Business Plans, Bags and College.

Well variety certainly is the spice of life at the moment.¬† But I think that’s the joy of running your own business and not something I’m ever going to complain about ūüôā

I spent most of my birthday talking to people about my future and where I see myself going.¬† From the nice lady at the job centre (my work coach), to my sister (my life coach), to the fabulous lady at Penna Outplacement (my business coach).¬† I feel like I’m bubbling with ideas and enthusiasm¬†but it needs moulding into something more solid.¬† And that’s why it’s good to talk!

From Monday I’m attending Oldham College Sewing Academy (OCSA)¬†where I’m hoping to hone my skills and learn the “professional” tricks.¬† I will also¬†gain a certificate in Textiles and Fashion, which for someone almost completely self taught is something I’d really like.¬† A course courtesy of OCSA and the DWP, ta guys much appreciated.

And then in August I’m planning to attend a Self Employment Awareness seminar which¬†I’m quite excited about because I’ll be able to mix¬†with other people looking to start businesses too.¬†¬†¬†But¬†also because I get to pick the brains of some successful and knowledgeable people.¬† I’m also going to be meeting the lady Penna have¬†introduced me to¬†who is going to help me with marketing, not my strong suit ūüė¶

And then on to September when I’m going to be on a Training and Education course.¬† I have been designing and delivering training for years but my workshops will be different as the focus will be much more about having¬†fun.¬† As much as I loved this aspect of my previous job I have not met a single person on a SAP course who was there expecting to have fun (although I tried).

But in all the exciting things there’s the spectre¬†of chaos, of time wasted, of failure.¬† Which is why, although it’s taking some time that I’d rather spend¬†designing or sewing,¬†I am working on a business plan.¬† I won’t lie working through HMRC expense claim regulations and doing product costing is NOT fun.¬† But at least I can see it could be successful, all it takes is hard work, a little luck and the continued support of my nearest and dearest.¬† Let’s do this!

Oh were you wondering about the bags?¬† I snuck in some sewing because how else can you cost if you don’t do a prototype?¬† So here are a couple from the “girly” range, they’re reversible shoppers for those who like a change every now and then.¬† And if you look really carefully (or scroll to the last picture) you can see my brilliant new labels from easy2name.

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Busy busy busy

Unusually for me this is a post without pictures.  Please don’t think I haven’t been busy, or that there isn’t some thing to show for it there is.  Here are my excuses….

  • I’ve been doing some alterations and I won’t post someone else’s work on here even if I’ve tweaked it slightly.
  • We had a great Appliqu√© workshop on Sunday but nobody finished anything!  There was a lot of progress and I can’t wait to show you what’s been created but you’ll have to be patient, just like me ūüôā
  • I made some gifts and I can’t show you till they’ve been opened because that would spoil the surprise. Because we all wait till our birthdays to open our presents, don’t we…….
  • I’ve been setting up my company (accounting records, yaaawn) and sorting out some training (yay).  And I’ve now got an online shop, no stock yet but one step at a time.

OK I fibbed about the pictures here’s my shop, if you click on the picture you can see it for real.  Why not put it in your favourites it won’t be empty for long……. 


A Tale of Two Dresses

My absolutely gorgeous niece (I have a few) was 18 on the 26th of May and what’s on a girls mind at this time. A dress, a fabulous dress. 20150521_114510So a few months ago we hunted down a Donna Karan dress pattern that was to die for, perfect.¬† We bought shiny green stretch satin, I wrestled with the pattern (plus difficile according to the packet). And then we had a fitting, one not very happy niece.¬† It just¬†wasn’t right ūüė¶ The fabulous dress didn’t make her feel like she wanted to feel.¬† So we started again, my family do like to make me fret about delivering on time!

Screenshot_2015-04-28-17-01-02This dress was more retro but still fabulous, and this time she would be the star not the dress ūüôā

So we chose some more fabric, had some fun with pattern and texture.¬† And although this was an ‘easier’ dress it has more ingredients.¬† So in a few days we had, contrast fabric, boning, zips, grosgrain ribbon, thread, lining but no main fabric.¬† uh-oh.¬† Thanks Royal Mail for making me fret and wait and fret some more! 20150511_214218¬†While I waited I cut the lining which always helps you get to grips with the cutting layout. And I made up the “bra”. 20150511_211751 20150514_124029 And finally the fabric arrived,¬†the last pieces were cut (and labelled of course, there were 7 skirt pieces and three layers!) 20150514_161040 I always find the most satisfying part of dressmaking to be the point where what was pile of fabric and notions suddenly starts to look like something you’d like to wear.¬† On this dress it was when the underskirt, skirt and bodice were pinned together for a first fitting. 20150519_105742 Which much to my relief went really well, whew! And cue much work to add the bones and the over skirt in time for the second fitting 3 days later. And here is the finished article worn by gorgeous niece IMG-20150607-WA0003IMG-20150607-WA0008IMG-20150607-WA0005 PS hopefully the fabulous Donna Karan will make an appearance soon….

