Saturday, 28 December 2013

Christmas at Sweet Williams (and news)!


Hope you have all had a wonderful Christmas.  For the first time in months I actually stepped away from the sewing machine for a few days.  I couldn't bear to put everything away so we ended up having Christmas dinner on our laps but hey ho, I've had a lovely break and plenty of family time which is what counts!

 I managed to get all my orders finished the Friday before Christmas.  My word what a week that was.  I was going to bed at 3am and getting back up around 7am just to fit everything in.  Needless to say I was absolutely knackered!!

We kicked off the festivities Christmas Eve with a brisk walk, a visit to the pantomime (Snow White), Santa colouring books (for the children), Baileys (for moi) and plenty of mince pies and chocolate all round.

Christmas Day Father Christmas left way too many presents and the boys (and myself) got a little bit spoilt.  I had some fab sewing books too :-)

In the run up to Christmas I run lots of festive sewing workshops.  A Christmas Garland workshop was amongst them which was fab.  This is the garland we made.

I made lots of these cinnamon scented gingerbread men and also sold lots of kits for my customers to make their own.  Isn't he cute?

These decorations were fun to make and smelt absolutely stunning of oranges.  65 of these sold in one week!!!

I made so many cushions I was sewing them in my sleep!!  Lots of gorgeous personalised ones too.

Lavender bags were also a popular buy this Christmas.

And my absolute fave thing to make this year has to be these luxury stockings.  They are simply beautiful in the flesh.  I shall hopefully be making lots more for Santa to fill next year.  

I have now been full time self employed for two months and it is the best thing ever.  I was absolutely petrified at the prospect of coming out of the day job but now that I've done it I have such a clear vision of where I want to take my business and am hoping it will grow into something rather big in 2014.  I have many things planned which I am super excited about.

I have got local sewing workshops booked in which are a mix of hand sewing and machine workshops right up until July 2014.  A full list can be found on the website here:

I am offering sewing sessions in schools and am in the process of planning children's sewing parties and wait for it UK residential sewing breaks!!  YES how exciting is that?  You will be able to turn up at a carefully selected holiday cottage or manor house and live the life of luxury all weekend whilst learning to sew.  Will have more information to share with you on this soon.

Another MASSIVE piece of business news which is the one that is going to grow my business the most is that I am currently in the process of building a brand new website.  I know my current one is still new but it does not give me the functions I need it to have for my new venture.  I will soon be holding online sewing workshops which will have different interactive membership levels which will offer patterns, tutorials, webinars, kits, freebies, special offers etc.  The reason I am most excited about this is because I will be able to take it international and offer it to anyone in the world.  The power of technology hey?  Give me a while though as its in the early stages and the planning is immense.  This is something which I think has the potential to be rather huge.  And the best bit is that its going to be available to anyone wanting to learn how to sew or to brush up on their sewing skills (both hand and machine) at amazing value with the option of using your own materials at home (super saver option) or to have all the kits sent out to you for each tutorial so you have exactly what you need each month (premium option).  Watch this space.

In the meantime there are a few SALE items left on the website.  Not many so be quick if you want anything.  It includes a massive £25 discount on my luxury cushions!  BARGAIN!  You can shop here if you are wanting to browse -

Before I leave you I just wanted to say thank you to all of my customers in 2013, to everyone who has purchased and / or attended a workshop.  Without you Sweet Williams would not exist.  Thank you to my family for putting up with buttons and fabric ALL over the house and for not complaining when realising we would be having Christmas dinner on laps this year!!  Thank you to Jai Eastwood, photographer and wonderful friend who has made my products and website look wonderful and to Claire Mitchell of The Girls Mean Business for making me realise my business potential.

Here's to an amazing 2014.

Emma xxx

Saturday, 7 September 2013


Well hello,

I think I've probably said it on every blog post in the last few months that each time I write a new one I feel like a stranger here!  It has just become so incredibly manic and time just passes so quickly.  It's right what they say you know, the older you get the quicker the time goes...

I wanted to give you an update on my business re-brand, tell you what I've been up to lately and to share my exciting news.

Since my last blog post I have been busy running various sewing workshops.  I absolutely adore doing them.

As some of you know I will be launching a luxury range of products soon.  I have realised that there are simply so many crafty businesses out there and that I need to do something to stand out and be different.  I don't want to be the same as everyone else, I want to be me and have a product and a brand that is unique to me.  I therefore decided some time ago that in order to do this I need to invest in my business.  I don't want to be known as simply a crafty type earning pocket money from a hobby.  As part of this re-brand I have had a new logo designed which you have all seen and which I absolutely adore.  I will have a new gorgeous website which will go live soon and which will showcase my new range of products and the biggest thing I have invested in so far is to employ a fantastic photographer to really make the most of my products.

Want to see a sneak peek of some gorgeous photographs my photographer has taken???  Which will also give you a sneak peek of some of my new luxury products???

Here you go...

These are large fragrant lavender bags.  And when I say large they really are large!!  They are made from gorgeous 100% cotton and the back of the bag matches the fabric of the heart on the front.  There will be lots of fabric choice to choose from.  Each heart on the front has been stitched by hand and finished off with locally sourced vintage buttons.  I have blended lavender grown in Yorkshire's award winning lavender farm and each bag has been beautifully hand embroidered and tied with jute string.

You may have seen these heart decorations before.  I have blended gorgeous 100% cotton fabric with Liberty fabric which is absolutely stunning.  Completely hand stitched (very time consuming).  Each one features locally sourced vintage buttons plus a hand made ceramic button which is simply stunning.  Finished with an elegant lace trim, filled with a generous helping of hollow fibre and an ivory satin hanger.

I really cannot wait to show you my full range of new cushions because I am so proud of them.  Just wait until you see the close ups and the detail of these.  This cushion shown here is one of my square 18" x 18" ones which is really large and squishy and really has a luxury feel to it.  I have blended 100% cotton fabric with a sumptuous duck feather pad, which is of a 5* hotel quality and which has a anti dust mite down proof fabric.  I have added locally sourced vintage buttons, elegant lace trim and beautifully crafted crochet flowers.  Each cushion front has been completely hand sewn which is incredibly time consuming given their size.  The cushion has an envelope back and has been quadruple (yes I did say quadruple) sewn to make this an investment purchase which if looked after will last a lifetime.  The fabric for the writing is the same fabric on the reverse side of the cushion which means you can use it either way for a different look.

All of these products and many more will be able to be purchased from my new website when it is up and running soon.  I cannot wait to show you my full range and the rest of the product photographs.

The last photograph I am going to show you before I reveal my BIG NEWS is this one...

This is me.  Surrounded by all of my creations, fabric, buttons and 1923 vintage Singer sewing machine.  I am completely in love with my job, it makes me so happy and because of this it does not feel like work at all...

Because of this I am so excited to share my BIG EXCITING NEWS WITH YOU ALL...

Are you ready for it?

As from the 1st November I will have left my day job as a Legal Assistant and will be FULL TIME SELF EMPLOYED.  This is such a huge thing for me.  It has come to the point where if I don't try it now I will never try it.  I have to be brave and give it a go.

I AM SO EXCITED!!!  After less than two years hard work I finally feel that this could actually work for me.  Even though I will be standing on my own two feet from the 1st, me and my husband are hoping to do something that weekend to celebrate, possibly by going on a mini break so I will start my full time self employed working week from Monday 4th November 2013.  EEEEEEEKKKKKK!!!!  

I am very pleased that some items from my new range of products are now able to be found in a lovely new shop in Taibach, Port Talbot (Bows, Flowers & Gifts which was formerly Allan's Flowers) from today which means you will be able to not only see but also purchase products from my new range before their official launch!!  YAY :-)

SO, Sweet Williams will soon have 3 elements which are: -

1.  Workshops, sewing kits and haberdashery.

The small sewing workshops will continue in libraries.  I will be organising further larger sewing workshops soon and will also be introducing group sewing machine workshops where you can come to learn how to use a machine and take away something you have made.  These will be simple workshops such as how to make a cushion cover and pegs bags and bunting etc.  I am also excited to be able to offer soon one to one sessions in your own home.  Watch this space for more information.  I already have some sewing kits available but I will be designing some new ones and which will be beautifully packaged and will make lovely gifts.  I will be stocking a lovely range of haberdashery items which will be perfect for those wanting to make their own things.

2.  Luxury Living

Luxury living is something I am so incredibly passionate about and which will make up the biggest part of my business.  Everyone can buy a cushion but a Sweet Williams luxury cushion is a real treat.  You will know you have purchased a genuine Sweet Williams luxury item if you see the gorgeous branded wooden button which is sewn onto each item.  I will be launching lots of gorgeous seasonal items soon too.  Alongside my new range of luxury handmade products I will have a small range of non handmade gifts for the home which I know you will love.

3.  Consultancy Service

Lastly, I am so passionate about business and helping others that by the New Year I should have Sweet Williams Consultancy Services up and running.  I use websites, blogs and social media sites a lot and I have learnt how important they are in business.  I see so many other businesses using them and not to their full potential or even worse, not using them at all.  I will be offering a service where I can look at how a business is using these things and how that business can improve on using them or can help in setting them up from scratch and how to maintain them.  I will look forward to helping other businesses grow and to help them make more money.

I am incredibly excited knowing that in a matter of weeks I will be full time self employed but I am incredibly nervous, stressed, worried and anxious all at the same time.  I know that the next six months in particular will be very tough and will involve hard work and plenty of sleepless nights but I am keeping everything crossed that things will work out just fine and that I shall be proud that I will be my own boss, not having to answer to anyone, providing for my family on my own, and not relying on a day job to pay my bills and put food on the table!

I would love to hear your thoughts on my new venture...

WISH ME LUCK... I think I may need it...

Much love
Emma xxx

Tuesday, 9 July 2013

Exciting Sewing Workshop / Club News...

Blinkin' heck its another hot one!!

I feel a Pimms and lemonade coming on later...

But before I do I wanted to share some exciting sewing workshop / club news with you all.  

As some of you may already know, I have such a passion for sewing I really want to pass on my new found skills to others wanting to learn.  I decided that launching two trial sessions during Adult Learners Week back in May this year would be a great opportunity to put the feelers out and see if there was any call for it.  I was astonished and still am at the response I received during this week.  I did not realise there would be such a demand.  A series of sessions are also being filmed by a fantastic local company called FYI Neath and will be made into a short film which I am so pleased about.


This led to me setting up monthly workshops / clubs with two local libraries.  These are often very full, and have a reserve list for many sessions.  


I have been discussing the workshops with various venues and am now very excited to announce the following: - 

Community Building
Saturday 31st August 2013 10.00am - 12.00pm
Introduction to Embroidery Hoops
£15 per person - booking and payment required in advance

Further dates to be confirmed

Wednesday 17th July 2013 10.30am - approx 12.00pm
Embroider and sew your own lavender bag
£5.00 per person - payable on the day

Further dates to be confirmed

All of the following sessions are 11.00am - approx 12.30pm
All of the following sessions are £5.00 per person (unless otherwise stated) - payable on the day (or you can pay in advance to secure your booking).

Saturday 20th July 2013 - Embroider and sew your own lavender bag
Saturday 3rd August 2013 - Sew your own fabric heart decoration
Saturday 17th August 2013 - Sew your own flower corsage brooch
Saturday 7th September 2013 - TBC
Saturday 21st September 2013 - TBC
Saturday 5th October 2013 - Sew a Halloween themed brooch
Saturday 19th October 2013 - Sew Halloween pumpkin decoration
Saturday 9th November 2013 - Sew your own Poppy Brooch - this session will be £6 because £1 from each participant will be donated to The Poppy Appeal
Saturday 23rd November 2013 - Sew a festive gingerbread man
Saturday 7th December 2013 - Sew a Christmas decoration
Saturday 14th December 2013 - Sew and embroider a festive fragrance bag (ideal for hanging on the tree)

I am absolutely thrilled with these dates and I hope to have more to announce shortly.  Bookings are now being taken for all sessions and you can email me at if you would like to book your place at any.

All sessions are informal and are lots of fun.  Many involve biscuits and cake!!  You do not need to bring anything apart from yourself to the sessions.  I provide everything you need all included in these bargain prices.  At the end of each session, there is an opportunity to purchase haberdashery supplies and sewing kits should you wish to do so.

I have lots of planning and preparation to be getting on with... better make that a double Pimms and lemonade!!!

Monday, 8 July 2013

Excited... It has started...

I am very very excited!

The re-brand of my little business has been well underway the last several weeks.  I've got so many to do lists and things going on at the minute, I am feeling like a sinking ship, but today's news has cheered me right up...

The news is that I have had the most fantastic logo designed for my business.

What do you think?

I am absolutely thrilled to bits with it.  I have always stuck to pinks and purples so this is a real refreshing change for me and is going to look fantastic.

Lots more exciting things coming up in the next couple of weeks.

Lots of news on the workshop front as I have got more dates booked in right up until Christmas and as from next month will be doing two a month at Port Talbot Library.  I will pop all the dates in another blog post though once I locate my diary!

Its super hot and sunny here which means I get to do lots of sewing whilst sitting in the garden eating ice cream and drinking Pimms - perfect!

Before I go, a BIG thank you to Helen at Sorbet Design for designing my fabulous logo.  I LOVE it x

Saturday, 8 June 2013

There is change ahead...

They Really Are...


Two blog posts in the space of a week.  That's a bit novel for me at the moment!!  It's been so hectic over the last few months - in fact I feel like I haven't really stopped since September last year!!!

About two months ago I started to feel stuck.  I wasn't feeling as motivational about my business and didn't know what to do to change things up and set a clear direction on where I want to be.

I'm getting there!

I think (I hope)!

Fabric I purchased today :-) :-) :-)

So, as always, I love to keep my fab customers/fans/likers etc fully informed so thought I would give you a little update on what's going to be happening around here.

One of the things I have had to have a long hard think about is whether I want my little business to remain little and to supplement my day job income or whether I want to throw caution to the wind, put my heart and soul into the business so that it grows much bigger so that eventually it becomes my only income and one I will LOVE doing.

I want my business to grow.

So, there needs to be changes in order to do this.  Some people will be disappointed by the changes, especially as some of my products will eventually no longer be available but I am also hoping for lots of support.  I hope I'm doing the right thing - but you know, what have I got to lose???  I'm willing to try and as long as I try my best then that's all that matters.

The first thing for me is that I'm losing my tag line to my business.  I've always been known as "Sweet Williams - Handmade Soft Furnishings, Cards and Gifts".  I will now be known as just Sweet Williams.  It is for many reasons as I am now doing other things such as running sewing workshops and I am not going to be making greetings cards any longer.

