Saturday, 31 August 2013

Lots of Copies of Super-Cute Felt Animals

A lovely parcel arrived yesterday - a box full of copies of my new book:

I am probably a bit biased, but I think the spine is pretty adorable!

Some copies have already been snaffled by my folks, but the rest will be available (signed by me) in my shop after the official UK publication date (12th September). I'll be sure to post here on my blog when they're available to buy :)


In the meantime, these copies will be living on my bookshelves where I can gaze at them lovingly.

Another nice thing - my new book got it's first press mention: a little review in the latest issue of fab craft mag Mollie Makes (#31).

Many thanks to the lovely people who let me know they'd spotted my book in here xxx

Kind people letting me know they've spotted my work featured in magazines, etc, is often the only way I find out about it so if you happen to spy my new book mentioned somewhere please do let me know (you can leave a comment here on my blog, or give me a shout via my Facebook page or my Twitter account) and I will love you forever (well, maybe not, but it will be much appreciated!).

Thursday, 29 August 2013

Book Review: ReCraft

It's time for a book review!

Today I'm reviewing ReCraft: How to Turn Second-hand Stuff into Beautiful Things for your Home, Family and Friends by Sarah Duchars and Sarah Marks (the founders of Buttonbag).

The book begins with an introduction to Buttonbag (who make and sell a range of craft & sewing kits for children) and the philosophy behind ReCraft. They write about how making new things from old, second-hand items can be fun and thrifty and eco-friendly but how it can also spark your creativity: "ReCraft means asking 'what can I turn this into? rather than 'what do I need to make this?'"

They also talk about materials, and how "a second-hand shirt is the ReCrafter's best friend", with a double-page spread of projects from the book that they made from old shirts (though a lot of these projects could be made with any fabric like a pretty vintage sheet or pillowcase). The second-hand shirt is a great example of how charity shops and jumble sales are great sources of cheap-as-chips fabric for your crafty projects, and how if your supplies aren't expensive you're free try out new skills or to really experiment instead of worrying about wasting precious pieces of special fabric.


There's a short guide to the basic supplies and sewing techniques you'll need to attempt the projects, then the 50 projects in the book are divided into categories: Toys, Baby Stuff, Family, Friends, and Home.

Friends is mostly jewellery and accessories (bags, button necklaces, fingerless gloves, etc). Family & Home are both a mix of small gift-y things and homewares - with things like aprons, a lego clock, cushion-covers and jam jar candles under Family and projects like record bowls, decoupage tables, covered notebooks and Christmas decorations under Home.

All the projects are rated to show the level of skill/difficulty involved - from projects where you only need basic skills, to projects where you may need to use a sewing machine, to projects that involve more complicated techniques.

Some of the projects are more detailed with step-by-step instructions (illustrated) and templates provided in the back of the book (if required) others are more like "crafty ideas" with just a photo of the finished item and a paragraph of text about how to make it.

There are several projects where the only photo of the finished item is in the introduction to the chapter - the project page itself just being illustrated with a drawing of the finished piece.

I have to admit that I like craft books that have lots of inspiring, eye-candy photos in them, so I would have preferred to see more photos and fewer illustrations especially as some of the projects aren't shown as finished items at all, just illustrated.

As for the projects themselves I think there's a very nice mix of designs in this book. There are quick and simple crafty ideas but also bigger, more detailed projects... things you could make as gifts for a whole mix of different age groups.... and though there are some projects you've probably seen elsewhere (like making button necklaces or fabric bunting or record bowls) there are some really fun, fresh ideas in there too, like the lego clock and these super cute "hoodlets" (I especially love the dragon one!).

Importantly for a book that's based on going down to your local charity shop and making stuff from your finds, most of the projects are either made from easy-to-source materials or can be adapted slightly to make use of what you can find. The only project that stuck out a bit for me was the idea for rescuing and restoring an old deckchair. I don't know about you, but I don't think I've ever seen a deckchair in a charity shop! (Maybe they're really common finds if you live near the seaside??)

