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  • Do you think subscription blogs can work?

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    My friend, Chelsea Fuss, has just moved her Frolic blog to Patreon, a platform for subscription-based blogs. For a small fee ($1 per month plus tax) you can access her blog content, which showcases her relaxed floral style. I've been reading Frolic and following Chelsea's travels since 2004, and she's been creating consistently great content ever since.

    Chelsea Fuss

    Chelsea says: "I was very excited recently to come across Patreon, as it turns the ad-generated internet upside down, and instead runs content on subscriptions. The Internet is my livelihood and my blank creative canvas but I've become disappointed in the intrusion into personal data and the focus on consumerism. I welcome an opportunity to run my business in a new way, through subscriptions."

    Posts already up include 'How to source flowers','How to make wildflowers last as long as possible' and top recommendations of places to visit in Lisbon, where Chelsea is currently living. Future posts will include flower tutorials and tips for becoming a floral designer. 

    I worked at The Times when they first launched their digital subscription (a model they're still using 10 years on), so the concept of paying for online content isn't new - I'm interested to know, do you think this model can work for bloggers?

    While I'm reluctant to sign up for more paid services, I have no problem spending £5 a day on coffee or lunch I could make at home, and any number of other impulse purchases. Over the years I've literally handed over thousands of pounds of my hard-earned money to Pret A Manger! 

    Although I don't object to bloggers publishing sponsored content (I've collaborated with some blogs myself), I think it's made blog content less interesting. Paying a small subscription fee seems like an easy way to support a few content creators who add particular value in education, resources and entertainment, and even just because they have a talent I think deserves recognition and a little reward 'tip' from me. So I've signed up to Frolic and look forward to what Chelsea creates.

     

    I've definitely noted how many of my real-life friends have purchased from my shop over the years (only a small number, but I've mentally bookmarked them and send them appreciative vibes) so in this case it's important to me also to support a friend. 

    Would you pay for a blog subscription? Or you do you think blogs and social media are an area where we just expect to consume for free? I'd love to hear your thoughts in the comments.

    Patreon has over 50,000 creators sharing video content and audio shows, DIY tutorials and covers all kinds of themes and content. Check out Frolic blog here.

    All photos © Chelsea Fuss

     

  • 10 best things to do in Bali

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    There’s nowhere quite like Bali. Whether you’re a dedicated sun worshipper, culture seeker, sorry-for-party-rocking rocker or aspiring yogi, vibrant Bali - one of over 17,000 islands that make up Indonesia - offers enough to satisfy every taste. The list of ‘Best Things to do in Bali’ could go into the thousands, but here is your starter for ten...

    Rifle Paper Co Bali print

    {Rifle Paper Co Bali print.}

    1. Achieve enlightenment*

    Feeling jet-lagged? Exhausted? Heartbroken? There’s nothing quite like a downward dog to turn that frown upside down...and you’ve come to the right place. Bali, and - in particular - Ubud in the foothills of the Gianyar region, is famous for its yoga retreats and mystical culture. If, back home, you’re accustomed to practicing yoga in a stuffy gym studio then prepare your eyes - and soul - for holding a cobra pose up among the palms fronds at The Yoga Barn. With over a dozen varieties of yoga taught each day, and the courtyard Juice Bar serving up fresh Vegan Goji Smoothies and Tropical Blasts, you’ll be spoilt for choice. Namaste.

    The Yoga Barn Bali

    The Yoga Barn Bali

    {Photos © disastersofathirtysomething}

    *enlightenment not guaranteed

    2. Monkey around

    Although definitely not recommended if you suffer pithecophobia (fear of monkeys), for other nature lovers and adventure seekers Ubud’s Monkey Forest is a thrilling opportunity to get up close and personal with the cheeky local primates. Although, be duly warned, ‘cheeky’ is the operative word: the Forest’s 700 branch-swinging, moped-chasing residents are so adept at pickpocketing and food-pinching they wouldn’t go amiss in Fagin’s Dickensian gang.

    Monkey Forest Ubud

    {Photo © disastersofathirtysomething}

    3. Dine under the stars

    From the very first step onto La Laguna’s cobbled pathways, you’ll be enchanted by the vintage gypsy caravans that line the walk, the strings of lights twinkling from the trees overhead and the sultry music beckoning you onwards. A world-renowned destination bar and restaurant, you may wish to book to ensure you secure one of the al fresco tables dotted through the tropical garden. Then relax, and let the bohemian magic wash over you as waves crash the sandbank.

    La Laguna Bali

    {Photo © lalagunabali}

    4. Get the Midas touch

    Hoping to discover the perfect pedi or most magnificent massage? Situated in the heart of hipster Canggu, Goldust Beauty Lounge is a luxury salon that - considering you’re paying in Rupiah - won’t break the bank. If you’re feeling truly decadent, plump for their signature 24k gold facial. Just remember your phone - you won’t want to miss the chance for a golden selfie.

    5. Make a splash

    If the sun is beating down and you fancy forgoing culture for larking about, then get your holiday gang down to Waterbom Bali, voted Asia’s number one waterpark. The park spans almost four hectares, with rides dotted among the landscaped gardens, refreshment kiosks and pools. True thrill-seekers should make their way to The Climax, Asia’s steepest slide, while passive paddlers can enjoy a drink in the shade. For discounted tickets look out for reputable vendors along Kuta’s main street.

