Rock and Sew

One of the prompts from the #Marchmeetthemaker Instagram challenge I’m taking part in was your favourite make.

I used a photo from my most recent custom order – a tiny 10cm high Paul Stanley doll who had gone to join his equally tiny Jon Bon Jovi friend.

Sometimes people ask me to make variations of my existing makes – a different colour hair, adding a name to the front of a doll’s outfit and I really enjoy being able to give people the opportunity to have things just the way they want them – how good would it be if high street shops could change the colour of that otherwise perfect outfit.

However what I really love is when someone gets in touch and asks me to make something completely new. When I first get an enquiry I find myself immediately coming up with ideas, then I have to try and get them down on paper. Sometimes just drawing out the concept can help me see how it would work (or not) in reality.

sketches

From the sketches I can narrow down what I’m going to do and develop paper patterns for the doll. Then its time to get sewing! There are times that my plans don’t quite work out, these dolls are much smaller than my usual makes so working with the denim and leather I used for their clothes became a lot harder than it would in a larger size, but that’s all part of the challenge.

Once they are made then its time to show the pictures to the customer, and that’s when my nerves kick in. My dolls are not exact images of a person or character – after all I’m creating a felt doll not a photograph – so they are my interpretation. When I come to send off the photos I always worry that the customer might have a different interpretation. Its always good to hear that they are pleased with what I have done.

Ive made so many custom orders in the past and haven’t taken any decent photographs before I post them off so I always make sure they have their photo shoot before they are packaged up.

So what would you ask for if you were ordering a custom doll of your own?

March Meet the Maker

So this year I’ve decided to join the #marchmeetthemaker Instagram challenge created by Joanne Hawker which involves a new Instagram post each day so people can get to know a bit more about the story behind the maker and connect with lots of amazing new creatives along the way. I remember following the whole thing last year but didn’t feel brave enough or organised enough to commit to joining in, so this year I’m taking the next step.

The list of prompts for the whole month is on the http://www.marchmeetthemaker.com website, so anyone joining in can plan ahead – there are some I can instantly think of the answer to but some might need some more planning so I’m going to need to get organised.

Day 1, already on my Instagram feed was favourite to make. I shared my most recent custom order – they are my absolute favourites and I love making unusual requests for people. Today, day 2, is all about how I started. I actually ‘started’ as a child, growing up in a creative home with a mother who was very talented and active in her sewing and making (she makes great cakes too!) so I was always surrounded by the interest, inspiration and materials to get creative.

As you grow up and do sensible stuff like getting a job, a house, some children the creative things often fade away – there isn’t time for that sort of stuff any more. However when my daughter was small I was inspired to make her a simple little felt doll. After I made it I thought of all the ways I wanted to make it better, so I made a second one and then a third and from there the idea of turning this into a regular activity, and then selling what I make started.

My first official PepperPot doll was the one I now use as my profile picture on social media – she sits on my bookcase and watches over me as I work. I have made replicas of her for other people but the original little lady will always stay with me. So here she is, and her picture will be going out today as my second #marchmeetthemaker post.

So why not come and join in – you can just follow along if you like. You can go to Instagram and find #marchmeetthemaker to see posts from creatives all over the world making all kinds of things, or visit the official website to find out more.

And please follow along with my posts too – I’m on Instagram at www.instagram.com/pepperpotcrafts but I’m also posting my updates on my twitter feed at www.twitter.com/pepperpotcrafts

Shopping & selling at handmade events

It’s been a busy few weeks lately at PepperPot and I’ve been really enjoying branching out into making a new range of dolls. I’ve also been spending my weekends at handmade markets. A few weeks ago I visited Crafty Vintage at Bowland Brewery in Clitheroe. I love Crafty Vintage events – always in brilliant venues with amazing handmade and vintage products and delicious food. I haven’t been to Bowland Brewery before but I will be going back in the future – it’s a stunning venue for a restaurant and we were able to get a table afterwards for some fab burgers. 


The handmade stalls at Crafty Vintage were brilliant as ever. I didn’t manage to get photos of everything on show there, but here is a selection from sellers including jewellery from HandmadebyEmma, home fragrance from TheThomasColes, homewares from TillyandSage &  Lottie&Bea and sparkly baubles (my photo doesn’t do them justice!) from 7lemons and loads more beside. 

You can find out more about Crafty Vintage events at www.craftyvintage.com.

I was going to write this blog when I came home from Clitheroe, but I was busy making products for my next handmade market the week after. I really enjoyed being part of the first St Anne’s handmade market by MWLevents. I’ve never visited Lytham St Anne’s before, the venue was right by the promenade so I got to have a little walk along the sea front (thank you to all the lovely beach hut residents who let me interrupt their day to talk about the market!) 

MWLevents runs handmade markets in venues around the North West and like Crafty Vintage they are full of talented sellers. I managed to get a few pictures of the day in between talking to customers including wood art from TheCraftyChap, delicious chocolates from Lloyd’sChocolatier, handmade soaps from Ma’sBars, typewriter arts from OiDoris, gifts from MoominDesigns, pictures from MWLDesigns and JRHayesDraws – the list goes on…

 

And of course I had my own stall too 😊


It was interesting to meet visitors to the market – so many people were so impressed by what was on offer and  the standard of all the products. Crafty Vintage is well established and many of its visitors are regulars who know what a fab event they will be going to. St Anne’s handmade market brought something new to the area and I think people were surprised by what they found. There are more markets coming there later in the year – you can find details of all MWLevents markets at www.twitter.com/MWLevents 
One thing both proved is that handmade is best – so go and find the next market near you, it’s so much better to shop local and buy things made with love that aren’t just mass produced. 

Just a Card

The #justacard campaign aims to support small businesses and makers by showing people how even a small purchase – just a card for example – can help independent, creative businesses survive. The name comes from a simple statement by a gallery:

“If everyone who’d complimented our beautiful gallery had bought just a card we’d still be open.”

You can follow the campaign on twitter using #justacard – if you want to see how many talented people there are out there then follow the posts on Thursdays from 8pm for #justacard hour.

You can find out more about the campaign on the blog at https://www.justacard.org/

The team behind the campaign also release shopping guides to highlight some of the beautiful handmade products available to buy and i was really proud to have one of my felt and bead brooches appear in the latest spring gift guide as part of the green theme

gift

Chorley Handmade Market

It was my first Market of the year today in the Lancastrian Suite of Chorley Town Hall.

There’s always a good mix of stalls at Chorley Handmade, and lots of talented crafters so it’s a great market whether you are a stall holder or a visitor.

I’ve brought new items to this market so I laid my stall out differently. It’s always nice to bring new products  – the tooth fairy pillows and needle felted fairies were a hit!


I managed to get round to see some of the stalls and take pictures of a few before the market opened.

There were tasty treats like marmalade gin & tonic from Gribbin and Bear, muffins from The Muffin Mistress and the gorgeous Rivington Chocolates


Then lots of amazing handmade items from  MWL Designs‘ framed pictures, to Sarah Brelsford Studio‘s glass work, That Silver Touch jewellery,

Lovely images of the Lake District from Northaway Photography, wood crafts from Smallthingswood and the clever pebble pictures from Out Of The Blue.


John Pindar Arts was also on hand letting children create their own art to take away.

There were so many others there who I didn’t get a chance to photograph – needle felting, ceramics, glassware, thread art… b2greenwoodworking, Peacock Chic, RELEASE into Victory ‘Angel Gifts’ project, Blue Butterfly Crafts, Needle-Felt Art and fibre-crafts by Sharon Shaul, Click Handknitted, Janes Bees, Frances Smith, Going Potty with Sam, Kat Pearson Designs, MaggieJacksStudio, JT Crowley Books, Suzanne Kelly, The Crafty Chap  and Hidden Treasures all had stalls at the market.

The next Chorley Handmade Market is on Saturday 13th May – follow event organiser MWL Events on Facebook or twitter to keep up to date.

Want to know which markets you can find me at in the future? You can find me on Facebook or twitter too!

Brighten your day – a wet felting tutorial 

It’s a cold grey February day so I’ve been trying to brighten things up making felted wool balls.


There are loads of tutorials around for making wet felted balls, you can make them in the washing machine, or even shake wool around in a pot, but this is how I like to make them.

All you need is some wool roving, hot and cold water and washing up liquid.
Take a small section of wool roving – it needs to be quite loose with soft edges. Obviously it depends on the size you want the final item to be but a piece about as large as my hand was enough to make the balls that were approx. 1cm in diameter. If you want them to be larger it is often better to make a smaller ball then add more layers – otherwise the centre may not be firm enough.


Start with 2 bowls – one with hot water (as hot as possible for your hands to go in) and the other as cold as possible. Put some soap on your hands and very gently roll the roving, keeping your hands a little apart, until it begins to form a loose ball shape. I once read a tutorial that said to imagine you are rolling a baby chick in your hands – I remember that comment each time I do this…

From there it is about dipping it in the hot and cold water bowls alternately, rolling the ball round in the palms of your hand in between – the longer you roll the firmer the ball gets and the harder you can begin to apply pressure to it. At first it will be very squishy and hard to keep in a ball shape, be patient it will suddenly begin to firm up.

Dipping it in the different temperature waters it will help the felting process, it will also help to get rid of the soap as you progress.Keep rolling until the ball feels really firm. You will need to leave it for several hours to fully dry out.


My daughter loved joining in on this activity too – a great idea for a rainy day craft. I was very impressed with her finished leaf and flower!

There are loads of things you can do with your finished balls – create bouquets of flowers, garlands or even rugs. I use lots of colours, gradually layered together to make the balls and flowers in my Etsy shop:

 

Handmade Felt BallsHandmade Felt Ball Flowers

Every mum should have a hobby…. back to where it all began

Looking back through my old blog i found this post, which i wrote in 2013 when i started making things as a hobby. Its good to be reminded of why you do what you do sometimes…

I have always loved crafting and anything creative, but having children can lead you to put so many things on hold, and for me I always saw a distinction between what I needed to do and what I wanted to do.
Anyone who has ever tried to manage work / children/ dog / housework / life generally… will know that there are not enough hours in a day – and that from a mum whose son likes a 5am start to the morning!
The first thing you do is to drop the ‘what I want to do’ stuff and hope that leaves you with about enough ‘what I need to do’ time.

I recently moved from making and crafting on an ad hoc basis to developing into a business online, and I now see life in a very different way.

I used to see hours of must do chores in front of me by the time the children were in bed. There are, I find, two responses to this
a) spend evening fiendishly cleaning/cooking/being a goddess which leaves a tidy house and well fed family but isn’t particularly restful; or
b) realise it will all be messy again by lunchtime tomorrow so spend the evening watching TV and eating biscuits instead.

Since I moved into taking my crafting seriously enough to develop a business I spend a lot of my (child) free time either creating new ideas and restocking, or connecting through various social media tools to others in the same ‘business’ to learn from and engage with them. As a result the chores have taken a bit of a nosedive, and funnily enough no one but me even notices!

Before I began on this journey I used to get to the evening feeling tired and ready to veg and watch TV. For a long time I thought about setting up a business online selling what I make but assumed I wouldn’t have the time or energy for it, so I didn’t take the plunge – I really wish I had.

Having something in the day that is about me and for me makes me feel so much more invigorated about all areas of life. Somehow staying up until midnight to stuff lavender hearts means I wake up less tired that I used to after an evening on the sofa. There is a great satisfaction in creating something completely new and it doesn’t even connect to selling – it is about having an outlet that reminds you who you are.

Every mum should have a hobby – after all if you can make a real person who knows what else you can achieve!!!