Sunday 6 December 2015

creature making with Julie Arkell

Last Sunday (gosh, was it only one week ago?!) I was at the wonderful Loop in London taking part in a creature making day with the fabulous Julie Arkell.  Things have been a little difficult of late, so I decided that this was a massive treat to myself as I know I'll never be able to actually afford to buy one of Julie's creatures for myself, so this was the next best thing.

I arrived in London bright and early for our 11am start and we (there were 7 of us altogether) met our naked creatures.  I chose mine as she was lying face down in the basket, and not standing up like all of the others, that was a sign I thought, that we were meant to be together.

Julie passed around a whole cacophony of patterns to use to make our creatures, there were hats galore to chose from, plus wings, trousers and knickers to create and clothe our creatures in.  I went for the fabric ear hat which involved knitting a strip of wool then crocheting two ends and finally choosing some fabric to be added to make the ears. 

The ear fabric chose me as I had rummaged around inside Julie's box of fabrics, and this checked piece had adhered itself to one of the other pieces so I decided it had chosen itself to be used.  There was lots of quiet in the room as we all concentrated on our knitting patterns.

I then added some grey knitted knickers in a very soft wool as no one wants to be wearing itchy pants, do they?  Then I used some more of Julie's fabric to create a mustard and white spotty frock for my creature, who named herself Audrey. 

our collection of creatures
A quick sew around of the edge later and I had one fully dressed creature.  I think I may add a knitted apron with a name tag on it at a later date, but for now Audrey is complete.

She's been a firm hit here, in fact my mother tried to steal her away from me but I'm no fool and Audrey is currently in my lounge resting on some crafty books.

Fairly soon she will be residing on the mantelpiece in my new lounge as I hope to be moving Christmas week into my new girlie pad for three.  2015 has been a challenging year in many ways but I am looking forward to 2016 as being my year of 'new beginnings'.

G x

Sunday 8 November 2015

Paper Lampshade

Just a quick post to tell of my fabulous day at Unit 12 with Jennifer Collier yesterday.  Despite the wind and the rain, Lottie and I arrived at Jennifer's workshop for a day of paper lampshade crafting along with other like-minded souls.

Jennifer's explanations were clear and easy to follow.  We started with our templates, then made a toile and then it was time to choose our papers to make the real thing, stopping inbetween to grab some lunch.

My shade



If I had had time, I would have brought my own papers with me, but there was enough choice there for me to be happy with my lampshade.  It has verses on it from Twinkle, twinkle, little star and parts of Alice in Wonderland and Winnie the Pooh on the panels, as well as some maps and some images of Jennifer's own work too.  I also typed the date onto one of the panels so I will always be reminded of my birthday workshop. 

If you are within the Staffordshire area, do take a look at the many other workshops that are run there.  I think I'm going to be going back!

G x

Thursday 29 October 2015

Two new reads

I treated myself to two new books this week, well I say treated, but actually I had a voucher from my birthday last November that I hadn't yet spent, so I used that to buy two fabulous new books.

The first is the newest title from bestselling author Elizabeth Gilbert (of Eat, Pray, Love fame) called Big Magic.  The synopsis is thus:

Readers of all ages and walks of life have drawn inspiration from Elizabeth Gilbert's books for years. Now, this beloved author shares her wisdom and unique understanding of creativity, shattering the perceptions of mystery and suffering that surround the process - and showing us all just how easy it can be.

By sharing stories from her own life, as well as those from her friends and the people that have inspired her, Elizabeth Gilbert challenges us to embrace our curiosity, tackle what we most love and face down what we most fear.

Whether you long to write a book, create art, cope with challenges at work, embark on a long-held dream, or simply to make your everyday life more vivid and rewarding, Big Magic will take you on a journey of exploration filled with wonder and unexpected joys.

I downloaded the sample onto my kindle and flew through it without pause so I ordered it instantly.  I'm looking forward to taking some time out to sit and read this.

The second book is one that I think I am going to treasure forever.  In fact, browsing through it with my seven year old yesterday, even she declared it's pages as magical.  The book is called The Magpie and the Wardrobe and is the creation of Sam McKechnie and Alexandrine Portelli.  I don't think I can even begin to describe it accurately though so here's the low-down:

Enter the spellbinding world of The Magpie & the Wardrobe. This truly unique book is a treasury of marvels and oddities, a lovingly curated compendium of time-honoured traditions and peculiar customs that have bewitched us for generations.
Discover simple magic, heirloom recipes and forgotten fairytales in this eclectic treasury. The twelve chapters, representative of the seasons, present the celebrations, superstitions and folklore that shape our year. From cherished traditions like Valentine's Day to the lost excitement of May Day Eve, The Magpie & the Wardrobe reveals a calendar bursting with history, imagination and curious facts. Take a closer look at your favourite homespun rituals and the magic we conjure every day; make a candle wish, mix a moon oil elixir, and hang your romantic hopes on the predictions of an apple peel. Illustrated by a unique collection of ephemera and embellished with trinkets and charms, this sumptuous volume will appeal to the creative and curious.

The books travels through the seasons from January to December and is full of rituals and traditions that filter through the months.  Each page is beautiful in both its colour and content, the photographs are delightful, and it's the sort of book that you will discover new things upon each reading.  It truly is a wonderful book (I'm running out of superlatives to describe it quite frankly)!

Hopefully these pictures give you some idea as to how the book is set out throughout but it is gorgeous, trust me, and I know a few people over on Instagram who have requested this for Christmas already!

G x

Tuesday 20 October 2015

Slow Stitch

Slow Stitch by Claire Wellesley-Smith
Published by Batsford
3rd September 2015
Hardback Edition
This lovely book by the talented Claire Wellesley-Smith caught my eye a few weeks ago, and I was lucky enough to be sent a copy by the publishers at Pavillion to read.  The first thing to note is that the cover itself is made of a velvety material which makes it very tactile indeed.  I know it won't be to everyone's taste but I really loved the feel of it.
The idea behind the book is thus:
The pleasures to be had from slowing down can be many, with connections to sustainability, simplicity, reflection, and tuning into traditional and other multicultural textile traditions. Slow Stitch is a much-needed guide to adopting a less-is-more approach, valuing quality over quantity, and bringing a meaningful and thoughtful approach to textile practice. Claire Wellesley-Smith introduces a range of ways in which you can slow your textile work down, including: * Using simple techniques inspired by traditional practice (including hand-stitch rhythms) * Reusing and re-inventing materials (reuse even old textile projects) * Limiting your equipment * Mending revisited (practical and decorative techniques) * Project ideas and resources that help towards making a more sustainable textile practice Richly illustrated throughout, and showcasing work from the best textile artists who work in this way, this is a truly inspirational book for those looking to reconnect with their craft and to find a new way of working.
Taking heed from the Slow Movement, Slow Stitch encourages you to take more time over the work that you produce.  That a row of hand stitched work is equally as worthwhile as row after row of machine made stitching.  It practically begs you to grab some old remnants of fabric and to begin piecing them together to create beautiful, unique things that you can stop and start at leisure.
Claire showcases the talents of a number of textile artists whose slow stitch projects all vary from each other, and encourages the reader in how they too can participate and produce their own similar work from that shown.  My hand stitching isn't very creative but I have to say that this book has certainly made me want to look further into the meditativeness of slow stitching, and I think a stitch journal might be right up my street.
G x

Monday 5 October 2015

my happy place

Is anyone still out there?!  Apologies, it's been a while again since I've blogged anything but I'm here now!  This summer, Agatha van finally got electricity which means that she can now be used as my crafting caravan and not just a storage area for my bits and bobs.  By the way, if you follow me over on Instagram (@thecraftyreader) then close this page down now as you'll have seen all these photos before!!!!

My first task was to bring everything down to start storing it properly within her many cupboards.  It took a while, but I'm happy with where everything is now located.

Cause right now I need a happy place to be
Then I had to start adding a bit of 'me' decoration to her.  Some fabric and wool bunting across the window, and photos of my family and blogging buddies makes me happy.  Can you spot Lazy Daisy Jones and Mrs Bertmius here?!

The next job is to get round to furnish her properly.  She's just had a new carpet and I've changed the curtains. 
before and after

It's the seats to do next but that's going to take a bit of time to get perfect and I'm not going to rush it.  I also need to check I've brought enough fabric to do it all!

I also made a few cushion covers, none of them match, but I used fabrics that make me smile, as well as a few purchased ones, including my dottie angel cushion cover.


This is my happy place.

G x

Tuesday 8 September 2015

Tangle Wood

Tangle Wood: A Captivating Colouring Book with Hidden Jewels by Jessica Palmer
Published by Search Press
7th August 2015
Paperback Edition
Illustrator and papercutter, Jessica Palmer, has created 75 pages of enchanting hand-drawn pictures for you to colour and lose yourself in. The images all have a magical woodland theme, and each one includes a a 'hidden jewel', intricately worked into the design, which will include rings, brooches, pendants, chains, bracelets and earrings featuring insects, animals and leafy patterns. The book will include designs that fit on a single page as well as those that extend across a double-page spread. Some of the designs will fill the entire page and others will sit within it. Others will have space left for the reader to extend the design themselves.
Colouring books for adults are the newest craze to hit the shops this year, and even when you browse the bestseller lists, colouring books crop up along with the top fiction and non-fiction reads.  I must admit, I flick through lots of them when I see them out and about, but there have been lots where there are one or two nice pages inside and then the others are a bit bland, and samey.  There doesn't always seem to be anything special about them.  When I saw this new publication from Search Press however, I knew I was onto a colouring winner.
Jessica Palmer is a papercutter, which is the most amazing talent, it just looks so difficult and intricate, and way above anything I could even contemplate doing.  Anyway, she has just brought out her first colouring book, and I hope it won't be her last.
Tangle Wood has 75 pages of beautiful woodland designs in it, some are on one page only, and some extend to two pages.  There are complex scenes, and much simpler ones where you can add your own ideas and designs should you be able to draw (unlike me who sticks to colouring only).  I loved the detail involved in the images, it's not only so wonderfully done but the pictures are gorgeous.  I hope my photographs do them justice.  Here's a peak inside:


G x

Friday 4 September 2015

Blanket Tale

Hello, yes I am still here, I can't believe the summer has flown by and I haven't posted since the end of July!  We still have a few more days of the holidays left as the girlies don't go back until Tuesday but I must sort out them, and myself, for hopefully I will find some teaching work very shortly.

I have been determined during my time off to finish those pesky wips that lie about and remain an annoying temptation that need completing.  Therefore, having been challenged by my friend Caroline, aka @granplumley to finish my granny square blanket by the end of July, I quickly rose to the challenge, provided that I got my yoga blanket knitted up first!

Almost finished

And I did them both!  I am very impressed, especially as it was still warm during July (what happened in August I'll never know) and knitting and hooking with two largeish blankets on your lap is no mean feat.  At one point, the yoga blanket came out onto the lawn during Wimbledon fortnight!

So here they are in their finished glory:

One very large yoga blanket knitted in James C Brett Aztec Alpaca Aran wool

One granny square odds-and-ends blanket to go with my other one from Caroline.

Next though, I need to finish one of my first ever crochet projects that I started with Lottie forever ago.  It's from an early edition of Mollie Makes magazine, and whilst I'm over halfway through, I've just unsewn all of the squares I'd put together and removed the cream from the edges of every single square.  For the actual blanket I'd used Sirdar Crofter which isn't a particularly cheap wool, but for the edges I had chosen a particularly rough acrylic yarn that I didn't actually like the feel of, so away it went.  I now have 60-odd squares that all need a final row, plus more to make up and hook together and then this beauty will be completed too - one day!

I've made lots of other things too, and Agatha van finally has electricity so I'm in there lots and starting to make her my own at last - more on that to come!

G x

Friday 24 July 2015

Hair today

I think this is the first time in about 30 years where I don't actually know what colour I want my hair to be!  It's been every shade going since my early teens but recently I've reached a slump where I'm not content with what colour it is, nor can I decide what I actually want.  In the past five years alone, it's been red, brown and blonde and now I fancy a change.

Actually what I want to do is to grow the colour out and just embrace the grey strands that are already coming through.  My hairdresser is not so keen on this, says it will age me, which may be true, but I really want this to happen - just to see.

My hair is currently like this, so I am thinking to chop off some of the bottom so that there is less colour on it, and then to proceed with the growing out colour process.  I love going to the hairdresser and having my hair done, but it grows rather quickly which makes any colour time-consuming, frequent and costly.  Lauren over at has just spent the past few years going through this non colouring process - she has lots of white in her hair which makes her look spectacular with her grey, in my opinion, and I don't think mine will look like this in any way shape or form, but I want to go ahead with it.  (I think I just made a joke there)!

Hair options
Anyone else going this way, or are you still reaching out for those lotions and potions?!

G x

Monday 20 July 2015

Forgotten ways for modern days

Forgotten Ways for Modern Days: Kitchen Cures and Household Lore for a Natural Home and Garden by Rachelle Blondel
Published by Kyle Books
4th June 2015
Hardback Edition
Forgotten Ways for Modern Days draws on the wisdom of the homemakers, gardeners, crafters and kitchen alchemists of the past who kept homes clean, gardens in order and hands busy using natural products and items found close to hand, either around the house or in the garden. Ingredients from kitchen cupboards, picked from the veg patch or foraged from hedgerows were used to clean clothes, cure a chesty cough and freshen the skin, whilst scraps of fabric were recycled in endless useful ways. With sections on Cleaning, Laundry, The Kitchen, In the Garden, Natural Health, and Beauty, Forgotten Ways for Modern Days brings this knowledge up to date and shares with the reader clever tips that make as much sense today, such as how to brighten your whites by putting eggshells in your wash. as well as an array of handy projects, including how to make Re-usable Beeswax Food Wrap, a Honey and Lemon Throat Soother and a Bits and Bobs Eiderdown.
Rachelle's book came out last month and I had to treat myself to a copy pretty much immediately.  I have to say I jolly well love it too.  It also has an introduction by crafty blogger pal Tif Fussell, aka Dottie Angel.
You may also have spotted Rachelle in this weekend's edition of You magazine.  I wish I had known and then I'd have bought a copy too.
This is more than just a craft book, though it does have things to make of a crafty nature inside it, but a whole new way of living.  There are concoctions and recipes inside for all mater of goodies - a beeswax for bringing your wooden items back to new, reed diffusers, kindling wraps, dandelion syrup and an almond and rosewater cleansing cream are just some of the wonderful contents contained within its beautiful pages - and the packaging and layout of the book are really nice too.
on my to make list
 This is a lovely book about getting back to basics, making time to produce your own things rather than buying chemically filled products and having a simpler way of living.  I can't argue with her, it's a life I want to live too.
G x

Monday 13 July 2015

Hope and Elvis

I went to two Hope and Elvis workshops in June and haven't blogged about either of them which is very lapse of me.  So, as I've got this week off work and it's raining outside, I'll fill you in briefly now.

The first workshop was to meet and sew with the wonderful Jessie Chorley.  We were making journals that day and it was a wonderful day of fun and laughter. 

Jessie's beautiful work

As usual I ended up on the naughty table with Tracy and Louise but we had the best time ever - and I think that secretly everyone else wanted to be on our table too!  Jessie was wonderful and I'm heading on over to London next month for her grand opening and book launch where I'm hoping to catch up with the lovely Chrissie of Chrissie Crafts too!

Mine is the red New Beginnings book

The second workshop was with Leah Halliday to make apron dresses.  It was a challenging day and there was a lot of concentrating to do but my dress is almost complete - I've just got to hem it and handstitch the inside and then it is complete.  I'm happy with how it turned out but I don't know if I'll remember how to make another one on my own though!

Beavering away in my red apron dress
I don't have many pics to show though as I forgot my phone charger and my phone had to remain off - these are photos from Hope and Elvis!

My next workshop is in November but not up north this time.  I'm off to Unit Twelve in Staffordshire with Lottie to make paper lampshades with Jennifer Collier - on my birthday no less.

Jennifer has agreed to provide cake - excited much!

G x