Wednesday, 29 December 2010

WOYWW: Had ourselves a Merry Little Christmas

For more crafty workspaces on this What's on Your Workspace Wednesday, see our esteemed leader Julia's blog at the WOYWW link to the left.

No desk pictures today, as I am still in holiday mode.  Instead, I've loaded the pictures of our Christmas stay at the lovely Wroxall Abbey.

The Abbey was Sir Christopher Wren's country seat in Warwickshire, and is now a country house hotel, complete with the sweet little Wren's chapel.  This is the view from the back of the hotel late on Christmas Day afternoon.  The big windows on the ground floor are the restaurant and garden lounge (squidgy sofas galore), so you can see what a fabulous view we had over a sunny lunch.

This is the front of the main building.  It's just as welcoming as it looks, right down to guests wearing their slippers down to the bar/for breakfast.  The food was gorgeous, the company of the other guests great, and we had a wonderful time.

Finally, it's time to wish you a very Happy, Inky, Gluey, Sewey and Generally Crafty New Year.  OH, in one of his pensive moments, remarked that I had "met" some lovely crafty bloggers during my time blogging.  And he's absolutely right.  So thank you for the inspiration, scenes of desk chaos and tidiness, support for my new venture, making me giggle like a teenager and generally making my Google Reader a thing of beauty.

Tuesday, 28 December 2010

They'll be in trouble: A Farewell to Elf School

Tonight we had the pleasure of being guests at Goddaughter E's birthday party.  It was great to finally see her and her brother (Godson D) after our frustrated attempt to visit them on the Monday before Christmas.  She had a great deal of sympathy for our time spent at the services with a broken down car ("three and a half hours - that's a very long time") and understood entirely why we couldn't make it to see them.

It was also our opportunity to thank her and D for our lovely Christmas presents: a pampering weekend bag of body treats for me and a box of chocolates (at least 6 boxes of assorted chocolate yumminess poured into one gargantuan box for the husband).  In  fact, I had already texted them a picture of OH opening his present on Christmas morning.  The picture came complete with a blurred hand reaching into the box, such was the speed of his swiping the first chocolate.  What it couldn't convey was his shout of glee that must have woken up the neighbours.  Spoilt we are by E and D.

We also got to learn more of matters Elven.  All the mischief went down very well indeed, particularly the card sharks, and ElfDad's encounter with make up as did the movie night in, space rations, dancing inside  and playing on the Big Climbing Frame.  The reindeer food and Santa's positioning light also went down well.  D loved the volcano, and stared at it for the longest time (amazing for D, who's normally in perpetual motion), but the colouring and making weren't quite his thing.  He enjoyed decorating the igloo and laughing at the snowball fight the elves had overnight in the living room.   The naughty step (a big pair of Santa's trousers) was a big hit too.

The Chief Elf has asked if they would like to host elves again next year, and the answer was YES!  There were a few tears on Christmas Eve when the elves had to go home, but in a way I guess that shows their presence was appreciated.  Bless their little pointy toes.

And as for the title of this post...  When ElfDad woke up covered with lipstick and with Ha Ha written on this cheeks, Godson D was stunned into silence.  He stared, ran off, came back and stared some more.  E looked in and said sagely "They'll be in trouble..."  An expert on the ways of elf mischief after just 23 days...

Monday, 27 December 2010

Playing Cards - A Card A Week in 2011

The lovely Rachel over at katzelbows has set up a cracking challenge for this year.  Full rules are over at the link, but in summary:

  • create 52 cards, plus jokers if you wish
  • use any style, medium or technique
  • use any suits of your choosing - either the originals, or those of your own imagination
Rachel has started the Ace of Hearts, which I think is a great starting point for the deck - a lone beating heart giving life to the project.  I'm doodling the Ace of Hearts, but I am still thinking about the suits; should I go for something other than the normal deck?  Ah, such temptations and so many choices!  

If you'd like to join in, you'll find the link button to the left of the blog.

Wednesday, 22 December 2010

WOYWW: Journalling

WOYWW (or What's on  Your Workspace Wednesday) is a great chance to snoop at the desks of other crafters.  You can find this week's edition, courtesy of DeskMeister Extraordinaire Julia, at the WOYWW button to the left.

Postie braved his way through yet more snow to bring some work purchases.  I have two books on art journalling which look as though they will be very interesting on first skim.  One is focused on overcoming a fear of drawing; I think 2011 will be my year of picking up pen and pencil regularly, no matter how much I want to bury the results in the compost heap  The other book is about approaching business plans, strategies and the like by using art.  You can also see two sets of Promarkers to fill in the gaps in my collection.

