The Secret Beauty of Mistakes

A few months ago I got on a plane bound for England. I was taking my little Australian children back ‘home’ to meet a new baby cousin and to spend some time with my family.  I decided that I would take some knitting projects on the flight and get a (very) early start on some Christmas presents as a way to make the epically long flight go faster.  I did get plenty of knitting done, both on the plane and in the days afterwards, but because of the tiredness and the jet lag I made a couple of mistakes. Not terrible ones. But the sort that once spotted can’t be un-seen.  I could have gone back and fixed them but I decided not to and not only because I didn't want to have to face unravelling a lot of work, It was because the mistakes said something. They spoke to me of the circumstances surrounding their occurrence.  They said ‘Oh, hey, remember that time you flew to England to meet your new niece and you were exhausted but you couldn’t sleep on the plane because you were too excited to see your family again and you couldn’t stop thinking about how lovely it would be to spend some time with them…?’ And I realised that I didn’t want to erase that.

So I left them there and I wrote a little letter to go with the gift.  I wrote about how it wasn’t perfect, and how there were mistakes. But I also wrote about how I was feeling as I made it, about my tiredness and my excitement and about how there was love and anticipation knitted into every stitch. I wrote of how I hoped that the recipient too would treasure those mistakes as a reminder of the time that I flew halfway across the world with two small children in tow, just because I loved them so.


Lessons learned from mass production and selling wholesale!

Owls Masks for Seed by Willow and Stitch

Yet again I find myself wanting to start a blog post by saying ‘It’s been rather quiet around here recently’ and while that might be true of my little blog - it most certainly isn’t true of my life in general; It has been BONKERS around here recently!

Masks for Seed photoshoot by Willow and Stitch
Tails for Seed photoshoot by Willow and Stitch

September seems to have passed in a blur of felty activity.  It all started innocently enough - with an enquiry from stylist Tamara Maynes asking whether I could design and make a few masks, tails and ears for a photo shoot she was doing for Seed Kids in a few days time.  I love a challenge, particularly when it involves creating some new designs so I was happy to do it.  I was expecting that the campaign might help my business by advertising my masks on a large scale and being associated with a big brand - what I wasn’t expecting was to get a call from Seed a week later, asking whether I could make 500 masks for them to stock in stores to complement the campaign!  

 So. Many. Birds.

So. Many. Birds.

I make these dress up masks in my ‘spare’ (ha!) time so I wasn’t sure whether it would be possible to make so many in such a short time frame (I had 3-4 weeks) or even whether I wanted to commit to such a large project, but my husband persuaded me that I ought to do it; ‘I’ll help’ he said (and don’t you worry, I most certainly held him to it!)  I was expecting him to regret his offer (he generally dislikes doing anything that might be classified as ‘arts and crafts’ - weird really as he’s actually very artistic) but he seemed to rather enjoy it, and he certainly has a better appreciation for the work I do now!

 All the pandas

All the pandas

Panda Masks for Seed by Willow and Stitch

This really was a huge amount of work and while I have to say that I don’t really enjoy this type mass production there were definitely some interesting lessons that I learned while doing it:

Firstly, I need to accept offers of help more.  I don't know why but I usually turn down offers of help;  I suppose that I don’t want to impose on anyone or take advantage of their kindness so I try to do it all myself (and there may also be a tiny bit of stubbornness in there too!).  This time I was fully aware that I simply may not be able to do it all myself so I began to accept the offers. 

It made me feel enormously grateful to be surrounded by so many supportive and generous people. An activity that might, alone, have been tedious and stressful was turned into a pleasant way to spend an afternoon, particularly when you added in a cup of tea, a little cake and some happy chatting. (honestly - anything is bearable if you have tea and cake - don't you think?!)  There was also something surprisingly rewarding and soul nourishing about accepting the help; being able to admit that I needed it and finding that there were friends and family there ready and eager to offer it.  I suppose it's all related to our very human need for community and connection, but whatever the reason I was very touched so thank you so much to everyone who helped!

I also discovered lots of ways in which I can fine tune my making processes to find the most efficient way of doing things, for example I realised that sewing around the outline of the mask BEFORE I cut them out makes the whole process much quicker because I don’t have to deal with the double layers of felt shifting as I sew or cut.

I found here are a lot of hoops to jump through when you are selling to a large company, different people to talk to about different things, forms to fill in, barcodes to order and attach, accounts to set up, even using a courier service for the first time was a challenge!

Lastly, but probably most significantly, I realised that I have massively underpriced my products.  This is a bit of an uncomfortable thing to talk about, mostly because I feel a little like I'm standing here yelling 'I'm worth more than this!' but I did find it very interesting.  When I was contacted by the store they asked me what my wholesale price would be for a large quantity.  I had no idea!  I have obviously done some calculations to work out the cost of materials and my time for each mask and then added a bit of profit on top of that, although if I’m honest when I was setting the price originally I based it mostly on what I thought people would be willing to pay. As it turns out when I looked into it in more depth I realised I have been effectively selling masks at the wholesale price for the last year - oops!  

Exactly what, if anything, I'm going to do about this is going to require a little more thought but I'll come back and talk more about the whole thing once I've got it all straight in my head!

In the meantime here's a picture of a cute little monkey...

Goodnight!

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Paying it forward

 Acrylic painted rope bowl.

Acrylic painted rope bowl.

I’ve been busy making recently (too busy making to blog anything apparently!) and it’s been all about sharing the love around here at the moment.  

I’ve been working on some gifts for a pay it forward initiative.  I agreed to do this months and months ago with the idea that the 5 people who volunteered would get a gift from me in return for paying it forward to 5 others.  It was really interesting to see who responded to my message, some were dear family members, some close friends, others I haven’t seen since high school.  

The agreement was that I would send them something over the next year, when inspiration struck and I found something that I thought they would like. It’s taken me the better part of the year to get around to sending out gifts, but I had resolved that I wanted to send handmade gifts and I also struggled to decide exactly what would make a nice gift for some of the people I was supposed to be sending to. I have occasionally felt a little guilty for taking so long to get around to doing it, but mostly, unexpectedly, I have enjoyed taking my time over this. I’ve found myself thinking about my recipients a lot over the last 9 months, wondering about their lives, their challenges and what I can do or send that will make them smile.  I wonder if they have sensed it at all.  

 Open wide zippered pouch - free pattern from Noodlehead

Open wide zippered pouch - free pattern from Noodlehead

The most unexpected thing has been how much I have enjoyed the whole process. It has been fun creating these things and wrapping them up - Imagining the surprise when the parcels arrive and hoping that they will brighten someone's day.  I can’t help thinking that I may have gained more from this experience than the people to whom I am sending gifts, although I hope they will disagree!

Painted Rope Bowl

I’m going to try to keep on paying it forward, to think about ways I can incorporate random (or not so random) acts of kindness into my everyday, I’m totally hooked on feeling like one of santa’s elves!  Do you have any ways that you like to pay it forward or favourite random acts of kindness?

 

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The sky is echoing my heart this morning.

image.jpg

The sky is echoing my heart this morning.  Which is odd because it’s Monday morning, it’s zero degrees and I’m cycling to work.  All the indications are that I should be feeling depressed, despondent at the very least.  But actually I can’t keep the smile off my face.  I had such a beautiful weekend.  I didn’t step foot out of my house and garden once, but so many of my very favourite people came to us.  The kiddies played beautifully, and drove us crazy, and made us laugh. We sat in our beautiful new, unfinished, light-filled kitchen and drank tea and talked, made plans and sat in companionable silence.  We cooked delicious meals from unlikely ingredients and shared them with wine and laughter.

We’ve probably never been so much in debt as we are right now, but I’ve also never felt richer.  Thank you so much to all the lovely people in my life who make ordinary days feel so special.

xx 

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There's no place like home.

I know a lot of you are here for the sewing – but while I’m overseas I am on a forced break from sewing and my mind is wandering to lots of other things so please excuse my ramblings.  Next month I’ll be back into the sewing, but for now I am enjoying this opportunity to step back and reflect.

Green England

It is wonderful to be back home, back in the place where I grew up.  Back amongst these rolling green hills and dry stone walls.  Everything is so familiar, the smell of the fresh air, the sounds of the voices with their northern accents, the hot cups of tea.  It’s a little like being enveloped in an enormous security blanket and cuddled.

I would never have guessed at 18 where my life would take me.  If you had told me that I would be living in Australia, I simply wouldn’t have believed you.  I’m not the sort for big steps and dramatic changes.  I love home and I love my family and I wouldn’t choose to leave.  But somehow it happened, almost by accident. I never intended to emigrate, but here I am and I can’t possibly regret the decisions that led me here.  I have a home that I love, better friends than I probably deserve and a husband and children who I adore.  Who could ask for more really?

But; while these trips back home make me grateful for the life I have in Australia, I also find that they make me mourn, in equal measure, the life I could have had in England.

Sometimes I feel consumed by sadness at this thought.  England will always be home, but my life is now so fully invested in Australia that I sometimes think that I could never properly be whole again.  It feels as though my life, and my heart, will always be split in two.  But this feeling is one which only really gets me when I am already feeling tired and vulnerable.  More often I am able to see it as a blessing.  Because until you miss something you can never fully appreciate it.  I am constantly missing one of my two homes and my heart is full of gratitude for each of these beautiful places and for the lovely family and friends in both.

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