Bake and Breathe

static1.squarespace.com.jpgI’m” sure many of you have heard bakers refer to time in the kitchen as their “meditation”. For many, baking or cooking a meal is a chance to slow down, take stock and put life back into perspective. It’s amazing how theraputic kneading a loaf of bread can be or bashing biscuits for a cheesecake base! But more seriously, time in the kitchen can create a breathing space from the hectic world and emotional pressures we all face.

So, when I saw Miranda Gore Browne’s tweet about the Mindful Kitchen Retreat I was intrigued and took a look at her new website. Partnering with meditation teacher Gillian Harris, Miranda is launching a new series of day long events designed to equip you with the skills to create a “breathing space” in your kitchen.  You can read how Gillian and Miranda came up with the idea here. While Miranda takes you through new baking skills, Gillian will teach you breathing techniques and meditation practices you can incorporate into daily living. There will also be opportunities to forage wild foods and explore the beautiful landscape of the South Downs National Park.

Starting with a day long workshop on 13th May, there are plans to host regular mindfulness events at Miranda’s Kitchen School and at other venues by arrangement. For many of us, life is a constant juggling act, especially if you are caring for kids or relatives. Finding time for ourselves is essential, but often “self care” comes way down the “to do” list. I know, because like many working parents I’ve been there, looking after everyone, but ignoring my own health. These new workshops combine indulgence (In the form of baking in Miranda’s beautiful kitchen school) with the tools you need to bring moments of stillness and mindfulness into the every day.  I’m sure everyone who takes part will leave with a new perspective on life’s tricky balancing act.

You can find full details and booking information on the website, or follow The Mindful Kitchen  on Twitter to keep up with latest news.

 

 

 

 

An Ethical Wardrobe?

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Photo Credit: Fashion Revolution

Do you ever stop to think about the person who made your clothes? Or wonder where the raw material came from? I’ve noticed a trend among “lifestlye bloggers” for posts about “ethical fashion” which led me to reflect on my own purchasing choices. A couple of weeks ago my Instagram feed seemed to be full of bloggers  wearing the new season from People Tree (One of my favourite mail order fashion brands), even my favourite Lifestyle blogger wrote about her foray into ethical fashion. In her blog post Dominique talks about how difficult it is to know what  “ethical” fashion is, she signposts readers to some great retailers in her capsule wardrobe collection and talks about the difficulty of making the “right” choices on the high street. I applaud her for her honesty.

I began to wonder, is is better to hold on to those sweatshop items, chemically dyed t shirts and leather shoes or is it “better” to chuck everything away and replace them with an ethical alternative? Truth is, I have no idea, but my gut tells me to hang on to what I have. The environmental impact of throwing “stuff” away is huge – even recycling creates pollution – there really is no “away”. Once something is made, it’s really hard to dispose of. Even the most eco friendly materials carry an environmental cost that we often forget.

Scanning my own (fairly minimal) wardrobe I can spot at least a dozen items over ten years old. You see, my philosophy is “buy once, buy well”.  There are a few  items labelled ethical or fair trade. The Patagonia trainers I bought in 2007, worn down at the heel now, but regularly cleaned and with new laces they make an appearance every spring and I love them. The organic denim Howies jeans  – the pair that I hang on to even though they are practically worn away – and the pair I “keep for best”. A People Tree vest that has served me well, the extra long length means it’s great for tucking into jeans under a jumper in winter and perfect for hot summer days. When I bought them, these clothes felt like a huge investment, so I hang on to them for as long as I can. At least half of my wardrobe comes from charity shops and I’ll come clean and tell you I have 3 t shirts from Primark*  – work horse t shirts –  a bit faded but worn regularly and a reminder of the year when Mr T and I  practically lived on thin air in order to meet our goal of paying off the mortgage before we hit 50! (More about that another day).

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Years ago I worked for a charity that supported fairtrade education. We would run workshops for schools and community groups telling them the story behind their clothes. The reality of life in a clothing sweatshop, dye studio or weaving shed can be pretty grim (that’s a euphemism for bloody criminal that we expect anyone to work in such conditions). My colleagues and I would dress in our ethical cropped trousers, our organic cotton t shirts and “educate” our audience about the possibilities of a more equitable future. It felt good to spread to the word.

But, the reality was that only a couple of items in my own wardrobe actually met the strict ethical standards I was encouraging others to choose. I simply couldn’t afford to replace everything. When I did buy new I had to consider the price. I wear clothes out, I patch them, remodel jeans into shorts and when they are finally no longer fit to be worn I cut them into dusters. Items I grow tired of go to the charity shops or to friends. When I do buy new, I think about the conditions of the factory workers who make my clothes. I try to buy from companies that pay a living wage or engage in debate with trade unions about making workplaces safer and fairer. That’s not easy to do. Campaigns like Fashion Revolution’s #whomademyclothes certainly help to raise awareness and encourage consumers to think about the social impact of what we buy and the truth is, there are very few companies that can claim to be truly ethical at every stage of the supply chain.

I’ve also begun to consider the ethics of the things I make for myself. Where did the wool I knit with come from? Who spun and dyed it? The ethics of handmade are just as difficult to wade through as high street fashion. I try to buy wool that is reared, spun and dyed in the UK. I like to buy from independent makers, small businesses that share my view of the world (or at least I hope they do).

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Seek out small batch, local wool that has been minimally processed

There are dozens of books and websites around to guide you through your  ethical wardrobe dilemmas, but no clear cut answers. The approach I’ve adopted is this.

  • Shop wisely. Buy what you need, and when you can, choose retailers with strong ethical and environmental principles.
  • Look after what you have. Follow the care labels, mend, patch and replace zips and buttons when necessary.
  • Ask questions about where your clothes / wool / fabric came from
  • Throw nothing away (but see below). Everything can be repurposed, old towels can be cut down into facecloths and make great alternatives to paper kitchen towel. Cotton sheets can be used as dusters.  Old woolly jumpers make great liners for hanging baskets. Explore your resourceful side!
  • Buy natural fibres. When you do finally throw “stuff” away remember acrylic  never degrades, man made fibres won’t rot down.

 

If you want more advice about making ethical wardrobe choices check out Safia Minney’s book “Slow Fashion” or read Lucy Siegle’s ethical and green living columns for the Guardian such as this one. Visit Labour behind the Label‘s website or check out Fashion Revolution’s 2017 campaign resources.

If we all start to ask questions about where our clothes come from (and what happens to them after we’re finished with them)  that’s a start to building a more ethical wardrobe isn’t it?

* It’s certainly not the only high street store with a poor record on environmental and human rights.

 

 

 

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…

 

 

April in the Sidebar

Eagle eyed readers will have spotted a few new “faces” in the sidebar this month.  Remember, nobody pays to be featured in the sidebar, I just choose great stuff that I’ve tried and loved. When I sat down to write this I noticed there’s a bit of a masculine  theme to this month’s selection.  Three great companies that I’m sure you’ll be hearing lots about.

 

Let’s start with 9 Meals from Anarchy. I love these guys! I first met Tom and Matt when I interviewed them for a feature on their new veg box scheme a couple of years ago. Back then they had just taken over a tiny small holding on the edge of my village. Today they’re settling in to a new, larger plot and producing this fabulous vegetable stock. There are a few (and growing) stockists, but you can also buy it mail order. I can confirm the postal service is great, your stock will arrive safely wrapped and ready to add to stocks and stews.  We need more Veg Men in the world right now.

Next up is Lakeland Muesli. We first tried this toasted artisan muesli at the Cockermouth Food Fair last year and loved it. Even more I love their story. Like many people born and raised in Cumbria they’ve been trying to find their way back home and starting Lakeland Mues has been part of that “grand plan”.  There are plenty of stockists around Cumbria now selling it (But not enough), so if you’re heading up to the Lakes this year look out for it. It’s fuelling Mr T’s Fred Whitton training and I’ve had no complaints so far! My favourite is the Artman Classic  – but guys, if you ever want to trial a coconut free variety – I’m your gal! You can also buy mail order, so no excuses. It’s far tastier than those faux artisan cereals you buy in fancy cardboard boxes in the supermarket!

Lastly Nom Nom Chocolate. Made in Wales I first discovered it in my local farm shop. I’ll admit I’m a sucker for packaging – but once I tasted it – wow! It’s delicious! We’re partial to the salted caramel, but there always seems to be something new to discover. Once again, check out the stockists lists or buy online.

You can click on the links to visit the websites or find all three on social media.

Have a delicious  weekend x

PS I just want to say a huge thank you to everyone who commented on my last post. I’ve been quite overwhelmed by how many of you have shared your stories on here, Facebook, Twitter and particularly Instagram. There will be a follow up post shortly, but I think it’s pretty clear that we’re all struggling one way or another and it doesn’t hurt to say so occasionally.

Clinging to the Wreckage

CRUMMOCK BLOGEver since my Lupus diagnosis I’ve been in denial about just how much it has shaped my life. I realised I’ve been “clinging to the wreckage” of what I thought my “old life” was like. Scared to let go and embrace the fresh challenges that life now brings me. It’s hard to explain to someone who hasn’t experienced long term illness just how it affects daily life. People ask “How are you?” and of course I answer “Oh, I’m fine, mustn’t grumble.. you know…”. What I really want to say is that today was a “good day”. I managed to get myself vertical by 9am, dress, eat breakfast and meet  a friend for coffee. I spent the afternoon “in recovery” on the sofa, my legs refusing to hold me upright because the effort of simply washing my hair, getting dressed and out of the house was  as much as my body could take for one day.  These things you take for granted, that you do without thinking are herculean tasks for me on a “bad” day -and here’s the cruellest thing – I never know when a bad day is coming. I might have a lovely week, plenty of sleep and little stress. Then a sarky email or snide remark will send my stress levels soaring. I’ll lie awake worrying about a friend going through a rough patch and Bam! I can’t even get out of bed and dress myself.

I tell you this is in the spirit of “full disclosure”. So that when you tell me how well I look or how “lucky” I am that my husband “lets” me stay at home all day instead of having a “real” job or jokingly call me a “slacker” because I answered the door in my PJs at 3 in the afternoon you may understand why you get the rough edge of my tongue or the benefit of my great repetoire in sarcastic one liners. I’d love to have a “proper” job, but try explaining to an employer that you can’t work mornings or that double vision brought on by fatigue stops you getting behind the wheel on a regular basis. Self employment really is my only option. Ask me about the freelance life and I’ll wax lyrical about the freedom to choose my own hours, work from home. But the truth is I envy you your mundane 9 – 5.

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We spent Easter week in Cockermouth at my Mother in Law’s.  “Lovely daughter” came over for a few days and in between over consumption of chocolate eggs we managed a cosy Mother – Daughter lunch in town, a mooch around the shops and best of all, a family outing to Crummock.

This place holds special significance for me. It’s one of the first places Mr T took me to when we first met. We used to give our dog a regular  bath in the lake and it’s where Mr T tried unsuccessfully to teach his little girl (and his wife) how to skim stones. My M-i-L is dismissive about it’s charms. The walk is too flat, there are too many tourists and you have to pay for parking. All this is true; and yes, you have to dodge toddlers in wellies too big and dog walkers who haven’t quite mastered the extending lead. But you’ll be rewarded with some of the finest views to be had at ground level.

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I love this place, no steep gradients mean I can walk further and for longer without pleading tiredness. There are benches where you simply “must” stop and admire the view. It’s a chance to breathe fresh air, to reflect and just occasionally have a moment of clarity. All of a sudden I realised, that by denying the daily struggles and  by pretending all is well and life is lovely I was kidding myself more than anyone. The fact is life can be shit. Not just for me, but for all of us. Mr T has many crappy days at the office, my neighbour has MS and endures far more than I do. Another friend is a carer, another recently bereaved. There are days when we all have crappy lives.

So, here on a shingle beach, with the sun trying hard to shine through grey skies I reached an epiphany of sorts. I’m going to stop pretending life is great when it isn’t. But equally, I’m going to do my best to find the sunshine on every rainy day. So yes, it took me until lunch time to get of bed the day we went to Crummock and I didn’t have a shower or wash my hair first. But I got to see lambs in the field, hold Mr T’s hand as we walked and do the things normal people do.

No more excuses. No more pretty Instagram pics posted from bed giving truth to the lie that all is well when it’s not. Instead, lots of laughter at my own expense. An admission that mooching around in PJs for most of the day is acceptable every once in a while – anyway – that’s practically uniform for most freelancers isn’t it? A late lunch with friends instead of morning coffee is OK and admitting that an evening in the pub means a morning in bed (and not because of a hang over) is not an admission of failure. It’s time to let go of what might have been and accept what will be.

Feel free to remind me of this optimism and positive attitude next time I bend your ear about how unfair life is. Then pour me strong coffee, cut me a large slice of cake and join me on the sofa. I didn’t choose to live life in the slow lane, but you know what? It’s a pretty darned good place to be.

Review: Sugru

17157423_10155043812785912_8639739388407831482_oRegular readers will know that we’re big fans of Sugru in the Todhunter household, so when I was offered one of their new “Create and Craft” packs of course I said yes. The Create and Craft pack is one of a new series of kits available now. You can also pick up “Organise Small Spaces” , “Hacks for Your Home” and more (click here for all the latest special editions and kits). Each kit contains everything you need to get started with Sugru and “hack” your home, garage or craft table. They would make great gifts for the diy enthusiast or crafter (or those hard to buy for uncles, brother in laws etc).

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The Create and Craft pack contains a handy tin with four packs of Sugru and a couple of useful texturising tools. Best of all, there’s a booklet filled with creative ideas and suggestions for using this brilliant mouldable glue. Whether you need to add a comfort grip to a pair of scissors, make a stamp for a quick printed wrapping paper or fix almost anything, then you need a pack of Sugru in your life. It’s strong, flexible, grippy and reliable. We made a “running repair” to our favourite cafetiere three years ago and it’s still holding up to daily use. You can find dozens of craft and design ideas over on the Sugru website.  My current favourite is this personalised mug “how to”.

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If you’ve not tried Sugru, look out for it in DIY stores, or sign up for the Sugru newsletter to get 10% off your first order. Do check out Sugru for yourself – and bookmark this handy zip fix tutorial – it’s been well road tested in this house and really works!

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My top tip for more Sugru inspiration is to follow the team on Instagram for loads of  diy / upcycling tips and dozens of crafty ideas to make.

Thanks again Sugru x

 

 

 

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.

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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.

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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…

Will Crochet Design Make Your Fortune?

Or, How do you measure success?

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OK, I’m talking about crochet design here, but this applies to all creatives. The truth is, most creative occupations won’t earn you a fortune. There are exceptions. Talent,  hard work and lucky breaks have led to a few highly successful careers in knitwear design (and other sectors).  We think that getting published in a few magazines, getting a book deal or hitting the “hot right now” stream in Ravelry* will be a spring board to fame and fortune. It might, but the chances are you won’t be able to give up the day job just yet. At least not if you’re responsible for mortgage payments, rent or  food and living expenses. Freelance crochet design will not bring you financial security. There are a few who are trying and succeeding. Talented people who have invested heavily in self publishing, mastered the art of online promotion and built a following of makers who leap on every new design with gusto. These are the lucky few. (although it isn’t really down to luck;  hard work, determination and the support of friends and family all contribute).

So, if financial security  isn’t guaranteed how else do we measure our success ?  Does it matter if money in the bank isn’t the bottom line? Freedom to live a simple life, cook from scratch, grow veg and spend time with friends and loved ones is my “success indicator”. If I worked full time, invested heavily in my brand and really, really committed myself to design then I would earn more money. But, all of the above would be neglected. I know that when I spent two days working  in London each week there were too many ready meals in the freezer, a weedy veg patch and a sulky family who  missed me. I lost touch with friends and spent weekends filled with working mother guilt trying to compensate for time spent away and  texting goodnight from trains. I felt like I failed at everything and I resented my job and my family for not being able to cope without me. The money was great, but it didn’t compensate for the things I missed.

Crochet design, writing features and occasional books won’t make my fortune, but it has brought me friendship and  job satisfaction. The money I earn feeds our family, feeds my yarn habit and most importantly sustains my creative soul. My riches aren’t money in the bank, they are small flashes of delight in an ordinary life. Of course, none of this would be possible if Mr T didn’t have a successful, rewarding job. But that doesn’t mean my work is just “play”. We have found our own “work life balance”. but it has taken us 30 years to get here!

So, will crochet make your fortune? Perhaps  not, but maybe that’s not why you crochet?

Photo Credit: Giulia Bertelli for Unsplash

 

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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. 

 

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  • I’m Tracey Todhunter. I’m a freelance writer. specialising in green / ethical living – with a “sideline” in craft!

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  • Borage flowers. The leaves & stalks make a brilliant plant food, the flowers are edible - but I grow it because it's just so pretty - & the bees love it.
#girlgardener #mygardenrightnow #permaculture #herbs Away with the fairies! Lovely wander around Stonyford Cottage gardens today. Lots of inspiration. Finished a new shawl. Far too hot to wear it, but luckily my shed is a great backdrop! Yarn is King Cole Riot. 
#crochet #crochetgirlgang #neverenoughshawls #sheshed #madenotmanufactured #crochetlove Free food! Next best thing to growing your own food is eating other people's homegrown. I'm looking after my neighhour's garden & boy does he have a lot of radishes just now! I have written a blog post about more of my favourite (almost) free foods. Link in profile, now I'm off to pickle these radishes.
#frugalfood #foraging #ediblegarden #growyourownfood #girlgardener #allotmenteering #eattheseasons #permaculture  #zerowaste #slowliving #gardentotable #organicgardening #forktofork I'll admit it, I grow this mostly for it's amazing colour - but the stems are delicious sauted with chorizo or streaky bacon!
#mygardenrightnow #girlgardener #girlsthatgarden #permaculture #growyourown #ediblegarden #bakingandmaking #slowliving #organicgardening I do love a formal garden. I walk through this one every Friday on my way to knit group.  Castle Park is a hidden gem.
#gardens #castlepark #parksandgardens
  • Previously on the blog…

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  • Currently Reading (not sponsored): No Serial Number

  • Products I love (not sponsored): 9 Meals from Anarchy Veg Stock

  • Engaging the Public with Climate Change (Co Author):

  • Crochet: Learn It, Love It (Author)

  • Woman’s Weekly Guide to Crochet (Author):

  • The Drift Collection (Contributor):

  • Whimsical Hats (Contributor):

  • Hand Made (Contributor):

  • Dorling KIndersely Guide to Crochet (Contributor)

  • The Legal Stuff: