Happy 1st Birthday to Cakes & Cardies!

In the words of Barry Manilow (showing my age and squareness!), looks like we made it….through the first year in business. The official date was 8th September but just getting around to writing this now. It’s been a great year, a tough learning curve with some highs and lows. In fact, there was a moment during the summer that I was considering finishing up but after talking it through with husband and friends I decided to keep going. And since then |I have never been busier.

I am in the lucky position of having my husband’s wholehearted support and for that I will always be grateful. Without that I would not be able to do this. Running a baking business is hard work and it takes a while to get your name out there.

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My first ever cake, supplied to Bambuni, Rosewater and Pistachio

Thanks to Bambuni in Nunhead who have supported me from the start, buying my cakes and giving great feedback too. I am also now supplying The Brockley Deli and Old Spike Roastery. And most recently The Ivy House pub in Nunhead, thanks Aimi for all the orders! And in between that there have been birthday cakes, leaving cakes and cakes for BBQs.

80s Inspired Birthday Cake
80s Inspired Birthday Cake

I have learned a lot along the way and my cakes are better for all the practise and have come up with some of my own recipes (my favourite being the Espresso Martini Cake!).

Espresso Martini Cake
Espresso Martini Cake

On the Cardies side, I have crocheted bikinis, ponchos, hair slides and tops and knitted baby hats, hooded jackets and jumpers. I also set up an Esty shop to sell some of my crafts and it looks like I will be making doggie jumpers and scarves in the near future! I’m nothing if not eclectic!

Multicoloured, to say the least!
Multicoloured, to say the least!

To help with all of this I am  working part time in publishing again, this means that I can continue with the baking and knitting/crochet while having a bit of income and also a really nice job. It is good to have that balance of going to the office and doing my job there, meeting people etc and then being able to do the baking the rest of the time, best of both worlds you could say.

So here’s to the next year! Thanks to all who have supported Cakes & Cardies this year and I look forward to baking for lots of new people in the coming weeks and months!

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Fairs and Festivals

As part of building business I have been doing some local craft fairs and festivals over the last couple of months with varying success. These are a great way of meeting people, customers and fellow traders, a way of gathering information on what is happening out in the real world. It’s not always what you want to hear but that is all part of it, I guess.

The first of these fairs was the Fair on the Green back in May and this was the first fair that I brought along some of my knitting and crochet as well as the cakes. It was held in the Salvation Army hall on Nunhead Green and was an eclectic mix of stalls – Fancy Betty, Rebecca Hunter Art, Maria Nilsson, Forever Living, SIXYBL (all with me upstairs) and more cakes, soap and pottery downstairs.

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Passionfruit Cake
Passionfruit Cake

It was a strange day, the weather wasn’t good (unseasonably cold and grey) which didn’t help so there wasn’t the footfall that was hoped for. I did ok in the end but had lots of leftovers which were happily consumed by work colleagues that week!

Next up was Brimmington Park Midsummer Festival on 20th June. This is a very small park between Queens Park Road and Old Kent Road in Peckham and at first I was a bit sceptical that this was going to work but had a really good day in the end. Again the weather was not our friend but the bad rain held off until the end of the festival!

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A week later I was in Norbory at The Notorious Norbory Fair and Market. This was held in a function room at the back of a pub and had lots of great local stalls selling handmade goods, art, bread etc and Fancy Betty was there too, nice to see a familiar face! Unfortunately, the day wasn’t as busy as hoped, this was the second event and the first had been very busy. Not sure what happened on that day but no one was buying cakes! Lots of lovely people and lots of compliments for the cakes that sold, especially the rosewater and pistachio cake.

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And the most recent one was last weekend, 4th July, at the Blythe Hill Fields Summer Festival, a local park that holds this annual festival of music, food and crafts. This one was a bit more complicated as I had to provide my own stall, table and gazebo. Luckily my friends Jo and Simon came to the rescue and rather than having to invest in a table and gazebo they had both that I could borrow.

With the help of my wonderful husband we set up the stall, making sure that there were weights holding down both table and gazebo. The park is on a hill, clue in the title, and it was windy. You can see what’s coming, right? So, we were all set up, selling some cakes and especially my rosewater and pistachio cake when a breeze blew over the cake stand and the rosewater cake was on the ground! Not the best moment!! But it was a good day in the end, selling out of a couple of things and most of the rest.

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Jammy Dodgers
Jammy Dodgers

And so after doing four very different festivals and fairs I am no wiser as to what makes a successful fair, the weather plays a big part, advertising too. But even if there are lots of people you can’t guarantee sales, so what is the missing x factor? I know the cakes are good (that’s not me blowing my own trumpet, people have told me) so is it how they are displayed? Am I selling in the right places? How do you get to the right places? Many questions to be answered in the coming days and weeks.

 

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Crochet Dreams!

Way back in March I received an email with the subject “Crochet Dreams”, this intrigued me as I also didn’t recognise the name the email came from. When I read it I realised that my friend and vintage clothes seller extraordinaire, Caroline, had recommended me and my crocheting (yet again, thanks Cazza) to a friend of hers. Laura had a vintage garment that she wanted recreated in her size. There were a few pictures of the garment with the email and it looked fairly straightforward.

But there wasn’t a pattern, just the garment to work from which is something I have never done before. Would I be able to recreate it? Laura sent me the garment and I started to examine the stitches, pattern and construction.

The original garment, it was too small to fit on my dummy!
The original garment, it was too small to fit on my dummy!

The stitch pattern was easy to work out, a two row pattern: row 1 set up row of chain loops, row 2 double treble clusters in first chain loop, 2 chains and a double crochet into the next loop and repeat. Easy. The construction of the garment was also straightforward. It was worked in one piece, starting at the bottom front, adding on chains for the arms and then working down the back. Adding on the arms caused a few head scratches but I had done something similar for one of the crocheted bikinis I have been making recently so I knew what to do.

The biggest challenge was to work out the neck shaping. I am a more confident knitter than I am a crocheter so constructing knitted garments is easy for me, I know how to shape the neck, shoulders etc but crochet is different. You can’t caste off stitches or decrease stitches in the same way that you do in knitting. I decided that I needed to work a test piece, in miniature, to get it all straight in my head. I was selling cakes at a craft fair a couple of weeks later and suffice it to say I had a lot of spare time on my hands and managed to get a lot done.

Smaller sample on the left, original on the right
Smaller sample on the left, original on the right

Then I had to work out the sizing based on Laura’s requirements, there was a lot of counting, adding, dividing and walking away from my notebook before I was happy that I had everything worked out. We then had to find the right wool and Laura wanted it in the same colour and weight as the original, a natural cream in a chunky yarn. After much searching we decided on this glorious Rowan yarn, 100% wool and natural undyed. It is a lovely wool to work with.

With everything ready and bikinis finished I started the garment a couple of weeks ago. I had a few false starts as I got the number of chain and patterns right but I was soon storming ahead. I knew it wouldn’t take too long once I got started but I knew the neck was going to slow me down. In the end it wasn’t very difficult at all. Once I got to where the neck started I completed one side first (just as you would with a knitted garment) then completed the second side and joined them back together and continued down the back. Once I had finished it I blocked it out to the correct size and crocheted the seams together with slip stitches.

As I started to add the trim I was getting very low on wool and at one point I thought I would run out but luckily I had just about enough, there was only a few inches left! I had guessed the amount of yarn almost perfectly. I had hoped that Laura and I could meet so I could hand over the finished garment in person but time was not on our side so I posted it to her earlier this week and this is what she had to say:

‘ A wonderful journey of a piece from start to finish. Sharon was great in sourcing the right yarns, swatching the stitches and making sure that throughout the crocheting everything was as I wanted to the vintage garment I used for inspiration. And the final piece is absolutely amazing and a piece I will hand down to future generations. The process of having a bespoke piece made is definitely something I will do again!’ 

The finished article
The finished article

 

Stitch close-up
Stitch close-up

A happy customer! It was a fun project to work on and has given me a lot more confidence in my crocheting and a new found love of crocheting. I am concocting all sorts of ideas as we speak!

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