Saturday, 31 December 2011

I know Christmas has been and gone but...

I never got round to blogging about it! I was so busy with Christmas stalls, and making presents (and wrapping up my 'real' work for the year) it all passed by without me managing to get on the computer. Plus I've still be spending way too much time on Twitter! (@thisiswiss)

This is Wiss made it's last appearance of 2011 at Dulwich Market, and although I was very disappointed with the lack of Christmas spirit (I was the only one with a festive antler headband!) I was really pleased with the way the stall looked. Thank you to all of my customers, I really appreciate your support and hope you had lovely Christmases. And I am pleased to report, all of the Rudy's found good homes!

This was Wiss's second Christmas but the first that he has actually been involved in. He can recognise Santa, and Rudolph, and learnt how to open a present in record time! I wanted to have an Advent Calendar for him so he could get an idea that something was approaching. He doesn't like chocolate so a homemade one with small gifts was the way to go. I'd seen a wooden framed 'calendar' on a Dorset Cereal promotional photo and this was my starting point.

I made a 5x5 grid from clear perspex which gave me 25 pigeon holes in which to put presents. I had some little numbered pegs that I bought from Tiger and some small striped paper bags. The presents varied from a Santa bouncy ball, to some festive magnets, some tree decorations or Christmas related books. (Anything too big was hidden elsewhere with a clue to its whereabouts in the bag instead)

I do think it helped to lead Wiss into the big day itself, and we were able to talk to him about Christmas a little bit each day. On Christmas Eve, Wiss got a Christmas Crumpet! (Crumpet is his special toy that goes everywhere with him) and all 3 Crumpets (New, Old and Christmas) joined him in bed to wait for Santa!

We put out a mince pie and a Bailey's for Father Christmas, and of course a carrot for Rudolph. There was something very special about taking part in this wonderful ritual - a first for us too as parents! - and so sweet when Lewis discovered Santa had eaten the 'biscuit' AND left some presents in his stocking. To be honest, Wiss was happy with the first little present he opened and would have been content to stop there!

Our main present to Wiss a vintage Fisher Price garage - bought from eBay for about £10 inc postage but it was in terrible condition. Unfortunately, I lost the 'before' photo when I changed phones but believe me, it was in a dreadful state: filthy dirty, no stickers or graphics and the lift didn't work. But a bit TLC transformed it into...

This garage is over 30 years old and it brought back so many memories for me and my husband from our own childhoods (and maybe you too?) that it is wonderful to see how much fun Wiss has with it already.

I'll be back with a post tomorrow to wrap up the year, and to look forward to 2012. I LOVE new years resolutions!

Monday, 5 December 2011

This is Wiss at Dulwich Farmer's Market

After what seemed like weeks and weeks of slaving away at the kitchen table sewing up more stock, This is Wiss returned to Dulwich Farmer's Market Craft Fair on Sunday. I was pretty pleased with amount of stuff I'd made - loads of waterproof bags as they were so popular last time, some gorgeous new fabrics, and I launched my new chWISStmas bobby horse 'Rudy' too!

I had also had plans for improving the stall but didn't get a chance to make what I'd wanted for this week, but it will happen. It's such a learning curve and every time I have a stall I notice what works and what doesn't, check out other people's stalls and what I like about their displays, plus it's so interesting to see how people interact with your products. I think it's going to be a constantly evolving process getting to the best stall design, and especially for the next market as it's a special Christmas one! I'm going to go all out on festivities and decorations :)

It was a much quieter day this Sunday than the last market, I think because it wasn't the regular slot in the calendar, but even so we had a flurry of people braving the chilly weather. It was lovely to meet so many people who showed an interest in what I am making. The feedback is invaluable and a real boost to one's confidence. It's also great to meet other stall holders at these events - so hello to Arty & Bella and Little Red Press. They are both making beautiful things so check out them out!

I will be back at Dulwich Market on the 18th December so if you can make it along I'd love to see you!

Wednesday, 30 November 2011

Twit woo-hoo!

