What to do if you lose steam with your social media updates?

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I had this post on the Studio Facebook page earlier this month and I thought I would share it with you but also include my remedy to the Weymss School of Needlecraft’s malady!

I know how hard it is to find time to post your social media updates – especially if you are new to it and it is probably more of a chore than a joy. But you should include it in your daily routine the same way you make sure you have enough change for your til or that you have remembered to flip the “open” sign over on the door.

It is all about creating a habit. One that will benefit your business immensely if you start it.

So if you have lost steam and need to start again, it is a great time to start. Summer is a bit slower for retailers – holidays and the sun have the effect on the high street – so why not use that downtime to start the ball rolling? Here are a few very do-able habits you can start with:

1. Commit to doing updates twice a week – say Wednesday and Saturday – and PUT IT IN YOUR DIARY for a specific time on these days. You are more likely to do it this way than “waiting for the right moment”.

2. Don’t let what you update about be the thing that stops you from updating! Everyone thinks they have to write about BIG things that happen but really - it is the small life things that connect with your people. So did you make a great meal on Friday that you think others would like to know about – post it! Did you sell something that a customer raved about – let people know.

3. Let someone else do the hard work for you and repost something that you saw and think that people might like to see. I wouldn’t do this for every post as for SEO reasons it isn’t great but if it kickstarts your habit – it is a good place to start.

4. Include a photo with it if you can as people LOVE photos and are more likely to check out what you have posted if you include a photo. And if really want to ensure that people look it the image – having an animal in it amps up the open rate. Yes – pets have that power.

And if you really want to make your life easy, learn how to use HootSuite – it is free and makes the job of getting updates out of your head and in to a diary much easier!

I hope that gives you a bit of direction without giving you that tight chested feeling that people can get when you talk about social media.

So will you do it? What would help you with your social media journey?

 

 

My attempt to make a pencil skirt from knit fabric in 20 minutes

My brain has been so busy with preparing and giving talks that after my last one, which I gave earlier this week for the CHA-UK, I realised I hadn’t sewn or made anything in ages. As I am a maker first and foremost, that ain’t good.

I have to be honest and say that NOT making things isn’t always due to my other commitments – family, work etc. Sometimes it is just because I can’t kick my ass in gear to get going.  I guess I am just like every other crafter out there – getting everything out and ready can be the biggest obstacle.

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But as this project only had 3 items needed to complete it, I had no excuse!

So with the weather having changed to tropical this week (yay summer!),  I decided to have a go at this tutorial for a 20 minute pencil skirt, made in knit fabric.

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I had bought the fabric that I eventually used for this project ages ago from America and was having analysis paralysis with what to do with it – would it be a kimono? A tunic top? A dress? Each time I picked it up I couldn’t make a decision and put it back again.  But the knit pencil skirt pattern caught my eye and the 20 minute claim was a bonus. I have also followed Danamadeit for ages and know she has clear instructions which always fills you with unbridled confidence.

So – did I finish the skirt in 20 minutes? Very close!  More like 30 but I then had to alter the waist as when I tried it on, it was too big.  Altering it probably took another 10.

Why did the waist not fit? The instructions were really clear so I don’t think that was the problem – I am wondering if it is the elastic I used as it didn’t really stretch..

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I have sewn with elastic before so that wasn’t the problem – but I think I just didn’t pull it enough when I was putting it on. As you can see from the image of my waistband…it was too gappy.

So I took an inch off each side and it was better…I will wear it around for a day to see if I need to take more off.

I also didn’t finish the bottom as I liked the fact that stretchy fabric can go unfinished (it just tends to roll) and it looks fine. I am trying to achieve the “way too relaxed to worry about the hem” look. I think I might shorten it as it’s that weird “is it too long or is it just me” length.

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Final words? If you have been thinking of trying to sew with knit – this is a great starter project. The instructions call for 2 yards of fabric but I didn’t really need that much – more like 1 1/2.

The only downside for me is that I really struggle to find good quality stretch fabric at our local shops (and I tend to be from the school of I like to see it before I buy it). I usually wait until I go back to the States and see what I can find. I have noticed the trend over there is to make stretch versions of the cotton crafting weight cotton so you do really get more to choose from.

So are you inspired to try sewing with knit fabric?  

Or just to have a go at making a skirt with no pattern to work from? 

Tell me if you do as I would love to see what your skirt looks like!

X

PS – If the idea of making your own skirt with a bit more tutelage is up your street, we have added our A-Line Skirt workshop. It is a great way to make a skirt that has lining, pockets and an invisible zipper! Check out our webpage with all the details!

