Friday 28 February 2014

Guest Post: Book Review: Stuffed Animals

This week's Guest Post is from Jackie of It's Organised.

Stuffed Animals, From Concept to Construction, is Abigail Glassenberg’s second book. Published last year, it was given the accolade of a Best Book by Amazon. In a category as broad as Crafts and Creative Inspiration, making the top twenty best books of the year is high praise indeed. So, does it live up to expectations?

Abigail is a creative entrepreneur, author and teacher, specialising in the design and sewing of stuffed toys. This book was born out of her desire to teach people to create their own patterns. She felt there were plenty of patterns available, plenty of advice on how to make stuffed toys, but nobody told you how to design them. Stuffed Animals was written to fill that gap.

Section 1 covers tools and materials, designing and making. The designing and making sections were surprisingly short, presented more as an overview of key skills and stages. This book definitely assumes you bring your own vision and creativity to the party. The detailed theory — for me, the real treasure that lies within this book — comes later in Part 2, Project and Lessons.

The book contains 16 individual projects (i.e. stuffed toys), with both metric and imperial measurements. From a simple fish to a traditional teddy bear with moving joints, each project demonstrates a series of new methods and features. I love this gorgeous bumblebee — used to demonstrate spheres, stitching techniques and felt details.

There are no fewer than 52 lessons in the book, all linked to specific projects. These lessons, and the additional boxes set aside for more general toy-making techniques, provide an incredible arsenal of skills to draw from when designing your own patterns. By the time you reach the end of the book, there will be little you don’t know about making softies. This is where your imagination will start to fire.

One strong feature of the book for me was the use of page space. This bunny project spans 10 pages, but only one is dedicated to a full-colour photo of the finished toy (and lovely photos they are too). The other pages are packed with step-by-step written instructions, step-by-step photography, lessons, toy-making know-how and design inspiration — not a page wasted. At 192 pages, this book is crammed full of knowledge and is great value for money.

At the end of the book you will find the pattern templates. The bonus is that all but one are drawn at 100%. If you are not keen on the way they are stacked on the page — although I found the ones I tested easy to trace — the publisher supplies them as a pdf download on their website. Print them on to freezer paper and you are ready to go.

We all come across experts in their field, those who produce beautiful products but don’t always have the ability to breakdown that expertise and teach others. Not only is Abigail an expert in her field — and clearly passionate about what she does — luckily for us, she has the ability to teach. I have been busy sketching ideas for my first pattern design. I’m now excited at the prospect rather than apprehensive, knowing I’ve got this lovely tome to dip in and out of.

You can find out more about Abigail’s work on her blog, or why not soak up some of her enthusiasm and watch the book trailer.

Stuffed Animals is published by Lark Crafts. It's available from Amazon UK, Amazon USA, The Book Depository and many other bookshops. 

[Disclaimer: the Amazon & Book Depository links in this post are affiliate links.]


Jackie founded her blog It's Organised with the aim of putting joy and creativity back at that the heart of gift-giving. Sign-up to her newsletter and follow her blog for more handmade-gift and wrapping inspiration.

Wanna take part in my Guest Post series? Find out more info HERE.

Thursday 27 February 2014

Giveaway: Win a Ticket to the Country Living Spring Fair!

Remember back in the autumn when I was planning on going to the Country Living Fair but forgot my free ticket? You know, because I am an idiot?

Well, I'm delighted to say that I've got a free ticket for next month's Country Living Spring Fair (19th - 23rd March at the Business Design Centre, London) and this time I am absolutely, definitely going to remember to take it with me!

I'm also delighted to have two more free tickets to share with you guys, hurrah! (More info at the bottom of this post).


I've never been to a Country Living Fair before but I've seen lots of photos from other peoples visits and blog posts from designer/makers who have exhibited in the past and I'm really looking forward to finally going along to see all the loveliness for myself.


There's lots of shopping to do at the Fair, of course, but there's also a Spring Garden, lamb feeding, Green & Blacks chocolate tasting, lots of craft workshops...

... plus talks and workshops on everything from flower arranging to the world of tea to running your own business.

Fancy going along to the fair? Use the discount code Blog02 when booking your tickets and you'll get them for £12 each instead of £13 for an advance ticket. You can book by calling 0844 848 0150 or buy tickets online.

I've also got TWO tickets up for grabs, so two lucky people will win a free ticket each. 

Please note: this giveaway is only open to people who live in the UK! You will be sent a free ticket to the Fair but you'll need to make your own way there.

Just leave a comment on this blog post for your chance to win. Leave your comment before 10pm on Wednesday 5th March, and I'll pick the winners at random on Thursday 6th March. I'll then pass the winners' details to the organisers so they can send out the tickets.

Please make sure you leave a name or pseudonym (no anonymous comments please!) and leave a blog link, Twitter username, Etsy username or email address so I can contact you. 

If I'm unable to contact the winners within a week or they turn out not to live in the UK, I will pick someone else. If you're leaving a comment with your Blogger profile, please remember that you need to have your profile set to public for me to be able to get in touch with you. If you have problems leaving a comment here on my blog, you can enter via my shop's contact form instead.

This giveaway is now closed.

Wednesday 26 February 2014

Projects in Progress This Week

This week I've been doing some colourful stitching which has been very relaxing. Working with bright colours like this never fails to cheer me up on a gloomy day.


I've been printing out some words for a project that involves lettering.

There's also been lots of felt cut out, including some quite fiddly little shapes (thank goodness for embroidery scissors).

A while ago I took the bottom drawer out of this mini chest I use for storing craft supplies... and then forgot to put it back. The the weight of the supplies in the drawers above made the divider bend out of shape and the bottom drawer won't go back in. So I'm now trying to bend it back into shape.


I'm working on a prototype for a project that involves pipecleaners, which I don't think I've used for crafting in about two decades!


I've also been sewing lots of fabric squares together.

(Quilts are a bit of a pain to photograph, aren't they? So hard to find the space!)

I've sewn five long strips of squares together and I'm now halfway through adding them to one end of the quilt. Next up: arranging and then sewing a bunch of squares together to fill in the "missing" section in one corner where I removed a bunch of squares that didn't fit at all with the style of the rest of the quilt.

I vaguely remember noticing this in my teens and thinking "whatevs" (or whatever the equivalent teen expression was back in the late 90s) but on rediscovering the quilt it really bugged me, so I unpicked the section and will now be restitching it. Luckily I had plenty of spare squares leftover from when the quilt was going to be much bigger! 

Tuesday 25 February 2014

12 Awesome Free Pincushion Tutorials

Inspired by the guest post I shared last week - a tutorial for a super cute Felt Tree Stump Pincushion tutorial last - today I'm sharing a round-up of links to 12 more pincushion tutorials. You can never have too many pretty sewing accessories, right? :)

1. Hedgehog Pincushion - Maker Land. So cute and fluffy!

2. Teapot Pincushion - Join the Mood. Perfect for tea addicts (like me!)

3. Spring Violets Pincushion - Heather Bailey. Such a pretty design.

4. Mouse Pincushion - The Long Thread. I love this mouse but I'd sew him with a smiley face as he looks a bit sad at having pins stuck in him!

5. Crocheted African Flower Pincushion - Cherry Heart. Great for using up scraps of yarn or practising your crochet skills (mine need a lot of improvement).

6. Birdie Pincushions - Sharon Holland Designs. These lovely birds would also make sweet ornaments.

7. Felt Teacup Pincushions - Betz White / Martha Stewart. Such a fun project, using old woollen sweaters.

8. Felt Toadstool Houses Pincushions - The Little House by the Sea. Toadstools are always awesome.

9. Faux Cathedral Windows Pincushion - Diary of A Quilt Maven. A pretty, quilt-y project.

10. Cactus Pincushion - No Wooden Spoons. Make a cactus that has pins instead of prickles.

11. Wool Flower Pincushions - Better Homes & Gardens. The large pincushion design would also make a great cushion (pillow) if you scaled it up.

12. Apple Pincushion - Mollie Makes/ The Guardian. A lovely combo of fabric & felt.

Psst - for more crafty ideas, check out my archive of free tutorials!

Monday 24 February 2014

Tea, Art & Window Shopping in Mayfair

For last week's Nice Day Out I met up with my crafty chum Carina for a day in central London.

We started with a cuppa at Tibits off Regent Street then decided to take advantage of the lovely sunshine (a welcome change after weeks of grey skies and showers!) to have a leisurely stroll around the area while chatting about making & blogging... and, of course, taking lots of photos for our blogs, haha :)

We visited Savile Row (famous for its bespoke tailors)...


... and were quite delighted to discover that the large basement windows of the buildings give you a tantalising glimpse into the tailors' workshops.


There are a lot of small art galleries dotted around Mayfair and we visited just a few of them, including The Fine Art Society, the Halcyon Gallery, the Opera Gallery, Blain Southern and Pace London.

The current exhibition at the Halcyon Gallery is particularly fabulous...

... featuring some of Dale Chihuly's crazy and colourful glass sculptures. I'd seen lots of his work in photos before but only ever seen the chandelier at the V&A "in person", it was great to see a whole exhibition and to see the gorgeous colours and interesting organic shapes up close. The exhibition is on until early April and it's free to view, do go along if you can!

As well as looking at lots of art and stopping to eat a picnic lunch in Berkeley Square, we did plenty of window shopping... admiring the lovely window displays in the designer shops and oohing over the beautiful, expensive things in the windows of stores like Tiffany and Fabergé and the little antique shops in the Burlington Arcade...

... and the Royal Arcade.


Mayfair is full of gorgeous buildings that were all looking splendid in the sunshine...


... especially this gilded building which, it turns out, used to be the premises of perfumer Atkinsons and houses (in its tower) London's only Carillon.

Late in the afternoon we walked past Liberty, resisting its siren song...


... had a cuppa at the cafe in The Photographers' Gallery cafe...


... then headed to the Tube via Carnaby Street (love those lights!)

I'm really looking forward to the return of the warmer weather so I can take some more walks around different areas of the city!

Sunday 23 February 2014

Book Review: Mini Eco

Today I'm reviewing Mini Eco by Kate Lilley. I'd never heard of Kate's blog before I was sent this book to review but it is rather awesome, do make sure you go visit after reading this post :)

Her book contains 31 crafty projects, often with a geometric theme and always with a fresh, modern, minimalist feel to them... but also lots of pops of bright colour. It's great to see designs that are simple but still colourful!

The book's folded-over dustcover with its cut-out lettering looks great - I love when books are thoughtfully designed with individual touches like this so they are nice objects to own and enjoy (especially these days when they're competing against the sea of free content online).

However, the perfectionist in me (or possibly just the bit of me that is turning into my mother?) does worry that the letters might get a bit scruffy looking quite quickly.

The designs in the book include some sewing, stencilling, macrame, woodworking, dyeing, paper crafting and making stuff with Hama beads. 

The skill level needed to complete each project is marked with stars. Some are definitely crafty ideas more than full tutorials, e.g. using an old Spirograph set to make awesome, nostalgic wrapping paper...


... and others are much more complex and/or labour intensive, like this Space Invaders piñata...


... and this gorgeous origami lampshade.


Some of the projects just have text instructions and others have some step by step illustrations. There's also an illustrated guide to how to macrame and lots of useful hints and tips throughout the book, with extra advice for making the projects and suggestions for how to vary the designs. 

The book is quite small in size, so most of the templates need enlarging but there's a link included to where you can download them online.

There are a lot of projects that I want to make in this book. Triangular envelopes? So much fun! 


3D paper gems? Awesome!


Patchwork snake draught excluder? Yes please!

As you can probably tell, I really like this book! Definitely one to add to your wishlist if you like colourful, contemporary crafts.

Mini Eco is published by Cicada Books. RRP £14.95. It's available from Amazon UK, Amazon USA, The Book Depository and many other bookshops.

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

Friday 21 February 2014

Guest Post: Felt Tree Stump Pincushion Tutorial

Kicking off my new series of weekly Guest Posts (so exciting!) is a felt pincushion tutorial from Manuela, who blogs at i ManuFatti.

To make a cute tree stump pincushion, you’ll need:

- Brown (russet) felt, approx. 25 x 15 cm
- Fawn felt, approx. 9 x 9 cm
- Red felt, approx. 8 x 5 cm
- Beige felt, approx. 8 x 9 cm
- White (ivory) felt, approx. 10 x 7 cm
- Moss green felt, approx. 6.5 x 5.5 cm
- Apple green felt, approx. 6 x 5 cm
- Matching sewing threads + black sewing thread (for the eyes and mouth)
- Light brown and brown embroidery thread (6 stranded)
- 2 x round black glass beads, 4 mm in diameter
- Stuffing
- Needle, pins and sharp embroidery scissors
- Hot glue gun (optional)
- Paper and printer to print the templates at the bottom of this post.

For this project I've used wool blend felt (40% wool) 1-1.5 mm thick.

1. Print and cut out the templates. Pin the tree stump paper pieces on felt and cut a brown (russet) rectangle (the ‘body’), a brown circle and a fawn circle. Separate three strands of the brown embroidery thread and backstitch a series of lines on the ‘body’ shape, at an approx. distance of 1cm from each other (don’t stitch them perfectly straight!).


2. Whipstitch the ends of the ‘body’ together, leaving a 1cm seam allowance on one end (see picture).

Sew the black beads (the eyes) with black sewing thread. Use the same black thread to backstitch a little smiling mouth. To make the cheeks, cut out from red felt a small circle (approx. 8mm) and use it as a template to cut out a second cheek. Whipstitch the cheeks below the eyes with matching thread.

3. Separate three strands of light brown embroidery thread and backstitch a series of rings on the fawn circle shape. Keep an approx. 1cm distance from each ring and start sewing the biggest ring first. Pin the fawn circle on the ‘body’ and sew it completely, with blanket stitch in brown thread.


4. Stuff about ¾ of the pincushion, pin the brown circle to the bottom of the ‘body’ and sew with blanket stitch in matching thread. Leave a 2cm opening to insert the rest of the stuffing, but be careful not to overstuff the pincushion or it will end looking more like a ball than a tree stump! Use a stuffing tool to gently push in the stuffing (I use the handle of a long paintbrush). Sew up the gap when finished.


5. Cut a moss green circle and trim the edge to make the grass. Repeat with apple green felt. Sew the grass shapes on the top of the tree stump, with a couple of stitches.


6. The toadstools are different in size, but they are both made the same way.

Cut out a beige stalk, a red circle and a white circle. Cut a tiny circle of white felt (approx. 6-7 mm) and use it as a template to cut out the other toadstool dots (I’ve used eight dots in total, for both toadstools). Whipstitch the dots on the red circle with matching thread.

Sew the red and white circles together with red thread, using blanket stitch. Leave a tiny 1cm opening to insert the stuffing and sew up the gap when finished.


7. Take the beige stalk and whipstitch the ends together, with matching thread.


Turn the stalk inside out and sew the bottom closed, as pictured.


Turn it right side out and stuff it. Pin the stalk to the cap and whipstitch along the edge, across the stalk and into the cap (see picture). Repeat steps 6. and 7. to make a second smaller toadstool.


8. Take the bigger and smaller grass paper pieces and cut out 2 moss green bigger grass shapes and 2 apple green smaller grass shapes. Pin the grass shapes to one side of the tree stump, apple green grass on moss green grass, and backstitch them together on the tree stump along the bottom edge, in matching green thread. Repeat to add more grass to both sides of the tree stump.


9. Attach the toadstools to the grass on the tree stump with a thin layer of hot glue. If you don’t have a hot glue gun, you can simply stitch the toadstools to the pincushion with a few hidden stitches. Be careful when using hot glue: add just a thin drop of glue to the stalk and hold the toadstool on the pincushion for at least 5 seconds until the glue cools down.

That’s it, your cute tree stump pincushion is now ready!


Click here to view the templates in another tab/window & print. 


Please, respect my work and my creativity: if you want to make an item from my tutorial or to blog about this project, remember to credit me and link back to this post. Do not reproduce my entire tutorial on your site. This tutorial is for non commercial use only. Thank you!


Manuela is a cat lover, a chocolate addict and a felt-obsessed Italian girl who lives in a small city by the sea, in Slovenia. She runs a blog,, where she shares free tutorials for cute crafty projects. She collects teapots and has a thing for buttons.


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