Friday 27 March 2015

A Scrappy Cross Stitch Project

I've been working on lots of stitch-y projects this month...

... a rose cross stitch pattern, a floral embroidery pattern, and some secret stitching that I can't show you yet.

When you do any kind of sewing project you always end up with lots of scrappy bits of thread left over. Most of the time these are teeny little unusable scraps, but sometimes they're long enough to stitch a few stitches but are still not really worth keeping.

In the spirit of "waste not want not", last year I decided to make use of the second type of scraps - using the left over bits of embroidery thread to cross stitch a kind of mini patchwork quilt.

This is proving to be quite a fun project!

It's like a mini version of my patchwork blanket, where I'm slowly knitting squares from yarn left over from other knitting projects. I choose where to sew each colour of embroidery thread, of course, but the colours I'm using and the size of the shapes I'm cross stitching are totally determined by what scrappy bits of thread happen to be left over from the other projects I've been working on.

I love how the pattern is growing slowly, randomly and organically as I do more embroidery and gradually collect more scraps of thread to add to it. It's also great to be making something with these small pieces of embroidery thread that would otherwise have been thrown away.

Do you do anything with your scrap threads? 

Wednesday 25 March 2015

HMS Belfast & St Katharine Docks

I've not blogged about many Nice Days Out recently but I have been going on them, I swear!

I've been making the most of my treat-to-myself membership of Kew Gardens (so wonderful), I've met up with a couple of crafty chums for tea and much nattering, and I've been to a few great exhibitions: Sherlock Holmes: the man who never lived and will never die at the Museum of London, Sargent: portraits of artists and friends at the National Portrait Gallery,and Magnificent Obsessions: the artist as collector at the Barbican.

The Sherlock Holmes exhibition was fascinating and jam-packed with interesting, thoughtfully presented things connected to the character and his creator, to the stories and TV shows and to Victorian London, the city that provided the backdrop for most of the tales. Some of the paintings in the Sargent exhibition were so enchanting, I could have stood and looked at them for hours. But my fave exhibition of the year so far has to be Magnificent Obsessions - so many varied, quirky collections! So much to see and think about re: art and inspiration and obsession!

I also spent a fabulous couple of hours visiting St Paul's Cathedral, the highlight of which was climbing to the top of the dome and looking out over London. Sadly my camera died when I reached the top but a kind fellow tourist took one of my business cards and emailed me some of her photos as a memento of the day. So nice! Fantastic views, an iconic building and the kindness of a stranger, what a great combo.

You can see the amazing views here (sunrise) and here (sunset)... or, of course, by visiting the Cathedral yourself and climbing the 528 steps to the Golden Gallery.

Another incredible space I visited recently was HMS Belfast - a former Royal Navy cruiser now permanently moored by Tower Bridge. This time I remembered to a) take my camera with me and b) charge it before I left for the day! (Hurrah!)


The HMS Belfast (like St Paul's) is one of the places where you can currently get discounted entry with an Art Pass. I had totally thought to myself "well, I might as well go and have a quick look round, seeing as it's half price with my Art Pass" and had planned to hop on the Tube afterwards to go somewhere else in the afternoon... and then I spent over three hours exploring all nine decks of the ship, climbing up and down ladders and peering into cabins, listening to all the stories on the audio guide, saying "wow!" a lot and being generally quite overwhelmed at how awesome it was.

After spending aaaaages happily looking round the Belfast, I had a late lunch (sadly the cafe on board is only open at the weekend - bear this in mind if you're planning a visit!) then went for a walk along the river...

This is Hay's Galleria, on the site of the now-filled-in Hay's Wharf - the dock itself (where merchant ships would arrive, filled with tea) is now filled in, the tea warehouses are offices and shops and the whole space has been given a fabulous glass roof.


The view across the river:


 I loved this sculpture!

The Tower of London and Tower Bridge:


An old postbox by the bridge:

After reaching Tower Bridge I had planned to walk across it, but on a whim decided to keep walking along the riverfront and I'm glad I did as I not only got to tour a bit of the river I'd not been to before but also stumbled across a make-up advert being filmed which is not something you see every day! 

