Tuesday 30 September 2014

Felt-o-ween: a Very Special Giveaway!

To celebrate the publication of Lark Books' awesome new Halloween craft book, Felt-o-ween* I've got a copy to give away!

(* Okay so I'm a teeny bit biased as there are eight projects by me in the book but it is such a fun book with a ton of cute projects to stitch! If you love felt crafting + cute stuff + Halloween then you're going to love this book!).

But that's not all, oh no. The lucky winner will also win a copy of two other holiday-themed felt books from Lark: Fa La La La Felt and Heart-Felt Holidays...

... and the "Devil-Made-Me-Do-It" pincushion that I made for Felt-o-ween.

Just leave a comment on this blog post for your chance to win!

Leave your comment before 10pm on Tuesday 7th October, and I'll pick the winner at random on Wednesday 8th October. I'll then post the pincushion myself and pass the winner's address along so the books can be posted to them.

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. This giveaway is open internationally. Yay!

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. 

Felt-o-ween is published by Lark Books. It's available from Amazon USA, Amazon UK, The Book Depository, Barnes & Noble and many other bookshops.

P.S. The Amazon and Book Depository links in this post are affiliate links.

Sunday 28 September 2014

Bits & Pieces This Week

This week I worked on a couple of projects that left these pretty felt & fabric scraps...

I spotted my second book for sale over at The Book People at a seriously bargainous price (wowzers!) ...


I was majorly tempted by the clearance sale section at New House Textiles - especially these fab designs by Charlotte Farmer. I have resisted so far but aargh, those corgis are just so great...


And I was delighted to see this blog post by Aimee Ray about her new book, Doodle Stitching: The Holiday Motif collection which a) looks lovely and b) includes a couple of projects stitched by me! :)


I can't wait to get hold of my contributor copy! Doodle Stitching: The Holiday Motif Collection is out now and available from Amazon UK, Amazon USA and many other bookshops.

Please note: the Amazon links in this post are affiliate links.

Saturday 27 September 2014

Book Review: Woodland Knits

Time for a book review! Now the autumn has arrived I'm thinking about knitting projects, so today I'm reviewing Woodland Knits by Stephanie Dosen.

Stephanie designs and sells knitting patterns under the name Tiny Owl Knits, and some of her most popular patterns are included in this book along with (I think) new ones designed specially for it. I'm (sloooowly!) working on a project using one of Stephanie's patterns, and it is a) adorable and b) really easy to follow, so I was was really excited to see this book.

Woodland Knits contains 21 patterns "inspired by faerie tales and the spirit of the woodland", with accessories ranging from hoods and hats to fingerless gloves and scarves to crowns and fairy wings.


The design of the book itself is quite lovely, with lots of shot-on-location-in-the-woods photos and pages framed by patterns of leaves, and the introductory text for each design is sweet, charming and whimsical.

For example: "The Dragon Watcher's Hood will keep you warm while you wait for dragons to appear. It is fitted with three tiny bells in case the dragons you meet get feisty. Dragons love music so when you encounter one, just ring the tassel bells to relax them. Once the dragons are relaxed they'll protect you forever and always toast your marshmallows to perfection." Cute, huh?

There's a list of knitting abbreviations included at the start of the book but no how to guide: you need to come to this with some knitting skills already mastered, but there are a couple of beginner-friendly designs included (the projects are marked with one, two or three owls to rate the difficulty level).

The designs are cute, quirky and girly - accessories for ladies who want to add some fun, magic and charm to their everyday wardrobe.

Many of the accessories would make great gifts,  like the deer hat on the front cover, this lovely birch tree scarf...


... and this adorable fox stole:


My favourite design in the book? This awesome (and super cosy-looking) bear jumper: 


Now, I have to admit that there are many designs in this book which I would never make for myself - they are a bit too quirky for me (my wardrobe is quite boring!) - but this is a really beautiful book.

The knits are all lovely, with a broad mix of different accessories included. Stephanie's enthusiasm for her designs and her woodland theme really shines through and the book itself is gorgeously put together.

If you've oohed over the pics in this post and fancy adding some whimsical knits to your wardrobe this winter then Woodland Knits would be a great addition to your bookshelves!

Woodland Knits is published by Quadrille Publishing Ltd. RRP £14.99. It's available from Amazon UK, Amazon USA, The Book Depository and many other bookshops.

[Disclosure: Quadrille sent me a free review copy of this book and the Amazon and Book Depository links in this post are affiliate links]

Friday 26 September 2014

Crafty Ladies: Meet Stacey Trock

Time to meet another awesome Crafty Lady... say hello to Stacey from FreshStitches!

Stacey is a prolific crochet designer who sells adorable amigurumi patterns and kits, teaches online workshops and blogs about her work and personal projects. She's also the author of three books: Cuddly Crochet, Crocheted Softies and Modern Baby Crochet.

Hi there!

I’m Stacey and I’m the girl behind FreshStitches Amigurumi Crochet. I design the patterns, run the website, write the blog posts and package & ship the kits. I also teach knitting and crochet at national events and on Craftsy as well as write books.

I live in Minneapolis, MN with my sweet hubby, and we’ll have a baby girl in January! I’m really passionate about urban self-sufficiency. I love cooking, baking, canning, sewing, knitting... you name it! I also enjoy running and yoga.


Recently I’ve been making…

Since we’re expecting a baby girl (our first!), I’ve been devoting my crafting time to baby things. I just love knitting little baby sweaters... they’re small, so it’s easy to feel very accomplished! I’m not sure I’d ever take on a fully-cabled sweater for myself, but it seems not so daunting in a miniature version.

I do a little sewing, but it’s usually a summer activity for me. I just finished a faux elephant taxidermy head (designed by Abby Glassenberg) that I’m just totally in love with!

Since winter is quickly knocking at our door (it comes fast and cold here in Minnesota!), I’ll probably squeeze in some hats and socks (knitted). I love wearing hand-knit socks. They’re so warm and they always put a smile on my face.

I’ve been working on…

I just finished designing a mummy for Halloween.

I always try to design a few seasonal items each year... and just recently, I was struck with the perfect technique to do for this mummy! Basically, you crochet the base of the mummy, and then do a type of surface stitch to make his little wraps... I’m really pleased with it!

I’ve been blogging about…

I’ve been blogging at FreshStitches for over 5 years now! Whoa! For the past few years, my focus has been on daily posts, updating folks on what I’m doing and such.

However, recently, I feel that the nature of blogging has changed. I think twitter and instagram are filling the niche of ‘telling us what’s happening now’, and blogs are becoming more like archives of great information. So, I’ve shifted to blogging more tutorials and substantive posts. Ones I hope that will be reference points for years to come.

I’m not only interested in blogging crochet tutorials, but also advice for small craft businesses and also advice for time management. Even if you’re not terribly crafty, I think we all feel that managing our work, family and hobbies is a delicate practice!


I’ve been reading…

I know it sounds non-crafty, but I really enjoy reading Apartment Therapy. I don’t live in an apartment, but they have some great DIY tutorials and someone who writes there has a real eye for crafty stuff. I also really enjoy Abby’s blog and podcast, Mollie’s blog and MochiMochiLand

While I craft, I’ve been watching…

I’m addicted to documentaries and the History Channel! Or news. I don’t watch much fiction (in fact, it’s so bad that I usually don’t even know the names of the shows that my friends are talking about), but I’ll watch a show about the borders of the American States over and over again.

Since I’m usually crafting, it has to be something that I don’t really need to pay attention to!

Stacey’s 3 Top Tips for Making Business Work with Life

1. Set an end time. You need to get off of work. Seriously. Schedule something at that time, if you have to. I typically hit an end-of-day yoga class.

2. Eat the frog (that is, do the hardest thing first). It means that at the end of the week, all the must-dos will really be done, and you’re not likely to have wasted hours putzing on the internet.

