Welcome to the Workshop

Welcome to the Workshop

Monday, July 30, 2012

Crafty Donuts

Ok. I'm going to fess up. I rarely craft with my kid. Gasp! I know, I know, we made that Totoro recently but that was an aberration. I am impatient, always thinking about how much more productively my time could be spent, and can't stand the mess. There, I said it. 
I'm trying to address this problem. It's up there with the cooking-healthy-food problem. Definitely a work in progress.
I created a board on Pinterest full of crafty ideas for kids which you can find here, but I hadn't made a single thing from it. It just served as some lovely eye candy. Until the other day when a friend of mine asked me to show her kid how to sew. I perked up and made the effort (poor Poppet that it takes this opportunity to show off to motivate me) and searched out a felt donut pattern on the net. It was a lot of fun and I hope it inspires me to pass on a little more of my own skill-set to my child before she loses interest. Maybe you will find something nice to do with yours, or just enjoy the images on Pinterest like I usually do. Here's a couple of snaps (bad light sorry) from our crafting. She did a great job and I was reminded of how much fun it could be.

You can find the full tutorial over here at the I'll Get You My Pretties blog. We worked with materials we had on hand and Poppet did a lot more of the sewing than on the Totoro project. I think we'll grab a hoop and work on a bit of embroidery soon, goodness knows I need to work on that too!
In other news, I sold all of these yesterday on Etsy...

And in just over a week we'll be in London enjoying some Olympic madness. Can't wait!

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Here's A Story...

Of a lovely lady...

image via here

We are living and breathing the "Bunch" at the moment. My sister bought the first dvd for Poppet a year ago, but it took her a while to catch on. Now she's hooked! I think she sees herself as a mash-up of Jan and Cindy, I always did.

image via here

Today we're learning about tattling, about honesty and integrity and about courage. And about loving yourself and being true to who you are.
Who knew?

Btw, this is hysterical! Remember the Brady Bunch Variety Hour??

Which Brady were you? Do you have a favourite episode?

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

How Much Is That Poppet In The Window...

Good question. 
I consider myself to be a business woman. But lately I've been wondering if I am in earnest. I think my work reflects it, certainly the time and energy I put into my enterprise reflects it. 
But my prices?
Consider this. I certainly have been.
When you start a crafty business, you're just so darn excited that somebody - anybody!- wants to give you more than $1 for something you've pulled out of your brain and turned into a product. So, so flattering. 
It makes you feel like dancing on tables and singing in the rain. It's gratifying and lovely and you could feed off of that initial flush of excitement for eternity.

Meanwhile, if you're lucky, your product and your 'little' business gains popularity and you start getting orders. Of course, you say 'Yes' to everyone (I mean, this interest could all just dry up tomorrow, best be making the most of it) with a huge capital "Y"! You might be featured on some blogs, take on some wholesale orders, get accepted into some major craft fairs. These business-shenanigans are addictive and your ego is being stroked and plumped and fluffed. You're continually doing happy dances (on or off tables).

Until you start to connect the dots.
You realise that the lead up to each exhausting craft market or wholesale order is a world of stress and pain and your family forgets your name. To be followed thereafter by total and utter annihilation, usually in the form of the flu. You haven't felt this sleep deprived since you had a baby. You are constantly running from 'A' to 'B', making things and selling things and marketing and chatting both in person and online. You are up into the wee small hours chatting to people on the other side of the world, discovering the powers of blogging and instagram, twitter and facebook. Your ideas file is BURSTING with all the gorgeous things you'll probably never find time to make, darn it. You have literally become a one-woman show.


But you don't have an understudy and you forgot to stick to the script. 
The one in which you are also a Mother and a Wife. Oh, and an Individual. One who needs to eat well, get enough rest and exercise, enjoy leisure time and maintain meaningful relationships with the incredible people who've supported your journey into the entrepreneur abyss. Life is short, it's very easy to wake up years later and realise how much you've missed out on while you were 'busy'.

There have been countless rewards from running my small and very popular business from home. But the lines between work and play and family are blurred at best, and more and more I find that I am craving delineation. Now is the time, I have a child in school and a whole week of potential work hours ahead of me. Yet I procrastinate, my attempts at multi-tasking (because I am Superwoman, aren't I?) result in nothing being completed properly. Last minute has become my mantra and it sucks. I want to be 'at work' or not, I want to be doing housework or hanging out with my 'peeps', or not. My days need to be divided more efficiently and I want to see something tangible for my time. I'm going to be gauche now and tell you that I want to be paid in dollars and cents, not just in satisfaction and creativity. My independent streak requires that I give this some serious consideration.

