My ten top tips – five you can start now! – to help you do something new


                                 What to do if you want to get off the trail?

Last week, while chatting with folks who attended our webinar on Teaching Your Craft, there were two questions asked of both Lyndsey and I that stood out for me. I wanted to talk about them here as I think the two questions will resonate on some level with most of the woman reading this blog.

The questions both revolved around starting something new. The first question was about knowing when the time was right to start, and the other was about getting enough confidence to start.

The answer is in the question(s) – just to start.

But then I thought that most of you would then say out loud (you can do that on a webinar as we can’t hear you) “easy for you to say” and probably roll your eyes.

I get that whole eye rolling thing- I have done that when being given advice that seemed a bit redundant (my parents can concur on this front). So I have decided to share with you ten things that you can do that will help you begin. Even in a small way, which is better than no way. And it isn’t just for those that want to teach – it is for those that want to do anything new (that scares them a little). It could be losing weight, getting rid of a bad relationship, transitioning out of the industry you are into a new career, sorting your finances out – the list could go on and on. So here is my list of what I do/say when I have to do something new:

1. Ask yourself that if you try this new thing, what is the worst that can happen? Can you survive the worst case scenario?

2. Try a small version of what you want to do. Big is overwhelming.

3. When you decided to try this one new thing – what made you want to do it? Tap back into that emotion and write it down.

4. Find people on-line that you admire and start to follow them on Social Media. It helps you see what is possible.

5. Find that person or friend that loves everything do and tell them what you want to do.

6. They say you are the culmination of the five people you spend the most time with. So make sure your five “team players” are going to help you with your new venture – not drag you down.

7. Go walk a dog. Really. It works. Clears your head and makes it much easier to see what is important.

8. Realise that doing anything new means being uncomfortable. And then know that being uncomfortable is just a momentary feeling. You will be fine.

9. Talk a long term view as to what success is. It always takes so much longer than anyone will ever tell you to feel successful.

10. Stop reading all those top ten lists when looking for inspiration and just do it. :)


Why writing your own tutorial isn’t always a good thing

Waaaayyyyy back in May, I thought that I had a project that would be great to have published. It was a very simple quilted cushion cover that I whipped up back in Christmas of last year. And when I say “whipped up” I do mean just that – as in no instructions, no pattern – just some fabric that needed a home and a vague idea of how to use it. And I created this….



Ta da!

And then in May, after a quick exchange with Fiona at the Sewing Directory about something totally unrelated, I said I thought I had a project they might be interested in using. A few images back and forth with Julie Briggs – who now acts as the content editor for the Sewing Directory – and we both agreed to pencil it in for the Autumn.

Have you ever heard of the distant elephants principle? Its concept is that “even in the distance, elephants look small”. Which means when you say yes to something that doesn’t need to be complete for ages, you tend to underestimate the amount of time needed to produce the project as it is so far in the future. But as the “thundering elephant” comes closer – you see how big it is. And it suddenly becomes a much bigger “thing”than when you said yes all those many monthes ago.

This is exactly what happened with this project. When I said yes, I decided to start a bit of research into what makes a good tutorial because let me tell you, good ones are few and far between. Either the photos are awful, or the instructions are full of errors (both spelling and instruction wise). So my research was done after a few weeks, and confident that I knew what I needed to do to produce a killer tutorial, I put in on the back burner until the end of the summer. I even estimated that I could get it done in half a day at the most, well in time for Autumn.

In early September, the nice folks at Coats sent me some lovely fabric from Amy Butler so I didn’t even need to sort out that bit (we all know that picking out the fabric for any project can be the hardest part). I then had a lovely lady named Gill offer to be my tester when we created the project.

Things were really looking up – first the fabric was sorted, and now I had someone to actually test it for me – hurrah!

Gill and I set aside a Friday morning where we both agreed we would create the set of instructions as well as a prototype. By the end of the 4 hours, we had a very rough draft of the instructions and version of the front panel done.

Gill then went back to her house and over the next week, working from the instructions, produced the cushion in the Amy Butler fabric. This took Gill between 4 and 5 hours. There were a few revisions to the rough draft which she gave me and that took about an hour to work into the instructions.

So suddenly, we are up to 10 hours and we aren’t close to done yet.

One of my biggest complaints when looking at other instructions for projects was that their photos were terrible. So I decided to take photos that would be swoon worthy (after all – that is what sells Mollie Makes, those lovely “I want to make that” photos). Four hours later and we have a set of photos that are okay – not great and no way near Mollie Makes standard- but you can at least see the cushion in a nice setting.

But then when I tried to take photos for the instructions, I just didn’t like them. I tried all different ways to make them look jazzy, but it just didn’t work for me. It is hard to take a photo with one hand while you are supposed to be sewing with the other one. Then I remembered that one of my favourite books – Whip Up Mini Quilts by Kathreen Ricketson– used illustrations instead of photos in her instructions. So I decided to get a set of illustrations produced which took another two weeks of back and forth to get them sorted.

By this time – I am three weeks behind when I said I would have it ready and sinking slowly towards four.

The final bit took the longest – reading (and re-reading) the instructions to ensure they were bullet proof. I realised at about the 4th time I read it, I hadn’t included the 1/4″ seam allowance in the Basic Information section. Which then meant I read it ALL OVER AGAIN, just to see if there was anything else obvious I had missed. This would have taken me about another 4 hours in total.

So my distant elephant only takes a half a day to get it sorted project, actually took closer to 18 hours from beginning to end. And by the end of it, I was so cross-eyed from looking at it over and over I just wanted it to be done with.

So my advice to anyone who wants to do a project is that it is a great way to get your name out there but do not underestimate the amount of time required to do it so that you are happy with the end result.  And don’t forget how important good photos and images are!



More ways to enjoy the Autumn half term that are free and simple to do!



First of all, I need to thank Fi Harvie who posted this on her personal webpage earlier this week and I snagged it as it was so perfect for my post today.

Last April, I wrote a post about how to survive half term holidays if you work from home. I was in the middle of a very black day – and from this, I wrote a post about five things you can do to work from home with kids and not go crazy.

I thought, as we are about to enter yet another week where we have no school timetables to adhere to, I would add another five things to do to help the week pass faster. We both long and loath the half term holiday that all children (or grandchildren for those of you that get roped in as help) that starts (for most) next week. As the school weeks creak by, like an aging boat on still waters, you hear yourself saying…

Roll on half term“.

You love the idea of not having to wake up for school runs. Or you like the idea of spending extended periods of time with your grandchildren. You stare out the window at the falling leaves and think you will take time out for long walks with the kiddo’s before winter makes it presence known. Make some kick ass memories and post them on Instagram.

But that week never quite turns out the way you planned. And you start to feel that small pebble of regret skim across the lake of reflection. Why didn’t we take that walk when I had the chance? Why did I let the kids sleep in for so long when we could have gotten up and done something fun? Should I have let them play on that Ipad as much as I did when I had the time to read to them?

Why do these things happen? Because it just does and intention is the second cousin of guilt. I have found that being more forgiving on what we don’t do than trying to over achieve on what we should do means I really enjoy the week more. So here are five things that you can do at a drop of a hat (or not do at a drop of a hat), that only involve your time and your kids:

1. Carve a pumpkin. If you come to the Studio, you will see that we have three crazy pumpkins sat outside which we had great fun doing. The kids started looking on the internet for ideas (we started the research phase a few days before the making phase) and it took up at least three hours last Sunday to get them carved up. And each night, they get to light them which they love. And then we roasted the pumpkin seeds which we are still eating now!

2. All three of my kids don’t mind a bit of time baking or cooking. But let’s be honest – kids will go for baking hands down as it is sweet. I have a few recipes the kids love to bake and if there is a lull in the day, out comes the recipes. Just make sure you have all the ingredients in so that when you do decide to do it, you have everything. We just bought a few bags of the Spooky M & M’s and we are going to use them at some point during the week.

