Pen Storage Ideas

February 3, 2014  |  Good ideas, Make it  |  No Comments

My boys love pens and always get a new lot for Christmas and birthdays, and in-between if they  run out! We have them all stored in boxes and pencil cases but I know they would love some of these ideas so as they can see exactly what they have got without having to search all through them…..

Aunt Peaches

Aunt Peaches





Martha Stewart

Martha Stewart

How To Take Photos In Poor Light

January 31, 2014  |  Articles  |  No Comments

It’s really frustrating when you’ve made something new and want to put it online to sell but there just isn’t enough light to take a great photo of it, what can you do??

You could just try and take the photo anyway and get something like this…


Too dark….



Or even worse, out of focus….



The reason these images are so dark is because the camera is probably on Auto mode and so the it uses a slow shutter speed to try to let more light in. The slow shutter speed will not ensure sharp focus especially if the camera is handheld.

Neither of these images will help you sell your product as the detail cannot be seen, the colours are too dark and they are just plain ugly. You need the image of your product to stand out from the crowd rather than disappear into the background and be completely overlooked as the buyer scans the page for things to buy.

There are ways around taking photos on a dark day which will help improve your photos even on a bright day. Obviously the size of your product needs to be taken into account as well!

  1. Go to the brightest area – this could be in the kitchen, garden or even in the bathroom. Next to a big bright window is good to give lots of light but you will need to position yourself so as you don’t block the light whilst taking the photo and that the light is not too much on one side.
  2. Alter the settings – if you are not confident using anything other than manual mode then try looking for the EV button and dialling it up to +2 and see what you get. If its too bright then dial it down a bit. It will look like this -evbuttoncanon-exposure-compensation-300x225
  3. Get a tripod – even a little tabletop tripod which you can probably even find in Tesco these days, otherwise a bit of improvisation might be needed. A stack of books, stool, small bean bags anything to either keep the camera still or help you to stay still whilst taking the shot. If you can lean on something this will help reduce the shake with a low shutter speed.
  4. Use reflectors – If you have found a bright spot a good way of combating the one-sided light is to reflect it by using white paper/card, tin foil or even a mirror – a mirror might be a bit too strong but try it and see what it looks like.

    Petapixel tutorial on a DIY reflector

    Petapixel tutorial on a DIY reflector

  5. Use lights – this isn’t as easy as it sounds as you need to ensure that they are white rather than yellow and that the lighting is even. This takes a lot of trial and error but can be achieved with a bit of practice and some easy to obtain materials.

    Pretty Handy Girl - tutorial

    Pretty Handy Girl – tutorial

  6. Use image editing software, such as photoshop, gimp, iPhoto anything which will allow you to alter the exposure, levels or curves – all of these things will help bright the image a bit but will not make it more in focus no matter how much sharpening you use. The ideal is to get the image right whilst taking the photo in the first place as this will lessen the work involved. If the image is too dark though then detail will be lost and brightening it will just make it look worse- software is just a little boost.


I hope this will help with your picture taking and remember that you do not need a great camera or fancy equipment these days, even some phones are good enough. Get inventive with lights, reflectors, stands etc – no one will know what you’ve used for your great photo – if you have any great ideas then let us know, take a photo!!


Ideas for Transferring Print onto Wood

January 30, 2014  |  Good ideas, Make it  |  No Comments

Having spotted lots of wooden things lately with text or images ‘printed’ on them and wondering how it was done, I then wondered what else you could make with this idea….

Red Hen Home - tutorial

Red Hen Home – tutorial

A Beautiful Mess

A Beautiful Mess

You could even make your own sign!!! :)

The Happy  Housie

The Happy Housie

Old Shop Signs

January 30, 2014  |  Finds  |  No Comments

I can’t imagine that there are many people that don’t dream of having a little shop of their own, a REAL shop, in a row of other shops with local customers and a till with REAL money, not just virtual.

So if you had a shop what would you call it? I spotted this lovely little sign on ebay and could immediately imagine a little treasure trove shop with lots of nooks and crannies…

grayhammy! on eBay

grayhammy! on eBay


I liked this one too from the same seller….

grayhammy! on eBay

grayhammy! on eBay


They would look lovely in a kitchen if you didn’t have a shop ;)





Is it REALLY ‘Made In Britain’?

September 3, 2013  |  Articles  |  No Comments
The Makery

The Makery

There is a certain pride in being able to declare that your products are made in Britain, but are they really?

With possible changes afoot from the EU the current rules state that the ‘products’ country of origin is defined as the place where they “underwent their last, substantial, economically justified process or working”’ (Daily Express 12/08/2013).  So if your wool was made in Thailand but you knitted a blanket with it you can say that it was made in Britain.

The EU want to change it so that the the content with the highest value is where it has to be stated it is made from – so now your blanket with have to be ‘made in Thailand’ although it has been construct by you in Britain – sounds rubbish really!! Just because the raw ingredients are from another country does this really mean that it is MADE  there??? The export of ‘made in Britain’ goods is really high at the moment and once again the EU want to wipe the smile off our faces.

For now, under the current rules you still need to make sure that you are complying with the ‘Made in Britain’ standards. If pottery or fabric is made abroad but the final production is done in Britain should it really bear the label of being made in Britain? Does it make it fair for the businesses whose products are 100% British? It is quite a fine line that Katie Hills at Make It British has come up against. One of the businesses she approached decided not to sign a petition for a standardised MIB logo as her products were truly 100% MIB unlike other businesses who had foreign elements in their products which were assembled in Britain.

What do you think? It is quite a topic for debate as some will say that it is impossible to get the ingredients for their products cheap enough in Britain and so are forced to go abroad, but is this not the reason for the lack of potteries, mills etc?? Others who have managed to source everything over here will tell you to look and work harder for it – Emma Bridgewater can do it ;)

Meet Jemima Fisher @ Socktacular

August 1, 2013  |  Featured, Sellers  |  No Comments

I spotted Jemimas work on Facebook just when it began to surge in popularity with the emergence of the Max’s. By the power of Facebook, word has spread and has really proved that social media can work, so much so that Jemima has been flooded with requests – I’m sure that even if you are not familiar with Where The Wild Things Are you will be enchanted by Max and his facial expressions!

Here is her story…..


I’m Jemima Fisher of ‘Socktacular‘, living near Hebden Bridge in West Yorkshire.

I’ve been a full-time mother to two lively, entertaining and beautiful little girls for nearly 6 years; but my eldest started school last year and my youngest starts this September, so my full-time days are coming to an end. My partner is a freelance maker, ranging from street theatre and vintage car accessories to commissioned art pieces – but he would like to develop his own creative ventures.

Having  loved drawing and making from an early age, it seemed natural to study a degree in fine art (sculpture). This I did, and had a fantastic time at Falmouth in Cornwall.  I learnt a lot during my time there; developing ideas, expression and learning techniques, but fought against the theory aspect. I just loved making and didn’t feel the need to analyse why.  In retrospect, perhaps an applied arts course might have suited me better.

After I’d had my second daughter, a friend asked if I’d like to share a stall with her at the local school Christmas fair. I spent ages wondering what to make, and trawled the internet for inspiration. I came across sock monkeys, had a go at making one and was instantly hooked!

Jemima Fisher Socktacular

I was addicted to the challenge of making a pair of socks into an animal, so I developed my techniques and got more adventurous. I worked hard to create my own style and patterns, so as not to copy other people’s work. Steadily they improved and became more complex as I became more familiar with the fabric and what it was capable of. I started the Facebook page on advice, as a way of getting some exposure and selling them. Although I’d had offers from craft shops to stock them, I didn’t have the time to keep up with a potential high demand of sales.  Facebook enabled me to work at my own pace.

Jemima Fisher Socktacular

Last year came the discovery of the new EU law about toy safety. This came into fruition after I had begun selling my sock animals, and only heard about it by accident. I’d always been very responsible about selling my work; stating if things were unsuitable for under 3′s and ensuring they were made to a high standard.

However the law states no toys, handmade or otherwise, can be sold within the EU without CE certificates. I looked into testing my work and sought advice from others, but decided against it. Although I enjoyed making sock animals, I didn’t want to go down the commercial route and produce identical pieces within the constraints of this law.

I nearly gave up making altogether at that point.

Jemima Fisher Socktacular

After a short and frustrated break I decided to continue with socks; I felt I’d found my medium and had a lot more to discover with it. This meant diversifying into the collectors market and it gave me an exciting opportunity to re-explore my art roots; a yearning which had already started to niggle.

I’d had the idea for making a version of Max from Where the Wild Things Are, about 2 years previously. I didn’t want to make a copy of Max, just a figure inspired by him and a tribute to the great artist Maurice Sendak (who wrote the book). Following the first Max, I decided to make a series studying the facial expressions from the book; I’d successfully manipulated the sock fabric into a reasonable 3-d face, and wanted to develop it further.

The Max series has been the launch of my new Socktacular phase – the photograph of all 12 figures standing together went viral, so it has been a success!

Jemima Fisher Socktacular

Currently I’m developing new work;  having fun with socks again! I’m also incorporating wire  both for support and as a feature. They take a long time to make, so progress is slow.

Jemima Fisher Socktacular

My inspiration are just people, mostly. I have always enjoyed people watching…you can learn so much from observing.  The artist I most admire is Julie Arkell – I keep coming back to her time and time again. She is described as a folk artist, and her material is predominantly paper machè. She has a lot of humour in her work. Other influences are loves from my college days, like Giacometti, Chagall and Sally Matthews.


My plans for the future are to just keep making.  It would be great to have my work sold through a gallery/craft outlet, set up a website and to be able to make a living through my work – eventually.  I am aware that I have taken sewing with socks to a different level, which is relatively unexplored – so perhaps I could produce a book? I don’t know…I’m not really one for making big plans as I tend to be rather more spontaneous…or maybe just chaotic!

Jemima Fisher Socktacular Jemima Fisher Socktacular

To view more of Jemimas creations follow Socktacular on Facebook.

Vase Alternatives

July 22, 2013  |  Inspiration  |  No Comments

With flowers in abundance and all your vases filled why not try out some other containers filled with floral beauties….

Beware of Rogue Agents

June 17, 2013  |  Articles  |  No Comments

Sales-repThere is nothing more ego boosting than someone letting you know how great your work is, and there is nothing more upsetting than getting stung!

Just recently I have heard of a few designer-makers being contacted by a so-called agent claiming to get peoples work into the big stores, and so this has prompted me to post a warning to anyone wishing to consider this ‘service’.

The number one mantra to remember when doing business ‘if it sounds too good to be true it usually is!”, trust your instincts and do some research. If someone is offering to get you into places then what is stopping you from doing it yourself. The ways to get your products in front of the big stores buying teams is to put them there yourself in the form of trade shows, gifts/samples, press releases etc. Sure you have to find out who the key people are before just making contact with just anyone in the buying department but thats where networking comes into play – talk to other people, exchange information, get on LinkedIn and search for the people in the relevant departments.

Do a bit of research on the person who is offering you this service if you are not too sure – Google their address and even use StreetView to find out if it is the type of  premises they say it is and not just a scruffy semi on a main road (I know you can run a business from home but when the address claims to be office/unit/suite etc and you find out it isn’t then something is a bit suss). Google their name inside quote marks and find out a bit more about them – if they are worth anything then people will be talking about them. Make sure you talk to each other – ask around on Facebook/Twitter if they have heard of them.

Above all do NOT give anyone any money with the promise that they will do something for you. If they provide a service which sounds reasonable and above board then there should be a contract and/or agreement in place before any money is exchanged – some will work on commission only, or something similar to a finders fee – once you are in a particular store then you pay them a fee.

If you are considering hiring a sales representative you will more than likely be able to find a recommendation or even hire someone you know who knows you and your business and all the finer details, but no one can sell your product better than you can :)

Trend Alert – Neon

June 16, 2013  |  Inspiration  |  No Comments

Neon clothes, this time around, have been popular for the last year or so but now the bright pop colours have made their way into our homes. So often what we see on the catwalk finds a way of making it into the interiors world soon after (trend tip!).

Neons work well as accents in a room which can be traded in for the next latest trend but can also look quite funky filling up a whole room – as long as you’re prepared to change it when you’ve had enough of people saying “wow! that’s bright!”.

neon trends

Fathers Day Makes

June 6, 2013  |  Inspiration, Make it  |  No Comments

Fathers Day is soon so I’ve found a few ideas for you and the kids to make which are a little bit different from the average Fathers Day card….

fathers day

fathers day card

fathers day




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