Hi and Happy New Year!
Hopefully everyone had as relaxing a Christmas week as I did, lots of food and video games for the most part!
I had a great time in the busy run up to Christmas, selling at two markets, Penarth’s Handmade Market at the Paget Rooms and the Cardiff Etsy Made Local market at the Tramshed. Both were great fun, the Tramshed market was a resounding success with loads of people coming to see us and most importantly spend their hard earned cash on fantastic bespoke gifts! I ran completely out of business cards. This is the only photo I have from the day, because I was so. Freaking. Busy!
Something that really hit me this Christmas season was just how much I appreciate people! Its very easy in the world of social media, to get bogged down in depressing news stories, ridiculous pointless arguments and unnecessary nastiness. But I did find, and it should come as no surprise, that people in reality, are very nice! The markets I sell at at Christmas are really the only time I confront total strangers in a direct and consistent way, getting to talk to all sorts of people and my introverted personality makes this a massive challenge each year. But I find it so rewarding, its still absolutely worthwhile. So thanks to all the lovely customers I met at the Tramshed, you restored my faith in humanity!
So what can you expect from Stitch City in 2017? Well I hope that I’ll be improving and revamping things, starting with a destash which I’m going to be posting on Instagram before listing on Etsy, so follow me on there to get first dibs!
There are going to be a one or 2 new product lines in the shop and I’ll be getting rid of some old ones (keep an eye on my Clearance section!).
My overall plan is to make the shop a 3 part project – 1. Stitch City embroidered products – 2. Recycled Paper – 3. Recycled Fabric. Defining all my makes to fit into one of these 3 categories will (I hope!) help to keep me focused on my best, and most relevant product lines rather than doing what I’ve done so many times and spiral off into making things that don’t really make any sense for Stitch City! I actually read this useful article today on the Etsy blog, and I think I’m beginning to take all of these points more seriously, especially the one about keeping your brand consistent, which is something I feel I’ve always had trouble with.
Not Christmas… Christmas Market time!
I’m only selling at 2 markets this year, I guess due to having a “proper” job for the past year, I’ve had a bit less time for Stitch City, so I wasn’t as proactive in getting all my Christmas stuff sorted early! But that’s not to say I haven’t been working hard to develop some new stuff for the Xmas season!
Next Friday is Penarth’s Handmade Market Evening Special at the Paget Rooms. A great opportunity to hop in on your way home from work, have a browse and buy some fantastic gifts from a wonderful range of sellers!
And this year the very exciting Etsy Local markets are rolling out around the country, and in South Wales we have our very own! On December 4th some of the best Etsy-ers around will be at the Tramshed in Cardiff selling our wares. You can see a list of who will be there on the Cardiff & Valleys Etsy team site here.
I thought for this post that I would do another bit of a guide, the last one was so fun! I have developed an insane collection of sewing materials over the years but here I would like to focus on my essential stitching supplies, that have stayed the same, in the same little lunchbox for almost 10 years now!
2. Pins – And handmade pincushion (I’m selling loads of these in the shop!)
3. Un-picker – Must have.
4. Swiss army knife – Bit odd, probably not totally necessary but its SO HANDY to have a tiny set of tweezers for close work and bottle opener for prising stuff, also the tiniest pair of scissors which are perfect for finishing and tidying up small embroidery projects. There is also a pretty deadly looking knife in there but that’s not so useful for embroidery….
5. Black thread – I use black thread in so many, if not all projects so I have a huge supply, I have a 5000m reel which I’ve been working through for some time and I’m almost out…
6. Ikea pencil – Of course!
7. Colour Embroidery threads – Usually DMC but I tend to accumulate them from all over the place, so some are not such good quality. I don’t buy black because I use SO MUCH of it that I just immediately run out, hence the 5000m reel…
8. Stork Scissors – The jewel in the crown! These are one of my favourite things that I own. My boyfriend bought them for me after discovering this amazing company, Ernest Wright and Son, who hand make scissors! These are hand made!!! They are so super sharp and have a great weight to them that makes you feel their amazing quality. I know its mad, I never thought I could care about scissors this way, previously I only ever used those cheap 3 packs from Ikea ( to be fair they’re pretty good!) But these are AMAZING. Check out Wright and Son – http://www.ernestwright.co.uk/
9. Needles in a needle case – I never really thought about using a needle case either, up until my mum bought me this great hand made one from Pocket Pirate (http://thepocketpirate.com) made from felt fabric and leather. It is so useful, and I really don’t lose needles at the same rate I used to!
Having lived for 3 years with a (very) part time job and a (very) tiny business I’ve learned a lot about saving money. Now that I’m earning a bit more, I can reflect on how I got through all that without struggling with the rent or my food bill. Here’s a few of my top tips. Any of these points will help you save in the short term, for me it is more of a life style that I’ve conditioned myself into, I guess out of necessity after being poor for so long!
1. Plan Your Meals
An obvious one, always make a shopping list before going to the supermarket. Making a weekly plan for your dinners means you won’t buy anything extra that won’t get used. Keep your cupboards well stocked with staples like pasta and rice and have a couple of meals using these each week. Having 2 or 3 really cheap meals like a simple pasta bake or chilli can really keep your weekly food bill down.
My partner is the cook in our house which suits me fine because I hate it! We make a meal plan each week and then make a shopping list based on it. We then pretty much stick to the list exactly when we do the shopping. Our average weekly spend is probably about £40 for everything, £20 each.
2. Pack Your Lunch.
This one is SO IMPORTANT if you are trying to save money. If you work full time and buy lunch every day you are basically throwing hundreds of pounds away. I could also rant forever about people who buy a £3 cup of coffee or tea on their way to work every single day. I’m sure most offices and places of work have a kettle and a fridge at the very least. Buy some teabags! For £3 you can get like 250! 250 cups of tea!!! Jesus!
I have been working 6 months at a job 3 days a week and have only bought lunch maybe 3 or 4 times when I either had nothing at home to take in, or I fancied a treat. Most weeks I take in a home made chicken wrap with salad and a piece of fruit or packet of crisps. I also buy breakfast bars when they are on offer and keep them in my desk for emergency snacking. Doesn’t sound too bad does it?
3. Ask Yourself Twice
“Do I really need it?” This is a BIG one. I heard a statistic on the radio that 70% of the British public list shopping as their favourite hobby. I’m sure that’s not true, I can’t find a source for it anywhere. Anyway my point is not that huge percentage but the language used. If you think shopping is a “hobby”, it will be incredibly easy to buy shit you don’t need, so get out of that mindset right now.
Talking specifically about clothes shopping, I only buy on two occasions throughout each year. One: January sales. I go through my favourite shops online and see if there’s anything nice out there, that I need. Doing this just once a year makes it feel like a real treat! Two: A genuine need to replace something. I bought new plimsoles only when my old pair started to get holes in the canvas. My old skinny jeans became a little too skinny because I’m not 20 anymore, I bought a new pair that actually fit me. This way I don’t end up with shit I don’t need or will never wear, simple!
Cosmetic stuff can also be a drain on your bank account. Less is more. Buy just a few good quality “essential” items and make them last as long as you can before replacing them.
4. Drink Less
In case you hadn’t realised, alcohol is pretty expensive.
Since the start of this year I’ve actually given up alcohol altogether, which has made me realise how much money can actually be saved by cutting it out. Anyway this one is self explanatory. Drink less, save some money.
5. Shop Around
When it comes to making big purchases, looking at what’s out there is really important! Being the massive cheapskate that I am, I have come to learn that the cheapest is usually not the best. I was really pleased with myself after buying a £10 toaster only to get it home and realised what a piece of crap it was. I have yet to get a slice of bread which is not burnt in some places. It is always a good idea to do some research, look at reviews, and take some time over deciding what your best option would be. The internet makes all of this much easier!
6. Don’t Waste
This is where that shopping list from number 1 comes in handy. The more you stick to your list the less food you will waste. It takes a bit of practice but after a while you get to know how much perishable stuff you get through in a week. The aim is to eat all of it and avoid ending up with sour milk, mouldy bread or shrivelled lettuce leaves in the back of the fridge. Freezing things is the obvious way around this, but if like me you have tiny freezer the size of a shoe box, you need to keep an eye on it!
7. Don’t buy Brands
Another food one that’s super easy. Supermarkets own branded products are often way cheaper than other brands and the quality is no different, the more items you can replace with “own” branded goods, the more you’ll save. The majority of our weekly shop is supermarket own brand, but there are exceptions like tea, of course!
8. Go Veggie
This is one for the meat eaters out there. First of all, I don’t mean you have to become vegetarian! I’m not vegetarian myself, but my partner is and since living with him I have cut down on the amount of meat I eat drastically, just as a matter of course, and that whole hating cooking thing. I used to have meat with every meal, now it’s only about 1 in 4, and I’ve definitely noticed a reduction in my food bills as a result. So it saves you money, is healthier, and better for the environment. Save the bacon for special occasions.
9. Sell Your Stuff
I have been through phases of listing hundreds of items on Ebay and really its pretty tiring, boring, and not particularly profitable. However if you have bigger, more expensive items that you want to get rid of, consider somewhere like Ebay or Gumtree before taking it to the charity shop or dump. If you can get some decent cash for it, its probably worth the effort.
10. Don’t Punish Yourself
Ok… this isn’t really a tip. I have lived extremely poorly on occasion in the past 3 years and its not pleasant. But now that I do have more cash I can relax a bit more about my spending and so I do go for meal out now and again, go to the cinema, and down the pub. Doing these more expensive activities less often sounds dull, but try to see it this way – it makes them far more enjoyable and rewarding, and you will feel like its a special occasion whenever you do it!
Last month we went to the Lake District, and in Keswick at Derwent Water I found (as well as a brilliant pencil shop, of course!) a great book shop where I stocked up on beautiful Bartholomew maps, including North Wales, Mid Wales, Suffolk and Exmoor.