About Me

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North West, United Kingdom
I am keen crafter, with a particular fondness for pearls and all things shiny and a dream that one day I might just own that little shop I've always wanted to run. I am forever making something whether it's some cards, jewellery or something knitted... the devil makes work for idle hands, but mine are rarely idle!

Wednesday, 25 February 2009

DIY Wedding Stationery

With the rising costs of weddings, coupled with the credit crunch it is no wonder that more and more couples are looking to DIY weddings. Perhaps the easiest item to DIY is the wedding stationery, especially with the readily available card-making supplies and the ease with which one can make a card. Retailers have realised the potential of the DIY wedding market and it is becoming easier and easier to obtain supplies and relevant workshops. Whilst it can be a lot cheaper to make your own stationary, it can also cost more than you I've initially think - it is very easy to get carried away with all the beautiful embellishments and the feeling that you must buy all of the equipment.

Leaving the hastily printed, wonky cards aside that simply don't do a wedding invitation justice, I've seen some lovely homemade wedding stationery, but all too often the same common errors are seen.
  • Font size too small - this is a real problem on the order of service. Not everyone has perfect eyesight - be careful that important details and items that need to be read with ease are in a font size of at least 11. I know space is often at a premium, but your guests do need to be able to read the information.

  • Fussy choice of font - some fonts are not made for ease of reading. I've seen entire Order of services that are in a fancy italic font that made it impossible for the guests to join in the hymn singing. Fancy fonts are fine for headings and the front of stationary, but for the important details choose a readable font. I tend to like 'Book Antiqua' - it has the ease of reading that Times New Roman or Arial offers, but a more 'classy' edge, perfect for weddings.

  • OTT design - I am a great believer that less is most definately more. I prefer understated elegance. So often, I see people that must have bought every last thing that caught their eye in the craft shop and then felt compelled to incorporate it into their design, leading to a fussy design and one that is not very practical for the production run a wedding entails.

  • Wonky lines - the problem with one-off card makers is that they often do not have the equipment that helps create a professional finish and try to produce a run of wedding stationery with the minimum of tools. A decent guillotine in my opinion is essential if you intend to make your own card blanks (buying A4 card and trimming it down often works out cheaper than buying pre-made card blanks). If you do not own one, try to find someone who does and borrow it. A decent pair of scissors is also a good idea. When cutting or trimming paper or card take your time - a straight line cannot be rushed and a wonky one cannot be undone easily. Adopt the tailor's mantra - think twice, cut once.

  • Typos - it is impossible to proof-read your own material. Always ask someone who has a good standard of English to proof-read your wording, spelling and punctuation. Check and double check important details - date, venue, time, rsvp address etc. It is amazing how many people omit essential details.

So, how can you ensure that your DIY wedding stationery has a professional edge to it?

  1. Simplicity - if you are new to crafting, you are well advised to keep it simple. Play it safe - I always think that it is better to produce something simple to a very high standard than try to be clever or fancy and falling short. Be realistic about what you can do - if you have never embossed before, now might not be the time to start trying when you have so many cards to make. However, if you plan ahead you can give yourself time to learn new and more tricky tenchniques.

  2. Attend a workshop - as more and more brides and grooms attempt to slash the cost of their wedding, workshops targeting the DIY wedding market are becoming more widespread. Ask at your local craft shop if they run any courses or know of any locally.

  3. Ask for help - preparing for your wedding day should be enjoyable. Making a heap of invitations on your own can be tedious, so ask your crafty friends for help. Perhaps it might be a perfect chance to get your Bridesmaids round for some girly chat and get your stationery made to boot.
  4. Production line it - break your design down into elements and create a production line. When I have to make lots of the same thing, I complete it in stages. It seems to be quicker to complete the same task over and over and then move to the next part.
  5. Borrow equipment - as mentioned above, having the correct tools to complete the job can make a real difference, so ask around your crafty friends and see if they can help you out with tools.
  6. Matching items - using elements of your design throughout your stationery helps to create a more professional look. The photograph above is the order of service I created for my own wedding. The invitation was identical, but smaller. I then created favour boxes and gift tag place settings with similar design elements to aid continuity and help everything go together.

Lastly, one of the main aims of DIY weddings is to keep costs down, but it is all too easy to spend a small fortune in craft shops, as I know only too well. Initially it might be better to buy a few bits to play around with and work out a design. Once you have a design you need to work out how much of everything you need to buy. Remember that you need an invitation per couple/household and not one for every person. Similarily, you may not require an order of service per person if you would like to keep costs down. Whilst I would not advocate over-buying too much - the whole point to DIY stationery is to save money - it is worth buying a little extra in case of mistakes.

Above all, enjoy creating things for your wedding - it is lovely to see a wedding that is more personal and unique and to have contributed so directly to the overall day.

Friday, 20 February 2009

Knitting for Charity

I am still nursing my sick baby and haven't managed to do anything apart from a few household tasks as I have a sick baby draped across my lap for the most part. I have managed to use my free arm to surf the internet and have found a website about a charity that collects knitted squares to make blankets for children living in poverty around the world. I have lots of wool in my stash and will be knitting up some squares to send. There is a pattern on the website and I reckon it'd take just an evening to knit a square.

I hope that others will join me in devoting some crafting time to a worthy cause. If you are able to spare some time and wool, leave a comment below with a pledge saying how many squares you hope to make. It'd also be interesting to learn of other charities that make crafty requests. That's all for now folks - best make the most of my baby sleeping in his cot!

Thursday, 19 February 2009

Limited crafting

I've been unable to get to my craft room in the last few days. My little baby boy is sick with some sort of sickness bug. He seems to be getting better, but it has rather stopped me from making much. I have managed to make a set of hairpins - I started them before Jack got sick and whilst he's napping this afternoon have managed to finish them off. Not only that, I have managed to photograph them and list them in my Folksy shop. I love hairpins - they are a really easy way of dressing up an up do. Mastering the art of getting my hair in to some form of bun was time well spent and can really help me look more dressed up for events. (The doughnut-shaped bun formers are fab for adding volume and helping to shape hair into a bun) Adding some hairpins to my hair-creation instantly makes it even more elegant and special.
Hopefully my baby boy will better soon and normal service will resume shortly - it'll be lovely to have time to blog more and make more.

Tuesday, 17 February 2009

DIY Weddings

With the growing cost of weddings, the credit crunch and the desire for a more original wedding, more and more couples are looking to DIY their wedding. When faced with the cost a traditional big wedding can mean, saving money is often a priority to couples. However, many can be reluctant to create elements of their weddings themselves, feeling that their efforts may equal a compromise on quality. Whilst this may true to some extent (if you are a novice, you would be very lucky if you could match someone who has been creating for years), I think that many people underestimate their ability. Besides, part of the charm of handmade and DIY weddings for me is that fact that it is not so polished and has more character. There is nothing worse than a wedding which has clearly cost a small fortune, but has no life or personality. In case you need convincing, let me put forward the reasons to DIY your wedding:

  • reduce the cost
  • more personal and individual
  • opportunity to involve friends/family
  • greater choice
  • lower environmental impact (dependant on couple's choices)
  • more ethical (again, dependant on couple's choices)

So, if that has convinced you, the next step is to start thinking about what elements you can DIY. Most people when thinking about this would think of the stationary, but with a bit of imagination and some assistance from friends/family there is a whole lot more you can create.

  • stationary - more and more craft shops are selling packs for brides wishing to make their own stationary and it's not as hard as you think. For an even more professional finish, try to find a friend or family member who is able to do calligraphy to write the names on invitations and place cards.
  • Cake - I would never attempt to make a wedding cake from scratch, but it wouldn't be totally beyond me to buy a plain cake to decorate. However, how about breaking with tradition and going for a more unconvential 'cake'? A collection of cup cakes makes a delightful display and is perfect for dishing out to guests. You could enlist the help of several friends - just don't eat them all before the big day!
  • Flowers - does one of your family or friends have a gift with flowers? Many people can create stunning floral arrangements, so ask around. For a more quaint look and feel, you could grow your own flowers. The 'Country garden', 'Afternoon tea' and 'Village fete' wedding themes are perfect for a collection of homegrown flowers - the perfection of this day is in the imperfection. A perfect cala lilly and highly sculptured bouquet just would not fit in, but a handpicked selection of wild blooms would be a beautiful finishing touch. If you are horticulturally-challenged, this might be a task that you enlist the help of those with greener fingers.
  • Wedding rings - I'm not advocating using curtain rings! Making your own wedding rings is not something you can attempt on your own, unless you've had training. However, a number of places offer workshops where you can go as a couple to create your wedding rings.
  • Jewellery - attempting to make you own tiara or jewellery yourself as a first adventure into jewellery making is not the best idea. However, a number of craft and bead shops do offer workshops and with some time and assistance you may be able to create some simple pieces for your big day.
  • Favours - favours are not essential, but can be a lovely addition to your tables. There are many favours that can be handmade - truffles are one delicious idea.

There are many more elements of a wedding that can be created yourself, but hopefully this will have set you thinking. I believe the main thing is to be realistic about your abilities when it comes to creating things and get other people involved - oh, and plan ahead to avoid last minute stress and a rush to get things made in time. I will be looking at some of the things that you can create yourself in greater detail in my blog, so check back for more great ideas. If you like the feel of handmade, but don't feel you can commit the time to DIY, why not shop handmade instead? There are many talented people out there who sell their wonderful creations - check out places like Folksy, Etsy and MISI for starters.

If you are getting married and have any ideas of things you would like me to write about in more detail, please post your ideas in the comments. I'd also be interested to hear what elements people are making themselves. Sellers - please feel free to post links to your websites and shops.

Sunday, 15 February 2009

Valentine's, Farmer's markets and weddings

Valentine's Day was much like any other day in our household. Jack, our 6 month old baby, was up early as usual - sleep is so over-rated in his opinion and why sleep in, when you can take a nap later? The Farmer's market was at Marsh Mill, Thornton so my husband, Jack, sister-in-law and myself walked round for a look. There weren't too many stalls, but there was lots of lovely produce for sale - organic vegetables, various fresh meat and my personal favourite - handmade chocolates. To my shame, I've never managed to see the Farmer's market before even though it is regularly in Thornton (it can also be found in Poulton and Great Eccleston on different Saturdays). There is something lovely about buying direct from the grower/maker and it also brings back memories of holidays in France with their fantastic markets. I hope that I can make the effort to visit the market more regularly and support local sellers.

I managed to get some 'free' time in the afternoon, when Gran came over to see Jack. Quick as a flash I was in my craft room. I've discovered 'handmadeology' and have been enjoying reading up on all the tips for selling handmade items online. I also spent some time thinking about this blog and how to make it more useful. One of the things I have decided to do is a series of blogs on weddings, in particular DIY weddings. More and more people are looking to produce their own weddings. For the most part this choice is money driven. However, there is also a growing trend for more personal weddings and there are those that seek to have a more ethical day where environmental impact is an important consideration. Whatever the motivation for a DIY wedding, the results can be fantastic and give the couple a real chance to put their own personal stamp on their day. So, watch this space for tips on how to DIY your wedding.

In the meantime, why not browse the wedding listings of Folksy for some handmade wedding treats.

Saturday, 14 February 2009

Sentimental Jewellery

It always intrigues me why some things have sentimental or special value to a person . It's interesting to know why something that seems so ordinary to one person is so important to another. The thing with sentimental value is that it often bares no relationship to the monetary value of the item. Unfortunately, I possess very few things that are actually worth much in money terms. However, there a number of things I own that are priceless to me, even if they may seem 'cheap' or worthless to others.

When thinking about my jewellery, like many women, my wedding and engagement rings hold a lot of sentimental value to me - they remind me of my husband, the day he proposed to me, the day we got married and remind me of the love between us. However, that is an obvious choice! Perhaps the item that comes second in terms of sentimental value is a simple pearl pendant.

It is made from three freshwater pearls, separated with Bali silver spacers and mounted on a sterling silver chain. When I made it, I liked it (I wouldn't have made it otherwise!), but it was just another necklace in my jewellery box. That all changed on 24th July, 2008 when I gave birth to my son, Jack. I was wearing that pearl pendant when I gave birth and now it holds tremendous sentimental value to me. Unfortunately, I am unable to wear any jewellery except for my watch, rings and studs with my son around. Until he is a little older and no longer wants to grab everything in sight, my precious pearl pendant will be staying in my jewellery box.

What items in your jewellery collection hold sentimental value to you? Is its actual worth as high as its sentimental worth? Or is it something more costume, but priceless to you? I'd be interested to hear about your sentimental pieces of jewellery, if you'd be good enough to share.

Friday, 13 February 2009

Pearl Bracelets

I have completed the order for four pearl bracelets which were ordered by a bride to give to her bridesmaids as a gift - aren't they lucky? They look gorgeous - I just love pearls and think that these bracelets will look lovely with the sage green dresses they are going to be worn with. Similar bracelets can be purchased in my Folksy shop.

I'm back!

I've not managed to post for the last couple of days - life with a baby can get quite busy. Jack decided to help this situation by getting up early today.... I'd rather have the extra sleep, but I might as well make use of the extra time!

On Wednesday I received two parcels of beads - always a joy! In one was some beads for making my mum a necklace for a wedding she is attending this weekend - luckily she was visiting on Wednesday and so I made the necklace there and then for her. As a result I don't have any photographs to show - yet. I also received some pearls to complete an order for four pearl bracelets - gifts for some lucky bridesmaids. I have nearly completed this order and will post photographs when the last bracelet is done.
I attempted to felt my knitting, but it's not quite felted enough........more experimenting is needed! I followed the manufacturer's recommendations for felting the wool, but it's just not felted enough for my liking! Still, I can have more fun having a go again.
I have also kept myself busy uploading more photographs to Flickr and hope to keep adding to it so that it becomes a comprehensive portfolio of my work. I've had quite a number of views and someone has even left a comment on a blue bracelet available in my Folksy shop:

If you are on Flickr, feel free to add me as a contact so you can keep up to date with the latest creations at Concept Design Form.

Hope everyone manages to stay out of trouble today with it being friday the 13th!

Tuesday, 10 February 2009

Day 2

This bodes well. Day 2 of my blog and I'm managing to blog for a second time.

I've missed the boat for Valentine's day sales (note to self: life with a baby needs more forward planning). However, I am thinking ahead to Mother's Day. I've created a corsage with this in mind. Some people wear their heart on their sleeve, but this lets someone else wear your heart! It's perhaps a little twee, but twee is good sometimes and I'm sure mums all over the place would be touched to wear a public declaration of their offsprings' love - it's a higher quality and more grown up version of the 'Great Mum' badges you get on cards. Currently there is just the one of these brooches in my Folksy shop, but more will be added soon.

I'm really pleased with sales since I set up a Folksy shop, so much so that I bought the domain name Concept design Form last night in readiness for eventually setting up a website. I ordered some more supplies yesterday and am eagerly awaiting the postman to deliver my parcel - I love getting parcels, esepcially ones containing craft materials. In this one are lots of lovely, lovely pearls as I have an order for 4 of the pearl bracelets I posted a photograph of yesterday and then some extra to 'play' with.
I'm off now for a walk to the Post Office to get my latest sale delivered.....

Monday, 9 February 2009

That first blog.....

I'm not really sure quite what to write and feel like I'm back in an exam room somewhere, with the clock ticking away and a vast exapanse of white paper to fill. Perhaps, I should just start with a bit about myself.

I'm Viv Smith, heading towards my 30th year, wife and mother (this is a new job and I've only held the post since July 2008). Whilst on Maternity leave I have managed to find the time to craft and thanks to Folksy have started to sell some of my wares. I have previously had a website selling handmade jewellery and cards, but with various things happening found I didn't have the time and it slipped away. To be honest, I was losing interst with churning out the same old same for brides and longed to make what I wanted, when I wanted, which is the way I am going now. I will of course still accept custom orders, but much prefer being able to create what I fancy, rather than being a jewellery making machine! Over time, I hope to launch my own website again, but in the meantime I am keeping it small and simple and solely selling via Folksy. In just one week I've had 4 sales through Folksy and am mighty pleased with that, especially as I will very soon be receiving a parcel of even more beads!

In terms of crafting, I am into a range of crafts and seem to collect craft hobbies as other people would ornaments! Alongside making jewellery and cards, I am also a knitter and once upon a time dabbled with cross stitch. Father Christmas got me a sewing machine for Christmas, but I'm very much a novice at the moment!

To have a nosey at my creations check out my Foksy shop - Concept Design Form

Before I go, here is my bestseller from the past week and a favourite of mine. It's a beautifully simple freshwater pearl bracelet:

Okay, I'm done blogging for today! Phew, I hear you say!