And I thought you might like to shiver/gasp in wonder at the icicles outside our bathroom window.  This is the lower pane of the sash window, with a fine stalactite of an icicle.  I love the way that the water running down has created all those striations.

The pane above is full of a big cluster of icicles.  To give you an idea of scale, I doubt I could wrap my hand around the biggest icicle.  One thing is certain: anyone going to our coal shed or wood pile over the next couple of days needs to take the route that can't involve getting impaled by one of these these beauties.

Time for me to sign off and wish you all a fabulous time for Christmas.  Keep warm, be happy and thank you for visiting me in my first year of blogging.  It's been, as Smashy and Nicey might say, blogtastic.

Tuesday, 21 December 2010

Getting Snowhere Fast: An Abandoned Journey to Elf Land

Having carefully checked the weather forecast, traffic news and the reports of ElfDad, who had made half of the same journey in reverse, we set out yesterday to visit the Land of Elf/House with the Big Climbing Frame/Home of the Godchildren.  The route to the motorway was at a crawl, but relatively snow-free, and the motorway itself was no worse than normal.  Then (and fortunately not far from the services) the windscreen wipers decided to pack in.  So we pulled into the services and waited around three hours for the man with a van who can.  

Now hear me loud and clear - I am absolutely delighted with three hours.  We were together, in a safe place (with coffee, food, warmth, loos, and lots and lots of magazines), and with a low priority problem.  Husband did a great job trying to make repairs, and could not have possibly done any more.  We had a relaxing lunch, spent time chattering and reading, and made the decision that there was no way to complete the journey.  The man with the van showed us the service road homewards, and we were back in the house by 5pm.  

Sadly I have no picture reports of the igloo, volcano or other aspects of elven life.  When I put on my pointy ears at night, a delightful correspondence is continuing with Goddaughter E, who tells me that they had great fun playing with the elves out on the Big Climbing Frame.  She was particularly fond of the penguin and snowman earmuffs they had been sent as Elf and Safety Equipment.  Tonight I am told that they have reindeer feeding and a graduation ceremony to hold by Saturday, and then their work is done.  I shall be rather sad to see the elves depart.  I only hope that the Godchildren will want them back next year.  It would make an old pointy-eared Chief Elf (moi!) very happy.

Now, a little teasing.  While Husband has been out today, I've wrapped and hidden his presents.  I know he reads this blog, so I'll just say "try rattling, shaking and squeezing these, sweetheart...".  

Hope your list of things to do before Christmas is getting ever smaller.

Saturday, 18 December 2010

Since we've no place to go...

...let it snow!  We've had much more than was forecast here.  A poor stranded motorist who had to abandon her car last night has just called by to borrow something to dig herself out.  As she lurched up our garden path, I noticed that the snow was well above her ankles.  Hopefully she'll manage to be on her way soon.

This is the view out of the bathroom window.  The snow is making really pretty patterns in the broom, and if you look upwards and left, you'd swear we were in the Alps.  Time for a little mulled wine?

And out the front, the holly tree is absolutely caked in snow - I can't even see the berries now.

And despite the weather, Mrs Prickles has produced her hog.  Baba Prickles slipped from the crochet hook after a very short labour of about an hour.  And very cute he is too.

Overnight, the Chief Elf has been kept very busy responding to email from both Goddaughter E and the two elves (apparently Della operates the keyboard while Bert zooms around with the mouse).  I hear that there were lots of star jumps and plenty of dancing outside last night, which has resulted in a significant snowfall today.  A little snowflake light (battery candle) was left outside overnight, in order that Santa could check his SPS (Santa Positioning System) ready for Christmas Eve night, when he will pick up the elves, ready for their Big Night at work.  Snow permitting, we are off to see them on Monday, when I hope to slip a little package or two to ElfMum to see them through the last week of Elf school.  I have space rations, a book of space poems and a little party pack for graduation day to deliver.  And, no doubt, plenty of elf mischief to hear about...

Friday, 17 December 2010

A Knight of the Round Table and Mrs Prickles

At home today, I have taken advantage of being the only one in by laying the Christmas presents out to check which ones are still missing, presumed delayed by snow.  The tally of slow deliveries is mercifully small, comprising two Christmas presents for my mum, which can wait if necessary, and the Goddaughter's birthday present, which can't wait.  So Plan B may involve a visit to a Toy Emporium or two.  I shall gird my loins stoutly in preparation.

Having started on a travel journal, I have been playing with my Promarkers while waiting for bits to dry.  I found a lovely illustration of Lancelot and Guinevere.  Just need to work out what to do with it now.

And from the talented and speedy crochet hooks of my mum, meet Mrs Prickles...

I think I may have problems letting her go; she is so gorgeous.  And that eyelash wool for her spikes is lovely and soft.  You may not be able to tell from the picture, but she is with hog, and there will soon be a Baba Prickles to go alongside her.

Thursday, 16 December 2010

The Chief Elf speaks on matters vulcan, snoring, and dinosaurs.

Now that Goddaughter E has started corresponding with the Chief Elf, there's no stopping her!  Over the past couple of days she and Aragorn (Chief Elf) have touched on matters as diverse as the warmth of igloos, potential elf homesickness, and the need for volcanoes in the House with the Big Climbing Frame.

Tonight Aragorn really had to rack his brains to come up with a suitable reply:

Well done on finding that dinosaur.  I hope he is happy to be free from his volcano.  I am very impressed that the volcano has grown.  You must be feeding it well.  

If you hear a little chuffing sort of noise at night, that will be an elf snore.  You might also see the lid of the igloo moving up and down a bit with very big snores if they are particularly tired and in a very deep sleep.  Of course, they are trying to get plenty of sleep before Christmas Eve, when they will be up all night.  

Yes, the volcano has finally given birth to a dinosaur.  Sadly, she hasn't sent me a picture, but I hope that the Jurassic one has been a welcome addition to the household.  

Young E was very impressed that elves can snore.  I hope she won't be up too late tonight checking this out.  

Time to hang up my pointy ears for the night.

[For those of you uttering "Que?" in the matter of Manuel from Fawlty Towers, we have sent our Godchildren a pair of elves who are attending Elf School at the House with the Big Climbing Frame.  So far the elves have had plenty of lessons, conducted a reasonable amount of mischief, and eaten copious amounts of chocolate.  Not a bad life, eh?]

The One In Which The Chief Elf Corresponds With A Goddaughter

I heard yesterday via ElfMum that Goddaughter E was rather worried because the Chief Elf had not responded to her email.  After having logged into the Chief Elf's email addy each night for a number of days, I think I'd come to the conclusion that ElfMail was a step too far, and that the Chief Elf wouldn't be getting any mail.  Blushing to the tips of my elven ears, I quickly logged on to find...nothing.  Not even in spam.  So what else could a Chief Elf do but apologise.

Chief Elf wrote immediately, saying that he was so sorry and needed to be put on the naughty step.  But because he is so very old, if he gets on the naughty step now, he will need to stay there until after Christmas.  As he still has lots of Christmas jobs to do, please could he postpone the naughty step until the New Year?  And what did Goddaughter E want to ask him?

The lovely E responded, offering to send him back the naughty step which had arrived with Della and Bert (as they hadn't needed it much recently...I can only conclude that it had seen some action in the early days).  She had questions regarding the temperature inside igloos and the warmth of elves.  I am pleased to see that elfare was high on her list (sorry!).  The Chief Elf was appropriately reassuring (and accurate too, just in case!), also pointing out that elf skin is furrier that that of humans, which helps.

E wrote again this morning.  The volcano has arrived, but she isn't sure how it will help Della and Bert.  The Chief Elf has pointed out that they can see a volcano from their home igloo, and that this will remind them of home.  Hopefully it will be ignited tonight, and I can get a picture of it smoking before the dinosaur emerges from its belly.

I understand that Della and Bert had a long nap yesterday in the Godchildren's beds.  Now that they are nicely topped up with sleep, I can only imagine what mischief might be perpetrated, especially with an active volcano in the house.

Wednesday, 15 December 2010

WOYWW: Ephemera and Baby Wear

"It's the most curious time of the week..."

It's the day when crafters go blog hopping amongst the desks of others, hoping to see something novel, inspiring, or simply more messy than their own desk.  For more details, see Fair Julia's blog over at Stamping Ground.  

And on my own desk, a lovely bundle of ephemera.  I don't know if it's something to do with more snow on the way, but I have an urge to make travel journals, and this pile of ephemera has tickets aplenty.

And whilst not exactly on my own desk, I thought I should share what my lovely mum has been working on.  Inspired by successfully transforming Grumpy the dwarf into dashing Della the beautiful elf for the Godchildren's Elf School (see various posts passim if this is new to you), she's picked up the crochet hooks.  So far she's made some lovely baby hats (primrose and bluebell shown above) and she's starting on a pattern for a gorgeous hedgehog in autumnal eyelash wool.

Happy WOYWW, and may your desks be full of what pleases you.

Saturday, 11 December 2010

Sweeter than Candy: Presents and Elf Rations

Courtesy of the talented Crafty Womble, I have won my first piece of blog candy.

