a touch of Spring cleaning

Yes, I know it is July and not technically Spring, but I have indeed been Spring cleaning. I had my fourth craft fair on Saturday and a few things have sorted themselves out in my mind.

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Mark came to help me at the Yatton Keynell popup shop and was really good at making sure everything looked just right!

I started Deerey Me wanting to try lots of things – because I like making so many different things – hoping something would come to the surface. I think it now has. What I enjoy most is free-motion machine embroidery and applique and I think I should keep my stock to this theme. I will sell cards and pictures and zip pouches and to that I may add brooches and tea cosies and aprons, but all will have my style of free-motion twiddliness.

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a storm in a teacup


One thing that has not sold at all at craft fairs and not too much recently online is the larger tote/shopping bags, so I am going to stop making them as stock (except the book bags). I am happy to make anything at all for custom order – tote bags, slippers etc – but I won’t keep them in stock and I won’t take them to craft fairs. My one exception to all this is Ellen Mouse. I love her too much not to have her around – and I don’t want all that CE testing to go to waste.

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Ellen Mouse..er…Mice…er…Mouses


So, my friends, I now have some stock to clear out of my way. I have decided to take them out of my Etsy shop and sell them a few at a time on my Facebook page
, so why not head over there, ‘like’ my page and see what bargains pop up each day!

etsy 15 may 2014 - 100
Facebook bargain number 1 – reduced from £8.50 plus postage to £4.50 including postage

In addition, the more free-motion work I do, the faster I get, so I am now able to reduce the price of my cards from £4.50 each to £3 each!

2014 July 13 Etsy - 32
two little owls card

Finally, and I shall whisper this…my Christmas shop is now open over at Etsy: Deerey Me Christmas shop. I had a couple of people buying stocking-fillers on Saturday and thought I should be ready for the early birds. The Christmas section does include some non-applique pieces, but…well…Christmas is Christmas and some liberties may be taken!

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Skandinavian style Christmas stockings

of mice and men..and cats

Last night was wild – and not in a good way! The noise of the wind and the feeling that the house was shaking was somewhat unnerving and watching the updates on the Dorset coast (where we have a tiny wee holiday flat) was downright scary. We have friends who live there permanently and I hope they are ok as I see many people were evacuated and spent the night in a local pub or in a school. If the flat flooded, it’s just things, but people are far more precious. It has been one storm after enough, each stronger and more damaging than the one before. I heard on the radio this morning that 41,000 properties are without power this morning. Watching it from our safe, dry house in Bath it feels apocalyptic, so how must it feel when the waves are crashing over your home or your farm is is two or three metres under water or even in the middle of London buildings are collapsing in the path of the storm? It is still windy, but the sun is shining and the worst of the latest storm is over. It feels as though the whole country is praying for calm and sunshine and Spring.

This morning I opened the living room curtains to evidence of a stormy Valentine’s day…I wonder who attempted to charm their loved one and was beaten by the wind?

after the Valentine's storm
after the Valentine’s storm

I know this post is supposed to be of mice and men and cats, but I want to reverse the order and start with the cats.

of cats

Our two cats were as freaked out by the storm last night as we were, and it is so nice to see them calm and soaking up a sunny respite in the weather…

Max, dozing in the sun
feline sun-worshipper
who? me?

…even if naughty Rio tries to destroy the sofa! (it’s ok, I made extra strong covers for the parts of the sofa he scratches…not a pulled thread in sight)

naughty cat!
naughty cat!

…and when I made him stop, he decided to read the paper, and really got in to it!

Rio in the paper
Rio in the paper
newspaper cat
newspaper cat

of men

Yesterday was Valentine’s day. Mark and I don’t tend to do a lot to mark the day, but had intended to go out for lunch yesterday as Mark had the day off. The weather was so awful, we decided to stay in and had a Chinese takeaway in the evening instead. I made Mark a card…a free motion machine embroidery of Max the cat. Quite proud of it actually; didn’t draw it on the fabric first, just sketched it in stitches. It is so much fun drawing in thread!

free motion machine embroidery cat's whiskers Valentine's card
free motion machine embroidery cat’s whiskers Valentine’s card

I also made some shortbread hearts and split them between Mark and our elderly next door neighbour…sharing the love (and the calories!).

shortbread hearts
shortbread hearts
glittery shortbread hearts

As for me, I was treated to red roses, champagne and a big ole chocolate heart! (sorry phone photo is so grainy – had just come back from doc pulling around my dodgy knees and was not getting up to fetch proper camera!)

