Tuesday, 30 October 2012

Regarding Facebook

I've just read PandoDaily's article 'Enough with the entitled whining - Facebook isn't running an advertising charity', forwarded to me and many others, on Facebook, by Tara Gentile.

It's an interesting read, especially in the 'comments' section. It's about Fb reducing the amount of fans who see posts from business pages, and then charging businesses to promote their posts so that a higher percentage of their fans will be reached.

I can understand the concept that Fb is a business and needs to generate revenue, and the obvious thing to do is to charge people who have business pages for what is essentially advertising. As a late starter to Fb, I was surprised that it had business pages and that they were FREE. I thought Fb was just about catching up with friends, but heck, if it's going to offer me a free business page then I'm going to take it! But now the other shoe drops. Many of the larger companies are ticked off because they gained fans through paid adverts in the first place and are now having to pay to ensure that MOST of those fans are kept updated. The smaller businesses are feeling disappointed and shoved out into the cold because they simply can't afford to pay to reach more than the 15% of fans that Fb is allowing them to reach at the moment.

I am one of those smaller businesses. As micro-businesses and self start-ups, I think my fellow tiny businesspeople and I felt we were a part of the community that Fb strived so hard to create. It seemed to want us to be there, we were a welcome part of it's philosophy and there was no notion of it turning out to be a false friend. It nurtured us. It grew and we grew with it.

And then it turned out to be a drug dealer, standing on the same corner every night, saying hello and offering you a pick-me-up because you're it's good friend, and then one day... you're hooked and it's charging you. There's a menacing smirk where once there was a warm smile. It wants it's money or else.

In this case the 'or else' is that you lose your ability to reach your page fans with your posts. And your colleagues, contacts, suppliers, mentors, moral support system, fellow artists, the list goes on. It's not pure sales that we small businesses are after. It's much more than that; it's community.

So, is there an upside to paying for your posts to be promoted? Maybe. As far as I can work out it's not just your own fans the posts will be promoted to, so there's the possibility of picking up some more attention. If your content is good the people who see your posts will share them with their friends - oh, wait, that was already happening. Um...

Okay, so what do we do? Not only has this set our heads spinning, our business page news feeds are totally screwed up as well. Posts sent weeks ago clog up today's feed, updates from mentors and suppliers reach us way too late to respond, we're missing information that we needed to know two weeks ago, for goodness sake! Heaven forbid someone try to tell us something important.

We could let our feet do the talking. Walk away. Leave the comforts of Fb, now that they're not really so comfortable after all. Google+ has a similar set-up, for free, and if there are any charges to be made they're outlined up front. Perhaps one day they'll have an afterthought too, and start charging for something they've always given away for free. Oh, and by 'free' I mean in exchange for us promoting them on our business cards, e-mail signatures, websites, word-of-mouth... anywhere you see the Fb link button or tell people your Fb address.

So I'm keeping Fb for the moment. I'd like to see what happens. But I've started up a G+ account as well, to cover my bets. I like the way it displays pictures. Come on over and say hi.

The article:

My new G+ page:

Wednesday, 3 October 2012

The Jane Austen Festival, Bath 2012

I am so lucky to live in the very place where this festival is held! Each year people flock from far and wide to attend; to live a Regency life for a week or so, and this year I was able to fully participate too. And I met many of those wonderful, like-minded people! Good stuff.

Photo credits to: Kelly & Neil Lewis, Helen Halley
To start with, I had a stall in the Guildhall ballroom on the opening Saturday of the festival. This year's market was excellent, I thought, the ballroom lined with all kinds of wares - hats, gloves, haberdashery, sewing patterns, original Austen-inspired novels, hairpieces... and mine, of course, with mannequins displaying garments for ladies and gents, knick knacks for sale and my friend Kelly Louise Lewis's jewellery and stationery. The whole place buzzed with excitement. New friends made, old friends re-acquainted, and the first official day in Regency kit.

I was pleased with how my stall was received, and with the feedback I got on my costumes and on the prototypes for the new fabric range I'm developing... yes, you heard right, I'm venturing into the wondrous realms of fabric design! This is my current Big Thing. I've chosen Regency colours for this first collection, pomona green, primrose yellow, puce and such, and the patterns are a lovely stripe, a floral motif and an all-over lace look. Other collections will come a little later, for other periods. I won't reveal everything I've got planned just yet, but you will be the first to know when the range goes live!
Looking in vain for our Poohsticks...
Photo credit to: Lorna McKenzie

Saturday evening saw a group of us dining on venison at the Garrick's Head, then Sunday was the mini promenade, a look around the Holbourne Museum (I'd never been there before, but I'll be going again! It was wonderful!) and a delightful stroll around Sydney Gardens with dear friends. Our attempts at playing 'Poohsticks' were a bit scuppered by the bridge being over a canal rather than a stream... no water flow, so our sticks never made it to the other side of the bridge :D

A group of us visited the Pump Rooms for afternoon tea on the Tuesday, which was a most satisfying experience. Again, this was a place I'd never been before - or not for refreshments, anyway - and I am pleased to say that I would happily go again. While the set teas sound intimidatingly expensive, in reality the price for a pot of tea and a cheese scone were about the same as anywhere else here. And the tea was gorgeous! I had the rose pouchong.

Photo credits to: Virginia Creeper, Lorna McKenzie,
Claire Violet Hanley, & some nice members of the public
 who had my camera thrust upon them!
After a few hilarious rounds of the lovely Regency game 'Graces' in Queen's Square, dinner that evening was the early bird special at Sally Lunn's. A pleasantly tasty meal with great company. I think everyone else in the restaurant that night now has photos with us in our costumes!

Thursday saw James and I attending the 'Noisy Game of Lottery Tickets' Regency games evening at the Jane Austen Centre. Plenty of wine and sweet nibbles (and some song!), lots of laughter (especially from the Aussies and the Wigans), good natured gambling, and our friend Mr. Elliot managed not to lose any items of clothing! Ah well, there's always next year...

Having missed out on tickets for the ball at the Pump Rooms, on Friday James and I had a wonderful meal at La Barrique, near the Theatre Royal, then met up with our revelling friends for an after ball party. Excellent fun!

Tired little bunnies, the weekend was mostly spent sleeping :)

Miss Stephens reigns victorious at Graces; Mr. Westall prepares to cut cake with Mr. Elliot's sword; Mr. Elliot and the Misses Watson marvel over an extraordinary device.
Photo credits to: Virginia Creeper, Lorna McKenzie
It was a really good festival, in my opinion. Everyone I spoke to was enjoying themselves, and that's the whole point, isn't it?

Did any of you attend this festival or another one recently? I'd love to hear all about it!

Take care,

P.S. If you click on the pictures they open into a bigger window xxV

Note: As this was a very social event with people from all over the world, I did not make all the costumes pictured! My ones are: James's Georgian gentleman officers outfit (except for the breeches), Kelly's white Regency dress, my shepherdess outfit, my red and yellow Georgian outfit and all the costumes on the stall.

Monday, 24 September 2012

Out with the Old...

There's a complete make-over in store for my costume and dressmaking website, At the moment it's looking very pink! That won't last long, though, as I apply my new colour scheme soon...

Monday, 10 September 2012

Here It Comes!

Yes, that's right folks, it's September already and time for the annual Jane Austen Festival here in beautiful Bath! It all kicks off officially this coming Saturday, with the famous promenade through town and the market at the Guildhall... where YOURS TRULY will be in graceful* attendance! Hooray!!

Come and say 'hello'! My lovely assistant, Kelly, and I are quite nervous about having a stall (it's been a while since either of us did this kind of thing), and we've never had one at the JA Festival before, so we'll be pleased to see some friendly faces :)

While the main focus of the stall will be on promoting my dressmaking services - I'll be fully equipped to take orders and/or measurements right there and then - there will be lots of little goodies to be had as well. Handy things; pretties; things that will fit in your reticule, and if you don't already have one... well, let's see if I can tempt you with my silks and tassels!

And if there's something special you need or desire, please do ask! Kelly and I are both available to take orders for many different kinds of items (Kelly's specialities are jewellery and stationery design).

We lovingly make all our pretties with our own fair hands. They are often limited runs or completely one of a kind.

Our aim is to ease, augment and prettify your wonderful Regency life, right here in the present day.

See you there!

* Well, I say graceful... :P

Monday, 23 July 2012

The Unfettered Ink Blog Hop, or: How I Got Into This Crazy Thing

So now I have my own business. Again!

Yep, that's right, it's my second go on this merry-go-round and I love it.

Why? Because I can't be tied down to doing just one thing. I'm creative in all kinds of ways and it bursts out all over the place. Any time I've had a job doing one of the things I love, I've pined for doing the other things I love too. In full time conventional 'jobs' I found I just couldn't win - I had too many ideas, was too forthright, too outspoken and sometimes just too darn practical for the people I worked for. I can't stand injustice, and the conventional working world is full of it. Being my own boss is the way for me. Hopefully one day I'll be a good boss to others, too, and all along the journey I want to encourage others to follow their hearts just like I'm doing. It's trial and error, but it's my trial and error.

It has always felt natural to me to be self employed. I like the variety. Back in New Zealand I worked nights doing front-of-house in theatres, and days sewing costumes or dressmaking. That was my ideal balance. It covered the majority of my creative urges while giving me flexibility and a great social life. Here in England I'm focussing on the sewing, particularly anything historical, as there's so much opportunity to learn and grow. It's fulfilling, though I don't get out much :) Together with taking a degree in art history and languages, it keeps me pretty busy doing things I love. My horizons expand more every day.

I spend a lot of time learning about how to run a small business. Tara Gentile is my current favourite 'guru', as I definitely have hang-ups to do with earning money. I have never felt worthwhile (some of which is to do with my efforts to conform in the 'real' worlds of school and work) and part of my current challenge is to evaluate the way I see myself and my relationship to worth and money, and to re-frame these negative self-beliefs into positive, soul nurturing truths. To me, having your own business is so much more than just earning your own wage: it's a way of looking at yourself and everything around you; a huge, continual growth curve; a self-affirming, living entity.

So here I am: same business, different country. Going for it!

 (Virginia is a dressmaker, costumier and doll artist in Bath, UK. She has worked for ballet, opera, repertory, film and rental companies, and is currently undertaking commissions from the National Trust among others.)

This has been part of the Unfettered Ink Blog Hop. The participant before me was   Elizabeth Floyd, and the one after me is Nata, And the beat goes on…. The blog hop will be open to all on the 1st of August, so if you'd like to take part you can see the Details here.

Unfettered Ink Blog Hop :)


I'll be posting my blog hop piece here shortly. Watch this space!

Thursday, 19 July 2012

Early Memories

Hey all,

I've just been reading a lovely blog post written by Emily at She has such a beautiful website! This particular post was all about the sweet peas she grows, detailing the varieties she's experimented with this season and just generally spreading the sweet pea joy. Reading it put me in mind of this:

My first proper gardening experience was growing a packet of sweet peas for a school project. Mum and I did it together and it was awesome :) They were really well scented ones, and grew really high. They made me so happy :) I can't remember how old I was... maybe six?

I love sweet peas, a love made sweeter by the associated memory. When I think about it, I can still smell those first flowers, grown by my mum and I :)

Do you have any nice memories associated with scents? I'd love to hear about them :)

Monday, 2 July 2012

A Little 'Home' Decoration :)

Testing, 123... Trying to distract myself from a rotten headache, I've been playing with decorating my blog. A little 'home' decorating, I guess you could say. So now I have a shiny new header (notice the glitter writing? Pretty flash, huh?) and a button to share and a signature - oh YES! There it is, down there in the corner - woohoo! Thanks for both the gorgeous graphics and the tutorials on how to use them :)

I'm off to bed with a smile on my face :)

Thursday, 28 June 2012

Why Blog?

This is something I've been pondering for a while now. Well, for about as long as I've wanted to write a blog myself, which is a lot longer than I've been writing this one! I was so chicken at first and took ages to get myself into gear and DO it. There are so many things to think about: what to write about, who will read it, will anyone read it, does every entry need a picture, how does my blog tie in with my Facebook page or my website, am I writing it to get work or to document the work I've got... the list got so long it began to eat away at my confidence and my enthusiasm for just getting stuck in and writing. 
I haven't settled on answers to any of those questions yet, except maybe the one about work. Yes, I'm here to promote my skills and to hopefully pick up some work from it. This is, after all, a medium that can be used to showcase oneself and to establish relationships with people. But what I get really enthusiastic about when I think about having a blog is the chance to write. I can write about anything at all just for the sheer enjoyment of writing. I'd like to have loads of people read it, enjoy it and give me massive accolades and lots of money for it, but seeking approval is a part of human nature. Isn't it? My gratification will come from the process of writing, creating and allowing myself to have a voice.

This is a (paraphrased) comment about a recent Etsy article on blogging:

Quality Handmade Items from WhisperingOak says:
To blog or not to blog... One good project always come from jotting down ideas. A blog could be the start of very personal sketchbook.
The idea of a blog being a personal sketchbook appeals to me. It says 'This blog is creative. It's not tied down to anything. It's free to be itself. If I could pin a piece of fabric to it right now, I would.'
How do you feel about your blog? Do you use it as a personal sketchbook, or as something else?

Tuesday, 22 May 2012

What do I want from my business?

I'm up late watching a new business lecture on Etsy. It's presented by Tara Gentile and Megan Auman, two bright and bubbly ladies who have a fantastic enthusiasm for teaching business philosophy and practicalities to craftspeople like me. They are AWESOME.

Tonight they're teaching me about earning money and pricing for profit. It seems that my attitude towards earning reflects several different things: what I learnt about money when I was growing up; how I perceive the value of hand making goods from home; my deep down attitudes to earning money by doing something I love and enjoy; how I feel about myself and my personal worth; and maybe a few other things that I can't yet put into words. Tara is encouraging me to think about my 'money story', to get it out in the open and to change the way I view money so that I can take a more positive approach to pricing, earning and using it. I like this idea. It makes a lot of sense to me.

As does Megan's way of viewing and calculating product prices. She talks about value - not value as in 'bargain' like I tend to think of it (that is totally ingrained in me!), but value as in 'valuable - worthwhile'. I think the phrase ' value for money' has a lot to answer for in creating the misconception that if you buy something at a low price you're getting greater worth. (I'm not sure if how I said that makes any sense.) Anyway, Megan turns the situation around and asks what perceived value the customer will find in the item they buy from me, eg. years of looking and feeling awesome swishing and swashbuckling around, playing at living life in 'the good old days'. It's an interesting way to look at your own goods, I guess because you don't see them that way yourself.

This is lots of food for thought for me, which I'll probably be munching on for a good while. I hope it's low-cal!!

Here's the link if you'd like to check it out:

Wednesday, 9 May 2012

Here are some pictures, as promised. There are more in an album on my Facebook page: (If you're not on Fb but would like to see the other pics, just let me know and I'll send them to you :) )

I found the pattern for this project over at The tutorial tells you how to make the armrest pincushion itself, but the block designs are up to you. I'm loving it!

Tuesday, 8 May 2012

Hey hey y'all, how you doin'?

I've been a little laid up these last few weeks with my stupid all-tired-out-ness, so I've mainly been working on small projects that aren't too taxing, like small quilting blocks. Quilting and patchwork for the sake of it is pretty new to me, being from a garment making background, so it's been kind of a strange transition into making something that is almost purely decorative. Somehow it seems wasteful to me to not be able to wear the finished product! To ease myself in I've been working on a much needed pincushion/pocket thingy to go over the arm of the couch - very useful for all the tons of hand sewing I do. It has five 6 1/2" square patchwork blocks and a lightly quilted pincushion, so I'm trying out various block designs that I've never done before, plus one that I have: the Japanese scallop/shell one. (I have no idea what it's called, but the look of it has always appealed to me and I've used it before in textile design work with City & Guilds.)

My pincushiony thing has black as it's base colour and two particular patterned fabrics that I'm working the colours around - one is little purple and green golfers on an off-white background and the other is a collection of brightly coloured cartoon style bits of sewing room equipment on a black background. Then I have some burgundy roses on off-white and three different pieces of Christmas fabric, left over from making gift bags. I'll put some pics up soon so you can see what I'm talking about.

So far I've made a fan block, inspired by my visit to The American Museum in Bath a few weeks ago. They have a stunning fan quilt on display, which my friends and I loved and tried to take photos of, but to no avail. Fuzzy wuzzy photos. What made that quilt stand out for me was the black background, the bright fabrics applied to it, and the simple but highly decorative embroidery in every blank spot, nook and cranny and all along most of the fan seams. Absolutely gorgeous. It was like a sampler, but a useful sampler. All those stitches you'd love to try out but never seem to find the right home for, here it is. The perfect place to let your imagination run wild. Countless different stitch and colour combinations were represented in this one quilt. It blew me away. I thoroughly enjoyed making my little one.

Then I made a selvedge block. Very cool concept, using the cast-offs from the very fabric you're making the rest of your project from. That features some embroidery now too. Just a bit of feather stitch, you understand...

And now I'm working on a Granny's Garden of lovely hexagons. Well, I hope they're hexagonal enough to join together neatly. I freehanded it. Shrug. I remember Mum teaching me how to patchwork with hexagons when I was little. I made a pincushion :)

The Japanese shell/scallop thingamy one is sitting here waiting to be stitched. I'll have to cut a couple more pieces first, but it's looking pretty good. Maybe I'll embroider all over it!

Catch ya later!

:) V

Tuesday, 20 March 2012


Well hello there! Welcome to my blog. I plan on writing about my work, my play & things I discover as I go about my daily business. I'd like to write about the things you'd like to hear about, too :) so please do drop me a line and let me know what's on your mind.

First, a bit about me. I sew. And I make stuff in all manner of other ways too. It would be a mild understatement to call me a 'creative type'. I get tetchy if I'm not making something - some of you guys probably know the feeling. Mostly I try to confine myself to costumes, dressmaking and art dolls... but when I get cold I reach for the crochet hook and delve into my wool stash to make a blanket for my knees... I'm working on a cream, brown and grey one at the moment, to compliment my brown sofa and rug in the sitting room. And I just started making a patchwork quilt for the bed, which is going to be one of those ones where none of the fabrics really match and all the bits come from different projects I've done, experiments or memories.

My work can be found at  and for costume/dressmaking and art dolls respectively. You're welcome to join me on Facebook at: I'll write more about my work later.

As the evenings drew in this winter I began to crochet a blanket for my new home. The colours were chosen to complement the brown couch and carpet. I haven't done any crochet for a loooong time, so it's a bit of a learning curve for me.

To cheer myself up on rainy days I started to play with patchwork blocks - again, something I haven't done in a long time. Ayumi at is a great inspiration :) More on both of these projects a bit later.