Author Archives: Nice Piece of Work

About Nice Piece of Work

Experimenter, screen printer, designer, maker, lino cutter, knitter, beader, crocheter, painter, gardener, reader, writer -- all the good stuff, basically (except cooking)

some you win, some you lose

Here’s a lose: a perfectly pleasant man commissioned me to make a throw for his couch, which he said was old and shabby but otherwise very comfortable, back in August. We talked about the colours in his lounge, including the curtains and the Persian carpet, and I assembled a collection of fabric for him to approve via email. Which he did. He also confirmed the size he wanted: 400 by 380cm. Not small at all!

Richard 2 I quoted him R2,580. This includes the backing fabric, top quality local and imported upholstery fabrics, and my labour. Considering it took me nearly a week to complete, this is a bargain. He accepted the price and asked me to go ahead. Here is the finished item:

Long story short – he ignores my emails and smses, and when he did once make the mistake of answering his phone, pretended to be out of the country. I tried again last week, and he informed me that he was terribly worried about his water bill, which was over R3,000, and he’d have to sort that out before anything else. At which point he put the phone down on me.

Hopefully someone else will love it and buy it, but it’s not an easy size to sell – it’s for a really really big 3-seater couch or an enormous bed. But my disappointment is great, partly because I have never been let down by a customer like this before (most of my customers are just the opposite!) and partly because I neglected to ask for a deposit before starting the job. Lesson learned :(

 

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more round cushions

But plumper. Much plumper :)

I had the idea to make the cushion covers removable, so made a separate inner (see below, looking like an enormous knaidel* on the dining room table!) and put a zip in the side of one of the roundies.

round inner

It was only when I was stitching the buttons through the centre (luckily I found a carpet needle for this chore) that I realised the cover would not be removable for that very reason. Doh.  Since the fabric I’m using is mostly upholstery/curtain linen anyway, the covers will need to be dry-cleaned, so that is my work-around for this problem.

I have drawn up a schedule of production (sewing and screenprinting) for the rest of October and November, with December being the time I need to have lots of everything ready for sale. I’ve printed it out and stuck it up on the wall, but it does make me feel a little weak. There won’t be much time for movies and outings and wine tastings and gala events…you know, my usual hectic social round. Not. Time to put my nose to the grindstone…

* yiddish for dumpling :)

Sales. No sales.

It happens. You can be right out there with your fabulous product that usually sells pretty damn well at the same/and other markets you’ve been attending regularly, that attracts new customers via facebook and word-of-mouth, and that gets some customers coming back for more – and you can still have a trading day with NO SALES.

It happened to me on Sunday, the last of four days in a busy up-market shopping centre in Claremont, with a nice steady amount of foot traffic. My hair was straight, I had the make-up on, I did the market dance, and all the signs were good. But – whaddaya know, my palm remained uncrossed with silver.

sad

A few years ago, this would have been disheartening enough to make me rethink my purpose in life. Or at least to crack open a bottle of cheap wine and knock myself out for the night. Okay, no, not wine – chocolate. I would have crawled into bed with a slab of chocolate and felt pathetic. And then, after the chocolate, pathetic and sick.

A friend asked me how the day had gone. I told him, No sales. His reply: I’m so sorry, that must be horribly demotivating. And that comment annoyed the hell out of me. I know he meant well, and was caring enough to ask in the first place, but you know what? Sometimes a trading day isn’t about direct sales. It’s about networking with other traders, forging working relationships, meeting potential new customers, showcasing your products and ideas, listening to the kinds of things people say they are looking for so you can think about tweaking a few things if necessary. It’s invaluable time and energy spent on improving your business.

Over the four days, I actually had very good sales, five new orders, advice about how to improve a design for something I’ve been stuck with for months, and access to amazing hand-made food stalls! I didn’t feel demotivated at all. I’m not saying cash in hand isn’t very cool (everyone dreams of going home with a bag full of bucks), but if you’re in this for the long-term, you have to accept that it isn’t always going to happen that way. And look for the silver linings. And try and turn them into gold.

round

Time to try something slightly different. But still with, you know, patchwork….

Pinterest…oh NO, there goes two hours of my life….but – these, from CluckCluckSew:

cluckcluck cushions

How could I see these and not be inspired? I already had a flat round cushion so decided to make a cover without the side gusset as an experiment. Side A and Side B:

Nice way to use up oddly shaped scraps, and being flat this would work on a stool, I guess. The next round one will have a side like the original design. I emailed the blogger, Allison Harris, to be sure she didn’t mind me linking back to her and using her pic, and she said she was happy for me to do so. Nice lady. Thanks for the wonderful tutorial, Allison xxx

getting stuffed

I seem to be making a lot of cushions lately so I needed to get my hands on a lot of stuffing. My friend Suzette orders her unicurl stuffing from the wholesalers and they deliver directly to her house. I asked her to order some for me; she said “Sure, how much do you want? It comes in 20 kilogram bags”; I said that sounded just fine. Yesterday I drove to her house in Durbanville to pick it up.

Luckily I drive a Hyundai Tucson. It can fit in a LOT of stuff, but even my poor Teddy (the car’s name) got quite a shock at the size of the bag.

Teddy

The pic below doesn’t really do it justice. It took three of us to squeeze and force and wodge it into the car, whereupon it immediately reshaped itself and bits of unicurl started coming out of a small hole on one side. That stuff is nasty, man, and it has a life of its own. The pressure on the stuffing inside the bag forced more and more out through the hole; it was like being in a confined space with an alien form of very fast-growing fungus that attached itself in clumps to the nearest object. Which, at the time, was me.

It was unpleasant: I couldn’t see out of the rear window at all, and couldn’t listen to music because I didn’t want to be distracted. It’s dodgy enough, these days, on Cape Town’s highways with the way people drive … I couldn’t get it out of the car on my own, either, so had to wait for Peter to come today. It is over 2 metres in height, and the circumference is 3 metres.

stuffing

unicurl

a close-up of the foul stuff

Anyway, now I have now taped closed the holes (we managed to make a few more as we dragged it through the house to the back patio) and have been decanting it into smaller bags for easier storage. I also stuffed these:

red 1

three knitted/crochet cushions in various shades of red and purple. I made them years and years ago, and they fell out of a box the other day when I was looking for something else. I figured I could take them to the market (Made in the Cape, starts tomorrow for four days at Cavendish Square fyi), and use them to add some colour to my display, if nothing else.

 

I never said I was an artist…

…but I’ll have a bash at some freehand stuff when the need arises. The need just did, when one of my favourite customers phoned to ask me for a blue bird in flight on the corner of a pillow case for her granddaughter. For tomorrow. Yikes. I don’t have a screen with the right kind of bird to use, so it had to be a quick work-around.

100_3242

Print picture of bird. Cut out shape. Add bits of paper here and there where you don’t want the ink to go through, including the background, stick it all together with tape, have a practice run on a piece of waste fabric (actually, is there ever such a thing?) and give it a go! You get this:

100_3244

Then you play around with some different shades of blue and a teeny weeny #1 paintbrush…

100_3247

Okay, it’s true that this resembles no bird in the real world, but I think it’s fair to say that it most definitely is a bird, and it’s blue, and it’s on the wing.

Right, back to sewing. The October Made in the Cape artisan market opens again on Thursday, so I need to have everything ready by Wednesday night. I never learn, and I always panic…

So, it’s really spring again already!

I know this because tomorrow is the first market day of the new 2017/2018 season at the Country Craft Market in Somerset West.

country craft market.jpg

The Country Craft Market differs from other markets in and around Cape Town because it is a true CRAFT market, not a flea/food/farmers market. This means that everything has to be hand-made and that the artists/crafters themselves attend the market.

The range of items that a trader wants to sell requires approval from the organisers in advance. This prevents having too many stalls selling very similar things, and also prevents the syndrome of “imported product creep-in”.

I’m looking forward to starting the new season, in my permanent stand (#26) under the oak trees. The weather seems set to be just right, and my fellow traders are all lovely. I’m keen to see what they’ve all been working on over the past winter. Me? Same same, with the pillowcases and the bedspreads, but now also with patchwork cushions. These three are hot off the sewing machine: