Monday, 30 January 2017

Sew some Felt Fruit! Apple and Pear Tutorial

Sometimes it's nice to make things which are useful and practical... and sometimes it's nice to make decorative, whimsical things. Today I'm starting a tutorial series which is definitely the latter: sewing some felt fruit!

 Felt apples and pear

I'm sharing how to make a felt apple and pear today, and over the coming weeks I'll be posting free tutorials for making the rest of this colourful felt fruit.

 felt fruit

You can make the whole set (wouldn't they look fab as a mobile or displayed in a bowl together?) or make individual pieces to decorate your space. If you did want to make something practical, the apple and pear would make great pincushions. Please note that the finished felt fruit is intended for decorative use only - it is not a toy and should be kept well out of reach of young children.

felt pear
 felt apple

This project was originally published in docrafts Creativity magazine and stitched using felt from their Craft Planet range.

red felt apple

You will need:

The template sheet provided (see the bottom of this post)
Red, dark green and light green felt
Dark brown felt
Matching sewing thread
Toy stuffing
Sewing needles and pins
Sewing scissors

To sew an apple or pear:

1. For each piece of fruit, cut out 6 apple or pear pieces, 1 leaf and 1 stalk.

2. Sew the fruit pieces together with whip stitch and matching thread, starting from the same end each time. Take care not to sew the seams too tightly. When you're sewing the final edges together sew halfway along it then turn the fruit shape inside out through the hole.

3. Stuff the fruit with toy stuffing, adding small pieces of stuffing at a time to stuff the shape evenly.

4. Sew up the final seam, leaving a small hole at the top for inserting the stalk.

5. Roll the stalk piece to form a stick-like shape and sew it together with a few stitches of matching brown thread.

6. Attach the leaf to the bottom of the stalk with a few stitches of red or green thread (to match the fruit), then insert the leaf and stalk into the hole and sew them in place.

felt apples and a pear

Click here to view the template sheet, make sure you're viewing it full size then print it at 100%. Please note that the finished felt fruit is intended for decorative use only - keep it well out of reach of young children.


This tutorial is for personal use only: you can use it to stitch as many pieces of fruit as you want for yourself or as gifts, but please don't make any for sale. You may borrow a photo or two 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 or share the pattern itself on your site. Thanks!

For more free felt projects and other crafty tutorials, click here to visit my tutorial archive.

For even more crafty goodness, check out my books: Super-Cute Felt and Super-Cute Felt Animals.

http://bugsandfishes.blogspot.co.uk/p/my-books.htmlhttp://bugsandfishes.blogspot.co.uk/p/my-books.html

Friday, 27 January 2017

Two New Instagram Hashtags for Colour Lovers

If you follow me on Instagram or are a regular reader of my blog, you'll know that I love colour - the brighter the better.

This week I started two new hashtags for people (like me) who take lots of colourful photos. It was surprisingly difficult to find hashtags which no-one had used for a single photo, but which still summed up what I wanted the tags to cover... but I got there eventually!

There's #colorcolourmakers for creatives: crafters, artists and makers creating colourful things. Use this hashtag to share your colourful makes, crafty supplies and creative workspaces.

  https://www.instagram.com/explore/tags/colorcolourmakers/

Then there's #colorcolourseekers for anyone and everyone who can't resist taking photos of colourful stuff! Use this hashtag to share all kinds of bright and colourful things, places and spaces.

 https://www.instagram.com/explore/tags/colorcolourseekers/

If you love to make colourful things, or take colour-filled photos I hope you'll join in with these hashtags!

For more colourful photos, you'll find me on Instagram as lauralupinhoward.

Wednesday, 25 January 2017

2016 in Review: A Year of Nice Days Out

A few years ago I decided to stop feeling like I had to work all the time (the curse of the self-employed!) and started taking proper days off: making room in my schedule (and my budget) for days off visiting new places, going for walks and seeing new and interesting things.

I called these days off my Nice Days Out and honestly, starting them has been one of the best decisions I've ever made. I've loved blogging about them, too. I was a bit worried when I first started sharing photos from my trips because they didn't exactly fit with this being a "craft" blog. But I wanted to keep a record of my adventures, and I've been delighted that you guys have enjoyed them as well.

Tate Britain

I took 40 Nice Days Out in 2016, as well as a couple of short holidays and several flat-hunting trips. I visited art galleries and museums, parks and beaches, ships and churches, cities and towns.  And I took lots of photos along the way!

Doing a round-up of my 2016 Nice Days Out gets a little tricky though, as my 2016 blog posts really don't match up with my 2016 trips. I had days out where I didn't take photos, I blogged about trips taken in previous years, and I've got lots of photos sitting unedited and waiting to be blogged.

So, instead of of a month-by-month diary of my travels, here are (in roughly chronological order) fifteen of my highlights from 2016.

1. Going door-spotting in Bloomsbury.

I spent lots of happy days walking in London last year, revisiting favourite places and exploring new ones. I didn't plan on spending this particular day photographing doors... it just sort of happened. But exploring London on a sunny day, guidebook in hand* looking at interesting things and taking lots of photos? Heaven.

(*that's an affiliate link, by the way, but I love those books so much - I highly recommend them)

 
2. Taking my mum on a tour of Bath.

My mum and I took lots of little trips together last year. We saw several exhibitions, celebrated Chinese New Year at Bristol Museum & Art Gallery (so joyful!) and visited Kew Gardens (and their magical Christmas light trail). One of our most special days together was the day we spent in Bath. I love Bath and my mum had always wanted to visit but had never been, so when a cheap train ticket offer popped up we booked tickets straight away.

We had a Sally Lunn bun, admired all the Georgian architecture, visited the Abbey, had a delicious lunch at the Boston Tea Party, and were wowed by the Roman Baths. A busy and brilliant day.


3. Exploring a wonderful library in Leeds. 

I visited loads of interesting buildings during my short trip to Leeds but my favourite was definitely the Central Library: so many fabulous tiles!


4. Climbing the Central Tower at York Minster. 

This might seem like a weird choice for a "highlights" list as climbing the Minster tower was actually one of the most deeply unpleasant things I've done in a long while. I didn't think I was claustrophobic, but apparently I am! I felt like I was about to have a panic attack halfway up those narrow spiral stairs, it was pretty horrible.

But I breathed deeply and gritted my teeth and got on with it and it was totally worth it. Great views and a huge sense of achievement at having conquered both the climb and my rising panic. I won't be climbing any more Cathedral towers any time soon though.


5. Following in the footsteps of my family with a visit to Bamburgh beach.

I could write a whole list of highlights from the trip my mum and I took to Northumberland in the spring. We visited amazing castles, soaked up loads of history, sat in front of huge roaring fires, explored a wonderful bookshop, and saw a hare running through the snow.

The best bit though was definitely visiting Bamburgh beach. After days of cold and grey and snow, the sunshine and blue sky felt like a gift - it was such a beautiful day!

We have an old family album with photos of my grandmother as a girl, her mother and her mother all on Bamburgh beach, and more recent photos of my mum playing there as a child... and now I'm the fifth generation of women in our family to have enjoyed this view.


6. Spending a joyful afternoon at Carter's Steam Fair.

When this vintage funfair rolled into town, I couldn't resist! Charming rides + gorgeous decoration + interesting old steam-powered vehicles = a great combo.


7. Stepping into another world at the Barbican Conservatory.

When Polly and I met up in London, we spent a busy morning in Kensington then decided to visit one of the city's hidden gems: the conservatory at the Barbican. I had no clue this existed until I read about it on someone's blog a couple of years ago, and I'd been meaning to visit ever since (it's free to visit but has very limited opening hours).

I recommend this place to everyone now - it's amazing! A green and gorgeous oasis in the middle of the city, this is a peaceful and magical and slightly surreal space to visit. It reminded me of post-apocalyptic movies where nature is taking over again (once-bustling cities overgrown with plants pushing up through the cracking concrete), and also of futuristic films where gigantic spaceships or colonies on distant planets have gardens for the crews or colonists to relax in and stop themselves getting space madness, etc.


8. Walking down the Long Walk in Windsor (and all the way back again!).

I visited Windsor a few times last year, trying to make the most of my "locals get into the Castle for free" privileges before I moved away. I went to see the changing of the guard, followed all the audio guide tours, stared at every tiny detail of the dolls' house, ate royal ice cream, saw an exhibition of the Queen's dresses, enjoyed the Castle decorated for Christmas... and walked along the (almost 3 mile) Long Walk from the Castle gates to Windsor Great Park.

Not gonna lie, I slightly regretted choosing to do this walk on such a hot summer's day. That view though! Truly wonderful and worth every step.

 
9. Standing in an infinite sea of pumpkins.

I saw a lot of exhibitions last year but the Yayoi Kusama exhibition at the Victoria Miro gallery was by far my favourite. The mirror rooms were particularly amazing, especially this piece ("All the Eternal Love I Have for the Pumpkins"). You just got 30 seconds in each room, but what a magical 30 seconds!


10. Stumbling upon a wildflower meadow in Hyde Park.

London's parks are full of gorgeous flowers in the summer, but I wasn't expecting to find a mini meadow of wildflowers among the formal borders! Pure joy.  


11. Experiencing an art exhibition like no other, in Reading Prison.

It's not every day you get to go look at art inside a former prison. Not least one as famous as Oscar Wilde's Reading Gaol. My dad and I visited Inside: Artists and Writers in Reading Prison just for the chance to look round this famous building (one which we've passed many, many times). We found it completely fascinating and very much enjoyed the (quite emotional) combination of the building's architecture and history and the art.

 
12. Discovering more of Oxford with Oxford Open Doors.

Oxford never disappoints and the annual Open Doors weekend is particularly wonderful. So many interesting buildings open to the public, and all for free! I come home each year with a happy heart, slightly sore feet and a camera full of photos. This is one of my faves from this year's trip: beautiful Balliol.


13. Travelling back in time at Eltham Palace.

I've visited so many places with my Art Pass over the past few years. It's helped me stick to a tight budget for my Nice Days Out and led me to visit (and fall in love with) a huge range of different places, many of which I'd never heard of before seeing them in the Art Fund's guide.

I particularly enjoyed my visit to Eltham Palace. The house itself is is beautiful and has a fascinating history (which is brought to life really well by the audio guide), then there are gorgeous gardens to explore as well. A very special place, and one I'm delighted the Art Pass helped me discover!


14. Capturing the delights of the Tube on the Made by Mrs M photowalks.

Kate of Made by Mrs M organised two photowalks last year - they were so much fun! We explored Art Deco stations on the Piccadilly Line and the southern end of the Northern Line, taking photos and chatting and getting funny looks from passers by who were clearly wondering what this strange group of women were up to.

They were both lovely days out and great lessons in the details you can discover if you take the time to stop and look. I'm really looking forward to the next one!

 
15. Soaking up some winter sunshine by the Jubilee River.

Last but by no means least, I really enjoyed this quiet walk my dad and I took in November. The sky was blue, the setting beautiful and the light amazing. Just perfect.


So much good stuff squeezed into just 12 months!

I expect I'll have fewer Nice Days Out in the coming year as I'm going to be busy with DIY on lots of my days off... but that should give me the chance to finally get caught up with editing all my photos and blogging about my previous trips.

I hope you'll continue to enjoy reading about my small adventures and that they'll inspire you to make plans for some of your own.

Monday, 23 January 2017

A Year of Wreaths: January Rainbow Wreath Tutorial

I've started a fun new project this month: A Year of Wreaths!

Every month this year I'll be sharing a tutorial for making a seasonal wreath over on The Village Haberdashery's blog, The Daily Stitch.

All the items you'll need to make the wreaths can be bought from The Village Haberdashery, and they'll be selling kits to accompany each month's design and make your wreath-making even easier.

First up: a bright and cheerful rainbow wreath to help banish the winter blues!

https://thevillagehaberdashery.co.uk/blog/2017/a-year-of-wreaths-january-rainbow-wreath-by-laura-howard

I adore rainbow things, don't you? All those bright colours together never fail to make me smile.

I've added some sparkle to this wreath too, using some fabulous metallic-effect thread. If you've ever tried stitching with metallic embroidery thread (floss) you'll know it can be a real pain to work with, but this sparkly sewing thread from Gutermann is a total joy. I'm delighted to have discovered it and I kind of want to use it to sew everything now!

https://thevillagehaberdashery.co.uk/blog/2017/a-year-of-wreaths-january-rainbow-wreath-by-laura-howard

Click here for the step by step January Rainbow Wreath tutorial, and click here to buy a Rainbow Wreath Kit.

https://thevillagehaberdashery.co.uk/blog/2017/a-year-of-wreaths-january-rainbow-wreath-by-laura-howard

Friday, 20 January 2017

2016 in Review: A Year of Craftiness

One of the great joys of blogging is being able to look back through your old posts and see just how busy your year has been!

I'll be sharing a round-up of my 2016 Nice Days Out sometime soon, but in the meantime here's what I got up to on the creative side of things...

In January I was getting ready to have a clear-out, photographing lots of crafty things in preparation for a destash sale. I also blogged about a faraway feature and the joys of Fuzzy Felt.


In February I revealed the three fun Valentine's Day crafts I'd designed for Tesco Living, did some paper crafting, shared some works in progress, and visited the yarn heaven that is the Unravel Festival of Knitting.  


In March I shared a tutorial for making a crochet hook roll, and an embroidery pattern reminding you not to compare your insides to other peoples outsides. I also finally finished blogging about the awesomeness that was the first London Craft Week (which happened in 2015; I am not the world's speediest blogger, am I?).


In April I finally got a smartphone and joined Instagram!

I shared tutorials for turning an ordinary tape measure into a cute hot air balloon, and for making a 3D floral picture from felt and fabric. Banners, Buntings, Garlands and Pennants was published so I got to show you guys the projects I designed for it (such a fun book!)... and I stitched the final flowers onto this cushion cover (which will hopefully become a tutorial later this year).
 

In May I blogged about the progress of my happy rainbow blanket, which finished soon after that but still need to take "ta-dah!" photos of to show off its full rainbow glory. Big stuff = so much trickier to photograph than things like felt brooches!

I also did some secret sewing, took part in the Day in the Life photo challenge on Instagram, and shared two more positive embroidery patterns: be the best version of you, and you are stronger than you know.


In June I did some more destashing and decluttering (so much photographing and weighing and measuring of things!) and held a sample sale of lots of old projects from my books and other craft books. I shared a tutorial for making a mug mat decorated with felt biscuits and wrote a list of 50 small ideas for cultivating kindness, happiness and positivity (which I think might be my favourite blog post from last year).

I also made recycled envelopes, played with paint and added lots of mini squares to my random blanket.


In July I reviewed The Origami Home, started a sea-themed project and shared tutorials for making phone cases decorated with ice creams and sewing a whole village of felt houses. I also knitted a tiny scarf for a polar bear and cut out lots and lots and lots of felt flowers.

Oh, and when the 69th issue of Mollie Makes came out I got to show you guys the fun projects I designed to accompany their felt-y cover gift.


In August I did yet more destashing (I think this might be the theme of my 2016?), I celebrated five years of Super-Cute Felt (my first book, and one I still adore). I announced that I'd be teaching some classes at The Village Haberdashery, which sadly didn't work out (boo) but later became some fun online tutorials (yay!), and I got crafty with lots of colourful supplies.
 
After many hours of late night stitching, I also finished my "Take to the Sea" embroidery inspired by The Toast - I really loved working on this, and (luckily) the recipient loved it too (phew!). 


In September I set myself a crafty challenge: to come up with 100 creative gift wrapping ideas. No time limits, just an ongoing creative project to work on when the fancy takes me. In a great flurry of enthusiasm, I'd shared 10 ideas before the month was out! I've got lots more ideas scribbled in a notebook; I hope I'll have the time to make and photograph them sometime soon. 


As well as the gift-wrapping ideas, I shared a snow globe embroidery pattern, and a tutorial for using it to make a snow globe ornament.  My cross stitch brooches got featured in Homespun magazine, and the partridge and pear wreath I designed for Mollie Makes the previous year got republished in Mollie Makes Christmas.

I took a journey down memory lane and blogged about a childhood sewing project, my Sylvanian Families collection and all the food, fashions and furniture I made for them as a kid. I finally bought the wadding and backing fabric needed for the Christmas quilt I'm making my sister, and I also bought a frankly ridiculous amount of embroidery thread which was being sold at a bargain price. I've been choosing just one photo per month for this post but I can't resist including these thread photos too - so much delicious colour!

 

In October I celebrated 8 years of sharing free tutorials here on my blog, I reviewed A World of Quilts (such an inspiring book), started a whole series of Christmas ornament tutorials and shared the kitsch Christmas stocking  I designed for issue 72 of Mollie Makes

I was also busy behind the scenes working on new patterns and most of my evenings were spent working on my sister's Christmas quilt - hand quilting is a labour-intensive business!  


In November I visited the Renegade Craft Fair, published the rest of the Christmas ornament tutorials, and blogged about two very different projects of mine ending up in print.

I also turned my autumn wreath design into a tutorial for The Village Haberdashery and finished hand quilting the Christmas quilt. It was hugely satisfying to get the final row stitched but sadly the quilt didn't get finished in time for Christmas as I'd hoped as December was just so hectic.


December was a ridiculously busy month in my "real life" and my blogging and crafting got a little neglected. I wrote a felt Christmas baubles tutorial for The Village Haberdashery, did a round-up of some of my favourite Christmas cards... but I mostly spent the month packing, moving house, and getting set up in my new place.

Of course, I made sure that I had all the essentials when I moved: I didn't have an oven or a fridge for weeks, but I did have a pile of handmade blankets.


I hope you enjoyed this look back at what I got up to last year!

You can follow along with all my new crafty projects here on my blog, of course, or on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram.

Wednesday, 11 January 2017

My Resolution for 2017: Read More Books

I grew up surrounded by and addicted to books.

Every birthday and Christmas as a kid, I asked for new books. Most weekends as a teen I was either down the library or browsing my local second hand bookshops. I read widely and voraciously and didn't really understand people who said they didn't like reading, or weren't "interested" in books. There were whole worlds in there, both real and imagined and I wanted to explore as many as I possibly could.

Then, somehow, gradually, I stopped reading. I don't know if it was just the distractions of exams and Uni and the internet (and writing things of my own!), or the number of books I was told I "should" read as I got older and loathed but kept on trying to like because they were apparently "the best books" (so foolish!). Either way, books stopped being my constant companion and became something just for lazy holidays or long train journeys.

In recent years I've made efforts to try and get back into reading - with mixed success.

My Nice Days Out have helped, as I now always take a paperback with me for reading in cafes and on train journeys (and during train delays!) so I always have at least one book that I'm slowly working my way through... but I have resolved and then, er, re-resolved to make more time in my regular life for books and it just hasn't worked out.

Lots of people swear by audiobooks, but I find that unless I'm doing something really, really mindless while listening to them I can't concentrate on the task and the narration and I tend to suddenly realise I have no clue what's going on in the plot (is this a sign I am getting old? It probably is). I used to listen to them (and BBC radio dramas) quite a lot when I was doing repetitive work tasks like cutting out felt shapes or making up felt bundles for my shops, but these days my schedule involves a lot fewer tasks like this!

So this year I am determined to try to read more actual books. To read a chapter in the morning instead of checking Twitter on my phone. To have a proper lunch break, paperback in hand. To turn off the telly or the internet in the evenings and pick up a book instead. To go to the library more often so I'll always have something I can't wait to start reading...

... and, of course, to blog about my progress to try and keep myself focused.

So, I'll be blogging once month about what I've been reading (I've started the year with some of the British Library's Crime Classics) and how/where/when I'm managing to make space for books in my day - what works for me, what doesn't. I hope you'll enjoy following along with my progress throughout the year.


What are you looking forward to reading this year? And when do you find time to read? Have you ever fallen out of love with reading like I did? Maybe you've even made the same New Year's Resolution as me and are embarking on a similar journey to fill your life with more of the joy of books? Leave me a comment and let me know!

Monday, 9 January 2017

December in Pictures: Frosty Leaves, Festive Fun & a New Home

It was rather quiet on my blog this December because I was a) busy getting ready to move, then b) moving house, and then c) doing lots of DIY in my new flat... but I also got up to some fun stuff and shared pictures! Wanna see?

I started the month in true Instagrammer / blogger style, by almost missing my train because I'd stopped to take photos of some frosty leaves. Totally worth it.


I got some gorgeous post from one of my (then) blog sponsors, in thanks for hosting their ad. How sweet is that? The adorable bunny brooch is by illustrator Emma Evans. 


I spent most of the start of December packing ready to move house, and ticking lots of other things off my "stuff that needs to get done before I can move" checklist. That bunny brooch got packed within hours of me taking that photo!

Of course, I couldn't resist squeezing in a couple more local Nice Days Out before moving away from the South-East. I spent a busy day in London, doing some Christmas shopping and oohing over all the festive loveliness (the lights, the shop windows and all the sparkly things for sale).

This is the swoonworthy flower stall in one of Harrods' food halls. It was such fun picking out delicious gifts for friends and family, umming and ahhing over all the loveliness.

 
I can never resist popping into the haberdashery department when I'm in Liberty. Not least because they're still selling my book! So thrilling.


My second last-Nice-Day-Out-before-I-move-away was a trip to Windsor. They had a gorgeous Christmas tree this year - a gift from the German town where Queen Victoria's husband Albert was born. Victoria and Albert popularised the idea of Christmas trees in Britain, and apparently Albert had his first tree at Windsor shipped in from his home town!


Windsor Castle is always a wonderful place to visit, but especially so at Christmas. It's quieter in the off-season, and the Castle is decorated with wreaths and garlands and Christmas trees, including a huge tree in the main hall.

 

I had a marvelous bit of luck, as it turned out that the only day I could manage to get away to Windsor for the day was not only wonderfully sunny (yay!) but it was also part of a special festive weekend of events at the Castle (hurrah!). There were choirs singing carols, ornament-making workshops, and a very funny "pop-up Panto". So much fun!

I also really enjoyed Fashioning a Reign, an exhibition of some of the Queen's outfits. Some of the embroidery and beading was quite incredible.

Back at home, I wrapped all my Christmas gifts super early so I could leave them at my parents house (to save carting them back and forth as I moved house then headed "home" for a family Christmas). Isn't the gift wrap gorgeous? It's not technically Christmas wrap, but who cares!


I totally dropped the ball on Christmas cards this year (I didn't send a single one! and I love sending Christmas cards!) but at least I managed this.

Before my unplanned blogging break I finished blogging about my trip to Leeds (so much great architecture!) and my day in Oxford with Polly. This is one of my favourite photos from that Oxford trip: a quiet corner of All Souls College.

 
I also blogged about the felt Christmas baubles tutorial I'd designed for the Village Haberdashery's blog. It feels a teeny bit pointless linking to a Christmas tutorial in January, but maybe you could bookmark it (or Pin it!) and make some felt baubles for Christmas 2017?


Then in the middle of December I moved to the seaside! Into my very own flat!


I'm really happy to be living in the South-West again (I love it here and had missed it a lot), and it's very exciting having my own place.

I shared this photo a few days after moving in: I might not have had a cooker or a fridge yet (or much proper furniture!) but I did have all the important stuff, like piles of colourful handmade blankets.


Seriously though, it has been such a joy finally using these blankets in my new home.

There's my Happy Rainbow Blanket (which I still need to take "finished" photos of!), a Giant Granny Square blanket (the first and only thing I have ever crocheted), my Sky Blanket, and my Random Squares blanket (which includes squares I knitted as a teenager). Each of these blankets contain so much meaning and so many memories, and they're all so wonderfully colourful. I love them.

It's also been really nice rediscovering some of the things I've had in storage for the past few years. I missed these plates rather a lot - isn't the pattern lush?


After a couple of busy weeks of moving boxes and doing DIY it was time to head to my parents house for Christmas. These are a choir of singing trees from the Christmas at Kew light trail I visited with my mum back in November; the trees lit up as they "sang". Delightful!


We had a lovely quiet Christmas - just how we like it. We watched lots of films and some Christmas telly and ate far too much food.

These are the excellent gifts I got for Christmas: the Ghostbusters remake on DVD (which I made my family watch immediately; such a great film!) and a Chocolate Orange (yum!).  


Aaaand that's it for another month!

I'm lauralupinhoward on Instagram - click here to visit my page and follow me. You'll also find me on Facebook and Twitter.