Wednesday 31 December 2014

A Year of Decluttering: Finished!

I finally finished my Less 365 decluttering project, hurrah!

The idea behind Less 365 is that you get rid of (give away, sell, recycle or throw away) one thing a day for a year, slowly but surely decluttering your space through the year. I started my second Less 365 project last summer and should have finished it this June but fell behind earlier this year. I decided to not worry too much about the dates and just keep going, hoping to eventually complete the full Less 365 no matter how many calendar days it took.

Since then I have cleared out...

... a dress that had slowly shrunk in the wash over the years because I couldn't be bothered to handwash it, four promotional totebags I was given at events but didn't like or need, three boring audiobooks, a dress that I gave to my sister after she borrowed it and looked approx a gazillion times better in it than me (I loved the print but it never really suited me), a few blanket squares that I'd knitted but which were never going to actually get turned into a blanket, a pack of pressed flowers I'd had for years and never used, a whole stack of promotional packaging materials for my now-closed DaWanda shop, a china dish I owned as a child which I no longer used and which I realised that I was no longer emotionally attached to (unlike the much treasured relics-from-my-childhood that make my heart burst with nostalgic sentiment when I look at them)...

... a pair of tights with a hole in them, an ugly egg cosy I'd made as a kid that was neither attractive, nor beloved nor useful, an old floppy disk drive (because what's the point of owning one of those when you no longer own any floppy disks), a broken bracelet I didn't like enough to fix, a couple of old photo albums (emptied of photos, as I did some editing of my photos this year and slimmed them down to just a few volumes), a cleaning product with a horrible chemical smell that I'd only used once, curtain wires and hooks bought to use in my old flat that were no longer needed, a roll of picture framing tape that I'd used to mend one old picture but had no more use for, a reference book about birds that I never actually referenced and twelve assorted bits of vintage crockery that were the least-loved pieces in my once-huge vintage collection...


... a gift bag I was never actually going to use for gifting, a big bag of tealights that were just gathering dust, some cookie cutters that were lovely but never ever used, a white blouse that was not so white anymore, two old swimming costumes well past their prime, a shawl that literally made me look like a crazy old lady when I wore it, a very bobbly old pair of gloves, a scarf in a colour that doesn't really suit me, two tote bags and a shopping bag that were looking worse for wear after years of use, a cake tin that I'd never used to bake a cake (when I bake I usually bake muffins or biscuits, I am bad at cakes), some boxes of fancy cutlery that was part of a set I'd inherited but which I knew I would never use (steak knives, etc), and a few more bits of vintage crockery...


... a "spare" whisk (I definitely do not use a whisk often enough to need a spare one) and a "spare" rolling pin (ditto), some tealight holders that were pretty but which I've never used, two trinket dishes that were empty of trinkets, an ugly tablecloth, a folding cake stand that I've used maybe once in a decade, some little empty spice jars I'd kept to put flowers in but never used, a commemorative coin without any sentimental or other special meaning for me, yet more bits of vintage crockery (I used to have a bit of a vintage crockery problem but am now trying to just keep the most beautiful, special pieces), some bunting I used to hang at the end of a bed I no longer own and a whole bunch of mugs and bowls (because I own waaaay more mugs and bowls than one person could possibly ever need)...

... a couple of old and very bobbly jumpers, a disposable tablecloth bought for a craft fair then kept in case I did another fair (which I now probably never will), two crumpled and unusable rolls of sticky back plastic, two bulky wooden coathangers, an ugly duvet cover and matching sheets, a vintage floral sheet that I never used because it was also pretty ugly, an assortment of mismatched cutlery from my student days, two slotted serving spoons (I never use slotted serving spoons, but they were part of a set so I'd kept them for years), a whole box of stuff I'd kept to craft with but which was actually just a box of random ugly junk, and two interiors books that were pretty but not filled with ideas I'd ever use in my own space...


... a damaged cross-stitched table cloth I'd bought cheap to craft with but not noticed how it was also badly stained, a stack of old photo negatives which I was never going to make prints from, some unfinished prototypes and samples stitched for crafty projects (which I cut up to salvage the materials, where possible), an old coin purse I never use, two of the many baking trays I accumulated during my baking-crazy years (because there is a physical limit to the number of baking trays you can use at once!), a pale grey jumper that I put on one day and thought "my goodness, this washes me out, why did I buy this??", seven brooches and some hairclips that I wore lots when I was a student but haven't worn since and a coffee-table book that looked a lot more interesting than it turned out to be...


