90. the one with the very important business of pricing

when i first started making & selling my work, years ago now, i found pricing a fucking nightmare.
on all the helpful websites, there was the formulas of: this plus that, plus a decent hourly wage. and then you times by something and then double it. complicated mathsmaths.

there were the lovely friend-colleagues & customers who understood that i didn’t learn free motion embroidery off of a youtube video one day – that i’d actually been sewing since Ago, plus i’d suffered through an entire degree at Embroidery University.
they thought i should charge more. <3

but there were also the Angry People who insisted that by not obeying the law of mathsmaths formula, by under-charging, i was doing an evil disservice to everyone who’s trying to earn a proper living from making. i was reducing its worth. *tut*
they thought i should charge more.

<tbf, they’re probably doing something a lot more commercially viable than me.
because show me the person who will pay £324623mathsmaths x2 for a handmade embroidered bookmark, and i will show you an emperor with no clothes who probably doesn’t read paperbacks anyway>

it was all SO CONFUSING and i tried all manner of combinations of advices.
but, finally, after all these years, i have it figured out! …or do i?
AND IT’S SO SIMPLE! …or izzit?

this month i’ve been scribbling & fiddling, updating some old designs; like these fancy zombie ladies with their fresh florals for spring 2018.

floral zombie applique

^ as ever, when it came to actually cutting out all the teeny tiny bits, i realised i was being mental. it took a good 5 hours just to get all the microscopic parts snipped & in place ready for stitching.

then each little lady took an hour to embroider, with all the stop/start of the intricates. roughly one bobbin per beauty. that is a lot of stitching-metres.
floral zombie free motion embroidery

but it didn’t matter because IN THE ZONE,
being ON FIRE

<… that night, 3am: shoulders & neck ACTUALLY *on fire* from Too Much hours of best sewing angle contortion-ry… morphs into migraine…. delirious kicky-feet fever dreams…
what was i thinking oh i hope i still have time to make bunnies for easter maybe i’m having a stroke god i’d kill for a cup of tea right now why am i visualising the floor plans for a house i looked at on right move yesterday maybe i should start charging for materials what if i AM having a stroke what was the name of that guy who was in that film we watched  … 
lose sunday & monday lying on the couch with a migraine hangover and very closed eyes. >

tuesday: right. back to work!
bookmarks. and wtfpricing.
so far, each one has taken… rounding down… approx. 3 hours. “SO FAR.”
and what even *is* minimum wage these days? mine should be less because pyjamas and netflix. but also, mustn’t forget commission, listing & selling fees…
what if i price them at £15? that’s like £5 per hour. ish.
that seems like a fair price for a special bookmark?

it doesn’t take long to make up the finished item, so i’ll just disappear that half hour(ish) from my mathsmaths formula.

free motion embroidery bookmarks handmade

^ as ever, when it came to actually pinning, backing, cutting, measuring, sewing, trimming, turning, pressing, topstitching, pressing again, i realised i was being a mathsmaths-stupidstupid. Y, it only takes an hour to make up a couple… but i was not making “a couple”.

another 2 bobbins and a day later…
handmade embroidered bookmarks

18x beautiful and/or very spesh freehand embroidered bird / sheep / zombie textile bookmarks all ready to be photo-ed & listed for sale. once i’ve decided about prices.

birds zombie sheep bookmark.jpg

i still don’t have a fucking clue what i’m doing.

***edit: bookmarks are available here fiona t.


89. the one where it’s suddenly 2018

< time passes >

suddenly! it is 2018 and i have a 3 year old border collie called cassie.

everything is different now, everything has changed.
but last week, we were back here again

colours and textures
and i was pleased to note
that, actually, everything is the same.

annie cassie

^ me & annie (2013)                                                ^ me & cassie (2017)

everything is different, but everything is the same.

annie cassie 2

^ annie (2009)                                                           ^ cassie (2018)

87. the one with the bathroom – part 1

(subtitle: “the one where the bathroom does not occur.” in fact, i’ll hardly mention the bathroom at all)

a few years ago i painted the landing outside our bedroom.
typically, the job was never really finished because the shelf didn’t want to go back on the crumbly walls, and with nowhere to stack overflow books (we have a system), we just stuffed things into the cupboard, crammed it into boxes, progressed to “tidy piles”… before it inevitably deteriorated into a general dumping area for everything.


