Meet the Maker
When I saw that Joanne Hawker was doing another March Meet the Maker, I decided to give it ago. It was a great way of forcing me out of my comfort zone and doing something a little different away from my sewing machine. It seemed a shame to let it get lost in the world of social media so although it is now August and this was done in March, I have shared my story with you here.
When I first published this on Instagram I had racked up 37 quilts in my portfolio. Since then I am up to 70. It has been a busy summer! I have also worked a lot on reducing my plastic since day 12 now 90% of my orders go out plastic free in mailing boxes or biodegradable mailing bags. I'm not 100% there yet with some order sizes but it is a good start.
Day 1 - You
This month I will be taking part in #MarchMeetTheMaker (hopefully I will keep it up). I am really looking forward to giving you an insight in the day in the life of Crafts by Katie and seeing what all my fellow craft friends get up to.
I’m in my late twenties, I get married in June on our 12th year anniversary! I basically just love making things. As much as I have always worked hard and done well in my “proper” jobs, I would always have in the back of my mind all the things I would rather be making. I find it hard to talk about myself without mentioning George because he is such a massive part of my life and was the perfect excuse to pursue Crafts by Katie full time. Up until very recently all my work was done while he slept. In January he started nursery for a couple of mornings a week. For the first time in a long time I feel like a grown up again. As much as I love having him around, it is so nice to have dedicated time to grow my business and achieve something outside of parenting. I have a new sense of ambition and motivation and I am really excited about the future.
Day 2 - Where
We live in Grantham, Lincolnshire. In the summer last year we moved to the perfect house. I have a fantastic craft room (which I really ought to tidy ready for day 6), lots of hosting room and outdoor space to play. Grantham is not the most exciting town to live in but that’s how I like it.
Day 3 - How I Started
I have always loved to make things but if I was to put a pin point on when it really started, it was a trip to Kenya in 2010. I am quite tall so I struggle to get maxi dresses long enough. I decided I would try and make myself one, how hard can it be? I got a basic pattern lesson from my mother in law, picked up a few metres of fabric for a couple of pound at our local fabric shop (which unfortunately didn’t stay open long) and made my first dress. Although I have searched and searched, I cannot find a picture of me wearing said dress however, I also made myself a top and another dress. I was hooked, I have made myself dozens of dresses since, I started getting requests from other people and in 2012 I set up my Crafts by Katie Facebook page. I have dipped my toes in almost all crafts and it has taken a lot of time in craft fairs and research to work out what I enjoy making most and what other people are willing to buy. Somehow over the last 6 years that has evolved into quilts and baby clothes!
Day 4 - Favourite to Make
I love making quilts. When I explain it to people that don’t quilt, I sound crazy “yea so I get fabric and then I cut it up and then I sew it back together again to make it even prettier”.
There really is only so many quilts a girl needs so I started to think about how I could feed this habit. A friend of mine trusted me with her girl’s clothes and I turned it into my first keepsake quilt. For the purpose of #MarchMeetTheMaker I decided to go through my pictures and add up how many I have made. I think I have completed 37 keepsake quilts, blankets and cushions. I have 4 in progress, 2 are for George, and 2 lined up. I am pretty impressed with that, I genuinely had no idea how many I had made. I will make sure I keep up the tally from now on.
Day 5 - Photography
Photography has been a massive learning curve for me. When I look back at my very first photos and Etsy listings I cringe! Thank you to all those lovely customers that could see through my terrible photographs and allowed me to grow my business and learn how to take better photos. When we viewed our house for the first time I knew exactly where I could take all my future photographs. The lady that lived here before white washed the bedroom floor with her bare hands. It is done beautifully and provides the perfect back drop to show off my makes. It is the bedroom so it isn’t walked on an awful lot and it is the perfect excuse for me to keep our grown up space clean and tidy. Our home also consists of a massive garden which we call the secret garden. It has been left to it s own devices for several years. When I have it back to its full glory I will be venturing outside more for my photos.
Day 6 - Work Space
I have been dreading today. I knew looking through everyone else’s posts would give me mega craft room envy. I know I shouldn’t be ungrateful because I have an amazing space but I never do understand how everyone else keeps theirs so pretty. I have piles of boxes that I moved out of shot especially for these photographs. I am saving up for some better storage solution but for now boxes and bags will have to do. It is organised and all my quilt projects are filed away safely. There are parts I do love though. The fireplace being the main one. It is the perfect shelf for all my fabric paints and hanging proudly above it is a pattern making pack we found in my Grandma Jo’s house. She taught me how to make my first patchwork cushion when I was a young teenager so I framed it as a happy reminder in my favourite place to be.
Day 7 - Routine
Today is Wednesday which is a nursery morning. That means I have to get myself and a miniature human ready and out the house before 8.45 😱 each morning is a daily battle trying to convince him out of his pyjamas. All of you posting pictures in your onesies with your cup of coffee @joannehawker, George is with you. Today I showed him that he has pockets in his trousers and that was a revelation. I even managed to get a nice photo in his new t-shirt! I get 4 solid hours of crafting and sewing on a Monday and Wednesday morning so Sundays and Tuesdays are the best time to place your order! I won’t bore you with the daily routine of a day in the life with a toddler as I’m sure there are plenty of you out there doing the same.
Day 8 -Flatlay
I know it sounds daft from someone who makes stuff for a living but I never consider myself creative. I sometimes struggle to think out of my bubble so I found flaylay quite hard! I just finished this quilt so I thought I would use it along with some of the tools I use to make them. You can find the Tula Pink Hardware over on my sister page @thefabricsquirrel
Day 9 - How it’s made
I make my quilts in the order in which they arrive. The longest part of the process is all the prep work, ironing, cutting and planning the layout. I always send a picture to the owner at this stage to check they are happy with the layout. Sometimes they are and some times they want lots of jiggling about. I am happy either way. Only you know what item of clothing was the most important or brings the happiest memories. If you had forgotten to mention it on your order form, you wouldn’t want that item being tucked away in a corner! Once that is all decided it is on to the sewing.
Day 10 - Time to relax
Ironically this is the first opportunity I have had all day to post this. We don’t get out often but tonight is a proper night off. George is with grandpa and we have the night out.
Day 11 - Branding
My very talented brother Tom at @thewildernesscoart has designed all my branding for me. Crafts by Katie was born about 6 years ago and since I have taken a few angles in my business the name has always worked quite well. The sewing machine speaks for itself and the squares represent the patchwork’s of my quilts. I was keen for my branding to be bold and different. I haven’t seen anything similar so I like to think I am recognisable. I have several stamps from the lovely @stampit.co.uk to add my branding in vests and on any notes. I also sew labels with my logo and washing instructions into all my quilts and cushion covers. I love seeing my lovely logo!
Day 12 - Postage and Packaging
I have been reading today's posts with interest and wasn’t surprised to read a lot about reducing plastic. It’s a massive box on my to do list this year. Sending baby clothes, I am really conscious that I want them to arrive safely and hygienically. I package them all in a zip lock bag and then wrapped in recycled tissue paper from the @tinyboxcompany. I make my labels with my logo stamp and Kraft paper which I leave blank if it is marked as a gift. I use really pretty mailing bags which I love but I think it is going to be this extra layer of plastic I look to ditch this year. Anyone got any good alternatives that are still pretty?!
Day 13 - Work Clothes
Excuse the terrible picture, I thought I ought to get a shot while I was sewing briefly today. I live in skinny jeans and shirts or my mother in laws knitted jumpers at the moment. Occasionally a pair of leggings and comfy dress comes out too. I am usually accessorised with thread which is regularly pointed out by my family and occasionally strangers. I don’t know why it offends people so much.
Day 14 -Dreams & Plans
I do feel like I am living the dream a little. I surround myself with fabric on a daily basis and I get to make pretty things for a living! I would love one day to have a long armed quilting machine but I am along way off that. I plan on making new designs each month but I’m already behind. If I can keep increasing my orders at the same rate I have in the last 12 months I will be very happy!
Day 15 - Bommerang
I have not prepared today and I’m out for most of it so here is an old favourite of me trying to photograph a blanket with a small human helping.
Day 16 - Helper
George has already featured heavily in this #meetthemakerweek challenge. Most of the time he’s more of a hindrance than a help but I have a lot to thank him for. Without him I never would have had the confidence to start my own business. What bigger motivation can you get than staying at home to look after your son. On one of his less helpful days he woke up early from a nap. Since it was his quilt I was making I sat him on my lap and he helped me finish the last little bit on quilting. Now I can tell him when he’s older that he helped make it.
Day 17 - Customers & Feedback
I received this lovely email this morning so it seemed appropriate to use it for today's #marchmeetthemaker. I like to do the odd random act of kindness and since I got a bit carried away making squares for his one, I had enough to make a cushion cover. I included it as a surprise when they received their quilt. Whether it is a private message, a picture, a tag or a review, they all make me really happy! With a “normal” job you get performance reviews and training but us little business owners rely on little messages like this so thank you.
Day 18 - Inspiration
It’s that kid again. George is my biggest inspiration and most of the vests I have made have been designs I wanted to match an outfit or were appropriate for an outing we were going on. My adventure is out there summed him up very well. He has never sat still and was on the go from what seemed like day 1. I occasionally get inspiration from Pinterest and other little people in my life too. I have a hundred new ideas logged in my head that I need to work on!
Day 19 - Can’t Live Without
This is going to make tomorrow’s post of tools a bit tricky but I really couldn’t be without these things! Massive cutting mat, rulers of all shapes and sizes depending on what I’m making and my Tula Pink rotary cutter. A day doesn’t pass when I use all of these things and they are essential for making keepsake quilts. I sell the Tula Pink Hardware over on @thefabricsquirrel so head over and grab one while they are still in stock.
Day 20 - Tools & Materials
I have gathered up a few of the tools and materials I use on a daily basis. I have a selection of fabric paints, one of the blank organic cotton bodysuits that I print on. The stamps I make myself using left over DIY projects. I use bamboo wadding in my quilts. I use bamboo because not only is it fab to work with but it is known for its antibacterial properties which can only be a good thing to keep your quilts lasting forever. The grey is one of the backing fabrics I use and I a snuck in my favourite scissors from @thefabricsquirrel again.
Day 21 - Stories
I have been dreading today’s #marchmeetthemaker. I’m rubbish at videos but I have taken a few pics of what I have been working on today. Today has been a day of adding binding to a quilt but mainly @thefabricsquirrel work. How pretty is this fabric?! I’m working on my next blog .
Day 22 - Sketchbook & Lists
I used to love a list, lived by them. I still love a list but I’m rubbish at using them. I started writing one yesterday and then I got distracted and made my apron for my latest blog and forgot I was meant to be writing a list 🤦Now I primarily use Etsy and website, all my work is listed in there. It’s only projects for myself and friends that I forget about and need to write down.
Day 23 - Hands at Work
Hands at Work Day 23 of #marchmeetthemaker just happens to be exactly 3 months until our wedding. It was as if you knew I need to show of my shiny ring. This is me cutting out my next keepsake quilt. The ring Daniel designed himself and it’s perfect 💎
Day 24 - Achievements
I really started focusing on my Etsy shop around this time last year. I think I had around 10 reviews and 100 sales. I am now at nearly 500 sales and over 100 5* reviews 😱
Day 25 - Being a Maker Means
Being a Maker means... everything! I have never been happier than I am now. I read this quote years ago and dreamed one day I could sit in my craft room and make pretty things and here I am... it means I can be there for my little boy and do what I love.
Day 26 - Books, Blogs, Podcasts
I’m a real visual person so podcasts aren’t my thing and I don’t follow any blogs but I’ll often have lots pinned. I’m more of a flick through the pictures and make it up as I go long kind of person. I am however a lover of books and have a book case full although this is a small selection of my crafty books. I have a whole dresser full of crafty magazines. I take lot of inspiration from books especially when making quilts for myself.
Day 27 - Recommend a Maker
I have mentioned @stampit.co.uk lots of times before but I have purchased lots of stamps from this lady and I love them! They give me so much more flexibility with my branding. I have lots of crafty family too so they have made great gifts for fellow crafters @thewildernesscoart and @marked.by.hephaestus
Day 28 - Organised
I have been sat in my craft room all day looking at my organised mess and wondering what on earth I was going to post for organised. I am desperately saving up for furniture to give me more storage and get properly organised. Then I looked at this beauty my dad made me for Christmas. It is the only organised corner in my room and I love it.
Day 29 - Community
I love how crafting creates a community. I follow a few Facebook groups and everyone is really supportive. I have held lots of events at my house with friends and strangers and we are all friends by the end of it. Recently I had my bridesmaids round for some wedding stamping. The stamps were from the lovely @theartycraftyplace who were the reason I started creating my baby bodysuits. The napkins are organic cotton and beautifully rustic from @organic_textile_company
Day 30 - Top tip/advice
The penultimate @joannehawker#marchmeetthemaker is top tip. If I was to give anyone a tip about perusing their dream of working for themselves, it would be have courage. Take advice, do your research and get things wrong but you have to have courage to act on that advice and learn from your mistakes. Just do it, if it doesn’t work at least your tried and if I had the courage to do his earlier I would love to know where I would be by now.
Day 31 - Creative Friends
@bandsofcolour.lt by day and @bannedcolour.lt by night. My craft buddy! Funny really because when we met Lucinda didn’t make anything and now we catch up once week to make stuff and eat pudding. In our weekly catch ups we have stamped paint and metal. We teamed up for a Mother’s Day giveaway this year. We have made quilts, dresses, bags, decopauged, jewellery making. You name it we have tried it. It keeps us both sane and we live for it Monday nights.