I walked down to the Design Museum and had a look round their fab shop...


... and enjoyed the peace and quiet and quirky sights of assorted wharfs and converted warehouses.

Then I headed back to Tower Bridge...

... crossing over to the other bank...


... to visit St Katharine Docks, a smart marina tucked away next to the Tower of London.


St Katharine Docks is one of those slightly hidden places that's easy to miss when you first walk past - because of this, though it's right by the Tower and the bustle of all the tourists, it's quiet and peaceful and a lovely place for a walk and a quiet cuppa. Even the Starbucks is a bit posh (and much quieter than the tourist-packed branches nearby).

After admiring all the boats (and a couple of very fancy yachts!) I sat and had a cuppa and a bit of cake and read my book until the spring light faded to dusk and it was time to head home.

I suppose I ought to plan some non-London-based days out sometime soon but, ah, there is just so much to see in this city!

Monday 23 March 2015

Hot Air Balloons in Love Sewing Australia Magazine

Regular readers might remember this project I worked on for Crafty Magazine just over a year ago - a tutorial for decorating plain tape measures to look like cute little hot air balloons.

Well, I got a lovely email out of the blue last week from Trixi (who shares lots of fun tutorials on her blog Coloured Buttons and was one of my guest posters a few years ago) mentioning she'd seen my hot air balloons in the current issue of Love Sewing Australia.
This was a very nice surprise - especially as they'd made the cover!

Here are a couple of peeks at the project pages from inside the magazine:

Me and my work featured in a magazine on the other side of the world? A very nice surprise, indeed!

Friday 20 March 2015

Crafty Ladies: Meet Laura Harris

Say hello to another Crafty Lady - Laura from Laurafallulah

Laura's shop is filled with pretty, colourful, vintage-inspired jewellery and accessories. I especially love her stylish felt flower brooches!

Laura & I have been crafty chums since the early days of Etsy and it's been lovely seeing her shop develop over the years and to meet up from time to time to chat about the ups and downs of making and selling and being your own boss.


Hiya, I am Laura also known as Fallulah, hence the Laurafallulah.

I am a designer/maker from SE London who uses my interest in vintage design along with my love of bright colours and bold pattern to create fun individual accessories. I work from the spare room in my flat, which I share with my partner Richard, although I can often be found stitching on the sofa in front of the telly.

I spend my weekends walking, be it in near by Greenwich park or round galleries, and eating! I just love food and London has a great thriving street food market scene which I am gradually working my way round. I am also a member of our local cinema and the ICA so spend a lot of time watching all kinds of movies from arthouse to mainstream.

Recently I’ve been making…

I am currently working on new flower brooch designs to add to my classic collection as well as some new paper products to add to my Garden Party range which includes a few different cake topper designs. I like to have a range of things which are all year round items as well as a few seasonal things.

For summer I have a new range of jewellery based on the bright colours and intricate style of Papel Picado, Mexican paper cut banners. I love taking influences from all over and the mix of bold colours and patterns of Mexico really appeal to my taste.


I’ve been working on…

I have also been trying to spend some time working in my sketchbook on my drawing skills. I haven’t spent too much time perfecting my drawing recently as it is easy to get caught up in technology and the practical side of making. I would like to some day use more illustration in my work, but for now I am enjoying doing something a little different just for the sake of it.

I’ve been reading…

I love blogs, they really appeal to the nosy side of me as its like looking in on a little section of peoples lives. I have a few blogs that I have followed for years such as the classic design blog Decor8 and the lifestyle blog SFGirlbyBay . I have also more recently started loving the more journal type of blogs such as Dainty Squid and Skunk Boy, I love both of their mix of fashion, design and just life experiences.

I am also really interested in health and nutrition so I regularly catch up with Whole Heartedly Healthy and try out Lauras great recipes and health tips.

While I sew, I’ve been watching…

I will pretty much watch anything! I love all different kinds of TV and movies and can usually be found binge watching RuPauls Drag Race or The Office (an American Workplace).

