Articles

Tea, Cake and Frame Loom Weaving

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Julia Davey Ceramics is an utterly delightful family business, specialising in fine bone china tableware. Julia’s ceramics take inspiration from her Bath studio, located within the beautiful Somerset countryside. The surrounding woodland creatures and rolling fields strongly influence Julia’s charming collection – all of which can be admired in her ‘bricks and mortar’ shop, in Bear Flat, Bath.

Julia runs a vast selection of creative workshops in her Bath shop. It was here, that textile designer, Ellie Fisher of Elka Textiles – a Winchester based woven textile studio, provided a three-hour introduction into the impressive world of frame loom weaving.

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Ellie had thoughtfully laid all of our tools and material onto the work table, ready for our anticipated arrival. Once the ever-so-important tea, coffee and cake orders had been taken, Ellie shared some of her own inspirational work, providing the perfect opportunity for us to muster up some of our own creative ideas.

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If you’re unfamiliar with weaving terminology, what you see below is a loom. The loom holds the vertical warp threads aligned and under tension, to allow weaving to take place. Whilst enjoying our sweet treats and much needed warm drinks, we were taught how to set this up. I became quite perturbed at this point when noticing a tangle and realising my progress was slower than that of the rest of the group, yet Ellie was on hand to restore calmness – and that she certainly did.

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The next stage focused on the weft; the horizontal threads that interlace with the warp. We were introduced to the necessary tools and techniques and began weaving our first few rows with the use of warp yarn – which to you and I, is of a very similar appearance to bakers twine or string.

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Once complete, the fun could really begin! Ellie’s selection of weft yarns and roving was, without a doubt, sensational, and I was so excited to choose materials and begin the creative weaving process. I felt like an excitable child in a sweet shop as I browsed through the vast selection of yarns and fibres – including organic cotton, bamboo, flax and hemp.

Whilst choosing materials, Ellie brought our attention to some of her naturally dyed and recycled yarns, all available to use on our woven pieces, which I found incredibly kind and inspiring. Sustainability is at the forefront of Ellie’s creative process and business, and it was truly refreshing to hear about her sustainable, cruelty-free, plant-based products.

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As somebody who is naturally obsessed with colour, this stage of the workshop, without a doubt, suited me down to the ground. Identifying and choosing materials for my weaving, from such a luxuriously wide selection was certainly the most pleasurable part of the morning. This was completely and utterly soothing, and it didn’t take me very long to forget about the technical issues I’d faced previously.

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I can wholeheartedly say that I left the workshop feeling uplifted, relaxed and content, which can sometimes be challenging to achieve. I spent the following afternoon at home working on my woven piece, whilst listening to relaxing music – it felt like such a treat.

Although it’s not considered a perfectly technical weave, the very act of making, experimenting with something new and leaving my comfort zone, allowed me to truly appreciate every single fibre.

I’d thoroughly recommend Ellie Fisher’s weaving courses, and if you happen to be visiting Bath, a trip to Julia Davey is likely to provide a great sense of joy and admiration. Please let me know if you follow my recommendations, I’d love to hear from you.

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Articles

Breaking the Rules with Embroidery

If you’ve ever set foot in a traditional sewing class or watched The Great British Sewing Bee in any length, you’ll be all too familiar with straight lines, neat curves and clean corners. The manual dexterity earned from years of traditional sewing, is without a doubt, exceptionally valuable. However, free-machine embroidery is here to challenge this completely, asking you to become a rebellious sewist.

A three hour class dedicated to the art of free-machine embroidery, encapsulating all of the creative freedom I could ask for, seemed a perfect way to spend a Saturday. I knew I had to sign up.

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A trip to V V Rouleaux in Bath, aka haberdashery heaven to you and I, provided the perfect opportunity to do just that. 

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The class itself was held in a perfectly exuberant workroom, adjoined to the haberdashery. All of the tools awaited, as did our lovely workshop facilitator, Poppy.

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After receiving basic, but without a doubt, incredibly useful instructions on how to operate our sewing machines, we stretched calico over our embroidery hoops and began our first practice pieces. The words ‘be careful of your fingers – keep them away from the needle and foot’, and ‘if you ever hurt yourself, seek medical attention,’ may have contributed to a steep blood pressure rise at this point, however, suffice to say, all participants left injury free.

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After a few needle breakages, bobbin adjustments and foot-to-hoop collisions, my confidence grew. I began to find the process of free-machine embroidery highly relaxing, almost meditative. We were given the opportunity of drawing onto the calico with the use of erasable pens prior to stitching, but I quite happily used the sewing needle for mark making throughout this stage.

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After gaining some confidence with the process, the last hour of the workshop focussed on appliqué. This involved cutting shapes from a selection of beautifully patterned fabrics, and free-machining them onto our final piece. After cutting out a variety of shapes, in my case, flowers, we used fusible webbing to fix them on to our fabric.

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Towards the end of the session, we were encouraged to collectively place our work on a nearby table. Everyone present was able to produce something charmingly unique, whilst leaving the workshop with a brand new skill.

Often in my day-to-day work when I am illustrating on Adobe software, I’m focussing on small details, ensuring everything has a smooth, immaculate finish, in keeping with my style. The fluidness of free-motion embroidery, contradictory to this rigid working process, made it even more appealing.

I would definitely recommend this course to any local embroidery enthusiasts, like myself, looking to acquire a new skill in a fabulously creative, vibrant setting. Go on, you certainly won’t be disappointed.

Articles

How to Stay Motivated When Running a Small Creative Business

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Are you a small creative business owner working from home, feeling unmotivated? Does this create feelings of guilt, challenging your motivation levels even further? If so, please know that you’re not alone. As a self-employed, small business owner of five years, I too have experienced fluctuating levels of motivation. I’m writing this to let you know that it’s completely normal.

So, what’s causing it exactly? There are many reasons you may be lacking motivation, and this is a crucial question to ask yourself. Allowing yourself to be mindful of the underlying causes can be extremely beneficial. I appreciate this can be tremendously difficult, and like myself in the past, you may have been deliberately avoiding this question entirely.

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When I first became self-employed, my motivation was incredibly high. I had been planning to leave my full time job for some time, and my to-do-list was brimming with tasks, of which I was enormously excited to complete.

It was all going so well, for quite a reasonable length of time I may add, until the procrastination presented itself. I suddenly became Marie Kondo’s greatest fan. Thanks to the KonMari method, my wardrobe had never been so impeccably presented. The dishwasher had never looked so clean, and the kitchen drawers were organised to a whole new level. That Victoria sponge cake just needed to be baked, but first, the oven needed to be cleaned again, for the tenth time. I’m fairly sure you can see where I’m going with this. 

Throughout this time, my business was about to become neglected, and I knew I desperately needed to reinstate the strong level of purpose I had once established. This was, and still is, an ongoing process. The advice below certainly isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach, and I’m certainly no expert. However, as a current small creative business owner, having faced similar issues to yourself, I’ve learnt a few things along the way which may help you.

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Create a Regular Routine

You know it, distractions are everywhere. I’m partial to an episode of ‘Homes Under the Hammer’ and ‘Escape to the Country’ too. Whilst we can’t always commit to a rigid work routine, nor would we want to, routine really is the key to success. As you know, there aren’t unlimited hours in the day, so it’s really important to maximise them as much as possible. Use a planner and begin to establish a routine for the duration of a week. Assess your level of productivity and motivation at the end of the week. Continue to make regular adjustments where necessary. If this works for you, try to stay mindful of your routine and its benefits.

Set Realistic Goals

Whilst it’s admirable to dream big, setting unrealistic goals for yourself may lead to an indefinite level of disappointment, particularly when your motivation levels are low. Instead, look at aspects of your business that may be affecting your motivation levels, and think about how these may be improved. Use this process to set some initial goals for yourself. They may be small goals, but try to look at their combined impact when actioned.

Make a Plan of Action

Alongside each goal you’ve established, make a specific plan towards achieving each one. This should consist of manageable, easily identifiable chunks.

Focus and Commit

Set time aside to complete each goal and be sure to commit. This is going to be an ongoing process. Scheduling time for this process on a regular basis really helps, it can make you feel positively accountable.

Reward and Take Care of Yourself

Self-care is of paramount importance. Without it, you won’t be producing your best work, and your business and personal life may begin to suffer. Think about ways you can introduce self-care into your day-to-day life and start planning. It’s so important to reward yourself for your hard work. You’ll have something special to look forward to on a regular basis, which in turn may help to increase your level of motivation.

Connect with Other Creative Business Owners

Do you often feel lonely during your working day? It’s easier than ever before to connect with other small business owners, some of whom may be facing the same difficulties as you. Reach out to them and try to build a relationship. If you live nearby, you could suggest a regular catch up in a local coffee shop, or if this isn’t possible, regular Skype calls. You can use this as an opportunity to socialise, whilst also gaining a new perspective on your creative work. If your budget allows, the use of a co-working space may also help you to feel less isolated and more connected.

Remind Yourself Why

Why did you decide to start your own small creative business? How did you feel when you sold your first piece of work? You may even think back to a previous job. How did you feel on your last day, when you had this brand new journey ahead of you? For me, I chose to start my own business due to a need for more day-to-day creativity and fulfilment. Sunday blue’s became a regular occurrence and I knew I had to introduce something new into my life. Thinking back to this time helps me to renew a sense of perspective, which in turn improves my motivation levels.

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With so much distraction out there, I completely understand the affect it can have on motivation. Running your own business, although incredibly challenging, is an exhilarating experience. Demonstrating an ability to work through difficult issues faced, has the potential to improve your confidence, levels of happiness, and greater knowledge. Overcoming low motivation is challenging, but at the same time, please know that it’s entirely possible, and you’re more capable than ever before.

To all small creative business owners out there, you’ve got this!

Articles · Knitting & Crochet

How to Form a Successful Knitting and Crochet Group

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Five years ago having recently joined the wonderful world of self-employment, I was completely and utterly delighted to be working from home in my purpose made craft room. I’d just left a full-time position at a local University, which didn’t leave a great deal of time for pursuing creative goals and dreams.

The thought of having endless hours to work creatively, tucked away in this cosy little haven, was, without a doubt, a dream come true. I was, and still of course am, incredibly grateful to have been in the position where I was able to transform my life in this way. I can wholeheartedly say that it was one of the greatest decisions I’ve ever made.

Fast forward six months later, and Felix, the ever so adorable black miniature poodle, became part of my life. He turned my world upside down in ways that I could truly never have imagined. Toilet training, shredded household items, 3am whines and interrupted face masks aside, he was, and still is, absolutely wonderful company.

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As the months passed, however, I really started to miss the level of human interaction I was once used to. After all, there’s only so many one way conversations we can have with our rather furry and ever so faithful friends. Maybe you’re thinking, ‘is there really?’ If you are, I’ll let you into a little secret. Felix and I still have our fair share of dog to human ‘conversations’, there’s no judgement here.

Canine communication aside, I excitedly scoured the web for local craft groups, specifically knitting and crochet related. To my disappointment, I wasn’t able to find one single established group in the entire area of Bath, Somerset. This was the moment I realised that I needed to create my own.

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Having absolutely no experience in running anything like this before, and possessing the classic personality traits of a strong introvert, I honestly didn’t know where on earth to start. I could have quite easily waited for another group to present itself. However, I’m so glad I took the first step towards establishing my own.

If you happen to find yourself in a similar situation, you’ve come to the best place possible, yay! Below, I’ve condensed everything I’ve learnt over the past five years into a mini-guide. So, go and make yourself an extra large cup of tea in your favourite mug, open the biscuits, and read on. I promise you’ll be a successful knitting and crochet group guru in absolutely no time.

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Finding Members

If you have a large circle of ‘crafty’ friends, contact them. Explain that you’d like to establish a regular knitting and crochet group and name a time, date and place for it to be held on. Depending on the anticipated size of the group, your friends may wish to invite their friends, and you can continue to expand the group. If you’re not in this position, here are a few ways you can find them:

  • Sign up to meetup.com, as I did, and create your own group, which you’ll need to name. Unbeknown to me, there were many other local knitters and crocheters seeking similar groups. This website played a significant role in connecting us.
  • Create a flyer, post it in as many appropriate places you can think of.
  • Create a page on Facebook, try to attract as many relevant locals as you can. Once established, this will provide a useful space for information and can be used as one of your advertising tools.

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Organising Your Group

  • As above, decide the time, date, location and frequency of your group. Try to be as consistent as possible. My group runs on a fortnightly basis, it’s always held on a Thursday evening. We meet in a very well loved, independent coffee shop.
  • If you decide to use meetup.com, go ahead and create your group. Each group has its own calendar, so you can schedule regular meet ups there. Your members will be informed of upcoming meet ups and can RSVP.
  • Your first group may be very busy (as mine was), so be try to be prepared for this. Make a point of introducing yourself to as many members as possible, and create a happy, productive, welcoming environment for all. These people are crucial to the success of your group, continuously thank them for being a part of it, they’re amazing!

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Listen To Fellow Members

Last year when my own knitting and crochet group was about to turn four, we worked on a collaborative project in celebration, which now lives permanently in the coffee shop. We shared yarn, hooks, needles, patterns and had an absolutely fabulous time creating it. New bonds were created over crochet, tea and cake, and a cushion was made for all to enjoy.  This idea originated from a much appreciated, fellow member. Without her suggestion and my acceptance, this may never have happened, so be as open as you possibly can to new suggestions.

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Enjoy Yourself

The main point of a knitting and crochet group is to be able to meet existing craftspeople and to share your hobbies and interests with others. Personally for me, it feels incredibly heartwarming to know that I’ve been able to connect so many local knitters and crocheters, whilst supporting a local business. If your group, like mine, continues to run for years to come, continuously remind yourself why you set it up and always make an effort to appreciate it.

Now, please go on and create your own unique group. If it’s anything like mine, it’s going to be an amazing experience. Enjoy!

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