Saturday, 10 November 2012

Crafting for others

Although I love to craft for crafting's sake, what really got me hooked was making cards for specific people - tailoring my project to their hobbies, tastes, and the occasion.  In some ways it's easier, as it cuts down your options, but it can be hard to find the products to realise what you have in mind, unless you're artistic enough not to need to use stamps or stickers of course!  Making cards for friends to give adds a layer of trickiness too, as you have no idea what the recipient will like.  Nerve-wracking though it is, I love the challenge of meeting someone else's brief though, so I was delighted when a friend asked for three special birthday cards recently.  The specs were as follows:
  1. A 40th card for a male mechanic who loves go-carting
  2. Something with fast cars and bikes for a James Bond fan
  3. A card for a 1 year old girl to give to Daddy, in the style of something a child might make.
Here's what I came up with and why.  Please leave me a comment, I'd love to know what you think, and how you'd have met the briefs.

1. For the go-carter:

I went for a penny slider*, as I thought a kinetic card would appeal to someone technically minded, and because I wanted to make the go-cart look like it was racing, hence the chequered flag.  For the paper I chose circles and stripes (from the Arctic Frog Lilly Pads "By the Sea" pad), because they're speedy and masculine, and I wanted the 40 to look a bit like a speed limit sign.  The flowery sheet from this pad also looked a bit like gears, so I die cut part of it to use as the go-cart mount.  I couldn't find a nice go-cart image in time, so I used an ancient and well-used racing car stamp (from the See D's "Boys Toys" set) and removed the spoiler and wing.

* For the non-crafters out there - the go-cart travels along the slot in the middle, spinning as it goes :-)

2. For the Bond fan:


For me, the most iconic Bond image is the through-the-eye view of a silhouetted Bond, so I went for this circular theme for the card.  I stuck with circles with the fabby "00" paper, which is from the DCWV Black & White Prints paper stack.  The Bond image is a freebie from the Papercrafts Inspiration website.


3. For Daddy

Several years ago I helped out at our local Rainbows, and one thing I remember about little girls crafting is that they don't do subtle or minimalist :-)  With this in mind, I wanted to create a busy and cheerful card, and I wanted to use colours that would appeal to a little girl but that wouldn't be inappropriate for a man.  The papers I chose are from very old Papermania paper stacks - one is the first pack of paper I bought when I started crafting!  The flowers are die cut using XCut Petal Posy dies - I love this set, and it's great for using odd bits of paper. With lots of sizes of flowers and the separate flower centres, you can really minimise paper wastage.  I keep this set out all the time and cut flowers from oddly shaped paper scraps as I create them - it's much nicer to keep flowers than tatty bits of paper!  'Daddy' is stamped using watercolour pens on Craft Planet foam alphabet stamps.  I know they're for children, but I use these quite a bit as they're really versatile.  My pen set didn't have the right orange colour to match my papers, but one of the great things about foam stamps is that you can blend colours directly on the stamps.  Just start with the lightest colour so you don't ruin your pens.  I'm really happy with the result, and will do something similar with Bob to make a name plate for his room as soon as he's able to craft :-)

Tuesday, 23 October 2012

Well that didn't work!

After the excitement of the blog challenges over at docrafts earlier this year, I was full of blogging ideas.  It was going to be great, I had titles for posts that would have taken me through the summer.  And then Bob started dropping naps.  We're down to one a day now, that often lasts a little as half an hour.  Long blog posts don't get a chance to make it to the top of the list of jobs I'm afraid!

So that's the new plan.  Short posts.  Like this one.

I haven't been a housework slave for all Bob's naps, and I'll share the projects I've managed to make in little posts whenever I can.  I recently bought some gorgeous new paper from my lovely friends at Country View Crafts (I didn't have enough paper, you understand) and liked the projects I made so much I wrote them up for their blog.  Please take a look here, I'd love to know what you think of them.  But first a little taster:

The very pretty London Line papers

Sunday, 1 July 2012

A fun day in blogland


Today is a fun day in the part of the crafty blogworld that I spend most of my time.  The Facebook crafting group the ‘Crafting Cafe’ is having its first ever bloghop, and I’m about halfway round at the moment.  There are some lovely projects on there so far.  It’s the first bloghop I’ve ever boinged around on, and I just wish I’d organised my time well enough this week to contribute too.  Hopefully there’ll be another one soon!  If you want to join in, the starting place is my friend Nikki Smith’s blog.
Today is also the start of the 31 day sketch challenge over at the docrafts Creativity Club, and I’m busy planning my project for the first sketch so I can get busy with some paper later.

Tuesday, 26 June 2012

docrafts Blog: A Stash Stretching Technique

Bob has been having some slightly longer daytime naps recently - he still doesn't go to sleep until 9 or 10 at night, but can't have everything I suppose!  Anyway, this has given me the chance to get a couple of whole projects done, so I hope the trend continues.  A couple of these have been published over at the docrafts blog today: docrafts Blog: A Stash Stretching Technique.  In the post, I describe a thrify way to get the best out of decoupage card kits, using one of the lovely Michael Powell kits as an example.  I hope you'll take a look - I'd love to know what you think.

Friday, 22 June 2012

New blog!

While it's always best to feel you've made your own choices, sometimes going with the flow makes life so much easier.  When I set up a new blog last year, I picked Wordpress so that I could have more control over what it looked like.  Although I knew I could do more if I hosted the blog myself, I didn't realise how limited it would be if I didn't.  Simple things like following other people's blogs, and attracting followers to mine, are such a pain that it really is a bit disheartening.  So, I thought I'd have a go at running Wordpress and Blogger blogs alongside one another for a while, and choose which one I like the best.  A quick Google revealed that Wordpress will export a blog, Blogger will import one, and the nice people at www.webupd8.org will convert a Wordpress export to Blogger format.  So, here's my new, new blog.  Some of the formatting has suffered in the transfer, so please bear with me while I fix all that by hand.

Thursday, 21 June 2012

Manda's kitchen experiments - bread

I've always loved to cook, and I don't like to let a little thing like not having, or not being allowed, all the ingredients get in my way :-)  As a result, I often experiment...

I've made my own bread (in a bread machine) since reading about the horrible things done to mass-produced bread in Felicity Lawrence's excellent book "Not on the label".  Over the years I've come up with a recipe I'm happy with for a wholewheat loaf but, like most bread, it does contain salt.  Babies shouldn't eat salt, so part of my prep for Bob's weaning was to modify my recipe to exclude it.  Salt does two things in bread, it adds some flavour, and it inhibits the fermentation of the yeast, so giving a good texture.  Just cutting it out without other alterations to the recipe results in a bland loaf with a sunken top and big air pockets.  Regarding flavour, I add spices to my bread anyway.  Ginger is my favourite, but I also like cinnamon, mixed spice, celery seeds and aniseed.  As for texture, most recipes include sugar to feed the yeast, so cutting down on that is an obvious way to counteract any loss of salt.  I also found the texture was improved by mixing some strong white bread flour into the mix, and by cutting down on the yeast.  I tried using the quick programme too, but this made bread that was a bit too dense, and made stodgy sandwiches.  So, here is my recipe for salt free bread.  I cook it as a standard large loaf (4 hours on my Panasonic) and pick a light crust. I hope it's of use to you!