I think if you're the sort of person who can't bear to throw old stuff away in case you can make something from it, if you're a fan of the recent trend for "upcycling" or you're a teen or student who wants to make affordable, fun things to decorate your room or as gifts for family and friends you'll find lots to love about this book.

ReCraft is published by Frances Lincoln Ltd. RRP £12.99. It's available from Amazon UK and Amazon USA, The Book Depository and many other bookshops.

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

Wednesday, 28 August 2013

A Few Things I'm Working On...

This week I've been sewing some felt owl masks that have been in my work-in-progress box for a while...


... winding some embroidery threads so I can add them to my main thread stash....

... packaging up and labelling some finished pieces...

... re-organising & tidying my packaging supplies...


... finishing sewing-together my slightly random blanket...


... making a start on weaving in the ends...

... working on a new layout for my Book Reviews page (when it's finished it'll look like my Crafty Tutorials page with lots of neat little thumbnails)...


... and choosing walls in my studio to hang some prints.

I've also ordered some copies of my new book, Super-Cute Felt Animals so I can offer signed copies in my shop in a few weeks time (my mum wants a copy too!).

The official UK publication date is September 12th but rather excitingly, copies of Super-Cute Felt Animals are already available over at Amazon! After months and months of working on this book & then keeping its contents a secret, it's so thrilling that copies of it are heading out into the world. I am so excited and nervous to hear what people think of it!

P.S. You can find a sneak peek at some of the projects from the book here.  

P.PS. The Amazon links in this post are affiliate links.

Tuesday, 27 August 2013

What are your Favourite Craft Blogs?

So, I need some new crafty blogs to read on my teabreaks...

I'd love to know what blogs you guys recommend - please leave a comment on this post and let me know your favourites! Oh, and if you have a blog of your own do include the link to that too :)

Sunday, 25 August 2013

How To: Felt Crowns

Fancy making some felt crowns? These are great for fancy dress parties and Halloween, birthday parties, dressing up sessions and for any other occasion when you fancy wearing a crown and pretending to be a king or queen, a princess or a prince.


There are two designs - a basic crown and a slightly more detailed "princess" crown. You can follow the colour schemes shown, or choose any colours you want when making your crown. You could also personalise the crown, for example by adding an embroidered initial in the central circle, or adding extra detail to it with decorative embroidery, sequins or pretty buttons.


The instructions in this tutorial are for making a crown that will fit an adult or older teen. If you're making a crown for a younger child, use shorter lengths of elastic (and print the template sheet at a slightly smaller size if needed). If you're making it for a young child, make sure to sew all the pieces on very securely, avoid using choking hazards like buttons, and always supervise them when they wear the crown.

To make each crown, you will need:

- the templates provided at the bottom of this post
- craft felt (one 9 x 12 inch sheet of felt for the main colour, and smaller pieces for the other colours)
- matching sewing threads
- flat elastic, approx 5mm wide and 65 cm (26 inches) long
- a needle, pins, sewing scissors & embroidery scissors (or pinking shears)

You can use any type of felt you like for the decorative details, but for the main body of the crown make sure you choose felt that isn't too thin or floppy.

1. First, use the templates provided to cut out all the pieces needed (as marked on the sheet).

2. If you're making a princess crown, create a decorative edging along the three points of the extra crown piece. I used embroidery scissors to cut a series of small semi-circular shapes along the edges of the three points, creating rows of curved spikes. You could also use pinking shears to create a zig-zagged edge.

3. (If making the princess crown) Pin the extra crown piece onto the front crown piece, as pictured, then sew the layers together. Sew along the top (pointed) edge with running stitch and matching sewing thread. There's no need to sew along the sides or the bottom edge as these will be sewn together later. Then remove the pins.

4. Add the decorative felt shapes to the front of your crown, using running stitch and matching sewing threads. You can sew each shape on one by one, or save time by adding several layers at once.


The front of your crown should now look something like this:

Now's the time to add any extra decorative details you fancy (sequins, etc).

5. Then cut two lengths of elastic, each approx. 32.5 cm (13 inches) long. Using sewing thread to match the felt, sew the elastic onto one side of the back crown piece so they overlap the felt slightly as pictured. Use whip stitch and try to sew into the felt not through it. 


6. Sew the other ends of the elastic to the other side of the crown, folding the crown over to make sure the elastic is level (i.e. sewn at the same height on both sides). The back of the crown should now look like this:

Now is a good time to check that your crown fits! Try the crown on and (if necessary) unpick, reposition and resew the elastic.

7. Pin the front and back of the crown together, right sides facing outwards. Use matching sewing thread and whip stitch to sew the front and back edges together, removing the pins as you sew.

If you're making the basic crown you can use one shade of thread...

... but when making the princess crown two shades are needed. Start with thread matching the extra crown piece, sewing down the side, across the bottom and then back up the other side. Then switch to a shade matching the main crown colour and sew the remaining edges.

Click here to view the template sheet in another tab or window. Make sure you're viewing the image at full size, then print it at 100%.

This tutorial is for non commercial use only: you can use it to make as many crowns as you want for yourself or as gifts, but please don't make any for sale. You may borrow a few photos if you want to blog about this project, but remember to credit me and link back to the original source, and do not reproduce my entire tutorial on your site. Thanks!

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Saturday, 24 August 2013

Victoria Embankment Gardens & The National Galleries

For this week's nice day out, I went up to London again. I was a little tired & didn't quite feel up to exploring lots of new places, so I decided to revisit some places & galleries I've been to before. First stop, the Victoria Embankment & Cleopatra's Needle.


Then I had a relaxing walk through the Victoria Embankment Gardens...

... I've had a lot of impromptu picnic lunches here over the years on my way in or out of central London, but I've never walked the whole length of the gardens or paid much attention to the statues and memorials dotted throughout them. It was very nice to take the time to stop and look at everything closely, to read all the inscriptions...


... and discover things like the fact that this gate at the edge of the gardens marks where the bank of the Thames used to be before the Embankment was built.

Then I walked to Trafalgar Square - looking at Nelson's Column, of course, ...

... but also taking time to look at all the interesting architecture around the square...


... and cracking bits of street furniture, like these intricate street lamps:

I went to a little exhibition of contemporary Inuit art at the Canada House Gallery which was rather interesting (I loved the sculptures).

Then I got out of the rain & went to The National Gallery for lunch (they sell some amaaaazing cakes)...


... and for a look at some of my favourite paintings. I've been to the National Gallery a lot over the years - one of the great pleasures of free galleries/museums is being able to go back again and again to revisit your favourite displays. And, of course, discovering new favourites on each visit!

Finally I went to visit some more old favourites at the National Portrait Gallery - the Early Tudors & Elizabethans galleries - & to see the pictures in this year's BP Portrait Award exhibition.

Excellent stuff all round.

Thursday, 22 August 2013

Another Blanket-In-Progress

I've made a start on task #5 on my Crafty To Do List: sewing a bunch of knitted squares together to make a blanket.

This blanket has been a work in progress for YEARS - I actually knitted some of these squares way back when I was a teenager. In person you can really tell which ones they are, the knitting is so uneven! It's nice to know that my knitting skills have improved over the years, even if I still stick to pretty simple projects.

Since last January I've been gradually using up yarn from my stash to knit more matching-sized squares, and now I've finally got around to laying all the squares out on the floor, planning an arrangement, taking a photo of them...

... and then using the (rather terrible, but still useful) photo as a guide to sew the squares together in the right order. The colours are slightly random, but they don't look too bad together and no matter how the finished blanket looks it'll still come in handy for keeping cosy on the sofa in the winter.