Monday, 28 February 2011

Money for old rope - Ebay selling tips!

I do love a bit of 'money for old rope' - in fact, its something that Michael and I have always done when we are raising funds for something. We did a car boot sale before we moved into our house years ago, and made enough money to buy our sofas with (store seconds, of course!), we did another one last summer and re-landscaped our back garden with the profits, and we save all our low value coins in an old whisky bottle - (1p, 2p, 5p) and use the money we accumulate to buy summer plants in summer, and a Christmas tree in December.
We also sell our old stuff on Ebay to pay for other things, as and when we have something in mind. So, the current challenge is to raise money for our holiday spending money, using just our old stuff!
I'm really pleased to say that in 3 weeks, we have made just over £450, which gives us approx $680 so far! Yippee!
This has just been the result of clearing out our wardrobes, and cupboards, and selling it all on Ebay in auction format. I am actually really suprised at what people will pay for 2nd hand stuff! Most of what I have been selling (which was mostly second hand stuff anyway) has gone for far more that what I payed for it, result! It does take time and a bit of effort to maximise your sales of your old junk however, but its worth it - so here are my top tips for Ebay selling;

1. Only sell something that is in good, clean condition. If its clothing - make sure its washed and has no stains, holes etc. If its something like a bag, or homeware, make sure its dusted, emptied and wiped over. My friend once bought a vintage bag off ebay. It arrived covered in dust, finger marks in the dust from the seller, and toothpicks and a used tissue inside....nice!

2. Take good photos. Do not snap a photo from 10 metres away, with your phone and 'upload straight to Ebay'. It looks rubbish and you will probably not sell it! You dont need a fantastic camera, just a bit of care and attention. Make sure the photos are in focus (use the MACRO option for close ups) and take photos in natural light. Flash distorts colours and does not show the item off properly. Also take it on a neutral background where possible so you don't detract from your item, and get a few different angles or a standard and a close up shot of the item. Then crop or lighten the photos as needed. I use Photoshop, but you can download free, easy to use photo edit softwear off the internet, like Picassa, or use the software that came with your camera.

3. Put as much information on the listing as possible. If its clothing, put the size then add at least a pit to pit meaurement and a centre back measurement on there. The first item you list is always the most time consuming, but once you have done that one, you can 'sell similar' on your next listing and just change the relevant bit of the text. Make sure you are clear about payment terms (ie paypal only, payment required in 4 days etc.) and your return policy (if you accept returns.)

4. Consider offering international postage. I sell about 70% of everything to overseas buyers. If you don't offer to sell to everywhere, you are missing out on pontential customers (and a better selling price).

5. Get some scales. I just use some basic kitchen ones so I can weigh the items and give an accurate postage cost. Make sure to add a bit on for packing materials and to cover your Ebay fee. Don't overcharge postage. It puts people off buying, and you will get complaints about it.

6. Respond to all questions asap. If you have put lots of info on the listing, you most probably wont get any/many questions anyway.

7. When the item sells, make sure you post out promptly. Pack items securely, and get a 'proof of posting' from the post office to cover you should something go missing.

8. To save even more money on your listings - look out for 'free listing' weekends on Ebay. They run them (in the UK anyway) at least once or twice a month. All insertion fees are free, regardless of start price. This is not available to business sellers (like me), so we sell our old junk on Michael's account to get the benefit :)

9. Save up your cash in your Paypal account until you have sold everything, and paid your seller fees then draw it out and spend your 'old rope' on something fun :))

So they are my handy tips for making the best of your Ebay sales....hope you find it useful!

Saturday, 26 February 2011

Blah week, and a cure for droopy tulips!

So, this week has been pretty blah really. It didn't get off to the best start when I woke up earlier in the week to a text off my friend asking if I knew that there had been a severe earthquake in New Zealand (where my parents are currently on holiday). Cue heart palpatations and frantic switch on of news/internet to find out the details. I thankfully found out that they were nowhere near the quake zone.  They were due to be in Christchurch next week however, and the thought of that makes my blood run cold.
Its so awful what has happend over there, and many others were not so lucky.

