Saturday 29 November 2014

How To: Felt Christmas Jumper Ornaments

UPDATE: Unfortunately this project is no longer available 

The third Christmas project I designed for Tesco Living is now up on their site. Yay!

It's a tutorial for making fun novelty Christmas jumper (sweater) ornaments from felt.

Want more Christmas ornament tutorials? Check out the Christmas candle ornaments and embroidered snowflake baubles. You'll also find lots of festive projects in my free tutorial archive

Friday 28 November 2014

Crafty Ladies: Meet Ruth Singer

Thing were so deadline-crazy here last week that I didn't have a chance to put together a Crafty Ladies post... so, better late than never, let me introduce you to Crafty Lady Ruth Singer.

Ruth has some mad textile skillz! She puts these to good use creating beautiful, highly textured textile artworks and teaching dressmaking and other workshops in her studio. 

She's the author of three sewing books: Sew It Up (a manual of practical and decorative dressmaking techniques), Sew Eco (which focuses on sustainable sewing, and stitching with upcycled and vintage materials) and Fabric Manipulation (which includes 150 different techniques for pleating, stitching, gathering, etc).


Hello! I'm Ruth Singer, a textile artist, author, tutor, historian, collector, cat owner, foraging addict and nature lover. I exhibit art textiles in galleries, work on creative projects with museums, write books about sewing and textiles and run a sewing school in Leicester.

Leicester is right in the centre of England, which is very handy for travelling all over the country delivering talks and creative textile workshops, as well as junk-shop forays and museum visiting.

Recently I’ve been making…

I've just received a big grant from the Arts Council for a solo exhibition at The National Centre for Craft & Design in Lincolnshire, so I am starting to work on pieces for that. I have a whole room to fill, which is exciting and terrifying in equal measure! The exhibition is called Narrative Threads and explores how we respond to and interact with textiles in our daily lives, looking at physical and emotional engagement with cloth, exploring tactility, memory and personal stories.  I'm also collecting personal textile memories, which you can contribute here.

I'm also collaborating with Bethany Walker to create a new body of work called Interlace, in which we combine concrete and delicate textile, for exhibitions in 2015. I am working on new colour combinations at the moment which is really good fun.

I’ve been working on…

Alongside my more creative work and teaching, I also work freelance to support designer makers in Leicestershire. I'm putting together some networking events and I'm also project co-ordinator for Ornamentum, a group of eight local makers who are creating collaborations for exhibitions and working on professional development programmes. I'm also teaching a social media workshop for designer makers this month too, so I have a good excuse to be spending lots of time on Pinterest!

I’ve been blogging about…

I'm only part way through a huge series of Postcards from Chateau Dumas, a wonderful venue in the South of France where I taught at week-long creative textiles course in September. Not only do I want to share what the lovely students made, but also the stunning surroundings, the buildings, the ambience of France. It was truly magical!

One of the Chateau Dumas posts to come is about the wonderful antique French linens I bought in the brocante. I blog about textile history quite a bit and enjoy sharing my knowledge and collections. It gives me an excuse to buy more too! I also write textile history posts called Pinning the Past for Mr X Stitch

I’ve been reading…

My reading at the moment is mostly research for my exhibition, so I am reading a lot of embroidery books, particularly old ones such as Constance Howard's book of embroidery stitches, textile history books like Quilts 1700-2010. I also tend to have Jenny Dean's Wild Colour open. Away from textiles, I always have a Richard Mabey book nearby and my favourite tree guide in my foraging bag.


While I sew, I’ve been watching…

When I'm working in my own studio at home I always listen to Radio 4 or 4 Extra.There's not much I don't enjoy but my favourites to work along to are classic or low-key crime dramas such as Paul Temple or anything Agatha Christie. I also like nature programmes and comedies, as well as the Archers.

In the teaching studio, I like tend to choose Classic FM as it is pretty relaxing and creates a calm atmosphere though sometimes when the music is very boisterous, the sewing machines start running faster and the students get a bit frantic!

Ruth’s 3 Top Tips for Creativity

1. Innovate, explore and find your own style. To succeed in the contemporary craft world you have to stand out from the crowd. Follow your heart, explore your own deep-seated passions and don't seek inspiration from other makers.

2. Collaborate with people whose work you love. It is fantastically enjoyable and creatively invigorating.

3. Explore the world around you. Walk in the woods, prowl city streets, investigate local museums, read the books in your library, take part in community projects. Make your work express something about you and how you engage with the world.


Visit Ruth's shop to see her range of sewing patterns and her upcoming workshops. You can read more about her work and current projects on her blog, and you'll find her on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest

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

Thursday 27 November 2014

Christmas Scraps

Remember that lovely Christmas fabric I blogged about earlier this month?

Well, I've made a start on my project! Yay! I can't blog about it yet as it's going to be a gift (shhhh...), so here are some pics of the scraps I had left over after cutting out all the pieces.

I'd been planning on breaking out my much-neglected sewing machine for this project as it's going to involve lots of stitching, but I've changed my mind and decided to hand stitch it instead - partly because I'm not super confident with a machine as I'm so out of practice. (Note to self: practise using your sewing machine in 2015!)

I find working on a new, fun project can be a bit addictive - all I want to do is work on it, and I end up staying up waaaay past my bedtime because I think "I'll just get this bit finished..." and then look up and realise it's 1am. Oops.

But apart from some bad "it is definitely a good idea for me to stay up sewing this instead of going to bed, who needs sleep??" decision making, things are going well! It is an absolute pleasure to be working on a relaxing personal project after weeks of focusing on work deadlines.

Plus, I'm loving being able to sit and sew with festive fabric while binge-watching made-for-TV Christmas movies, which I adore and cannot get enough of at this time of year :)

P.S. Happy Thanksgiving! xxx

Wednesday 26 November 2014

Just A Card

I don't know about you guys, but when I go to craft fairs and just buy a couple of small things like cards I sometimes feel a bit cheap, and terribly unsupportive of the designer/maker community. All these talented people trying to make a living selling their amazing wares and I ooh over their work and then just buy a £2 greetings card.

This is nonsense, of course! As a designer/maker myself I know very well how the small purchases people make from my shop are just as important to my business as the big ones, that every single purchase is a wonderful, much-valued gesture that says "I appreciate your work, I am supporting you"... and that those small sales add up to help pay for all the big important stuff like rent and bills and food.

The fact that small purchases can make a big difference is the idea behind the new JUST A CARD campaign.

As campaign founder Sarah Hamilton puts it...

"If everyone who’d complimented our beautiful gallery had bought just a card we’d still be open.”

When I read this quote by shop keepers who’d recently closed their gallery I thought - enough is enough - we need to fight back! As an artist and designer, who also makes cards, I know just how valuable each and every sale is, not only to independent shops and galleries which make our High Streets unique, but to their artists and designer suppliers. Regrettably it’s too late for that gallery, but others need our valuable support, and this is why we started our campaign JUST A CARD - to encourage people to appreciate just how invaluable every single purchase is.

I love the idea of this campaign. It's a great reminder that you don't have to suddenly start spending all your money on handmade stuff or swap your supermarket shop for local/organic everything to make mindful spending choices. Just remember that whatever small purchases you can make from designer/makers and from the independent shops on your local high street are important, and valued.

I'm lucky to have a local sewing shop that I can pop into in haberdashery emergencies, and a fantastic local art supplies shop too, and several arts groups in my local area organise awesome pop up shops and markets for artists and designer/makers.... but without customers, these things will vanish!

Buying a reel of thread or a tube of paint or just a card might not be much, but it's something... and it's something that I will be trying to do a bit more of from now on. 

Visit the JUST A CARD website for more info, to grab a button to share on your blog or to download flyers and posters.

Tuesday 25 November 2014

How To: Embroidered Felt Snowflake Baubles

UPDATE: Unfortunately this project is no longer available

Wanna see the second Christmas project I designed for Tesco Living?

I stitched a set of felt snowflake baubles. Each bauble is embroidered with a white snowflake, then embellished with sparkly seed beads and a silver sequin.

The embroidery is very simple to do , so it's perfect for beginners. You'll have a batch of baubles stitched up in no time!

To make your own embroidered felt snowflake baubles, click here for the step by step tutorial.

P.S. Click here for the Christmas candle ornament tutorial

Monday 24 November 2014

How To: Felt Christmas Candle Ornaments

UPDATE: Unfortunately this project is no longer available 

One of the projects I've been working on lately is some felt Christmas ornament tutorials for Tesco Living.

First up, a tutorial for making Christmas candle decorations...

... complete with faux dripping wax! :)

Click here to view the step by step tutorial over at Tesco Living.

Friday 21 November 2014

Psst: It's Renegade this Weekend!

It's almost time for one of my very favourite events: The Renegade Craft Fair.

I was very sad to miss the first London fair back in 2011, but have been for the past couple of years and can report that Renegade is a big room full of AWESOME.

Over 200 fabulously talented designers, artists and makers will be selling their wonderful wares... and there will be crafty workshops running, too. If you're in or near London this weekend and want to kick off your Christmas shopping or just treat yourself to some handmade loveliness, I highly recommend it!

You can read about my visit to last year's fair HERE and find all the info about this year's fair HERE.

P.S. If you spot me at the fair, spending aaaaall my money, please do say hi :)

Tuesday 18 November 2014

Busy Busy

You know you are busy when your To Do list is actually a To Do chart!

The chart on the left was for deadline #1 (met on Friday), the chart on the right is for deadline #2 (today).

I have a To Do list, too, but I love using charts like this to break down all the different steps I need to complete when working on freelance projects. Ticking off each step one by one is very satisfying and gives you an easy at-a-glance overview of how a big project is progressing and what tasks you need to do next.

After hitting the "publish" button on this post I'll be finishing up the last few bits for deadline #2, drawing templates and making prototypes for deadline #3, then ordering some supplies for deadline #4. It's nice to be busy but there's lots to do!

All this work behind the scenes sadly makes for boring blogging as I can't show you what I'm making, and I've been so busy that the only non-deadline-related creative stuff I've been doing lately is a bit of colouring in to unwind and relax at the end of a hectic day. Please bear with me! :)

Sunday 16 November 2014

Meet My Sponsors: November

Time to meet my current blog sponsors!

Blooming Felt sells 100% wool felt sheets, colourful fairtrade felt craft supplies like felt flowers and felt purses, plus other crafty goodness including buttons, ribbons, flat pad findings, glue, embroidery floss, craft books and fabric:

At Story Box you can create personalised gifts by filling a 3D frame with mini objects to represent a friend or loved one, or to celebrate a special occasion:

Big Fish sells lots of colourful buttons and felt balls, as well as other craft supplies like pins, ribbons and mini embroidery hoops:

At It's Organised you'll find printable gift boxes for sale, plus lots of free crafty ideas and tutorials:

AnnyMay Craft Supplies specialise in eco friendly, natural and colourful supplies, and all their orders are shipped in eco friendly packaging. You can get 10% off your order from AnnyMay's Etsy shop or website with the coupon code BUGSANDFISHES (ends 1st December).

Asking for Trouble sells illustrated stationery, accessories and gifts featuring cute characters inspired by Japanese kawaii:

Cloud Craft sell 100% wool felt and modern needlework supplies like buttons, thread, wooden stitching shapes, trims, and stitching kits:

At Joe's Toes you'll find thick wool felt, punched felt shapes, kits and supplies for making things like wool felt & leather slippers, iPad cases and luggage tags... plus colourful socks made from recycled cotton:

Illustrator and printmaker Debbie Greenaway creates cards, notebooks and jewellery featuring her drawings:

And at Marc's Treasure Basket you'll find loads of ideas for creative, crafty projects to do with your kids, plus lots of fun kids fashion finds:

P.S. Interested in promoting your shop, company or blog? Ad spaces on my blog start from just $5 for 30 days (that's currently about £3.20!) and I offer a 25% discount if you buy 3 consecutive months (90 days) of ad space at once. Your site will feature in a sponsor post like this one and I also give new sponsors a shout out over on my Facebook page.

Click here for more info re: rates and my blog's traffic, and to buy an ad.

Saturday 15 November 2014

Review: The 1000 Dot-to-Dot Book: Masterpieces

You guys know how much I love colouring books... well, I was delighted to be sent something similarly fun to review: a fancy dot-to-dot book!


The 1000 Dot-to-Dot Book: Masterpieces by Thomas Pavitte contains dot-to-dot pictures just like the ones you used to have fun doing when you were a kid... except each picture is much more detailed, containing 1000 numbered dots to join up.

The 20 pictures in this book are exactly what you'd expect from the title - dot-to-dot versions of famous works of art like Vermeer's Girl with a Pearl Earring and Van Gogh's Sunflowers. Books featuring portraits, animals and cityscapes are also available in the same series.


