Tuesday, 22 November 2011


So what have I been up to lately?

 making Christmassy delights

 using psychedelic vintage fabric for hair clips

 painting up orders for two very cute boys
 celebrating 9 years of being Mummy

 enjoying the occasional glass of chilled white

 loving my boy

 buying delicious looking threads

 painting wooden puds

 dreaming up new ideas

 reading new books

 having fun at Otley Designer Fair
 playing with pattern pieces

having fun with shrink plastic

 feeling festive in London Town

 working on party season designs

messing about with new iPhone apps

and supping hot toddies whilst blogging

what have you been up to lately?

Monday, 21 November 2011

London day trip

Mum & I had to go to London on Friday for her regular consultation with her Oncologist so we decided to make the most of it this time, and have a wander around our capital city.

The day got off to a flying start thanks to the kindness of friends who gave us First Class rail tickets for our journey - you know who you are and thank you will never seem enough for giving Mum a reason to look forward to the trip - woohoo, get us! There's me ma sat in comfort reading trashy mags in the sunshine.

And there's me, opposite, with my usual look at the hair not my face! shot - ooh and one of my beady hair clips.
Free drinks, food and great service made for a most enjoyable journey down, I have to say!

And the surprises didn't end there - queuing for a day ticket at Kings Cross underground station, a (very handsome) chap handed over the day ticket he'd bought as he was 'done for the day'. Huzzah! That almost never happens to Mum or I! Cue big smiles :)
We trogged off to St Barts, met with the ever-cheery Dr Steele, got the best news available...stable, no growth...and headed off into town to celebrate by exploring.

First stop - Mum treated us both to the Degas exhibition at the Royal Academy, being that our travel costs had been minimal thus far...what a treat it was too.
photo from RA website

The focus of the exhibition is Degas' 'preoccupation with movement' and it has to be said, that he had it down to a fine and wondrous art. Dancers in poses that last mere seconds, girls 'disappearing off stage', not to mention the spectral nuns...I've always loved his work but had never fully appreciated what he was trying to achieve until now. It was an education. It was as if someone had pressed pause and, any minute now, the dance would continue - but no, it was merely his skill at showing precious moments in dance and life.
If you are considering going to see the exhibition, I urge you to do so...the sculptures alone are worth it.

 stunning window display with a lit up house

Feeling thoroughly enlightened we headed off into the evening for (lots of) walking and window shopping, grabbing a quick snack, moseying around Oxford and Regents Streets, Anthropology *swoon*, Liberty (boy they know how to price!) & Burlington Arcade - this was like stepping back in time...so beautiful.

living wall inside Anthropology

After a last minute book purchase which left us in a hurry to catch the 8.05pm train to Leeds, we traveled back tired and achy (with blisters) but happy!

We were given some top tips on ticket purchasing so are hoping that when we go back in Jan, it will again be in style and this time we will have a plan of where and what to see.


Sunday, 20 November 2011

To Open Evening or not to Open Evening..

...that was my question!

When I first started out with Ditsy Bird Designs, a good friend suggested that I hold a DBD party at her house, and she invite her friends. Brilliant idea! I didn't do it.

A couple of years ago, I read about a Twitter pal holding an open evening for her products at her home. Cracking idea! I did nothing.

Over the past year I have investigated further, asking questions and I've had much encouragement from other Twitter peeps who have also held open eves - all declaring them to be fantastic fun and very successful. I organised one! Then cancelled it.

All my fault - horrendous timing on my part as it was the start of the Summer hols...I'd thought "yay, mum's looking after kids all day - they'd love a night out!". But I stupidly ignored the whole Summer + Holiday thing and was suitably enlightened when the replies came back thick and fast, with a resounding "sorry I'm away but would love to come on another day!"

As the numbers gradually dwindled, I felt that postponement was the only option...I couldn't have 5 people turning up...the emptiness! The awkwardness! The pressure on those poor five to like & purchase*! The overwhelming desire for me to crawl under the table! Not to mention the amount of time I envisaged would go into the setting up for such low numbers...no disrespect to the 5 but it is a business and so, all endeavours need to be worthwhile from a financial/PR/marketing point of view.
[*or at least that's how I'd feel if I were one of the 5]

SO..it was cancelled with promises of another day and then the hols got under way & it was 'goodbye August' and 'hello new school year!'. Closely followed by 'argh I have need of funds' and 'now then, how does one come about funds?'.