I have also been really busy making a huge wholesale order - which has been quite stressful - and to top it off, Michaels car failed its MOT on thursday and has cost a lot of money and two full days to repair - boo :(. He had two days off work, which we were supposed to be out going to do something nice, but that didn't happen!
Anyway, to cheer me up today, Michael bought me a bunch of my favourite flowers, yellow tulips:
Yellow flowers are just really cheery, and remind me of spring. Tulips are obviously a spring flower, but they also remind me of when I live in Zwolle, Netherlands for 4 months as part of my University course. Happy flowers! And my handy tip to stop tulips drooping?...
Push pins horizontally through the neck of the stem, just below the head. Don't ask me how this works, it just does! A Dutch lady told me this when I was in Holland, and they should know what they are talking about!
You cant really see them, only if you get up close and it makes them last longer, stay upright and not droop :)

Tuesday, 22 February 2011

Ugly Shoes and Beautiful Bakelite

At the weekend, I bought myself some new, albeit ugly shoes for summer and holiday. Not that I will be able to wear them for months, mind as it was snowing where I live yesterday, but they were too much of a good deal to pass up. They are Clarks sandals - which those of you who have been reading my blog for a while will know that I love as they are very well made, super soft leather and most importantly COMFY! They are also quite expensive and usually favoured by old ladies for their orthapedic wonder!
The older I get, the more comfortable shoes are important to me. Having hobbled home many a time in my youth with huge blisters, bleeding feet etc. from high heels and shoes that rub, I just cant be bothered with all that anymore. I'm a walker - especially on holiday, we never lie around and do nothing - we are always on the go, walking about, seeing this, seeing that - and I'd rather walk a mile in town to work up an appetite then get a taxi so I'd much rather wear something comfortable so I don't have to worry about my feet!
Here they are;
They are a nice bright cherry red - even if they are a bit 'Granny'!

These retail normally for £44.99 ($72) but I got them for just £10 ($16) from a shop that sells end of line, and last seasons Clarks stock. (United Footwear on Oldham Street in Manchester if anyone is local!)
And now for the Beautiful Bakelite....
This came today in the post. I bought it off Etsy for just $12 (£7). The seller had just listed in that day so I snapped it up as $12 for a red bangle is a super bargain. Red ones are always more expensive than the other colours - I presume they must be rarer! Which is a bit of a bummer really as red is my favourite colour that I wear all the time.
And a close up to show the lovely very slight yellow marbling throughout the bangle.

Friday, 18 February 2011

The Joy of Spex!

I have been wearing glasses now for about 11 years (for distance) - so everytime I'm out and about, driving etc. they are glued to my face or I'm pretty much blind as a bat!
Whilst some people hate wearing glasses and save up for laser surgery, I totally love wearing mine and have always had a few pairs on the go to match different outfits. A few years ago, I discovered that you can get lenses put into any frames by online opticians (I always use I Need Spex in the UK). They charge just £15 ($24) to put your prescription in any frames, even sunglasses too, and they always come back perfect and within a few days of sending them off.
This week, I treated myself to a new pair of Cats Eye sunglasses for my forthcoming road trip holiday.
They were - of course - a bargain, at only £5.99 from high street chain, H&M:
I'm going to get prescription lenses put in these.
And so, as I was doing this post I thought Id share with you my other pairs of spex!

Original Tortoiseshell 50s Cats Eyes from Dead Mens Spex. I've had these a few years but I think they were about £30 ($50) for the frames.
Original 50s Cats Eyes - 25p ($0.40) from a charity shop (Amazing bargain!)
My Favourite glasses ♥ and the ones I wear most, Vivienne Westwood. I've had these about 4 years and I think the frames were about £40 ($65) on sale.
Red with black and red polka dot arms. These were cheap reading glasses that I picked up in a gift shop somewhere for about £8 ($13). An absolute steal at £23 (with the £15 lens service) for a funky pair of prescription glasses!
 I also used to have a black and white polka dot pair from the same place that I wore to death, but I sat on them and broke the frame :(
And my current sunnies - Original 50s 'Liberty, NYC' Cats Eyes, again from Dead Mens Spex.  I think they were about £25 ($40) for the frames
So thats my expanding glasses selection! Have a nice weekend :)

Tuesday, 15 February 2011

Ooh Matron!

Firstly - a big thank you for all your nice comments, tips and suggestions for my forthcoming Florida road trip, much appreciated and I will be looking into all those links! :)
So, you know how much I like a bargain, right? Well, when I went on todays post run, I stopped by my favourite local charity shop and managed to pick myself up a lovely, brand new with tags still on it Original Penguin shirt dress for just £3! US label Original Penguin was founded in 1955 and is still going today, famous for its retro stying and good quality.
Its hard to believe that someone bought this, and never wore it! Especially as it would have cost them around £65 ($100)!! Its a lovely quality navy cotton with white piping all the way round, with a self fabric belt to the waist:

And a close up.
And the title of my blog post...Ooh Matron!?? Because it reminds me of a British National Health Service Matron's uniform!:
UK NHS Matron
And of course the Iconic British bawdy Carry On.. film classic; Carry on Matron starring Hattie Jacques as Matron!
Cant wait to wear this when the weather gets better. Think I'll pair it with a red belt, red shoes and my red anchor brooch for a nautical, rather than clinical, look!! ;)

Sunday, 13 February 2011

Exciting Holiday Plans....USA Road Trip!

Woo Hoo! I am very excited to tell you that this years holiday for Michael and I is a USA roadtrip!
Last time we went to the States was in 2008, when we went to Vegas for my best friends wedding.
I find the US facinating, its so different than here in the UK, and of course you have tons of cool vintage stuff that we don't here!
So.....where are we going?........
The No.1 choice (which I have wanted to do for ages) was a California road trip - driving from LA up to San Francisco on the Big Sur route, but its just too expensive! It was actually an alcohol and curry fueled conversation over the Christmas holidays with our friends Jo & Mark that gave us the idea for our more cost friendly destination, which is..........

There will be NO Mickey Mouse! Orlando is being given a big detour. Not that there is anything wrong with going to Disney and theme parks of course, but its really not our scene!
Instead, we will be driving through the beautiful Everglades...
Maybe seeing a few gators...but hopefully not this close up!
Seeing the Florida Keys
Visting the amazing Miami Beach, with its stunning array of over 800 original (eek!) Art Deco buildings. I am very very excited about going here! ♥♥ Deco!
And of course, I have been researching lots of these things for all our routes and stop offs. The US has HUGE thrift stores...Super exciting!!
We will be staying in a few of these...the retro-er the better!
And of course eating some diner food...
And some all you can eat buffets! Yum Yum!
My US readers will probably think being excited about going to a diner and an all you can eat buffet is a bit strange! Trust me, we don't have anything like this in the UK. We do have a few all you can eat buffets, but they are usually Chinese, and not a patch on yours!
Diners are also a major novelty factor as we don't really have them here, and not like yours anyway!
If anyone knows any "must see" things, or any "must visit" antique and thrift stores they can recommend, please do share!
We head off in May anyway. Not that I like to wish my life away, but can't wait! :))

Saturday, 12 February 2011

£1.60 Charity spending spree and another Bakelite super bargain!

I ♥ Charity shopping! Michael and I went to one of our favourite local Charity Shop haunts this morning (it has about 10 on one long street) and I picked up the following vintage goodies;
Fave find of the day; Bright yellow pop flowers 60s mug - 25p ($0.40) ♥♥
Vintage knitting patterns - to be passed on to my sister for commissions ;) - 30p ($.50) each
I was loving Rascal's tropical Bamboo Bangles that she wore when we did our show a few weeks ago in Birmingham, so was really pleased to find two today in one of the shops! Copy Cat! ;)
Bamboo and red plastic bangles - 25p ($0.40c) each
Today's total spend = £1.60! ($2.60)

I also received another of my Bakelike super bargains today in the post. I won this egg yolk spacer bangle and screw back earring set from Ebay for just $9.99 (about £6.50!); good is this.....the lovely seller included as a gift ANOTHER set of Bakelite earrings completely free! Woo! Checked them out on Etsy and similar pairs are listed for $25/pair!!
Orange Bakelite clip hoops = FREE!
This is what I wore today! My new Bakelite egg yolk earrings and bangle, along with other Bakelite bangles, and the 60's necklace I got from the flea market the other week.
Cardigan is from F&F at Tesco, and my fave glasses are Vivienne Westwood (The only designer thing I actually own, and yes - of course they were a bargain!) ♥

Thursday, 10 February 2011

Vintage Costume Jewellery - Lucite Confetti

I really love vintage costume jewellery - its affordable, looks nice and you know you wont see every other person wearing the same thing.
I also think that it wears well with modern outfits - as I'm definitely more of a repro gal than a vintage wearing one. I love vintage clothing, but often not the fabrics, patterns & prints. And the ones that I do like, such as genuine 50's sun dresses and hawaiians,  I can't afford anyway! Ho hum!
Being now officially hooked on Bakelite, I also have bought some other bits and pieces of other types of vintage costume jewellery from Etsy that I have been waiting for to arrive.
Today I got a delivery of two pairs of earrings I bought (from the US), two weeks apart, but they both arrived today. Both 50s Lucite they are...
My faves - Black with silver glitter sprinkles. ♥♥  $5
And some orange with gold half moon glitter sprinkles $4
And they are both screw backs which is perfect for my silly sensitive ears!
The seller of the black earrings also had a matching clamper bracelet - that was hers, not for sale - boo! I'd rather like one of those to this space!

Tuesday, 8 February 2011

Dolly Cool is 2, starting a business in the recession & some tips!

I am very happy to say that my business, Dolly Cool, is 2 years old today! Yippee!
It has actually been going a little bit longer than that as I launched my website on Dec 31st 2008 - but I went "officially" self employed on Feb 8th 2009.

So, what fool starts a business in the middle of a recession?! Er, me! I do have to say that it was not 100% a free choice, as the footwear company I had been working for, for nearly 3 years went bankrupt - without giving us, the employees, any notice and so I was left with an opportunity, which I decided to take as the fashion design industry in general was (and still is) so volatile.

I have been making Jewellery for about 10 years now - first starting off with silver wrapped wire and precious stones, but I felt the market was too saturated, even though I used to do quite well with this stuff. About 6 years ago, I then started making the illustrated plastic jewellery that I still make today, in the form of super cute cupcakes and kawaii punky images which I branded under In The Pink, (I still also have this website).
Sailor Cupcake -One of my original In The Pink designs (now Dolly Cool), that is still one of my best sellers today.

I then progressed to making more intricate and detailed pieces, taking inspiration from my love of Rockabilly, 50s, Tattoo and Day of the Dead imagery, and decided that I needed a new website, and brand to launch this new collection. And thus, Dolly Cool was created!
One of my newest pieces, Sugar Skull and Rose Necklace.

So, it wasn't a planned decision to go self employed, but I'm glad that what happened at my previous employment did (although I didn't at the time!!), as it gave me the push to 'give it a go'.

I'm lucky in the fact that I make everything myself so I don't have to buy in stock - just materials - as I make everything to order. Its a sad (and scary!) fact that 50% of new businesses fail within the first year. This is, I expect, largely due to cash flow being tied up in other areas such as stock and property leases. I don't have either of these issues and me being the thrifty person I am, am able to run with very low running costs, while still making a quality product that is individual, affordable and different to what is available mass market.

Although I am by no means an expert on this at all - here are a few tips that I can advise to help you on the way if you are thinking of running your own creative business (obviously some tips are creative specific as thats what I do, but most are generic to any small business) and hopefully save you some money while doing so;

1. Make sure your product or idea is tried and tested that it works. I had been making my style of jewellery for quite a few years, selling bits online and at craft shows - so I knew that people liked it and it would sell. I highly recommend running whatever you do alongside your regular job for a good while first to see if it works for you.

2. Make sure you have a passion for whatever it is you want to do. You have to absolutley LOVE what you do and be 100% commited to make it work. Self employment is hard work, with no holiday pay, long hours and you can't just go on holiday for 3 weeks and forget about it.

3. Get some professional advise. Do a search online, most councils have FREE business advise for those thinking of starting up a new business. They want to encourage you as you will be one less person on benefits! I signed up for a week worth of courses when I first started out, from everything including marketing, setting up a website, and inland revenue (the tax man!) on keeping books. The courses were all completely free and very, very useful.

4. Save money wherever possible. Do NOT got out and buy a top of the range laptop, digital camera, hire an office, hire models, pay out for a super fancy website etc etc. Use what you have. I work on an old Desktop PC, have a budget digital camera, work from home, make my own websites using sitebuilder packages (Ok, it helps that I'm a graphic designer too, but I not a web designer!) and make all my jewellery packaging and labelling myself.

5. Get help from friends and family. My family and friends save me their used Jiffy mailer bags, shoe boxes, cereal boxes, tissue paper and bubble wrap. Michael has an agreement with his workplace that he can bring me home any used jiffy bags they get in the mail room - so its always worth asking friends/family if they can do the same at their workplace. As an 'e-tailer' one of my main expences is postal charges. If bought from a shop, jiffy bags can start to get expensive when you send out 150+ packages a month. I have always used (clean!) re-cycled packaging. In 10 years of selling online, not one person has complained that they got a used mailer bag. This saves me ££!!
You can also rope in suitable freinds/family to help you model stuff, help you out at shows, promote you by handing out your business card at work etc. etc. Free labour! ;)) (Payment in merch and cakes usally works well!)
6. Join a craft group/groups. I am a member of two groups - one is a local craft group, and the other is an Etsy team. If you are a seller on Etsy, you can find groups near you to meet up and share ideas, and get advise. Both groups have been invaluable for me and I have made some lovely, interesting creative friends through them too.

7. Read! I follow other creative/self employed folk's blogs. Its a good support network and you can never know too many people in your field. I also highly recommend this book. I read it about 5 times in the first few months that I started out - its great and you can get it from Amazon;
Craft Inc. Turn Your Creative Hobby Into a Business by Meg Mateo

I could waffle on for ages about this, but like I said, I am certainly no expert - just thought I'd share a few tips that helped me along the way.
Finally a BIG thank you to all my friends, family, customers and readers for your support over the past two years. I'm going to continue to work hard and build on my business, and hope it continues long into the future :))

Friday, 4 February 2011

Kung Hei Fat Choi & some 60s dinnerware finds

Kung Hei Fat Choi = Happy Chinese New Year!
This year is the year of the rabbit.
Michael had a day off today so we went for all you can eat Chinese buffet! I was a bit dissapointed that they didn't seem to be celebrating CNY at the restaurant (it just looked the same as it always does!), but in my home City, Manchester - they have a dragon parade, food stalls and celebrations in the centre. Not that we celebrate it personally of course, but its always nice to see pretty lights and decorations for other culture's celebrations and festivals, and its a good excuse to eat Chinese of course! Yum Yum.
I tried to be healthy and had tons of stir fried veg, lychees for dessert and 2 large cups of green tea (see yesterdays H2 -oh! post).
Then we went for a rummage round the charity shops - there were about 10 in total nearby. And I'm glad that we did as we got a 13 piece set of immaculate 60s Myott 'Malaga' dinnerware for a super bargain price;
This is what we got;
1 x serving plate
6 x dinner plates
3 x side plates
1 x breakfast bowl
1 x cooking dish/turin with lid
Close up of the pattern
And of the lidded cooking dish.
And the price?.......
£6.00 ($9.50) THE LOT!! :))

Thursday, 3 February 2011


In general, I consider myself to be a pretty healthy person. I eat well (with some cake allowance!), exercise (just done 5 miles tonight), I don't smoke, and drink alcohol rarely. What I don't do, like the vast majority of people, is drink enough water.
A few days ago when rummaging in my local charity shop - unfortunately, no vintage goodies to be found on this trip - I picked up a book on diet and nutrition for 25p. (All the books are 25p - I know! They give them away!)
It is a new-ish book, only a few years old and its really informative about what things are best to eat for what benefits etc. One of the re-curring themes was the importance of drinking 2 litres (about 4 1/2 pints) of water a day. Now this is nothing new of course - you hear it all the time, but how many people actually do this EVERY day? Hmmm. Well, I decided that it was about time that I gave it a go, so since monday, I have been drinking more or less 2 litres of water each day.
My first impressions? Its hard! When you are only used to having a few cups of tea and maybe a glass or two of water each day, drinking this much feels weird!
Obviously, the side effect of this is you need to go to the loo very frequently! This is not a problem for me as I work from home, but I can't imagine how you would go on doing this 2L water glugging if you for example, had a driving job, or worked in a busy shop or office! Maybe its just because I'm not used to it yet.
I'm going to see how I get on for the next two weeks.....

Tuesday, 1 February 2011

Carved Bakelite :D

Hooray! After months of looking for some reasonably priced carved bakelite, I managed to FINALLY get some in the last few weeks. I am constantly baffled by the price of Bakelite on Ebay and Etsy - some people are selling it for $20, some people want $300 plus for ONE hello?? ITS PLASTIC!! The price range for the same thing - for example, a simple 1/4" butterscotch spacer bangle, can range from $18 to $60 FOR THE SAME THING! Argh! (I have put the prices in US $ by the way, as UK Bakelite sellers are usually antique stores selling it for a premium so I buy it mainly from the US)
Anyway, seek and ye shall find is my motto, and never stop until you get that bargain, as they are to be found! So anyway, here is what I got - All are genuine, tested pieces;

Dark Cherry 5/8" Carved - $17 (£10.50)

1/2" Butterscotch carved - $16 (£10)

And not carved, but a SUPER BARGAIN! 1" Egg Yolk, $9.00 (£5.50)

Very happy with my a couple more pieces coming too so will show you those when they arrive :)