Monday, 12 March 2012

Street Dancing and Sewing Designs...Not A Sentence I thought I would Type!

"What are you doing here?" I hear you ask in a shocked voice!

Well, you know I'm all inspired when I write another entry on the Funky Sprogs blog so soon after my last one!

As a busy mum (aren't we all) of two sprogs I find that life takes over my time that I allocate for writing my blog...I have pages and pages of notes of things I want to write about but those notes lay unpublished as suddenly my mind goes into overdrive and wanders in another direction...or my children want their dinner!

So, here we are at Street Dancing...I know, a strange subject for a mum who has set up a business making children's clothes but my son loves to dance...he is 6 and his idols are Ashley Banjo and Sean. The former is from Diversity and the latter helps to teach Boyz Breakdance at Belinda's Dance Academy in Southampton! This has meant that my world has changed from the background noise of Ben 10 and Spongebob Squarepants to a continuous stream of music, tutting*, the three step, the frog freeze, the baby freeze and various other mind boggling ways to move and contort the human body!

When I get an idea for designing something it is fascinating to draw the idea I have and then recreate that, working out which fabrics work best and how I can manipulate my ideas into fabric form. I take my ideas from my everyday life, living in New Zealand influenced me hugely especially with my T-Shirt designs, my love of all things vintage influences the fabrics I use and also has helped to develop the Dress I make into a more sixties, mod look and my Slip Through Scarves were influenced by a 4 and 6 year old who kept trying to strangle themselves in the morning!
And now I am totally inspired by Streetdance...which is making my son very happy!

So I am spending my days searching through the internet for images of street dancers in various poses...most of whom I hasten to add are male (and rather muscular!)'s a hard life!

It will be interesting to see, from a business point of view, how this niche market design will work and whether it will be successful.  What I do know is that I am loving recreating it in to designs on T-shirts and more importantly my son thinks that I am the 'best mum ever' for putting his love of dance on to his clothing!

*After commenting to a number of friends about my son tutting their response was along the lines of "I kids have developed such an attitude". In actual fact the tutting I was referring to was the dancing style where you move fingers, hands or arms in a synchronised, robotic manner to the sound of the beat...awkward!

Tuesday, 6 March 2012

Resolutions Out The Window...It's Market Time Again!

On December 18th Funky Sprogs did it's final market of 2011.  I love doing this market, it's a real buzz, the stall holders, the customers, even the place epitomises the perfect market but I have to say Christmas had been more full on than I had ever imagined and I couldn't wait to get home, unpack my stock from the car and enjoy Christmas with my family.  Having the time just to sit and play around with designs and fabric until March just seemed wonderful and an age ahead.

It's anyone else wondering where the time went since Christmas? Don't get me wrong, February seemed like the longest month EVER but where have those 72 days (as of today) gone since that last market? I am utterly flummoxed.

What about those New Years Resolutions I hear you ask...well for those of you asking I am blowing raspberries at daughter taught me...she is very good at them!

My excuse is that I have wallowed in my sprogs, LSH, my friends and my garden. I have made up orders, I have played around with new ideas, new designs and discovered the most inspiring of blogs and facebook pages by my favourite designers like Lotta Jansdotter and Riley Blake.  What I have also done is neglected to build up my stock in preparation for the first Winchester Art & Design market of 2012!

Fortunately I work well under pressure and I have wonderful friends who listen to me panic in a high pitched voice while reassuring me that I will get it all done in time...and then pour more coffee down my neck.

All in all I can't wait to get back to the market, there are the most fantastic stalls there (and my sprogs always manage to find something that they must have!), the people visiting the market are great and it is a joy to stand there discussing fabrics and designers with them. But most of all it's the other stallholders for me, to be able to meet other people who are running a small, British business and, like me, hand making their items is phenomenal.  We support each other, give advice, give our opinions and look after each others stalls while we go the loo!

So in less than two weeks I will be loading up the car with my new dresses, gorgeous new baby booties and my fantastic new t-shirt designs...Tutting Tees...and for those of you not enlightened on the subject of tutting (and I don't mean the sound of irritation) then I will soon explain all!

Right...I'm off...can't sit around all evening writing blogs!

Tuesday, 17 January 2012

Sewing Resolutions for 2012!

Hello!'s been a!

All I can say is that 2011 for Funky Sprogs has been the biggest learning curve, I thought having a baby was hard and the first year harder but it was nothing on a new business, Long Suffering Husband (LSH) and I even considered!

In May when the business started it was quiet, through the summer months it became busy and leading up to Christmas I was a headless chicken, praying regularly to a higher being for more hours!  I really had no concept of how busy Christmas was going to be and how quickly I would sell out of stock.  Fortunately I also discovered that I was not the only one in that position. One of my fellow stallholders at the Winchester Art and Design market was, like me, considering whether they were able to do the final market of the year as they, like me,  had sold out of stock with only a week to make up new stock.

It's amazing though what you can achieve when you put your mind to it!

I also pulled off an amazing birthday party for my daughter...actually that's not strictly true but the girls from Funky Kids Party did the most amazing Fairy and Pirate party, I would recommend them 100%! I didn't send out quite all of the Christmas cards that I intended to and I didn't write the ones that went out either LSH did that. I did manage to drive on my own to the Southampton Uni Christmas fair (I would like to add I had just passed my test!) but had difficulty peeling my gripped fingers off the steering wheel once I'd arrived.

So here we are in 2012, now I don't make New Years resolutions, never have done and am not about to start now. However for the sake of my sanity I have made some Sewing Resolutions.

Don't think 'there is enough stock for the next fair or market' and take a sewing can never have too much stock!

Don't just book a fair because it fits into your could be stood selling nothing because it's not your niche market and then results in going home to drink too much wine to drown your sorrows!

Remember to balance the marketing of the business and the sewing...too much of the first results in not enough of the latter! Too much of the latter results in...too much of the latter!

Remember to write your blog!!!

Last but not least I have to say thank you to some fabulous friends and family who got me through 2011 by the skin of my teeth. Claire (for helping me on my last Christmas market at Winchester and for making me cry with laughter), Najada (for looking after the sprogs and ferrying sprog 1 to birthday parties), Ray (my mentor who allows me to bounce off ideas and annoy him with my new creations), my Mum and Peter who have given up whole weekends when LSH is away to look after the sprogs while I am doing fairs and of course LSH who 100% supports me while I drive him insane by taking over our house and weekends with Funky Sprogs!

Thursday, 1 December 2011

Note To Self...Be More Prepared For Christmas!

Remember me? I'm that sporadic blogger who is currently in the throes of a mental breakdown!

I am an organised seriously! My sister in law, Liz will vouch for the fact that I could change a nappy, cook and serve dinner to my sprogs, wrap name it I could do it all while talking to her on the phone.

I start shopping for Christmas in the January sales, I have my Christmas cards written in November and as for groceries, eight weeks before Christmas I start adding one or two items to my trolley for Christmas day.

Life was organised and rosy....

...note the past tense.

Then came 2011, Funky Sprogs and chaos...all in that order!

For some bizarre reason I was under the impression that I would make some lovely dresses, booties and t-shirts and sell them, all very simple.  What I didn't take into account was that I would do a successful fair, and then spend the next week in a mad panic making stock for another fair the next weekend, alongside my other job of Sprog Carer.

Don't think I'm complaining, I love that Funky Sprogs is doing so well, it's exciting and satisfying and exciting and fulfilling and exciting...did I mention how exciting it is?

Then Funky Sprogs hit October, The Hampshire Baby and Toddler Exhibition loomed and the three stages of panic (as Long Suffering Husband named it) emerged.
Stage 1  -  'Oh God, Mothercare will be exhibiting and I am just a little business'
Stage 2  -  'Oh God, it's been open 20 minutes and I haven't sold anything'
Stage 3  -  'Oh God, I'm running out of stock and I have another fair in a week'.

Since October I have been fortunate to get a pitch at the Winchester Art and Design Market (3rd Sunday every month!) and along with the other fairs that I had booked in the run up to Christmas I was still feeling pretty organised (minus the above mentioned glitch). Then LSH announced he was away in November/December for a dry dock in Hamburg, I calmly sat down (with a glass of wine) and perused the calendar...this absence would cover three fairs, two party invites (for the sprogs obviously!), a choir rehearsal, our daughter's birthday, our daughter's birthday party, and obviously the normal stuff that goes on in our hectic lives.

More wine please!!!

So now I am running around like a headless chicken, packaging up orders (I am now on first name terms with the girls at the Post Office!), sewing like a demon and preparing for my four year old's fairy birthday party. I haven't yet written my Christmas cards and have delegated gift purchasing to LSH (apologies in advance to those

Oh...and I am now vice chair of the school PTA.

Francis Ford Coppola once said 'Anything you build on a large scale or with intense passion invites chaos'

All I can say is that I am obviously very passionate...and I wouldn't change that for the world!

Saturday, 29 October 2011

Tea Towels, Reunions and Christmas preparations...yes really!

Oh I have neglected you of late...even allowing the errant Long Suffering Husband to hijack you and worse still not come back in a timely manner to respond!

Still, he was funny and he did actually make me cry with laughter.

Anyway...enough of the fluffing and on to the point....tea towels!

When LSH, and I took ourselves and our son off to New Zealand to live I was surprised by the huge amount of pride the Kiwis have in being was something that was missing from the UK. To the point that during all of the years I was travelling and the four years in NZ every time I was asked where I was from I almost felt apologetic to say I was British. But in the past few years there has suddenly been a renewed sense of pride for being British and proudly displaying the history of our heritage in our homes. The funny thing is that when we moved to Wellington I had this sudden desire to display everything that was from the UK...even importing a bus blind from the UK of my old bus route (I know, I know), it's now in our loft as I feel a bit silly putting up the Selsdon 357 route in my Southampton home!

Anyway...I digress (again)! I found the most fabulous tea towels and just had to send them out to New Zealand to my friends, Pip and Paula. They were blatantly British and blatantly quirky with the things that make you smile. Did I find them on Not On The High Street, or hand printed from Folksy, Cath Kidston or Lasso The found them in Primark...they are absolutely fabulous, I'm only sorry I didn't photograph all of them for you!

Now, I have never said to people that I am English, I have always said British, and this is partly because for a long time, because of travelling, I never really knew where I felt I belonged. Returning back to England made me embrace the UK, when LSH and I returned we knew the negative bits of our homeland but we finally appreciated the great things that are here. After the history and traditions, the truly phenomenal landmarks (that are for the most part overlooked by the rest of the world) and too many things that are boring to everyone else the best thing was meeting up with friends and being with family.

Now on a selfish note coming back to the UK has meant I no longer miss out on weddings for the people who are so important to me. I had missed my mum getting married, I had missed one of my closest friend's wedding, Ellen, but last weekend I was able to see my friend Dawn get married. It was great...lots of friends from my cruise ship days, a truly amazing venue at Comlongon Castle and the most wonderful couple to get married who literally laughed the whole day long.

Ooh...and the day after we returned from the wedding I passed my driving test...HOORAY!

Of course now I have recovered from the celebrations of the wedding...and of course passing my driving test and I no have to re-programme my mind into sewing. I have the New Milton Christmas Fair next weekend, the Winchester Art and Design Market on the 20th, the Hampshire Made Christmas Fair on the 26th, and the list goes on til the run upto Christmas.

Life with Funky Sprogs is ridiculously busy, my children are learning the important art of finding things to entertain themselves, LSH is finding  me slightly more frazzled than normal when he returns home in the evenings, I keep meaning to dig up the bloody carrots and onions which at this rate could well have decomposed, but I wouldn't change it for the world!

Monday, 10 October 2011

There's been a Hijack!

It is I, Long Suffering Husband (LSH) and thought it was time I hijacked the blog and told the world what it is like to live in the turmoil which is Funky Sprogs.

Sorry, did I say turmoil? Obviously I meant 'thriving cottage industry' but for the sake of brevity, lets call it turmoil. Toni may disagree but she doesn't see it from my viewpoint. Let me give you an example. I was in hospital last week – nothing serious, just chopping a couple of tubes – and I was close to having to explain that the track marks on the soles of my feet were NOT from illicit drug use because the veins in my eye's couldn't take any more injections, but the result of the numerous pins, safety pins and needles which are routinely scattered over the floor in the dining room.

You know the scene in any bank heist film when they're moving towards the vault down the corridor with the lasers in it and they're hopping from foot to foot to avoid triggering the alarm? Now imagine doing that whilst carrying a cup of coffee.... That's me, the LSH!

Being the LSH does have its advantages. The football/rugby/cricket is available to record and can be played back whilst the production line is in full swing and without a murmur of complaint, in fact you may even get the occasional offer of a beer from an absent wife. A disreputable LSH would also utilise the periods of childcare responsibility whilst his wife was at a craft fair to watch Match of the Day from the previous night, but not me... ever.... honest... and the kids love watching Gary Lineker.

I do love the output from the production line. I'm style blind though and I can't claim any credit for the designs – Toni has the style genes and thankfully she has passed them on to our son, Dominic, who can be relied on for an honest and uncannily accurate assessment of anything he is presented with. I do think Toni could ask me and then just do the opposite but hey, it makes Dominic feel useful.

I love the enthusiasm that Toni has for Funky Sprogs and don't begrudge the place it has in our lives and the fact it takes her away from me on occasions, though less than my job does.

Do I feel excluded? No. Am I long suffering? On occasions. Do I get to watch the footy? Definitely!


Tuesday, 20 September 2011

Vintage Dresses, a Husband Doing Housework and Changing Mats!

I have a great love for vintage items, crockery, fabric, clothes, name it I adore it. The 50's and 60's are my favourite, mainly because the 50's were very much the housewife at home with the husband going out to work and not changing nappies, things were about to change so much and the items from this period are carrying almost an idyllic, innocent way of life in them. The 60's because things went haywire in design, the bolder the better, there was no more fear of mixing colours, it was about making a statement and it was exciting.

So you can imagine my joy at winning a fabulous 60's dress on Ebay. I'm always on the lookout for them but the sizing is so different from nowadays that it takes a while to find and then win a dress that will fit me. My dress arrived in the post and I tried it on immediately, it fitted like a glove and looked fabulous.

Fast forward to the weekend, Long Suffering Husband is off on the QM2 (working) and has decided to put on a few loads of washing (can you see where this is going?), first load finishes and unbeknownst to me my dress is in there, now this is fine because I knew the dress could go in the wash but then it passes from the washing machine to the tumble drier.

Fast forward to me emptying the tumble drier and finding my vintage, original sixties dress now only capable of fitting a 12 year old...I did try to shoehorn myself in to it but I'm quite fond of breathing and unfortunately this dress no longer allowed me to do that and that was without the zip being done up!

Fast forward to LSH now doing the ironing (I know, I know!), now anyone who has a man in their life knows that they do like to do ironing the manly way, as in setting the iron to the hottest setting. What LSH is unaware of is that our son's school trousers scorch slightly on the medium setting, not so much marking the trousers but leaving black smears over the iron.

Fast forward to Monday evening, LSH is now the QM2 and I am sewing, I am making a changing mat with the last of some Tanya Whelan fabric I have, there is just enough (again...I sure you can see where this is going), I sew two pieces of fabric together, back to back, flip them right sides together, make sure the iron isn't on hot, iron the seam flat...AAAGGGHHH...huge black streaks make their way across my fabric. I would love to type the words that came out of my mouth but my mother reads this and apparently i am not too old to be told off!

Fast forward to the next day and we are now a two iron household, one for LSH and one for me...mine is far superior...of course!