3. Take a walk with the child who speaks the least. I know that might sound a bit odd but my eldest, who is 16, is going through the grunting phase. I can barely get him to tell me about his day unless there is a transfer of money involved! I find that when we go out together – even grocery shopping – he tells me so much more than when I sit across the table and ask him.

4. Get them to make their own damn Halloween costumes! Again – they might moan but when they start to figure out what they want to be – even if it means having to paint their own faces – they enjoy it.

5. When your child is busy watching TV or playing on their Ipad – why not join them? Anyone that knows me knows I am not a lover of TV (we don’t have a TV as such but use Iplayer when we do want entertainment) but sometimes, sitting down and seeing what they watch will open your eyes to new things. I have discovered the joys of Finn and Jake (I love Adventure Time!) because of my eight-year-old and my daughter got me hooked on the Great British Bake Off this year!

Enjoy your week folks!


Think you aren’t creative? You might just have an art scar.


That is one seriously dodgy photo you are staring at.

As a matter of fact, I am fighting all the inner demons that are telling me not to post it. That I could write about finding creativity without subjecting people to photos of me from 30 years ago. But I think it is really important that I not only tell you, but show you, that I completely get it when you tell yourself (and sometimes me when you come to workshops) that you aren’t creative.

The photo is from my high school yearbook. Back when printing everything in colour was too expensive, hence the black and white. You will notice that underneath the photo is the traditional listing of the activities that I was involved with in high school. Most of what is listed was either academic (Girls State, which was a statewide Congress for girls) or athletic (softball, field hockey) but nothing whatsoever artistic/creative.

Not a whisper.

When I first started high school, I was, like any pre-teenager, very open to being easily persuaded by suggestion. Someone once told me I was chubby and that still sticks with me to this day. I was also told that I wasn’t very musical, which rises up to challenge me each time I try to have a go at my kid’s ukelele.

And at that very formative time in my life, someone also gave me an art scar.

I was told by an art teacher that art really wasn’t my thing. That maybe I should stick to my more athletic pursuits. That I had to try really hard just to get even a squeak of creativity out onto the table. I vividly remember looking around my pottery class and thinking, “I think she might be right, I am way too ordinary to be with the creative kids”. And therein, formed my art scar, and I let the opportunity to be creative pass me over time and time again. An art scar is a reminder that at one time, someone told you that being creative wasn’t your thing and you believed them.

You can carry that art scar around for as long as you want but I know my scar started to fade at the end of my first marriage. Up until then, if I ever thought about doing anything remotely creative, I would remind myself of my art scar and that sealed the deal. I would decline the chance to be creative, as surely that meant making a big old fool of myself in a room of much more creative people than myself?

So as the embers of my first marriage started to fade, I had an intense desire to try and connect with something that made me feel alive. I guess as one source of energy fades, the other grows. I got a guitar and signed up for guitar lessons at a local college. I even brought it to work to practise on my lunch hours in one of the empty offices. But each and every time I picked up that guitar, my art scar told me “you aren’t very musical!” and told me to stop being silly.

And I told it to fuck off. Pardon the f-bomb, but I did.

I kept taking my guitar to work – it was the only place I could get one hour a day uninterrupted by children or a demanding soon-to-be-ex spouse. I had to work six times as hard just to get a series of notes to sound like the cat wasn’t being strangled. But I didn’t care, I just wanted to do something creative.

The funny thing was that the people whom I worked with, who knew nothing about my art scar, commented on how they would never learn guitar as that was too creative. And by default, that meant that I was creative too.

And that one experience, where I opened myself (and my art scar) up to being creative, is why I (and the Studio) are here I am today. Because I kept trying new and creative things because I was curious and hungry about what else was on offer and whether I could give it a go.

So if you think you aren’t creative – ask yourself if someone gave you an art scar? Did they tell you that it was too self-indulgent to take time out to paint? That you had to be able to write really, really well to even think about taking that creative writing course? And why would you even think you could sew – you weren’t able learn when your impatient Mum tried to teach you.

