#handmadeisbetter… but it won’t come cheap.

This morning I had a horrible experience at a craft fayre. I’ve already had a bit of a whinge and a moan about it over on instagram, but I thought it deserved a blog post. Let’s get one thing straight: do NOT expect handmade to be cheap.

It’s not the first time someone has disappeared after hearing what I am charging for an item, nor is it the first time someone has politely smiled and said “I’ll think about it”, which means “no, thank you”. It was, however, the first time I got a look of utter disgust. The lady lifted my mini hot water bottle, remarked how beautiful it was and then reached for her purse. When I thanked her and asked politely for the £15 I had put on it, her face dropped. Her eye brows furrowed, she looked me up and down and said “No, you’re far too expensive.”

…Excuse me?

Part of me wanted to tell her that’s her opinion, and she could have kept it to herself. The other part, the more dominant part on this occasion, wanted to cry, pack up and take myself and my hot water bottle home. I felt belittled, suddenly uncomfortable, unconfident and lacking in talent and value within a split second of her glance. How dare she make me feel that way. How dare I let her!

The thing is, I bought the little 500ml hot water bottle, then I bought the yarn and the little star buttons. I sat down and made a prototype, then I worked on my pattern to perfect it. I made the front, and then I made the back. I sewed on the buttons, I crocheted the star, then sewed it on. I crocheted the two sides together and crocheted a pretty edging along the top. Then I sewed in every yarn end. It took me about 4-5 hours. If you do the maths, without payment for materials, I’m asking for £3 per hour. Would you work for £3 per hour?

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To add insult to injury, news on the radio on the way home consisted of reports of the 1,000 people who waited in line from 7am for the reopening of Belfast’s Primark store. Don’t get me wrong, I’m very glad to see our city centre thriving again and happy for the businesses and employees who will benefit… but something seems a little off when people will queue for hours for mass-produced products – without a thought for the people who made them and how fairly they’re paid – whilst others argue with those who ask for a fair price.

Personally, I would rather buy well and buy once, and will be sticking to my guns where my pricing is concerned- as should everyone who spends hours making. You wouldn’t do your job for less money. You wouldn’t barter the prices in a shop. Don’t devalue a person or their work by asking them to offer it to you for less. If you want to buy handmade, please, please be prepared to pay the maker for their materials, their ideas and their time. Be willing to pay what they believe it’s worth, because I could nearly guarantee they still aren’t doing themselves justice.

Gillian x

Winter Garland {Collab}

Recently I was approached by the lovely girls of Your World Blog to do a collaboration. These three gorgeous young ladies encourage having a voice and making it heard, loving and looking after the world around us and creativity, which is something big, sad adults need a little encouraging in sometimes. They each post a new blog on Sundays, and reading them is like sitting down and having a good, honest chat with an old friend. They share their own thoughts, ideas and influences, and spread a little bit of much needed sunshine and positivity.

To be honest, I haven’t done a collaboration before, so hadn’t a clue as to what to suggest, but after taking a look through the girls’ blog we thought it would be fun to give the old ‘DIY Autumn Garland‘ a festive revamp for them to try and get others involved with too.

It’s pretty much the same process, using the same natural products, but just for Christmas I’ve added in a little decoration and of course, glitter.

You will need:

– 2-3 large oranges (depending on how long you want your garland to be)
– Greaseproof paper, a baking tray and a sharp knife
– Cinnamon sticks
– Twigs/pine branches/pine cones/ anything you can find!
– Twine

(Optional)
– Glitter
– Glue
– Miniature baubles/Christmas decorations (mine are little, white, wooden stars from Sostrene Grene, but supermarkets, Home Bargains, B&M bargains, Primark etc would have something you could use).


Instructions:
Slice the oranges about 2mm thick and pop them onto a baking tray on greaseproof before putting them into the oven at 50-70°C for four hours, turning them about halfway through this time. Once cooled, pass a short length of twine through each slice and tie a knot, leaving a loop to attach the orange slice to the garland.

Bind a couple of bunches of 2/3 cinnamon sticks tightly with twine, leaving a gap or loop that you can pass the twine for the garland through.

Cut the twine to your desired garland length, leaving a little extra for the knots you will be tying along it. Lay out your pine branches, pine cones, orange slices and cinnamon stick bunches as desired – here you can add any little baubles or decorations to your arrangement. Thread the twine through the loops on the orange slices and cinnamon stick bunches and tie a knot before moving on. For pine cones and pine branches wrap the twine around a couple of times and tie a tight knot.

If you like a little bit of sparkle, spread a little bit of glue over parts of your garland and sprinkle with glitter. Allow to dry and hang up your festive garland for everyone to see!

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I love a little bit of sparkle (actually, I love a lot of sparkle, but I do try to control myself), so I added some red glitter to the red twigs I foraged from a plant in the garden.

To find out how Tea and a Read is getting on with her garland, go and read her latest blog post on Your World Blog, linked here. You can also follow them on Instagram @yourworldblog. We’d love to see you give it a go and share it with us- why not try your own festive garland and share it with us via instagram, using the hashtag #createwithgillandtea!

Happy Christmas crafting!

Gillian x

DIY Autumn Garland

One thing I really wish we did in Northern Ireland is decorate our houses a bit more for Autumn. I’m not talking skeletons for Hallowe’en (eww…I’m sorry, but just nope) and we don’t need to go nuts with it either and have 3 carved pumpkins rotting on every door step; just the odd garland, apple create and maybe a fabric pumpkin or two on the shelf.

If you’ve seen my instagram feed you may have noticed that I’m pretty much always making something- I’ve got far too many ongoing projects all the time, and if I didn’t I’d just feel weird. My sisters are the same way, and whilst we all have our own niche, occasionally we like to stick our nose into what the others are doing and have a go at it ourselves.

My sister Christine (@christine.j.bell) is a talented designer – we’re expecting big things (and freebies) from her. She has some really interesting ideas for interior design and quite often uses earthy tones and natural colours for her designs. She’s also keen on using naturally occurring materials such as plants and flowers to make things, so when I walked in and found her in the kitchen last week surrounded by the smell of orange and cloves I knew she was up to something good. So good in fact, I stuck my nose in, stole a few dried orange slices and made an Autumn garland for myself.

It’s pretty, inexpensive, smells good enough to eat and adds a cosy Autumnal touch to the plain wall of our living room. They’re very easy to make and can be made using bits and pieces from the garden or a forest walk. Christine kindly let me share her idea, so if you fancy giving it a go, here’s what you’ll need:

  • 2-3 large oranges (depending on how long you want your garland to be)
  • cloves
  • cinnamon sticks
  • twigs/dried leaves/pine branches/pinecones/ anything you can find!
  • twine.

Most of the process is drying. From the garden we chose small pine branches and twisted willow, as the twigs from it curl- just leave it to dry a little to make sure no sap is coming out of anything before adding it to the garland. I figured that bit out the sticky way.

Slice the oranges about 2mm thick and press cloves into them before popping them into the oven at 50°C- 70°C for four hours, turning them over about half way through this time. Let them cool off and tie a short length of twine on to them and your twigs/cinnamon sticks/etc to attach them on to your twine.

Cut your twine to your desired length, arrange everything and then tie it on once you’re happy with it all.

Et voila!

One super-easy Autumn garland ready to hang! You don’t have to be particularly artistic, so the excuse of ‘I’m just not creative’ doesn’t wash here – there’s nothing more satisfying than being able to look at something beautiful and say ‘I made that!’.

Why not give it a go? (And share your pictures, so we can see them too!)

Gillian x