I have sought ways to make a better profit on my product over the past two years. This has culminated in the occasional nudge in prices, a few dollars here and there. But the message I've really been giving to my customer and myself is that I'm not worth much more than that, it's as if I've been apologising for charging anything at all.  I have put too low a value on myself, my creativity and (quite frankly) the insane amount of time and effort which goes into each and every piece I make. I just don't want to cut corners with my craft.
When a customer buys something from me, it's for a reason. My pieces are unique.
I don't repeat fabric combinations, which means it can take me an hour just to choose the four or five fabrics for one Poppet. I don't want to change that.
I put extra care and attention into the details because that's the only way I know how to do things. I don't want to change that.
I sew ribbon around the necks of each piece by hand to reinforce the seams because I can't bear the thought of that stuffing seam ripping open mid-cuddle. Nor do I want to change that.
I cut with scissors, carefully, I double-stitch the seams and I take a long time with the stuffing. If I haven't done my best there's no way I'm going to sell it. These toys are made with love (and the occasional blood, sweat and tears) and that's the way it should be. They're Handmade!

Here's the thing. If I'm going to pour that amount of love and attention into something which is not my blood relation then there needs to be remuneration. If I'm not making a nutritious meal for my family and myself because I'm making someone a Poppet, that should be reflected in the price. 
I believe my customers understand this, that is one of the reasons they buy handmade in the first place. If they want a quick fix they can just toddle off to Target for some Made-In-China 'whatever'. But they don't, they wait and they hope and they stalk. They try desperately to get themselves a Poppet. Just one Poppet, any Poppet! I love that. I am incredibly spoilt to have the most loyal and engaging customers around. I want to make a Poppet for everyone, but the guilty feeling that I should be doing something 'more important' is counter-productive. I just can't get motivated. Why not chuck it in and clean the floors or teach my kid the piano. It's not as if I'm making any money, anyways.

And so, it is with relief that I am writing this down and getting it off of my chest. I have finally woken up and taken a very long hard look at what I do, what I've been doing and where I want to go. I want to run a business. I want it to grow, truly grow. I want feel proud of each and every aspect of the way I run Pikelet Workshop. I want to be able to offer my customers the opportunity to place an order again and to FEEL like making. Making more than I am at the moment, that's for sure.
I sat down with the intention of writing a simple post about pricing. About the cost of materials, the costs of shipping (and custom duties, which are a whopper in Canada) and electricity and time spent designing and making and tweeting and posting. The $2.50 I probably make per hour. Blah blah blah. You've read it before. You know the score. And frankly, writing a post like that felt like justifying my work all over again.
If you've held a Poppet in your hands you just know. They're worth it.

What I seem to have written instead is a post about myself. About the true value of being me. I really like 'me'. It's taken me nearly 40 years to arrive at that conclusion. Pikelet Workshop should be an extension and an expression of that, because if it was taken away tomorrow I would most certainly feel as though my right arm had been chopped off.
Who I am is unique and special, one of a kind.
And so is what I sell.
I hope you will all stick around when you see that reflected in my prices come September. Don't panic, I'm just increasing them to an area in which I feel more comfortable. Here's to true growth, both in business and in spirit. And to an increase in productivity, herein lies the key to that.

PS. I stayed awake into the wee small hours working on this post. It would appear that that particular 'lesson' is a work in progress...

Monday, July 23, 2012

Best of British

We've started a new Pinterest board over at Pin-ups. It's called "Best of British". 
We thought it was fitting with the Olympics starting this week, yay! We're collecting images and crafty things from all over the UK. The 'girls' have gone nuts already and I thought it was high time I shared some of the good ones.
There's so much more to see, and don't forget if you want an invite to Pinterest, just give me your email address, one way or another. I'm happy to spread the addiction!

First, there's this one from Georgie at Monkeys over the Moon. Couldn't agree more (married one after all).

image via here

And then the iconic double-decker bus from Liselle, at Liselle Banks - Art & Papery Creations.

image via here

And lastly, this gorgeous pillow from Maryanne at handmade kids.

image via here

On another exciting British note, we're off to the UK ourselves in a few weeks. We are spending two days in London, smack bang in the middle of the Olympic schedule, and a few days in Manchester with family.
Poppet still writes to her great-grandmother, so we're very excited to be seeing her (and the rest of the fam) again soon.

That's all for now. It's crazy hot again in Toronto, we're hoping the predicted storm eventuates to cool things down. My brain just can't take it...

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Felty Goodness

I can't tell you how long I've been wanting to work with felt alone. I love the colours and the endless possibilities it suggests. But I've been making Poppets and trying to increase my output for so long that I put the following idea on the back burner for, like, ever.

