On the blog: plans for 2016

String of pearls plantI didn’t go to the inaugural Blogtacular in 2014 (I was busy pushing a baby out of my lady parts at the time) but I saw one quote from it repeated time and again:

“You will always have more ideas than time… …and that’s alright.”

It resonated with me as much as it clearly resonated with everyone else too. Phew! I thought. It’s not just me…

But 2015 on the blog was the year where I had lots of ideas but so little time that, actually, it didn’t really feel alright.

I started the year bursting with plans: ideas for new blog series, thoughts for fascinating articles, inspiration for stunning photos and oh, y’know, hundreds of amazing genre-busting things I was going to do with my blog. (Okay, that last part is a slight overstatement, but you get the drift.)

But my time felt more pinched than ever before and the huge majority of plans fell by the wayside.

So 2016, I hope, will be the year to resurrect some old ideas and start some new ones too. What can you hope to see on Wolves in London if you drop by in the next 12 months?

Gardening

I started my Gardening A-Z last January, full of excitement and with the intention of writing a fortnightly article explaining something about gardening. I got as far as, erm, the letter D. Not, I hasten to add, for lack of ideas or things to write about, but simply because I was finding it really hard to take a photo I could use for my article on “earthing up”…

I plan to resurrect (and hopefully finish!) the series this year, which I still feel as excited by 12 months later from the original plans.

Also, in a few days time, I am starting the second year of my garden design diploma. Last year was all about plants, this year is all about the “principles and practice” of design itself. I’m thinking of running a series about designing your own garden (in fact, I have had the first few articles written for a few months now) so if you’re hoping to overhaul your garden in 2016, look out for my thoughts on inspiration, designing, planning and planting your space.

Craft

Well, 2015 was not a year of great crafting, it must be said. But my recent reacquaintance with my knitting needles led to a flurry of hats knitted up before Christmas and a jumper for the sproglet is currently in process.

Friends, I must share both photos and chats about such things with you far more often!

But not just knitting; I finally have a permanent desk in our spare room where I can work and sew. The sewing machine is out of the attic and I am determined to get back in the sewing vibe again in 2016.

Wolves in London at home

We’ve been in our little Victorian terrace in SE London for more than three years now and have been almost permanently renovating that whole time. And yes, it’s true, we’re still not finished (I must get round to painting that hallway still) but the majority of the rooms are more or less there. And long-term readers will know that I’ve been meaning to share some room tours for a while now, so that is definitely on the cards for the springtime, once there is actually a bit of light back in the house again.

And the last one is definitely the hardest to achieve…

A bit more Sabrina

I realised a while ago that all of my favourite bloggers regularly include such amazing things as… ….photos of themselves!  I know, who would have thought it? Imagine reading a blog and actually have more than a vague awareness of what the blogger writing it looks like. Some people I have seen, the revolutionaries we might call them, even have photos of themselves in their sidebar! Futuristic or what?!

I mock, of course, because I think I have only three photos of myself on this blog anywhere*, and it’s something I have been meaning to address for a while now. When I’m reading other blogs I like to know who is talking to me, rather than just a faceless collection of words, so it’s only fair to assume others might want the same from me.

Why so few photos here so far (an average of one for every year I’ve been writing the blog, ha ha)?

It’s not just that I never think I look nice in any photo ever, but also because there is nobody around who ever takes a photo of me. I am always the one with the camera.

So this year, I am determined to have a crack with some self-portraits using my tripod and the self-timer on my camera. Cue much awkward posing and discomfort, I am sure.

Sooo, them’s the plans. We’ll see how many I manage to follow through with, but if any of that sounds like your cuppa, then please do visit back again. And of course, finally, a big thanks for checking in here and reading my frequently overly-long thoughts on life, the universe and everything. May 2016 be a wonderful year for you!

*Fact-finders, there is one on my About page (which is taken from my wedding), one with me wearing my homemade maxi skirt, and one of me pootling about in Hong Kong which is now more than four years old.

At Blogtacular

BlogtacularConferences don’t tend to be my cup of tea.

For a start, the cups of tea are always tiny. You have to drink at least three to equal a normal mug size.

But it’s not the tiny teas that are the worst thing. Not by a long shot. It’s all the bloody networking. It reminds me of the very first work party I ever attended in my first job after uni.

I was working for a newspaper and the work party happened to be taking place a fortnight after I had started. Nervous enough already (of being in an office; of being expected to know how to do things like filing and replying to emails and generally behaving like an adult), the thought of having to stand and sip champagne and make small talk with all these deeply intelligent journalists, whose photo bylines I had been looking at for years, was absolutely terrifying.

I arrived at the party, and stood at the back, clutching a glass of champagne and talking to the next most junior person in the office.

He filled me in on some gossip, we had a bit of a laugh and I started to unwind. And then after ten minutes he cheerfully declared, “Well, there’s no point standing here and talking to you, is there? I must go and network now and see what prospects I can get lined up.”

I swear, it honestly took me a good minute to realise he wasn’t joking.

But Blogtacular, the blogging conference I went to yesterday (of my own volition!) isn’t anything like that, of course.

Yes, there are the faces you recognise from the About pages, the bloggers you’ve followed for years and deeply admire, the same sense of trepidation on entering the room with everybody else chatting and laughing.

But Blogtacular is billed as a place of creativity where people can come together. And this year, 2015, the overriding theme was collaboration.

It was a packed day, almost overwhelmingly so, and there is really far too much to try and squeeze into one blog post. Plus, I know there are likely to be hundreds of posts popping up over the next few weeks with all sorts of information about the event.

So, rather than a full account of what I did, here is just a gathering of some of the things I found most inspiring.

  • In a completely fabulous talk about food styling and photography, Marte Marie Forsberg shared this poem, which I found so unbelievably beautiful as it popped up on the projector that I had to subtly brush away a tear. (Luckily, I was sitting in the front row, so I don’t think anyone noticed me blubbing…)

Tea for Two (A Tragedy)
For Richard Brautigan, who couldn’t be with us

It wasn’t until after
I poured the second cup
that I realized
I was alone.

Post-event Googling, I’ve discovered it is by Pamela August Russell. Beautiful, taut and haunting.

  • Grace Bonney’s opening talk about harnessing fear of change was filled with fabulous soundbites. Perhaps my favourite was her belief that a blog “isn’t just about more, more, more…” We shouldn’t be on a constant mission to increase the numbers; more readers, more likes, more shares. But instead, we should be searching for “an engaged reader” – someone who gets us, is interested in what we have to say, and wants to come back time and again.
  • I went to a second talk by Marte Marie Forsberg on creativity and inspiration. She told us that in her house when she was growing up there was a craft room, referred to by the family as The Blue Room, that was filled with everything you could need to be creative in any imaginable discipline. Every Monday evening, parents and children sat down together for a few hours of making. I was practically texting my husband to demand an extension to our house asap, so we can do the same.
  • And a final thought from Marte Marie: “Creativity is just about problem solving.”
  • Cate Sevilla from Buzzfeed took part in a panel discussion about growing your audience. She was fabulous and direct and had a brilliant point of view on just about everything that was discussed. Including: “You can’t grow an audience by doing the same thing over and over again.”
  • The closing keynote presentation was by Anthony Peters, who showed a trailer for his film, “Made you look”. It contained the most excellent quote:

“Twitter’s a bit like shouting into a cupboard, or talking into a cupboard… No-one hears you. No-one cares.”

Ha! My sentiment, exactly.

  • As well as the talks, I met lots of really lovely bloggers, some of whom I felt I already knew well having read their blog for ages, some of whom were new discoveries. But, I’m restricting myself to telling you about just one awesome person I met: Sarah from A Life Less Physical. I got chatting to Sarah at the very start of the day and she was witty, dry and refreshingly honest. After having a good read of her blog this morning, I can say she writes in the same way. Do check it out.

So, across the day, a huge great wallop in the face of inspiration, ideas and things to mull over for where I want this blog to go and what I can do to take it there. (Regular readers will know I’m already prone to somewhat constant blog navel gazing, so I’m hoping I don’t fall into a rabbit hole for too long and remember, instead, the main thing: just keep writing.)

And the best thing of all: every single person I spoke to seemed genuine and interested. And not a single one told me they needed to end a gossipy conversation in order to go and network with someone more important.

Links:

Blogtacular

Marte Marie Forsberg photography (If I happen to have a lottery win before October, I will be booking myself a place on this Venice food and photography course!)

Grace Bonney’s Design*Sponge

Cate Sevilla at Buzzfeed

The trailer for Made you look

A Life Less Physical

The torture of Sisyphus…

Cleaning brush

I’ve been in a bit of a blogging slump recently.

I won’t bore you with the overall existential ponderings. (Brief summary: but what is my blog for? *Scratches head, spends months trying to come up with the answer*) Coupled with that has just been a basic lack of things to write about.

When I started out, I mostly wrote about craft. Various lovely (or not so lovely) things I had made. But I’m not making anything these days. A cardigan for the sproglet has been sitting on my knitting needles for five months now and nothing else even attempted.

Sometimes, I used to tell you about nice places I’d been. These days, it’s mostly a blur of toddler dance classes, singing classes, the nursery run, lunches round at friends’ houses while our kids play together (I am sorry, but I just cannot use that vile term “playdates”) – all a pleasant enough way to spend time, for sure, but not offering wildly fascinating stories that I can retell to avid readers.

Weekends are mostly taken up with the endless chore of painting the damn house. Or thinking about painting the damn house. Or not painting the damn house and then regretting it.

And, of course, there are lots of bloggers who keep up regular lovely, inspirational posts, showing you nothing more than the insides of their house. Their beautifully styled, gloriously white houses with eclectic collections of carefully sourced nicknacks and curios. My house, however, spends most of its days looking like a cesspit. Or at least the place where a charity shop vomited up its insides and nobody’s yet had time to sort through everything and price it all up…

Housework, ah housework. Before I had two children, I had expected – of course – that more of my time might be taken up looking after the kids. (I didn’t realise that somehow this time would not double but possibly quadruple…) But I didn’t anticipate that the time needed to do the housework would also exponentially increase.

It’s, quite literally, a full time job attempting to wash everyone’s clothes, stack and unstack the dishwasher, cook everyone’s meals (that are left mostly untouched or thrown to the floor), sweep the floor, think that I really should get around to mopping the floor one day soon, get two children washed in the evening and napping at the right times throughout the day.

And not a full time job at which I am doing well, either. A full time job at which – were I to have the corporate time waster that is a quarterly review – I would be found “failing to meet expectations” and put on a three month probation period, almost certainly fired at the end of it due to lack of improvements.

(I should say, I do (almost definitely always) get the kids fed and washed. Don’t worry about that. In clean clothes every day? Hmmm, not so much. Frequent is the Friday where I fish out some dirty clothes from the washing pile and use a wet wipe to clean off the worst of the stains before dropping the sproglet in to nursery – wondering if I am secretly being judged for consistently bringing my child in in unwashed clothes…)

How does everyone else manage it, I wonder?! Of course I know that behind the blogging / instagram photos of immaculate mantelpieces are almost certainly messy sitting rooms, but still, still, congratualtions to all those who find time to not only beautifully style but also photograph their mantelpieces!

Anyway, I may no longer be bringing you craft projects, reviews of fun places to visit in London, or even a decent photo of any old thing these days, but I did stumble across this fabulous quote a little while ago, which perfectly sums up how I feel about all this. And this, my friends, is definitely worth writing a blog post just to share.

Simone de Beauvoir on cleaning:

“Few tasks are more like the torture of Sisyphus than housework, with its endless repetition: the clean becomes soiled, the soiled is made clean, over and over, day after day.”

Now, please, tell me I’m not alone!

PS, scrubbing brush image above from the Graphics Fairy. I’m not kidding you, I literally can’t find the time to go and snap a photo for this post…

On writing (and blogging)…

Blackberry | Wolves in LondonI’m going through one of those phases where I’ve forgotten how to write.

It’s a phase that’s not uncommon to me, as someone who has made their crust for the past 15 years with writing in one form or other (journalism / editing / communications / whatever the particularly tedious brand of writing is called that is simply trying to persuade people to open yet another promotional email newsletter that they really just want to delete).

I think almost all writers would admit that they frequently compare themselves detrimentally to other similar writers. It was this irresistible but bad-for-the-soul trait that really diminished my enjoyment of working on a big broadsheet back in my 20s.

You’d pick up the paper every morning and look through it, reading the pieces by your friends and contemporaries most carefully.

“Great piece this morning, John,” you’d say as you bumped into John ten minutes later in the lift popping off for a fag on level one. But secretly you were thinking, “Bloody John, that turn of phrase in paragraph two was really brilliant. I’m never going to be able to construct a sentence as well as that. John’s going to get that job that I really want on the books desk and probably a reader is writing in to complain about the factual error in my piece right this very second and I’m going to get fired on the same day John gets his promotion…”

When I’m going through a bad writing phase, though, it’s not other people’s writing that is making me feel depressed, but my own. “Good god,” I think, reading some witty, intelligent and beautifully honed article I wrote a year ago. “I could really write then! That’s a great joke! That’s an insightful but deftly managed point of view I’ve put across there. I will never, never, be able to write as well as that ever again. All my best work is behind me!”

So, yup, that’s where I am right now.

My lovely friend Laura pointed her readers towards a blackberry and apple vodka recipe I posted last year. I trotted over there too, just to remember what I had said and thought, blimey, I haven’t written anything as nicely as that for a while.

Why am I telling you this? Because I’ve decided that it’s time to give myself a little bit of a break. Stop beating myself up about my lack of writing panache and instead to just ride out the lull until I get my mojo back again.

So, dear readers, if you’ve noticed a certain dullness about my posts recently, an awkward turn of phrase, a clumsy repetition, please bear with me. If my posting isn’t as frequent, it’s because I’ve written something and decided it’s all a load of rubbish and deleted it in a fit of pique. And if I haven’t made you crack a smile for a good few months, my apologies.

In the meantime, head over to my archives and check out some of my articles back from the days when I could really write… There’s a particularly tasty blackberry and apple vodka recipe you might like to start with.

Styled: an Ikea jug

Last year I took a blogger’s photography course with Emily Quinton (you can read more about it here: Make light photography workshop).

Last month, Emily set all her past students a challenge to take an object and style it three ways.

It was a challenge I really wanted to take part in: styling is the thing I find absolutely the most utterly difficult in photography (especially photography for my blog) and the area in which I really want to improve.

I mulled it over for a few weeks, thinking of various different things I could style and then dismissing them again as I imagined the disappointing photographs I would take.

Then I saw A Quiet Style’s amazing photos for the same challenge and I almost threw in the towel then and there, so beautiful were her shots.

But not wanting to fall before I’d even reached the first hurdle, I looked myself in the mirror and had a stern word.

“Come on, Sabrina”,  I said, jumping up and down and making little motivational jab shots towards my own reflection, “you might as well at least try. Practice makes perfect and so on. Why don’t you take a few photos and if they’re heinously awful then you don’t have to put them on the blog or even admit to anyone else that it ever happened…”

So, safe in the knowledge my reputation would remain unbesmirched whatever the results, I settled on photographing a humble Ikea jug in three different ways. These are the results.

Firstly: the lazy option

I was photographing my July garden moodboard, when I saw the jug and decided to just stick it onto the backdrop and take a photo.

Jug and leaves | Wolves in London
No, there is no rhyme or reason to this photo

One of the very few things I know about styling is that you’re meant to tell a story with your vignette or wotnot. What on earth this story would be, I just don’t know. Milkmaid is on her way to milk cow, but stops to pick some herbs and accidentally leaves her jug behind with the discarded herbs on a pristine piece of paper?

Verdict: okay, definitely failing in the whole story telling stakes, but I quite like the simplicity of the white background with the white jug and the reflections of the green foliage on the jug’s sides.

Secondly, the ‘is it actually there?’ photo

I picked some of my delicious-smelling sweet peas and put them into the jug. (Y’know, in my real life, rather than my pretend styled life.)

And I think it was about two days before it actually occurred to me to take a photo of them. Ha.

Sweet peas | Wolves in London
Look carefully and you can just about make it out…

When I did, I got a bit carried away with the delicate sweet pea veins, which you can’t really make out unless you have quite a close up shot. So the jug becomes nothing more than a tiny background accent.

Verdict: nice sweet peas. Irrelevant jug.

Finally, number three, some actual styling

Okay, please don’t laugh that I call this styling because what is in this photo? A jug. Sitting on a tea towel.

Jug on tea towel | Wolves in London
Styling is all about napkins and tea towels, right?!

But, I have to confess that this took me almost 30 photos to get something I was even a little bit happy with.

I took my jug upstairs to the wooden floorboards (something Emily taught me in the last class, this one: wooden floorboards look nice in photos!) Then I took a nice (unused and still actually clean) tea towel and spent the best part of 15 minutes farting around trying to get a nice fold on it and wondering whether or not the jug should sit on the tea towel or next to the tea towel…

But, finally, I was actually pleased (or, at least, not displeased) with this shot.

Verdict: even things that apparently look really simple can take a bit of time to get right!

So, what do you reckon? I don’t think my phone is going to ring off the hook anytime soon with people begging me to style things for them, but a definite improvement along the way there…

I already have plans to try and style some other things in three ways. Watch this space for more agonising!

NB Can I just let you know how hard it was to resist calling this post, “Jugs.” But resist I did. Some acknowledgement due, surely?

Related articles:

  • I had another mini fight with my lack of styling instincts when I was doing a Blogging your way course last year. That time, the subject was some carrot jam

Blog hop

Last week, the lovely Laura of Circle Pine Trees invited me to join in with a blog hop. Everyone taking part answers three questions about creativity and then nominates two of their favourite bloggers to do the same. Follow on down the trail and find some wonderful new blogs…

You can see Laura’s answers from last week over on her blog — her thoughts on writing particularly struck a chord with me. (And if you’ve not visited before, stay and take a look at some of her stunning photos and wonderfully evocative tales of her life in the country.)

So, if you’ve headed back here again, on to me…

1/ What have been the doings/makings/scribblings at your desk/making table in the last week?

I’ve been hit by a real creative renaissance recently, re-emerging, bleary-eyed from a year of constant lethargy (pregnancy being the number one culprit for that) and, suddenly filled with boundless reserves of energy, have been trying to cram a million and one different things into the short spaces of time I get when both children nap simultaneously.

This week, I’ve been feverishly working away on plans I have for an Etsy shop I hope to open soon. I’ve been making some babygrows with vintage images on them, ready to send off to a few friends as product testers to get their thoughts…

Making vintage babygros | Wolves in London
Images all ready to iron on to the front

I’ve been trialling crockery decals, trying to make my sister a (very, very belated) wedding present. So belated, in fact, it’s already too late for their one year anniversary.

 

Homemade wedding plate | Wolves in London
Need to iron out a few things with this (not literally) and then a full tutorial will follow…

I’ve been gathering thinned apples and plums from the garden for my July shot of my monthly garden moodboards.

 

Apples and plums | Wolves in London
A rather sweet little basket!

 

And I’ve been making cherry vodka and photographing it for a future blog post…

 

Homemade cherry vodka | Wolves in London
So pink! So delicious!

2/ Where are you currently finding your inspiration?

Every day I take a wander through the ever-lovely Peckham Rye Park, pootling around its green open spaces and smelling all the flowers in the Sexby Garden, before taking the toddler off to the playground. I find endless inspiration here – both in the stunning plants which I photograph extremely (possibly too) frequently as you can see in my instagram feed – but also in having a bit of time to myself to think as I push the pram along the paths.

Peckham Rye Park | Wolves in London
Peckham Rye Park: a great place for a ponder

This is the time of day when I have most of my ideas. So I’m normally pondering what to do for my next craft project, what to write for the next blog post, what other products I want to stock in the new shop, what paint colours I want for the walls in the (newly-renovated) house, oh and the usual major life plan decisions, “what should I be doing in five years time.” Responses to the latter I update frequently and with endless enthusiasm. They almost always involve living on a farm and keeping alpacas.

3/ How important is being creative to you & how do you blend this with your work/life/family balance?

Ha! With an nine-week-old and a toddler, I don’t think I have much life balance right now, the large majority of my day being taken up with their demands sweet requests. The rest with a pressing need to fall asleep.

But, generally speaking, creativity is pretty important. I’m lucky enough that I have always worked in a creative job, somewhat falling into a career of journalism and then communications – though now, since having the toddler a few years ago, I’m a stay at home Mum.

Poppy | Wolves in London
A picture of a poppy. No particular reason, just breaking up all the text a bit…

When I had to write every single day for a living, I used to long for a bit of time off, when I didn’t feel the words flowing or just simply wasn’t in the mood to write something. I used to make up excuses to go and do some filing, or empty my desk drawers, or analyse website statistics, make another cup of tea, and so on. Anything to procrastinate on starting to actually write the damn article I was supposed to be writing.

Now, of course, any writing or crafting I do is purely for myself and I now find myself putting off the boring but essential things like running the dishwasher, filling the washing machine, erm even sometimes taking a shower, in order to write a blog post, take some photos, knit a few more rows on a baby jumper or embark on whatever new project I have in hand.

In all honesty, I never feel I have the balance right between work (not doing any right now at all. Feel rather guilty about that), family (am I giving them enough attention? Am I giving them too much attention? Will they grow up weird and socially maladjusted because they’ve not been at a nursery?) and creativity (I wish I had more time to spend on making things. Oh god, I’ve been spending too much time making things and the children will grow up maladjusted… etc etc. repeat ad nauseam).

On a rare day everything goes well: the children are delightful in the way I imagined children would always be before actually having any; both take a nap at the same time and I manage to finish some innovative, exciting craft project to exactly the high standard I had in my mind; the hubby comes home early and bathes the sproglet, while I write a witty and informative blog post about said craft project and quickly snap a few perfectly-lit, wonderfully-styled, immaculately-framed photos to accompany the post.

On those days, I feel as if I’ve got the balance just right…

Aaaaand, that’s the end of my (rather long) answers! So to pass the baton on to two more bloggers. Head over to their blogs next week, Monday July 7th, to see their answers, but in the meantime do go and have a browse right now!

I discovered Gemma Garner as we both link up at How does your garden grow, a weekly linky from Mammasaurus (now Manneskjur). It was perhaps inevitable that I would love Gemma’s blog: not only does she share my love for photographing flowers, but also for crafting and outdoors adventures. Gemma’s gardening photos, in particular, always inspire me to head off and grow / buy a few more plants for my own little patch as hers look so wonderful.

Sarah at Look what I made has a seemingly unending ability to craft / cook / create unique projects. One of my favourites ever was this amazing bird terrarium. Her blog is interesting, informative and always amusing. Plus, she’s based in Vienna, which seems terribly glamorous to me, here in the drizzly UK.

So, Laura, many thanks for asking me to take part. And Gemma and Sarah, I can’t wait to see your answers next week!

Making stuff and pootling in the garden

Back in November last year I took part in a blogging course run by Holly Becker of Decor8 (www.bloggingyourway.com). At the end of the month-long course, Holly chose six blogs to critique and produced a screencast looking at those blogs.

Guess what? My humble little Wolves in London was one of those blogs! Yes, that’s right, Holly Becker, THE Holly Becker, looked through my blog and gave a critique of it.

By the time I had finished fainting from excitement to realise I was one of the chosen, I sat down to watch the screencast, feeling more than a little trepidatious. After all, a critique ain’t gonna be 100 per cent positive, is it? What if she had chosen my blog only as an example of what not to do???

Of course, she’s not mean like that, and she gave me lots of positive feedback (including saying that she loved my photos, which was outrageously exciting to me since I struggle the most with getting photos I’m happy with) and the “areas for improvement,” reassuringly, were things I had been thinking about myself for some time too.

The main issue she pointed out is that my blog isn’t actually about what I say it’s about. Had you noticed that too?!

Making stuff and pootling in the garden | Wolves in London
Making stuff and pootling in the garden

In my first blog post, and in the tagline in my header above, I say that I am trying to set up a fabric business and this blog will talk about what I learn along the way. (Okay, my tagline gives me a little bit of breathing space too, with the “…doing just about anything else” conclusion.)

On my blog I actually talk about… …well, gardening a lot, making stuff, knitting, sewing, a little bit of cooking, general chat about my life, waffle about our new house, but, well, not really ever anything about this alleged fabric business.

The reason? I’ve done naff all on that plan.

It’s been bothering me for a while as to whether I should change my tagline, or whether I should change my blog. Do I make more of an attempt to write posts about the yet-to-be-realised fabric plan? Or do I just accept that’s not happening anytime soon and change my tagline to reflect that?

Though, the honest tagline to this blog would be something like:

“Making stuff and pootling in the garden”

Doesn’t have a great ring to it, does it?

But I’d love to hear your thoughts on the issue. What do you think about the increasing proliferation of gardening posts? Not what you’re here to read about?

Flower | Wolves in London
Has there been too much of this?

Should I narrow back my focus to fabrics, crafts and sewing in particular?

Craft supplies | Wolves in London
Not enough of this?

Or should I just carry on writing about whatever inspires me, in the hope it will also inspire other people too, and not worry about trying to give the blog a specific angle?

Any thoughts hugely welcome!

Related articles:

  • The rainbow wool combination in the photo above was the one I used for the knitted rainbow chevron blanket
  • The beautiful Liberty fabrics are for the (still not finished) quilt I started many blue moons ago

Things I’ve learnt: blogging

When I started this blog just over a year ago, with the aim of documenting my attempts to start up a fabric line, I thought that blogging was the one thing I actually already knew about.

In past day jobs, I’ve run blogs for big online companies. Blogs that are listed in Google News; blogs that attract tens of thousands of visitors a day; blogs that get commended in newspapers.

I knew about search engine optimisation. I knew the rules of web writing. I knew all about sticky content. I knew the importance of social media for promoting your blog…

And then I started writing this blog and none of it really seemed to apply.

Snail
What has this little snail got to do with blogging? Why, absolutely nothing. I just found him in my garden yesterday… (Though, if I tried hard, I’m sure I could spin some laboured analogy about taking things slowly, etc etc…)

What was the point of going all out on optimising every single post, when it might be something I was only writing about once and was hardly central to my overall blog?

I didn’t like the look of my web accessible boring factual, descriptive titles – they weren’t inspirational, they wouldn’t make me want to read the articles (even if they were clear and easy to understand).

I felt a bit exposed starting on a really personal project, when I first began, and I didn’t want to promote it on Facebook or Twitter where all my friends could see it and judge. And, worst of all, I simply did not want to write short articles in short sentences and short paragraphs, with lots of white space on the page.

When it came to writing a blog of my own, I just couldn’t see the point in doing it if I wasn’t writing what I wanted to. I’m a waffler. An inveterate burbler. A serious fan of parentheses (perhaps an addict even…) Trying to write my own thoughts in a way that wasn’t natural to me just wasn’t that fun.

What’s more, when I started to pay closer attention to the blogs that I enjoyed reading myself, I saw that many of these broke all the blog rules too.

So I decided that since this was my own time, I might as well do what I want to do, not what know I should do.

I wouldn’t say I have a million readers now (because I don’t), where I used to when I wrote the travel blog for my old website, but I have seen my readership slowly and steadily increase.

But most importantly, while it’s obviously nice to have people reading your blog posts, I enjoy writing them.

So, the main thing I’ve learnt about blogging: don’t worry about any of the rules. Sure, it helps to have nice photos and clear headlines and good social media promotion and all that. But it’s most important to just write what you want to write, the way you want to write it. Somewhere, out there across the ether, there’ll be someone who wants to read exactly that.

Related articles:

Things I’ve learnt is an occasional series, where I talk about stuff I’ve picked up while trying to set up a new business of printed fabrics. I’m hoping that the information in these posts might be informative / interesting / amusing to anyone else setting up their own business.

Other posts from the series are:

A photo a day: August 31st

AKA the last day!

So this is it, people, my very last photo of the day. My last contribution to the August break.

Me sleeping
Don’t disturb me, mother, I must sleep until the cows come in from the fields this evening. This work has wearied me to the very core…

This is me. Collapsed in bed, my hand resting on my weary brow. A subtle photographic representation of how absolutely bloody exhausted I am from posting a photo (or sometimes more than one) on the blog every single day for the entire month of August.

(Okay, I missed two days, so in reality it’s been 29 days and not the 31 it should have been.)

To be honest, I’m not sure I’d do this again.

I knew even at the very beginning, that far from being an August “break” for me, this would be much more work than normal. I’m not a great photographer, so it’s not just a question of “snap,” one great photo taken, I’ll stick that up onto the blog and be done in five minutes.

It’s more like, “snap,” look at picture on camera screen, is that nice? I’m not sure. Maybe I should take another one. Is that nice? I’m not sure. Have I got my settings wrong? Maybe the angle’s wrong. I’ll change the exposure. Hmmm, I’ll upload them to the computer. Right, let’s take a look through them. Hmmm, one of those six might be okay. I guess I’ll give them all a quick edit and see which ends up looking best. Oh, drat, this one’s wonky. Right, I’d better open up Pixlr and try and straighten that up. Hmmm, nope, that’s not the best photo. I’ll use another one.

*Four hours pass by*

You get the drift.

Hiding
Go away. I won’t get up until it’s September.

It’s not just the time it’s taken that’s proved tricky though.

When I first started this blog, I made a little manifesto to myself that I wanted to make sure every post had a purpose; delivered a specific bit of information that could be useful to someone reading that article. A tutorial of my own would be the ideal post in this scenario, but at the other end of the scale, if I was making some jam, for example, then I wanted to make sure I included a link to the jam recipe, not just photos of the jam I had made.

So, I felt a little uneasy about simply posting a photograph without any chat. Don’t get me wrong, there are trillions of blogs out there that I love where photographs are posted chat-free, or with minimum chat. The difference is, all of those bloggers take amazing photos.

Though my photos have massively improved since I started my blog, I’m still not one of those bloggers who takes amazing photos. So I feel that every photo should be accompanied by some interesting writing as well. And so now, rather than simply posting a photo a day, I’d talked myself into writing a blog post and posting a photo a day. (There were exceptions, of course, but I look back at those posts and really don’t like them…)

So, there you have it, my assessment of the past month: tiring overall and a bit out of step with what I really intend to do most of the time on this blog. On the plus side, a huge reason I did the August Break was to stop myself from agonising for so long over all the photos I include and also because I was hoping my photography would improve by taking part. I think that it possibly has.

But for the rest of the year, we’re going to back to what I’m happier doing. Bucket loads of waffle, interspersed with the odd picture here and there.

Related articles:

  • I’m so pleased to be saying this for the last time: you can take a look at my photos for every day this month in my August break category.

Five things about me

Regular readers will know that here on this blog I move at the speed of a gazelle.

Okay, perhaps at the speed of a very young gazelle. With a club foot. Who is just learning to walk in heels.

Anyone who read my post at the start of March about these children’s T-shirts I made and was intrigued by my little teaser about the tomato fabric at the end will still be eagerly waiting to find out what I made. (Why? Because I haven’t finished making it yet…) And my promise to deliver a baby bib pattern was made first in February and then again in April. But erm, no pattern yet, I’m afraid…*

So, perhaps it’s not a surprise that, despite my very real excitement at being mentioned by two of my very favourite blogs Truly Myrtle and This Blog is Not For You, a couple of months have passed and I’ve not yet shared five things about me. Or even one.

Partly, this was down to the fact I simply couldn’t think of anything interesting to say about myself. But then recently (ahem, not that recently) I saw a post on Decorator’s Notebook with a photo of her blogging view: the view she usually has when she sits down to write a blog post.

I found it really interesting (I always used to love those articles in the Guardian as well, where they showed a picture of an author’s study) and thought to myself, O-ho, this is something I could share as one of my five things and, what’s more, I’d love to see other bloggers views too…

So, my blogging view takes number one place and, after much head scratching, I managed to think of four more as well.

1. This is my view as I write most of my blog posts. I sit on my sofa, the baby usually asleep on me, and whenever I raise my eyes from the screen as I scramble round my brain looking for the perfect word, this is what I see in front of me.

Blogging view | Wolves in London
I do wish I’d plumped the cushions…

I was going to move the bins out of view for the photo, but then I thought that would be cheating – especially as I so often catch sight of them and think, drat, I forgot to put the rubbish out. Six months ago, you wouldn’t even have been able to see the bins, just a giant cactus.

I feel the need to point out that I did not choose that wallpaper. We moved into our new house about eight months ago and it’s not yet been decorated. So we currently have a different 1950s floral wallpaper in every room. I might show you some more of them in the coming weeks…

2. The succulent on the window sill is one I grew from a “cutting” of a 150 year-old jade plant. I say cutting, but actually I snapped a bit off and hid it in my bag when I was looking round the cactus and succulent house of a botanical garden. I’m not going to say which one, because, clearly, you’re not meant to go round breaking bits off the plants and I feel a bit guilty whenever I think about it…

3. Ever since I was about five, the one thing I’ve really wanted to do with my life is write a novel. From the age of 18, every time I went on holiday / took a gap year / was between jobs / went travelling I promised myself that would be the time I was going to write my novel. Finally, last winter, on sabbatical in Hong Kong for six months I actually did write a novel…

4. …When I read over it, it was a bit shit.

5. And for the last one, this is what I look like:

Wolves in London
C’est moi!

I’ve been really reticent about including a photo of myself on my blog; my About page just has a logo. I don’t even really know why. I suppose it’s a combination of a photos-on-the-internet-fear combined with a general not-liking-photos-of-myself.

But, I thought it was time to bite the bullet! I always like to see what other people look like when I read their blogs, so I guess people might want to know what I look like. This is it! (*Blog readership dramatically plummets* ha ha.)

The photo was taken by my partner who is officially the world’s worst photographer. And this photograph is officially the best one he’s ever taken in his life.

It’s not recent, as any recent photo of me would include bags down to my jowls, but about a year old, back when I was pregnant. As you can probably guess, it was taken when we were living in Hong Kong, and this is a Chinese New Year market. It was very busy, as you can see.

So, there you (finally) have it: five things you (probably) didn’t know about me.

And here are a few bloggers whose blogging view I would love to see:

  • Laura from Circle of Pine Trees is an amazing photographer and I just know any photos of her blogging view would make me long to move to her house even more than I already do.
  • Her crafty correspondent Annie, at Nimble Fingers & Steady Eyebrows, lives in the US now and I have a feeling her view will be equally impressive. It will probably include the odd bee or two as well.
  • Cheryl from Thimble Fingers makes the most beautiful fabric items with vintage images on them. Also in the US, I am very curious as to what she sees out of the window. Nothing like my London front garden, I’ll warrant…

So if any of you would like to show me a photo of your blogging view, I’d be delighted!

* Honestly, honestly, this is coming soon though. I’ve got it in pdf form now and everything.

P.S. On an unrelated note (though I suppose I could always make this a sixth thing), I mentioned that I went to a Pinterest party a few weeks ago, which was in celebration of Pinterest launching over here in the UK. I’m part of the UK Pin It Forward campaign, where 300 bloggers over the course of May will share one of their favourite boards, talk about why and what they’re pinning and introduce a new blogger the following day to do the same. Sort of like a giant online game of tag.

It’s all kicking off today and you can read more about it on the Pinterest blog. If you’ve got your reading glasses on, you can even spot my name at the very bottom of that great long list of blogs. If only I’d called my blog Aardvarks in London, eh?!

I’m up on May 17th, so look out for more then. It’s one deadline I will definitely be keeping.

Pin It Forward UK 2013

Related articles:

  • I’ve linked to about a hundred articles in this post already, so I’m just going to give you the links again if you’re like me and prefer to read to the end of a post first before clicking on a link.
  • Other posts about my house: one with some chat about our new house, one with the full story of our now extinct giant cactus.
  • Some projects I’ve made: homemade printed children’s T-shirts; printed carrot baby clothes; a bundle of baby bibs.