3. Schedule by the week, not day. Each week, I pick a few key things I need to do. Scheduling my week means that I still give myself flexibility, which is much better than feeling really bad on a Tuesday because things didn’t go as planned.


Click here to visit Stacey's website where you'll find her blog and online shop. You'll also find her on Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram and Ravelry.

Click here to read more posts in my Crafty Ladies series.

Please note: the Amazon links in this post are affiliate links.

Thursday 25 September 2014

The Handmade Fair

Last week's Nice Day Out was a very crafty one as I had a ticket to The Handmade Fair!

After attending the taster event at the V&A this summer, I was delighted to be sent a press ticket to the Fair itself. A day of crafty goodness is always nice and I was very curious to see what this new event would be like...

The fair was held in the grounds of Hampton Court (which you know I love) and although the morning started out a little chilly and overcast, it soon warmed up and we had lots of autumn sunshine.


You know you've arrived at a fun event when this is the first thing you see - hundreds of pompoms!

The Fair was very making-focused, with each ticket including a "skill workshop", a "grand make" and a talk or other event in the "super theatre". Unfortunately I missed my super theatre session thanks to the traffic (rats!) but I arrived in plenty of time for my "grand make" - making origami flowers.


The "grand make" aspect of this (hundreds of crafters all making together) didn't really happen as there were only a couple of dozen of us making flowers that session... but it was still fun to sit and make some origami for half an hour.

Samuel from Sesame's Origami was a great teacher, and very entertaining giving us lots of tips and chatting about his origami business. Apparently his most common customer is husbands buying bouquets for their "paper" wedding anniversary. He talked us through folding a little paper t-shirt, then a paper tulip. Here's my tulip...


... and here's how a whole bunch of the tulips look when made with pretty multicoloured origami paper:


You can find lots of beginner-friendly video tutorials on Samuel's website, along with info about his upcoming workshops.


After making my tulip it was time to explore the Fair!

You had to buy a show guide (£5) to get a map of the site, but luckily it was quite easy to find your way once you'd walked round once and got your bearings and there were lots of friendly staff around to ask for directions if you got lost. There were two big shopping tents and some smaller tents where things like drop-in workshops and book signings were happening at various times during the day.

My first stop was the Etsy tent, where a selection of Etsy shop owners were selling their wares and folks from Etsy's UK team were running business workshops and answering peoples questions about opening a shop.

I loved Neon London's bright stationery, Anna Wiscombe's charming wooden jewellery and Spin City's yummy handspun yarn. 


Throughout the day I bumped into lots of lovely people I know from Etsy and blogging, and spotted lots of famous faces from the world of crafting - including Tilly who was teaching a sewing masterclass.


As well as taking part in drop-in workshops and the three sessions you signed up for as part of your entry ticket, you could buy tickets on the day for extra "grand makes" and "skill workshops". Each tent had a blackboard up outside listing the times and details of the events happening that day and the number of tickets left, so you could see what was still available. 

Lush were running drop-in workshops including one on making hairpieces with fresh flowers which really added to the "crafty festival" vibe of the day as there were lots of people walking round with flowers in their hair!


Food-wise there were lots of food trucks and a vintage-themed tea tent (with live music, which was lovely). The food was a bit on the pricey side but there was lots of variety and I had some seriously delicious icecream (yum).


The two shopping tents were packed with a mix of different vendors - handmade and indie-designed products rubbing shoulders with vintage loveliness and crafty supplies like fabric, sewing kits, yarn and scrapbooking supplies.

Here are some snaps of just a small sampling of the wares on show... 

... vintage pretties at Simply Vintage Designs:


... awesome giant knitting needles from Rachel John, handmade treats from We Make London, paper loveliness at Paperpoms, and sweet homewares by Jessalli:


... coastal-themed decorations by The Wooden Fish Company and fab dolls & felt mobiles by A K Traditions:


... colourful craft supplies from one of my blog sponsors, Blooming Felt:

... gorgeous block printed designs by Molly Mahon, deliciously scented soap by Odds and Suds, colourful haberdashery from Millie Moon, and beautiful homewares & prints by Sarah Hamilton:

As always at events like these it's so nice to be able to chat to the makers and artists about their work. It was especially delightful to see some printing and painting in progress at Red Hen Originals.