Last week I gave myself permission to play. Having already made my Wishing Tree for Christmas, I felt that he needed a friend. An angel seemed the obvious companion. Here are a few early shots of "Hope", the Wishing Angel. Just like the tree (have to come up with a name for him soon!) there is a little pocket on the reverse. Your child can write a note to Santa, roll it up and slip it inside. Then they can hang Hope on the Christmas tree or above their bed. I think Hope doubles as a rather nice Tooth Fairy alternative as well.
This is something I've been wanting to make for so long, but I completely underestimated how much work would go into them both. Hand-cut, hand-stitched (except for the final seams), there are hours of work in each. My goodness, cutting out those tiny circles! And whilst working on them, I had a very long hard think about my pricing structure. It's completely out of whack, so you can expect things to change in that area. But I'll go into more detail on that subject in my next post.

This is exactly the kind of 'work' which I really enjoy. I plan to do a lot more of them, and some other felty characters. Maybe some smaller decorations as well. 
They make a nice change and put a smile on my face, hope they do the same for you.

 They'll be available in my Etsy shop soon. Promise.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Fretting and Growling

As you may know from previous posts, here for example, I am prone to anxiety. I pick at the skin around my fingers (still!) and have a tendency towards eating when stressed. Lately, I've been getting better at dealing with all of this. I try to exercise more and be kinder to myself in general. I've also learned to be ok with only being able to do so much, especially in terms of Poppet production.
Poppet is already following in my footsteps, damn those genes! She bites her nails and gets tummy aches but thankfully hasn't yet taken to eating to suppress feelings of inadequacy and anxiety. I encourage her to talk things out, to exercise and to get good quality sleep. She's pretty good at managing it most of the time, especially since we found this book.

image via here

This book really helped to articulate how to deal with anxiety for Poppet. Worries are likened to tomato plants, in that if you feed them they will grow and take over the place but if you starve them they will die. One of the great things to come out of working with this book is the concept of  'worry time'. Of course you want your kid to talk to you about their worries, but not all of the time. If you schedule 15 minutes every day for 'worry time' and give them your undivided attention, children feel heard and also learn to only allow themselves to only think about worries during the prescribed time. It helped Poppet a lot and we rarely seem to need 'worry time' anymore but it's great to know the technique is there if we need it again. There are lots of useful activities in the book and I highly recommend your getting hold of it if your kid has a tendency towards anxiety. Hell, I even found some useful pointers myself! You can buy both books mentioned in this post over here.
With worries being a little less troubling, we're turning our attention to anger. Call it hormonal, call it being a child, call it what you will but Poppet can have a very bad temper. She often has trouble controlling it and says and does things which she desperately regrets not long afterwards. Of course this is part of growing up, but I've been struggling to find a good way to help her deal with it. At almost 8 years of age, I feel it's time she started resisting the power of her temper. After loving the worry book so much I thought I'd see what else they have on offer. Naturally, there's a book all about anger. It arrived in the mail yesterday and she loves it. 

image via here

We have only just started work on this book, but can't put it down. I think Poppet feels incredible relief to see she's not alone and to find that there is a solution to these problems. The books are both so well laid out and are written in such a conversational manner with lots of images and activities. Thank goodness I found them. So far, we are working on putting Poppet back into the 'driving seat' of her emotions. I'm sure it won't prevent all of her outbursts, she's only human after all, but it would be lovely to see a reduction in them. Having control over her temper will make her feel so much better about herself as well. She was grumpy with me today at lunchtime and instead of flaring into a rage due to her own disappointment with herself, she calmly told me she was sorry but that she was very tired. I couldn't ask for more.
Maybe these holidays won't be so long after all. Now, I'd better go work on some of that Poppet production I was discussing earlier...

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Pinning Til The Cows Come Home

With all that 'spare' time I have, I've been spending a lot of it on Pinterest
It's the purest form of eye-candy and for this self-acknowledged magazine junky, it's a good way to get my design fix without spending any cash. There are also no stacks of magazines cluttering up the house (well, there are but less than there used to be) and no files full of tear-out pages to refer back to. If I want to remember a recipe I can just 'pin' it to a board and it's also a very useful tool to use when blogging and in need of images and links to share.

