What is a Capsule Wardrobe? (and why I don’t care if I don’t have one)

A photo of my wardrobe

My not so capsule wardrobe – it appears I like pattern!

So, what is a capsule wardrobe? I am reading so much about streamlining, de cluttering and minimalism at the moment and at every turn I come across this concept of the capsule wardrobe. Now, I remember years ago reading about this in Women’s magazines. There were features every month about how a grey / black / neutral limited wardrobe would simplify your life and turn you from a Slummy Mummy to super together Mum about Town overnight. I tried them, but I’m just really bad at following rules!

The idea of a streamlined, simplified wardrobe does sound appealing. I just can’t see how it would work for me. I’ve looked at the Konmari method, Project 333  and dozens of podcasts, blogs and Instagram feeds promising me the secret to a minimal wardrobe. Wouldn’t it be great to open your wardrobe every morning and not be faced with that “Oh my, what am I going to wear” dilemma? I solved it by working from home – honestly – the Amazon delivery man doesn’t blink an eye if I  open the door three days running in the same t shirt and yoga pants I laughingly call “work out wear”. When I do venture out, pulling on a Seasalt tunic and a pair of jeans works for me every time! Have I got a capsule wardrobe already, but just don’t know it?

Because I wanted to write this post, I took a photo of my wardrobe. The truth is, I don’t really have that many clothes. Do I? Living in the UK, I definitely need to dress for the seasons.  There are winter clothes (down coat, waterproof, sturdy boots), gardening clothes (jeans, t shirts and jumpers that don’t mind getting filthy when I’m weeding), decorating and housework clothes, special occasion clothes and then the stuff I wear every day. I pulled apart the hangers and thought about what I could throw away (in the words of Marie Kondo, what doesn’t “spark joy”). Honestly? I couldn’t say every item in my wardrobe sparks joy, but it does serve a purpose. There is nothing I could throw away.

I don’t buy clothes very often, but when I do I definitely fall into the “buy once buy well” camp. I like clothes that will last and earn their keep. Some are from charity shops, some were swapped with friends and there are a few “special” purchases bought for occasions such as weddings or my daughter’s graduation. I’m a big believer in clothes meeting the  “30 wears” rule. A reaction against disposable fashion, buying clothes you’ll wear at least 30 times certainly encourages you think about longevity, not just seasonal style. I have a functional wardrobe, and it serves me well

So, what do I mean by a “functional” wardrobe? Every thing in my wardrobe serves a purpose. The high waist bootleg jeans for those “fat and frumpy” days; the straight leg petite fit jeans that look great with heeled boots and a smart shirt for “daytime smart / casual”. The John Rocha dress I bought in the sale that only comes out for weddings and christenings. The basic t shirts and sweatshirts I wear every day, paired with jeans and the summer skirts and strappy tops that only see the light of day for two weeks every July! There are leggings for running (currently unworn because bloomin’ Lupus is flaring), the paint spattered jeans for annual decorating, the dressing gown and nightie that only come out for hospital visits. The Christmas t shirt that only gets worn in December and the beautiful beyond imagination embroidered and sequinned wool skirt that cost an arm and a leg 20 years ago, but still comes into it’s own for winter “formals” (works Christmas parties, the day I met Prince Charles* and those days when I really need to dress to impress!) and there, lurking at the back is the leather jacket Mr T bought me 15 years ago –  which truth be told –  no longer zips up. It’s job is to remind me I was once a little bit sassy and could carry off a strappy cocktail dress and leather jacket combo!

Even my undies drawer works hard. 3 bras (black, white, “neutral”), 10 pairs of knickers (ironed and folded  – is that too much information?) and a couple of camisoles for low cut tops that reveal too much middle aged flesh! Of course, we’ll skim over the sock drawer, I do have a little bit of a hand knitted sock addiction!

hand knitted socks

My current favourite pair of hand knitted socks

Is a functional wardrobe as good as, or better than a capsule wardrobe? Could I make do with less? If I threw out everything I haven’t worn for six months what would  I do when summer comes? (or was summer ’17  that glorious week in May and now we’re declining into autumn)? Should I throw away the leather jacket, wool skirt and killer heels just because I don’t wear them very often? Nope, they’ll have their day and having them means I won’t be tempted into spur of the moment or panic buys when the need for such an outfit arises.

