Tuesday, 15 January 2019

The 10 Year Challenge: Getting Older & Growing into Myself

If you're on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram you've probably seen the 10 Year Challenge popping up a lot in your feed lately, with people posting photos of themselves from 2009 vs 2019.

It's really interesting seeing how much (and how little) people have changed. All those sweet fresh faces! Old friends looking just how they looked when you first met, and new friends looking sort of not yet fully formed, a sort of pre-them from before you knew them and they grew into their wonderful current selves! So many lovely faces! Such fun!

I love looking back at old photos - if you've been reading my blog for a while you might remember that I've been assembling self-portraits to represent each year for a while now - so I thought I'd join in the fun with this challenge. But: could I find a photo of myself from 2009? I absolutely could not. I don't have a lot of photos of myself from around that time anyway and I think that might have been the year my computer died a sudden death when I hadn't backed up my files for months. (Oops). (Always back up your files, you guys!!).

Sooo... here's me in 2008 (modelling a headband I'd made for my shop)...

... and me in 2018 (modelling the denim jacket I customised for Sticker You).

Ten years of taking crafty selfies and sticking them on the internet! Woohoo!

This pair of photos is kind of cheating because the light in the hallway where I took that most recent photo is VERY FLATTERING but apart from my glasses getting bigger I'm not sure how I look has changed that much?

I mean, obviously, I can see time making its mark on me when I look in the mirror in the morning. I've got a lot more wrinkles and crinkles than I had back in 2008, I'm developing a pretty strong frown line right in the middle of my forehead, and my first grey hairs showed up last year (I'm not sure exactly when as I'd not noticed them until my youngest sister helpfully pointed them out to me this summer!). And on mornings when I've not had enough sleep? Oh my goodness. A bad night's sleep ages me about a decade these days.

Mostly though what I see when I look at these photos, and which may not be visible to anyone else but me, is how much happier with myself I am these days. Happier with who I am and how I look, and generally just so much more confident and content to be myself. I'm lucky to be healthier and fitter than I've ever been, too (one of the excellent and unexpected side-effects of falling in love with walking).

People talk (slightly creepily) about girls "blossoming" into young women, but here in my late 30s, with 40 on the rapidly approaching horizon, I feel like I'm in full bloom inside and out.

When we turn 30 (if not even earlier) we start getting hit with so many messages from our youth-focused culture that we, as women, should be freaked out about "losing" our looks as those dreaded "signs of aging" start appearing. We've got over the angst and body confidence issues of our teens, gone through our messy "what am I doing with my life??" twenties, and just as we're starting to relax into ourselves and, I think, beginning to really grow into our power... all of a sudden the world says "woah, settle down there ladies, have you considered that there's all these new ways to hate yourself?"

Well, I refuse. I refuse to hate the gradual way my face and body is changing as I'm aging and I absolutely refuse to hate myself even a tiny bit because of it. I am going to continue to bloom and I hope you guys will, too xxx

Thursday, 10 January 2019

A New Felt Flower Pattern: Coming Soon

I'm currently dreaming of spring and busy working on lots of floral things, including this project...


... which will be January's freebie for my newsletter subscribers.

The main project will be a mix of felt and embroidery, but I'll be including an embroidery pattern option too (because you guys know I can never resist a project variation!). I can't wait to share the finished design with you all.

Not yet a subscriber? Follow the link to sign up to my monthly pattern newsletter for a free project in your inbox each month this year, plus a bonus project at some point to make up for the fact that I was too busy to send a newsletter in December (oops!). You can also sign up for updates about what's new here on my blog and over in my shop.

Here's a peek at some of the other floral designs in progress in my studio at the moment - keep your fingers crossed for lots of winter sunshine so I can get these tutorials photographed and in my shop a.s.a.p!


P.S. Remember you'll also always find lots of free crafty projects in my tutorial archive

Tuesday, 8 January 2019

Fifteen Felt Christmas Ornaments Finally Finished!

Oh, hello, what's this? Another blog post about getting things finished?? HURRAH.

If you're a regular reader of my blog you'll know that I was working hard to finish lots of my personal creative projects last year, including a patchwork blanket, a couple of quilts, and a set of felt Christmas ornaments I was making from Alicia Paulson's lovely patterns.

I bought several of Alicia's kits way back in 2012 and 2013 and had really made very little effort to devote any focused time to them... so, unsurprisingly, most of the designs were still sitting in pieces, unstitched, in a drawer in my flat many years later.

Well now, happily, I can say that all fifteen ornaments are finally finished! Woohoo!

Don't they all look fabulous together?

That photo ended up being my most popular Instagram photo from last year - and, indeed, my whole time on Instagram. Watching all the "likes" roll in for this project was a weird and fun way to finish the year!

Fancy a closer look at the ornaments? The first batch was the slowest to finish as they technically took me 5-6 years to complete...

... then it took me just a month to get another four finished this autumn...

... and the final four were ready just in time for Christmas.

I completed the sweet Gingerbread Girl in early December - I probably could have managed it slightly earlier but I wanted to make sure I was super focused and in the zone when I stitched her face to get it juuuuust right. She is so charmingly folksy, I love her.

The next two got finished in the middle of the month, while watching made-for-TV Christmas movies (I love made-for-TV Christmas movies). There's the cute (double-sided) Notevena Mouse (as in "Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse")...

... and the lovely (single-sided) Lighted Window.

The very last design I stitched was the Whistling Tea Kettle which is the one I took most liberties with when it came to not following the instructions.

There was a lot of satin stitch in Alicia's original design and I a) do not enjoy and b) am terrible at satin stitch, sooo my version looks slightly different to hers while still keeping to the same overall pattern. Could I (should I) have used this project as an opportunity to improve my satin stitching? Probably, but never mind!

I deliberately missed out a row of blanket stitching on the kettle, too, because I was finding it frustrating and honestly just wanted this thing finished. I'm pretty pleased with the end result, though, even with the changes.

Just like the other big projects I finished last year after years of them being just works in progress, it is hugely satisfying getting these ornaments completed! I've been meaning to finish them "in time for Christmas" for so many years (and so many different Christmases) that it felt wonderful finally having them ready in time for one.

Having said that, though, I have a confession to make: although I basked in the glorious feeling of getting these ornaments finally finished (which was an excellent Christmas gift to myself), I didn't actually hang any of them up at Christmas!

My holiday decorating style is, these days, best described as very minimal. I put up a few decorations around my flat along with all the cards I'd received from friends, but I don't put up a Christmas tree... and even if I did, it would have to be a VERY big tree to fit these ornaments on it as they're quite large (though you might not guess it from the photos). The Gingerbread Girl, for example, is about 17cm (almost 7 inches) high.

Also (and it's embarrassing to admit this) there's a bit of me that's a teeny bit worried that I'll have them on display and someone will come round to my house and think I made and designed them and say something nice which ends up feeling not so great. I've had this happen several times before with handmade-but-not-by-me things and honestly hearing "oh wow this is the best thing you've ever made, I love these so much!" about something that isn't your work is super awkward and slightly devastating! (Even if you yourself think they're nicer than your own work, too!) (Ugh, maker feelings are so complicated).

So, I think I'm going to end up giving some of these as gifts to friends and family in the run up to next Christmas and possibly just keeping a few of my favourites to hang on doorknobs and other suitable places in my flat. (If you're a friend of mine please do feel free to drop hints about which ones are your faves!)

I'm going to give myself the year to think about it though - who know, by the time next Christmas rolls round I might have decided that I can't bear to part with any of them and I'll have found the perfect places to display them all! We shall see...

Want to make some of these ornaments for yourself? Click here to find all the patterns (and much more loveliness) over in Alicia's shop.

For lots more Christmas crafting ideas, visit my archive of free tutorials.

Thursday, 3 January 2019

Making a Patchwork Quilt: the hand-quilting is FINISHED!

Remember my patchwork quilt?

This quilt is officially my longest running work in progress: I started it way back when I was a teen, which is so long ago that if the quilt was a person it would now be a teenager itself, definitely old enough to drive a car and maybe technically an adult by now (yikes). 

After a flurry of quilt-making enthusiasm when I was a student, I put the part-finished quilt top away in a cupboard for years. When I rediscovered it in a box in 2012, I thought about just getting rid of it but that felt a bit wrong so when my mum said she liked it I decided to try and finish it as a gift for her. I got the quilt top finished by 2014... then put it in a box again and didn't look at it for another four years.

