Win a custom made russian doll case for your phone

Hi everyone! I took some time off blogging as the recent months have been quite hectic for me. I spent most of december in France, to attend my sister’s funeral and to spend some time with my family. I didn’t close my shops while I was away, so then spend most of january catching up on december’s orders. Thank you so much to those of you who have been very patient with your orders.

Today, I have 3 custom made russian doll cases to give away, one per winner. You can use it as a phone case or a purse or a business cards holder/case. I made the one in the picture to fit a Samsung phone. The one you will win, will be custom made for your phone, so you need to let me know the name/model of your phone. If you don’t like the russian doll fabric, you can ask me to make it in a different/surprise fabric.

handmadewithjoy phone caseTo win one of those cases, please visit my etsy shop and let me know (in a comment here) what you think I should make and sell that is not already in my shop. Don’t forget to put in the comment the name/model of your phone in case you win, and wether you want your case made with the russian doll fabric in the picture or a different/surprise fabric. The giveaway is open to anyone worldwide, the 1st person to leave a comment will automatically win, and I will draw 2 winners among all the other participants on March 11th (the giveaway is open till March 10th 2015 12pm GMT time).

If you’d rather buy one for you or for someone else as a gift, you can find it in my shop here: www.etsy.com/listing/224412544/russian-doll-case-custom-made-for-your

Good luck!

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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?

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.

Fruit trees for a small garden

I love fruit trees. Most of them are easy to grow and give you fruits that taste so much better than those you can buy in the supermaket. Having a small garden does not stop me from wanting to plant more, and I am now looking to buy an asian or japanese plum tree, maybe a Plum Beauty:

Beauty plum fruit treePhoto of Plum Beauty from Saundersallotment

Do any of you grow asian/japanese plum trees? Do they do well in a small garden?

One of my favourite trees in the back garden is the peach tree, I got it from Aldi and am very happy about it except that it gets the leaf curl disease every year. I have restrained myself from treating it but this year I decided to spray it with a bordeaux mixture. You can see it below last year in june, with no much leaves as I had to get rid of the diseased ones. I hope I will get lots of fruits from it this year.

peach tree with leaf curl disease june 2013

I’m currently reading Adventures in Consciousness by Jane Roberts and love this Sumari poem of hers which reminds me of all my fruit trees:

Song of the pear tree

The pear tree grows from the sweet pits of your feelings,

Sunken in the secret ground of your being

It grows in the silence of atoms and evening.

It grows in the knowledge of your unknowing

And blossoms in the clear air of your morning.

The pear tree stands dazzling and glowing,

The fruit of your love made living.

A gift of the seasons from the orchard of feeling,

The atom’s love multiplied.

Each leaf sings your praises.

The air is your breath through which each leaf dances

As your love climbs the steps of your spine

And blossoms in syllables and images,

So your love flows, invisible, outside the window,

And rushes up hollow paths of air.

Your love charms the trees into growing

And carves living plants out of unknowing.

The pear tree and all trees grow from the trance of your love.

silk peony flower

The garden is starting to show some flowers. The plum tree (unknown variety from Homebase that was supposed to be an apricot tree) is the first to start blossoming this week. And then there are purple crocuses, pink and purple anemones, hellebores and some orange calendula. The peony trees are also starting to leaf up, I can’t wait to see their blooms but in the meantime I have silk peonies in my living room.

Shop news:

Handmadewithjoy on bigartel is back to offering paypal payments as I was not happy with some aspects of the direct checkout by Stripe (mainly that the checkout says “shipping will apply” even though I offer free shipping, I thought that this may have put some buyers off). The free worldwide shipping will stop at the end of february so hurry up if you would like to buy something with free shipping. I am working on a flat rate shipping that will take effect from March.

I’ve bought an ad on Natalie Creates blog. I’m so excited by this as it is my very 1st ad, the ad runs for a month from march 25th, and it is for my etsy shop.

This is the new gift box for necklaces and earrings/necklaces sets in the shop. I quite like it but I am still looking for a matching box just for the earrings.

gift box melody note necklace earrings

Do you know any supplier for jewellery gift boxes that you can recommend?

New Sleeve Cover for MacBook Air in russian doll fabric

After some requests for custom made Sleeve Cover for MacBook Air, I though I would offer it in my shop. It is now listed in all my shops,¬† for both the MacBook Air 11.6″ and 13.3″. It can be made in any fabric you want (russian doll, liberty, kaffe fassett etc). You can see pictures of fabrics available in my flickr photo gallery (in the 4 folders called FABRICS FOR CUSTOM ORDERS).

You can still get free worldwide shipping in my main shop.

Or you can buy it here if you would like to pay in dollars.

cover sleeve macbook air russian doll fabric

cover sleeve for macbook air matryoshka fabric

Other shop news: I have decided to offer direct checkout in my bigcartel shop. For buyers, this means that you will be able to pay with any direct debit card or credit card. If however you prefer to pay by paypal, then you need to contact me with the details of the item you want to buy and I will email you a paypal invoice which you can then pay.

This week I will be:

* sewing a batch of new large cosmetic toiletry bags

* reviewing my business and production plan

* making time to bake biscuits and muffins

Happy new year

Happy new year everyone!

I am glad to start this new year with a renewed energy and a sense of gratitude for my life. Last year was a difficult time for me as I was struggling with my health (endometriosis), so my resolution this year is to continue exploring ways of healing this condition.

My other resolution is to work better at my little business. It has been more of a hobby than a business up to now as I only work part time in it, but this year I want to be more productive and more organised. So to start the new year, I treated myself to a new shop: handmadewithjoy.bigcartel.com . Yes I alreay have 4 shops so I don’t really need a 5th one as ideally I would rather just have 1 shop but they are each useful in their own way so I keep having them. For example, etsy and folksy are very good for me as it is where editors (books and magazines) usually contact me for various projects that end up being a good exposure for my business. Also most of my big orders ($150 upward) come from etsy, and it is where I get a good percentage of my international sales. Dawanda is also useful for me as it allows me to attract french speaking buyers (as I list my items in french and english there). And as for ebay, I also get a good percentage of custom orders there, and most of those buyers become private clients, so it has its merits.

Most of my private clients are happy being invoiced directly via a paypal invoice but a few of them still like the idea of buying from a shop, so the new shop will be good for that as I will be able to create private listings for them in this shop. Also, bigcartel (that hosts my new shop) works on a monthly shop rental fee without  taking any commission for my sales, so it is a good place for high value items like quilts which I want to offer more of in the future. For those of you who sell handmade, do you have any favourite selling platform and if yes why? And for those of you who buy handmade, where do you prefer to buy?

russian doll cosmetic bags

Anyway, I have started listing items in the new shop but still have more to items to upload. I wanted to let you know about it as I am offering FREE WORLDWIDE SHIPPING for this month (january 2014) in the new shop. Some of my best sellers are items made with the russian doll fabric above, but I only have less than a yard left of that fabric and am gutted as it is an out of print fabric so I cannot buy more of it. I am currently sourcing some new fabrics to use this year and have found one that I am particularly excited about. As they do well for me, I will continue using liberty fabrics and russian doll fabrics among some japanese ones.

Gardening wise, the weather has been quite mild around here so there are nice surprises in the garden. For example, the alpine strawberries are still flowering and fruiting. And there are still lots of greenery and some flowers here and there, including this borage plant.

borage flower in january

Indoor, my african violets are flowering profusely. To make them flower, I put them on the kitchen window shelf (where they get the most light) untill they flower and then I move them to the living room/sewing room. Once the flowers are finished I move them back to the kitchen windowsill.

st paulia african violet plants

I am overwintering some plants as usual, and this year the banana plant is in the bathroom (I try a new space for it every winter to see what it likes best), it seems to like it there as it’s getting plenty of light and warmth. I am also overwintering some hardy fuschia cuttings which grow so easily in water (I use old glass spice jars for them), once they have enough roots I will pot them up.

overwintering banana

hardy fuschia cuttings

I have been very busy with sewing in december so did not finish planting my tulips and therefore am still planting them now. They may flower a bit late but that’s ok, I can’t wait to see them in all their glory in spring.