Friday, 20 January 2017

2016 in Review: A Year of Craftiness

One of the great joys of blogging is being able to look back through your old posts and see just how busy your year has been!

I'll be sharing a round-up of my 2016 Nice Days Out sometime soon, but in the meantime here's what I got up to on the creative side of things...

In January I was getting ready to have a clear-out, photographing lots of crafty things in preparation for a destash sale. I also blogged about a faraway feature and the joys of Fuzzy Felt.

In February I revealed the three fun Valentine's Day crafts I'd designed for Tesco Living, did some paper crafting, shared some works in progress, and visited the yarn heaven that is the Unravel Festival of Knitting.  

In March I shared a tutorial for making a crochet hook roll, and an embroidery pattern reminding you not to compare your insides to other peoples outsides. I also finally finished blogging about the awesomeness that was the first London Craft Week (which happened in 2015; I am not the world's speediest blogger, am I?).

In April I finally got a smartphone and joined Instagram!

I shared tutorials for turning an ordinary tape measure into a cute hot air balloon, and for making a 3D floral picture from felt and fabric. Banners, Buntings, Garlands and Pennants was published so I got to show you guys the projects I designed for it (such a fun book!)... and I stitched the final flowers onto this cushion cover (which will hopefully become a tutorial later this year).

In May I blogged about the progress of my happy rainbow blanket, which finished soon after that but still need to take "ta-dah!" photos of to show off its full rainbow glory. Big stuff = so much trickier to photograph than things like felt brooches!

I also did some secret sewing, took part in the Day in the Life photo challenge on Instagram, and shared two more positive embroidery patterns: be the best version of you, and you are stronger than you know.

In June I did some more destashing and decluttering (so much photographing and weighing and measuring of things!) and held a sample sale of lots of old projects from my books and other craft books. I shared a tutorial for making a mug mat decorated with felt biscuits and wrote a list of 50 small ideas for cultivating kindness, happiness and positivity (which I think might be my favourite blog post from last year).

I also made recycled envelopes, played with paint and added lots of mini squares to my random blanket.

In July I reviewed The Origami Home, started a sea-themed project and shared tutorials for making phone cases decorated with ice creams and sewing a whole village of felt houses. I also knitted a tiny scarf for a polar bear and cut out lots and lots and lots of felt flowers.

Oh, and when the 69th issue of Mollie Makes came out I got to show you guys the fun projects I designed to accompany their felt-y cover gift.

In August I did yet more destashing (I think this might be the theme of my 2016?), I celebrated five years of Super-Cute Felt (my first book, and one I still adore). I announced that I'd be teaching some classes at The Village Haberdashery, which sadly didn't work out (boo) but later became some fun online tutorials (yay!), and I got crafty with lots of colourful supplies.
After many hours of late night stitching, I also finished my "Take to the Sea" embroidery inspired by The Toast - I really loved working on this, and (luckily) the recipient loved it too (phew!). 

In September I set myself a crafty challenge: to come up with 100 creative gift wrapping ideas. No time limits, just an ongoing creative project to work on when the fancy takes me. In a great flurry of enthusiasm, I'd shared 10 ideas before the month was out! I've got lots more ideas scribbled in a notebook; I hope I'll have the time to make and photograph them sometime soon. 

As well as the gift-wrapping ideas, I shared a snow globe embroidery pattern, and a tutorial for using it to make a snow globe ornament.  My cross stitch brooches got featured in Homespun magazine, and the partridge and pear wreath I designed for Mollie Makes the previous year got republished in Mollie Makes Christmas.

I took a journey down memory lane and blogged about a childhood sewing project, my Sylvanian Families collection and all the food, fashions and furniture I made for them as a kid. I finally bought the wadding and backing fabric needed for the Christmas quilt I'm making my sister, and I also bought a frankly ridiculous amount of embroidery thread which was being sold at a bargain price. I've been choosing just one photo per month for this post but I can't resist including these thread photos too - so much delicious colour!


In October I celebrated 8 years of sharing free tutorials here on my blog, I reviewed A World of Quilts (such an inspiring book), started a whole series of Christmas ornament tutorials and shared the kitsch Christmas stocking  I designed for issue 72 of Mollie Makes

I was also busy behind the scenes working on new patterns and most of my evenings were spent working on my sister's Christmas quilt - hand quilting is a labour-intensive business!  

In November I visited the Renegade Craft Fair, published the rest of the Christmas ornament tutorials, and blogged about two very different projects of mine ending up in print.

I also turned my autumn wreath design into a tutorial for The Village Haberdashery and finished hand quilting the Christmas quilt. It was hugely satisfying to get the final row stitched but sadly the quilt didn't get finished in time for Christmas as I'd hoped as December was just so hectic.

December was a ridiculously busy month in my "real life" and my blogging and crafting got a little neglected. I wrote a felt Christmas baubles tutorial for The Village Haberdashery, did a round-up of some of my favourite Christmas cards... but I mostly spent the month packing, moving house, and getting set up in my new place.

Of course, I made sure that I had all the essentials when I moved: I didn't have an oven or a fridge for weeks, but I did have a pile of handmade blankets.

I hope you enjoyed this look back at what I got up to last year!

You can follow along with all my new crafty projects here on my blog, of course, or on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram.

Wednesday, 11 January 2017

My Resolution for 2017: Read More Books

I grew up surrounded by and addicted to books.

Every birthday and Christmas as a kid, I asked for new books. Most weekends as a teen I was either down the library or browsing my local second hand bookshops. I read widely and voraciously and didn't really understand people who said they didn't like reading, or weren't "interested" in books. There were whole worlds in there, both real and imagined and I wanted to explore as many as I possibly could.

Then, somehow, gradually, I stopped reading. I don't know if it was just the distractions of exams and Uni and the internet (and writing things of my own!), or the number of books I was told I "should" read as I got older and loathed but kept on trying to like because they were apparently "the best books" (so foolish!). Either way, books stopped being my constant companion and became something just for lazy holidays or long train journeys.

In recent years I've made efforts to try and get back into reading - with mixed success.

My Nice Days Out have helped, as I now always take a paperback with me for reading in cafes and on train journeys (and during train delays!) so I always have at least one book that I'm slowly working my way through... but I have resolved and then, er, re-resolved to make more time in my regular life for books and it just hasn't worked out.

Lots of people swear by audiobooks, but I find that unless I'm doing something really, really mindless while listening to them I can't concentrate on the task and the narration and I tend to suddenly realise I have no clue what's going on in the plot (is this a sign I am getting old? It probably is). I used to listen to them (and BBC radio dramas) quite a lot when I was doing repetitive work tasks like cutting out felt shapes or making up felt bundles for my shops, but these days my schedule involves a lot fewer tasks like this!

So this year I am determined to try to read more actual books. To read a chapter in the morning instead of checking Twitter on my phone. To have a proper lunch break, paperback in hand. To turn off the telly or the internet in the evenings and pick up a book instead. To go to the library more often so I'll always have something I can't wait to start reading...

... and, of course, to blog about my progress to try and keep myself focused.

So, I'll be blogging once month about what I've been reading (I've started the year with some of the British Library's Crime Classics) and how/where/when I'm managing to make space for books in my day - what works for me, what doesn't. I hope you'll enjoy following along with my progress throughout the year.

What are you looking forward to reading this year? And when do you find time to read? Have you ever fallen out of love with reading like I did? Maybe you've even made the same New Year's Resolution as me and are embarking on a similar journey to fill your life with more of the joy of books? Leave me a comment and let me know!

Monday, 9 January 2017

December in Pictures: Frosty Leaves, Festive Fun & a New Home

It was rather quiet on my blog this December because I was a) busy getting ready to move, then b) moving house, and then c) doing lots of DIY in my new flat... but I also got up to some fun stuff and shared pictures! Wanna see?

I started the month in true Instagrammer / blogger style, by almost missing my train because I'd stopped to take photos of some frosty leaves. Totally worth it.

I got some gorgeous post from one of my (then) blog sponsors, in thanks for hosting their ad. How sweet is that? The adorable bunny brooch is by illustrator Emma Evans. 

I spent most of the start of December packing ready to move house, and ticking lots of other things off my "stuff that needs to get done before I can move" checklist. That bunny brooch got packed within hours of me taking that photo!

Of course, I couldn't resist squeezing in a couple more local Nice Days Out before moving away from the South-East. I spent a busy day in London, doing some Christmas shopping and oohing over all the festive loveliness (the lights, the shop windows and all the sparkly things for sale).

This is the swoonworthy flower stall in one of Harrods' food halls. It was such fun picking out delicious gifts for friends and family, umming and ahhing over all the loveliness.

I can never resist popping into the haberdashery department when I'm in Liberty. Not least because they're still selling my book! So thrilling.

My second last-Nice-Day-Out-before-I-move-away was a trip to Windsor. They had a gorgeous Christmas tree this year - a gift from the German town where Queen Victoria's husband Albert was born. Victoria and Albert popularised the idea of Christmas trees in Britain, and apparently Albert had his first tree at Windsor shipped in from his home town!

