Crafty Blogs

Thursday, 19 March 2015

Lucky Dip Giveaway and Baby Madness Half Price Sale!

Would you like the chance to win some Lucky Ladybird handmade accessories for free? Of course you would! Every Friday in April 2015 I'll be giving away a lucky dip parcel. All you have to do to enter the prize draw is to like and share the weekly Facebook competition image. You can even enter your name into the draw twice if you tag a friend's name in the comments! The winner will be decided my random selection the following Monday. There are lots of prizes and lots of chances to win, so get along to the Facebook page and get entering! The first competition image will go live on Friday 3rd April.

But the bargains don't end there. To celebrate my upcoming maternity leave I will also be holding a 'baby madness' half price sale on my etsy store in April. For a limited time only you will be able to buy a Lucky Ladybird handmade gift set consisting of:
  • A Swiss Roll handbag (chocolate or strawberries and cream colours available)
  • A matching Swiss Roll purse
  • A mini bag charm
  • A few delicious sweets
The total retail price for this set would normally be £60, but all this will be available for only £29 (plus P+P)! Only a few of these sets are available, so check etsy listings to see if you can grab yourself a bargain!

Strawberries and cream gift set

Chocolate gift set
On sale for half price or less will also be my entire sushi collection. For the month of April only you'll be able to buy a sushi roll handbag for £20 rather than the original £40, a clutch bag for £7.50 instead of £15 and a sushi purse for only £5! The sushi items will also be on sale via my etsy store only, but make sure to keep checking in as I only have a few items and they're bound to vanish fast! The sale begins on April 1st.

I hope you'll help to spread the word about the lucky dip giveaway and the sale, it will all help me in my quest to make a little space in my house for the impending arrival. You can keep up to date throughout April on the Facebook page and the etsy shop.

Good luck, and happy bargain-hunting!

LL xx

Tuesday, 3 March 2015

The wedding quilt - a work in progress

Back in the mists of time, three years ago, I got married. Because I'm a very crafty lady it was a very crafty wedding and with a lot of help from my friends we made a lot of the wedding decorations ourselves.This included collecting many colourful teapots, putting dinosaurs on sticks, arranging flowers and, most importantly of all, sewing miles and miles of bunting. Enough bunting to decorate two large function rooms, plus extra mini bunting to decorate the tables.
My beautiful friends making the bunting look good.
Teapots and dinosaurs on sticks (can you spot him?)

 I chose a selection of fabrics that would match with the colour theme of the wedding (red and white unless you hadn't guessed) along with two fabrics that were meant to represent me and my husband - a polka-dot ladybird fabric and a dinosaur-patterned fabric. I even ended up making us a ring pillow for the ceremony from the same selection of fabrics.

Our ring pillow, taken just before the ceremony.

On the day we gave away lots of the decorations as wedding favours, including lots of teapots, tea-caddies and teacups, but we were left with the miles and miles of bunting which we weren't entirely sure what to do with.That's when I came up with an over-ambitious plan. I decided that I would make a memory quilt from all the bunting flags. I worked out that I could cut the flags into equilateral triangles and arrange them in a patchwork hexagonal grid. I drew up my plan and set to work, and then, well, then lots of other things happened.

My diagram for the wedding quilt
Turning the flags into triangles with equal sides

I make good progress with the first few rows of triangles

Firstly I should say that this was my first ever quilting project, and wow did I really throw myself in the deep end. I will go on the record now to say that I would not recommend teaching yourself patchwork as you go along with a hexagonal-grid quilt rather than traditional squares. I managed to make the job even more difficult for myself my using a variety of fabrics, some of which turned out to be very unsuitable for machine sewing (I'm looking at you polka-dots!)
We also moved to a different part of the country a few months later, so the quilt and all the remaining fabric pieces were packed away and, I'm sorry to say, have been sitting rather forlornly in a bag in the corner of my sewing room ever since.

The wedding quilt as it is now

So this is the quilt at the moment. I only need to add two more rows of triangles to the bottom in order to finish the patchwork, but because it's so wide that's 60 triangles to be added. I also would like to add some applique to the centre of the large star to represent the wedding day once the patchwork is finished. I had started adding some embellishments to the centre of the smaller blue stars, but I will have to think about what else to include and where.

A dinosaur star with an owl in the middle. It sums up the wedding day surprisingly well

I recently inherited some fabric that should work perfectly as a backing for the quilt. I don't have any wadding yet, or any experience quilting through many layers of fabric, but I've got this far and I'm determined to learn what I need to finish it! So here is my plan. As of May I'm going to be on maternity leave, but although I'll no longer be running a craft business I'm certain I won't be able to keep my hands still or my sewing machine quiet. While I'm waiting for the baby to arrive, and possibly after the big day to prevent myself for going stir-crazy, I'm going to work on the quilt and get it finished.

Once Lucky Ladybird Craft is on hold (9th May, last orders taken 6th May) I'll still continue to post here and maintain this blog, so keep an eye out for more updates in 2015.

Wish me luck!

LL xx

Thursday, 5 February 2015

A Baby Ladybird!

For my followers on Facebook and Twitter this will come as no surprise, but to everyone else I have a big announcement - I'm expecting a baby at the beginning of the summer! I'm currently six months pregnant and for the time being everything is (relatively) business as usual. I'm still trading through the online shop, recently completed a third commission for Mr Kipling Cakes and my items are still available to buy through my various stockists. However as my due date comes closer I'm going to be winding things down, and in May 2015 the business will be put on hold while I take maternity leave. To make sure none of this comes as too much of a surprise or disappointment here's a brief breakdown of how things are going to be wound up:

February 2015 - Stock will be withdrawn from Bridgnorth stockist The Tania Holland Gallery
March 2015 - Stock will be withdrawn from Shrewsbury stockist Urban Folk
April 2015 - By the end of the month stock will be withdrawn from Wolverhampton stockist Shop In The Square
The website will be open and I will continue to take online orders until Wednesday May 6th. After that time the website will still be available to browse but the online shop will be closed. Some stock may still be available to buy through my Rugby stockist the Rugby Art Gallery and Museum (subject to availability).

My current craft project, human life, is progressing well

To celebrate the big news, and to make sure the business goes out with a bang rather than a whimper, I'll be holding a lucky dip sale at the end of April, hosted through the Facebook page. Details to come closer to the time, but let's just say for now that there should be some never-to-be-repeated bargains available!

After my maternity leave starts I'm sure I'll have my hands full, but I promise not to drop of the radar completely. For starters I'll be maintaining this blog and I have lots of baby-related craft projects that I'm hoping to share once they're complete. I'm also hoping that the break will give me the chance to relaunch my business, streamline things and launch some new products by the time I get back to business at the beginning of 2016.

Right, time for a nap I think, and possibly also a biscuit.
Lots of love and luck from me and the bump,


Friday, 3 October 2014

Lucky Ladybird makes national news!

Those of you who follow me on Twitter and Facebook will have noticed that in September I made national news thanks to a partnership with Mr Kipling cakes. Here's the story of how it all happened, as well as copies of press clippings for those who haven't seen them. 

I've been in contact with the team in charge of Mr Kipling's marketing since the end of November 2013 when, by happy chance, a friend on Twitter mentioned that my bags reminded her of Mr Kipling cakes. The Mr Kipling team (who presumably look out for mentions of their own name on social media) chimed in with our conversation and totally surprised me with their loveliness.

After first saying hello they then asked me if they could repost a picture of my battenberg handbag to their fans on Facebook and Twitter at some point in the new year, and of course I said yes.This was the result in January 2014.

The post gained me a few sales and a few new followers, nothing earth-shattering, but I was happy to be able to say that Mr Kipling had called me 'exceedingly talented'! I didn't expect much more, so I was surprised when in July one of their marketing staff called me to ask if they could order a couple of my purses. Of course I was very happy to oblige. I later learnt that they were to take along to a marketing meeting at Saatchi & Saatchi in London. It was one of the most exciting parcels I've ever posted! This is the beautiful photo they took and posted on twitter when the purses arrived.

Apparently my purses were a big hit and, although I didn't know it then, plans were afoot to select a few craftspeople with Mr Kipling-themed products for a special online competition. In August I was told that I had been chosen along with soap-maker Bubblicious Soaps to provide delicious cake prizes for Mr Kipling's 'Better with cake' competition online!

Six battenberg purses and six french fancy purses were up for grabs, this is what it looked like when I packed up the delicious-looking parcel!

After the competition had run online I decided to contact my local paper the Bridgnorth Journal to tell them about it. They had recently put out a call for local interest stories and, as I'd been featured by them before, I thought they might be interested. Well it turns out they were more than interested, they booked a photographer to visit me the next day and told me I'd be on the front page of the paper in two days time! This was the front page of the Bridgnorth Journal on September 19th and I was so thrilled with it. The picture is huge and for a few days I was a local celebrity, lots of people stopped to congratulate me in the street!

The same picture also made it to the Shropshire Star the following day, but on page 6 rather than on the cover, and on September 19th I was also featured in the Express and Star, a Wolverhampton based paper that's popular all over the West Midlands.

Read this article at

Orders started flooding in from the West Midlands, especially for my Battenberg purses, but then a Birmingham-based news agency got in touch with me. They'd seen the story in the Express & Star and wanted to know if I'd be interested in passing the story on to the national papers. I'd never imagined that the national papers would be interested in my little business but of course I had to say yes! They interviewed me again to get more details and then said to keep and eye out over the next week as they couldn't be sure who would pick it up and when. Well it was on Monday September 22nd when my eagle-eyed father in law called me to tell me he'd spotted me in The Times. Here is Page 22, apologies if it's a little grainy.

Since then I've been rushed off my feet with order from all around the country, and I'm told that there might be more coverage in the near future too as a women's magazine is interested in writing an article on how I started my business. It's been wonderful to find out that my bags are more that a novelty, but something of genuine interest to all all sorts of people. It's also taught be the huge power of media, both new and traditional. If you make something that might be of interest to a big brand then do get in touch with them via Twitter or Facebook, they'll probably be thrilled to know about it, and if you're a small business owner in a small community then be sure to keep in touch with your local paper, because they're always on the look out for stories.

Huge thanks to Mr Kipling, Stephie (@GO_Dark_Turtle), the Bridgnorth Journal, Shropshire Star, Express & Star and The Times. With your help I'm really starting to feel like the successful business woman you've described me as. 

Much love, 

LL x

Sunday, 31 August 2014

Something changed - made to order

From today you'll find a subtle but significant change in the Lucky Ladybird Craft website, larger items like the Swiss Roll and Battenberg shoulder bags are now available via order only. This means you should allow 2 - 3 weeks for these items to be dispatched as they'll be hand made especially for you at the point of purchase. My order book has really filled up over the summer, and with more than one large order of smaller items to fulfil I haven't had the time I've needed to restock these larger items! Rather than withdraw them from sale I thought this was a good way to keep everything available. It's also means that if you'd like one of these items custom made, in a different colour or size to the usual design, then it's easy as pie (or should that be cake?!)

The Battenberg handbag sold out this summer and is now made to order
Battenberg and Swiss Roll shoulder bags, now available to order

I'm also hoping to add another design to the range of 'order only' handbags available on the website very soon. Here's the prototype of the first ever cupcake handbag, pictured next to a matching cupcake purse. 

The handbag is large enough to fit the purse inside, as well as a smartphone, lipstick, credit card, all the necessities! I'm currently making two of these as a special order, but I'm hoping to roll them out to my stockists soon in a range of delicious flavours. Keep your eye on the Facebook page for more details soon.

Love and luck, LL xx

Tuesday, 15 July 2014

Everything you're wearing is handmade

Me hand making a Swiss Roll shoulder bag

I'm a hand-maker, and as such I'm trying very hard to make a full-time living. Every day I spend either with needle and thread in my hand, working the sewing machine, tracing out patterns or cutting fabric. Lots of people I meet have a great appreciation for the hard work that goes into hand making, either because they craft for a hobby or have some training in manufacturing. I can easily identify these people when I'm out and about at craft fairs because they'll consider my work very carefully and, whether they like it or not, they'll say something along the lines of "There's a lot of time gone into this". They're not wrong, each of my purses takes a minimum of three hours to make from start to finish, a handbag might take closer to three days. What they might not have taken into account, however, is how long it might have taken me to set up the stall, man it all day, build a website to sell online, do my accounting and publicise my business. I don't blame them for not noticing these factors, they're mostly hidden, but without them I couldn't be self-employed.

I feel very privileged to live and work in the UK. I'm encouraged to work but not over-taxed (at least until I make more money anyway), I get free health care in the mean time, and Britons have the expectation of fair and decent working conditions for those around them. Unfortunately it's also my experience that, partly because Britain has lost its manufacturing base, a lot of people in this country have no contact with the idea of hand making, and no appreciation for the time and skill it requires. They want everything they buy to be as cheap as possible, and rarely see the hidden cost of buying cheaply. I've met a lot of people who seem to think my prices should be a fraction of what they are, and when I explain the time and skill involved they tell me to have my designs made elsewhere, specifically in India or China.

I've mentioned that Britains have an expectation that their fellow countrymen should have fair and decent working conditions. The popularity of the Living Wage Foundation is testament to this, they suggest a national living wage should be £7.65 (£8.80 in London) as opposed to the minimum wage which is currently just £6.31. The foundation has received support from David Cameron, Ed Milliband, Ken Livingstone and Boris Johnson. Perhaps because they have this in mind my friends and family are sometimes shocked to find out that, at my current prices, I pay myself around £3 an hour. I'm not trying to garner sympathy by telling you this, I've founded my own business and I consider it my goal to build on my success and aim for better as the business grows. But I refuse to increase my profits by taking advantage of poorly regulated working conditions in countries like India and China. If it's unacceptable that I should be paid £3 an hour for the skilled work that I do then why should it be acceptable for a stranger to do it for me for even less? Workers in developing countries who do work like mine don't chose their own hours, don't work in pleasant surroundings and don't have the benefit of free healthcare. They don't get to wake up in the morning and chose between designing and making, manning a stall or publicising their business. According to research done by The War on Want in Bangladesh garment workers making clothes for highstreet shops can expect to earn between £25 and £32 a month, 80% of workers start work at 8am and don't finish until 8pm or 10pm. They perform the same task again and again, sometimes with unrealistic production targets to meet. The garments these women make are sold in Primark, Asda and Tesco.

Garment workers in Bangladesh

Take a moment to look at the clothes you're currently wearing. All of it is handmade. It might not be from a handmade emporium, a fair trade shop or a craft fair, but it is handmade. Somewhere the panels of fabric were traced out and cut, skillfully placed together and sewn carefully by a skilled machinist. Details may have been added by another worker, top-stitching, buttons or decorations were added. Finally it will have been hand checked for quality. How much time do you imagine each item took to make, and in what conditions do you imagine it was made? How much do you value the time and the skill of the people who made it for you?

The real luxury of living in the UK is that I am able to promote myself as a crafter. My skills are valued and even admired by some. If I was from India or China my skills would be commonplace, perhaps even not up to standard, and I would receive very little reward for my hard work at the sewing machine. In the UK we can afford to pay more for artisan-made and fairtrade products. We have the luxury of deciding what conditions we would like to see manufacturers working under, so why do we so often chose the cheapest option? Because the cost is hidden behind the brand, or behind the friendly profile page of the factory owner on who offers to make something for you cheaper and quicker than anyone else can. Before you buy cheaply, or suggest that I should make cheaply, look into what these options mean. Consider using your purchase to improve someone elses life, to reward someone for a job well done, to encourage good working conditions and investment in local communities. Imagine meeting the maker of your shirt or pair of jeans and being able to say to them "There's a lot of time gone into this".

'Would You Still Buy That Dress After Watching This' a documentary on the real cost of cheap clothes from Bangladesh's sweatshops

'Counterfeiting : Documentary on the Business of Counterfeits and Knock-Offs'
Includes investigations into China's black market manufacturing industry and the fraud behind some alibaba sellers.

Friday, 9 May 2014

Selling your handmade products in shops - how to find a stockist

This week I'm happy to announce that I have a new stockist for my products, The Shop in The Square in Wolverhampton. SITS is a shop run by artists and crafters in the West Midlands and is full to the brim with beautiful handmade items, I'm very proud to be joining them. A few of my friends and fellow crafters have asked me how I've found stockists for my products, and what they should do to find stockists themselves, so I've put together this guide based on my own experience so far. Comments and questions are welcome!

1. Sell first
Before you start trying to find a stockist for your handmade products you should first get some experience selling your products by other channels. You could sell online via etsy or eBay, or sell at craft fairs. Whatever channel you chose establish a range of products and spend a few months selling them to the public. Find out what sells and what doesn't, experiment with pricing and keep records. This way you'll be able to say with confidence that your products are saleable, you'll know which are your best sellers and you'll be able to set the right wholesale price. Retailers need to know this information, and they'll also be reassured by your figures that they aren't taking a risk on your products.

2. Crunch the numbers and getting prepared
The next thing to do is to start crunching the numbers. Let's start with an example, imagine you make a cuddly toy that you've been selling for £10. The materials for the toy only cost around £1, and it takes you 3 hours to make each one. When you sell the toy online or at a craft fair you make a profit of £9 per toy, and since they take you 3 hours to make you're effectively paying yourself £3 an hour to make them. Let's assume you're happy with that situation because, let's face it, handmade businesses aren't all about big profit. But once you start thinking about selling through a stockist you might find that the numbers are a lot less favourable. It's fairly typical for a shop to ask for 50% commission, so if you set the RRP* at £10 for the toy they'll only want to pay £5 per item. Suddenly your profit is only £4, and your hard work is only worth £1.30 an hour. No one would blame you for being unhappy with the offer, but is there any way around it?

Some people might argue that the best thing to do in this situation is to double your prices. But a toy that you've proven will sell at £10 might not be so tempting to customers when priced at £20, so by trying to protect your profit you run the risk of making no money at all. I would recommend a middle way, experiment with increasing your pricing through your own channels by 20-50%. Customers might be happy to pay £15 for the toy, and if you can increase your RRP you can increase your profit. The same toy prices at £15 could be sold on to the stockist at £7.50 each, £2.16 per hour for your hard work.

At this point some sellers might be asking whether supplying a stockist is even worth it when it represents less profit per item. But before you dismiss the idea out of hand it's worth thinking again about the positives and negatives of other selling channels. When you're selling at a craft fair it's easy to see the money in your hand as pure profit, but how much did the stall fee cost you? How much money did you spend on display items? How much were your travel expenses? And imagine for a moment that you were paying yourself an hourly wage for the time you spent looking after the stall, how much is your own time worth? If you add up all these expenses you might find out that the craft fair was less profitable than you imagined, and in comparison stockists can represent value for money. The 50% taken by the shop effectively covers stall fees, travel expenses and the cost of staff to sell your products for you. Depending on the stockist it might also cover advertising and presence in a busy high street location.

Take some time to look over the numbers, and decide whether or not selling wholesale is for you. Decide the minimum price per hour that you would like to earn and apply it to your products. Keep a list of your products alongside wholesale price and RRPs and this will form the basis of a retail trade price sheet that you can show to potential stockists.

If your items are large make sure to include pictures of the different product types on this sheet too, otherwise be prepared to take examples with you whenever you approach a stockist.

3. Approaching stockists
In some areas suitable stockists for handmade products might be well known and easy to find, but in others you might have to work hard to find them. Look for independent shops that already stock handmade local items, art and craft galleries and gift shops that are popular with tourists. I don't recommend chain stores for consideration unless you're in a position to produce a big volume of stock very quickly. Check local papers and business directories, and look on facebook and twitter, and try searching the UK Handmade Directory too. Make yourself a list of potential stockists and if possible go and take a look, and bear in mind that it isn't a good idea to have two stockists within the same town. Ask yourself whether your products would fit in with the products on display, and if you think they would ask to speak to a manager about the possibility of stocking with them. All being well you should give them your contact details and arrange to show them some samples or photos of your work, and discuss money, at a later date. Alternatively if you're familiar with the shop you could call ahead and arrange this over the phone.

When having an official meeting with the stockist make sure you take along your retail trade price sheet, pictures of items or sample products and details of your previous selling experience including facts and figures about your best sellers. If the shop are interested in a 'sale or return' arrangement make sure to discuss the following:
  • What percentage commission the shop will take 
  • Whether a 'trial period' would be helpful to see whether your products and the shop are a good match. 
  • How and when the shop will pay you for the items that have sold. Some may suggest a monthly payment, others may prefer to set a trial period after which time you will need to check which items have sold and issue them with an invoice. 
If the shop are interested in a pre-paid wholesale order discuss lead times** with them, and make sure the manager has a realistic idea of how fast your turnover will be. Be brave and passionate about your products, and don't be too downhearted if the meeting isn't successful!

(At this point I should add that some shops specialise is handmade sales, and may have their own procedures to cover all this, they might even have an online form where you can fill in your details and attach photos of your work, eliminating the need to arrange a meeting at all. Unfortunately not all shops are so organised, so it's worth getting yourself preparing just in case!)

4. Delivering your items
Congratulations, a shop has agreed to stock your items! Now it's time to deliver a range of stock for them to display. If the shop has paid up front for a wholesale order take your items along with a receipt. Take along two copies and have the shop sign your copy to confirm they have taken delivery. Now you can tell all your family and friends to shop there, and with a little luck they will order from you again soon! If you have a 'sale or return' agreement with the shop then the situation is a little different. Take along a seller delivery list detailing everything you are delivering, again take two copies and have them sign on delivery. Keep in regular contact with the shop to check whether items are selling or not. If popular items are disappearing fast you may want to arrange another delivery, if unpopular items are taking up space or (god forbid) have been removed from display you might want to arrange to pick them up. Make sure you are paid for the items that have sold and that the shop are treating your items with due care and respect. In return keep publicising your stockists, let people know that it's a great place to buy your products and other people's products too.

Of course once you have one stockist you're bound to want another and another, and that's the situation I'm in at the moment! Maybe next year I'll be able to pass on some more knowledge about managing multiple stockists and growing your craft empire, but until then please support all the lovely shops that sell Lucky Ladybird products at the moment; The Tania Holland Gallery, Urban Folk, Ice Maiden Cakes and The Shop in The Square.

Love and Luck,

LL xx

*Recommended retail price
** 'Lead times' the time it will take you to make or prepare your items.