Friday, 15 February 2019

Etsy Updates

I have been working very hard on my Etsy shop lately, reading lots of comments about how to get the best out of it as a seller and trying to update my images, update my collections and generally improve it. I don't think anyone realises when starting up one of these online shops, just how much work and effort has to go into it. You think that once an item is listed on there the whole world will be eagerly awaiting it and the orders will start flying in. The problem is, there is more competition online than anywhere else you could be selling your wares and you really have to go the extra mile to be noticed and to entice scrolling potential shoppers to stop scrolling and come on inside your little domain.

Although Etsy is a great place to sell through, there are little things that you can do to be put higher up in results listings; offer free shipping, have a shorter turn-around time for posting, add more keywords to your product titles, put in as many categories, tags, materials used and other little bits of information as you possibly can. I started researching what similar sellers to me have been listing their products under and found that actually trying to search for these sellers was really helpful because then I could use the keywords I was searching through as my tags.

It took pretty much all of last week to fully update every product in my shop (there are nearly 100 listed!) from embroidered pebbles to mounted prints and, of course, my embroidery kits. It does appear to be working slightly better for me which is great!
I have listed loads more stitchscape pebble designs in both sizes after a little photoshoot where these guys were working it! I have a pop up photo booth light box thing which helps to diffuse the light to make my images look more professional (another tip from Etsy). It doesn't feel particularly professional taking the photographs though as I'm normally stretched out on the floor in a strange position or set up on a small table in the garden in the early morning, wearing crocs and pajamas and shivering in the mist- so un-glamorous.

I have also spent quite a lot of time making up new Stitchscape Pebble kit combinations, which have now been photographed and added to Etsy. Generally there are only one or two of each combination so chances that you will get a unique set of fabrics and threads is high! The fabrics are the smaller pieces of strips that aren't big enough to go into a Naked Stitchscape kit. I often tell those attending my workshops and classes that as my pieces of fabrics get smaller, I have to come up with smaller and smaller things to make to suit the size of the fabric bits! It's very handy having this kit with its 10cm pieces because I can use up my offcuts to make really interesting combinations.

I love making up these pebble kits, which include seven pieces of fabric, seven matching or coordinating threads (1.8m of each colour), some felt for the backs of the pebbles, calico and toy stuffing along with the booklet about stitches and combinations of stitches.
It is basically an excuse to play around with different colour combinations and organise them so they look pretty which is super satisfying. Because of this they take more time and effort than the kits where you follow instructions that I have written because those will be the same over and over again so either myself or The Mother can cut out and put them together pretty quickly.

These images, by the way, are all currently available products in Etsy so if you like one you see, do pop over. My favourite combinations are the ones with the sheep in, something I haven't put into a pebble yet but really need to get around to doing- perhaps you could beat me to it?

As well as the pebbles, I have also made up several more combinations of The Naked Stitchscape kit!! Hooray! These are slightly bigger, do-it-yourself versions of the pebbles and in each kit you get five fabrics, five threads (approximately 2 metres of each), a little bag of sequins or beads, a 12cm hoop, calico and a booklet for stitches and ideas. This kit idea was born after I started my #inthehoop range of stitchscapes, each one made and framed in a 12cm hoop. I had a lot of interest in these as some of them were more abstract type landscapes where I just wanted to play with a particular fabric rather than create a scene, and others were more about choosing fabrics specifically for a scene.
At the time, I had already brought out three kits; Summer Sweet, Christmas Hoop Decoration and #inthehoop Spring (also inspired by the range I was doing), but I was hearing a few mutterings at craft shows about how interested parties liked the kits but felt they were too advanced to follow someone else's instructions and didn't want to be told what to do.
I decided that the best thing to do would be to create some completely random kits where the fabrics were all different but colour co-ordinated, and included threads to get you going (advanced stitchers will always have a stash to back them up), a nice piece of ribbon or lace and some beads or sequins to add to the texture. With a hoop in the mix as well, this kit makes a lovely present for a creative person as it encourages them to be original in their work but doesn't make them start completely from scratch as the colour sourcing has been done for you. The booklet has information about stitches and fabric treatments I like to do, but the whole thing is up to you and your experience.

I try to push myself a little bit in terms of colour collections and I don't personally like every combination I put together, but since this kit has been released, it is often the ones I'm not sure about that have proved to be very popular. I also ask The Mother to pick out some fabrics as well as she has slightly different tastes to me- it can be a very interesting exercise!