Card making does not make me money.  I enjoy making them but I charge very little for the amount of time I spend making and personalising them.  I cannot afford to sell them any longer.  I will be making up one large batch of cards to sell and I will then be selling all of my remaining card making goodies. I have a 5 drawer chest which is overflowing with beautiful papers, some of which are handmade, card toppers, embellishments, flowers, peel off stickers, sparkly things, blank cards, envelopes - just lots and lots of stuff.  I have lots still in its original packaging.  I am hoping to get a sale album up on Facebook in the next week.  Whatever does not sell on Facebook I will then pop on ebay.

The next thing I will be doing is limiting the amount of small gift type items that I make and stock.  If anyone has ever visited me at an event you will know how many different things I make (all of which are incredibly time consuming and most sewn by hand).  I will be having a range of decorations, beautiful embroidered hoops, a small selection of keyrings and brooches, and that will pretty much be it, everything else will be discontinued.  Although, I will continue to have special featured products and seasonal items.  I will be focusing much more on cushions, peg bags, aprons, tote bags etc.

I will continue to stock and sell a small range of haberdashery items.  All of my haberdashery items will be available to purchase online and at my sewing workshops.

Sewing workshops will continue to grow in my local community, which will be small clubs held in public venues such as libraries.  These will be low cost £5-£10 per person depending on the type of session.  They will be more of a social craft and chat event and the opportunity to learn a new skill with like minded people. These will be to learn about hand sewing and will be purely project based so my student gets to take away what they have made.

I am currently looking at studios.  My aim is to have a studio in my local area to run longer more professional sewing workshops (but which will still be friendly, informal and lots of fun), using machines to create cushions, peg bags, door stops etc.  Hand sewing will also take place at these sessions and again will be project based.  These are going to be longer sessions than the clubs held in the community and will likely cost upwards of £40 per person, again depending on what we will be making.  I have a vision of Welsh dressers stuffed full of handmade products, buttons and ribbons.  Lots of vintage style bunting, fresh lemonade, cupcakes - you get the idea?

My New Baby and gorgeous vintage finds x
I will be doing less events - certainly less of the smaller church hall/community centre type craft fairs.  This is incredibly awful to say but a lot of the ones I have been to, because of the type of venues that these are often held at, the lack of advertising for them, little effort made to the styling of them etc the type of people these kind of events attract are often not my ideal customer.  I have so many comments about things on my table saying "that's beautiful but is waaaay too expensive" and they're often referring to items that costs around £3!!  This has made alarm bells ring for me and which was why I decided to undertake an intense business coaching programme.

I know for a fact that I am underselling myself.  Like mentioned above, I have undertaken an intense coaching programme, have recently been a guest speaker at a local business networking event and have met some amazing fellow independent business owners over the last few weeks.  The coaching programme has allowed me to find my vision, has helped me pin down my ideal customer and has given me lots of ideas with regards to marketing.  Speaking to all of these people have all said my work is very under priced.  I am hand sewing for hours, I am selling British made products, nothing is mass produced, lots of items are personalised and unique and I put one hell of a lot of love and effort into what I do.  I am completely in love with fabric and what I do with it and this needs to reflect in my sale prices.  Like most people in the craft business, under selling is a huge issue.  It means that most of us barely earn minimum wage.  I am prepared to spend the time to create a luxury British handmade product and this needs to come at a price.  This means that my new stock which I will be introducing soon will be of a very high standard, luxury finish and will be properly priced.

Beautiful Sweet Williams flowers

Lots of people (meaning the visitors/the general public) who attend the small craft fairs for a browse are often there for simply that reason.  They usually carry very little cash and do not realise what goes into a handmade product.  Therefore, the majority of people who wander on through continue to wander and will never purchase.

People at small craft fairs are after cheap pocket money items.  Lots of them tend not to be too bothered about whether products are made in a cute little home in Britain or in a huge factory churning out mass produced tat in China.  My local area adore shops such as Primark, Home Bargains, B&M Bargains Poundland, Wilkinson etc.  There is nothing at all wrong with these shops (I sometimes shop at them too) - I am not slating them in the slightest, I am simply saying the people who will like shopping at these kind of shops for impulse buys and gifts are not usually going to be the same person as my ideal customer.

Basically, what I am saying is that I cannot afford any longer to stand all day for example in a community centre (in particular time wise) hoping to sell my beautiful things when I could be elsewhere making much more money. I still love these events because you do meet some fantastic people, other stallholders are real characters who are equally as talented and there have been many occasions where people have picked up a business card which has later on led to a sale but I cannot risk wasting precious time at the moment. I am aware this sounds rather selfish of me.

Close up shot of a recent bunting order.  Pom pom trim, pretty fabric and a vintage button!

I will still be attending events but I am going to be looking more towards bigger national events.  I will keep you posted on this one...

Other major changes happening for me is supplying more retailers (I have supplied 7 already in the past).  I am employing a designer to design me a fantastic logo.  I am also employing a photographer.  I am having new business cards, new signage for those big events and new car bumper stickers.  I am going to be having new packaging designed for my new sewing kits.  The biggest thing for me is having a professional designer catalogue produced of my new luxury handmade products which I can't wait to get started on and am already excited about the end product.

Phew - I think you will agree that there is lots going on over here... So I may be a little quiet for a while whilst I get my head around it all!

I will keep you fully updated as I can't wait to share all my new products and ideas with you.

Until next time...

Much love,
Emma xxx

Ps.  If you are in my local area tomorrow (Sunday 9th June 2013) do come and see me and a bunch of other talented folk at Garwnant Forestry Commission which is set on the edge of the beautiful Brecon Beacons.  Its absolutely gorgeous up there and its set to be another sunny day.  This is one event I won't be giving up (that's if they'll continue to have me!) - the people there are just fantastic and whom I consider good friends and its nice to spend time with friends after a long week hard at work xxx

Wednesday, 5 June 2013

They have began...

They have began...

Sewing workshops that is and what an amazing time I've had.

Workshops are something that I have thought about a lot in recent months but wasn't sure how to go about them and felt nervous because I have never taught in my life.

Adult Learners Week was approaching and thought what better way to celebrate a week of learning a new skill than Adult Learners Week???

They took a little preparation but it was worth it.

I had two dates booked.  One in Port Talbot Library and one in Pontardawe Library.  Both went down so incredibly well, a fun time was had by all, so much so that I have been persuaded to set up a regular workshop / sewing club in both these venues.

 One of the displays Port Talbot Library kindly set up for inspiration and borrowing.

And this is what we made...

Fat Free Cakes!

Don't they look amazing?  Some of these were created by people who were new to sewing.  I thought that was an amazing achievement.  I think it is a lovely thing that my workshops are project based so that each person who comes along gets to take home a lovely creation.

I teach in a friendly way.  No question is a silly question and people of all ages and abilities are more than welcome at my workshops.

The next workshop is Saturday 15th June 2013 at Port Talbot Library which is now fully booked already (woo hoo) and the next one after that is Wednesday 19th June 2013 at Pontardawe Library.  There are still some spaces left at this one.  If anyone would like to come, please email me on to reserve your place.  The next workshop is just £5 per person for up to a 2 hour session learning how to make a pretty brooch using gorgeous fabric and wool blend felt.

Everyone will get the opportunity to purchase sewing supplies and kits at the end of the session should they wish.

 I was at an event all day yesterday.  This was my table.

Lots are happening behind the scenes here at the moment.  There are going to be lots of changes.  I am having a bit of a re-brand.  I have a new vision for my little business which I hope is going to help me grow much bigger than what I presently am.  Keep your eyes peeled for news...

Monday, 13 May 2013

Sewing Workshop Launch!


I am incredibly excited to announce the launch of my new sewing workshops.  I am also very excited that I have managed to grasp the opportunity to launch them during Adult Learners Week.  It is always lovely to gain a new skill and learn something new.

I am absolutely thrilled (and still somewhat surprised) that the three trial dates I have booked in are pretty much fully booked and fills me with not only confidence that people would want to come along to meet with me and learn the basics of sewing but I am also incredibly nervous in case it falls to pieces!!!

Sewing has become incredibly fashionable again in the last couple of years and is a wonderful skill to have.   

I say that the dates I have booked in are to trial the workshops just so I can see how they go, work out exactly how long the sessions need to be, get some feedback and gain some insight into what people new to sewing want and like.

The first one will take place on Saturday 18th May 2013 at Port Talbot Library, followed by a workshop on Tuesday 21st May 2013 at Neath College and the final trial workshop will be held in Pontardawe Library on Wednesday 22nd May 2013.

If the three trial dates work well then I will hopefully be running sewing workshops which are aimed at complete beginners on a regular basis in various venues.  I am looking at setting up regular clubs in local villages and towns (something maybe once a fortnight or once a month).

I am so passionate about sewing and having built my little business into something which I so dearly love that it would be amazing to teach others who have never even picked up a needle before to complete a project and to be proud of what they have managed to achieve in such a short space of time.

This is why my workshops are all going to be project based.  You will come along to a session lasting 1.5 - 2 hours long and by the end of the session you will have made something to take away.  All workshops to begin with are going to be based around hand sewing.  I would love to introduce machine sewing at some point but that will be well in the future.  

SO - do you want to know what we will be doing next week???



They will be very much like these, and they can be decorations (simply strung with ribbon) or turned into keyrings - the choice will be yours.  Also, if we have time we will be embroidering each one with the word CAKE (unless you would prefer it to say something else - like your name for example) just so you can learn that extra skill too.

This is the outline I have: - 

1.  Tea/Coffee/Cake at the start (hopefully - I am in the process of confirming this with the venues) to get us all settled, with some introductions where I will explain who I am, what I do and you get the opportunity to tell me what if any sewing experience you have.  The little knowledge you have the better so I can really make you feel like you have achieved something wonderful by the end of the session!!

2.  We will then have a quick chat about what we will make, what materials we will use, the different kinds of materials you can buy, where to buy them.  You will each be given your own supplies to use for the session including various size scissors, fabrics, wool felt, as many buttons as you wish to use, lots of embroidery thread, set of needles and a few other bits and bobs.

3.  We will then tackle the basics of sewing.  You will learn how to sew two pieces of fabric together.  You will learn running stitch, back stitch, how to sew buttons on, we will embroider some lettering amongst other things.

4.  We will finish off the session having made a fabulous product and you can ask me any questions you wish about sewing, my business, anything craft related etc.

5.  Before you leave you will get the opportunity to purchase craft supplies if you wish to continue your new skills at home - fabrics, wool felt, buttons, ribbon etc.  You are under no obligation to look at or purchase anything whatsoever, but the option is there if you fancy it.  You can always simply take my business card with you so should you change your mind when you get home you can contact me and purchase online instead.

6.  Finally, each person who attends the three trial sessions next week will be entered into a competition to win a fantastic craft pack to get your new skill underway in return for filling out a short feedback questionnaire.  Again, you are under no obligation to complete the questionnaire but if you can that would be incredibly helpful to me and you could be the lucky winner of some lovely goodies.

I really cannot wait to meet you all and get started.

I am keeping everything crossed that this is the start of a new big adventure for me.  The skill of sewing needs to be kept alive and the more people I can teach the basics of, the happier I will be.

Saturday, 16 February 2013

Business Tips - Part Four - Photographs

Welcome to Part Four in a series of business tips.

These weeks are flying by.  I cannot believe that we are at week four already with these business tips.

This week is going to focus on photographs.

This was one of the products I made as part of The Design Team Challenge run by The Sewing Boutique

 How do you take photographs of your work?

If you can get a professional photographer to take some snaps for you then that’s great as it is obviously the best way of showing off your work but if you don’t know who to use or if you are like me and cannot afford to employ one right now then you can take perfectly acceptable photographs at home using a basic camera.

All too very often, as often as on a daily basis I come across really bad photographs, in particular on Facebook pages.  A Facebook business page, website, other selling platforms etc is for advertising and selling your things.  It makes me wonder whether people deliberately take bad photographs to hide the fact they have made something quite naff but think if they take an equally naff photograph potential customers won’t notice!  On the other hand you may have the perfect product where lots of love, care and effort has gone into making something but I’m not going to realise that or buy it or look at anything else on your page because the only photograph I have seen is particularly awful.  It comes back to last weeks business tips regarding branding.  You need to set a style and make people want to look further.

You need to approach how you show your potential customers your items in a different way than you would in a shop.  You will know yourself that when you go into a shop and you spot something you like the look of you can usually go right up to it, touch it, get to feel the textures, turn it over to see all sides, smell it and just generally enjoy the experience of picking up something rather lovely.  It could make you fall in love with an item and make you want to buy it which may not have been your initial intention when you first picked it up.  A potential customer cannot do any of these things looking online, especially when seeing many photographs which look a little bit like this: -

Blurry, out of focus photographs taken in a rush.  The lighting is not great.  The background is not right and you can glimpse something else in the photograph which shouldn't be there.  

I see them taken in bad lighting, perhaps because someone is too eager to take a photograph because they have finished an exciting project at ten o’clock at night and just HAVE to take the photo then.  I see photographs that have been taken in the middle of carpets which I particularly dislike, especially if someone hasn’t even bothered to vacuum first!!!  I see photographs of items on laps, feet, arms and other body parts getting into the photo.  Why would your potential customer want to look at your page/website if your photographs do not do your work justice?

Be proud of your product.  Believe in your product and show it off to its best potential by taking a decent photograph.  As well as taking full product photographs, take close ups so potential customers can see the texture of the fabrics you use and so they can see the quality of the buttons etc. 

 Why the rush to take photographs?  If you are eager to try and get a sale then I’m sorry but you’re going to be more likely to grab that sale if you wait until the morning in natural light and set a scene for your product.  Trust me – it makes all the difference.

And guess what?  You don’t have to know much about photography at all.  You can use a basic camera – in fact, a lot of my photographs are taken on my phone!  It’s not about having to make them look too professional, it’s about producing in focus photographs taken in good light and having a little think about props.  Your carpet is NOT your only prop!

Yesterday I took this photograph.

Look ok?  It's a clear photograph, its nice and bright, you can see everything you should be seeing and there are no body parts or carpet getting in on the action. 

Want to know how I did it?

Have a look at this…

It’s nothing special and certainly not professional but it makes a photograph look acceptable.  It has been taken in my living room.  There is a large window to the right which is out of sight in the photo but that’s what gives me the natural light.  Late morning/early afternoon is usually best for this.  I have used a dark coloured storage box for the background to ensure that when I take the photograph I don’t have any of my living room wall or DVD collection in the background!  Customers are not interested in seeing what’s in my DVD collection; they want to know what I am selling! 

I have used a wicker hamper to display my products in.  If I only used the hamper and the box and took the photograph, there is a good chance I would have had a shot with my carpet in.  Remember what I said about carpets?  So, what I did was frame the hamper with a few more props just to hide any carpet – I used a couple of lovely tins I have kept from a recent purchase of cake and biscuits and some jars of buttons.  You don’t see too much of these in the finished photograph but a little bit of something pretty is a damn sight nicer than carpet!  You could use spools of ribbon, jugs of flowers, candles or simply place your product on a nice piece of ironed fabric.

I don’t use any fancy functions on the camera.  I usually turn the flash off as the natural light will do the work for you and I use the zoom function to get the focus just right. 

TIP – DO NOT take just one photograph.  You will be amazed how different a photo can look after taking it several times.  I usually take at least 5 photographs of each product.  I pick the best and delete the rest, but I only do this after viewing them on the PC.  Choosing the best one on the camera screen is not the thing to do, you cannot see everything as clearly and you will spot far more imperfections on the PC.

Once I have loaded them on the PC, if there is anything I think isn’t quite right, I will open up the photograph in Microsoft Office Picture Manager.  This will allow me to adjust the light and more importantly crop out any corners that don’t look right.  Have a play on an old photograph and see what you can do.

You may then think you want to have a bit more fun playing with photos and want to have a go at something like this: -

You get to place all of your lovely photographs together so a potential customer can see the different angles and close ups at once.  

All I have done to create this photograph is opened up a new document in Microsoft Powerpoint.  I have dragged the photographs into the document, resized them and placed them where I think they look best.  The best thing about doing this with your photographs is that you can also watermark them by inserting a text box.  Remember to save the document as a picture file (jpeg).


Have fun playing and remember, you don’t need to rush your photographs.  Your potential customers are going to have a much more enjoyable experience looking at well thought out photographs of gorgeous items that may otherwise have looked dull and of nothing exciting.

I will look forward to hearing how you get on.

Coming Up Next Week

Part Five

Craft fairs
What you need, how to set up, do’s and don’ts

Sunday, 10 February 2013

Business Tips - Part Three - Branding, Products and Pricing

Welcome to Part Three in a series of business tips.

There are so many things that can make or break a business.  Hard work is a must but this must also be combined with so many other factors to be able to progress and be successful.

This blog talks about a combination of branding, products and pricing which are all linked to one another and are key to your business.

I am still working on these things for my business and have learnt that these three things can make you more money if you get it just right. 


In short this is something that identifies you as being different to the rest.  What makes you stand out? 

There are so many elements to branding.  I think the first thing to think about is your business name.  You will find that lots of people are interested in where a business name has come from.  I must admit to having a mixed response to my business name.  Some people think that Sweet Williams is called that, thinking my surname must be Williams!  In fact my surname is Doyle so has nothing to do with my business name!  It is because they are one of my favourite flowers and William is one of my children’s names.  The flowers appear on my banner at events and on all my product tags.

I love having Sweet Williams flowers in jugs in the house

You may need to think about whether or not your business name is obvious to what you do.  For example, if I were called Handmade by Emma, it tells people straight away that my name is Emma and that my business is craft related.  Being called Sweet Williams, this is not obvious to a new potential customer so I have a simple tag line on my website, which is Sweet Williams – Luxury Handmade Products.  This tells people straight away what I do and will instantly decide whether they want to look further. 

Logos, colours and graphics are all something to think about.  These things can make a potential customer remember you. 

Have a think about what other things you can do which makes your business stand out?  This is all part of your branding.  You could tie each order you send out with business branded ribbon.  You could get logo/business name printed tissue paper. 

How about stickers which you can pop on your parcels?

 Or take it one step further like I have and get some custom buttons made.  These ones I have had made are ceramic and are absolutely gorgeous.  It adds to that luxury brand I am working hard to create and these will be used on my special one of a kind makes to make them more unique.  I am also in the process of ordering small wooden branded buttons so that eventually I will be using branded buttons on all of my products so customers can be guaranteed they are getting a genuine Sweet Williams product.

 You could think about fabric labels too.

Business cards are a must.  When I started out I had some printed from a cheap very well known website.  Whilst cost effective and a quick service I do believe you get what you pay for.  I was put off when I saw another business using the same design that I had chosen from their templates and decided there and then that I needed to be different.  I don’t want to be the same as someone else.  I want to look different and be able to offer something different so I did a little research.  The best option would have been to go to an independent designer to design my business cards and a logo for me.  There are many companies I currently admire, but at the time I wanted to redesign my cards, I did not have the money to go down that route so I went down the route of designing my own through  I liked the fact that you can make use of the back of the cards at no extra cost and that you can upload up to 100 photographs of your choice to be included on the cards. 

What do you do with them when you get them?

Carry them everywhere.  I mean everywhere.  You do not know who you may meet.  Hand them out at events, if you are allowed, pop them on notice boards in local hairdressers, surgeries, dentists, local takeaway etc.  If someone ever asks you what it is you do for a living, produce a business card for them to keep.  Keep a stash on your table at events.  Pop one in with any orders you may receive.  The person ordering may have found you but it is a quick reference if they need to get in touch with you again or to pass to friend.  I have had many sales through handing out business cards. 

The main thing is to be consistent.  Carry design and colour right through your business.  My logo/picture of the Sweet Williams flowers are purple and pink colours.  They are on my banner, the writing on my business cards pick out the colours in my banner.  My tissue paper and packing tape is pinks and purples, and my website is in pinks and purples and has a picture of the Sweet Williams flowers in the corner.  It’s about tying everything together to create a brand. 

Products and Pricing

These are both linked to your brand.

Have a think of the products you sell.  Do you have one main product?  Is it enough?  Do you have too many products?  Do the products reflect your branding and your business name/tag line?

I have big plans for the future of Sweet Williams so I am working on discontinuing lots of lines.  Lots of my smaller items will be going and will be concentrating more on the most popular products.  This is not only to make time for my new ventures but also because the smaller items do not have much of a profit margin. 

It is one thing to be making something that you enjoy but if you are making little or no money in return then there really is little point.  If you are of the mindset that you need to make money to enjoy life, pay your bills and be happy running your own successful business then you need to get your pricing right and if that means that the small non profitable products have to go then so be it. 

You do need to have a look at similar items on the market and do some research on pricing but you really need to come up with a price that reflects the quality of the product and the time, love and skill that has gone into it.

  1. Work out how much it costs to make a product.  Everything, down to the last button.  The cotton, the ribbon, the fabric, the hollow fibre stuffing, the cushion inserts etc.

  1. Work out how long it took you to make.  If you make an item in several sessions, jot down the ten minutes here and the fifteen minutes there spent and total the time up when you have finished.  I base my time on national minimum wage.  There is an argument about not being able to charge for your time on a handmade item because it prices the product out of the market but think of it this way – would you go to a “day job” and expect to be paid 50p per hour for your time?  No, I didn’t think so.  If you have made a product and after calculating how much it cost to make, your time spent in making it prices you out of the market then it’s probably not the product for you.  You may think about making in batches to make up the time.  For example, instead of cutting out and sewing 1 brooch at a time, how about making 10 in one go.  You will find you will probably save time and thus be more efficient, making you more money…

  1. Don’t forget to take credit for your skill.  Something that seems so easy and natural to you, such as drawing out a template, sewing a project etc is not something that everyone can do, which surely is why they are asking you to make something in the first place!

  1. If you do not charge for postage and packaging then you need to think about including this within the pricing of your products.  I charge separate postage because I get a lot of people who want to collect their items and it would be unfair to those people to have included a postage price within the overall cost of the product if that makes any sense.  I currently charge £3.00 for postage and packaging.  This is because the majority of the parcels I send out are £2.70 for First Class post and the 30p gets put towards the tissue paper and the mailing bag which balances out as I buy my packaging supplies in bulk.

  1. You need to think about whether you need to factor in the cost of business cards, thank you cards, other packaging such as gift boxes and organza bags.  Think about the money you may spend on table fees at events and on insurances. 

This is a long list to consider when pricing a product and can be a complete minefield if you have a wide range of products.  However, what is the point in spending money out to run your business when you are not going to get it back to cover your running costs?  You need to be seeing £££ signs, not minus figures on your accounting sheets!!

Don’t forget that if you are a new business, don’t be expecting to be making much of a profit, if any in your first year.

Before I leave you go and sort your pricing out I thought I would post about an interesting question I was asked following last weeks blog which was “do you find it demoralising not making a profit, or does the long terms aim see you through?”

My answer is no.  I have only just come out of my first year in business and there are not many businesses that generate a profit in their first year.  My first year was filled with thousands of pounds worth of initial outlay for all the equipment and tools that will now hopefully last me a long time.  There are costs for the sewing machine, range of the best quality scissors, website costs, insurance, event fees, business cards, printer ink, fabric, wool mix felt, ribbon, buttons, threads, needles, mannequin, tables in case I need to provide my own at events, props and shelving etc for events, and that’s just for starters. 

I look at my accounts often and it would seem that I am on target to be making a good profit by the summer.  This will have taken me a year and a half to get there but it does mean that I have used the best quality materials to get there which are longer lasting and going to be much more appreciated by customers.  Because I have a day job I do not take a wage/drawings from everything that I currently sell through the business.  The money I earn goes straight back into the business to pay off existing start up debt, to replenish any stock I am running low on and I also set aside a small amount each month ready for when I am making a profit so I don’t have to worry about finding the money when I have to pay the tax man!

Coming next week...

How to take Good Photographs
Do's and Don'ts