Psst! I’m still here!

I’ve not gotten lost in the ether of cyberspace! I’m still alive! Don’t panic!
I’m very sorry for my absence – I have been a little poorly, followed by an unexpected notice to move from our little flat so I have been rather busy moving back to Plymouth from Dorset, househunting like there was no tomorrow, moving, and now unpacking!

First things first, long time followers would probably like to know that my dear Mum is finally better – which is wonderful news 🙂  I am very aware I have collected lots of goodies for a charity auction for the people who looked after her – I am super sorry for hanging on to these for so long, it IS going ahead, however I would rather do the job well than half heartedly, so this will take place when I am able to do it justice, possibly with the help of a few online buddies – which means even more handmade goodies to bid on!

So… with our landlords wanting to sell the flat we have packed like mad, moved into another county (even if it is only just!), started unpacking and have been generally tearing our hair out with all the stress.  The cats, however, are loving it! All the boxes to sit/play/hide/sleep in is certainly Peppers idea of heaven and they have spent countless hours sunbathing in our new living room 🙂

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We have moved to a gorgeous old fishing cottage in Cornwall – a bit of a leap from a city centre flat!  While it is small, it is beautiful, in a little hamlet next to a river surrounded by greenery… and the best bit is I get to have a studio!  A proper workspace to create in peace, rather than having the mister complain that my craft supplies are taking over 😉  While we make the house a home this blog may have a shift in direction to a record of my attempts at homemaking (alongside the usual work related updates) – as we are still renting decorating is going to be tricky (and all the walls are white!) so I hope to share my not decorating adventures in the hopes that *someone* will find it useful when faced with a total blank canvas of a house!  Expect upcycling, little DIY projects, soft furnishings and probably some baking to sweeten the neighbours!  I hope you will enjoy it!  The first job will probably be this little stool I found in a shop in Liskeard – I am looking forward to giving it a total makeover when we have chosen a colour scheme.

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In terms of my work, I shall not be taking on anything until we are settled in – again, I’d rather do the job properly than be eternally flaky.  I shall obviously honour any outstanding orders and will start work on these as soon as the studio is up and running.  I intend to get back to work quite slowly, to help get my creative mojo back after such a long break so please bear with me!   I may use this opportunity to make some new things as well as continuing with the old so I would LOVE to hear your opinions on what your favourite goodies are, as well as anything you’d like to see me make – please pop me a comment if you’d care to share your thoughts 🙂

I’ll leave you with a little image of the new heartstitch hq – it’s quite exciting!

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The return of Treasury Tuesday!

Etsy logo  (source: Etsy.com)

Etsy logo (souce: Etsy.com)

Etsy is, for those of you not in the know, a wonderful online marketplace FILLED with handmade goods, vintage items and craft supplies. It is also where you can buy your heartstitch goodies 😉

It is SO easy to get lost browsing on Etsy – there are SO many talented people who sell their work on it (of course, there are the not so good ones too – we love and miss you Regretsy!)  It is lovely to browse through my favourite shops on Etsy, but it also has a great (if not the most user friendly) social side to it.  You can ‘follow’ your favourite shop owners (or shoppers) to see what items they ‘favourite’ (I suppose the equivalent of a ‘like’ on Facebook) and there are ‘teams’ too (rather like being in a particular group on Facebook).  I myself *still* don’t know all the ins and outs of Etsy-ing, and am not in many teams, but I’m open to be in more if you have any suggestions!

Handsewn felt and fabric gadget cosy by heartstitch

Handsewn felt and fabric gadget cosy by heartstitch

My favourite way to mix shopping and ‘socialising’ on Etsy is to make ‘treasuries’.  Please excuse me if I am now teaching you to suck eggs, but I was surprised when talking to fellow Etsy sellers on Facebook by how many were not aware how to make a treasury, or even what one was!

