craft

This Must be the Place

Well, it’s certainly been a while since I managed to write a thing. In the meantime, the usual amount of stuff has been happening. So I’ve been photographing, note-taking and generally procrastinating over the events of the last month or so. Get ready for a mismatched, cluttered, catch up style post. Let’s get this rudderless ship back on track!

Finished Projects

crochet cushion1

This month I made my friends a snuggly housewarming gift in the form of this stripy cushion cover. I crocheted it freehand and immediately started making another so that I could write a pattern to share with you. The #2 is in a brown/purple chunky yarn with some teal accents – noice.

catch up Jun153

The stripy blanket is complete. My magnificent octopus. Every day I see it on the sofa it brings me joy. I have already started the next one. I don’t want to come across as prescriptive, but everyone should crochet a blanket.

catch up Jun152

I also finished making a little vest top from some adorable fabric a friend brought me from Copenhagen. I say finished… it hasn’t had its final press yet, and it is a little too big. I have lots to learn about sewing clothes to fit!

Recorded a demo

Yeah, so.. I’m in a band now? If you follow me on other forms of social media you may already have gleaned this. We have been playing gigs around Sheffield for a few months and thought it would be a good idea to record some songs. We went to Old Pig Farm studios, near Oughtibridge.

recording1

The process isn’t complete yet, but we are well on the way to having some credible material. I hadn’t been in a recording studio for some time before this, but now recall that it is a singular experience (so…much…coffee). Credit to John at the Old Pig Farm for beautifying our folky stylings.

Went to Cumbria – Ate Meat

catch up Jun154

Bank holiday weekend? You bet your ass I went to Cumbria! And it was beautiful, despite a rather harrowing journey northwards, including 3 trains and a bus from Oxenholme (via Kirby Lonsdale. Seriously). My visit was the usual heady mix of being very well looked after, sitting in a range of comfy chairs and looking at the sea. Blissful. This time I didnt make it into Carlisle -sorry Carlisle – but I’ll be back before too long.

Bishops House

catch up Jun151

Things have been busy for me at the Museum of late, I’m now on the committee which runs the museum and have taken on some new responsibilities. We have welcomed a couple of different groups to the house for visits in the last month and I couldn’t be happier with the feedback. We have also had the pleasure of hosting a postgraduate intern who has been extremely helpful and positive – I’ll be sad to see her go!

So there you have it, now we are all up to date. Thanks for reading!

Going Solo

I mentioned in my previous post that I was receiving some help with my business start-up. Today I am going to take some time to talk over what got me to this point and finally put me in a position to take the plunge in to the WORLD OF COMMERCE…

Firstly, all of my work experience has been in public facing or public sector roles – a bit of retail, some hospitality, some local authority, then museums – my chosen career and area of greatest expertise. Museums have been my professional focus for around six years now and I find working in them both fascinating and fulfilling. However there are certain aspects of this type of work that seem particularly challenging.

Security: Short term contracts, frequent restructures and competitive recruitment procedures can mean it is difficult to hang on to a job long enough to settle anywhere. I see people dealing with this in a most heroic fashion, but as I learned, it really stresses me out and I’m sure I am not the only one.

‘Going Where the Work Is’: This could be moving between cities or commuting every day. Both tiring, not to mention costly. Would I do it for my dream job? Possibly. But not right now.

Career Progression/Politics: Several times I have been in positions where big changes in staffing or job descriptions have resulted in unpleasant competition and emotional upheaval.  It’s just difficult to keep going full tilt when you have a burden like this on your shoulders and everyone feels it.

Considering factors such as these and their effect on my mental health are a substantial part of the story. Looking at them, they could occur in any profession, really.

So, the last time a contract ended and I found myself unemployed, I started to claim Jobseekers’ Allowance and think very carefully about what an appropriate next step was. Part time work seemed like a good bet. But the chances of me getting a local part-time job in a museum were pretty slim – fortunately volunteer work was much more readily available.

I casually mentioned to my Jobseekers’ ‘coach’ that I was thinking about selling handmade things and she made me an appointment with SENTA (Sheffield Enterprise Agency) at the Sheffield Chamber of Commerce. SENTA has a pretty good record of supporting business start-ups and development, so I felt very lucky to have access to their expertise.

The New Enterprise Allowance Scheme entitles me to a degree of financial support to start the business, which decreases the longer I am trading. Before starting, a basic business plan is checked over and (hopefully) approved. During the first year, I am entitled to ask for advice at any time, and can get help with my first tax return. Being given this opportunity didn’t seem like something I could refuse!

In conclusion, it’s all change yet again, but this time I don’t have to move cities, be away from my partner or take a job that I know will leave me feeling like a hollow little ghost. It feels like the right thing to do!

Wish me luck…

Business Time

Over a week since last post! Well I suppose that’s what happens when you stop staying in the house every day and start offering lots of people your time!

I think it has been one of the busiest weeks since I stopped working last November. Do not misapprehend – I am very excited about the new opportunities heading my way – but it does mean I need to plan my time really carefully in order to keep up with everything I have begun (and maybe consider drinking a bit less wine).

Between sessions at Bishop’s House and meeting my business mentor (eee!) I have been finalising my business plan so I can get to selling some of my handmade things. In the early stages some market research was necessary, which I like to call ‘window shopping’. Looking at online sellers and crafts-people more close to home, I was able to gauge the market and figure out where my products might fit in. There are lots of interesting independent art and craft retailers in Sheffield, links to a few will be at the bottom of this post if you are curious! Perhaps I’ll write on this in more detail soon. I didn’t have my camera with me first time round as I thought it might be a bit presumptuous, so no photos as yet.

My current and most arduous task, is putting together a few key designs to sell, while figuring out the cost and profit margins. Doing all of these at once is a bit of a battle and I’m not sure I would have chosen to do it this way, but because of the programme I am on I need to be ready to start trading within the next few weeks. Full details of this could be a whole post!

On to the actual making. I had an idea for a foundation pieced panel which could be repeated for a modern, angular look. Coincidentally, the colour and fabric choices were inspired by  pair of 1950s curtains I spotted on display at Weston Park Museum.

Simplified design. No printer = good old tracing paper

Simplified design. No printer = good old tracing paper

First block on the left. Less than perfect...

First block attempt on the left. Less than perfect…

Drawing the design was the easy part. Then came the process of making the three patchwork blocks, which involved drawing, sewing, re-drawing and re-sewing. I had to make them simpler and quicker to produce in greater numbers, as my initial design was far too complicated. My final method involves skipping the paper foundation and using fabric instead. This adds weight to the blocks and means cutting fewer fabric pieces. Does any one else remember this process from GCSE textiles? 

Much neater on the third attempt

Much neater on the third attempt

Finished test piece

Finished test piece

I think a common problem for makers of all kinds is just this – trying to reconcile the cost of your own time, the materials and trying to make a profit. It’s not something I have had to do much before and I will admit to it driving me a little bit crazy.

However, in the end I turned out a little sample product that illustrates the progress I made with the panel. I need to make a few more to get all of the details absolutely perfect, but the design is a good likeness of the thing in my head. A measure of success!

There are a few more designs in the pipeline, which it will be a pleasure to share in due course.  As ever, any tips, tricks or sage advice would be much appreciated! If I have omitted details you are curious about, just ask.

Links to lovely crafty places in Sheffield:

Moonko: http://moonko.co.uk/

A beautifully curated shop space with an incredible selection of stuff hand-made in the UK. Highlights include some very sexy haberdashery items and some textile based jewelry. Swoon!

Birds Yard: http://www.birdsyardsheffield.co.uk/

A large space on Chapel walk crammed with a huge range of inspiring clothing, accessories, prints, homeware, cosmetics (I could go on), very exciting for a thorough moocher like myself

Nichols Building: https://www.facebook.com/NicholsBuilding

Two floors of vintage loveliness, including fashion, vintage homeware, pimped out furniture, hand dyed fibres AND a nice cafe.