Friday, 27 February 2009

Experiments

I've finally had a chance to break open one of my new embroidery thread packs and try out some ideas for sampler brooches:I don't think I've done cross stitch since I was about 10 years old, it's so interesting to go back and rediscover its charms! All that lovely repetitive stitching is wonderfully relaxing and I'm loving the challenge of how to render things in pixels.

Thursday, 26 February 2009

Assorted Loveliness

Today I have torn myself away from another frenzy of felt-button-making (I'm so glad everyone likes those!) to mention some some of the lush things to be found in my sponsors' shops...

New sponsor WildCat Designs uses a vintage mechanical knitting machine to make scarves and other accessories that are perfect for chilly spring days. If you've not seen her shop before, definitely check out the deliciously retro Space Invaders scarves and all her stripey knits. One of my favourites is this black and fuschia skinny scarf - felted after knitting to make it extra cosy:
Another new sponsor this month is the super talented RedRubyRose who not only makes incredible luxurious clutches but designs many of her own fabrics as well! Button lover that I am, I am smitten by this design in particular... mmm, lovely buttons...A fellow button lover, Nonsuch, also makes charming purses in linens and nautical cottons. This embroidered beauty is inspired by seedheads:Another of my sponsors inspired by nature is LauraFallulah who "dreams of living by the sea in a large house with a small vegetable patch." Wear one of her huge rose brooches pinned to your coat and even the chilliest spring day will seem cheerful!I am definitely feeling the song of spring in my heart at the moment, which may be why I've fallen quite in love with Bombus' most recent decoupaged platter made for the Country Living fair.How evocative is that? You can find a whole range of decoupaged plates and dishes here, and even commission your own custom piece.

Somehow capturing a rainy English springtime despite living in Oregon, OuOu has added a small set of Black umbrellas to her card range -
- that big black umbrella! and those cute little birds! the perils and sweetness of spring all rolled into one!

Whatever the season, tea-themed things will forever steal my heart so it's no surprise that I have added the fantastic new prints from MrPS to my shopping wishlist this month. My favourite? This snazzy gingham number:
Finally, over at Summersville you can banish any remaining winter blues by treating yourself to any of a delightful array of sketchbooks and notebooks. Each book is covered in original screenprinted fabric including new fabric designs Twist and the very appropriate Alphabetty.

Tuesday, 24 February 2009

Waste Not Want Not

I've been trying to make use of some of the scraps of felt I have leftover from my many projects, as it seems such a shame to waste even the smallest bit of colourful felt!

Some are being cut into heart shapes:And others are being turned into cute felt buttons:I am so in love with the buttons, they are so sweet and cheerful and deliciously tactile. They are also quite addictive to make, but I will run out of felt scraps eventually...

Monday, 23 February 2009

Required Reading

One of the things I'm determined to do with my couple of weeks off is to squeeze in as much reading as possible. I will be indulging in catching up with lots of my favourite blogs (and updating my blog roll in the process), getting some crafty books out of the library plus doing some more "serious" reading with my business hat on.

The serious reading in question? Two books I've wanted to read for ages: Craft, Inc. and Second Steps. I've seen them mentioned in so many places and have had so many people recommend them that they were at the top of my wish list when a wonderful friend treated me to an Amazon voucher for Christmas. It's a sad state of affairs, I know, that I'm "treating" myself to business books but though I like to pretend that I have interests outside crafting really I am just kidding myself :)
Thinking of business things, thanks muchly to everyone who commented last week when I asked if anyone would be interested in some thoughts re: setting up an Etsy shop. I will definitely be working on a few posts about this. If nothing else it will be interesting for me to get my thoughts in order about it all, and I do hope some of you will find it a useful read. I'm not sure how long it will take to appear though!

In the meantime, there are many many awesome guides and interviews about selling on Etsy etc floating around in the blogosphere including 2 interviews this week on the Design*Sponge guest blog with vintage sellers Blue Bell Bazaar and White Elephant Vintage plus some "big picture" Etsy lessons from Abigail Vintage. I always love reading about other sellers business experiences and working processes - if you don't read them already, the Quit Your Day Job articles on Etsy are always a good read, a great mix of passion and realism about working hard on something you love. Have you read any other good online business guides or interesting Etsy seller interviews lately? Please do post links in the comments :)

Sunday, 22 February 2009

Taking a Break

I've decided to take a short break to read a bit, do some sketching, play around with some new ideas and hopefully get some of the designs I've had floating round my head for ages made into real live things to show you all.

I'll still be blogging - lots of things I want to mention at the moment and lots of photos to take once I remember to charge my camera batteries! - but my shops will be closed for a couple of weeks. I will of course be posting out any outstanding orders, but anything ordered from my shops during my time off will be posted the week of 9th March.

Friday, 20 February 2009

Flying off to foreign parts...

Not me, unfortunately, but some of my birdies - finally finished and ready to post! Hurrah! In the meantime, my living room looks a little like a scene from a Hitchcock movie...

Tuesday, 17 February 2009

Embroidery Love

We're having a bit of a re-shuffle at the moment - moving a few things about in the house, switching round some ornaments and pot plants, trying to declutter a bit, and plan a few simple projects to smarten the place up a little.

One of the things I'm planning to do in the lounge is replace some of our slightly tatty cushions with some nice new ones (homemade, of course). Among the cushions soon to be evicted from the sofa are this vintage pair...... the embroidery is rather the worse for wear (and almost non-existant in places) but oh how I love that design!
I'm thinking about maybe taking the cushions apart and trying to restore (ie unpick and replace) parts of the stitching. Then I can perhaps use them as panels in new cushions or stretch them over frames or something? All thoughts and ideas welcome! :)

Monday, 16 February 2009

New Supplies in the Shop!

I've added a few new items over in my supplies shop this week...

First up, some totally adorable mini embroidery hoops (only 3 inches across):
I bought some of these for myself as I am itching to try out some ideas for embroidery projects and cross stitch patterns, and they were just so cute I had to share them! (I've only got a small amount in stock at the moment, but will be getting another order from my supplier this week so don't worry if they sell out). I'm particularly in love with the faux bois plastic frames & I may get some in larger sizes if people are interested...
I've also got hold of some of that fantastic lacey cake ribbon I used for giftwrapping before Christmas - available in silver or gold it would make a fab addition to any paper craft project and, of course, it's great for wrapping gifts:Finally, I've added some giant bundles of felt squares - the same great rainbow of colours as my mini packs, just bigger!Each square is 23cms across (9 inches) and the bundle should last even the most devoted felt addict for quite a while.

Sunday, 15 February 2009

Etsy Thoughts

The past few days I've been distracted by a sudden urge to tidy and reorganise and spring clean ... and whilst tidying, I found a piece of paper from a couple of years ago when I'd first joined Etsy and was taking notes on some of their categories, what was where, what it was called (there were lots of Americanisms that took a while to getting used to) and how many of everything there was.

I remember being amazed by how many things there were listed, but the site was pretty tiny 2 years ago compared to now. Here are a small sample just to show what I mean...

Geekery - THEN: 3,558 items NOW: 17,165
Books and Zines > Zine - THEN: 295 NOW: 1,318
Housewares > Kitchen - THEN: 3,564, NOW: 23,385
Accessories > Pin - THEN: 4,443 NOW: 24,969
Needlecraft > Pincushion - THEN: 400 NOW: 3,241

And those are some of the smaller categories - there are currently 827, 839 items listed under Jewellery! No wonder people email me saying they feel a bit lost on Etsy and asking how they can get their products seen!

Thinking of these things whilst clearing out a cupboard or two, I wondered whether anyone would be interested in a blog post or two on things like "tips for running an Etsy shop" or "tips for selling your work online"? and what sort of questions you might want answered? All comments and suggestions welcome! :)

Thursday, 12 February 2009

Stocking up on some Essentials

I was a little bit overexcited to find my butterfly mobile tutorial mentioned Craft, Apartment Therapy and AT's childrens decor blog ohdeedoh this week. So many lovely features, on so many lovely blogs! I am, as they say, dead chuffed (though what a shame to read about the end of Craft's print magazine!)

Slightly less exciting (but still rather marvellous) I went on a shopping trip yesterday and bought a whole bundle of knitting needles in assorted sizes from the few local charity shops that still sell them ...
... and some yummy balls of marbled yarn (deliciously soft and chunky) from the haberdashers at my local market. A mottled grey, a pink & purple blend and a lush autumnal mix of brown, teal, orange and gold:
I still haven't finished my second scarf, but as an antidote to all that purple I've made a start on a grey one - using rib knit again as I think I need the practice, haha. I am in love with it already, all those mottled greys! Yum yum.

Wednesday, 11 February 2009

Gift Wrap Idea: Doilies

Want to add some prettiness to any parcel in an instant? Use paper doilies as your gift toppers!
I am a bit obsessed with doilies at the moment, especially the white paper ones: they're crisp and modern and simple but also fussy and old fashioned and oh so retro ... and I couldn't resist using them while doing some gift-wrapping.

I layered them with shapes cut from sugar paper (construction paper) and decorative papers like vintage sheet music and maps, to add some extra colour and detail.

The top parcel has a butterfly shape (cut using the template from last week's tutorials) made from two layers: an old map of France "framed" by some dark blue sugar paper.
The bottom parcel makes use of some of that awesome cake ribbon I used in my giftwrapping before Christmas (update: the ribbon is now available in my supplies shop!), a layer of purple sugar paper backing a small white doily with a simple red sugar paper heart on top (well, it is Valentines Day this week, after all!). I love the combination of red, white and purple. So pretty!

Regular readers will know that I'm a huge fan of gifts wrapped in brown paper - you can use almost any colours with it and it always looks amazing and really chic. Here are a couple more paper & doily combinations I was playing around with and will be keeping for future presents:As you can see, I also bought a pack of gold paper doilies. These are a little more expensive than the white ones but you get a lot of impact for a relatively small outlay.