So, a treasury is essentially a collection of things you have found on the site – shown by grouping 16 images together – generally they are made with a particular theme, colours, a mood, flora, fauna, anything that takes your fancy!   A treasury is *not* intended for promoting yourself – it is about going out of your way to find fellow creatives, or showcase your favourite Etsyians – it’s a great way to make new friends and spend ALL your money 😛

My latest treasury - tea party theme

My latest treasury – tea party theme

Now, this is where Etsy don’t make it too easy – actually navigating to make your treasury! You can find the link on the left hand side of their homepage:

Nice and clear, huh?!  That will take you to this page:

Which will bring you where you want to be!

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I find it is easier to have two tabs/browser windows/whatever you like to call thems up for treasury creating – one with this page open, and the other with the Etsy homepage so that I can search for the pretties I want to include, then flick back to the treasury page to paste the URLs for each listing.  If you don’t know what a URL is, it is the text that is in the address bar (where you type to get to a website) 🙂

From there it is pretty self explanatory, just find your favourite images on the theme you have chosen, paste the URLs, and post it! Then share it to your Facebook, Twitter, Google+ – tell anyone who will listen – your friends, the girls at craft club, your cat! Sharing is caring, and not only will the people featured thank you, they may take a look at *your* shop too 🙂  And if you are REALLY lucky, your treasury/a treasury with your work in it will be featured on Etsy’s front page!

Blue heart keyring by heartstitch

Blue heart keyring by heartstitch

Don’t forget to check on your treasury – featured sellers and admirers will often comment on your list and they may have something nice to say 🙂  The same goes in that if you are featured in a treasury, it is generally considered polite to at least say thank you for featuring your work 🙂   And if you are still stuck after that you can try looking at Etsys help guide on treasuries – but hopefully you will have got the gist by now!

Felt and fabric bookmark by heartstitch

Felt and fabric bookmark by heartstitch

So, back to the title of this post… Treasury Tuesday is just that – making a treasury every Tuesday!  A little reminder to go and be inspired and admire the work of others, maybe make some new friends, and maybe spend a few too many pounds on said work!  If you decide to do your own Treasury Tuesday, or Wednesday, or ANYday – I’d love to see it!

Find my Etsy profile here, my shop here, and my Facebook here 🙂

A recipe!

Hello!

After my last ranty post I thought it was time to lighten the mood again so I thought I’d share my most recent recipe with you 🙂  It came about at one of those times when there’s not a great deal in the fridge but you *really* don’t want to go food shopping – the time when all the best recipes are created!  It’s made up of things I usually have in, nothing fancy at all, and the best thing is that it’s super quick, but tastes like it took you an age 😀

So to start with you will need (serves 2 hungry ladies!):

Ingredients

  • Olive oil
  • Small knob of butter
  • 75ml / 2.5 fluid ounces Cream (I’ve used double because that’s what I had in, but single works nicely too)
  • Half an onion
  • A few mushrooms (depending on how much you like them!)
  • 100g / 3.5oz Pasta (penne or similar)
  • 100ml / 4fl oz White wine
  • 1/4 tsp Worcestershire sauce
  • 1/2 tsp White wine vinegar
  • 1 tsp sugar (less if using refined sugar)
  • 1/2 a chicken stock cube
  • Pepper, to season
  • Meat – I’ve used chicken and bacon (a small breast, and 3 rindless unsmoked rashers), but I imagine pork might work nicely too.

Begin by slicing the veg – I’ve thinly sliced the onion, cut the mushroom finely (because I don’t like the texture much!), and diced the bacon and the chicken.

Now, gently fry the onion in a bit of butter and olive oil (the olive oil stops the butter from burning, and makes you feel *slightly* more healthy!).  Stir occassionally, but use this time to prep the sauce.

Pour the wine into a measuring jug – try to resist drinking it!  Add the white wine vinegar and Worcestershire sauce.  Then put in the stock cube and the sugar and a bit of pepper to season.  Top this up with boiling water to 200ml, or 7 fl oz, then stir until the stock has dissolved.  Put this to one side.

The onions should be soft and slightly golden now, so take them out of the fry pan, and put them in an oven proof bowl in the oven on a low heat to keep warm.  Now fry the mushrooms, adding more butter and olive oil if needed.

**At this point it would be wise to boil the water for the pasta**

Once the mushrooms are done, put those in with the onions in the oven.  Then repeat for the bacon and then the chicken (or meat of your choice).

Your water should be boiling by now, so don’t forget to put the pasta in to cook!  Check the packet as to cooking times – the penne I have used takes 11 minutes.

Add those to the oven dish, then take your wine/stock mix and use this to deglaze the frying pan.

Bring this to the boil until it is slightly reduced and the alcohol has been cooked off.  Turn down the heat, and then add the contents of your oven dish – the onions, mushrooms, and meat.

Stir in the cream, making sure the heat is lower so as to not curdle it.  NB:  This does make quite a lot of sauce (I REALLY like sauce!) so you could reduce the stock mixture further or add less cream if you like less sauce.  This needs to warm up again, so use this time to check your pasta.  If it’s ready – drain it, then pop it straight in with the sauce, and give it a good stir so that the sauce coats the pasta.  Give it a little taste, if it’s a bit stodgy – don’t panic! Add a squeeze of lemon juice, this will fix it.  If it’s not stodgy – great!

And there it is – my Quick Creamy Wine pasta 🙂  Serve it up in bowls with a nice hunk of garlic bread on the side (if you’ve been shopping!), or solo if you haven’t or if you’re watching the waist line 😉 Oh and don’t forget a glass of that wine for yourself – can’t have it going to waste!

The Price of Handmade

I’ve just posted a status about my recent price increases on my Facebook page:
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I felt it necessary to elaborate here a bit… Sometimes it feels that the majority of the general public are saying ‘I can buy that in Primark for a fiver – why should I buy handmade?!’ – I know this is not always the case, but after countless craft fairs hearing these remarks – they tend to sink in more than a lot of the lovely comments people make.  It feels like handmade needs defending –  it is popular once more – but we should be supporting actual handmade businesses!  Attitudes to handmade seem to have become so squew-ed with hobbyists selling their work for just the cost of materials, and the majority of shops are factory producing ‘shabby chic’ or ‘homespun’ looking items – it pushes full time artists and craftspeople out, in terms of pocket and in terms of the industry when they cannot afford to create things any more.  So here is why I feel handmade is worth investing in, and why it is better than anything else!

Handmade is SPECIAL!  It’s made by a person who cares – not a machine, not some overworked underpaid not interested factory worker, and certainly not in a sweat shop!

It is made with love! I have not yet met an artist/craftsperson who has neglected to pour their blood, sweat, tears, heart and soul into their work (not literally of course – that would look a right mess!).  The whole designing/making process is a long one, filled with joy, doubt and a range of emotions in between.  I have often stayed up long beyond 3am while I have ‘it’ – the inspiration, the overwhelming, all consuming NEED to get the idea in my head out and create its physical form!  It takes a long time from an idea in your head to become a finished product – there are tweaks to be made, prototypes to be built, and sometimes the end result is not as you expected and it can come to nothing after all the hard work… But, when it *does* work – you can be sure that it is the very best it can be – that it has been made to be as aesthetically pleasing as possible while being practical and fit for purpose.  This is all time we take, unpaid, to make beautiful things – we couldn’t do it if there was no passion or love behind it.

Handmade takes time.  I have just discussed the design process as a lengthy process – and I’ll say it again – that is unpaid time!  (And don’t be forgetting all the unpaid admin/accounting time, time spent promoting our wares, or time spent sourcing/buying supplies!)  Even after the initial product has been created – to then make another or a batch to sell takes considerable time.  I try to hand sew where I can – there are so many craft businesses making products with domestic sewing machines – and while this is great – I’d like to think that hand sewing is something that makes my work more unique, and also, while I am rather fond of my machine and I do like to use it, I am certainly more confident in my hand sewing.  This obviously takes longer, but it gives my work a certain look – and you can be doubly sure that it is made by hand due to the stitching.  On average, it takes 40 minutes to cut out, sew and stuff a keyring, it can take up to 2 hours to make a gadget cosy – this is all time that has to be accounted for with a wage if the business is to be taken seriously.  If I were to expand and hire someone to sew with me – they would be expecting *at least* minimum wage – and I would legally (and morally) have to pay at least that.  So it seems rational to pay myself that wage.  It seems being a craftsperson/self employed in any capacity is viewed as a ‘cushy’ job – no strict working hours, working from home, balancing your work life around any family/social commitments… but if you ask ANY self employed person they will probably tell you it is, in fact, the complete opposite.  Because we work from home our work is ALWAYS there, looking at us, asking us why we aren’t working.  Often, we feel extreme guilt when we aren’t working, and find ourselves working at least 12 hour days, most of it unpaid, no overtime, no holiday, no job perks…  and that social life? Um, what social life?!  Come to think of it – a crafts person is a *skilled* worker – the artsy equivalent of a plumber or a joiner – and when was the last time you heard of a plumber working for minimum wage?!

Small businesses help the economy.  I’ve not done the maths, but at least 75% of my raw materials – felt, fabric, buttons, thread, etc come from other small businesses – and 100% of my materials come from UK suppliers.  So in buying from a craftsperson you are almost sure to be helping other small businesses.  The money that I reinvest in these raw materials therefore goes back into the UK economy – and that helps everyone!

It’s fair!  How many of you buy ‘fairtrade’ goods at the supermarket?  I know I do!  But how many have also thought, “that’s far too expensive! I could buy it in *insert high street shop* for half that price!” when looking at handmade items?  Everyone deserves to be paid a fair, ‘living’ wage – from coffee growers in ‘less economically developed’ countries, to artists and craftspeople.  The point that handmade is more expensive than highstreet for a reason is one that I know a lot of people feel they have to justify when selling their work – which is madness!  Surely it should be clear?  Hand made is more expensive for all of the reasons above and MORE!  You are more than likely buying something that all your friends won’t then be able to go out and buy the day after – in actual fact, it’s probably a one-off and no one will ever have the same as you…

So – yes my prices are increasing – but you will still get the same quality goods that have been made with the utmost care and attention to detail.  It’s not often I blow my own trumpet – but I have to say that I really do put my all into my work, it really IS quality – my quality control is so rigorous that my own mother who taught me to sew refuses to help with the sewing because she knows how exacting my standards are!   I would never send out anything that I would not be happy to own myself, and I promise that my standards will never slip!
Some prices (mostly newer items like the ‘little handfuls’) will stay the same, some will change a little, and some will go up quite steeply.  There will be items for every budget, as while handmade *is* exclusive, I don’t think it should be exclusively for those with lots of cash!  I have LOTS of plans for the future, including more one off textile art hoops as well as some limited edition ranges – so that my customers can be sure they are getting something even more special than normal.
You can find my price list *here* – and as I’m in such a good mood with the heartstitch ‘birthday’ party tomorrow – the old prices will be honoured until Monday 8th April!

In other news – the ‘birthday’ party will be taking place at 8pm tomorrow, Saturday 6th April – we will rendezvous at the Facebook page and may end up going on a little journey 😉  There will be a competition, a new design unveiling and ooh who knows what else!  I hope you can make it!

P.S. Sorry for neglecting you Mr. Blog! I shall be back more often now – promise! ❤

Fundraising.

