Wednesday, 17 September 2014

This Time Last Year: Super-Cute Felt Animals

This time last year, my second book - Super-Cute Felt Animals - had just been published! Yay!

Many, many thanks to everyone who has bought a copy, recommended it to a friend, reviewed it, or shared pics of what you've made from it... all of these things are very much appreciated.

It is a joy to be able to write a book but that is nothing compared to seeing it out in the world, being enjoyed by other people :)

You can "look inside" Super-Cute Felt Animals over on Amazon and read more about both my books here. Or click here for some behind the scenes snaps from when I was working on all those felt animals :)

P.S. Don't miss the FREE tutorials I shared last year to celebrate the launch of the book!

Tuesday, 16 September 2014

Meet My Sponsors: September

Crikey, September is flying by! It's time to meet this month's sponsors...

Blooming Felt sells 100% wool felt sheets, colourful fairtrade felt craft supplies like felt flowers and felt purses, plus other crafty goodness including buttons, ribbons, flat pad findings, glue, embroidery floss and craft books:

Georgina Giles sells handmade toys including fabric tic tac toe sets and plush animals:

At Raspberry Creek Fabrics you'll find the latest in designer fabrics, from brands like Moda, Free Spirit and Michael Miller:

At It's Organised you'll find printable gift boxes for sale, plus lots of free crafty ideas and tutorials. You can get 20% off your order this month (September 2014) with the code BUGSANDFISHES.

Little Black Duck sells fun sewing kits and digital sewing patterns:

Asking for Trouble sells illustrated stationery, accessories and gifts featuring cute characters inspired by Japanese kawaii:

Hydrangea Girl is the blog of interior-design addict Alex, here you'll find posts about her adventures in design and lots of DIY projects and tips:

Big Fish sells lots of colourful buttons and felt balls, as well as other craft supplies like pins, ribbons and mini embroidery hoops:

At Story Box you can create personalised gifts by filling a 3D frame with mini objects to represent a friend or loved one, or to celebrate a special occasion:

Joe's Toes sells thick wool felt, punched felt shapes, plus kits and supplies for making things like wool felt & leather slippers, iPad cases and luggage tags:

AnnyMay Craft Supplies specialise in eco friendly, natural and colourful supplies, and all their orders are shipped in eco friendly packaging. AnnyMay is currently running a giveaway (until the end of September) - click here for more info. You can get 10% off your order from AnnyMay's Etsy shop or website with the coupon code BUGSANDFISHES (ends 1st December).

Illustrator and printmaker Debbie Greenaway creates cards, notebooks and jewellery featuring her drawings:

At Drawing by Zara, Zara shares her illustrations accompanied by a story she's written about the characters she draws:

At Pandowdee you'll find handmade hats, bags and headbands, rag rugs, printables and more!

And Made By Lolly sells handmade felt flower brooches and other accessories:

P.S. Interested in promoting your shop, company or blog? Ad spaces on my blog start from just $5 for 30 days (that's currently about £3!) and I offer a 25% discount if you buy 3 consecutive months (90 days) of ad space at once. Your site will feature in a sponsor post like this one and I also give new sponsors a shout out over on my Facebook page.

Click here for more info re: rates and my blog's traffic, and to buy an ad.

Saturday, 13 September 2014

A Summer Day in Oxford

When people ask where I live and they've not heard of my hometown I say "it's about halfway between Oxford and London". But while I spend quite a bit of time in London I very rarely catch the train in the opposite direction to visit Oxford. The bright lights of the big city are just too tempting, I guess!

I was determined to squeeze at least one Oxford trip into this summer... and the perfect opportunity arose when the temperature shot up and I wanted a Nice Day Out that didn't involve travelling on the overheated Tube.

My day got off to a great start: the train was almost empty, so I had a lovely peaceful journey reading my book (I do most of my reading on trains these days!). After arriving in Oxford I went for a stroll around the city centre, calling in at a cafe along the way for a cuppa and a bit of yummy cake.


There are so many interesting buildings to see in the city! One of my favourites is Keble College.


Just over the road from Keble is The Oxford University Museum of Natural History.

I have totally fallen in love with this museum! There's so much interesting stuff on display, and the building itself is pretty spectacular. Each of the columns in the building is made from a different British rock and the capitals and corbels are carved to represent different plants. There's also a fabulous glass roof. Click here for a virtual tour - make sure you look up!

As well as all the usual rocks and fossils and skeletons and stuffed animals you'd expect in a Natural History museum, there's also a webcam of the swifts nesting in the tower and a delightful beehive. I also loved the touchable specimins and the scale model of the Sun, Earth and Moon.

I had lunch in the museum cafe, then headed back outdoors for another wander.


Oxford is full of intriguing doorways and gateways...


... and lots and lots and lots of bicycles! I was amazed to see so many that were just casually propped up against walls instead of locked to bike racks or railings.


I popped into Modern Art Oxford for a look at their exhibitions...


... then as I was heading to my next destination there was a bit of drama as an elderly woman ahead of me tripped and cracked her head on the pavement! Of course I rushed to help along with several other passers by - we called an ambulance and sat with her until the paramedics arrived. Luckily she wasn't too badly hurt (though she had a lump the size of an egg on her forehead!) and she said her "faith in the younger generation" had been restored by how we'd come to her aid. Aww.

After that it was definitely time for an icecream!

Icecream acquired I walked to Christ Church to visit the Meadow.


Christ Church Meadow is the perfect spot for a relaxing summer walk. The route around the Meadow takes you alongside two rivers (the Cherwell and the stretch of the Thames known as the Isis)...

...  and past cattle, ducks and people in punts.

This walk was a wonderful, quiet way to end the day. I was rather sad to have to head back into town and catch a train homewards - especially as there is nothing relaxing about travelling home in the rush hour.

Note to self: remember to go to Oxford more often!

Friday, 12 September 2014

Crafty Ladies: Meet Carina Envoldsen-Harris

Time to meet another Crafty Lady! Today I'm introducing you to Carina of Polka & Bloom.

Carina writes a cheerful blog about her life and her crafty projects, and sells pretty, colourful embroidery patterns in her shop. She's also the author of the lovely embroidery book "Stitched Blooms", which I reviewed last year and she's part of the team behind &Stitches.


Carina and stitching

Ahoy-hoy! Nice to meet you. :-)

My name is Carina and I live in Essex in England, although I am actually Danish. I met an English guy and, long story short, that’s how I ended up here in 2005. We live in a small house with a blossom tree and sometimes a very cute neighbour cat comes to visit. We moved into our house last year and I could finally fulfill my dream of having a separate work place.

Carina's Studio

I design embroidery patterns and sometimes I contribute stitchy stuff to books and magazines. Last year my (first, but hopefully not last) book was published, it’s called Stitched Blooms and is full of, well, flowers! :-)

I blog at Carina’s Craftblog where I share the crafty projects I work on: embroidery, quilting, drawing, the occasional crochet and knitting project. I also share tutorials and vegan recipes. I am mad about colour and I love stitching things by hand.

Some of my patterns

Recently I’ve been making… 

I recently finished a quilt where I used only fabrics with clouds, so I call it the Cloud Quilt. I’m so happy with how it turned out. I sleep under the clouds! I love clouds. Like, a lot. I'm even a member of the Cloud Appreciation Society. This doesn't take up much of my time, apart from telling my husband about how I love clouds. A lot.

FO Cloud Quilt

Lately I have also finished a fun fruity tropical embroidery pattern, Tropical Frutti Paradise. I like thinking up names for my embroidery patterns, but for this one I asked my blog readers to help me with name suggestions. They were so much fun to read. I love the internet brain. :-)

Quilts for my niece and nephew

A recent project that I am really happy with, and which means a lot to me, is a pair of quilts I made for my sister. She (and her husband) are having twins later this month, and of course auntie had to make something for the little ones! ;-) Sadly, my sister lives in the US, so I won’t be handing over the quilts myself.

I’ve been working on…

Technically, I did the work last year, but a cute pattern/project I made is included in the new Mollie Makes Embroidery book. I’m really chuffed about that because it’s a really nice book. And I'd say that even if I didn't have a project in the book.

Alphabet Motif Club

At the beginning of September I started the Alphabet Motif Club where each week we stitch 1 or 2 letters of the alphabet. It’s something I’ve wanted to do for a while. It’s so much fun. And the letters can be used for sooo many things which I’m really excited about.

I’ve been blogging about…

For a while I have been kinda obsessed with blackwork embroidery and especially stitching it on regular fabrics (normally you’d use cross stitch type fabric) and for that I use waste canvas. this stuff is genius; if you’re unfamiliar with it, I wrote a tutorial about waste canvas recently.

 The quilts I made for my sister’s twins didn’t turn out how I had first thought I’d make it. And I am ok with that. I like serendipity in crafting. A project can be perfect even if it all goes wrong or there are challenges along the way. That's how we learn, right? 

Waste Canvas Tutorial 1

There is a lot of work to be done still in our little house, but we have made over the bathroom, bedroom and the porch so far. This makes me very happy. Every little thing that makes the house more ours. :-)

Porch after

I’ve been reading…

 I recently read I Just Like to Make Things which was quite inspiring and made me think about my work in a different way. And I have a pile of crafty books I am reading through on different topics. My tastes are nothing if not diverse. ;-) I have just started reading Market Yourself by Tara Swiger. I haven't got terribly far in it yet, but there's a lot of food for thought and inspiration.

A pile o' books

Sadly, I don’t read as much fiction as I’d like, but I usually have some kind of historical fiction on the go in the Kindle reader on my mobile. I recently finished A King’s Ransom by Sharon Penman. I love historical fiction. And especially if it's set in England because it helps me get to know the history of the country I live in now.

Flower Crown Reverie embroidery pattern

I was going to say that I read a lot of blogs, but the truth is I mostly zoom through them in my feed reader (Inoreader – I can highly recommend it!), but a lot of the blogs I subscribe to are mainly for the eye candy/inspiration, so I guess it’s ok. ;-)

Sometimes I do take the time to read blog posts properly and here are a few that have stuck with me recently: Three Tips for Faster Blogging; Making A Mark; Brain Pickings: 7 Lessons from 7 Years.

While I sew I’ve been watching... 

Although I sometimes ‘watch’ TV while stitching, I prefer listening to podcasts while I embroider, because I don’t need to look at the screen. These are three current favourite podcasts: After the Jump by Grace Bonney of Design Sponge. Explore Your Enthusiasm by Tara Swiger. Ted Talks.

Sometimes I listen to music instead and these are a few of the artists on my play list at the moment: Gabrielle Aplin, Florence and the Machine, Kent, R.E.M. (RIP) and Allie Moss. When I do have the TV on it is usually some kind of documentary, West Wing or Star Wars. ;-)

Embroidered jacket WIP

Carina’s 3 Top Tips for Embroidery 

1. If you are working on a project where you will use the same colour a lot, thread several needles at a time so you don't have to stop as often to re-thread.

2. On a similar note, use a shorter thread than you might think. Approximately from the tip of your fingers to your elbow. If the thread is too long it will get frayed at the end and you will spend more time pulling the thread out of the fabric than actually making the stitches.

3. Some stitches will make your thread start to twist slightly, French knots and chain stitch for example. When that happens, hold up your work and let the needle and thread dangle from it. The needle will start to untwist the thread. It will, try it!

Embroidery tip: thread multiple needles


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