    Waterbom Bali

    {Photo © Waterbombali}

    6. Be one of the beautiful people

    Bali bursts at the seams with dazzlingly attractive people; you can’t swing that proverbial cat without hitting a bikini model, and it can be somewhat unnerving. But, as the saying goes, if you can’t beat ‘em join ‘em. And if you really want to join the beautiful bunch, head down any weekend to Sippy Sundays, where you’ll find it’s not just the party-goers who are gorgeous - the chic, bleached decor, signature dishes and buy-one-get-one-free frozen strawberry daiquiris are pretty damn gorgeous too. Boasting Bali’s largest lagoon-style saltwater pool, Mrs Sippy is a haven of sunbeds and palm trees, where - with hot music pumping from the decks and swimwear-clad revellers peacocking off the sky-high diving board - the entertainment continues long into the evening.

    7. Get your praise hands up

    Whether you’re a regular church-goer or just looking for a pop of peace amid the partying, Australian megachurch Hillsong recently launched a venue in Bali’s bustling Kuta. Drop by for any of three different Sunday services, savour a tasty espresso and croissant fix from the coffee shop and meet friendly locals, expats and other holiday-makers.

    8. Catch a wave

    If you’ve never tried surfing but you’ve always fancied it, Bali has no shortage of enthusiastic local instructors and is renowned for its racy, clean waves. Plenty of beaches around the island have some kind of surf action, but one of the best places to grab a last-minute lesson is down at Canggu. And, if you’re hankering for an ice-cold beer after getting pummelled in the Indian Ocean, you’ll find every surfer worth their board wax flocks to Old Man’s beachfront beer garden at 5pm for happy hour. 

    Old Mans Canggu Bali

    {Photo © disastersofathirtysomething}

    9. Hike to heaven

    Are you the type who likes to work for a reward? One of Bali’s least visited beaches, Nyang Nyang manages to remain a relatively unspoilt, hidden stretch of stunning coastline, thanks to the steep, half hour hike it takes to wind your way down. Wear non-slip shoes (trainers rather than flip-flops), pack drinks, snacks and sun cream (there are very few vendors on the beach) and anticipate the glistening vista that awaits you at the bottom. Look out too for the graffiti-adorned shipwrecks that dot the sand...although at 20ft high they’re hard to miss.

    10. Escape the mainland 

    Off the northwest corner of Lombok sit the trio of exotic Gili islands, a short boat ride from mainland Lombok or a longer (often choppy) ferry ride from Bali. Depending on your taste, Gili Trawangan is widely known as the party island, Gili Meno is more tranquil, and Gili Air - for many - is Goldilocks’ perfect porridge: plenty of bars and eateries, but with a chilled-out vibe. Spend the day snorkelling with turtles right off the beach, top up your energy levels with a sumptuous vegetarian spread at Pachamama, then end your perfect island day with a sunset cocktail (or three) on a bean bag at Mowie’s beach bar.

    Gili Air Sunset

    {Photo © disastersofathirtysomething}

    Sarah Clarke spent an adult gap year travelling with her husband in 2017, and loved Bali so much that they went back three times during the year. She documents her travels and daily adventures on Instagram @disastersofathirtysomething.

  • Pinterest tips for business

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    At some point I'm planning a series of blog posts about how I've used Pinterest as a business, as it's a significant source of traffic to my site. However I wanted to share a couple of very easy points first which you might want to keep in mind if you're frantically trying to figure out how to make it work for your brand.

    3 things to remember when using Pinterest for business

    1. Always keep in mind your end goal

    The internet is full of e-courses on how to use Pinterest to maximise traffic, and how it will give you transformative results! Last year I quadrupled my Pinterest following and increased referral traffic to my site but not without significant effort on my part. I implemented different strategies and tips and switched up the strategy regularly to compare the impact. I bought one of those e-courses, scheduled my pins for optimum times and only pinned portrait images. I spent almost one full day working on it each week. As I could clearly see the growth I didn't stop to consider the most obvious factor. It was Stef from Makelight who pointed it out - is it converting to sales? As an e-commerce shop this is my main metric, but yours might be something different.

    Last year I only had 12 sales in total which came via Pinterest, totalling around £400. Was this worth the time I could have spent on any number of more successful marketing ideas? I'll answer that for you - NO! And who knows whether those 12 sales may have come from existing customers pinning their wishlist to a board as a Christmas prompt for their partner or friends?

    Your brand could have higher potential - because most Pinterest users are still in the US, the majority of my Pinterest traffic comes from there. As I'm selling some brands readily available in the US, AND my postage rate to the US is high (on purpose due to one American customer too many not reading the delivery instructions) I'm less likely to generate sales this way. If you're a North American brand, a unique designer maker, or someone not selling a physical product, your Pinterest traffic may convert to sales at a higher rate.

    leather pencilcase

    (Image © House Doctor | leather pencil case)

    2. Clicks not followers

    Hopefully you've got the memo about social media that it's engagement that matters, not the following. Pinterest makes it easy for you to see how many actual clicks to your website you're getting from Pinterest activity.

    If you have a business account, you can find the detail here:

    - Analytics (top left corner of the page) / Website / Clicks

    Clicks is the most important statistic to analyse. If you scroll down to the page the analytics show you the most popular pins which have been driving traffic to your site recently. You might find it's not even your own pins, or even your most recent pins which are the top referral sources. Two of my highest referring pins are of old calendar pages from 2015 - by no means the most beautiful images out there - and pinned by other people. 

