Monday 30 April 2018

Book Review & Giveaway: Mandalas to Embroider

As promised, this week is Book Week!

The first book I'm looking at is the very lovely Mandalas to Embroider: Kaleidoscope Stitching in a Hoop, by Carina Envoldsen-Harris of Polka & Bloom.

It can be a teeny bit awkward when a friend asks you to review their book - I mean, what if you don't like it? What if you think it's rubbish??? I didn't have to worry at all about reviewing this book, though, as I knew Carina was going to knock it out of the park.

Mandalas to Embroider contains 24 meditative, mandala-inspired embroidery designs. As well as being nice to look at, the idea is that you can lose yourself in the relaxing process of stitching the pretty, geometric designs.

There are 12 large designs (sized to fit perfectly in 6 inch embroidery hoops) and 12 small designs, which you can use as decorative motifs on other sewing projects or frame in mini Dandelyne hoops (if you've not heard of these, they're fab mini embroidery-hoop style frames perfect for making embroidered necklaces and other jewellery).

At the start of the book you'll find comprehensive guides to the tools and stitches you'll need to complete the designs in the book, as well as tips on working with embroidery hoops.

Each project is shown fully stitched in Carina's bright and cheerful colour palettes, with a full-colour version of the pattern and a list of suggested DMC embroidery thread colours so you can replicate the design exactly if you want.

Aren't they fabulous?

Finally at the back of the book you'll find the patterns themselves. This is one of the things that makes this book so great: these aren't patterns printed on book pages that you'll need to photocopy and tape to a window to trace (though you can do that, of course), they're actually embroidery transfer sheets! You just tear out the page along the perforation and follow the instructions to use an iron to transfer the design to your fabric.

Apparently the sheets can be used up to 10 times, then after that you can photocopy them. There's even a pocket built into the back cover of the book for you to tuck the transfers so you don't lose them, which is very helpful (I am forever forgetting what "safe place" I've put paper patterns in!).

I really love this book, and (gushing friendship moment) I'm really proud of Carina for designing it, she is so talented and her use of colour is always such a joy.

If I'm honest, I'm not sure I'd ever stitch the small designs (I don't wear a lot of jewellery, and I much prefer the intricacy of the larger designs), but the large ones are so nice and the iron-on transfer sheets so easy to use that I think this book would be a great value purchase even if you only wanted to stitch a few of them.

Mandalas to Embroider: Kaleidoscope Stitching in a Hoop, is published by Search Press. It's available from Amazon UK, Amazon USA, The Book Depository and many other websites and bookshops. You can also buy signed copies direct from Carina's website.

Please note that the Amazon and Book Depository links in this blog post are affiliate links, which means if you click through and make a purchase I get a tiny percentage for the referral. It doesn't cost you anything and it helps support my blog. 

Visit my book reviews archive for a look at lots more crafty books! 

The lovely people at Search Press sent me a free copy of this book to review (thanks, guys!) and have another copy for me to give away - hurrah! 

Just leave a comment on this blog post for your chance to win!

Leave your comment before 10pm (UK time) on Thursday 10th May. I'll then contact the winner and pass their info along so the book can be posted to them by the team at Search Press.

Please make sure you leave a blog link, Twitter/Instagram/Etsy username (no locked accounts, please, I need to be able to contact you), or email address in your comment so I can get in touch if you're the winner. This giveaway is open worldwide. Yay!

If I'm unable to contact the winner within a week, I will pick someone else. If you're leaving a comment with your Blogger profile, please remember that you need to have your profile set to public & to have a contact email visible for me to be able to get in touch with you.

UPDATE: this giveaway is now closed. 

Friday 27 April 2018

Next Week is Book Week!

Next week's blog posts are gonna be all about craft books. Specifically this trio of colourful, creative books:

On Monday I'll be reviewing Mandalas to Embroider: Kaleidoscope Stitching in a Hoop, by Carina Envoldsen-Harris. You'll get a chance to win your own copy of the book, too! (Yay!)

On Wednesday I'll be reviewing Craft a Life You Love: Infusing Creativity, Fun & Intention into your Everyday by Amy Tangerine.

Then on Friday I'll be looking at Creative Marker Art and Beyond: Inspiring Tips, Techniques & Projects for Creative Vibrant Artwork in Marker by Lee Foster-Wilson.

See you next week! :)

P.S. Just to let you know: the Amazon links in this post are affiliate links, which means if you click through and make a purchase I get a tiny percentage for the referral. It doesn't cost you anything and it helps support my blog.

Wednesday 25 April 2018

Flashback: 11 Years of April Crafting

I've been blogging for over 11 years now - since January 2007! I've made a lot of crafty stuff in that time and I thought it might be fun to have a look back and see what I was making this time each year...

In April 2007 I designed an Army Bear (commissioned by a friend), made tea-themed brooches and cake-themed brooches, and stitched a whole bunch of ninja brooches for the UK Etsy Sellers' design challenge (that month's theme was, as you might have guessed, ninjas).

In April 2008 I was in the middle of my Crafting 365 challenge (doing something crafty every day for a year and blogging about it) and had also decided to start a "design a day" challenge... which didn't last long as I got sick (ugh) and then our internet stopped working for several weeks (thank goodness for kind neighbours who let me pop round to use their computer and manage my shop orders during those weeks!).

I did design a whole bunch of new things that month, though, including cupcakes and sailboats and a whole bunch of felt flowers

I'd also just started selling felt squares in my Etsy shop the month before, and was busy making up lots of colourful packs of mini squares. (I know this doesn't technically count as "crafting", but I can never resist these kinds of colourful photos and selling craft supplies was a big part of my creative life for many years).

In April 2009 I announced that I'd quit my "day job" (scary) then took two weeks away from the internet for a proper holiday so didn't blog that much!

I got some lovely new office shelves (which probably never looked this neat and tidy ever again), bought some gorgeous recycled felt (made from plastic bottles!) to try, and made lots and lots and lots of felt poppies.

In April 2010 I had a work experience student working with me for a few days, which made me feel very fancy. I was also busy finishing lots of works-in-progress, including forget-me-not brooches, flower headbands, a massive floral brooch and some snowy owls. I ended up setting myself a challenge to clear out all the half-finished projects from my workbox, which was hard work but very satisfying.

Oh, and this month I also shared a tutorial for sewing felt raincloud brooches, and stitched a couple of political brooches for my then-boyfriend, who had election fever!

In April 2011 I made delicate felt primrose haircombs, big, bold layered flower brooches, soft beaded corsages and fun teapot badges. I was also still stitching poppies, still had lots of boxes full of WIPs and my felt stash was still slightly out of control.

In April 2012 most of my blog posts were about books, as I had an extended "book week" sharing lots of the great craft books I'd been sent for review. (I should do that again sometime soon, as I've got quite a few books in my "to review" pile right now!).

I also shared tutorials for sewing a felt raincloud mobile and pretty felt butterfly brooches, blogged about the progress of my sky blanket, and finished up a batch of bird brooches.

In April 2013 I got to announce the exciting news that I'd written a second book (yay!), and got another exciting book in the post: a photobook I'd put together with six years of my crafty photos. I shared a cross stitch pattern to remind you to just get on with it, worked in my office with my furry assistant for company, and worked on a whole bunch of stuff behind the scenes that I couldn't share yet.

I also stitched a lot of felt owls and a LOT of cherry blossoms!

In April 2014 I shared a lot of felt scrap photos and other teasing snippets as I was busy working towards a bunch of deadlines - I'd decided to stop selling handmade things at the end of 2013, to focus on designing, blogging and writing, and one of the side-effects of this was not being able to show off my WIPs as often as I used to.

This month I also made a boiled egg look like Marilyn Monroe as a project for Tesco Living's website (so much fun), and foolishly described this quilt as "nearly finished" (I have not worked on it since).

In April 2015, I stitched a felt flower and shared it as a free embroidery pattern, I made a box of sunshine to celebrate the release of Annie on DVD, and I blogged about my (abandoned) project to record the weather in the medium of fluffy pompoms.

In April 2016 I was busy working on my rainbow blanket, and I finally got a smartphone and joined Instagram! I also shared tutorials for making a felt hot air balloon tape measure cover, and a 3D felt flower picture, and got to show you guys the projects I'd made for a new craft book: Banners, Buntings, Garlands & Pennants.

Then in April 2017 I designed a spring flowers wreath for The Village Haberdashery and attempted to do The 100 Day Project, making something felt-y every day for 100 days. Life threw a lot of distractions at me that spring and I didn't stick the project out for very long, but looking back at the stuff I did make - from a felt washing up sponge, to a felt barn owl - makes me very happy.

April itself was so hectic I actually blogged about those things in May but that's one of the ways blogging has changed in the past decade - it used to be all about daily updates, but now we've got social media for that.

I hope you've enjoyed this time-travelling journey through my blog archives; it's been weird but fun looking back through all these old posts!

UPDATE: Lots of my old designs are taking on new lives as sewing patterns! Visit my shop to see all my printable PDF patterns

Monday 23 April 2018

Kew Gardens in April: Spring Delights

During my year's membership of Kew Gardens I didn't manage to visit as often as I'd planned - deadlines got in the way and, of course, there was lots of other fun stuff in London to tempt me on my days off.

I was particularly annoyed with myself for missing the famous bluebells and the cherry blossom walk in full bloom in late spring, but it's hard to be sad looking back as my early April visit was so full of spring delights.

As well as the magnificent magnolias which I blogged about earlier (because, honestly, they really deserved their own post), on my April walk around the gardens I spotted...

... seas of daffodils...


... beautiful blossom...

... yellow flames of forsythia...

... and early budding lilac.

It was such a perfect sunny spring day! The weather at this time of year can be so changeable, you have to grab sunny days when you get them and squeeze as much into them as you possibly can.

It was wonderful to be able to spend ages walking round the gardens, seeing familiar vistas full of the light and colour and vibrancy of the season and discovering new-to-me corners.

The gardens at Kew are so large that it feels like there are always new things to discover - at least it did during my year of visits! One of the new places I explored during my April visit was the bonsai house which, just like its contents, is small but perfectly formed.

I also popped into the Marianne North Gallery, which might not look that exciting from the outside but is an incredibly unique space - click to see!

Marianne North was a Victorian botanical artist, who travelled the world painting fabulously vivid pictures of tropical and exotic plants. The gallery at Kew was purpose-built to house her life's work, and it's wonderful but also slightly overwhelming seeing it all at once. You can browse the complete collection of Marianne's paintings online here, and read more about her life here.

For more Kew Gardens goodness, click here to read all my posts about my visits.