 

 

 

How to find your voice on social media

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If you have been busy following our Facebook and Twitter feeds, you will have seen that last week was the grand finale of my three talks for Coats on using social media in a small business setting – which took place at the stunning Edinburgh Castle. I spoke about how important it is to find your “voice” when you start on your social media journey. You and what you have to offer within the context of your business is something that only you can express – this is your voice.

I think that people struggle with this concept more than I realised. One of the participants, Janet, came up to me afterwards and said, “I know how important it is to find a voice but I just don’t think we have anything interesting to say”.

I promise you, everyone has something interesting to say – unearthing it can be the hard part.

So I began chatting to Janet, who owns a shop called Jinty and Baa on the edges of Loch Lomond, and as the conversation moved from topic to topic, she said that she (and her mother) opened the shop after the death of her father a little over a year ago. His death was what had spurred them on to have their shop.

I looked at Janet and said, “there your voice is…why not tell folks about that? ”

Sometimes you just have to look a bit harder to see what you can talk about.

And yes – it is that simple.

So if you are trying to craft your words to sound uniquely yours, start with a story that is well….uniquely yours. It is far easier to find your voice when what you talk about is something that you feel passionate about.

Right – I am staring down the barrel of another busy week because I am talking to the folks at the CHA -UK One Big Show International Conference on Sunday and Monday about you guessed it….social media!

So I shall leave you with some great links and some lovely photos to look at.

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PS – The Autumn schedule is now up…well the bulk of it is. So for those of you that want to have something to do once the summer months have passed, why not have a look? We will be adding two new workshops over the coming weeks – making an A Line skirt (with lining and adding pockets) and a whole new twist on how to design and construct your own quilt using strips, tubes and colour.

My Father’s Day story that may make you cry

Black and white before it was cool to be black and white!

Black and white before it was cool to be black and white!

As some of you who follow my blog might know, I tend to go back to Vermont most summers. To wind down, reboot and recharge.

But it also a chance for me to spend much needed time with my family. Last time I was there, my Dad and I were talking about regrets and my Dad said “I wish I had spent more time with you when you were growing up.”.

I crinkled my forehead and said  ”what? Dad – you were always around! ” .

I grew up on a small farm in very rural Vermont. And in my memory of my time there, my Dad seemed to always be there…on a tractor waving as he went by the kitchen window (the suspension on the tractor was a bit suspect so he sometimes looked like he was bobbing by the window), getting us to help out with the harvest when time pressed down on mother nature, making sure we took time to be involved with our garden – usually after dinner when it was cool enough to weed without the sun beating down on our backs.

However, my most abiding memory is of my Dad throwing softball with me after dinner.

I played softball for years – starting when I was probably about 7 – playing on a boys team at first as there weren’t enough girls for a separate team (I blame the early introduction to this exclusively male environment for my ability to swear like a trooper).

And I guess as a way to help me get as much of a leg up as possible, my Dad started to take me out after dinner for a couple of ball tosses, in our back yard alongside our beautiful wooden barn. In the Spring months, when my accuracy wasn’t very good as my muscles weren’t as developed, the barn lost a few windows.  They were always magically replaced and the tosses continued. As the years went by, I got stronger and (thankfully for the windows) my aim became laser sharp.

When I moved up to the high school, there was a proper program for the women’s league so I moved on to play with the women. It was tough at times -  we had a coach who taught me that hard work (and no bullshit) was the only way to ensure success. But my Dad and I continued on with our “want to go for a toss?” most evenings as it was a great way to wind down.

Graduation came at the end of my final softball season and then the usual fanfares of youth. At graduation, I was both surprised and touched to have been awarded the female athlete of the year. When I was presented with the award – the coach (the same one who busted my ass on the field every night and had me stay behind so he could fire rockets at me to catch) presented me with the award and said

You weren’t the best athlete but you were the most tenacious”.

I’ll take that.

I like to think that I am still tenacious today. And I put that tenacity down to all those after dinner sessions with my Dad.

So when I asked my Dad about regrets and said he wished he had been there more for us kids, I told him this story. I hope he understood that what he wanted was already there  -  no regrets required. He was (and still is) there for me and there is no need to feel the need to rewrite history.

And that I know right now, as he reads this, tears are starting to form around his soft blue eyes because he hopefully, knows it is true.

Happy Father’s Day everyone!

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So what is it really like to own a fabric and wool shop?

 

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Have you thought about opening your own craft shop?

Have you thought about opening your own craft shop?

Hello readers!

I have just returned from my second speaking gig on behalf of Coats Crafts UK at the stunning Newbury Race Course (on a completely different aside – I drove there from Wantage in Oxfordshire and took the B4494 road to Newbury - absolutely take-your-breath-away beautiful). The talk was pretty much the focussed on the same topic – finding (and flexing!) your social media muscle.  I even added a bit about my journey as a marketer – as both a marketing professional and as the marketing person for the Studio. It has been an interesting journey between these two completely different job titles that is for sure!

But I really wanted to chat to the retailers who were there to find out what it is like when you decide to go from being a shop owner wannabe to someone that carries a much bigger share of responsibility (and exposure!) by taking up space as a shop owner. The conversations were so interesting that I thought I would share with you parts of the discussion that were worth passing along.

Look really close and you can see the crystals winking at you!

Look really close and you can see the crystals winking at you!

There was a range of shops that were there – from long established (often family owned) businesses to one that was celebrating her shop’s one year anniversary on the day of the event.  It was obvious from talking to many of them that the internet has posed both opportunities as well as threats to their businesses but that those who were up for the challenge were fighting back…and gaining ground.  As much as some of the people there might not like to have heard it – the key to it is engaging with social media and knowing what is working when you are doing it and when to change gears.

 

Socks. socks and more socks!

Socks. socks and more socks!

 

During the Q and A sessions (which I love to have people ask me questions!) there was a lovely older gentleman that raised his hand and proudly told us about how his shop had used Facebook ads successfully (again, music to my ears!) and also was working with Mailchimp to get their mailing list up and running (I have said that a good mailing list is as important as your social media presence). You could see he wanted to tell other shops that if he could do it – so could they!

My favourite story had to be from Jenna Clements of Exeter Sewing Machines who was sat in the front of the room and enthusiastically nodded her head as I was giving my talk. She also said that for her business, they have someone employed to help them keep up with the social media updates and that this pays for itself in so many ways. She even shared a tweet that they posted during the last Sewing Bee which was retweeted by none other than Patrick Grant himself (she said it was one of only two tweets that he retweeted that entire day – imagine how many people got to see it!). 

Yes - Twitters means you can even have make contact with Patrick Grant if you wear a moustache!

Yes – Twitter means you can even make contact with Patrick Grant if you wear a moustache!

But the most touching thing that Jenna told me was what about the activity on her table of other shop owners:

“It was lovely to see people on my table who clearly had little confidence with social media frantically writing notes during your talk. One man even wrote down “it is never to late to start!” 

That “it is never too late to start” was one of the last slides I presented. I can completely understand how daunting it must be if you feel that everyone is doing it and you are only starting – which is why I included that slide.

It isn’t too late – just get started.

When I have done my last talk (in Edinburgh next month) I will take the talk and convert it into a slide presentation for all you folks as I would like to have it available for everyone to use.

Always happy to spread the good news on social media and again thanks to the fantastic folks at Coats Crafts for giving me the opportunity to talk about this important tool for small businesses.

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My day with the lovely people at Coats Crafts UK

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If you have been following the Studio’s Facebook page, you will know that recently, I have been doing a fair amount of speaking. My husband would say that me speaking a lot isn’t a bit deal (ahem..) but this is different. This is speaking to those in the crafting industry about something I am passionate about – flexing your social media muscle to help your small business.

About six weeks ago, the folks at Coats Crafts contacted me to ask if would be a guest speaker at their retailer events scheduled to take place around the UK from April to June. I have been a big fan of Coats for years – they distribute some of my favourite fabrics (Amy Butler, Joel Dewberry, Kaffe Fassett) and we love their wools and use them exclusively in our crochet workshops here at the Studio. So to be asked to work with a brand you already know and love is a no brainer.

Their specific request was that I speak about the importance of using social media in the changing face of retail for small independent shops.  And when they told me I would be sharing the stage with Stuart Hillard, from the Great British Sewing Bee first series, even better!

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An assortment of new fabric lines in beautiful Spring colours.

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And in my favourite colours – orange and grey!

This type of event is new for Coats Crafts UK and they were keen not to just promote the upcoming lines of fabric and wool, they wanted to identify where they could help the retailers with information that they will be able to use in, hopefully, raising their profile and gaining more business.

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The new line of wools made into an assortment of sweaters for both children and adults.

My role was to speak about the use of social media and how it can be one of the best tools that small businesses have available to them to enable them to grow. I love to talk about this incredibly important aspect of small business stewardship – it really is so important.  I got a chance to chat to quite a few of the retailers during the lunch and found that they agreed wholeheartedly that they needed to use social media (some were doing great things) but that there was more that they could learn in terms of how to use it in a continued and focussed way.

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If only my daughter was a bit younger….this is gorgeous.

Stuart spoke about the importance of displaying merchandise in a way that will invite the customer in to be part of the creative experience the shop has to offer.  They say people eat with their eyes but I also believe they craft that way too – they see a sample of how to make something and they instantly want to try themselves.

I did have to laugh as Stuart was obviously the big draw as he is so well known – I felt like a really unknown warm up band to Ed Sheeran!  But we had had some lovely chats in downtime, talked about Quilt Market in America (he’s been and I am desperate to go!), had more than a few laughs and said we would pick up where we left off when we met again for the next date in May (we are doing this again for the retailers located in the South of the UK at Newbury Racecourse).

Stuart Hillard showing how to make a no-sew cover for a cushion.

Stuart Hillard showing how to make a no-sew cover for a cushion.

A quilt doesn't have to have loads of patterns to make an impact - this one is gorgeous!

A quilt doesn’t have to have loads of patterns to make an impact – this one is gorgeous!

My next post about the Newbury session and my aim is to speak to some of the retailers about their own experiences. They are the backbone of the crafting industry and it will be interesting to hear what they have to say about what it is really like from the shop floor.

And it won’t take me so long to get that post done – promise!

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My 5 top tips for working from home…with kids!

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Those of you that follow us on Facebook will recognise the image of me above from earlier in the week…at near meltdown.

I had all three kids at home on Easter holiday, the weather hadn’t quite reached the loveliness that we are now experiencing and my husband was at his work. So I/we was stuck inside, no-one to tag team on the kids front as I stared down the barrel of blog posts and FB updates to do.

My fault really – Georgie & Gus is needing my time as well as the normal Studio stuff. But I was starting to get that clenched teeth feeling when I was answering questions about snacks, toilet trips and sibling arguments. The meltdown occurred when I turned around to see ALL my kids in the room with me, but busily getting on with their own activities/arguments.

That was when I snapped the photo you see.

Sometimes, you gotta laugh or you are gonna cry…or more likely, go postal.

But I also know, in my crazy “got to get this done now” scene, I was forgetting my golden rules when it comes to working from home. Rules and I have a love/hate relationship…but when it comes to working from home…the rules RULE!  Here are the 5 that work for me:

1. I get up at least an hour before the kids do and work on the most important things on my to do list. I am a morning person when it comes to work and I get more done in that golden hour than if I try later on in the day.

2. Where I am able, I order anything I need (from groceries to printer cartridges to windshield wiper blades) for delivery. It gives you more free time to juggle things around – nothing is worse than when you can see a free hour in your schedule but know you need to go grocery shopping instead.

3. If the kids are home with me, I try and make sure that they have activities to do, preferably at the same time so I get a window of time free. Normally, I can get an hour of them doing an activity and then they get bored. So I make sure to really work for that hour.

4. See if you can get one day (of a week) where they are ALL booked in activities or at friends. One clear day is better than trying to grab an hour here and there each day.

5. This last little bit of info sometimes works and sometimes doesn’t but when it does, it is magic! I will give my 7 year old a task but word it in a way that makes him think he is doing it for a greater cause. As an example, if I ask him to make his bed as good as Stampy Longnose, he practically runs to his room to do it. When he is finished, really truly finished, we take a photo and then send it to said Mr Longnose…(I hope you all know who Stampy Longnose is…). Try it!

So I have one more week to go of this balancing act. Feel free to keep checking back in to see that I am compis mentis!

X

PS –   Okay, so those are my top tips…what do you do if you need to carve out time to finish a project while the kids are swarming around you like bees to the honeypot?

Spring clean your in-box (no duster required!)

 

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As a busy Mum, small business owner and lover of the internet, I find my in-box both a source of joy and frustration. It is what keeps me on top of my game until someone changes the rules of the game.

A few months ago I had so many emails in my inbox that it ground to a halt. My emails were only allowed in under a very strict “one out..one in” policy as per my email provider. My husband, who is my resident Dr Spock, looked at my in box and said quite bluntly…”your email is full of crap”.

What? I only have emails coming in that I want to get – what is he talking about?

He told me to start taking a look at what I really get in my in-box every day..not what I think I get in my in-box.

So I started to take note of every email that I received which fit in to one of three categories: never opened, never asked for or just not needed.

Oh my - what an eye opener.  

The biggest offenders were Amazon (at least 3 a day!), Boden and Facebook. One day, I counted over 35 emails in my personal inbox that didn’t have to be there…and my mail box for Make and Do was suffering from the same fate.

I have given it an official name #overinboxitus.

So the first thing on my list of Spring cleaning was to identify the biggest offenders and unsubscribe them. In the case of Facebook, you can tick unsubscribe for only certain things – like being notified if a friend of a friend posts – but still get notified of posts that you want to see.

And then if there was an email that was sent to me without my notification, I unsubscribed and reported it as spam. That was a bit harder as some of the senders made it REALLY hard to find that little unsubscribe button….but keep looking as, by law, it should be there.

And now I really like my in-box as when I see an email coming in, it really is from someone that I want to hear from.  

Do you suffer from overinboxitus? Really look at what comes in…it is eyeopening

And then get Spring cleaning that in box and I promise you that the side effect is that you don’t feel like your inbox is so overwhelming!

Have a great Easter!

X

PS –  I also wanted to say that my Spring has started on a real high note as I am going to be a Keynote speaker at both the CHA’s Creative Exchanges in a few weeks time and then again on behalf of Coats Crafts (they are the people behind names like Rowan and Free Spirit Fabrics) about the changing face of craft businesses….very excited!

Think that good business karma is an accident?

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Do you believe in the idea of karma?  And can you learn how to cultivate good karma and keep on growing it for your business?

One word answer - absolutely.

Karma is just an exchange of positive energy combined with a bit of luck as well as the ability to see more than what the immediate picture has to offer. I know it can sound a bit hippy dippy but I have seen good karma manifest itself again and again and in particular, the last few weeks.

So how can you cultivate good karma in your business?

You look for an opportunity to say yes where you are able. Because that is the positive energy that karma needs to grow.

When someone asks you for help, say “of course – what do you need?“.

Can you spare five minutes to look at this for me“sure, happy to help”

I know you are a bit busy but if you could give me advice...”thank you for asking for my advice. I am busy at the moment but can make time later in the week to have a quick chat”.

And no, I don’t mean say yes to everything. That would be completely soul destroying and energy draining. I mean that when you are asked, you say yes if your head (and your heart) tells you that saying yes is for the right reasons.

You cannot grow and cultivate good karma if you only do things that will benefit you or your circumstance.  

But if you try and get that Karma gig going, you will be amazed at how slowly, slowly…it starts to come back to you.

The last few weeks have been busy here at the Studio –  between getting the final list of speakers for our Georgie and Gus event lined up, adding new workshops to our schedule, teaching workshops that are already there! and just keeping all the plates spinning that family life requires. And every time I have gotten myself in to a bit of pickle while keeping all these plates in motion, good karma has stepped in to give me the space and energy required to keep the plates spinning.

So get going on the good karma, because the sooner you start, the sooner it comes back your way!

X

PS – Isn’t that a gorgeous flower in the photo? I snapped it a few weeks back and it is a boutonnière that was on display by the talented Living Colour Flowers at a wedding fair that we both were involved with. Stunning!

So the chance to try something new isn’t really your thing? Read on!

Why would you ever?…

….agree to speak to a room full of strangers?

…about a topic that could quite easily be boring if you aren’t careful?

…at an event that is one of the largest in the UK crafting industry?

..and then agree to do it again if asked?

Because, quite simply, sometimes it is really important to do something that scares the pants off you.

When you were a kid, you did this on a daily basis and it was part of the thrill of being a kid.

Growing up on a farm in very rural Vermont (read: middle of nowhere…) we often had to create our own experiences. It was back before the days of play centres and afterschool clubs. So, depending on the season, we would try and invent activities based on things we hadn’t done before….going through a deeper part of a river, swinging on an even higher rope, on a snowy day going as fast as you can on your sled (which happens to take you across a busy road) while your brother makes sure there are no cars coming across said road.

Each time you did it, you got that tingle in your tummy. The one that says “ooohh..now this should be interesting!”.  

And I don’t think, just because we are a bit older, we should try and avoid that feeling. I think we get scared of what doing that “new thing” will cause – and our brains think of the negative possibilities and we push that “new thing” to the side. And you miss that tingle in the tummy feeling.

So next time you are given the chance (or maybe you make the chance?) to do something new….don’t listen to the naysayers in your head….just grab the sled and get going down the hill!

X