ve also found people spotting my makes (such as my phone case) when out and about and its been lovely to gain interest about what I do. I have begun to carry a couple of business cards on my person as a result!

Cross Stitching

The cross stitching was initially the biggest part of what I did but it has now become more of a background. I think the labour costs for something like that can be off-putting so it is something people are more likely to save for and then purchase larger pieces. I have, however, sold some cards via my Etsy store in the run up to Christmas and worked with a client to produce a big Count Duckula piece as a gift for his mother but also in remembrance of his uncle. It looked really effective once completed and the initials embroidered on there really made it personal. Moving forward, I think I will stick to making small stock cross stitched pieces but nothing big/framed unless it is ordered.

 

 

 

 Drawing

Drawing is really not something I had intended for S8B. I shared a couple of drawings with friends and from there shared some publicly and then my mum got hold of one and it went from there. People seem to love having drawings of their pets! I completed a few before Christmas and they went off to become gifts – I’ve had feedback from one of them which was very positive. Some of my drawings of birds of prey will be made in to greetings cards to sell cheaply as a low cost item to go on the Etsy shop or take to craft fairs as they are a great way of making sales when people are maybe not as interested in the characters on fabrics or cross stitched designs.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sewing

I feel like I am growing with every little bit I stitch both in learning and confidence. I am getting more experimental as well, creating my own pattern for a Nintendo Switch case in one case and using new techniques such as pleats, darts, french seams and pocket making. I have also started considering how my sewing could help people. A while ago I noticed a plea on Twitter by a mum who needed a protective belt for her son who was tube fed. Working together, we talked through everything that the belt needed and I went away and created a bespoke item. Sensory cushions and ‘taggies’ (fabric with things to ‘fiddle’ with) have been a starting point for me as a woman with autism (and experience in education) but I am really interested in this area and am looking at ways of creating more ‘solutions based’ projects in the future. The people at Pimoroni have been particularly helpful in this respect as they have sent me some of their sew-able electronics to try on a cushion for a young lad with autism who loves light patterns, so I’d like to thank them for that. I’ll keep you updated with the progress on that one!

The other big sewing news is the new machine! Hooray I finally have a new machine and not the old tank. I will definitely miss the old girl and was so grateful for the loan while I got started but having a machine I can lift is, in itself, amazing! I chose a Brother Innov-is 55FE in the end. I had set my sights on something a bit fancier but after discussing it with a number of people, I came to the conclusion that there is no point in running before I can walk. That being said, the new machine is amazing and is so quiet compared to the Bernina; which was a 50 year old metal tank but will outlast the human race. The machine is digital too so it has little things that help me make my sewing processes quicker and simpler.

 

Craft Fairs and Networking

Using the fantastic ‘Goodbye 2017, Hello 2018’ booklet that came from Selina¬† and Vicki at Project Love, I really drilled down in to the 2018 I wanted to have. One of the things on the list was to network with other makers. Part of this is coming from Guild of Makers which has helped me make some lovely connections. Aside from the online networking, I really want to try and get out in to the real world this year to connect with other makers and try to sell some things along the way. Easier said than done – I am quite the introvert! I did, however, find a craft fair in March that is in my local village hall. I don’t think it will earn me very much but the set up fee was very low and I think it will just help me get over the first anxieties and dip my toe in the water with talking to people about what I do.

2018 is definitely going to be a big year in terms of the development of what I can do and what I want to do. Watch this space!

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Blog: One Month Later

I can’t believe it’s been over a month since launch. It has been a steep learning curve and I just wanted to share a few of my experiences about starting out that you may find interesting or useful, especially if you are starting out on a similar journey.

Stock Items

I really hadn’t appreciated the advantages of having a 15-20 item stock range in place at launch. This would have helped me start an Etsy shop at launch as well. I have found that pre-made, small items go very well on Etsy whereas larger or bespoke items tend to be easier to negotiate directly on Twitter or via Email. Had I had a range of staple items, I think I would have ‘flitted’ less between several bright ideas and late night fabric spends!

Accounts

I would have been in sheer panic mode without my accounting software. It’s free but it offers me lots of ways at looking at the figures. I have been confused by a few aspects such as the terminology used or the names of various accounts that seem to have been generated. However I have found the help service was fast, efficient and was able to comprehensively support me to answer any queries. If you want to check it out, visit Wave.

Pricing my own labour

Ah the age old question – how much is my time worth? Am I paying myself minimum wage? No. Living wage? No. Why…because it is very difficult to make someone who doesn’t do what you do understand how long it takes. Especially now we live in a world of cheap, fast, mass produced items, it has been really important to show people that they are buying something akin to art than akin to something from the high street. Which sounds exceptionally pretentious. And then we go back to the beginning of this paragraph. I have found live streaming really useful in showing people the process of my work so that they appreciate what goes in to it. Aside from that, I think for now I have to pay my dues and work from there. Tough but necessary to grow.

