Notes from the Atelier

As work continues apace in the new Workroom, I thought I would make a confession… I have already started work on products for Christmas 2015! I know, I’m mad!

20141130_154736 20141130_154730 20141130_154744

At Arnos Vale Christmas Fayre, where someone rushed over and said ‘Oooh, excellent! The Christmas Bunting is back!’ which pleased me no end!

You see, last Christmas was just so much fun I had to start. I sold out of many products and lines as well as having a blast on the Market Stall (which was hard work too!) however; the few notes and thoughts I took away from last years successes were these: I must have access to more stock, the stock needs to be organized and available online too and I also need to have made the stock months in advance. I also need a card reader! I had real trouble keeping up with demand during December and definitely lost sales because of it so the name of the game this year is organisation, organisation, organisation!

 20141207_101605 20141207_101551

At Retroville, at The Tobacco Factory which is always a fantastic Market to have some fun and buy some beautiful Handmade goodies!

I listed all sales, and made copious notes so I know my best sellers, and I shall of course be replicating them however; I’d like also to start offering variants upon the theme too and this is why I have started so early. I need time to work on things, experiment, take a step back then work again, and I am hoping by starting so early I will afford myself the luxury of time.

20141213_104048 20141213_104032 20141213_104042

At Picton Street Market, which was quite the talk of the town and the event of the Market season! The day started slowly but was huge fun. My day was made when a customer declared my Handmade Notebooks to be ‘better than Paperchases’!

Another new thing for this year was having someone with me at each and every Market. This was pretty cool to be honest, and not something I had planned… I actually was stocking a couple friends products and they wanted to be their on the day but this was invaluable. For the first time I could wonder off and take a peek at the other stalls, go to the toilet (much valued let me tell you!), grab a coffee and best of all, chat.

I’ll also be looking to be stocked in shops for the Christmas period, which is another reason I need to start planning now. I need to start approaching shops in July/August and it would be fantastic to have the stock in place and ready to be shipped if necessary. There is also extended prep time in taking and editing product photos, listing to sell or creating the wholesale information, advertising… oh the list is endless but I am looking forward to starting!

Did you attend or sell at any craft markets this year? I’d love to hear your tales…

Happy stitching!

 

Top 5 posts of 2014!

Well readers, it’s been an interesting year! These are the posts published in 2014 which have been viewed time and again… thank you!

Whilst that’s self explanatory, I’d also like to say that the Pattern Free A-Line Skirt Tutorial and Pattern Month Tutorials beat these posts by a Country mile (but were published in 2013, so don’t count) however; this has made me so happy because I shall be concentrating on Pattern Cutting, Drafting and Making Up in the near future as I start to design and sell more Patterns.

I am so excited about this. I’ve got a new computer, new workroom and new passion and drive after a very hard end of the year which had left me questioning pretty much everything. But more of this later… on with the show!

1.

Simple Sewing: How to Make a Patchwork Cushion

cushion43This is a fantastic make for any young or new Sewers out there, and you end up with a pretty fantastic Cushion at the end of the make too… and who doesn’t like a Patchwork Cushion?! You can make this with a couple of Fat Quarters and some backing fabric too so it’s pretty cheap. I love Patchwork for instilling straight lines and perfectly sewn seam allowances, I’m such a dreadful old bore of a teacher!

cushion5 cushion6 cushion7 cushion8

See the original Tutorial here.

2.

Corset Month

corset month button

Following on from the release of my very first Sewing Pattern- the Eventide Corset Pattern- this March I did a Sew-a-Long for the next month with hints and tips to sew up your very own Eventide! With such a fantastic reception (and despite the evil new VAT regulations)  I shall be releasing more Patterns in 2015, all of which will have a slightly Victorian/Edwardian or unusual flavour. I can’ wait!

cut3sewing upstitched5 finishing9

See the first article here which has links to all of the posts.

3.

5 Tips for Product Photography

ring1 ring2 20140108_012706

Covering tips on Backdrops, placing your Products, Framing, Lighting and Editing Software it’s no wonder this tutorial is so popular! It’s part of an occasional series and was recently followed by 5 Tips for Craft Fairs.

See the original article here.

4.

Notions: Concealed Zips

czip12

The first entry from the Notions Series, which is (or is supposed to be!) a weekly photo tutorial on a specific technique. Lamentably abandoned in recent months, I will be resurrecting it as soon as I can as they are ridiculously popular, and exceptionally useful in class! It is no surprise to me this is the most popular as Concealed Zips are a problem for a lot of Sewers’, I’m just pleased this has helped a little bit!

