Monday 31 August 2015

My Childhood Shell Collection

I collected a lot of stuff when I was a kid. If it was small and inexpensive I probably collected it at some point!

Postage stamps, erasers, badges, thimbles, weird looking rocks, novelty soaps, teeny little ornaments, pretty buttons, stickers, bath pearls... and much, much more. Some of my collections didn't last long, other grew and grew.

One thing I amassed quite a large collection of was sea shells:

Most of these were collected on days out at the beach, but a few were (I think) bought in gift shops at places like Butlins. You can probably spot the fancy bought-in-a-shop ones!

I found these 200+ shells in a box while doing some decluttering a while back. I don't "need" or even really want a box full of shells anymore, so these will be finding a new home very soon.

I'm going to keep a few to remind me of my shell-collecting days and many happy hours spent walking along beaches, and I'll have these photos to help me remember the whole collection.


They look rather pretty all laid out together, don't they?


Fancy a peek at some of my other childhood collections? I've also taken pics of my sticker album, my badge collection and my huge collection of novelty erasers.

Friday 28 August 2015

The Big Hoot: Owl-Spotting in Birmingham

For my summer holiday this year I spent a week in Birmingham. I'd planned lots of fun stuff to do during my trip (including visiting lots of museums and spending a crafty day at the Festival of Quilts)... but what I wasn't expecting was for the city to be full of giant owls!


It turns out that Birmingham has been fillwed with a flock of owl sculptures, for an art trail called The Big Hoot. Just like the Shaun in the City trail that I've enjoyed following in London & Bristol this year, the Big Hoot is a free trail of quirkily-decorated sculptures to raise money for charity.

89 giant owl sculptures are on display across Birmingham until 27th September, along with an assortment of smaller owls decorated by local schoolchildren (as part of The Little Hoot).

I resisted the urge to spend half my holiday following the trail (I know from my experience Shaun-spotting that I'd get hooked all too easily!) but I couldn't resist taking photos of all the owls that I spotted on my travels during the week. It was really lovely to see the different designs - they cheered up even the greyest of days - and it was great to see so many people (young and old) owl-spotting and takings lots of happy owl selfies.

Want to see some more giant owls? Of course you do! :)

As well as Wise Owl, New Street Flyer, Active Owl and Swirly Whirly Birmingham Owl-land (above), I also saw... 

Alf the Penguin Owl: 

Jewellery Owl and Ozzy's Owl:

Tick-Tock and Big Brown Inky Owl:

Re-tail and Our Happy Hospit-owl:


Lots of Little Hoots on display at Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery (so much fun!):

The Ship:


I See a Darkness and G'owl'd:






(I am slightly embarrassed to admit that I was a bit baffled by that owl being called "Selfie" but, of course, it's decorated just like the famous Selfridges store behind it. I clearly needed some more caffeine that morning!)

Starlight and Unity Within Diversity:


So many fun and colourful owls.

My favourites were this delighful two-sided design, The Owl and the Pussycat (so cute)...

... and the pretty, patterned, Bejewelled Owl (you guys know I'm a sucker for anything turquoise).


The Big Hoot runs until 27th September. Visit the website to see all the owls, get more info about the trail and download trail maps or the Big Hoot app so you can do some owl-spotting of your own!

Wednesday 26 August 2015

Stitching a Heart for the Craftivist Collective & Mollie Makes

If you're a Mollie Makes fan, maybe you've spotted the little something I stitched for the latest issue?

It's a felt heart for the Craftivist Collective's new Heart on your Sleeve campaign!

This campaign is such a fun idea: asking people to stitch green hearts with what they love, wear them and share them online as part of a positive, inspirational, creative conversation.

It was quite tricky choosing what to stitch for my heart, but after a purr-filled kitty cuddle during my tea break I realised I had to pick my cats! I love those little furballs so much.

Mollie Makes #57 is out now. You can read more about the Craftivist Collective on their website and you'll find them on social media as @craftivists.

Monday 24 August 2015

Summer Postcard Club

When Marceline from Asking for Trouble announced she was organising a Summer Postcard Club, I signed up straight away.

I have become a terribly lazy letter writer these days, but cards and postcards are so easy to send and such cheerful things to receive. There's nothing quite like a nice bit of proper post, is there? And surprise post = even better!

Here are the postcards I sent for the swap...


... featuring The Jolly Postman ("Everybody loves a letter"), William Holman Hunt's Strayed Sheep, a mixtape from The Emma Press, a quilt by Alicia Merrett and a room at the National Gallery.

I've received two postcards so far. One from Southampton:

And one with a felt bunny stitched on it! (So cute!)

It's also been fun seeing my postcards pop up on Twitter and Instagram as people share the cards they're sending and receiving.

You can see the postcards being swapped by checking out #summerpostcardclub on Twitter and on Instagram.  

