swan paper cut wall art

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I’ve had this idea for a while and it was one of those I just needed to do to get it out of my head, so having bought everything I needed, last Sunday afternoon, feeling slightly grumpy and needing to be selfish and get some time on my own, was the perfect time to get it done!

The joy of this is I’ve created the templates for the swan and while the picture is larger, each piece fits on an a4 sheet, so you can print off the templates with a normal sized printer.

What you’ll need:

– 40 x 50cm Grey Mount board or card

– 40 x 50cm Ikea Frame, I used this one.

– Pritt Stick

– 3 A4 sheets of white patterned paper and 2 small bits of yellow and black patterned paper.

– These templates,  Swan Pieces 1 swan pieces 2 Swan Pieces 3 printed off.

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So first print off the templates and cut them out. You might want to print off the master as well to guide you as to which piece goes where. Now with your paper the right side down, place your templates on right side down also and draw around the template. Now, cut your shapes out. Remember to cut number 1 out of yellow and number 2 out of black, the rest out of your white paper.

Now start sticking your pieces down. Put pieces 3, 4 and 6 on your grey background to start, without glue just to work out where you want them. Then stick pieces 3 and 6 down  when you’re confident you’ve got them in the right place. Then number 4 goes on top of these two pieces. then stick the wing on, and the beak and the eye and you’re done! Whack it in the frame and display with pride!

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Vintage Tablecloth Dye DIY

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I got asked to try a new Dylon product, their ordinary dye but in a pod, so everything is added, salt, dye etc and you can just throw it in the machine with whatever you want to dye, much easier that opening those tiny discs of dye, getting it everywhere and having to buy a tonne of salt, which is what I remember from the last time I tried a dyeing project. Would it turn out to be this easy though?

I didn’t have anything in mind to dye, but then I spotted this old tablecloth that I think was from my grandma, it was white, with a green print, the kind that you can stitch onto,  but which look just as nice as a print. It was really grubby though, quite greying and lots of little marks. Perfect dye project candidate.

Right, so what you have to do. Weigh whatever you are going to dye, I think it needs to be less than 600g for the dye to colour to it’s stated colour, any more and it’ll just be a more washed out version. Then wet your fabric, and stick it in the machine, take the packaging and tab off the dye pod and put on a normal 30 or 40 degree wash. But do, if you are going to try this, check with the instructions as this is my abridged version, I’m not big into detail, it’s a downfall of mine.

Then just wait and see!

I went for a bright pink and the initial results were amazing! A really vibrant even colour! I hung it out to dry and it looked quite beautiful!

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I’d also thrown in an old cushion that needed a new lease of life, and both items came out really well. I would definitely use this again, it was really easy. You just have to do a couple of extra cycles after the initial dye cycle, one to rinse the items and the second to clean the machine. I noticed around the rubber seal, there were still traces of pink, so I just wiped these off with a cloth. We’ve been using our machine for our normal washes and there have been no pink traces! Phew! That was my biggest concern, that I would wreck the machine and our white washes would be coming out baby pink, but that didn’t happen! So here is the finished article…..

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I really love the finished article! And it would have gone to waste otherwise so I’m happy about that! The green print turned a lovely navy shade, I might still stitch onto it but it looks fine like this too!

Dylon paid me to write this blog, but it’s all an honest opinion of the product!

easy peasy hoop art

This is so easy, but so cool! I was perusing the Sew Crafty website and it suddenly came to me, the massive range of patches they have, combined with some bright coloured felt and an embroidery hoop would make a great little make! I pictured the finished project in my sons bedrooms but you could do any kind of combination and put them wherever you like! I love they way they add a bright pop of colour to a room, and seriously so easy.

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So, I started with 4 x 4 inch embroidery hoops, and a couple of the packs of felt that you can find on the Sew Crafty site. I picked 4 patches and played around with the different coloured backgrounds until I found the perfect partners!

Start by marking a circle about an inch or so bigger the the embroidery hoop. Cut out the circle and iron on your patch (yes you don’t even have to sew!) into the middle of the circle. Then sandwich the fabric tightly in your hoop and turn over to neaten up the back. With some embroidery thread, or any thread really, stitch the gathered edges together, so that when you have gone round the whole circle, you can tighten the thread and tie a knot with both ends, pulling all the gathered material into the centre. AND THAT”S IT!!! REPEAT AND ENJOY! You could cover your house in hoop patches!! There is so much potential! I’m always seeing patches, thinking they are cool but I’m not really a wear a patch type of a gal, so this is the perfect answer! Tag me if you make!!!

 

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Becca’s Flat Tour

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This is my beautiful to the core, friend Becca. We met at at uni, I was in my third year when Bec started in her first, studying textiles at Loughborough. In fact, I have just remembered, before I met Becca I had spotted her at a Christian festival we were both at, and thought, oh wow she is so cool. And then we became friends! So, I can say without doubt Becca is my COOLEST friend and she has the COOLEST flat. It’s in North London, on a lovely wide, tree lined street. It’s a ground floor flat with amazing gardens including bees and chickens but we won’t go into that now!

So lets begin in the lounge. It looks out onto the garden, and a soon to be enclosed balcony. It’s painted in Farrow and Ball Salon Drab and is full of all kinds of creatures and insects, in a perfect combination of Becca’s husband Ben’s love of nature and Bec;s creativity, the print on the wall of butterflies is one of Becca’s own designs. Oh, I forgot to say Becca is a designer for a top brand, can you guess which one?!

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There are just so many gorgeous details in this room…..

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And now the kitchen, which is next door to the lounge, so also looks out onto the garden. The most striking feature are the original glass doors, which are stained and painted with beautiful pictures. The room is painted in the same paint colour ( I think?!) but it still feels really light and sunny because of the floor to ceiling windows.

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That’s not the only striking feature in here though, there are also the two gorgeous pieces of antique furniture, one apothecary chest and a plan chest that B & B have had a work top put on the top, and made it their island unit. I love that the plan chest is labelled!

And then one more striking feature, the orchids?! This was Ben’s idea. There is a continuous row of orchids around two thirds of the whole room. It’s so beautiful, and so original!?

Now, down the hall to the bedroom, which is at the front of the flat facing out onto the street.

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The cool filing cabinets are IKEA and again, beautifully labelled! I don’t think I’ve captured it but Bec has fitted roller blinds that exactly match the grey colour of the walls, it looks soooo simple and chic. On the green filing cabinets are some cool handmade lights, by Tomto Lighting and my lovely friend Louise stands in front of the hidden storage in the walls.

And that’s all I have pics of! The guest room and bathroom are gorgeous too but my camera skills weren’t up to capturing these slightly darker rooms! It is so nice isn’t it?!

The best things in life are on the other side of fear….

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This is a super quick brain dump of some of the history that has led up to what was quite an exciting day for me yesterday – handing my notice in at my 4 day a week proper job. I’ve been wanting to do this for a while, finding the pressure of balancing 2 children and trying to start a business all at the same time, a bit too much. I’ve had a couple of bouts of illness since the start of the year, simply because I’m doing too much and not looking after myself.

But the decision came quicker than I expected, I’d requested to go down to 3 days which would have meant a) we could cover school pick ups and drop offs between myself, Chris and my mum (Eric my eldest starts school in September) and b) I would have a precious couple of mornings to spend on the business while Herbie was at pre-school. Working for a charity that advocates for responsible business practices at the core of what it does, including flexible working, I thought the request would be approved. I was wrong. Denied. This made me really angry, I felt undervalued but also just incensed that flexible working is still so far away from being a reality, if an organisation that publicly promotes these types of behaviours can’t even provide this, what chance does anyone else have? Anyway, this is another story. What it provided me with was the push I needed to go. Above all else, I want to be around for my children, to pick them up from school and to not be so tired that they never get my best. So something had to give.

I thought I’d use this blog to tell you a bit about me, as the decision has got me thinking about my life and what I’m doing and all those deep questions! This decision has reminded me that I’m really an entrepreneur to the core! The first pic is of me in Paris on a work placement after uni, and I opened a cafe with my brilliant friend Becca, when i was a couple of years out of uni. It was called ‘Rest’ and it was ace, but the location wasn’t great, and we couldn’t make it work. But it was 2 years of hard work, brilliant experience and something I don’t regret. The picture below is our cafe and me and Bec flopping on the sofa after another exhausting day.

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After this I had to get a ‘normal’ job, but I always had this ongoing desire to do something creative, and where I was the boss! I’m always coming up with ideas (this is my problem, I lack focus), and I once bought a job lot of bird boxes and french string bags to sell at a festival, roping in my best friend to come and man the stall with me, which involved sleeping in the stall on hard concrete. Unfortunately that one didn’t fly.

I look back sometimes and thing, did i just make decisions based on safety, and needing a proper job? Should I have pursued something creative years ago? Maybe. But I did follow one of my passions (which are many) and studied for an MA in Sustainable Enterprise, and had many interesting jobs in the field of corporate responsibility and sustainability. I think a I always had the desire to do something more creative but never fell on the right idea until now. To put this into context, I’m nearly 40 now and I opened the cafe when I was in my early twenties, the intervening years have been spent in proper jobs!

So, back to the present day. I’ve been working at this thing I call ‘Cotton Clara’ since 2014, after my second son was born. Slowly I’ve been learning what my style is, what the market is like and what I can bring that’s unique and different. I have worked really hard, alongside work for the last three years and sacrificed fitness, friendships and a clean house amongst other things but I’m passionate about this, and about building something that allows me to pursue a creative career. But i am now where near this looking like a profitable business YET!! I’ve had some great exposure, and really positive feedback and the sales are heading in the right direction, but this is a real risk. I wanted to tell you this, because I know I always look at other people who are pursuing similar careers and think wow, they’ve really made it, what’s their secret? Well, I am sure many people have made it and are doing amazingly, and I hope I’ll get there, but I want to be really honest and say I’m not there yet, but I have made the leap! And it’s going to be hard! I don’t have a rich husband (but I do have an amazingly supportive and tolerant one) or big savings to fall back on! We’re going to have to really watch every penny, and we were never flush! But I’d rather give this a go, and be poor for a while than never take the risk.

Starting a business when you have 2 small children is hard, and when you have to work because you are the highest earner in the house it’s even harder. But i’ve come to the decision my health, and my children are more important than a stable job. I will put my hands up and say I may have to get another job in a few months time, but hey, that’s fine! At least I tried! I’m believing in myself, in what I know I’m good at and in what makes me happy. Anyway, I feel like there is much more to tell you and maybe you’ll be interested in following this journey with me? I’m going to keep posting blogs to let those of you who want to know, how it’s going.

Credit for the title to Will Smith, via Makeandmendlife, thank you for the inspiration!!!! One of my biggest fears, I feel scared to admit is what if I get ill and we have no work benefits to support us? Freelance seems so scary for this and other reasons. But, you can’t live your life based on fear can you? It’s like the quote, ‘but what if I fall? Oh but my dear, what if you fly?!’ for me it’s probably more like ‘but what if I die? oh my dear but what if you live?!’. There’s probably another blog post here, about my mental health issues (possibly stemming from my dad dying 10 years ago), but there I’ve told you and that’s a start isn’t it!

Think this Friday I deserve a (cheap) glass of wine!!!!

Pom Pom Cushion Tutorial

 

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I have had the materials to make this project for soooo long, and while I dithered before making it I kept seeing similar tutorials pop up! Anyway, this is my version. Using lovely materials supplied by Sew Crafty.

I was inspired to make some circular colourful cushions by these gorgeous velvet penny cushions by Rachel Castle, one of my favourite people to follow on Instagram.

You will need:

– Some brown paper for making a template

– A round cushion insert

– Between 1-2 metres of pom pom trim depending on the size of the cushion

– About a metre of fabric, I used baby needlecord for my cushions but you could use felt or cotton

– A sewing machine with a zipper foot

– Basic sewing supplies

You need to start by cutting out a circle template. To get a really tightly filled cushion, measure the diameter of one side of your cushion, from side to side. This is the diameter you’ll need to make your circle template. Don’t add on a seam allowance or the cover will be too baggy. You will need one complete circle template for one side, and then a semi-circle with an extension to the sides of 6 cm, to create the underside, envelope flaps of the cushion cover.

Cut out one large circle using your template and two semi-circles, with the extended sides. Then hem the two semi-circle pieces along the straight side, I folded over about a cm.

Now the slightly tricky part is to add the pom pom trim. To make this bit easier, tack the trim so that it is laying flat on the right side of your full circle piece, pom poms facing in, tape to the edge of the cushion as in the top right picture. Then lay on top of this your semi-circle pieces, right sides of the semi-circles facing the right side of the full circle. The two semi circles overlap each other and remain open, this is where you’ll push in your cushion. Then pin all the way around the circle. I then just machine stitched around the whole circle VERY carefully, using a zipper foot, making sure to not catch any of the pom poms with my stitches. It might take you a few tries to get it right.

DSCF7147What you should end up with when you turn the cushion to the right side, is this. You’ve trapped the tape inside the cushion, and left the pom poms outside! Then just fill with your cushion insert. I found that to get a nice shape, I needed to tack the envelope shut at two points, otherwise it gaped a little. You can just unpick these stitches if you want to was the cover, which with the grubby little hands in my household I always need to do!

Let me know if you try this! Thank you Sew Crafty for the lovely supplies 🙂

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upcycled tray project

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The idea first came to me for this project last summer, when Chris and I had a couple of childfree hours to spend in Dorchester, while his parents looked after our children. We had a lovely coffee and then he stayed and read books and I went and had a wander around the charity shops. Being a well to do town, the charity shops are GOOD in Dorchester. I could have picked up lots more, but I had big plans for these two trays when I saw them, all yellowing and old, but with great floral images. I saw the potential. And it’s only taken me nearly a year to get the project done and show it to you!

Here’s what you need:

An old tray with a flower pattern on ( or actually any cool old pattern? I’m imagining horses?!)

Acrylic Paints in the palette of your choosing, the better quality they are the less layers you’ll have to paint.

Modpodge & some paint brushes.

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I say this on every blog I write, but this is a really simple project. You just need to start painting over the existing pattern. Now how careful you are about this is up to you and your temperament! I started off being quite careful, but gradually relaxed and started to be a bit freer with me brushstrokes and I prefer that painterly look. I would start with picking out a colour on the tray and identifying where that appears all over the tray, then repainting it all with the same colour. If you’ve got the patience to keep using that technique then I salute you, I got a base layer on, and then just started free-styling it. I think you can still see the floral pattern? I think it just looks more up to date, less twee.

I really enjoyed building up the layers, and doing a bit, then coming back the next day and adding a bit more. I bought a neon pink paint which really brightened up my colour palette. The trick is to just keep going, layering and layering until you are happy with the look.

With the second tray I did (not the one mainly pictured above) I used a bit less paint, it took me a lot less time, and it’s a slightly different look but I still like it. So you don’t have to spend hours on this, it could definitely be a daytime project, or a couple of evenings to allow for drying.

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So now to bring in my favourite craft supply ever. What can you not do with Mod Podge?! I wanted to seal the trays so I could use them, obvs. I have no idea whether this is food safe?! Sorry about that. I’m taking the risk!

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Just spread mod podge evenly over the trays, doesn’t need to be very thick. And leave to dry. And there you have it, transformed! I love the feeling I get when a project i’ve dreamt up gets completed. It’s like a sigh of relief that it’s no longer in my head anymore! Let me know if you give this a go!

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vintage embroidered apron

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I am a charity shop fan. I like nothing more than a potter around a good local shop, hunting for treasure. That’s what it feels like, you have so many visits where you find nothing, but then you strike gold! These little embroidered napkins or tablecloths are gold, but they aren’t that hard to find either – most charity shops have a basket of them. I just love that someone spent hours stitching these pieces and probably treasuring them and laundering them perfectly their whole lives, bringing them out on special occasions! We don’t really do that any more do we? My table just has a permanently semi-stained oil cloth on it, only very rarely do I actually get a table cloth out, then I find it needs and iron and maybe hasn’t been washed since I last used it (don’t judge me). So, what else could you do with these little treasures? Well, read on. Here’s an idea.

What you will need….

Two or three old embroidered napkins or a tablecloth

Iron on interfacing

A length of fabric for the apron, I used a cord

A length of fabric for lining the apron (mine was 42cm x 62cm including the seam allowance but make your apron the size you wish)

A length of fabric for the apron tie, or an old wide ribbon (mine was 200cm x 7cm)

Some jumbo pom pom trim (depending on how big your apron is, I used 130cm)

Sewing machine

Basic haberdashery supplies

 

Cut out your lengths of fabric for the base of the apron. You will need two rectangle shaped pieces, one for the front and one to line. The length and width will depend on how big/small you want the apron to be.

Choose which pieces of embroidery you’d like as your pockets and cut them to the size you’d like them to be, lay them out on your fabric to test the positioning. Then line each panel with iron on interfacing.

 

You can line the pockets if you like, or just press a seam onto the top edge where the pocket will open. This piece in the photo already had seams sewn on the other edges but you many need to sew side seams also, if you have cut out your panel from a larger piece of fabric.

Sew along the top seam and side seams of the patch pockets if needed.

 

 

Now position your pieces on the panel that will be the front of your apron and sew into place.

You now need your lining fabric. With right sides together, pin the pom pom trim into place. Mine was quite bulky so it was quite a tricky task, but you could use smaller pom pom trim to make it easier. Of course you could just leave the apron plain. Sew the two pieces together, leaving the top edge open. You’ll need to sew so that only the pom poms are visible once turned the right way round, and you can’t see any of the edging.

 

Press the top edge to form a neat hem

\You’ll now need your apron tie, this could be two lengths of fabric you have sewn together to form a long ribbon, or an old wide ribbon. With right sides together, pin the ribbon to the seam you have just pressed.

Sew the ribbon to the apron, closing the top edge seam as you go. And you have your finished apron!

 

vintage tea towel stool upcycle

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So I am just warning you, this is quite an easy tutorial (teaching you to suck eggs?!) AND I have done it really quickly, so it’s not as high a standard as I would like but I just needed to do it rather than do it perfectly, such is the chaotic nature of my life at the moment! So, if you’re happy with that – read on!

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This is such a simple project utilising those brilliant Ikea stools that have been around for years and are a design classic (I think they are anyway). I quite like them left untouched but I had to do something with a pile of old tea towels that I picked up in a charity shop about 18 months ago, and this was my favourite idea.

I just love vintage tea towels, especially the old ones that had brand names on, or were from the milk marketing board in the 1970s or something, I think it’s the combination of vintage design and typography on a fabric base that I love! If you follow @delphineandmax on Instagram she often posts pics of some very cute tea towels and check out the hashtag todieforteatoweltuesday  lots of lovely examples here! But on with the DIY!

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You will need, a tea towel, a stool, some Modpodge, a stool, some scissors and a brush.

Start by cutting your circle shape out. You can do this much more carefully than I did, measuring how much you need to leave to create a neat fold over on the stool, I just did it by eye and cut a rough circle out of the tea towel a bit bigger than the stool seat. Then brush a layer of Mod Podge onto the top of the stool seat. Lay your tea towel on top and smooth out the fabric, then turn it over so you can paste some Mod Podge onto the underneath and the sides. Once you’ve done this, start to fold over the edge of your tea towel material.

Once you have folded all of the fabric round onto the underneath of the stool seat, add another layer of Mod Podge to seal down the folded edges of fabric.  Stand the stool seat on it’s side, or prop it up for an hour to let it dry, and then add another of layer to the top and sides, to seal the fabric. This will make it wipe cleanable, so this is great for a coffee table too, no need to worry about spills or mess! Leave to dry again, screw the legs on and you’re done!

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Starting something…the one thing I learnt this year.

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This year has been a brilliant year for me and I wanted to document it so I didn’t forget how fun it’s been and to write it down in case it encouraged anyone else who was wanting to make the first steps into starting a creative business. I started off by writing about everything that had happened, but that got a bit long and boring and I noticed there was a theme in what I was writing about so I thought I’d narrow it down to this one thing.

And before you read this, this is by no means me saying I’ve made it, I’d be so embarrassed if you thought that! I have taken some first steps and had some successes and glimmers of hope that I’m on the right path, but I’m still working the day job and getting all this stuff done in the evenings. I don’t know if I’ll get there and make a living out of this but I’m going to try, and this is what’s happened so far and what I’ve learned. I hope it helps someone…..

For those who don’t know, I design modern embroidery kits and products and write for craft magazines, I sell on Etsy and Not On The High Street.

January 2016, was about taking stock. I’d worked hard to develop my needlepoint kits over the last year but had a disappointing Christmas, sales wise and just new I could do better. It all felt very ‘home made’ and a bit unprofessional. So I knew I had to work on my branding and logo and to develop some new products. I also set myself the goal of getting accepted to Not on the High street, and that was about the sum of my business planning. Since having children and having such a limited amount of free time, planning and admin etc. has gone to the bottom of the pile in terms of priorities. I’m just all about the doing, getting my head down and getting on with things. I say this as I don’t think this is the best way, this year I’m determined to be much more focused, plan much more and hopefully be more effective. I feel like I’ve achieved a lot this year, but that its been the result of a bit of a scatter gun approach rather than a focussed plan, maybe I’d have achieved more if I’d had a more detailed plan? Anyway, at the start of the year, with a 1 and a 3 year old and a full time job, these two goals were all I could manage. Rebrand, and get accepted to Not on the High Street.

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So first on the list to tackle was the rebrand. The first logo I had, I’d designed (above) in about half an hour and I was a bit embarrassed now looking at it, it was basic. Luckily for me, a friend of my sister’s, who is an established graphic designer,  wanted to try her hand at this type of branding brief, and asked if she could work for me for free – in return for feedback, and a project for her portfolio. Yes, I bit her hand off. This has been truly a massive blessing for me and has really elevated my business.

But this process wasn’t just me handing over the reigns and getting someone to design me a look and feel for my business. It required me to ask some hard questions about my brand and my style, what colours defined my style, who was I focussing my products towards? I had some great, great difficult and brain bending chats with my graphic designer, she asked me hard questions about what I wanted my business to be and it was so helpful to just have to try and answer things like this face to face, to be grilled by someone really trying to get to the bottom of what my business was. Because I’m so immersed in what I do, I feel like it’s obvious what I’m trying to do whereas it can look quite different to an outsider, these conversations really helped me focus in on what I wanted to do and which aspect of my work I wanted to focus on. These chats made me realise I needed to focus, focus, focus, what was I all about?!  I also read The Brand Stylist, by Fiona Humberstone, a great workbook and I would highly recommend it as a structured way to think about defining your brand.

So now we’re at about April, I think. I’m getting some success submitting projects to Mollie Makes and Reloved magazines and the deadline for the Mollie Makes awards is coming up. I was undecided as to whether to apply, I’d applied the year before and not been shortlisted, but I decided to give it a go, and I got shortlisted, and got the chance to go and spend a day with all the other shortlisted businesses/designers, which was brilliant and I met loads of great people and learnt a lot. And this is where you’ll see the theme start to appear, what was most helpful about taking part in the awards was having to present my work and talk about what I did to a group of people who didn’t know me and didn’t know what I did. The process again, of preparing for this and speaking it out and chatting to other people made me realise a whole load of other stuff about what I did and what my business was all about. So this felt like another step forward, of realisation of what I needed to do to be successful and learning more about myself, how I worked and what I wanted my focus to be. You can read all about my day at the Mollie Makes awards here.

So back to my New Year goal to get accepted to NOTHS, I had booked in an appointment at one of their pitch up events in July, as I work so much better with an actual deadline, and I prefer the face to face interaction rather than just sending an email. I’d highly recommend this way of applying to NOTHS, i went on a Saturday, got the chance to go to the head office in Richmond (so cool) and best of all got half an hours chat with one of the category managers. I didn’t get accepted on the day, I wasn’t ready, BUT it was so helpful, it was another one of those opportunities to talk to someone external about my work, try and describe what I do, what my brand was about and in the process, and in the stumbling and not very coherent explanation, work out myself a little bit more of what I was about. All of these experiences of having to get out of my spare bedroom and actually talk to people about what i do and what i wanted to do were THE MOST useful exercises and helped me move my thinking and my brand along much quicker than if I’d just sat in my room trying to work it all out on my won. So, I still had a way to go, but I was LEARNING!

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So we’re now at September,  I have a brand new image that I love, I have some new products that I’ve refined and based on feedback from My NOTHS pitch up I’m much more confident in, so I book in to my second pitch up event this time in Leicester and this time I’m accepted!!!! It felt so good! That I’d been let into this club made up of loads of makers and designers that I’d admired and learned from, and the NOTHS team’s feedback was so positive and ecouraging, it made all those late nights/early mornings really worth it and it was a massive boost!

I’m drawing to a close now, as this is a really long post for me and I know I only have a very short attention span, so others must be the same? Anyway, to wrap up the theme and hammer home my one piece of advice that stands out through the whole of last year, I was chatting to a colleague at work, someone I really like and who has a great lot of experience in business and life generally, and we were chatting about my business and I was again, trying not that well to explain it and I don’t know how we got on to it, but we ended up agreeing to meet up and that he would start to mentor me in my business. We met ups couple of weeks later and again, had a really difficult but brilliant conversation because I was STILL struggling to communicate clearly and effectively what my business was all about, was I wanting to be a blogger, a journalist, an artist, a designer, a retail agh!!! He was able to reflect back to me some of the gaps in what I was saying and basically communicated to me and made me realise, I need a plan. Maybe not a 50 page business plan, but something more detailed and focussed to work towards, how I am going to make this business thing happen.

All of these opportunities to talk about my business this year, either to a judging panel, a NOTHS category manager, my mentor or my graphic designer, have ALL made me realise new things about my business, what I’m doing what I need to do. I really believe that if I hadn’t made these things happen, I would be so much further behind, the business would be so less well developed because in the talk, I realised so many things and had so many ideas that JUST WOULDN’T have happened other wise!

So, because I need to wrap this up my one piece of advice for anyone starting out on a similar venture is TALK. Talk to people about your business. Talk and share, re-evaluate, talk and share, re-evaluate. Keep doing this. Talk to as many people as you can, as far removed from you personally as you can ( I am sure my husband has tried to tell me the same things my mentor told me but I never listened to him!) Get a mentor ! Find an acquaintance or a colleague who you meet up with and talk about your business idea. Get used to talking about it and realising where the flaws are, if you can’t communicate it, it’s not clear enough and other people won’t catch on to what you are doing. Put yourself in situations where you have to talk about your business, at networking groups or business retreats, book that NOTHS appointment or like me find a friendly graphic designer, because the process of talking your ideas through, again and again, and refining them as you go will move you forward. I really hope I’ve communicated this adequately, but I really feel like this one principle will help you move your business forward, I think I just fell into doing it this year, but on reflection, it has definitely been the thing that has pushed me on this year and will be one thing I will continue to do in 2017!

Ok that’s it. What do you think?