Friday, 27 December 2013

A Return and a New Hobby

I've had a bit of an unexpected hiatus from the blog the past few months. In all honesty I haven't really found my rhythm with it yet - it took me a while to get into a comfortable pattern with my book blog when I first started, and there's been a lot going on with everything else in my life at the moment, so I'm not going to feel too bad, but 2014 will be the year I will start trying to run this blog properly.

In keeping with that, I have a new hobby to blog about! As you may or may not know, I am already a knitter and delight in making cool and quirky toys, homewares and other bits and bobs, but I've also always been a lover of fabric. I don't buy an awful lot of it because it's quite pricey, but I've been (very slowly) making a patchwork quilt since the age of about 11, and this Christmas my aunty gave my baby son a quilt she has made which is just so beautiful it's inspired me.


Horrendous photography skills, I know. I really need to work on those next year, but the quilt itself is beautiful isn't it? And so warm :-) Quilts like this are the reason I've always wanted to be able to quilt, it's such a useful and beautiful skill to have. This morning we just lay the quilt across the middle of the living room and Benji played on it and he kept snuggling into it and lying down, it was the cutest. It brightened up the whole room! 

The second reason to choose now as the moment to start quilting is some of the Christmas presents I received. 


My parents and grandparents are responsible for the quilting kit, which contains a cutting mat, a rotary cutter and a ruler, and The Quilters Bible because they know me well and know that I will never attempt a new skill without having a book or two on the subject. It's difficult to know where to start, though, so I've also been browsing the internet for some simple quilt patterns and some inspiring blogs to read. So far I've found Diary of a Quilter, which I love and am finding really useful, and I like the look of this Lightning Fast Mini Quilt and also this Summer Breeze Steps Quilt, but I've only just started to look so I'm sure I'll find loads more! If anybody has any blog, book or pattern recommendations, all would be gratefully received!




Friday, 27 September 2013

UK Crafter of the Week #6

This weeks' UK Crafter of the Week feature is running late! My apologies to our fabulous subject as she should have been up on Monday but the week has kind of got away from me!

This week I'm veering away from the textiley focus of the past few weeks and spotlighting Lynn Adams Illustration. Personally, I am a huge fan of illustration as an art form, and stylistically I'd often rather look at it than fine art. 

Photo: a day late with this week's #twoodle - used the words elephant and pillow :)
To kick us off, and so you can see exactly what I mean, how cute is this guy? :-) I'm in love!

Lynn Adams has been painting for over 30 years, starting at the age of 16 and selling her first animal portrait for £20. However despite her obvious talent, she has never had art as her main job. As a twice widowed mother of seven she has been a press photographer, aid worker and primary school teacher over the years, and has recently had her illustrations published in Amelia and the Elf by Si Wall (which you can buy here, and it looks gorgeous), a job she got through the beauteous bounty of Facebook!

A couple of years ago she restarted art by studying a Foundation Degree in Art and Design at West Notts College, to give her something to do after her youngest child started school, and is now working on a couple of her own illustrated children's books which sound great; one about a confused sheep and one about a misunderstood dragon. 


Lynn's time as a teacher has helped to inspire her love of children's books and her dream job would be to illustrate books full time. I'd read them! She is also currently working on commissions for weddings, pets and pictures for children's rooms. Once my son outgrows his Winnie the Pooh phase I may very well be calling on Lynn for one of her fab illustrations for his bedroom! 

Check out Lynn's work on facebook and on her website, www.lynnadamsillustration.co.uk. 


If you're interested in being featured as a UK Crafter of the Week, which includes being listed in my directory, please contact me at caveofcraftedwonders(at)gmail(dot)com. 

Monday, 16 September 2013

UK Crafter of the Week #5

This week for UK Crafter of the week we are continuing with the textile art theme. This weeks' crafter runs an Etsy shop and Facebook page and is brilliant at a craft that I have absolutely no idea about: needlefelting. 



Madame Craig named her shop after herself. She is a teacher in a Waldorf school in Edinburgh, and as she is French this is what her pupils and their parents call her. Personally (and this may be because I'm stupid but I prefer to think it's just because I've previously had to have no in depth knowledge of educational systems) I had no idea what a Waldorf school was, so I did some research. Here's what I found, just in case any of you are as clueless as me. Basically it seems like it's quality over quantity, with the Waldorf/Steiner system based around three stages of child development and places a big influence on the role of imagination in learning. According to Wikipedia (which was all know is a reliable source of definitely factual information..) 
The educational philosophy's overarching goal is to develop freemorally responsible, and integrated individuals equipped with a high degree of social competence. Teachers generally useformative (qualitative) rather than summative (quantitative) assessment methods, particularly in the pre-adolescent years. The schools have a high degree of autonomy to decide how best to construct their curricula and govern themselves
It sounds great!

Before the recession, Madame Craig was a designer in an architecture practice, and now works as an art & craft teacher where she also teaches technical drawing. She began the teacher training course at the Steiner school in Edinburgh after her children started there, and found herself naturally attracted to Waldorf crafts and colours, as you can see in her gorgeous Etsy shop, set up in 2010. 

Waldorf Math Gnomes, Educational Toy, Math, ,Home schooling, Waldorf School, finger puppet

She works mostly with needle felting, but also sometimes nuno felt and creates mainly things for; educational toys, storybook figures, wildlife animals and whatever else she is inspired by at the time! You can find her on Etsy and Facebook

The Snowman and his Snowdog - Wool Needle Felt Miniature by Madame Craig    
All pictures courtesy of Madame Craig.

To be featured as a UK Crafter of the Week, please contact caveofcraftedwonders(at)gmail(dot)com. 


Saturday, 14 September 2013

Winter Wardrobe

This time last year I was heavily pregnant and also not proficient enough at knitting to even begin to think about using it to kit my family out for winter. This year our little boy is nearly one, and while he is pulling himself up on everything and generally using me as a climbing frame, I'm now a much more able, confident knitter and so I thought instead of going out and buying cheap, rubbishy jumpers, hats, gloves and scarves which will last five minutes, why not make them instead? Also, it's fun!

I've cast on a jumper for the baby today, which is a pattern I've been wanting to make for a while now. (This one, if you're interested) and so far it looks like this:





The pattern is super cute and has patches which button onto the front with different animals on them :-) I'm going to make a sheep first because Benji really enjoys the noise sheeps make. I would have made all four shown in the pattern, but I decided that I should extend my 'shop local, shop independent, shop handmade' motto into yarn shopping and procured the yarn for this jumper (Jenny Watson Babysoft Double Knitting in various colours for those who are interested), and honestly I couldn't afford enough colours for all the patches! The yarn is gorgeous to knit with though, and really soft so I'm happy and I hope Benji will be too once it's done!

I get this warm fuzzy feeling when I think about winter knits, and honestly we all seem to lose hats/gloves/scarves quicker than I can produce them! Benji needs a new pair of mittens as the ones my Aunt knitted him last year were for teeny baby hands, not 1 year olds! He also needs some booties as he's not walking yet so I don't want to put him into hard soled shoes but his feet will get cold otherwise. These are my thoughts (link to Ravelry patterns in the photo credit if anyone wants to give them a go! They're all free patterns)
           Mittens_k_small2                            
            photo credit & pattern here

 502471180_99ce17ad4d_n
                                                                                         photo credit & pattern here

I need a hat, and the hubby need gloves and I desperately need to finish the jumper I started for myself last winter.... I recently bought the pattern for this hat and made one as a gift. It's really cosy and since I bought 3 balls of  they yarn I used on Hobbycraft's '3 for 2' and it only uses 1 and a bit, I think I might make myself one as well!


3371544634_4c9e5c4ca4_m
photo credit & pattern download here

Last year I made my husband a gorgeous, soft, warm, blue scarf. He left it on the train and was upset about it for weeks. This year I really want to make him this, as he's a Dr Who nut and would love it! It remains to be seen whether I can finance purchasing all of those colours though, as bills/car tax/service are imminently due so we will see! 

                        Season14_small2                               
                   photo credit & pattern here
 Manly_small
                                                                                         photo credit & pattern here

There are tons of other things I want to make, but I also have three craft fairs coming up before Christmas and I desperately have to finish my advent calendar in the next week! If you're interested, it will be up on my Facebook page and Etsy shop in the next week or two and will be available filled with sweets, beaded Christmas decorations or teabags of your choice :-) Preliminary pictures are already up on Facebook and I'll only be able to make a limited number so get your requests in quickly!

What are your winter knitting plans? :-) 

Wednesday, 11 September 2013

UK Crafter of the Week #4

Home quote cushion pillow, applique and embroidery on lilac cotton.
This week's UK Crafter of the week makes some of my most coveted things. Her cushions are just amazing and her hand embroidery leaves me speechless. This post will contain a fair amount of pictures, you have been warned.

The owner of JAMCrafts is named Jessica and the company is named after her initials. Like so many of us, she has been crafting since she was a child, and like many of the crafters I've been featuring so far, her items are amazingly unique. After studying Art and Design, she gained her BA(Hons) in Textile Design in 2003 and has been making beautiful things ever since. 

Personally I sort of think that there are too many cushion covers around at the moment, but having said that I think that JAMCrafts makes some of the most beautiful cushion covers that I've ever seen, and if I had one in my house I would be incredibly happy. Jessica designs her cushions by drawing with thread on the material, and to this end she uses mostly hand embroidery, and an amazing attention to detail enhanced by techniques like applique and beading. 

Alice in wonderland themed pillow cushion, patchwork fabrics with applique and hand embroidery.

This cushion was the reason that I desperately wanted to do a feature on JAMCrafts, as Alice in Wonderland is one of my favourite books, and the Johnny Depp/Tim Burton movie is beautiful and amazing, as is this cushion. A lot of Jessica's commissions are from famous children's books, which she definitely puts her own unique spin on, and as a literature enthusiast I don't think I will ever stop telling people how beautiful her work is! She likes anything cute and cuddly, and the majority of her work has a face as she likes to give it character. 

About her current work and inspiration, Jessica has this to say: 
I'm currently working on something very different, a personal project, an embroidered jacket, I didn't make the jacket (not my forte) I plan to cover the surface fabric of the jacket with embroidery, found objects, vintage beads and buttons, messages and much more.
I was inspired after meeting the Artist Basia Zarzycka www.basiazarzycka.com/ she's a fantastic artist/designer who really works from the heart freely without worry, putting herself into every piece this is how I would like to be, perhaps a little less commercial although I still love interpreting funny characters like Alice in wonderland 
And now I'm just going to put up a load of pictures of JAMCrafts products, because they speak more about inspiration and talent than I ever could!

 

                                   

All pictures property of JAMCrafts

You can find JAMCrafts online on:
Twitter: twitter.com/#!/Jamcrafts
Facebook: : www.facebook.com/pages/Jamcrafts/157024777717794
As yet unfinished website: www.jamcrafts.co.uk
Email: jessgeen@outlook.com

Tuesday, 3 September 2013

UK Crafter of the Week #3







There was going to be a post in between features this week. I even started writing it, but then got distracted by something else, you know how it goes! Anyway, here we are with another edition of UK Crafter of the Week, originated at Pink Flamingo Handcrafting (you can see her Crafter of the Week by clicking here).

This week is the turn of another Etsy find, Rosie Ann Shop, makers of gorgeous aprons of all sorts. Like so many of us, Rosie has been crafting since she was young, and (unlike me!) she is brilliant at sewing! Her Etsy and Folksy shops mostly feature gorgeous aprons in beautiful bright colours but she also enjoys making dresses, bags and brooches.


Retro apron with bow, half circle skirt, vintage patchwork style pattern. 1950s inspired, fully lined.

Here's what Rosie has to say about her business:


I am Rosie, the owner of a little apron shop called Rosie Ann Shop. I'm a Sheffield based mum with 2 children who keep me on my toes! My daughter is 4 and will start school this year and my youngest is a little boy who is 14 months old..

My passion and inspiration for colours, fabrics and vintage designs developed when I studied fashion in London, and worked in Covent Garden, Shoreditch and Camden. My interests in vintage fashion led me to work in Absolute Vintage, just off Brick Lane and later saw me running my own shop at Camden Stables Market. I loved being immersed in an environment of quirky fashion, especially at the beginning of the resurgence in vintage fashion. After leaving London, and with my mind full of inspiration from my time working in fashion in London, I started RosieAnnShop! My love for baking, and particular fancy for 1950s designs are major inspirations for my work.

I take a great pride in my designs and in the quality of my aprons, which I hope that you will see when you take a trip to RosieAnnShop online. 

I've been wanting one of her aprons for a really long time, and I'm back at work next month so that may be the moment! Here are some of her lovely creations, and you can visit RosieAnnShop at Etsy or Folksy

Small Retro Dress, £24. Available from Etsy.

Children's apron, £12.50. Available in various colours from Etsy. 


Half apron, £14. Available in various colours from Folksy.

Sunday, 25 August 2013

UK Crafter of the Week #2 - LuniqueUK

You might see some similarities between this week’s featured crafter and last week’s, despite the massive difference in what they actually make. Mel Smith Designs of last week, is a designer of bright, often floral inspired stationery, phone cases and homewares, and this week’s crafter, Lucy of LuniqueUK, makes jewellery, cushion covers, and decoupaged jewellery boxes, but both of their creations are bright and uplifting. All of the crafters showcased in this feature are people whose items make me happy to browse through. I don’t think a week goes by without me finding something of theirs I would love to own, and I’m a big fan of the colourful. We live in a flat with white walls at the moment and aren't allowed to paint and I have to keep putting up pictures and decorating with pretty, bright things, or I’d go mad.

Anyway, so Lucy runs LuniqueUK on Etsy, and she is passionate about conservation.  10% of her profits are donated to Born Free, a charity which aims to keep wildlife in the wild while protecting endangered species and preventing animal suffering, and which you can find out more about here, and I really admire that she’s done this. I’ve been thinking about donating a percentage of profits from my new line to CLIC Sargent, and reading stories from other crafters who do this makes me think it would be a great idea.

Swarovski crystals cluster earrings Sterling silver - Mini Sea Shower MADE TO ORDER


Lucy has been crafting since she was little, and has always been interested in paper crafts, model making, and sewing, and has recently got into jewellery making. Like me, she’s the kind of person who can’t just sit and watch TV without having something to do with her hands! She created her own unique product; stamp lamps, glass jars covered with stamps which hold a tealight and which are bet are absolutely beautiful when the light shines through the various coloured stamps. 

Stamp Lamp - upcycled glass jar tealight candle holder OOAK - large green

One of my favourite things about browsing Lucy's shop is that her range of products is so eclectic. As well as jewellery and stamp lamps, she also has a wide range of one-off cushion covers, and various decoupaged jewellery boxes, all of which are beautifully bright and cheerful and reflect her inspirations of nature and the elements. 


Isn't this beautiful? You can find Lucy on Etsy and Facebook, and visit the Born Free website here. All images are courtesy of her Etsy shop. 

Monday, 19 August 2013

UK Crafter of the Week #1 - Mel Smith Designs

Laura at Pink Flamingo Handcrafting started this feature a few weeks ago and I saw it and decided to jump on the bandwagon! I’m always finding fellow UK crafters on Etsy and Facebook (I haven’t even started on the realm of Folksy and Twitter really yet!) that I love and getting annoyed that I currently have no money to support them while filling my house with original, beautiful items. Hopefully that will change a little in the coming months as I return to work part time and may have a teeny tiny bit of pocket money to spare on the odd occasion. I say this with baited breath and fingers crossed, but who knows, maybe my own crafting will even make me the occasional few pennies to spend on other crafters’ goods?

Anyway, in the meantime I thought it would be great to help to promote their beautiful wares by sharing a bit more about them with you lovely lot. So here goes.

My first featured business is Mel Smith Designs. Mel’s things first caught my eye on her Facebook page (I forget how I found it, but I suspect Etsy is probably the culprit), and her designs are beautiful; really colourful and cheerful and they’re definitely on my wishlist! I’ve discovered in writing this post that another added bonus of doing the feature is getting to browse around blogs, websites, and various marketplaces reading about crafts and looking at beautiful things (some of which always end up on my favourites list for future reference!) all in the name of research! I found this about book blogging and am fast realising with craft blogging, but there is so much I love about it!!

Anyway, back to Mel! She is a designer whose work heavily emphasizes florals and bright colours, and as a result her brand is very distinctive.

BOLD & BEAUTIFUL large gift set - notebook - art print - magnets - ring - bookmarks -
Picture Credit here - Set £20
After graduating with a degree in Design for Interior Textiles in 2006, Mel worked freelance and had a temporary contract in a small studio. After that contract ended, she decided to go separate ways from her agent and set up Mel Smith Designs and her Etsy shop, selling cards, magnets, buttons and paper goods, such as the bookmarks above!
Last year she completed the Art and Business of Surface Pattern Design e-course and has been working on larger scale products such as cushions, lampshades and kitchen products. 

She has also just launched a Kickstarter project to get support for production of a collection of notebooks. For anybody who doesn’t know, Kickstarter is a website through which people can find funding for projects (which can be varying) through asking friends, colleagues and associates (and friends, colleagues and associates of their friends, colleagues and associates!) to donate small or large amounts of money to their kickstarter. They aim to raise a certain amount by a certain date, failing which the Kickstarter will not go ahead, and it was this which made me want to feature Mel as my inaugral UK crafter! If you’d like to support her gorgeous work, the link to the project is here and you still have a few days to give any amount, big or small.

Black Border Florals Throw Pillow
Picture Credit here -Cushion cover $20
Mel’s inspiration comes primarily from nature, especially flowers, which you can tell just from looking at her designs! She is also inspired by architecture, particularly of the 1920s and 1950s, and on her facebook page you can see some recent sketches based on her holiday photos – another source of inspiration.

The thing that I liked most when I started looking at Mel’s business to feature here is that she’s done what I hope to do; she’s turned her passion into a business, and she’s expanding and learning new things and seems very motivated and driven. It’s always inspiring to me to see people making the effort to make things happen for themselves, and I’m so happy to see things going so well for other crafters!

Since beginning her business, Mel has gone on to sell her products, including her beautiful Olympic designs on many websites including wallpaper.com and society6 as well as Etsy, Folksy and Facebook.
Olympic Diving iPhone & iPod Case
Image Credit here - Phone Case $35

You can find her online in various places, including her gorgeous website, www.melsmithdesigns.co.uk and her blog, www.melsmithdesigns.blogspot.com, which gives a little more insight into the person behind the designer!
Facebook.com/MelSmithDesigns
Twitter.com/MelSmithDesigns
Etsy.com/uk/shop/MelSmithDesigns
And again, the kickstarter link if you want to support her: http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/655538485/mel-smith-designs-patterned-jotters-and-notebooks




Thursday, 15 August 2013

I'm Back, and I Made a Shirt into a Bag!

It's been a long time since I've posted on this blog, but that is about to change, I promise. I will shortly be giving it the attention it so rightly deserves. Tuesday 20th is the day when we will finally get broadband, and I should be able to return to the world of normal sized screen internet which doesn't stop working when you accidentally hit the wrong thing on its' tiny keyboard...