If anyone is reading my blog you may well have noticed that I haven't posted much recently. Now, I have been away and I took some time to nurse Wiss back to full strength. And yes, I have been busy sewing, sewing, sewing for the Christmas markets in December but I have to admit there is something else that has been demanding my attention...

I joined Twitter!

I had resisted for months, thinking that it wasn't for me. I couldn't really grasp what it was all about so dismissed it, but then I saw my best friend using it with amazing results. She has found contacts, friends, gained advice and even work experience all through her 'tweets'!

I signed up a month ago as @thisiswiss and although it took me a little while to get used to the pace, and writing with only 140 characters, I soon became hooked! It seems the whole world is on Twitter and whatever your interests there will be like-minded people to follow. I have discovered a whole new world of crafters, mums, cooks, runners (and Gok Wan!) and love sharing and receiving tweets about what's going on. I've even met up with some people in 'real life' !

I did sign up with the intention of promoting This is Wiss but when someone contacted me wanting to make a purchase I was bowled over! @LittleEmbot ordered a Square Bear & Hare and a Fluoro Dice...and then tweeted all her followers when they arrived, telling them how happy she was!

I know I'm late to join the party, but if you haven't joined Twitter already then I suggest you give it a go. Come and find me on there and say hello! It really has opened up a whole new world to me...the only thing is I still only have 24 hours in each day. There's so much to do I wish I had more!

Friday, 25 November 2011

Knights & Hosses

Seeing as I'm busy sewing away making as much stock as possible for the next Dulwich Farmer's Markets in December, and I don't have much to show you at the moment, I thought I'd post a little project I finished last month. It was a special little boy's birthday coming up, and as he is mad about Knights and everything to do with them I'd had an idea for a present.

I'm sure you are familiar with Noughts & Crosses, but what about Knights & Hosses??! I wanted to make my version of the game more 3D and interactive for little hands, so rather than using pen and paper I decided to make figures that slotted into a game board. I am lucky enough to work in a fully-stocked workshop so I have access to machines that most people don't but this idea could be adapted and made at home. I started by using wooden dolly pegs for the Knights and Hosses figures.

I cut out the figures' heads on the laser cutter from wood veneer and perspex.

Using a jig and the table saw, I cut a slot in the pegs in which the heads could be glued.

I made the game board/box from clear perspex. The lid slides off so that the Knights & Hosses can be stored inside the box when not in use. I painted the Knights and Hosses with 'team' colours to further differentiate the two sides, and finally, I personalised the box using the laser cutter because who doesn't love having their name on something?

The game made it safely in the post to the birthday boy, and so I was told, it was played with immediately. Happy days!

Tuesday, 22 November 2011

We can cook!

After my quick trip to Washington, it was straight back to family life (not that I minded! I'm getting too old for drunken late nights !!) No sewing this week though as I was wearing my nurses hat.

Wiss was booked in to have an operation on the Friday and after a short stay in hospital we were back home but the patient needed a week of gentle recuperation. He became addicted to TV whilst we were in hospital and the first few days at home were spent mainly on the sofa watching Mr Tumble, In the Night Garden, Chuggington and all the other CBeebies favourites because we had to stay away from anything too energetic. But I wasn't happy about him just being glued to the telly. One of my favourite CBeebies programme is I Can Cook but I wasn't sure if Wiss was too young to help me in the kitchen.

He is 22 months and he loves to help and get involved (with the washing, loading the dishwasher, laying the table, feeding the cat etc) so I thought I'd give it a go and try to get him to help me cook dinner: One Pot Chili with a Polenta Cobbler Crust. (Recipe is here )

It was a success! I love the concentration on his face and how pleased with himself he looks. He really enjoyed watching the numbers change on the scales as he weighed things out. The end result was delicious and Wiss liked it too. Yes, there was quite a lot of mess to clear up but I can't wait to cook with my sous-chef again soon!

Wednesday, 16 November 2011

Remember me?!

It has been a couple of weeks since my last post so what have I been up to? As always I have been busy but unfortunately not with much sewing! I have lots to plan and make for the Christmas markets coming up but I had to put everything on hold for a while as I was off to Washington!

We had an office trip to Washington for the weekend to visit a building we had recently completed! Pretty amazing, but I was also really looking forward to watching a few films, uninterrupted, on the flights. (I managed to watch only 3 as I also slipped some sleep in there too! Heaven!)

It was a great weekend full of sights, burgers, chilli dogs, drinking, dancing, and of course, architecture. It was a shame I ended the weekend with a mad dash across town to retrieve my forgotten passport (doh!) but the taxi driver saved the day and I made the flight home. Yay!

It took a day or so to get over the jet-lag, and the exhaustion of a weekend out partying (I'm so out of practice!) but it's back to reality now. Christmas is approaching fast and I have three markets to prepare for. I will be selling the usual products alongside a couple of Christmas specials. Here is a sneak preview... Can you tell what it is yet?!

Monday, 31 October 2011

Trick or Treat

Unfortunately for us (well, me really!) the Halloween party wasn't going to happen so all thoughts of a mini Beetlejuice costume have been put on the back burner until next year! But that wasn't going to stop me entering the festive spirit.

We have been growing pumpkins on the allotment specially for today, and although it's been a pretty bad season for most of our vegetables we were able to harvest three lovely bright orange ones!

I wasn't sure how scary would be too scary for Wiss so I admit that my carving was a little tame, but I think the use of green LEDs really help create a spooky atmosphere.

I'm planning on using the scooped flesh to make Rosemary and Pumpkin Muffins, and Spiced Pumpkin Soup. Yum yum! I love the changing seasons and nothing beats comfort food on a crisp, cold day. I hope you've had a Happy Halloween too, and I'll leave you with Wiss's scary face.......Be prepared to be terrified. Aaaaaarrrrgh!

Kid's Clothes Week Challenge continues...

After another busy push to make enough stock for Dulwich Farmers Market last week, I felt like I was able to spend some time this week making some more of the items on my KCWC wish list.

First on the list was a pair of Flat Front Kid Pants from a bright blue needle cord fabric I've been stashing. It's a really vivid blue but if you can't wear bright colours when you're little then when can you?! I discovered the double needle on my sewing machine - what a great feature! I used it to sew fake pockets and a fake fly to add a little bit more detail, along with a patch pocket on the back.

I teamed them with the moustache applique t-shirt I'd made during KCWC before. I'd seen an image months ago (before Pinterest!) and knew that I wanted to make one for Wiss. I couldn't find the actual image again but a quick search brought up this. And all in great time for Movember, the charity moustache season!

Now the weather has turned I really needed to get round to making the fleece mittens from Oliver & S Little Things to Sew. They were super quick to make, although I think I will make them a little more gathered around the cuff next time. Fingers crossed Wiss will wear these mittens this winter!

Two more items made, an endless list still to go, but I love it!

Wednesday, 26 October 2011

Some late winter sunshine

I know we had a freaky late Indian summer a couple of weeks ago (30 degrees in October??!) but winter feels like it's definitely on it's way  now. It's dark in the mornings and it's dark for my cycle home, and we've already tried out the central heating.

Remember those bespoke Life Preserver shorts I finished at the end of the summer? Well, they went on a little late summer holiday to Italy and they hung out in the sunshine and walked by the sea!

It is such a great feeling to see something I have made myself being worn...and they look like real shorts! I am so chuffed, I cannot tell you. Thank you Laurence for commissioning them in the first place and modelling them in Sperlonga for me!

Sunday, 23 October 2011

This is Wiss at Dulwich Market

I made my debut at Dulwich Farmers Market and Craft Fair today! This was still only my third stall selling and I was excited to see what a different audience would think of my products.

As usual, I had planned to make so much more than I was able to in the time and it seemed that my son and my sewing machine were in cahoots with each other and neither wanted me to get much done last week! But I had enough to work with and this morning I set up my stall in the Cloisters of the college.

It was really lovely to meet and chat to so many new people - it's a great way to get feedback on my products and find out what the customer wants. As Alan Sugar says, you need to "smell what sells" but it's so interesting that it's never the same product! At my first market the Flannel Monsters were flying off the stall, but I didn't even sell one today. The waterproof bags seem to be consistently popular though and I will be making lots more of these for the next fair. They have sold well in sets with the changing mats but also on their own as wash bags or for swimming costumes. It looks like I'll just have to go fabric shopping soon!

I gave out lots of business cards and hope that I will get some some new visitors to my site. I also got lots of compliments on the business cards themselves - they are pretty damn fancy but I can't take all the credit myself. I ordered them through Moo - they are thick and silky to touch and the best thing is you can upload up to 20 different images to showcase your products. They also print minicards, stickers and postcards too.

Back to the sewing machine for me tomorrow night because I have plans for a Halloween costume for Wiss...!

Wednesday, 19 October 2011

Kids Clothes Week Challenge 2011

October 10 - 17 was Kids Clothes Weeks Challenge over on Elsie Marley. The idea is very simple - you spend an hour a day making some clothes for your little one(s). Great! This was my first attempt at a group blog event and I was really excited. I spent the week before thinking about what I would make and collecting together the fabrics. Here is what I wanted to make for Wiss: one pair of pyjamas made from a John Deere tractor print flannel fabric I'd had for ages, a pair of mittens and a scarf from navy fleece, an upcycled jumper, a few t-shirts...I even thought about making a coat!!!

As you can see my ambition always far exceeds the amount of time I have but, hey! you've got to think big I say. The pyjamas were my number one priority so I started with those...on Tuesday! Even though the challenge specified one hour every day that wasn't really going to work for me. I had a cinema date with a friend on Monday night* so KCWC started on Tuesday for me, but I promised myself I'd make up the extra time on the days I could do!

I used the Basic Kid Pants for the bottoms, but added a cuff at the bottom from an old t-shirt of mine. I really need to learn a bit more about sewing with jersey and how to make the stitches give a little with the stretch of the material, but these work ok for now. I was really pleased with how 'finished' these turned out - the inside is as neat as the outside and the seams won't fray. Practice does pay off!

I finished these pj bottoms in two and a half hours so that made up for missing the official start on Monday! Unfortunately I was out on Wednesday too so I had to put in the hours on Thursday to make the pyjama top. I used Dana's 90 minute shirt tutorial (but it took me more like 150 minutes!)

So suddenly it was Friday night and although I wanted to carry on making clothes I also felt I should spend some time with husband this week so I did some sewing on the sofa. Using yet another MADE tutorial, I hand sewed an 'L' for a Sprinkle T-Shirt. It took much longer than I thought, so I had to finish it off in front of X Factor on Saturday night too!

I customised another t-shirt using a bleach pen - an idea I grabbed from Cheri. I had not used one of these so was very excited to try it out. I drew a tractor and grass design along the bottom of an H&M t-shirt, waited for half hour and then washed the t-shirt. Unfortunately, all I was left with was a plain green t-shirt! Back to the drawing board for me and the bleach pen but here is what it could have looked like...

KCWC 2011 was a great success - just check out the Flikr group and see all the cool things made last week. I may not have made a big dent on my list but I am still really pleased with the few new items Wiss has in his wardrobe : )

* I went to see Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy but unfortunately I can't tell you what I thought of it as I fell asleep!

Tuesday, 18 October 2011

I made it! (part 2)

09.10.11 - what a great date! It also happens this was my first wedding anniversary but rather than breakfast-in-bed and a lazy morning with my husband I was taking part in the Royal Parks Half Marathon in aid of Asthma UK. I was hoping that both husband and son would be there to cheer me on but due to a rugby injury husband was unable to move, let alone look after son! So his mum had to come to look after son and grandson while I ran alone.

It was a beautiful day for running and the route took in Hyde park, Green Park, St James Park and Kensington Gardens as well as a stretch along the embankment alongside the Thames. 12,500 people took part and I crossed the finish line in 1hour 54 minutes and 24 seconds, beating my PB by 30 seconds!

It was a great taster of what the London Marathon might be like - it inspired me but also made me think I have a lot of training to put in between now and April 2012. I know I'm stating the obvious but 26 miles is a very long way!

I was running in memory of a friend who sadly passed away at the very end of last year. This pint and medal were for you, Alex!

Back home, the pain killers were working on husband so we went out for dinner to celebrate our first year of marriage. He was a little stooped and I was walking like a robot, so we must have looked a right pair going up the hill. Maybe it was an insight to what we will be like after 50 years of marriage!

It was a lovely end to a fantastic (but busy) weekend. I slept well that night, that's for sure!

Friday, 14 October 2011

I made it! (Part 1)

Phew! I have just had the busiest weekend but I'm glad to report that all deadlines were meant and everything got done and went well (maybe not smoothly but it was all good!)

Sell It Mama on Saturday was very busy - everyone in South London was on the look out for baby bargains as there was a big crowd when the doors opened.  I sold lots of the changing mat and waterproof bags sets so it seems I made the right decision with regards to the fabric. I had lots of compliments on the choice of patterns and colours available. The individual bags also went down well with people who had older children so had no need for a changing mat but thought they'd still come in useful as a toiletry bag or for swimming costumes.

I was really glad that the new bright range of Bobby Horses was well received - lots of people said they'd make great Christmas presents and took my business card. It seems it was still a bit too early for anyone to commit to some real Christmas shopping yet. However, the good news is This is Wiss will be at the Dulwich Farmer's Market on October 23 and the special Christmas Market on December 18 so there's still lots of time to buy presents!

Back to Sell It Mama, there really are some great bargains to be had from the second-hand stalls and I love the whole ethos of reusing and recycling. Quality hand-me-down items that have been loved already have a special appeal to me. We bought some clothes for Wiss, about 8 toy cars and two big vehicles! We really don't have much space (that's London living!) but we just couldn't pass these up:

This amazing Radio Flyer tricycle was only £10!! They cost at least £120 new but they are made from steel so they are really built to last. It just needs a little clean up and polish and it will be Wiss's birthday present. I reckon it will last him, any brothers or sisters he may have in the future and still be in good condition!

So that was Saturday - a good day all round! I'll tell you all about Sunday in Part 2...

Thursday, 6 October 2011

Not long now! This is Wiss: handmade toys and other essentials, returns!

I've spent pretty much every night for the last two weeks at the sewing machine, making stock for the next This is Wiss stall. I didn't get round to developing any new products (although I have some ideas in my head) but I have made the usual items in exciting new colours...

And I have lots of new fabrics including the fabulous Kokka linen blend ranges...

Check out my website for more details. I've had to make a decision on what to make for Sell it Mama this time as I was up against it time-wise. At the last sale, much to my surprise, the prints were much more popular than the Brights range so that's what I've concentrated on this time. Only time will tell if I was right but I can always take orders for the colours.

I have a few more things that need sorting before the weekend-of-all-weekends arrives but I'm glad to say that most of the hard slog is over! Now, if only I can factor in an early night and some point too....

Friday, 23 September 2011

A Squash and a Squeeze

I know my last post was all about how busy I am and how much I have to do in the next few weeks but... there is always time to stop and enjoy some simple pleasures in life, surely?!

Well, that's exactly what we did last weekend. We booked a long weekend in a Shepherd's Hut in Bodium, East Sussex and it was brilliant! Yes, the huts are small and there's no hot water or electricity but you really do have everything you need. There's solar power, a gas stove and a wood burner and the showers in the seperate block are amazing. (I would recommend taking a flexible trug if you have a toddler like Wiss, who hates showers. It made bathtime a breeze!) The weather was pretty good too (we came prepared for all eventualities!) we saw farm animals, walked in the woods, cooked on the campfire and generally just kicked back.

Funnily, we took this book with us to the Shepherd's Hut. It's one of Wiss's favourites. And if you are familiar with the story then you'll know that after spending some time in a very small space, we came home and no longer felt like our house was a squash and a squeeze. Yes, we're full of fiddle-di-dees!
 This weekend I'll mainly be at the sewing machine (apart from when I'm running or baking a cake for my work's annual cake competition!) Have a wonderful weekend!