Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Creating Success around the World -Elbie Sparks

Welcome to

Creating Success around the World
The worldwide blog hop tour, that introduces you to creative people from all corners of the globe.

Creating my way to Sucess

Every Wednesday our hosts on each continent will introduce some inspiring creativity from their corner of the world.
Here's the hosts:


Today's guests are Vaughan and Nic from Elbie Sparks 
    in Western Australia

Elbie Sparks is the handmade designer range of greeting cards, art prints and posters by Vaughan and Nic Ransley. From retro inspired pieces, crisp contemporary items to bright cheerful children's designs, our work reflects our eclectic range of inspirations and interests.
We've always enjoyed crafting original cards and prints for our family and friends. People kept urging us to make our designs available for sale and we started doing just that in late 2010. Coming up with new ideas then making those ideas come to life is enjoyable for us. Having a creative outlet like this has been great for us as a family. We have a studio space in our home and the whole family often ends up in there, each working on their own creation, be it a greeting card design, a painting or in the case of our youngest, his current favourite, cutting up paper into as many pieces as possible.

In our home town of Busselton we sell at markets and we have our range available at the local art gallery. Online we sell our designs mainly through Madeit and we have been so pleased by the response we've received. We've tried other venues and have recently decided to focus mainly on Madeit and it is a decision we haven't regretted.


One of the first things we had to learn was not to be apologetic about our pricing, we had to price our products realistically and take into account our supply costs and time. We realised very quickly that we couldn't possibly compete with the price of many greeting cards in stores. Our product is made by us from concept to final product and customers who buy our cards appreciate and understand that.

We also had to learn to divide our time up more reasonably. When we first started Elbie Sparks we spent every waking moment on the computer working but we quickly realised it wasn't something we could maintain. At the moment Elbie Sparks is not something we can do full time, we have day jobs to go to, a household to run and two children with ASD to keep happy and healthy. We have become much better at time management and fulfilling all these aspects of our lives.

People often buy our cards and tell us exactly who they are going to give it to, "This is the perfect card for..." and this is a success for us every time it happens. When people appreciate our design and love what we do we feel successful. We're very serious about our brand and we're going to keep growing and building Elbie Sparks. Hopefully one day we'll be able to be creative all day every day and that would certainly mean the ultimate success for us - having Elbie Sparks be what we do for a living. For now though we celebrate each little success.

We've so many plans and the ideas board is bristling as always. We'd love to start working on selling our designs in more retail stores. There are dreams of a range of children's stationery i.e. notebooks, pencil cases etc. and also fabric, duvet covers, cushion covers and more. Vaughan is painting again and is planning to exhibit his work in the near future, so there is a lot happening in our studio. There have been discussions about children's books too so we'll see what happens, one day at a time.

Thanks Vaughan and Nic for your lovely answers - and for sharing your beautiful work with us!
Do go and say hi to them at their website and check out more of their wonderful creations!

If you would like to be featured in an interview - then please contact your continent's host! 
Each featured guest here on Creating my way to Success, will also receive one week's free advertising in my sidebar as a thank you for your post!

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Personalised Swimming Bags - a tutorial

Last week I made these swimming bags for my 2 daughters - and here is the promised tutorial - how to make them !
I chose to add the mesh in the bottom to allow the wet swimming gear to dry a little - and avoid smells!  

Materials needed:
Waterproof fabric - I used Ripstop Nylon for one, and an old shower curtain for the other!
2 pieces for main bag 48 x 42cm (19 x 16.5")
1 piece for drawstring strap 90 x 10cm (35.5 x 4")

1piece different colour waterproof fabric for name, and fusible webbing: 
30 x 10cm (12 x 4")

Mesh Fabric netting for base of bag.
 (I used an old mesh laundry bag)
42 x 20cm (16.5 x 8") 
NB I forgot to include my drawstring strap piece of fabric in this photo!

First you need to cut the name letters out of the second coloured piece of waterproof fabric.
Now I would highly recommend using fusible webbing to attach these letters to the main bag. Iron one side of the webbing to the back of the fabric - then you can write the letters on the paper backing and cut them out.

I was lazy and just drew the letters direct onto the fabric, cut them out and pinned in place.

Unfortunately this means the letters slip around a lot when trying to stitch them into place!

If you use the fusible webbing - you peel off the paper backing and iron them onto the main bag using a damp cloth over the letters.  This holds them in place and makes it much easer to stitch around the edges in either a tight zig zag stitch or the applique setting on your machine!

Now you're ready to put your bag together!

Pin the long side of the mesh/net fabric to the front main bag base - right sides together and stitch:

Repeat this with the other long side of the mesh/net fabric and the other main part of the bag:

If you have an overlocker (serger), it's a good idea to finish off the seam edges to prevent fraying.  If you don't have an overlocker (serger) you can use a zig zag stitch and trim the raw edge outside that.

You should now have a large rectangle with the mesh part in the centre.
It is a good idea to finish all four edges of this rectangle to prevent fraying.  Again if you have an overlocker (serger) use this around all edges. Otherwise you could turn the edges under twice and stitch with a regular machine to hide the raw edges.

Now you need to form the casing at the top of the bag for the drawstring.
Fold down both top edges - wrong sides together about 5cm (2").Pin and stitch along the edges.

Now fold the rectangle in half - right sides together to form your bag (inside out) Pin down the sides.

When you stitch the sides of the bag together - only stitch up as far as the casing. At the top, run some stitches sideways too and backwards and forwards a few times for extra strength:

Turn your bag out.
Now it's time to make the drawstring strap.
Take your long strip of waterproof fabric.
Fold both long edges in towards the centre, then both sides in again to completely enclose the raw edges. Then stitch down the edges to hold in place.  At either short end, fold the end under too to hide that raw edge.

Now all that's left is to add the drawstring to the bag!
Use a large safety pin or a nappy pin to push the strap through your casing Then tie the ends together:

And there you have one personalised swimming bag:

All ready to fill up with swimming gear:

And take to the pool..

Then you'll have to make one for sisters, brothers..friends...

For the downloadable PDF version of this tutorial, click here.

I hope you liked this tutorial.  
There are many over 100 more on my tutorials page if you'd like to take a look!

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Fitness and Motivation

This past week has been all about swimming for my 2 daughters.  After their first swimming carnival last week - resulting in a medal and ribbons, my elder daughter in particular has become more determined to improve and both girls have been swimming every day!  At their second swimming carnival yesterday they both beat some of their times from last week - and another medal was won!

Seeing the effort both girls have been putting in, I was inspired to push myself further too.

On Tuesday, I told them both as I dropped them at school, that they had inspired me to push myself in my running, and I was going to go for a personal best time for my 5km circuit.  My best ever time was

26 mins 23 seconds, 

and I wanted to get this under 26 minutes.  The girls were excited for me, wished me luck and said they would draw pictures for me if I did it!
So - out I went, and I pushed as hard as I could go. All the way I thought of my daughters, and every time I wanted to slow down, I thought of them.
When I finished my run, I was amazed when I saw my time was 

24 minutes and 46 seconds!

Almost 2 minutes faster than my best ever time!
I was totally exhausted but elated!!  It just goes to show what you can do when you really set your mind to something!

My girls came out of school that afternoon and asked straight away how I did.  They were excited for me and as promised when they got home that evening (after swimming) they made me the loveliest cards imaginable!

The rest of the week I managed to keep up my exercise - our family run on Wednesday, Spartacus on Friday plus aquathon training again today.  
In my Spartacus workout - I pushed myself harder than ever too, and the aches in my muscles the next day told me I'd done a REALLY good workout!

That pushing in my fitness, also came from my daughter asking what my goal for the year was. Fitness-wise, it is to run the Pyramid race in 2 hours (previous best time is 2hrs 39 mins) so this is a big ask.
I realised when I told my daughter this, that I really do need to improve to achieve my goal - so I have to start pushing when I train to go faster and harder, and little by little edge my way towards my goal!
So next week I'm going to keep on pushing that little bit harder to keep on improving!
When have you pushed yourself lately?  And do your kids inspire you?

Friday, February 24, 2012

100 Comments on your post - and my Little Jems

First of all I wanted to give another quick mention to my 
which I've been working on and finally put up for sale this week:

I think I've populated a lot of Cairns, Australia with these little creatures - through my market stall and giving gifts to my daughter's friends over the years.
I feel like it's time for my Little Jems to fly the nest and see the world.
In with the pattern and tutorial, I've included all the labels and printable materials I've used over the years to sell these cute furry Jems - so that others can create their own Little Jem business too!

This package is priced at $14.95, but for the next few hours, I'm giving a discount of $5 off this price to my subscribers! 
The package comes as an instant PDF download of the pattern, tutorial and printables.

If you would like to take advantage of this discount and get this value package for just $9.95,  then you can subscribe here - or by clicking on the link at the top right of my sidebar.

Hurry - Sale ends at 10pm Australian EST tonight (24th Feb)


Now onto something else I wanted to mention - for those of you who are trying to grow their blog and widen their audience!

Would you love to have lots of comments on your blog posts and get 
more people to visit your blog?

Well from 1st to 8th March Blogelina is hosting an event to do just that.  
The idea is that bloggers sign up, put up a GREAT post on March 1st, and then commit to visiting everyone else's blog in their group over the next week to comment on that fabulous post.

I think it is a great idea! Of course you can't guarantee that it will result in 100 more people becoming followers of your blog - or even that those 100 will actually follow through and leave comments on everyone's blog posts.  BUT the concept is good - and as with anything, I believe that you will get out as much as you are willing to put in.

So I've decided to sign up and give it a whirl. Hopefully I'll find some new and interesting blogs myself, and think up some amazing post for that day on my blog to capture new reader's attention and make them want to come back for more!!

If you want to join in - click here to go to the post on Blogelina about this and to sign up.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

My Creative space

My daughters both swim after school.  They have been swimming since they were born, and both love it.
Last weekend they both entered their first swimming carnival which although they did find a little daunting as two of the youngest swimmers there - they thoroughly enjoyed!
We came away with participation ribbons - and a medal!  Much to the thrill of my daughter and pride of her parents and sister!!

This win has resulted in an increased desire to swim more and this week we've been every day after school!

I realised that of all the bags I've made for them for every possible occasion and use, I haven't made them swimming bags!  How could I have missed that?

For the last few years they've been using pink shopping bags for their swimming gear!
So, I decided to rectify the situation and make them their own special swimming bags!

Big enough to fit in their flippers, swimmers, goggles and towels.

Net along the bottom so the water can drain away when they get stuffed full of their wet gear!
And their names on the front so they don't lose them or get them mixed up!

I'm pleased with the bags - and will be posting a tutorial on how I made them next week!

What bags have you made for your kids?

For lots more wonderful creativity - head on over to 
There's always lots going on there!