I am not someone who often does things for charity.  I will donate my time, or an item I have made, or buy something where money goes towards charity – but never have I pro-actively *done* anything.  This is about to change.  It has to, because now I have blogged about it I HAVE to do it, or the *whole* internet will judge me! 😛

You may or may not know that my mum has recently been very poorly, and a dear friend of mines mother recently passed away from the same horrible disease.  I realise that I am very lucky, and feel a great urge to help those people who have helped our mums.  I know there are LOTS of charities, and no one is more deserving than the other, but for the simple fact that it has directly affected me, my friend and I are going to be organising an online and ‘real life’ event to raise money for Dorset Cancer Care Centre.  This is the unit at Poole hospital that helps so many people suffering with cancer, and I have seen first-hand how they could really use any money to help continue and better their services.  

I have absolutely NO idea how to run any event, let alone a charity event – so any advice is welcomed! The plan so far is to have an online craft market of sorts, publicised on Facebook and anywhere else I can stick it, with auctions and sales being held on Ebay in the interest of fairness.  Anything that does not sell on Ebay will then be taken to a physical event to be sold, hopefully with coffee and cake and raffles etc.  Anything that has not sold after that (most unlikely!) will either be left with DCC for future events held by them, or returned to the donator (is that a word?!) whichever they choose.

If you would like to donate a craft item (you will of course be given credit and mentioned anywhere we put your work), some artwork, a card, something you have made, please get in touch by email – heartstitch(at)hotmail(dot)co(dot)uk , here, or my facebook page http://www.facebook.com/heartstitching.  I am not expecting any huge donations (but if you want to – great! yes please!) – every little helps 🙂  

 

I have set up a facebook page for both the online craft fair and the ‘real life’ craft fair – http://www.facebook.com/craftstarsfordcc – please give it a ‘like’ even if you do not wish to donate – you may wish to buy something! 

Thank you in advance 😀

A Celebration!

I am most pleased to announce that my little Facebook page has reached over 1000 followers! A HUGE milestone for me – I run it by myself, alongside the making, the photographing, the admin, the Etsy listing, the customer service, the packaging, – you name it, I probably do it! (Apart from the posting – that is usually OH’s job as the post box is on his way to work :P)  So this amount of appreciation from customers/admirers is amazing – I am so thankful for each one as they keep my tiny business going.  To say thank you properly, there will be some kind of giveaway/sale “thing” going on, but as it caught me a little by surprise I was slightly unprepared!  But yes, I am so very grateful for all your support, be it by having your own heartstitch collection (you know who you are!), buying a little something for yourself or a loved one, or simply giving the odd ‘like’ or comment on Facebook or Instagram – It is all VERY much appreciated, without you lovely lot heartstitch could not exist!

I have been a bit quiet on the blog front – sorry!  Not an awful lot of new things have been going on here – at least none that I am allowed to show you (yet!) – as I have been doing a few (very) last minute additions to this month’s Sewing Boutique design team challenge, and photographing and listing for my Etsy store.  Photographing and editing takes SO much time, and is also very weather dependant – I like to give you an accurate and eye-catching image of my work, which requires just the right light and a little editing, however, the light has mostly been against me this week, so editing has taken triple the time, which of course means less making time!

But I persevered – and the Valentines Keyrings are now in the shop!

My favourite (the grey kitty) has already sold, but I thought they would make a fantastic gift for Valentines day, especially if you happened to be asking your sweetheart to move in!

Cherry Bakewell Cake

I had a little 1000 fans celebration yesterday… I baked a cake! It is a cherry bakewell cake – I’ve had the recipe in my tin for years (I’m sure I got it online somewhere, but I cannot remember where).  It is beautifully moist, yet surprisingly light, and it is always a success, so I thought I’d share it with you 🙂

You will need:cake6

  • 200g butter
  • 200g golden caster sugar
  • 100g ground almonds
  • 100g self raising flour
  • 1tsp baking powder
  • 1/2tsp almond essence/extract
  • 4 large eggs

For the filling and top:

  • 170g Morello (or just regular if you can’t find it) cherry conserve/jam
  • 175g icing sugar
  • 5/6tsbs water and/or lemon juice
  • Flaked almonds (toasted if you can be bothered!)
  • Glace cherries, halved.
  • Firstly, set your oven to 180 degrees – I used a fan oven – and grease two shallow baking tins with butter.
  • Begin by creaming together the butter and sugar – I used electric beaters because I am short on arm muscles 😛
  • Beat the eggs together in a bowl, then add to the butter/sugar mix a little at a time, sieving a small amount of flour in at the same time.
  • Add the baking powder, ground almonds and almond essence/extract (extract is always better, but if using almond essence and you like a stronger taste like I do, add a whole tsp) and mix well.
  • Pop a pinch of salt in the remaining flour, sieve into the mixing bowl, and fold the mixture to add air.

It should look like this:

Who wants to lick the spoon?!

  • Split the mixture into the two pre-greased baking tins (you forgot didn’t you?! I did!) and bake on the middle shelf of the oven (you forgot to preheat the oven too?! Oh my!) for 30 minutes.
  • Have a cup of tea!  (Or be very boring and do the washing up.)  You will be able to tell when the cakes are ready by giving them a light poke – if the cake bounces back – it’s done!

  • Leave the hot hot cakes to cool, but not for *too* long, else you will end up with the cakes stuck in the tins (like I did!) so turn them out onto a wire rack when they are still warm, so you can achieve that perfect cake shape 🙂
  • Once cool, spread jam on to one of the cakes, then place the other on top.
  • Ice (I used half water and half lemon juice to make the icing, else I find the lemon a bit overpowering) the cake, then scatter the flaked almonds and arrange the cherries as you see fit.

Enjoy!

Just a small slice...

Something new…

No, I’m not getting married! But I have taken a couple of days to learn a new craft – crochet!

As someone who took at LEAST 4/5 years to learn to knit (every Christmas I would beg my long suffering mother to teach me, and every year I would forget what I had learned! And I *still* only know the very basics!) I was a bit dubious about learning to crochet.  However, after seeing SO many gorgeous crochet makes on my Instagram feed I could resist it no longer!

If you would like to check out who inspired me here is a very little list – there are SO many gorgeous ‘hookers’ (*snigger*) out there!

Image Crochet Shaz (facebook page)
Image Girlybunches

lovlan Lovlan (Instagram)

ImageTea at Weasels (also an avid quilter – that’s next on my ‘to learn list!)

Image Cute Designs

So, how could I NOT learn when I could one day try to make something as wonderful as these makes?!

Someone, I don’t remember who, told me that crochet was easier than knitting.  They lied.  I could NOT grasp how to hold the hook, turn the hook, do ANYTHING with the hook! Then I tried switching hands… I am right handed, however, switching to my left was a eureka moment – IT WORKED!  I made my first chain 😀

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The plan is to make myself a granny square blanket.  I thought this would be an achievable task if I could make myself a square every evening or two… little did I realise how hard it is to go in a circle. (Please excuse my lack of crochet terminology – I have no idea what anything is called other than ‘chain’ and ‘stitch’!) So that idea is scrapped for a little while 😛

Not deterred, I decided to try what I am going to call straight crochet because I don’t have a clue what it is actually called – if anyone can enlighten me please do!
Practise made… wonky.

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But try again I did, and eventually, I came up with  this:

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It’s a mug hug! Not very exciting, and a little too big for the mug, and slightly curly, and I forgot to count how many rows I was doing of each colour so the stripes on the other side are smaller… but it’s MY mug hug, and I love the colours, and I think it could have been A LOT worse 😛

If you’d like to make your own, I made a chain of 16 stitches, and did the crochet thing (I *think* it was double crochet?) until it looked like it would fit, attached a button to one side, and a small chain to the other to fasten… there’s probably a decent pattern on Ravelry – go look at that!

Will I keep it up and learn to do a granny square?  I hope so!  In the mean time, do follow me on Instagram and or Facebook to see what I do get up to 🙂