So, it was back to the open evening idea.

But then the doubts started to creep back in....remember the didn't do it, did nothing from years back? Yup. A huh. Doubts!

What if people had RSVP'd a no the first time round because, really, actually, they didn't WANT to come but used hols as an excuse????? Now you see, I find this to be The biggest (most enormous) hurdle as a designer/maker...belief in my style, my abilities, my products.

The thought of people saying "actually, no, I don't think so" makes me feel physically, trembling-ly, skin prickling-ly, nauseous. 

I sent out a 'which date suits you best' question on my Facebook page and got a few replies. Then other personal matters cropped up & I didn't pay it nearly enough regard...until (!!) people started asking me for a definite date. O oh. Good news but it meant I'd have to go through with it.

Up went the event page on FB & out went the invites. And I sat and worried.

Then I worried less, and thought 'hey ho, tis done, get on with it'. Then the declines came in...and then the maybe's and then the yays :)

Back to personal matters occupying spare brain space & time so there was no time left to worry...this was a good thing. 

It's now Monday of the week of the open evening. I calmly sat and made up new stock to show and started to consider the logistics of where and how to show my products. Monday afternoon involved getting out my stock of greeting cards...making sure they were packaged properly, had an envelope, and then setting them out on the stands I have. This took a ridiculous amount of time! By the end of Tuesday it was clear that there was no time left for making, and I had to seriously get on with setting up.

Tuesday, Tues eve, Weds & Thurs eves (after work), and all day Friday were spent...
  • making packaging
  • punching holes
  • writing product descriptions
  • fastening products to cards
  • putting tags on products
  • pricing up
  • and pulling out stock from every hidey hole I have in the house...they are numerous!

A quick tot up on Fri morn of expected numbers & off I popped to Tesco for nibbles & refreshments.

6pm was panic o'clock...cue call to Mum. Mum arrives early, makes a cuppa & tries valiantly to 'there there'. I dash upstairs to get changed.

7.30pm casually (oh yeah) chatting with Mum whilst finishing some pricing & guest numero uno arrives & before I know it...it's 10.30pm, most of my guests have left (with DBD goodies), and I'm having my first drink of the evening sat with the remaining four ladies.

It was a MASSIVE suucess...I sold lots, took orders, made new contacts, had the chance to show existing contacts the full extent of my range, and spent most of the evening holed up in the study dealing with sales, orders & queries.
I didn't however...
finish pricing
get chance to explain about the free personalisation service for paintings
tell people about my sample sales
get my notebooks down to sell
or even top some peoples glasses back up!

Thankfully, I have wonderful friends who happily helped themselves & each other.

So...to open eve or not to open eve?
My answer is a resounding YES!!!! but.....prepare!!
Put aside plenty of preparation time & rope in help for sorting drinks, taking coats etc.

My top tips (in no particular order):

  • UPDATE 21.11.11 - Public Liability Insurance
    make sure you are fully covered, as holding an open evening at home automatically turns your home into your place of work...and you'd hate for any mishap to occur and a guest be injured and for you not to be covered!
    there are many out there but this is the one I have used
  • work out your layout well in advance
  • get your cleaning & any furniture moving done as early in the week as possible
  • set up as early as is practical , or at least get stock into position in boxes ready to go - getting help here would be fab if you're having to leave the setting up til the last minute
  • if any products require additional info or explanation e.g. this can be personalised...make up little plaques or posters to that effect
  • make prices clear & obvious
  • spread out your wares so that your guests don't congregate in one area...or you'll end up with bottle necks and people not being able to see what's for sale
  • if items are available to order, it's back to the plaque/poster idea
  • offer a sale or sample bin...who doesn't love a bargain?!
  • enlist the help of a couple of friends to serve drinks, top drinks up, take coats etc so that you, the designer/maker, are free to talk to your guests about your products
    >I failed completely here as I was stuck at one end of the kitchen filling glasses, as my guests were arriving at the other and didn't even welcome some...poor show Sarah, but the lesson has been learned
  • have bags ready! I worried that this would look presumptuous but it was actually a night-saver as the bags served as shopping baskets. Ace!
  • if you also make a lot of one off items...announce this at the start of the evening so that your guests don't miss out on an item they have been musing over all night.
    I did a "if you like it, grab it" announcement after three ladies had asked me what to do if they liked something - & this is where the pre-prepared bags came into their own.
  • put a business card in the bottom of each back prior to the start - this way you don't need to remember to do so when dealing with any actual purchases
  • need marketing research? write down every item that gets sold!
    This does take up a lot of time but is invaluable for the designer and guests didn't seem to mind at all - it gave us time to have a chat whilst going through the 'checkout' process.
    I created a simple Excel spreadsheet form that I printed out and then filled in the customer name, items, quantities, price and total...dead easy and very useful. If I can suss it out, I'll share the form for you to use /adapt as needed
    **update: clear here for the form - there are spare rows at the top for you to add contact details and a logo in case guests want to take the form home to complete or so that it is customised for your evening
  • create & print a discount voucher for guests to use on their next purchase with a code relevant to the open eve...date/season...I forgot to do this & really wish I had...it would have been a good way to show my sincere gratitude for their support.
  • get any food...nibbles, crisps, canapes, dips etc out before the allotted start time. My evening started promptly and in full flow & there was little let up until everyone had left. I failed to get the dips out, and the crisps ran out as I'd not had chance to top up the bowls - this goes back to the not-hired help point ;)
  • Ladies are happy with a glass of something chilled, a few nibbles, lovely products to peruse & purchase and the opportunity for a night out socialising with friends, old & new -  in short...keep your refreshments simple. There's no need for gastronomic delights - allow the focus to rest on your work, not your food.
  • Eat! make sure you eat and have a drink before it starts - I skipped evening meal and by 10pm I was very thirsty and ravenous. Cue mahoosive headache the next morning.
  • enjoy it!
    relax, go with the flow, laugh off the 'whoops!' moments and have fun.
  • if possible, rope someone in to help put all remaining stock away the following day, and return furniture back to it's original position.
  • finally - start planning your next one!
I had a blast! and the feedback I received was invaluable both as a maker and as a designer - it's good to know that people want what you make! As a result, I shall not be shutting up my Ditsy Bird shop, oh no. It's onwards and upwards for this here bird!

I hope you found this (super long) post useful - if you have any other useful tips...please add them in the comments!

Tuesday, 18 October 2011

new old designs

I had one of those "d'oh!" moments a couple of months back when a friend mentioned a process she was using for one of her bespoke creations.

you know those "if only I'd thought of that years ago" things that would have saved you trying various lengthy, time consuming, pricing-you-out-of-the-market type methods of using your designs?

I've had these inked and coloured designs on my pc for ages and have never found a quick enough and cost efficient method of using them for anything other than cards

anyhoo...the lightbulb came on, I slapped myself on the forehead (hard) and then got on with what I should have been trying years ago...transfer paper designs

I don't have the funds to get my designs printed, I don't have the expertise to do it myself and I no longer have the time or patience to try and recreate them in paint/fabric/felt etc

so transfer paper it is - with either hand or freestyle machine stitching to affix the top layer of felt to the bottom
and a little beading here and there where needed (or where I fancy)

so there you have it...or them...my new/old birthday badges, Christmas brooches & Christmas decorations.

What do you think?
I've already started doodling up some new ones too!
Have you had any kick yourself moments lately - go on, do share it'll help make me feel less of a muppet ;)

you can find some of the designs in my Etsy shop
and I will be adding them to my own website soon

Wednesday, 12 October 2011

just that sort of time

well hello there lovely people and how the devil are you?

I'm finding that...
  there are just not enough hours in a day...
  not enough days in the week...
  not enough pennies in the pot...
  and more than enough pounds on my bum!..
at the moment.

I get the impression from chats with pals, that it's just 'that' time of year and everyone's feeling it in some way or another. The rain and soaked-to-the-skin-super-absorbent-drizzle isn't helping much either. But!!! the leaves are looking mighty fine and I do like to snuggle on the sofa or sit in a pub in front of an open fire - so it's not all bad.
Plus Halloween is approaching - I love it! - as is Christmas...oh yes. Giddy giddy giddy! I love the build up...the plotting and the planning and the anticipation. The day is usually and anit-climax, but how can it not be with all that it is built up to be? As for Halloween - fun times here in our village where most people join in and you see crowds of children and parents, all dressed up, patrolling the streets and houses for treats, shrieks and giggles.