    Still, this can be an encouraging statistic to monitor. Back in the early days of Pinterest, they asked people to be featured pinners - I recognise some pinners with over a million followers from this time. I know this to be true, because they asked me to be one, but by the time I replied they'd changed their criteria and I had missed the boat! These pinners don't have a million followers because they pinned all the live-long day or implemented some brilliant strategy so there's no point comparing yourself to them. You definitely can improve the number of clicks to your website with a bit of effort.

    plywood inspiration wall

    (Image © House Doctor | House Doctor desk accessories)

    3. Pinterest is seasonal

    One of my most popular boards is my gift wrapping board, which has lots of Christmas images, so it's no surprise that it has more repins in the run up to the holiday season - there's no point comparing the number of clicks or growth in those months of high activity to other times of year. Even If I look through old blog posts which I've been pinning, most of the original gift wrapping images I created myself feature Christmas gift wrap. If you're primarily a wedding business, you might find your busiest months for activity are in the run up to summer.

    blue gift wrap

    (Image © House Doctor | House Doctor gift wrap)

    I'm still pinning, and still testing strategies - hoping that some day one of my pins will go viral! I did have a very brief chat with an acquaintance who works at Pinterest who told me the only thing that really matters is how good the actual individual pin itself is! I don't think she was revealing any massive trade secret there but I think she meant that all the time you could spend cleaning up boards etc doesn't really matter as much as just having a great pin! I'm still pinning away though and testing variables - albeit slightly less earnestly and more infrequently than before.

    House Doctor range stocked at Papermash here.

    Have any questions about Pinterest? Pop them in the comments and I'll try and answer them there or in a future blog post.

  • New Rifle Paper Co cards for 2018

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    Rifle Paper Co has some pretty new floral designs for spring 2018, as well as having added to their range of encouragement cards! Having seen the Greatest Showman twice, I'm a particular fan of their 'You got this' trapeze design. Once upon a time I even took a circus skills class (had no talent in this area but it was great fun!) Check out the rest of our new Rifle Paper Co items here

    Rifle Paper Co new cards for 2018

    From top left:

    - Prairie birthday card

    - You got this card

    - Bouquet thanks postcards

    - Heart eyes card

    - You rock card

    - Wildwood congratulations card

    //

    You might also like:

    - Vintage printable gift tags

    - Behind the scenes at Papermash HQ

    - How to make personalised ribbon

  • Stationery shop vs. stationary shop

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    Are you guilty of this common spelling error? My research (using various keyword tools) suggests that over 40% people mix up stationery shop with stationary shop. Here I’m sharing a few easy ways to remember the difference, as well as the story of my own London stationery shop.

    Stationery vs. stationary

    stationery shop UK

    STATIONERY definition: office supplies and writing equipment.

    To spell it correctly every time, remember this:

    1. ERASER – E is for Eraser and stationery. Think of your favourite childhood stationery essentials (did anyone else have a collection of scented rubbers?) and you’ll remember that stationery, the type you can fit in your pencil case, should be spelled with an E.
    2. PAPER – alternatively you might want to visualise that pretty writing paper you keep for special occasions, or quirky greetings cards you've stocked up on and remember that paper and stationery are spelled the same!
    3. It seems that there are a plethora of things stationery to help you out here - you can also remember that LETTERS, written on your favourite stationery, also have an er

    There are no excuses for getting it wrong, right?

    stationery stationary

    STATIONARY definition: not moving.

    I’ve been trying to think of a suitable acronym or illustration for this one though for some reason the only things which come to mind are marching commands such as “About turn” and “At ease” even though both include being on the move….so I’d stick with remembering PapER = StationERy. StAnding still (bit tenuous) is the other! If you have something better to suggest please let me know!

    Why did you open a stationery shop?

    dark grey leather pencil case

    I go to a lot of networking events and I get asked this often, so I’m used to recalling some of the details (you’ll be glad to know I’ll give you the much abbreviated version in person!) But if you’re interested, here’s a little bit more of my not particularly strategic back story…

    Although I worked as an accountant previously (which I loved) I wanted to do my own thing as I was bored of working long hours and just wanted more flexibility. I couldn’t easily make evening commitments for most of my twenties and I still warn young graduates about the 'dark years'. I tried in more than one job to reduce my hours to a four day week so I could pursue other interests and it was always a no go. I didn’t resent that but I started to look around at other options. I was never going to be a Finance Director but I loved the projections and I’m also an ideas person so I thought that would be a good combination for running my own business. I’d had many entrepreneurial ideas and money-making schemes as a child so it felt like a natural progression. Back in the day I did a Masters in Museum Studies and although that might not seem particularly relevant I did have some skill in curating a collection and pulling together relevant information. Accountancy used those skills too though!

    Originally I wanted to set up a fashion label mainly because I’d had a specific idea (despite having no fashion background or contacts), so I took a brilliant short course on setting up your own fashion label at London College of Fashion. Although the course was excellent, it seemed like the barriers to entry were very high – high costs of fashion shows, for example. I wanted my brand to use fair trade and organic cotton, which at the time was incredibly difficult to source, and as I had no fashion network and needed to start small it was very difficult to find a manufacturer. I didn’t have much savings or anyone to support me with paying my domestic bills so I parked that idea! I recently met Charlotte from Know The Origin – a great ethical brand - who was a student at LCF and backpacked round India for months visiting factories and doing research for her dissertation on sustainable design. She is tenacious and determined and hugely passionate about a transparent supply chain - these are the people who can and deserve to make these things happen!

