Thursday 30 September 2010

DIY Haircut

Today has mostly been about deadlines and housework. Double yawn.

I did tackle one creative project though: giving myself a new haircut :)

My hair has been long for ages - I was getting bored with it, so it was time for a change. I'm a great believer in DIY haircuts, despite many self-inflicted disasters in the past, but I think this one turned out okay (it does need a bit of levelling out at the back though!)

Wednesday 29 September 2010

Woolly Hat Day

The colder autumn weather has really kicked in this week - time to dig out all my winter woollies! I'm thinking about attempting to knit a woolly hat, and if I get my skates on I might even have it ready for Woolly Hat Day.

The first ever St Mungo's Woolly Hat Day is taking place on 22nd October. It's a fun way to raise money and awareness for a very serious issue: homelessness.

"Wear a hat for the day and donate £2, get sponsored to wear a silly hat or incorporate a hat in any way you choose to fundraise. Ask your colleagues at work or the children at school to wear a hat and make a donation." ... you could also organise a knitting event in your community, similar to the fun "flash knitting" party organised in Leicester Square last week to promote Woolly Hat Day.

If you're interested in taking part or want more information you can visit the Woolly Hat Day website or email

Monday 27 September 2010

Small Things

You might have noticed that my shops have been closed for a few days - I took some (planned) time off from the day-to-day running of my online shops and then had to take some (unplanned) time off to visit some relatives.

It was nice to have a bit of a break, but I'm enjoying getting stuck into my usual work routine and am busy catching up on emails, packing orders, working on crafty schemes, etc.

Today's to do list includes making up lots of felt bundles - all 65 of my wool blend felt colours are now back in stock, hurrah!

In other news, I was really pleased to see a couple of my disguises included in a handmade halloween round-up in the lastest issue of Small Magazine:

I can't believe it'll be Halloween soon! This year is flying by so fast.

Thursday 23 September 2010

Book Review: Scandinavian Needlecraft

I got a wonderful crafty treat in the post recently from the lovely people at Cico Books - a free review copy of Scandinavian Needlecraft by Clare Youngs.

This book is gorgeous! I'm a huge fan of Scandinavian design; I love all those clean crisp white interiors, crockery patterns with a Scandinavian feel and the cheerful colours and folksy motifs of their traditional crafts... and this book includes projects inspired by all those things.

The book contains 35 projects divided into five sections - bags, gifts and decorations, kitchen, clothes and accessories and soft furnishings - and covers a wide range of embroidery and needlework techniques.

It's a bit of a shame that almost all the templates need enlarging before use (even for small projects like gift tags and brooches) but all the instructions are very clear and there's a guide to basic sewing and embroidery in the back of the book which means the projects are very accessible.

Flicking through the book I've already mentally bookmarked several projects I want to try, including that groovy yellow bird cushion and lots of the red and white Christmas designs.

Even the things I don't want to make involve embroidery patterns I'd love to adapt for other items. For example, I'm not sure I could be bothered to embroider a bath mat, or to track down the special felt required to make the bag pictured on the cover... but both designs would look gorgeous on other things like cushions or canvas bags.

If you want to add some Scandinavian style to your life, Scandinavian Needlecraft is available from Cico Books, Amazon USA, Amazon UK, The Book Depository and many other bookshops.

[Disclaimer - Cico Books sent me a free review copy of this book, and the Amazon & Book Depository links in this post are affiliate links]

Wednesday 22 September 2010

Knitted Stripes

Another project in progress, this time something very stripey:

Tuesday 21 September 2010

Autumn Leaves

Something in progress at the moment, involving lots of large paper leaves:

I do so love those autumnal colours!

Monday 20 September 2010

A Cosy Scarf

Brr, it's getting chilly! Time to dig out all my scarves and other knitted things... including this super-soft and super-chunky scarf I knitted in the summer.

The yarn was so thick I kept having to unravel it and start again with fewer stitches as the resulting scarf was just so huge - the finished scarf is a mere 10 stitches across!

I just need to find a darning needle with an eye big enough for that thick yarn and then it'll be perfect for keeping out the autumn chill.

Sunday 19 September 2010

Cloth Magazine - interview and tutorial

Have you heard of Cloth Magazine?

It's a lovely little UK sewing magazine, published quarterly. The autumn issue has just been published and it includes an interview with me about my business...

... plus a felt project designed by me: a felt flower headband in yummy autumnal tones. You can see the tutorial & download pattern pieces HERE.

You might recognise those colours from the scraps I blogged about a couple of months ago.

Cloth is available from their website or from independent stockists throughout the UK.

UPDATE: This design is now available as a sewing pattern in my shop! Visit my shop to see all my printable PDF patterns

Saturday 18 September 2010

Sewing calendar giveaway winner

The winner of the sewing calendar is... Jesselula!

Thanks so much to everyone who entered this month's giveaway x

Friday 17 September 2010

Vintage Corner

I've temporarily hung these gorgeous floral curtains in our kitchen to help keep out the cold weather while I hunt for some nice warm curtains that better match the decor (and the tastes of the boyfriend!) ...

