Friday 27 November 2015

Two Hour Top

I came across some beautiful lightweight teal coloured jersey fabric which has metallic thread stripes punctuated with flat sequins. I really liked it and bought some, and then I also received some for my birthday, so I have plenty to use and have been looking for something to make out of it since April. I was worried about the stretch of the fabric and I wanted quite a simple design as the stripes would not work with a lot of piecing together. I came across a pattern on Pinterest and realised it would work really well, so I ignored my 'to do' list and got on with it.

Sew Different is a fantastic site and it gives well illustrated step by step instructions. The pattern is in two formats as well as providing all of the measurements to draw your own. She gives a lovely breakdown of techniques and instruction on how to alter the pattern to fit. It is all free which is a bonus, although there is a Paypal button where you can buy her a cappuccino for £2. I think this is a fantastic idea as it allows you to 'try before you buy'. I appreciate this approach as I have bought patterns in the past and really struggled with the quality and lack of instructions.

The top is a '2 Hour Top' so I got everything ready and took a photo which included a clock. It was my intention to time how long it took and do it in one sitting, however I got distracted and had a tea break when it got to the "tricky" bits.

Set up and ready to go 
I decided to draw my own pattern as it stopped me arguing with a printer and I find that by the time I have lined up all the bits of paper and stuck them together I could have just drawn it. I went with the size that the pattern was for; I normally would have gone a little bigger but the fabric has the stretch in it. It took a little while to draw because I kept checking my measurements. There are only two pattern pieces which makes life easier and once I had them drawn and cut I positioned them on my fabric. The embroidered lines helped me to line everything up and make sure that it was centred nicely. I cut the main body so that the lines were vertical and the sleeves so that the lines were horizontal. The fabric was difficult to cut due to the sequins and the stretch but for once I actually used enough pins.

Cutting the fabric
I lined up the sleeve pieces and managed to line up the embroidered lines so that the they created a nice 90 degree angle on the join between the main body and sleeve of the top. Sewing it all together was very straight forward with the only difficulty being to trim the neck at the sleeve insertion.

Join between main body and sleeve
The last bit was to do the hem, I have written about hems before in my skirt blog. It has always been something I have found difficult and this top uses a technique that I was aware of but had never used. Bias binding is sewn face down to the right side of the fabric and then tucked under and top stitched. This is a great method and I will be using it again. Following the curve at the bottom is tricky and takes a lot of pinning. I think my neck line is a little more square than the pattern but I really like it. If I made it again I think I would make it a little bit longer but this is a purely personal choice. In the end because I checked my pattern a lot and had to get my head around the hem so it took just under 2 and a half hours however if I made it again I am confident I could get it under 2 hours.

I love the site and if I can find the right fabric I will also be making the batwing top. I will be watching for new patterns and I hope she enjoys the coffee I paid for through Paypal.

Monday 16 November 2015

A Lobster for Pudsey

BBC Radio Shetland organise, co-ordinate and support Children in Need fundraisers every year which also includes a phone-in auction and I decided that it would be a nice idea to donate something. I knew that I could not compete with the big prizes, such as weekends away and wedding car hire, but I wanted to give something fun and affordable and in keeping with the spirit of Children in Need so I decided to donate my lobster hat. I thought it would appeal to both boys and girls, and more importantly their parents. I have made a lot of fleece hats now and will post a blog about them soon.

They are double lined fleece hats, designed by Mary Rasch who kindly allowed me to sell some, and they are really warm (and the lobster has ear flaps with claws on the bottom!). I contacted Radio Shetland to see if they would want it and I have to say I got the kindest response which gave me some confidence for the hats I was hoping to sell at the craft fair.

Having donated the hat and watched it appear on their Facebook page, and displayed in a shop window in Lerwick, I started to worry that it would not sell. I did not want to think that I had taken up airtime for something that did not make any money for the charity. The programme aired during the first night of the craft fair so my husband listened at home. The first update had no bids and I think he was starting to worry but by the end it had sold, and for only slightly less than my craft fair ones. I think a lot of the credit goes to the excellent publicity and use of puns during the auction ("shell out"... "in a pinch").

I am happy to have helped raise just a small amount towards their total that somebody out there enjoys the hat. I am already thinking about what they might like next year..

Sunday 8 November 2015

Craft Fair : Trading Standards

As well as all of the fun I have had making stock I have come across a few more serious aspects relating to the Craft Fair. The main three things to think about have been have been Trading Standards, copyright issues and costing. This blog looks at my experience with complying to trading standards.

I have two products that classify as 'toys' because they are aimed at babies and children under the age of 14. This means that I cannot sell them without a "CE" label and the work that goes into proving it is safe. I was told this initially by the volunteers that are running the fair, one of the many instances in which their help and guidance has been amazing. I contacted Trading Standards as advised and I had two meetings with an incredibly helpful officer. From what I have seen online the amount of advice and support varies by location and I have been really lucky with the input I received. I would advise that if anyone is considering selling toys, cosmetics or jewellery that they should be the first point of contact.

Because I am selling on a small scale I am able to put together a self-declaration file that I keep, and if needs be update, for 10 years. This blog is far from a definitive guide and I am not going to add in a lot of complicated legislation but I wanted to simply write about the things I had to think about. I found that a LOT of the things that you have to consider are common sense and I would hope that people making items for children would consider them anyway; for example I would never send a toy without pulling and tugging and shaking it for example, but the difference when doing things commercially is to be able to show that you have procedures in place.

The first toy I made my daughter had very cute little antennae and I swung it round by them just to make sure they were secure. She has now had it for almost 3 years and has never been as rough with it as I was! When looking at the legislation this comes under "forces applied". If you live elsewhere then you can go to test centres with your creations but as that is not possible up here I described how I carried out each test. I also wrote about the flammability of the fabrics I used. Thankfully all of the fabrics took quite a lot of effort to catch fire when I attempted to burn them. This was reassuring as there has been a lot in the press about flammable Halloween outfits recently.

In the past I have made juggling balls, using rice to fill them, which was fine for family, but to sell them it was suggested that I use plastic pellets designed for toy filling instead as the rice could harbour nasty bacteria if it got damp. For added strength I had already designed the juggling balls to have a double bag and in my CE report I wrote about stitch length and strength as well as how I make sure all pins have been removed. There needs to be batch traceability so I have marked these ones so I know which pellet filling they have. I do not use any stuffing but if I did it would need to be traced as well. The report also contained dimensions and descriptions of my product along with photographs. It is obviously important that the fabric is clean and the stuffing is new. I used all new fabrics, although up-cycling of fabric would be fine as long as it is adequately cleaned.

Thankfully my toys contained no mechanical or moving parts and I decided to use felt eyes so nothing could come loose. Neither would any of my toys fit into the test cylinder that is used to check if there are any choking hazards. As a parent I find it reassuring that all of these regulations are in place. I know that I check the seams on all toys and those that are made on a larger scale will also wear down with time. I have seen people claim that this is "health and safety gone mad" but I think it is just about making sure people consider all of the factors that are needed. I do, however, find it frustrating that the regulation is written in a far more convoluted way than I think it needs to be.