Sunday, 11 December 2011

Seasons Greetings

Time waits for no man or woman! I can’t believe where it goes. I have been busy, busy, busy making Christmas fabric gift bags and bottle gift bags, even a bespoke Christmas tree skirt as well as fulfilling our online shop orders. I love bespoke orders – they are so exciting and you have such fabulous ideas.  I recently made a bundle of drawstring goodie bags in ever increasing sizes, to be used as pass the parcels.  No more frantic, fiddly wrapping at midnight the night before the party for that clever mum.  With her own children, her sister’s kids and close friends they had worked out the set would be used at least 15 times a year for many years to come.  Oh how I wish I had thought of that when mine were toddlers!

In addition, I have attended Christmas craft fayres at Pontesbury, Welti Health & Fitness gym, Concorde College, Shrewsbury Wildlife Trust Centre, Much Wenlock and Shrewsbury High School.  All were great events and I have so many ideas swimming around in my head after chatting which such enthusiastic and creative customers. We have a whole new stock of eco-friendly small toys and I am so glad customers love them as much as we do.

Life was bundling along when sadly in November we learned that our nephew LCpl Richard Scanlon, serving with the QDG was killed on operations in Afghanistan by an IED mine. He was repatriated on 23rd November and was laid to rest with full military honours on Saturday 10th December 2011. Our thoughts and love are with his Mum and Dad and close family - may he rest in peace.

I am planning to increase the range of the handmade bunting, fabric party bags, party favours and kids birthday party stuff so it is even easier for you to have an eco party. Today, the 120 metres of new wonderful fabric I have ordered arrived – I am so excited. The new fabric will fulfil the many requests I have had for different party themes including animal/farm, unisex multicoloured spots and butterflies, giving Lootybag customers a wider range of choice. If anyone out there knows of a fabric printed with knights or castles I would love to know. It is a frequently requested theme for which I have not been able to find anything suitable. One desperate lady imported 3 yards of knight fabric all the way from USA (incurring vast shipping costs!) to be made into party bags for her little boys party.

Also, in line with our eco party theme, we have stocked a wider selection of amazing party bag fillers and baby gifts, from traditional wooden block puzzles to eco-chum soft toys.

The season of good will and Peace on Earth is upon us once again (although I have to admit, it feels as though it’s appeared out of nowhere this year!) and with it, naturally comes a seemingly endless string of parties, nativity plays, school concerts and celebrations to attend. Am I the only one who feels like they are careering around like a madman at this time, wishing I had at least started my Christmas shopping?

If I don’t hear from you before I would like to take this opportunity to wish you all a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

Hello to all at Handmade monday - sorry I hae been absent for a couple of weeks. As you can read above family had to come first for a little while (and I also have had the horrible flu that has laid so many low)

Monday, 24 October 2011

Getting arty with your little ones

We went to a fabulous family day at Shropshire Wildlife Trust this weekend.  They had an absolutely brilliant art activity making hedgehogs that kids from 2 to about 10 were all really enjoying.  I thought I would share it with you, as it is perfect for those bored half term moments, particularly if the weather is not great.
Here is a photo of the finished product my 7 year old daughter (little Lootybag!) made.
You will need:
A small box (cereal carton or similar)
A piece of stiff card, a little longer than the box .
Pine cones.
Clay, plasticine or play doh, preferably in brownish colour (that yucky sludgy colour you get if all the olours get mixed together is just perfect!)
Dry leaves and twigs.

For the hedgehog:  Make a little cone of clay for the head and push it onto the pointy end of the pine cone.  Poke 2 small holes for eyes with a pencil.

For their nest: Cut a window in the side of the box, leaving an edge at least 1 cm wide all the way round.  The box can be painted if you are feeling particularly brave.  Cut the stiff card into a strip that is narrow enough to fit in the box.  Fold the ends down to make legs.  Slip into the box to make a sort of shelf.  Fill under the shelf with twigs. Glue leaves onto the shelf and inside the back of the box. The pinecone hedgehogs can then either be glued in, or left free to play with in their "nest".

Monday, 10 October 2011

Cardboard, cardboard and more cardboard plus Hello Handmade

We have been ordering all sorts of new exciting products recently, both to extend our party bag ranges and specifically to introduce ranges for babies and toddlers, like the little recovery truck shown left which is suitable from 12 months.  We also have some Christmas stocking fillers. These wooden Christmas slide whistles are just gorgeous aren't they?  I received my Christmas fabrics this week - I cannot wait to get creative with it. Their delivery coincided with us reorganising and relocating our stock storage.  For a couple of days our home became a cardboard box obstacle course.  Wednesday was school Harvest Festival and the delivery due that day thankfully arrived in time to let us attend, but only just.  We literally dumped the boxes in the hall and ran for the door.  Getting back in was quite amusing.
Harvest festival got me thinking.  Although I am not particularly religious it did make me think about stopping for a while and being thankful for what we do have, rather than in the constant pursuit of what we do not have.

We are very excited to have joined together in a sort of co-op with a group of fellow small businesses across the UK who produce high quality handmade products like us.  The brainchild of Gill Oglesby, who makes some simply stunning jewellery, we support each other by advertising and showcasing each others products, and by each member sending their customers exclusive offers valid across the whole group.  Gill has launched an energetic facebook and twitter campaign and we are all part of an online and leaflet campaign.  Just click on the Hello Handmade banner to access exclusive offers for us and our partners.  It has only been going a few days and has already generated us two large orders.  By sharing the advertising it saves us all both cost and effort - allowing us to get on with what we do best - making our products.

Hello to all at Handmade Monday, a fab group of handmade blogs, and thanks to everyone who took the time to reply, twitter or email me with how much you enjoyed my recipe for chocolate beetroot brownie.  A lot of lucky kids were treated to some fab home baking last week and none of them though for one minute there might be VEGETABLES (Yuck) in it.  Just a few may be convinced that there are yummy things you can make with ugly muddy things from the garden.

Monday, 3 October 2011

Cakes with goodness hidden inside

I set up at a craft fair this weekend and next to me was a local part time business by 2 ladies making cakes called Sugar and Spice.  Both were mums used to baking for little ones and their cakes certainly had the youngsters flocking around their stall.  One of their best sellers was a delicious, fudgy chocolate brownie.  Unknown to most who ate it (at least until they had finished) was the fact that they were made with beetroot.  A delicious way to get a very virtuous but almost universally hated veg into little ones (and grown ups come to that).  They can also be made with grated courgette if you have a glut of those.  Courgettes do need all the juice squeezed out of them first though - apparently wrapping in a clean dish towel and wringing them out is the easiest way but I haven't tried that yet - all my courgettes are finished.  They died off early due to the summer drought I think.

They very kindly shared their recipe
250g dark cooking chocolate
250g butter
250g caster sugar
3 eggs
150g self raising flour
250g cooked beetroot grated (or grated raw courgette with excess juice squeezed out)

Melt chocolate and butter together.  Add eggs and sugar.  Mix
Gently add beetroot and flour, stirring just enough to combine.  (You can add chopped nuts and or raisins if you like at this stage)
Pour into a 20cm square tin and bake for 20mins at 180C.

On the work side I have been sewing like a demon, trying to build up some stock after a couple of large orders.  My efforts were thwarted by a couple of desperate Mums phoning with very last minute requests for bespoke bags for next day delivery. I love a challenge so of course said yes.  The only problem is, when I am sewing like a mad women my workroom very quickly looks a bombsite as I throw what I have been working on to one side to make room for the new top priority project.  One of the fabrics I was sewing was finer than much of my usual stock, and as the pieces started to pucker and catch I realised my machine needle was completely worn blunt.  I didn't remember to change that in my big sewing machine TLC session last week did I. Now I had better get on with some tidying up.

Monday, 26 September 2011

A Milestone

I reached a milestone this week. I started this little business back in Easter this year, and placed an order for 2000 sew in Lootybag labels which I half expected would last me years.  They arrived in bags of 500.
I finished my first bag of labels this week. The 500th item I made was a blue camouflage drawstring party bag, perhaps not particularly significant as it is one of my normal range, and not a bespoke creation, but it was important to me. So I took some photos of its creation

Sewing in the drawstring.

Sewing in the precious 500th Lootybag label.

A whizz across the corners to make the flat base which makes the bags stand up and easy to fill.

Trim off the loose ends and tidy up the corners.

And voila, one very special blue camouflage drawstring party bag waiting to thrill the recipient, all from my ancient old Singer sewing machine.

Having finished that I sewed a few more to keep it company then had a wee celebration that evening.  One of those days when running your own new business is the best thing in the world.
It was then made a fabulous week when we found we had been nominated for the Good Web Guide Website of the Year award.  It would be lovely for our 2 fabulous web designers Kirsty Burgoine of and Nicola Brown of in-theshed if we could be shortlisted.  They were a delight to work with and if you think they did as good a job as we do please follow the link and vote for Lootybag.

Hello to all my friends at Handmade Monday.  Follow the link if you are interested in all things handmade and utterly gorgeous.

Monday, 19 September 2011

A week of inspiring women.

I started this week attending a networking meeting for ladies running businesses in Shropshire.  I was blown away by a roomful of women with so much zest for life, passion for what they do and so many ideas.  What was particularly heartening was a session where any girl with a business problem explained it to the room, who then openly and wholeheartedly offered advice, help, contacts etc. A "community" in the real sense.

In the middle of the week we finally got the cast of my seven year old daughters ankle, fracture now healed. She was so desperate to get out of the hospital, put a whole pair of shoes on and get straight back to school.  She was so excited that, even though she has a limp as her leg muscles are all wasted away, she does not have a huge plastic boot to drag around and might just have half a chance in a game of tig.  No taking it easy or feeling sorry for herself for her.

My final inspiring woman was a young lady I met at a community day at Ercol School and Technology College in Telford on Saturday.  A couple of 13 year old girls were studying my stall and the party bags I make very closely.  When I got chatting one was very shy and almost shot away in surprise when I said hello.  Her bolder friend then explained that she was doing textile design as a subject, which she loved and was trying to work out how I had made the base of my bags, as she wanted to copy it in the bags she was making from recycled clothing for her GCSE course.  I showed her how each style of bag was made and she was soon bubbling with enthusiasm and questions and obviously has a real love for fabrics and making things.  What really impressed me was her thirst for knowledge and learning, at a time when it would seem most people have written off our youngsters as rioting, looting hooligans.  My husband teased me that I was telling all my secrets to potential competition and I do hope so.  Perhaps a fashion designer of the future. I chatted later to her Mum who is justifiably very proud of her daughter and so kindly came over to thank me for my time.  I made very few sales on the day but meeting this young lady made it all worth while.

Monday, 12 September 2011

More bunting

Hello to all at Handmade Monday
The kids are back at school, my daughter still sporting her plastic cast on her broken ankle and milking it for all the attention and sympathy she can possible get.
It seems so very odd and quiet at home, but less of a challenge to get on with some work. Amazing how quickly you get used to bedlam!

I had a lady talk to me recently about a bespoke order for pirate bunting.  As I have some pretty menacing skull and cross bone fabric for party bags I set to making bunting with it.  I am really pleased with the results.  I have loaded it to my website here for you to have a look.  I think it would be great for pirate parties, boys bedrooms or dens and as a Halloween decoration too. Certainly the young boys in my family are all keen for me to make them some.