... three jumpers and a pair of trousers from my student days which were well past their best (I was a student quite a long time ago!), a DVD box set of a boring sci-fi series that I am definitely never going to re-watch, a pale grey top (note to self: stop buying things that are pale grey, they look terrible on you!), three craft books I'd reviewed but was never going to make anything from, a tangle of old cables and a stack of manuals from bits of tech I no longer own, a DVD box set of a comedy series that didn't make me laugh, two dresses that I no longer wear, a cardigan that doesn't look good with anything I own, a necklace that was crazily knotted and wouldn't untangle, three more necklaces that I'd not worn for ten years and a ring I'd not worn in fifteen...


... a bracelet that never fitted me but which I'd kept because it was part of a set, a stack of stretchy beaded bracelets that fitted me when I was a teen but now cut into my wrist, several ugly old brown jumpers that I'd felted to use in a craft project but no longer needed, four badges I'd worn in my teens but never since, six odd socks (I have no idea where the other socks went to over the years but they are definitely now nowhere to be found and are not going to just magically reappear), a DVD box set of a TV show that was excellent but which I know I'm never gonna rewatch, a couple of books I'm not going to reread, an ugly coaster that I got free somewhere, a cheap sundress I bought when it was super hot this summer but which really doesn't suit me at all, a top and a dress that were too tight even when I bought them (so every time I put them on I thought "ugh" and wore something else), and a storage box that is now empty and un-needed thanks to all this decluttering!

Sorry, that was a pretty long list of stuff, wasn't it? As I'm sure you can imagine, it feels great to have cleared out all this stuff (and the things I cleared out earlier in the project) from my space and to have hit that target of decluttering 365 things, even if it did take 6 months longer than planned.

If you'd love to declutter your space in 2015 I highly recommend trying a Less 365 of your own - or picking another target number like 100 things to gradually work towards during the year. I'll be sharing some decluttering tips in a blog post soon!

P.S. If you're planning on blogging about your project, do so more frequently than I have so you don't bore everyone with a giant list of things you've cleared out, haha. Also remember to take some photos of the things you're decluttering as you go along so you don't have to rummage through the last couple of boxes you've got ready to take to the charity shop to find a few things to photograph :)

Tuesday 30 December 2014

Heal's and other Treasures on the Tottenham Court Road

Lots of my Nice Days Out recently have involved trips to London to go Christmas shopping, catch up with friends and family and ooh over the lovely festive windows of the big department stores.

I shared a few snaps last week but wanted to devote a post to one of my fave shops in central London: Heal's, on Tottenham Court Road.

Getting to Heal's is easy peasy, as Goodge Street tube station is straight opposite:

Heal's started out as bed-makers about 200 years ago, and is now a large and lovely store filled with gorgeous design-led homewares and accessories. This is the sort of place where I wander round mentally furnishing my dream house, then buy a smart teatowel or a wonderful mug :)


It's worth a visit just to admire the building - make sure you look up! I'm slightly ashamed to admit that I'd never taken the time to look before taking these photos, and I was really missing out - aren't these decorative plaques fab?


If you love to oooh over stylish homewares, there's also a branch of Habitat next door...


... and just down the road (walking towards Oxford Street) are branches of super-stylish Dwell and swoonworthy US import West Elm (currently stocking lovely ornaments designed by Mimi Kirchner!) 

The huge flagship branch of Paperchase is also a must visit (make sure you go up to the top floor and check out their art and craft supplies and lovely selection of handmade paper) and nearby you'll also find branches of Tiger and Muji... plus, of course, all the shiny, shiny shops on Oxford Street itself.

P.S. Tottenham Court Road is definitely not the prettiest street in London, especially at the moment with lots of work going on for the new Crossrail station... but it does give good shopping! And there are some perks to the building work, like being able to see interesting buildings like this one...

... which was previously hidden and which will presumably be hidden from view once more when the building work is completed.

Monday 29 December 2014

Use It or Lose It: A Crafty Challenge for 2015

I've been doing lots of decluttering this year and I've found that one of the hardest things for me to clear out is the stash of random crafty stuff I've kept because "I might be able to make something with that sometime!"

