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Made by hand from start to finish

Rubber duck reusable makeup remover pads being made by hand

At Drawn by Rhiannon everything is done by hand from start to finish.

Every item begins with an image drawn by hand by me which I scan in to the computer to make a digital fabric design. I then make all the items myself on my industrial sewing machine. I also make all the packaging myself, photograph the items and edit them to make them as clear as possible. Finally I list them on my website and write up a description for every item. It really is all done by hand!

To show you what I mean here’s a rundown on how the new rubber duck reusable makeup remover pads were made by hand, step by step. (You can take a look at the finished product on my website here.)

Step 1: Drawings

I love that every fabric I design begins with one of my drawings. I use all sorts of materials to draw with but for the rubber ducks I decided to use promarkers. These pens are brilliant for creating bold graphic designs which was exactly the look I wanted for the ducks. I chose a selection of rubber ducks from my collection (I have almost 100 now!) and started to draw. I initially sketched the ducks in pencil to get a rough outline to work with. Then I went over the lines I was happy with with a black marker and coloured in the shapes. These are the pages from my sketchbook that I scanned in.

Step 2: Digital print design

Once I’m happy with the drawings it’s time to make the digital print design. The drawings always need a bit of cleaning up so I go around the edge of the drawings erasing any fuzzy edges from the scanner. Thanks to the bold line work and colours, the duck drawings scanned in really well and were fairly simple to convert in to digital images. Next I make sure the colours are where I want them to be. For example, some of the ducks had scanned in with bolder colours so I wanted to make sure that the colour depth was even across all the ducks. I never want to over-edit on the computer otherwise the drawings will lose their hand-drawn character. 

I had a good idea in my head about how I wanted the duck print to look which made it easier to arrange the design. Sometimes I’m not sure how I want the finished design to look so it can take a long time to work out a composition that I’m happy with. For the rubber ducks I simply wanted them in lines with a half drop repeat.

Step 3: Making

When I’ve finished the design, I send it to a fabric printing company in London. They print my designs on to the fabrics then send it back to me to be made in to all sorts of different items. 

With the reusable makeup remover pads there are quite a few steps required to make them. First of all I have to cut out the printed fabric and the backing fabric. For the back of the pads I use a soft cotton towelling that I source locally.

 

Once the fabrics are all cut out it’s time to start pinning. About 70% of making anything seems to be pinning!

 

After pinning everything in place I sew the two sides together on the industrial sewing machine. I then topstitch around the whole pad to make sure it’s really secure.

Rubber duck reusable makeup remover pads being made by hand

Then I repeat the whole thing four more times to have a total of five makeup pads per pack. The final stage in the making process is to make the little wash bag that the pads are stored in. I make these with tulle that I buy locally so that you can see which design pads are inside each bag. It’s also a handy little bag to keep for washing the makeup pads in so that they don’t escape and get lost in the wash.

Step 4: Packaging

I include an information tag with the reusable makeup remover pads which also gets made by me. I designed the tag on my computer to include how to use the pads and the cleaning instructions. These tags are then printed on to card and cutout using my cricut machine. The cricut machine saves me a lot of time and cuts a lot more accurately than I would!

Step 5: Photography

Once the makeup pads are made, in their little bags and tied with a tag, they’re ready to be photographed. I do all my product photography myself in my studio. Luckily my studio has nice big windows that let in lots of natural light so as long as the British weather is being kind, I can usually snap some pretty good product shots.

Then it’s just a case of editing the photos to fix the lighting and make sure the colours are true to life. Finally they’re ready to list on the website!

I always write a small section about the inspiration behind the print design for a personal touch and make sure important details such as size and fabric type are listed.

You can see the finished listing here – https://www.drawnbyrhiannon.co.uk/product/reusable-rubber-duck-makeup-remover-pads/

 

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The highs and lows of running a small business

Spoiler alert: it’s a real roller coaster.

I love my job. I have always wanted to work for myself but I can tell you for free that running a small business is not easy. I’ve been running Drawn by Rhiannon for three years now and pretty much every day is a struggle. However, for me nothing beats being your own boss. Today is a beautifully sunny summer’s day so I’m writing this blog post with an old fashioned pen and paper outside in the garden. Of course I will have to type this up later but that’s a job for this evening when the sun goes down. And that’s one of the first things I love about running my own business – the flexibility.