if only there was some way of fixing that shelf to the wall

meanwhile, we’d booked the builders to come and sort out our bathroom.
much excitement! for the first time we were paying actual proper professionals to come and do an actual proper job – no personal faff or injuries or lengthy incovenience(s).
i knew i couldn’t keep up the sewing part of my life if i couldn’t potter about in Clean & wash my hands obsessively throughout the day, so i decided to shut down for the month BACK IN FEBRUARY.
and because, hey! that’d give me time out to sort all the crap on the landing and fix the shelf!

i might as well be thorough with the 40 years worth of “treasure” that needed sorting
i might as well paint the wooden cupboard as i’ve been wanting to do for years
i might as well fix the hairline cracks on the old plaster
i might as well give the walls a fresh coat of paint
while i’m at it.

fucked thwarted at the first hurdle.
“hmmm. now where might be the small tin of wood primer, i wonder”
instagram shed

1. stupid, annoying little things that can wrong… for eg, i’d done far too good a job on that damn cupboard the first time round – so smooth and glowing with wax, it wouldn’t take a coat of paint despite litres of thinners and all of the sanding.
careful application of masking tape to protect the precious carpet stripped lengths of new paintwork off when it did adhere.
the hinges no longer fitted when i reconstructed the thing.
let alone the doors.

2. being my own worst enemy… for eg, adding additional hurdles. oh hey, the shed’s a bit of a mess after 12 years of hoarding every building supply ever, let’s hire a skip and spend the entire weekend clearing it out so we can go inside of the door again.
oh hey, since i’m in painting mode anyway, shall we buy that chest of drawers for the bedroom that we’ve been talking about forever?

3. everything just being awkward… for eg, not having anywhere to work… apart from on the floor beside and/or at the foot of the bed, woodwork arranged on top of lengths of christmas wrapping paper so we could drag sticky wet painty things aside and step over the towers of stuff-from-on-the-landing crap just to get into bed at night.

meanwhile, additional surprise hurdles
“hi, your new front door is fiiiiiiinally ready to be fitted”
^ the “after” picture is the one on the right. the one where the door isn’t entirely held together by mould, daylight & gripfill. just in case you weren’t sure.

excellent! i’ll get started on painting the door as well then…new door
…and while that’s drying, i might like to paint the chimney alcoves in the bedroom before arranging the new chest of drawers…

*chaotic frenzy of doing all the things at once* <– incidently, this is the moment i decided i ought to start blogging again :)

so as march whooshes towards its end and i’m itching to get back to my sewings;
the door is mostly painted, inside & out. (but not the frame. that is for next month maybe)
invisible green door

the bedroom is clean and painted and there is 7% extra storage space

the landing JUST NEEDS A F**%ING SHELF and for my daddy to please come and rehang the cupboard doors so they open and close like they used to before i had one of my stupid Good Ideas.

to summarise then; all i had intended to do this month was fit a shelf that was strong enough to store a few books and comics upon.
FURTHERMORE i was only doing that as a filler job while the builders were here constructing my new bathroom.


to be continued? *hopeful*

86. the one where i stopped. and then start.

on a day by day (or hour by hour) basis, during regular normal life, my ‘mazing mood swings look like this


and for the most part, i enjoy the ride.

but when actual depression takes hold, i get stuck under the horizontal axis of the graph, thus:
everything and nothing conspire against me and i’m trapped, tap-tapping along the bottom there, still looking for a way back up but… exhaustion, apathy, irrational thoughts, agoraphobia…

then! magical anti depressants:

i’ve been bouncing off the meh-line for the last couple of years which has been good
(like, who/whatever had been standing on me finally climbed off.
like, doing simple tasks didn’t take all day every day nor require every bit of willpower and stamina that i had.
like, having a rest from the crazy so i could just get on and do *something*)
and it was also useful, as most of 2014 was dedicated to end of life care for my beloved anakin collie.

me & annie

anakin was my very best pal and constant companion during the last 15+ years, so to say 2014 was “hard” is an understatement. also, Husband ‘n i had put Eveything Else on hold, so 2014 was some kind of miserable limbo.

wait, it wasn’t like everything was shit! there was happy times and plentiful good things and so many extraordinary kindnesses – but it was haaaaaaard. and ever so limbo-y.
and after she died, everything was weird and different and peculiar for a long time

but 2015 arrived and for ages my graph has mostly been like

which was getting kinda boring and so very frustrating because
things occurring!

so i’m taking a chance off the pills

and i’m looking forward to feeling things, and getting on with all of the things, new & old, because
things occurring!

but i will miss this special face every day <3
annie teatime

“ain’t no shame in holding on to grief, as long as you make room for other things too” – bubbles, off of the wire.