Illness

I had a very scary, very dangerous bout of pneumonia in January of this year. So when I started getting chest pains and a rattly feeling, I knew I was in a little bit of a bind! It took me out for a week but was luckily caught while just a minor infection (on top of damaged lungs hence it took so long). Problem is, now I work for myself…I have to be really aware that there will be times when I have to put production on hold for illness, emergencies or time with the family. Its really not ideal, as I was in the middle of three separate conversations with different people about orders in different stages! I found being honest was the absolute best way forward – none of my clients had a problem and I took myself to bed for a few days while I cleared my lungs to a point where I could work again.

Post Office

Buying postage online…what is this sorcery!? Post offices in our area are disappearing faster than White House climate change policy, so when you have to go, you have to queue…FOREVER. Therefore I have taken to printing some of my simple postage online. I can then drop it at the post office or, if its little, pop it straight in the letter box. This is very exciting stuff. I even bought little ‘FRAGILE’ and ‘DO NOT BEND’ labels to look especially official. I use recycled packaging wherever possible so its great to be able to use labels and stickers to cover over any old addresses or branding on packaging and make it look smart.

Fees

Merchant fees are a lot more than you realise! Paypal fees, card payment fees, Etsy shop fees – etc etc. I need to either incorporate this in to my client estimates (as part of P&P maybe) or account for this in other ways such as setting aside a monthly pocket of money for the fees that accrue. Realistically, because the types of work that I am doing can differ due to commissions etc, planning ahead can be a challenge as you can’t always anticipate what you will need to put aside.

Streaming/Video work

I have loved live streaming my makes. It’s great to even just have people pop in for the odd 10 minutes to see what you are up to, and I already have a few regulars who do so. It is quite laborious though and I keep feeling like I should be commentating on absolutely everything I do. I think I need to research a little by looking at other creative streams and see how they present. It may be that there is no need to have sound but a background music would be fine. Perhaps just occasional comments. Maybe just chat based communication? I also really want to get on to making some simple YouTube tutorial videos. YouTube isn’t being kind to creators at the moment so I am just waiting a little longer to assess the landscape before jumping in. I don’t want to be spreading myself too thinly.

All in all, my first month has been successful. I made a real life actual (tiny) income. I have networked with loads of other creators and learnt masses from them as well as through my own trial and error. Here’s to the month ahead! (And yes…the featured image is a MS Paint speciality. Seemed fun!)

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Blog: The Monday after the launch before

Well I wasn’t sure what I expected on launch day but nearly 250 hits on the website in 24 hours certainly slightly exceeded whatever I had in my head. First and foremost I want to thank everyone for an amazing first week. Although not much has been sold as such, I’ve gained around 100 more followers and am starting to build the brand up. All of my branded packaging came through this week as well as my gift vouchers too. They look so professional and I am simply thrilled with what Bison were able to do for me. 

I have really enjoyed broadcasting my crafting on Twitch and beginning to connect with fellow crafter’s using that medium. It’s also a nice way to keep a record of what I am doing without bombarding social media with photographs. This was particularity the case with the Abe piece that got a lot of attention through this joint medium. I also did a quick make of a children’s bow tie as well – very much liking the quick make concept so this might become another good live feature. When the summer holidays are over, I will definitely be able to commit to more in the way of a definitive schedule. 

Knowing where and how to sell pieces is the bain of every makers existence from what I can gather. From pricing makes to selling websites, it can be very difficult to find where the right place is to sell without getting stung on fees or tripping over regulations. I’m leaning towards Etsy as it is THE place for handmade items but getting noticed in a busy marketplace is quite a challenge. Definitely one to keep working on and researching. 

I got some new machine sewing patterns this week in a sale which I hope to have a practice of and add to my repertoire. Some are simpler than others so it will be a case of when and where I have the time available to actually sit and devote the time and concentration space to do this properly. It also helped me recall my hatred of pattern cutting (why is it so cumbersome?!). I need to win the lottery so I can build a big extension with a huge luxurious cutting table instead of using my floor I think!

This week I am very busy but hope to do some quick and small pieces to add to the collection that is available from stock. My thinking is that this will be the best way to open an Etsy store and then if any commissions arise, I can slot those in very easily. Once again, thanks for all the support and for keeping up with the blog. I’m excited for everything ahead, but I often wish there were more hours in the day to get it all done. If you have any tips for staying organised, I’d love to hear them in the comments.