Monday 29 April 2013

10 Craft Books I'm Excited About

My "craft books I want to buy" wish list is starting to get quite long as there are some AWESOME-looking craft books coming out this year.

Some of these titles have just been published or are due out in the UK very soon but most of them are due out in the late summer or autumn which luckily gives me lots of time to save up my pennies!

Stitched Blooms: 300 Floral, Leaf & Border Motifs to Embroider by Carina Envoldsen-Harris of Polka & Bloom. I am really looking forward to this book coming out as I adore Carina's embroidery designs and her use of colour.

Stitched in Scandinavia: 39 Contemporary Embroidery Projects by Karin Holmberg (spotted via Carina's Flickr photostream). I do like a nice bit of Scandinavian stitching and this book looks particularly lovely!

Woodland Knits: 20 Enchanting Projects to Make and Share by Stephanie Dosen of Tiny Owl Knits. Stephanie's designs are always super adorable and my wardrobe definitely needs some more forest-y themed things in it.

Sew and Stitch Embroidery: 20+ Simple Sewing Projects With 30+ Fresh Embroidery Designs by Alyssa Thomas of Penguin and Fish. I think I am going to die from the cuteness in this book, but in a good way. Just look at that fox! Serious cuteness.

Hoop-La!: 100 things to do with embroidery hoops by Kirsty Neale of Ginger & George. This is such a fun idea! I can't wait to see all the creative projects Kirsty has dreamed up for this book.

Stuffed Animals: From Concept to Construction by Abigail Patner Glassenberg of While She Naps. Abby's blog is always such a great read, she comes across as a lady who really knows her stuff. I'm excited about the new designs I might be able to create with this book in my library!

Felt Fantastic: Over 25 brilliant things to make with wool felt by Sarah Tremelling of Blooming Felt. Sarah and I have joked that our felt-y craft books will be doing battle when they're published this autumn, haha! I am so looking forward to seeing the projects she's designed from all the gorgeous supplies she sells in her shop.

1, 2, 3 Quilt: Shape Up Your Skills with 24 Stylish Projects by Ellen Luckett Baker of The Long Thread. This is another book with a lovely looking cover, and my quilting skills could definitely use some shaping up!

Quilting Happiness: Projects, Inspiration, and Ideas to Make Quilting More Joyful by Diane Gilleland of Craftypod and Christina Lane of The Sometimes Crafter. I am very intrigued by the "making quilting more joyful" concept of this book, it looks like it'll be quite different to more "standard" quilting books with set instructions to follow. I'm really looking forward to reading it and (hopefully) using it to inspire lots of creative projects.

And last but by no means least, Quilt Improv: Incredible quilts from everyday inspirations by Lucie Summers of Summersville. I'm a big fan of Lu's fabric designs, her quilts are always seriously swoonworthy and judging from the cover artwork the projects in this book all look pretty fantastic. A definite Must Buy for me!

Have you spotted any exciting new craft books lately? Please do share them in the comments :)

(PS just to let you know, the Amazon links in this post are affiliate links so if you buy a book through one of them I get a teeny percentage for the referral)

Sunday 28 April 2013

Website Tinkering

I've done a bit of tinkering with my website, blog and shops today, which is one of those jobs which is a) super boring and b) always takes longer than you think it will because you keep spotting more things you need or want to change!

The main job on my list was re-arranging the categories in my shop, as I've decided to group my products thematically - e.g. with all my flower designs together in one section instead of being divided into "brooches" and "headbands" and so on.

This was a pretty speedy job by itself, but couldn't be done until I had the time to update all the pages on my website and the static pages on my blog which linked to the old categories... and all that took rather a long time! I expect there are a few old links still floating about but, fingers crossed, I think I've got most of the important ones (do give me a shout if you notice any broken links I've missed!).
I've also updated a few other pages on my website which, to be honest, has been a bit neglected since I moved my shop over to Big Cartel. And since I'm promoting my Big Cartel shop more than my Etsy shop these days I've moved a whole bunch of "end of line" clearance items out of my Etsy shop and into my BC shop's sale section so you can pick up a bargain handmade something at the same time as shopping for a destashed craft supply or two.

And now I've got all these boring-but-useful things ticked off my to do list I can turn off my laptop and go do some creative stuff, hurrah!

Saturday 27 April 2013

Cherry Blossoms: Finished

Ah, there's nothing quite like finishing a big pile of sewing! Such a lovely feeling of accomplishment. 

Lots and lots of little stitches went into these cherry blossoms:

There are some pink cherry blossom trio brooches (already available in my shop, here), some white and peach brooches... and some cherry blossom headbands in both and pink and white/peach colourways. I made a few of the pink headbands last year, but with pale pink ribbons which I wasn't 100% happy with. I decided to switch to brown ribbons instead (to match the felt the blossoms are sewn onto) and I'm very pleased with how they've turned out. 

