Friday 27 April 2007

A Flickr group to call my own...

There has been much chitchat lately amongst the UK Etsy sellers about how great it would be to have some way of us all trading supplies, clearing out all our long-neglected unwanted stuff and receiving instead exciting new shiny things that're just perfect for our current projects.

So... I have started up a Flickr group for us, to serve just this purpose. It's very early days yet (you know, cos I just started it yesterday) but I am already getting over-excited at the thought of facilitating all this swapping, and at the idea of seeing pictures of items that were created using the swapped-for supplies, i.e. items that would not exist without the UK Etsy community all banding together in this fashion.

Setting up Flickr groups and uploading pics to my Flickr account and generally fiddling about with the internet and stuff on my computer has helped me avoid doing any actual work for the past couple of days, so other than the exciting news that my grand spring-cleaning efforts continue to, er, continue, I have very little to mention.

I voted today by postal vote - hurrah for democracy! boo for confusing forms! I am keeping my fingers very tightly crossed all this week as the boyfriend is standing for city council (I swear I will be more nervous than him on election day).

I was also delighted to discover that one of my ten facts inspired Maile to create this lovely exercise in attention.

Oh, and I finally took some photos of my 2nd and 3rd attempts at I heart TEA badges, pictured here with the original green version:
I will hopefully get a chance to sit down with a needle & thread at the weekend & have shiny new things to blog about. At the very least I plan to witter about the big abstract mobile I made this month - for a sneak peek you can check out my flickr page as I'm getting the pics of it uploaded there gradually during my tea-breaks.

Sunday 22 April 2007

Just in time for tea...

I did manage to fit a teeny bit of sewing into the past couple of days, and finally finished some of the Battenburg brooches I was working on. The first one went a bit wonky, I made the second one into a flat badge cos I was playing it safe a little, and then the third one turned out great. Plush cake-y deliciousness.
Delightfully, the 3rd brooch sold within about 45mins of my having listed it on Etsy which was quite a nice thing to discover :)
I'll be making a few more soon, and am also working on a stack of "Felt Fancies" (finally got round to listing one in my Etsy shop, woohoo).

Spring Cleaning

We have been spring cleaning a little, spending my time moving books about the place (new shelves! hurrah!), cleaning stuff (man, our bathtub was getting sooo mucky) and trying to have a bit of a clear-out (cos we have too much stuff). So I've not managed to devote much time to quietly sitting down & making stuff.

I have started a new project of sorts. I emptied my wardrobe the other day, in order to put everything back with the summery things more accessible, and was totally horrified by the vast heap of clothes on my floor. I am forever clearing out bits & pieces to take to charity / give to my sisters & friends, and still! this vast heap!

So - bar a few things I know I wear almost every week - I've not hung anything back in my wardrobe but have instead stacked everything in a big pile on the wardrobe's floor and am only going to take things out & give them hanging space when I actually wear them. I'm doing the same with all my baubles. I am also toying with the idea of joining the wardrobe refashion challenge, or at least sticking to its principles... but for the moment it will be interesting to just do this, to see how much of my stuff I actually need & use and how much of it is just unneccesary.

Big heap of clothes (and this is not even including the ones stuck in my leaning-tower-of-Pisa ironing pile...) in the bottom of my wardrobe:
Deliciously empty hangers:
The few cherry-picked basics & over-worn faves that are my current "capsule" wardrobe:

Thursday 19 April 2007


I've been going through old scrapbooks. I shall no doubt end up randomly posting more quotations as I stumble across excellent & appropriate things, but for now: 2 from Joseph Conrad that crop up over and over again in my thinking about work, life, illness & making things...

"I don't like work, - no man does - but I like what is in the work, - the chance to find yourself. Your own reality - for yourself, not for others - what no other man can ever know" (Heart of Darkness)

"In our activity alone do we find the sustaining illusion of an independent existence as against the whole scheme of things of which we form a helpless part" (Nostromo)

8 More Things

Well, I did get tagged twice... and I already accidentally wrote 12 things so here's 8 more:

13) I am completely addicted to America's Next Top Model. I have seen all the episodes of all the seasons and even Canada's Next Top Model and Australia's Next Top Model, too (the British one is hardly worth bothering with, just so dull!). My feminism (and my brain, for that matter) protests but I just can't resist it.