... I don't know where the floral curtains will end up eventually, but in the meantime I'm rather enjoying this little vintage corner that's been created.

Thursday 16 September 2010

How To: Felt Argyle Cushion

As promised, here's the tutorial for making your own argyle cushion from felt. I'm not going to lie to you, it does take a while to sew this but it's a very relaxing way to spend a few evenings and you don't need any advanced sewing skills to make it, just a bit of patience!

To make this cushion, I used two old wool jumpers (sweaters) which I'd shrunk in the machine to make chunky, textured felt. I've had a stash of brown jumpers waiting for the right project so I was thrilled to be able to put them to good use... but you don't have to use recycled felt for this project. Any kind of felt will do for making the diamond pattern, and to make the cushion itself you could use felt sold by the metre or a co-ordinating fabric.

You'll also need embroidery thread to match your two chosen felt colours (I used almost 2 skeins of each colour making the cushion), sewing thread to match both felt colours, sewing thread in a bright contrasting colour, a cushion pad to fill your finished cushion, plus sewing needles, sewing scissors, a tape measure and lots of pins.

1) First, decide how large you want your cushion to be. Mine was about 15 inches (38cms) square because this was the largest size I could cut from my felted sweater. Cut out the pieces to make your cushion: you'll need one large piece for the front of your cushion (this should be slightly larger than the pad you want to use), and two smaller pieces that will overlap to make an "envelope" at the back so you can insert your cushion pad. This is pretty simple to do using felt, but for fabric you'll need to leave seam allowances, etc (there are loads of great tutorials on the internet for how to make a simple envelope cushion cover).

2) Next you need to plan out your design, what size diamonds do you want? and how many will you need to cover your cushion? To make your diamond pattern, use a ratio of 2:3 (width:height). Mine were 4cms wide and 6cms high. I drew a cross shape on a piece of paper using a ruler, and joined up the points to make my diamond template.

I was going to use 9 diamonds in a row (9 x 4cms = 36cms) and 6 rows (6 x 6 = 36cms) leaving a small seam allowance around the edge for sewing up my cushion, but realised my backing piece wasn't quite square (oops!) so it needed to be a bit narrower, and opted for 8 diamonds in a row instead (luckily my cushion pad squished to fit this new shape - don't try this at home, kids!)

Do some sums or a sketch of your design to work out how many diamonds you'll need of your first colour (dark brown on my cushion) and how many diamonds you'll need of the second colour to fill in the gaps (light brown on my cushion). My cushion used 48 dark brown diamonds and 35 light brown ones. Use your template to cut out all the diamonds you need.

3) Position the diamonds onto the front cushion piece, starting with your main colour and then filling in the gaps with your second colour. I spread the square out on a large tray to make working on it easier.

4) When you've got the diamonds arranged how you want them, carefully pin them all in place.

5) Using bright sewing thread and long stitches, tack (baste) the diamonds in place. I stitched vertically along each row, and then horizontally along each row. Pay special attention to making sure that the points of the diamonds meet. Remove the pins as you secure each row.

6) Using matching sewing thread, sew your diamonds to your backing felt/fabric using a whip stitch. I stitched all the dark brown diamonds in place first, then stitched the light brown ones but you can sew them in any order you fancy. Again, pay particular attention to making sure that the points of the diamonds meet. When you've finished, remove all the large coloured stitches.

7) Now it's time to add the embroidery. On each diamond you need to embroider a cross shape in the middle in the contrasting colour (e.g. I used dark brown thread on the light brown diamonds and vice versa). I found the easiest way to do this was to use a simple running stitch, 3 stitches across the diamond, and then 3 more stitches back to fill in the gaps, move the thread across to the other side and repeat to finish the cross... then move to the next diamond and start again.

Try to keep this as neat as possible, making sure that the embroidery at the edge of one diamond meets the embroidery at the start of another so you get continuous lines criss-crossing the cushion.

8) When you've finished the embroidery it's time to make up the cushion (if you're using fabric, refer to whichever envelope cushion tutorial you're using for instructions). Place the decorated cushion piece front-side up, then place the two back felt pieces on top of it so they overlap, right side facing downwards. I didn't take any photos of this stage, sorry, but this is what the back of my cushion looks like finished:

Pin all three pieces together and stitch all the way round the edge of the cushion using whip stitch. Remove the pins, turn the cover the right side out, and insert your cushion pad.

Then place the cushion on your sofa and beam with pride at all your hard work :)

(This tutorial is for non commercial use only, please feel free to borrow photos if you want to blog about it but remember to credit me and link back to the original source, and do not reproduce my entire tutorial on your site. Thanks!)
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Wednesday 15 September 2010

Argyle Love

I finished my mystery project last night so I can finally reveal what all those diamonds were for ... an argyle cushion:

It's made from two brown wool sweaters (recycled into felt), so it's lovely and soft. It'll be making its home on our sofa...

... I'm really pleased with how it turned out, and the boyfriend even approves (it's probably all that brown, boys like brown, don't they?).

I've written up some instructions for anyone who fancies making their own bit of argyle goodness. Check back tomorrow for the tutorial!

Tuesday 14 September 2010

Special Offer!

I realised this week that I've hit 3,500 items sold in my Etsy shop! Wow.

To celebrate that big number, and all those trips to the Post Office... if you place an order in my Etsy shop this month and mention BUGSANDFISHES in the "message to seller" during the checkout process I'll send you a free gift with your order.

If you buy something handmade, you'll get a handmade freebie. If you buy felt or other supplies you'll get something crafty :)

The offer runs until the end of the month (midnight, September 30th 2010), is only valid in my Etsy shop and you must mention BUGSANDFISHES during checkout to receive your freebie.

Monday 13 September 2010

A Quick Fix

The postman delivered a lovely parcel this morning - a fab autumnal floral skirt purchased as a treat from Boden.

Finding myself between sizes I decided I'd rather add some belt loops to the bigger size than not be able to breathe in the smaller one... but I'm too busy this week to sew on proper belt loops, and don't want it languishing unworn in my mending pile for ages.

So I've opted for a quick fix and sewn some temporary embroidery thread loops into the waistband so I can wear the skirt now and replace them with proper fabric loops later.

Saturday 11 September 2010

Giveaway: 2011 Sewing Calendar

It's time for another giveaway! Hurrah!

Up for grabs this month is a copy of the fun 2011 Sewing Calendar I blogged about a few weeks ago...

The calendar contains instructions and pattern pieces for over 100 projects, including my bauble ornaments. Plenty of ideas to keep you busy next year!

As always, I'm happy to ship internationally, so anyone can enter. This giveaway is now closed!

Please make sure you leave a name or pseudonym (no anonymous comments please!) and be sure to come back to see if you got picked. If I'm unable to contact the winner within two weeks another will be chosen.

Friday 10 September 2010


I've started quite a big sewing project this week - well, big for a girl who usually makes brooches and other teeny felty things, anyway!

It's also a bit of a departure for me in that it involves an awful lot of brown.

More photos when it's finished...

Tuesday 7 September 2010

Domestic Bliss

After weeks of haunting homeware shops, looking for nice, colourful bedlinen and finding nothing I liked ... we found a whole pile of yummy linen at the weekend. Hurrah!

Lovely bright stripes + bargain Cath Kidston florals:

Plus a couple of colourful blankets to keep us nice and cosy:

(All from our local branch of Home Sense).

And yes, this is about as exciting as our Sunday afternoons get :)

Sunday 5 September 2010

Knitting Exercises

I've been doing lots of knitting in the evenings recently, not working on a specific project but instead practising different stitches and trying to learn new things. I have been getting in quite a muddle at times but oh how satisfying it is when you finally work out what you've been doing wrong and your knitting transforms from a big old mess into a lovely pattern!

This week I made my first attempt at colourwork, which I'm really excited about.

My first attempt (on the left) had serious tension issues and came out all puckered but just getting the argyle pattern right felt like an achivement. The second attempt isn't perfect but it's much improved! I am now dreaming about hand-knitted argyle cushions...

Saturday 4 September 2010

Crucible Launch

Last night we went to a rather nice drinks party... the launch of the exhibition Crucible at Gloucester Cathedral.

The exhibition features over 70 sculptures scattered round the Cathedral and its grounds, including work by household names like Damien Hirst and Antony Gormley, in a huge range of artistic styles. It's the biggest art event to happen in Gloucester for years, and I think the Cathedral is a wonderful setting for it - looking round the exhibition last night I saw details of the building I'd never noticed before, and I used to work there!

We were too busy chatting to friends, discussing the more controversial works and celeb-spotting last night to take pics (Alex James from Blur counts as a celeb, right?) but you can see the Crucible website for more info, or browse photos by visitors to the exhibition on Flickr.

I'm definitely going to be revisiting the sculptures I liked during the next couple of months (the exhibition runs until the end of October and entry to the Cathedral is free).

Thursday 2 September 2010

Tutorial: Autumn Wreath for UK Handmade

The Autumn issue of UK Handmade magazine has just been published... and it includes a fun autumnal paper project by yours truly.

When I think autumn I always think of oak leaves, so I made an oak leaf wreath - you might recognise that purple yarn from this scarf I knitted last year :)

Click here to read the magazine online for features, interviews and tutorials from the UK craft community, and check out my project on pages 82-83.

Wednesday 1 September 2010

Crafty Pictures

I got this cute card from a friend for my birthday this year, and I thought it was just too nice to recycle so I added it to my "pictures to buy frames for" pile.

I found it again recently when planning some long-overdue shopping for frames and was inspired to do a bit of window shopping for more sewing-themed prints (to decorate the craft room of my dreams!). Here are some of my favourites...

Sewing Mends the Soul by hellomonkey:

Vintage Sewing Collection by runningwithcrayons:

Vintage Sewing Kit by clareowendrawing:
Also spied in her sold items - a lovely Make Do and Mend print:

Make Do and Mend by farouche:

Make Do and Mend (letterpress printed onto vintage dressmaking paper!) by printfortheloveofwood:

And finally, not a print at all but some lovely fabric I'm adding to my wishlist ...

Retro Sewing Print Fabric from TamsynG: