Mei Tai, Bei Dai or Mei Dai? However you spell it, Tag Togs is the place to get them!

Amanda Green of Tag Togs is taking over the blog today to talk about her business making babywear and accessories.  

From a young age I have always sewn things, when I was very young I use to get any scraps of fabric from my mums sewing projects and cut and hand sew them into clothes for my Sindy and Barbie dolls. My mum and nan then taught me how to sew and I started making clothes for myself, I did sewing at school for GCSE and A’Level before it all got grouped in with other design things, I helped make clothes for the school theatre productions, and so it seemed like a natural progression to go to uni and do a textile based degree. The sewing stopped there, the degree I did was technology based with a lot of practical but no sewing. I picked sewing back up about 10 years later when I worked as a factory manager for a pillow and mattress protector manufacturer, the ladies who did all the sewing showed me how to make the products. Now I have moved onto babywear which is a bit more fiddly than making a mattress protector, but it is a lot of fun especially when I go fabric shopping, there is too much choice!

photo (3) 20173166_1283147211807429_8685647405615415296_n33870897_915421438637046_3858785806286061568_n
I started my business after my first child in 2009, the company I worked for closed down, we made mattress protectors and pillows and I ran the business for the owner, once it had closed I decided to start my own business up doing the same thing. This has now progressed onto my babywear brand. I started making the baby carriers in 2013 when my second child was about 6 months old.

I originally went to uni and did a textile technology degree, this included spinning, weaving, CAD, dying and finishing and factory management, I think all these elements of my degree and experience in various companies have helped me to run my own business.
32806115_909600722552451_6123617366791159808_n
I have a unit in Milnsbridge, Huddersfield which is great although not ideal, the unit is set out in small offices, I would ideally like one large room with all my sewing machines in together, I am looking at re-designing the layout of the unit which will mean knocking down walls, this is something I am putting off at the moment – the mess!!

The type of baby carrier I make is called a Mei Tai or Bei Dai or Mei Dai. It has a main panel which holds the baby and 2 shoulder straps and a waist strap which ties the carrier to the parent/carer. The carrier can be personalised with a patterned accent panel on the front and the back so this would then make it a completely reversible carrier. I also make baby bags or babywearing bags , and baby clothes which co-ordinate and match the carriers.

34382079_917904115055445_580010156226510848_n
I love being in control of my work hours, (to a certain degree), one of the reasons I wanted to have my own business was to be my own boss and enable me to spend time with my children and attend school events, which is not always possible when you work for someone else.

There’s some aspects of it though, that I’d happily hand over. I find the marketing difficult, I would love someone to come and do all of that bit for me. It can also be a bit lonely sometimes, especially when you need to bounce ideas off someone or ask for someones opinion.

I would like to get my babywear into a few more shops, currently I have some products in 2 local craft shops and would like to increase this and go a bit further afield.

Amanda will be at Design@HEART on this coming Saturday 9th June at Headingley HEART Centre, Bennett Road, Leeds LS6 3HN

When you give up a successful career

Julie Ashworth is our latest designer-maker to take over the blog.  Like many of us, it’s not her first career.  Read how she gave up a successful career as an author and created  award-winning greetings card company, Yoojoo.

Designing and making greeting cards isn’t my first career, I originally trained as a teacher of Art & Design and English and taught English as a foreign language in Greece, Mexico and France. This led on to a successful career writing and illustrating award winning language books.


When my family flew the nest I found myself in search of a new challenge and it was friends who pointed the way to a new career. I like to give them hand made gifts at Christmas and used my new found skills (acquired from the jewellery making course I did at Leeds College of Art & Design) to make bookmarks of their favourite animals. I put each one inside a card and drew a scene around the animal and it was from there that my card business started to take shape.

image2

Zig zag fold card and stainless steel bookmark gift

So, I had a product but next came the challenge of turning it into a business and creating a brand and I had to drag myself (kicking and screaming) into the 21st century by learning computing skills to facilitate production and promotion.

The name Yoojoo appeared after a moment of self doubt about my illustrating skills when a friend uttered the wise words; “Look, you either use it or you lose it!”. This sparked the idea that you also use a bookmark or lose your page and the ‘oo’ sound in ‘use’ and ‘lose’ started spinning around in my head, got mixed up with Jue (which some people call me) and suddenly the word ‘Yoojoo’ appeared!

It hasn’t been easy starting again but I have enjoyed the journey (friends would probably question this remark as they get to listen to me whinging as I grapple with each new challenge!) and I am proud of the greeting card company that I have created, and the awards that it has won.
The one thing I don’t like about running a business is having my photo taken!

image3

A very young Julie receiving the English Speaking Union Award from Prince Philip in 1992

image4

A much older Julie with her British Craft Trade Fair Greeting Card Award certificate in 2016

Meet the maker

Trying to be invisible!

Yoojoo will be at the Design@HEART Art and Craft Fair on Saturday 9th June.

 

A slightly less cool way of nailing your life long ambition

This week, Paula Perrins of Wychbury Designs takes over the blog to tell us about her textiles business and her passion for stitching.

When I was young I desperately wanted to be like the fashion designer Jean Muir, with red hair, black clothes and designing things for a living, I suppose I sort of nailed it in a much less cool way! I started making things to actually sell when I had my first child in 2004 and decided not to go back to my call centre job. I love to sew but have gradually grown apart from my sewing machine in favour of hand stitch over the years.

Screenshot_20180417-141918 (2)
I started my business like many of us, to fit in around my children. I had previously worked in a jewellery factory (literally a factory, nothing creative here!) and in the pattern rooms of a couple of fabric converting companies which I loved. As this work dried up in our region, I’d fallen into working in the collections department in the call centre of a well known utilities company which I decided not to return to after giving birth to my first child in 2004. I got the opportunity to work in collaboration with my close friend and that’s where it all started.

Paula2

I am always learning. I mainly teach myself new techniques with books and the internet but have had some wonderful teachers and mentors over the years. I studied a course in Creative Textile Techniques in Saltaire in the two years between my children being born and love to attend workshops and courses when I can. I am also a new member of the Airedale Branch of the Embroider’s Guild where the members are an endless resource of knowledge and skill to learn from.

I have a workspace in the loft of my very small house in Bingley which is accessible only by a ladder. There is very little head room and I’m nearly 5’9″ so its not ideal. It’s freezing in the winter and I tend to work elsewhere in the house where it’s warmer, gradually spreading like a virus until Spring or until we run out of space, whichever comes first. Although where I live is beautiful, I dream about being somewhere warmer pretty much all of the time. I have a wonderful friend who is an artist and designer, living on Kefalonia in Greece where I got married, and I pretty much want to be her. Jealousy is an ugly word but I may be a little guilty of it sometimes if I’m honest.

Paula3
My work is all centred around my obsessive love of sewing. I make pincushions, other sewing accessories, jewellery and art work. I stitch by hand and incorporate patchwork and embroidery techniques into many of my pieces. I try to make my work express a feeling of nostalgia for a time before technology in my work, which is how I feel about making it. I use recycled and vintage fabrics as much as possible as well as collected haberdashery and try to incorporate them into my jewellery as well as my stitched work. My branding reflects my love of old things too, with lots of tea staining and hand stamped print.

I absolutely love to work with well washed, recycled fabrics with a bit of a tale to tell. I no longer buy fabric new and most of my materials are left over from other stitchers projects. English paper piecing in miniature is by far my favourite method of using up the tiny scraps of fabric.

Screenshot_20180417-141903

I like making my sewing accessories best because I know they are being bought by people who are as crazy about sewing as I am. I listen to the ladies at the Embroiderer’s Guild talk about the things they love about their sewing, favourite materials, stitches etc and try to work those ideas into my pieces.

Organised and tidy are just words that apply to other people and I struggle endlessly with balancing work and home in terms of both time and space. However, I love the flexibility of being my own boss even if it’s daunting sometimes. I love being able to work in front of my own fire or out in the garden in the Summer. Taking advantage of a sunny day to explore something new is an opportunity I’m always eager to seize! If I stall on a project and need to clear my head, I can get my boots on and go out for an hour with my whippet, Ginny any time I like.

Screenshot_20180417-142614
I really feel that after all of these years I am at a happy place with the work that I’m producing at the moment. I am pleased with the balance of production and creativity that I’ve got going on right now and I feel that the extra curricular stuff I’m doing with the Embroiderers Guild is really feeding my work and driving it forward. I love that I no longer buy fabric and keep all of my outgoings on materials to the bare minimum. Using recycled and donated materials as much as possible is both inspiring and satisfying.

Wychbury Designs will be at Design@HEART on Saturday 9th June at Headingley HEART 10am-4pm.

Your Christmas Shopping Guide

Looking for those perfect presents for friends, family and colleagues?  We’re here to help!  Here’s some ideas from Design@HEART exhibitors next month to get you started.

The Makers

Know someone who likes making and creating?  Check out these crochet and sewing project kits from Elm Rocks and Sally Sally.  And for the knitters, Ed Bennett Woodturner has a fine selection of yarn bowls to keep their wool clean and tidy.

The Local

If you know someone who loves where they live, how about a papercut map of their local area from Bethanie Yeong.  Her exquisitely fine papercuts make a beautiful gift.

Or a humorous take on our local seaside towns and tourist destinations with prints by Jack Hurley at Rubbish Seaside.

The Pamper Princesses and Princes

Know someone who needs a bit of TLC, rest and relaxation?  How about some very special handmade bath products from Little Shop of Lathers or beautifully scented candles from Calverley Candle Company?

The Writer

Do you know someone who’s determinedly traditional?  Who has shunned the keyboard for pens and paper?  Who sends letters not emails and texts?

The Jewellery Lover

Jewellery is a very personal thing.  You can’t just grab the first pair of earrings you see.  You have to think what sort of jewellery, what style, what theme and colour?  But fear not, we have lots of variety to choose from, from plastic fantastic, to sophisticated precious metals.

The Little Ones

Launcey Boo create lovely gifts for baby’s room and gifts for toddlers and Love From Poppy have a beautiful selection of clothing for little ones.

 

The Food Lover

Know someone who goes crackers over cheese and chutney? Badgers Garden have a wide selection of preserves, pickles and conserves for the food lover in your life.

 

The Accessories Fanatic

With Felted hats and scarves from Fantasy Textiles, printed silk ties, purses, and scarves from Pattern Passion, Tweed handbags from Nuthatch Designs and leather purses from Katie Roe Studio, we have no shortage of luxury accessories.

 

The Music Lover

Guitar Geekery will be returning to Design@HEART with all things musical.  Music fans and musicians alike will love these gifts and accessories.

 

Shopping local is good for you

Shopping local is good for you

Why should we shop with local businesses?

As we gear up to the crazy shopping season, many of us will be feeling the stress levels rise.  Whether your shopping list is minimal or huge, many of us choose to just click a few buttons on a well known online market place and have done with it.  But there’s a a lot of good reasons for you to hold off clicking that Add To Shopping Cart button.

Why should you shop with local businesses?  It’s more time consuming, it’s hard work, it involves thinking and doing.  But isn’t that more meaningful too, than buying another load of tat that you’re not sure anyone really wants anyway?  If you still need convincing, here’s 6 reasons to shop with your local makers, designers and businesses this Christmas.

Boost your local economy

When you shop with a local businesses, far more of the money stays in the local community.  It gets spent by local people, whereas if you shop with big online market places or high street chains, the profit goes to shareholders who are anything but local!

Shopping local is good for you

Little Shop of Lathers is a local business run by Claire Riley, selling hand made bath and skin care products. They will be at Design@HEART on 9th December.

Supporting local talent

When you shop with local artists, makers, or infact any local business, you are supporting local talent and skills.

Ethical concerns

You can be sure that handmade local goods made by local tradespeople will have travelled far less distance to get to you.  It is easier to check out the ethical origins of products, and you can be sure that even if the maker is paying him or herself peanuts, your next buy will help to elevate that to erm, cashews, rather than lining the pockets of shareholders.

Shopping local is good for you

Ed Bennett’s stall in Leeds City Centre. Ed will be joining Design@HEART on 9th December. Buying from local businesses and makers benefits the local business keeps the money in the local economy.

Be unique

You are far more likely to get something unique, something no-one else has.  When you buy from a designer-maker, this is even more so, because nothing is mass produced.  If you are shopping for gifts, you can be sure that whoever you are shopping for won’t have one of these already!

Variety is the spice of life

Supporting local businesses means that local economies are not entirely dominated and taken over by big chains and multinationals.  You get to keep some local colour, variety, and character in your community.

Warm and fuzzy

You get that warm fuzzy feeling of having met the maker, you know the provenance, you have the opportunity to find out the story behind the product.  Which you’ve got to admit adds value over and above something you’ve picked up from an anonymous seller in a high street chain!