Welcome to the blog for Embroidered Originals, where I'll keep you up-to-date with all the goings on at our little cottage industry. You can also view our website and shop online at embroideredoriginals.co.uk Marion x

Wednesday, 4 January 2012

Annual Roundup - be warned, this is a LONG post

As we're at the start of the New Year, which also coincides with the start of our new business year, I take a moment to recap on the highlights and lowlights of the year just gone.
Starting with the highlights -
  • JANUARY - we were given a gentle nudge by our accountants to maybe spend some money! How about advice like that to start the year. To explain I have to go right back to 1996 when we made a major (brave/foolhardy) decision for Bob to leave his secure teaching job and become a full time partner in our little business. It was a decision of the heart rather than the head. If we'd sat down and considered it objectively it probably never would have happened. As it was we took a gamble - I had gone as far as I could without another full time pair of hands, and he was just about at the end of his tether with his job. So we took the plunge, with two teenage children not far off university and a mortgage to pay. That was when we realised the fragility of our income and how important it was to keep a tight rein on our expenses. We've come a long way since then, thankfully never regretting the decision. The kids went off to uni and the mortgage was paid off but we still equated every penny that came in with the hours of work that took to make it (slight exaggeration) and with the belief that it could all go belly up at any time we put any major plans which cost money on hold. Then when your ACCOUNTANT tells you to SPEND some of your hard earned cash rather than see it dwindle in the bank.......
  • FEBRUARY By now we had new living room furniture and plans under way for new windows. That was the first dip into the bank account. It got a boost from the Trade Show though where we amazed ourselves by doubling the orders we took the year before. Suddenly the quiet half of the year was no longer quiet and we were working just about as hard to keep up as the usually frantic months of October and November. We got feedback from our stockists that the cards were flying out the door, with some telling us that sale of our cards was paying THEIR mortgage! The new windows were money well spent and very overdue.

going from this
to this
  • MARCH  I got a wonderful surprise on Mother's Day to hear from our daughter that we were going to be grandparents for the first time. (That would help reduce the bank balance!)
  • APRIL  We were still hibernating really - working away on orders and enjoying the unseasonal warm weather with lunches out in the garden.
  • MAY  The Craft Fair season started up again with Gardening Scotland closely followed by the Royal Highland Show a few weeks later.
  • JUNE  Just before the Highland Show we squeezed a trip down to see Laura and Greg and to help them move house. That was hard work, I can tell you and of course Laura, being pregnant had to take it easy and just give orders.

In their new kitchen
  • JULY  Things were hotting up, and I don't mean the weather. The workload was becoming frankly ridiculous and we just rolled our eyes at the thought of how we would cope when the Christmas rush started. I was supposed to, by now, have the new Christmas card designs ready and photograhed for the brochure but there was just no time. We also heard at this time that our oldest and one of our best stockists was closing their shop at Glasgow Airport. A potential blow to our income as they regularly ordered once a fortnight. However they moved on to premises in the centre of Glasgow and the orders kept coming in. Not only that, but since they no longer had the monopoly on us for the airport, we picked up another outlet there, which is proving to be just as successful.
  • AUGUST Well that whole month is dominated by the Edinburgh Festival Craft  Fair - three and a bit weeks, seven days a week. Bob made the journey over to Edinburgh as usual every day and I stayed behind making stock and continuing with the trade orders. Great team work there.
The chalet type stand that was home from home for Bob for 3 weeks.

  • Also in AUGUST I escaped for a couple of days in York with Laura and the bump. What a great girlie weekend it was - tea at Betty's and lots of shopping.
  • SEPTEMBER marked one year since we closed the workshop and gave up our own retail outlet.

We now use the workshop as a store and the packing and dispatch department but I have to admit it's quite sad to see it and remember how it used to be when it was stocked with lots of differnt crafts and gifts.
However again the decision made was the right one. We have been so busy this year, it would have been impossible to run a shop and cope with the workload. I still get local customers though who come to the door and that's good. So a year on and we haven't looked back.
September brought other noteworthy events. We splashed the cash again and had a new bathroom installed. Gone was the green bathroom suite (oh the shame) to be replaced with sparkling white. A bit of a marathon it was, mainly due to our tiler who believed a job worth doing was worth doing well and painstakingly slowly. So although it was started in September we just about made it in time for Christmas. But it was worth it and the job was well done.
We also managed to squeeze  a week in Greece before the Autumn Trade Show

Then all hell broke loose at the Trade Fair. Did we think we were busy in July? Ha - that was nothing compared to what we had ahead of us after the show. We picked up a large number of new stockists to add to the list and the order book was bulging. We were a hive of activity from early morning to early morning - practically round the clock. It was quite funny really - as in the midst of it all we had the plumber, tiler, electrician and painter all adding to the mix at various times. Bob worked in the living room, me down the hall in the spare bedroom/studio and between us was the new bathroom. It was a regular occurrence for three or four of us to meet in the hall at once and have to squeeze past old toilet/new piping/tool kits/ paint pots whatever.
  • Where are we now? Yes OCTOBER the month of the big Christmas Fairs, the continuing bathroom and the continuing orders. No sleep, no nothing but heads down and get on with it.
  • NOVEMBER Now we've reached the big one. Country Living Christmas Fair in Glasgow

which is one I do on my own. And the news on day two of the fair that Laura had given birth to a baby boy. She is 400 odd miles away in Cambridge and I'm stuck in Glasgow unable to abandon my stand. A lot of phoning and organising and I had a flight booked at enormous expense for the day after the show to go down to see her and baby Ewan.

  • DECEMBER Another trip down to see the baby squeezed in, a last push to get all the orders out in time for Christmas, a dash round the shops for presents and food, the tree decorated, the food cooked...and  relaaaaxxx.
So that it's it for 2011. I've yet to do the end of year accounts but I know our turnover is up by nearly 50% on last year ( which was our previously best ever year). We have orders coming in for 2012, half of them new customers already ahead of the Trade Fair so things are looking bright. Although I take NOTHING for granted. |It could still go belly up - that's the thing about being self employed, but I appreciate that we are in a luckier position than so many who have found themselves without a job in 2011.
Now what about the LOWLIGHTS I mentioned?
Well success has come at a price. Thankfully we are both fit and healthy and long may it continue, but we have sacrificed our lives to our business, more so in this past year than ever. The work/life balance is laughably tilted well over to work. You could say that's all very well but we've had weekends away, a holiday and visited family. Yes but for every day spent away from work we've added the time to the other days around it. So a fourteen hour day becomes a sixteen or seventeen hour day, and that is unsustainable.
My personal time clock has gone completely haywire which is why I'm sitting here at 2.18 am. I fall asleep for catnaps during the day and manage a brief five or so hours a night. A lady of my advancing years should be getting her beauty sleep!
Some things will have to change for 2012 but I haven't had the time to figure out how exactly. Meanwhile the next cash guzzler will be the kitchen - another room I'm utterly ashamed of. And boy do I have plans for that!

Tuesday, 3 January 2012

Christmas Memories

So that was the Christmas holidays, that was.
Tonight I'm looking at the tree for the last time as tomorrow it will all be packed away for another year, along with all the memories of Christmasses past.
Now I'm not going to get nostalgic and sentimental here, although I confess that since our children have left home, I allow myself a little private nostalgia session when I look at the decorations on the tree which span all their growing up years, and more. It's so easy to remember them when they were tiny and they were in total awe of the sparkly decorations. I used to lift them both up and tell them to look for the tree fairy who lived in the Christmas tree. I said they might see her if they were very quiet (great way to calm the Christmas Eve hysteria) and look to see if they could see her moving the baubles and tinsel as she flew around. Then I would breathe as hard but silently as I could ( not blowing, just breathing) so that they  were not aware of what Iwas doing, and the breeze would  catch the tinsel and make it shimmer. They were enthralled, and it worked every time.
It's lovely to unpack the boxes of decorations each year and find old friends.
This cheap tatty little teddy in a bag is my son's personal favourite. His Gran bought it for him when he was just a toddler and it has to have a special place every year. It doesn't have anything to hang it with so he makes sure it is tucked safely on a flat branch, and there has to be a fairy light close by to keep the teddy company. My son is 28 now of course, but when he came home this year I caught him making sure that teddy was in a good position and the fairy light was there to light him. Bless.
This is one of my favourites. It's a cross stitch picture which came from an old Prima magazine pattern and it was painstakingly stitched entirely by Laura when she was only seven years old. The only concession I made for her age was that I gave her Binca fabric to work it on, which is easier as the weave is bigger. She loved doing it and she made a better job than a lot of grown ups would have done ( Kirstie Allsop included!).
I hang it by the fire every year.
And to create new memories, I wanted to add a special ornament this year as a minding for baby Ewan, who's First Christmas it is of course.
So here he is - found in a local shop - made of painted wood and just the very thing I had in mind. In this picture he looks huge but it's just the camera angle. He's not actually four feet tall, but sits on the mantlepiece like this

next to one of my real Christmas bargains this year - a red metal lantern, one of three I picked up in my local Sainsbury's reduced from £3.50 each to 35p! Now that's a bargain I couldn't pass.

Just thought I'd share my son (the 28 year old's) present from his big sister. A pair of fetching knitted slipper sock things. And no, she didn't make them herself. What's more he likes them!
So that was it for 2011. It's time to get back to normal as the orders waiting to be sent out are beginning to take over the living room again. Quite a few have come in in the past week and encouragingly half of them are brand new customers so the holidays are well and truly over. Back on the diet tomorrow too :o(

Sunday, 1 January 2012


I hope you all have had the best of times over Christmas and that 2012 brings you everything you hope for, and more.
It's that time of year when I get the chance to play around doing things like changing my blog background and colours. Don't worry - I'll soon be back to normal - so tonight I'm trialling a seriously dark look.
What do you think?
Just for a change?
I 'll probably leave it like this until the nights get lighter and Spring is here.
The problem now is to work on the Header which now looks very out of place. I've just been looking at tutorials online on "how to design your own header" using Photoshop but I may have to call on my expert photoshopper for advice. That may take a while as she is otherwise occupied with nappy changing and feeding at the moment.
Let's call it a work in progress....


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