I am not really the kind of person who can sit and do nothing so I frequently irritate my partner by punching confetti while we catch up on which ever latest American drama we are watching at the time. I also like catching up on some classic movies which I can’t believe I hadn’t seen like Fargo and City of God, which I saw recently and both of which I adored.

Laura’s 3 Top Tips for Running a Creative Business:

1. Inspiration: Sometimes it is hard to feel inspired when you work alone, my advice it to switch off the computer and get out, go for a walk, go to a exhibition, meet a friend for a cuppa. Sometimes technology can be as much of a hindrance to your creativity as it is a help. I love my computer as much as the next person but sometimes you just need to switch it off and talk to people in real life or see things in the flesh to get those creative juices flowing.

2. Comparison: So this is a kind of buzz phrase at the moment, the kind that pops up in your Pinterest front page about 10 times a day but “Comparison really is the thief of Joy”. This counts for all kinds of areas in life but definitely when running a creative business. Just do you, and do you to your best ability.

3. Take it easy on yourself: I know I struggle with this, sometimes beating myself up for not completing my to do list one day or worrying about where I am spending my money. From speaking to many people, who chose to work in the creative sector and specifically those of us who chose to work from home, it seems many of us suffer with anxiety. Try some mindfulness training, taking the issue, dealing with it (or not as the case may be) and then letting it go. It is a hard practice to get in to but it can make a huge difference to you work and also your work/life balance. Few things are unsolvable and most are not worth losing sleep over with worry. Easy to say, hard to do but working on it every day does wonders for your mental health.

Click here to visit Laura's shop and see her full range of pretty accessories. You'll also find her on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

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

Thursday 19 March 2015

Meet My Sponsors: March

It's time for my final "meet my sponsors" post!*
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:

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

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:

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

* I'm taking a break from selling blog ads. Many thanks to all my sponsors past & present who have helped support my blog over the past couple of years xx

P.S. When the last of my sponsor ads have vanished I'll be giving my blog a bit of a revamp, switching things about in my sidebars etc, so please don't worry if you check my blog one day in the next few weeks and see things looking a bit topsy turvy! :)

Wednesday 18 March 2015

Actually Finishing Things

So, last summer I started stitching a gorgeous rose from Eline Pellinkhof's book Stitch & Sew Home.


I started working on it in June and in July I wrote that " I just need to finish the butterfly and finish filling in the background"... and here it is about eight months later and I'm only just getting round to getting it done!

After the initial rush of excitement of working on a project it can be easy to neglect it and never actually finish it. In this case I'd stitched most of the design and had got "stuck" on the final steps because a) stitching lots of white was much less interesting to stitch than watching the pretty rose design appearing, b) I couldn't decide what colour floss to use for finishing the butterfly and c) I couldn't decide whether or not I wanted to stick with my plan to frame the rose in a hoop.

Picking it back up again this month I chose a floss colour for the butterfly within about a minute (maybe I have bought more floss since last summer??) and took only slightly longer to decide "to hoop or not to hoop".

Instead of adding some extra greenery to make the design work in a hoop I opted to unpick some of the background stitching I'd already added and stitch the original square background. Unpicking the stitches was fiddly work and took an absolute age, but it was worth it to get this project out of my WIP pile and closer towards being actually finished.

In Eline's book the design is for an embroidered cushion...

... but as I've stitched mine on a much smaller scale, I'll be making a mini cushion - maybe a lavender scented one?

First up: finally finishing stitching this pattern!

Monday 16 March 2015

My Books... in German and Italian!

I've got a fun bit of news to share today: my second book, Super-Cute Felt Animals has just been published in German as Super-süße Filzfreunde: 35 Lieblingstiere nähen und besticken:

And my first book, Super-Cute Felt, has been published in Italian as Feltro. 35 progetti step by step:
It's weird and exciting having something you've written translated into another language!

I'm really looking forward to getting copies of these editions and and seeing all the translated projects :)

Super-Cute Felt is also available in German (Lieblingsstücke aus Filz) and in Dutch (Creatief Met Vilt).

Friday 13 March 2015

Reading vs Crafting

Do you spend your spare time in the evenings reading? Or crafting? Or doing a bit of both?

I'd love to do both but I usually find that I'm so absorbed in a craft project that I sit happily stitching away (while watching a DVD box set or something good on the telly with my family) until it's time for bed (or way past my bedtime if it's a particularly exciting project!) and the books on my reading pile get a bit neglected.

Above: some of the current projects I've got in progress - embroidery, cross stitch and knitting.

I resolved to try and read more a couple of summers ago and I have definitely been finding more time to read since then - though my plan to blog about what I was reading kinda fizzled out! Oops.

But while I've been reading a bit on my Nice Days Out (train journeys are sooo much more interesting with a good book) at home I keep falling back into old habits and neglecting the interesting things I'm reading in favour of MAKING ALL THE THINGS or just doing a nice bit of colouring in to relax down after a busy day's work.

Above: testing felt tip pens ready to do some colouring-in.

There is nothing wrong with this, of course! Making stuff is awesome! Colouring in is super relaxing! But it does make me sad not to be reading as much as I'd like.

On my reading pile at the moment:

...The Knocker on Death's Door (a nice little whodunnit to read on the train)
... QED: The Strange Theory of Light & Matter (something science-y recommended by my dad)
... The Hare with Amber Eyes (the hare was part of the excellent Magnificent Obsessions exhibition I visited recently so now of course I wanna read the book)
... A Short History of Nearly Everything (I was reading this on trains last summer and really enjoying it, then I got a smaller bag that it didn't fit inside!)
... The Wealth & Poverty of Nations (an old fave that I started to reread to see if I wanted to get rid of it but am now continuing to read because it's great)
... Work/Life 2 (lots of great illustrators, very inspiring)
 ... Homeward Bound: Why Women are Embracing the New Domesticity (this is all about Etsy and blogging and women giving up their jobs to grow organic veg and homeschool their kids and it is soooo interesting)
... Studio Life: Rituals, Collections, Tools & Observations on the Artistic Process (I reviewed this recently, it's great and I want to read the rest of it!)
.. A History of the World in 100 Objects (I tried listening to the podcast version of this but my mind kept wandering, so I'm trying the book version instead and am looking forward to tracking down all 100 objects in the British Museum when I've finished)
... and an issue of UPPERCASE magazine (I treated myself to a whole stack of copies of this beautiful magazine last year, I just need to find the time to actually read them)

I want to read / finish reading all these things! And lots more!! 

So, this post is me resolving, again (re-resolving??) to try and carve out more time in my day for reading.

I'll let you know how it goes :)

Wednesday 11 March 2015

Made in Felt is back! Hurrah!

Remember Made in Felt?

It's one of those "special issue" bookazines that pop up in the newsagent from time to time, themed (as you might guess from the title) around felt crafting,... and a new issue has just been published!

I'm always happy to see this magazine as it's always gorgeous and filled with lots of fun and colourful felt projects - and you know I'm a big fan of all things felt-y. I've also been very lucky to have something of mine featured in each issue. This issue my owl ornaments make an appearance:


(If you fancy making your own owls you'll find the how to HERE.)

It's wonderful to have my work featured anywhere (big or small) but it's especially nice to see my felt-y creations in amongst felt-y awesomeness from so many great makers.

I particularly love these needle felted baking bears...


... these completely adorable slippers...


... this interview with Lucy Sparrow (creator of the amazing felt cornershop I visited last year)...


... and the cute as a button cover project designed by Manuela of i ManuFatti.

Manuela sells PDF patterns on Etsy and shares lots of free tutorials on her blog. She was also a guest blogger here on my blog last year, sharing a tutorial for a wonderful toadstool pincushion. I'm always delighted when I see people I "know" from the world of crafty blogging pop up in magazines, getting nice press features, etc. It is such a nice, happy feeling seeing people whose work you admire doing awesome things and getting recognised for their awesomeness.

So, I was already smiling to see Manuela's project on the cover and to read her interview...

... and then I spotted that she'd sweetly mentioned me and my blog! Such a nice surprise :)

Made in Felt is out now (I found a copy in my local branch of WHSmith). It's available to buy online here, with worldwide delivery.