After lunch it was time for my "skill workshop": lino printing with Zeena Shah. This was a huge amount of fun - I blogged about it earlier this week - but it was a shame we didn't decorate something that we could have taken home with us.

Finally I met up with Fiona for a cuppa and a chat about bloggy stuff in the Hotchpotch Vintage tea tent.


Just look at those cakes! Yum. Our tea was served in vintage teacups too, which was lovely. 

Then it was time to head home, tired but happy. I have my fingers crossed that there's another Handmade Fair next year as this one was a lot of fun!

Disclosure: I attended The Handmade Fair as a guest of the organisers who sent me a free ticket.

Wednesday 24 September 2014

Tutorials In Progress

I'm working on some tutorials at the moment which means I spent a large portion of yesterday sitting on the sofa sewing while watching back-to-back episodes of 30 Rock... pausing the DVD occasionally so I could get up and take step-by-step photos of that stage of my work.

I'm not gonna lie - this is a pretty nice way to spend the day! Especially as the tutorials I'm currently working on are all for my blog so there's not that deadline pressure that comes with making stuff for other people.

This morning I've been editing the photos I took yesterday, and in a bit I'll be making a start writing up the step-by-step instructions and drawing neat template sheets.

Then after lunch it'll be time for more episodes of 30 Rock and more sewing... including sewing beads onto all these flowers. 

With any luck I might even have a tutorial ready to share tomorrow. Fingers crossed!

Tuesday 23 September 2014

Back Open!

A few months ago I shut up my online shops "for a few days"... and I just re-opened them yesterday.



It definitely wasn't my plan to keep my shops shut all summer, but sometimes life gets in the way of work plans. It's great to (finally!) have them back open.

The virtual shelves are looking a little empty at the moment but I'm working on lots of new things which will (fingers crossed) be added soon :)


P.S. If you fancy a signed copy of my first book I've got two copies left - you'll find one in my Etsy shop and one in my Big Cartel shop.

Sunday 21 September 2014

Lino Printing at The Handmade Fair with Zeena Shah

I had a very fun day out on Friday at The Handmade Fair - a new, crafty fair with a focus on learning and making. One of the lovely bloggers I bumped into described it as being "like a crafty festival" and it really was, with lots of tents for workshops and talks plus shopping and eating... lots of famous faces from the world of craft and sewing... and lots of bunting! :)

I'll be blogging about the day later this week, but in the meantime here are some snaps from the workshop I attended: lino printing with Zeena Shah.

I'd never tried lino printing before so I was quite excited to give it a go at the Fair - although I was a teeny bit nervous about using the sharp lino cutting tool! Me + sharp objects = usually a bad combination.

We started by drawing a design we wanted to print. I had a bit of creative block but I eventually settled on a simple star design and drew it onto my lino. 

Then we carved out our designs, leaving raised areas where we wanted to print and cutting away the sections that would be white space. The lino was easier to carve than I expected but still quite hard work after a while (I suspect lino cutters elbow might be a thing!) and you had to be very careful with the cutting tool as it was indeed very sharp - as proven by one of the ladies on my table who cut herself (ouch!)

It was really fun to see the design gradually appearing in the lino and really nice sitting and chatting with the other ladies as we worked. We laughed about the mistakes we were making, admired each others designs and talked about the things we'd done at the Fair earlier that day.

My design was finally finished...

... just in time for me to do a couple of prints before the workshop ended.

I used too little paint (oops) then a too much (double oops) then my third print was just right. Hurrah!

Trying new crafty things = so much fun!

If you'd like to try lino printing, Zeena runs lots of lino printing workshops.

Disclosure: I attended The Handmade Fair as a guest of the organisers who sent me a free ticket.