My salt-free bread - not perfectly shaped, but very tasty 
  • 1 mean teaspoon quick yeast (I use Doves', as I find the tiny sachets don't rise as well)
  • 1 mean teaspoon unrefined sugar
  • 1 generous teaspoon (or more) of dried ginger, aniseed, mixed spice, cinnamon, or your favourite herb/spice
  • 550g bread flour split roughly 50:50 between strong white bread flour and either stoneground wholewheat or strong multigrain bread flour
  • 380ml water
  • 1.5 tablespoons olive oil or rapeseed oil

I also like to throw in a handful of raisins sometimes, but don't do this if, like me, you let your doggy have the corner of your breakfast toast crust.  Raisins/grapes are surprisingly toxic to our canine chums.

Wednesday, 20 June 2012

Popularity - Blog prompt catch up, Day 28

Day 28's prompt was to write about our blog's most popular post.

This was a really useful exercise for me, as I hadn't previously taken the time to explore all the statistics that wordpress collects.  I was really impressed - you could spend hours looking at where your readers come from, and where they visit.  If my blog was part of a business, it'd be a great tool for evaluating on-line advertising.  As it is, it provided me with an hour of happy geeking instead :-)

In terms of number of views, 16th May was my blog's busiest day with 81 views, 32 of which were for that day's post "A day in life of Baby Bob aged 8 months".  I posted about this update in a few groups on Facebook, so I think this peak says more about that than the post itself.  I'm always really excited to get comments on blog posts, as it means people were interested enough to linger and interact, so this is how I measure the popularity of my posts.  The most commented award goes to 26th May's post "Happy day, happy card".  As that post featured the first craft project I'd managed to complete for weeks, that makes me pretty happy :-)

Tuesday, 19 June 2012

Busy little blogger

Phew! What a busy week.  Last weekend we went down to the south coast to celebrate one friend's birthday and another's new house.  We had hoped it would be Bob's first trip to the seaside, but the weather was too horrible to contemplate the beach, so that fun is yet to come.

Veggies, herbs, and flowers all mixed in together 
My parents came to visit for the first half of the week, and Dad did some amazing work in the garden.  I love gardening, but I've struggled to find the time for it over the past few summers and this, combined with my general reluctance to cut things back, meant that it was a bit of a jungle, overrun by self sown hardy geraniums, and megalomaniac ivy, lamium and jasmine.  We used to have poplar trees at the back of the garden, but had them removed last year as a precaution after a neighbour had problems with theirs.  Our once shady garden is now very sunny, so I can grow veggies for the first time.  Dad made all the ruthless decisions I've been avoiding and has transformed the beds to a lovely flower bed on one side and a combined veg, herb and rose bed on the other.  The whole thing's looking great, and I'm looking forward to serving up some of my own runner beans, courgettes and potatoes later in the year.  I have very fond memories of growing veg with Daddy when I was little (and then cooking it with Mummy!), and this is something I'm looking forward to doing with Bob.

Runner beans and sweet peas replace gnarly old winter not-flowering-any-more jasmine 
One of the only bits of my original planting scheme to survive - variegated berberis and golden philadelphus


While Dad toiled in the garden, Mum played with Bob, so I was able to make some real progress sorting out my craft room.  The table part of our changing table (which I've never used) has been pressed into service and has allowed me to get a few more things out of storage boxes.  I also managed to get a bit ahead with housework, so I managed to spoil myself with a couple of crafting sessions later in the week.  Look out for a blog post about the technique I was using very soon. At the weekend we had another birthday barby, this time with family.  The birthday boy was 3, and I'd hoped to make a penny slider card, but spent too long trying to find the Pixar Cars embellishments I wanted to use.  I made a Woodland Folk card from a kit instead, but then forgot to photograph it - doh!  I should be telling you about the Fathers' Day cards I made too, but for some reason I had it in my head that it wasn't for another week, so they're not done yet.  The three special dads in my life will just have to have their very own day this week - Queenie gets two birthdays, so why not?!

Friday, 8 June 2012

Making the most of things - Time

As you may have seen me whinge before, motherhood has drastically curtailed my crafting exploits.  There are opportunities for creativity though, I've just had to get a little flexible, and a lot patient...  Step one has been to rediscover cross stitching.  I've always taken kits on long journeys, as it's not too hard to do with all the car jiggling, takes up very little space, and doesn't need lots of setting up/packing away.  We don't do many long journeys at the moment, but we do take Molly to the woods every day for walkies, and that's almost 10 minutes each way.  Sometimes Bob really doesn't want to be in the car seat, so I have to sing Old Macdonald and play with rattles, but then again, sometimes he falls asleep on the way and I have to sit in the car park for a while, missing part of the walk.  Anyway, here's what I've managed to achieve by reclaiming almost a month's worth of previously wasted 10 minuteses.  They're from docrafts So&Sews card kits from a few years ago and they aren't *quite* finished - I didn't think it was wise to try to sew on the beads in the car :-)



When I do miss part of the walk because Bob is asleep, I could do something that isn't jiggly car friendly, so my next plan is to stick some decoupage, stamped images and my watercolour pencils in the car too.  This could also be the way I tackle one of my new year resolutions - learning to knit!

Thursday, 7 June 2012

Best childhood memory - Blog prompt day 25

The 25th prompt was to share our best childhood memory.

[caption id="attachment_390" align="alignright" width="296"] Nanna, the rose garden, and the apple trees[/caption]

Many of my strongest childhood memories are just snippets really, and most are triggered by smells.  One place that smells keep taking me back to is the house where I was born.  My paternal Grandparents rented the house from friends who owned a farm in Silver End in Essex.  It had the most wonderful garden (almost an acre), with chestnut trees, grape vines, a huge pampas grass and apple trees - a brilliant place for playing hide and seek!  Nanna had a rose garden at one side, which used to fill the air with a gorgeous heady scent, and the smell of roses always transports me there.  Grandad's passion was for cacti, and I found his collection fascinating.  The smell of warm compost, cactus and wooden greenhouse is just as evocative for me as that of the roses.  Grandad's study had a very particular feel too.  I was only allowed in there sometimes, so it seemed quite exotic, but it also seemed outside of time, the only movement being the dust motes that danced in the sunbeams and the heavy ticking of a big clock on the mantlepiece.  I felt the same feeling in our dining room the day we first viewed the house, and it was one of the reasons I wanted to live here.

There are so many little details about that house that I remember fondly - the pebbledashing (I used to pick the pebbles out), the bubble pattern on the kitchen door glass, the feel of conkers underfoot, the squiggly black pattern on the yellow table in the kitchen, the special drawer in the sideboard that contained Christmas cake decorations...  The house came up for sale about 10 years ago, but it's been extended so much that, even if I could have afforded it, it wouldn't have been the house I remember. Although that house is irretrievably gone, it will always be a source of very happy memories for me.

Wednesday, 6 June 2012

10 things about me and 5 things I love - Blog Prompt Days 29 and 30

The blog prompt is officially over, but I thought I'd spend the next couple of weeks catching up on the topics I'd missed. I've had a very busy week this week, but days 29 and 30 are nice and short, so I thought I'd catch them up together. Here goes: 10 things about me: I wasn't sure if this should be the 10 most important things, or the 10 most surprising, or some other criteria, so I did 10 random things.

  1. I met my husband almost 26 years ago at our college motorbike club.
  2. I became a mum for the first time in 2011. I'm not sure how I imagined it would be, but it's not like that so far :-)
  3. I love to craft and have a teensy weensy problem resisting buying patterned paper, rubber stamps and embossing folders.
  4. For the past 6 years I've funded my craft addiction and explored my hobby by doing demos and magazine work for do crafts. Seeing my work in print makes me stupidly happy.
  5. When I was 21 I graduated in physics, started working as a trainee engineer for a missile company, and wouldn't have believed points 2, 3 or 4 :-)
  6. My grandmother's sudden death 10 years ago prompted me to downshift so that I could break out of a work-eat-sleep lifestyle, spend less time at airports, and spend more time with my family and friends.
  7. I spent a year volunteering part time in the fabric workshop at the Shuttleworth Collection, where I helped to re-cover their Tiger Moth - stitching the fabric to the wings was my favourite job.
  8. I love mountains and the sea, but live in one of the flattest and most inland counties in England. I'm not sure how this happened.
  9. My favourite colours are yellow and purple. The first time I was asked what colour room I wanted as a little girl, I chose really dark purple. It was *brilliant*.
  10. I'm a keen geocacher. For those of you who are not familiar with the hobby, it involves using a GPS to hide (typically) bits of tupperware in the countryside and to look for the tupperware other people hid before you. It's a lot more fun than it sounds ;-)



Shelacking the SE5a wings

I rubbed all the fabric down at least once - that's a lot of rubbing!

With Tiny Tears in my purple palace
5 things I love:
  1. My family, of course, and creative pursuits. These are both so obvious, I bagsy they can be doubled up so I only use one of my 5 :-)
  2. Spitfires, the flying kind. Well, I love anything with a Merlin engine really, but the Spitfire is so beautiful and elegant, and was so important in winning the Battle of Britain that it will always be extra special to me. When the oil runs out, I hope they save the last bit for one last Spitfire display.
  3. The great outdoors. I've always loved walking in the countryside, but barely did any of it towards the end of when I worked full time - I really didn't feel like me. Now I'm fortunate to be able to walk several miles every day - according to my GPS I managed 1300 miles while pregnant.
  4. Food! I'm always very sad when people say they're not interested in food. We all have to eat, most of us do it 3 times a day, and our bodies have to replace 10-50 trillion cells a day using only what we eat and breathe in. It makes sense to make our food both pleasurable to eat and as good for us (or at least as un-bad) as possible. For me, this manifests itself as an interest in cooking and what's in food that borders on obsession!
  5. Photographs. I say photos rather than photography because the mechanics of taking a good photo only interests me in as much as I have to know it to end up with a good photo. If I could just click a button on the side of my head and save how I see a scene, or if I could have a super-intelligent camera that I could just talk to, I'd be much happier than having to muck around with aperture sizes and exposure times. I feel so lucky to live in an age when we can record so much of our lives for posterity. I've only dabbled in scrapbooking so far, but I'm really looking forward to getting properly stuck in!

Thursday, 31 May 2012

I've spied, with my little eye... - Blog prompt, day 27

For day 27's blog prompt Emma wanted us to let on who we've been blog-stalking this week.  Before the blog prompt I was an erratic blogger at best.  I wrote little and read even less, except for the blogs of a couple of close friends.  The prompts have given me the push to write, but critically to join the blogging community by reading too.  I've really enjoyed exploring the blogs of my fellow prompters, not just their latest posts, but their pre-prompt ones too.  I've also loved getting comments (please leave me one!  It's great to connect to new people through the blogs), and they have taken me to new blogs too.  Here are a few of the places I've been having fun lately:

http://coventryann.blogspot.co.uk/

http://craftyfran.blogspot.co.uk/

http://www.geniushands.co.uk/

http://www.theprmummy.com/

http://craftycoops.blogspot.co.uk/

http://anniescardsandchat.blogspot.co.uk/

http://christinescraftyart.blogspot.co.uk/

http://craft-owl.blogspot.co.uk/

http://www.d-dazzledscraps.com/

http://doreensdream.blogspot.co.uk/

http://glitterarti1.blogspot.co.uk/

http://powered-by-fairydust.blogspot.co.uk/

http://veecassidy.blogspot.co.uk/

http://taylor-madecards.blogspot.co.uk/

http://what-nikki-did-next.blogspot.co.uk/

 

Thanks everyone for the company!

Saturday, 26 May 2012

Happy day, happy card - Blog post 17

Born to Shop new home card
Born to Shop new home card
Day 17's blog prompt challenge was to create a cheerful card and dedicate it to someone.  Here's the card I made, using papers and an embossing folder from the Born to Shop 'Go Green' collection.  Not only is it a cheerful card, but it's about happiness, so I hope it counts :-)  I made it as a new home card for some friends who have just bought their first home together, as I thought it was a nice way to wish that their new house is always filled with laughter.

I really like making backgrounds like this, with several coordinating papers, and it's a good way to use up off-cuts.  It's a technique that I think looks good with everything lined up neatly, or with a more fun layout like this.

For the main image I've embossed the design onto Core'dinations Whitewash cardstock and sanded it.  I applied some light colour to bring out the design and picked out the writing with a fine pen.  The frame is cut freehand.  I hope you like it!

Favourites among favourites - Blog prompt day 13

My Grandad used to say you shouldn't pick favourites from those you love, but I suppose there are bits of my stash I love just a teensy bit more than others :-)

My paper collection takes some beating in my affections, but probably shouldn't count as my favourite thing. Much as I get a warm and fuzzy feeling from seeing shelves full of paper stacks, the same view often causes a rising panicky feeling when I realise how many packs haven't even been opened, and how few of my crafting plans I've managed to get made! The same applies to my stamp collection. Having said that, I love both collections so much that my current faves ought to get a mention. In the papers it's Papermania Pampered Pets (I'm not owning up to how many packs of this I've bought), the new Lucy Cromwell papers, and DCWV Old World. For stamps, it's a tie between the John Byars Nostalgia wood-mounted range and my friend Chris Saunders' super-versatile 'Build A Landscape' range. Seeing my choices written down seems a bit odd to me though - there's a lot of pastel and vintage there, and I really didn't think that was what I liked best!

There is one bit of my stash that has been getting a lot of my love for awhile now: my collection of XCut nesting dies. I really wouldn't want to be without them and, although I've been trying to prioritise them for shopping, I know I'm going to want them all! The bunting ones are top of my wish list at the moment - I have some plans for Bob's room!

In the meantime, here are a couple of projects made with nesting dies.  I made the tag book for the docrafts advent calendar - instructions are here.

[caption id="attachment_341" align="aligncenter" width="296"] Nesting all on one layer like this is really economical with your paper, and you can make two complementary cards at once.[/caption]

[caption id="attachment_361" align="aligncenter" width="300"] New year resolution tag book[/caption]

Shoptastic - Blog prompts 23 and 24

 Today's blog posts are brought to you from here :-) 
I've got a bit more behind than usual this week, as little Bob has just learned to crawl forwards. He's getting quite speedy now, so needs a lot more watching when he's playing on his mat, as we appear to live in a death trap, full of inappropriate things to chew and hard pointy corners to fall onto. Ah well, I may not have been able to spend time on my laptop, but I know nearly all the little songs on Bob's Fisher Price pretend smart phone by heart now :-)

Anyway, to business. Blog prompts 23 and 24 were "write about your favourite craft shop" and "do you prefer online or bricks-and-mortar shopping?".

Picking my favourite bricks-and-mortar craft shop is easy. Demoing in shops from Surrey to the West Midlands and from Berkshire to the East Coast, I've been to a lot of craft shops! I also see them from a different perspective, as I'm neither staff nor customer (OK, I confess I am often a customer too!). The store that has always stood out for me though is In2Crafting in Wickford. They're everything a family run craft shop should be - friendly, well-stocked, helpful, and all really keen crafters. And they make a really good cup of tea :-) I've really missed my demos there while I've been off with Bob, there's a lovely group of regulars and the atmosphere's always relaxed and fun. My favourite online shop is one that specialises in die cutting - Country View Crafts. It's run by two of my bestest friends, so I know I'm biased, but I also get to see how hard they work. What they don't know about die cutting really isn't worth knowing, and they're always happy to share that knowledge too.

As for the second question (online or bricks-and-mortar), I enjoy both. When I know what I'm buying, online is so easy, and of course you can keep an eye on what you're spending before you get to the checkout. What online shopping can't do though, is give you a sense of the quality of an unfamiliar brand, you can't be sure about the colours, and of course there's no 'Aladdin's Cave' feeling of being surrounded by crafty loveliness, or the happy feeling of finding something you didn't know you
wanted
needed. Online shops also don't generally offer demos, and my own crafting didn't really take off until I went to my first docrafts demo, and that experience was what drove me to be a demonstrator myself.

Tuesday, 22 May 2012

Spring cleaning (!) - Blog prompt day 18

On Friday, Emma wanted us to confess our spring cleaning secrets, so here goes.

I'm not a great fan of any housework, with the exception of getting a huge pile of fresh laundry in from the line on a bright and breezy day and burying my face in it :-)  Cleaning in particular just depresses me while I'm doing it - I know the bit I just did is already gathering dust, and that I'll never have finished.  Spring cleaning is different though, as it's well defined.  I find it hugely satisfying to tackle all the jobs that have nagged at me for ages and to get absorbed in detail of it, before shutting the door on a 'perfect' room.  It's just a shame you always end up with a shoe box of weird things that don't really belong anywhere...

Emma also wanted to know about favourite cleaners and adverts.  Well, I watch very little telly, and what I do watch is recorded, so I fast forward over the adverts.  I can't think of any recent cleaner ads at all!  As for favourite cleaners, I love Orange Glo wood polish - it eats through all the old polish layers and leaves a gorgeous orangey smell that fills the room. As I mentioned in one of my first posts on this blog, I'm also a big fan of baby wipes for all sorts of cleaning jobs. My other favourite cleaner is white vinegar - I've used it with newspaper to clean windows since reading "How clean is your house", from the Channel 4 show. What I don't have (and unfortunately need) is a way of getting dried water-based paint out of a carpet (I didn't notice the tin had dribbled :-( ) If you know how to fix this, please take pity and leave me a comment - I like carpet shopping even less than cleaning!

Just one word - Blog prompt day 19

Saturday's blog prompt was "A word".  The challenge: to describe ourselves in one word.  Time to make that noise plumbers make when they're about to give you an estimate :-)  I was struggling to come up with anything other than "disorganised" for a while, but that's just at the moment.  I go through phases of being very organised, so I didn't think that was fair.  I asked my husband, who suggested "short" and "untidy".  Both are sadly true, but I rejected them too.  The first was just a physical trait, the second is only half the story.  I *am* particularly talented at messing up a craft desk or a kitchen, as anyone who's been to one of my demos or my kitchen will tell you, but I *want* everything in its place (and a place for everything).  One reason I make a mess is that I get too absorbed in the task at hand to tidy as I go.  I also have difficulty starting a job if I know I can't finish it, and I do tend to get bogged down in reorganising my storage of things, rather than just focusing on clearing the decks.  In the end I decided to be kind to myself and plumped for "optimistic".  Much of my messiness and lateness is the result of me thinking I can achieve more than I can in the time, rather than being disorganised as such, and I do generally think of my glass as being half full, so I think it's a fair assessment.  Of course, this just reminds me of the old bit of job interview advice for when you're asked for your greatest weakness: always say "I'm too much of a perfectionist", as it's not really a weakness after all:-)

Sunday, 20 May 2012

Thanksgiving in May? - Blog Prompt, Day 20

Today's blog prompt is "I'm thankful for...", within the context of crafting.  Where to start?  There's so much!  Firstly I'm thankful for any time I get to craft.  There's not much of it at the moment, with a demanding baby to care for, but that means I appreciate any time I get all the more.  It really is a pleasure to engross myself in something calm and creative.  Secondly I'm thankful to be crafting at a time when there is so much choice available in both products and types of crafts, and so much access to help, tuition, and inspiration.  Staying informed and stimulated is so much easier now even than when I started card making just a few years ago.  Thirdly I'm thankful for my husband's patience.  He's not a crafter, but puts up with his home being invaded by craft supplies (and foam pad backing squares!), the interruptions to weekends when I'm doing demos, and my frequent queries about whether this project he doesn't like looks nicer with the flowers here, there, or in both places.  Oh, and finally I'm thankful for good glues, without which we'd all come unstuck!

Friday, 18 May 2012

Which one's the craft room? - Blog Prompt Catch-up, Day 11

Having confessed yesterday to hoarding far more crafty goodies than I have room for, I thought today would be a good time to catch up with Day 11's blog prompt - sharing our craft rooms.  Before I talk about mine (which isn't finished), I thought I'd start by saying whose craft room I'd like - that of the awesomely talented Sarah Youde.  I'd also like to live on the coast, so if you ever fancy a house swap Sarah, I'm your girl :-)

In the beginning there was the tiny bedroom, some clear plastic boxes from WH Smith, and some old office furniture.  There was one box of peel-offs, one of flowers, and one of die cuts I'd bought on eBay, and on the bookshelf there was one (yes, one) shelf of papers, and one of stamps and random bits.  When I wanted to make a card, I opened all the boxes, picked some things, made the card and then tidied it all away again.

Soon the shelves and cupboards were full.  The magazines went under my bed to make room, boxes appeared on top of the cupboards, and the most used things stayed on the desk, leaving a creative space the size of a cutting mat.  It became known as the craft sty, and it all needed a good sort out. I was demonstrating by then though, and couldn't be without a working room.  But wait, if I just moved the desk and essentials into the not quite so tiny spare room, I could sort out this room.  Brilliant idea!  Err, except that I didn't, I just filled up two poorly organised rooms.  Boxes appeared under the guest bed...  By then I was doing store demos, magazine work and Create and Craft demos and I needed an extra desk to keep all the work in progress separate.  Boxes appeared under the dining table, and when I mentioned the craft room, my poor husband would ask "which one's the craft room?"...

Then along came Bob, so everything had to fit into the tiny bedroom, just like in the olden days.  We decided new shelving was the way ahead, but couldn't find anything to make good use of the space, so decided to build our own from MDF.  Luckily I have a software engineer for a husband, who wrote me a design program, and a joiner for a neighbour, so all I had to do was decide what I wanted and pick some paint.

Here's the result.  I had Mondrian in mind when I designed it, and it completely fills up the only unbroken wall of the room.  A true homage to Mondrian would have needed breaks in the verticals, which would have made it too weak, and the bright colours with black outlines that he's famous for would have been too much for the tiny room.  Instead I chose three pastel shades - green, creamy yellow, and blue - painted each of the three visible walls in these colours, and painted the shelving cells 'randomly' in one of the same colours with white dividers.  I say randomly, but it actually took quite a few goes to make it look random!  As you can see from the picture, it's not quite finished.  As I was pregnant, we had to use low emission paint, which is sadly also low performance.  It needed so many coats that we ran out of time to get it finished before Bob was born and we had to put the room back together to get the rest of the house presentable.  When I've had a chance to use it a bit and see how it works, there'll be a matching shelf unit on the opposite wall, and we'll finish this one at the same time.  One great thing about them is that they're not attached to the wall, and can be dismantled when we move :-)

The shelves are 12" deep, so I can store my papers nicely, and I decided I didn't want boxes piled more than 3 high (otherwise I never put anything away), and I didn't want any hidden.  I also didn't want to waste the space behind 8x8 and 6x6 papers though, so I've put unopened packs of card blanks and envelopes behind them.  As long as I keep a working selection of card blanks accessible all the time, I only have to move lots of things to get more occasionally.

In my original design, I wanted doors on all the cubbyholes, with magnetic push latches, so I could have a smooth finish, no door handles, and no risk of fading for my papers.  That idea got abandoned very early on!  Apart from being a lot of work, it was going to mean spending hundreds of pounds on hinges and latches, which was just daft.  Think of the stamps and paper that would buy!  Err, I mean, think of the baby clothes and toys that would buy ;-)  Anyway, my lovely husband had the brilliant idea of making fabric doors and decorating them with different crafts, so that's the new plan - the shelves will become a long term craft project in their own right, giving me an incentive to try out some new crafts.

To scrap or not to scrap - Blog Prompt Day 16

Today's prompt challenge is to talk about our attitudes to scrapbooking.

Nowadays I'm a keen but painfully slow scrapbooker with a long To Do list of page ideas.  It wasn't always this way though.  I bought my first scrapbooking magazine not long after I first started crafting, and I didn't find a single thing in the mag that I liked.  Everything was quite American, heavily decorated and very sentimental, not a stiff upper lip to be found!  It wasn't until I saw some cleaner layouts, smaller than 12x12, that I could really imagine myself scrapping.

[caption id="attachment_305" align="alignright" width="300"] I love mini books[/caption]Smaller formats are still my favourite - I adore maze books and mini books, although that's normally because they're made in a clever way, and I'm a sucker for anything trick!  As I mentioned in My Crafting Style, I like the photo or journalling to take pride of place in my layouts.  To me, scrapbooking is a really personal hobby.  It's about presenting my pictures and memories in a nice way, and helping them tell a story, rather than creating something pretty for its own sake.  That's not to say I don't think that's worth doing, it's just not what I want to do.  I love the idea of showing my scrapbooks to Bob when he's older so he can see what we were like before we had him, and what his childhood was like.  It's almost like being immortal :-)

[caption id="attachment_312" align="alignleft" width="300"] Sometimes it's all about the paper![/caption]The other great appeal to me of scrapbooking is getting to keep my creations!  I have a big box full of cards ready to send and it's at least half full of cards I don't really want to part with.  One great thing about scrapping is that you don't have to feel bad about that.  I often say that I need at least two sheets of all paper designs - one to craft with and one to keep.  Papers used in layouts tick both boxes though, so it's also a great way to hoard :-)

There's just one thing I don't like about scrapping - printing out my photos - although that says more about my printer than scrapbooking.  I'm trying to get a batch of pics together to get printed, so they're available whenever I feel like doing a layout.  If you can recommend a printing service, please leave me a comment!

[caption id="attachment_306" align="aligncenter" width="297"] My first ever scrapbook page, done for my application to docrafts - I love to include tickets and other mementos[/caption]

Wednesday, 16 May 2012

My Guilty Pleasures - Blog Prompt, Day 15

Tuesday's topic was guilty pleasures, which is quite an easy one for me, as I only have a couple.  Don't get me wrong, I have plenty of pleasures, I just talk myself out of feeling guilty about them :-)  I have weaknesses for chocolate, cheese, and ice cream, but I also walk a lot and eat a healthy diet the rest of the time, so I don't think they quite make it up there to guilt.  Closer is my compulsion for playing web games like Bubble Witch Saga and DrawSomething even though I know there are more productive or instructive things I should be doing when Bob is asleep on my lap.  Again though, I reason that a bit of what you fancy is a good thing, and that maybe it's even good to be non-productive some of the time.

So what do I feel guilty about?  Well, my collector attitude to craft supplies is the main one.  In as much as anyone needs any craft supplies, I have a lot more than I need, and more than I'll be able to use in one lifetime, unless all that walking and healthy eating makes me live to 250!  The environmentalist in me feels guilty about having so much, but my main source of guilt is that I have more than I have room for in my little craft room, so it's invaded most of the rest of the house in one way or another.  Despite this, I still buy more of it, and that's what makes me feel bad.  It's just that I enjoy owning it almost as much as crafting with it, and I enjoy the possibilities of what I could make with it almost as much as the making.  In fact, when the making is going to involve lots of measuring and not much technique, sometimes the design process is the most fun!

My only other guilty pleasure is biscuits when I'm out.  They went from being a pleasure to a guilty pleasure when I saw a Panorama about palm oil (an ingredient in all sorts of processed foods), and how our use of it is putting the orangutans at risk of extinction within the next decade.  At home I've switched to all butter shortbread, as I reason that the orangutans need trees more than I need chocolate digestives, but I do still eat biscuits of unknown oiliness when I'm out - something I feel bad about almost immediately :-(  Hmm, maybe they don't count as a pleasure after all...

That's a bit of a serious way to leave this post, so please help lighten things up by leaving me a comment about your guilty pleasures!

A day in the life of baby Bob aged 8 months - Blog Prompt, Day 14

Monday's blog prompt was "A day in the life of..." and I thought I'd feature a guest blogger.  I helped with the typing ;-)
Milk! I need milk! Where's Mummy?! Oh, there she is, phew! Mmm, lovely milk. I love milk. But where's Daddy?! Phew! There he is, and he's got Spot and Quacky and Bunny. Brilliant! I love playing with Daddy. And here's Mummy again with my breakfast banana. I love bananas. Why does she keep showing me that banana, can't she tell I'm not hungry?

Oh no, don't change my nappy Mummy! I don't like changes! Oh, that's nice, I like having a dry bum. Where are we going now? Oh no, not the car seat, I don't like that! Don't you want to cuddle me Mummy? Ooh look, we're at the wood! I like the trees and I love being in the carrier with Daddy. There's Molly! I hope I can run like Molly one day, and sing like the birds, and <yawn>...

Where am I? This looks like home, but I was sure there were trees before... There's Mummy and it's play time! <BANG! BANG! BANG!> I love these bright cups. "SQUEEEEEAAAAAKKKK!!!!"  <BANG! BANG! BANG!>  Oh, I've fallen over backwards.  Luckily there's always something soft behind me.  Daddy's come to pick me up!  Where are we going?  The park with Molly!  I love the park.  "Wo! Wo!"  I keep talking to Molly, but she doesn't seem to understand me.

Home again and there's my Mummy with my lunch!  Mmm, fish and vegetables, my favourite.  Yum, yum, I love how cheesy mash feels in my hand.  I wonder if it feels nice in my ear as well?  I'm very full now.  Ooh grapes!

Ooh good, more time on my playmat!  I could play for ever.  Mummy!! Cuddle me!! <yawn> ...

Where am I?  On Mummy's lap, my favourite place.  Oh look, Daddy's got the carrier again, we're all going to the park!

Home again and Daddy's staring at that shiny screen again, and pressing all the buttons I'm not allowed to touch.  I've got a great view of Mummy playing with food from my high chair.  I'm not allowed to touch anything in here either - Mummy says it's all ouchy.  It's dinner time!  Now I get to play with the food!  I'm very full now  Ooh peaches!

Ooh good, more time on my playmat!  I could play for ever.  Mummy!!  Milk and cuddles!! <yawn> ...

And that's why I get nothing done!

Tuesday, 15 May 2012

My Crafting Style - Blog Prompt Catch-up, Day 4

Day 4's blog prompt was 'my crafting style', which is a problem for me, as I'm not sure I have one any more! Before I became a do crafts demonstrator, I'd say my style was quite minimalist, symmetrical and obsessively precise.  I measured everything, and the closest I got to distressing anything was tearing mulberry paper along a wet line :-)  One of my favourite things about demoing is that I get to work with products of all styles and types, not just those I'd automatically choose for myself, and that it pushes me to create projects that will appeal to as wide a range of crafters as possible.  I'm happy to say that it really has broadened my crafting so much that my own style has assimilated all sorts of influences along the way.  I've tried a wider range of crafts over the years too, like jewellery making, and that in turn has influenced my papercrafting.  I still do tend towards the minimalist and symmetrical, but the measuring has definitely gone out the window ;-)  One style I'll always enjoy is to make a card or page that looks like something else, or presents a scene.

My scrapbooking is a bit more conservative.  I prefer the photos (or journalling) to be the dominant thing on the page, and I like as many of the embellishments as possible to relate to the story I'm telling on the page.  As a consequence, it takes me an absolute age to complete a layout, and this is a hang-up I hope to get over when I start scrapping in earnest for baby Bob, otherwise I'm going to have to live an awfully long time if I'm going to have something to pass on to him!

I've picked a few piccies from my crafting history, oldest ones first, that I think are most typical of what I've preferred to make. Looking at these I realise that maybe I do have a style after all!

My minimalist beginnings
I've always loved flowers and butterflies
 I do like things to match...
Mmm, symmetry :-)
Ooh look, more symmetry

Uh-oh...
Oh, and I never remember to check it'll fit in the envelope! 

Monday, 14 May 2012

Great giveaway at Keepsakes by Melissa

My good friend Chris posted about this blog giveaway over at Keepsakes by Melissa.  There are some really lovely projects on this blog - lots of beautifully crafted vintage cards.  Thanks Chris for taking me there!

Give us a smile - Blog Prompt catch-up, Day 10

[caption id="attachment_230" align="alignright" width="225"] When Bob smiles, so do we :-)[/caption]Day 10's prompt was "what makes you smile". This was sadly a very easy one to answer, as the things that make me smile had been put to the test the evening before, when my Mum called to say that her sweet and gentle little Cavalier King Charles spaniel had died suddenly. Anything that can make you smile after sad news deserves a place in this post, and little Bob is pretty much top of the list. He's been getting a new batch of teeth recently, so he hasn't been his usual cheerful self the last few days, and has needed a lot of cuddles, hence the delay in me posting. He has five little teeth now and, although I'll miss his gummy grin, it looks like his little toothy grin is going to make me smile even more :-) All but one of his teeth is on the left of his mouth and, as his Daddy and paternal Grandparents are all left handed, I wondered idly if there's any link between handedness and the order that teeth come through. I Googled, and found a study that suggests there is a link, but it cost $86 to read the results for 24 hours, and I really didn't need to know that much!!

Anyway, back to the prompt... Close on Bob's heels is Molly the Collie. If you need cheering up, all you have to do is show her a broom or hosepipe and she goes all growly and bitey, but in a way that's far too cute to be scary. We're not sure if the broom is her favourite thing, or her arch enemy, but if you look like you might be opening the garage door, she waits patiently for a chance at a show-down.

Although not really up to combatting very bad news, two other things deserve a mention here. The first is my crafting stash (of course!). Papers and stamps are my main two weaknesses (not that I'm particularly strong willed with any crafting goodies!) and I often think I get as much pleasure from just looking at my stash as I do from creating with it. The second thing to mention is the great outdoors. I love to walk in the countryside, and I can think of little as deeply satisfying as gazing at a lovely view with the sun on my face, a breeze in my hair and the sounds of birds singing all around me.

[caption id="attachment_232" align="aligncenter" width="225"] With Molly and Bob the bump , Castle Rock, Devon[/caption]

Wednesday, 9 May 2012

Bank Holiday Memories - Blog Prompt Catch-up, Day 7

Two posts in one day!?! I'm feeling a little faint...

The bank holiday prompt was to share childhood memories of bank holidays, and talk about any traditions then and now.

I'm an only child, and we always did everything as a family when I was little, so I'd struggle to separate my memories of early May and August bank holiday activities from those of regular weekends.  I grew up near the coast in Essex, so we would sometimes go to the seaside at Clacton or Walton with Nanna and Grandad (we didn't have a car), and weekends always included a walk or cycle ride in the countryside.  Dad has grown his own veg for ever too, and I loved 'helping' him in the garden.  I always had my own few square feet of veg patch, and this is something I'm very keen to do with little Bob.

The late May bank holiday is a different matter though, as it was the weekend when the US Air Force put on one of the best air shows of the year, at RAF Mildenhall in Suffolk.  It was a highlight of our family's year until the War on Terror put a stop to the shows in 2003.  I just did a quick Google to remind myself when the last show was and got a wonderful surprise - they're thinking of bringing the shows back next year!  If so, then that'll be another tradition we can pass on to Bob :-)

Favourite quotes - Blog Prompt Day 9

Today's blog prompt is "favourite quotes" - tricksy, as there are so many to choose from, and so many reasons to love them.  Top of the list of sources for funny quotes has to be the TV series "Blackadder", season 2 in particular (the Elizabethan one).  The whole series was really just one long favourite quote, and has stood the test of time for me - it makes me just as happy now as when I first saw it in the 1980's as a teenager.  It also featured the most romantic exchange I've ever heard.  Edmund Blackadder has just returned from captivity when Queen Elizabeth asks: "And me Edmund, did you miss me?" He replies: "Ma'am, life without you was like a broken pencil. Pointless"

I couldn't talk about my favourite quotes without mentioning the late, great Douglas Adams.  His books are full of great lines, but my favourite quote of his is one from an interview that applies quite well to me, and always makes me smile as it takes a character flaw and makes it seem quite endearing: "I love deadlines. I like the whooshing sound they make as they fly by."

If I want to feel inspired though, then I need to look no further than Winston Churchill.  Witty and intelligent, he was a favourite quote machine, but his addresses to the nation during World War II never fail to spur me into action.  I love the elegance of his Battle of Britain quote: "Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few", but the most inspiring for me is "Let us therefore brace ourselves to our duties, and so bear ourselves, that if the British Empire and its Commonwealth last for a thousand years, men will still say This was their Finest Hour." I used it on a page in a circle journal a few years ago.  The spec was to create a page around words that inspire you and it was circular, which just said "roundels" to me :-) I liked this layout so much I made another one for me, but by then had thought to make roundel brads too.




Monday, 7 May 2012

Favourite docrafts Galleries - Blog Prompt Catch-up, Day 2

Two blog posts in a week and I'm on a roll, so I thought I'd do a bit of catching up!

Day 2's blog prompt challenge was to identify 5 favourite docrafts user galleries and explain why.  Phew!  That's a very tricky one, as there are so many talented people in the docrafts user community, and they cover such a wide range of crafts.  I've had to cheat a little, but here goes:

margaretcarter1

Margaret has some really beautifully crafted cakes in her gallery, including lots of hand painted ones, and covering quite a range of styles.  She also has some lovely cards.

CarolTadden

I found Carol's gallery because she was kind enough to comment on one of my blog posts recently. She has a lovely range of projects, and lots of altered art.

craftyyJ
craftyyJ has some really unusual projects, and seems to share my love of mini books. Her gallery is a really fun place to look.

sweetpeetje

Petra crafts in a vintage style that I'm rarely brave enough to try.  Her projects have masses of work in them, and I love looking at such carefully crafted projects, especially as they're so different to what I usually make.

OK, my 5th choice is the cheat, as it's 5 more people :-) The thing is, they're all good friends of mine, and fellow demonstrators, and I struggled to whittle it down to 5 as it was! Nikki Smith, Becky James, Cliona Larkin, Tracy Creedy, and Christine Saunders all make such beautiful projects, including really unusual items, that their galleries are always sure to inspire me.

I hope my list takes you to somewhere new!

Favourite Photo (Blog Prompt Day 6)

Ooh, how exciting, I just checked the blog prompt for today, and it's a quick and easy one for me, so I'm actually posting on the right day (well, almost!)! I might need a bit of a lie down :-)

Today's prompt is to post our favourite photo, and this is mine:

This is our beautiful collie/sheltie cross Molly in our garden the day after she came to live with us. She was nearly one year old and she'd had a very troubled start in life. At 8 weeks old, someone discarded her in a ditch in Tipperary in winter.  She survived because a kind passerby heard her crying and took her home before handing her in to the Tipp Off Animal Rescue.  They took care of her for a month before sending her to Heathlands Animal Sanctuary in Royston.  She was rehomed quickly, but the family split up a few months later, so she was passed around friends for a while before being sent back to Heathlands at just the right time for us to find her.

I love this picture for a few reasons.  She's at her prettiest, and looks so bright eyed and happy - it really sums up her character for me. Less than 24 hours earlier she was shaking with nerves at being driven away from the seventh house she thought was going to be her home, but here she is looking like she's ready for anything. When I look at this picture I see the huge change it represents for her and for us. It makes my heart ache for all the abandoned dogs out there for whom rescue will come too late, but it also makes me so happy we could help little Molly. I just hope we can always live up to the expectation in her face!

Friday, 4 May 2012

Do Crafts Creativity Club 31 Day Blog Prompt

If you have a quick look through the dates on my blog posts, you'd be forgiven for thinking that I don't spend a great deal of time on my blog.  My published posts don't show the whole picture though - you need to see my drafts folder as well!  The truth is that I fuss over detail so much, and that my rare free time is so fragmented by baby feeds and nappy changes, that I publish only a fraction of what I write.  Most of my topical drafts cease to be relevant long before I've finished writing them, and much of the rest takes me so long to finish that I get bored of it,  and assume nobody else will be interested either.

When I started my new blog, I resolved that I wouldn't post about how I don't post enough, but I thought I'd mention it here to explain why I was so pleased that Emma Collins at Do Crafts was launching a 31 day blog prompt for May for the members of the Creativity Club.  I'm much better at getting things done if I have a deadline, and with 31 of them, I'm bound to meet a couple.  Of course I haven't got off to a very good start (3 days late already, and yes I have had to edit that number!), but baby Bob has picked this week to decide he needs virtually no sleep during the day.  Ah well, perhaps I'll catch up before the end of the month!

Day 1's topic is "5 reasons why you should craft", so here's mine:

1. You can wallow in the detail.  Unlike blog posts, when you're crafting for fun it doesn't matter if you never finish, the journey is just as much fun as a finished project.  I'm not driven to be a prolific crafter, there's plenty of other stuff in the world to get performance anxiety about, I generally just enjoy losing myself in the detail of my project.  I love painting stamped images, cutting out decoupage, and rummaging through my stash to find a perfect match.  Occasionally I have 'tidy up' days, where I just finish my almost-there projects, and that makes me happy too :-)

2. You can't stay cross while you're crafting.  It's a shame I didn't have time to craft when I had a stressful job, because it would have been a great way to unwind.  I love that you can't surround yourself with beautiful papers, stamp, paint or cut out when you're annoyed or nervous - you just can't help but relax.  One lovely thing about doing demos is that I get to meet lots of other crafters and find out what crafting means to them.  It's amazing how many people use it as an escape from stress, illness or just the demands of modern life.

3. There's no right or wrong.  When I was at school, I loved the security of maths and sciences.  Every question had exactly one correct answer, and you knew when your homework was finished.  In contrast, English and art made me uneasy - the person marking my story might not like it, even if I thought I'd done a good job, and there were always things I was unhappy with.  Once nobody was grading my work I realised that mine was the only opinion that really mattered, and that knowing you can always improve is a great thing for a hobby's longevity.  It also means crafting is wonderfully inclusive.  You don't have to be rich, strong or tall, or have training or ologies, you just need enthusiasm.

4. Inspiration is everywhere.  Having an artistic hobby changes the way you look at the everything around you and you realise that inspiration for creativity can be found in the most unlikely places: the privacy pattern on the inside of a business envelope, the colour of a sweet wrapper, or a muddy footprint.  Not only does this encourage recycling and upcycling, but it means that your hobby becomes a record of your unique experience of the world.  You don't get that from many other hobbies that you can do on a rainy day!

5. It shows that you care.  Not everyone will notice you've hand made something especially for them, but the ones who do will feel special and cherished.  Not so much because you've spent the time on making something for them (it is your hobby after all!), but because you've bothered to notice and remember that their favourite colour is yellow and they like primroses and French poetry.  In our busy, impersonal world, knowing someone is interested makes all the difference.

If you haven't crafted before, hopefully something above will encourage you.  Pop along to a demo, or watch a few videos on www.docrafts.com and maybe you'll catch the bug too!