Take the time to figure out where you dampened down your creative spirit and I bet you, that you will be reminded of a time when you weren’t self-conscience about what you might make. Or how it looked compared to everyone else. Or whether you looked the creative type.

And watch that art scar start to fade……

Why you should consider setting up a wholesale account for your business


Stay on the crafting trail!

Stay on the crafting trail!

Last week’s blog post was about buying your craft supplies direct from China. We talked a bit about my recent experience doing it as well as the general positives and negatives to getting your supplies via this avenue.

But what if you have a small business (especially those of us who work for ourselves) and buying supplies in small numbers is getting more frequent but also more costly? At what point do you think about switching to buying stock in larger quantities from a wholesaler and setting up a wholesale account?

The answer is multifaceted, but the two main things to ask yourself if you are thinking of doing it is a: do you have an obvious way to sell what you have in stock (website, stall etc) and b: are you comfortable with having to lay out the money for the stuff you want to sell on, while it is in between being sold and not being sold.

In the case of the Studio, we started to carry items that people needed when they were taking their workshop. It just kind of happened in that people would ask me, “do you sell rotary cutters” after I showed them how to cut binding using them, and I kept having to say no. Which got a bit tiresome as they were not readily available in the local area which meant most people had to go on-line. So deciding to take the leap into having stock was dictated by the people that came to the workshops and their needs, as well as having an outlet to sell them in.

So I decided to look into where I could get stock but that raised the next question….where do I find out about wholesalers? I had never really dealt with a wholesaler before and didn’t know what to expect in terms of setting up an account (other than you needed to be a bonified business). And people don’t really tell you who their wholesaler is as they don’t want to give away who they buy from (which is completely understandable but makes it doubly hard!).

There is a listing of wholesalers at The Sewing Directory  – this wasn’t around when I was looking, but that would have been a good place to start. (Having looked at the list when writing this post, the wholesalers I now use aren’t listed but more on that in a minute). I was very lucky in that the people who work for me at the Studio – tutors, sewing machine technicians etc – all gave me great advice on places that they knew of and said they were just what I was looking for. And they were right as I now toggle between three different wholesalers to get what I need based on these recommendations.

Why three? Because I can bounce between the three depending on what I need. As an example, the price difference between them for acrylic rulers is such that I only buy them from the one wholesaler but the cutting mats from another.

But the odd thing is that the ones that I use now I ended up finding out through a variety of sources, but none of them were listing in a directory. I guess like any industry, some companies take the time to market themselves and some don’t. So doing a bit of research may be required as well. If you want to do a bit of research for what is available, my top tips (I have used them all!) would be:

1. Go to trade fairs in your industry. Larger trade fairs (most tend to be based either at the NEC or in London) tend to be a mix of vendors that sell to the trade and trade that sells to the public. The website should list who is attending, with a brief description of what they sell, to help you get your list together of who might be worth meeting if you decide it is worthwhile to go.

2. If you are part of a closed members forum on a Facebook group, the members are normally more open about who they use. That is where I found my first wholesaler (who did eventually go bust but that led on to other wholesalers who were even better!).

3. You can try and just Google what you are looking for -again, there tends to be limited luck on that front but you would be surprised what you can find out!

4. And this one is definitely one that is a bit different but it can work! I was at a haberdashery in York and I noticed they had a delivery arrive, which was being dropped off by the front door and then ferried into the back. I took note of the labels and where they were from ( I guess the really bold could take a photo with their phone), did a Google search when I got home and guess what…I found yet another wholesaler!

So finding a wholesaler can be a bit of a Sherlock Holmes affair but you can find them. I know for me, it allows me to offer another service to those that come to the Studio and one that helps raise my profile.

So if you are thinking about buying from wholesalers – I hope you have found this helpful and there is no harm in doing a bit of research!

Is ordering the cheapest on Ebay always the best option?