In a time long, long ago, another wedding

I have mentioned that it’s thanks to Emma I have rediscovered my joy of sewing and dressmaking in particular.  But now it’s time to share the first set of bridesmaids dresses I made.  Before we go any further it was the eighties, OK, the eighties!

My sister was getting married and she loved me so much she thought she’d share the stress joy of preparing for the day.  I got to make the bridesmaids dresses, just the three thankfully.  And as compensation I would get to wear one of them….

20150521_085810 Imagine it yellow satin, yellow lace, BIG underskirts, puffed sleeves, yup all that plus big bows.  And still the cute (young) cousins managed to pull it off.  Although I think looking at Becca’s face she knew she’d regret the decision ūüôā


Cousin It made an appearance in net underskirt with hoop (again it was the EIGHTIES).


I can confirm it was itchy, heavy and just a little over the top but we managed to smile through it.  OK maybe we didn’t.  In fact I am sure Victoria is actually asleep and the dress is holding her up!

I will confess at the time I though the dresses were wonderful and the gloves well they were just so, so, Madonna!  I loved the creative process and the technical challenge of a dipped waist gathered dress (we’re all hiding them with our flowers).  Here we are with the Bride and Groom.  I hope I haven’t traumatised you too much ūüôā20150521_084026

Applique Workshop 17th May 2015

Well what a busy day it’s been!¬† I confess I’m a bit of an organiser so I’ve been “staging” the things for the workshop since about Wednesday.¬† 20150517_083858Still there’s always that last minute “What have I forgotten” moment when I set off.¬† Whatever it was today, we didn’t need it ūüôā

And¬†because I’m uncomfortable being on the last minute by 8:30 my boot looked like this, even though the room was booked from 12:30….


I’d not seen the room¬†before but it¬†worked out pretty well;¬†room to wander round, nearby kettle, lots of tables and chairs.

Because everyone was starting a piece from nothing we spent most of the time making and cutting patterns, choosing fabric and cutting it out.¬† In fact I don’t think anyone finished a piece except the lovely Kaycee who was chuffed as anything with her cushion cover (no applique).

No one seemed to mind that we’d have to get back together to finish up so I’m pretty happy that they enjoyed themselves and like all good things I’ve left them wanting more!¬† Here are some pictures of their work so far…..


Trisha’s Triceratops


Hannah’s Diplodocus


Katie’s Moon Fairy


Carole’s Dancing Couple


Pat’s Doggy Duo

Workshop Countdown

The last couple of days have been “organising” days.¬† The dreaded tax return has featured but then so has the Applique workshop I’m running on Sunday.¬† I’ve spent some more time making pattern templates which is fun in a geeky kinda way.¬†¬†So now I have these guys in my collection

IMG-20150506-WA0000Mand Made Dinosaur 2

The dining room is now a staging area for all my fabrics, tools and of course my machine.¬† But I still felt unprepared and that’s because I haven’t actually proved any of my new patterns work.¬† Well you guessed it¬†there really is only one way to test that.¬† So this afternoon has been spent cutting, ironing and sewing.¬† To produce this little dude….


And while he is very cute he’s also not very functional.¬† So I spent the rest of my afternoon making him¬†a “friend” and turning the whole lot into a little shopper.


If you’d like to know more about my workshops then please use my feedback form or the comments on this post.

Workshop Preparation

The last two days have been very productive and so much fun.¬† I’ve been preparing for an Applique Workshop I’m running and I need some basic templates for people who don’t have a particular design in mind.¬† So meet Moggie, Doggie and Monkey!

Mand Made Cat Mand Made Dog Mand Made Monkey

I’ve sat here at my laptop creating not just the pictures but the patterns as well.¬† I guess it’s not everyone’s idea of fun but I’m looking forward to creating more.¬† I’m planning Owls, Dinosaurs and¬†Swaddled Babies but if you have any suggestions you can¬†use the comments and I’ll see what I can do.

And I admit I see monkeys and think of this so I created a more complex picture for those who really want to challenge themselves….

Mand Made Three Monkeys

If you’d be interested in a future workshop please use the feedback/contact form and I’ll let you know when the next one is.

Summer’s on it’s way Pt 2

It’s been a busy week but I really wanted to make Pixie a new summer dress because¬†she’s grown, yay! And now although she’s not quite a three year olds width she’s at least that tall.¬† Which makes getting patterns to fit much easier.

I used the same basic pattern as Alice’s dress last week but styled differently as the last thing Pixie needs is yards of billowing skirts.¬† It’s the same top so in addition to gathers I used bias tape to keep the arm’s neat and comfortable.¬† Must remember to order some more as well as some more elastic.


I chose not to use Serge this time as I’d already cut the fabric using pinking shears (no that’s a real name check it out) and overlocking seemed overkill.¬† The “pinking” stops the fabric fraying and meant I didn’t need to French seam either.¬† The dress is poly cotton in purple and pink with a small flower pattern.

Because the Pixie is extremely slim I actually put the waist ties in on this dress.¬† It’s quite a simple addition but allows her to get in and out of it and then it still looks like it was made for her.¬† So here she is posing in the early morning sun.¬† Have a good weekend ūüėČ

Welcome Serge and Dorothy

Well it’s been quite an exciting week on the retail therapy front.¬† Of course I can argue I needed some new toys tools but I’ve managed so far.

But some things just go quicker and look better if you have the right equipment.  Enter a brand new Overlocker and a new Dressmaking Dummy.  So this is Serge:


He’s very clever and just a bit scary.¬† I am a terrible collector of geeky facts (inherited trait I think, thanks pops) so I was strangely happy to find that an alternative name for overlocking is Serging. Enter my other inherited trait, dreadful puns (again thanks pops) and a sewing machine named Serge.¬† I have spent a happy couple of hours¬†learning to use him.¬† And here’s what he can do…..

The other new member of the family is Dorothy, Dot for short (see if you can guess why).


She’s just gorgeous and has 13 adjustments making her extremely flexible something I am sure will come in very handy.¬† Unfortunately this means Jenny is entering retirement.¬† Bless her she’s got a dislocated shoulder and just doesn’t move properly anymore. But she’s been with me for over 25 years (yup I know she’s aged better than me) and I am a little sad.¬† It’s not too bad though Emma has offered to rehome her and who wouldn’t want to wear a wedding dress every day.¬† I know Emma would!¬† Yeah OK me too just prove I still fit in it ūüôā

I look forward to showing you what I can create with these fantastic investments, stay tuned.

Steven & Emma’s Wedding

It doesn’t seem a year ago that Emma first asked me if I could make the bridesmaid and flower girl dresses for her and Steven’s wedding. I was so honoured because it’s such a special day, I have also never been so scared of messing up! In the eight months to wedding we went from five dresses to seven and a “could you do the cake too”. What a roller coaster but so worth it the ladies and babies looked amazing.


So from the beginning…. the quote of the dress designing process “we don’t want no slutty dresses”, well no obviously ūüôā
So we looked through some patterns and nothing was quite right. The best we could do was “like this but not that top, it needs more top”. So here are the patterns we started with for Bridesmaids and the Flower Girls. And this pile of cloth!

We had a few consultations, lots of shopping and we agreed on design, phew! Now there’s just lots of work but that’s OK you just need a plan to deal with that (and a project box of course). So a few measurement later we were ready to go.

And there was lots of work but we livened it up with fittings (alcohol fuelled), more shopping and cake tasting. My old dress-making dummy was brought out of retirement and Anne-Marie was quite jealous when she was told “Jenny” was wearing her dress.

I think at this stage it was still five dresses but not for long. It seems when you have cute nieces they just have to have dresses too! So I downsized the patterns and got creative for my tiny Pixie (she’ll grow soon I’m sure). No idea how you make a 2 year old stand still for fittings but we tried.

And so we moved onto finishing touches. We all loved the clean lines but it’s a wedding so surely we need some bling, don’t we? It’s fair to say this discussion lasted a few weeks, OK months. And in the end, No we didn’t need bling (I saved it for the cake which had it’s own diamant√© ribbon). The only non blue things allowed were some pearl buttons and a string of pearls on silver wire for the throws.

And in the end seven beautiful dresses fit for a very special day.

I am so proud and I had so much fun I don’t want to stop. So I’m not! Professional shots courtesy of Karl and Kenny photography