It's a lovely accordion mini book which I shall be using to stash all my Christmas secrets.  I really want to have a go at making one of these, so it's great to see one close up.  However, I don't think I can do nearly such a good job as Crafty Womble; thank you so much - it's a beauty, as is the card that came with it.  Pop over to Crafty Womble's blog at the link above for much better pictures and very clear instructions.  That picture above was taken at about 2pm, showing that the shortest day can't be far away (if we get much less daylight, I shan't bother opening the curtains at all!).

In matters elven, I have received a delivery of space rations (freeze dried neapolitan ice cream) which will be on its way soon.  Such rations are, of course, commonplace for elves as they weigh very little on the sleigh.  What the godchildren may make of them is another matter.  If they don't like the ice cream, I shall be hoping for the leavings, as freeze-dried ice cream is a very fine thing indeed (and if you ask me, wasted on elves).

Wednesday, 8 December 2010

WOYWW: A lost voice and a volcano

It's Wednesday.  It's Crackerjack!  Oops, wrong day (and much puzzlement to those of you not from the UK and not of a certain age).   So it must be What's on Your Workspace Wednesday.  For a good snoop at more crafty desks, head on over to the DeskMeister Supreme, Julia at Stamping Ground.  

First up, apologies to those of you whose desks I didn't reach last week.  The week before I swooped and snooped at everyone's space.  Then last week, I had the return of the foul pestilence (bronchitis followed by flu) and retired whimpering to lick my wounds and feel sorry for myself.  I reckon I'm on the mend, although I haven't got much voice (so perhaps I should SHOUT here just because I can...that's better).

You can see further evidence of the flu on today's desk.  I am now a connoisseur of the various Strepsils flavours (Blackcurrant Extra Strength are the current favourites, followed by Warm).   Also in shot is something much more exciting: next year's diary.  I have been looking to do some early bookings for next year's craft fairs, and the diary is starting to see some action.  

I'm a bit short on creative inspiration this week, so I've been trying to focus on the less exciting stuff like doing my accounts (*yawn*), tidying out my cupboards (*treasures*) and planning some projects.

In matters elven, the Elf Mum has suggested that I consider making the Elf School for sale next year.  So I have been thinking about what an Elf School pack could comprise, and how much parents might like to do for themselves with their children.  Elf Dad called yesterday and said that the kids were obsessed with the elves, so I'm glad the novelty isn't wearing off.

Today's post brought a gift for the godchildren from the elves.  As they are visiting from a country near the land of fire and ice, I thought that they might welcome a volcano to sit near their igloo.  The volcano apparently burbles and smokes for a couple of days and then produces a dinosaur.  As you do...  Let's hope that it keeps them entertained for a while.

This will be off to the House with the Big Climbing Frame soon.

Tuesday, 7 December 2010

The Elf Parents Speak

We had some lovely news from the Elf Parents.

The gambling den went down very well.  Goddaughter E worked hard to win back all the chocolate coins from the elves.  Did you notice that the lovely Della had won more than her fair share of chocolate coins?  Atta Girl, Della!

On the morning following the snowball fight, Godson D was sitting on the sofa for half an hour looking around.  Every now and then there was a fresh outbreak of giggles when he looked again at the snowballs.

Goddaughter E has worked out that the elves are making mischief for two nights, and then have a night off.  So Elf Mum is planning to surprise her with some extra mischief this week.

I have some special elf treats on order, so there will be items sent to The House With The Big Climbing Frame soon.  I'll let you know what's being sent.  Two little hints: 1) fire and ice and 2) space.

Sunday, 5 December 2010

Further Despatches from the Ministry of Elf

The Chief Elf been advised that Della and Bert have visited human school, had an elves' night in with DVDs and chocolate, and assisted in writing to Santa.  So far, so good...

However, there has also been evidence of mischief making including:

 - kidnap (Stitch was found bound in a sleeping bag)
 - possible petty theft (both elves were found hiding in the fridge) - stock taking is now underway
 - the establishment of a gaming den (see evidence below)

How did they get so much cash???

All in all, I think the evidence points to only one conclusion:  we adults are having just as much fun as the kids.  

Thursday, 2 December 2010

The One In Which The Chief Elf Sees An Ideal Igloo

Task one at Elf School is complete.  The somewhat plain igloo has been completely remodelled, and a Christmas tree has appeared in its garden.

Despite hard work on the igloo, it appears that there was still elf mischief during the night.  I hear that there was a snowball fight in the living room, and that Stitch has been tied up in a sleeping bag.

I have just had a text to say that Della and Bert are at human school today. I hope that they worked off their mischief overnight...

Wednesday, 1 December 2010

WOYWW: the Chief Elf Speaks

For the past three days, I've been working on a big package for our godchildren.  This morning, they should be waking up to meet the delightful Della Sparkle Feet and Bert Speedy Pants, who are joining them for Elf School in December.

