Sunday 28 September 2014

When should shops start puting Christmas stock out?

Christmas notice board. The card is by Belinda Downes, tiny bag by Sandra Izard and reindeer by Natasha Rothschild.
Weeks ago the big tins of sweets were in the supermarkets ' for Christmas'. This week I've noticed advent calendars and Christmas cards in Between the Lines and Christmas table decorations and Christmas food in Marks and Spencer. But it's still September. I wasn't planning to have anything Christmassy in the shop until the end of October... But if I wait will I miss the boat? 

When people in the shop tell me,'I've done all my Christmas shopping now.' Or 'My friend shops for next Christmas in the January sales,' I panic and start to wonder if there is something wrong with me... Maybe I'm old fashioned but I still like to think in seasons. Christmas is winter and I don't like to be reminded of winter in the summer. On the other hand a comment I often hear in my shop is,' Oh I wish I hadn't already bought a present for X this is much nicer...'  So I mustn't be too hesitant to jump on the Christmas bandwagon or Handmade Happiness will miss out.

Maybe I'll start introducing Christmas bits to the shop gradually at the start of October and not wait until the end of the month. Even though seeing Christmas things too early in other shops makes me want to run for the hills. What do you think?

Thursday 25 September 2014

In the shop this week

Fairy mouse by Joyce Holland Hill £15
Sue Inglis' knitted creatures and cards
Knitted mice by Sue Inglis £6.50 each
Displayed this week in Handmade Happiness. See details below:
 This week Handmade Happiness has new applique cushions by Tanya Williamson.  Pictures to come.
Knitted creatures, as keyrings or as decorations made by Sue Inglis are especially popular at this time of year.

Displayed in the boxes above, left to right from the top are:

Phone cosy by Pam Dew; jug with gold heart decoration by Ali Cooper; handmade buttons by Jenny Stacy.
Vintage fabric inspired hearts by Kate Hackett; tiny brass kaleidoscope by Frank Higgins; blue knitted bear by Joyce Holland-Hill.

Dog brooch by Karen Boller; Strawberry jug by Kate Hackett; porcelain bowl with blue decoration by Ali Cooper.
Porcelain bowl with gold and green decoration by Ali Cooper; small brown mohair bear by Lindsey Agostinelli and small wheelscope by Frank Higgins.

This is a small selection of all the lovely handmade gifts Handmade Happiness is full of. Come and have a look for yourself.

Monday 22 September 2014

Sanding floorboards

Sitting room floor after sanding
Sitting-room floor before sanding
My lovely younger daughter, Sophie and her boyfriend worked hard on Friday night and Saturday all day to sand the floorboards in my sitting-room, and two bedrooms. It was really hard work and I am terrifically grateful to them. The house feels transformed. And the work went on while I was in Handmade Happiness. Aren't I lucky! 

Now I need to decide whether to varnish or wax them. To bleach or paint them. I want them light not dark. But I don't want to use chemicals. My other daughter thinks they should be painted white but I don't want to cover the grain of the wood. Wondering if I can wipe white matt paint into the boards and then clear wax them...

Do you know when I moved into this house all these newly-sanded boards were covered in dark pink carpet. I hated the colour and the carpet. The carpet went but the real difference is having the boards sanded. The house feels as if it's taken on a new lease of life. 

Friday 19 September 2014

The fun of felting wool

I knitted this then put it in the washing machine with all the rest of the clothes at 30 degrees
Pam Dew hot washed this Fair Isle jumper at 60 degrees.
Pieces of my knitting and crochet before being felted
The same items after their 30 degrees wash.
My daughter accidentally shrunk her pure wool jersey. Love the colour!
Talking to people in Handmade Happiness I realise there is some confusion over felting. You can accidentally or intentionally felt wool by puting it in the washing machine. And as you can see above even a cool wash will shrink wool ie. felt it. 

You can also make flat felt with wool tops (clean, combed wool) by simply layering it, applying soapy water and rubbing it until the fibres matt and shrink and form a fabric.

Nuno felting is when you rub wool tops into something fine like chiffon to create a draping piece of fabric.

Then there's needle felting which is completely different. Doing this by hand involves poking wool tops with a barbed needle until it hardens (felts). More like sculpting with wool if making a 3D piece. Or needle felting can be done flat over a sponge and with this method you can add detail to a flat piece of felt.
Flat felting can also be done using a needle felting machine, sometimes called an embellisher.

It's fun to see the difference felting makes to a piece of knitting (see above). These small pieces will be used to make small bags and some experiments which I'll tell you about later.

Wednesday 17 September 2014

Handmade Happiness - outside

Photo taken in Dragon Street of Handmade Happiness
 Double doors open into two rooms. You can take a buggy or a wheelchair inside. The first smaller room has paintings on the back wall and the larger room on the right has handmade gifts by 35 people.

I hope that soon I can hire a sign writer to fill all those white spaces above the shop with beautiful hand-writing. And maybe provide a sign for the flagpole too. The building itself is around 400 years old although once over the well worn stone step and inside the shop I don't think you're aware of the building's age. Your eye is constantly taken by the awe-inspiring work of the clever artists and craftspeople. Colourful quilts, stained glass kaleidoscopes, delicately embroidered pictures, soft as butter knitwear, smooth wood and fine thrown porcelain as well as quirky little brooches and creatures. There are lots of cards too showing the work of local artists. Beautiful cards for £2-50 - less than in most other shops and most of these cards are only available in Handmade Happiness.

Come and browse. Tuesday to Saturday 10am to 5pm. We're next to the computer shop on Dragon Street and there's even parking in the layby right outside. (If full the M&S car park off St Peter's road round the corner is really close by.)

Thursday 11 September 2014

Dog brooches

Dog brooches by Karen Boller £9-50 each.

Yesterday after a catch up with talented designer maker Kate Box I had a delivery of dog brooches from Karen Boller. These are very popular. I thought they'd look interesting pinned to this old child's cardigan. 

Childrens' hand knitted cardigans is something I'd very much like to stock in the shop. I have made many tiny baby cardigans recently for my new little grandaughter. Right now I'm knitting her a dress for winter. But I don't feel I've got the time or sufficient skills to knit items to sell in the shop as well.

 However if you look at the cardigan pictured and know you or someone you know could knit something like that... If Fair Isle patterns don't frighten you and you can do cable patterns too please contact Handmade Happiness. I would love to talk to you about stocking your work!

Wednesday 10 September 2014

Handmade Happiness - looking ahead

White silk velvet dyed for me by my friend Alison
Fine cottons for making baby clothes 
 Next month Handmade Happiness celebrates its third birthday. And I want it to put on its best party clothes for the occasion.

Just lately I've felt it needs a re-vamp and a re-energise. Yes, me too! Now I need to remind myself of the dream I had in the beginning of a beautiful and inspiring place and rein it back in to be just that.

 Now don't get me wrong, people love Handmade Happiness and constantly tell me so. But I'm the one that spends my life in that shop and I'm the one that needs to be excited by that special place. So there are going to be some changes before that birthday party. As I change the look of the shop I'll take photos to share with you.  

I'm thinking colourful and quirky. Clear and easily read displays. New makes from makers new to the shop - as well as new fresh makes from original makers. A working table where  items are being made every day to go out on sale. A gift wrap area. Ideally a 'Have a Go' table. Fresh flowers. A refreshment area so I can offer people who get chatting a tea or coffee. The list is endless! Watch this space. Today is Day One of the 3rd birthday preparations!

Incidentally isn't it interesting that most people reading this are French? Usually my readers are either Americans or British but in the last month French readers have caught up and overtaken them statistically. Donc bienvenue et au revoir!

Saturday 6 September 2014

More medals for sale

Medals for quiet heros made by Jenny Stacy
More medals £8-50 each by Jenny Stacy shown with new cacti badges by Carol Smith
Regular readers will know how I love to collect interesting buttons. I also have quite a few beads and charms just right for these medals. The fun part of making them is selecting what buttons and beads to use. Now I'd like to find some flat boxes - the shape of Swan Vesta matchboxes but with a lid - to decorate so each medal can be presented in a box. Ideas welcome.

Carol Smith, quilt maker, bought in these attractive cacti badges. These too could be offered with an optional gift box. And the need for gift boxes will get more urgent in the next few months! 

I often get asked for gift boxes for jewellery in the shop. I'd like to find something cheap enough so I could give them away or sell them for no more than an extra £1 or £1-50.
It is also much easier to do a good job of wrapping something in a box. The art of glamorous gift wrapping. Don't get me started on that subject. I'll save it for another time!!

Wednesday 3 September 2014

New Hand Stitched Notebook Covers

Pam Dew's embroidered notebook cover
Birds on a TV aerial hand-stitched notebook cover by Pam Dew
Saturated colour! New patchwork notebook cover by Pam Dew
I had to share with you these beautifully made notebook covers that Pam Dew has stitched for Handmade Happiness.  They cover a hard back blank page book for notes, drawings or paintings. And the notebooks can easily be replaced with new ones when they are full.

Thinking ahead, wouldn't one make a special gift for anyone who's artistic? Or even anyone that needs to write 'To Do' lists like me! 

Monday 1 September 2014

September thoughts

My painted beads. A reminder to paint more!
September already and time is running helter-skelter towards another Christmas. Time for this year's Christmas inspiration board to go up and to think of how this year can be even more special, more magical than previous years.

One day I think glittery forest, the next day I think inside a jewellery box. Shall we go natural or shall we go bling? Can we have a mix of everything and the shop still look good?

I need to have plenty of last year's best sellers and a whole lot of new, tempting handmade pieces that regular customers will not have seen before. And to cover all the price points from 50p up to £500 (well, maybe not quite as much as £500!)  I like to have something to show the child with his carefully saved pennies and also something utterly beautiful for those with a bigger budget. Years of selling tell me that most people have a fixed amount in mind that they try to stick to when buying presents. 

But hold on, what about summer into autumn? Days of 'mellow mist and fruitfulness'? All those rich rusts and aubergine purples. Golden yellow, pumpkin orange and Virginia creeper red. Wonderful colour inspiration for now. Sorry I was getting ahead of myself. Let's make the most of right now.  Wishing you a wonderful and colourful September.