Thursday, 26 April 2012

5 reasons I blog

This post, or variants of it, has been slowly forming for a while. I've been reading a lot of posts about blogging lately (scroll to the end for a list of some I recommend) and it's made me think about why I blog and what it means to me. I came up with 5 big reasons why I blog, so here they are!

1. This blog is a unique space in my life
A lot of my time is filled with the challenges - and pleasures - of work and family life. Writing this blog gives me a chance to do something different and to have a space that's just for me! It allows me to explore and enjoy parts of myself that otherwise might become (and indeed in the past have become) entirely pushed out by other things.

2. Blogging helps me to nurture my creativity
Devoting a blog to the creative side of my life allows me to nurture and value my creativity. When I'm writing about making things, I reflect on what I've done and it helps me to learn from my experiences and encourages me to try new things.

3. Blogging keeps me motivated
If no-one is watching, it's all too easy to let lethargy or self-doubt win the day and let projects slide. I'm one of those people who easily comes up with and gets excited about new ideas but can have trouble seeing them through. Making my plans and projects public (as with my careful Christmas project, 34 things to make and sketchbook project) gives me more of a sense of accountability and keeps me motivated.

4. Blogging allows me to connect with others across the world
Everything I've said so far are things I kind of expected or hoped for from my blog, but the vital importance of this one - of making friends and connections through blogging - was something I never anticipated! The power of interaction with others - be it a brief exchange of comments or a deep and enduring friendship - is astounding! It is no exaggeration to say that my friendships through blogging have changed me and had a huge and positive impact on my life.

5. Blogging makes me think
Writing my posts - whether frivolous or profound - always gives me pause for thought. It makes me wonder what a particular idea, object or image means to me. Regular readers might have noticed an ongoing fascination with childhood memories and creativity, for example (this amazing guest post by Ashlie Blake is one of my favourites).
            And while I don't usually write much about family life (see No.1 above!) for me family and the domestic sphere are very much linked to making things and I love to make things for those near and dear to me. My mother has been a huge influence on me: having always been crafty and creative, she transmitted to me the urge to make things with my hands.

Some thought-provoking posts about blogging:
- On Owning It by Amy of A is for Ampersand
- How do I get More Blog Followers? a vlog by Chantilly & Elycia on My Girl Thursday
- On Being the Fat Blogger by Rachele of the Nearsighted Owl
- From one new blog girl to another... 5 tips by Meg of Makewells
- Embracing your hobbies by Kate of Wake Up, Lovely
- Who do you blog for? by Marilyn of Pulp Sushi
- Friends, letters and kindredship by Ashlie of PaintingBliss

p.s. thanks to Karen of The Graphics Fairy, for the Victorian advertisement I converted into the image above.

Wednesday, 25 April 2012

sketchbook project: doing and learning

This scan of some recent pages from my sketchbook shows how rumpled and love-worn my sketchbook is becoming as I reach the end of my project (4 pages to go and 4 available evenings to do it).

If I'm doing a drawing it takes a lot to pull me away from my colour pencils. Not that I know quite what I'm doing with them, but I'm used to them. Paint is a different story: it scares me! But I knew I had to paint this owl. I can see all the flaws, but I'm so glad I did it anyway: it's the only way to learn.

So many pages of this book have involved facing fears and experimenting, trying things I think I cannot do. I find this quotation from Picasso comforting. It reminds me that it is through doing that we learn. I recently came across a great video about this on the Little Luck Tree blog.

If you're a creative type, watch this, and if you're a fledgling creative like me, definitely watch it!

Ira Glass on Storytelling from David Shiyang Liu on Vimeo.

Monday, 23 April 2012

drink me

It's time I wrote a post about a daily passion of mine: tea. I was recently lucky enough to be given The Complete Tea Collection by The Lawn (I have an amazing brother & sister-in-law). I love the taste of tea, but I also love the whole business of making and drinking it: strainers and pots, cups and saucers, boxes and caddies.
So I was delighted when a group of friends decided to organise a proper tea party to say farewell to one of our number, who is moving abroad. My mind immediately started planning the perfect bunting and figuring out how to combine elegant cups with child safety (we all have toddlers)! I also had the idea to make tea-themed necklaces for us all to commemorate the occasion.
I am inspired by the 'Time for Tea Jewellery' in Everything Alice, a lovely Alice-themed craft book I've mentioned before (here). They use dollhouse tea sets but I couldn't find those cheaply enough online, so I ordered some sweet little porcelain teapot charms, found on Etsy:
from YouYouSupply
And also found some silver-coloured charms (from this eBay shop, which I recommend as my parcel included some extra little fish charms as a thank-you gift!) I love the teeny tiny forks and spoons: so cute! Aren't miniature things always so appealing?
Now I just need to get some chains and jewellery-making supplies - I can feel a new craft obsession coming on! In the meantime I made this one-off badge for my Etsy shop:
I've been meaning to make a whole series of badges celebrating things I love and various crafts, so I'll hopefully be updating about that soon, as well as the progress with tea necklaces and bunting! 

Right, I think I'll go and put the kettle on now.

Saturday, 21 April 2012

the highs and lows of sewing

Quite some time ago now, I made my first zip (zipper) pouch.
 'Oooh', I think I hear you say, 'that looks pretty! What sweet fabric! Is that a vintage zip I spy? Only 10p from the charity shop, you say? Nice one!'
 'And what a lovely choice of lining: it matches the umbrellas!' You might continue, kindly. But then...
 Ooops!! Whether I failed to measure my fabric correctly or didn't take enough care with my pinning I will never know. Maybe both (lessons duly learned). What I do know is that this pouch sat on my shelf with a reproachful gaze for several weeks.
Making the cute mini-pouch I shared in yesterday's post gave me an idea for salvaging this totally messed-up project: a quick blanket stitch round the edge et voilà: a slighly odd-looking but usable zip pouch.
Here's to salvaging - and learning from - life's little mistakes.

Friday, 20 April 2012

corduroy and cupcakes: quick fix

I believe there is a place in this world for opportunistic creating, by which I mean making something simply because the right set of circumstances arises, rather than sticking to the plan. This week I managed to squeeze in a quick fix of sewing, inspired by a sweet & speedy tutorial from the wonderfully talented Aukse of sheepy me.
Her mini-pouch was just what I needed for tidying stray pinback badges. I wear them all the time and for one reason or another they end up scattered through the house. This was also a great opportunity to use scraps from this vintage stash plus the cute cupcake fabric I got for my birthday.
I used a sweet pink button that was a gift from a dear friend, with little grooves that reminded me of the cupcake wrappers. For extra decoration on the very plain exterior I pinned a little floral badge made from a vintage picturebook. 
I love the way they just hint at the explosion of prettiness on the inside!
To save time, since I only had about 15 minutes to make this in, rather than hand-stitch the two pieces of fabric wrong sides together, as in the original tutorial, I stitched round right sides together on the machine, then turned out. Then I used blanket stitch to sew up the sides, in lilac embroidery thread (naturally I could have spent more time on this and got it neater!)
Sometimes the smallest, easiest things can be so satisfying. And it would only take spending a few extra minutes on a slightly more polished version to make a lovely handmade gift for a friend.

Thursday, 19 April 2012

1920s picturebook pins

When I came across a lovely children's book from 1923 called Honey Bear, written by Dixie Wilson and beautifully illustrated by Maginel Wright Barney, I had to buy it. I love sharing vintage books with my son. However it was in a very bad state, so I decided to cut it up and re-use it in other projects. It felt terrible making the first cut... then liberating!

These six 1-inch (25mm) pinback badges are now listed in my Etsy shop. The colours are rather richer than they appear in the photos. I love re-using things in different contexts and the badges draw attention to little details. Look out for more Honey Bear images and colours in future projects!

Wednesday, 18 April 2012

owls from friends

One thing I love about blogging is meeting so many talented and creative people. Last month, for my birthday, two such people sent me beautiful, original handmade brooches. Even better: they both feature owls! I just had to share them, I love them so much.
This is a sweet and very unusual brooch from Laura of Blue Eyed Night Owl. What you have to know is that the cute little owl dangling from this perfectly-formed felt bow is really a little bell! It makes the prettiest tinkling sound as I walk.
I seem to have given my hair a greenish tinge in this photo but you can still see how the brooch livens up my boring beige dress. Also my toddler loves things that jingle, so he appreciates it too!
This tiny piece of one-of-a-kind art is by another friend who I regularly mention on this blog, Ashlie Blake of Painting Bliss. This is a very serene little owl, who also happens to have lovely bright, joyful colours that make me think of Summer. She is just perfect.
Brooches or badges and owls are things I like to wear everyday - even better when they are combined, better still when they are handmade wtih such care! I'm very grateful to my lovely friends for these particularly special owls to wear.

p.s. you can find more lovely felt creations from Laura in her fab Etsy shop HERE (she's on vacation right now but sign up to be notified when she returns!) and more beautiful brooches and unique mixed media art from Ashlie in her shop HERE.

Tuesday, 17 April 2012

sketchbook project update: bookish

These are the centre pages of my sketchbook (click for a better view). I've been doing quite a lot with my colour pencils lately. This page is supposed to be soft, sweet and dreamy, with a retro feel, and was inspired by the children's books I read with my son.

My sketchbook theme is "why did the owl make everyone laugh?" My take on it has been to see myself in this owl and use it to explore my fears about other people's perception of me. It has taken me back to my childhood memories and I've been thinking about how my childhood both encouraged me to be creative and made me afraid of failure.

Along the way I've been enjoying trying out lots of different styles and approaches. It is truly a sketchbook - a learning process and a process of discovery, rather than a polished, finished work (or works) of art.

"I am always doing that which I cannot do, in order that I may learn how to do it" (Pablo Picasso)

Monday, 16 April 2012

my (accidental) stamp collection

I've written before about how much I love collections. Still, I never thought of myself as a stamp collector. I simply, quite unthinkingly, did what my mother did: I tore or cut off any pretty stamps that came my way and put them into a mug.
It so happened that the mug was made by a dear friend of my mother's who is a potter. It is extremely pretty - pale blue and egg-speckled - but not necessarily great for drinking big vats of morning tea or putting in the dishwasher. So it became my stamp mug.
 Lately I noticed that the mug is getting rather full. I thought I should take out the contents and have a little look. I found so many pretty treasures!
 I think these light bulbs from the Netherlands came to me not so long ago from Laura of Blue Eyed Night Owl.
 Look: a giant spider! It's a huge sculpture by the surrealist artist Louise Bourgeois. It's entitled "maman". Creepy!
 I don't have any criteria for saving stamps: I just keep them if they seem pretty or interesting. I keep British ones too. My mother often uses lovely stamps. I'll bet the two above came from her.
 I found a couple of older stamps: I have no memory of where they came from, oddly enough! I wish it still cost 2p to send a letter!
These pretty American stamps came from my penpal and friend, Ashlie. I love it when stamps are bright and interesting and convey a message or tell a story. My collection will probably never be valuable to anyone except me, but I still love it.

Sunday, 15 April 2012

DIY instant comfort food

I made this recently on a day where I was feeling exhausted after more night-time mothering than usual, and thought it might be just the idea someone tired and/or busy out there needs. It's quick and you probably have all the ingredients already. And it's not too unhealthy: sesame seeds have some great properties (according to this site) & the dish even has something green in it!
The quantities and proportions can comfortably be shifted according to taste and what's in your cupboard: but what's great about it is the mix of salty soy sauce, warm noodles, sesame seeds and creamy butter.

Ingredients (serves 1)
Packet of noodles/ramen
Good handful of frozen peas
1 tbsp sesame seeds (you could toast them first in a dry frying pan if you can be bothered)
Approx 10g butter (preferably unsalted - soy sauce has plenty of salt in it already)
Soy sauce to taste (I use about 1 tbsp)

Cook the noodles in a small pan of unsalted boiling water for about 4 minutes (check the packet instructions as they vary), adding frozen peas for the last 2 minutes. Meanwhile, put the butter, sesame seeds and soy sauce into a bowl. Drain the peas and noodles and add to the bowl, giving it a good stir. You could eat it with chopsticks but I prefer a nice big fork for this. Bon appétit!