Their first job will be to find their igloo, which is being hidden somewhere in The House With The Big Climbing Frame, where the elves are staying.  Then there are plenty of fun tasks and mischief to take them through to Elf Graduation Day on 24 December.

And now I've packed away my cotton wool, glitter, embellishments, craft paper and all the other makings, I have an important role.  For December, I shall be responsible for the Chief Elf's email address, helping with the care of Della and Bert, and answering questions on all things elven.  I can feel my ears turning pointy as I type.

For a hop round more crafty desks, at What's on Your Workspace Wednesday, hop over to the lovely Julia at Stamping Ground using the WOYWW button on the left.

Monday, 29 November 2010

Despatches from the Ministry of Elf

 This is a tale of two elves.

Bert on your left, and the lovely Della to the right.  The Chief Elf is sending them to stay with our godchildren to have some fun before Christmas.  They have packed their passports and sleigh driving licences, and their igloo is being sent to the house (although that may prove superfluous, considering the weather).  My mum has been a star and made Della her pretty skirt and necklace, and cut down their sleeping bags to proper elf size.

Here they are with their igloo.  One of their jobs will be to decorate the igloo during their visit.

I see Bert's already a little tired.  

They have plenty of things to learn and do during their visit.  They have a star chart to record all the things they have learned, including travelling in a human sleigh, feeding reindeer, making elf soup, and setting out a night light so Santa can tune his SPS (Santa Positioning System).  I hope that they will get to visit a human school too.

I am also expecting that they will get up to plenty of mischief.  I am ready to pay good money for the pictures, so I can share them with you.

Please excuse the feet above.  

The reindeer food (with added stardust sparkles) can also be eaten by humans.  (I've never had porridge with edible stars in it before, but I guess there's always a first time).

I have set up an email address for the Chief Elf, so I hope that my Elf impersonation skills are finely tuned when I get to hear from the godchildren.

If they have half as much fun with this as I've had putting it all together today, then I'll be delighted.

There's no business like snow business...

Today I am pleased to be working on something snowy that has nothing at all to do with business.

Tomorrow I am sending two elves to finish their Elf School at the house of our godchildren.  The Chief Elf has decided that they need to understand how families celebrate Christmas, so is sending the lovely Della Sparkle Feet and Bert Speedy Pants for further education.  Yesterday was spent combing the shop shelves to find two elves (more difficult than you might think), elf soup and snacks, sleeping bags, the ingredients for an igloo and various other items to keep two elves, an eight year old and a four year old happy for 24 days.

Pictures to follow, of course.  (From the Ministry of Elf, no less.)

Saturday, 27 November 2010

A snowy Saturday - working by the fire

So the promised snow finally made it our way, but only a sprinkling.  This is the back garden this morning; I love the way that next door's conifers (to the right) are looking really Scandinavian today.  Incidentally, that large lump just right of centre in the foreground is my one and only attempt at topiary; a box made of box (yes, I'm sad like that).  

It was definitely a day for snuggling inside, so I felt really sorry for OH when he was scraping the car off at 10am, ready to spend the day working outside.  Brrrrrh!  Despite lots of layers, he still reckoned it was the coldest he'd ever been.  So I made sure there was a roaring fire ready for his return home; there's nothing quite like the smell of a wood fire filling the house, and the ability to stand in front of it warming your very cold nethers.  

While I was toasting my toes, I decided it was time to catch up on recording the projects I worked on for the craft fair.  I set up this book, as I'm pretty sure that I won't remember all the details of what to do and more importantly what not to do on the individual projects.  Incidentally, the locks and other embellishments are rub ons, and I will definitely use them on some storage boxes; they go on like a dream.  (The A4 book  - squared paper - is a bargainous Asda buy.)

So I've remembered to add things like:

  • time taken to melt candle wax over a low heat (20 minutes)
  • number of teacup candles that will fill (5 scant, 4 generous)
  • don't use a black melt pan, as all the colours will look more sludgy than you envisage
It's a bit of an anorak book, but I hope it will remind me of all the things that will otherwise fall out of my tiny brain when it comes to repeating any projects.  

Friday, 26 November 2010

Selling: Ebay, Etsy, Folksy and elsewhere

Following on from the posts about my first craft fair experience, I've been musing on comments about where to sell my makes.  This has been bubbling around in the back of my mind for a while, and I think that the sensible answer is probably going to be a mixture of every venue I can think of and a few that you might suggest to me? (Hint, Hint)

First up, eBay.  I've been registered for a number of years now and selling (mostly clothes from my over-inflated wardrobes) for two.  I think that I have got my selling routine down to a reasonable level of efficiency:

  • take photos
  • check prices for similar items
  • use Turbo Lister to create listings
  • upload on Sunday (still seems to be the best day of the week for 7 day clothes sales)
  • check for and answer any questions
  • pack, post and relist as needed, keeping a postage book for the inevitable lost in the post occasions (two so far, one eventually limped home, and the other was lost for good)
So eBay sounds a reasonable option, although I have some reservations.  I would need a business account so as not to muddy the water with my own personal stuff.  And that would have no feedback status, although I could link it to my personal account.  My other concern is the category for hand crafted items.  It's often full of items to make handcrafted items, rather than the makes themselves (excuse the hoof beats of my hobby horse here...).  And the makes never seem to achieve many bids.  I have bought some lovely items for pennies, which I think should sell for much more.  I know that sellers are choosing their start price, but...

Then there's Etsy.  Now I could (and do) spend hours on Etsy.  The treasuries, the colour-based searches, the lovely, lovely makes and ingredients.  I have bought some art and toiletries from the USA, and have been delighted with everything.  I have to confess that Etsy makes me feel just a teeny bit inadequate.  There are so many beautiful things, and I am not sure if mine are beautiful enough.  Plus I have a practical issue in that my items are quite heavy, and most of the buyers are in the USA...not an ideal combination for cheap postage costs.  

Folksy is the UK based version of Etsy, which was set up more recently.  The number of listings is increasing well; I have just looked at homeware, which now runs close to 600 pages.  Definitely worth consideration. No significant postage issues, and we know some reliable couriers for furniture.    

I really enjoyed my first craft fair, and will definitely do more.  I am lucky to live in a large conurbation, which makes it easy to drive to fairs across a wide geographical area.  In addition, I think I will start looking for fairs other than craft; I know that there are some specialist fairs that my makes might be suited for, and I would be interested in pitching my gazebo at events that aren't necessarily fairs.  (I think that might be another comedy accident waiting to happen - watch this space come Spring for the first unveiling of the gazebo.)  

So - do you sell your makes?  If so where?  Any recommendations, or advice?  

Thursday, 25 November 2010

Talking to the Tax Man

I promised I'd update on business issues as well as crafting, so those of a nervous disposition when it comes to matters of self-employment and tax should probably look away now.

For those of you with strong stomachs who are still with me, I registered as self employed with Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs today.  And it took...wait for it...less than 5 minutes.  Yay me, and more importantly, yay to the nice tax man.

I went to a seminar organised by the tax office earlier this year, when I first thought of starting up my own business.  The man who ran the seminar was really helpful, explaining how to register, what happens to National Insurance, and how/when you do your tax returns.  He recommended registering on the phone rather than online, and it was so quick and easy that I was ridiculously impressed.  So my papers are on their way, I understand what I need to do and when, and that's a big tick made on my list of things to do.

And a virtual bouquet to HMRC for making it so very easy.

Wednesday, 24 November 2010

WOYWW: If you can't comment on the post below...

...please feel free to to talk here...

Dunno what has happened to the earlier post, but it has decided (without consent) not to allow comments.  And I would so miss hearing from you!

WOYWW: After the Craft Fair

Every Wednesday, the lovely Julia at Stamping Ground hosts a tour of crafters' workspaces.  If, like me, you are insatiably curious about how other people work, then pop across to see more at What's On Your Workspace Wednesday.

Today's crafty snoop is what's left in the hall following Saturday's craft fair.  Because the fair was for gifts as well as crafts, I took along the pirate box, which isn't one of my makes.  It attracted a lot of interest, but didn't sell.  You can also see part of two painted mirrors in the bag behind.

To the left are my new stock boxes.  I went with three packed full and came back with two.  I didn't think I had sold that much in volume terms, so perhaps I just packed better on the way home.  I did load up at about 1am on Saturday morning before the fair, so I'm not sure that I was thinking too clearly at the time...  There was a lot of very unnecessary packing material.

Just before I packed I was much less concerned than I should have been about burning my fingers on the heat gun whilst making decoupaged candles with tissue paper.  The brain was very slow in receiving signals from my left hand.  *Calling brain.  Left hand is a bit warm.  Left hand now hot.  Left hand is burning and very pink.  Aarghh!  Move heat gun.*   You can see the culprit candle above looking sweet and innocent and peeping out of its holder.

Above is one of my decoupaged hearts.  It's made with little mosaic pieces of tissue all glued down and varnished.  I have also made some picture frames with the same technique.  The frames are much easier as there are no curved edges to smooth out.   Think I'll have a go at some more of these this week.

Tuesday, 23 November 2010

First Craft Fair: What I Learned

1.  It is possible, in 24 hours, to make sufficient stock to cover a 6 x 2 foot table.  It won't be easy.  You won't have much spare to fill in any gaps after sales, but you will have enough.  

2.  It is more than likely that there will be people who sell more than you.  Equally, there will be people selling less or even nothing.  On Saturday, I reckon I fell about in the middle of the sales (having chatted to about half of the stallholders), which was reassuring for a first outing.  But I must remember not to panic on the day when I will, undoubtedly, sell nothing.

3.  The number of people lingering at a stall is no indication of how much is being sold.  I had an interesting time when my stall was quiet watching the balance of lookers and buyers.  For my own stall, I got the impression that people either loved what the saw and spent a long time looking at my makes, or alternatively gave me a wide berth.  A lot of people didn't realise that my decoupage items were handmade, and I clearly need better signs to indicate this.

4.  As per the experienced stallholders, there is no rhyme nor reason as to which craft fairs are quiet and which busy.  Saturday's by general consensus was quiet, which was just as well as it gave me time to look around, ask questions of browsers, and learn in a not-too-hectic environment.

5.  I took along some crafting, as I had heard that people like to see you working.  I came to the conclusion that this is quite tricky when most of your work is "dirty": stamping, painting, glueing and decoupaging are all messy when you need to wrap up someone's purchases.  Also, there wasn't a great deal of room for me to stamp in a little section of the table.  I envied the stallholders happily knitting away (anything involving needles not being my forte).

6.  I was surprised how delighted I was when people liked my work and wanted to buy.  And I could have hugged the lady who bought three of my more expensive items, two for herself and one for a gift.  I just hope I didn't scare her by smiling too much.

7.  There was a real sense of camaraderie and the sharing of knowledge amongst stallholders.  I learned about other fairs, picked up some new skills and had some great laughs when things were quiet.

Monday, 22 November 2010

Pictures from Saturday's Craft Fair

 We were up, packed and on the road by 8am.  OH had kindly offered to come with me to keep me company and to be - as he described it - a horny handed son of toil.  Despite both a very foggy morning and roadworks on the motorway, we arrived exactly on time to set up.  It took about half an hour to get unloaded and set up the stall, then have a quick breakfast of coffee and delicious home made stollen cake before the doors opened.

This is what I had on the stall.

The chest at the back is a pirate toy box, and you can see the teacup candles to the front.  Behind is a hurricane lantern and two wooden candlesticks decorated with red gingham ribbons and berries; these sold early in the day.  The decoupage candle in the hurricane lantern shows up a bit better in the picture below; because of the reflection, you may not be able to see the pattern of pastel birds on branches.

The decoupage frames are made with small pieces of tissue and craft paper.  During the course of the day, I added a note explaining how they were made, as people didn't realise they were handmade.  I also moved the turquoise one on top, as the Rule Britannia version may have been a bit too funky.

Below are some decoupaged hearts (magnets to the left) and a gold painted mirror.

The petal candle holders have more decoupage candles, as does the cherub hurricane lantern on the right; these were popular.  At the bottom right you can see silver plated goblets turned into candles.

There are some bronze foiled goblets in the middle; I bought some battery tea lights to put in these and then forgot them.  Doh!  They would have looked lovely glowing on the stall.  Next time... The silver painted boxes at the front are filled with pot pourri. The cellophane to the right is the stall next door; we were all close neighbours!  This was great because we got to have a chat when it was quiet.

At the bottom are journals covered in silk paper and bound with ribbons.  I wondered whether they needed more decoration, or if they are better as they are, so you can see the texture of the paper.  What do you think?  This is the silk paper I brought back from Gent, and it's a dream to work with.  So glad I spent all that time in the hotel lobby unrolling the paper and bagging it up.

So that's my first fair done.  I sold more than I expected for a first time out, and learned loads - of which more in the next post.

First Craft Fair: After the Party

I did it!

My first craft fair arrived rather unexpectedly.  I had an email late on Thursday afternoon offering me a cancellation spot, and after a couple of very deep breaths, I replied and said yes.  That gave me a paltry 24 hours to ensure I had enough stock to cover a 6 foot by 2 foot table.

So I got cracking.  First up, decoupage: picture frames, magnetic hearts, and more hearts without magnets.


You can see the little pieces of tissue and craft paper all chopped up and ready for sticking with the large gloopy pool of PVA at the bottom.  The decoupage medium is the pot at the bottom left.  This stuff  is brilliant although not exactly cheap; it goes on easily, dries quickly and gives a great finish.  I used a mixture of craft and tissue papers, and they worked together well.

Then on to the candles.

I spent a long time at the stove watching over pots of melting wax to make teacup candles and candles housed in silver plated goblets.  One of my not so bright moments was using a black pan in which to melt the wax, as it's difficult to see the exact colour of the dyes.  Won't be doing that one again.  What looked like a pretty mulberry colour became a bit more sludgy than I intended.

I also made some hurricane lanterns filled with decoupaged candles.  I had read about a technique for embedding tissue paper in wax using a heat gun and greaseproof paper.  

See what you think of the finished makes in the next post.

On Friday morning, I headed out with a very long list to pick up all the things I thought I would need including change from the bank.  I bought 4 60 litre storage boxes which just fit in the car, so that's the amount of stock I can take to any event.  (Plus what I can sneak in the gaps and behind the seats).  I also bought a set of drawers to house all my bits and pieces so I could make some items while I was there.  I thought this would help keep me occupied if there were quiet spells, and had read that visitors like to see you work.  The three drawers swallowed lots - and even had room for lunch and some water to comfort the inner stallholder - and I think they were a good buy,

We already had arrangements to go out with some friends on Friday night.  By the time I had removed the layers of PVA glue and ink from my hands (which were a delicate shade of stagnant pond water) and scrubbed up, I was so ready for a great evening.  Thanks P and J for lots of laughs and a really relaxing time.  It was just what was needed.

Back home to pack everything in trugs with lots of bubble wrap.  And to set the alarm for 7am.

We can now return to our scheduled programming

Firstly, apologies for my lack of blog posts.

What I thought was flu got shared around the house and then turned into bronchitis for me.  And I followed that up with what can only be described as a comedy accident; I was so sound asleep that I rolled over and fell out of bed, managing to cut, bruise and generally mangle my left hand side on my bedside cupboard and a pile of books.   As I took the very fluffy duvet with me, I was also so trussed up like the caterpillar from Alice in Wonderland that it took me a few minutes of howling (with laughter rather than pain) to manage to disentangle myself from my fluffy prison, while OH stood by in shock (and minus a duvet) asking how best he could help.  Two weeks later, I'm still showing bruises and other wounds in glorious technicolour.

Lesson of the day: reading in bed can be bad for your health.

Anyway, I've got lots to talk about.  On with the posting.

Wednesday, 20 October 2010

WOYWW: Belgian Stash & a dose of La Grippe

It's been a little while, but it's good to be back to show my latest acquisitions as part of What's on Your Work desk Wednesday.  WOYWW is hosted by the lovely Ms Julia Dunnit over at Stamping Ground, and enables all us crafty voyeurs to snoop at other people's desks and projects.

First up, a look at my lovely Belgian stash...and yes, it is a bit different from British stash.  You can see some beautiful silk paper (which I had to unroll in the hotel lobby and fold, donating a lot of cardboard tubing to the hotel's recycling bin...), embossing and stencilling plates, card, pretty turquoise patterned tape, and some boxes of assorted bits that I just love.  In the bits boxes are reindeer, little snowballs, pretty polka dot butterflies, frogged closures, silk bags and all kinds of goodies.  All priced at three for two as well, so it would have been rude not to.  Can't wait to start playing with that lot.

I found some very Flemish papers, including this fabulous set of houses with gables aplenty.  

I also did my best for the Belgian economy by eating copious amounts of chocolate.  We had the misfortune to stumble across a place called the Chocoladehuis, where the OH and I sat by the kitchen watching the plates of chocolate goodness being put together.  There was a lot of heavy breathing at our table before we finally managed to order: sachertorte for the OH and a Chocoladehuis Koffee for me.  Don't be fooled into thinking it was just coffee; the house special has two pralines with it, and somehow I managed to acquire a further three chocolates (white, milk and a biscuit) on the same tray.  Swoon...

Very unusually for Belgium, it was sunny everyday, and we were wandering around in t shirts.  This is the beach at Knokke where we sat and watched people on pedalled conveyances of every conceivable variety (bikes for any number from two to ten, skateboards, unicorns, fish, go-karts) zooming past.

Since we arrived home, I've been suffering from a nasty bout of flu; I've been barking better than a Labrador, and my tissue consumption has been prodigious.  So looking forward to getting back to work now.

Thursday, 7 October 2010

Photography and chocolate assignment

We're off.

To the city of stunning Medieval architecture, cherry beer and chocolate, otherwise known as Ghent.

We're leaving at silly o'clock and by lunchtime on Friday should be sitting not far from the comfy terrace where this picture was taken.  I'm charging up the camera ready to take lots of pics of the stunning architecture.  I've even been to Craftster and found the addresses of the local craft shops, just in case Belgian stash is different from British stash.  Despite all that, I can hardly call this a business trip...

To those of you I have not managed to visit on this week's WOYWW (see previous post for the link), my apologies, and I hope to catch up next week.