Having had a great year last year at the Christmas Scandi Market in London and selling out on day two I wanted to get ahead of my self for 2018, not only to be able to physically make more stock but I would have another little Baker arriving in late September, so my hands would be fuller >read blog post about my christmas fair . I gained a lot of knowledge and insight into the designing, trial and error, making process and quantities but also of what people liked and what sold out from last year and thus I set about planning in June, yes the start of summer and the hottest weather we’d had in many years.
The whole process of being a maker is like making dinner it can take you hours to cook and then you eat it in an a fraction of the time, making ‘handmade’ items is exactly the same. Often the time you take designing, testing and perfecting your products isn’t truly appreciated or understood and having done a lot of hard work last year to get my designs, packaging and story set, meant this year would be more about the planning, time management and determination.
Those who know me would say I’m a pretty organised person but with the arrival of number two less than two months before the fair, we all know that a newborn and starting anything to do with Christmas would be a struggle for even the best multi-tasked. Starting so early in the year was a little weird and humming Christmas songs as i sewed each night might have made people think I was a little crazy, but most thought I was anyway wanting to tackle such a big fair with a new baby. But I like a challenge and wanted to do another year off the back of last years success.
The whole making process has been much more enjoyable in fact because i’ve planned out making everything in bulk, unlike last years small batch trial and test approach, it has seemed never ending at times but progress was visible as the studio slowly got taken over!!
I set myself the huge challenge of making x400 of my julenisse, i made 270 in 2017. My plan was to calculate the totals i had used over last year and order bulk of materials. I had ordered guess amounts last year and then used it up to see what numbers i could get out of each thing, but this year i had a better idea or material lengths, which were quite shocking and some of the parcels which arrived were rather large and heavy…
Believe it or not the actual cutting out of x400 sets (1200 piece total – hat, body and body base) took only 4 hours in various sizes but to just sew x400 hats it took a week and a half. I set my self a challenge to sew a ‘bobbin a night’, so basically id fill up a sewing machine bobbin up and sew as many hats as possible until it ran out and this was a nightly target, there was still the need to trim threads and turn hats out the correct way, a total of 13 hours to achieve just the hat part.
The most time consuming part was actually making the x400 individual noses, each is cut, stuffed with some filler and then elastic band bound and secured with thread wrapping too, these took over 16 hours total as they are so fidderly and at 6 months pregnant there is only so many hours sitting you can do before you need a wee, so of course this was spread over a couple of weeks of evenings. It doesn’t look much when you see all the sections ready but the first picture above is a total of over 50 hours work with the name tags and ribbon cutting as well.
The remaining making of the bodies section took a further 56 hours to complete and this year i made the decision to include the Norwegian flag back detail on all version as this was highlighted as a really nice touch to this handmade item which was originally only featured on the special editions from last year. I had visited Norway last Christmas after the fair so stocked up on an important, if a little pricing ribbon detail, its these details though which set my designs apart from others. >read my blog post from last christmas
The stages i go through for each part are often like doing up your house, the parts which take the most time like plumping and electrics are all hidden once complete and often the finished room isn’t a true reflection of the time taken to just put paint on the walls. This is so true of these julenisse with there being 8 stages for just the bodies to get them ready for assembly with hair, noses and hats. It can be quite therapeutic when repeating the same process over and over but sometimes when you feel you have been doing it for so long you lose focus of actually ever reaching the end, this is where i found a visual tick list helped as it was a reminder of how much i had actually achieved (as well as a rough stock count also of each design).
With only 7 weeks left till my due date and the continued heat wave we have been experiencing its the cooler evenings (only 24 degrees instead of 32) i have tried to use to work through the assembly part of this make, its the most time consuming stage as this part is all done by hand, no sewing machine, just my hands. From last year the girl julenisse in all three designs were by far the best sellers and despite me doing double of them i still sold out of them before the boys!! again this year i have upped the quantities to try and ensure i do not disappoint. Ive also tried to accommodate for keeping my ETSY shop stocked up this year too as sold out 3 times last year and physically couldn’t keep up, which is great as i love knowing these little characters i have loving designed and made go off to far corners of the world!