14) Despite my addiction to certain tv shows, I am planning on not renewing my TV License when it runs out in August. Just can't be bothered with it anymore.

15) Not having a television will be added to the list of ways in which I am increasingly becoming a hippy. I don't believe in cars or in flying EVER. I am a green freak, a local food nut, a crazed recycler, and a passionate advocate of thrift. I don't really buy things anymore - not unless I can possibly help it, anyway - except for the odd bit of charity shopping & Etsying, of course :)

16) I always stop and talk to "chuggers" - those students who work in packs trying to get you to sign up to charities. It once took me an hour and a half to make a 25 minute walk home down Bristol's Gloucester Road because I was stopped by so many of them & I stood chatting to each and every one. Everyone is so rude to them, I do my best to be nice instead.

17) I literally helped a little old lady over the road last week. Actually it was over the road and round the corner and up to the top of Debenhams and it ended up taking about 45 minutes cos she was so frail. I was a bit sad at having to leave her to have tea on her own (she invited me about 20 times) but I had already made myself 45 minutes late...

18) I am so sleepy and forgetful at the moment that at least once a day I put something on the hob (tins of soup etc) and immediately forget it is there. Thank goodness for non-stick saucepans is all I can really say about this. I am thinking of investing in an loud alarm-style cooking timer to help prevent actual fires :)

19) I have never called my parents by anything other than their first names.

and then....

20) If I was stuck on a desert island I would want 'Paradise Lost' by John Milton, and the complete works of Joseph Conrad. And a working satellite phone, obviously!

Wednesday 18 April 2007

Tagged! 10 little known facts about me...

There's a fun tagging game doing the rounds on the blogs at the moment. You get tagged, you reveal 10 facts about yourself on your blog, you tag 10 more people... I've been tagged by Sakura and also by Maile, so technically I guess I should be writing 20 things but I think that's probably a little much!

1) I adore colour and I feed off it like the grandmother in Toni Morrison's Beloved when she devours the colours in the patchwork quilt one by one. Some days I dress head-to-toe in one colour (eg purple sweater, purple skirt & purple tights), and I often find myself picking crockery out of the cupboard that matches the colour(s) I've chosen for the day.

2) I am obsessed with baking. This habit was very much fuelled by living in a student flat for 4 years that had a kitchen with TWO ovens, and of course lots of other students to invite round for tea and cake... However, I still cannot bake a decent sponge cake.

3) I am a bit of a nerd. I collect stamps. I read webcomics. I read the complete works of Isaac Asimov when I was 10.

3) I like to give my days and weeks themes and silly titles. If something crops up three times, that makes it the theme for the day/week and then that becomes its title "the day of salmon", "the day of crazy emails" "the week of lost keys" etc.

4) I was once an extra on Spaced (though I never made it onto the screen I did get to argue with Simon Pegg over who got the last piece of catered cake); & my giggles are part of the laughter track on The League of Gentlemen (we sat next to the scary twins at the recording, hurrah).

5) I am currently unemployed and in fact have never had a proper job - my only official paycheck was for a day's work at Bristol University that earnt me the princely sum of £30.

6) The reason I have never had a job (other than natural laziness, obviously) is that I have M.E. I've been ill with it for well over a decade now, many years of which were spent struggling to get through school & Uni. Much of my crafting is born out of this, as being bedridden etc has given me a lot of spare time to fill over the years! In order to manage my illness, I have to pace myself very carefully and resting is much more entertaining when I can do needlework or knitting at the same time. Also the pleasure & satisfaction the creative process brings helps stave off depression etc like nothing else.

7) I did an English Literature degree and sometimes dream of doing further research but in my spare time I read just utter trash. My reading pile is all Agatha Christie novels & books about cats solving crimes (Lilian Jackson Braun's "Cat Who" series). I am so ashamed!

8) I love clothes but I hate fashion and have been known to throw fashion magazines across the room in feminist rages. I was driven completely foam-at-the-mouth crazy by all the identically-clad fashion types at Uni and even started a zine last year archiving examples of fashion madness.

9) I am a terrible hoarder, and keep just everything out of either sentiment or a misguided sense that it might be "useful" for "something" "someday". Despite this I would love to live very simply, with just one suitcase of clothes and one bookcase filled with beautiful inspiring things.

10) I went to the same primary school as Christian Bale (not at the same time though!).

Finished! Hurrah!

I am tagging LeslieAnne and Vicki ... anyone else who wants to join in, just leave me a message asking to be tagged :)

Argh - I've just noticed that I have written two number threes here and thus have actually done ELEVEN things not ten.

12) I am very bad at maths :)

Tuesday 17 April 2007

Inspiration & Happiness

First up, the Moviestar design challenge results are in and I came third, woohoo! Blogged here. I went with the cute felt badges thing again (I really cannot get enough of those things at the moment) and made a whole bundle of little pins...

First off I just kept thinking about stars all fortnight & ended up making a pile of simple star pins. They're not quite how I wanted them to be (I am still vaguely mulling over ideas for how to make what I actually wanted) but they are still quite cute. I loved the comment from someone (I forget who, sorry!) that they reminded them of fireworks:
Secondly, I was thinking about old fashioned moviestars and how modern actors and actresses are "celebrities" not "stars", they're just part of that big mass of "famous" people who are in the papers all the time. This rather made me think about all those 9 or 13 year olds who don't want to be nurses or teachers, astronauts or zookeepers, when they grow up but instead declare that they want to be "famous". So I made these:
Thinking about these different interpretations of the theme, and then seeing the other challenge entries and how everyone else had been inspired to go off in widely different directions from the same word "moviestars"... well, I have been thinking a lot about inspiration lately.

I have been spending a lot of my tea breaks looking at wonderful things on Flickr, and on Etsy and following up links to peoples blogs and online sketchbooks. I'm starting to think about my bookmarked blogs and "favourited" (what a non-word!) flickr photos as an online version of the scrapbooks of gorgeous and inspiring things I have been keeping for years.

I have never been able to throw away pictures, quotes and other oddments that fascinate me and I am in turn fascinated by how these things lodge themselves into my brain. Years later I remember a picture and dig it out from the appropriate scrapbook and it's just how I remembered it. I don't know that bookmarking etc can work in the same way, but I guess its fludity means I can keep track of the things I am currently interested in and watch them develop a little? Oh, I don't know. It's nice to think about these things, though.

Some blogs I have been looking at lately: Create Fabric Art (in German - my German is rather rusty - but the pictures! just wow); Medieval Silkwork (great historical textile stuff); Cupcakes for Clara (just the cutest things, found via flickr). I haunt an awful lot of textile-related groups on Flickr, too. Needlework & embroidery & all that jazz are easily my favourite crafts, they are perhaps even taking over as my favourite arts interest - I had far more moments of awe and engrossed contemplation at last year's Art of the Stitch than I've had at any art exhibition in a long time.

I've also been reading Maile's new blog, Breath by Breath & she has been making me think about happiness and contemplation, and because I'm not so good at thinking about more than one thing at once these ideas have been muddling themselves up with my musings on inspiration. Okay, so some of my flickring is just time-wasting when I don't want to do chores or reply to my emails or whatever... I will happily admit to this!... But:

I don't like just rushing around doing "stuff". I like to sit and think about things and look at things that are beautiful or fascinating, and I think of flickr etc as a part of this contemplative process. It's inspiring in the sense that it's refreshing and reinvigorating to see new things or to think deeply about something, but also in the sense that it gives me a lot of creative focus. Whenever I take the time to think about what I'm interested in, and what I've seen lately, and how these things might be connected, my brain just explodes with ideas as all these things combine. All these things help make me happy, too.

For example, I am totally in love with plants at the moment. I moved to a flat with - joy of joys! - sunny windowsills and have filled the house with plants. Watching them grow and planting seeds and bulbs and seeing them turn into seedlings and beautiful flowers is just so wonderful. Planting them and tending to them (well, trying to stop them dying) is in itself a very soothing process, but then I find myself looking up gardening groups on flickr and reading gardening pages in magazines and oh! so many wonderful plants!

Seeing everyone else's seeds makes me want to plant even more of my own (I am even trying vegetables now - fingers crossed!) .... and lots of flowers have been cropping up in my crafting lately (many blogged here), I've been loving flower-themed items everywhere, and the colours of spring have been haunting my colour choices in crafting & also in clothes. The time that I've been taking to quietly try and grow things has caused these ripples of happy flowery loveliness to flow through my life in these small ways, it's really rather marvellous.

I am going to shut up now though because (my goodness) I have really waffled on this time! Here are some pictures instead (spring bulbs on my balcony, and herbs & a tomato plant on my windowsill):

Friday 13 April 2007

A Busy Day...

... but not much crafting done, unfortunately! Instead I have spent most of the day getting rather grubby (and making a huge mess in the kitchen) repotting a whole load of plants.

Last month I went nutso for seeds and cuttings and repotted basically every plant in the house and actually had to move furniture around so there was enough space to put all the pots. Since then of course lots of the seeds have grown into seedlings (this is more exciting than anything ever and makes me want a greenhouse so bad just so I could fill it with seed trays and grow thousands of exciting seedlings) and some of the cuttings have grown madly into new plants and others have died a quiet death... and they all need some serious attention!

I am about half-way through, I reckon, and I have already had to give some plants away to make room for all the newly potted seedlings. I need another bag of compost before I can continue though, and also to come up with a grand plan for where I am going to put everything and how I can manage all of this without the boyfriend going completely insane because of the mess and the resultant jungle.

I did take some pictures of the pots on my balcony today, and took the opportunity to take a few useful snaps of some works in progress. I am absolutely dying to post pics of the mobile I am working on as it's really coming together now and it's turned out just how I wanted it (and is also making me very inspired to a-make more mobiles in future and b-make loads of brooches I've thought up whilst designing the mobile pieces)... but it's a big secret too so no pics until it's delivered. Instead, here are some half-finished Battenburg brooches:
(Some are going to be 3D slices of cake and some 2D interpretations of it because they look quite cool flat like that, I reckon). Tomorrow hopefully I will get the mobile finished (or at least a good chunk of it) and a big pile of map notecards/envelopes started as someone has specially requested a batch. I am desperate to finish the Battenburg slices and also a whole load of slogan badges... and just so many more things, but without a Saturday of infinite length this is unlikely to occur :)

Thursday 12 April 2007

Great Etsy Finds: Badges

I haven't done a Featured Seller, er, feature for a while so I thought instead I would go crazy and mention a whole load of great Etsy shops & lovely items I've discovered recently. I will try to restrain myself and only mention a couple at a time though, so as not to end up with the neverending blog post.

As I'm getting a bit obsessed with making the old felt badges at the moment, I thought I should give a shout out to some actual badge-makers whose stuff always makes me smile.

First up, Kate Sutton who makes sweet and charming things like these "look at nature" badges... and also this ace "tea badges" set.
I love Kate's cute illustrations and the fact that these badges are actually tea-coloured. There are so many great tea-themed things on Etsy, if I bought them all I would be so very impoverished but I'm hoping that my birthday money will at the very least help me aquire a set of these. Kate's website is really very much worth checking out - so many great projects and her sketchbook almost makes me want to weep it is so cute and beautiful.

I also have my beady birthday eye on these punk rock crafting badges from the sweetie pie press (from their "women's work" series)
... but there may be paypal-related issues preventing me from laying my hands on a set of these (I will do my best not to sulk).

P.S. great tea-related coolness over at CoolHunting today.

Pincushions! & another badge

In the spirit of Actually Finishing Things, I have been cracking on with sewing together a big pile of pincushions I prepared a couple of weeks ago. All the pieces are there and the tops have been appliqued ready to go, but have I sewn them together? Have I heck. This sort of laziness and disorganisation is a thing of the past now though (haha like this will last) and all the earlier prep means I've suddenly finished what feels like a million yummy pincushions (actually only 6 but still: yay!) ...They are all so chunky and satisfying to squeeze (filling something with polyester wadding should really not be such a pleasurable experience; I do worry about myself sometimes). Lots more colours to come & all kinds of designs for them are simmering away in my brain. I plan to let them cook for a while & see what comes out at the end of a bit of proper thinking - plenty of stuff to be making in the meantime, including lots of these:(I tend to think of this as the "I Heart Green Tea" badge!) These are great fun to make and I'm very much enjoying being able to make simple little felt badges (why do Americans call them buttons? When they call buttons buttons, too? Madness!) and am scheming an assortment of slogans and colours. The letters are great for making use of offcuts, too. This one goes so well with my tea-party theme ("I Heart Cake" is, naturally, already a work-in-progress) but it has been suggested that I go over to the dark side and make an "I Heart Coffee" to match. I rather tend to think that coffee is the devil (my tea-loyalty goes a little far sometimes, you see) so I shall have to think about that one! :)