You see, all these bloggers talking about their capsule wardrobes seem to be  constantly buying new. They’re all about this season’s sneakers, coat and must have  dress. My summer sneakers are both over ten years old and the Birkenstocks, just in view in that photo of my wardrobe are equally mature. At the end of the summer I’ll clean up my summer shoes, repair the heels, buy new laces and swap them out for my winter boots (similarly vintage).  You see, a capsule wardrobe isn’t the same as a minimal wardrobe and my functional wardrobe probably falls somewhere in between. My wardrobe isn’t full of mix and match separates, I can’t make 20 different looks from six Key pieces. Nor have I pared down my wardrobe to the extent that I have conquered my laundry mountain like these ladies from the Purposeful Home Podcast. But I am still wearing this shirt and denim skirt I bought in 2006!

classic white shirt and denim

My favourite white shirt and denim combo

So I don’t have a capsule wardrobe, who cares? Living with less, doesn’t mean living  with little. Minimalism, intentionalism, slow living, whatever we choose to call it is about living unencumbered by the stuff that causes stress and anxiety.  Taking the time to make considered purchases, valuing what we have and not being weighed down by the pressures of conforming to what we think is expected of us. That’s true minimalism in my book.

*a girl is allowed the occasional name drop, surely?

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Can I Really Be Plastic Free?

Plastic – we just can’t avoid it – can we?

I’m fascinated and inspired in equal measure by the bloggers, writers and instagrammers who share their zero waste or plastic free journeys.  Cutting down (or even cutting out) disposable or single use plastic is one of my goals and so Mr T and I tried to live “plastic free” for one week.  We’re pretty “Green” already, so I thought that avoiding single use and disposable plastic would be quite easy. I was proved wrong and the experience led me to a few conclusions, which I’ll share at the end. The photo above shows our household bin after one week. It’s not pretty, but I wanted to share it, just to try and illustrate how I’m part of the problem and also trying (and failing) to be part of the solution. In contrast, our recycling bins are overflowing with paper , unwanted marketing brochures, cardboard packets, glass jam jars, beer cans, deodorant canisters and miscellaneous household ephemera). Reducing our recycling is another goal we’re working on. We don’t use plastic bin bags, we realised a while back that our household bin only contains packaging (Cheshire help us recycle almost everything else), so the bag became redundant.

You can search online for some pretty gruesome images of plastic waste,  and the facts about how much plastic goes to land fill are quite scary, but I don’t feel the need to share them here.  You can “search engine” them for yourself.

Now, on to our week:

Monday: Off to the supermarket. I thought this would be easy, we already take our own shopping bags, and take our own plastic bags for bagging up loose veg. It seemed daft to me that we would take our own carrier bags, but carry on using single use bags for fruit and veg, so we switched to a combination of cotton bags and re-using plastic bags a few years back (after watching a film called Message in the Waves – I’ve added a clip at the end of this post).  I came unstuck (no pun intended) with the tiny sticky labels on the cabbage, peppers and bananas. I didn’t bag them, but when I got home I realised the little stickers with the variety and origin are plastic. Even my local fruit and veg shop has these. Apparently they are required additions. Ho hum. A friend came to visit, she refuses to drink our goat’s milk (“It tastes grassy”) and turned her nose up at the raw milk from our village farm (“Is that safe? Isn’t it full of germs?”). So a trip to the village shop was needed. The small bottle of semi skimmed cow’s milk had a tamper proof seal, which can’t be recycled. Apparently these are mandatory. “Consumer demand”, I was told. It seems we’re so mistrustful of our fellow human beings we need tamper proof seals on just about everything we buy. The remainder of the milk we froze, ready  for the next visitor, the bottle and cap went in the plastics recycling bin.

Tuesday: How Green are disposable contact lenses?  Mr T occasionally wears disposable contact lenses. According to his optician, they’re “90% water and biodegradable”, but the single use packaging is made of foil and non recyclable plastic. On the up side Mr T doesn’t wear them every day, but I can’t find a way around the packaging and everything I’ve read tells me they’re not biodegradable  at all and just end up in landfill. Mr T’s optician had also told him they can be flushed down the loo – wrong – they should be disposed of with your non recyclable household rubbish.