So I've decided that in 2015 I need to either get on and actually make stuff with the supplies in my stash, or admit to myself that I'm never going to use them for anything and just get rid of them.

This will be a slow, ongoing process but I'm hoping to have lots of crafty fun along the way and (fingers crossed) a lot more space in my studio at the end of the year. I'm rather looking forward to the creative challenge of coming up with projects to make with my long-hoarded supplies and I will, of course, be blogging about my progress!

Thanks to taking some time off over Christmas, I've already made a start on my first de-stashing project: making lots of lavender bags.

I'd been keeping two huge bags of dried lavender (harvested from my mother's garden) which was waaaay more lavender than I thought I'd ever need but so lovely and scented and potentially useful that I'd not been able to bring myself to just (gasp!) throw it away.

So when my sister mentioned this Christmas that something she owned had been nibbled by moths, I offered to make her a big batch of lavender sachets to help keep the pesky creatures at bay. It's been a while since I made some lavender sachets to proect my own wardrobe so I'll also be making some for myself.

I'd planned on using some scrappy fabric like an old pillowcase to make the sachets. However, looking through my fabric stash I found an old dress my sister had made many many years ago and then given to me in case I wanted to use the fabric for something...

... it's been sitting untouched for about ten years, it belonged to the sister for whom I'm sewing the lavender sachets, and the print is a pattern of butterflies and moths. Perfect!

As well as using up some long-forgotten-about fabric and a big stash of dried lavender, I'm also using some odds and ends of ribbons (mostly the sort of loops I'd cut out of new dresses and kept because "they might be useful for making something!") to add to the smaller sachets so they can be hung on coathangers.

Three de-stashed birds with one crafty stone = an excellent start to the challenge!

Wednesday 24 December 2014

Happy Christmas!

After a busy few weeks I'm really looking forward to a nice quiet Christmas. Here are a few snaps I took this week of some of the festive loveliness in London...

Prettiness at Paperchase:


Cool decorations in Carnaby Street:

Gorgeous windows at Liberty:


I got an early Christmas gift this year as I spotted copies of my first book on sale in Liberty's haberdashery department! It's always thrilling to spot my books "in the wild" but a stack of copies for sale in my favourite shop in the whole world...? SO AWESOME.

I'm taking a short break from blogging while I'm busy doing family Christmas things, but I'll be back next week. My shops are also closed for a bit and will re-open on January 5th xxx

P.S. My favourite Christmas windows this year = the ones at Harrods. The big windows are spectacular (you'll find lots of photos of these online, there are some nice ones here) but these small windows were just magical - charming little "dolls house" style sets, showing mice living it up at Christmas. So, so adorable!

Monday 22 December 2014

Cosy Knits Needed...

Today I'm sharing a message from my crafty friend Sally, who is looking for people to knit and crochet things for a very good cause:

"Got some bits of yarn hanging around? I work with a charity who, among other things, provides a food bank for people in the East Lancashire area. We'd really like to be able to give out hats and gloves, maybe the occasional blanket with the food. Could you knit or crochet something for our collection, for men, women or children of any age? 

Send them to or drop them in at Pendle Helping Hands, c/o Barrowford Primary School, Rushton Street, Barrowford, Lancs. Thank you"

If you need any more info or have any questions, you can get in touch with Pendle Helping Hands via their Facebook page. If you live a long way from East Lancashire, maybe there's a charity near you that needs a hand this winter? :)

Friday 19 December 2014

Crafty Ladies: Meet Janet Clare

The last Crafty Lady of 2014 is textile designer Janet Clare. I hope you guys have enjoyed this series! It's been a pleasure to showcase so many talented designers and makers, and I've got lots more interviews lined up for 2015 :)

I've been a fan of Janet's work since first seeing it at the Festival of Quilts back in 2011 - it is so charming and distinctive. Janet stitches and quilts, writes books and sewing patterns, runs workshops and designs fabric... I especially love her British bird quilt patterns.


Hello! I’m Janet Clare and I design quilting fabric for Moda and write books (four to date!) and teach how to draw with your sewing machine. I have two boys and a dog called Betty who keep me very busy (and the house covered in mud!)


Recently I’ve been making…

... a couple of Anna dresses and have been trying very hard to master French seams (I can do them so long as they’re straight!). I’ve also been knitting the world’s most boring garter stitch scarf for my youngest Henry – it’s red, DK, 22 stitches and all garter stitch, but not only is it the world’s most boring knit it’s also the world’s most relaxing! It is well travelled and I will knit in public (trains, cafĂ©) without flinching! Henry says he will only wear the scarf if it’s super cold, but never ever to school!

I’ve been working on…

I’m writing my fifth book The Wordsmith at the moment and you can see the inspiration for it here on my Pinterest board. I will have the book ready for the Festival of Quilts, August 2015, NEC Birmingham. Writing books is one of my very favourite things to do. I work closely with my friend Hayley who does all the graphic design and my friend Sarah who does all the photography.

When the book is finished we will put our best dresses on and meet in the poshest hotel near us for mojito’s! It’s tradition!


I’ve been blogging about…

I haven’t been blogging so much lately as I’m slightly obsessed with the ease of Instagram! However, I do still love my blog and have talked about our family visit to see the poppies at the Tower of London which was incredibly moving. Even my boys were silenced by the display!

I am lucky enough to design fabric for Moda and they regularly host blog tours. The latest one asked us to talk about things we love. Moda are very generous and all the designers had fabric bundles to giveaway and free patterns and we all taped a little video at Quilt market sharing a technique that is special to us.


In the summer I visited a school in Kent to see an exhibition of work they had done inspired by my first book Freya and Fred. The children had been learning about restorative justice and had all appliqued themselves and made a wall hanging which will be on display in the school. This was a very special evening as you can imagine. Knowing I have inspired people is truly amazing.

I’ve been reading…

I love Selvedge magazine which is always full of textile inspiration (even the ads are interesting!). I read a lot of novels- nothing too challenging and only last thing at night to help me sleep. The last book I loved was How Much of Us There Was by Michael Kimball. My favourite book of all is Anne of Green Gables.

While I sew, I’ve been listening to…

If I’m sewing or making something that has already been designed I’ll listen to BBC Radio 4- my Blighty quilt from Hearty Good Wishes was inspired by the shipping forecast!


Or I’ll watch a cheesy romantic comedy on Netflix. However, if I’m designing then only silence will do.

Janet’s 3 Top Tips for Being Creative

1. Authenticity is magnetic. If you want to succeed you must stop looking at and worrying about what everyone else is doing and just do your own thing. This is much harder than it sounds (and I fail at it regularly) but it really is the only way to get your voice heard. That voice has to be unique. So, write what you want to write and share what you genuinely want to share and your audience will find you.

2. Keep inspired. Again, often harder than it sounds but try and make time to play with your craft materials, experiment, see shows, read, look at Pinterest, go charity shopping and keep that ‘well’ topped up with ideas. Also, you need to be creative every single day- some days this means re-arranging a shelf after you’ve dusted it but as Alice Walker said ‘Whenever you are creating beauty around you, you are restoring your own soul’. I really believe that you have to nurture and cherish your creativity: ignoring it or denying it for too long might make it leave you altogether.

3. But the very best thing I ever did to help with creativity and productivity is to make my artisan apron - my work uniform. I put it on when I intend to design and work and take it off when I’m finished for the day. Everyone knows (including me!) that if I’m wearing my apron I’m working. Invaluable for a stay at home Mum of two boys and a big black dog whose day could easily be swallowed by chores and not by my design work.


Visit Janet's blog to read more about her and her work, or head to her shop to check out her books and sewing patterns. You can also find her on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook and Pinterest.

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

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

Thursday 18 December 2014

Mini Knitting!

I was having a tidy up yesterday and found a bit of mini knitting I did a while ago...

... the "knitting needles" are cocktail sticks and the "yarn" is embroidery thread!

The finished knitting is really quite teeny, just an inch across.

I knitted this while testing out some ideas for a secret project. I ended up not using the mini knitting in the project as though it's super cute it was a total pain to knit... but it seemed wrong to just unravel it without taking a photo first! :)

Wednesday 17 December 2014

Meet My Sponsors: December

Time to meet my current 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 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:

AnnyMay Craft Supplies specialise in eco friendly, natural and colourful supplies, and all their orders are shipped in eco friendly packaging.

At The Kitchen Table Business Academy you'll find courses, workshops, e-books, workbooks and lots of free hints, tips and advice for turning your passion into a money-making business:

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

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

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:

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

P.S. I'm taking a break from selling blog ads (click here for more information). Many thanks to all my sponsors past & present who have helped support my blog!