    I would say that although I didn’t have the drive, contacts or money to launch a fashion brand, I did work for a while in a co-working space with businesses who have set up successful sunglasses (think Meghan Markle), sock and shirt brands – none of whom had a design background. I am full of admiration for them and how they pulled it off. Similarly, two friends are (separately) launching their own range of watches later this year. When they’re flying off to Basel and Hong Kong for meetings I’m hugely impressed. Any idea where you find a watch designer? Me neither. I've still not seen my original idea replicated but I still have no idea how I'd even start!

    Of course there are huge risks and costs involved (fashion PR for example is super expensive), as well as the difficulty of seasonality - but I think there’s a much bigger slice of the population who’ll rush out and buy sunglasses because they’ve seen them in a magazine, on a celebrity, or on Instagram, rather than a notebook! I have at least 4 pairs of shoes I bought on a whim because I saw them on Instagram. If you are a person who’d make a rash purchase of stationery after seeing it online, I think we need to become acquainted! The higher price points and greater margin on manufacturing your own products make these fashion brands a potentially much more lucrative business.

    stationery shop

    Anyway I abandoned that idea, but I still wanted to set up my own business. Not long afterwards, in 2008, I took a career break and spent 3 months living the dream in New York’s West Village. I wanted to experience New York living like a local, so I spent a lot of time pretending to be working on my laptop in various coffee shops. This time was my first introduction to American design blogs such as Design is Mine, Design Sponge, and Oh Joy. My favourite was Creature Comforts, and through Ez’s curation I discovered many now ubiquitous items such as striped paper straws (hard to imagine those were once a NEW.BIG.THING), washi tape, letterpress stationery, and not that long afterwards – a new Florida-based stationery brand, Rifle Paper Co. I hadn’t seen any of these items I loved in the UK. This was a time when I really discovered the talents of independent designers (Etsy was also new to me) and so I decided to set up a stationery shop, mainly to bring many of these US brands and trends to the UK.

    At the time there weren’t many online shops, and the only other stationery shop I knew of had a well-deserved niche so I didn’t even think of them as competition. I did very little other research, spent £2,500 on a website and on my first stock; American letterpress stationery, cute Korean stationery and metallic notebooks from Oh Joy. While I had been living in New York, I had started a UK-based design blog, Tea for Joy, which had a good readership because there weren’t many similar blogs at the time. So about a year after my sabbatical, I launched my shop, promoted it through my blog, and off I went!

    Would you like to have a stationary shop?

    The only type of stationary shop is a bricks-and-mortar shop (in that it is not on the move) and whether this is something I'm considering is also a question I’m asked often. The easy answer to that is NO! You won’t find Papermash on your local high street any time soon, and here's a few reasons why:

    giant safety pin

    PERSONALITY

    I went to a marketing talk a while ago which mentioned that the type of marketing activities you enjoy as a business owner depend on your personality. Extroverts like sponsorships, pop-up shops, fairs and workshops whereas introverts are more comfortable with online marketing, blogging, Google Adwords etc. As a definite introvert, I’ve no problem saying I’m more comfortable with the latter – I’d rather work behind the screen. I’ve had many shop jobs in my life so I could do it but given the choice, I’d rather invest my time in online activities and strategies. I can be quite sociable and enjoy networking. But standing in a shop all day? Not for me, not for now.

    FINANCES

    House Doctor wire baskets

    If I don’t want to play shopkeeper all the livelong day, then I’d have to pay someone else to do it – that, combined with rent, rates and overheads – and the commitment of a lease - means there is quite a lot of financial risk involved. Of course, I wouldn't take on a shop without projecting that additional sales would cover the extra costs - but really, who knows, and for how long? A local independent gift shop recently went out of business, I think partly because a well-known stationery chain with great lines opened right across the street. The footfall in my local Cafe Nero has massively decreased since a massive Costa with a shiny shopfit opened directly opposite.

    There’s a small chance that someday if I find a studio (which I already cover the cost of) with a shop front for not a huge incremental cost I might look into it - but the cost of London’s commercial property makes that unlikely to be in London.

    Of course having a shop can work, for some businesses, even those with low price-point items. Near to where I live there is a busy card shop with a great selection of stock. I’ve spoken to the owner who told me that they sell 1,000 cards per day (1000!) and that the rent isn’t too expensive because it’s one of those tiny spaces which couldn’t have too many other retail uses. Even a larger shop space can help cover its overheads and raise its profile by running in-store workshops.