Wednesday: I really thought I’d be OK with my laundry routine. We buy liquid wash in a 5l container and refill and old plastic bottle for easy dispensing. Mostly we wash at 30 degrees, on a full load. My pegs are made of recycled plastic (great, lots of Eco Brownie Points there), but those pesky pegs have been a thorn in my side. Every time I hang out the washing, at least one breaks, the plastic has become brittle. I emailed the manufacturer, who told me the recycled plastic “can become brittle when exposed to sunlight”!!! Honestly, I feel that warrants three exclamation marks. What’s the point of a peg you can’t expose to sunlight? I could (In fact I think I will), write a whole blog post on the stuff that’s sold as eco friendly, but really isn’t. I understand the need to have markets for recycled plastic, but if they’re not up to the job, it’s just another fail. I’m going back to wooden ones. At least when they break they go in the compost or for fire lighting.

Thursday: I need a new toothbrush. Have you ever tried to find a truly environmentally friendly toothbrush? You can buy ones with bamboo handles, but the bristles are nylon (and despite what you might read on the packaging, it’s rarely the biodegradable sort). I ordered one online, after looking at recycled plastic brushes, latex and handles with replacement heads, I decided this would be a the best, if most expensive option. It arrived in a plastic lined jiffy bag. Big fail. Apparently the order was “fulfilled by a third party, who don’t share our environmental values” I was told. At least I can reuse the packaging next time I have a small parcel to post.

Friday: Fail, fail, fail. When will magazines stop sending out subscriber copies in plastic bags? I’ve emailed so many publishers about this and never get  a satisfactory answer. Yes, I know I could switch to digital subs. But I’m old fashioned, I like a proper magazine to read and I like passing them on to friends and family. Once discarded we use them as fire lighting for the woodburner, or put them in the recycling bin. Two charity bags came through the letterbox, I managed to give one back as I happened to be near the door when it was delivered, but now I’m stuck with a bag I don’t need and didn’t ask for.  I picked up my dry cleaning, yet another plastic hanger I didn’t ask for – at least the assistant agreed to take it back.

The Weekend:Another online delivery. This time in a cardboard box, the glass bottle inside protected with cellulose chips. But the tape was plastic. I know the worms in my compost love cardboard. But they never touch the plastic tape and every year I pull loads of it out of the compost heap and put it in the bin for landfill. There must be a decent non plastic packing tape by now? Then my supermarket delivery arrived (Ocado earn gold stars because they buy back plastic bags for recycling). I have a chronic illness and I work from home. Sometimes a supermarket delivery wins out over the effort of driving to the shops. Every piece of fruit and veg was wrapped in a bag labelled as “not currently recycled”, the cardboard box of granola had a plastic bag inside and even the free magazine was wrapped in polythene.

So, we sat down with our bottle of biodynamic wine (glass bottle, real cork) and looked back over the week. Our experiment certainly highlighted a few areas where we could “do better”. But, as consumers we’re pretty much at the mercy of retailers and manufacturers. I’ve reached the conclusion that plastic free is a great aspiration, but will only really be an option when single use or disposable plastic is designed out of the supply chain. As consumers, we need to start asking companies  to look at alternatives and stop selling us the myth that single use or disposable means convenience.

I feel strongly that manufacturers, retailers and governments have a role to play here. It’s not enough for committed individuals to say no to single use plastic.  It’s going to take a real shift in how we live, shop and consume. So, was our plastic free week* really a failure? No, I think it was a small triumph. After one week, our bin is definitely emptier than usual. It took a bit of time and thought and there are still a few areas where I haven’t found a workable solution. I’m still looking for a perfect replacement for my disposable razor, dental floss and toothpaste tube.

Have you tried to be plastic free? I would love to hear how it worked out for you. Do you have any tips for avoiding the pitfalls we encountered this week? Or thoughts on how  we can be part of a plastic free future? If you haven’t really considered this before, you might like to read this piece “Could you go for a month without plastic?”

Or if you’re already concerned about plastic pollution, maybe you’d  take a look at this Greenpeace petition, asking our governments to legislate against single use plastic.

*We set out to avoid single use and disposable plastic items. Sadly, a completely plastic free home isn’t achievable for us – yet.

Note:

This post was updated on 14th June 2017

The film Message in the Waves was made by the BBC Natural History Unit  in 2007.

 

 

 

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Green (ish)

2013-11-03 10.24.21Labels are tricky. Over the years I’ve struggled with how to define my lifestyle. Is it slow? Mindful? Intentional (more of that another day). Or am I green, low carbon, eco friendly or ethical? The problem is, however I define myself, someone else will have a different set of values. I’ve been told my lifestyle isn’t “ethical” because I eat meat and “green” still carries all sorts of baggage. Whenever I find a way to describe how we live, someone else will find fault or gleefully pick up on my failings.

So, I’ve tended to stick to “Greenish” if people ask. The fact is, I just think of our lifestyle as “normal”. Well, it’s normal for us. Trying to avoid waste, thinking about our shopping habits and trying to buy clothes made of natural fibres in factories that value their workers all sounds perfectly reasonable to me.

My neighbour recently “went vegan”, she’s on a mission to convert us all to a plant based lifestyle. Yesterday, she drove a 10 mile round trip to buy  a tetra pak of soya milk (she’d run out and “can’t” drink her coffee black). I thought about our own purchasing habits. When I run out of milk, I can walk to the local farm, buy milk in a reusable glass bottle from the vending machine and be home again in under half an hour. I struggle with the idea of getting in the car and driving so far to buy one thing. The packaging has to be recycled, the ingredients in her milk were part of the mechanisation of food production that I’m trying to avoid. But, she’s happy. Her choice didn’t harm an animal, that’s her bottom line.

So, how do we stay friends? Our ethical, moral and  lifestyle choices seem to be at odds. I buy organic, Fairtrade and local. She buys vegan ready meals, wears plastic shoes and acrylic jumpers from Primark. She eats an awful lot of imported fruit and veg. Air miles, carbon footprint and the issues of recycling aren’t on the list of things she worries about. She has made her choices and she’s happy with her decisions.  I’m happy(ish)  with mine.

Does it matter that someone else has a different set of values and priorities? Just because someone has a different idea of “a good life”, does that make it OK to criticise and condemn? I find myself mulling this over a lot at the moment. I would dearly love to reduce the amount we recycle. I really struggle with the concept that an overflowing recycling bin is a badge of honour – I’d much rather we just didn’t buy so much stuff in the first place. I worry about how many clothes we own and fantasise about building a capsule wardrobe, filled with eco friendly cotton, linen and wool. Yet most of my clothes come from charity shops and surely that has merit in a greenish life?

I struggle to know what’s best. I have a penchant for sparkling water. Is it better to buy in huge plastic bottles, smaller glass ones or invest in a soda stream and make my own?  My instinct tells me glass recycling is “better” than plastic, but I don’t know enough to be sure. A soda stream is made of hard plastic, needs refills of gas cyclinders and would involve a trip into town when I need a new one. I am confused.

If I’m confused, with my background in environmental education, community organising and low carbon consultancy what hope does anyone else have? For the time being I’ve settled on buying glass bottles and trying to reduce my overall consumption (on the basis that glass can be recycled over again, while plastic is much harder to process and recycled plastic has a limited market). If I’m wrong on that, please let me know where I can find out for sure.

I’ve come to the conclusion we can spend too much time worrying about “doing the right thing”, and that even in this internet age, getting accurate and useful information is a tricky business. I’m reaching the conclusion that simply buying less “stuff” might be the answer for us. I’ve also come to terms with the fact that buying single use  or “disposable” products makes me uneasy. Over the next few months I’m hoping to share my journey to less stuff. I’ll be looking at ways to reduce the amount of packaging that comes into our house, reducing our plastic addiction and finding solutions to all those “disposable” products that make our lives “simpler”.

If you’re struggling with the same dilemmas, or have solutions to these “eco worries”, do let me know. Perhaps this is a journey we can take together?

A Few Thoughts on Freebies

gxd8hcmi0iq-parker-byrdWe all love a freebie. It’s no secret that for lots of bloggers, Instagrammers etc the odd freebie or gift from a company is considered a perk of “the job”, while for others it’s a major source of income. If you post pictures of “free stuff”, you might want to take a look at this piece from BBC news on the subject of making money from Instagram. OK, so it refers particularly to the US, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t apply to the UK. US consumer regulators are clamping down on celebrities and influencers who regularly post sponsored content without declaring their relationships with the brand. Marketing companies, individuals and celebrities have all been affected and I’m pretty sure that UK advertising standards authorities won’t be far behind in requiring users to be more transparent about the origin of products in their photos and blog posts.

There’s nothing wrong with sponsored content, just be sure your readers and followers know what you’re doing. Make sure you state early on that a post is sponsored (in the subject line or at the top of a post). Don’t hide disclosure among the hashtags, you might think that adding #sp or #ad to that long list of hashtags is OK, but many of your followers won’t see or read that far.

I’ve said before, that when it comes to monetising your blog or social media platform it pays to be open and honest. Readers aren’t averse to reading sponsored posts (in fact they appreciate you sign posting them to great products).  I have a whole page (see above) devoted to disclosure about how and where content is sponsored. Using words like “review” or just saying “XXX sent me this great product to try and I loved it” is usually enough to alert readers to the origin of a product.

Making money from social media is nothing to be ashamed of. Just be open, honest and write interesting content. Follow that advice and you can’t really go wrong!

 

Made in May – Giveaway

Sponsored post – give away open to UK readers only

The Gentlemans Wardrobe cover

It’s May, and if you’re a maker with an Instagram account, you can’t fail to have noticed the popularity of the MeMadeMay hashtag.

To celebrate this annual excuse to flaunt your handmade “stuff”, the team at GMC has offered one lucky reader a copy of Vanessa Mooncie’s new book “The Gentleman’s Wardrobe”, which is full of great sewing patterns for men.

My own sewing skills are very limited and so I’m hoping this book might inspire me to up my game and make something for Mr T.  Each project in the book comes with a full size paper pattern, something I find very useful, as printing out pdf patterns online and then taping them together just over complicates things for me.

I’m told by friends who sew, that finding decent patterns for men can be tricky. In which case, this book will certainly be of interest. The patterns include shirts, trousers, a messenger bag and even a bow tie! It’s certainly not a book for beginners. It assumes lots of prior knowledge and a certain understanding of the language of pattern cutting and sewing up techniques. But, with it’s on trend “hipster vibe” photography and illustrations, I am certainly enjoying it and I am definitely inspired to give some of the projects a try. There is a short techniques chapter and where technical terms are used, a note in the text signposts you to the relevant page for an explanation.

So, if you would like to win a paperback copy of Vanessa Mooncie’s “The Gentleman’s Wardrobe”, just leave a comment below telling me what you’re currently making. The giveaway will stay open until 12 noon (UK time) on Thursday 11th May.

Good luck x

Full publication details for The Gentleman’s Wardrobe  are given below. You can also find details on the GMC books website, where you’ll find details of all their current titles.

For debonair gentlemen who eschew denim in favour of tweed, and feel that grooming and gallantry should not be consigned to history, this book will prove extremely diverting. Featuring a cornucopia of elegant garments and accessories to sew, this beautifully illustrated tome is full of inspiration and charm. Including beautiful garments such as pyjamas, waistcoat, trousers and jacket, plus indispensable accessories such as cravat, flat cap and wallet there’s something for every fellow who’s looking to be more urbane than urban. Whether you make these smart projects for yourself or a loved one, this selection of spiffing sartorial gems will put a spring in anyone’s step.
ISBN13 : 9781861087478
Pages : 176
Photographs : 70 photographs
Price: £16.99

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Sorry / Not Sorry

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Romantic notion of me sitting at my desk composing erudite blog posts

Thank you to everyone who responded to my post on living with Lupus, especially those of you who shared their stories with honesty,  I swear, if we were “firing on all cylinders” we could conquer the world! It appears that when you write candidly about what life throws at you,  it has a noticeable affect on your “stats”. My Instagram follower count plummeted, which is fine, I follow / unfollow all the time. Interestingly, the number of subscribers to my blog went up. When I asked a few friends why they thought this had happened their answers surprised me. It seems some people don’t “get” that social media in general can represent a skewed version of reality. My willingness to be open about my life behind the photo wasn’t the reason they followed me in the first place. Most people wanted pretty photos of yarn or perhaps the garden. Instagram is our escape from the mundane maybe?

 

The fact is, Instagram is not most people’s reality. It’s the version of ourselves we want to project to the world. And if it’s heavily curated, edited and planned weeks in advance that’s OK. No-one’s life is perfect. That Instagram Influencer you follow (along with 500,000 others) with the sigh inducing feed full of immaculate flat lays and beautifully shot light casting shadows on her impossibly  white kitchen probably spent her morning wiping baby sick off her iphone, persuading a reluctant toddler to put on his shoes and go to playgroup. Or maybe, just maybe she managed to put on eyeliner and mascara while a nine year old screamed how life is unfair because both parents are united in their refusal to buy him a pet chinchilla (that one happened to a friend of mine very recently). You’re too busy drooling over that photo she just posted of a sheepskin draped chair in which she sits drinking coffee from a hand thrown mug, wearing head to toe Boden to care.

In the same way  we dress, apply make up and put on a public face for the world, our social media (and especially the image driven Instagram) performs the same function. If we’re honest, we know it’s all smoke and mirrors. Few of us “just happen” to catch that perfect photo of our toddler walking towards the morning light.

 

Looking at my own instagram feed I’ve noticed I created my own, slightly skewed version of reality and slowly I want to change that. In the Instagram world I am constantly creative, I bake cakes, visit interesting places and come up with fabulous new designs on a regular basis. Until now, I have rarely opened up about the personal stuff. Perhaps I was worried people would think I was weak or boring? In my usual roundabout way, I’m trying to say I’m sorry if my candour about living with chronic illness made some of you feel uncomfortable or left you wanting to send me a “virtual hug”.

I’m not sorry for admitting life can be crappy. Most off all I’m not sorry that you’ll still be subjected to slightly out of focus pictures on Instagram on an almost daily basis. In my imperfect world they’re sharply in focus, beautifully composed images of life in leafy Cheshire.

Whatever your reality, embrace it. Own it.

Be “not sorry” for your imperfections…

 

 

Capturing nature

20160723_171515For most of last year I had a personal project to try and capture the colour and textures of my garden. It was a lovely change from the challenges of commercial design work and it made the contrast between my personal designs and my commission work even more obvious.

It’s been a difficult struggle, to reconcile my beliefs in sustainable textiles and natural processes with the commercial demand for “budget” makes that many of my clients have been asking for. Acrylic yarns in particular are not “environmentally friendly”, they aren’t biodegradeable, the process of making is energy intensive and the brightly coloured dyes are often harmful, chemical based products. So,  I’ve tried to separate my commercial design work from my personal projects.

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Dyeing yarn using plant materials (not extracts or commercial dye stuff) has been a challenge and a steep learning curve. But I am loving the results and the colours I’ve achieved. Inevitably this has led on to exploring other natural processes and rediscovering some of the techniques I used in my teaching days.

three plants fern box and tree

This year I’m exploring ways to capture different landscapes and locations that have a personal connection for me. It’s been good for me to learn new techniques and to spend time with other artists and practitioners who are willing to share their knowledge and enthusiasm for natural processes.

herdwick bag

Of course I’ll still be publishing knitting and crochet designs (which you can find over at Granny Cool) and in future issues of Inside crochet magazine I have some fantastic designs which make the best of British Wool including (finally!) the  pattern for this gorgeous crochet bag pictured here in my favourite Herdwick wool.

An Indulgent Weekend

16864106_1186849991433338_4226166083667145784_nI spent the weekend in Saltaire at textile artist Hannah Lamb’s studio. The workshop title intrigued me, “Patchwork and Place” seemed to fit so well with my own current work in progress, which aims to record places and events through stitch and textiles. My Garden Remembered (working title) project to record our own garden now continues into year two and the techniques and ideas sparked by my weekend with Hannah have moved my plans in a different direction.

16939544_1186850018100002_2624248069481218477_nOn day one, Hannah introduced us to the technique of cyanotype printing and immediately it was obvious to me that this could be the ideal way to record the flora and fauna of the garden in a way that complements last year’s experiments with solar dyes. I came home and searched through my old “teacher box” until I found some sun print paper. Using the leaves I pressed last summer along with bird feathers collected from the garden I managed some very pretty first efforts. I am now planning a whole series of pieces – once again  harnessing the power of the sun seems to be the theme of this years “garden captures”. Hannah is running an introduction to cyanotype course at her studio in May, if this is a technique that intrigues you I would definitely recommend Hannah – she is generous with her knowledge – and encouragement.16996267_1186849834766687_4976128420989220223_nThe second day was spent constructing patchwork and stitched pieces using the fabrics we had prepared on Saturday. This was tricky for me as I have never done any patchwork. I watched, asked questions and after some perseverance I did manage to finish my sample at home on Monday. I’m not sure that formal / traditional patchwork comes naturally to me. It requires patience, straight lines and a degree of accuracy that doesn’t come easily.  Like all hand stitching, the slow, meditative process of joining one piece to another was a joy. I shall definitely be working on my English paper piecing skills this year.