Many thanks to Marceline for organising the swap! Signups for Summer Postcard Club are now closed for 2015, but maybe you could arrange a swap with your friends?

Friday 21 August 2015

A Walk Through Eton + The Eton College Natural History Museum

After starting my day in Windsor, after lunch I headed to Eton to continue exploring.

Eton is just a short walk from Windsor Castle (very convenient for a quick visit!). I walked down to the river, over Eton Bridge...

... and along Eton High Street, peering in the windows of the tailors and other shops.


After spotting several interesting post boxes that morning (two green ones and a blue airmail one) it was nice to spot this quirky design!

The college was closed for the summer holidays, so the streets and courtyards were filled with tourists instead of boys in their uniforms. It'd been a while since I last visited Eton, so it was great to rediscover the college's many charms. 

It is no overstatement to say this place is WONDERFUL. There are so many old and interesting buildings, with quirky little details and beautiful architectural features. Individually each building is lovely and collectively the whole place is quite magical. Wandering the courtyards you can't help but imagine what it must be like going to a boarding school like this! (Did you read boarding school novels when you were a kid? I read loads).


It's also quite similar to Oxford's older colleges, which gives you the slightly surreal feeling that you've walked through a portal from Windsor and magically ended up in Oxford (well, I felt like that, anyway! I may also have read a lot of books involving magic portals when I was a kid).


I also loved this little peaceful patch (of park? common? I'm not sure). Such a lovely place for a summer stroll.

My next stop was the college's Natural History Museum. Set up to enrich the boys' scientific education (at a school that traditionally focused heavily on Classics) the museum is open to visiting school groups by appointment and the general public on Sunday afternoons (2.30 - 5pm).


This museum is a delightful hidden gem!

It's a smallish space, two floors crammed with cabinets and display boards and interesting objects. Lots of old Etonians became scientists and/or travelled the world, and brought back collections which they later donated to the museum. There's a fabulous mix of things to see - including a collection of coral, a four-legged duck, tribal jewellery and weapons, a collection of model elephants and much more.

There's an obvious passion for making the exhibits come alive for visiting children with lots of fun facts to discover and little quizzes along the way, and the staff member on duty when I visited was very friendly and interested in whether I'd enjoyed my visit (I had).

One famous old Etonian was Sir Joseph Banks, who sailed on HMB Endeavour with Captain Cook. I loved the replica of his cabin on the Endeavour. There's also a small garden in the neighbouring courtyard "planted with species which includes direct descendants of plants brought back by Banks from that famous voyage."

It's definitely worth scheduling a visit to Windsor & Eton on a Sunday so you can pop in here.

After I'd finished looking round the museum I walked back to the river, finishing my day out with an icecream (Eton Mess flavour!) and a stroll along the Thames in the sunshine.

Wednesday 19 August 2015

Felt Fruit! Felt Ice Lollies! Felt Houses!

The current issue of docrafts Creativity magazine (#61) includes two felt-y projects designed by me...

There's a whole assortment of felt fruit...


 ... and phone cases decorated with felt ice lollies / ice creams!


I was chuffed to see they both made the magazine's contents page...


... and I was delighted to see the fruit popping up in promos for this month's issue on the docrafts Facebook page and the docrafts homepage.

These two projects were both fun to work on but the felt fruit was an especially enjoyable challenge. Making 3D shapes from flat pieces of felt can be tricky! And when you're making felt versions of real things that actually exist in the real world, the shapes have to be just right.


Unexpectedly, the kiwi fruit turned out to be trickiest to get right (I was totally expecting it to be the pear). One prototype was too round. One was too long. Then the third was just right. Phew! I did a highly embarrasing victory dance round the house when I'd finished that pattern.

After all that, I think the kiwi ended up being my favourite :)

Luckily for you, you don't need to faff about making prototypes and muttering curses under your breath when the shapes turn out all wonky... as all the pattern pieces are included in the back of the magazine.

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

While we're chatting about magazines, the fun felt houses tutorial I designed for Creativity #58 is now available online here.  There are step by step instructions for making the houses, plus some helpful stitching guides provided by the nice folks at docrafts. You'll need to sign up to the site to download the templates, but it's free to join.

Also, is it too early to whisper the word "Christmas"? If you think it is, look away now!

The felt Christmas stocking tutorial I designed for Tuts+ got a lovely mention in the Bustle & Sew 2015 Christmas collection - a digital magazine jam-packed with festive goodness. "More than just a collection of patterns, there’s lots more to discover between the covers of this year’s Christmas special which runs to an enormouse 85 pages in total!  There are nine lovely Bustle & Sew patterns (all those featured on the cover), recipes and articles too – so there’s plenty to enjoy in between planning your Christmas stitching."

You can read more info about the Christmas collection, and flick through a preview of it here. You can find my free Christmas stocking tutorial here