Hopefully I'll get some time this week to take some product photos and get all these goodies added to my shop. I'll be sure to let you guys know when they've been listed!

Thursday 25 April 2013

Super-Cute Felt Animals... coming soon (ish!)

Crikey, this has been a busy week! How is it Thursday evening already? How??

I've been working on a whole bunch of new projects (always fun) and slowly getting caught up with a gazillion and one little jobs that have stacked up while I've been unwell this spring - mostly boring stuff like admin and tidying up my studio, but it feels great to be finally getting it all ticked off my giant to do list.

And - rather excitingly - I've been looking through the layouts for my new book, Super-Cute Felt Animals, double-checking all the text and other details, generally making sure everything is how it should be.

I finished designing & making all the projects and writing all the text a few months ago, sent everything off to my publisher, and now magically (well, thanks to the hard work of the awesome team of people working on it) it's turning into a real book! Eep!

It is seriously thrilling that some stuff from inside my head has turned into this thing which will be in bookshops and on peoples shelves and (hopefully) inspiring lots of people to make lots of fun felt-y things.

It has been so awesome seeing photos of the things people have been making from my first book, Super-Cute Felt, and reading all the kind reviews (thanks to everyone who has written one on Amazon or elsewhere! it is much appreciated xx)... It's wonderful to be going through this process for a second time and I have my fingers tightly crossed that you guys will love the new book as much as I do!

The new book is due to be published this autumn, so it'll be a while before I can tell you any more about it... but I can show you the draft cover (which you may have spotted on Amazon already), which gives you a little peek at some of the projects:

Super-Cute Felt Animals will be published this September by CICO Books and is available for pre-order on Amazon UK and Amazon USA. For media / blogger enquiries, please contact

Monday 22 April 2013

Working on New Things

I got lots of rest this weekend but I was also super busy. How does that work, you ask?

Well, I spent most of the weekend sitting on the sofa watching DVDs... but with a pencil and pile of paper in my hands and boxes of felt at my feet as I had a whole bunch of design proposals to get sorted ready for a couple of looming deadlines. There was lots of sketching and scribbling and thinking and rummaging in my felt stash for the perfect shade of felt!

I can't show you what I was working on, but I can show you the lovely colourful heap of felt I had leftover by the end of the weekend:

Mmm... so much delicious colour.

In other felt-y news, I've reduced the price of my remaining stock of felt squares. You can find them HERE.

Sunday 21 April 2013

Signed Copies of Super-Cute Felt, now back in stock

I sold out of copies of my first book, Super-Cute Felt, a few months ago and thanks to being busy with other things (including working on my new book, which is due to be published this autumn! Yay!) I have totally failed to get round to ordering some more... until now.

So, if you fancy a signed copy of my book you can buy one from my main shop or my Etsy shop.

If you want it dedicated to you, or to a friend if you're giving it as a gift just let me know the name you'd like me to use / if it's for a special occasion etc :)

Friday 19 April 2013

Six Years of Craftiness, in a Book!

When I was making up some books of press clippings earlier this year it got me thinking about other things related to my business that I'd like to archive or document somehow. I've got all my files and photos backed up, of course, and I back up my blog at irregular intervals too... but there's nothing quite like having a scrapbook or album to flick through, is there?

After a bit of research, I decided to try making a photo book. I'd heard good things about the books from Blurb and decided that getting a book printed would probably work out being a lot cheaper and a lot less hassle than going down the DIY scrapbook route (my printer drives me nuts! and the ink costs a blooming fortune!). I thought I'd chat a bit about how I put the book together in case any of you lovely folks are thinking of doing something similar.

Though I'm sure I may have written some interesting (?) things on my blog over the years, apart from my tutorials (which I'm thinking about making up into a separate booklet of some kind - a project for another day!) I realised that I was only really interested in collecting all the photos I've taken over the years. And I decided to stick to crafty photos only (leaving out the more personal home and life-related pics from my blog) as though there's room for personal stuff on my blog I didn't think photos of my old flat, etc, would sit well with the more business-y things like product photos... and now I'm single I have a lot less desire to look at photos of where I used to live :)

Blurb have an easy to use bit of software which you download and then use to create your book. It includes lots of ready-made templates for you to use, with spaces for adding text and/or images, but you can also create custom page layouts which was what I wanted. I made a custom layout with spaces for four square photos on each page, and then I used Pixlr to create collages from my photos and put one collage in each space to create pages jam-packed with images.

Using collages like this was great because the problem with getting photos printed is that you have to have good quality large images or else they won't print well... and though I have some hi res images a large chunk of my photos are really rather small. I take a lot of quick snaps because when they're just going to be used in a blog post or a shop listing, so why bother with a large image size? And I also lost several months worth of original files due to a computer-related disaster a few years ago so there are a whole bunch of pics where the small version I uploaded to my blog is the only one I've got. But you don't need large images to make collages, hurrah! Problem solved.

Your photos also don't have to be perfect, or totally fascinating when they're in a collage... so I could include photos of lots of the "everyday" bits and pieces that make up my crafty life (like photos of posting supplies) as well as my more "pretty" photos and I could include lots and lots of pics on a page... so a) I could fit in more photos, b) this would make it much easier to choose the pics I wanted to include as there was room for so many of them, c) I could fit "everything" in without having to spend loads of money on a whole stack of books and d) hopefully the finished result would be really visually interesting and, well, just fun to look at.

But enough of this waffling - on to some photos of the finished book! :)

I chose the hardback option, with a dust jacket and just picked a few of my favourite higher res images for the front cover and the back...

... the book is a large square (12 x 12 inches / 30 x 30 cms) so a nice coffee-table book size.

Then inside I've got 43 pages of photos, in roughly chronological order from 2007 through until the end of 2012. I chose a slightly glossy paper which looks really nice (but does make it a bit tricky to photograph!)

I was a bit worried about how my photos would print out but - apart from a few pics which I knew would be a bit dark or blurry - they all came out pretty crisp and lovely and bright.

I tried to group similar types of photos together when I was making the collages, so some of the spreads are very busy with work-in-progress pictures and lots of colourful supplies...

... and others are more product-shot heavy with more white space...

... while others are full of tutorials, or my personal crafting projects like all the knitting I did last year. I like how the different pages look and breaking the pictures up into categories helped make the collage-making and the book-layout-planning go much more smoothly than it otherwise might have.

Overall I am thrilled with how it turned out. It was definitely worth the money and the time spent sorting and arranging all the photos. And luckily Blurb do lots of smaller book sizes too so I won't have to wait another six years before putting together a second book!

P.S. Sorry if this post has popped up in your inbox or blog feed twice - I hit the wrong button (oops).

Thursday 18 April 2013

An Exciting Parcel

Remember those mosaics I was making of my old crafting photos? Well, I finally finished putting them together and ordered my photobook and it arrived today:

I'm really pleased with how it turned out & I can't wait to show you guys some more snaps tomorrow :)

Much less excitingly, I've also finally finished working out the new postage rates for my shops and updating all my listings to reflect the Royal Mail's new prices. Goodness, what a chore! It feels great to have it ticked off my to do list though (phew!).

Wednesday 17 April 2013

Book Review: Sew Over It

First up in my "hurrah for sewing!" mini-series of reviews: Sew Over It: Sew it, Wear it, Make it by Lisa Comfort which I totally meant to review last year and then got too busy and forgot (oops).

I have to admit to having never heard of Lisa Comfort or her sewing cafe "Sew Over It" when I got sent this book to review last year, and then she popped up on Kirstie's Vintage Home a few weeks later which was nice!

Sew Over It is a smallish hardback, about 9 or 10 inches high and about 160 pages long. It's very pretty book with a retro, vintage-y feel to it. Each of the chapter headings features a double page fabric print...

... there are nice little touches like a button or a pin next to the page numbers at the bottom of the pages (depending which chapter they're in), and the end papers feature a lovely paper-sewing-pattern design:

There are also lots of pics of Lisa wearing snazzy vintage outfits and shopping for lovely supplies (these are all very nice photos but to be totally honest they do feel a little like padding at times).

The book starts out with an introduction to Lisa and how she started Sew Over It...

... then there's a short introductory guide to basic skills like threading a needle, simple hand stitches and using your sewing machine.

The rest of the book is made up of simple projects, with an emphasis on beginner- or learner-friendly ideas and skills to help you gain confidence in customising, adapting and updating your wardrobe.

There's a chapter on "Customising Clothes", which includes ideas like swapping plain buttons for pretty fabric-covered ones, and tips on embellishing clothes with sequins, motifs, beads, buttons, ribbons and strips of fabric.

All the project ideas are explained with step by step instructions and clear photos.

Then there's the chapter which I think I'll personally find the most useful: "Altering Clothes". This chapter is perfectly designed for someone like me who loves to buy vintage and other second-hand clothes but doesn't have the confidence to alter my finds help them fit me better. The chapter includes are some vintage shopping tips and guides to useful things like turning up a hem, shaping side seams, elasticating a waist, and changing sleeves.

The next chapter is "Making Accessories" with some quick projects like making a vintage scarf necklace, sewing a simple headband, or decorating a tote bag with appliqued shapes. These are the sort of projects you could sew in an afternoon or make at a fun crafty evening with friends.

The final chapter - "Challenging Yourself" - features a guide to measuring yourself, and instructions for making a tote bag with plaited straps and three styles of skirt including this Sex & The City inspired tulle skirt.

If, like me, you fancy a wardrobe full of handmade clothes but find the sort of "proper" dressmaking featured on The Great British Sewing Bee a little bit intimidating, I think the ideas for customising and adapting clothes included in Sew Over It are a great solution.

It's probably also a lot cheaper to buy a dress from your local charity shop and customise it than it would be to buy metres of quality fabric, etc, making this a great book for students or anyone else on a budget. If time machines are invented tomorrow, I am totally sending a copy of this book back in time to myself when I was a student - there were so many great frocks I left on the rails of Bristol's charity shops with deep sighs because they needed a bit of altering to suit me!

Sew Over It is published by Ebury Press. RRP £15.00. It's available from Amazon UK, The Book Depository and a selection of sellers on Amazon USA.

[Disclaimer: Ebury Press sent me a free review copy of this book, & the Amazon & Book Depository links in this post are affiliate links]

Tuesday 16 April 2013

Hurrah for Sewing!

Have you guys been watching The Great British Sewing Bee?

I wasn't sure how well sewing stuff like A-line skirts was going to translate into a TV show but actually I've been really enjoying it!

I don't think it 100% works - for example, I think the slightly rushed "how to make a cushion" segments fall rather flat & don't seem at all connected to the dressmaking theme of the rest of the show and the crazy time pressure of the tasks doesn't exactly convey the joys of leisurely Sunday afternoons spent lost in a crafty project. But the contestants passion for sewing really comes across (I especially love the segments that give you a peek at their personal creative style) and I hope there are lots of people watching at home who are being inspired to rediscover the delights of sewing, or to try it out for the first time.

Watching the contestants struggle to follow the men's trouser pattern in last week's show, I also thought what a great example the show is of how you should get expert advice when tackling new sewing skills: either taking a sewing class or buying a quality sewing book with clear step-by-step instructions and diagrams to guide you through the projects.

So I've been inspired to dig out a few sewing-themed books from my "to review" pile and, er, review them for you!

Some of these are vaguely dressmaking related, and some are not remotely - they are just lovely books about sewing. Either way, I hope you'll enjoy the reviews and maybe find something new to add to your wish list. The first review will be popping up on my blog tomorrow & the rest will follow over the next week or so.

Monday 15 April 2013

April Sponsors

Time to meet this month's sponsors!

Polka & Bloom sells colourful embroidery patterns designed by Carina Envoldsen-Harris, and e-books to teach you lots of new stitchy skills. Carina has set up a special discount for you guys - you can get 10% off all ebooks and patterns in her store (excluding the subscriptions) with the code BUGS (valid until May 9th).

The Bellwether (formerly known as Miso Funky) sells cross stitch samplers with a modern twist (and a bit of spicy language!) Their range includes wall art, coasters, needlework kits, charts & accessories, cards, and stitch-able stuff like iPhone cases & pendants.

The Passionfruit Marketplace is a new directory from the blog ad service Passionfruit. It features thousands of blogs that sell ad space via Passionfruit (including mine). You can browse for blogs by category, topic, location and ad price, and easily find out more info about each blog like their ad rates and traffic stats. It's a great way to find new places to advertise your shop, or to find new blogs to read:

Ren Photography sells fine art original landscape photo prints, unique handmade luxury blank greeting cards, printed on archival photo paper using archival lightfast pigments.

Colour splash by Cath sells bright felt flower brooches and other accessories:

Cherry and Cinnamon is the work of Bridgeen Gillespie, a freelance illustrator who sells kitsch and cute embroidery patterns & and fabric:

Little Black Duck sells PDF sewing patterns for fun designs like felt finger puppets and owl bags:

Say It sells a colourful range of handmade cards and notebooks:

Lucky Cat Handmade sells key fobs, glasses cases, pencil pouches and purses:

Hello Wilson sells illustrated prints, cards, bags and tea towels:

and Slightly Triangle sells decorations, embroideries and mixed media paintings inspired by the natural world and folk art.

P.S. Interested in promoting your shop, company or blog? I've recently reduced the price of my ads, so ad spaces on my blog start from the bargain price of just $5 for 30 days (that's about £3.25!). Your shop will feature in a sponsor post like this one and I also give new sponsors a shout out over on my Facebook page. Click here for more info re: rates and my blog's traffic, and to buy an ad.