This is a big, poster-sized book - I've included a pen in the photo below to give you an idea of the scale - and with such detailed pictures it has to be.

The numbering for each dot is kept small, and are printed in different colours to help you more easily find the numbers you're looking for (e.g. 1-199 might be in black, then 200-300 in green). The first dot is marked with a star to help you find it, then you just follow along from 1-1000, joining each dot one by one until the picture appears.

A test page is helpfully included so you can test out your pen before starting one of the pictures...

... and there's a guide at the back of the book showing which pattern of dots forms which picture, so you know which artwork you're drawing.


The pages are perforated, so you can tear them out when you've finished... but actually I found it easiest to tear out the page I was working on so I had a totally flat surface to draw on. The tear-out pages would also make this book an easy thing to share among your family or friends for a group dot-to-dot drawing session.

I drew Frida Kahlo's self portrait, because Frida is awesome.

Because of the size of these pictures, you can't do them on your lap while sitting on the sofa which is where I like to curl up with a stack of colouring books. You also need good light to see the small numbers!

I am apparently quite slow at doing dot-to-dot pictures as according to the book each picture takes about half an hour to do but mine took me well over an hour (though, to be fair, I was watching a film at the same time). Here's how the finished picture turned out:

I did get a bit of a crick in my neck from leaning over the large paper to see the numbers (perhaps I need my eyes testing, but I found them quite hard to see) so I'd recommend making sure you sit up and stretch when working on these. 

Apart from that though, I found this a very enjoyable way to while away an hour or so. Just like colouring in, completing these pictures is an absorbing and relaxing process and it's a lot of fun watching the picture gradually emerge from the pattern of dots. I'm looking forward to working my way through the rest of the pictures in the book... and maybe even colouring them in afterwards!

The 1000 Dot to Dot Book: Masterpieces is published by The Ilex Press. RRP £9.99. It's available from Amazon UK, Amazon USA, the Book Depository and many other bookshops.

Please note: the publisher sent me a free review copy of this book. The Amazon and Book Depository links in this post are affiliate links. 

Friday 14 November 2014

Crafty Ladies: Beth Foster

This week's Crafty Lady is Beth from The Linen Cat.

Beth's charming and distinctive textile designs - including brooches, purses, ornaments and dolls - are available from her website or her Folksy shop. Her work often features lovely materials like linen and tweed and always involves a delightful attention to detail that makes her pieces really special.



Hello!  My name is Beth Foster and I'm a part time textile designer.

I'm a proud Yorkshire lass, now living in Kent, where I design and sew from my home studio.  I have a background in Costume Design and I started selling my work to keep my creative skills going, this has gradually built up into a part time job that I fit around the school hours of my two boys.

I work in bold colours, I like the mixture of wool tweeds against crisp linens and simple designs that show off the fabrics.  My influence comes from Skandinavian design, nature and vintage children's book illustrations such as those by Racey Helps and Molly Brett.  I also love, collect and wear vintage clothing so this has an big influence on my work.

When I'm not sewing I can usually be found working in the garden or kitchen.  Life is very busy and I like it that way!

Recently I’ve been sewing…

... purses, fairies and all things pink.  I try to design two collections over the year, one for summer and one for winter.  For the first time I've attempted to get a season ahead and so I have been sewing all things autumnal and festive since last January.

I'm near the end of a listing marathon, trying to get all those designs uploaded to the shop sites, it was all about black and Halloween but I've recently moved onto pinks in the form of Christmas fairies, little mice and tweed purses.

I’ve been working on…

... my house which can feel rather like painting the Severn Bridge!  I've lived here for 8 years now and although the building was transformed from an abandoned shell to it's current state in the early years, the decorating is still not entirely complete.  I've just finished redecorating the kitchen, which is now the second time around but it was worth doing as it's the room I spend the most time in.

I’ve been blogging about…

... my work.  I LOVE blogging, it keeps me sane with the wonderful support network of other creative and friendly blogger friends, it can feel a little isolating working from home so I rely heavily on interaction with other on-line craft folk.  My blog is quite informal and chatty, I touch on the subjects of my family and home life and I try to be honest, without getting too deeply into personal things, but I mostly blog about my sewing.


People like to read about the design process and I find it's the single most efficient way to promote my work - recently both the Victorian and Spider purses sold out within two days of their relevant blog posts being published.  I also enjoy showing the influence of my work, sometimes I'm inspired by a photo or my love of the landscape of the Yorkshire Dales, as with the Pink Tweed Purses.

I’ve been reading…

... mostly fiction.  I always have piles of books by my bedside and my house has book shelves in every nook and cranny, it's my preferred way of passing the time if I'm waiting to pick the boys up, or travelling by train.  I've just finished reading The Casual Vacancy by JK Rowling and I'm midway though re-reading an old favourite, Miss Smilla's Feeling For Snow by Peter Hoeg, as it gets me in the mood for winter.

Typically, like all creative types, I also collect craft books, I'm a sucker for pretty photos and can be a bit naughty and buy books that don't actually get used.  Most recently I added a couple of Stumpwork books to my collection, Flowers by Sachiko Morimoto and Butterflies & Moths by Jane Nicholas, I'm determined that both of these will be put into action!

While I sew, I’ve been listening to…

... Radio 4.  As I work alone from home, I enjoy the companionship if listening to people talk, I've been a Radio 4 listener for many years, I like it's diversity and I hope that I learn something from it too.  I am amazed, though, that after so long I still have no idea what's going on in The Archers!  If I'm in the mood for music I tend to get stuck on a single artist for a while, I could listen to First Aid Kit over and over (I like the harmonies) and I've had a recent obsession with Nick Cave.

Beth’s 3 Top Tips for Setting Your Prices.

1. Obvious, I know, but track every minute you work on an item, once it's all totted up make sure you are paying yourself a reasonable salary for your time as well as covering the material costs for your work.  I think lots of people who work from home undervalue this area.

2. Be mindful of the maximum price that someone will pay for an item when you are designing it (I check the price of similar items on Folksy and Etsy to get an idea).  I recently saw a beautiful, embroidered cushion on-line, it's stunning and clearly took hours to sew but I doubt it will sell as the price is simply too high for what people are prepared to pay for a cushion.

3. Consider the cost of postage when you're at the designing stage.  Since Royal Mail put up their package pricing it's so important to remember the jump from large letter (at 93p) to a small parcel (at £3.20).  I make sure all my flower brooches and little birds fit into the large letter category by being under 2.5cm thick once packaged.  I think people can be put off from buying on-line if they get to the check out and the postage is too high.


You can buy Beth's work from her website or her Folksy shop. Read more about what she's been making lately over on her blog, or follow her on Twitter

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

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

Thursday 13 November 2014

The 2014 Crafty Christmas Tutorial Link-Up

It's link-up day! Hurrah!

Lots of crafty bloggers took part in this year's Crafty Christmas Tutorial Link-Up. We each shared a free Christmas tutorial or pattern on our blogs yesterday... and now we get to share links to everyone's projects, discover some new blogs and share the crafty Christmas love :)

Look at all the lovely things everyone made!

There's a craft here to suit everyone, including crochet, sewing, embroidery, paper crafting and baking. There are tutorials for making ornaments, stockings, some bunting and a garland, pegs for hanging your Christmas cards, an advent calendar, a Christmas wreath, a pendant, some gift tags... and more!


Follow the links below to visit the participating blogs and see their tutorials...

Mini Teddy Bed - Grace's Favours

First Flake, Snowflake Ornament - Betz White

Gingerbread House Ornament - Shiny Happy World

Mod Winter Table Runner - Tumus / Little Red Thread

Shabby Christmas Denim Heart - Cocojude

Fairy Lights Christmas Cake - Cupcakery

Washi Tape & Button Christmas Card - The Lilac Linnet

Christmas Card String & Pegs - Fizzi Jayne Makes

Felt Christmas Stocking - Vicky Myers Creations

Felt Holiday Wreath - The Felt Store

Penguin Pocket Friend or Ornament - Lulu & Celeste

Saint Nick Ornaments - Homemade at My Place

Retro Photo Christmas Cards - Bugs and Fishes

Felt Christmas Ornaments - Marc's Treasure Basket

Many thanks to all the bloggers who took part!

Want even more projects? Subscribe to my newsletter for a monthly free pattern and visit my crafty tutorial archive for lots more free projects.

Visit my shop to buy my printable PDF sewing patterns: