Saturday 30 May 2015

You Never Know What a Blog Post Will Lead To...

It's just two weeks until Blogtacular - an awesome-looking conference for creative bloggers. I treated myself to a ticket last year and have been looking forward to it ever since (especially after it was announced that Grace Bonney will be the keynote speaker!)

With the conference looming I've been thinking a lot about blogging: why I do it, what I enjoy most about it, where I see my blog heading in the coming months, and so on. Despite an attack of imposter syndrome and occasional patches of blogger's block I've loved my 8+ years of blogging and all the inspiration, connections, friendships and unexpected opportunities that have come along with it.

One very unexpected thing that happened this month was that I did some decluttering, blogged about my childhood eraser collection... and ended up having the collection featured in Mollie Makes!

It is thrilling (if slightly surreal) to have one of my childhood collections in print in one of my favourite crafty magazines - especially as I originally wrote the blog post thinking "this is a bit of a random thing to be blogging about, I wonder if anyone will be remotely interested in this???"

I'm delighted that so many people will get to bask in the glory of my collection (haha) and I hope it sparks lots of nostalgic conversations about the things they all collected as kids.

It just goes to show that you never know what will happen when you press "publish" on a new blog post!

My eraser collection is featured in the current issue of Mollie Makes (#54). Click here for a preview and for stockist info.

Wednesday 27 May 2015

How To: Make a Folk Flower Brooch from Felt & Fabric

Time for another tutorial! Hurrah!

Today I'm sharing an easy how to for making a pretty floral brooch from felt and fabric.

folk floral brooch

This project originally appeared in docrafts Creativity magazine, last spring, using felt and fabric from the docrafts range. I love this little trio of flowers! They're simple but sweet and would be a great way to add a pop of colour to a spring/summer outfit.

I've written the instructions for making the brooch in the colours pictured (red flowers, green leaves, yellow background, dark blue fabric) but you can of course use any colours you fancy! Just swap my suggested colours for yours when following the instructions.

Any small print fabric would work well for the background - or you could use a plain fabric or another shade of felt instead. Make sure your chosen fabric/felt contrasts nicely with the colours you've chosen for your flowers and leaves, so they stand out clearly.

folk floral tulips brooch

You will need:

- the templates provided at the bottom of this post
- small pieces of red and green felt for the flowers and leaves
- yellow felt to frame and back the brooch
- dark blue fabric for the background
- sewing thread to match the fabric (dark blue) and all three shades of felt (red, green, yellow)
- green embroidery thread (floss) to match the leaves
- brooch clasp
- sewing scissors
- sewing needles and pins
- iron-on fusible interfacing, iron and ironing board
- optional: tracing paper

To make the brooch:

1. Use the templates provided to cut out three red felt flowers and two green felt leaves.

2. Add iron-on fusible interfacing to the back of your chosen fabric, following the manufacturer's instructions. This will help prevent the edges of your fabric from fraying. If you're using felt instead of fabric, skip this step.

3. Use the oval template to cut out the fabric piece. For added neatness if you're using a patterned fabric, cut your oval template from tracing paper so you can carefully position the template on exactly the bit of pattern you want to cut out.

4. Pin the fabric oval onto a piece of yellow felt. Then use matching dark blue sewing thread to sew the fabric in place, sewing around the edge of the oval with running stitch.

5. Sew the leaves and flowers to the oval as pictured using running stitch and matching green and red sewing threads.

6. Cut a piece of green embroidery thread and separate half the strands (so for six-stranded thread use three strands). Switch to a larger needle if needed and use backstitch to embroider the flower stems. Sew the straight central stem first then sew the other two stems.

Tip: when stitching the two outer stems, I started from the bottom point of each flower then stitched down towards the leaves.

7. Cut the brooch shape out from the yellow backing felt, leaving a narrow yellow border around the fabric oval (as pictured). Then use the oval you’ve just cut out as a template to cut a matching oval from more yellow felt.

8. Turn over the second oval and sew a brooch clasp to the back using a double thickness of yellow sewing thread.

9. Place the front and back of your brooch together (right sides facing outwards) and sew them together with more yellow thread, sewing a line of running stitch flush with the edge of the fabric oval. Finish your stitching neatly at the back.

flower brooch made from felt and fabric

UPDATE: I've adapted this design to make a floral embroidery pattern!

Click here to view the template sheet, make sure you're viewing it full size then print it at 100%.

templates for sewing a felt flower brooch

This tutorial is for personal use only: you can use it to stitch as many brooches as you want for yourself or as gifts, but please don't make any for sale. You may borrow a photo if you want to blog about this project, but remember to credit me and link back to the original source, and do not reproduce my entire post or share the pattern itself on your site. Thanks!

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felt flower brooch tutorial

Sunday 24 May 2015

Re-Starting a Neglected Project: a Woodland Cushion!

If you're anything like me you've got several works-in-progress that are not so much "in progress" as they are "massively neglected and currently shoved in a box or under the bed gathering dust".  

One of the downsides of blogging is that you've got a public record of exactly when you started all those projects that are sitting round your house still not finished. It can be quite embarrassing to realise just how many months and years have past since you first started making X item with huge enthusiasm... doubly so when you re-start a project and have to blog about it again while admitting just how long you've gone without working on it!

Waaaay back in 2012 I bought some yarn for making a new project. About a year later (Sept 2013) I finally bought the knitting pattern I wanted and started knitting: using the Woodsy Association knitting patterns from Tiny Owl Knits (cute wristlets decorated with woodland animals) to make a knitted patchwork cushion for my mum.

Blogging about my plans for the project, I wrote: "I've got no idea how long it'll take me to get the whole cushion made (I have told my mum that this is a present for her "at some point", could be Christmas or her birthday or maybe even Christmas next year!) but I'm really looking forward to seeing it develop and to stitching all those cute little animal faces" 

Aaaaand here it is, May 2015, and I've really not made much progress. Oops. I am a terrible daughter!

I've (finally) bought the missing shade of yarn that was out of stock when I placed my original order in 2012...

... knitted a few "squares" (they're not actually square but that's what I'm calling them in my head so shhh)...

... and (mostly) finished stitching the first pair of animals...

 ... but there's still a long way to go.

So, I'm resolving to get this finished by Christmas 2015 at the very latest so my mama can finally have some woodland cuteness for her sofa. Wish me luck!

Thursday 21 May 2015

Decluttering and Treasure-Hunting

I am sloooooowly recovering from a horrid bug which has left me feeling quite wobbly and rather foggy-brained... and without a lot of energy for working or making (or blogging). 

It is very frustrating not being able to charge through my To Do list like normal. In the meantime, to make myself useful I have been doing lots of time-consuming-but-not-terribly-complicated tasks like properly filing stacks of paperwork and tidying up boxes of supplies in my studio. My workspace is going to be wonderfully well organised by the time I get back to my regular working schedule!

I've also slowly been doing some more decluttering. After struggling to finish my Less 365 Project last year I've been amazed by the amount of stuff I've managed to clear out this spring (or, at least, add to the pile in the corner of my room that'll be getting charity-shopped once I've recovered from this bug!).

I've been keeping a list (because I am a giant nerd and I love a nice list) and have decluttered 73 things so far - some big (cushions, double-bed sized blankets, stacks of magazines, etc) and some small (brooches, toys from Christmas crackers, fridge magnets, etc). As always, it feels pretty fantastic to realise "I don't need/want/love this anymore!" and to be finding new homes for all these unwanted things.

As well as sorting through my own stuff, I've been helping my mum sort through boxes of old books, toys and trinkets tucked away in the attic years ago. These boxes are like timecapsules and going through them has totally transported me back to my childhood.

I couldn't resist taking some photos of these She-Ra: Princess of Power books - I read them sooooo many times! My sisters and I were big fans of She-Ra (and Jem & the Holograms, of course).

It's been fun revisiting these old favourites, but also weird re-discovering things I loved as a kid but had totally forgotten about until this week. Like these guys:


Keypers! Remember them? They came with a key and had a "secret" compartment to keep your treasures safe. Such fun.

My sisters and I each had one of these - mine was the snail. Here are the "treasures" I had hidden inside when it got packed away many years ago...

I'm rather looking forward to sorting through the rest of the boxes in the attic - I wonder what other long-forgotten treasures we'll find?

Sunday 17 May 2015

A Springtime Stroll through Henley-on-Thames

After a couple of very busy Nice Days Out, I wanted something a bit more chilled out for my next day off... so I had a lovely long lie-in then took myself and a good book off to Henley-on-Thames.

Henley is quite local to me, but is one of those places I'd never been to before starting on my Nice Day Out trips. Last time I visited it was winter, the river was very high and there was actually a lot of flooding a few days later. This time round spring was in full bloom and the whole town was looking rather lovely. The perfect backdrop for a relaxing day off!

I started at the River and Rowing Museum, which is free to visit with an Art Pass (and how I found out about the Art Pass in the first place - hurrah for museum websites that actually tell you about available discounts).

I've explored the museum before, but wanted to go back to see their current exhibitions - wonderful illustrations by Arthur Rackham, some gorgeous handmade furniture, and a fab collection of photos of artists and craftspeople working in their studios. All good stuff! It was also a joy to revisit the delightful Wind in the Willows exhibit where the story is told with charming models.

I then walked along the river towards the town centre...


... enjoying all the riverside sights, including a nesting swan complete with "do not disturb" sign!


After lunch I strolled around the town, admiring the old buildings and the assortment of colourful front doors, and popping into lots of bookshops, art galleries and and charity shops along the way.


I also called in at the Old Fire Station...


... which has been converted into a gallery space, then hosting the local Craft Guild's spring exhibition. Always nice to be able to squeeze in a bit of craftiness to my days out!

Finally, I retired to a cafe with my book for a leisurely cuppa and tasty piece of cake before heading homewards.

Friday 15 May 2015

Getting Creative with Buttons, Felt & Mini Pompoms

This week has been a bit of a quiet one. I had lots of fun stuff planned, and lots of work and blogging projects to get ticked off my To Do list... then I came down with the bug that's been doing the rounds in our house! Ugh.

So instead of Getting Stuff Done I've mostly been putting Getting Some Rest... which does not make for super-interesting blog posts! :)

I'm on the mend now (hurrah) but still a bit wobbly and taking things easy. While I'm slowly catching up with my emails, etc, here's a peek at something I made earlier this spring: a couple of projects for docrafts Creativity magazine (#58).

If you look closely, you can spot them on the cover...

 ... it's always thrilling when an editor selects your project(s) for the cover, even if it's just the teeniest of photos. It's also quite hard to resist saying "I made that!!" to total strangers browsing the magazine section when you're in the newsagent.

My projects in this issue?

A cushion decorated with felt and pretty fabric-covered buttons:


And a whole village of felt houses:

The houses were an absolute delight to sew - especially adding the mini pompoms.

I kinda want to decorate everything with mini pompoms now, they are so cute and cheerful!


Can't find docrafts Creativity Magazine in your local newsagent? You can subscribe here or buy individual issues here.

Sunday 10 May 2015

More Sheep! Plus a Visit to Carlyle's House

After my fun day following the Shaun in the City art trail, when I came to plan my next Nice Day Out I knew I wanted to fit in some more sheep-spotting!

So, I looked at my much-scribbled-on trail map, a tube map, and my looooooong list of "things it would be awesome to go and see in London sometime" and hopped on a train.

My first Shaun sculpture of the day (Lambmark Larry) was an easy one to tick off the trail map, as it's located on one of the platforms at Paddington station.... which just happens to be the last stop on my train into the city. Hurrah!


Next up was Paddington Shaun, which wasn't in the station itself but nearby at Paddington Basin - somewhere I'd never visited before. It had just started to rain, so my next few photos were taken from under my umbrella...


I loved the details on this one!


On the way back to Paddington station, I turned a corner and found myself in front of the Lindo Wing at St Mary's Hospital, where people were camping out in anticipation of the new royal baby's birth. I'd just been reading about them in the paper that morning, so it felt slightly surreal to stumble upon them (and lots of people from the press doing interviews).


Continuing with the royal theme, my next stop was St James's Park (near Buckingham Palace).

This was not the best time to be strolling around a park, as it was absolutely chucking it down with rain at this point and getting pretty windy, too. Brr.

I paused to ooh over this border filled with tulips (an absolute riot of colour, so beautiful)...

... then headed off to the end of the park where my map suggested the Shaun sculpture was located. I found Happy & Glorious eventually, quickly snapped some photos then headed back to the Tube as quickly as I could to get out of the rain. 


After spotting 27 sheep last time, these three brought my total up to a nice round 30. There're 20 more still to go, but the rest would have to wait as I had other stuff I wanted to visit.

The next stop on my "to see" list for the day was Carlyle's House, one of the National Trust properties that you can visit for free with an Art Pass. To get there, my plan was to get the Tube to Sloane Square and walk along the King's Road. I did do that, but I took an unplanned detour along the way: a visit to the Saatchi Gallery.


I'd never been to the Saatchi Gallery before as contemporary art is not usually my cup of tea, but I decided that it was silly to just walk straight past without taking a quick look round as it's free to visit... and I'm really glad I did. I happened to catch the Herm├Ęs Wanderland exhibition just before it ended, which turned out to be completely enchanting - a magical, Alice-in-Wonderland-like stroll through a series of delightfully surreal sets. I came out of the exhibition with a huge grin on my face and a spring in my step.

After my detour, my walk continued: passing lots of interesting buildings along the way, including Turner's studios.


Carlyle's House is tucked away in a quiet little street, and not signposted from the main road. This makes it a teeny bit hard to find (definitely take a map if you visit!) but adds to the feeling that this is a hidden gem, away from the hustle and bustle of London. 

This is one of those places that I would never have heard of, let alone visited, without my Art Pass. I've never read anything by Thomas Carlyle and didn't know much about him before my visit, but I found this a hugely enjoyable place to explore.

It was fascinating to learn about all the famous Victorian writers who were friends with the Carlyles and visited them in this house, and the volunteer guides were friendly and helpful, pointing out lots of interesting objects. The house became a place of literary pilgrimage shortly after Carlyle's death, with most of the contents preserved so there's lots to see in each room.

I also loved reading the extracts from Jane Carlyle's letters - she was hilarious! There's even a Twitter account devoted to her & her husband's letters. I am definitely adding a book of her selected letters to my reading list.

After I'd finished looking round Carlyle's House, there was just time for one more stop: a trip to the Natural History Museum to visit their Coral Reefs exhibition (half price with my Art Pass - woohoo!). This was utterly fascinating - coral is weird and amazing stuff.


Finally, I called in at the museum's gift shop before heading home and had a delightful surprise as I spotted a copy of my book, Super-Cute Felt Animals, on sale!

One of my books on sale in the bookshop at one of my all time favourite museums / places in London??? So exciting. I may have let out a small "eeep!" noise in the shop :)