Valentine’s treats
red roses!

of mice

I keep an old style Ellen Mouse in my work room/dining room (not CE markable as has bead eyes and whiskers that will pull out under 7kg of tug) and I use her as a model for when I get requests for additional clothes for a re-homed Ellen Mouse. Until this week she has had to sit on my fabric shelves in nowt but her vest and frilly pants so I pinched a tiny bit of some trim I was given to make her a dress…reminds me of a 1970s Laura Ashley maxi dress.

Ellen Mouse in her vest and pants
Ellen Mouse’s new maxi dress

What’s more Ellen had nagged and nagged about extending her range…so now in my online shop Ellen Mouse cards and Ellen Mouse zip pouch bag!

Ellen Mouse greetings card
Ellen Mouse zip pouch

While in the mood for free-motion machine embroidery I made a couple more zip pouches, sketching first and then doing a bit of applique and embroidery: available in my shop.

blue tit sketch for free motion embroidery
blue tit zip pouch
cone flower and bees sketch
cone flower and bees zip pouch

I also made a little zip coin purse/makeup bag – the fabric is just too pretty to need any embellishment!

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I am still experimenting with products to decide on my ‘niche’ and plan to make some paper sculptures in the coming week, to see how they go down with my customers. Here is one I made earlier (lots of years earlier).

paper geisha
paper geisha

I think mice are rather nice!

I don’t know where the week has gone! I spent last weekend in London with my stepmother – a lovely chance to catch up, indulge calorifically and enjoy the ballet (Matthew Bourne’s ‘Swan Lake’ at Sadler’s Wells). Then I have been researching and approaching some fantastic crafters to run crafty nights out for the Bath WI. We had an energised and enthusiastic committee meeting, complete with smoked salmon sandwiches and sparkling wine (well it is Bath, darling!). My only concern was the talk of working with the Federation…am I the only one who grew up watching ‘Blake’s 7’ to know that the last thing you should do is work with the Federation!!! (looks around nervously for Servalan and Travis).

My stepmother sent me home with a bag full of her mother’s grandmother’s and we think maybe great grandmother’s lace, table linen, nightdresses and bloomers. Some I will make in to bags, as I am doing with the antique Russian embroidered linen I took home with me the last visit.

drawstring bag made from antique Russian embroidered linen
drawstring bag made from antique Russian embroidered linen

The bloomers are going to theatrical Maddie to adorn Alice in Wonderland.

lace detail
lace detail
antique Russian bloomers
antique Russian bloomers

The nightdress is so perfect it is tempting just to keep it as a nightdress, but it might get more use if I were to turn it in to a Summer dressing gown.

antique nightdress
antique nightdress

 

Sewing wise I have been making aprons and lavender bags and some more Ellen mice…I am thinking of selling sweaters separately, so I can reduce the price of the mice….what do you think?

‘If I knew you were coming I’d have baked a cake’ apron.

A few lavender bag hearts and cats.

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lavender bag cats

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Ellen Mouse in grey and white, sporting reversible Spring tunics.

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I will put the new mice in the shop on Monday, when I can take some better photos for Etsy. For now I need to chop seville orange rind – baked in the oven earlier – and boil up the marmalade and pour it in to sterilised jars. I love homemade marmalade! Then I need to get my head around mailchimp for my first Deerey Me newsletter, oh and plant some seeds in the grow house. I guess this is where the time goes…on stuff.

 

 

 

here comes the bride!

I do!