The biggest of Etsy shop news of course, saving the best until last, is that my Woollydale kit is now available for purchase!! I am so completely and utterly thrilled at the reaction for my newest kit - an amazing amount of these have already been sent over to America actually, in all different states- it makes me very happy to see so many keen and enthusiastic stitchers out there.
Woollydale is embroidered in a 15cm hoop (not provided in the kit) and is the most involved kit I've done as I had to write much longer instructions than I have previously. You use two lovely trimmings, six fabrics and ten colours of embroidery thread! One of the loveliest things is that each kit is completely unique. I have used a gorgeous batik fabric to give the impression of water at the bottom of the piece and where the strips have been cut, some of you will have areas of brown, areas of green, light blue, dark blue or even a greyish tinge. If you are seeing me at a craft show or a group of these kits together, you can have a little look for your favourite colour- I'm afraid on Etsy it's more of a pot luck, but if you do have a preference just leave me a message and I'll do my best.
The sheep are also going to make your piece unique. I have put in a template for the shape I used, but (and I have noted this in several places on the template and in the instructions) you may not want to exactly follow my shape because the placement of your sheep is going to be slightly different and you don't want to decapitate any of the woolly characters! I have allowed an especially generous fabric strip for this layer to give you room to play with the top line of the fabric if you need to.

So, please do pop over to my Etsy shop to have a look. All of my kits are great holiday projects as the largest of them are made in a 15cm hoop which fits perfectly in a small bag, and they also make fantastic presents for all ages and all skill levels. I like to think that my kits are slightly more unique than your average embroidery kit because it isn't all about the stitches- often it is about the fabric choice and placement which you can have real fun with!

Wednesday, 23 January 2019

Frosty Mornings

Monday morning was super frosty. Minus 6 when I got up in the morning and everything was lightly dusted with a sugar coating of frozen crystals. The sun was just about to rise into the pink blush sky and I was wrapping myself up in coats and hats and scarves and rushing into the garden to try and find frozen things to photograph. It did not disappoint!
We have a lot of seed pods around the garden because we try and leave them for as long as possible for the wildlife and they look really lovely when frosted. Enjoy the photos!

Monday, 21 January 2019

Stitchscape Pebbles

I have been feeling very pebbly lately and inspired to try some new stitches on my pebbles, including the detached chain stitch flowers, wagon wheel flowers and fly stitch leaves. I'm not sure how well the more three-dimensional flowers will hold up in the pebble bag but hopefully they are small enough to hold together. I really love them and have been enjoying playing with the colour combinations.

For those that may have not seen my pebbles before I must state that they are not real pebbles I just call them pebbles because they are sort of a pebblish shape and it's kind of where the idea for them came from- along with a need to make small things out of my tiniest of scraps.
These are stuffed with wadding and backed with felt so aren't even heavy, but can be made into brooches, magnets or just popped in a printers tray or on a bookcase for a splash of colour. It's a great way for me to practise different colour combinations and hone my techniques too.

This batch was made all in the same hoop. I draw around my template on the back until it's full, then add two fabrics per pebble, tacking those down and stitching within the template lines. Once every pebble is stitched, I cut around the shapes and draw them up around cardboard with wadding stuffed between the layers, felt is stitched to the back and more wadding stuffed between those layers! You can make your own if you so wish as I have put my templates and ideas together with some fabrics, threads and other bits and pieces into a kit, available in my Etsy shop.

I like to add lots of layers to these little pebbles and have a similar routine for each one, starting with lines of straight stitch covering the whole pebble. The flowers normally come after that and then leaves, followed by little french knot Foxglove type things. Unless I'm trying something new of course.

My pebbles did really well at the Christmas shows so I am stocking up. I only had one big pebble left so my next hoop had four big pebbles and a little one to fill the gap. You can see how they are made and pieced together in these photos. I have to do quite a bit of flipping backwards and forwards to check I am still stitching within the lines which is where the initial straight stitches help because I can see where I'm going without having to keep turning the hoop over.

The big ones are slightly more involved though as I use three fabrics and turn the bottom one into a foreground. From my Bartholomew's Oasthouse Stitchscape I had quite a bit of leftover scraps of acrylic yarn still floating around in one of my thread boxes which was all nice and gnarly so I couched that down to the edge of the bottom fabric and played with knots and random straight stitches before working upwards to the fun part.

I experimented with adding the leaves after the flowers and before- which ended up staying as just leaves with some french knots because I really liked how the leaves laid on top of each other. The different greens look lovely.


I am still having fun playing with these so I can see more hoops stuffed with pebbles in my future!!

Monday, 14 January 2019

Woollydale Kit Designing

I've had ideas for this kit floating around in my little head since a sheep themed kit was requested at the Kent County Show in summer last year. People who attend agricultural shows clearly have sheep in mind when they visit any stand present and 'do you have a kit with sheep in?' was one of my most asked questions. I like to keep my customers happy and I just so happen to know of a really fun sheep themed print designed by Rose & Hubble (the link there is to Wool Warehouse who are one of my favourite stockists but others are available) which I have used a couple of times before in my Seven Sisters Stitchscape and in a #inthehoop mini Stitchscape- which is sort of what this kit is loosely based on.
Since then I've been collecting fabrics that I think might go with my green sheep, I wanted to get a good variety of patterns to make it more exciting for kit-goers to work on, especially as there are going to be a LOT of greens!!

As with any kit, it starts with my laying the fabrics out to get a sense of the order they should go in and how the colours will balance each other out. A lot of this is subconscious, but you can see how the subconscious makes up its mind when you think about it. The top layer has white and blue in- the white is repeated halfway down the piece and the blue is mirrored at the bottom. Dark green at the top gives way to mid greens in the middle before dark green at the bottom again. It all balances out and helps to create a really lovely sense of perspective and harmony.
Once the fabric positioning is set, I will cut into them and create my shapes. I knew I wanted a kind of big mountain right at the back to help make a sense of being in a valley, but the other two greens are just kind of wiggled at the top. The sheep fabric is also wiggled but I couldn't decapitate any sheep so I have specially cut around them- something that I will suggest those making the kit to also do.

I have used a green jute ribbon which I have previously used in my Spring Ladybug Stitchscape kit which is sold through the-stitchery in Lewes. This is really fun because it starts out as a closely woven tape but can be teased apart to create open weave, thick sections however you like. Many people thought that when it was used in the Ladybug kit it was some heavy duty stitching and the fact that it is just a stitched down fancy ribbon was a complete surprise!

I also decided when I had finished tacking down all of these fabrics that it needed something at the top (again with the balancing thing) and had a rummage in my draw until I found a Trimits lace ribbon which fits in perfectly!

Kit making is a laborious process. Before I stitch anything down I have to draw around the fabric pieces so that I can make the template page in my kits, all ribbons and laces have to be measured and this is all noted down on my high tech piece of paper.
Every thread I use is counted and noted in a little notepad, layer by layer. My threads are cut at 60cm precisely so I can easily measure what I'm using, and then in my kits the threads also come pre-cut at 60cms. Even with all of this counting and noting down, I still want the kits that you guys make to be unique to you, which it really will be with this kit. The sheep placement will be up to you, and because of the random pattern/colours in the blue batik pattern at the bottom, this will affect what the bottom of your piece will look like and where you position your reed flowers. I allow a little bit extra for additional stitches you may have to make, as well as any mistakes or tangles you might get into, by providing an additional 60cms of thread per colour used which hopefully should be enough.

I like to show the back of my pieces because I find in my classes, students get a little worried about carrying threads across or making any knots. I admit, I am a knotter. I knot my thread before I start and I knot it again when I finish, I occasionally (regularly) get threads in a tangle at the back which I don't notice until I've stitched over them, and I also carry threads between stitches. Unless you will be displaying the backs of your pieces, or you are stitching on a particularly thin fabric, it doesn't usually matter if you also do these things. My stitchscapes will have at least two layers of fabric at any one time because I use a backing fabric and then layer up on top so this helps to disguise dark threads underneath.

I completely unpicked one of these layers because I didn't like it, and half unpicked another (twice) because I didn't like what I was doing. Can you tell where? If you follow my Instagram or Facebook accounts you can compare the stitches from start to finish. Initially I was unpicking the reeds and plant life on the bottom layer. Once I had made the reeds with their zesty green bullion knot flowers, it needed something else to help bed the stems in. I originally tried pistol stitches, but couldn't find the right colour, I tried a blue but it looked awful, then I tried a different green but it was too much; too heavy (I used two strands), too nondescript, too light (it was a light green). Eventually I decided to use a single strand of the green I had used in the sheep layer and make fly stitches which worked really well. But I had previously used a chunky DMC Coton Perlé thread to make fly stitches all over the plain green layer above the sheep which now looked clunky and repetitive.
I went away and had lunch to think about something else for a while but still hated it when I came back so out the stitches came!!
Instead, I covered the fabric with seed stitches using an Anchor thread, and then put back in the DMC Coton Perlé with two twist french knots covering the lower half of the lace and meandering down into the fabric layer itself. Much better.

I love how this fabric at the bottom looks like a lazy river trickling along the bottom of this piece. The different blue colours make it look like it's moving and rippling along, or shadows of rocks beneath the surface. This is one of the fabric layers that will be completely different with every single kit as the batik pattern has different blues and some elements of brown in it.

The sheep are, of course, always amusing as they drunkenly roll down the hill. I have always treated this fabric in the same way with white french knots for the woolly coats and enhancing the legs and head with black threads. I think they are real characters and each kit will likely have slightly different placements as you can turn the fabric how you like and select different sheep to focus on.

The mountain looks completely different from when it first started out as I have used stem stitch to go over the swirly lines of the pattern, and a different coloured thread to french knot the buds. It always amazes me how colour choice can so totally affect a fabric.

So, all I have to do now is write up the pattern, make pages of how to create the stitches, create a front cover, paginate all pages so that they are readable and make sense, perhaps draw more diagrams, scan in the template pieces and make that into a proper page, print the pages and staple them all together, cut the threads to length, create thread cards, cut all of the fabrics to size, put all of the elements together, package it all up, work out the prices and advertise it! Easy peasy.