Crafty Blogs

Friday, 13 December 2013

Dear Dad (or How I Learned To Stop Worrying And Love Twitter)

Dear Dad,

I noticed you set up a Twitter account not long ago, and as a self-employed businessman I think it's a great move. Twitter can bring you lots of new fans, and it can also help you find customers and makes sales, it's amazing marketing tool but it's far from self-explanatory, so I've decided to share with you everything I know about how to use Twitter to your advantage.

1. Target market and contemporaries

First of all you need to decide two things:

  Who is your target market?
  Who are your contemporaries?

For me my first answer would be something like 'cake enthusiasts', 'bag enthusiasts' etc. and my second answer would be 'craft sellers' and 'small business owners'. For you I would guess your first answer might be 'historical fiction enthusiasts' and your second answer 'self-publishers' and 'small business owners'. We have a little bit of an overlap, but not much!
Now you need to start tracking these two groups down. Use the search function on Twitter and search for one of your key terms.

Try 'search all people' to bring up a long list.

Read through the profile information on the list and you'll find a mixture of your target market and contemporaries, and follow anyone who looks like they might be interested in your work. Imagine it like an opportunity to give out a lot of business cards all at once, follow follow follow! You'll be amazed how many people will follow you back automatically, just out of curiosity or interest.
Search regularly for any and all key terms and keep following. Aim to follow around 200 people to start with (yes, really!)

2. Monkey see, monkey do
Once you have a long list of people you're following it's time to watch what they're doing. This is most important for the 'contemporaries' group. When I started following other craft sellers on Twitter I found out about all sorts of pre-existing organisations who help to publicise small businesses (check out Purple Dog for example) as well as twitter events that anyone can join in with. There's a 'Handmade Hour' (Wednesday 19:30-20:30) where lots of people watch the hash tag #handmadehour. By tweeting something like 'Look at this item I made #handmadehour' and including a picture suddenly I had a captive audience. Find out if there's anything similar among your contemporaries, either in writing or publishing and join in. #newwriting looks promising as does #IndiePub
If you see a contemporary doing well on Twitter then take a look at who they follow and who they interact with. Follow who they follow and take a leaf out of their book. 

3. Interact
Once you start to join in twitter events you'll notice that the most popular Twitter feeds are maintained by the chattiest people. Some people have the gift of the gab, but twitter isn't just about self-promotion, it's also about lending a hand and interacting with others. If you see another start-up with a product or service that you think deserves promoting then retweet, tell them you like their product. You might make a useful contact, and that person is much more likely to share your products in the future.
Lots of people will send you a welcome message when you follow, consider whether it's worth doing the same (e.g. Thanks for following, have you seen my website?). It's not mandatory, but it seems to work for lots of businesses.

4. Repetition, hesitation, deviation
Finally imagine what a billboard would look like advertising your books. What would it say? Twitter is a lot like a billboard, with lots of potential customers driving past at high-speed. If something's worth saying it's worth saying a dozen times. Every time you repeat an important message you increase your chances of people noticing your tweet, and take note of twitter rush-hours on evenings and weekends to increase your visibility. Just reword your tweet and no one will mind if you repeat yourself (and they won't mind if you hesitate or deviate from the subject either).

There are lots more things to learn about Twitter I'm certain (for example did you know you could pay to promote a tweet saying 'buy my book' to everyone who likes Sharpe or James Bond?) but I'm still learning about all that myself. With a little luck you'll be teaching me how it's done before I work that out.

Keep tweeting and keep writing, lots of love


Note: For my regular readers my Dad is the author of a series of historical spy novels 'Most Secret'. He also runs a self-publishing website helping budding authors get into print and break into the world of e-publishing. Please drop by and say hello.

Thursday, 5 December 2013

My first crafting Christmas

It's an exciting time of year, and it's a time when I usually hand make gifts for family and friends, but this festive season is even more exciting for me than usual. This is my first Christmas as a professional crafter, and I've been planning for it since August when I first drew up plans for some special Christmas items for the Lucky Ladybird shop.

Plans for a mince pie purse
Plans for a Christmas pudding clutch

Having drawn up the plans I didn't actually start to make either of these until after Hallowe'en when I was first able to dedicate some time to Christmas. I made some prototypes, did my best to improve on the designs and then was able to put together the finished items in early November. It gave my husband a shock to see I'd unpacked the Christmas decorations a month early so I could take some suitably festive photos!

Mince pie and Christmas pudding purses
The Lucky Ladybird collection in a festive setting. The decorations when back into the box after this photo was taken!
The mince pie and Christmas pudding purses have a red polka-dot lining (unlike most Lucky Ladybird items which have a pink polka-dot lining) and are embellished with sprigs of holly instead of the traditional felt strawberry, but they're still soft and fleecy like my other creations with plenty of felt detailing.

Once the Christmas specials were designed and made I decided that the website could do with a Christmas makeover. I added a special 'Christmas Shop' section where my products are arranged into useful categories for anyone looking to buy gifts. The exclusive Christmas items and gift sets are easier to find and visitors can also browse items by price to make it easier to shop for stocking fillers.

After the website re-launch I managed to find some time to write a quick tutorial for a website called PVB Daily. They had put out a request for 12 Christmas-themed tutorials for a 12 days of Christmas crafting feature, and I was thrilled when they decided to include my guide to making your own Christmas pudding tree ornament for day 6. As you can see from the picture the decoration is a simplified version of my Christmas pudding coin purse.

Tutorial available at PVB Daily

The rest of November I spent stocking up on my most popular items ready to attend my first ever Christmas craft fair in Donnington near Telford. The venue (Cordingley Hall) was new to craft events, but when I found out that there would be hot food and a special Santa's Grotto for the kids I could tell it would be a popular local event.

The morning of the fair I packed plenty of tinsel and even wore my Christmas jumper to get into the spirit. The Christmas music playing in the hall helped set the scene and when the doors were opened the venue was quickly packed with visitors. 

Me set up and ready to go at the Christmas craft fair
Santa's visit was a big local attraction as predicted and there was also a surprise visit from a dancing reindeer! There was mulled wine at the bar which helped to warm us up, but by the afternoon the hall was quiet. Fortunately it so happened that many of the stall holders were on the look out for handmade gifts, me included! In the last hour I bought some handmade chocolates and some pretty hand-carved wooden gifts from my fellow crafters. They returned the favour by buying some special Christmas items from me, which made for a nice end to the day. 

One thing I've learned in my first year of professional crafting is that many good craft fairs are booked far in advance, sometimes over a year before they take place. There are lots of local events that I would love to have taken part in but which were organised well before I was even thinking about self-employment! I've already signed up to take part in a Christmas craft fair in December 2014 in Shrewsbury and I plan to be at many more if I can. Christmas is a great time of year for family events like craft and vintage fairs, especially in Shropshire. 

Happily my stockists have also arranged Christmas events this year, and my items have also been available through them. Urban Folk took Lucky Ladybird items to a special Pop-Up Shop at Eat Up in Shrewsbury as well as to a Christmas Fayre at Concord College at the end of November. The Shropshire Hills Discovery Centre are getting in on the action too with a ‘Shopping and Santa Special’ this Sunday 8 December. There will be crafts and stories and a visit with Santa for the kids and mulled wine for the adults as a well as a relaxed atmosphere perfect for doing some Christmas shopping.

Until next time good luck with all your Christmas preparations. Lots of love


Saturday, 2 November 2013

Stockists, stalls and stocking-up

I'm so happy to say that October turned out to be a great month for Lucky Ladybird Crafts. After a slow September I was thrilled to be able to start the month my announcing the the winner of my cupcake gift box competition. The new cupcake flavour will be blueberry, photos to follow very soon!

Soon after I found out that my first ever stockist, Tea & Roses of Bridgnorth, was moving to a larger premises in Bridgnorth. I organised to pick up my stock while the move took place, and it turned out my items had been selling better than expected! Lucky Ladybird items will be back in stock in Tea & Roses in November when the move is complete.

Tea & Roses in Bridgnorth - now moving to a larger premises also on Bridgnorth high street

Shortly afterwards I was contacted by the Shropshire Hills Discovery Centre in Craven Arms who found me via my Twitter feed. They were on the look-out for stockists for their new Shropshire-made Christmas shop. I took some items along and they're now for sale until Christmas along side some beautiful woodwork, glass work and jewellery, all hand made in Shropshire. It's a great centre with a library, gallery, cafe and exhibitions so I recommend a visit if you're in the Shropshire area.

Shropshire Hills Discovery Centre cafe/gallery space

Lucky Ladybird bags and purses alongside boards and platters by wood artisan Spencer Edwards 
I spent the rest of October preparing for a Halloween stall in the Parade shopping centre in Shrewsbury. I made plenty of Day of The Dead items and a few bat badges as well as some simple sushi clutch purses to fill out the stall.

Special Day of The Dead badges

Halloween stall in Shrewsbury with new egg nigiri and shrimp nigiri clutch purses (centre left)

It was such a busy day with cosplayers and shoppers, competitions and kids in costumes, but I made time to drop by my Shrewsbury stockist Urban Folk while I was close by. It seems the people of Shrewsbury just love my cake charms, I'll just have to start making some more!

Urban Folk on Grope Lane in Shrewsbury

Lucky Ladybird purses for sale in Urban Folk

I've got lots of plans for November already, and you won't be surprised to learn that Christmas features heavily! I'll be preparing for Christmas craft stalls in Donnington and Shrewsbury by making some special edition Christmas items and I'll be adding a new Christmas area to my website with lots of gift ideas and boxes for the festive season. In the mean time you can keep up to date with my new projects at or by following my Twitter feed @Lucky_Ladybird

Wishing you a happy November,

LL xx

Saturday, 26 October 2013

Where do you get your ideas from?

I'm sure everyone in a creative profession gets this question a lot, but because my bags are so unusual quite often my customers have never seen anything like them before. Can I really be so out on a limb? A mad genius concocting one-off wonders? No, of course not. In the wonderful world of the internet my bags are not so strange, and all great ideas have a starting point.

I first started sewing bags because I wanted a handbag to express my love of sushi. I thought that someone, somewhere, would already be making a bag shaped like a sushi roll, but when I couldn't find what I wanted I made it myself. I didn't realise at the time that I'd started something momentous, something that would lead me to start my own business. I'd been inspired by the cute and kawaii world of Japanese food, and in Japan there are already dozens of designers turning food into accessories, playthings and furniture.

Pastry cushions and sleeping bags from Felissimo

Modular sushi furniture by Sophia Yung

Miniature food earrings by Meow Box

The concept for my cake collection came from a desire to make this wonderful world more accessible to the majority of the British population, so I chose iconic British cakes that I thought would make a bold style statement. In drawing up my designs I had a lot of help along the way, firstly from other designers. It's always a good start to find out what other crafters are making and try to work out how they did it. I often browse etsy to get an idea of new trends. When looking for ideas for Swiss Roll bags (which was something I knew I wanted to do) I came across this ring. I was totally inspired by the simple shape and loved the idea of chunks of chocolate mixed in with the cream.

Chocolate Swiss Roll Ring from PinkFrog4U on etsy

Next I started looking up recipes. I love to browse recipes in books and online for inspiration. I came across this image through a good image search, and although it's only a stock image I was wowed by the amazing use of colour. Again the design features cream with added delicious chunks, but this time they're chunks of fresh strawberry. Looking at images like this inspired me to include a strawberry with each cake design. 

Shutterstock chocolate and strawberry Swiss Roll

Here's the result, my Chocolate Swiss Roll Handbag inspired by this recipe, topped off with the strawberry zip-pull. 

Chocolate Swiss Roll Handbag, available from the Lucky Ladybird shop

Of course if looking for beautiful pictures of food there's one place you can spend hours drooling over - Pinterest! Although my method of constructing my cupcake coin purses is a closely guarded secret, I will reveal that many of my cupcake 'recipes' are inspired by beautiful Pinterest images, such as this mouthwatering photograph of a batch of lemon cupcakes.

Lemon cupcakes from MontanaRosePainter on Pinterest
Lemon cupcake coin purse by the Lucky Ladybird
If you'd like to see more delicious images that helped to inspire my crafty creations, and even get a few clues as to some more recipes I'm considering adding to the Lucky Ladybird range check out my Pinterest board 'Cake Craft' which I've just make public.

The world of crafting is weird and wonderful, and the only limit is your imagination. As it turns out my imagination reaches about as far as my stomach! Keep looking for inspiration, and good luck in all your creative endeavours, 

LL xx

Monday, 23 September 2013

Cupcake Competition Launch!

Big news LL fans! To celebrate the arrival of my new cupcake gift boxes I'm launching the first ever Lucky Ladybird competition, and it starts today!
First take a look at the new gift boxes to get started. Each set includes a cupcake coin purse, a matching bag charm and a filling of delicious treats all packaged in a beautiful cupcake gift box.

Introducing, the lemon cupcake gift box

The lemon cupcake gift set includes a cupcake coin purse with a filling of delicious Lemon Meringue flavour boiled sweets as provided by confectioners Hope and Greenwood

Lemon cupcake coin purse

The gift set also includes one matching cupcake bag charm, so small and sweet!
 The Strawberry cupcake gift box

The strawberry cupcake gift set includes a cupcake coin purse with a filling of delicious Strawberry Jam Tart flavour boiled sweets as provided by confectioners Hope and Greenwood
Strawberry cupcake coin purse

The gift set also includes a strawberry cupcake bag charm

And finally the chocolate truffle cupcake gift box

The chocolate truffle gift box includes a chocolate truffle coin purse filled with delicious Champagne 'Tickled Pink' Truffles as provided by confectioners Hope and Greenwood!

The chocolate truffle coin purse

The chocolate cupcake gift set also includes a mini chocolate cupcake bag charm
The sets are designed to be the perfect gift for cake-lovers, but I'd love to add a fourth flavour to the range. This is where you come in, what do you think the fourth cupcake flavour should be? Use your imagination. Maybe you have your own recipe that you'd like to see sewn in fabric, or maybe you've seen something mouthwatering on Pinterest that you just can't resist. Remember a great cupcake should have tempting flavours but should also look colourful and interesting. I'm looking for something that will really stand out from the crowd!

The winner will be the person who comes up with the best cupcake recipe suggestion. Not only will they get to see their suggestion become part of the Lucky Ladybird cupcake collection but they will also receive a cupcake gift box of whichever flavour they chose FOR FREE! The handmade gift boxes normally retail at £20, and this is a one-off opportunity to win one for nothing at all!

To enter email with the subject heading 'Cupcake Competition'. Include your name and an email address where you can be contacted as well as your suggestion for a cupcake recipe. If it's a cupcake you've made and photographed or seen online then you can include a photo, but that's not strictly necessary. The deadline for competition entry is Monday October 14th, so please email your suggestions soon to be in with a chance of winning. Due to postage costs I'm sorry to say the competition is only open to residents of Great Britain.

Please spread the word to let cupcake fans know about the competition. There will be regular updates and reminders via Facebook and Twitter so keep in touch and feel free to message or tweet me with any questions you have. I can't wait to see what flavours you come up with! Let the competition begin!

Good luck ladybirds,

LL xx

Thank you to everyone who entered the competition! The winner was a Mrs Janet Walker with her suggestion of a blueberry cupcake. Stay tuned for details of a new Lucky Ladybird compeition coming in 2014

Saturday, 17 August 2013

The summer of markets, and all I learned along the way

Over the last month I've taken my first steps into the world of craft markets. It's a world that's completely new to me, and although it hasn't made me a millionaire just yet the process has been incredibly useful.

The first market I signed up for wasn't a craft market at all but an 'enterprise fair', an event organised to promote young business in the Shropshire area. The event was called 'Enterprise Rocks' and was organised by Young Britain who provide support for young entrepreneurs.

The stall was free and I knew the event would be well attended by people in the business community so it seemed like a great networking opportunity. In the weeks before the event I hand sewed a banner, got business cards and put together several things to help make a good display including bunting, a cake stand, cups and saucers and a pretty floral table cloth.

I also had to rush to organise lots of practical aspects of stall-holding. I dug out my old cash box, raised a cash float and chose some red tissue paper for gift wrapping. Finally we were ready to go.  'Enterprise Rocks' was due to take place on the first morning of the summer holidays, but even so my husband agreed to come along and help me set up, which was a big relief because I was very nervous!
We set up early in the morning. On site all the stalls were in mini marquees, which served as great protection from the weather.
Stalls being set up at 'Enterprise Rocks'
All ready to start selling!

As you can see I used the cake stand to display small items like my cupcake purses and miniroll purses and a teacup for my teeny tiny bag charms. Everyone who came to look really loved my range of items, and I made plenty of sales to my fellow stall holders! Even better I got lots of feedback and gave out dozens of business cards.
It was publicised as 'the business version of Glastonbury' which, in the event , was an overstatement. People seemed to have had trouble finding the venue (which was out of town and not well sign-posted enough) and most people I met were there to network rather than to shop. But having a deadline to work towards to get my products ready for sale was really useful to me, and the whole experience convinced me that I was ready to attend more craft fairs.
After 'Enterprise Rocks' I signed up with The Nation of Creation who hold craft fairs in Wellington and Ellesmere. The Wellington venue, Belmont Community Hall, was an easy distance from home for me and the stall booking fee seemed very reasonable, so I was excited to get started! Thanks to 'Enterprise Rocks' I was almost ready to attend my first real craft fair. My only preparation this time was the purchase of a second cake stand ( a bargain I couldn't resist!) and the requirement to provide my own public liability insurance forced me to get my act in gear and get insured for the rest of the year.
The atmosphere at Wellington was relaxed and friendly, with lots of other crafters and artists keen to talk and take a look. It was great to meet other maker/designers and even better to find out than no one else was making anything quite like my cake bags! Once again I sold a few items to other stall-holders and some small pieces to locals. Over all though the event seemed very quiet, and for a couple of hours I wasn't sure whether I would make enough sales to break even after the stall fee. Thankfully a few last-minute sales made the trip worthwhile, but I was left feeling a little despondent, and wondering whether I had done something wrong! After all some other stalls seemed to have done very well from the day, while I'd only just managed to get by.
The Lucky Ladybird at Wellington
The new cake stand complete with the first of my chocolate cupcake purses

After we packed up, cashed up and went home I settled down to read a very useful book that I'd been reading 'Crafts and Craft Shows, How to Make Money' by Philip Kadubec.

When I began to read I had a real 'light-bulb' moment and I suddenly understood why the day hadn't gone my way. In chapter 5 'Selecting Your Shows' Philip Kadubec says that different craft items of different values are not necessarily suited to stand side-by side at the same craft fairs. Some crafters make expensive items while other make cheap items. A craft show can be well attended, but if the local people don't have much to spend then all you will get are some encouraging remarks and not a lot to show from it. Equally if you make non-luxury items and try to sell them in a privileged area you might find yourself looked-over. In other words "investigate the general economic conditions of the area in which you intend to do a show" (page 65) and match your product to the area. It's something I'd never thought about before, but it dawned on me that all I had been able to sell in Wellington were the cheaper items, and more than one person had mentioned not being able to 'splash out' on something fancy like a handbag. The experience taught me that I hadn't done anything wrong except in choosing which fair to attend and, although I would consider travelling to Wellington nearer to Christmas, in future I might be better off travelling further afield to somewhere a little wealthier.
Technically the summer isn't over yet, the leaves are still green on the trees, but the school holidays are nearly over and in the crafting world it's time to start thinking about Christmas. I'm now working out how to put together gift packs and special items for the holiday season, and my experiences this summer should also help me to get ready for Christmas markets. I'm no longer nervous about setting up a stall, I'm happy with setting up a display and with all my practical set-up too. I also feel better prepared to chose the right market for my products, and that might be the most important lesson of all.
Many thanks for reading, and especial thanks to Philip Kadubec for his wise words.
Love and luck,

Monday, 1 July 2013

Food bags galore

Since moving full time into bag-making a lot of people I meet seem confused by what I do. Why would you make bags shaped like food? How did you come up with that crazy idea? Well it isn't just me. In fact it seems to me that a food-shaped accessory is just what everyone needs to brighten their day.

Check out this amazing Nacho Wallet made by Decor Craft Inc. (via Modcloth) . What I love about this wallet is that a taco is a perfect purse shape, flat underneath with a curved zip opening. The printed fabrics are also a stroke of genius, they almost make the purse look edible!
Decor Craft Inc. also make a cute set of iPhone covers including one that makes your phone look like an ice cream sandwich. It's almost enough to make me wish I had an iPhone.

And if you were wondering whether savoury bags were the way to go then consider this weird and wonderful invention, the 'Hambag'.

These bags are the brainchild of Hannah Havana, a member of the Garudio Studiage collective. The realism of these is brilliant, and yet something about the rubbery vinyl meat says 'dog toy' to me.

Okay, the main course is over, how about dessert?

The pattern to make this felt strawberry cheesecake purse is available to download from fairyfox on etsy. The strawberries are very cute, but if it was me I'd put some white seed beads on those!

And what about this 'Marie Antoinette cake purse' by ~tabithaemma on deviantart. A hundred bonus points for imaginative use of ric-rac!

But no post about novelty handbags would be complete without mentioning Judith Leiber, the handbag designer with a difference. Leiber's 'minaudières' (jewellery-like objects designed to work as clutch bags) come in all shapes and sizes including animals, household items and food. What better accessory to take to a wedding than a crystal wedding cake?


Sadly Judith Leiber's amazing designer creations are only available at a handful of exclusive locations, and the more decorative items cost between $4000 and $7000.

So it seems it's not just me creating food shaped bags. Whatever your taste in food you can find someone, somewhere crafting the perfect fashion accessory to meet your fancy. Join the revolution with me at the Lucky Ladybird shop where cake bags and sushi bags are the order of the day.