Starting out with Emma Barrett Designs

I was thinking yesterday about how Emma Barrett Designs Ltd came about and I realised that I've been making clothing since I was a child and I've been drawing for just about that long too. So today I thought I'd write about how Emma Barrett Designs came about and why I've started up my own business.

I remember as a child being bought a tiny sewing machine, it wasn't a toy, it really did sew, it was pink and about half the size (or smaller) of an adults machine. I think I was about 8 or 9 years old. I made an electric blue dress with netting around the bottom hem for one of my Cindy dolls. Here's me wearing a dress made by a family member. I was lucky enough to be surrounded by creativity from a young age.

By the time I was 16-18 I was making clothes for my Textiles A-Level, learning a tiny bit about photography (old-school pre-digital) and then I went to college and studied Fashion Design. Here's me at 16 in a local paper with my GCSE Textiles work.

Although I did a job for years that doesn't have anything to do with textiles or fashion or making things, I continued to make clothes for friends and myself. In my own time and at my own expense I studied a basic graphic design course for two years. Here's a photo of a taxi I designed for one of my projects. I taught myself to do other creative things in my spare time like make jewellery. When you have a passion for being creative and for making and designing it can't be put on hold or forgotten, it's part of you and it's something that you NEED to do rather than want to do. The problem is that it’s tough to do this while working full-time, I spent many nights staying up all night to get projects finished for deadlines and then going into work to teach a full day.

Which brings me to last year. After years of doing this on the side for friends I began to look about me and I realised that there is absolutely no reason that I can't do this as my full-time job. I mentioned this to a friend who I work in the office with, Inga Deksne and she is a life coach. Before I knew it I had registered my company name with companies house, set up my website and started a Facebook page all about making crafts, handmade clothing, goods and household furnishings. Talking to a life coach is a dangerous activity and I warn you that even when you think you’re just having a cosy, supportive chat with a friend, she’ll be setting you goals and making you accountable!

It’s still hard, I do this at weekends, evenings and holidays, I still need to work full-time in the office to pay the rent, bills and put food on the table. I find myself lying awake at night filled with self-doubt about whether investing all the energy and effort is a good idea. I’m still struggling to find my feet with my google analytics, google adwords, social media and putting together this website and updating it is something I’m still learning, I know it’s not perfect. But, in the end, when I’m not worrying about what I don’t know, I love my own business. I have hopes that it will take off in a big way and that one day I’ll be able to give up the day job and spend my time completely invested in Emma Barrett Designs.


Guest blog fromThai Silk Magic - Handmade Silk – What’s the Big Deal?

Handmade silk is very much sought after and is also a 100% natural protein fibre product. With a dress made from handmade silk you will experience both comfort and sophistication. Its fabric is smooth and soft. Plus, your fabric purchase will go a long way towards helping to improve our village lifestyles. 

Your handmade silk dress can be worn at any time of the year. It does not matter if it is warm, rainy, or cloudy outside. This dress will make you fashionable anytime, anywhere. Even during the colder months a handmade silk dress with long sleeves will be perfect.

Quite often, handmade items will cost more than the typical mass-produced product. The reasons for this are very easy to understand and appreciate. Large scale factory production can achieve economies of scale unlike that of an individually produced item.

However, these mass-produced products will lack the creativity and originality that are the features of handmade products. So even though you may pay a little extra for the handmade item, rest assured that the quality is of a high level and what you have purchased will not be readily available in your main street stores.

One of the big advantages of a handmade silk product is that it is unique. This also makes handmade silk a superb gift idea as it will be completely unexpected and as such will be both more exciting and memorable. All our handmade Thai silk creations have individuality and originality which makes them completely personal.

Thai silk scarves, ties and handbags are very popular handmade silk products and again these are both unique and original. However, be careful of labeling. Quite often designer silk scarves are hand-stitched and this should be shown on the label. But more often than not, the hand stitching only refers to the outside stitching on the item and this can be accomplished in 5 minutes by any reasonably competent staff member.

So more than likely the scarf has been mass produced and is not really a handmade silk product at all. Genuine handmade silk products reflect passions, emotions and are the end result of superb creativity and great skill passed down through generations.


Thank you to Amnuai for this wonderful guest blog post. Emma Barrett.


Weekend making

This weekend I made a resolution to be a bit more focused. If I want to stock my stall for April and get some more customers, I need to make some really good crafts. So I decided that Saturday and Sunday would be my making madness.

It didn't work out as well as I'd hoped. Saturday started well, gym, shopping, friend over for lunch. By the time I'd eaten lunch, slumped in front of the TV and had a nap it was 6pm. Instead of giving myself a hard time I decided that Sunday would be the day instead.

Sunday (today) started really well, I got up relatively early (for me) finished off a set of bunting, which I'm very proud of indeed and then decided to make another one in record time! I'm really delighted with my efforts, I've never made bunting before but I thought, 'how hard can it be?' turns out not very hard at all!

I'm very pleased with the result and I think it looks great on our stairs. Of course all my handmade crafts are for sale and you can see this under the bunting section of this website.

I'm now making some small lavender hearts which can be used as decorations or as nice things to put in your drawer to keep your clothes smelling fresh and lovely. They look very cute and they'll be appearing on the website soon.

I think I'm aiming for a stall the Easter weekend but I'm not sure if this will be the best time to do it? People might be away. I have to start somewhere though and instead of procrastinating endlessly, April is going to be the month that my handmade crafts finally gets some steam behind it.


Problems and solutions

There is nothing more frustrating than when you plan to spend some time doing something and then it all goes wrong because of unforseen problems. I came home last week to find that neither of the phone sockets work upstairs. The one downstairs does still work. So what's the problem I hear you ask? The problem is that my PC is upstairs, it doesn't do wireless connectivity (it's old) and now I can't use my internet connection. This means I can't update my website or upload photos to facebook or do any of the things I need to do to keep my business fresh and interesting for potential customers. Grrrr.

Anyway, I decided to have a making session instead while I thought about how to solve the internet problem and it was quite fruitful. I have several new designs of ladies bracelets, one of which I've added here. I also went mad and made some new hairslides too. I'm quite pleased with my new designs.

This morning I woke up determined to figure out a way to sort out my website. After trying the macbook with wireless connection I realised it didn't support uploads via Safari. (This took me two hours to realise). So then I tried to download Firefox (another 30 minutes wasted when I realised I can't install it as it's a borrowed macbook and I don't have administrator rights). I'm finally now sat at my partner's mac upstairs on the wireless network. I know, I know, I should have done this in the first place.

Anyway, I'm uploaded my new hairclips and bracelets and I hope that you'll enjoy looking at them. I'd love some feedback on my designs and on anything that you see on this website. There's a contact Emma form, or you can drop me a line at


Saying thank you and being grateful

It's important to say thank you sometimes and today I'd like to say thank you to someone I met through Facebook. She's an inspiration in that she's fundraising for Macmillan Cancer Research by asking fellow crafters to donate items for fans on the facebook page to bid on.

My new friend's original aim was to raise £500 for Macmillan but it's grown really fast and now her Facebook page has over 500 fans and she's more than passed the £500 mark. The new goal is £1000. 

The motto for the page is:

Make a difference, Make someone smile , Make today matter

I think that this pretty much sums up the goodwill that the jewellery makers, crafters and most recently writers (signed copies of books have been donated) have demonstrated in giving their time and handmade crafts to such a great cause.

As if that wasn't enough, my new friend has also recommended a place for me to approach about having a crafts stall. Turns out I was approved and I hope to have my first stall in April. Again, this is thanks to her.

So thank you my new friend for being an inspiration to so many crafters and makers and for providing a platform for people to donate and raise money in aid of such a good cause. And thank you for being so positive and helping me with my own new business.

Why not become a fan today of Make for macmillan on facebook and be a part of something very worthwhile for a really good cause.