See the original Tutorial here.

5.

The Sorbetto Top from Colette

slip2a

Who else is looking forward to The Great British Sewing Bee in 2015? This is a post I wrote to accompany last years Sewing Bee, when they made a simple top… which covered an awful lot of Sewing Techniques! A lot of my students were left in a spin and I like the Sorbetto for teaching these techniques, whilst making a garment from not much fabric (also known as, if it mucks up, don’t worry it didn’t cost too much!). Covering making Bias Binding and sewing it on, Slip Stitching, Understitching and a couple other techniques this is a most informative little post and the Pattern is still free over at the Coletterie! Wow!!

slip8 understitch1 understitch4

See the original Tutorial here. Added bonus, click here to see my Interview with Sarai from Colette!

Well, that was 2014, I didn’t do so bad upon reflection. I am trying hard to think which was my favourite post from 2014 and I think it has to be this one. There’s much to look forward to in 2015, and it all started in that little Studio!

Happy stitching!

Notions: Make a super useful Tote Bag!

It’s been so long since I posted a Tutorial, I thought I’d finally post this super duper useful Tutorial for a Tote Bag. I taught it as a one off Class recently, and it’s a great make if you are learning how to use your Sewing Machine. You can make them up as gifts, or just to have ready to go shopping with!

1 42

You will need:
Pattern Paper, Patternmaster or Ruler, Pencil and Pins.

A 20cm Zip, 1.5m of Cotton Tape for the Handles, one 1.5cm Button.

Fabric Requirements:

For the Pocket:
2x 5cmx6cm Zip Tabs
1x 25cm x 10cm piece for the Top Pocket
1x 25cm x 30cm piece for the Botton Pocket

For the Bag:
2x 35cm x 50cm pieces for the Bag Front and Bag Back

To make:

 2 3

Open the Zip up half way. Take the Zip Tabs and Pin each end of the Zip, with Right Sides Together as illustrated. Make sure that you Pin the open ends of the Zip close together neatly.

4 5

With 3cm/just over 1″ Seam Allowance (and feel free to draw this on as I have) sew over each end. Remember to Reverse Stitch at the beginning and end to secure.

6 7

8

Trim off the excess, then smooth out so both the Zip and the Zip Tab are Right Sides Up. Iron if possible to set.

9 10

11

With Right Sides Together, Pin the Pocket Top to the Zip. Using your Sewing Machines Zipper Foot, sew along the Zip as illustrated. If you are worried about Sewing too far away- or too close!- use a Pencil to draw alongside the Zip to mark a line to follow. Remember to reverse stitch at the beginning and end.

12 13

Fold out, so all Right sides are Up, and Iron to set and repeat for the Bottom  of the Pocket.

14 15

Again using the Zipper Foot, you can choose to Top Stitch alongside the Zip on the Right Side. You may also choose to sew a Decorative Stitch however; you will need to remember to attach your normal Machine Foot to do this!

16 17 18

Iron everything again so it is nice and flat, then turn under each side of the Pocket 1cm/ 3/8″ towards the back and Pin. Repeat for all four sides of the Pocket, then position the Pocket on the Front of the Bag and use the same Pins to Pin the Pocket on to the Bag.

19 20 21

Starting on one side, and using the Zipper Foot again, Top Stitch the Pocket all the way around. To turn the corner, Roll the Needle in to the Fabric, lift the Top Foot up, and spin the Fabric as for the Patch Pocket Tutorial. Voilà, a pocket is born!

22 23

Next, attach your Standard Machine Foot and turn the Top of the Front and Back of the Bag over 1cm, Pin and Iron. then, turn both over 2cm, and use the same Pins to Pin and then Iron again. Sew along to hem as illustrated. You may choose to use a straight stitch however; you can also use a Decorative Sticth if you wish.

24 25 27 28

With Right sides Together, Pin the Front of the Bag to the Back of the Bag and, using a 1.5cm/5/8″ Seam Allowance Sew them together. Turn the Corners as before. Once you have sewn them, set your Sewing Machine to a medium wide Zig Zag Stitch and, with the edge of the Fabric running through the middle of the Foot, Zig Zag along the edge as illustrated. This will neatly bind the edge of the Seam so it doesn’t fray.

