Wednesday, 23 December 2015

Phanice's new shop

This is what Phanice's shop looked like on the day she moved in:
It used to be a fish shop - "samaki" is Swahili for fish.  Chris went with her to pay the first four month's rental and the first year's trading license from the money I passed on for this purpose.  She had previously passed on more money for Phanice and Eddy to buy stock to get the shop going. Because the shop is just off the main street, the rent was cheaper than expected so they were able to pay for 4 months' rent with the money I sent.
This picture shows Phanice with Eddy and one of Phanice's sisters.  Phanice, like Eddy, comes from a large family - she has five sisters and three brothers.  The sister shown here helped to redecorate and set up the shop.
I love this photo of Phanice inside the shop - she looks so very happy.  I pray that her shop will be a huge success.

Tuesday, 22 December 2015

Early Christmas presents!

No, not my new sewing machine (though that may merit its own post later!) but some photos from Kenya.

You may remember, if you have been reading this blog for a while, my explanation of my first "business sponsorship" - a young lady called Phanice who was selling items door to door but longed to have a market stall.  Well, friends who visited Kenya recently took with them the £300 to pay for (as it turned out) the first four months' rent on a stall, a year's market trading license and extra cash to stock the shop.  Today they sent me the photos, which I share with you:

Phanice looks so happy, and her "stall" is much more of a shop than I anticipated, which is even more wonderful.  I am so looking forward to seeing this for myself when I visit Kenya next summer.  

Sunday, 29 November 2015

Bromham Ladies' Night

I had a wonderful evening last night at Bromham Ladies' night.  The Church was beautifully decorated, with free crafts, pampering and unlimited puddings.

We were entertained by Unisong, the local community choir, and everyone seemed to have a wonderful time.

The money raised is being given to the Utange project, to help with the orphanage, feeding programme and, the latest project, building a high school in the village.  I had a fabulous evening of sales, making a staggering £378.

Thursday, 19 November 2015

How does your garden grow?

This would be a great present for a gardener.  As with others of the applique bags, I have used a Hobbyycraft Fat Quarter pack for these applique squares.  I can see that I will be doing a lot of applique sewing after Christmas; I am already planning which lines I intend to stock up on in large numbers, and this style of bag is definitely one of them.

Wednesday, 18 November 2015

Final batch of solar lamps delivered

I have been eagerly awaiting these photos.  You may remember that I ordered forty solar lamps back in July - ten for each of four Utange schools: Utange Baptist Primary, St Peter the Rock, Noah's Ark Academy and Utange Primary School.
The lamps arrived in Utange at the end of them month, just after most schools had closed for their holiday.  Pastor John was able to distribute the Utange Baptist Primary School lamps, as they had not quite finished their term.  The head teachers of St Peter the Rock and Noah's Ark Academy both came to collect theirs.  Unfortunately Pastor John was not able to contact anyone from Utange Primary School, and so I resigned myself to waiting until the new term started.
Unfortunately, it didn't - start that is.  There was a major teachers' strike in Kenya, and all schools remained closed for an extended period.  Then John went off to do his spell at university.  Yesterday, however, I received these photos:

John told me, in his message, that the delivery went very well - "they did not expect any gift".  My prayer is that the lamps will be a blessing to their recipients.

Tuesday, 17 November 2015

Turtle power!

This is another new "cuddly" pattern for this year.  I am careful to tell purchasers who suggest that they are buying these for a child that these are not designed as toys; they are not tested to the standards to allow this, and I do not have time to do so!  However, they do make great decorations for a child's room.
This is another Funky Friends Factory pattern, and another which is a delight to make.  Using the African fabrics for the shell makes them very attractive; even so, I was surprised at how well they sold on their fist outing.

Sunday, 15 November 2015

Pocket purse restock

The little unlined pocket purses continue to be very popular, particularly at events where children are present in large numbers.  To my mind, these are ideal for tucking in the car for parking money, or slipping into a school bag for tuck shop funds.  At only £1 each, I love being able to tell purchasers that the price they have just paid will feed a child on the feeding programme for a week.