Last year I was full of enthusiasm for Finally Finishing long-running projects (including a patchwork blanket and another quilt), so in the spring I bought wadding, white backing fabric and white quilting thread ready to complete the quilt.

I washed and ironed the fabric and put the quilt sandwich together (if you're not familiar with quilting, this is the step when you put all the layers together ready to sew them) then started the hand quilting in the summer.

Now, I don't know if you've ever done any hand quilting but it's a seriously labour intensive process and a very repetitive one! It's also not exactly the ideal project to work on during the hot summer months (and last summer really was hot). So, after making a start I ended up taking a break for a couple of months... but I did a big push this autumn to put the hours in and managed to finish the quilting at the end of November. Woohoo!

I thought the Christmas quilt I made my sister took a long time, but this one is a bigger quilt and made up of smaller squares so I had a lot more (and longer) lines to stitch so there were waaaaay more hours of stitching to put into this quilt.

The Christmas quilt was also a lot neater than this one: I'd used a proper block for marking out the squares for the Christmas quilt and cut and sewed them super neatly. The squares for the old patchwork quilt were a lot more randomly sized - and sewn together rather wonkily, too! I started out the hand quilting using my previous method of using masking tape as a guide line to stitch along... but I soon abandoned this to stitch freehand, following the not remotely straight lines of the "squares". So, all the quilted lines on this quilt are pretty wobbly (and my stitching isn't that neat to begin with, I have so much respect for people who manage to do neat hand quilting because mine all turned out so messy!) but hopefully this just adds to the quilt's handmade charm rather than detracting from it.

I'd originally hoped to keep the fact that I was finishing this quilt a secret from my mum (so it would be a big surprise when it was done) but I soon realised that this was going to be impossible, simply because of logistics of hiding something that big. So I told her about it and we've spent many happy hours sitting watching TV and movies together in her living room while I stitched and stitched and stitched. Sometimes this fella kept us company, too.

I've mostly kept the quilt stashed in her spare bedroom, working on it in bits and pieces when I went round to visit. I took it back to my flat a couple of times thinking I'd be able to really focus on it and push the project forwards but this turned out to be a terrible strategy because I'd spend the whole evening hunched over the quilt, stitching away happily while listening to podcasts or audiobooks and the next day my neck and back would be very angry with me!

For the Christmas quilt I stitched pairs of lines at a time, working steadily outwards and marking off each pair on a neat little chart as I went. For this one I worked a bit more haphazardly, sewing out from the centre but stitching several lines at once. I didn't make a chart to track my progress this time, just laid the quilt upside down on the floor at regular intervals to get an overview of how much stitching was left (the stitched lines are much more visible on the back than the front as they stand out against the plain white instead of getting lost in all that colour and pattern).

By November 20th, I'd stitched out to the first two corners of the quilt. It was amazing what a difference finishing that first corner made: it suddenly started to feel like an actual quilt instead of just a big bundle of fabric.

Excited by the prospect of finally getting this baby FINISHED, I devoted the next few evenings to quilting. I got the third corner finished on the 22nd...

... then started on the fourth and final corner. I couldn't resist laying it out to take a few more "in progress" photos before the quilting was finished.

Having the end in sight felt great!

Sewing these final few lines was definitely the most enjoyable bit of the quilting process (hand quilting is so boring, you guys! oh my goodness!!), and I was full of glee when I tied off the last stitch that weekend.

Even though it's now been over a month since I finished the quilting, I still haven't taken any photos of it "finished" and ready for the binding.

I have trimmed off most of the excess wadding and backing fabric (another step that's made it look much more like a real quilt), bought a fabric sample card so my mum can choose the perfect colour for the binding fabric (this important decision is still in progress but she's currently leaning towards blue), and sold the quilting hoop to a friend (because frankly, I plan on never hand-sewing another quilt as long as I live!!!).

Once my mum has decided which colour she wants for the binding, I'll measure the quilt and order enough fabric plus some matching thread. Then it'll be time to get started on the final stage! Maybe this time round I'll actually follow the instructions properly (unlike last time)? Watch This Space.