Friday 31 October 2014

Crafty Ladies: Meet Aimee Ray

This week's Crafty Lady is Aimee Ray whose new book "Doodle Stitching: The Holiday Motif Collection" I was thrilled to be a part of! 

Aimee sells her work in her shop, Little Dear, and blogs about her creative projects and inspirations at Little Dear Tracks. Whether she's designing felt tutorials & embroidery patterns, making things from clay or customising dolls Aimee's creations are always completely adorable and quite magical. 


Hi! I’m Aimee, I’m the author of the “Doodle Stitching” series of hand embroidery books. I also sell my original craft and embroidery pattern PDFs and hand made goodies in my Etsy shop, and I do freelance illustration and design. I love to experiment and I’m interested in all things creative. If it’s artsy or crafty, chances are I’ve dabbled in it at some point.

I am lucky enough to be a full time crafter/artist, that is, when I’m not chasing around my almost-3 year old son. I live in NW Arkansas with him and my husband, Josh. We are a houseful of creative people, not to mention toy collectors, so it makes for an interesting environment to live and work in.


Recently I’ve been making… 

Things with acorns! Autumn is my favorite time of year and this year we live in a house with two huge oak trees, so our yard is full of fallen acorns. I’ve been harvesting and using them in my craft projects. Every year I make NŌMs with acorn hats (NŌMs are OOAK tiny clay gnome figures sold exclusively in my etsy shop, I’ve made well over 1000 now.)

I’ve also incorporated acorn caps into some felt jewelry embellished with embroidery and needle felting.

Another ongoing project I’ve been doing is the Free Art Project, something I conceived of as a way to send art and love out into the world. You can visit my website or blog to read more about it and request an original piece of art to be mailed to your door.

I’ve been working on…

My newest embroidery book, The Holiday Motif Collection, has just been released! (Thanks Laura, for your awesome projects!) I’m so excited to see it out in the world. It’s full of 100’s of embroidery motifs for holidays throughout the year, with a big emphasis on Christmas, plus lots of fun projects to sew. I’ve also just finished working on an iron-on transfer book containing a selection of embroidery patterns from all of my previous books. That one will be out next Spring.

Now I am gearing up to make Christmas presents and Christmas ornament NŌMs. It’s a very crafty time of year.


I’ve been blogging about…

Besides giving a sneak peek into my new book and doing giveaways, I’ve posted recently about my latest embroidery pattern, stitch details and a new color palette and every Friday I post an inspiration mosaic of awesome images I’ve collected online or been inspired by.

I’ve been reading…

I’m not an avid blog reader, but I’m rather addicted to Pinterest. I’m always so inspired by the craft projects I find on there, not to mention recipes I wish I had the time and energy to make.

I’ve been interested lately in weaving, gypsy flags and dreamcatchers. Just do a Pinterest search and you’ll find tons of amazing DIY inspiration for any of these! I’m storing them up for someday when I have time to play.

My favorite craft book I’ve seen this year has to be Craft-a-Doodle by Jenny Doh. (I’ve got a little project in there as well!) It is so much fun and full of inspiration, definitely one I will pick up again and again. It is great for any age, I would have absolutely LOVED it as a kid as well.

I’ve also read I Just Like To Make Things by Lilla Rogers, and also took her Make Art That Sells e-course earlier this year. It was incredibly inspiring and motivating, I highly recommend it to any artist who is ready to take the next step in developing their work.

While I craft, I’ve been watching…

I don’t watch a whole lot, but Doctor Who (new and old), Mystery Science Theatre 3000, and vintage Sesame Street episodes get aired quite a bit at our house. Lately we’re tapping into old horror movies after the little guy is in bed (we love the old Draculas with Christopher Lee!)

I listen to music more often while I work, I love The Decemberists, Sufjan Stevens, The Beatles, Cat Stevens, Air and Stan Getz to name a few. Radio Paradise or iTunes radio stations are frequently in rotation. My husband and I have very eclectic tastes in music and setting our huge music collection on shuffle always brings up random surprises.


Aimee’s 3 Top Tips for a Life You Love

1. Find something you love to do.

2. Do it every day.

3. Keep doing it and learning and sharing it as much as possible. When you love what you do, it shines through and others will want more and more of it!


You'll find Aimee's embroidery patterns, NŌMs and other creations over in her shop along with signed copies of her new book. You can keep up with what she's making by visiting her blog or following her on Facebook, Flickr, Twitter, Instagram or Pinterest.

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

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

Thursday 30 October 2014

Messy Making

This week I've been busy behind the scenes - working on some secret projects with a looming deadline.

Since I can't show you what I'm working on, I thought I'd share some snaps of the creative chaos happening in my studio right now...carefully cropped to hide the projects themselves, of course!

Top of this morning's To Do list = tidying up a bit so I've got space to do some more making :)

Tuesday 28 October 2014

Book Review: Fresh Prints

Oh my goodness, I am such a bad blogger, you guys. I've got a whole stack of lovely craft books in my "to review" pile and I've not reviewed any of them! Tsk tsk. I am determined to be a better blogger and share all this crafty goodness with you all, so you'll be seeing a few reviews popping up over the coming weeks. I hope you'll find some new books that take your fancy :)

First up: Fresh Prints by Christine Leech. 

Fresh Prints is another beautiful book in Quadrille's "Simple Makes" series which (among other titles) also includes two other books by Christine which I reviewed last year: Felt Sew Good and Scissors, Paper, Craft.

This time round (as you have probably guessed from the title) the focus is on printing projects. Quadrille's books are always gorgeous, and Christine is such a talented, creative lady that I am quite, quite jealous of all her ace ideas... and let me tell you, this book does not disappoint. All the projects in this book are fresh and fun and creative and have been beautifully presented.

Fresh Prints is all about block printing - using different objects as printing blocks. The 25 projects are divided into chapters by technique: "printing with found objects" and "lazy lino prints", with a small final chapter of "other printing techniques".

The book begins with informative, helpful sections on the tools and equipment you'll need, how to mix colours, getting the right ink consistency, printing tips and a step by step guide to making and using a "lazy lino" block (a printing block made with foam sheets which are apparently cheaper and easier to work with than real lino blocks).

Then it's on to the projects, each with clear step by step instructions and photos. As with the previous books in this series I had great difficulty picking out just a few projects to snap and share with you guys!

I especially loved this gorgeous feather cushion...


... and this fun ricrac-printed scarf.

Tools used for printing include leaves, feathers, bottle caps, a potato masher, buttons, sweet potatoes, lace doilies, a rolling pin, a knitted sweater and cookie cutters... which are used with household bleach in one project to create these wonderful patterned towels: 

The book includes printing on things like greetings cards, notebooks, teatowels and cushions and t-shirts, plus more unusual surfaces like lampshades, shoes, and even an umbrella! So much fun.


There are templates provided for all the projects in the "lazy lino" section, and it's great to see that most of the templates are included at full size.

This is a really lovely book. If you're looking for complex projects or a comprehensive guide to different printing techniques then a book in a series called "Simple Makes" is, as you might imagine, probably not going to be the book for you! But if you've never tried printing before or you want some ideas for fun and accessible printing projects this would make a great addition to your bookshelf.

You could also put together a fab "introduction to printing" kit as a special gift for a friend or loved one this Christmas by combining this book with some of the ink and tools recommended by Christine.

Fresh Prints is published by Quadrille. RRP £12.99. It's available from Amazon UK, Amazon USA, The Book Depository and many other bookshops.

Please note: Quadrille sent me a free review copy of this book. The Amazon & Book depository links in this post are affiliate links.

Monday 27 October 2014

More New Embroidery Stitches

My "learn some fun new embroidery stitches" project continues...

I spent a wonderfully relaxing evening last week working my way through some more of the stitches from The Needlecraft Stitch Directory. I'd really recommend this book if you're interested in learning some new stitches, I've found the step by step diagrams and instructions very clear and easy to follow.

I was quite excited to try some stitches that involved two different shades of thread:

Some of these were definitely more successful than others... but look how fancy they are! 

There are still lots more embroidery stitches in the book for me to try, but I think I'm going to have to set aside an afternoon or two to work on them as they're starting to get a bit too complicated for my slightly-sleepy-at-the-end-of-the-workday brain to cope with :)

Sunday 26 October 2014

How To: Felt Candy Corn Plush

After making some felt candy corn ornaments I couldn't resist scaling up the pattern and making some GIANT CANDY CORN :)

I stitched a big mama candy corn and a baby candy corn. A giant candy corn or a whole family of them would make great decorations for Halloween, propped up on a bookcase or tucked among the cushions on your sofa.

They're dead easy to sew - and I've even re-sized the templates for you so you can just print them out and start sewing. Hurrah!


To make the plush candy corn, you'll need to refer to the candy corn ornament tutorial.

Follow steps 1 & 2, cutting out the pieces and sewing them to some backing felt.

At step 3, instead of adding seed beads for the eyes you'll need to add black felt eyes. Sew these in place with black sewing thread and whip stitch. Sew the smile with black embroidery thread (floss). I used three strands of six-stranded thread.

Follow steps 4 & 5 to cut out the candy corn shape and cut a backing shape. If you want you could make the back match the front (minus the face!) but using plain felt saves you lots of time.

Skip step 6 as you don't need to add a ribbon.

Then follow steps 7 & 8 to sew up the candy corn and stuff it. I used blanket stitch for sewing the larger versions of the candy corn as it gives a neat finish, but you could stick with whip stitch if you prefer.

And that's it! One giant plush candy corn, ready to spread some cuteness this Halloween.

Click here for template sheet 1 and here for template sheet 2. Make sure you're viewing them at full size, then print them at 100%.

This tutorial is for personal use only: you can use it to make as many felt candy corn as you want for yourself or as gifts, but please don't make any for sale. You may borrow a couple of photos if you want to blog about this project, but remember to credit me and link back to this page on my blog, and do not reproduce my entire tutorial / share my templates on your site. Thanks!

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Saturday 25 October 2014

Pretty Purchases

I'm still on a tight craft-supplies-shopping budget after splurging on fabric this summer, but I have made a few purchases in the past few weeks.

I got a yummy bundle of colour in the post on Friday: some lovely Liberty fabric!

I'm working on a secret project that involves small-scale florals... and no-one does nicer florals than Liberty.

So I headed to Alice Caroline and spent a while umming and aahing over which prints to buy. In the end I settled on a scrap pack and a couple of fat quarters. Aren't they lovely?

I also treated myself to a couple of small crafty things when I visited Thread last month...

I bought a wooden cross stitch blank from Cloud Craft (because I've wanted to try stitching on one of those blanks for aaaages) and some charming wooden snowflake buttons from Ray-Stitch. The lovely Nicole from Cloud Craft also gifted me a sheet of fab neon pink wool felt - I can't wait to find the perfect project for it!

I also bought a screenprinted notebook from Sarah Waterhouse Textiles and a couple of sweet sewing-themed notecards from the Farnham Maltings shop... because you can never have too much stationery, right?

P.S. I'll be blogging about my trip to Thread sometime soon :)

Friday 24 October 2014

Hand Made Toys Bookazine

I had a lovely surprise while waiting for my train a couple of weeks ago. Flicking through the craft mags in the station's newsagent I spotted this fun-looking magazine...

... which turned out to include two projects from my second book, Super-Cute Felt Animals!

Hand Made Toys is one of those newfangled crafty "bookazines" that are a bit thicker than a normal magazine and jam-packed with things to make. It's 130 pages long and includes animals, dolls, toys and faux food to knit, crochet and sew... plus interviews with a couple of toy designers.

It's lovely to see two of my little felt animals in amongst so many cute projects! I especially love that knitted breakfast and the mermaid is just adorable...

... and omigosh there's my project next to a Clanger! Eep!

Hand Made Toys apparently came out back in the summer so you might not be able to find a copy in your local newsagent, but copies are still available online... along with copies of Made in Felt #2 which also features a couple of my projects squeezed in amongst lots of other crafty goodness.

Please note: the Amazon link in this post is an affiliate link.

Wednesday 22 October 2014

Planting Poppies at the Tower of London

A few weeks ago I got up early and headed into London to take part in a very special project: planting ceramic poppies in the moat of the Tower of London as part of the Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red installation. 

You've probably heard about the Tower Poppies by now. 888,246 poppies are being planted in the moat, commemorating the British and Colonial fatalities in the First World War. Of course, such a large project requires lots of volunteers!

I arrived early with plenty of time to see how the sea of poppies had grown since I visited in the summer. The area around the Tower is usually buzzing with people so it was great to have a chance to to stand and look at all the poppies in the quiet of the early morning.  


After signing in for my shift, I and the other volunteers got kitted out with gloves, a "volunteer" t-shirt and a badge. We watched a video about safety on site and how to make the poppies, then headed out into the moat to start work. 


I was a teeny bit nervous about volunteering on my own, but the nerves soon went away after chatting to some of the other volunteers. Everyone was very friendly and just as excited as me to be taking part. Some  had signed up on their own or in pairs and others had come along in groups from local offices.

Constructing the poppies was hard work! We added washers and other components to each "stalk" (these were a very tight fit!) then carefully added the poppy flower and end cap and set the finished poppy aside for planting later. 


We worked in little groups in the sunshine, chatting about the installation and how incredible it was: the scale of it, how beautiful each poppy was and how amazing they looked all together, and - of course - about the meaning behind it.


Each of the hundreds of poppies we put together and planted that day represents one human life lost in a terrible conflict. Seeing a number like 888,246 written down it's just a number and almost impossible to visualise. The sea of poppies in this installation conveys the scale of the devastation in such a simple but powerful way.


Everyone was quietly in awe of the installation and really proud to be taking part in such a special, meaningful thing. I feel very lucky to have been just a small part of it. It was an amazing feeling looking down at the poppies when walking back to the Tube after my shift was over, thinking "I planted some of those!" 

The final ceramic poppy will be planted in the moat on November 11th.

After that the poppies will be "picked" by more volunteers (you can sign up here if you're interested) then washed and sent to the people who have purchased them. All the poppies have now been sold but you can still make a dedication or a donation via the Tower of London's website. 


You can watch a great video about the installation of the poppies here.

If you've not yet been to see this installation and have the chance to do so, take it!