Saturday, 14 April 2012

your very own perfect song

This post is about something awesome I came across and just had to share! I love following Juliette Crane's blog: she paints pretty & atmospheric owls, shares inspiring images, and runs art e-courses too. I noticed that the video for her e-course 'how to paint an owl' had a lovely soundtrack. You can hear it and see Juliette at work below (double fun):

How To Paint An Owl e-course video from Juliette Crane on Vimeo.

I was intrigued: how had she come across the perfect song? And how come there's an owl song I don't already know?! A little bit of searching led me to the answer: The Wiggly Tendrils. Headed by T.W. Tendrils (is that his real name?), this versatile songwriting team and band will write and record any song you need, for a mere $100 and 2 weeks!

Oh, and if you're broke, this note at the end of the song request form is for you:
"Have a great idea…
but no money? Feel free to call
 440.TEN.DRIL (440.836.3745)
 song idea.
 listen to your 
message, and
 it’s *really* inspiring, 
I’ll write 

Friday, 13 April 2012

priorities: sketchbook project update

Slightly scary but very true: the deadline for the Sketchbook Project Limited Edition is 30th April! My sketchbook is going much better than last time (read more about that here) but I still have a LOT to do before the deadline. I need to make this my priority for my creative evenings.

Above is a peek at one page, made from a patchwork the shiny wrappers of chocolate Easter eggs. When I was a child I always wanted to save those foil wrappings, they seemed so bright and pretty! But I never knew what to do with them. It seemed apt to use them for this page on the theme of childhood. I found the words in a 1950s children's book when I was working on a custom Etsy order. The photographs of children come from 1960s newspapers.

I like it when there is a little gap sometimes between words and image, so you have to think. There is something terribly poignant about old photographs of children, knowing that so much time has passed, wondering who they are.

My sketchbook project is taking me back to my childhood memories and fears, my early love of owls, and the creative paths through my life. It is a very liberating and enriching process.

Thursday, 12 April 2012

DIY scrapbook envelope

As I wrote in this post, I've been enjoying using my new smash book. As I have a few things I don't want to stick down, I've been making little envelopes to store them in. 
 I love re-using pretty packaging. These bath salts were a Christmas present from my Dad. So much effort has gone into designing that packaging! It seemed a shame not to re-use it.
The only problem is that packaging envelopes are often the wrong way round for scrapbooks: the pretty side is the flat side you want to glue down. But it's so easy to switch this. You just need to peel back the side with the flap, like this:
This will make a new little flap on the other side. Fold this backwards. Then cut off the original flap from the front and fold down to make a neat edge. My back had a sticky edge, so I covered this with washi tape and put some on the sides too. I just happened to have a scrap from an old girls' annual that matched the colours, so I used this to cover the product name and brand.
Et voilà! It takes about 5 minutes and you have the satisfaction of recycling something just too pretty to throw out!

Wednesday, 11 April 2012

stripes for summer

I love doing sewing when my mum's visiting. She doesn't actively "teach" me, but sits with me, chatting, giving little tips that often turn out to be vital, bringing her experience to the process in the gentlest way possible.
These toddler trousers (pants) are my first piece of clothing from scratch. I made them using this wonderfully easy pattern and tutorial by Made (another thing crossed off on my list of 34 things). They came up exactly the right size, which isn't quite right as the weather is still a little cool for them.
These snaps give an idea of how they look on. I think the 1960s tablecloth I used makes the cutest stripes! With the right little t-shirt they will look great. I just need to take the hem down a little. I can't wait to make the next pair (and will bear in mind just how tall my son is for 21 months!)

Tuesday, 10 April 2012

scrap jar

 While doing a bit of sewing with my mother this weekend, I had a great idea for storing the tiny scraps of fabric I do not like to throw out. The fact is, there are so many ways of using scraps that even the smallest pieces can be used (see this great post for 24 awesome ideas!)
 I'd been keeping my scraps in a bag, plus crammed into corners of my sewing boxes, but the bag had to be stowed away, and with things in different places it's hard to see everything at once.
 Putting the scraps into a pretty jar means I can more easily see and access what I have. It becomes something pleasing to look at in itself and potentially even a source of inspiration.
Here I just used an old jar I happened to have lying around. However I can see lots of potential in this idea: I'd like to get a larger jar, or perhaps have several jars coded by colour and pattern. I'm looking forward to having all my little scraps prettily to hand for use in future projects!

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