Tuesday 29 April 2014

How To: Large Felt Flower Brooches

UPDATE: this tutorial is now part of my fabulous flowers printable PDF pattern, available from my shop.


Subscribe to my newsletter for a monthly free pattern and visit my crafty tutorial archive for lots of free projects. 


Monday 28 April 2014

Catching Up

The past couple of months have been super hectic, but in a good way!

I've had a string of deadlines for different projects, one after another, which has been a tad stressful at times but fun too. I can't wait to share the results with you when they're (eventually) all published!

I've squeezed in some Nice Days Out into my busy schedule, which at times has felt a little foolish but was totally worth it. Deadline-heavy months like these are the sort of times in which I used to say "oh, I'm much too busy for a day off!" and just work and work and work until everything was finished. But actually these are exactly the sort of times when I need a proper day off - either a proper sanity-saving break from work or a delightful post-deadline treat before launching into the next project. It's been really wonderful to get out of the office for a bit, to give my brain a rest and stretch my legs instead.

I've also been on a (to me) quite astonishing two trips in as many months. I went to rainy Manchester last month (my first holiday in years and my first ever on my own, which proved rather fun) and to sunny Seville this month (my first non-UK holiday since I was about 15! Which was a while ago!!). These trips were not fantastically well timed with all those deadlines inbetween, and I am now feeling slightly broke, but never mind!

So, this week I will be...

... catching up on all those tasks that have built up while I've been rushing around being busy: tidying my studio, doing little bits of admin, replying to blog comments, doing some laundry, etc
... finally scheduling some making days to work on some slightly neglected personal projects
... working on my flower-themed tutorial for May's link-up (I can't believe May has come around so quickly!)
... and editing lots of holiday snaps so I can blog about both my trips sometime soon :)

Sunday 27 April 2014

Giveaway: Made by Yourself

As I mentioned yesterday, I've got a copy of Made by Yourself to give away to one lucky reader!

Please note: this giveaway is only open to people who live in the UK and Ireland.

Just leave a comment on this blog post for your chance to win. Leave your comment before 10pm on Sunday 4th May, and I'll pick the winner at random on Monday 5th May. I'll then pass the winner's details to the publishers so they can send out the copy of the book.

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 winner within a week, 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 & to have a contact email visible for me to be able to get in touch with you.

UPDATE: this giveaway is now closed.

Made by Yourself is published by Jacqui Small. RRP £18.00. It's available from Amazon UK, Amazon USA, The Book Depository and many other bookshops.

Please note: The Amazon & Book Depository links in this post are affiliate links.

Saturday 26 April 2014

Book Review: Made by Yourself

The final book I'm reviewing for Book Week is... Made by Yourself: 100% Handmade Designer DIY Projects for the Home, from Furniture to Accessories by Peter Fehrentz.

This is a super-stylish hardback filled with 48 projects. The photos and styling are all great (& all done by Peter himself) and check out that yummy neon yellow spine!

Each project is rated by difficulty and cost, from 1 (easy / cheap) to 6 (difficult / expensive) and Peter has also provided an estimated time for each project.

As somone who is a bit of a novice when it comes to home DIY stuff I was pleased to see lots of projects rated 1 or 2 for difficulty. However, each project only includes quite short text instructions (with just a couple of diagrams in the book) so some knowledge of the materials you're using are required. I definitely wouldn't be able to tackle the level 1 woodworking projects with the same confidence as the projects involving card, fabric, paint, etc.

At the back of the book there's a "credits" section, noting where all the materials and photo-props can be found, and a general stockists list. It's great to know exactly which bits of IKEA furniture Peter has decorated or used as props, but the other stockists are a bit pointless as they're all based in Germany (where the book was originally published) and I'm not sure that many people buying the UK edition would go that far to shop for DIY supplies.

The projects are divided by material...

... and the projects include mirrors, decorative accessories, trays, lighting, tables, candle holders, chairs and more.

If I'm honest there are lots of things in here which look awesome but which I am never ever going to make in a million years, either because I know my making-skills aren't up to it or the materials/tools needed are quite specialist (cutting glass to make a chandelier and turning a quartzite slab into a tray = not the DIY projects for me)... or just because they're a bit too "I've got a minimalist loft sparsely decorated with chic statement pieces" for my taste in home-decor (minimal and chic are words no-one is ever going to use about anywhere I live).

But oh my goodness there so many things in here I really want in my house!

It was hard to just pick a few examples to share with you guys but I especially loved this malachite-effect table (swoon)...


... these faux-metal letters...


... these fun cardboard "vases"...

... and this cushion cover (which is decorated with leather pieces but which I am, of course, imagining made with pieces of wool felt).

If you ooh over chic design blogs and fancy trying your hand at some creative, inspirational projects you'll find lots to love in this book... and the more confident and ambitious you are when it comes to DIY the more you'll be able to make from it.

And - great news - I've got a copy to give away! Check back tomorrow for the giveaway :)

Made by Yourself is published by Jacqui Small. RRP £18.00. It's available from Amazon UK, Amazon USA, The Book Depository and many other bookshops.

Please note: I was sent a free review copy of this book. The Amazon & Book Depository links in this post are affiliate links.

Friday 25 April 2014

Book Review: Felt Fantastic

It wouldn't be a proper Book Week on my (felt-obsessed) blog without at least one book dedicated to felt crafting! :)

So, today I'm reviewing Felt Fantastic by Sarah Tremelling & Morven Jones.

Sarah is the lovely lady who runs Blooming Felt, a shop name you probably recognise as one of my current blog sponsors. I've known Sarah vaguely for years as we were in the same biz (selling felt) for many years and you may remember that we met up earlier this spring for a fab day out in London.

Blooming Felt specialise in wool felt, selling (among other things) those lovely thick handmade felt sheets and shapes, and lots of colourful felt balls/beads. I have to confess that I tend to oooh over these sort of supplies but to not really know what to do with them. I'm so used to just working with thin craft felt, and these chunky shapes are such a different material!

So I was really interested to see this book and to get some inspiration for ways I could use the handmade felt supplies in my stash.

Felt Fantastic contains 26 projects that use a mix of felt sheets, shapes and felt beads... plus other supplies like seed beads, colourful buttons and embroidery floss. They're divided into 4 chapters: Cute for Kids, For the Home, Easy Accessories and Festive Fun.

Some of the projects include more than one design, like the set of of animal masks and this selection of brooches:


All the projects have step by step instructions and sketch-like illustrations to guide you. There are also lots of "further felty ideas" included with suggested variations for each project, which is great. The templates are dotted throughout the book instead of being in one section at the back and most of them do need enlarging, which is a bit of a shame.

The emphasis throughout Felt Fantastic is on fun, colourful, easy-to-make projects (many of which you can make even more quickly by using craft glue instead of sewing). This is crafting as a fun afternoon project, maybe to make with your kids or just to get a quick crafty fix and have a finished piece at the end of it instead of working for hours and hours doing detailed handstitching.

I love the rainbow felt scrap wreath on the front cover (maybe I should try something like that with my own felt scraps?), the colourful coasters made with rows of felt beads and the cupcake-style trinket pots.

There are projects that really make the most of the thickness of the felt, like these trinket boxes:

And others which you could easily adapt and make with ordinary craft felt, like this charming beehive sewing set:

My favourite project has to be the joyful gingerbread house, decorated with buttons and felt beads. This looks like it would be so much fun to make!

This book would be great for beginner crafters, people crafting with kids, anyone who likes their crafting to be quick and simple so they can squeeze it into a spare hour here and there... or someone who (like me!) has a whole bunch of felt beads and handmade felt that they don't know what to do with.

Felt Fantastic is published by David & Charles. RRP £12.99. It's available from Stitch Craft Create, Amazon UK, Amazon USA, The Book Depository and many other bookshops.

Please note: I was sent a free review copy of this book. Blooming Felt are one of my current blog sponsors but I wasn't paid to write this review and am always honest in my book reviews! The Amazon & Book Depository links in this post are affiliate links.

Thursday 24 April 2014

Book Review: Simple Knitting

Book week continues today with a review of a knitting book...

Simple Knitting: 30 Quick-to-Knit Projects for Stylish Accessories by Ros Badger is one of the books in the "Creative Makers" series that also includes Simple Sewing and Simple Crochet (click the links to read my reviews of those titles). Each book in the series has a different colour spine and they look great sitting together on my bookshelves.

Like the others in the series it's a lovely hardback book with yummy matte paper pages and nice little details like these bicycles at the top of the pages...

Simple Knitting begins with some clear step by step photos showing the different knitting techniques used in the book - I love it when knitting books include photos like this, I find them so much easier to follow than illustrations. It would have been great to have an illustration or two for the bag that needs lining (especially as there is plenty of space on the page) but it's just one project. All the designs are labelled with a difficulty rating - starting out, going further and moving on.

Oh, and there are some some nice photos of yarn dotted throughout the book! Mmm... yarn...

The designs are divided into chapters by type: Wrap Up Warm (scarves), Heads You Win (hats and an earwarmer/headband), Fingers and Toes (gloves, mittens and slippers), Pretty Please (quick projects that are good to give as gifts, like little flower hair clips) and Carry Me (bags and purses plus a coffee cosy and a dog coat).


Ros introduces each project, chatting about her inspiration and suggesting ways you can vary the design (by using different yarns, etc). Some of the designs are inspired by vintage patterns and consequently have a pretty, retro feel to them like this bow scarf:

None of the designs feel super-trendy, they're more what I'd call "modern classics". Practical and simple but without being boring or old-fashioned.

As with most knitting books there are lots of patterns that I'd never make for myself but which would be nice to knit as gifts, but I also found lots in here that I would keep for myself, including this knitted headband...

... this hat...

... and these mittens.

As a not-especially-skilled knitted I was also pleased to see a nice range of projects that look like something I could actually achieve! Woohoo!

This is not a book for fans of super-fashionable, ultra-trendy designs or for anyone after quirky or cute projects, but it is a book that successfully "does what it says on the tin": simple, stylish, quick-to-knit accessories.

Simple Knitting is published by Mitchell Beazley. RRP £16.99. It's available from Amazon UK, Amazon USA, The Book Depository and many other bookshops.

Please note: I was sent a free review copy of this book. The Amazon & Book Depository links in this post are affiliate links.

Wednesday 23 April 2014

Book Review: Handprint and make your own Bags

Today I'm reviewing Handprint and make your own Bags by Jenny McCabe.

I met Jenny at the Renegade Craft Fair last year (where she was selling some of her lovely handprinted textiles) and said I felt terribly guilty for having not yet reviewed her book on my blog... and here I am, months later, just getting around to it! Tsk tsk.

Handprint and make your own Bags begins with a short guide to "design and inspiration" (designing your own fabric prints) and then has 6 pages of printing techniques: potato printing, lino printing, erasers, foam sheets, stencils, screenprints, photo transfers, leaf printing, sun prints... plus Jenny's top 10 printing tips.

As you might guess from the number of techniques squeezed into 6 pages this is not a super detailed guide to printing your own fabric but instead a basic introduction to some accessible techniques.

Then there are 4 pages of motifs - these do need to be enlarged, but it's great to be able to reproduce the exact designs shown in the book.


The bulk of the book is devoted to the bag-making, with 35 projects divided by the type of printing used to decorate the fabric: carved block printing, constructed block printing, resist printing, and other printing methods.

All the projects have step by step colour illustrations and there's a short guide to sewing techniques included at the back of the book. The projects are all helpfully marked with a skill level, and the guides are charmingly designed to match the print used for that particular bag. I love seeing nice touches like this in craft books! 


Like the motifs, the bag templates do need enlarging (though without a page of pull-out patterns, which is a rare thing to find in a craft book, this is only to be expected when making large projects like bags). There are also a couple of designs included to scan in and print to make photo transfers.


Jenny's designs are so lovely, with mostly nature-inspired motifs but also some fun designs like a space invaders pattern for a kid's bag and a stylish cutlery design to print onto a cutlery roll.

As well as the cutlery roll there are a couple of other "non-bag" projects included - coin purses and a wallet - but most of the book is, as you'd expect from the title, all about bag-making. The designs cover a wide mix of shapes, from a bucket-handled shopper, to a messenger bag, to a diaper bag with lots of useful pockets:

I need to get to grips with my sewing machine (after years of just hand stitching) and I'll definitely be getting this book off the shelf when I do - maybe starting with this bag, which looks lovely and super-useful.

Handprint and make your own Bags is a nice, versatile craft book - a simple introduction to printing but also a useful sewing book with lots of bag and purse patterns. Seeing the great results from the simpler printing techniques is especially inspiring - "ooh, I could totally do that!" is a very good feeling to have when looking through a craft book.

Personally though I think I'd want a more detailed guide to the more complex/advanced printing techniques before I felt confident trying them, so maybe this book would be a good one to pair with a book dedicated to printing techniques so you can learn about the more complicated techniques in more detail then use your knowledge to make bags with your awesome printed fabric.

Handprint and make your own Bags is published by CICO Books. RRP £12.99. It's available from Amazon UK, Amazon USA, The Book Depository and many other bookshops.

[Disclaimer: CICO Books sent me a free review copy of this book. They also publish my books but I am always honest in my reviews! The Amazon & Book Depository links in this post are affiliate links]

Tuesday 22 April 2014

Book Review: Makery

Today I'm reviewing Makery by Kate Smith.

Kate is the co-founder of The Makery, a craft workshop space and shop in Bath (which I really must remember to visit next time I'm there!)


As you might guess from the lovely cover (mmm... yummy colour coordinated craft supplies...) this is a very attractive, stylish book.


It contains 31 projects, divided into 3 sections with a short techniques guide at the end. The projects mostly involve sewing but there's also a mix of other crafts included: upcycling some tins, decoupage, carving rubber stamps and making shrinky dink jewellery.

Section 1 is "Fashion", including a clasp purse, wrist warmers, shoulder bag and tape measure brooch.


Section 2 is "Gifts", including a knitted cup cuff, a make-up roll, a toy truck pincushion and a lunch bag designed to look like a paper bag (such a simple idea but a great one).


Section 3 is "Home", including a fab felt cuckoo clock, embroidered bed linen, a knitted rug, button magnets, a patchwork pouffe and a pair of bookends decorated with text from your chosen book(s). The bookends are a little plain for my taste but I think one would make a great doorstop.


The projects are beginner-intermediate level, nothing too complicated but a nice mix of fun things to make, with a good balance between decorative/fun projects and practical/useful projects.

Kate emphasises the importance of using good quality crafting supplies, saying that "'Makery' is a lot like cookery - if you start with gorgeous, high-quality ingredients, you're well on the way to creating something beautiful." The focus on supplies continues throughout the book, with each project illustrated by one page showing the finished project and another page showing the materials used, all artfully arranged.


These are lovely to look at but I'm not sure how helpful it is give over quite so much space in a craft book to pretty pictures of supplies, especially as it means the instructions get less space so there are only a few step by step illustrations provided.

The book does have some great, useful features though. There are full size fold-out pattern pieces in the back of the book (you will need to trace these as they're printed double-sided and some of the templates overlap). The list of stockists at the back of the book are also helpfully listed by material, making it easy to track down the supplies you need.

Also very helpful is the inclusion of an estimate for how long each project will take, written in a friendly, chatty way rather as an exact time, e.g. "This project can take only a couple of evenings - although I took ages deliberating over what text to use".

Crafters looking for advanced projects or detailed step by step instructions probably won't be fans of this book. But if you fancy some modern, achievable craft projects and a book with a bit of a coffee table "ooh" factor this book will be a lovely addition to the craft section of your bookshelves.

Makery is published by Mitchell Beazley. RRP £14.99. It's available from Amazon UK, Amazon USA, The Book Depository and many other bookshops.
[Disclaimer: I was sent a free review copy of this book. The Amazon & Book Depository links in this post are affiliate links].

Monday 21 April 2014

Book Review: Crafty Creatures

This week is Book Week! I've been planning one of these for aaaages but have been so busy with work deadlines that it's been pushed back later and later. Better late than never though, right?

So, I'll be reviewing a different crafty/creative book each day and then I've got a fab book to give away at the end of the week. As always, I'd love to hear your thoughts on the books I review!

I'm kicking of the week with a very cute book: Crafty Creatures by Jane Bull.

Spoiler alert: everything in this book is ADORABLE.

There are 28 projects but many of these include variations, e.g. several different animals you can make using the same basic pattern or method, like these mini felt animals...

...  so if you made all the projects in the book you'd end up with a lot more than 28 creatures.

Every single page in the book is brightly coloured and cute, from the sweet endpapers...

... to the cheerful chapter headings...

... to the fun page layouts.


The book includes a wide mix of different techniques...

Chapter one is "Woolly Animals" with plaited and knitted projects and creatures made from gloves and socks. The glove animals are especially delightful!


Chapter two is "Friends in Felt" which includes chickens, owls, mice, ladybirds and other animals both big and small. As I am well known to be mad about felt it probably comes as no surprise to learn this is my favourite chapter. I love the idea of making a mini version of each animal that the bigger animal can carry round as a pet/toy/companion.


Chapter three, "Sew Cute" includes fabric projects like a giraffe that stands up on its own, a pony with a colourful yarn mane and "doodlephants", elephants decorated with your own hand-drawn patterns.

Finally chapter four is "Animals in Stitches", with cross stitch, tapestry and embroidery projects.

Each project has step by step photos and clear, simple instructions. The templates (when needed) are provided at full size ready to trace, and are dotted throughout the book and incorporated into the page designs.

Then the final chapter covers the kit and skills you'll need to make the projects in the book, with clear step by step guides for the different stitches and knitting techniques needed.

Crafty Creatures is what I'd call a "family friendly" craft book - while all the projects would be great for craft-loving kids to make there are also lots of projects I'd love to make myself and which would make great quick-and-easy gift ideas (either for kids or anyone else you know who loves all things cute). The only problem I think would be that I'd find it hard to actually give them away after I'd made them because oh my goodness they are so darn cute.

Crafty Creatures is published by Dorling Kindersley Ltd. RRP £12.99 . It's available from Amazon UK, Amazon USA, The Book Depository and many other bookshops.

[Disclaimer: I was sent a free review copy of this book. The Amazon & Book Depository links in this post are affiliate links].