Windsor Castle is always a wonderful place to visit, but especially so at Christmas. It's quieter in the off-season, and the Castle is decorated with wreaths and garlands and Christmas trees, including a huge tree in the main hall.


I had a marvelous bit of luck, as it turned out that the only day I could manage to get away to Windsor for the day was not only wonderfully sunny (yay!) but it was also part of a special festive weekend of events at the Castle (hurrah!). There were choirs singing carols, ornament-making workshops, and a very funny "pop-up Panto". So much fun!

I also really enjoyed Fashioning a Reign, an exhibition of some of the Queen's outfits. Some of the embroidery and beading was quite incredible.

Back at home, I wrapped all my Christmas gifts super early so I could leave them at my parents house (to save carting them back and forth as I moved house then headed "home" for a family Christmas). Isn't the gift wrap gorgeous? It's not technically Christmas wrap, but who cares!

I totally dropped the ball on Christmas cards this year (I didn't send a single one! and I love sending Christmas cards!) but at least I managed this.

Before my unplanned blogging break I finished blogging about my trip to Leeds (so much great architecture!) and my day in Oxford with Polly. This is one of my favourite photos from that Oxford trip: a quiet corner of All Souls College.

I also blogged about the felt Christmas baubles tutorial I'd designed for the Village Haberdashery's blog. It feels a teeny bit pointless linking to a Christmas tutorial in January, but maybe you could bookmark it (or Pin it!) and make some felt baubles for Christmas 2017?

Then in the middle of December I moved to the seaside! Into my very own flat!

I'm really happy to be living in the South-West again (I love it here and had missed it a lot), and it's very exciting having my own place.

I shared this photo a few days after moving in: I might not have had a cooker or a fridge yet (or much proper furniture!) but I did have all the important stuff, like piles of colourful handmade blankets.

Seriously though, it has been such a joy finally using these blankets in my new home.

There's my Happy Rainbow Blanket (which I still need to take "finished" photos of!), a Giant Granny Square blanket (the first and only thing I have ever crocheted), my Sky Blanket, and my Random Squares blanket (which includes squares I knitted as a teenager). Each of these blankets contain so much meaning and so many memories, and they're all so wonderfully colourful. I love them.

It's also been really nice rediscovering some of the things I've had in storage for the past few years. I missed these plates rather a lot - isn't the pattern lush?

After a couple of busy weeks of moving boxes and doing DIY it was time to head to my parents house for Christmas. These are a choir of singing trees from the Christmas at Kew light trail I visited with my mum back in November; the trees lit up as they "sang". Delightful!

We had a lovely quiet Christmas - just how we like it. We watched lots of films and some Christmas telly and ate far too much food.

These are the excellent gifts I got for Christmas: the Ghostbusters remake on DVD (which I made my family watch immediately; such a great film!) and a Chocolate Orange (yum!).  

Aaaand that's it for another month!

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Saturday, 7 January 2017

A Walk along the Jubilee River

Today is one of those gloomy winter days when you go to put the light on, only to find that it's already on. Rather depressing!

So, I thought today would be a great day to share some photos from a very sunny walk I took a couple of months ago. Sadly you can't get a Vitamin D fix from just looking at pictures, but I hope you'll enjoy these sunshine-filled pics anyway...

Back in the middle of November, we had a day of such unexpectedly gorgeous weather that it seemed totally wrong to sit indoors. So, I took advantage of my flexible schedule (definitely one of the perks of being self-employed!) and took a few hours off work to go for a walk with my dad.

As it was such a bright, clear day we expected it to be chilly and wrapped up warm, but actually the day was so mild we didn't even need our gloves. No fumbling with camera buttons with frozen fingers, hurrah!

We went for a walk along the Jubilee River, which flows through the countryside near where my parents live. It's actually not a river at all but a man-made flood relief channel connecting to the Thames. It's been planted and managed to encourage wildlife, and is now a lovely place for a walk or to go bird spotting. 

It was so peaceful, and so beautiful - and so blue!

We walked along the path down one side of the water, then crossed one of the bridges - stopping in the middle to admire the views, of course. 


Everywhere we looked there was something interesting to see: flocks of birds, vibrant autumn colours, long grasses, bushes full of red berries. 

And that light. So gorgeous.

On the other side of the river we passed some grazing cattle, who also seemed to be enjoying their afternoon.

 Can you see the silhouette of Windsor Castle off in the distance? 

Eventually we reached another bridge, crossed over the glorious blue again and headed back towards the car with our hearts full of gladness.


Not the fanciest of Nice Days Out - just a simple walk, chatting with my dad - but a special one all the same.


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