I have used Ebay and Amazon since opening the Studio in 2009 as it was a great way to have access to items I needed quickly and usually at a reasonable price.

Since then, most of what I need I now get at my wholesalers (I love my wholesaler!) so I haven’t used Ebay or Amazon for sewing items in ages. The other day, I was holding the second part of our Quiltmaking for Beginners workshop and I was explaining to Jade, who was getting ready to quilt her “sandwich”, about the function of a walking foot (or an even feed foot – same thing just a different name ). Her Singer sewing machine didn’t have one so she was using one of the Studio ones.

Impressed with how easy it made the job, Jade’s next question was “how much are they”? I said I wasn’t sure how much Singer branded ones were as I didn’t have a Singer sewing machine in my armoury. But I got my laptop out and did a quick search and was surprised to see such a wide range of prices. From £28.95 for a Singer branded one to the cheapest I could find was £3.29…what a huge difference!


Is ordering the cheapest on Ebay always the best option? The main difference is that for the inexpensive one you are buying direct from China (you can find this information out when you scroll down through the bottom). You have a very long lead time before it is delivered (14 – 24 days but this is not guaranteed) and then returning it if you were unhappy with it (for any reason) was up to you to pay. The more expensive one was from a UK supplier with clear instructions on how to use it and what to do if you were unhappy with and wanted to return it.

A few weeks before Jade had asked the question about cost, I decided to do my own experiment as I was curious about whether the amount you saved was worth ordering direct from China. So I ordered from Ebay a job lot of invisible zippers and then a separate invisible zipper foot – the cheapest that was listed – fully aware they were coming from China and I wasn’t in a rush. It was more of a “process testing” measure.

The zippers took a little over two weeks to arrive. The quality was a bit on the flimsy side and had I seen them beforehand (in the flesh so to speak) I probably wouldn’t have bought them. The actual zipper itself looked okay – it was the fabric on either side that was really cheap.

The invisible zipper foot took three weeks to arrive. It looked no different than then more expensive ones that I have seen and will be put to the test later on this week when I have a go inserting the zippers with the foot. But my initial thoughts are that it was worth ordering it and the subsequent wait.

So in theory – the split on whether you should order from China direct is 50/50. But that is about what the average is when I speak to folks who have tried this at the Studio – some things are worth it and some are not. The real problem is that you don’t really know which ones are worth it and which ones aren’t.


I doubt very much that most people would take the time to return the items as you have to pay to have them shipped back to China and if you really want to ensure they arrive, then you would pay to have it tracked….costing between £6 and £7 for the cheapest options for this very small zipper foot.

Let’s be honest, you would be hard pressed to spend more on the postage than you did on the item.

So for me, I am very happy to stick with my wholesaler to get my items for the Studio. I spend half a day a month there getting stock. They give me cups of coffee on tap to help me whizz up and down the aisle, they answer my questions about just about everything, never rolling an eye when I am sure it is a bit of a silly question, they carry my stuff out to the car (telling me where I should and shouldn’t park if I want to avoid a ticket) and if I want to return it, no problem.

So what about you? Have you ordered direct from China and if so, what was your experience?

How to get your crafting project published



Getting your crafting project published in a magazine (either in print or on-line) isn’t as difficult as it may seem. These magazines rely on people contributing to their content – the key it is to find the right magazine for your craft project, find the person to contact within the organisation and know why what you do is a good fit.

The first article I ever wrote was for Sewing World magazine. It was a “snapshot” article on sewing trends in America. I was going back to America for the summer and I noticed that when I told people about this at the Studio, they would often ask me questions about what the fabric stores were like, what the trends were etc. So I thought it would be of interest to a wider audience and set about finding a few magazines to contact and see if they were interested. Now I have to put my hand up and say at this point I HAD NO IDEA what I was doing so just decided to give it a whirl. But sometimes that is the BEST attitude to have as you don’t get bogged down with negative mind chatter.

