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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: October Review

The business is constantly evolving and tweaking at the moment. It’s strange as I always assumed I would have an idea and that would be it. However I’m learning very quickly that one task or piece can lead to another that is quite different yet still relevant to what you love doing. As I have made several pieces this month, I thought that doing a general monthly blog would be better suited. This will probably be the format for future blogs as it gives me a good quantity to talk about while still being manageable to fit in to my often hectic life.

Sensory Cushions

‘Mermaid’ Sequinned fabric with envelope closing. Removable weighted pad insert to support sensory based therapies.

As someone with autism myself, it was such a pleasure to be able to make these cushions for a family to support their children’s additional needs. Each one was made with a different front and back (we all know that kids want their ‘own’ item!) and had a weighted removable pouch inside. The weighting is very therapeutic for many with additional needs and can reduce anxiety and manage behaviour(s). I can tell you now that sequinned fabric is a nightmare to work with being that its so slippery! My machine went through the sequins with no problem, however the fabric often slumped or wrinkled without me noticing and its A LOT harder to undo than create a seam using this stuff! Another problem was maintaining my focus when working with the weighting and the sequins as they really appealed to me and relaxed me to the point where I just wanted to sleep! All being said and done though, they were really appreciated by the client and will be an exciting Christmas Day treat for some lucky boys.

 

 

 

 

Hair Bows

Large bow size in hair for reference

I’m one of those people that loves to use every scrap of fabric. Throwing stuff away is definitely not in my nature – I’ve even been known to make products that reuse fabric (such as some pillowcases that I picked up that were unused but perfect for my Switch Case which I’ll show off shortly). Seeing as we live on a planet where it seems easier to throw away than recycle, I try to use everything to the max including reusing packaging. So I came up with the idea of using leftover character fabric to make bows. They have a simple ‘crocodile’ type slide on the back and require only a small amount of fabric. The bows have to be hand finished as its too small for the machine which takes a little more time, but its something I can do in bulk at the end of another project to use up any leftovers. It makes for a great pocket money item as well for those who want something fun but can’t afford a big spend – especially for the kids as stocking fillers.

 

 

 

 

Switch Console Case

The Switch case has a fleece lined pocket for the console plus space for 3 carts, a cable/headphones and a boxed game.

One of my favourite makes ever, the Switch case was actually born out of necessity. I had a hospital appointment recently which involved waiting around for an hour to trial a new drug and see if it was suitable. The Switch was the perfect distraction but I had to wrap it in a hand towel as I had no case! I therefore decided to create my own case from the pattern to the finished product. It involved making a paper mock up initially as I wanted to be sure that the net I produced would go together and that the measurements would be correct. I do lack confidence when measuring and I’ve found that this is the best way to manage without wasting expensive fabric with wrong cuts! Inevitably there was a lot of swearing, shouting and frustration. Sewing things together doesn’t always mean doing them in the order you expect. I sewed the lining and then realised that my pocket needed to have been stitched to the top fabric first…very simple but impacts on the finish of the product at the end. I certainly learnt a lot by making my own pattern – especially about the need to learn how to effectively box corners which I can now do moving forward. I live streamed the make which I LOVE doing and then popped it over on my YouTube if you would like to take a look. It has been received very well and I’ve had a commission on the back of it which is great.

 

 

 

 

 

Personal/Development 

I lost a good two weeks this month to my back problems yet again. I’ve been assessed by a physio and am looking to get treatment. It does however really have an impact on my mood (if I can’t make things I’m sad) and naturally the business as well. Then my son was really poorly with this horrid virus going around and that was, as you might expect, all consuming. My parents are moving house (today in fact!) owing to their health so that has been very much an ongoing factor in life at the moment. All of this added up has also made my anxiety pretty rubbish but I’m finding that making really is the best therapy for this. I hit 300 followers and surpassed it on Twitter this month and the #MakersHour hashtag run by @GuildofMakers (Run by @DrLucyRogers) is really helping me build up like minded contacts which is always good for a lift but also inspiration for new makes. I’ve had some particularly great interaction this month with Rachel (@KonichiwaKitty) and Tash (@CaffinatedCraft) who make pieces that really motivate and inspire me. I’m undertaking some coaching with the lovely Tim Nicholls (@Guessonomics) who is a good friend and mentor. I’m finding it really great to bounce ideas off a fellow maker and generally have a giggle and socialise (be it via Skype owing to the distance) – its good, as Tim discussed on Twitter this month, to find an effective way of making your work and your life one and the same in a positive and healthy way. I’ve got something really exciting in development as a result which I’m hoping will take off and underpin the Sew 8-Bit brand. It really is so exciting when an idea starts to form that you can really see working out. I’ve also started uploading ‘Live Makes’ to YouTube and ordered my very first set of Sew 8-Bit tags for sewing it to makes which felt very pro! Let’s see what November brings.

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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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Pre-Launch Update 5: All the Things No-one Told You

It’s been bedlam this week. Not only am I trying to organise the arts and crafts for a big church community event this weekend, I’m also trying to finish my costume for said event and cope with a vicious series of migraines. All (apart from the migraines) are super fun things to be doing, but the first time I have done them so its been a learning process. That being said, I’m so close to launch now I can almost taste it (or that might just be fear lol!). 

At this stage of the game I’m hitting the “all the things no-one told you” wall. No-one told me there would be a delicate balance of running a business and running a home and if you got it wrong you would find yourself with no clean bedding, several (in my case) truly spectacular meltdowns and mad rushes to the shops for food, birthday presents and toilet paper. Seeing as I have difficulties in organisation and time management anyway, my husband and I have been working through some strategies to work on this including a system of colour coded post-it notes, to-do lists that pop up on my computer screen, a pin board and by streamlining all of my accounting/invoicing systems. I’m a really visual person so the more colourful things dotted around, the better really.

 

 

Something else no-one ever told me – how to price your time. I can price materials with no problem at all, but time is something completely different. Are people going to pay me minimum wage for hand sewing? Am I over/under selling myself? From my conversations with fellow makers via the Guild of Makers #makershour on a Wednesday night on Twitter, I have found this is a huge hurdle for so many people wanting to start out as well as jargon in setting up and finding your own little niche in the market. I know a good friend and fellow maker Tim Nicholls is hoping to prepare some guidance about the subject of pricing hand made items in the next month or so. I’ll point you in the direction of it when its published. If you are a new maker either as a business or hobby, I’d really encourage you to get involved with Guild of Makers to meet like minded creators and just share the ups and downs of making. You get some really good ideas and inspiration to boot.

 

 

There’s been some great firsts this week. I hit 150 followers on Twitter, send my first bespoke piece estimate, officially registered for my self-employed status and started conversations with a few people about the work they are dreaming of ordering. Fingers crossed. Not long now.  Oh and yes these photos are entirely random – just some nice photos showing a bit of my life outside of the sewing machine for your entertainment really as I don’t have much to show sewing wise today!

 

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Pre-Launch Post 4: Working out the finer points

There hasn’t been a blog this week for a couple of reasons but mainly because its been 30+ Celsius all week long. I didn’t fancy adding to the sweat patches by poring over a hot computer and I was too tired and flustered to sew!

 

 

That being said I have had some awesome deliveries this week. The lovely team at Jaycotts sent me these beautiful patterns which I love and can think of so many ways of working with. I may use some of my scrap box to make some mock ups with as I think buying any more new fabrics at the moment wouldn’t be advised. Its a difficult balance to have enough to show what you can do while at the same time not eating every penny of your savings. I don’t know yet what people will and wont like so I’m trying to be sensible with my outlay.

 

 

 

 

 

I also went hunting on Ebay for more remnants which turned up some lovely Zelda and Pokemon fabrics.

I also got a generic ‘gamer’ motif with a game boy style picture but I’m not sold on the fabric it is printed on. Going to have to think carefully about what that will suit. I must also diversify my subject matter a bit. Always far too tempting to buy ‘safe’ fabrics or patterns!

The Aztec style Zelda print will be used to up-cycle a lampshade which is looking good so far and has been quite a discussion point on Twitter this week.

 

I’ve also been ironing out the finer points in the admin department too. Terms and Conditions are now finalised. I’m waiting for the stationary to go to print as my husband hasn’t had a spare moment to set it all up but its not too urgent (yet!). I’ve started building a pricing structure and have considered a few more product lines as well which is good progress. One of the final steps will be formally registering as self-employed after my contract finishes on 21st July. I’ve been doing some fantastic networking with fellow creative minds via the Guild of Makers chat on a Wednesday evening on Twitter using the hashtag #makershour. I’ve had a lot of insight and support from fellow creators (business owner and hobbyist alike) and I’d really recommend that for anyone with a creative mind. Some of the talent out there is staggering and gives me a lot of ambition.

I’ve a very busy few weeks coming up including a church fun day with a Star Wars theme. The costume is nearly finished so I will show you my creation when it is done. We also have multiple weddings, birthdays and summer meet ups to come so a good work-life balance will definitely be essential. Don’t forget that you can now subscribe to the newsletter to get a monthly digest of makes, competitions, coupons and more. I also have my Patreon running now and would love any support there as an ongoing subscription or you can donate a one off gift via the Amazon Wishlist. All this will help me during my start up period where things are going to get legitimately crazy I think! I also need to plan my first live Twitch Creative stream as I can’t wait to get that off the ground. I do need a second camera for that though and some sort of contraption to dangle it from! If only there were more than 24 hours in a day!!