    When I go to trade fairs such as Top Drawer I always see lots of lovely cards from designers I’d like to support but won’t stock online because I don’t think that many people (including myself) go online to buy cards, so curating a physical shop collection would be something I’d enjoy. There are some lovely things in my shop that I think would sell much better in real life!

    gold desk set

    However, at this point (after nearly 10 years in business) – if in the unlikely scenario I find myself with money in the bank and nothing to do with it – I’m much more likely to invest in another business than expand into a bricks and mortar shop. I might just fancy diversifying, because doesn't that make life more interesting, and I think a lot of e-commerce skills and experience is transferable. Haven’t you known design-based businesses which have closed down just because they’ve gotten a bit bored of doing the same thing? I know one person who’s retraining in healthcare. Another friend took a full-time job because she wants to get a mortgage – to her surprise she’s loved how a regular paycheque has eliminated a lot of stress and this has allowed her to be more creative in her freelance work at weekends. I still have lots of ideas for Papermash but expanding (at a great cost) to do more of the same is probably not a direction I want to go in.

    I’m part of an entrepreneur’s network with regular fundraising pitching events. I find them a bit frustrating because there is so much emphasis on raising hundreds of thousands of pounds, as if this is the holy grail or an indicator of having a successful business. If you've big expansion plans which require a lot of funds, are happy to give away a share of your business, or sell the business in a few years - because the venture capitalist will make you - then of course that's the way to go. But there's a lack of acknowledgement that for some people, staying small, paying yourself enough of a salary and paying your taxes is still a happy and honourable way to live your life!

    Nevertheless, some of the businesses their founders are pitching for are inspiring, in areas I would never have thought of - lots are a better idea than mine, some have great potential and some are already performing well in their first year of trading.

    Unless you produce your own lines (I'm not ruling that out), the margins on retail are not great, especially when competitors (including Amazon and Ebay) are selling the same low-value items. My friend who’s launching a mid-price watch brand also sells second hand watches on Ebay and sometimes makes more profit in one sale than I might make in a week! Why not find something with a better return on investment?

    grey leather string

    FLEXIBILITY

    While I work hard with my little team and definitely work full-time hours – the main reason I don’t want to have a shop is that I love the ability to work flexibly. It’s why I set up my business in the first place. It was the major trade-off for giving up a career I actually enjoyed, with talented colleagues and challenging work. Usually I have the opportunity to work back in my professional job for a few weeks a year and I’d rather do that to make some extra money than be restricted to standing in a shop at weekends. I go away for long weekends quite often but don’t mind working evenings and other weekends to catch up. I often exercise during the day and have some voluntary commitments which all happen in daytime hours.

    Recently I’ve even been thinking of finding a part-time job a few days a week in a completely different area to keep things fresh. I do miss getting dressed up for work and think it might be good to have some routine. Of course you could say I’d find the same routine and could smarten up my appearance if I opened a shop but I’d like to use my brain in a different way. I’m interested in lots of different things apart from design and a lot of shopkeeping is repetitive admin. I do believe that it’s hard to expand a business unless you are working on it full-time but working just a few days a week would allow me to outsource more jobs so that I could concentrate on shop tasks I enjoy most (that’s styling not shopkeeping!) The freelancers I already work with are reliable but most are still establishing their careers and I like to encourage them on their journey too and to give them work if I can.

    I’d love to know what you think:

    • Have you taken a big risk to expand your business which has paid off?
    • Have you stayed small by choice and are happy with it?
    • Have you given up self-employment or closed down a product-based brand and are happier (or not) for it?
    • Or anything else you’d like to add or you'd like to see discussed in a future blog article!
  • Galentine's Day Ideas

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    Forget Valentine's Day. Forget checking your door mat, expectantly, and finding nothing but a flyer about local road works. Forget checking your Whatsapp and finding nothing but a photo of your second cousin's baby's first tooth. And forget checking your desk at work and finding nothing but half-eaten Pret sandwich. Valentine's Day seems geared to disappoint. Many of us have never received a card from that elusive 'secret admirer' we're taught to expect. No matter how many times we checked the door mat.

    So, forget Valentine's Day. Enter: Galentine's Day. A day on which to acknowledge our not-so-secret admirers: the school friends, uni mates, and ran-a-5k-in-yer-bras-together-once girls who've had our backs for years.

    So, to help celebrate, here are nine Galentine's Day ideas for fun things to do across the UK, so your girl gang can make this February one to remember. Remember to check each date as some of these activities are during the week of Galentine's Day, rather than the night itself.

    What is Galentine's Day?

    Originally devised by Parks and Recreation's Leslie Knope in a 2010 episode of the show, Galentine's Day has grown in popularity - beyond just fans of the US comedy series - and is now a recognised holiday in its own right. A day ahead of Valentine's Day - on 13th February - Galentine's Day is a chance to surround yourself with gal pals and be reminded that blokes may come and go, but female friendships endure through decades of wardrobe-swapping, phone calls, kickass dance floor routines and up-all-night, let's-do-this-together, round-the-kitchen-table, life-planning. Ladies celebrating ladies, women supporting women...what's not to love?

    Galentine's Day ideas

    How can you celebrate Galentine's Day?

    1. Throw a pancake party

    This year Galentine's Day falls on Shrove Tuesday, aligning the planets for the perfect night: pals and pancakes. If you want to play host, get the flour/eggs/milk in bulk and then ask each guest to bring a different topping. If you're feeling particularly friendship-loved-up, decorate pancakes with words to describe each other. 'Brave' for the one in your posse who's battled something major this year, 'Creative' for the one who's launched her own Etsy shop, 'Boss' for the one who beat everyone else to that incredible promotion. A chance to tell your girlfriends how much you admire them...in sprinkles.

     

    2. What would Beyoncé do?

    Been ghosted on Tinder? Had it up to here [gestures to forehead] with Happn? Why not channel that energy into perfecting your booty shake, and take your frustrations out on a gym floor. The Saturday before G-Day, Move Your Frame has a Beyoncé 'Drunk in Love' dance workshop where you and your Single Ladies can get down and dirty.

    Where? Frame at Kings Cross, London

    When? 10th February 2018

    Find out more

     

    3. Save water, drink champagne

    When you stop and think about it, all the best words begin with 'ch': chocolate, champagne, Cheddar cheese. Choreograph a Galentine's night soiree with your chosen chums where everything begin with 'ch'. Make the dress code 'chic or cheap'. Crank up 'Karma Chameleon' and 'Chandelier' on Spotify repeat. Play charades. Collect money for your favourite women's charities. Be cheerleaders, championing what you cherish about each other and sharing what you see in the next chapter of your friendship. And, if that all sounds like too much work, chuckle at Chandler's best bits on Netflix, dunk churros in hot chocolate sauce, and keep the Chardonnay flowing. Cheers!

     

    4. Feminist book club

    Read a selected female-centric book in advance and then come together to swap opinions, throwing in a few bottles of wine to help keep the ideas flowing. Titles could include Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale, Caitlin Moran's How to Be a Woman or Rebecca Solnit's Men Explain Things to Me. But top of the reading list has to be Galentine's Day inventor Amy Poehler's own Yes Please. Joining forces with your friends all night on how to smash the patriarchy? Yes please.

     {Instagram @disastersofathirtysomething}

    5. Can't sing, will sing

    In a building that used to be a grotty strip club, Vauxhall's delightful Tea House Theatre is now home to over 40 teas from around the world and a mouthwatering array of cakes. Fortnightly, they host a Tuneless Choir "for those who've been told they can’t sing in tune but LOVE to do it anyway!", meaning you could spend an evening having a warble with your girls, then catching up over lemon drizzle and Darjeeling.

    Where? Tea House Theatre, London

    When? 14th February 2018

    Find out more

     

    6. Female film festival

    Mystic Pizza

    {Instagram: @disastersofathirtysomething}

    Get your girl gang together, pop the corn, pop the corks and settle down for a night of your best-loved movies. Nominate each person to choose their favourite film and make a marathon of it; maximum points if you all get into pyjamas and face masks. Even more points if you match the film to the snacks: Mystic Pizza and a quattro formaggi, Chocolat and a giant box of Milk Tray, Mean Girls and sticks of butter (it's not a carb). Or, if you'd rather go out than stay in, here's a little round-up of some of the best Galentine's Day screenings across the UK...

    He's Just Not That Into You

    Where? King Street Townhouse, Manchester

    When? 13th February 2018

    Find out more

     

    Romy and Michele's High School Reunion

    Where? BFI, London

    When? 13th February 2018

    Find out more

     

    Thelma and Louise

    Where? Prince Charles Cinema, London

    When? 13th February 2018

    Find out more

     

    Mean Girls

    Where? The Leadmill, Sheffield

    When? 14th February 2018

    Find out more

     

    7. Spice up your life

    Galentine's Day falls within Kew Gardens' Orchids Festival, and it's not only a chance to get your favourite galentines together to coo over the blooms, but also treat yourselves to a Thai afternoon tea. As part of the festival, you can sample dishes such as king prawn and lemongrass tartlet and pina colada panna cotta. Bring a little spice and culture to your February.

    Where? Kew Gardens, London

    When? 10th February - 11th March 2018

    Find out more

     

    8. Hello Dolly

    Join Sunday Times dating columnist Dolly Alderton as she speaks about her new memoir, Everything I Know About Love. Enjoy a glass of prosecco with your fave babes as Dolly shares anecdotes about bad dates, good mates and why you are good enough as you are.

    Where? Waterstones, Gower Street, London

    When? 13th February 2018

    Find out more

     

    9. Drink, Shop & Do

    Do you like to drink? Shop? Do things? Boy, do I have the place for you. On Galentine's Day, head to London's Drink, Shop & Do bar for a cocktail and a card-making class. And forget boys, channel your creativity into designing a card for your goddaughter, granny or trusty eyebrow technician. Trust me, they'll appreciate an unexpected homemade card more than Fit Jack from Accounts.

    Where? Drink, Shop & Do, London

    When? 13th February 2018

    Find out more

    cardmaking

    cardmaking ideas

    {Photos: Anna Southgate for Make Wrap Mingle}

     

    Please note: it's advisable to book these events ahead of time to ensure availability.

    Over to you for number 10: do you have any Galentine's Day traditions of your own?

    Article by Sarah Clarke | Follow Sarah on Instagram @disastersofathirtysomething

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    Lynne's ideas for Galentine's Day cards and gifts:

    Galentine's Day cards and gifts

     

    - You're out of this world card

    Let's do this notepad

    Parisian fashion notebooks

    Nailed it card

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    - Make, wrap, mingle

    - Vintage printable gift tags

    - Behind the scenes at Papermash HQ

  • How to make an envelope

    Comment

    As the youngest members of my family grow older, I've increasingly given them cash or gift vouchers as a gift. I like to add a personalised touch to the impersonal gift, so I often make an envelope to send the gift in. They're so simple but still stretch my creative muscles a little as I mix and match the materials. Here's a very simple how-to.

    1. Collect your materials

    You can use many combinations and materials to make an envelope, but I usually have the below items on hand:

    Wooden envelope template

    This wooden envelope template can be reused many times and works perfectly with A4 sheets of paper. You might be able to get different shapes elsewhere, and you can certainly download free paper templates, but you'll get a better outline if you're tracing round a solid template. Children love using these too, and they are a little easier for them to use than paper templates. The benefit of the wooden or plastic templates is that you can trace through the lines below which makes it a little easier to fold neat edges.

    wooden envelope template

    A selection of papers

    Magazine pages

    There are so many beautiful magazines out there now, that it's easy to tear out the pages and keep them on hand for their next craft use! Some magazines even including wrapping paper or pretty papers for you to use. I don't keep back issues of magazines for long but before I recycle them I do scour the pages and cut out the prettiest pages. I hang them on a large wire clip in my office so I'm reminded to use them for wrapping small parcels or using in other paper crafts.

    Some of my favourite magazines to use include:

    - Freckle (beautiful scenic images of Ireland, printed on a lovely matte paper)

    - The Plant (my favourite plant magazine with photography and illustrations of gorgeous foliage and botanical landscapes.)

    - Cereal magazine (ethereal travel images.)

    Vintage ephemera

    I love to buy this at car boot sales. My most recent haul from the Chiswick car boot sale (a good place to find this kind of thing) included French comics, vintage sheet music, and ledger paper. 

    Sketchpad paper

    If you're artistic enough to paint or draw on the envelope, I recommend you use a standard sketch pad - I use watercolour paper for almost everything else but a thinner paper works better here as you need to make firm creases on the edges. One of my favourite snail mail inspirations is Naomi Bulger - you can follow her on Instagram for illustration ideas.

    Other papers you can use and easily find include gridded paper, tracing paper, or recycled wrapping paper. Just keep in mind that if you're using a glossy paper, it might be difficult to draw on the paper, so you'll need a sticky label for those.

    Other supplies

    You can use either a scalpel or scissors, and I like to keep everything tidy by using a cutting mat. If you like a bit of embellishment, you can use washi tape, rubber stamps, vintage stamps, glitter (which might not survive the post) and address labels. I don't always have the patience to persevere with my temperamental typewriter, but I'll sometimes use a typewriter font to print out an address label.

    wooden envelope template

    2. Make the basic envelope

    This couldn't be any easier! If you're using a wooden template, simply draw round the template in pencil on the underside of the paper (so the pencil marks don't show.) Don't forget to draw through the inside lines as it makes a much neater envelope if you fold on these guide lines.

    Using a scalpel or sharp scissors, cut round the template and fold in on the lines. You'll want to check everything lines up correctly before gluing the sides together with a simple stick glue. Just before gluing, you can use a bone folder or a ruler to crease the lines.

    3. Decorate!

    In the envelope above, I've added some neon washi tape to finish off the edges. Below are some envelopes Jeska from Lobster and Swan made for us a few years ago, using watercolours, washi tape, marker pens, and collage. Aren't they beautiful?

    make your own envelopes

    Other uses for homemade envelopes

    I've mentioned that I often put cash or gift vouchers in these envelopes, but here are some more ideas you could try:

    Seed swap

    Lyndsey runs a seed swap every January at What You Sow - a fun secret seed exchange.

    Lavender sachets

    I'm not too talented with a sewing machine, but I visit a lavender farm nearby each summer and make simple fragrant envelopes for my drawers using paper envelopes and dried lavender. I just make sure I glue it closed.

    Other small gifts

    Other envelope-sized gifts include cinema tickets, lottery scratchcards, and temporary tattoos.

    I'd love to hear any suggestions you having for using these envelopes! Is there anyone you can recommend I follow for snail mail art ideas? You can see some of my current favourites on my Pretty Envelopes Pinterest board.

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    Other blog posts you might like:

    - Valentine's washi tape postcards

    - Vintage printable gift tags

    Pink paper doily parasols

  • Christmas wrapping ideas

    Comment

    Are you looking for new Christmas wrapping ideas to make wrapping presents part of the seasonal fun? If you like a bit of Christmas crafting, I hope you'll like some of my simple, but very effective, gift topper and gift wrapping ideas for Christmas and holiday gifts. If you don't have time for homemade gifts (I rarely do) it might make the festive season seem less frenzied if you can set aside a little time for some kind of creative activity. Making unique gift wrap is very satisfying.

    Christmas gift wrap

    Christmas wrapping party

    I love to see other's gift wrapping ideas too, and it's something people often enjoy, so why not consider making it a group activity? In previous years we've taken part in gift wrapping parties, where we supply brown paper, craft supplies, a bit of greenery and some festive drinks - and ask for a charity donation in exchange. 

    The cost is pretty minimal - brown paper is inexpensive, and bakers twine usually comes in 100m rolls - so it doesn't cost too much to execute. I try to group supplies together so it isn't too chaotic - I organise washi tape by similar colours on these large safety pins. I've found that friends are generally happy to stick with classic colour schemes, so rather than catering for everyone's wrapping whims, try being consistent in your supplies. I like to use a silver and gold Christmas theme, with natural brown paper and foliage.

    If you're expecting a lot of people or think this is something you might do in future years, you might be able to buy brown paper and tissue paper and bulk from your nearest whole flower market - we bought bunches of eucalyptus and a ream of pretty gold star tissue from London't New Covent Garden flower market (you don't need to be a florist or have a wholesale account to shop there, just remember that the prices quoted will exclude VAT, and that if you show up a little later the sellers will be more patient with you.) A traditional colour theme using red ribbon and dark green paper also works well.

    In more ambitious years we've combined gift wrapping with making beeswax candles, lemon curd and peppermint bark, and provided the jars and catering boxes to wrap them in - but more recently I've found it easier to just let people wrap their own gifts. If you really want to include a 'making' element, people love making pom poms with the inexpensive plastic pom pom makers you can easily buy online.

    Have you ever done something similar? If wrapping Christmas presents is not your idea of fun, you might find an event like this at least focuses your mind on the task - or you might find someone enthusiastic to do it for you! I've seen some friends in a new light when I've witnessed creative skills I didn't know they had!

    Christmas wrapping ideas

    Easy ways to make unique gift wrap

    1. Add a personalised touch

    An easy way to make a parcel look special is simply to use a letter sticker to add the recipient's initial, or a rubber stamp to stamp their name or initial. I love the font on these alphabet stamps.

    wrapping Christmas presents

    2. Add a small crafty touch

    Even a small crafty element will make your Christmas gift wrap unique. Your friend or family member will appreciate the extra effort! Here's some easy ideas that anyone can manage:

    Make your own gift tags

    - Even if your crafting skills aren't amazing (I'm all about the quick crafty fix myself), you can stamp a design on a plain brown tag (don't worry if it goes off the edge - that looks great too), add a little washi tape to the edge of a tag or small envelope, or layer a couple of items (try a letter sticker on top of washi tape stripes). You may find creative skills you didn't know you had!

    - Use a stamp to make the tag itself. Many of our rubber stamps are a good size for making tags (we added a silver star sticker on top of our Christmas tree stamp). You can use a rivet punch (this is the one I bought from Amazon) to make a hole at the top.

    Christmas gift wrapping ideas

    Make your own wrapping paper

    - Use stamps on plain brown paper to make your own wrapping paper. We keep paper from online deliveries, stamp it with nature-themed stamps, and then scrunch up the paper afterwards for a rustic look! Geometric designs look better on smooth paper. It doesn't matter if the designs are randomly repeated and not in exact lines so don't worry about accuracy - when it's wrapped up no-one will notice. For small parcels you can add washi tape or glitter tape triangles to jazz up plain paper. I'd stay small scale if you do this one - you'll soon get crafter's fatigue if you attempt anything more ambitious! If you don't have many Christmas-specific craft supplies to hand you can still be creative - try using the rubber on the end of a pencil to make polka dots on plain paper!

     

    3. Less doesn't have to be more

    Add as much bling as you're comfortable with: things I like to add include eucalyptus stems (these dry out nicely, so you don't need to worry about bits of pine all over the carpet), gypsophila, dried orange slices, jingle bells, cute paperclips such as these arrow paperclips, and glitter stars.

     

    4. Add a touch of luxury

    This year I'm using this leather string, which is a beautiful quality and a stylish alternative to Christmas ribbon. I'm mainly using it on small gifts, as it's pricey if you're wrapping huge boxes, but for larger boxes, why not try this gold and white bakers twine or this elegant black wax string. Both are 100 metres long so will wrap lots of presents!

     Christmas wrapping

    Gift wrapping ideas

     What are your favourite Christmas gift wrapping ideas?

    Everything used above is available in my shop. You can find all of the gift wrap supplies here.

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    Other blog posts you might like:

    - How to make personalised ribbon

    - Carol music wrapping paper

    - How to make a washi tape feather

  • Kraft vintage postcards

    Comment

    This week we've got a special set of postcards as a freebie with every order - 4 kraft postcards with vintage designs (not identical, but similar to the designs you can print at home here.)

    We have limited availability so it's worth placing your order quickly (I'll update when we're sold out.) First visit to our store? Festive collections you might like include:

    - Christmas gift wrap

    - Rifle Paper Co gifts

    - Gifts for crafters

    Brown paper parcels with vintage postcards

    {Included above: gold string lights, gold and white ribbon, dark grey leather string, gold leather string, vintage Paris postcards (just seen)}

    Vintage rose postcards

    gold-leather-string

    Check out our range of gift wrapping supplies here.

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    You might also like:

    - Vintage printable gift tags

    - Carol music wrapping paper

    - How to make a washi tape feather

  • How to make personalised ribbon

    Comment

    Making your own personalised ribbon is very easy but gives incredibly satisfying results! 

    1. Buy cotton ribbon (such as our grey cotton ribbon) or bias binding from a local haberdashers. The thicker ribbon below is bias binding and is very inexpensive.

    2. Lay a piece of newspaper or brown paper on a cutting mat, so you don't stain your mat. 

    3. Stamp the design of your choice! Our ink pads are suitable for printing on fabric, and you can fix the ink with an iron, but I've never done this and think the results turn out fine! If you use a newer ink pad it will work better as the ink saturates better when fresh.

    personalised ribbon

    personalised christmas ribbon

    how to make personalised ribbon

    I used the below rubber stamps for our ribbon:

    - Pine cone stamp

    - Celebration rubber stamp kit

    You can also see how I stamped our grey cotton ribbon to co-ordinate with our free vintage gift tags here.

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