Thursday, August 31, 2006


Okay, now I'm sure I'm somehow cursed!... It's the second medieval event this year we were supposed to go to and I got sick two days before, so we are not going anywhere!... (correction: I'm going to bed in a moment and I will stay there till Monday, continously, as doctor ordered!...)
Well, at least I'll try to catch up on knitting in between the coughing and cleaning my nose...

Here is my almost finished August project Knitting Tote for Bag Me KAL:

I still need to line it and add the handles, but I think I'll do it next week.

I also chose the pattern for the September project - it should be a felted bag with some charted motif knitted, and I found some nice design that looks Norwegian to me. I haven't decided on the colours yet.

Off to bed now...

Tuesday, August 29, 2006


What Kind of Knitter Are You?

You appear to be a Knitting Guru. You love knitting and do it all the time. While finishing a piece is the plan, you still love the process, and can't imagine a day going by without giving some time to your yarn. Packing for vacation involves leaving ample space for the stash and supplies. It can be hard to tell where the yarn ends and you begin.
Take this quiz!

True, true!...

Have I ever told you that I love bath products? I especially love the moment when I have a new bottle of a bath lotion or something, and I use it for the first time!... ^^ Last night I had such a wonderful bath with a new Fa Lotus Blossom and Cherry shower cream, yummy! It was even more romantic because I had several candles around me on my bathtub.
Yeah, the lamp wasn't working again, I really need to get electrician to check it! ^v^

I am in fact a really really happy person since yesterday, because I finally found the source of fleece (or whatever you call it in English, but you know what I mean). ^^ I was so jealous that you all wrote about dyeing and spinning and felting the fleece, and I couldn't get the stuff in Poland to give it a try!... But finally someone is selling it here, too, so I bought 1 kg of fleece and here it came (in a bag with a cute sheep print on! ^^):

Here is some of the fleece - I am trully amazed how soft it is! I've never touched fleece before (I touched sheepskin many times, but it's very rough compared to my fleece!...). I could crawl into a big pile of it and sleep soundly all long Winter!

I'm going to make myself a drop spindle and learn how to spin using this tool - I'll have my hands busy during Viking events! ^^ And my friend Anna is bringing me tomorrow the book about dyeing fiber with plant dyes, so I'm planning to try it next year.

Talking about Anna, here is what she gave me last week, as a present for my name's day (I drink tea all the time):


Monday, August 28, 2006

How NOT to tackle your craft business

Last Friday while cleaning my wardrobe I listened to the podcast on Craftsanity, where Alicia Paulson (an amazing creative person, I really really love her stuff and her blog! ^^) talks about her successful retail craft business.
And I decided to write about how NOT to approach your business, basing on my own experience, in hope that some of you out there may avoid my own mistakes and finish as successful as Alicia herself. ^^

All the mistakes I've made while deciding on our little gothic boutique (not exactly in the given order):

1. Two makes a company?

At the beginning I had very small financial means, so we decided to open a shop together - me and my best friend Anna. We put on the table the same amount of money and started to discuss all the relevant issues, like setting the company, store location, things we want to sell, ect. We laughed at that time that we are best friends and we are definitely going to succeed because we think along the same lines and will not try to cheat on each other, but support each other in every aspect.
This assumption turned out to be the first mistake.
(Just to clarify here: no, we did not try to steal money from each other, which sometimes happen in the joint ventures like that and which is what people are mostly afraid of - both of us were totally honest and all the money issues went smoothly, thank Gods! ^^)
First of all, we needed our business to be officially registered, so I set up a company (this was cheaper to have one official company, so I "hired" Anna in "my" shop). Which meant that all the paperwork, contacts with the accountant, with every authority was on my head. Of course all the responsibility was only mine, because Anna was officially "only my employee". It was difficult for me to think about it all the time when she had nothing like that to worry about.
Secondly, we thought we have the same vision of what we wanted to sell, how our shop should look like, ect. In reality in turned out that I leaned towards more elegant Victorian gothic stuff, while Anna wanted more cyber metal punkish goods, which affected our supplies and left the customers confused about the contents of the store.
Third, I'm not perfect myself (more about it later in the section about the store itself), but Anna turned out to be a person, who would do everything you would tell her to do - but you would have to tell her and give instructions, and in the end you wouldn't be sure whether she did it correctly. Also, which made me even more angry with her than just lack of motivation and initiative - I noticed that she sometimes didn't fulfill her duties properly (like sewing something fo a client) and started to blame it on everybody and everything else but not on herself (sometimes even on me saying to the client that it was me who forgot to bring the stuff from home, ect!...). I know when I do something wrong and I can take responsibility for my mistakes, I don't need other people to blame theirs on me!
So, choose your business partner wisely, think about your and his good and bad sides, think how your traits may affect your work together.

2. What to sell?

We decided on two lines of products: gothic goods because we liked them and heavy metal t-shirts because we thought they would pay our bills.
You don't mix these two worlds together, as they appeal to two different groups of customers. We had a huge rack full of t-shirts throughout all six months of our shop's existence and we sold just a few of them. We wondered why and then we heard from a friend that because we advertised our shop as mainly a gothic shop, heavy metal fans wouldn't come and buy the t-shirts even if they were 1 dollar a piece!... That's how this environment functions.
There was also a product problem within the term "gothic" itself between me and Anna - as I said, I liked frilly, lacy, elegant Victorian clothes and accessories and Japanese Gothic Lolita fashion, while Anna wanted leather, studs, chains, punkish unhemmed skirts with razors and safetypins, ect. I'm not saying one or the other is better in any way - it's just we struggled with those two fashions on a very small shop area and customers were often confused what kind of shop it really was - lace to the right, leather to the left, and in the middle this big rack full of heavy metal t-shirts, remember?...
So, choose your range of products wisely and give them a really thorough thinking BEFORE you supply your shop with tons of different stuff.

3. To have or not to have a shop downtown?

We rented a small place in a crappy area. In fact, it was the centre of the city. The crappy part? These were the small stalls in old buildings, mainly occupied by sex shops and peep shows. Well... We thought that it's a good location - centre of Warsaw, right next to subway station, and we thought we could earn enough to pay the rent. Which unfortunately wasn't true... The place was a two storey shop and we only used the lower floor - but of course we had to pay for the whole shop. We tried to renegotiate the price but there was no answer from the owner. There was also the electricity bill, building tax bill, not to mention all the money we had to spend BEFORE even starting the business - redecoration, furniture, new locks on the door, insurance, all the small bits and pieces that made it look like our dream shop.
Now I think that we should have started with an on-line shop first, see how much we can earn monthly, and then decided to rent a place or not (and get to know our top limit rent that we can afford).
Then there was a selling issue - at least for me... I found out that I... HATE sitting in the shop and dealing with customers!... It really was an everyday torture... I'm just not good around many strangers, I'm very very shyin person (REALLY!), I don't know how to chit-chat, my stomach hurts at the thought of a public speech. When I meet someone new, I must get used to this person, get to know her/him, and suddenly I was exposed to many new people talking to me, wanting something from me, trying to get a bargain on something (I can't negotiate prices...). I'm perfectly fine with spending a whole day sitting at home on my own, sewing or knitting! Strangers scared me, I felt uneasy and wasn't a very nice shop assistant (although I tried really hard, believe me!). My smile wasn't very natural when inside I was frozen with panic!...
On the other hand, Anna is very sociable and on her afternoon shifts shop was always full of her friends. Not that anyone was buying anything... There was just a lot of people sitting around, talking and laughing, and it wasn't the best solution - it was supposed to be a shop, not a club...
So, before you rent a place for your shop and spend lots of money on redecoration and furniture, carefully count all the possible costs (add impossible too, they will definitely emerge!), and consider whether you are made to be a good shop assistant (think about your relations with others, your interpersonal skills, ect).

We closed the shop after six months.
I'm still crawling out of debts (and will be for the next one year).
We almost bit our heads off at the end...
We learned a lot and this experience was definitely needed.
We split the supplies into two - I took gothic and second-hand stuff and continued to have an on-line shop Atelier Bizarre, Anna took t-shirts and the rest of metal stuff and tried to open the new shop but she had problems with renting another cheaper place and finally quit.
We stopped at the best moment, when we talked and explained many things, and we are still the best friends! ^^

Learn from your mistakes, but from other people's too! ^^

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Pincushion thoughts

Sometimes I wonder whether I should try so many things at a time.
I sew. I knit. I embroider and weave in various techniques. I make macrame. I naalbind. I crochet. I draw a bit, I paint a bit.
I make clothes, jewelery, accessories.
Isn't it too much for one girl? Shouldn't I concentrate on something and make it perfect instead of touching one craft and following to another? I don't even have time to practice all of them, so I give up some crafts in favour of the others (okay, I'm not very fond of crocheting, so I don't do it often, but I do love to embroider and I really don't have time for it while doing everything else, especially cross-stitching embroidery which is very time-consuming!....). I try to make a living out of artistic sewing, but as you are probably aware, handmade objects usually have to be very underpriced in order to be sold - poeple just expect to get everything for free... (which is sad, because we really put our best efforts to create something useful and pretty at the same time!).
I haven't been to artistic schools where they teach various techniques and when I enter the art shop I feel lost, looking at all those different paints, papers, brushes and objects I cannot even name. All I know I've learnt either from my grandmother or from the books/internet. I'm not an artist, I don't create things which you can hang on the wall or put on a shelf and admire. I make useful items with a touch of Beauty (I like to think about them like that. ^^) .
September is coming and I have to decide if I want to attend second year of the jewelery course. It's fun to make jewelery, but maybe I should concentrate on fabric crafts instead (it's 6 hours/week)? Because as much as I like making silver jewelery, I won't have my own fully equiped workshop in the near future (no space, no money), and without some tools I won't be able to do anything at home.
And whenever I want to try something new I keep asking myself, whether it can bring any profit to our family budget or is it just for my fun of making it? Is it an investment or a hobby all together?
Any thoughts on that, please?

Anyway, here is the pincushion parade. ^^

And my favourites:

Each of them is made of plain wool and patterned cotton, with a satin ribbon to hang it on the wrist, embroidery floss and two faux pearls, and some insect aplique, 10 cm in diameter. I'll be sending them to the on-line gallery to sell (they already have some of my bags), so keep your fingers crossed as I have no idea whether Polish audience is willing to buy something like that. ^^

And last, but not least, a very poor quality photo from my mobile phone:

- my Mom (who is retired and has lots of free time) bought 300 sq metres plot of land to turn it into a recreational place - to have flowers, some fruit and meet friends for a barbecue. And what you can see in this photo is my own (mine, mine! ^^) piece of this land, where I'm going to plant vegetables next year (this year the season is coming to an end, and there is a lot of cleaning to be done there, because the previous owner left this plot unattended for some time and the Nature took over... ^^). I'm thinking about tomatoes, courgettes, sunflowers (one is already there, can you see? ^^) and we'll see what else next Spring.
In the corner to the right of this fenced plot my Father is going to put up a small smokehouse so we'll have our homemade smoked meat (yummy! ^^). There are two apple trees, two plum trees, wild blackberries bush and aronia bush. I am also in charge of the small stone garden with evergreens next to the small tool shed ^^. I'm excited because I've always wanted to have a piece of land and grow vegetables and flowers. When I went there yesterday, I even got my first mosquito bite, how cool is that! ^^Next time I'm going there I'm going to take a camera with me and take decent pictures! ^^

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

J-rock concert in Poland!

I'm very excited! ^^
On 21st October we are going to a concert of a Japanese rock band called Gram Maria!
It's not very often that we have J-rock bands here in Poland and I am a huuuuge J-rock fan! ^^ I am already thinking about the outfit - I'll be sewing myself a new skirt, corset and a jacket, and also some head covering - artificial falls, ect. I'm in the planning and designing phase right now.
I'll be also sewing a Gothic Lolita outfit for my friend Marzena - a skirt, headdress, cape and a parasol with lace edgings.
Busy, busy! ^^

Today I received my order of apliques for the pincushions I'm making (everybody's making pincushions and I want to have my own touch to the design, so I'll be adding the apliques, you'll see soon! ^^) - just look at those cute colourful butterflies, dragon-flies and flowers! ^^

And here are the embroidery flosses I'll be using to finish off the pincushions - I used to cross-stitch a lot when I was younger, but then I started many other crafts and I abandoned cross-stitching for a while. I still got lots of leftovers from numerous works I've made. ^^
(some examples here, here and here.)

Monday, August 21, 2006

Fit and bits and pieces

Friday was the last day of my workshop. I really got used to the fact that I take my gym bag every evening and leave to dance for 1,5 hr. Well... Now I have one month break and then I'll start regular once a week classes - must keep me fit during that time and practice what I learned (shawl movements, yay! ^^).

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Thank you very much for your comments on my Budda top. Soren, the only direction I can give you on this is "take a Burda sewing magazine (or any other with top patterns), find a fitting top pattern, transfer it onto the blouse - make some adjustment if necessary, cut out the pieces, sew them together, embelish, wear and enjoy!" ^-^

Helene (and anyone interested) - my on-line gothic shop is called Atelier Bizarre, it's only in Polish but when you enter the site and look at the left hand sidebar there is a category "Atelier" and these are the things I make (I also sell some new clothes and some second-hand stuff, but I gradually withdraw from these and all second-hand clothing will be gone by 1st September, I want to stick to my own designs only). If by any chance anyone's interested in anything from my shop, we can make a swap for what you make, because I cannot sell internationally because I cannot take credit cards or Paypal (I know, it sucks but I cannot do anything about that...).

I've been working on different things for the past few days (although not much on Mameluke socks, because they turned out to be too small for me and I lost my interest in them a bit... just a bit, I'll finish them slowly and will have another Christmas or whatever occasion present ready). So, as I said, I've been working on several things, mainly on my kokoshnik, which is almost finished - the embroidery is basically ready, front and back parts are sewn together so I just have to add the lining.

Here are the photos of my cellphone cases, I'm going to add them to my shop either this week (if I finish some more items, I have two skirts almost ready), or next week.

And now I'm off to spend the rest of the day as I please, because I have my name's day today! ^^ (it's probably a tradition unknown to you as you mainly celebrate the birthdays, but not name's days, but in Poland name's day is very widely celebrated, my name - Joanna - appears in the calendar several times during the year but I chose 21st August. ^-^)

Happy Name's Day, Joannas! *^v^*

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Fit and sew cellphone cases

I don't want to sound immodest, but... guess who was appointed today by the workshop teacher to have special predispositions for bellydancing with shawl... Me, me, me! (Together with two other girls). She said that at the beginning I seemed shy but when I take a shawl in my hands I straighten my back and really enjoy using it, so it flows in my hands - and I REALLY enjoy dancing with a shawl, leading the fabric to move as I want but also humbly agreeing for its own routes in the air - it is a piece of fabric after all! ^^ It looks that my love towards fibers shows in many ways. *^v^* Two more days of my workshop still ahead.

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Some time ago I sewn several mobile phone cases in a gothic style - black, with white lace, ribbons and pearls (I sell them in my gothic on-line shop).
I must admit I neglected my shop lately and I decided to take more interest in it because when you don't supply the shop with new stuff people stop visiting and gradually you loose the customers...
So, today I've been sewing more cellphone cases, but using some other fabrics I found in my stash - also in the gothic mood but more elegant than dark, if you know what I mean... ^^
Here are the examples:

They are not finished yet as they need the top hems to be done, but this is more or less the new style I'm working on (each one will be different because I just sit down with fabric and laces and beads, and match them, and see what looks good with what).
I'm preparing new update in my shop for next week, maybe I'll manage to make some bigger items like a corset or a skirt? We'll see. ^^

Fit and refashion my wardrobe

Still bellydancing, although I lost my spectacles several times while swinging my arms with a shawl and my whole body hurts like hell!... But I just say to myself - it's because I didn't move a lot lately and now I have to practise 1,5 hr everyday!... I'll survive! ^^

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Today is the day to refashion my wardrobe a bit! ^^
It's the entry for the August Whiplash competition at Whip Up - category: deconstruct/reconstruct.

Here is the cotton top I found some time ago in the second-hand shop:

It wasn't a very flattering shape (at least for me), but I liked the colour and the Budda and lotus flower patterns,

so I decided to turn it into something like that: ^-^

I had some problems to fit the pieces of the pattern onto the blouse to have the lotus flower and Budda in the right places, but I finally managed to do it! ^^ I added some black lace and fake pearls in the middle of the front (they are there because it turned out that the boobs part was too big for me, well... so I refashioned it by pulling both sides a bit towards the center part with some pearls - clever, ha? ^^). Straps are made from velvet ribbon.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Fit and still knit socks ^^

I am the happiest person in the world today - I just got the message that my Tote Exchange bag arrived at my Pal's (who is Allison)!!! Can you imagine - 1 month and three weeks after I sent it!... And they told me at the Post Office that it would take three weeks!... Anyway, I'm happy and relieved! ^^ Now I can consider taking part in Tote Exchange II. We'll see about that.

I'm getting the hang of the shawl movements - today I had my own shawl (rectangular) which is easier to work with than the borrowed one last night (semi-circle, with lots of beads around that caught my hair and slapped me in the face a lot...). Tomorrow morning I must exercise the dance moves thoroughly because we are going really fast with the next steps (well, it's an intensive workshop after all!).


As promised here is my first Mameluke sock (page 76) :

As you can see, my colours are much brighter but I couldn't find Cobalt Blue shade, so I went for the dark blue yarn that was available. I still like it in this version! ^^
Now I'm off to watch "Silent Hill" movie. Scarry, yay! ...

Monday, August 14, 2006

Fit and knit socks!

Just a quick post to let you know that today I've started my intensive one-week bellydance workshop! ^^ We are practising the dance with shawls - oh, it's so wonderful when you look across the room and see many colourful shawls swirling in the girls' hands!...
I also enlisted for the next term classes with my great teacher Dominika, starting in October. ^-^

And tomorrow I'll show you my first Mameluke sock, it's half-knitted.
September project will be socks for a guy, because my husband today said in a sad voice: "Nobody knits socks for me..." (which isn't true because I already knitted one pair of orange wool socks for him in June and I'm going to naalbind him some socks for our medieval reenactment, but still...).

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Finally I know!...

I just don't like pumpkin!
I tried to eat it in stews, fried like potato pancakes, yesterday I tried to eat it in a form of a pie, and I still don't like it (although my husband said the pie was good, so it's not my culinary inadequacy...). I just don't fancy its taste, more - I cannot stand it! And I'm a bit shocked, because this is the first thing EVER that I don't want to eat any more in my life, I really eat with pleasure anything else (of course, out of the things I've ever tried! ^^). I love brussell sprouts, spinach, liver, you name it. I hate pumpkin!
I'm going to make one more pumpkin pie for the Samhain holiday, a bit more festive version with raisins and nuts, and I'll give pumpkin the very last go. ^^

But on to the craft issues because it's been a very beaded, sorry... ^^, busy weekend in here! We've been beading - my husband and me.
I've been beading my kokoshnik (the medieval Russian headdress for my historical reenactment events, remember? ^^), and Robert was beading the panels he's going to sew onto the silk shirt he's sewing as a gift for our friend. It will be the replica of the X-th century Byzantine Prince's shirt called dalmatica. (He's soooo creative, he should have the craftblog of his own!).
That's all we managed to do, because we ran out of beads in the middle of our works and are waiting for the new supply to come by post.

My kokoshnik - front (beading finished):

This is the pattern that I put on the back (it's from Elrond's council robe, but I changed it a bit to make it more adequate for medieval Russia ^^):

My kokoshnik - back (stil part of the design is missing):

This is the shape of the dalmatica:

Beaded panel on red silk made by Robert (two of the panels are visible on the shoulders of the dalmatica above):

I have also finished the OPAL sock and started to knit the second one (or rather the third one, explanation here ^^).

Sunday planning

Crafts for the next week:
- finish kokoshnik (if I receive the beads!...)
- knit OPAL sock #3
- knit Mameluke socks
- finish at leat ONE quilted pillowcase to show you ^^
- start the Knitting Tote for the Bag me KAL
- embroider the bands for my and Robert's medieval clothing (still some of them hang around unfinished!...)
- start the new lacy shawl (finally I decided upon the pattern, more of this to come! ^^)
- get to some clothing that needs refashioning (including shoes! ^^)

Okay, so lots to do as usual! ^-^
Happy crafting, everyone!