No, not me! It is little Ellen Mouse’s big day. I had a custom order for mice bride and groom – so much fun! Used the end of a sleeve of a 45 year old wedding dress and added silvery Christmassy touches. The groom is wearing a black pinstripe suit shot with gold, with a red waistcoat and silver buttons and cravat. The beads and small parts mean that these mice are decoration only; not toys and not suitable for children.

blushing bride
blushing bride
mouse wedding couple
mouse wedding couple
soft focus mouse bride and groom
soft focus mouse bride and groom
soft focus mouse bride
soft focus mouse bride

mouse groom

Ellen Mouse bridal closeup
Ellen Mouse bridal closeup

 

The wedding photography was fun…who says soft focus is outdated???

wedding photographer to rodent celebs
wedding photographer to rodent celebs

 

I won!

My dear friend Irene at vastgotaspets och tradgard had a giveaway to celebrate 1000 posts (well 1004 actually) and I won this beautiful yarn. I am going to pop in to ‘Wool’ in Bath to ask advice about a scarf or shawl pattern that would suit both the yarn and my crochet inexperience.

yarn to die for!
yarn to die for!

 

Oh Rio!

Somebody found my light tent…!

Rio the cat finds a new place to sleep
Rio the cat finds a new place to sleep

Just as well the background sheet is washable.

 

the stockings were hung by the chimney with care

I am sorry I have not posted in a while – so busy! Not only have I been lucky enough to have a load of custom orders, I am also sewing like mad to make stock for a Christmas fair (Wednesday December 4th, 7pm until 9.30pm at St Mary The Virgin Church on Darlington Street, Bath)…added to which I had a small mountain of cake to bake for Mark to take in to his office for his birthday.

Excuses over, here are some of the custom orders…no names in case they may be gifts!

slippers
slippers
zipper pouch
zipper pouch
slippers and bag
slippers and bag
Ellen Mouse tunic
Ellen Mouse tunic
pug dog drawstring bag
pug dog drawstring bag
pug dog slippers and drawstring bag
pug dog slippers and drawstring bag
Ellen Mouse tunic
Ellen Mouse tunic
Dr Who stockings
Dr Who stockings

One of my custom orders – Dr Who Christmas stockings – set me off on a Christmas stocking fest (all now in my shop!). I bought some more Dr Who fabric and intend to  make some for the shop too.

Skandi Christmas stocking detail
Skandi Christmas stocking detail
Skandi Christmas stocking
Skandi Christmas stocking
Skandi Christmas stocking detail
Skandi Christmas stocking detail
Skandi Christmas stocking
Skandi Christmas stocking
glittery blue and gold Christmas stocking
glittery blue and gold Christmas stocking

My favourite has to be this welly boot Christmas stocking made from oilcloth – I love it when I can realise and idea.

oilcloth welly Christmas stocking
oilcloth welly Christmas stocking

welly boot Christmas stocking

There is also a little Ellen Mouse in my shop – sporting a Christmas pinafore!

Christmas Ellen Mouse
Christmas Ellen Mouse
Christmas Ellen Mouse
Christmas Ellen Mouse
Ellen Mouse
Ellen Mouse

Santa baby…

The weather has turned cooler (I am back to fighting our two cats for my work chair now they don’t want to sit in the garden all day) and I have started to feel a little shiver of panic about how much sewing I have to do for Christmas. To ease my nerves I made a Christmas stocking before breakfast!

I like Christmas, but this year I wonder if I will be too busy to enjoy all the usual preparations. However, I will get my Christmas cakes made shortly…slug of brandy for the cake, slug of brandy for me…

Oh Ellen...come out of there!
Oh Ellen…come out of there!
first Christmas stocking of the year
first Christmas stocking of the year
Moda 'Winter Lanes' fabric
Moda ‘Winter Lanes’ fabric

I also finished another Ellen Mouse to go in the shop:

 

 

 

 

 

 

Christmas Ellen Mouse…and a giveaway!

Ellen Mouse is getting ready for Christmas, with a reversible Christmas pinafore. This one is a custom order, but I will be putting them in my shop soon too…along with Christmas pinafores and other accessories for those who already own an Ellen Mouse.

