Monday, December 03, 2007

What a difference a day makes

So, quite a week last week - certainly emotionally. And then we got to Friday and went to stay with friends in the Highlands - and on Saturday morning, I woke up and this view was outside my bedroom window. The size of this photo doesn't do it justice - if you click on it and enlarge it you get a bit more of the feeling I got. The ability of Scotland to sooth the soul never ceases to amaze me - whether it's my school run which takes me down the banks of the Tay or the kind of view you are looking at now, the country is a marvel. You can just see the start of the snow on the left hand hill and the clouds lapping round the edges of the loch were just beautiful. What you can't see is that the hills were also teaming with the most magnificent stags which just moved away slowly when they saw us out walking. Breathtaking. Anyway, what with the surroundings and the great company, the weekend was exactly what the doctor ordered. Feeling much more chipper now.

I have had so many really lovely responses to "Ups & Downs" - thank you to everyone who took the time to be encouraging. It has really helped actually. It probably doesn't hurt either that the web orders have been flying in - helped by having one of the Hotty Covers in the Times on Sunday (thanks to Not On The High Street - interesting for those of us who have been chatting about it on other blogs). The Twice website has been busier than ever too, so the rush for the post each day is getting to be quite something, but that is the kind of problem I do like.

James is packing the van (big thank you to him, because it is freezing tonight) for me to set off in the morning for the very last trip of the Christmas season. I'm going down to a little sale near Lancaster with just three of us selling, which as any similar operation to Twice will tell you, can be the absolute best of sales. Not only do people only come if they really want to buy but they can really concentrate on your stuff and they also tend to be really friendly affairs. I will report back, but I am quite sure it will all be much jollier than other recent events!


Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Good bits I forgot to put in yesterday's rant ...

I noticed when I was re-reading yesterday's epic that I completely forgot to mention the lovely Dorothy Stiven who I met at the CL Fair - she and I are on the same wavelength completely with regard to our taste and it was amazing to see her stand, which is all unadulterated vintage pieces (unlike mine!). It could have been the antique shop that I used to have up until I started producing the Twice products eighteen months ago. Naturally we got on famously and it turns out that she is often in Scotland, although based in London. Do look at her website and make sure to look her out at the next CL Fair in the Spring.

I also want to bring to your attention the completely delicious Christmas wreaths that Jane at Snapdragon is doing - I have put in an immediate order! I really think they are the happiest I've seen. Jane - I tried to nick a photo to put here, but Blogger is being beastly and I can't make it work.

The links to Dorothy and Jane are both on the right -


Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Ups and Downs

Golly. I am sitting in the Twice office having just completed a marathon tour of the UK, taking Twice to all the Christmas fairs that I last wrote about four or five weeks ago. It has been shatteringly exhausting. I manage to have the most unwieldy stand set imaginable and consequently it seems to take me longer than most to set up and absolutely longer than most to breakdown (the stand, not me, although sometimes both). I have lost count of the number of times I have been the last exhibitor left at a fair, with some poor man who's job it is to close up wondering if (or rather, hoping that, so he can see the back of me) I need help to load the van.

Along the way I have met some of the nicest people - Karon (Dream Acres) at Duntreath Castle, Anna (Luna Lighting) at Spirit of Christmas and Simone (launching her new business, Simply Twisted, at Spirit and without who's fanastic tool box I would have been in deep trouble). The VitaMix boys - who fed us all week with smoothies and ice cream (incidentally everyone, the machine I bought has yet to turn up!). It was great to see Harriet with her Hunter Gatherer again at Country Living. My immediate neighbours there were lovely - thanks to all of them for allowing me the breathing space to have the odd coffee break - Jo and Jane at Home Scents and Debs and the gang at Lilybrook.

I then had a morning which reminded me exactly why I am so glad we left London - I packed up my stand at CL on Sunday evening and left everything ready to pick up on Monday morning before heading home to Scotland. I duly left Stockwell, where I was staying, at 8.30am, thinking it would take me about an hour to get to Islington. How wrong can you be? Very wrong. At 9.30 I was stuck in a stationary traffic jam at the Elephant & Castle, having programmed the SatNav to avoid the Congestion Charge. Realising the implications the traffic was having on my home time, I decided to spend the £8 on the charge and avoid the traffic. Oh yes? No. I turned up towards the City expecting to go straight through the wonderfully free moving congestion charged streets, only to find ..... exactly the same level of traffic as there was outside the zone. I'm not sure that I was ever out of a traffic jam and finally arrived at the Business Design Centre at 10.45. It had taken me the best part of three hours to go 4 or 5 miles and my estimated time of arrival at home in Perth had moved from six in the evening to nearer nine. It was the longest time by far that I've been away from my family and I was really feeling it. The result was that when someone was rather sharp with me at the BDC I burst into tears and had to be comforted by Walter, an incredibly kind parking manager. I have to say the man is a saint - at the time he was also trying to deal with the fact that an articulated lorry had pulled into the already cramped loading bays, causing the mother of all bottlenecks, with attendant effing and blinding from all around.

I finally got the van loaded and headed up the M1, M6, M74 and M80 (I think) back to Perth. I am only happy that the afternoons get dark so soon or I would have been seen with tears flooding down my face when they played Westlife's "Back Home" on the radio. When I finally made it I can honestly say that I have never been happier to be home.

That was last Monday. Since then I have been up to Banchory in Aberdeenshire for a one day sale, then to Hopetoun House near Edinburgh for a three day sale and then today I completed a two day sale in the Agricultural Mart in Perth (called agricultural, smells agricultural).


And so, after all this, where is Twice and where am I? Well, on the face of it, it should all have been worthwhile. The bank balance is healthier, lots more people have seen what I'm doing, lots more people have shown enthusiasm for it and I've had lots of compliments. But I have to admit that I feel very flat. And the reason is this. It is unbelievably hard to run a company that produces the kind of goods we produce at Twice in the UK and compete. I'm not sure that the fact that our fabrics are vintage and that the linen and leather we use are made in the UK means enough to enough people. The people who were really successful at the fairs I exhibited at were, by and large, sourcing or manufacturing their products abroad. I had some great companies approaching me to enquire about stocking Twice goods, which they liked precisely because they were original and made in the UK, but because of the relatively high production costs we have, there isn't sufficient margin to sell to trade customers. It costs me more just to have things made here than people are selling the equivalent product made abroad for at retail.

So, I am sitting here this evening wondering whether what I am doing at Twice is ever going to work. Even with all the lovely things said about it, from other exhibitors, from customers, from magazines, the bottom line is that most people seem to want something for nothing, or as near to it as they can get and I just can't produce what we do at Twice for nothing, or anywhere near it. There are, of course, some ethical and interested customers out there who are prepared to pay for what companies like mine do and I love them and really, really thank them - but all the small companies like mine rely on these customers and I am really wondering if there are enough of them to go round. And while everyone talks about wanting to support local businesses, the fact is that I may talk about the wonderful linen mills in Kirkcaldy that we work with and the deerskin tannery in Glasgow and the machinists in Dundee, but it doesn't translate into the majority of peoples' willingness to spend.

If this all sounds a bit depressed, it is. I'm sure it will all seem brighter in the morning, or the New Year, or sometime. But I know that there are lots of us out there feeling just like this - putting hours and days and months of effort into something that should be right for our times with all the re-cycling and ethical trading and supporting our small businesses that is constantly being talked about in the media. What to do, what to do?

First day without a set up, breakdown or sale for weeks tomorrow - can't wait.


PS. Can't quite believe I'm about to publish this post - my blog was supposed to be a marketing tool, not an outlet for my exhausted emotions! Forgive!

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Phew! Off and running ....

Well, just a quick post today before I set off for London first thing in the morning. As I speak, the large van is parked outside with all the stuff from yesterday's sale falling out of it and not even remotely ready to leave tomorrow morning. Somehow things always work out though, so I'm not in the panic that I really should be.

I've had two great sales so far - I had a wonderful time at Camphill near Bedale in Yorkshire. Best ever day for sales - which is great and really gives me a good feeling going into the big fairs later. I think the new products that I've got in for this Christmas are just what people want and that is great. The Aromatic Pot Rests are just brilliant for presents and they went incredibly well on Thursday. And then yesterday I was at Duntreath Castle near Glasgow for another good day. I was next to a really lovely lady called Karon who creates the most wonderful Christmas decorations you have ever seen. I bought a little hand-sewn Christmas pudding which I am thrilled with. It will be this year's addition to the tree. I am putting a link to Karon's company, Dream Acres, on the side bar. Have a look - I'm sure you'll love it.

So, back to the packing and planning to leave at about 6 tomorrow morning. Really looking forward seeing everyone who's had a ticket for Spirit or Country Living through Twice. Don't forget - we're on Stand G115 at Spirit and Stand T12 on the Gallery level at Country Living. See you there!

PS I've put this photo of the Nativity Christmas tree decorations that we've got in stock because I just love them!

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Beginning to feel a bit Christmasy .....

It really is that time of year again - it's funny how it seemed slightly premature when I put together an email to all our Twice customers about Advent Calendars about 10 days ago - and now, just days later, it feels like Christmas is just around the corner. It must be all the leaves on the ground, or the frosts, or something - but whatever it is, it has also brought the six weeks that I've got ahead of me into sharp focus. I will be doing twenty days of Christmas fairs and sales between 30th October and 5th December. This is a big step up from last year and I'm really not at all sure how I'm going to manage it, but I am feeling happier with the amount of stock that there is to sell and very happy with all our new stock. One good sign is that I have actually slept quite well for the last three nights which definitely hadn't been the case for weeks beforehand.

So, next Wednesday the campaign starts with a trip to the Camphill Christmas Fair at Bedale in North Yorkshire. I'm really looking forward to this one - it looks a beautiful house and there are some really great companies exhibiting. It will also be the first chance for me to see how our new Christmas decorations and Advent Calendars go down with the customers - I am so pleased with them but the proof of the pudding is in the buying. Then I'm off to Glasgow to the Duntreath Christmas Fair near Blanefield. Again, lots of really good companies showing. The really big push starts the week after when I leave early doors on Monday morning to drive down to London to set up for the House & Garden Spirit of Christmas Fair at Olympia which runs from 7th-11th November and then straight into the Country Living Christmas Fair from 14th-18th November at the Business Design Centre in Islington. Phew! 10 days of showing and 6 days of setting up and taking down. If I'm still standing at the end of that, I'm off up to Aberdeenshire on 21st November and then it's all move to Hopetoun near Edinburgh for a three day sale there. That segues nicely into a two day fair in Perth and then there's a bit of a break until I go back to Yorkshire for a sale in a private house there.

It will be exhausting but it is always really lovely to hear feedback from customers and to see old customers who so often come and seek me out. And, hopefully, by the end of that we will have sorted out loads of Christmas present problems for people and put lots of little presents into stockings!

The picture on this post is a close up of one of the fabulous advent calendars that I have managed to find in Germany. They are really traditional and right up my street - lots of glitter, lots of angels, reindeer, Father Christmas and general proper Christmasiness!

I'm going to sign off now and finish labelling stock for all those fairs.


PS. I was very excited to see our little covered notebooks featuring in Country Living this month - lovely to be in the magazine again and thanks to all the readers who've visited Twice since.

Sunday, September 09, 2007

Did you know about Not On The High Street?

About three months ago I was approached by a web company called Not On The High Street saying that they had seen some of the Twice designs and they wondered if I would like to become a 'partner'. I have to admit that I had never heard of them so, of course, straight onto Google - and what a find! NOTHS is a one-stop-shop where small creative businesses (like Twice) can all operate under one roof, making it possible for customers to shop from many separate shops in one shopping baskets. It's a really clever idea and gives small companies access to a much bigger audience than could realistically be managed on their own. Anyway, I decided that it would be great for Twice and my shop on their site went live on a couple of weeks ago.

It's been really exciting so far - and I've been contacted by the Daily Mail and the Guardian to feature our products. Wow! Anyway, it's a fantastic website for anyone looking for something a bit different and well worth knowing about - so here's the link:

Unbelievably beautiful in Perthshire at the moment - the trees are all turning - it really doesn't get better than this. The apples are au point and I feel a bit of crumble coming on for Sunday lunch tomorrow.


Wednesday, September 05, 2007

A warm welcome to Nigella's spurtle swappers!

I have been in communication lately with a lovely lady called Brenda about our spurtles. It seems that there is a very active chat forum on Nigella Lawson's website ( and one of the topics of conversation is ownership of spurtles. Happily, Brenda found the lovely spurtles at Twice and put in an order. Frantic emailing ensued because although spurtles are small and light, our mailing cost was nearly as expensive as the spurtle. This is a constant problem for mail order companies, because you really need to have one-size-fits-all mailing charges and this means that you lose hugely on heavier orders but small orders are expensive for the customer. Anyway, Brenda and I chatted and I came up with the idea of 'Spurtle Post' - a lower charge for people buying spurtles! All went well, until customers ordering things other than spurtles started opting for Spurtle Post too! I might well have done if I was them - much cheaper! - but a nightmare for Twice. So, sadly, Spurtle Post bit the dust but we've made up for it by dropping the postage cost on all small orders to £2.00. So, hopefully, that keeps everyone happy.

I'm thrilled though that the Nigella forum has found us - it's really fun to be involved in your swapping. And I would hope that the spurtle measures up too. I spent ages finding the right one to go with and was really pleased to find Hugh Leishman, master wood turner, to produce them for us. Some of the Nigella forum have also seen these spurtles at David Mellor, who Hugh also produces for - and that should tell you something about the quality.

It's getting very very busy here now - children all back to school at last (not that I don't love having them home, but you know ..... ) and I am putting my mind to the gargantuan task of making sure the stock is all ready for Christmas. Fairs start for us on 31st October and run right through to 5th December - my feet won't touch the ground but it will be great to be out there taking all our gorgeous things around the country.

It is beautiful today, and was yesterday - where was this weather when I had three stir-crazy children under my feet? It's not fair ;-) !!


Sunday, August 26, 2007

Oh, where to start?!

Well, as you can see, the poor old Twice Diary has suffered somewhat in the past few months - things have been so busy, one way or another, and I just haven't had time to post. So, a bit of an update on where it's all at - getting busier and busier is the answer! I have spent alot of time and effort putting together the start of a range of traditional homewares for the shop - these are all items which are at home in any traditional style house and our aim is the find the very best of them to put on the website. For instance, we have started working with Hugh Leishman, a master wood turner who also supplies David Mellor's wonderful kitchen shop in London. We have come up with a really beautiful breadboard, based on an old board that was my mother's - and the result is a really wonderful thing - solid, simple lines and with a quality that means it will last for ever - and (a really important feature of so many things at Twice) it will just get better with time. Hugh is also making fabulous garden dibbers for us and, something which I have wanted to stock since I started, porridge spurtles. Ours really have to been seen to be appreciated - really thick, solid handles and simple lines with no fussy patterns so that they clean easily.
Next, I've stocked cork bath mats - these have been a runaway best seller - it's extraordinary how many go! Of course, if you've ever used one, you'll know why. And I'm expanding the wickerwork that we sell - so now there are sweet little egg baskets to go alongside the shoppers we have had for a while.

On the Vintage Originals front, I am expecting the Aromatic Trivet to be the new bestseller for Christmas (and, yes, we really are thinking about that already!). It is such a simple idea, but works so well. We take our natural Scottish linen, quilt it and put in a patch of vintage fabric for decoration and then - fill the padding with spices! This means that when you put your hot pot on it out of the oven, the spices heat up and the smells fill the kitchen! And unbelievably you can put it through the wash and it still works. I tried these out at the Ripley Castle Fair and people were buying two or three at a time ready for Christmas, which bodes well.

At home, we are coming to end of the school holidays - everyone is growing up rather fast and our eldest has just become a teenager and is off to her new senior school next week. Everything they say about them being babies only yesterday is true - can't believe we've got here already.

We had a great sadness a couple of months ago when Edie, our beloved Lucas terrier (who you may have noticed in some of the website photos), was run over. We had had her since 1996, and the children had really never known life without her, so it was shattering. However, with immaculate timing, her daughter Molly had a litter in July and so last week we took delivery of the sweetest thing you can imagine - known now as Pebble. I am posting a photo so you can all go aaaahh!

Anyway, glad to be back on the blog - I'll try not to let it go so long this time!

Best wishes

Thursday, April 05, 2007

Double whammy!

Ooooh! What a great day! Not only is it 20 degrees outside, with a whole long weekend of bank holiday and sun coming up, but Twice is featured in two magazines that hit the shelves today - our gorgeous little Lavender Hearts are on the "Things We Love" pages in Country Homes & Interiors and the website is featured in "Webwise" in BBC Homes & Antiques. I can't tell you how fantastic it is to see things which I have taken from the very first stages of sourcing the fabrics or china right through to the final product, sitting on the pages of a glossy!

The Sugar Bowl Candle pictured in Webwise was the very first one we ever made - it's a beautiful piece of Minton dating from about 1895. It has spawned many more and they were one of our best sellers at the recent Country Living Spring Fair. The editorial says that you should expect 22 hours burn time - but as we had one burning from the first to the fourth day of the Fair (until someone spilt it over some rather beautiful patchwork quilts and three covered baskets - whoops!), I would say you can expect at least 22 hours!
I am just about to put our wonderful childrens' Patchwork Quilts on the website. These really are heirloom pieces and were launched very successfully at the CL Fair. We take a piece of original patchwork and back it with vintage blanket and then edge the quilt in the wonderful natural Scottish linen that we often use. The quilts are then packaged with full details of the date and country of origin of the patchwork. Each quilt is, by definition, one of a very limited edition and, like everything that we do, can't be repeated. What I love about these quilts is how different they all are - and how anyone looking at them is completely drawn to one rather than another. Great Twice!
So, it just remains for me to wish you all a very Happy Easter - enjoy this weather!


Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Phew! That was quite something....

So, I am no longer a Country Living Fair virgin - eight days ago we set off for London in a rather large van, and two days of set up, five days of selling and two days of breakdown later, it's over! We arrived back in Perthshire last night, having been on the go since 7.00am when we loaded the van and then struck out for the North through the new winter. As it had been 20 degrees on the day we arrived in London, hail and snow was really quite a shock a week later!

The fair itself was great - I met so many people, both fellow exhibitors and visitors, who were really enthusiastic about what we are doing at Twice. We have made many new friends and certainly put our products to a far wider audience than ever before. To be honest, I'm so tired now that I can't really sum it all up - I think that will come later - but I am thrilled that Twice really stepped up to the mark. The stand looked fantastic and, from the reactions we heard, definitely had a "wow" factor. Thank you very much indeed to Antonia, Emma, Sally, Jane, Joa and, especially, James, for all your help both on and off the stand during the fair - couldn't have done it without you.
During the course of the fair we ran a prize draw to win one of our wonderful deerskin tote bags. The bags are named after my daughters, Silvie and Eleanor, so it was only fitting that they should pick the winner - here is Silvie pulling out the winning entry. Congratulations to Michelle Mulberry of Epsom, Surrey - a delicious Silvie Tote in bitter chocolate deerskin with a vintage French ticking lining will be winging its way to you shortly!
The Country Living bandwagon rolls on to Glasgow next week, so best of luck to my friend Lisa from Primrose Hill Interiors who will be exhibiting - I'm sure it will be great.

Caroline x

Monday, February 26, 2007

London here we come!

Well, the nerves have really set in now - two weeks and counting until the Country Living Fair. This time in two weeks we will be driving down the M6 in a trusty Transit into uncharted territory. Minor angst trying to work out stock storage for the Fair - a) there is very little storage when you get there, b) we have discovered that I can't drive the transit due to an unfortunate little issue of an 'IN10' (Driving without Insurance) on my driving licence (don't ask - husband forgot to reinsure car, man drove into back of me, I had to produce insurance docs at police station - whoops! not insured! - 6 points and £250 later, marriage just about got through it) - anyway, the upshot is that I can't hire a van for five years, so husband is having to drive there and back. He will then have to leave the van at Heathrow while he comes back home to look after the children while I'm away and then pick it up when he comes back down the following Sunday to help me pack up, and then drive me and (hopefully very little) stock back to Scotland. Anyway, all this means that I won't have the van near me to act as a warehouse for stock and just a 1m x 2m space on a floor at the Business Design Centre - so, if any of you come to the Fair and find Twice on Stand G1 looking slightly empty, you'll know why!

We're just put the finishing touches to the stand infrastructure - this picture shows the first dress rehersal. Very pleased with how it all looks. In the forefront are our wonderful new Cot Quilts, which we are launching at the Fair. I am so pleased with how these have turned out. I have been thinking about them for ages - I wanted to find a way to use vintage patchworks in a different way - and this really works. We take the patchwork and back it with vintage blanket and then edge it using the fabulous Scottish natural linen that we use whenever possible. I think they will be a real heirloom piece - each one is very much a limited edition, with no more than two in each patchwork - I know I would have been thrilled to have been given one for any of my babies!

It's a glorious day in Scotland - I really feel we are through the winter now. It is light when the children go to school and light when they come home - it's always such a good feeling when we come blinking out of the dark into proper daylight - a palpable feeling of having got through it again! And the first daffodils are just about to come out.


Monday, February 12, 2007

Twice in Country Living - well, once, but Twice, if you know what I mean!

Great news - our hugely popular Sewing Rolls (a pile of which are shown in this photo) are in the March issue of Country Living. Subscription issues hit doormats this morning - and, already, the response has been fantastic. The sewing roll featured in the magazine is in a particularly pretty raspberry red floral French cotton dating from about 1910 - and we lined it with an apple green vintage blanket. One of the prettiest so far.

As you may know, we are exhibiting at the Country Living Spring Fair in London in March, so it is especially heartening to have made it into the magazine just before we exhibit. Really looking forward to it (although, as it is the first time we have exhibited outside Scotland, also more than a little nervous!) - and if the reaction to the magazine is anything to go by, it will be a very exciting time for Twice.

Not as miserable about the Scottish weather as I was in my last post - have realised that there is good snow in the Highlands and, if the temperature doesn't rise too much before Wednesday, I am off to Glenshee to ski with Ellie (eldest daughter) who is on half term. It's possible to be on the slopes in under an hour from here - and when it's good, it's very, very good (and, yes, when it's bad, it's HORRID!).


Saturday, February 10, 2007

Beautiful shoe bags need beautiful shoes ....

As you may know, Twice makes the prettiest and most luxurious shoe bags available! Using soft, vintage blanket with an applique pattern in one of our gorgeous vintage prints, and closing with ivory satin ribbons, our shoe bags will keep your shoes in the utmost luxury. But do your shoes deserve it? They will when you get to know one of our great Scottish secrets and a great friend to Twice - Helen Bateman. Helen is a highly talented shoe designer with a very loyal following through her shops in Edinburgh and Inverness. Luckily for the rest of the country, her shoes are also available through her website at

One of the really helpful things that Helen produces is her Basics Collection - a range of classic shoes and boots which don't change, so that you can always replace that favourite staple in your wardrobe. I'm just about to replace my kitten heel black suede ankle boots as the current ones have been worn to death - and I love the fact that the new ones will be just the same.

So, check out Helen's website and then you know where to get the shoe bag that your new shoes deserve!

It is really miserable here today - horribly cold with non-stop sleety rain - and none of the snow that we were promised. Only one thing for it - a roaring fire and a good film!

Best wishes


Tuesday, January 09, 2007

More is more!

This is such a good example of why I LOVE doing this! I have just taken a delivery from a dealer who specialises in French fabrics. Amongst the haul was this particularly pretty blousy floral curtain. While I was scanning it into the archive, I discovered one of those wonderful little idiosyncracies of these fabrics - in order to get a little extra length into the curtain, whoever made it all those years ago (this fabric is quite hard to date, but I would put it at somewhere around 1950) has added a lining to just the top 1" of the curtain - and this, as you can see from the photo, is in a really pretty cotton paisley. This illustrates so well our new motto for 2007 - "More is more"! - in other words, given a fairly neutral background (for example, the wonderful neutral Scottish linen that we often use) the more patterns and colours you put together, the better they can often look.

For those of you who are interested in following our fabrics through to their final incarnation, the archive number for this on is 152-07 - this will eventually be put on the label of any design made in this fabric. Do get in touch if you would like more information about this or any other aspect of Twice and our fabrics - email me at

Best wishes