Anyway! It’s not particularly a secret that I’m into the idea of self-sufficiency, sustainability and recycling. It’s also not a secret that I am crap with a sewing machine. I was asked not to take GCSE Textiles because I kept inexplicably breaking sewing machines and ended up having to sew my final project by hand, which took AGES. However, my baby son (with help from his father) got me a small sewing machine for my birthday and as currently my husband is the only one to have used it, I felt like I should give it a go.
We’ve been sorting out our wardrobes lately, as since having my son ten months ago there are a lot of things that are either too small for me or just the wrong shape, and my husband had loads of stuff which had shrunk in the wash (due to an overly haphazard phase of shoving everything in the tumble dryer, whether or not it was supposed to go in there!), so we’ve been amalgamating a rag pile, eventually destined to make a rug, which was just sort of sat in our room, getting in the way. Yesterday I decided to do something about it. I had an old shirt of mine in the pile which has been too small for donkeys but I didn’t want to get rid of it because I love the pattern, so I thought if I sewed up the sleeves and bottom, it would be a pretty good bag to put all the rest of the scrap clothing in.

I got out the sewing machine and the manual and tried to pull out the dredges of what I remember about sewing machines from school (just to clarify, I have used a sewing machine since, having made my own costume once or twice when partaking in amateur dramatics, but always heavily supervised by my mum, sister, or grandma, all of whom are better with machines than me) and eventually managed to get the thing threaded. After a few false starts – the thread kept getting stuck in something – I eventually managed to successfully sew up the bits I wanted sewn up, and this is the result.


Admittedly it still looks sort of like a shirt on a hanger, but it is full of our rag pile which is no longer annoyingly in the way, and I used a sewing machine and didn’t die! I’m incredibly proud of myself, and while I’m not sure I’ll ever be much of a sewer, there are a few projects I’ve been wanting to try, the first being a beanbag for my son’s room which I’ve had all the stuff for since before he was born and just not got the courage up to make yet. Maybe it will be my next project, after I finish taking a couple of cool motifs off of tops that are too small and sewing them onto boring T shirts... The possibilities are endless! 

Finally, I just wanted to say that on Monday I'll be starting to take part in the UK Crafter of the Week feature which is the brainchild of Laura of Pink Flamingo Handcrafting, and there will be some great crafters being featured so be sure to check it out!


Friday, 14 June 2013

A Year of Handmade?

Big changes have been afoot in our household recently. Firstly I'm preparing for my first craft fair, so I've shifted the front room around a bit in order to allow me to actually have a proper work space and so far I'm loving it. The fruit has also started to come in, so over the past couple of weeks we've made lemon curd, rhubarb & orange jam, and strawberry jam. I'm also getting back into my stride with the breadmaking which is nice.

The biggest thing, though, is that we cancelled our TV licence yesterday. We figured most of the time we're just watching repeats or rubbish anyway and if we want to watch repeats we can watch catch up online. Today was the first TV free day and I have to say it was amazing. I got so much done!

Anybody who reads my other blog will know that I'm quite into the concept of self-sufficiency, and branching out into the world of handmade is for me just an extension of that. I love (and always have) that I can make gifts for people that they actually like and use, and if I'm buying something I enjoy being able to build some kind of a relationship with the person who has made the thing I'm buying (even if it's just a few quick emails or a short chat at a craft fair) I feel like I'm getting some idea of the passion, commitment and most of all the work that's gone into that thing and honestly, who wouldn't rather have something that somebody's got excited over and inspired by and poured their time into than something that's mass produced in some factory somewhere?

I struggle a lot with pricing my objects, mostly because I'm still in the development stage with a lot of my designs and so I have to factor in lots of extra time to the making process for figuring out how to actually do stuff, but with most of my products I would earn way below the minimum wage per hour because I just don't want to charge extortionately, but then I think the term 'extortionate' is relative because yes, if you're paying £65 for a mobile which has taken half an hour to mass produce in a factory somewhere then that's extortion of a kind, but to pay the same amount for something that may have taken days of somebody's time in planning, creating and putting together, something that's a unique design created from someone's imagination? I don't think that's extreme at all.

I made my first trade this week - I swapped one of my handknitted balls for these gorgeous earrings
Glass Bead Earrings - Lovely Green Glass Bead Brass Hook Earrings
image credit here

and some badges, made by lovely Sacha from Craftilicious Cats, and it made me so happy. As a kid I used to constantly tell my parents that money was a stupid concept and bartering was the way to go, and to be honest the more I think about it, the more I can see the logic. Obviously the way the world is set up requires the use of money for some things, but other things would be easy to trade.

All of this thinking led me to the conclusion that I want to try to go for a year buying all of my 'extras' (anything non-essential, by which I mean basically anything that isn't groceries) and gifts either second hand or handmade. I don't want to get anything mass produced. To be honest this is just the next step up from the Amazon boycott I've been doing for a year and a half in support of independent bookshops. If I'm ready to support the independents in books, why not clothes, homewares, sweets, hobbies, toys and gifts? Homemade is always better quality, more individual and generally nicer anyway! Homemade, here I come!

Friday, 31 May 2013

Tying Knots in Yarn with Sticks...

Today I decided to learn to crochet. About five minutes after I started trying to learn I had this awful flashback to when I started learning to knit and learned to cast on and to knit fine, but then got stuck and just couldn't learn to purl. For a year. All I could do was knit. In straight lines. Because I still have a phobia of circular needles I haven't yet overcome. I had this awful feeling I was going to be able to do the chain stitch and then not be able to work out how to actually crochet.

However, I think I'm gradually getting there. It struck me when I was learning to knit (and at times ending up with so much yarn wrapped around my fingers that my fingers had basically become part of the knitting) that knitting was pretty much just tying knots in wool with sticks. Crochet is this, but even more elaborate knots. 

my first attempt at actually crocheting a row
 
 
I'm learning (or attempting to) from The Happy Hooker by Debbie Stoller, because her knitting book, Stitch 'n Bitch is responsible for my knitting so I figured I could blame her for my crochet too. That way when my husband moans (which he actually never does. He just looks at me when I buy more craft stuff) I can tell him it's not my fault, it's Debbie Stoller's. Her books always have awesome patterns in them that I just must make immediately.
 
The real reason I wanted to learn to crochet, despite the fact that I have a craft fair that I still have to make a ton of stuff for, was that I hate feeling limited, and whenever I'm on Ravelry looking for things to make for my family I hate that almost half the patterns on there aren't available to me because I don't have the necessary skills. I figured if I can tie knots in yarn with knitting needles, I can probably do it with a hook, and actually despite a teenage hatred of the textiles room at school, I have more than slightly fallen in love with textile art.
 
I also want to take up making Rag Rugs. 
 
 

 

Wednesday, 22 May 2013

Miscellany...

There's a lot I want to write about today. I know I've yet to really start keeping this blog properly, but I plan to post on a weekly basis from now on; more frequently when the mood takes me and time allows. 

Summer is coming, and nothing typifies this more than The Chelsea Flower Show which has been on this week and which I love watching despite never liking Alan Titchmarsh as a child. For some reason I find flower shows incredibly relaxing, and also it stimulates the plans I have for our imaginary hypothetical garden/allotment. Another brilliant summer post I loved this week is 50 Outdoor Summer Activities for Kids from Six Sisters' Stuff, which is pretty much my favourite craft/cookery blog at the moment. Although I feel like I'm a (fairly) seasoned part of the book blogging community, I'm just starting out in the world of craft blogging, and so far I know I'm doing pretty poorly but I'm hoping I'll get into the swing of things and that my love of blogging and of crafting will come through and override my shocking time management skills!

In news which is actually craft related, I've just been accepted to my first craft fair! My hometown has a big (and pretty well known in its genre) folk festival during the summer, and although this fair isn't actually part of the festival, it is going to be held in the centre of town during the week the festival is on so I'm hopeful that it will be really busy and a great first experience. I'm really quite nervous for a variety of reasons, mostly because I'm freaking about whether or not I can get enough stuff made in time, but also because although I've worked in retail for years, it's been a very long time since I've sold anything from a stall! However, my sister is coming along to help and also making a few bits to bulk out the stall, so at least I'll have moral support! If anyone reading this has any experience of craft fairs or tips they can share, I'd be eternally grateful!

In terms of what I've been making recently, I'm currently working on a safari themed baby mobile. Currently it looks like this:


Excuse the awful photography - that's a major area I seriously need to work on! At the moment I'm creating a little zebra to complete it, along with a hippo in an as yet undetermined colour. 

I'm also working on some of my alphabet blocks for a friend, spelling out the name of her nephew.I love making them because they're so pretty and colourful and just gratifying to make. The picture is of the ones I have listed in my Etsy shop at the moment, which are just an A,B,C set but I'm hoping they'll end up being a good seller and I'll get to make loads of them!


Thursday, 18 April 2013

If you want to know how bad croissants are for you, make your own...

When I started off this blog the intention was for it to be a blog about my knitting projects. However, that seems to be giving way lately to my culinary endeavours. Although I am knitting a lot and have added a few bits to my Etsy and Misi shops this week, I don't feel particularly inspired to write about it. I do , however, feel inspired to write about how homemade croissants require you to take an entire 250g block of butter, smack it with a rolling pin, and then fold it into the middle of a ball of pastry. I know nobody thinks that croissants are the healthiest thing in the world, but I seriously wouldn't have believed the amount of butter that's in them had I not taken them out of the oven and gasped in disbelief at them swimming in it.

I don't mean this as any kind of a negative thing. They taste the way they do for a reason, and if there was less butter in them, they would probably taste a lot less awesome. Also, I obviously didn't care that much as I went on to add chocolate to mine. They were yummy :-)

And speaking of butter, we made our own for the first time last week! Tesco had a load of double cream reduced to 45p for 600ml, so we thought we'd give it a go and it's SO easy, and ridiculously nice. Yes, we are very proud of ourselves.


When making butter, for those who haven't made it themselves, you get lots of buttermilk which is basically the liquid part of the cream, and with this we made awesome buttermilk scones, and even if you never make your own butter, you should make the scones because they are great. So great, in fact, that we ate them before I remembered to take a photo!

Finally on the 'I made it myself' front, I made lemon curd for the first time this week as well. Again, takes ages (croissants take like, twelve hours.Literally. Lemon curd is nowhere near as long but just a lot of 'simmering in a bowl over a pan of hot water and occasionally stirring it to see if it's thick enough yet'), but so worth it in the end. Especially if you are a special kind of mad person who makes their own croissants as well and then you can dip the croissants in the lemon curd and it's just all kinds of awesome.

There's loads else I want to talk about (like the fact that I gave away 25 of our 30 tomato plants via Freecycle today and gentleman who took the last lot away brought me 2 bunches of tulips in return. Sweet), but mostly this book:


I bought about 30 books from eBay a while back all featuring various crafts and related activities and this is pretty much my favourite I think, primarily for this page:


My disgusting photography skills mean you probably can't really see it, so I'll tell you it's a page full of sweet recipes. Amazing. I will probably be making these all at some point over the next few weeks, so watch this space!

On the knitting related front, I am currently knitting a Christmas stocking. Yes, I know it's April, but what can I say? Sometimes the fancy takes hold and there's nothing I can do. I did finish a turtle mobile today though. You can find it here, and it's pretty cute if I do say so myself!


Tuesday, 9 April 2013

The Most Exciting Earnings Ever!

Today started off a little stressfully to be honest. I had a meeting at work to talk about what will happen when I go back after maternity leave - it won't happen till September so thankfully I still have some time to wrap my head around the idea of not being home with a small gorgeous baby all day! After that I came home, hung out with aforementioned baby and hubby for a while, and thought I'd check my email quickly before heading out to do some more househunting. I checked my email, and literally started shrieking because......today (after pretty much giving up on ever selling anything) I had my first Etsy sale!

 
I honestly don't think I've been as excited to have earned money since I was a kid, and although I love my (previously mentioned) 'proper job', this is the first money I've made in a loooooong time from the work of my own hands and it feels amazingly rewarding to know that somebody thought something I made was good enough to spend their own hard earned money on! I spent the evening packing it up for postage tomorrow so now I just have to wait with baited breath and hope that my first ever customer loves her purchase as much as I do. I am literally on tenterhooks, and now I'm off to rush about the house and shriek some more.
 
And because I'm not one to miss an opportunity for shameless self-promotion, if you think he looks adorable, I can make you your own, just click here!

Saturday, 2 March 2013

Vegetarian Victory!

I have been knitting recently, but not as much as I'd like to have been. I currently have Mum and Dad duck minus their eyes and the unseamed, unstuffed body of one duckling. My jumper has a front and the cuff of one sleeve. So in lieu of knitting, I'm going to post about a new initiative in our household. 

We are (especially me) really quite into the idea of self-sufficiency. Eventually I want to grow my own fruit, veg, and herbs, and have chickens for eggs and probably also meat. Currently we live in a flat with a garden which is communal and maintained by an outside gardening company, so at the moment I'm dreaming. To compensate we are trying to buy as much local produce as we possibly can and grow herbs and some veg on our windowsills and also shop on a budget with a meal plan each week and reduce our food wastage as much as possible. This week we discovered the wealth of farm shops there are in our surrounding area and at the risk of sounding like a total geek, it is so much fun to shop there!

Anyway, I digress. The new initiative is that hubby and I have recently decided it would be a good idea to make Saturday nights 'veggie night' in an attempt to eat less meat. Tonight we had an epic success and I wanted to share because we're ridiculously proud of ourselves! 


This was the main course - a weird mixture of Spanish and Japanese food that ended up working really well! Using a load of the veg we brought from our various trips to various farm shops, we made our first attempt at tempura and it worked surprisingly well. We also made my all - time favourite tapas dish, patatas bravas, to accompany the veg. We still have leftovers and we're both stuffed! 

We had an egg white left over from making the tempura batter which only uses the yolk, so Rhys mad a couple of meringues, and earlier in the day we'd made a lemon and raspberry tart using locally made lemon curd and raspberry curd. This was pudding:

Ridiculously successful and hugely fun dinner. I'm currently in the middle of reading The River Cottage Cookbook (and yes, it does need to be read not flipped through. The thing is like a huge foodie reference book. It's amazing) and he keeps talking about how every meal should be fun. I know there are days when I just so don't want to cook and can't be bothered, but on days like today I really feel like forcing myself to be enthusiastic is worth it. My mum always used to tell me to pretend to be happy when I was sad because after a while I wouldn't be pretending anymore, and it turns out the same is true of my cooking enthusiasm :-) 

Friday, 15 February 2013

First Jumper!

I'm really excited because not only did I acquire a lot of new patterns this week, but I found a pattern for a really pretty jumper that I really like. I've been looking around in shops for jumpers for a while as no matter how many I buy I always seem to have a deficiency and after ages of finding things that weren't quite the right colour, shape, or style, I thought why not just make it myself? so that's what I'm doing. Despite the pattern being from the 1983 Womans Weekly Knitting Book, it's really simple and fairly elegant and just looks comfy really. I'm knitting it with a 50% wool 50% acryllic DK yarn I bought from Kemps (who are quickly becoming one of my favourite places to shop for yarn - so cheap! such fast delivery!)



This is the pattern, and I'm knitting it in dark purple yarn. The thing I love most about knitting is that it creates such a sense of accomplishment. I'm now at the stage of pretty much being able to do all the basic things on straight needles, but I have yet to overcome DPNs and circular needles. Early on I realised that if I only knit patterns where I could already do everything before I started, I'd be knitting scarves for the rest of my life, and so now I just find things I want to knit and figure the rest out as I go. So far I've managed to overcome every hurdle and when something is finished it just gives me a feeling of immense accomplishment that I don't really get from any other aspect of my life except being a parent. 

I have a problem with getting majorly overexcited about new projects and then they tend to snowball and get out of control and then after a while I move on to something else. I have noticed this problem becoming less as I get older (for example, my book blog which I started on a whim after moving across the country has now been going strong for over two years), and I'm hoping that crafting in general will survive the lulls! I would really like to start learning to crochet and to quilt this year, as I have a really nice sewing machine I have never used! 

Anyway, you can see that my thoughts go round in circles and I've got totally off topic already! I've nearly finished the front of the jumper and I love the fact that it's pretty much just knit in panels, so there's not too much complicated making up to deal with, which is perfect for me as my stitching is basic to say the least! The only thing which annoys me and my tangentional attention span slightly is that because it's by far the biggest project I've undertaken to date, I am focusing all my attention on it and haven't been able to start any other little projects. This makes me slightly antsy as my Etsy shop is still woefully understocked, and I'm working on a couple of patterns which are hovering at being about half finished at the moment. Ideally, I'd like to get this jumper finished as soon as possible so that I can get on with something else, but at the same time I don't want to rush it and ruin it! 

I'll keep updating as I go and hopefully it won't be too long before I have pictures of the finished article!

Friday, 8 February 2013

Starfish and Fish and Snakes, Oh My!

I've been concentrating on trying to stock up my brand new Etsy shop this week and I'm very excited about it. So far I'm focusing mostly on toys and items for baby nurseries, and my favourite thing I've made this week is this gorgeous little guy:





He's so colourful and cheeky and I have to admit to being really proud of him! Obviously I've been combining my love of books with my love of crafts this week and reading The Handmade Marketplace by Kari Chapin. I have a little problem with book acquistion which is well documented over on my book blog, so I've committed myself to a year long book buying ban. This just means that I'm having to order all my books about selling crafts and making crafts and suchlike from the library, which I guess is kind of good in a way as it means I don't end up stockpiling huge numbers of books, but also bad because it means I'm taking notes like a crazy person as I know there's loads of the info I'll need at a later date!

Although I've been knitting randomly (gifts, stuff for my son Benji and suchlike) for a couple of years now, I find that having this Etsy shop has provided me with tons of motivation to come up with new ideas for patterns and things. I've actually never written a pattern before this week, but I'm currently working on something which will hopefully be all worked out and finished up in the next couple of weeks and I think it'll be brilliant!

I'm also casting on for my first adult sized jumper in the next few days. I've ordered my gorgeous yarn this morning and it should arrive in the next five days or so (in case you're interested, it's Mode DK in Grape) and I'm really excited about it. I bought a load of craft books from eBay (craft books don't count as part of the buying ban!), because somebody was having a clearout and there were a couple of knitting books among them which have some lovely patterns in there, and this is one of them. Isn't it great? I've also been round to my Grandma's this week as we're visiting family and had a rifle through some of her toy patterns.



I say 'some' but I think I've pretty much nicked most of the knitting ones! It brought back loads of memories, as in the folder I found the pattern for the Humpty Dumpties she used to make for me when I ran stalls for Charities Day at my primary school, patterns for Rupert Bear and Bill Badger which she made for my twin sisters, and loads of other stuff! Knitted toys were such a part of my childhood I can't imagine them not being part of Benji's!

I think there's probably too much going on in this post, but I have a lot to ramble about and I kind of feel like if I don't just get it out there this blog will never get its' feet off the ground!! More coherent posts will follow, I promise! 


Sunday, 3 February 2013

Hello!

It's been so long since I started a blog that I've totally forgotten how to go about it! So, hello! I'm Bex, some of you may know me from my other blog, An Armchair by the Sea, where I've been talking about books and such related things for a couple of years now. I decided to start another blog for my crafts as I'm getting more ambitious and I feel like I need a place to talk about that!

I've also just opened an Etsy shop, the link to which you can find in the sidebar --> It's really brand new at the moment and there are a few major flaws with it, mainly that it doesn't yet have a banner and my photography skills need some definite improvement, but I'll get there!

My baby is just about to be four months old and I kind of feel like I need a bit of a reinvention in my life, as I'm enjoying being at home a huge amount more than I thought I would - I guess the domestic woman in me is finally coming out! Anyway, I feel like the craft community is going to be a great place to be, and I look forward to sharing my projects and experiences! :-)