Most people are surprised i’m being so organised when i mention christmas in July and if i’m honest the fact i’ve actually managed to get this organised is a miracle as i love to busy (its in my DNA i think) and at 8 half month pregnant now i’m still working 4 days a week as a graphic designer, doing a minimum of a cake design a week for my own business, as well as being a mummy to my three year old, id say this might be a little too busy to throw in Christmas making in summer! but i’m super proud of what I’ve achieved and over the last couple of years i have been developing my “little taste of Norway” range with templates, new designs and flavours so this year its more about the “doing” as i’ve fine tuned and tweaked so i didn’t want to just stop this year after so much learning, so this is the reason i juggle so much to ensure its all possible. But none of this would be possible without the support of my husband and daughter who work around me and my crazy schedule and help out where possible, although apparently big thumbs are no conducive to craft making and is often used as an excuse to certain making stages!!.
When i do my Christmas fairs i believe meeting the maker is just as important as the story of your makes, so i always attend in person as i feel its a great way to connect with people and to share your love of something. As you may see form quite a few of my blog posts and designs, Norway and anything Scandinavian has a big influence on me and ill use my heritage when ever possible. This passion is something which i believe tells my makers story and is unique to me. So when i created my julenisse i continued this through to how i went about naming them. Yes of course i could have just given them design names like ‘curly haired lady’ or ‘long beard man’, but that wouldn’t be true to how i like to do things. You may not know but the cute names and characteristics that each of my designs has comes from friends, family and places which have had an impact in my life and in homage have had one of the julenisse loving named after them.
Per – Loyal & Adventurous – moustache Julenisse
(mothers cousin who’s spirit and love of adventure has always inspired me)
Britt – Caring & Organised – mother Julenisse
(my Norwegian teacher when I was younger and still a friend and supporter of my work)
Helge – wise & faithful – Father Julenisse
(priest who confirmed me as a teenager and who performed our married in Norway)
Solveig – playful & loving – plaits Julenisse
(Mothers cousin whose children we grew up with)
For 2017 I added two new designs as special editions, which featured Norwegian flag tag detail and curly locks instead of the straight fluffy hair.
Ella-Marie – Joyful & Brave – Curly daughter Julenisse
Named after my own daughter who inspires me every day with her love and is often by my side when working.
Olav – Dedicated & Skilful – Curly Beard Julenisse
Named after the square (saint Olva’s Square) where the London Norwegian Church is, which has been a big part of my growing up life and also where the Christmas Scandi market is held between here and the Finnish Church and would be a reminder of this event i first attended in 2017 aswell.
And 2018 saw the addition of a special character, original created for a feature Norwegian week at ‘Made by Kent’ shop >read blog post about this event.
Ragnar – the Viking is named after the village i live in, in Kent, Staplehurst – after finding an interesting historical link:
From doing a special feature week over the 17th May to celebrate Norwegian national day, i created some new items to support my existing creations, i also wanted to take some of these along to the Scandi Christmas Market this year including:
- ‘About Norway’ children’s activity book – fun games, facts and activities
- Children’s individual Diam Cookies
- Norwegian definition word posters – 5 designs
I originally set a target of x400 to be made by the end of August and with the final stages of the assembly taking place with hats being added, tags being pinned and hair trims completed, i was not far off target, but as long as baby doesn’t arrive early i could squeeze in a few more, so ill keep going.
With handmade the beauty is that even the same design can have variations which kind of gives them there own characters and from last year it was so interesting to see people spending a considerable about of time selecting which one they wanted due to these differences. I of course use templates but the sewing and stuffing can alter shape and sizes ever so slightly. But the downside is that each hat is custom shaped to fit each julenisse gnome, as depending on the nose size used and amount of hair some piece work better with each other.
See how i finally got on with the final bits of making and how the fair went in my next Christmas blog post coming out in December. If your not able to visit yourself, ill be sharing the whole experience of the markets with you all, so you don’t miss out!
Check out my other blog posts to see what ive been creating or follow me on social media to keep-up-to date with new projects im working on…