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What happens next?

I like to think I am an endlessly positive person, especially where Bunyip is concerned, but this is a tough one to write and has been a tough decision. I’ve come out of the other side of the shame and failure, and am trying really hard to see change as good.

Bunyip Craft is on the move once again. The costs in our big, beautiful shop have become too onerous, despite cutting every cost to the bone, lowering staffing hours and working in the shop as much as I can. Business Rates have gone up twice since I’ve been here, and in the last re-evaluation the percentage discount the shop used to get for being landscape shaped rather than portrait shaped was taken away too, so my rates are almost entirely made up of retail zone A, ouch! Being over the VAT threshold doesn’t help either, with VAT at 20% many businesses struggle at this point of their growth.

My lease is up on 1st October and I just couldn’t afford to re-sign it. This is not because we’re not a successful business, we have a good take through the till, and online, but the costs are too high to be able to make the maths work and customer spend is going down. Our footfall is steady, as is our number of sales, but sales are getting smaller as customers feel the pinch and worry about their own incomes, Brexit and the world economy.

So, the upshot is, we are looking for a new premises, something more affordable, smaller certainly, but nothing right has presented itself yet. We would love to have a place with an office and workshop space, so that we can carry on with our parties and teaching, as well as the shop. We don’t mind where it is really, we hope we have the customer loyalty and brand recognition to take being off the main drag. If you know of anywhere, please get in touch, all offers considered!

This might be a chance to change the way I run the business, I’ve been running Bunyip for over 15 years now, and with 2 kids and a husband who can work more hours if I give him the time, life has changed a lot in that time.  I have loads of ideas I’d like to work on, I’d like to wholesale my jewellery making and sewing kits, along with making jewellery for other shops, I’d like to do more shows and craft fairs, I’d like to have time to spend on my website, Etsy shop and blog, I want to run DIY craft pub nights, I want to host Pop ups all over the place, I want to teach more, I want to have the flexibility to be able to run with an idea or offer that comes my way. I can’t do any of this at the moment because I have to be on the shop floor to sell a 40p metre of elastic or 6 buttons. I’m grateful for every person who’s bought that 40p metre, don’t get me wrong, I wouldn’t have survived without you, but this might be time that I get to put my entrepreneurial and creative hats back on.

Retail is an ever fluid market, and the times, they are a changing. I think the future of retail may be in shared spaces, people working together to have the presence and knowledge each business needs to survive. I would love to be part of something like that in Exeter, and be as present in the fight for supporting Independent business in Exeter as I’ve ever been.

Please get in touch if you have any ideas, spaces for rent, wholesale opportunities or just want a chat, I’d love to hear from you on mattie@bunyipcraft.com or in the shop… for a while longer!

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May Sewing Challenge – Stretchy Fabrics

Now that The Contemporary Craft Festival is over, I can finally get around to writing about my May Challenge (yes I’m aware that it’s now the middle of June!). I challenged myself to sew with stretch fabrics for this month as I’d never done it before and I actually really enjoyed it. I’ve always heard horror stories about how hard jersey is to sew with but I didn’t have any issues and would definitely recommend it to anyone who is feeling a bit nervous about it.

I decided to start by making the Joni Dress which is in the Tilly and the Buttons Stretch book. I used a relatively cheap fabric so it was quite thin and very stretchy. I realised that I’d have to do things differently to when I sew with woven fabrics when I tried to fold the fabric and got all of this puckering. No way was it going to be possible to cut accurately with scissors so I decided to use my rotary cutter and do pieces that were on the fold individually. I have no idea why I don’t always use a rotary cutter! It is so much easier; I’ll definitely be using it for all of my cutting in the future and it was perfect for this jersey.

Before I started sewing, I changed my needle to one specifically for stretch materials, changed my stitch to a zig-zag and kept my regular sewing foot; so easy so far. The first instruction was to attach clear elastic to the waist and shoulder seams which stops them from stretching out after wearing the dress a few times.

Now the real perk to sewing with stretch fabrics is that sleeves are a doddle! Everything can be stretched in to place perfectly. I inserted the sleeve ‘on the flat’ which was so easy and all I had to do was match up the notches and then sew up the sides of the sleeve and bodice. I’m pleased with the finished dress but I’ll definitely be making it in a slightly sturdier fabric next time.

This was the first month when I decided to make two items for my monthly challenge! As I was flicking through the book, I came across the Stella Hoodie and decided to give that a go as well (not that I ever do anything even remotely active…). I bought some lovely teal sweatshirt fabric and matching lining and jumped straight in. I actually managed to make most of this in one evening from cutting out to being able to wear it. The only thing left to do is the hem at the bottom as I didn’t have a twin needle suitable for stretch fabrics.

Most of the hoodie was really straight forward, the only thing that was slightly different was having to stabilise the buttonhole so that it didn’t pull out of shape. Again, the sleeves were easy peezy and even the cuffs worked well. So now all that’s left is to take up a sport …

 

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April Sewing Challenge: A Shirt

As my sewing challenge continues, I’m stepping it up each time. This time I challenged myself to a fitted shirt. I decided against a collar in the end which kind of seems like I’m cheating but there’s always next time.

I decided to use a pattern that I made a while ago with the help of my sewing teacher at the time. We took my measurements and drew up the pattern together; it’d be quite a good exercise for me to draw it up again to see if I can remember how to do it at some point. It definitely looks more complicated than it is!

I did a double check of the pattern as I made it a while ago and wanted to make sure that the sizing was correct, luckily it was still ok! I decided to use a nice plain turquoise fabric that I had bought when I was in Thailand. I have made so many patterned skirts and trousers that I needed something plain to go with them.

I decided to be over cautious with this make as the fabric was quite slippery. So that meant loads of pins and tacking stitches which turned out to be a huge help.

After the palava of my sleeves challenge, I was dreading setting them in. This was really nice and simple though; I have no idea what I did differently but at least I managed it without wanting to throw my machine out of the window.

When I started trying to pair the finished shirt up with what I already have, I found that it goes quite well with one of my me-made skirts. So here is the finished outfit; perfect for when I need to be a bit smarter! 

 

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March Sewing Challenge: Pockets

After the debacle of my challenge last month, I was quite pleased to have a slightly easier challenge this time round. I still didn’t finish it before the end of March… but what’s 10 days.

I think any outfit can be improved with pockets and really wanted to learn how to add them in to patterns. I decided to make the Miette skirt by Tilly and the Buttons. This pattern has big patch pockets but I fancied trying in seam pockets (for those little things that you need to hand). As a side note, I’m so in love with this fabric; I bought the last bits from the shop and had to buy an extra half metre from elsewhere! I just knew it had to be made into a skirt.

 

Instead of winging it, I found some instructions by Tilly herself which even came with a pdf pattern. The instructions are pretty easy to follow with photos for you to check you’re on the right track. For my next project I’m going to make the pattern a little bigger so that my very large phone will fit inside.

I marked where I wanted the pocket to sit and reinforced it with interfacing then stitched it in place within the seam allowance. Can we just take a moment to admire the pattern matching? I then sewed the side seam, going around the pocket and voila! Easy peasy. I’m definitely going to use this technique on some of my future makes; I think it’ll be great in circle skirts and is such an easy addition to make.

My challenge for this month is going to be to make a shirt… a whole real life shirt, so only time will tell if my next post will be as positive! Wish me luck!

 

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February Sewing Challenge – Ergh… Sleeves

I have learnt one thing from my February challenge… I do NOT enjoy setting in sleeves. It’s hard and time consuming and I’m pretty sure I still haven’t cracked it (Rome wasn’t built in a day and all that). Sadly this won’t be a tutorial that you can follow to get the perfect sleeve but at least you can share in the experience…

I did A LOT of research for the February challenge. In fact, most of my work for the month was just reading stuff (if you are interested take a look at Tilly’s advice for creating a gathered sleeve) and begging for advice from the Sewing Challenge Facebook group. I decided I did actually need to produce something though and that something was going to be the Sew Over It Vintage Shirt Dress.

I decided to do my first attempt on calico so it didn’t matter if it went wrong. I adjusted my stitch length to the longest it would go and did my two lines of stitches which I would technically use to create my gathers. I then pulled the threads to gather the sleeve and spread it out so that it wasn’t too bunched up. I think in the future it’d be good to use a different coloured thread for the bobbin so I can see which one needs to be pulled. To get to this stage took a long time and I used my knee to try and manipulate the shape!

After a lot of procrastinating, I moved on to my actual fabric. Just to keep me on my toes, I decided to use a nice slippery and slightly stretchy fabric… After cutting, overlocking and creating a mock turn-up cuff, I proceeded to spend a huge amount of my time trying to get the over-sized sleeve to fit into the smaller sleeve hole while using all of my pins to do so. At one point I really did question if I actually needed to have movement for my shoulders.

The first picture was my first attempt. Note those tucks at the top there… they were not part of the pattern. I huffed, puffed, swore a bit and shut the dress away for the night. With a fresh head and a more objective pair of eyes, I looked at the dress again and realised that actually, they were to wide for my shoulders. By pure chance, that meant that I needed to increase the seam allowance at the top of the sleeve, thus hiding the tucks. Hurrah for my abnormally shaped shoulders!

So despite bodging it a bit… I managed to finish the dress (while learning lots of other skills along the way). I may avoid setting in sleeves like the plague in the future but I have a dress that shows that, one time, I did it (half) successfully.

 

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New Stock Alert: Craft Hobby & Stitch International 2018

ribbons at SE simons

It’s that time of year again! CHSI 2018 – the trade show we attend in February each year to choose buttons, touch all the fabric and have a little cry in the Rico stand. This time we took a whole squad of people and stayed overnight in the much envied ‘Willow’ room at the Arden Hotel. It’s a glamorous life!

We’re really excited about the new products we chose that’ll be winging their way to us in the next couple of months, including beautiful books, awesome patterns and of course – a whole pile of new cotton fabrics. It’s also so exciting to say we found a supplier of Sashiko equipment! So keep an eye out for workshops and kits in the gorgeous art of Japanese folk embroidery soon.

Here’s a little run down of how we spent our two days at the Birmingham NEC – enjoy!

bunyip team at CHS

We set off at a painfully early time with the thought of a Gloucester services breakfast keeping our sprits high. Rachel, first time visitor of Gloucester services, had this to say of the experience: “It was fine.” Either we bigged it up too much or she is immune to it’s majesty and wonder. If you know, you know.

bunyip gang at CHSI 2018

For the last couple of years Mattie and I have been attending the show solo, so it was lovely to have fresh eyes on everything from Rachel and Lisa. Lisa was of course choosing beautiful wool to bring back for her concession and she was soon weighed down with free samples (why are samples of wool so weirdly heavy? And WHERE were all the fabric samples?!).

ribbons at SE simons

A big part of the show is meeting a lot of our suppliers face to face. Although some of them pop in to the shop and say Hi, there’s some that we only get to lay eyes on once a year! It was great to see our friends from our favourite Bristol based ribbon supplier and their quite frankly, outrageously beautiful display.

(I’m never 100% sure if you’re allowed to take photos at these things so you will notice a lot of nervous blur in these as I was worried about getting arrested. By the craft police.)

I sadly was the first to succumb to the first hysteria of the day, brought around by this page I flipped open to in a book entitled ‘Crazy Cat Lady Crafts.’ I don’t think I need to explain why.

It’s no secret that we’re a little Rico obsessed – I’m started to theorise that I’ve actually been brainwashed by them as surely I shouldn’t be enjoying every thing they do to quite such a hysterical extent? We made a vow to all meet up at their stand together so we could all witness the fitness together, but I did manage a sly walk past to photograph this, quite frankly delightful, poster.

If you think we peaked at furry cat skirt and unicorns, then please think again and add wine. One of our suppliers literally gives you booze (also weird bits of cheese on a stick but the less said about that the better) while you look at the fabric. Heaven is real.

So much fabric to choose from! We had to sit down for a post-wine coffee to gather our thoughts before we were ready to order. Eventually we managed to narrow the ridiculous choice down to 10 beautiful cotton prints to arrive in the shop soon – bears were a particular winner…

knitted fireplace

Here’s another peak: a knitted fireplace! We find it’s best not to ask ‘why?’ too often at these things.

fabric samples

We finally made it to Rico! I just fell totally in love with everything in the entire stand, as is the custom, and we were so excited to order some leather-look-metallic-paper that you can sew with. The stand had loads of stuff sewn with it, including gold make up bags with glittery lettering on that I’m so keen so try when it arrives.

rico stand CHSI

I’ll take one of everything thank you please.

portraiture

With day 1 done, we took ourselves off to the ‘British Craft Awards’ which we were eager to attend because we love British craft (the free bar is just a happy coincidence) and had our silhouettes cut by this amazing artist. I managed to snap this photo of Lisa, professional model, demonstrating her extreme professionalism and poise. Check out the finish portraits on her Instagram!

We kicked off day 2 of our craft adventure with a trip to one of our most eclectic suppliers where Mattie chose some awesome new haberdashery, including more feather trim and GIANT pom poms! Squeal.

We’re also thrilled to say we ordered a gorgeous range of Tilly and the Buttons patterns! Set to be in the shop in the next 2 weeks, Rachel is a huge fan of these and it’s going to be awesome seeing her make through the whole bunch.

mickey mouse fabric

We moved back in for another go at fabric come Monday afternoon and ended up failing to resist this Mickey Mouse print collection! We’ve got two of these coming when they go to print, along with some more amazing Disney prints. Exciitttting…..!

One of our suppliers had a giant roll of thread with a secret office in on their stand, but this is CHSI so no one was even bothered. However, we were very bothered to find Sashiko sets! Ever since Mattie visited Japan last year we’ve been trying to get our hands on Sashiko equipment, and we’re so excited to have some winging it’s way to the shop soon!

button stand by Jones

And with a final visit to Mattie’s favourite button supplier, we were done for another year. Head into the shop soon to see all this ridiculous goodness arrive – and don’t forget to follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Insta for many, many photos of it all.

 

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January Sewing Challenge – Adjusting Patterns and making a toile

So often, in the past, I’ve dived straight in to a project only to finish it and find it doesn’t fit me properly. It does make perfect sense, we’re never all going to be the exact size of the pattern; there’ll always be the odd thing that needs a tweak. This month I wanted to remedy this by practising adjusting patterns and in particular making a toile.

What on earth is a toile you ask!

It’s basically an early version of a pattern made up of cheap fabric so that sizing adjustments can be made without ruining beautiful fabric. You’d use a fabric that is similar to what you’ll use for the final piece and trace any changes to make a perfect pattern. I’ve always put it off in the past because it seems counterproductive to pre-make a garment when you have no intention of wearing it. But my 2018 challenge is to do things that I don’t usually do so here it goes.

I bought some really beautiful fabric a while ago but had been putting off making with it because the thought of ruining it terrified me! So it seemed like the perfect time to make a toile so that I could check the fit.

My toile for the Tilly and the Buttons ‘Francoise’ dress.

This is my finished toile which I also tried on myself and pranced around in to check movement of course. It turned out that the fit was pretty good. I have fairly standard measurements apparently so I didn’t need to adjust the bust which is often the main problem area.

One thing I did decide to change was the sleeve. On the long sleeve, little creases appeared quite quickly around the elbow; I don’t like ironing so this wouldn’t do at all. I took off the sleeve on my toile and traced it onto paper, making sure that I included all the markings from the original pattern.

So overall a great success and I had the confidence to cut in to my beautiful fabric knowing that the fit would be good.

Just the one toile was not enough though; I wanted a challenge. This time I decided to make one for a pair of fitted trousers and boy am I glad I did. The fit of my toile was all wrong and didn’t lay properly near the ankles. So with a little bit of a helping hand I pinned in the areas that needed pulling in and marked the changes with a pen. I then took everything apart and this time, used the toile as my pattern piece. I used carbon paper and a tracing wheel to transfer the markings on to my trousers fabric (polka dot trousers anyone?).

So, making a toile IS extra effort and I wouldn’t do it for everything but it is a great way to get a good fit and to eliminate the fear of ruining fabric.

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2018; A New Year, A New Challenge

 

Is anyone else setting themselves a crafty challenge for 2018? If you’re anything like me, you’ve tried before and given up by mid January! So I’ve decided that I’ll use this blog to keep me motivated and share my experiences with you.

I’m a fairly confident sewer but I do have those favourite patterns that I just make over and over again (I’m on number 3 of the Cleo Dress by Tilly and the Buttons). So 2018 is the year when I step out of my comfort zone and try some completely new things and improve some skills that I just never use at the moment.

My plan is to practise a skill each month and to share the ups and downs with you.

So in 2018 I’ll no longer be a ‘try-it-and-see-sewer’ and will not have to use the seam ripper at all (HA!).

Do you have any crafty new years resolutions? Does the #sewingchallenge2018 sound up your street? We’d love to see what you’re all up to.

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Alex’s Things To Do In Exeter

 

Since I am a girl who likes shopping, what I most visited in these days are obviously shops! I am really enjoying all of those little cute shops and locals I can’t find in Italy, in particular in my town. From charity shops (as they are here) to museums, from the fashion cafes to the all-around-the-world restaurants. But I know I can’t spend all of my money on buying clothes: I need to travel – I love traveling – and explore the area around Exeter and this means I must have money for the bus/train ticket.

Also, there are a lot of weird and funny shops, for example “Fantasy World” which is Exeter’s largest stockist of unique costumes; you can dress-up as a medieval or roman person or as a 80’s guy. There are also many barber shops, tattoo and hairdresser salons, nail art salons and jewellery stores, etc. In Exeter you can find whatever you want!

 

 

Most popular cafes in England that aren’t in Italy (or they are so rare) are Costa and Starbucks: Italian students love them too, but, I’m honest, I don’t like their coffee because it’s really different from Italian one. Anyway we like going to these cafes to have a hot drink – maybe with a delicious biscuit – and a chat with friends.

Another local in which I have never eaten before in my homeland is Subway; I sometimes haven’t got my packed lunch so I need something cheap and quick to eat. I have eaten tasty sandwiches a couple of time there for few pounds and I absolutely liked them. Moreover, Subway offers vegan and vegetarian options and it’s good for me since I’m vegetarian.

 

 

One night I discovered The Stable – this is a rooftop bar and lounge club in Guildhall Shopping Centre – and I almost fall in love with this place: good looking, lovely music, nice cocktails, food and drinks, young people and… great beer! I recommend you The Stable if you need a break from the boring week routine and if you love having party with amazing music and beer.

That night I had dinner out with my mates in Bella Italia, an Italian restaurant in Queen Street and we decided to have pizza; honestly, it was a real good pizza! We thought we wouldn’t have eaten this delicious food for a whole month, but we found the right place to satisfy our cravings.

 

 

Have you ever been to RAMM (Royal Albert Memorial Museum)? That is amazing! A fantastic museum and art gallery in Exeter where you can see lots of every-type collections, such as the antiquities with all of its sculptures and archaeological finds or the natural history archives plenty of minerals and (unfortunately for me – I am against animal cruelty) stuffed animals.


 

 

On the last Sunday I had a walk around the city to discover places I have never seen before and I visited the Quay after a relaxing but long walk by the river. This area of Exeter enchanted me, it reminded me vaguely of my dear Venice, and I decided to have a break with a refreshing drink in a lovely bar.

 

 

Obviously in Exeter there are some festivals and community events, such as “Fore Street Flea” on 24th September where you can find stalls, street-food and bargains – the next “Fore Street Flea” will be on 26th November.

 

 

And what about the bowling club and the cinema? There are those too, but I haven’t been there yet: they are my next destination!

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Alex’s Work Experience

 

 

Hi, I’m Alex! I’m a 18 year old girl from the North-East of Italy and I’m in Exeter to do work experience for 4 weeks (from 3th September to 1st October 2017) thanks to a school project I won.

 

 

 

 

I’m staying with a lovely host family near Pinhoe with one of the students from my school – there are 15 of us – and I’m doing a really exciting work experience at Bunyip Craft: I learnt how to make bracelets (in particular, I love the charm bracelets, they are so beautiful) and it’s fun! Bunyip Craft is a wonderful craft shop in Fore Street and I recommend you stop for few minutes in this amazing place, in fact, the first time I came in I was just surprised.

 

 

Exeter is a really nice city and there is a lot to do, for example visiting the famous Cathedral and the city centre with its countless shops or exploring all of its streets, plenty of nice restaurants and locals to relax and have a drink with your friends. I’m also visiting the towns around here, such as Topsham and Torquay, in particular this last one is a very beautiful town on the coast, you must visit this place!

 

 

I went to Torquay with my friends by train and then we walked all the way long to Babbacombe, up and down the hills with their amazing neighborhoods, shops and gardens: we thought we were in the USA because the streets and the environment were so similar to the ones we see in the American films. It took us about one hour – including lunch time – by foot from the beach to the Babbacombe Model Village: we really enjoyed this experience and the little world was super-great, I was speechless in front of that wonderful village with 13,160 mini-people!

 

 

Staying in a place like Exeter is really different from my hometown, which is near the romantic Venice. One is a big modern city (for me) and one is a small town popular for its cathedral, ‘Sanctuary of Our Lady of Miracles’.

 

 

Anyway, I’m enjoying this trip, despite the “crazy” weather, and it’s much better than I thought.