Monday, March 12, 2018

Instagram - a learning curve

I joined Instagram ages ago but have to be honest I never quite got to grips with it for ages. My daughter would have to step me through how to post things and then by the time I decided to have another go I'd have forgotten what I was doing and she would have to step me through it all over again.

I never got it and couldn't figure out why so many people were enamoured with it and some podcasters (ok Stephanie at Modern Sewciety mostly) would rave about it. I just didn't get it.

When I opened the Etsy shop for Handmade With Love I figured I should get serious about it as it seems that it was one way that I could promote the shop and hopefully drive some activity and sales. Another crash course by Fangirl, in how to work it and I was away. I changed the name to reflect the fact that it was connected with Handmade With Love and started to try to post stuff on there about the shop. I had to learn a lot about hashtags (they used to really annoy me to be honest) and I am still learning. My account probably needs a lot of polishing but I guess like me, its a work in progress. 

Trying to attract more followers has been interesting. I joined an Australian loop - where you post a certain post and then are encouraged to follow other people that like it etc... that has worked to an extent although to be honest I have ended up following and having followers that aren't really my demographic... lots of mummy instagramers - especially ones who are promoting their child and trying to get "brand reps" etc. So I am rather ambivalent about it. Yes I have attracted more followers (up to 680)but it hasn't had a corresponding increase in people liking or commenting on my posts or visiting my Etsy shop. And some how it feels a bit icky to me... mothers pimping out their kids for free stuff. I'm thinking of culling who I follow... but then I do like to see my numbers growing. If they are prolific posters that end up clogging my feed with posts I am not interested in I may well give them the flick. Sigh. Its hard to know

Something that I have been joining in and really enjoying since the beginning of March has been a hashtag called March Meet the Maker (#marchmeetthemaker). Set up by Joanne Hawker its a month long challenge where each day the makers on Instagram have a topic to engage in on their Instagram account.

I'm finding it really interesting learning about lots of other makers out there on Instagram. Boy there are a lot of them. Its also challenging to come up with the photos and content for my own posts. It was extra challenging to start with as I was away from home so couldn't take more photos - had to rely on the photos I had with me - what fun!

I also am taking part in #igquiltfest run by Amy Ellis. Again there is a month long list of prompts for posts.

 I am not really enjoying this one as much although it is also interesting. Its all quilts so not so much variety and maybe at the moment I am not so into quilting.

Anyway - so are you on Instagram? My handle is handmadewithloveorh if you want to find me and follow me. I'm there a bit more often than I am here these days.

Thursday, March 1, 2018

Blogging from A to Z challenge 2018 I'm in

Last year, after the Blogging from A to Z challenge I barely blogged for months - or for the rest of the year to be honest. Its taken till this month for me to get back into the swing of posting even a little. After 3 years of the challenge plus lots of other blogging I just petered out. Life got busy. I travelled. I got very involved in Handmade With Love and sewing for Comic Con and Supanova. I didn't seem to have much of a following and frankly figured who would miss me.

I still wrote blogs in my head at times but never got them onto the computer. Sometimes I made it to the computer but didn't get the photos taken ... or edited... or uploaded. It just got too hard.

I have gradually got back to it this month of February... 3 posts in a week. I was on fire (Lol) I looked at my stats - the visits that I had over the week and I was astounded by the number I had. I mean I am by no means setting the world on fire or creating new records but well yes I was... for me anyway. People were reading my blog (at least visiting it) and that has been encouraging. Not commenting though. No one is commenting (hint hint)

And I thought... maybe I could blog regularly again. I was definitely NOT going to enter the A to Z challenge again. I blamed it for my walking away from my blogging. Then I looked back at my A to Z posts from last year and saw I had 250 plus visits. As I say - maybe not earth shattering for many bloggers - small fry to many but for me that was fantastic. So yeah - maybe I would enter again and if nothing else it might get me back blogging again.

So - today of all days, when we are going to be hosting an engagement party for a friend, when we have so many things to get done, when we are going away for several days tomorrow... I have decided that I would enter the challenge and what is more have started to draft some of my entries. Not what I need to be doing and with that I will sign off. With no pictures to pretty this blog up. So I am going to leave it at that. Post this as is and dive into my busy day but I will be back. 

See you all again soon

Monday, February 26, 2018


I'm really excited to be going to Zambia later this year - May to be precise! I will be accompanying Peggy, the former co-ordinator of Handmade With Love for a 3 week visit to the school that Handmade With Love was established to support ie Our Rainbow House. Peggy and I have both begun the process of having our innoculations, getting the required paperwork that the charity requires (including a police check!) but we haven't booked our flights yet!

We have started to discuss what we are going to need to take with us - our bags will be filled up by the charity here with things that they want us to take over, as well as our own personal bits and pieces.

Whilst in an African frame of mind I have added some items with an African theme to our Etsy shop. 

Firstly there is the jewelery that was handmade in the village that our school is in and bought by previous volunteers for us to sell. Purchasing these items doubly benefits the local community as all profits from their sale goes back to the school. 

Beautiful bangles


And gorgeous earrings




 I just love them. 

Then there are some iPad/table sleeves made from fabric bought in the village. These are beautiful, functional and inexpensive. Check them out. You know you want to. (Cute factor... there are Zebras on some) 


Yet to be photographed we have some children's dresses, some lamp shades, and some kitchen ware - all made in genuine African fabric. There just isn't enough time in the day to get the photography, editing and uploading done.

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Etsy Shop

Ever since I became involved with sewing for Handmade With Love my daughter Ros aka Fangirl, has been suggesting that I set up an Etsy shop to sell our goodies. People have been asking if they can purchase our things online but it always seemed too hard. 

In September I ran a stall for Handmade With Love at Brisbane Comicon.

I shared the stall with Earthyyou

We did okay for first timers, but I sold almost as much online via my Facebook page, to my friends (and their friends). I also got asked numerous times if people could buy our stuff online. Directing them to the Public Album on my Facebook page was my only option and to be honest that was a bit awkward. With my friends (and their friends) I could post and then tell them what the postage was and then they paid me. I wasn't sure I wanted to do that with random strangers.

Cosplayers at Comic Con. It was an eye opener and to be honest I had to ask my younger family members who the characters were many times.

 I did recognise this guy

So I asked Fangirl if she would help me set up an Etsy shop. She sells her wonderful patterns and kits (she designs geeky cross stitch patterns - see my side bar) But to do that we needed decent photos of my stock and we didn't have time to take all the photos.... so we left it. I was sure I could do it on my own - it was supposed to be very user friendly.

Eventually we arrived home from our gadding about and after a week or so to unpack, settle in, sew the orders that I had received post Comic Con (from friends via Facebook ) I decided it was time to conquor Etsy.

First I had to take those photos and to do that I needed to make a light box. (Essential for good photos Fangirl told me). Pinterest here I come. I found a number of good tutorials, and as we DIYers and makers are wont - I ended up with a mishmash of several blogs. I was going to photograph my process and write my own tutorial - but why bother when there are a number of excellent free tutorials out there already. 

Before I photographed all my stuff I thought that I would set up the shop. I got as far as name and thought "Do I put my name or the name of the group? Should I use my email or set up a special one..." panic set in. Well not quite panic but worry so I messaged Fangirl Like the sweetheart she is she ended up ringing me back that night (I had by this time messaged her about 4 things to do with the shop). She sent me a link to set up a shop (by using it we both got some free listings so that was good) and then stayed on the phone and stepped me through the whole process. What a treasure.