16998031_1186849881433349_3778062752372984237_n.jpgMr T kindly paid for my workshop as part of my Christmas present. Secretly I think he was glad of a weekend to himself, to watch the rugby uninterrupted and not be nagged to do weekend chores. For me, it was a lovely chance to observe another artist at work, to learn new skills and spend time with a lovely group of sewing enthusiasts. A weekend away might seem like an indulgence, but I think that time away has “recharged my batteries”, given me permission to be creative without the pressure of making a commercial design or a product to sell. Today I’ve been hard at work researching a new textile project that won’t involve crochet or knitting, it’s early days and so I have nothing to share yet (just scribbled notes in my sketch book , a rapidly filling Pinterest board and a shopping list that reads like a chemistry lesson). I’ve also been researching the mills of Cockermouth and discovering what a huge part linen cloth and thread played in the development of the town. There are exciting times ahead, and they definitely involve stitching…

Can Your Blog Make You Money?

laptop.jpgA few years ago I was on a training course run by the NUJ for freelance writers. One of the subjects covered was how to make money from your blog, it was really popular among the freelancers, and for very good reasons. In this digital age it’s harder and harder to get work unless you have a great online showcase. So, the theory goes, if you’re spending all this time investing in your blog / website or social media it should earn its keep. So, how do you earn money from your blog? I stopped to think about the ways my blog makes me money and here’s just a few of the strategies I’ve tried, with varying degrees of success.

  1. Sponsored content.If a company sends you stuff for free and you write about it on your blog, that’s sponsored content. This is one of the most common ways  bloggers work for free. It’s not unusual for a craft blogger to be sent yarn, crochet hooks or books. They  might be asked to design a pattern and share it on their blog (or the company’s website) –  a great way to try out new yarns and tools – and great free endorsement for the company. Keep a note of the value of “free stuff” you’re sent, it might count as income when you complete your tax return. Ask yourself how much free work you’re prepared to undertake and look carefully at ways it might lead to a paid commission. Here’s a great post from Stephanie Lau, which shows how to credit those freebies and still create fabulous content. Most of the sponsored content on this blog is product reviews. Often I’ll approach a publisher directly and request a review copy of a new book I think my readers might like. Sometimes PR companies offer to send me stuff they think I might want to try. I’m happy with this arrangement and it works for me.
  2. Advertorial. You’ll be familiar with this if you ever read glossy magazines; when you think you’re reading a great article and suddenly realise it’s just a clever  advert. The best advertorial weaves a story  and makes you think this is a product (or products you can’t do without). If you are interested in how to write “killer” advertorial, this post is a great example of how it can be done well*. You are more likely to be paid for advertorial if you have a measurable following or can demonstrate the extent of your readership. It’s good practice to let readers know you’re being paid to write content, don’t try and pretend you just “went out and bought” that top of the range model or latest “must have” handbag, be honest and your readers will respect you more.
  3. Sidebar advertising. If there is an online shop or company you think your readers might like then a sidebar advert can be a great way to let them know about it. Decide how much you think space on your blog is worth and approach a short list of companies with your proposal. I also use the side bar to show case companies I work with as a thank you for their support. I currently have a few sidebar adverts and affiliate links (see below), I use analytics to measure how many readers click on them. I can use this to decide what kind of adverts and links are most relevant for readers of my blog and tailor content to suit.
  4. Affiliate links. There are plenty of online stores that run affiliate schemes and these can be a great way to earn extra income if you’re prepared to put in a little effort. Here’s another post by Stephanie Lau which shows just how to make affiliate links relevant to your content. Sidebar links and affiliate links can be an easy way to earn passive income (or money for doing nothing!) Once you’ve set up your links and adverts you’ll earn money every time a reader clicks through and buys. This only works successfully if you choose links and ads that are relevant to your readers. By analysing who clicks where on my website  I’ve discovered my readers are far more likely to click through to small independent shops than the “big boys” like Amazon or Love Knitting. This has helped me plan a marketing strategy for the year ahead which is more likely to bring me income.
  5. Paid Content. Unlike most  “guest blogging”, where you might be invited to write content for another  blog for free (or in return for “exposure bucks”**). Paid content actually rewards you for the work you do. There are lots of online journals and websites which pay writers. You can find lists online or get yourself a listing in online directories such as the NUJ Freelance Directory (for members only). If you are approached to write blog posts, contribute free patterns or tutorials think about how much time you spend creating that content and ask yourself how much you are prepared to give away for free.

There are literally hundreds more ways you can make money from your blog and there are lots of websites that can give you tips and ideas. You might want to head over to Kat Goldin’s blog and read this piece on passive income streams which was written with designers in mind. Also worth reading, this article from Standard Issue magazine talks about the role of “the influencer” and is well worth a read for anyone thinking of ways to make money from their online presence.

Will you lose readers if you start placing adverts, accepting sponsored content and using affiliate links? Not if you are honest about it and keep your readers entertained. Telling them about a great product and then giving them a link to where they can buy it is really helpful, and if it earns you a few pennies along the way then it’s a “win win”. Take a fresh look at your favourite blogs and podcasts, take note of how they use sponsored content, ads and affiliate links. Perhaps start with a product review or  include a recommendation in your newsletter. Try to avoid the “Yes, I’m being paid to tell you about this, but honestly,  I’d tell you anyway because I love it” trap. Instead tell your readers why you think they’d  like it and how it helped you.

Do you make money from your blog? I’d love to know what works (and what doesn’t) for you.

Photo credit: Dai KE for Unsplash

*I’ve no idea if this is a genuine post or if it’s sponsored / paid for content. But it’s  perfect example of how to weave product descriptions into your blog in an engaging way.

** Exposure bucks – a fantasy currency paid by big companies in return for your time, skills and effort. Sadly banks and supermarkets don’t accept this as legal tender so be careful how much work  you undertake for “free publicity”, links to your website or shout outs on  social media. 

 

A Weekend in Pictures

Weekends are for sitting by the fire, reading books, drinking coffee and indulgence. At least that’s the plan. It rarely happens in this house! I’ve been indulging in a lazy weekend, relishing time alone with just box sets and chick lit for company.

boots-and-books

I cleaned my boots – oh that colour! These boots make me smile every time I wear them. . It’s just a bonus that my scarf is all matchy matchy! Note to self, if you decide to walk over the fields to buy the weekend papers, don’t wear suede boots!

coffee-fireside

I made a pot of coffee and sat by the fire. I read trashy chick lit on my  Kindle and I watched  Greys Anatomy (again).

fire-and-wine

I did some weeding, and when it got dark I came inside. I opened a bottle of wine and sat by the fire. I read the  papers and I watched Greys Anatomy (again).

rice-pud

I ate left overs for breakfast. I did as I pleased. I gave myself permission to step off the work / design / housework treadmill. I had the best weekend. If this is slow living I am definitely happy in the slow lane. I hope your weekend was happy too.

Here’s to Monday x

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  • Blimey! My crochet a pumpkin workshop at @ditzyrosemakes is sold out already - thanks to everyone who has booked - there are dates planned for workshops in October & November so if you missed out on pumpkins look out for more soon (inc granny squares on 10th November).
#crochet #amigurumi #learntocrochet #lovecrochet #cheshire #ditzyrosemakery And in contrast to previous photo of moody grey sky, the sun just hit the dew on the nasturtiums!
#girlgardener #ediblegarden #naturelover #nofilter When you're enjoying a quiet mug of tea & the sound of geese becomes deafening! Seeing far more fly over the house this year (& occassionally landing in the field, calling to each other then taking off and regrouping as if they have practised for years!! Lots of red admirals in the garden today
#naturelover #redadmiral #butterfly #embracingautumn #girlgardener #wildgarden Sunday loaf. I've always baked bread -  not very successfully - but earlier this year I treated myself to a workshop with Andy, who runs the Coffee Kitchen bakery in Cockermouth. He taught us that bread making can be slow &  gentle, that bread is a living food & that inspired me to keep learning & keep experimenting. This is a 100% spelt sourdough fresh from the oven. Mr T is desperate for it to cool down so he can have a slice, thickly spread with butter! Thanks @thecoffkitchen for all your patience & advice.
#spelt #sourdough #cockermouth #notjustlakes #slowliving #theartofslowliving #naturallyleavened #morningslikethese #slowsundays #bakingandmaking #homesteading #realbread #wildyeast #slowfood My "get up and go" got up & went. Trying to restore my mojo with a walk in the forest, where it's so wet that even the squirrels look miserable! Normally I stop here to drink coffee from my flask, but it's onwards & upwards, then home for dry clothes & hot chocolate!
#dailywalk #forestwalk #woodland #embracingautumn
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