Monday 29 June 2015

Craft Supplies in Need of a Good Home

It's destash time again!

I'm clearing out a whole bunch of crafty supplies, gradually getting them photographed, measured, weighed and listed in my Etsy shop.

There are packs of colourful ribbons...

... felt beads...

... fabric scrap packs...

... buttons...

... craft books (including books in German and Dutch)...

...felt scraps...

... bits of pretty fabric...

... colourful felted sweater pieces...

... and more!

Visit the destash craft supplies section of my shop to see everything that's currently listed. If you buy something and later see something else you fancy (and I've not yet shipped your order) I'll refund any excess postage :)

P.S. You'll also find lots of bargain felt brooches and ornaments in my sample sale.

Wednesday 24 June 2015

The Amazingness that was London Craft Week: Part One

I can't remember exactly where I heard about London Craft Week, but it sounded like just my cup of tea.

A new annual event to showcase and celebrate craftmanship? Fantastic! I signed up to the newsletter, pencilled the dates in my diary (Thurs 6th - Sun 10th May) then postively drooled over the programme when it arrived.

Aside from being pretty gorgeous itself (always a good sign), the programme was jam packed with awesome-looking events. There were going to be talks, workshops, demonstrations, tours, open studios and exhibitions featuring a huge range of different craftspeople: watchmakers, tailors, jewellers, fashion and textile designers, bootmakers, engravers, hat makers, perfumers, glassblowers, ceramacists, print makers, costumiers, weavers, silversmiths, gun makers, bookbinders and more.

I knew the week was going to be something special but I was unprepared for just how wonderful it was.

All the venues were buzzing with people visiting, asking questions and oohing over the gorgeous pieces on display. Seeing so much incredible, intricate, beautiful craftsmanship up close was a joy, learning about so many different crafts was fascinating and getting to peek behind the scenes and visit workspaces and studios was totally thrilling. But above all it was just incredibly inspiring to meet and chat to so many makers. Everyone was so welcoming and friendly and excited to share stories about their work - and they had such interesting stories to tell!

I have to admit to feeling a teeny bit nervous about entering some of the spaces where the events were being held. I do not normally hang out in the luxury shops on Bond Street! Or visit tailors on Savile Row! Chatting to some of the other visitors I discovered it definitely wasn't just me who felt a bit nervous about this... but it was, of course, fine and we were all made to feel totally welcome.

Similarly, I felt a bit embarrassed at first to admit what I did for a living when meeting these "proper" craftspeople: "oh hello skilled craftsperson who trained for years to make these amazing luxury objects, I, er, sew small things out of felt!" But everyone was so nice and it turns out that makers are makers no matter what craft we specialise in: we're all connected by our passion for creating things. Again and again people mentioned situations and feelings that I recognised from my own job and I got into so many great conversations about making, inspiration, the ups and downs of the creative life, etc, it was hugely inspiring. 

Honestly, the whole thing was so wonderful I felt slightly overwhelmed (in the best possible way) and nearly cried with happiness on my way home (okay so that might have partly been due to exhaustion after dashing around for two days straight trying to see everything I possibly could and staying up until the wee small hours in between on election night!).

Right, that's enough waffling about all my OMG CRAFTING IS SO AWESOME feelings. Time to share some photos!

Thursday's events were clustered in central London, around Bond Street and Piccadilly, which made it really easy to walk between the venues (stopping for tea and cake at intervals along the way, of course). The whole area was full of people wandering round clutching their London Craft Week programmes, chatting happily with each other and taking lots of photos (there was a lot of Instagram-ing happening!).

My first stop was visiting Caroline Groves who designs and makes incredible bespoke shoes and handbags - and whose incredible parakeet shoes are included in the new shoe exhibition at the V&A. I especially loved this bag, which was inspired by a Victorian photo album.

Next I headed to St James' Church, where Catarina Riccabona was busy weaving. It was slightly surreal to find a loom in the middle of a church, but very cool. Catarina was one of a group of craftspeople who took part in Made of Mayfair, where a group of makers took a walk through Mayfair then made work inspired by things they saw along the way. Catarina chose the carvings behind the altar at St James' as her inspiration - aren't they gorgeous?

Just along the road from St James' is legendary store Fortnum & Mason, where I oohed over an showcase of gorgeous craft work. There was a whole schedule of demonstrations at Fortnums during London Craft Week but I totally failed to make it to any of them. I'm glad to have seen the showcase though, and I really enjoyed reading the little blurbs about each of the makers and their work.


My next stop was the Italian fashion house Etro. After swooning slightly over the beautiful clothes I headed upstairs to see artist Mr Maury at work hand painting one of Etro's signature paisley designs...

... click here for a closer look - the detail was incredible!

A few doors down, I visited Swiss watchmakers Vacheron Constantin where a watchmaker and hand-engraver were demonstrating their skills. It was amazing to see all the tiny pieces that make up the watches and fascinating to hear stories of special watches and expensive watch repairs (top tip: don't leave your fancy watch in your trouser pocket when you do your laundry).

They had a camera set up so you could see the engraver's work on a big screen and see just how tiny and detailed it was. Look at these teeny letters- each one is just half a millimetre across!


You can see videos of the crafts that go into making Vacheron Constantin watches here.

Over the road at DAKS, Daniel from the London Cloth Company was demonstrating power-loom weaving and chatting about his growing collection of rescued machinery, his gorgeous bespoke cloth, and the ups and downs of running a business when it's just you and the cat (and "the cat is not pulling his weight").


You can see a short video of the (noisy!) loom in action here.

Next I called in at LINLEY to see a demonstration of their fabulously intricate marquetry...

... then decided it was time for lunch. Yup, all that crafty goodness and it was only lunchtime!

You can read about more London Craft Week awesomeness in part two.

Monday 22 June 2015

How To: Felt Swan Brooches (or Swan Collar Clips!)

Have you heard of Swan Upping?

It's a historic ceremony dating from the 12th Century, where the Queen's Swan Marker and the Royal Swan Uppers row down the Thames to conduct an annual census of the swan population. They wear traditional red uniforms, row traditional wooden boats, and (as they pass Windsor Castle) stand to attention and salute "Her Majesty The Queen, Seigneur of the Swans".

My hometown is one of the places on the Swan Upper's route each July, but I've never actually witnessed it. I'm hoping to change that this year, and have got the date marked in my diary with a firmly worded Note To Self to make sure I'm not busy with work (like I sadly was last year). I'm rather looking forward to it!

Why am I talking about Swan Upping, you wonder? Well, it's because today I'm sharing a tutorial for making a little swan (or two) out of felt :)

This tutorial originally appeared in a bookazine called Adorable Animals, last year. It was designed as a tutorial for making cute swan collar clips but if you don’t fancy the idea of collar clips (or, like me, just don’t own many clothes with collars) you can just make a single swan and wear it as a brooch.

I chose light blue as a background to my swans as the white and orange both show up clearly against it and it looks like the swan is gliding on some water... but if you're making these to wear with a favourite outfit you could use backing felt that matches your garment instead.

You will need:

The template provided at the bottom of this post
White felt
Light blue felt
1 or 2 black seed beads (size 9/0) (one bead per swan)
White, black and light blue sewing thread
Orange and black embroidery thread
One or two brooch clasps (one per swan)
A needle and sewing scissors

Plus (if you're making the collar clips) small pliers and a length of jewellery chain (at least 11cm)

I recommend using embroidery scissors to cut out the felt shapes - the small, sharp blades are perfect for cutting out small or intricate pieces of felt.

To make the swans:

1. Use the template provided to cut out two swans from white felt, reversing the template to cut the second swan. Sew each swan onto a piece of light blue felt, using white thread and small whip stitches.

2. Cut a length of orange embroidery thread and separate two strands from the rest. Use these two strands to stitch the swan’s beak, starting with a line sewn at an angle to mark the end of the beak (as pictured) then filling in the beak with a series of single stitches. Sew over the white felt until it’s covered, starting and finishing each stitch flush with the edge of the white felt and sewing the stitches close together to create a solid block of orange.

Repeat this step for the second swan.


3. Cut a length of black embroidery thread and separate two strands, as before. Sew three stitches at the end of the swan’s beak, marking out a triangle (as pictured) then fill in the triangle with more stitches. Make sure you leave space to add the swan’s eye in the next step!

Then sew a small black stitch on the orange beak as pictured – in line with the top of the beak, and close to the wide end. Take care not to pull it too tightly and distort the orange stitches.

Repeat this step for the second swan – the swans should be roughly symmetrical but don’t worry if they look a little different!

4. Add a black seed bead eye to each swan, sewing each bead flat like an o with three or four stitches. Each eye should be positioned at the point of the black triangle, as pictured.


5. Cut out both swans, so they are framed by a few millimetres of blue felt. Use the newly cut out shapes as templates to cut matching pieces of felt – these will be the back of the clips/brooches.


6. Turn over the backing pieces of felt. Add a brooch clasp to each shape near the top of the swan’s body, making sure you leave space to sew around the edge of the felt later. Sew the clasps in place with a double thickness of matching blue sewing thread.


(If you're just making a swan brooch, skip to step 9)

7. Use a pair of small pliers to cut a length of jewellery chain approx. 11cm long (or sized to suit your collars).


8. Place the swan backs in front of you so they are facing each other. Hold one end of the chain in position (just under the “inside” end of the brooch clasp, as pictured) and use a double thickness of blue thread to securely sew the end link of the chain to the felt.  Repeat to sew the other end in position on the second swan back, joining the swans together.

Tip: When sewing the chain to the second swan, make sure the chain isn’t twisted!


9. Place the front and back of one of the swans together, and sew around the edge with blanket stitch (or whip stitch) and light blue thread. Lift the chain out of the way as you sew past it. Finish your stitching neatly at the back, then repeat this step to finish the second swan.


Click here to view the template sheet & print it at 100%.

This tutorial is for personal use only: you can use it to stitch as many swans as you want for yourself or as gifts, but please don't make any for sale. You may borrow a few photos 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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Tuesday 16 June 2015

A Patchwork Cross Stitch Update + Sewing in Italiano

Remember my patchwork cross stitch project?

I'm using small pieces of embroidery thread left over from other projects to stitch a mini patchwork "quilt" of random, colourful blocks.

 Here's how it looks at the moment:

It's great to be able to use up these scrappy bits of thread instead of just throwing them away, and it's a lot of fun seeing this develop organically as the months go by.

In other news, I got an excellent bit of post yesterday: a copy of the Italian edition of my first book! 

I'd been meaning to get a copy of this (and the German edition of my second book, which I blogged about the other day) for a while now but only just got round to ticking "buy those books!" off my To Do list.

It's really nice having these different editions sitting on on my bookshelf (the part of my bookcase which we jokingly refer to as my "ego shelf" as it contains my press clippings / portfolio folders plus all the books I've contributed to over the years)... but it's even nicer to think of all the happy felt-y things that will be being sewn in Germany & Italy because of them :)

Friday 12 June 2015

Spot the Difference!

Can you spot the difference between these two copies of my second book, Super-Cute Felt Animals?

... yup, that's right, one of them is in German!


My first book, Super-Cute Felt has been translated into German, Dutch and Italian but each of those editions had a slightly different look than the original English edition (a hardback instead of a paperback, a slightly different cover, etc).

This time round though, Super-süße Filzfreunde: 35 Lieblingstiere nähen und besticken is almost identical - apart from being in a different language, of course! - which made it extra surreal to flick through when I got hold of a copy this week.


Most of the animals in the book have names - you can make "Frida the Forgetful Frog", "Lucy the Laughing Snail", "Sidney the Fluffy Squirrel", and so on. It's really fun to see the different names the animals have been given in this new edition!

For example, you can sew "Frieda, das fröhliche Flusspferd", "Gwendolin, die hungrige Giraffe", "Isidor, der glückliche Igel" and "Klara, die kichernde Krabbe":

 I also loved seeing the different animal sounds in the speech bubbles that are dotted through the book:

Wuff! Wuff! (instead of Woof! Woof! in the English edition)

Ruu-kuuhh! (Coo! Coo!)

Piep! Piep! (Cheep! Cheep!)

Schnapp! (Snap!)


Fancy making your own felt animals? Super-Cute Felt Animals is available to buy from Amazon UK, Amazon USA, The Book Depository and many other bookshops. Super-süße Filzfreunde is available from Amazon UK and Amazon DE and (hopefully!) many German bookshops :)

P.S. when the book came out I shared a series of free projects to mix and match with the designs in Super-Cute Felt Animals. You can find all the tutorials here.

Please note: the Amazon UK & USA links & Book Depository links in this post are affiliate links.