I then went to WH Smiths and had a thumb through the magazines in the crafting and sewing section. I picked out three that looked like my proposed article might be a good fit – you do have to really look through what the editorial style is for each magazine to make sure what you want to submit for a project would be of interest. I took my IPhone and snapped images of the masthead- this is where you can get the name of the best person to send your idea to (it often has a title called Editorial). This was to make it easier for me to find the right person, but you could also scan the internet (I have started to use LinkedIn for this) and find the information as well. I just wanted an excuse to sit and read magazines for work (and now you have one too!)

I went home, draft a proposal for my article including why I thought it was a good fit and offered to write a sample so that they could see that I was a reasonable writer. The first magazine I emailed was Sewing World magazine and to my utter surprise, I was emailed back later in the day by the editor saying that she thought it was a lovely idea and could we talk. So a few emails back and forth about length, date needed for publication and photo requirements, the amount they would pay me and well – that we pretty much it!

I had about four months until the article needed to be sent to the SW editorial team. I decided that I wanted to use this time to make sure that my writing style was similar to the magazines so I bought a few magazines and really picked apart the various articles. I also looked at the quality of the photos to see what level I was expected to submit.

So that was how I did it and you can too. Why would you want to do it? You won’t get rich, so I wouldn’t look at it as a way to earn extra money on a huge level. But it does add to your credibility within your industry. In this day and age where everything you do is part of a digital footprint, it can help with your SEO if the magazine prints it in electronic format too.

So which magazine would you write for and why?

Creating a homemade Christmas starts in September



I really hate gratuitous Christmas marketing bumph – especially in September.

I mean, come on, I only just sent out my last blog post about Autumn and now I am talking to you about a homemade Christmas?

But I made a note last year in my Evernote file for September 2015 labelled “pull your finger out re Christmas prep”.  l laughed at that label as I remember writing it. It was a few weeks before Christmas and I was intent on making something homemade for those that I knew would appreciate it.

I realised that really, I should have started way back in September when I could spread out the projects and didn’t find myself sitting up many a late night, making an item, while feeling stressed and strung out as I only had two weeks until the big C.

For example (and yes, I am following my own advice as we speak), jams and homemade liquors are best made now. Jams (because the fruit is in season so cheap/easy to find) and flavoured liquors (my favourite – damson gin) tend to be best when sitting for three months, with the occasional turning during this period, so that can be made now as well.

Other homemade foods – like baked Christmas cookies – can be baked and frozen up for around 2 months before giving them away. So they are a good October project.

And last week on the Studio Facebook page, I posted about how simple it is to make fabric napkins as a gift. If you are really clever, that could be your November make.

You still have tons of time to learn how to sew, crochet, make beautiful bags etc as we have all these workshops (and more!) on our schedule – why not have a look?

Do you have any favourite tips for making homemade gifts? Do you have a project that is your “go to” holiday make?

PS – Be on the lookout for our quilted cushion project that will be featured on the Sewing Directory website in the next week or so – it is a great beginner quilting project!

The one crafting gadget that has folks at the Studio completely transfixed!

We love to share new and/or useful tips and tricks to anyone that comes to the Studio. That is our special sauce – sharing the love!

And the one thing that I use in virtually every workshop that continually wows people is…..


The Frixion pen!

My Mom told me about it quite a while ago (of course, in good daughterly fashion, I didn’t listen) and then Anne, who teaches our soft furnishings workshops, also told me about it. So I decided to get a few in and have a go.

So what exactly does the pen do? Well – you write on your fabric with it (transferring markings from a pattern piece) and when you want to lift the ink off the fabric, just use a hot iron on the ink and wallah – ink be gone!

As you may have gathered from the name, the Frixion pen has been created for paper as it has a nub on the end of it that you use to rub out mistakes – the friction (my spell check is in meltdown at the moment) from the rubbing makes the ink disappear. But by applying heat – which also creates a different not-so-obvious kind of friction – the ink is lifted too.

Once you get past the “oops, shouldn’t really be writing on my fabric” feeling, it is addictively fun to use.

Have a go and let me know how you get on!

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



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?