Friday, 27 February 2009

When is a water tower not a water tower?

And the answer is...when it's been converted into a posh house on Channel 4's Grand Designs!

Our walk today was around the lovely village of Rolvenden, a few miles down the road, and finally I remembered the camera! I've nosed over the hedge at this house several times, but never before tried to snap it.

If you've looked at the link, or maybe remember the programme, you'll know they spent a shedload of money on it. So to my mind it's only fair they should have to have a public footpath just at the bottom of the garden!

This is the view in the opposite direction, nothing but fields and the occasional sheep.

Rolvenden is quite an "Olde Worlde" village. We walked past a windmill ...

and a couple of Oast Houses (I want one!!!!)

When we got home there wre no less than NINE frogs soaking up some rays with their little heads popped out of the pond, but they soon dived.

Caught a snap of one though...

Thursday, 26 February 2009

New Meerkat at Howletts Zoo

We went for a day out at Howletts and thought that at least one of the meerkats should get some practise at spotting predators!

Predator? Hmmm, not sure, he's certainly very interested!

I don't think he's likely to eat a meerkat.

Definitely not a predator - this rhino is a statue!

Snakes eat meerkats :-(

Snow leopards might eat meerkats :-(

Another statue, don't be scared!

Etana the baby elephant was born just before Christmas, and still needs to suckle frequently.

Howletts Mansion looks just like home...not!

I have mixed feelings about zoos. Howletts has a great reputation for captive breeding, and for sending animals back into the wild. Many of their animals are in huge enclosures - so big in fact that you often hear people moaning they can't see any animals!

So - as a zoo, it's a good one, I think. And if it wasn't for zoos like Howletts maybe we'd have even more extinct species? But it's a shame they're necessary.

Let's meet...ByTheWay!

Are you ready? GO!

Cats or dogs?
I'd have a hundred cats if my DH's motto wasn't 'moderation in all things'

Star Wars or Star Trek?
I'd Trek to the ends of the final frontier!

Fruit or chocolate?
Dove Dark, yummmm, which reminds me, I'll be right back!

I had to google this, I don't think it's a brand we know in the UK...unless it's just me?

Favourite colour?
I always say yellow, my quilt guild would say purple and turquoise, but like your children, how can you have a fave? I DO not like brown, though (except if it is a Dove Dark!).

Favourite meal?
Hmm, does chocolate count? Actually, I have passed on my chocolate obsession to my daughter and she made a chicken dish with chocolate and homemade ravioli pasta with chocolate.

City break or weekend in the country?
I'm a country girl, (not the music), so give me a horse to bury my nose in and a barn of newly baled hay! I love sunshine and flowers and growing things, so country it is!

Soaps or documentaries?
Soaps! I watched them until I found Etsy, then gave them up cold turkey after 25 years!

Bath or shower?
Shower - long, hot and steamy!

Now we’ve got you warmed up…

What brought you to Etsy? Tell us about your shop (or shops) Do you sell anywhere else?
I first heard about Etsy on Martha Stewart's show. Rob was on with one of the top sellers, I don't remember who it was. I lurked a LONG time before joining. The treasuries were a favorite place to hang out, but I also spent a lot of time in the forums and reading the Newbie Guide. This is my only venue right now, and that's fine with me. I schlepped stuff around a few times several years ago and don't care to do that again!

What’s the favourite item you’ve made so far?
Well, I have 3 shops. Only one is handmade, although I do have a few handmade in my wearable vintage shop.
In ByTheBy I have girl's jumpers/sundresses and I just love the ones with the cute little shoes on them. It's a Daisy Kingdom print.
ByTheBy is temporarily closed until the CPSIA situation gets resolved, but here's the lovely little dress for you to admire:.

In ByTheWay, my first shop, which is wearable, mostly vintage, I also have a few handmade and a few upcycled items. My fave in there is a cute little black velvet swing dress.

In ByTheWayside, which is nonwearable vintage, I guess it would have to be the hammered aluminum ice bucket. We had one as I was growing up, and I think it was used primarily as a cookie tin!
I think ByTheWayside is my favorite shop. I love finding goodies to list, but then again, I love finding stuff for ByTheWay, too! There's that favorite thing - I can't decide!

What has been the most useful lesson you’ve learnt (about Etsy) so far?
Write everything down (that's my life lesson, not just Etsy!). If you have a question, there are a ton of people who will help you in the forums. But please, check if your question has been asked before, or some of them will get upset.

If you could start again, is there anything you’d do differently?
Work on my photos more. There is a lot of good info out there, but mostly for jewelry and small items, and my photos of real models are still a work in progress!

I think you've got it sorted now! This is one of my favourite product photos. I was quite convinced it was a trendy leather bra at first!

How do you see your store developing? I have already changed focus. I originally had my ByTheBy girls' things in with the vintage at ByTheWay, and that just didn't seem to work, so I split those items off. I like what each shop is now. I would like to add some altered clothing to ByTheWay, there are so many beautiful items you can pick up dirt cheap, and I hate seeing anything go to waste. I also have a collection of vintage fabric that I plan on making into garments with vintage patterns. Mostly 1970's double-knit polyester - fun bright colors!

What have you been doing today that I’ve interrupted?
Well, actually, I put this interview on hold to go to the gym and grocery shopping. I dislike both, but if I sit in front of the computer all day, I gotta move sometime! Then I am also in the middle of redoing all my tags and rechecking sizes of my vintage clothing in ByTheWay. I have most of it done, but with 12 pages of items, it takes a little time!

What’s your top marketing tip for today?
Marketing tip? Well, I guess it would have to be join the best team on Etsy - the Treasury Team! I have met so many nice people there! There is so much competition on Etsy, but ETTEAM is a very sharing and supportive group. The team exists to support each other and we do, not just in treasuries, but in lots of other ways. I am impressed that members that are selling the same type of items help others on our team who are selling the same type of items improve their shops and also promote the others's items in various venues!

Heather, thank you so much for featuring me in your blog! I really do love the sense of community, helpfulness and acceptance we have on our team :)

My pleasure - thanks for taking the time to answer so many nosy questions! I can only agree with your comments above about Etteam - our team rocks!


Wednesday, 25 February 2009

I'm going to be a granny!

Bet that got my kids' attention!

When I looked out of the window this morning I had to rush straight out to the pond...

Our first frog spawn of the season!

Last year was our first spring as "pond owners" and I was worried that the frogs wouldn't find us. They did, of course. Must have been the signs I put up eveywhere...

Some of last year's tadpoles "forgot" to change into frogs, and were still swimig around, legless, in November. No sign of them now, however.

Can't wait for my new babies to arrive!

Tuesday, 24 February 2009

Let's meet...Covetables!

Michelle of Covetables was a big help to me whilst I was creating my knitted dachshunds. Without her input, they would have been waistless! (Own up - how many of you would have known sausage dogs have waists?)

We can probably guess the answer to my first question:

Cats or dogs?

Both, I have a dachshund and two cats so I wouldn't want to hurt anyones feelings by leaving one out. I also have fish but they don't seem to care about much other than getting fed.

Star Wars or Star Trek?
Ugh, neither. This is a bone of contention in my house where I live with my sci-fi, video game, comic book obsessed husband and yes, he is a grown up.

Fruit or chocolate?
Both again! My favorite sweet combination is strawberry or raspberry and chocolate.

Favourite colour?
Lime green

Favourite meal?
Right this minute I'd love a pizza-thin crust, baked in a wood burning oven.

City break or weekend in the country?
I like either but I usually lean to city breaks more often.

Soaps or documentaries?
Documentaries, there's enough drama in real life!

Bath or shower?
mmmmm bath-hot, hot bath, hopefully without my daughter in it which is a rarity these days.

Now we’ve got you warmed up…

What brought you to Folksy? Tell us about your shop ... do you sell anywhere else?

My shop is all about stuff that girls like and it's inspired by my 5 year old daughter. I have a real passion for kids having beautiful and fun things that aren't mass produced and destined to be land fill. I really believe in open ended toys that can be made a part of all kinds of imaginary scenarios and not just a one trick pony. Hmmmm ponies, there's something new I could do!

You sound just like me, Michelle - out for a walk, see something and wonder how I'd knit it...or would it be better crocheted!

I am on folksy because I live in the UK and wanted a presence here that was in £. I looked at all the sites that fit the bill and Folksy was the one that I felt most at home with. I liked the idea of being in on the beginning of something as well and I think that's where folksy is right now.

I have an etsy shop as well as one on coriandr. I spend most of my time promoting the folksy shop rather than the others at this point.

What’s the favourite item you’ve made so far?

I started doing some simple dolls with painted faces and felt hair and absolutely love how they turned out. In fact my two most favorite ones just sold and I actually had a bit of a hard time packing them away and saying good bye even though I know they are going to a good home.

What has been the most useful lesson you’ve learnt about Folksy so far?

Patience! Folksy is new, it's got a few quirks to work out. Not everyone knows about it and what you put in is what you get out. With any online selling you can't just sit back and wait for the sales come in, except for in very rare circumstances. We probably all had this feeling like we'd upload a shop and suddenly people who start buying up our stuff, I know I did. It doesn't work like that though!

If you could start again, is there anything you’d do differently?

I don't think so. Actually strike that. I think I would have got my blog together first and had that sorted as a sort of portal to everything and been able to use my domain name on everything at the beginning. I have done that now but I would have saved some money on business cards and the like if I have done that to begin with.

How do you see your store developing?

Well, I'd like to eventually also have my own site and keep on developing my range. I am already working on some new things like felt dim sum and sushi sets, felt cakes and some felt pencil cases with retro embroidery on them.

What have you been doing today that I’ve interrupted?

Baking. That's what I am often doing as I own a baking business as well.

What’s your top marketing tip for today?

Don't be shy about talking about what you do. Tell everyone you know about your stuff, have links to your shop on your email signature and on any forums that you use. Just be out there and never sit back and expect it to happen without your input.

Thanks Michelle! Find out more by dropping in at Covetables website

Monday, 23 February 2009

Evolution of a dachshund

Some while back I ventured on to one of the frequent threads on Etsy "What do you think of this avatar?"

My meerkat was mistaken for a dachshund! Excellent, I thought, that's my next project then.

I thought at first that I wouldn't need to do much more than turn my meerkat sideways, but that didn't work quite as well as I'd hoped!

I googled some pictures and set to work. I changed the angle of the legs, changed the increasing for his head so that it wasn't so central on the neck, and angled the tail.

Not quite there yet. I could see the body needed to be longer, and somehow it just didn't look quite right. I started looking out for dachshunds on my daily walks!

I needed expert advice, so went back to Etsy forums and discovered there is actually an Etsy team for Dachshund lovers! Clearly these were the folk to ask for help. I sent a message to SassySashadoxie and she was kind enough to send me lots of photos of Sasha.

Another Etsian, Covetables, told me that dachshunds have waists and that was the next addition to my pattern.

(By the way, when I say "pattern" don't be fooled - we're talking about a scrappy piece of paper with sketches and scrawled pencil notes.)

I now had a dachshund I was happy with, and listed a few.

But I was still well aware that I wanted to go further. Sasha, you will recall, is part black, part tan.

I sat and stared at my prototype for a while, working out how many stitches needed to be each colour, and set to work once more, referring frequently to my Sasha gallery.

My next pup had a very rumpled tummy, due to carrying the black yarn across the back of the tan.

I like to knit "in the round" on 4 needles, but working with four needles and two colours of wool at the same time was clearly not conducive to mental health (or to a smooth doggy tummy) so I went back to my pattern once more to make it work on two needles. After several attempts, we got there!

I checked back at my Sasha gallery:
ears: black on top, tan below? CHECK!
tan on underside of tail? CHECK!
tan butt? CHECK!
black eye mask? CHECK!
tan eyebrows? CHECK!
tan lower legs? CHECK!
black back? CHECK!

Many thanks to Covetables and SassySashadoxie and most of all to the lovely Sasha :-)

Want one? check them out here!

Saturday, 21 February 2009


It's a strange thing, perspective. I don't mean the type of perspective that indicates that the background is further away than the foreground,

I mean one man's junk is another man's treasure, or the grass is always greener on the other side.

Point of view.

I've been unemployed for a while now. I used to be a teacher, but the ridiculous 80 hour weeks (would have been longer, but annoyingly I kept falling asleep) and everchanging government guidelines "did my head in" as the kids say.

Every two weeks I trundle off to the job centre and register as available for work. It doesn't take too long - half hour drive, park (and pay for the privilege) and sit in a waiting area and ... wait. There's plenty to entertain me whilst waiting, because there is no attempt to give jobseekers any privacy. I come out of a session knowing all about somebody's boyfriend who has abandoned them, someone else who didn't get an interview - and of course there'a always a phone call or two "I'm at the job centre".