I'm having my very first open evening this Friday - not a huge event or anything...I'm just opening the doors to my home and inviting a few folk I know to come and see my Ditsy Bird creations 'in the flesh', sup a glass of wine and catch up with friends. After the initial 'what am I doing?!?!?!?!?' I'm now very much looking forward to it. It's been too long since I've had people round and this is a darned good excuse to do so.

I'm also dropping off stock at a new vintage shop*, Birdcage Vintage, opening up in Skipton, on Friday morning - so it's all systems go at home at the mo. Today, however, I'm in the office and actually taking a lunch break (bliss) and taking the time to write this little post, as well as having a bit of doodle ...some number brooch designs for the birthday numbers that I always seem to miss (7, 8, 9 & 10 if you're interested). 7, 9 and 10 are sorted so I'll work on 8 another day.

I hope all is well with you and yours! Try not to let the damp dampen your spirits - we'll soon be having those glorious bright, crisp Autumn days that are so good for the spirits.

Tata for now

*I've asterixed this because 'Vintage Shop' simply doesn't do it justice...it is so much more. A champion of recycling, handmade, learning new crafty skills as well as doing all of it for a very worthy cause indeed...Rachelle at Ted and Agnes did a great post on it over here if you want a little more info. It is a lovely blog to so why not stay around there a while and have a good read?

Saturday, 27 August 2011

Pinned from Etsy

I have been feeding my Pinterest habit today with delights found on Etsy. I thought I'd share a few of these with those of you who may have yet to discover the visual feast that is Pinterest [warning: it can prove addictive]

*I bought a couple of Merritt Hyde items for Christmas last year - a dragonfly for my mum and a fabulous Christmas decoration for George (I try to buy him a new decoration every year) - they were a big hit.


PS if anyone fancies joining pinterest, I am able to invite friends!

Sunday, 21 August 2011

Sunday night

George, my 8 year old son, decided that he would really rather like to make some money for himself by selling off his old books...in our front garden. so, George's Marvellous Book Sale was born...
The sale went really well and, not only has he managed to pay off the cost of his new scooter helmet, he also has enough to buy some new fab and groovy grip tape! Lost? Me too! All we really need to know is that he is one happy boy and I've successfully rid the house of 2 more piles of 'stuff'. You know, 'stuff', the infection that spreads through any ordinary household filling up cupboards, drawers and shelves. I am waging war on our 'stuff' and it's starting to work - I can spot actual gaps on shelves and can even see the floor of the spare room now. Result.

What with putting all the photos of the books of Facebook for friends to view and reserve, pricing them all up, painting banners, stringing up bunting & balloons and setting up the tables with the books...oh and 3 hours in the park whilst G tackled the ramps (I wouldn't look - didn't dare)...it's been a busy and full weekend.

But tonight, this lovely Sunday night, G is bed...the OH is fast alseep on the sofa due to an afternoon with pals watching footie...so I'm having a 'me' night. Heaven. I've plucked my eyebrows, filed my toenails, filed and painted my finger nails, eaten a Cornetto, caught up on Sky+'d programmes, changed the bedding (clean sheets rock my world) and now I'm messing about on my laptop. Like I said...Heaven.

Happy Sunday night folks

Friday, 12 August 2011


This little bird is one very proud, puffed-out-chest little bird - on account of having her first ever bricks and mortar stockist...oh yes.
You can now find Ditsy Bird stitchery goodness at The Stalls in Harrogate, thanks to the lovely Natasha (and she really is lovely).

photo from The Stalls, Facebook page

If this is the first you have heard of The Stalls, my friends, then you are missing a treat. I think Curator, rather than Shopkeeper would be a better way to describe what Natasha does...there is a wonderfully varied, carefully chosen array of handmade delights to be found...and in a fantastically airy space. I have visited twice and still found new products on my whirl around today, and am sure I will spot more next time. 

photo from The Stalls, Facebook page

Not only are the designers varied but so are the products...jewellery, art, greetings cards, dolls, scarves, bags, pinnies...textiles, woodwork, printed work, shrink plastic, paper goods...I could go on but instead, I'm going to let you explore for yourself. Wander around listening to the music playing in the background, and admire the work that has gone into each and every item...it is truly a treasure trove! And better still, there's a little cafe* next door where you can sit outside and have a coffee whilst gazing at the products in the window and relishing in the purchase you have made :) 

[As Natasha deals personally with each designer/maker, she is the perfect person to chat to if you are looking for something a little bit different, or maybe something bespoke for a special occasion.]

3 Bower Street,

Opening times are:
Tues 11-5
Thurs&Fri 11-5
Sat 10:30-6

* I have yet to try this cafe but I'm hoping to give it a whirl next time...

Friday, 5 August 2011


I sat in the garden this evening, reading blogs and reflecting on the lovely day we'd had.

Nothing ground breaking (and maybe that was the charm of it all), just the ticking off of chores and the relaxing with good friends, listening to children's giggles and supping loose leaf Darjeeling tea brewed for precisely 3 minutes, black, with one sugar*.

It's the simple things that can often make the biggest impact on your day.

[*as recommended to me by the lovely @mysecrettearoom on Twitter and brewed perfectly, for my first ever taste by Rachelle - the lovely, kind hearted Rachelle - of the Secret Teacup @secretteacup

follow the Flickr trail

Someone added me as a contact this week so I thought I'd take a look at their photostream, and that's where the trail started...

where will the Flickr trail lead you to today?

**edit: links now added to the photos Sx

Thursday, 4 August 2011

Hebden Bridge - a hidden gem

how picturesque!
[well, hidden to me anyway - down in the valley, tucked away...what a wonderful place]

I had a lovely day out in Hebden Bridge with my equally lovely and smashing friend, Nina, of Little Blue Elephant fame...it was the last Friday before the school holidays kicked in, and the PERFECT way to refresh ourselves before the onslaught of picnics, parks, days out, 'clean your bedroom!' and so on and so forth.

It's also far easier (and quicker) to get to than I've ever realised....we never seem to travel in that direction. Funny that. When I think about it, we always 'head off for the day' on particular roads and in certain directions. Usually towards Clitheroe, Harrogate, Ilkley or up t'Dale. I think there may be lesson here in taking the road less traveled. 

Down we dropped into a beautiful scene of stones houses, shops, cafes with a river running through, and very easy parking. And cheap! 40p an hour! You don't get much for 40p in Skipton these days, not for parking anyway.

knitted cupcake bunting

Then is was simply a matter of where to begin - it all looked so inviting and cheery and, well, welcoming. There's a really artistic vibe about the place what with buskers striking up as we were leaving...it's also fairly bustling but never seemed busy...just lots of people going about their business.

We started a general mooch that last until pick up time, involving shops, a gallery, a spot of lunch and ribbons!!!!


Honestly I could have spent a whole lot more than I did, but I was being very careful with my pennies. Stepping inside the Heart Gallery was the surest test of my willpower, though...wow! It is truly beautiful. A fabulous space for displaying some of the most wonderful handmade work around at the moment...many names you will have heard of, and many more you will want to know. There is a general sense of ooh & aah about the place, and the credit must lie with Alison the owner...sadly not there on the day we visited but you can tell that Alison loves her place and is passionate about what she does, just by the way everything was presented...and the feeling of calm that falls over you as you walk through the door. I could have spent a good deal longer in there just admiring the workmanship and design of the pieces on display.

I came out with my pennies intact and a firm 'note to self' of... this is where to come for Christmas pressies...for me ;)

cracking window display

Nina and I also stumbled across haberdashery heaven and a brilliantly chatty shop owner at Ribbon Circus...great fun and very knowledgeable to boot! We'd have been hard pressed to have found a cheerier shop keeper that day.

A leisurely lunch, sat outdoors in true cafe culture style, finished everything of perfectly...then we sauntered back to the car, promising ourselves that we'd be back again to do the other half of town another day.


please excuse the pics - I forgot my camera so had to make do with my trusting iPhone

♥♥♥Little Blue Elephant Cuteness♥♥♥

•••new in at the Ditsy Bird shop•••