Monday 28 March 2016

Nostalgia, Negatives and a New Project

I'm slooooowly editing lots of photos at the moment: some for blog posts about my Nice Days Out, some for a new Book of Craftiness... and some so I can get them professionally printed and put them in actual photo albums.

I've got half a shelf of photo albums but they pretty much stop at the date I bought my first digital camera (around when I left University... which was a while ago now!).

Digital photography is great. Of course it is. Instant photos? That I can easily edit and share? This is magical stuff!

But I can't help but miss the simpler days of finishing a roll of film, and taking it to the chemist (or popping it in the post in one of those pre-paid envelopes) then waiting for that exciting moment when you get to see how your snaps turned out.

Realistically I'm probably never going to go back to using a film camera (do local chemists even still offer cheap next day photo processing like they used to??).

During a recent bit of decluttering I even cleared out the box of negatives I'd been collecting for years "just in case" I wanted to reprint a photo or two. Guess what, younger self: you never, ever did.

Although I might not be able to go back in time or willing to give up the perks of all this shiny modern photo-taking tech, I can still have albums full of photos!

I've made a few photo books of special events (like my sister's wedding) over the years but I'm determined to gradually get my everyday snaps of family and friends and cats out of the (metaphorically) dusty depths of my laptop and printed and into the pages of an album or two.

I've been planning to do this for simply ages (literally years) but I am resolving to devote the time to making it actually happen this year.

Real photos, stuck on real pages with those lovely little old fashioned photo corners and handwritten captions to help me remember who was who and what was what.

What could be nicer than that?

Monday 21 March 2016

The Amazingness that was London Craft Week: Part Three

Today we're playing a fun game called "guess which blog post Laura thought she'd published months ago but actually was gathering virtual dust in her drafts folder this whole time". Yup, that's right, this one! Oops. Better late than never though, right? :)

So, a long long time ago (May of last year) I spent two amazing days zipping round London exploring the awesomeness of the first ever London Craft Week.

On the first day I met so many interesting people, chatted to loads of different makers about their work, oohed over some incredible craftsmanship and got to peek behind the scenes of some fascinating spaces, it was wonderful. (You can read all about what I got up to on the day one here and here).

After that busy day I made the not entirely sensible decision to stay up late watching the election coverage... then had trouble a) getting out of bed the following morning and b) tearing myself away from the news of the (dramatic!) results. I'm glad I did though, because day two of London Craft Week was jam-packed with great stuff.

Once I'd finally got up and on a train and into London, my first stop was Trunk Clothiers, where the founder of (ki:ts) was demonstrating the art of hand stitching leather and showcasing his (then) current belt collection. It was so interesting to see the work in progress.


Next door, jewellers Cox + Power were running an open house, so after admiring their collections in the shop visitors could see the workshop where all that loveliness gets made.

Something that came up again and again during London Craft Week was how today's fine craftsmen and women are creating inventive, modern pieces but drawing on traditions, skills and techniques that stretch back hundreds of years.

At Cox + Power it was fascinating to hear how little a jeweller's workspace and tools have changed over the centuries, and we had a great chat about makers and making and the things that connect us all (whether we're making fine jewellery or cute stuff from felt!).

Next I headed to Savoir Beds - whose tailormade beds were first created for The Savoy Hotel in 1905 - where a skilled (and hugely entertaining) craftsman was demonstrating the craft of mattress making. I was especially fascinated by the large half-moon shaped needles used for slip stitching.


My next stop was the Contemporary Ceramics Centre which includes an exhibition space and a shop filled with gorgeous ceramics. The Centre is just opposite the British Museum, but I had no idea it was there as I always approach the Museum from the other direction. I will definitely be taking a slight detour and popping in here again in future!


After oohing over the beautiful ceramics, I headed down the road to a shop that I'd walked past many times on my way to the British Museum but never visited before: Cornelisson & Son. This is a truly wonderful little shop! There are so many art supplies squeezed into the space, everywhere you look is a riot of colour and creative possibility.

They sell some very specialist supplies here, but lots of more accessible ones too. Even if you have no interest in art it's worth a visit, just to see the shop's original drawers and storage jars filled with a rainbow of pigment. If you are a creative type though (and if you're reading my blog, the chances are that you probably are) what a pleasure it would be to shop for even something as small as a new pencil sharpener in a place like this!

For London Craft Week, Cornelissen were running a series of free talks. I turned up just in time for the one on colour charts, which you might think wouldn't be that interesting but you'd be wrong. It was wonderful to be able to peek behind the scenes at the shop, hear about its history and the specialist colour charts they produce for their customers... and we were treated to lots of great anecdotes along the way.

After filling my brain and eyes with all things colour-related, I walked up the Tottenham Court Road to Heals where textile designer Gemma Kay Wagget was spending the afternoon demonstrating screen-printing and giving tips to people who wanted to try printing for themselves.

Sadly I missed the demonstration itself as Gemma was taking a well-earned break, but I picked up a lovely notebook she'd screenprinted and a copy of Hole & Corner - a beautiful magazine "celebrating craft, beauty, passion and skill".


On to my next stop: the British Library, where weavers from Dovecot Tapestry Studios were working on a hand loom and discussing their work. We didn't get a chance to talk about much though, as a very loud fire alarm went off and the building had to be evacuated! You can see a short video about one of their projects here and see more of their work here.

As the Library emptied out and the fire engines arrived (to what I'm guessing was a false alarm as they left again pretty soon afterwards!) I headed down the road to The Crypt Gallery, a unique and highly atmospheric exhibition space under St Pancras Church.

This was the venue for the MAKE / CREATE exhibition, a collaborative exhibition between fine artists and makers that explored the intersection between traditional craft and contemporary art. I'm not the world's biggest contemporary art fan but this was a really rewarding (and slightly spooky) exhibition to visit.

Then there was just time for one last stop before I headed homewards: the Art Workers' Guild where some of the members were chatting about their work and giving tours of their meeting hall. 

I was especially entranced by Vicki Ambery-Smith's intricate architectural jewellery (and I'm hoping to get a chance to see this exhibition in Oxford featuring her work, sometime soon).

After all that, you might not be entirely surprised to hear that I decided to stay home and rest instead of attending some of the weekend's events!

This year London Craft Week will be taking place from 3rd-7th May. Visit the London Craft Week website for more info and to check out this year's programme of tours, talks, workshops, demonstrations and other event.

P.S. You can read more about the places, events and makers I visited during London Craft Week in part one and part two.

Monday 14 March 2016

Free Spring Craft Ideas: Butterflies, Flowers, Bunnies and More!

If you're in the mood for some spring-themed crafting, here are lots of free tutorials to keep you busy...

Make a butterfly mobile from felt + felt beads, or brightly coloured card:

Use card to make butterfly napkin rings and other pretty accessories for a spring tea party:

Make a statement with big butterfly brooches, embellished with embroidery, sequins or mini buttons...

Or use felt and pairs of matching buttons to make these simple butterfly brooches:

Decorate with doilies and butterfly shapes cut from sugar paper - make a big butterfly curtain like mine, or a smaller spring mobile. Doilies and butterflies are also a great combo for spring gift wrapping.

Sew a folk-inspired floral brooch from felt and fabric:

 Use felt, pretty washi tape and a mini button to make a sweet and simple flower card:

 Stitch a flower in bright spring colours using this flower embroidery pattern:

Make a leafy felt brooch to pin to your jacket or spring sweater:

Wish someone luck with a felt four-leaf clover:

Or send a spring "hello!" with this simple leaf card:

Sew a whole set of bunnies from pastel felt...

... and use them to decorate a happy spring wreath:

You could also make bunnies from card, with this bunny gift box tutorial I designed for Tesco Living.

If you're stuck indoors because of spring showers, why not make a cute raincloud mobile? Or a cloud brooch!

If you've got a friend who's feeling under the weather thanks to a spring cold, make them a card to say "get well soon"...

... and if you really want to cheer them up, make them a rainbow box filled with sunshine!

And last but by no means least, sew Mr & Mrs blackbird from felt - these would make cute brooches or little ornaments:

Follow the links to find each tutorial.You'll find lots more free step by step projects and crafty ideas in my tutorial archive. Happy crafting! :)

P.S. For even more projects, try my booksSuper-Cute Felt includes lots of spring designs to make from felt, including pansy hair clips, a bird on a branch necklace, a bunny brooch and a butterfly cushion:

And in Super-Cute Felt Animals you'll find Boris the beautiful butterfly, Richard the colourful rabbit, Sheelagh the shy sheep, and a whole family of chickens:

Thursday 10 March 2016

Don't Compare Your Inside to Someone Else's Outside: Free Embroidery Pattern

UPDATE: my "Don't Compare Your INSIDE to Someone Else's OUTSIDE" embroidery pattern is now available in my Patreon pattern library.

Subscribe for a small monthly fee and you'll get access to a growing library of PDF patterns and tutorials, with an email whenever I add a new project. You can cancel any time.      

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A couple of years ago I shared a positive little embroidery pattern, a reminder to be KIND to yourself.

Well, this autumn I turned three more positive sayings into embroidery patterns and I'll be sharing them here on my blog over the next few weeks. First up: Don't compare your INSIDE to someone else's OUTSIDE.

It's all too easy to get stuck in a rut of comparing yourself to other people - especially in this age of social media with all those carefully worded posts and carefully edited selfies.

Your insides are complicated, flawed, chaotic, messy just like everyone else's and you'll never know the stress and heartache and hard work going on behind the scenes in someone else's apparently "perfect" life... so go easy on yourself!

This design fits nicely in a five inch embroidery hoop for framing, but I'd recommend using a six inch hoop when stitching it to give yourself more room to work. I actually used a seven inch hoop when stitching this pattern as I'd somehow misplaced my smaller hoops at the time!

I chose pink and turquoise thread as they're so pretty together and look lovely against the pale backing fabric (Cotton & Steel's XOXO in Ghost, which looks grey in some lights and almost brown in others).

Top tip: if you're stitching several matching patterns, don't be an idiot like me and start stitching without checking if you have plenty of your chosen thread. As you can see, I ended up having to use a slightly darker shade for the lettering on this piece... which was not ideal.

The pattern is mostly stitched with backstitch, using three strands of six-strand embroidery thread (floss) and slowly sewing small stitches along all the curves. The small turquoise lines radiating from the circle are each sewn with one stitch.


As the fabric is so pale I took care not to carry my threads across the back of the work, giving a neat (ish!) finish. When sewing those final radiating single stitches, I stitched into/under the pink circle of stitching so the thread follows the circle round between the single stitches instead of stretching in straight lines from stitch to stitch (this is a bit tricky to describe but you should be able to see what I mean if you look closely at the back of the pattern I stitched earlier).

You could frame the finished pattern in the hoop as a bit of embroidered art, use it to make something small like a zip purse or add it to a patchwork project.  

Subscribe to my newsletter for crafty updates and visit my crafty tutorial archive for lots of free projects.

Visit my shop to buy my printable PDF sewing patterns:

Monday 7 March 2016

Old Fashioned Delights: Pollock's Toy Museum and James Smith & Sons Umbrellas

For my Nice Day Out a few weeks ago, I took advantage of a day of winter sunshine and went for a walk through London. More specifically, I spent the day following the "Fitzrovia and Bloomsbury" walk in the excellent London's Hidden Walks, volume 1.

I love the Hidden Walks books. Each walk includes so many interesting things to see and places to visit, and loads of fascinating, quirky historical facts - and this walk was no exception. I learned lots of new things about familiar places and discovered lots of new-to-me places as well.

Of course, you'll have to buy the book if you want to go on the walk yourself (as you may have gathered, I highly recommend them) but I wanted to share a couple of the delightfully old-fashioned places I discovered thanks to this walk which I will definitely be re-visiting (and which I can't believe I've never visited before!).

First there's Pollock's Toy Museum - I haven't even been into the museum yet and I already love this place!


It's just off the Tottenham Court Road and comprises a small museum of mostly Victorian toys and a very charming toy shop.

The shop is filled with things that would make great gifts for the kids (and not-entirely-grown-ups) in your life, I expect I will be doing lots of Christmas shopping here in future! I'm also really looking forward to exploring the museum itself.

Then there's James Smith & Sons Umbrella shop. Just look at this shop!

The Victorian shop front has apparently hardly been altered in 140 years, and the family business still makes and sells handmade umbrellas, sticks and canes.

How wonderful it would be to buy your umbrella from an actual umbrella shop?? 

You can read more about James Smith & Sons here. I also recommend their guide to umbrella care which concludes "It is inadvisable to lend your James Smith umbrella to even your closest friend. Give them our address instead."