It’s great to be flexible.

I have never particularly been a morning person so starting work at 8am every day isn’t an ideal situation for me. I find I’m much more productive later on and in to the evening so I love that I’m able to start work at 10am and work until after tea instead. Sometimes I can be working until two in the morning if that’s when inspiration has struck and that works great for me.

Drawn by Rhiannon studio
I’m lucky to have a great studio at the bottom of my garden

On the flip side, the negative aspect of working from home is that you’re never able to switch off. I’m lucky to have a fabulous studio at the bottom of my garden where I do all my sewing and most my designing. Unfortunately my internet doesn’t stretch to the studio so all the website designing, marketing and general computer work has to be done inside the house. There’s always a never ending to do list so the temptation to just quickly finish off a few things soon turns in to several hours of work when I’m supposed to be taking some time off. The work life balance is something I’m constantly battling with to prevent me from spiralling in to a full blown burnout.

Freedom is liberating

The main thing I love about running a small business is being able to design what I want. You wouldn’t believe the amount of junior designer jobs that mainly consist of making coffee and doing dry cleaning runs. I didn’t go to university for four years to do that! This is part of the reason that I wanted to work for myself because I didn’t want to lose my creativity or all the skills I worked so hard to learn. I love taking inspiration trips and deciding what prints to design next. And I love not having to work to a trend brief or having to stick to a restricted colour palette.

Drawn by Rhiannon watercolour painting
I love being able to be super creative in my job

On the other hand, not having anyone to bounce ideas off can be difficult too. When you’ve spent several hours working on a new print design, staring at the screen and nudging layouts a millimetre here and there, it becomes impossible to know what looks good any more. As the business grows I plan to take on a couple of staff to help with the workload which would be a huge bonus (and would hopefully stop me going stir crazy and asking my pet rabbit which colour background she thinks works the best). Until then I rely on all you lovely lot to keep me sane so I really appreciate you replying to my questions and commenting on my social media posts.

Money talks

Now for some serious talk – money. As much as I love what I do, at the end of the day I can’t keep doing it if it doesn’t make money. I’m fortunate to have a part time job in a craft shop which ensures my house and bills are paid for each month so I don’t have to worry about becoming homeless. However, if you’re working 30-40 hours a week running a small business, you kind of want to see some profit return on that right? This is something I still find very tricky to manage, especially as the gift-orientated things I make are really quite seasonal.

I was on such a high at the end of 2018 as I’d had my best Christmas ever and was actually taking a full time wage. Obviously this was due to a huge amount of work and I spent most of the Christmas break in complete brain dead zombie mode but that’s how it is. I even earned enough to book a holiday in February to Belgium (check out the blog posts about that trip here) which I was absolutely over the moon with.

The Christmas markets were a huge success and it was brilliant seeing people wanting to buy my items for special gifts for loved ones.

However after all the buzz of Christmas, the start of 2019 hit me like a tonne of bricks. I barely made any sales and at Easter time I almost packed the whole thing in. Which brings me to my final point.

Confidence and motivation

Without a doubt the hardest thing about running a business is having the confidence and motivation to keep it going. There are times when I’m consistently working 12-14 hour days and only seeing pocket money in return. When you put your heart and soul in to something and people don’t really seem that interested it can destroy you. Sometimes I just have to keep ploughing on because I know if I stop and really take a look at things I might not be able to carry on (sometimes doing the books at the end of the month can be really devastating).

The words ‘I can’t do this any more’ have gone through my head more in the past three years than in the rest of my life combined, but so have the words ‘I love my job’. The minute I receive a message from a customer saying how much they love their order, or see someone smile at a print I’ve designed on my market stall, it makes it all seem worthwhile.

Running a small business is hard. By supporting a small business you are supporting a dream
Every purchase you make really does make a huge difference

I would love to say that Drawn by Rhiannon has been an overnight success and every day is better than the last but that wouldn’t be true. It would mean the world to me if you could all support me to help me achieve my dream by shopping small and interacting with the brand on social media. One day I hope that I can do this full time and employ some wonderful people to work alongside me but I’m not there yet. After all, nothing good in life comes easy does it?

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Top 10 sewing tools

Drawn by Rhiannon sewing tools - scissors

Through my fashion design degree and running my own business, I’ve done a lot of sewing over the years.

I’ve picked up all sorts of tips and tricks (plus a lot of bad habits that my tutors would be ashamed of) that make sewing much easier. Here I’ll list my top picks of sewing tools and where you can buy them.
Please note I’m not being paid to promote any of these items. These are all tools that I have bought myself and would highly recommend.

1. Sewing clips

Drawn by Rhiannon sewing tools - sewing clips
Sewing clips are great for holding together fabrics without leaving pin marks.

The first thing you will discover about sewing is that most of your time is actually spent pinning. Not only does pinning take forever but it can also leave pin marks in your fabric. Fabrics like oil cloth or water resistant fabric that I use to make the wash bags are particularly susceptible to nasty pin marks which will show up in your finished item. So forget about all that and try sewing clips! These fab little guys are surprisingly firm and will stop your fabric slipping without leaving holes. Just be sure to keep them out of the way of the sewing machine foot, or move them as you sew so that they don’t get smushed. The ones I have were actually free with a knitting magazine but you can buy similar ones here.

2. Magnetic pin dish

Drawn by Rhiannon sewing tools - magnetic pin dish
The magnetic pin dish holds all your pins together

Sometimes it is best to use pins over sewing clips. You can get some really pretty pincushions but I would highly recommend a magnetic pin dish instead. No more pins scattered everywhere or treading on them when they’ve fallen on the floor. This pin dish has a good strong magnet in it which will hold all your pins for easy access. Take a look at it here.

3. Water erasable pen

Drawn by Rhiannon sewing tools - water erasable pen
The water erasable pen makes marking fabric so much easier

This is something I’ve only recently started using and I can tell you it’s fantastic! Much better than using a pencil as the marks will just disappear when you dampen them. This would be great for quilting, or if you’re a little unsteady on the sewing machine and want your seam line marked out to follow. Just always make sure to test it on a bit of spare fabric first. Find out more here.

4. Stitch ripper

Drawn by Rhiannon sewing tools - seam ripper
Making mistakes when sewing is inevitable so seam rippers are a must

Seam ripper, stitch ripper, quick unpick… whatever you call them, they’re an essential part of any sewing box. It doesn’t matter how experienced you are at sewing you will make mistakes! These handy little guys are ready to take out the messed-up stitches and start over again. They’re available in a range of styles and I would recommend one with a longer, tougher handle but the basic little ones are handy too. Check them out here.

5. Point turner

Drawn by Rhiannon sewing tools - point turner
A point turner will give corners nice sharp edges

This may seem a bit of an odd one if you’re new to sewing, but a point turner is a really handy bit of kit. If you’re making anything that has a corner, it will look 100 times better if the point is poked out properly. For years I used a knitting needle or a pair of scissors, but neither work as well as a proper point turner. Get yours here.

6. Scissors

Drawn by Rhiannon sewing tools - scissors
All sorts of different kinds of scissors are important for sewing

Decent scissors are one of the most important bits of kit in a sewing box. Ideally you need a great pair of dressmaker’s shears, pinking shears, paper scissors, and embroidery scissors.

Drawn by Rhiannon sewing tools - scissors
From left to right: embroidery scissors, paper scissors x 3, pinking shears, tailor’s shears

It is super important that you have different scissors for fabric and paper. Fabric scissors need to be nice and sharp to make sure the fabric is cut cleanly and cutting paper with fabric scissors will blunt them. Paper scissors don’t have to be anything fancy but I would recommend getting a couple of pairs as they seem to disappear… Something like this would be fine.
Pinking shears are scissors that have a zigzag edge which helps to stop fabric fraying. The ones I have are similar to these.

Drawn by Rhiannon sewing tools - embroidery scissors and dressmaker's shears
These scissors have been with me since day one and I couldn’t do without them!

My most used scissors are my dressmaker’s shears and embroidery scissors. These have been with me since I started my fashion design degree and they’re still going strong! If you’re serious about dressmaking it is worth investing in a decent pair of shears. I got mine from here. Embroidery scissors are super handy for snipping little threads to tidy up your finished project. They come in different shapes and patterns so see which takes your fancy here.

7. Tweezers

Drawn by Rhiannon sewing tools - tweezers
Tweezers come in really handy for detangling sewing machines

Sewing machines can have a nasty habit of tangling themselves up with thread so a set of tweezers comes in really handy for the untangling. I’d recommend a specialist longer pair like this so you can reach right in to the depths of your machine. (If you have an industrial machine, having a pair of pliers handy can be very useful if the machine jams and you have to yank the wheel round. I don’t think this is officially what you’re supposed to do so please do not take my advice as word on this!)

8. Handy storage

Drawn by Rhiannon sewing tools - handy storage
Repurposing kitchen storage for your sewing space can be a great idea

This one varies a bit depending on what space you have and what you need to store, but having some handy storage near you for sewing machine bits and bobs is really useful. For me it’s all the spare bobbins and machine needles that could otherwise get lost in a sewing box. I found this rail and containers that were designed for the kitchen were just the job. Take a look at some ideas here.

9. Fray stop glue

Drawn by Rhiannon sewing tools - fray stop glue
Fray stop glue is a quick fix for repairing clothes

OK so this one is technically a bit cheating but it’s certainly a very handy item to have in your sewing kit. This glue seals fabric edges but is still flexible when it’s dry. If an edge of your clothing is starting to fray, glob a few little drops of this on it and it will seal up and make your clothes easy to repair. I use this for sealing the ends of the aprons straps and also the edges of the fabric labels. Find out more about it here.

10. Daylight lamp

Drawn by Rhiannon sewing tools - daylight lamp
Daylight lamps give a bright clear light for any craft project

Finally the last thing I would recommend for your craft area is a daylight lamp. These come in all sorts of sizes depending on how much space you have so there’s the right lamp for everyone. The daylight lamps produce a super clear and bright light which makes sewing or any type of craft so much easier. I bought this one that has storage in it because you can never have enough storage in a craft space. Take a look at a selection of them here.

So that’s it! I hope you enjoyed a run down of my top 10 sewing tools and found some useful new tips. If you’d like me to do any more blog posts about top tips let me know below.

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Where the magic happens

Drawn by Rhiannon industrial sewing machine

All the drawing, fabric designing, sewing and photographing is done by me in my north east studio.

I’m not a fan of long commutes so I love that my studio is just 10 seconds from my living room. When I moved in, the building in the garden was split down the middle, half a shed and half a playroom. The first thing I did (when it had stopped snowing… remember the glorious beast from the east?) was have the building completely renovated – the middle wall was ripped out, the walls and ceiling were lined with cosy insulation, and proper electricity was wired through to make sure the industrial sewing machine would run properly.

Drawn by Rhiannon studio
Having the studio in the garden is great!

The studio is the perfect size to fit everything in. Check out the video below for a quick whizz round tour.

So let’s break it down a bit!

The studio drawing table

Every fabric I design starts with my hand drawing which I draw right at this table here (unless it’s absolutely freezing, then I resort to the sitting-by-the-fire-under-several-blankets style of drawing)

Drawn by Rhiannon studio drawing table
This table is where it all begins. I stick photos I’ve taken on the wall as inspiration for my drawings.

As you can see, this is also where I keep all my scissors plus my domestic sewing machine and overlocker. I’ve written a blog post about my top 10 tools and tips for anyone interested in sewing which you can check out here.

The crafting cupboard

Drawn by Rhiannon studio tour - the big cupboard of crafting supplies
This big cupboard houses everything I need to get creative.
Drawn by Rhiannon studio tour - the big cupboard of crafting supplies
Threads, buttons, ribbons, pens, pencils, paints…

In the big cupboard next to the drawing table, there are all sorts of bits and pieces! I have a drawer for paints, a drawer for pens and pencils, then all the threads, buttons, ribbons and extras that I could possibly need for sewing. The last owners of my house very kindly left this super useful cupboard in the bathroom so I re-purposed it for the studio.

Once I’ve finished my drawing, I then scan it in to the computer and turn it in to a digital print design. This is the only part I don’t do in the studio as my internet doesn’t stretch that far.

The fabric store

The tallboy of fabric in the Drawn by Rhiannon studio
This tallboy houses all the lining fabrics and specialist fabrics such as interfacing, towelling, fusible fleecing and insulating fabric.

Once the fabric has returned from the printers it’s time to get making. This is where this cupboard comes in. I bought this tallboy from Oxfam when I moved in to my flat in Southampton and it’s one of those fantastic pieces of furniture that can be used for all sorts of things.

Tallboy full of linings, specialist fabrics and yarn.
It also holds my stash of wool for when I get a chance to do some crochet.

It’s a bit of an organised chaos situation but it makes sense to me! The top shelf holds any excess printed fabric that I need to get round to making in to something. It also holds the plain cotton lining fabrics that I use for items like the coin purses, makeup bags, and passport covers. (Check them out here) The middle shelf houses all the specialist fabrics like interfacing, towelling, fusible fleecing and insulating fabric. There’s also a stack of printed fabric (not designed by me) that I have bought to make in to clothes. I have about 6 dresses in the pipeline, it’s just finding the time to make them!

Dressmaking in the studio

Speaking of dress making, here’s a quick shot of the corner of the studio. This holds my fabulous dressmaker’s dummy and all my tape measures (forever losing these so you can never have enough)

Drawn by Rhiannon adjustable dressmaker's dummy
The adjustable dressmaker’s dummy is so handy for making clothes.

I also have a selection of design books covering everything from creative garment construction and printmaking, to typography and packaging design. When I lived in Southampton I would take a day trip to Salisbury as there is a fantastic bookshop there that sells all sorts of really specialist books really cheaply!

Drawn by Rhiannon studio bookcase full of design books.
I just love books!

Time to get sewing

After that quick sidetrack it’s back to the making process. I used to use the domestic sewing machine that you saw earlier but, bless its little heart, it was not designed for the volume of sewing I do these days. When my studio was being renovated, I searched high and low for an industrial sewing machine to take over the main sewing duties. I was lucky to find this beauty not too far from me which used to be used in the Barbour factory.

Drawn by Rhiannon industrial sewing machine
My fabulous industrial sewing machine

This beast powers through everything and never gives up, even when I’m sewing through 8 layers of thick fabric.

An important part of the sewing process is ironing. Pressing seams ensures they lie flat and gives the completed item a better finish.

The final stages

Drawn by Rhiannon ironing station
Apologies for the photo quality, it was a super sunny day when I was shooting the studio and the bright light from the windows caused a bit of a problem here.

Once the items are sewn and pressed, it’s time to photograph them.

Drawn by Rhiannon photography area
Most of the items are shot on a light blue background to match my branding.

I’m lucky to have lots of big windows in the studio so the daylight helps a lot. I also use a daylight lamp (the one sat on the industrial sewing machine table) to help on gloomier days.

Drawn by Rhiannon photography set up
My photography set up is forever changing but I think I’m slowly getting there…

Just a little side note for eagle-eyed readers; the robin on the notice board was the first thing I ever screen printed when I was at university. It forms the base for the robin print which is still popular to this day!

Drawn by Rhiannon packaging cupboard
Tissue paper, paper bags, business cards and mailing boxes are all housed in here.

And just in case you were wondering, the cupboard that I take the photos on holds all my packaging supplies for sending orders out to you lovely people! I recently changed to cardboard mailing boxes to be more eco friendly which fit nicely on this shelf. The bigger ones had to sit next to the cupboard as they are HUGE when they’re not folded in box form.
This was another cupboard that was very kindly left by the previous owners in the bathroom. Much more handy in my studio though!

Off to market

Finally when everything is photographed and listed on the website, it’s time to go to market.

Drawn by Rhiannon market prep
Another piece of furniture that was left by the previous owners of the house. A quick clean up and it makes the perfect market prop storage.

This shelving unit here holds all the props and accessories needed for my market stall. It adds up to quite a lot of equipment! This is all carefully planned out before each market to make sure I’m happy with the layout before I go.

So that’s it! I hope you enjoyed a behind the scenes snoop of my studio. Stay tuned for my next post about my favourite sewing tools and tips.

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Hello!

Drawn by Rhiannon

Welcome to the brand new Drawn by Rhiannon blog! This is the place to check out all the goings-on behind the scenes in the studio and find out about new print designs and products before anyone else. Please feel free to leave comments with your views, suggestions and ideas – I love talking to you lovely lot!