Makers Month: The Workbench shop


Hey there, so another week, another maker to treat you to for Makers Month.  This time we have a husband and wife team that make up the great The Workbench Shop.  They make products for designer/makers and people everywhere who want something beautiful made of wood mainly, but I am sure they could turn their hand to most things if asked! ha ha.  They also happen to be the wonderful human beings who bought Hello Sunshine up and so they are a family winning combo really!  Lets have a chat with Janet and Tony.

Tell us a little about The WorkBench Shop
We are a small fledgling company started and run by a husband and wife team.
We make bespoke display stands for designers and makers to show off the things they create at markets and craft fairs.
We also make and install wooden items for around the home such as garden gates, shelving etc and will consider pretty much anything people ask us for.

How did you start the business?
Tony has worked in the timber industry since he was 15!  The last 37 years with the same Nottingham company.  In 2015 & 2016 he underwent surgery to replace his arthritic knees.  Very shortly after the second operation he was made redundant!
In 2010, I was made redundant by a Nottingham computer repair company.   At that time, I was helping to take care of my elderly parents who were getting increasingly more dependent on outside help.  So, I took the opportunity to take a part time job that enabled me to concentrate on them more.
Sadly, my parents passed away within 2 years of each other leaving a massive, huge hole in both our lives as Tony had also taken on the role of carer whilst I was at work.
Anyway, there we were, two empty nesters with only one-part time job between us!  So, what did I do?  I handed my notice in!  I wanted us to concentrate on this small company that we had tentatively started when Tony was made redundant.  We started off by selling some vintage pieces on eBay that had come from my parents’ home.  Pieces that had been treasured for many years and that I wanted to see go somewhere they would continue to be treasured.  Also, we both had a great love of wood and handmade things that we wanted to share with others.  My Dad was a carpenter/joiner and I grew up watching him work in his shed creating things for the home.  Pretty much like Tony does for his family, He is the amazingly talented creative behind what we do and has also spent many years making stuff for craft fairs for our daughter Jo.

Have you always worked for yourselves?
No, we have both previously worked for other people.  Which is what makes this venture so exciting for us. To start something new based around family and the home.

How did you decide to make products for designers/makers?
Tony has always made things around the home and garden.  He’s made beds, bureaux, shelving, cabinets, garden benches etc and helped our daughters with their school and university projects.
Then Jo our daughter (hello Sunshine) designed a display for a craft fair that she was doing and asked her Dad if he would create it for her.  It generated lots of interest and was a great success for her.  That gave us the idea that we could probably help other designer/makers in the same way.

What would be your ideal make?
An ideal make would be to work on something unique and that we have confidence in doing.  Something on which we can offer help, suggestions, and advice and see through to completion.  For example, the jewellery stand for Esther (Petrichoralia) or the shop displays for Rhea (Handmade Nottingham)

How do you find working with designer/makers – do you find you are making more bespoke pieces?
We always find it a pleasure to work with designer/makers.  We have met some wonderfully talented people and hopefully made some new friends.   Ideally, we like to produce what they design but we help with suggestions and ideas.  We love to meet people face to face to discuss projects.

Where do you see Workbench Shop going?
The sky’s the limit really!    We would really like to have enough work to be making and creating at least one project a week with a dedicated workshop full of tools and gadgets to help with this.  It would also be fabulous if designer/makers thought of us in terms of ‘the people to go to’ for bespoke display stands.
We would also love to develop the vintage side.  Maybe have an area in Hopkinson’s of Nottingham or somewhere similar to sell the selection of vintage items we have which will enable us to look out for more pieces on our travels.

Tell us a bit about what you have coming up?  Any little projects you want to tell us about.
We have been working on a market stall display for a shoe designer/maker in London which is exciting and we have recently been contacted by a well-known gallery shop regarding some work they might want us to do.
We love coming up with new and fun things to put in our Etsy Shop such as our dominoes clock and we have new ideas for trugs and garden planters etc.

Whose products do you like most? ( I told them not to pick you Jo!  he he)
That’s a tough one!  There are many designer/makers that we follow on Instagram and we have seen at various craft fairs and markets around the country.
We particularly admire people like Rhea of Handmade Nottingham and Lucy of Two Little Magpies in Beeston who work extremely hard to promote and sell for their creative community.

What do you like to do when you’re not working?
We love to get active visiting and discovering new places.  We like cycling and walking.
We also like to rummage in charity and antique shops and car boot sales looking for inspiration and ideas for our etsy shop.

Loving all the work that The Workbench shop are getting up to, all the beautiful wood and made so well.  You should defo check them out next time you want some craft fair pieces, you can find them on Etsy too.  Also, how cute is this pic that Sunshine Jo did of them!  Just had to put it in.

H & Sammy, xxx


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Makers Month: Stitchsperation


So for our second chat for Makers Month we sat down with the lovely Charlie from Stitchsperation.   Sammy has long been a fan of her work and we just can't get enough of it.  So bright, colourful and all kinds of different to the normal cross-stitch kits.  So lets have a chat and see if we can find out a little bit more.

Tell us a little about Stitchsperation.
Modern typographical cross stitch kits with hand painted fabric. I design every pattern and hand paint every piece of fabric in every kit, no two are exactly the same. You stitch the pattern over the painted part of the fabric making it part of your finished design. This results in bright colourful wall art and a huge sense of pride when you're finished!

How did you start the business?
I started Stitchsperation after looking for cross stitch patterns to make as gifts for my friends' wedding, these particular friends were too cool for any of the patterns I had found online, I couldn't find anything that I thought they would like to hang up in their home... to be honest, I couldn't find any that I wanted to hang up in my home either! I was scrolling Pinterest one day and saw the countless typography/lettering pins on there, many on watercolour backgrounds. I suddenly though, why don't I paint some watercolour fabric? (I was sure I had pinned a tutorial on how to do that!) and then design my own pattern for them? I pulled out my water colour paints and fabric medium, painted a few bits of even weave and then designed a massive cross stitch pattern on graph paper. 'Shit just got real' was the first pattern I designed - little did I know at the time, that shit really had got real!

While I was stitching it up, I kept having ideas for more and more designs and realised that no one else offered cross stitch kits where part of the finished design is painted on the fabric you stitch onto. So I did loads more research into fabric and paints and dyes and invested in some software, so I no longer painstakingly draw out every stitch by hand! I spent a year researching, designing and stitching my first 5 patterns and Stitchsperation launched in September 2016. I was accepted as a NOTHS (Not on the high street) partner in November and things have grown from there!

Have you always worked with embroidery?
No. I have always been into textiles ever since I was young, I had a few years out where I made jewellery but moved back to textiles in about 2010. I started with quilting, inspired by my quilter mum and developed a bit of a fabric obsession! I loved sewing but was just a sewing machine kinda girl, I did NOT like hand sewing... or rather I didn't like the injuries I gave myself with sharp needles! I decided I needed a hand sewing project to do in the evenings in front of the TV,  so inspired by a lovely friend who did a lot of cross stitch I decided to give it a try - yay for blunt needles! I started with a freebie kit from CrossStitcher magazine, then moved onto patterns from Satsuma Street and The Frosted Pumpkin Stitchery.  I still quilt, I share my quilty journey over at @SydneyRoseDesigns, I'm currently running the #GreatBritishQuilter IG challenge with my quilting partner in crime @sarahashfordstudio.

Do you ever feel the pressure to change how you work to adapt to people's wants?
I do. But then I snap out of it and remember that it's my business and if  it's not 'on brand' then I won't do it. I get lots of suggestions for kits which is awesome but I don't always go with them. I already have a huge list of things I want to do and not a lot of time to do it in so it has to be just right to make the cut!

Where do you see Stitchsperation going?
Everywhere! I don't know! I often wonder where I would like this little business to go.  I definitely want to launch many more kits and other products too, I'd like to get into wholesale and perhaps teach classes and publish books... and... and... and...the list goes on!

Tell us a bit about what you have coming up?  any little projects you want to tell us about.
Well, Stitchsperation turned one this month so I released a free PDF cross stitch pattern download and printable wall art on my site for everyone who 'joins the tribe' at www.stitchsperation.com. I have some new mini kits I'm trying to find time to finish and release and I'm also working on a secret project which should be ready to launch before Christmas, all being well! Watch this space!

and just for a little fun, a few just plain frivolous questions.

What was the first thing you remember making?
Wow, good question. I spent most of my childhood creating something, even if it was a mud pie! The first thing I can remember making was a long stitch tapestry kit. I can't for the life of me remember what the picture was but I do remember feeling very proud that I had finished it and all the stitches were straight!

What do you like to do when you’re not working?
Um, more work! I'm a bit of a workaholic - that's what happens when you love what you do!  If I'm not stitching up my latest new release for Stitchsperation I'll be making bags or quilts or cushions for Sydney Rose Designs or working on sewing commissions. I think quilting is probably the thing I do to chill out but I haven't worked on a quilt for a few months now, I do have a couple of quilt commissions I need to get working on! Oh I also recently learned to knit thanks to my lovely friends Helen at @FredaMossDesigns
See, we told you it was AMAZING!  All kinds of beautiful and so vibrant.  Just deciding which one to do first is the main problem.

Do go and check out Charlie's work and let us know what you think.

H & Sammy, xxx

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Makers Month: Women who create


We are back with Makers Month for September and what a month of treats we have in store for you.  We are going to be chatting to some business folk and some makers who will of course impart their wisdom over to you guys.  Cos we all need some wisdom sometimes right?!?!  Here's me looking for the adult in the room!

First up, we are talking to the lovely Amy from Women who Create.  We are both going to the Brighton weekend coming up in October and are planning to get lots of ideas for the blog and Sammy for her shop too.  I see serious notebook and pen jotting and getting the glasses on for some serious talk!  So, we thought it would be a great idea to ask the lovely Amy to tell us a little bit more....

Tell us a little about Women Who Create.
Women Who Create UK is an active community for women in creative business/women who use creativity in their non-creative businesses to grow, share knowledge /advice/expertise/experience and support one another through events, services, skills, meet ups, tools and more.

Why did you start WWC?
To fill a gap in my creative business life! I realised that I had outgrown my previous craft business but wanted to evolve the parts of that I still loved from the previous 4 years that felt like the true me.

It really all began when I was at a low ebb after moving from Brighton, where my creative career had begun, to Nottingham. When I had time to really evaluate where I saw myself then and what I wanted in the future. I decided I wanted to leave behind the fast craft parts of my biz but was super passionate about the amazing community of makers and creative business owners I had cultivated. I loved the events and creativity but was worn out by craft commissions, hen parties and what I felt was an oversaturation of the market.

So I created a new series on the blog to quench that new creative thirst whilst I decided what to do next! This was ‘women who create things – the interview series’ I started by reaching out to peers and friends who were makers to test the water, and then took the leap to contact women who I admired greatly in other creative circles. As I created more connections and evolved the blog series I began to imagine the idea into a business! Events, meets ups, an online community and groups… it felt exciting and like me again!

What are your aims for the business?
To grow purposefully whilst also keeping small and special! To create an online space where a community of women in creative business/women who use creativity in their non-creative businesses can grow, share and support one another through events, services, meet ups, tools and more. Eventually I’d love a studio again., where I can work and run WWC, but also offer affordable work space for women starting their creative businesses or looking to evolve into a creative career to nurture their ideas/projects.

Do you think women can benefit from each other more?
Hugely! In fact I think it’s the way forward. There are so many masculine/male led projects/resources and services around but they often just don’t fit the way many women work. They are not intuitive or authentic enough. There is a gorgeous and inspiring energy that arises when a group of women work together or help and support each other’s ideas, vulnerability and creativity. For me its less about the Girl Boss trend, because I find that a little harsh and a somewhat masculine a genre.

Tell us about your business weekends, you had your first one in Bristol and now there is one coming up in Brighton

Well this is really my biggest passion project right now.

WWCweekend events offer a weekend of creative inspiration, relaxation, confidence building, slow crafting and business/career motivation for women looking to connect with likeminded folk and spark changes in their life and career. Bringing together individual business expertise of 6 self-made creative entrepreneurs our events are about sharing creative business skills and tools that are slightly different to your usual run of the mill training.

Our first weekend in Bristol was by all accounts an amazing experience and I feel so lucky to have been able to bring my dream to life! The women who attended brought their own special magic to the sessions which only made them more special and valuable.

What you can expect from a WWCweekend is that you will leave the weekend with a wealth of practical and creative skill to empower your next steps and future planning. A vibrant mix of personal experience, accredited technique and intuitive learning. You will have also spent a weekend becoming part of a fantastic community, meeting a group of equally amazing women who are on the same path as you.

Our Brighton event coming up at the end of October is no exception. This time we are welcoming additional coach Lola Hoad, founder of One Girl Band and Alice Bettany, herbalist and founder of Sacred Seeds. That’s 3 inspiring sessions on each day with plenty of time in-between for alone time, personal journaling, tea drinking and discussion.

Where do you want WWC to go in the future – aspirations
I have big plans for WWC and have already started creating a new website which will incorporate the blog, a membership and a special affiliate scheme… I can’t tell you any more just yet but I am so very excited and energised by the possibilities and plans I have for this little business! We have also launched a podcast which has been somewhat challenging to make technically but has also opened up a whole new exciting audience to reach and engage with.

A bit of advice for people thinking of starting their own business
If your idea excites you, makes your mind race and scares you at the same time… its probably exactly the path you should follow. But expect a lot of hard work and for some things to fail. You will learn and grow from your mistakes. Embrace the help of your peers but always be true to your own ideas and voice. Be you, that’s your own authentic super power.

What are the first things people should do before starting their own business?
Be realistic and honest to themselves about the resources (time money and skills) that they already have. There is no point aiming way to high and causing yourself unnecessary stress and damage. Start small and plant the seeds of your business. Get all the facts and figures down and grow your audience. Work to your strengths!

Tips on how to find your style/your idea
They should both be authentic to you because that’s what sets you apart from the millions of other women on the planet. Try not to follow trends. Get your ideas down on a huge piece of paper and map it all out! Play to your strengths.

Moving on from an idea - How to know when to let go
If it doesn’t inspire you or feel fun when you are working on it then its probably time to let go. Or perhaps you just need a break and to find a new evolution of your idea! We are constantly growing and changing so why would our ideas stay the same? No successful business stays the same! My business is intertwined with my lifestyle and my beliefs so for me its just something I do every day and I am excited and often nervous to grow! But nevertheless, it has grown as I have.


Amy has some great advice and we cannot wait to go to the weekend in Brighton soon.  Lots of lovely new ideas for us and that means lots of new things for you guys, what's not to love!

H & Sammy, xxx


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The Secret is out ...

Well hello there, we have something very special for you today, we are launching our very own Pin!  Yay!

We have been working very hard behind the scenes on the 'One of a Kind' pin which is our first foray into pin-land, or product of any kind so we really hope you like it.

If you look at our menu bar at the top of the blog, you will see a shiny new Shop tab, where you will be able to go and buy the pin.  They cost £7 each with £2.95 for UK P&P and £3.95 for international. We only have 100 pins so they are limited edition and we won't be making this design again so grab them while you can. Each pin comes pinned to a hand numbered card with a black rubber pin back.

The pin was inspired by our years of friendship, the amazing people that we have met and the choice to do what we love. We are all one of a kind, but we don't have to do it alone.  In a world full of self-doubt and anxieties, this pin is a daily reminder that you are amazing just the way you are.

Love
H & Sammy, xxx


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OMG! We are in an Actual Book

So, spoiler alert in the title there. This month the newest addition to the Mollie Makes book library is published and we were invited to create two exclusive projects to be featured. Alongside, some of our industry buddies we have two projects featured in Mollie Makes - How to Sew.  Goals right there people, goals!

The big goal of writing our own book is still up there but being featured in such a gorgeous book and working with the lovely guys over at Pavilion was a really fun way to dip our feet in the waters of what it takes to be published. Oh and OMG, our are faces are actually on Amazon! One of our pages is the 'look inside' page! Just us that are geeking out over that then, maybe!

If you had told us six years ago that in one month we would have tutorials in two magazines, a book-zine and a book we would have laughed and told you to keep dreaming. This blog was never meant to be anything but a hobby for us, it isn't a business, we don't earn a wage from it at all. It is our baby and we love it but we both have day jobs that we are passionate about too.
We started out wanting a place to share and we are so lucky that we have been able to do that. We hope that we can continue to share with you all, without your friendship and support, things like this just wouldn't be possible.
Having taken it a little slower over the last six months we have been stocking up ideas and plans for the future and can't wait to have you all be a part of it with us.

Grab your own copy of Mollie Makes How to Sew, on Amazon now and if you don't already get Mollie Makes - there is a subscription link in our sidebar for you.

H and Sammy xxx



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Simple No-sew Pen roll

Hey there and for some of you welcome to the summer holidays!  I hear all the teachers breathe a sign of relief and the parents start with the 'what do you do on those rainy days?' thoughts.  Well hopefully we can help over the summer.  We know that less of you are inclined to be checking out the blog in August, but hopefully we can give you a few smaller projects that you can do alone or with the kids to keep you going, whether they are yours or you are helping to look after them.

What better place to start than with something that could be super useful for adults and children whilst travelling around this summer.  This No-sew pen roll, could be used for pencils, brushes or even the children's favourite twig collection over the summer - we all know they love a good collection!  This project should take you less than half an hour to make and with a little drying time, you can be using it later the very same day, so lets get started ...

You will need: 40 x 22cm felt, 52 x 46cm cotton fabric, ribbon (forgot to photograph - oops), sharpie/fabric pen, scissors, ruler/tape measure, fabric glue, pens/items to put in your roll.

Step 1: Cut your felt into the right size and using a ruler/tape measure mark on one side your two sets of marks which will be for your pens to go through.  The marks I made were 1cm in length every 2.5cm along the length of the felt.  The first set of marks were 9cm up the short edge and then I drew another set 4cm up from there.  Note: if your pens are longer/shorter/fatter you may need to scale up or down the fabrics/marks accordingly.  Also - check out this really old long ruler I have from my parents - good old WHSmith - its so super useful. - #notspon

Step 2: Cut each of the marks by folding over the felt to make it easier.  Also, these marks will be hidden later so don't worry about them being obvious.

Step 3: Cut your cotton fabric to size above and then check your sizing by folding over the edges so that this fabric will be slightly larger than the felt piece when put together.  Start to glue down the edges when you have the correct sizing.

Step 4: When it comes to the corners of the fabric, fold over to neat corners like you would do if you were covering a book - do you remember having to cover your books at school?  It was always going to come in useful later in life!  Glue the corners down when you have a nice neat edge.

Step 5:  Add glue to your felt on the side of all your marks, so that they will be nicely hidden from view.  Make sure you glue around the edges and not all over as otherwise your pens will not fit into the pen roll.

Step 6:  Check your sizing and that the glue has not attached to the wrong parts , by adding your pens.

Step 7: Roll your pens over to make sure it rolls neatly and you can see the size to check it is correct.

Step 8: Cut some ribbon that wraps around your roll with some spare for tying up around the front. Lay the ribbon down behind the roll so that it is in the middle.

Step 9:  Hold onto the ribbon and flip the roll over so that you are able to glue the ribbon in place.  Leave all the glue to dry properly before using it and voilĂ  you are done.
This would make a great project to do with the children as well.  The felt makes it really easy to cut and not fray whilst you are using it.  You could also add felt to the back for ease and use less strong glue for the children - something like copydex would work.  It would need to dry for a little longer, but still look just as great.
I have been practising my brush lettering after doing a workshop at Craftacular with the lovely Rebecca from Betty Etiquette and so this pen roll will come in handy to take my pens with me for any adventures I am off on this summer.  Or just to look pretty on my desk.  The best thing about this project is that you can customise it with any fabrics of choice and its quick and simple to make - what's not to love!

Where are you off in the summer, will you be taking some art materials with you?
H,xxx


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