My New Venture – Thingummy Bags 8 months on

In January I wrote about my new venture into selling handmade cotton bags on Etsy.   Eight months on I thought you might be interested in an update.    

First of all, what or who is Etsy?  I was surprised as to how many people have not heard of Etsy.  It is an e-commerce website which provides a marketplace for people around the world to sell and buy handmade and vintage goods.  They charge a small listing fee and transaction fee for every item sold.  It is USA based and a similar UK company is Folksy, I’ve not had any success selling through them. 

  
I have found that it is not just a case of listing goods and hoping someone comes along and buys them.  There is a lot of competition out there and my only hope of selling my cotton bags is to make them unique and ensure that the shop always looks good.  It takes time and hard work.  I have to keep up dating the shop so that items show up on Etsy searches by checking tags are sufficient to draw in prospective buyers and second guessing what people will put in a search tool so that my bags will pop up. 

  
I gave the shop a name – AarTee Designs and called my cotton drawstring bags ‘Thingummy Bags’.  I bought pretty tissue paper to wrap them in when posting off to buyers.   There is nothing nicer than receiving a present, and from the reviews it is clearly appreciated.  Also I always respond within a few hours to a buyer by email to thank them for their order and I endeavor to post a Thingummy Bag within a day of receiving payment.   Customer satisfaction and a good purchasing experience is all important.  

  
Getting the price right has been an absolute headache, because of the competition.  How people can sell bags at such a low price and make a profit beats me.  Even now I don’t sell them at a decent profit.  I use expensive 100% quilting cotton material and it is recommended that pricing should be the cost of materials x 3, this would mean a bag I sell at £12 really should be £15.  I don’t buy lengths of material, which would reduce costs, I buy fat quarters so no two Thingummy Bags are identical.  At the moment I am reticent at increasing my prices because I am competing against similar bags at £7.  It could be they are not as well made and I have heard it said that when prices go up so do sales – something to think about.   

  
Thingummy Bags are various sizes and can be used as knitting bags, lingerie bags, they are ideal for keeping your smalls in one place when traveling, they also make great shoe bags.   One of my main sales pitches is that a Thingummy Bag can be used for anything that you might store in an unattractive non-Eco friendly plastic carrier bag.  After discovering PUL, a waterproof material, the Thingummy Bag range now includes wash bags and nappy bags.  I have made large swimming bags to order from a customers choice of fabric pattern.   Customers have also bought Thingummy Bags to fill with goodies and give as presents, making two gifts in one. 

  
The first few months I was astounded as to how well Thingummy Bags sold, to such an extent in April I was beginning to panic that I couldn’t make enough bags.  Then in May and June sales completely slumped, which was very depressing.   At this point I thought it was time to look around to find other ways of selling.   One lovely lady in the local wool shop agreed to take a few bags on trial, but within a few weeks she moved into a larger shop as a joint venture with another lady who didn’t want to have my bags, so I took them back.   Then I tried another shop which had just opened up, selling local craft goods and renting out shelves at £20 a month with 20% commission on a sale.   May was quite a good month but then there were no sales in June or July, but she said sales in whole shop were very low. I have not renewed renting a shelf, it is cheaper to leave my goods on Etsy. 

  
I was due to foray into the craft stall world at the end of August and made lots of bags but because of a hospital appointment on the same day I have had to cancel.   I hope to sell a lot more Thingummy Bags within the next couple of months as I have some fabulous Christmas fabrics to make into gift bags of different sizes. 
Please spread the word and pay my shop a visit at http://www.aarteedesigns.etsy.com.    There is a 10% blog readers welcome discount quote code WELCOME15

  
The next daunting hurdle is completing an online HMRC tax return!  I’ve not made any profit yet but as a sole trader have had to register. 

Pete Oudolf Garden – Bruton, Somerset

I can’t believe its been a month since my last post on the Hurtled to 60 blog.   Writing is habit forming and once out of the habit, there is a fear that writing a blog will fade into the past, I don’t want that to happen so I must get my act together.

A couple of weeks ago I went with a friend on a long weekend to Somerset to do a spot of garden visiting. He particularly wanted to visit the Pete Oudolf garden at the Hauser & Wirth art gallery in Bruton, a pretty village and unusual place to find a modern art gallery with a naturalistic garden of grasses and tall perennials.

I had mixed feelings about the garden which is entered via the art gallery.   My opinion on what was on show as “art” is probably best kept to myself, save to say I am yet to understand how a LED scrolling text can be art, I see something like this every day at the train station and there is nothing artistic about looking at that.  It’s all down to understanding conceptual art which is beyond me.

Back to the garden.   Unfortunately, the first impression was of the overwhelming cooking smells emanating from the restaurant kitchen.   The wind was clearly in the wrong direction and I overheard several people in the garden commenting on what smelled like barbeque steak.  A mouth watering aroma in the right place is fine but not walking around a garden.

You are met at the entrance to the garden by a strange oblique clock by Anri Sala with a very loud tick – slightly surreal!

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Pete Oudolf describes his style as romantic, spontaneous, organic and nostalgic.  He plants in clumps rather than drifts using tall perennials such as veronicastrum, sanguisorba, filipendula, cimicifuga, thalictrum, rudbeckia, eupatorium.  The prairie grasses are interplanted with Achillea ‘Feuerland’, Echinacea pallida ‘Hula Dancer’, Amsonia hubrichtii, Lythrum salicaria ‘Swift’ and the strawberries-and-cream Sedum ‘Coral Reeves’.

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I prefer a garden where you can round corners and find something new and different, but this is a garden you can view in the whole.   Personally, I didn’t think there was enough height, peoples heads were visible no matter where you are  in the garden, but then I am not a garden designer and possibly have missed the point.  I did like the planting though and there was something quite tranquil  wandering around and watching the grasses waft in the wind around the Rudbekia and Echinacea.

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Along with not understanding the exhibitions in the gallery, I couldn’t understand the monstrosity at the top of the garden, it looked like a lost prop from the children’s tv program ‘In the Night Garden’.  Out of curiosity I went in to see if I could glean any idea as to what it was or why it was there and found tables, chairs and a bar and the strange black funnel thing turned out to be a window which does have a great view.  It is called the Radic Pavilion and is the work of a Chilean architect Smiljan Radic.

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On balance I think I like this garden, I found it interesting and would be happy to go again.  I believe that a garden should be visited on several occasions at different times of the year before making a full judgment as to whether you like it or not.   I would recommend if you are in the area to pay the Pete Oudolf garden in Bruton a visit and decide for yourself.

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Website: http://www.hauserwirth.com

OPENING HOURS

Hauser & Wirth Somerset is open Tuesday – Sunday (Closed Mondays except Bank Holidays)

Gallery & Garden:
10 am – 5 pm (March – October)
10 am – 4 pm (November – February)

Come into my garden 

Welcome to my contribution to an English Cottage garden.  Today it’s sunny, warm and we have had some rain, which is much needed.  I am feeling really pleased  with my garden so am going to give you a little tour.   It maybe one of the smallest gardens in the garden blogging fraternity but it keeps me busy and there is a lot in it. 
It is west facing and surrounded on three sides by a Victorian stone wall.   I have lived here for 14 years and been plagued by the ivy, it is an ongoing battle.  I have a new neighbour to the left and I was more than delighted when he cut down the ivy on his side that had grown into trees!  The difference it has made is phenomenal, there is so much more light in the garden. 
  
The grass is full of clover, I did a feed and weed job on it earlier this year, leaving me with a lot of ugly black patches – at least the moss has died!  It is now very patchy with lush grass where I sowed ‘patch fix’ and a different coloured grass in other places.  No doubt it will settle down, it’s a patch of green anyway although far from being a lawn as purists would have it.
 This year I moved my garden table on to the little patio area at the back of the house.   It is quite cosy here sitting with the Compassion rose towering on one side and the Rasberry bushes and fennel on the other.  The Sweet peas ‘Beaujolais’ seem to be struggling, I was a little late in sowing them and they are taking time to catch up but will get there eventually.  
 
  
On the other side of the Compassion Rose is a small raised bed in which I usually grow vegetables.  This year because I had extra cucumber and tomato plants I decided I would grow some outside also.  The cucumbers ‘market more’ are doing really well but the tomatoes ‘sweet million’ are slow to flower so not sure if I will get many toms this year.
  
 Fortunately most of the ivy has gone from the north facing wall so the garden does get a lot more light on that side than in last years. The soil is heavy clay and despite years of adding compost etc it still gets waterlogged in the winter. This bed is full of Astilbe, Hostas, Achemila Mollis and a Hydrangea.  Although Crocosmia likes sunshine, it still grows happily at the back of this border.   The Potentilla is flowering well this year which is a first, it had always struggled in the past. 
 
 

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I have a side patio which is south facing and a real micro climate, and sun trap.  It is looking exceptionally lush at the moment.  The white Agapanthus has graced me with two flowers this year and the Passion flower is just beginning to bloom.  I am growing a couple of cucumber plants in the greenhouse just to see which fair better, the ones outside or these.  At the moment it is neck and neck, I will report back in a few weeks.
  
 White agapanthus
Marketmore Cucumbers 
 
  
   Passion Flower
 
I haven’t blogged much in the last few months but I do hope I still have some followers and you have enjoyed this little trip around my garden on the coast in West Sussex. 

Penstemons and Roses

Long before I became interested in gardening, my first introduction to Penstemons was via my father in law.  He grew all sorts of varieties, but I was young and paid little notice.  I had no idea how easy they are to grow and they are slug and snail proof!  A couple of years ago I bought Penstemon ‘Garnet’, I give it a hardy prune early Spring and it rewards me with an abundance of flowers.  It has made its way through the Salvia ‘Hot Lips’ which blends in well with Garnet.

 

Last year I bought three more Penstemons, ‘Sour Grapes’ which is an almost florescent bluish purple, the pretty pink and white ‘Vocano Fujiyama’ and a similar colored ‘Apple Blossom’ which had not flowered yet, hence only pics of the first two.


  

  In keeping with an Enlish country garden in June, the roses are looking magnificent.    The ‘Compassion’ rose never fails and was the first to flower earlier this month. 

   

 I love the ‘Peace’ rose, bought for me on my 60th by a friend as a ‘Silver Jubilee’ rose, it was clearly mislabeled but turned out to be a gem for the garden.

 This year the ‘Ballerina’ is doing particularly well, adding much needed color at the bottom of the garden.  This is always necessary at this time of year when the spring plants have died down and the summer flowers are yet to make a show.

 I have one rose without a label and can’t for the life of me remember it’s name.  However it’s vibrant color is a joy, although once it’s fully flowered, unlike the ‘Peace’, it doesn’t hold its blooms for long and the petals fall quickly. 

  

Not one to be deterred or beaten by the technology it has taken me a week to get this post correctly loaded.  For some reason the WordPress app on my iPad has been very unforgiving and has sorely tried my patience.  A bit of Googling and setting readjustments, along with a friend suggesting I upload the photos first and then add the writing I finally succeeded.