The phone calls don't last long, because it's "not allowed". The younger jobseekers get annoyed about this and turn to their mate (they always jobhunt in packs, I find) and mutter "It's not fair, it's just like school."

Eventually it's my turn. I show them my list of applications submitted, they ask if I've been successful. Silly question, really. Why would I still be there?

So far, so routine.

But last time, there was an opening. There is a local growth industry, and I am encouraged to apply.

What is this vacancy in the new growth industry?

You've guessed it. I've now applied for a job alongside the clerks I see every fortnight. There are so many unemployed now, they need more staff at the job centre.

What really amused me though was seeing this job from the employer's perspective.

(See? I hadn't forgotten my title)

Remember how each session goes for me? Show my applications, sign, go home.

This is from the job description:

  • motivate customers to see work as realistic and achievable
  • give advice on job goals and how these can be best achieved, taking into account the local labour market
  • undertake job searches for those who are job ready and refer them to suitable vacancies and arrange job interviews with employers

So THAT'S what the clerk has been doing for me each fortnight. I wonder why I hadn't noticed?

PS Timing is everything, or so they say. I'd almost finished typing this blog when the postman arrived... (click to enlarge to readable size unless you have your magnifying glass handy)

Friday, 20 February 2009

Let's meet...MidnightCoiler!

I met Lynn through Etteam and have grown to love her shop full of gourds, fiber, carving and pottery.

I wanted to find out more about the woman behind the counter...

Star Wars or Star Trek?
Beam me up!

*niftyknits grins widely and holds her hand up in that wierd Vulcan finger salute*

Fruit or chocolate?
definitely the big C

Favourite colour?

Favourite meal?
Vegetarian- Indian food- Saag paneer, channa masala & naan .... yum!

City break or weekend in the country?
I live in the country, so the occasional city trip is fun.

What brought you to Etsy?
My husband suggested I give it a go. I've sold at shows for years and at our local Arts Council. This year I've decided not to do the shows.

What’s the favourite item you’ve made so far?
Most often whatever I'm working on at the time. I'm proudest of the ones that have won awards.

What has been the most useful lesson you’ve learnt so far?
That you have to promote to sell.

How do you see your store developing?
My store will reflect the most current state of my imagination as I continue to discover my target market here on Etsy through exposure and promotion. Right now my raw gourds are my best sellers, and I'll continue to offer more of these in the future.

I'll keep working in the mediums I love, while experimenting with ways to make my work more appealing to a broader range of buyers.

What have you been doing today that I’ve interrupted?
I've been here on the computer all day, so you are already part of what I'm doing!

What’s your top marketing tip for today?
Always put a time limit on a special offer.

Thank you! That last tip sounds heartfelt! Find Lynn's shop here and learn more in her blog.

Thursday, 19 February 2009

Dogs...and their owners.

*rant alert*

I live in a beautiful semi-rural area in Kent, and I like to walk. When it's muddy, I walk to town on a hard-surfaced path bordering open fields, then walk back across country. I think the shopkeepers approve of me doing it that way around, it saves them cleaning their carpets!

So far - so good.

The path is used by a lot of dog-owners, so the council have kindly provided a bin for them to dispose of their dog's little offerings.

"Aha" you're thinking - I know what she's going to rant about. She's going to rant about the dog-owners who don't clear up.

But no. I don't like dog mess underfoot (who would?) but many, maybe most, of the dog walkers I see these days do clear up after their pet.

In any case, the path is quite wide, and I am more than capable of stepping around these little mementoes.

No, my rant is reserved for the new breed of dog-owners who bizarrely bag up their pet's offerings and then chuck it, bag and all, into the buishes as (maybe?) an exhibition of modern art.

Why do they do that? It makes no sense to me. I get that they don't want to carry around a bag of poo - who would? But surely if you want to chuck it off the path into the bushes, there's no benefit to bagging it up first? Even if the bag is biodegradable it isn't going to happen any time soon! (And some of the bags on my regular routes have been there a long time)

Maybe they think the council employs someone to go around looking for their little bags of doggypoo?

*rant over*

Bottom (no pun intended) line is - this is the type of dog I like!