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Mission Viejo, CA, 92692
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Collegiate Kids Store

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(Mis) adventures in Parenthood, Little League & moving your family 5,500 miles from London to California.

Filtering by Category: Guest Blog

Getting my Craft On! Re-connecting with my Creativity (Guest blog for Etsy London Local Team)

Laura Bonnell

When you tell people you work as a fashion designer, they often seem to assume that you spend your days sitting in a glamorous art studio, sketching and flipping through fabric swatches. Oh, if only that were the case! I remember some very disgruntled placement students at one brand I worked for. It didn’t take them long to realise that most of their day would be spent entering garment specifications onto a computer and attaching CADed drawings to boards, a process they had to repeat each time a meeting was held and the specifications inevitably changed!

In my experience as a womenswear and childrenswear designer for the past 16 years, only 5 to 10% of your time is spent doing things that could genuinely be called 'creative'. The industry moves so fast that there is rarely time to think, be inspired or evolve your work ­– you just have to get it down on paper and sent to a factory to be made as quickly as possible.

So when, earlier this year, I decided to step away from the corporate world and have a go at launching my own kids’ brand, I had a few objectives in mind. The first was to build a business that would allow me to work flexible hours to fit around family life. That feels a long way off at the moment as I grasp every second of naptime and burn the midnight oil trying to get my business off the ground. But the goal is there and it’s what I'm working towards. Another aim was to re-connect with my creative roots. For as long as I can remember, I have been making and creating things. I got my first sewing machine when I was 14 years old and used it to make toys and clothes. It was then that I knew I wanted to be a fashion designer when I was all growned-dup!

Once I'd nailed the concept for the Muklet brand, I set about designing the range. As it evolved I realised I could pull together all the things I loved about clothing, accessories and even vintage. I was able to tap into the wealth of experience I've gained in the fashion industry. And I could choose who I work with. I’m passionate about supporting British suppliers and manufacturers so when it came to selecting the fabric for my cushions it had to be British Melton wool from Moons.

Sewing a Varsity Cushion made of 100% Lambswool British Melton

Sewing a Varsity Cushion made of 100% Lambswool British Melton

Before I could start to build the collection, I had dust off my sewing machine, which had last made an appearance the previous Christmas when I decided to make homemade decorations for all 22 members of my family! I quickly re-discovered the joy of taking an idea from the initial concept to the finished piece, of being involved in the entire process and of feeling proud that I had created something someone else would enjoy.

I’ve also been on a mission to source retro American vintage pieces to complement the clothes and accessories in the range. I had the best day at Ardingly Vintage Fair some weeks ago. I went in with a budget and an aesthetic in mind but found inspiration in some unexpected treasures and then had fun planning out how I would use or upcycle them.

I was recently sent this picture from a happy customer showing me how she'd displayed my Upcycled Vintage picture

I was recently sent this picture from a happy customer showing me how she'd displayed my Upcycled Vintage picture

I confess I was a little hesitant about joining Etsy at first. There are some amazingly talented artisans in the London Local team making their beautiful wares from scratch and I wasn’t sure that I had the same credentials. But I’ve come to realise that there are many different levels of makers and designer makers. What connects us is our love of creation, whether it’s a hand-thrown pot, or in my case, a customised Varsity baseball jacket.

Starting this adventure has spurned my creativity in other ways too. I was asked for a giveaway present to be handed to the first 50 people through the doors of a Christmas fair I’m attending. So I made these:

Christmas decorations for Xmas fair giveaway

Christmas decorations for Xmas fair giveaway

I’ve also had to think creatively about how I display my wares at markets:

The Lil Red Wagon comes with me to all the Fairs!

The Lil Red Wagon comes with me to all the Fairs!

Create interesting ways to promote myself on social media:

Promoting the Varsity Baseball Jacket on Instagram

Promoting the Varsity Baseball Jacket on Instagram

Deciding how to style and photograph my products:

Varsity T-Shirts worn by bona-fide Americans, on a real 'stoop'!

Varsity T-Shirts worn by bona-fide Americans, on a real 'stoop'!

And it goes on and on! Although I’m as yet to make it to an Etsy meet-up (the joy of being a busy mom with a husband home too late for me to escape on time!) I have managed to meet quite a few of the Etsy clan at various markets and other small business gatherings. I love it when after months of chats on social media you finally get to meet someone face to face – and it's always such a friendly face!

I think the best thing about re-connecting with my creative self is that my kids get to see me being truly happy and creative. They love sitting in my office pod watching me work (ok, most of the time they cause complete chaos, but at least they’re having fun!). And it inspires them to want to make what Mommy is making. Who knows, you may even see a 'mini Muklet' shop opening on Etsy sometime soon ... watch this space!

Guest blogging & half moon tambourines

Laura Bonnell

Not long after I launched Muklet a few months back, my ol’ pal Andy, or 'Corpy' as he is known to his mates got in touch to ask if I'd like to write a guest blog for him on Good Stuff 4 Kids. It was early days for me then and I was still figuring out what the brand was going to be and whether people would actually want to buy my products and read my blog.

Now that I've got some sales under my belt and feel that I’m hitting my stride with where I’m taking the brand and the blog, I’ve decided it’s time to put fingertip to Ipad! 

I've known Corpy for many, many years. Well, that's not strictly true – we met at school and lost touch when we headed off to university. Then sometime around 2000 came Friends Reunited followed by Facebook and we were suddenly able to rediscover friends and track down our old tribes. 

It was in the sixth form of comprehensive school that Corpy and I first became pals. His band 'Arthur's Family Restaurant' needed a lead singer and having just completed a run as Tzeitel in the school production of 'Fiddler on the Roof', I felt I had the necessary skills. Thankfully there is no lasting evidence of my off-key warblings and out of beat half moon tambourine accompaniment to our covers of hits such as 'Spirit in the Sky' (believe me, I've checked!).

We were lucky to always have a receptive and forgiving audience on our short tour of venues including the school hall and the local old people’s home. This was the era of The Charlatans, The Cure and The Levellers. I was an Indie kid through and through, complete with olive doc martens and overdyed 501s. I have fond memories of lazy afternoons 'jamming' in the house of whoever’s parents would allow us all in and being squished in the back of our friend’s Land Rover Defender headbanging to Bohemian Rhapsody (we'll see if Corpy actually allows me to publish this!).

Cut to the present day and our paths cross again, albeit virtually. Good Stuff 4 Kids is mainly a food-themed blog, which got me thinking about the go-to recipes in our family. Food plays an important role for my family in keeping us connected to our American heritage. My husband is from the States and finds comfort in foods that originate from home. Over the years I’ve amassed a treasury of classic American recipes. For my bridal shower, my New York friends created a cookbook of their favourite dishes, a gift I’ll always treasure. Got Milk? The Cookie Book by Peggy Cullen and Ricky Lauren's Cuisine, Lifestyle, and Legend of the Double RL Ranch are another couple of well-worn favourites.

A special treat for us is heading to Wholefoods to stock up on the finest corn starched products they offer including Aunt Jemimas pancake mix and Maple Syrup, Amy's frozen burritos, Everything seeded bagels and Blue corn chips. Give my husband a large bag of Pretzel Pieces and he will be putty in your hands!

Aunt Jemima's pancakes feature regularly on the weekend muklet menu

Aunt Jemima's pancakes feature regularly on the weekend muklet menu

When I moved to the United States the foods I craved were often quite bizarre things that I would never dream of eating back home. Thankfully in NY we had stores like Myers of Keswick which sells just about every brand a homesick Brit could wish for and even the local supermarket in Williamsburg was well stocked with Heinz Baked Beans (the American variety, much loved by cowboys, tend to be brown and sugary with lumps of ham).

So, I felt I should at least make the effort to cook a little something to accompany this post. It was going to be Breakfast Burritos (one of my faves) but eldest muklet overruled and we went with brownies from The Star Wars Cookbook instead. If you haven't seen this before, it’s another fun family cookbook. Ok the Star Wars part is very loosely connected to some recipes (mostly strategic placement of OB1 Kanobi and Jawas models), but at least it keeps the littlies engaged and will fill a rainy afternoon when you’re stuck indoors! 

Big muklet stirring in the 'intergalactic stars'

Big muklet stirring in the 'intergalactic stars'

Of course the best bit of cake making is licking the spoon!

Of course the best bit of cake making is licking the spoon!

Et Voila - Star Wars brownies!

Et Voila - Star Wars brownies!

Corpy is also a rather good photographer with two adorable muklets of his own (as you’ll already know if you're a Good Stuff 4 Kids reader). So, never one to miss a trick I have recruited Family Corp to be my Muklet ambassadors. Corpy's kids will be putting Muklet wares through their paces and capturing some awesome pics for me in the process! You may have already seen some muklet tees featuring in his post about Banksy's latest exhibit 'Dismaland'.

The 'Grubby Knees T-shirt' being too cool fo' skool

The 'Grubby Knees T-shirt' being too cool fo' skool

I thought it fitting to finish with some words from one of my favourite bands from back in the school days, the Sultans of Ping (when this Momma Muklet was sneaking her way into dodgy Indi Clubs in Weston-Super-Mare!:

My, brother, knows, Karl Marx,
He met him eating mushrooms in the peoples park,
He said 'What do you think about my manifesto?'
'I like a manifesto, put it to the test-o.'

Took it straight down to meet the anarchist's party.
I met a groovy guy, he was arty farty,
He said 'I know a little latin man a cus man a kai'
I said 'I don't know what it means' he said 'neither do I'

Eat natural foods, bathe twice daily,
Fill your nostrils up with gravy.
Don't drink tea and don't drink coffee.
Cover your chin in yorkshire toffee.

Dancing in the disco, bumper to bumber,

Wait a minute, where's me jumper,

 

Words courtesy of: Sultans of Ping FC, "Where's Me Jumper" (Divine Records ATHY 01 - Feb 92)

 

Good Stuff 4 Kids (aka The Good Stuff) is Matt & Corpy.  2 nearly forty-somethings who became good mates over beer and student sandwiches back in the heady days of mid-1990′s South East London.  Fast forward nearly 20 years and 140 miles to the West – both of us found ourselves becoming Dads for the first time at around the same time.  Swapping beer and carelessness for nappies and purees – The Good Stuff is our journey through parenthood.  Its the place where we share recipes, review the stuff we like and occasionally rant about the stuff we don’t. 

Visit them at:

www.goodstuff4kids.com

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