I literally cannot believe that another year has passed. I also can’t quite get my head around the fact that it will be 2020 soon – to me, that feels like some futuristic, Blade-Runner-esque time with flying cars, intense biometric tracking-type-stuff and human robots that live among us. Way in the future. Not in a couple of years time 😱
2018 was a real mixed bag for me, both as a sewist and personally. At the start of the year I suffered a head injury which pretty much marred the whole of 2018, but on the flip side I got a new job closer to home (more time for sewing!) and the Etsy store grew considerably.
So, settle yourself in on this last Sunday of the year, and prepare yourself for a journey through my 2018…
NEW YORK, NEW YORK 🗽
In October, I went back to NYC for the first time in five years – and the first time as a sewist. The fabric shopping was EPIC (if you missed my posts on it, you can read them here, here, and here – yep, there’s three posts – I had a lot to say about the trip!). Going to Mood fabrics was an experience like no other – I’ve literally never been in any fabric shop that could even begin to come close to the sheer range of quality fabrics they have in there. Needless to say, I bought enough to keep me going for a very long time. We also visited Washington DC, Philadelphia and Virginia while we were there, but there’s just something about New York City that draws me in – the buzz, the vibe, the energy. It’s my most favourite place on the planet.
We did two Christmas markets this year with our Etsy goods – one at my office in London Bridge and another at Aaron’s office in Kings Cross. It’s the first time we’ve ever sold things in person, rather than online, and we were scared. Of what, I’m not sure lol… but we’d never done anything like this before (does a car boot sale count?!) so we weren’t sure what to expect.
The one at my offices was first, at the end of November, and after the initial excitement of YAY LET’S DO A MARKET STALL the panic set in as we realised we didn’t have quite enough stock to take with us, or even any of the stall equipment we needed. We then bought a sign holder, price labels, paper bags, a card reader to take payments, a tablecloth and some stall furniture – everything that we could think of that we might need. I was worried that we would turn up, set up our stall and it would look completely crap compared to the other, more experienced sellers – but IT DIDN’T. It actually looked pretty damn good. I was so pleased with it, that even looking around at all the other stalls I didn’t want to change anything about ours for the next one. We nailed it. BOOYAH.
Sales-wise, we sold ten items at the first market. I was happy with that. The market was in a U-shape, and the other stalls sold mostly handmade items such as soap, bookmarks, dog treats, and jewellery.
The second market we did – which was on the 12th December and therefore closer to Christmas – went worse. We were expecting to sell more things at this market because more people would be in proper panic-buying-mode, with less than three weeks to go until Christmas Day… but it didn’t work out like that. We only sold two items, and one of them was to Aaron’s manager 🤷🏻♀️ There was a different mix of stalls at this one, with much less handmades – one lady was selling dairy free chocolates (that she hadn’t made herself), there were also art prints, tarot readings, and a whole lot of what appeared to be vintage clothing. They hadn’t laid it out very well either – two clothes rails were blocking off what should have been a main thoroughfare through the whole market, but instead it was kind of split into two disjointed parts. Our stall was in the ‘second’ part, that you had to walk allllll the way around the other side in order to get to, which I think might have impacted our sales. The stalls in the ‘first’ part (as in, the part that was closer to the entrance to the floor) seemed to get a lot more traffic. On the positive side though, a LOT of people took our business cards so perhaps they will convert to future online sales… fingers crossed.
Either way, a lot of people commented on how cool our stuff was and how well made it was, and we’re now a lot more comfortable with running a stall. We will definitely look to do more of these next year!
Yes, I applied for the Great British Sewing Bee.
No, I’m not going to be gracing your TV screens any time soon.
So I filled out their very lengthy application form, and thought nothing of it until I got a phone call a LOT later on – like months afterwards. That call was basically just to check me out and make sure I was normal (which I passed – lol) and I then got put through to the second round. The second round was another phone call, this one talking more about me and my sewing (how I got into it, who I sew for, what I like to sew etc etc) and also there was a mini quiz at the end. The questions I remember are what is a French seam, name three sheer fabrics, and what would you use an overlocker for. Standard sewing stuff, really, and I was more scared than I should have been because I managed to answer all the questions without drama!
After this, I then got an email inviting me to the next stage of auditions – this one was an actual face to face meeting at a location in London, but they only gave me a couple of days notice and the time/date weren’t flexible. Either you could attend what they offered, or you didn’t go. Simples. The date they gave me was in the last couple of weeks at my job, when I was handing over to the newbie, and I needed a whole morning off – unpaid – to attend. It was at this point that I really started to think about whether to proceed – I was starting a new job in a couple of weeks, and could I really go bowling in asking for erratic time off – unpaid time off at that, because I’d already used up all my paid leave on the NYC trip – as soon as I’d got through the door? Probably not.
I tried to do some research into filming schedules etc, but found very little other than they take two days to film one episode. And you know they ain’t all gonna be filmed on a weekend, so I would defo need to be asking for unpaid leave for this. If there’s eight episodes, that could be sixteen days of unpaid leave – over three weeks’ worth. That’s a big ask. And there’s likely zero flexibility on the days too, which would be a further problem – in finance, we have hard deadlines every month to report the results, and there’s no negotiation on these. Zero. Nip. Nada. So if a filming day fell over a reporting day, there would be problems.
In the end, I declined to participate any further through the audition process, because I couldn’t see how this could work for me and my current circumstances.
Next year, maybe.
2018 was the first year that I really discovered my passion for sewing and colour. I mean, sure – I’d always loved colourful (and slightly crazy) clothing, and it seemed I had a flair for pairing up colours and patterns, but it wasn’t until I started applying this to the things I made that I realised I might be on to something.
I’ve worked in finance literally all my life – my Mum always told me when I was younger to get a good job and don’t end up like me (she married young and didn’t have any formal qualifications) so that’s what I did. I originally wanted to be a lawyer, and got a job as a trainee legal secretary when I was 18, but it fell through at the last minute and instead I got a job at a firm of accountants. I was good at maths, so I figured that accountancy was a good shout 🤷🏻 I worked at that firm for eleven years, and I’ve made lifelong friendships from it which I treasure. But when it comes down to it, I chose finance because I was good at it and it allowed me to get a qualification and a good wage – not because I lived and breathed numbers and taxes (I’m pretty sure that nobody actually does). But like everyone else, you work a job and live for the weekends because that’s what life is about, right? You try to climb the corporate ladder because that’s what you’re told you are meant to do, and how far you get is how other people measure your success. People assumed that one day I would want to be CFO of some massive global corporation, but in truth my heart was never fully in it. I could never truly, honestly say ‘it’s my dream to be CFO one day’ and I couldn’t figure out why. This was the goal, right? To get to the top? It took me many, MANY years to figure out the reason that I didn’t want it – because it was someone else’s arbitrary measurement of success. It doesn’t consider how happy and fulfilled it makes you as a person, it’s all about other people’s perceptions of how well you’re doing. And worrying about what other people think is way, way down on my priorities list.
I realise now that the corporate ladder isn’t for me, and never was – I’ve jumped ship and found my own ladder.
I’m excited to say that as of February 1st next year, I will – for the first time in my life – not be working full-time. I am going to reduce my days from five days a week, to four. Fridays are going to be dedicated to growing the Etsy store. Because in my heart, I feel like creating things is what I was born to do. Sure, it seems like putting all those years of study in and then swapping one fifth of the salary I worked hard to get to sew bags with skulls on them is a bit lolz, but I wouldn’t be at this point without everything that came before it. Literally everything that’s happened in my life has led to this point, from my 16th birthday when my Mum bought me my first sewing machine for no apparent reason (thanks, Mum), to taking that job where I met a colleague who sewed her own clothes and encouraged me to give it a go myself, to taking that other job where a colleague nagged me to start a blog. I made her a wash bag as a thank you for forcing me to start this blog, and that in turn sparked the birth of the Etsy shop. And now I have this job which has allowed me to reduce my hours and focus on growing that shop. And I even think that if I asked them for erratic time off next year to apply for the Great British Sewing Bee… they might just be okay with that too. But let’s see 🤪
I’ve got an absolute boat load of new fabrics and products to launch on the shop, so I’m really excited – watch this space 👀
UK CRAFT SHOW SCENE
Shows-wise, I didn’t attend any this year. For about the last twenty years or so – maybe more – I’d always attended the Knitting and Stitching Show at Alexandra Palace (with my mum, until she passed away, and then with Aaron after that) but I gave up on the annual trip a couple of years back because I just wasn’t very impressed with the stalls on offer there. As a trade-off though, this year I did get to go shopping in New York City, Philadelphia and Paris – which is DEFINITELY winning in my book (although a LOT more expensive than attending a couple of shows in London!)
I’m not planning on attending any shows next year, either – partly because I really DO NOT NEED ANY MORE FABRIC. Repeat – I DO NOT NEED ANY MORE FABRIC.
RUN FORREST, RUN
After my injury at the start of the year, it was a long time before I was allowed to start running (or indeed, do any form of exercising), and it drove me crazy. A short while after I got back into running, I injured my hip, and then my thigh a bit later. I literally wanted to just curl up and eat Ben and Jerry’s and feel sorry for myself. I’ve now realised – and accepted – that my body has been through a lot this year, and although we used to run double-digit miles at the weekend I can’t just ‘pick up where I left off’. Strength has to be rebuilt. Our bodies are amazing things, and I need to just give it time to do its thing and not push it too hard. So I’m starting back at the bottom and working my way back up – gentle runs over shorter distances. If I’m feeling frustrated, I just think back to the start of the year when I couldn’t run at all, and I’m instantly grateful that I *can* run. Even if just for short distances. Because there was a time when I couldn’t – at all. Sure, I’m not particularly fast, and I never will be (I’m not built for running, really) but I run because I enjoy it – not because I want to break land speed records. I’ve put running leggings into my 2019 Make Nine so that I can run in some amazeballs tights!
I’ve also come to realise that health and wellbeing – both physical and mental – are so SO important.
We only get one life, and one body, and we need to look after it. Too many people are neglecting themselves, whether directly or indirectly. Stress, especially workplace stress, has effects on us that I’m sure are way more far-reaching than we understand. Longer commutes, longer working hours, convenience food – all these things take their toll, and we have to sit down and think about the reason that we’re putting ourself through it – is it worth it? If it’s your lifelong dream to be CEO of a huge global corporation, then yes maybe it’s worth it, to reach your dream. Likewise if you’re studying for a qualification, a year or two of hard work might pay off in the future. At the moment, me and Aaron are basically working two jobs, but the aim of that is to build a business that can one day support us both, so that we don’t have long commutes to jobs where we work for someone else. So that we can have more enjoyable days, together, and do work that makes us happy.
You could say that 2018 has been our mid-life crisis year 🤣 Things happened that brought a few harsh realisations to light, and made us question what we were doing rather than just cruising on autopilot. But that’s a good thing. I’m also making the pledge to sew more considerately – patterns and fabrics will be chosen carefully, and matched to wardrobe needs. Yes, I’m still gonna make some Alexander Henry stuff just because, but you’ve got to have a little fun, right?
All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.
Julia of Charczerka created the #worthofsewing hashtag in December, the launch of which she very kindly invited me to participate in (and I totes wanted to) but the Christmas Etsy orders basically took over my life and I wasn’t able to take part in the end 🤦🏻♀️
The idea was to post up a finished make and ask people to guess the amount of time it took you – in total, including every single minute you spent on it, whether that was choosing fabric, tracing the pattern, or daydreaming about modifications.
Sewists will probably be able to make an educated guess at a garment, but the general public will probably be waaaay out. After all, if a basic vest costs less than £2 in a high street shop, then it’s obviously super quick to make and can be done in about thirty seconds right? 😡
I thought it was a great idea though, to really highlight the time spent on each make – not just the actual sewing, but all the time spent choosing the patterns, the fabric, prewashing the fabric, and cutting the fabric. All those things that have to happen before you can even start sewing. Too often, people seem to be under the impression that sewing your own clothes should be cheaper than buying them in them shops (erm, no, not necessarily) and that if they pay you to make them something then they in turn expect to pay less than they’d spend in the stores, because you’re a ‘hobbyist’.
(Don’t even get me started on all of the above points. Fast fashion has a LOT to answer for).
There’s a fabulously analytical breakdown of the time spent on her dress in her blog post.
Most Read Posts in 2018
So my top five most-read posts in 2018 were:
Fabric shopping at Goldhawk Road (this was second place last year!)
My ‘meh’ Hinterland dress
Seems like you guys love a bit of fabric shopping porn! Plus that hideous
maternity dress Hinterland Dress that I made recently as well. (Which, by the way, has been donated to find itself a new home). Also high on the list are pictures of the Handsome Husbeast in his posh wool coat that I made him… seems like a bit of eye candy helps things along 👀🍬 Maybe I’ll make him some more underwear… 😜
Instagram Top Nine
My top nine on Instagram were these beauties:
Clockwise from top left:
The insides of my vintage Simplicity coat
In-progress République Du Chiffon Jolaine shirt
Another Kielo Dress!
The Opium coat… again
And finally, the Handsome Husbeast in that vintage Kwik Sew coat 😍
Etsy Sales Map
Look at this fun little map of where all my Etsy orders have shipped to! 🙌🏻
THE WORLD OF WANDERSTITCH
There’s currently 414 of you receiving my weekly emails – WOW! I never imagined that anyone would read my ramblings, let alone that many of you! It genuinely, wholeheartedly makes me so happy to know that you guys enjoy reading the blog. I’ve never, ever considered myself a writer, so when people say they enjoy my writing style it makes me go yaaaaaaaaay 🙌🏻
At the start of Wanderstitch, I never really thought about whether I could write a blog post or not – the actual writing was bottom of the very long list of things I had to figure out, including how to use WordPress and how to get my words and pictures onto an actual web page 🤷🏻🤣 I just took the approach of hearing in my head how I would say things and then that’s what gets typed 😂 So I’m really happy that people enjoy it! I love it when people tell me that reading the weekly Wanderstitch post is part of their Sunday routine 💜
So THANK YOU – all of you – for every minute you’ve spent reading the blog, for every comment, and for every like!
Bye Christmas, oh hai new year
I hope you all had a restful Christmas. We stayed at home, which suited us down to the ground because we were both hit with colds. I’ve lost count of how many honey/lemon/ginger/turmeric drinks I’ve made recently, but let’s just say I’m on the fifth jar of honey and the poor bees are working overtime. Don’t worry, I’ll plant some bee-flowers to say thanks 🐝🌺
We’re spending our evenings curled up on the sofa with the doggos snoring away. Christmas for us isn’t a big deal – we’re not religious, and we don’t do cards or presents for each other. The cards just go in the bin, so what’s the point? We can say merry Christmas face to face 🎅🏼
For me, I’m grateful to have the company of my favourite human being, our health, a warm bed, and the smell of a stew cooking in the oven. Call me boring, but there isn’t a massive tree with presents underneath (there’s literally no room for that anyway), or any considerable excess of eating (why do people buy SO MUCH FOOD?!).
It’s also that time of year when it makes me sad to see that Christmas, for some people, can be gauged on the level of gifts they receive (or don’t), rather than the gifts that they already have. Knowing where your next meal is coming from is a gift that some people would give everything to have. Knowing that you have a safe and warm place to sleep is another. Having your health is never something to be taken for granted – it was at Christmas time many years ago that my Mum was told she had ovarian cancer (and it went downhill from there, sadly). It might be because I’m getting older… I dunno. Maybe it’s the way the world is going.
The seemingly little things you take for granted can be taken away from you like THAT, so take a moment to focus on all the wonderful things that you have. Go hug your favourite humans and animals.
When I started this blog, I’ll admit that I didn’t really have any clear idea of what it was going to focus on (I know – sewing, obvs, but bear with me here). I had been reading sewing blogs before launching mine, to see what kind of thing was already out there and what people talked about… and to be honest I only found a few that I really liked – that ticked all of my boxes.
I found some sewing blogs that didn’t actually appear to be about the actual sewing – more like ‘look at this thing I made – isn’t it pretty – okay BYE!’. This left me feeling… cheated. Like I’d come there to see the process, the fabric, the techniques used, and all I’d got were a few full length finished photos. Which would be great for more of a fashion blog, where the focus is the actual garment and how you can style it etc etc, but what about the creation of it? The hours you’ve just put in to making it?
Plus, where’s all the details? I especially like to read blog posts from others on projects that I’m about to start, to give me a heads up on possible traps and alternative methods that might work out better. I want to learn from others that have walked the path before me – so I like the nerdy details, the close up pictures, the photos of a particular bit of the instructions that maybe isn’t explained so well with words. That’s why I try to document all of this in my posts – I want people to get an idea of the whole process, from start to finish. If I chose the wrong fabric, I tell people about it, so that others can avoid making the same mistake. If there’s something misleading in the instructions, I highlight it so that others are forewarned and forearmed.
I also found that many others have MUCH shorter blog posts than I tend to have. Sometimes I feel like they are over before I’ve actually started getting in to it. This could be personal preference though… a lot of websites that give ‘advice on blogging’ tend to say that the sweet spot of a blog post length is 500 words. That’s really not a lot – all of my posts are over a thousand words, and some are more than two thousand. If you’ve read everything in this post all the way down to here, you’ve already hit four thousand. Five hundred is nothing, especially when you’re talking about an uber-complex full length coat that you’ve just spent six weeks making. Surely it deserves more than five hundred words?
Perhaps it’s just me. Maybe there are people out there that don’t like my blog because I talk so much, and they prefer the shorter posts. People are busy, after all – they might not have time to read three thousand words. I totally get that. I mean – I could probably cut down my blog writing time considerably if I kept all my posts to five hundred words a pop, but I JUST. COULDN’T. DO. IT. Nope. I’m an all-or-nothing kind of girl. You either get an essay from me, or you get nothing at all. I’m not one to half-ass stuff. And if you don’t have the time to read my ramblings? That’s cool, too. You can still get your sewing fix from the other, shorter blog posts that are out there. It’s not a one-size-fits-all kinda gig – you can’t be everyone’s cup of tea.
So now it’s your turn – I’d like your thoughts please… what do you particularly enjoy about the blog? What would you like to see more of? Is there something missing from the blog that you’d enjoy? Is there something you’d like to see approached differently? Don’t be shy! Good or bad, I want your feedback 👍🏻
Out With The Old, In With The New
I hope you guys have a wonderful New Year, however you’re spending it – with these rubbish colds that we’ve got, I think that an uber-boring quiet night in with a reasonable bedtime is going to be on the cards, espesh as we’ve got to go back to work on the Wednesday. Going in to central London on new year’s eve, in the cold, and then fighting with the crowds to get on public transport to come back home is my idea of hell 🤣 Plus, I hate leaving the doggos home alone when I know that there’s going to be fireworks let off – Fry, bless him, gets proper scared. Over bonfire night, he tore apart a whole 10kg bag of cat litter, and we came home to a sea of clay lumps on the carpet. But it suits me fine to stay home on NYE and give him a cuddle, so everyone wins.
(Dog cuddles are a big thing in my house – this was me earlier in the week, all sniffly and full of cold, with Leela keeping me warm 💕)
If you started reading this post after 7pm, there’s a legit chance that the clock has struck midnight and it’s 2019 already. I think this might be my longest post ever. If you made it to the end – woooop! You’re a trooper!
Now, go and get your new year’s party started – in whatever form it’s gonna take. I’ve got a blanket to fetch and a cup of tea to make, and then I’ll be settling down for the day. I wish you all lots of love, luck and happiness for 2019 – see you on the other side! 😎
Next week on the Wanderstitch blog… my first post of 2019! Starting off the year with the Wonderland Skirt ✂️ Subscribe below to make sure you don’t miss out! 👇🏻