Small business talk: bigcartel shop review

If you regularly read my blog, you know that I opened a bigcartel shop in January 2014. Bigcartel has 4 pricing plans depending on how many items you want to have in your shop.

bicartel pricing plansI was on the Diamond plan which allows you to have up to 100 items for sale in your shop and costs $19.99 per month, payable by paypal. This monthly payment is the only fee you pay as they don’t charge any final value sale’s fee.

I was very excited when I opened this shop, as I liked the shop design (you have a choice of different templates to chose from in order to customise your shop), but best of all I thought that I would save money as I would only have to pay a monthly fee and not pay an final value sale’s fee. It seemed like a great idea at the time.

10 months down the line, I have decided today to downgrade my shop to the Gold pricing plan which is completely FREE but only allows you to have up to 5 items in your shop. I could have completely closed down the shop but why not keep it with its 5 items in it, it is free after all.

I have come to the conclusion that bigcartel does not work for me. I don’t do much marketing or advertising for my shop, so the only traffic that I get is via my blog, a bit from google and a bit from the bigcartel directory. You can see this in my shop dashboard below (screenshot taken before I downgraded):

Their dashboard is really great as you can clearly see what items get the most click on, what customers are searching to buy, and how do they find youbigcartel shop dashboard.

In 10 months, I only got 3 sales from the shop for a total of about £60 (or $96). Yes, you read that right, it is pathetic, given that I have paid about $200 in shop fee. I often redirected new customers and repeat buyers to the bigcartel shop (with a promise of a free delivery or a discount code) but no they still went ahead and bought either via my etsy shop or directly from me. So that is why I have given up on bigcartel.

These are the 5 remaining items in my bigcartel shop. They were the most viewed items in the shop.

handamadewithjoy shop bigcartel

This is just my experience with bigcartel. I know some sellers who get lots of sale from their bigcartel shop, so I am not discouraging anyone to give it a try. Do you have a bigcartel shop? If yes, what is your experience with it?

Spice storage in a small kitchen

I like to cook and bake and therefore like to have lots of different ingredients ready to be used. But my kitchen is small, I don’t have a proper pantry (only a pink ikea bookcase cupboard that I use as a pantry), so my kitchen does look cluttered.

pink ikea bookcase pantryMy spices were not efficiently organised. First they were in plastic containers, I put 2 of those containers on the ikea varde shelving (only the spices I used often), and the rest inside my pantry:

ikea kitchen shelfThen I added 2 more little shelves (ikea forhoja) underneath the varde shelving so was able to put some of them there. That was a better solution, but still, I could only put like half of them there and they were cluttered:

ikea varde kitchen shelvingSo I looked for a better solution and found this 4 tier spice rack on amazon, I just love it, the quality is great, the price is very affordable and it only took a couple of minutes to install (you don’t even need a power tool to install this). My spices are now organised by alphabetical name and they are easy to access. We put ours on the back door of an upper cabinet. The only little problem is that I should have bought the 5 tier one as I have so many spices I need an extra tier.

spice storage for small kitchenI don’t know why I didn’t do this years ago. This spurred me to spend more time decluttering my kitchen this week. Do you have a small kitchen? How do you organise it so that it looks nice and not cluttered?

The garden in august and september

It is already autumn in my part of the word (small town outside London) but it still feels like summer. Right now, the garden looks messy as I have lots of deadheading, tidying/cleaning and grass cutting to do (path between the raised beds in the front garden). But despite its shivelled look, I love this garden, I can see some progress made every year, it is getting greener, prettier and more productive.

Here are some pictures taken in august and september.

Back garden

I didnt’ have much time to work on the back garden, I hope to focus more on it next year. One thing I did was to plant some dahlias and zinnias as companion plants to a gooseberry plant (this is the plant last year) and a fejoya goyava (planted last year also), both are each in a 55cm pot. The banana plant you see there is still small as I keep it in a 35cm pot.

dahlia zinnia bananaMost of the strawberry plants in one of my blue raised planter have died so I planted lots of other stuff in it: cosmos, marmalade rudbeckia, thai basil, vietnamese coriander, lemon verbena, lettuces and some chives.

previous strawberry planter

I also planted an early moorpark apricot in the raised bed against the garage wall.

Side yard

I wanted to incorporate a sort of mini orchard in this area and I am glad to say that I finally made it happen, I planted some fruit trees in the ground along the boundary wall (I lifted some paved tiles and planted them there). Some of the trees are doing OK, a few are struggling, I have to wait till next year to see if they all make it or if I need to replace some of them. The varieties are: opal plum, czar plum, early rivers plum, lord napier nectarine.

side yardI planted a clematite with each fruit tree, I find that if planted together at the same time, the clematite fares better. This one is with the greengage Reine Claude Ulena tree planted last year (the 1st planted in the ground in the side yard).

clematite up a greengageI plant most of my tomatoes in pots here as it is south facing. In this 55cm pot there are 2 tomato along with 2 cucumber plants (next year i think I will only put 3 plants per 55cm pot).

tomato cucumberThe midget pear tree is having 5 fruits this year.

midget pear tree with 5 fruitsI also grow most of the courgettes here, these are the varieties I planted this year: black beauty, golden zucchini,  round de Nice and lebanese. The lebanese one is the most prolific, each courgette becoming huge before I get a chance to harvest them so I make a courgette lasagna with them.

2014 courgette varietyThese autumn raspberries are not very prolific in a pot so I will re-plant them in the ground later on (don’t know where yet) so that they can give me as much fruit as the summer raspberries planted in the ground in my back garden.autumn raspberriesI feel that there are not enough flowers in this area, so I wil try to amend that next year. Here is the only purple ricinus planted here, it is still small as it was sowed very late.

ricinus plantAnd an exciting (for me) purple flowering tree – abutilon suntense –  that I grew from seed in 2012, you can see it as a baby tree here. It hasn’t flowered yet and I want to keep it small so it is currently in a 35cm pot.

abutilon suntense treeFront garden

This is the nicest part of the potager. The pear tree flowered profusely but it only has 7 fruits.

front garden potagerOne of my arches collapsed due to several gale force winds, and also because I planted a new squash there this year which I thought has small fruits but the squashes are big and heavy, to heavy for this kind of arch.

collapsed archAnd some of the raised beds.

veg raised beddahlia raised bedrhubarb raised bedAs you can see, I struggle with the grass in this area (it grows faster than I  can trim them), I want to change the path between raised beds into a gravel path eventually so I am saving to pay for that.

I am already dreaming of next year’s garden and hope that this winter will be as mild as last year.

How is your garden growing?

Sewing a russian doll fabric minky baby blanket

I’ve just finished sewing a baby blanket for a customer using a minky fabric for the back and I thought I would share tips on how to sew this fabric. For this blanket, I used a japanese Kokka fabric with russian doll for the front, and a cream raised dot minky fleece fabric for the back.

First, minky is a lovely fabric to touch, it is so soft and velvety, and feels lovely on the skin. You can find plain minky and raised dot minky. It is a popular choice of fabric for customers who wants a baby blanket so I offer a selection of it. But for us seamstresses, it is a tricky fabric to sew. These are the tips that work for me each time I have to use this fabric:

russian doll blanket 11. Minky is polyester so it will not shrink, therefore it is not necessary to pre-wash it before sewing it. If you use another natural fabric with it (cotton, linen, etc) then you must pre-wash that fabric as natural fabrics tend to shrink the 1st time you wash it.

2. Minky is a very slippery fabric so you must pin and pin your fabric layers (minky plus the other fabric you use), I pin everywhere like I am making a quilt.

3. To get a straight sewing line, I use a soft sellotape as a marking line on the back of the cotton fabric and sew along that line. Make sure you use a tape that easily comes off, I once used a super strenght doubled side tape and it was a nightmare to take the sticky bits off the fabric.

russian doll baby blanket4. I also pin on both side of the stitching line to make sure that the fabrics do not shift while I do the sewing.

5. Use a quilting needle and a walking foot on your machine. I also increase my stitch lenght, so use a 3.5 stich lenght instead of the standard 2.5.

6. One last tip: if you use a raised dot minky as a backing, then iron your cotton fabric really well before you start stitching as once your item is finished, it is not a good idea to iron your blanket (if you do then the raised dot will flatten out).

kokka russian doll fabric baby blanketYou can buy this blanket as a custom made item in my shop.

24% discount in the shop and featured sewing room

Just a quick note to let you know that there is a currently a 24% DISCOUNT in my main SHOP. The discount code to enter at checkout is   24FOR24DISC  There is no minimum order (shipping is free in UK and $5 for the rest of the world), and the discount is valid only for 24 hours today.

And I forgot to tell you that my sewing room has been featured on American Quilter (magazine/online site) in their Dream Studio giveaway. One of their editors saw pictures of my sewing room on flickr and asked me if they could use one of my photos. Of course I said yes, I was very flattered as my sewing room picture is next to some really pretty ones (links below).

my sewing room in american quilterStudio photos: (top to bottom) (1) Emma Jean Jansen,; (2) Caroline Hulse,; (3) Brook Wilhelmsen,; (4) Laurraine Yuyama,; (5) Camille Roskelley of Thimble Blossoms; (6) Lotta Jansdotter Studio by Jenny Hallengren; (7) Dawn Hansen,; (8) Lova Rajaonarimanana,; (9) Jacquelyn Gering of Tallgrass Prairie Studio; and (10) Anna Maria Horner,

You may have also noticed that I  finally finished the In the Press page on the blog. I still need to tweak this blog but it is getting there slowly.

PS: for those of you who sent me private emails, sorry I am late with my reply, I will get back to you all so please be patient with me



Winner of the ipad cover giveaway

Thanks a lot to those who participated in the ipad cover giveaway. The winner is Karins28 (I have sent you an email asking for your address so please reply to that so that I can post you your prize).

For those who haven’t won, I have emailed you a 25% discount code that is valid in my etsy shop.

Here is a picture of a 55cm pot in my back garden. I originally planted a pink rose there, the rose is 8 years old now so is not looking its best anymore so I added several plants in the pot to brighten things up (all grown from seeds): a tall pink cosmos, 2 rudbeckia marmalade, 1 dwarf orange cosmos and 2 frilly red lace mustard (that I use in salad). This pot is very typical of the way I garden, I mix flowers and vegs together and plant things closely together.

55cm pot


Ipad cover giveaway

Sorry I haven’t blogged for ages, and thanks to those who keep reading this blog despite the long absence.

As promised, I am giving away 1 ipad cover this month, this is the one I made for the Handmade Gifts book. To win it, all you have to do is check out my etsy shop and tell me – by leaving a comment here – what is your favourite item in the shop. The giveaway is open till August 4th midnight (GMT time). It is open to anyone anywhere in the world. You can enter even if you have won previously. I will select 1 winner randomly.

ipad cover handmadewithjoymy ipad cover in Handmade Gifts bookThe giveaway is for the ipad cover only, the iphone cover on the picture or the book are not included.

Here are some pictures of the garden (taken mid july):

2 grape vines, each in a 55 cm pot, underplanted with spring anemones bulbs, strawberries and purple violas. There are 6 bunches of grapes this year.

2 grape vinesThis is a peach tree, that was supposed to be a nectarine tree from Thompson&Morgan that costs £34 (they completely ignored my complaint so I do not recommend them for fruit trees). It has 3 fruits on it but they are not ready yet. It is in a 66cm pot and I underplanted it with borlotti beans and dwarf french yellow beans.

container peach treeSome squashes climbing up an arch (potimarrom and gem rollet varieties). Because I have a small garden, I only grow small fruit squashes and pumpkins that can be grown up some arches. This year, I grow each one in 35cm bottomless pot (in the front garden raised beds). 3 pots to each side of an arch.

potimarron and gem rollet squashesThis is an eucalyptus gree that I bought very small in a 9cm pot, I grow it in a 35cm pot so as to keep it small as I do not want a big tree. It is now in its 3rd year and is looking lovely.

STA60037Some desiree potatoes, growing in pink flexitubs (£3 from tesco). I only grow potatoes in these pots now. The other potatoes that I am growing these year are the setanta variety.

setanta potatoes in pink potsA lebanese courgette, growing in a 55cm pot along with 3 tomatoes. If you look carefully, there is a huge courgette there that I forgot to harvest on time so it grew very big.

lebanese courgetteThis is the peach tree in the back garden. Despite being treated with a bordeaux mixture, it still got some curled leaves (which I forgot to take off on time so they profilerated). But I got 20 fruits from it this year, and they were big and tasted lovely.

peach tree in backgardenThis was the 1st peach of the year.

huge peach from my gardenI recently bought some peaches from Aldi and they tasted somewhat like a mango so I saved a stone and will try to grow it. I will have to do some research as I am not sure if I should grow it as a tree or grow it and then get a cutting from it to graft on my existing peach tree. Have you grown any fruit tree from a stone or done some grafting? Do you have any advice for me?

Sewing wise, I have finished a batch of these ipad covers, they have a pocket which is big enough for an A5 size notebook and some pens. You can find it here.

russian doll ipad coverGood luck on the giveaway.