P.S. the awesome Box vs Indie is now closed, which is a shame cos I will miss reading it (always super interesting, and I was so very chuffed to see my own little blog listed under "Inspiring Reads") but gosh Maile's new project looks so great. Tis called Breath by Breath: on learning to be happy and will no doubt be providing me with my first-cup-of-tea reading on many mornings to come!

Monday 9 April 2007

Finally finishing lots of stuff...

I do keep starting things or planning to make them and then getting distracted by other equally exciting projects (or the more mundane things like needing to cook dinner) and end up with dozens of works-in-progress and a distinct lack of the satisfaction that comes from actually finishing things.

This week the boyfriend and I are going to be spring cleaning a lot and I am trying to be just as efficient with my sewing. Obviously I have still got about half a dozen things that I am "finishing" at the moment, but this is more focused than I have been for a while!

On Friday I finished (and indeed made from scratch) the army bear I custom-designed for my friend Emma. She seems pretty pleased with him & is currently trying to decide what to call him. This is how he turned out:I am quite proud of this little guy (my first attempt at something like this), especially as he looks how I wanted him to look instead of just turning out okay in the end like a lot of projects can do. Here he is next to the quick sketch I did to show Emma what I had in mind:

I have also finally been making use of some of the felt biscuits I started sewing a couple of weeks ago, using some of them to make cards like this one:
Oh, and I've also made some cute little heart pins - I am dead chuffed with how that little felt heart detail turned out but irritated because the sunlight was too harsh when I took photos of them & the pastel colours have photographed rather poorly & need retaking...
I have lots of cute little pins like this planned & in-progress, they are so much fun to make & it is proving a nice challenge to simplify the shapes I want to use into something small enough to fit on these little 1.5 inch pins.

Monday 2 April 2007

I am now famous

Well, not quite. I have been featured on someone's blog, though. Hurrah! The blog in question belongs to the lovely Angela of Ambient Design & you can read my interview here (if you want to!). It's a bit weird seeing pictures of my stuff on someone else's blog, but weird in a good way :)

Over on Etsy, the Ninja Challenge entrants have all been voted for & the grand winner is Kezzaroo who made just the sweetest pink plush naptime Ninja (complete with cute little onesie). 2nd & 3rd place has yet to be announced but I will link to them when they are. There were all sorts of different items made for the theme, including a greetings cards & a purse & some earrings. I voted for Alicub's hilarious and sweet Wizard of Oz ninjas watercolour - the lion in particular made me smile so much!

The next challenge theme? Moviestars! It's cool to have a broad theme like that after the quite specific one from this fortnight. I already can't wait to see what everyone makes (deadline is 2pm Sunday 15th April) and shall have to give lots of thought to my item & how to interpret the theme.

Oh, and the UK Etsy Sellers grand Spring Sale began yesterday. Running until 8th April '07, there are just sooo many bargains to be had as over fifty sellers have joined together to offer a great range of deals. The list of sellers can be found on the UK Etsy Sellers blog. All this week anyone who spends over $5 in my store (excluding shipping) will receive a free small spring flower pin, spreading springtime happiness all over the world (hopefully...).

Sunday 1 April 2007

Ninja Attack!

For this fortnight's UK Etsy Sellers design challenge the theme is Ninjas!
The entry deadline is 2pm today so lots of great Ninjas are being posted to the flickr group, and will hopefully be voted for in the Etsy forums later on. It is great seeing everyone's Ninjas, each one is so different & they are all just hilarious.
These are my Ninjas - they have cunningly disguised themselves as brooches but we are not fooled! There are Ninja Babies (ninjas-in-training), Ninja Kitties (cute but deadly!) and Ninja Bunnies (ready to kill you and steal your Easter chocolate) :
Inspired by the idea of Ninja accessories - items for the stylish Ninja about town! - I also made this rather goth Ninja Corsage (black felt layered on top of more black felt, with a black button centre). Perfect for Ninja Grad Balls or Proms :)