Vintage sheet music looks particularly fab twinned with gold, and red and gold is always a winner ... so for the parcel on the right I topped a small gold doily with a large sheet music heart, and glued smaller hearts all over the red paper to make my own giftwrap (all the sheet music hearts came from BombusCraft)
The larger parcel on the left is simpler, and yet also much more bling! I cut out a heart shape from the centre of a small doily and stuck this on top of a larger doily with its middle cut out (so the red paper shows through the heart and the lacy holes of the smaller doily).

I think the variations on this are pretty much endless, and I'm so pleased with the results that doilies are definitely going to become a regular part of my giftwrapping stash! I might even start using small white doilies instead of plain white labels to write my "to so-and-so with much love from..." messages when I'm wrapping gifts in a hurry.

Please feel free to borrow one or two photos if you want to blog about this project, but remember to credit me and link back to the original source, and do not reproduce my entire post on your site. Thanks!

Tuesday, 10 February 2009

Second Scarf of the Year

I'm about half way through my second knitting project of 2009 - another scarf, in the same purple yarn as before, but this time in rib stitch (alternating 2 knit, 2 purl stitches).

I am so unused to alternating between stitches that I keep forgetting to switch over and/or miscounting and having to go back and undo some stitches or unravel a whole section (I have done this at least 3 times now, maybe more).

Here are a couple of very quick snaps of it in progress - the colour of the second picture is much more accurate:Plus, for anyone who is interested check out the difference between doing just plain knit and doing rib stitch:I cast on the same number of stitches for each scarf as I deliberately wanted to compare them... the rib stitch bunches up in a lovely elastic way making it much narrower and super dense and snugly.

Monday, 9 February 2009

Etsy Spring Cleaning

I'm having a bit of a spring clean in my Etsy shop: all these lovelies are now on sale and many of them will be disappearing from my shop when their listings expire...

Sunday, 8 February 2009

How to: Butterfly Mobile

Time for another butterfly-themed how-to, based on the butterfly template I have finally uploaded here. Today: how to make a simple but striking butterfly mobile from felt.


You will need... some colourful felt, some white yarn, some felt beads, a piece of strong card, and two white paper doilies. The felt beads and doilies are optional, and if you don't have any felt you can just use stiff coloured paper (eg sugar/construction paper) or thin card.

I buy my felt beads from Paper Fish


The construction of this mobile is nice and simple - four strands of butterflies, suspended from a card circle. Cut out lots of butterfly shapes from your felt using the butterfly template. You can keep these as single sided butterflies or cut out two shapes per butterfly and sew them together with matching thread to make them more sturdy (the single ones will be more likely to flop!). Alternatively, you could just use card. In between my felt butterflies I threaded some fantastic felt beads, but small circles of felt/paper (about 1 inch in diameter) would work just as well.


To make each strand, cut a long piece of white knitting yarn and knot one end. Using a darning needle, sew about three stitches through the middle of each felt butterfly, leaving enough room between them to let them spin easily and mixing up the butterflies and felt beads/circles as you go. You might want to spread out all your materials on a large surface like a table to get a good mix of colours and shapes before you start. If you're using paper butterflies & circles, use an ordinary sewing needle and white sewing thread


To make the "base" from which the mobile hangs, I used a paper doily as a template to cut out a piece of stiff corrugated card. Using a very sharp pencil, I punched four holes in the circle of card - imagine the circle is a compass and make one hole at north, south, east and west. Each hole should be about an inch in from the edge.

I then glued one doily onto each side of the card to make it more attractive and cover the holes. You could use any kind of paper for this, and a dinner plate makes a great template for cutting out a large circle.



Thread one of the strands of yarn through one of the holes - you should be able to feel through the paper where one of the holes is, and pierce through easily with the needle (the rest will be much easier to find when you've found the first one!). Make sure the butterflies are hanging at the height you want them, and loop the yarn through the hole several times and tie a knot. Do not cut the yarn at this point! Repeat this for the other three strands.


Now take all four loose bits of yarn and hold the ends together until the card circle is level and the mobile is hanging straight, tie a knot in them (knotting all 4 together) and use them to hang your mobile wherever you fancy. If you've used paper butterflies and sewing thread, once you've secured each strand to the circle you can trim the remaining thread and tie on 4 lengths of knitting yarn for suspending the mobile. Remember - as with all mobiles - to hang it well out of the reach of babies and small children! The design will fade over time if hung in direct sunlight.


This tutorial is for non commercial use only
: you can use it for as many mobiles as you like for yourself or as gifts for friends but please don't make any for sale. Please feel free to blog about this project, but remember to credit me and link back to the original source, and do not reproduce my entire tutorial on your site. Thanks!

Friday, 6 February 2009

Distractions

It snowed! Woohoo!
Last time it snowed like this (many years ago) I was a student and lived here...
... so my current hometown has a lot to live up to! It's still rather lovely though: even wheelie bins are suddenly charming with a hat of snow on top of them.

The Post Office is closed, and many of my neighbours are off work so lots of tea is being drunk and lots of snowy walks are being taken instead of, you know, doing some actual work... but normal service will be resumed soon :)

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