Monday, 26 March 2012

Rugs R Us

Although I crafted quite a bit when I was younger, once I passed my mid teens my main creative outlet was cooking. I had a brief dalliance with cake decorating in my early 20s, but it wasn't until I gave up working full time a few years ago that I had the time to explore card making. Originally, I just wanted to be able to send a nice card that didn't have a cheesy verse and did feature the obscure interests of my friends. I soon discovered a love of paper and stamps though, and an obsession was born!

Since falling love with card making, I've endeavoured to make time to try out a new craft every year. As goals go, I realise this is pretty modest, but when you work in crafting, it's surprising how hard it is to find the time to work on a project that doesn't have a deadline! Some of the new crafts (beading, quilling and cross stitch, for example) have become firm favourites that have made it into my 'normal' crafting repertoire, whereas others, like pyrography and clay modelling, were interesting and fun to try, but have failed to grab me in quite the same way. I've chosen knitting for 2012's new craft, and I'll be amazed if I don't become completely addicted to it, especially with little Bob to create for. First though, I had some unfinished business from 2011 to deal with. Last summer I finally got round to trying rug-making, using a little kit I bought in a sale a looooong time ago. It pushes many of the same buttons as cross stitching (relaxing, portable, limited mess, a potentially useful end product, and possible with a sleeping baby on your lap!), but scaled up so you get a great impression of progress. I only got halfway through last year though, as the kit got packed away so we could redecorate the craft room, and it's taken me this long to find it!

This week I managed to do the last few lines while Bob snoozed, and I'm really happy with the result. All I have to do now is figure out how to finish it off, and it'll become a wall hanging for the nursery. The kit doesn't help with edging - other than to say "put a nice edge on it", so if you have any advice of how to do it and where to get the bits, I'd love to hear about it.
In the meantime, I'm planning my next ruggy project. My Nanna once told me that she made rugs out of worn out clothes in the War, so I'll figure out a design of my own and take a look through my wardrobe. No slightly tatty clothes will ever be safe in my house again!


Friday, 16 March 2012

Drastic action

I may have mentioned my tendencies towards OCD... Well, one symptom is that I like to keep things in their packets.  I could claim that it makes it easier for when I put unused stuff on eBay, but I think we all know that's never going to happen :-)
Anyway, close on the heels of my paper and stamp addictions is my love of embossing folders.  I really can't resist them, and the drawer I keep them in had long since run out of space.  I'd ended up with a tottering tower of the things, and no way to find a particular one in a hurry.  So, this week I took some drastic action - I took them all out the packets.  What a difference it's made!  Manufacturers could really do with rethinking their packaging, as I think I've halved the space they take up!  Most of the clear plastic sleeves were scuffed, so they went in the recycler, but I've cut panels of acetate from the best ones to use in shaker cards.  I've also kept quite a few of the backing cards, as there are some lovely patterns among them, and I'm sure I can use them on some projects (just in case I don't have enough paid-for papers!).  My embossing folders all fit in the drawer now with room to spare.  I've just had a birthday too, so I think I might have to buy some more :-)

Thursday, 1 March 2012

Fun with seared stamps

One of my favourite ranges of stamps of recent years is the John Byars wooden set of nostalgic childhood images, released by do crafts in 2010. They remind me of pictures of my Dad when he was little (always in shorts!), and that in turn gives me a warm gooey feeling of closeness to my dear, departed Nanna. I was lucky enough to demo the collection on Create and Craft with Stephanie Weightman, and it was the first time I had a sell out in the hour.

I'm often asked at demos whether wood-mounted rubber stamps are better than clear unmounted ones. It's a tricky question, as it depends on your priorities. Wooden stamps are lovely to hold, and rubber stamps can be used for techniques involving direct heat, like triple embossing, or stamping onto films and fibres. They do require a bit more care when cleaning though, take up more space (although you can unmount them), are more expensive, and are harder to position precisely. In contrast, clear acrylic stamps are cheap, easy to use and clean (as long as you don't mind some staining), but can't be used with direct heat. My advice generally is just to choose the images you like, regardless of material, unless you want to build up scenes/complex images (choose clear) or use direct heat (choose rubber).

With the John Byars stamps though, I found another reason to choose wood-mounted. The guide image has been seared onto the wood, rather than just printed, so you can try out your brass-rubbing skills on them for a different effect. That's how I got the inverse kite effect at the bottom of this card, using watercolour pencils. You need to press quite firmly, keep the pencils as flat as possible (so you don't fall down the dents) and take care not to rub to the edge of the stamp (or you get a line). I really like the effect, and I'd love to hear what you think of it, so please leave me a comment. I'd also love to know if you've found any other stamps with seared images like this.

If you missed out on these stamps, don't despair. Do crafts have some designs left in their sale here at nearly half price if you're a Creativity Club member.

Tuesday, 3 January 2012

Coordinating or eclectic?

A lot of Christmas trees will probably be in the loft or shredder by now, but I'm a bit old school when it comes to decorations: they don't go up until the last weekend before Christmas, and stay up until as late as possible on 6th January.  So as I cling on to my twinkly lights for just a little longer, I thought I'd share my tree with you. Please leave me a note to tell me about your tree too.

There's more than a smidge of the obsessive compulsive in me - my DVD and CD collections are in alphabetical order, I'm secretly troubled by all the random sizes of the books on my shelves, and when I craft, I'll spend ages making sure that the colours coordinate properly.  No mixing of orangey reds and pinky reds on my cards thankyouverymuch.  But when it comes to my Christmas tree, I like a big jumble of multi-coloured, random decorations.  It's not messy, it's errr, eclectic.  That's my story, and I'm sticking to it :-)  Of course I admire and appreciate the stylish colour-coordinated trees in their modern blues-and-silvers or their traditional reds-and-greens.  The DVD-sorting part of me even wants them in my house (colour-coordinated with the room decor, of course!).  For me though, Christmas and the start of a new year is all about appreciating and connecting with the people who are important to me and that inevitably involves some thinking about my past.

[caption id="attachment_83" align="alignright" width="150" caption="Loved since 1970ish"][/caption]

As a result, my tree groans under the weight of decorations I've made or saved throughout my life, like a scrapbook that only I can read.  There's the faithful fairy that once shimmered at the top of my childhood trees, her crepe paper skirts yellowed from 4 decades of loft living.  One of my fondest Christmas memories is of my Mum covering those skirts with glitter (now mostly gone), because the 8 year old me didn't want her to be thrown out just because she was faded and tatty.  Then there are various test pieces made for classes, web projects and magazine articles - individual baubles covered in glitter, alcohol ink, embossing powder, flock and glass paint. Then there are tiny fake presents and mini crackers that I made from wrapping paper off-cuts for my first tree in my own house. There's even a fancy bauble that was a wedding favour from a December wedding, and a single lantern from my grandparents' old tree lights. My decorations may not match, and they may not be as shiny or sparkly as they once were, but they've shared my life and I couldn't imagine decorating my tree without them.  I just hope the fairy has a few more years in her so she can become part of Bob's Christmasses too!

[caption id="attachment_78" align="alignleft" width="112" caption="Bauble with alcohol inks and bead collar"][/caption]

[caption id="attachment_73" align="aligncenter" width="150" caption="Mini cracker - a great way to use up paper offcuts"][/caption]