29 32 33 34

Fold the Top of the Bag in half, and Mark with a Pin. Measure 1cm either side of the Pin and mark with a Pencil. Following your Sewing Machine’s instruction manual, make a Button Hole in between the Top of the Bag and the Stitching as illustrated. Cut the Button Hole open and lay the Bag flat. Mark through the middle of the Button Hole to the other side, then sew on your Button.

36 37 38

Measure in 10cm/4″ from the Top edge of the Bag, and mark with a Pin. on either side. Pin the Handles ‘upside down’, and about 1cm from the Top edge. Sew along the Handle, in line with the stitching used to Hem the Top of the Bag, as illustrated. Even though it is such a little Seam, remember to Reverse Stitch at the beginning and end so the Handle is Sewn on nice and strong. Clip and trim all Threads.

40 41

Fold the Handles up, and Pin. Sew along them again, remembering to Reverse Stitch at the beginning and end, but this time do so close to the top.
Clip and trim all loose threads, and you are ready to wrap up or go shopping with this lovely and incredibly useful ToteBag!

42 43

Happy stitching!

Notions: Make a Liberty Needle Case

I have become rather addicted to the Liberty Craft Blog of late, amongst all the Beauty product placements there are some lovely crafty makes, made even lovelier by the use of all that gorgeous Liberty Tana Lawn.

I have just come across this Tutorial to make a pretty gorgeous Needle Case by Happy Zombie. Fully lined, with pages and some lovely quilting detail, this is a pretty swish way to store those needles!

   

With some nifty, tricky sewing techniques this book finishes smartly and with no visible raw edges to fuss over. Ironically, you won’t need a single sewing needle to make this needle case book.

Check out the Liberty Craft Blog here, and click on the pictures above to see the fabulous Tutorial byHappy Zombie. To see the Laura After Midnight range of Sewing Kits incorporating Liberty Tana Lawn, click here.

Happy stitching!

5 Tips for Product Photography

A couple days ago I was asked to provide some Product images for a Craft Magazine and  I used it to light a fire under my bum and get my new Bunting Kit finally finished! It is something I have been illustrating ever since my Mini Bunting Kit’s started selling so well, and with the success of my Hand Made Christmas Bunting over Christmas I decided it was the first Kit to be released in 2014.

20140108_01283420140108_01272420140108_012739

Running alongside this, I have started a Branding and Zine conversion which is fairly epic… all products are to be re-branded with my new logo (you may have noticed it above! I’m so super chuffed!!), and all Kits and Zines are to be available as a PDF Download… soon! So, having someone contact me for Product Images was as good excuse as any to finish the Kit, with the new Branding.

It’s been a little manic but… mission accomplished! The Kits will be released a little later in the week and today I thought I’d share a little about what goes on behind the scenes when I am organising Product Photos. Quite a bit goes in to the organization, the Pictures them selves and even more in Post-Production… especially when you are re-branding!!

The best piece of advise I have ever read on this subject is: you want to sell a ‘lifestyle’. In my case, I want customers to look at my Product Images and think ‘ooh, yummy’!

1. Think about your surface, backdrop or setting.

You may have noticed the trend for pure white backdrops recently, which is lovely if your products suit this. I happen to think that sewing needs a little bit more of a tactile backdrop so I compromise. I use a Vintage White Lace edged table cloth, which adds texture but will not look out of place or too different when placed next to other products from other shops on-line, or in a magazine. Don’t be scared to try different backgrounds, at this point you’ll only stand out!

2. To Prop, or not to Prop?

It’s funny, I used to think Props were too messy, that people would think they were included with the product or even just too distracting. I’m pretty sure I was wrong, I love my newer Product Photos, which sell the idea of gathering equipment and notions around you to get ready to use the Kit. The use of Props can also bring in carefully placed elements of colour which can lift the whole picture. They can also add in a Vintage feel, or suggest things to the buyer within a theme which can be a useful tool.

20140108_01302120140108_01313520140108_012159

 As you can see, I started with an image in mind that was very different from the final picture! All of the Props disappeared to make way for one glorious Prop- one of my Vintage Glass Dish Pincushions (which is a cheeky way of getting another Product in the Pic!). It’s less cluttered but I feel still sells the Kit well. 

LauraAfterMidnight_Image01_lowThe final Product Photo, ready for both the Magazine and Etsy! None of the complicated filters have been used, it’s clear, concise and looks great!

3. Products

The most important thing about this whole process! I always make the best product I can, or select the nicest version to be photographed. They’re like peaches in a supermarket! I’ll freshly iron, check for threads, make sure none of the packaging is bent, anything to make sure everything is at its best.

4. Framing and lighting

This is personal taste, I prefer to show as much of the product as possible, photographed head on as simply as possible with nothing in front of it or obstructing the view! Of course, I also try to sell the ‘lifestyle’ with the aforementioned props however; the main focus should always be the product. Because I sell on Etsy and Folksy, I also need to take in to consideration the fact that my wonderful picture will probably be first viewed as a thumbnail. This means I will need to be able to crop it without loosing any of the detail, and intent.  Lighting doesn’t need to be anything more complicated than an Anglepoise Lamp with a daylight bulb in (blue light rather than yellow as it’s easier to edit with). I used to tape a sheet of heavy tracing paper to my Anglepoise to diffuse the light so my shadows weren’t as hard too. Bright, white light will always make your Products look awesome because the colours will pop!

ring1 ring2 20140108_012706

 Same Product, different ways! In each photograph I have tried something a little different however; each displays the Kit, and the finished Kit. Because of my Re-Branding you may have noticed I am trying some filters however; my favourite layout is the far left. The snippet of Vintage cloth, the fact that you can see the reverse instructions (but not too much, have to pique their interest!), and the final made up Kit just really works for me. Clear lighting and close framing help to see this picture even when it is a thumbnail. 

5. Photoshop or editing software.

I am incredibly lucky because Fella is a Film-maker and Photographer (which makes me feel like I am cheating a little bit) and means I have access to a couple things I probably wouldn’t have normally. Well, one thing at least: Photoshop. I know that there are many other Photo Editing programmes out there, many of which are either free or at least very cost effective (see a good list of available optionshere) however; Photoshop is just glorious! Also, and this is a very valuable lesson, stick with the software you like and can use efficiently, Photoshop works and makes sense to me but if it had felt tricky and awkward I would have tried another. I try not to follow ‘trends’ for things like this… just because it works for someone else doesn’t mean it will work better than your tried and trusted programme!

LauraAfterMidnight_Image03_low20140108_010409

LauraAfterMidnight_Image02_low      20140108_010935

 On the left are the Photoshopped images, on the right the filtered images using a free downloaded Programme to my Phone called Repix which is kind of wonderful for a quick edit on the go! I still love the bright, clear imagery I get from Photoshop which I think works well for my on-line shop.

You may have noticed throughout this post I have been trying out some Instagram style filters. This is in response to my new Packaging. Because it is brown paper and string, Vintage style I felt it was important to try a more tactile photographic technique. I’m not sure I like it as it is a little too generic however; I shall continue to play with it as I continue this process.

Well, those are my top tips, I shall be taking many more photos over the next few days as I slowly work through the re-branding of all my products! Wish me luck.

What are your Top Tips for taking awesome droolworthy Photos? I’d love to hear!

Happy stitching!

Pop Up Sewing Emporium… success!

8-1 sewing 4-1-2

Phew! What a crazy, hectic, mad, brilliant December I had, but I can’t believe I haven’t shared with you the super fun day that was the Christmas Pop Up Sewing Emporium!!

It was a lovely day, very rainy out which undoubtedly affected turn out however; everyone who came had a lovely time and made some beautiful decorations and gifts! We even had a new Dad stitch up a stocking for his new Son, so cute!

2 10 9

On the day I was so nervous! It was so liberating and exciting to run something like this myself however; I had for some reason decided I was going to be sat, all alone and surrounded by fabric, beads, thread and sparkle with no one to play with however; at just £5 a go the Pop Up Sewing Emporium proved irresistible to many and in the end every table was occupied with crafty peeps!

Cafe Kino were wonderful, and many availed themselves of their delicious Veggie BLT’s and coffee! There was so much room, it has thoroughly gotten me excited for the next one because there could have been so many more tables, market stalls and sewing.

I set up a wall of examples and inspiration with all of the fabric and decorations underneath and visitors were able to select their materials then get down to some serious Christmassy stitching! It was, as ever, wildly exciting to see what others make up from just a few suggestions and inspirations. Each little table had an oversized Vintage Glass Pincushion, pot of Pens and Pencils, lots of Scissors and a Vintage Tablecloth! It just looked adorable and everyone who came settled in at a table with a cuppa or some coffee and the whole space felt like a cool, secret after school club for grown ups!

7 5

My runaway favourite make was a delightful little Pink Fox Brooch a little girl made. Sadly I didn’t manage to get a photo but she was so pleased! In fact she at one point very seriously turned to me and said, ‘Are these on all the time?’ which completely made my day! (I am pleased to say, the Pop Up Sewing Emporium will return in the New Year).

20131214_152511-1 20131214_144614-1 20131214_152518-1

Lessons I learnt from the day? Advertise more! Even when you think you have advertised as much as you can, do more!! I think also there is a real ‘window’ for advertising and mine was a little early in some cases. I think I should have started a month before, then reinforced the week before. All of this of course comes with experience, and I shall learn more as I host more Pop Up Sewing events. I also needed an assistant to help people when I was otherwise occupied, which was Fella’s take away from the day and makes me feel a little grandiose but he’s right. I also felt I maybe gave visitors a little too much freedom, the choice was limitless and some had a hard time choosing what to make so next time I shall be running a more course like event, with pre-booking.

It all passed so quickly and has left me thirsty for more, so I am busily organizing myself to run events hopefully in April, when I shall be a little less in competition with other, larger Christmas events and everyone has gotten over the Christmas splurge and New Year tightening of belts. I think my first will be T-Shirt Making, and I hope to have a fellow Sewer host a Customization Bar… so you can see why I would be excited! It’s going to be super awesome all kinds of cool!!

If you would like to find out how to make some of the things visitors to the Christmas Pop Up Sewing Emporium did why not check out the Jewel Bird Tutorial, or the Stocking Tutorial? Get a head start on 2014 now!

Watch this space for more Pop Up Sewing Emporium news… don’t forget to sign up for our monthlyNewsletter to keep up to date on all Midnight goings on!

Happy stitching.

Virtual Facebook Marketplace

Quite a few people have asked for things I am posting photo’s of, but haven’t loaded up on to my Etsy store… December moves pretty quickly for me and I have discovered that the smallest thing can put all my good Christmas intentions out!- so I have decided to host a Virtual Marketplace through Facebook!

I shall be posting photo’s of items normally only available on my Stall, and you can email me at laura@lauraaftermidnight.com, message me through Facebook, or comment on the photo to reserve the item, then pay through PayPal. Simple!

MARKET1  MARKET3

bunny3 bunny1 bunny2

A couple examples… Red and Green Velvet Stocking, and Festive Linen, Liberty Print and Red Velvet Bunnies!! Click here to find out price and availability.

Don’t forget also, that my Christmas Pop Up Emporium is THIS SATURDAY!! Eeeekk!! I am excited and nervous all at once. I am busy preparing and organizing and can’t wait to share the event with you. It’s just £5 a go to make a Christmassy gift or Stocking Filler and should be a super fun day… with Picton Street Market just around the corner there’s lots of choice to complete a hand made Christmas!

Happy stitching!

Christmas Fayre goodies!

20131201_001 20131201_003 20131201_004

Yesterday was my first Christmas market of the season. Hosted my Arnos Vale- which is so beautiful, you should really visit if you can- the Christmas Fayre was very jolly! I had a constant stream of customers, and all of them were very chatty, happy and enthusiastic about my new products! The Christmas Pop Up Sewing Emporium was much talked about as well- especially since our feature in The Bristol Magazine- and I am hopeful of a good turn out for the day, especially since Picton Street Market will be on just around the corner.

I had made some delicious new Velvet Christmas Stockings which sold like hot cakes, as did my new look Mini Top Hat Kits and Fascinator Kits which made me so happy. I have completely sold out of Christmas Bunting and Festive Bunnies, in fact I sold out of Christmas Bunting about half an hour after we opened!!

20131201_002I shall be stitching more together over the week for my next Christmas Market on Saturday 7th December in Clifton, as well as for the Christmas Pop Up Sewing Emporium to which you are all of course invited! I am also loading all of my Christmassy products on to Etsy… last shipping for the US of A is … and UK is … so grab a bargain whilst you can if you can’t make the Markets, although it is always lovely to meet you all! As you can see from the pictures, I am also offering 3 for 2 on my Mini Kits (simply buy two on Etsy and Convo me the one you would like free!), as well as my Zines. Both of which make excellent stocking fillers for beginner and advances Seamsters alike- even my Nan said she learnt a couple tricks from them!!

Later on this week I shall me continuing Christmas Month with more tutorials including a Stocking and Gift Bag tutorial, and hopefully start on some Gift tutorials.

Phewph! I love all this hustle and bustle but January is starting to look beautifully calm right now!