Ellen Mouse shows off her pink frilly knickers (they are sewn on as they are small and I don't want them to be a choking risk for young children)
Ellen Mouse shows off her pink frilly knickers (they are sewn on as they are small and I don’t want them to be a choking risk for young children)
Mouse in a tea cup
Mouse in a tea cup
Ellen shows off the red and white reindeer side of her reversible pinafore
Ellen shows off the red and white reindeer side of her reversible pinafore
Ellen Mouse shows snowman side of her reversible pinafore
Ellen Mouse shows snowman side of her reversible pinafore

 

Facebook giveaway!

If you would like an Ellen Mouse of your own, hop on over to my Facebook page Deerey Me and ‘like’ the page and add a comment to the giveaway post there. Good luck!

the bag lady

I spent last week working on zipper pouch designs – I now have patterns for pretty much every size of zip, and am getting faster, and what’s more I am starting to get orders…yay! So without further ado, let the bag parade begin!

First off let me introduce this burnt orange dupion silk number sporting a silk pansy embellishment and faceted, light-catching zip pull. I love this Autumnal colour – and it took some stiff upper lip to cut in to the fabric.

dupion silk zipper pouch with pansy detail
dupion silk zipper pouch with pansy detail

 

Next, modelling the season’s butterfly theme, we have a pretty little blue and cream number. I have a love of all things bugly and couldn’t resist this fabric – all the more so for the glittery gold highlights!

When Irene was visiting she bought me the most lovely teapot earrings (teapots are a big thing in my life), and I set out to source the lovely little teapot charms to use in some of my work and, serendipitously, I still had left some of the teapot/teacup fabric I once used to make a lavender heart for Irene, so the fabric and charm came together to make an afternoon tea bag!

It was my sister’s birthday yesterday and I wanted to make her something special, so used some lovely coastal village print cotton in grey and white and made a larger zipper pouch bag, with wadding rather than interfacing, to give it a cuddly quality. Rather stupidly I forgot to take a photo of the soft shopper tote I made from a mixture of this fabric and a grey/blue tartan (lined with part of my sister’s old duvet cover actually – I like to recycle fabric where I can), which I folded up and put inside the zipper bag.

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I spotted this frame for a small coin purse at Sew n Sew at the Bath Guildhall Market and decided to give it a go. I was a little disappointed that the ‘pattern’ that came with the frame was a line 8.5cm long with instructions to add whatever you want below it…gee thanks!…but it didn’t turn out too badly. A little froufrou for my taste, but enough fun for me to seek out sleeker, square frames on eBay to try some more.

framed coin purse in crushed velvet
framed coin purse in crushed velvet

 

Friends and family are great at donating odds and ends of fabric they find hidden in their lofts and cupboards, and this lovely oriental style fabric, despite fraying like mad, worked beautifully for bag making. I am going to make some envelope clutch bags with it too.

I bought some sale fabrics from the Village Haberdashery and this Laura Gunn garden wall fabric is even more lovely in the flesh than it looked on the website – no wonder they only had one skinny quarter left! A very dear and clever friend (Karin that’s you!) asked whether I could add wrist straps to my zipper pouches…fab idea! I will be doing this on more bags…

Now my corners are sharp and my bottoms are flat and my zips are a joy to insert, I want to unleash my imagination. When I went on a small business finance course at City of Bath College (highly recommend it if you are local), we were asked what our USP (unique selling point) is. The group laughed when I said it was that I am untrained, but I explained that it means I am also untethered. If you know exactly how something should be done, I think it is quite difficult to give your imagination free rein. Of course it means a bright idea can take quite a bit of working out and practice, but hopefully the result will be uniquely quirky. So now I have the basics sorted, I want to try some more adventurous bags…I have an image in my head of a cloud bag with raindrop fringing, and a double-decker London bus bag, and a dragon, and fish, and….oh the possibilities are endless!

Of course woman cannot live on bags alone, and there have been other creations in the week. Ellen Mouse, fully CE marked, is now in my shop – modelling a white brushed cotton top and reversible pinafore.

A scalloped edge blue felt rose brooch with gold-speckled blue bead centre…for blue days. I love my scalloped edge pinking shears!

felt rose brooch
felt rose brooch

And finally, inspired by talented Rebecca Bourne, I decided to make my sister’s birthday card, to match the coastal village fabric I used for her bag. For a first attempt at sewing pictures in a non-applique sort of way, I was quite chuffed. Mind you, they aren’t kidding when they suggest using an embroidery hoop when free motion sewing – I do like the non-square cartoon-like quality of the beach huts, but not the little gathers in the fabric. Next time I will use the hoop, after all it’s not like I don’t have half a dozen of them sitting on my shelves already!

beach hut free-motion sewn card
beach hut free-motion sewn card

 

Of course all work and no play makes Sue a dull girl, so Mark and I had an outing yesterday to Westonbirt Arboretum’s tree fest. We resisted the swing seats and hand-carved mirrors and tables with tree root legs and the little wooden house, but – again with Irene in mind – Mark bought me a tea cup birdfeeder (and a trug so I can be a proper gardener).

teacup bird feeder
teacup bird feeder

If you would like to see more photos of the Treefest, have a look at Deere Diary:

 

wooden t-rex skull at Treefest
wooden t-rex skull at Treefest

CE mark self-certification

After a week off, pottering around National Trust properties with our Swedish friends, it has been back to work this week. I have been keen to sell Ellen Mouse in my Etsy online shop, but there are strict regulations about selling even handmade toys. In someone else’s blog (sorry, it was some time ago and I cannot find the link) I found a link to Conformance Ltd, which has been invaluable! For £25 I bought a download that provides detailed guidance about how to carry out the tests necessary to self certify, along with a checklist and declaration form and blank technical file and even CE mark logos. I am used to looking at legislation from my previous job, but I would not have attempted this without their guidance. There is also a CE Mark self-help Facebook page, which I found helpful, if only to show that it is possible to self-certify.

Firstly I had to source EN71-3 compliant fabric. Discovering Plush Addict made this much easier as they provide certification details for the fabrics they supply (or tell you where they have not been able to obtain any reassurance). You still need to carefully check the data against CE mark requirements, but it really helps. They did send me a fat quarter instead of a metre, but sent the replacement fabric the same day I rang to query it and I received it the next day, so I will continue to buy from them.

I then had to make a couple of Ellen Mouse samples to carry out the tests, making sure to write out the materials used, stitch type and length, tension etc as each mouse must be made in exactly the same way. After that it is just a case of following the checklist. I even involved little Sophie over the road to provide a child’s fingers to try to poke in to seams and through the fabric. The poor little mice were tortured…washing machine and tumble dryer, trying to twist off their arms and legs, and using clamps and a bag of groceries to hang 7.2kg  from the seams – double stitching everything is so worthwhile! 7.2kg is a lot of weight (see top photo); I could hardly lift it and was very chuffed that Ellen’s little arms and legs had no such problems.

The photo looks like the bag is on the floor, but I assure you it is hanging off the floor so the full weight is pulling on the seam.

7.2kg seam test
7.2kg seam test

The worst thing is the flammability test. I confess I did not have a suitable stand so held Ellen Mouse with a long pair of bbq tongs as I set fire to her, but I had tested the fabric and stuffing individually, so knew she would not explode or anything. She had to be held vertically for the test, but I put her on the ground once she was fully alight. I have to say that carrying out this test made me realise just how necessary this legislation is. I know a lot of handmade toy makers do not bother with CE marks (despite the law), but watching a toy burn when it does meet the requirements for less than 30mm to burn in a second (Ellen Mouse burned at a rate of 17mm a second) fills me with fear for toys that burn more quickly. Regardless of fines or prosecution for not meeting regulations, I couldn’t live with myself if some child were injured because a toy I made was not safe.

The following photo is not for the squeamish – a mouse toy or two (one washed and one not washed) must die so that others may go forth in to the world!

Oh Ellen Mouse - I am so sorry!
Oh Ellen Mouse – I am so sorry!