Lightbox made it was time to photograph. I only have my Iphone camera these days and it did a pretty good job. I took a photo, sometimes 2 (to give the side view) of all my zipper pouches and bits and pieces. Then I edited all the ones of large zipper pouches. I was ready to start uploading them. I put them all up, struggling with the tagging, and the composing of each description (till I worked out that since they were all the same, just different fabrics I could copy and paste each one. I'm not really slow)

Before going to bed that night I posted a link to my shop on Facebook and announced the opening of the shop. Once more my friends were so supportive. (Yay friends). I had asked for feedback and they gave me lots of positive stuff and a few suggestions for improvements. I especially appreciated the feedback I got from a couple of regular Etsy users who gave me ideas for tags. One suggested that I tell people that the bags were lined and to include a photo of the lining. Great ideas... but it meant I had to photograph everything again.

When photographing the interiors I decided that including some props would also show their uses and give an idea of size. So that meant photographing everything several times... which meant lots more photos to edit and upload.

However the effort has been worth it. The shop entries are looking more professional than ever.

I got the shop up and running in time for Brisbane Supanova in November. I got more help from Earthyyu who designed a business card for Handmade With Love and all our links. 

I felt very professional handing out these spiffy little cards!

Mr Bean! I recognised him at Supanova

Had to take a photo of this cos player as they were one of the characters that my talented Earthyyu had produced a picture of. I admit to not knowing who they are. Bad stall sharer that I am

Getting things uploaded has taken a long time. Initially I only uploaded the things I had made for Handmade With Love, the things I take to Comic Con and Supanova. Now that I am now co-ordinator for Handmade With Love in its entirety I have all the stock at my place and my next project is to photograph and upload more of our stock, including some jewellery made in the village that our school is in. 

just 2 of the bangles already in our Etsy Shop

The earrings will be added shortly. The Bangles and the earrings are $8 each.

Please go on over and check out the Etsy shop for Handmade With Love. Its called Handmade With Love ORH as Handmade With Love was already taken. (ORH stands for Our  Rainbow House) All profits from the Handmade With Love go to Our Rainbow House, the school in Zambia that we support.

Now its February

Eek February. So much for my goal of getting back to blogging regularly. Life continues to be busy but once upon a time I had 4 kids at home, was working as a supply teacher regularly and my husband was working long hours so not at home to help out as much. Now we are retired empty nesters and some days I am still so busy. Well too busy to blog it seems.

I had a quick trip to Brisbane and Sydney at the end of January to see family. My sister Joy has MND (Motor Neurone Disease) and I am getting in as many visits to her as I can. My mum is also 95 so frequent visits to her are also essential. Joy has been been a patchworker longer than I. She is still sewing. She makes simple quilts that are given to refugees through Sydney's House of Welcome. Because of her detirorating health she can no longer get down on the floor to pin her quilts (and she doesn't have a table) so each time I visit her I pin the quilts that she has ready. She then quilts them and now she has friends from a quilting group who are helping her bind them. Over the visits I made in September, November and January I together with my my trusty minion (I had a different one each time) pinned a total of 22 quilts. Here's a photo of me pinning quilts with my latest minions, My definitely non crafty oldest sister Beth and Joy's daughter Jude

Joy in the background, Beth and I on the ground pinning! Notice how we were all so colour co-ordinated. The 3 sisters all in blue, pinning a blue quilt and even a blue quilt on the couch (that one I made my bil for his 70th birthday)

My niece and I pinning. No quite so colour co-ordinated this time but Jude and I matched up in our black. Joy also was wearing a black and white top.

I have taken over as co-ordinator of the Handmade With Love group but so far that has just entailed taking possession of all the stock for sale and getting the forms to change the bank signatories. Not a whole heap. I have started to take photographs of the stock to put onto the Etsy shop. That is going to be a long process. I have to represent the group to the monthly meetings of the Our Rainbow House and present a report. We are also on Facebook if you want to look us up and follow us there Our Rainbow House Handmade With Love.

Speaking of the Etsy shop have you popped in to check out what we have there? Please do. Even if you don't buy anything if you could favourite the shop and some items in it that would be great - it helps bump us up the algorithms and directs more traffic to our site. Sales have been steady - not huge but ticking over a bit.

Exciting news on the travel front is that I am off to Zambia in May to visit the school, "Our Rainbow House" that we support. I am going with Peggy, the former co-ordinator of Handmade With Love.

Peggy and I - off to Zambia in May

We will work together in the school with the kids and staff - maybe some sewing, some music, some teaching, - not exactly sure what we are going to do... probably all of the above and a whole lot more. I am not sure how much in the way of photographs I am going to be able to put on the blog, especially of the children themselves, as the charity is very strict about privacy to protect the children but I'm hopeful that I will be able to share some of the experience with you.

We are also off to Fiji in July for a wedding so that is going to be exciting too.

The latest project I have been working on for Handmade With Love have been produce bags, to use in the fruit and vegie section of the supermarket. Our state (Queensland) is banning single use plastic bags at the point of sale later this year and it is promting awareness of the use of plastics. A tv show "War on Waste" has also been instrumental in raising awareness of ... well waste.  Anyway I made a set of 6 bags and a little pouch to put them in. I put a photo of them on Facebook and asked my friends if they would be interested in buying them at 6 of $10.

 In 5 days I had orders for 35 sets!! I sewed madly for the next week.

Initially I used up some lace curtaining and netting which I had on hand and then I went to the local second hand shops and purchased a couple more curtains and a bag of netting scraps. I made 24 sets from those. I  bought some more netting from Spotlight and made the rest of the bags I needed. I had hoped to have some left over to put on Etsy but as I sewed and posted updates on my progress I kept getting more orders and thus all 36 sets I made were ordered. 

The price is going to go up after this as in order to have a consistent product on Etsy I will be using new fabric. From now on they will be $15. I don't mind that my friends got a bargain. Many of them have been very generous supporters of the charity over the years. Its been a crazy few weeks. 

To be honest the reason I took the photos was to put on this blog. I had started writing this post and mentioned the bags and thought I should photograph them... once they were photographed I decided to share them on Instagram and then shared it to Facebook as well. Things got so crazy so quickly I didn't get back to finishing this blog.... and then I had to rewrite a heap. Talk about crazy.

If you are interested in buying some produce bags you can drop me a line... or wait till I get them up on Etsy and order that way. I'll let you know when we actually go live with them. (if I ever get through my back orders)

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Happy New Year

Happy New Year - yes a bit late but well... its still January at any rate. I haven't blogged much since April last year. All sorts of reasons for that mostly I have been incredibly busy.

With the new year I am hoping that I can get myself motivated and back into it.

I have been on Instagram a fair bit (going over to the dark side?) My handle there is @Handmadewithloveorh so if you Instagram why not check me out and start following me.

In September last year Handmade With Love had a stall at Brisbane Comic Con. It was lots of work and lots of fun too. I shared the table with Earthyyu, my son's partner (formerly known on this blog as Gamer Girl). I was selling zipper pouches and bags made from a range of licensed geeky fabrics. Check out her Instagram account here and her online shop at Store Envy

Earthyyu sold prints, stickers and charms which she had designed and produced. We worked hard and enjoyed the amazing spectacle that is Cosplay. 

We did it all again in November at Brisbane Supanova. We've signed up for Gold Coast Supanova in April, (super excited cause Peter Capaldi the 12th Doctor from Doctor Who is going to be there.) We have also applied for Brisbane Comic Con in September. Currently sewing madly to get my stock up - especially lots of Doctor Who fabrics.

Loved meeting this friendly dalek at Brisbane. He was pretty cheeky though.

I have also, with the help of my daughter, Fangirl (from Fangirl Stitches) set up an Etsy shop for Handmade With Love. So far it has only got the stuff that I have sewn in it - the things I make to sell at Comic Con and Supanova but I am planning to also put some of the other "non geeky" products we have sewn....when I get some time. The shop is I'd love you to check it out... maybe favourite a few items... or buy something! All profits go to support Our Rainbow House