Saturday, 14 November 2015

Ladybird, Ladybird... away home.
I hope this bag will soon find a home to go to.  It was a fun one to make.
 This was another applique pattern bag.  These have proved very popular this year, and I foresee that my (fast approaching) new year restock will include a number of applique bags.  I have to say that the Fat Quarter packs from Hobbycraft are very useful for this design ... maybe this is a great excuse to buy more of them!!

Wednesday, 4 November 2015

Please Mr Crocodile...

...may I cross the water?

Anyone else remember this children's rhyme / game? To me it evokes cold playgrounds with groups of children trying to keep warm.
My Mr Crocodile really isn't very threatening - he is far too cuddly!  He is made from another Funky Friends Factory pattern - quite a lot of pieces, but a pleasing result.  I even enjoyed hand sewing the teeth - and hand sewing is not my favourite occupation!

Tuesday, 3 November 2015

MK Handmade and Vintage - review

Well, it is all done for this year.  I think the hardest part is the take-down, packing the car and unpacking it on arriving home!
Day two, while not as phenomenally successful as day 1 in terms of sales, still had plenty of rewards, and the takings were close to my previous single day sales, ad £329.  That made the grand total £929 - an amazing income for two days of sales.  Being a bit of a geeky statistics-minded computing teacher, I had to work out the hourly rate!  On Saturday the sale was open from 9am until 7pm - ten hours in total.  So £600 over the day works out at about £60 per hour.  On Sunday we were trading from 10.30am until 5pm - a total of 6.5 hours.  That made the hourly rate £50.61 or thereabouts. Overall,  the hourly income worked out at £56.30 - not a bad rate of income!

I had some lovely moments - selling the two hippo footstools I had completed that morning within the first hour was one of them!  The repeat customers who came to add to their menagerie were very welcome - but equally so were two girls, Molly and Sophie, who came and enjoyed Comfy Humphrey and were very interested in the project.  They asked all kinds of questions - and told other customers what they had found out.  I was very tempted to employ them as sales assistants - they were very convincing and very knowledgable!  Molly and Sophie - if you read this, thank you!  I hope you will come and see me again, whether or not you decide to save up your pocket money to buy an animal - or a Humphrey!

I left with considerably less stock than I came with - three large plastic boxes, two large plastic bags and five hippo beanbags less!  I also left with a considerable amount of money to be used to help the people in Utange.  Thank you, MK.
(edited to add)
Here is Jaqcui's photo of my stall on Saturday, proving how busy I was!

Monday, 2 November 2015

Adding to the menagerie!

I did a lot of restocking to lead up to the Christmas season.  I lost count of the totals, but I know I made a positive herd of elephants!  Here are some of those, ready for MK (where many were sold!)

Sunday, 1 November 2015

Introducing "Comfy Humphrey"!

His name was coined by a visitor to my stall at MK Handmade and Vintage this weekend - and it really fits, I think!
Humphrey is a hippo, made from this McCalls pattern. I have to say, the pattern is a dream - really straightforward and not too many pieces.  My problem was, initially, that this hippo is very large - think child's beanbag or footstool size.  Which is great - until you are making it from recycled jeans.  The gussets can be cut from two (large) pairs of jeans, but the sides are just too big for this.  So I had the idea of making Humphrey's sides from pockets sewn together.  This has an added bonus - what better place for the remote controls for the TV etc?!  I made six Humphrey's, and sold five of them at this weekend's event.  In addition, I have just received a request - someone bought one, and wanted to know if I have any more as she would like another one! 
I filled Humphrey with bean bag beans, which makes him pleasantly squishy.  He is long enough for a small child to lie on lengthways; makes a great footstool; a child can sit astride him, or sideways; he is just the right height to be a pillow if you want to lie on the floor.  I suspect I will be making many more.

Saturday, 31 October 2015

MK Handmade and vintage - day 1

What a fabulous day!  So much to be thankful (and grateful) for.  The wonderful piece by Sammy Jones was one.  Getting the same great stall pitch as last time, facing the new Tiger store, was another.  Help from Church friends gave me some breaks from the stall during the day, which really hleped me to stay upbeat and to engage with potential customers while I was there.  Some clarity about stock meant that I focused on key sucessful lines - the animals, pocket bags in various styles, two styles of embroidered bags and, of course, bibs.  I also had the usual range of low-priced items - bookmarks, pocket purses, phone cases and embroidered purses, plus the new line of Christmas cards. This helped me with my displays, and I think helped the customers to see what was on offer. 

Then I added in my major new line - hippo footstools / beanbags.  These seemed to generate a lot of interest - it was so encouraging to see people pointing them out and commenting on them as they passed.  The fabulous footfall which organiser Jacqui Lewis has ensured through her thorough promotion and advertising was another factor.  The approach of Christmas didn't hurt either!  The sum total of all of these factors was a record breaking sales total of £600 - close to double my previous record.  I will  need to do some restocking before leaving (for a thankfully later start!) tomorrow - I hope to stuff the two remaining hippos I have already sewn, complete the finishing off on some more applique bags, and maybe even do the last pieces of sewing on a few animals so that I can stuff and sew them up at the sale.  I will probably take some pockets to cut to squares so that I have the raw materials for more pocket bags and hippo beanbags in preparation for my November events.  I'm shattered, but really looking forward to tomorrow.

Friday, 30 October 2015

A lovely post about the project

Sammy, From Total MK, has posted a lovely feature on me and the work I am doing for Utange.  You can find it here.  Brilliantly timed as a promotion before my big sale tomorrow in Milton Keynes.  I have been very busily restocking - hence the blog silence recently.  I've made several new items which I am really pleased with, including over 30 elephants, monkeys, turtles, Christmas cards and some mega-large hippos which will serve as a child's seat or a footstool.  Photos to follow once I have taken them... if I get time before I pack the car ready to go and set up this evening!

Sunday, 18 October 2015

Fancy pocket purse

This is made using my recent tutorial, but I have put this post up separately because it shows how you can make good sue of unusually shaped pockets. 
This pair of jeans had one button down pocket- always a useful addition. However, it was unsuitable for many of my projects as the lack of space around the pocket meant it could not be cut to a rectangle.  It made a great pocket purse, however!

Saturday, 10 October 2015

Shaped pocket purses - tutorial

As well as the boxy pocket purses, I also make a more straightforward version.

Making these is very simple:

1. Cut round one of the pockets, leaving at least one inch of plain fabric all the way around the pocket.  Follow the shape of the pocket.

2. Put this pocket face down on top of the other pocket and, using it as a template, cut round.

3. Fold the lining fabric in two, right sides facing, and, again using one pocket as a template, cut the lining to match.

4. Use your zipper foot to sew one side of the zip to one pocket piece along the top.

5. Put the matching lining piece on top of the pocket, right sides together with the zip sandwiched between the two pieces.  Again, sew the zipper to the fabrics.

6. Repeat with the other side of the bag.

7. Top stitch along the zip, keeping as close to the edge of the fabric as possible.

8. Open the zip.

9. Open out the pieces and put them right sides facing so that the linings match and the pockets also match.

10. Sew all the way round the outside edge, just leaving a small section at the base of the lining open for turning.

11. Turn the bag the right way out and sew up the seam you left open on the lining.

12. Push the lining inside the bag.  Your pocket purse is finished.

Friday, 2 October 2015

Fancy pocket purses

These pocket purses make maximum use of decorated pockets, and I predict they will be sold before this post appears!

 I used a variety of strap lengths on these - hopefully I will succeed in pleasing appropriate customers!
Tutorial here.

Thursday, 24 September 2015

Plain pocket purses

Here is another couple of pocket purses; all of these with plain pockets, hopefully appealing to both male and female customers.

You can find the tutorial for these here.

Wednesday, 23 September 2015

Original pocket bag

These are the latest versions of my original pocket bag (which continues to sell well!)  You can find the tutorial here.

Wednesday, 16 September 2015

Zippered pocket bag

These are the type of pocket I love to find - it is great to have a pocket which will fasten on a pocket bag.  However, on this occasion the pockets were too small for a pocket bag, so I decided to use them to make this purse.
It is another of the boxy pocket bags I have made for a while; you can find the tutorial here.

Tuesday, 15 September 2015

Contact from Kenya

I have had some lovely emails from Florence in Utange recently.  She has told me that other parents of her school are asking when they will get solar lamps, and that the families who received them are really grateful to have light in the evenings.  She has also just sent me an email which says,

On last Friday afternoon I had some few ladies who are interested to do sewing and we plan to start our meeting this coming Friday and to start making some few things e.g pillows,door mats,table mats,brooms,making soaps,etc. We shall be teaching each other before you come. I will send the names of the ladies and pictures of what we are doing and I think to name the group your name. 

This is so exciting to read.  To hear that the ladies seem to be beginning to have hope, to be beginning to start up their own businesses, working as a group, is fantastic.  If they can begin to make things which they know they can sell within the village - this is just what I hoped for, and just what I would like to invest in, to help them to grow their businesses.   To have them call their group "Sewing for Utange" is an added bonus!

Saturday, 12 September 2015

Elephants again

I do enjoy selecting the fabrics for the elephants, both for the bodies and for the ears.  I stocked up on fat quarters of African fabric a while ago, but I think restocking time may be fast approaching.

Friday, 11 September 2015


I have been revamping my "promotiional materials" recently.  For a long time I have used Vistaprint, but following some problems with them I am now using three different suppliers.
I don't really have many promotional materials which I use regularly - the three key ones are a banner, business cards, and a wallet of photos.  When recreating the first two, I decided to take another look at the photographs.  These are really useful - sometimes to amuse children and allow their parents to look at the items I have on my stall, but often to give more detail about what I am doing.  So I thought I would order a proper photo book. I decided to go with Bonusprinr, and was really pleased with the result and the service.  I ordered one of their small photobooks, and hope to have a new one created each year, tracking how my projects progress.  This one is really an introduction, giving background information and explaining what I have done and hope to do.
The photo book arrived really quickly, and is of good quality.  I am particularly pleased that the paper is glossy and thick and robust; it looks as if it will withstand handling very well.  An added advantage is that there is an online version of the book, so I thought I would share it with you here.

I have attempted to embed the book, and your browser may well allow you to see it below.  However, if not, you can access it here, should you wish to!

Thursday, 10 September 2015

Pocket bag with contrast trim - with tutorial

This is another variation on my original pocket bag, the tutorial for which is here.

To make this bag:
Cut eight pockets to the same size.  If you are unfamiliar with sewing jeans, avoid including seams around your pockets.  Make sure to leave at least 1" all the way round the pocket.
Sew pairs of pockets together, side by side.
Sew each pair to another to make a 2 x 2 pocket square - each of these is one side of your bag.
Cut linings to match your bags - I find it easiest to do this now rather than working out the size before sewing.  Cut a binding piece which is at least 2" wide (it can be wider if you want) and more than twice the width of one panel.
Put the two panels rights sides facing and sew round three sides, leaving the top edge open.
Repeat with the linings.
Turn the bag panels the right way out but leave the lining as it is.  Put the lining inside the bag and pin at the side seams.
Pin the straps (see original tutorial for instructions on how to make these) to the front of the bag.  I usually pin them half way along the width of the pockets.
Pin the binding to the top of the bag, with the right side of the binding facing the bag panels.  Sew round, starting 2" after the start of the binding.  After sewing about 3", pin this free piece on top of the sewn piece.  Continue to the end of the binding, sewing over the original start.  This will hide all raw edges.
Fold the binding inside the bag and stitch in place by hand, folding the raw edges under.