Also done some work on pre-filled party bags and gift sets, as we are being asked more and more to supply these.  Our dinosaur set is proving very popular.  Having some difficulty sourcing the range of party bag toys I want that are eco-friendly and ethically produced but do not cost a fortune.  If you have any ideas they would be very welcome.  AND one of my current suppliers has decided to stop making wooden animal castanets - one of my biggest sellers.  I can see a week glued to the internet trawling through wholesalers, not really my idea of a good time - prefer to be glued to the sewing machine.

Talking of sewing machines I produce all my stuff on a 22 year old basic Singer I got as a 21st birthday pressie.  It is a trusty machine that I have used just about every day I have had it without trouble.  I have dragged it around the world and it has resided with me in 38 different houses across the globe, including 4 years on a ship sailing the high seas.  It started playing up a bit this week and I thought perhaps it was beginning to age.  Then I realised I had not done any maintenance for a very long time.  I removed the bottom cover and the amount of fluff stuffed in around the spool carrier was unbelievable.  Half an hour with a pair of tweezers, and a good oiling later and it is as good as new.  My engineer hubby has now put regular maintenance checks on the calendar to remind me to give it the TLC it deserves. Looking forward to the next 22 years together. Wonder what we will make?

Monday, 5 September 2011

Our seaside "trip" and a busy week of party bag making

Well our weekend by the sea did not go quite as planned, and it was not just the awful weather spoiling the party.  On the first evening at our campsite we headed to the kids club mini disco.  Lots of fun was being had until our daughter tripped over whilst whirling around.  Several doctors, A&E departments and X rays later she is now sporting a huge plastic "moon boot" cast on her leg and a lime green walking frame.  Still, at least it saves us from having to join the queues in Clarks for new school shoes. Hopefully it will be quiet and they will have restocked by the time we can go for a fitting.
I wrote a couple of weeks ago about a wedding favour bespoke order I had received which excited me as I thought it was so original and witty. I can now share the details.   Camouflage drawstring bags are always popular with boys, either as party bags or in larger sizes as shoe bags or PE bags, however I was intrigued when a lady contacted me to ask if I could make quite tiny camouflage drawstring bags.  I of course said yes and discovered she was planning her wedding.  She, her hubby-to-be and many of their friends are keen on fishing, involving lots of camo clothing and kit.  She commissioned me to make little camouflage favour bags to be filled with foil covered chocolate fish!  I imagine they will cause much amusement and I am assured they will be useful afterwards for storing line weights and other little bits vital for fishermen (is it obvious I know nothing about fishing? I have to admit I do not think I have ever picked up a fishing rod.)
My daughter keeps popping into the spare room where I work and was very unimpressed with all the camouflage fabric - "boring boy stuff" apparently. She much prefers when I have pretty projects on the go. No sooner had I finished this order when another large order for party bags popped up from my website, so she was soon much happier playing with offcuts of pretty, girly fabrics.
At the recent Minsterley Show I discussed PE bags with many parents of children about to start school or nursery.  This resulted on me taking some bespoke orders for smaller drawstring backpacks, as the standard size I make is a little too big for under fives.  I have now added this smaller size to our rucksack/backpack category on the website.  They are robustly made from machine washable cotton print with waterproof lining so perfect for the rigours of everyday life.  The photo shows the red cars print small backpack which has been popular with boys and I will soon add some girly prints to the range too.

To celebrate the forthcoming peace and quiet as the kids go back to school we are offering a free gft with your first order placed throughout Sept and Oct.  If you are particularly organised many of our eco-friendly party bag fillers are perfect as stocking fillers too.

Monday, 29 August 2011

Planning for Christmas?

Yes, the kids are not yet back at school and I am thinking of Christmas already.  Not family plans, menus or pressie lists you understand - I am very much last minute on that sort of stuff.  But the arrival of Christmas fabric catalogues has me drooling and has sparked off a million ideas for Christmas products.  Christmas gift bags, bottle bags and gift sets at least are all in the plans for this year. If only I can decide which print to choose.
I have had a busy couple of days finishing off a bespoke wedding favour order before heading off for a much-needed long weekend by the sea, despite the horrible weather forecast.  We are very British when it comes to our precious seaside trips and have been known to build sandcastles in the rain and paddle whilst wrapped up in parkas.  Mad but memorable! I do hope the weathermen are wrong though - feel in need of a bit of sunshine. Another summer seems to have passed by without much of a summer.
We have also had a Lootybag logo emblazoned on our car rear window curtesy of the wonderful people at Scotprint in Oswestry. Definitely deserve an A* for service there.  Don't know what you think of this kind of advertising but it would seem good value to me especially as a Mum going to all the sorts of places other Mum's go to.  Also picked up our fliers which look utterly fabulous and will hopefully be appearing on notice boards up and down the country soon.

Monday, 22 August 2011

Minsterley Show - Sat 20th Aug

We had a stand in the craft tent at Minsterly Show on Saturday.
Minsterley is the counties oldest one day agricultural show, but it is so much more than that.  Being new to Shropshire I had never been but I would thoroughly recommend it as a day out if you have a young family.  Lots of animals to see, stands, funfair and shows plus lots of free kids entertainment.  It is held in a farm field so good shoes are needed - it was a dustbowl this year but I am told wellies are normally the order of the day, even if it is a dry day.
We a had a really good day.  I sold yards and yards of bunting again and took bespoke orders for miles more - one order to decorate a village hall for a wedding - thats a lot of flags! The world seems to have gone bunting bonkers!
My delux part bags with hand sewn applique and embroidery were best sellers again and the long wooden snakes we recently introduced (each is nearly 3 foot long) were greeted with wide eyes and joy by most small boys.

Both via my website and at the show I have taken some exciting bespoke orders.  People are just bursting with such fabulous ideas.  Most of the sewing I have been doing this week I cannot say too much about because the wedding is yet to happen and it would spoil the surprise for the guests, but I have been making favours that are so original and amusing - I love them.  I will tell you more later. I am hoping the customer will allow me to copy her idea and add them to my range.

Read more crafty blogs at Handmade Monday.

Thursday, 18 August 2011

A week of Bunting and Birthdays

Its been a bunting week this week.  I have sewed miles of it. Has the world gone bunting mad? It is gorgeous though, just thinking about it makes me smile - happiness on a string!.
Purple bunting is now back in stock.
I have sewn lots of bespoke bunting which is always a lovely job.  I made one mad length of random upcycled mismatched fabrics that I love so much I will introduce something similar to the website soon.
I made another length out of some of my stock fabrics with some additional flags made from beautiful cushion covers the client wanted to recycle.
The youngest member of our household was 7 this weekend - a very special age to be of course, so grown up! Now I am no Jane Asher, sugarcraft is not my thing,  but I did discover a book in my local library called Complete Cake Decorating by Angela Nilsen & Sarah Maxwell.  It has ideas that need not too much skill to get a decent result.  Here is a photo of my mermaid cake that is not perfect but all the 7 year olds were very impressed with.  One of those rare "I am such a great Mum" moments.    
Had a fabulous day at the Shrewsbury Flower Show for a birthday treat, even staying for the fantastic late night fireworks.  Could have done with them going off the next afternoon - may just about have drowned out the noise of  half a dozen 7 year old guests having fun in the garden - boy can girls scream. Yes a party in the garden at last.  You would think a mid August birthday would be pretty much assured some decent weather but this is the first in 7 years.  Every other year it has monsooned - I have video of a bouncy castle floating around my lawn like a boat in a rather ferocious thunder storm one year.
The only thing to ruin a perfect birthday was the fact that daddy won the family sunflower growing competition - again.  Four years running.  We are sure there must be some foul play going on - he must sneak out at night with extra liquid feed or something. To be fair it is a pretty good sunflower - given that he is 6 foot 2 you can see it is a fair size. Next year will be my year I am sure of it. Anyone got any secret tips?
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