image via here

Until now, I hadn't really thought of Pinterest as a social media site. But Facebook has been getting me down, since the timeline format was introduced for business pages (possibly they changed the algorithms at that point too) the interaction on my page has plunged into the icy depths. Now Facebook wants me to pay to communicate with my likers and I'm just not sure how I feel about that.
The challenge now is to broaden my business interactions online, to continue to use Facebook but also to gently encourage my customers to follow me on Twitter or the blog and now I'm going to treat Pinterest in the same way. And why not? There are currently 322 people following me on Pinterest. Just because they like images and design and recipes and humour as much as me. I've followed most of them in return and have been invited to join group boards in which a whole lot of people contribute to one place. This is a great networking tool! I'm only just starting to make the most of Pinterest in this way, but the idea is growing and I like it.
On that note, I decided to co-ordinate a new group board. I invited women I've met through Facebook who either run crafty businesses or have blogs which support said businesses, and they're on Pinterest. These women have incredible tenacity and integrity and I'm very glad they're my friends. This group has only just begun, but I'm already watching some wonderful new friendships form, and it's lovely to have a safe environment to chat about the highs and lows of running small businesses and blogs.
Our new group board is called Pin-Ups, and you can find it here. It's a place where we can all share images from a basic theme, whether it be our own work or someone else's. Each month we will change the theme, and share our favourite pins with our own readers/likers/tweeters. Our first theme is, fittingly, Pin-ups. And today, I thought I'd start sharing some of my favourites.
Here is one from Christina, who operates Little Pickers

image via here

Christina is a WAHM (work at home mum) and does some really cool applique when she's not hanging out with her boys. Here are some photos of her work.

I think her work is great quality, and have enjoyed watching her business explode overnight, with over 2000 likers on Facebook these days. You can follow her on Facebook over here.
Hope you like the direction things are going on the blog, I really want to share more than just Poppet's bicycle adventures and my stitching with you. Handmade is my life, after all.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Totoro Totoro...

It's stinking hot at the moment. Stinking! We have airconditioning upstairs but not down, where most of the action takes place. I've moved my computer up to Poppet's bedroom to enjoy the cool air while she's at camp. This week she has photography lessons every morning and cooking every afternoon, and a break for lunch with me. The cafe where camp is happening is just at the end of our street, and I wrote about it here.
She seemed pretty excited when I dropped her off. 
I've been busy tidying up my Pinterest boards. If you aren't familiar with Pinterest, it's a way of collating all the images/posts on the internet which you admire and pinning them all to virtual boards for reference. You can follow other people's boards and they yours. It's incredibly addictive and lovely, and also a great form of networking. If you would like an invite to Pinterest, just put your email address in the comments section below, or send me an email. No problemo.
Whilst pinning yesterday, I stumbled across a great little tutorial by Cheek and Stitch and knew we'd just have to make it at once! We have a Totoro passion in this house. I first saw the film when I was pregnant with Poppet and we've shown it to her on the small and big screen since. There's something about the way Miyazaki captures children and their vivid imaginations which melts my heart.

There are some cute Totoro plush on the market, but who wouldn't rather make one themselves! And this was a good opportunity to work on Poppet's stitching technique, or lack thereof. Bad Mummy.
I won't bore you with the technical details, that's available over at Cheek and Stitch via the great patterns and tutorial available there.Totoro took us about a day to complete, with me doing the bulk of the cutting and stitching to expedite things. Poppet loved contributing to the project and is so happy with the result.

The neighbour's cat, Theo, came to the window to see what was happening. He visits us daily, it is soooo tempting to let him in.

And then it was time for Totoro cuddles. There have been plenty of them since.

Apologies for the general fuzziness of the shots. A combination of not charging my camera battery, an overcast day and being too hot and cranky to do them again.
Maybe Poppet could do a better job when she gets home...

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Santa Ballot

I managed to finish up three Santa Poppets this week. They'll be available Monday morning (Toronto time) via ballot on my Facebook page. Think I'll cut out some Wishing Trees for later in the week...

Now, I'd better go do some craft with my poor neglected child.

Friday, July 13, 2012

All Smashed Up

Well, amidst the excitement of having family members to show off to, Poppet got a little too clever on her scooter (insert crashing sound here). She managed to fall rather neatly onto her mouth. Lots of blood and tears and a little bit of only-just-emerging-front-tooth has chipped away. Of course, being the mouth, there was a lot of blood but it's healed up rather nicely. We're taking Tooth to the dentist next week to make sure he's ok too.


It's not often that one sees something new on the internet. But check out these mermaid tails! Why hasn't anyone done this before? Or maybe they have, but I've never seen them.
So would have loved one when I was 10.

image via Monika Naumann  on Etsy
I found some other mermaid fun on Etsy and thought I'd share that too.
From the terribly cute..

image via Green Green Baby on Etsy

To the fairly whacky...

image via Cottage Emporium on Etsy

I'm afraid my own daughter will have to make do with her Mermaid Poppet made by me. Not such a sloppy second, really.

But I'm going to tinker with the existing pattern over the next few weeks and make her a new one. 
Just because I can...


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