85. the one with the mummies

mummies “the journey”
**as always, this is not a “how to” or a tutorial so please do NOT share on m**$*%effing pinterest. thankyouplease :) fiona t mummies mar14

for a while there,  i had to take myself off into internet-seclusion due to ongoing personal kerfuffles.
i find that just sitting in front of the telly, “not working”, is usually the best time for coming up with new ideas. and with no orders or other projects going on at the moment, i was able to keep playing and tinkering with these until they were just as my brain had described them to me.

i’d doodled some veeeery rough ideas back at the beginning of the year… for valentine’s day, mother’s day and easter… never knowing if i’d find time to develop them further
initial idea mummiesterrible drawings

(i’ve sneaky-pixelled out the easter things ^ just in case i get to them, and the valentines day pandas – which i was super happy with – are long gone. i never even blogged about them because there are only about 3 hours in the day at the moment)
red valentines panda
romantical valentine’s pandas

the next stage when i’m making something new, is endless fails.
if i was sensible, i would just draw the detail onto fabric with biro while i work on shape & construction (thus saving all of the cutting, sticking & embroiderering hours).
but i’m 1. not sensible, and
2. unable to visualise things exactly until they are right there in my eyes & in my hands

mummies product development
lumpy long legged fail mummies

after that stage, it’s back to the drawing board.
many, many times.

mummies redraw
super technical final drawing

next i build a “rough copy” that i’m happy with…
first mummyfirst mummy 

*whispering* at this stage i sometimes like to confer with my art-friends.
“is this rubbish? i think it’s funny and good but what if it’s rubbish? is it a crap idea? …and should i go with multi coloured bandages or keep it traditional?”
it’s good to have a small, trusted group that – for just 18p! – will give you honest feedback & suggestions before you unleash potential insanity onto the internet :)

next, i spent a fun day ruining my best pyjamas in the pursuit of the perfect hand dyed corpse colourdyed mummies50 shades of grey-blue (or, 8. 8 shades of grey-blue)

and then just 4837457989 hours later, presto! 4 dress rehearsal mummies embroidered, sewed, stuffed ‘n wrapped!
fiona t mummies mar14_2

kerfuffle circumstances allowing, i’ll be starting work on a small batch of these this afternoon so that they’re ready in time. of course, mummies are for life – not just for mother’s day.
**edit: there are still a couple available here

84. oh, hello 2014. here so soon!? giveaway (NOW CLOSED)

overall, 2013 was really rather good :)

fiona t sold 2013 01

every time my glass got half empty, something would occur to fill it back up. and that “something” wasn’t always rainwater from the leaky downpipe or overflowing gutters.

fiona t sold 2013 02

usually it was a new project, a mountain of fabric, a sale, a comment, a message or email, some lovely feedback, (even surprise cards & gifts!) that all reminded me how fortunate i am to be doing what i do, and that without my awesome customers it wouldn’t be possible.

fiona t sold 2013 03

ok, well, no. i’d still be doing this without you :p
but all this stuff ^ would be hidden under the bed in the spare room and i’d just be some crazy lady who watches supernatural in her pyjamas all day whilst tinkering with a sewing machine.

so thankYOU for that moment – at Husband’s work do for eg – where people politely ask, “and what do you do, fiona?”  and i can hold my head up high and smile and say “embroidered zombies.”

one of my favourite projects at the end of the year, was this set of 3 embroidered sketchbooks, commissioned by kerry for her friends – they’re all frequent visitors on my facebook page so it involved lots of sneaky and managing to keep my big mouth SHUT.
panda booby kitty

to say thankyou for sticking with fiona t., for your support and for buying stuff, (also, like a little bribe to make you stay) here is a

the prize is that i’ll make the winner something nice. whatever they want**
(**DISCLAIMER: to keep it within the realms of reasonable & possible, it will be something very much like that ^ )

to enter: what was your highlight of 2013?
mine was our family holiday with mostly-recovered anakin dog, and getting sunburnt (!) in the north sea (!!) in late september (!!!)

the winner will probably be chosen at random by anakin.
competition closes on saturday the 11th of january at 12 noon.
i’ll post the winners name here, and be in touch shortly afterwards so we can discuss your prize.

thanks again, and good luck!

***edit: CONGRATULATIONS KAREN ADAMSON, i’ll be in touch soon to discuss your reward :)

83. the one with the fire

in my absence since my last post(s), i’ve just been doing a lot of mind-blogging.
i want to write stuff – but i haven’t had time or i’ve been too tired ‘n headachey to sit here – so i “write” in my head while i’m doing busy work, and i frequently look at things and imagine that i’d take pictures (if i had my camera to hand) and write about that stuff too.

it’s been a busy few months. especially inside of my brain.

but now i’ve reached a point where i feel like i can’t start 2014 properly until i’ve tidied up from 2013. so here:

(***and so that i can elicit maximum sympathy, it’s important for you to remember that all of these things were going on at the same time)

1. i was determined to stop sewing-work on november 1st so i’d have plenty of leisurely time to complete all of the other things i had to do… but as soon as i’d packed my machines away, i had loads of new ideas.
and with so many other things to avoid…
calm 01

… i kept working & didn’t hang up my sewing hands until december 18th.

2. one of my very BFFs was in the UK for a couple of months so we wanted to squeeze in as much time together as we could *tick*
tea, chat, reminisces, films, late nights, lolz, wine, pub meals, belper’s winter food fair, more pub… *tick tick tick*

3. i seem to have contracted (crazy/senile/deaf/needy)collie-induced insomnia <– i feel qualified to make that medical diagnosis having watched seasons 1 – 8 of House, MD in 6 short weeks.
after enduring months & months of 2-hour bursts of sleeps i’m awfully tired and not always in the sunniest of moods (haha).
we’re still best pals though – she’s absolutely my favourite person ever :)
christmas collie

4. diy stuff. the main event. the end-of-year thing i’d been avoiding most.

old woodburner

after looking at this dusty, rusty monstrosity for 5+ years we could finally afford to replace it.

i’ve been tripping over that stupid hearth & looking at its stupid, ugly (badly fitted) broken tiles EVERY DAY.
hoovering up falling soot & Bits from the badly fitted fitted flue EVERY WEEK.
wet dusting each dimpled surface and stupid claw foot (erm.. LESS OFTEN) to keep the dust allergy at bay.
scowling at the maroon lead-painted patchwork of… of…? i don’t even know what the fuck was going on at the back.
and spiders! so many spiders in all of the rough and the holes.
old flue

the whole fireular area has been offending my eyes daily for the last 5 years AND WE COULDNT EVEN USE THE FIRE.

smashing things up is always really good fun for the first 3 or 4 hours
fire 2

but then there’s awkward bits and hurty wrists and hammer-smashed knuckles and terrified collie and so much dust and then clean up. and then more clean up. and then getting everything bagged up & outside. and practising pathetic-face so the man delivering the skip takes pity on you…

after the old fire was out,
no fire

we spent daaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaays brick cleanering & scrubbering (the original brickwork was in a very bad state so it was very much an exercise in turd-polishin’).

and then more dust (old hearth 1 – sds drill 0)

and then more days cleaning & scrubbering and filling holes and repointing brickwork until we were ready for the professionals…

new flue

who were awesome; hard working and tidy, and good humoured about stepping in anakin’s little “gifts”
new fire
(if you look closely you can probably still see dog shit under his boots)

finally they were all done :)
and here she is, all $leek and gorg£ou$, ready for her maiden fire, ready for
holly woodburner

5. christmas

shame about the rest of the room (work in progress)
self pity saturday

82. the one with the elves

in 5 days time i’m hanging up my sewing hands for the year, packing up mah precious stuffs, and putting on my hardhat. it’s time to tend to my tumble down house & get on with the building works.

but before i start moaning blogging about DIY hardships again, i thought i’d post about my last sewing project of 2013 – festive christmas elves :)

(***this is not any kind of “how to” – please do not copy and PLEASE do not pin any of my photos onto effing pinterest. thanking you.)

when i was a kid… at christmas, we had these slightly cool / slightly creepy christmas elf decorations of mom’s that came out every year. (i think they were from germany from when she was a kid… mom? and pictures?)
anyway, my half-remembered mind-picture of them was my sort-of inspiration for these…

christmas elves

i knew before i started them, that they’d be my last project of the year, so it was a conscious decision to build them really, reeeeeally slowly and add all the teeny tiny details that make them so fun (for me to make).
instead of worrying that at 23746368576587 hours they weren’t really economically viable.

product development.
(although, tbf, i was also finishing off other projects during this time) = supernatural, season 5
design development
(it’s hard to believe how much polyester fluff fits inside such a tiny creature!)

cutting & sticking.
(i spent EPISODES hours cutting out miniature eyeballs,buttons & little pink cheeks. i didn’t end up using the green buttons but i can’t bring myself to throw them away)
cutting & sticking

knitting & stitching.
once i’d made up the hat pattern, they were kind of addictive to knit – they looked so pretty in a heap :) i tend to hoard wool, so i had plenty to choose from – i think the teal ones were my favourite, a super luxurious merino / cashmere blend.
i made far more than i’d need = grimm, season 2
elf hats

i screwed up loads of these at this stage – i blame senile collie dog (lack of sleep. for me.) and the winchesters (the end of season 5 is hectic).
elf face

there’s quite the sad little pile of unfinished rejects that didn’t make the ocd-cut

elf buttons

by this point i was back in the zone. and *suddenly* part way through supernatural season 6
elf limbs

sometimes i have to do hand sewing at the window where there’s better light. i hate having my back to the tv. i had to suspend supernaturals while i did this bit.
sewing up eyeballs

this is the worst part (if they don’t turn out right)
this is the best part (if they do turn out right)
elf birth 01elf birth 02elf birth 03elf birth 04

teeny tiny backpacks for elves to carry gifts of chocolate = house, md season 1
elf satchels

finished! elves have occurred!
chocolate elves

i’d hoped to watch supernatural seasons 7 & 8 too… i wonder if i should make a few more elves before ripping out the fireplace?

81. the one with the zombie snowmen – giveaway (closed) + winner

i don’t normally make anything christmassy for my shop – this is mostly DENIAL that the year is almost over – but i fancied doing something really traditional this year…
embroidered zombie snowmen

zombie snowmen.

i’d been tinkering with a few ideas (i hope i have time to develop some of the others… by christmas 2016 maybe?) but i went with snowmen. in truth, mainly because i wanted to knit some cosy miniature hats and scarves for them :)

i don’t draw much anymore, so my sketchbooking is really basic, and i’m always thinking ahead to what i can realistically do & within a certain time frame. (i’d like to work with real carrots & weave my own fabric from unicorn fur for eg, but things need to be affordable at the end. and not be made out of rotten vegetables i suppose.)

sketchbook snowmen

as soon as i’ve sketched a vague idea, i like to just jump straight in and make the thing,
simplifying or adding detail, making notes and adjustments as it develops.

cutting & sticking

… the problem with being impatient like this starting without a proper, fully tweaked pattern, is that if it doesn’t work first time all that labour intensive applique & embroidery time is wasted. sometimes i’m lucky… sometimes not.

free machine snowman

free motion heart

this is the unpredictable part of handmade that i both love and hate – even when i think i have it “just right”, i never know what’ll apear when i turn ’em.

“you’re like a beautiful freak emerging from a calico chrysalis”
zombie turning

these are all destined for the bin. product development:fail snowmans

no blog post would be complete without a picture of the anakin dog – here she is keeping her nose out. the fruit bowl is the safest place for work that occurs outside of my sewing room.

after knitting 78346535674378563478 teeny tiny hats and scarves, each one was carefully handwashed (i do wonder what the neighbours think about my washing line) so they don’t smell of apples.

zombie hats & scarves

and then the best bit: dressing my little zombie snowmen up in their winter outfits :)

3 zombie snowmen

very limited stock available here (they’re £28 + £3 p&p for a set of 3), but for now…

*** GIVEAWAY ***
so, it would appear that i never grew out of playing dress-up with my dolls.
i also still love colouring in and cartwheels.
what childhood thing do you still love to do? or wish you could still play or do?
don’t be embarrassed, it’ll just be between us – no one else will know, honest.

the winner will probably be chosen at random by a senile border collie.
competition closes on friday, 18th october at 12 noon.
and i’ll announce the winner right here, as soon as possible after the draw.

thanks and good luck!

***EDIT friday, 18th october: