Forever Fabric – launch and giveaway

forever-fabric-small-logo

I’m betting that the majority of you will be a fan of The Sewing Directory and so would love to know that the creator of that excellent site, Fiona Pullen (also the writer of Craft a Creative Business), is launching a new website for fabric lovers called…

Forever Fabric

I can guarantee that Forever Fabric is going to put so much temptation in your way, because the site will be previewing new and forthcoming fabric collections from all your favourite designers. The posts will give you details on the inspiration behind the collection, pictures of the prints, information on when it will be available to buy and links to stockists.

Blithe from Katarina Roccella
Blithe by Katarian Roccella, one of the collections currently featured.

It will help you plan future projects, or stash purchases. There are also interviews with designers such as Katarina Roccella and Elizabeth Olwen, and a section on new designers and their first collections to help you discover new designs.

 

Curious Dreams Alice in Wonderland Inspired Fabrics
Angela Pingel’s debut collection – Curious Dream – for Windham fabrics

 

I am sure you will also be glad to know that Forever Fabric is celebrating its launch with a big fabric giveaway. There are 10 Art Gallery Fabrics fat quarter bundles to be won!

Art Gallery fabric bundles

Visit www.foreverfabric.com or find Forever Fabric on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter.

Treasures for January

I know a lot of people find January to be a difficult month, after the festivities of December. I usually rather enjoy it – I don’t mind chilly weather too much, and I quite enjoy that feeling of making a fresh start, but so far 2017 has been a bit of a slog… How are you getting on?

I thought, for all of us who might be in need of a bit of good cheer, I’d share some of the beautiful creative possibilities available from my sponsors right now.

First up, I couldn’t resist the beautiful jewel tones of this striking knitted blanket pattern from Baa Ram Ewe (it’s called York Minster and is designed by Alison Moreton and knitted in Dovestone DK), new in at Black Sheep Wools. I love the entire Dovestone DK collection – yarns and patterns alike.So beautiful!

york-minster-blanket-knitting-pattern-at-black-sheep-wools

 

Duck Egg Threads have 80wt Aurifil! If you don’t know about this, it is a fabulous new Egyptian cotton thread from Aurifil – a very fine, smooth thread, which is ideal for hand and machine use and is especially recommended for hand appliqué and English Paper Piecing.

aurifil-80wt-at-duck-egg-2

aurifil-80wt-at-duck-egg-1

Sarah has chosen a very useful range of neutral tones – can’t wait to get hold of some!

Here are some more of my favourite jewel colours. I absolutely adore this fabulous red marl wool touch fabric (a polyester/acrylic mix) new in at Dragonfly Fabrics.

red-marl-at-dragonfly-fabrics

Is it time for me to conquer my fear of knit fabrics and use it to make this great top? Hmmmm..! It comes in grey too.

Is it too soon to be thinking of Easter? Oh well, be cross with me if you like, but I couldn’t help it, when I spotted these fab Easter egg buttons at My Fabric House.

easter-egg-buttons-my-fabric-house

If you are not quite thinking ahead to April yet, there’s more fab buttons new in at MFH – maybe hearts for Valentine’s Day work better for you.

Nicole from Cloud Craft shared this beautifully curated collection of wool felt, called Hellebore, on Facebook the other day, and I absolutely had to share it with you too.

hellebore-felt-collection-from-cloud-craft

I love these gorgeous colours, so reminiscent of a spring garden and perfect for a bit of relaxing hand stitching – maybe with this selection of threads from Sublime Stitching.

Finally, if you hurry, my friends at Mollie Makes are having a competition to win 3m of fabrics from my fabulous sponsors Prinfab.

Dash round before midnight tomorrow to be in with a chance of winning. And if you’ve ever thought of having a go at printing your own designs on fabric, but don’t know where to start, it’s well worth following Prinfab on Facebook for some fabulous inspiration. And, I forgot to say, you can now get your designs printed on cotton muslin and cotton jersey too, so even more motivation to have a go!

Hope I’ve provided a little bit of creative inspiration for the week ahead… enjoy it!

 

Who’s on your inner committee?

Is there a little group of people, sitting round a meeting table positioned prominently in your brain, passing judgement on all you create and enforcing rules that put endless obstacles in the way of your creative work?

I’ve just been reading Creative Strength Training by Jane Dunnewold, which has a really interesting chapter on this subject (and more!). In her introduction to the chapter she writes:

I see faces. The day it dawned on me that I had a Committee, I wanted to laugh out loud it seemed so absurd. Then I wanted to cry. My Committee members were my father, two famous artists I know personally and the president of an organisation I’d belonged to for over twenty years. It was weird by true. Working along in the studio, feeling just fine… and then progress would slow, even get a bit rocky. As soon as it did, one of those faces would pop into my head with a very disapproving look indeed.

I bet like me, you are nodding along in recognition with this… Here’s some of the points that my own committee love to raise:

at-college

whats-that-supposed-to-be

what-about-that-washing

not-up-to-standard

colours-dont-go

And that’s just a few of them…. Are you feeling intimidated? I certainly am..

But as Dunnewold points out, committee members don’t volunteer for their positions, we assign them to their roles. Some of them – maybe family or friends, would probably be hugely upset to discover that they are at these meetings. And other members probably aren’t even aware we exist, so are wondering why they are being forced to attend…! And that’s the good news, of course:

I have created my committee – over time I can choose to dismantle it.

The key to this whole process of dismantling process is, counter-intuitively, NOT to ignore those judgy voices. That just results in that whole ‘don’t think of a pink elephant’ and all you can think of is pink elephants thing. One technique I have learned from Cognitive Behavioural Therapy is to hear all the negative comments but to carry on regardless (usually with a muttered ‘that’s b*ll*cks’ to help me on my way). It’s a bit like listening to a relentless toddler talking at length about their love of Peppa Pig – you can hear them, but you’re not going to let their enthusiasm for it change your mind.  Seriously, if you can get through to the other side of the negativity from your committee, and just make some work it feels like a real achievement, and it will be easier the next time.

Dunnewold suggests going deeper, and paying attention to who the committee members are, why they are there, and why they are saying what they are saying. She recommends writing this down and working through the reasons for their presence on the committee. From there you can respond to your committee in an imaginative way – writing each member a letter for instance, or giving them a good telling off, or having a laugh at the daft reasons that they have ended up in your head. In the book, there are some amazing drawings, caricatures and collages that artists have created in response to their inner committee. I am hoping to start on the writing, and see where it goes… it would be so nice not to have to listen to quite so many discussions of my work!

Looking forward to reading your responses to this post so much. If you’d like to talk more and read more about creativity, especially in relation to textiles, we have a group (Very Berry Wellbeing and Creativity) over on goodreads.com for some book chat.

good-reads-book-group-header

You will need to set up a Goodreads profile to join and then follow this link. If that doesn’t work, feel free to friend me, then I can invite you to the group.

Book Review and Giveaway: Build a Better Vegetable Garden

build-a-better-vegetable-gardenAt this time of year my thoughts turn to planning for the veggie garden for the upcoming growing season. I love a cosy evening looking at ideas on my Pinterest gardening board, looking at seed catalogues and making ambitious plans. What I always have to keep in mind is that our budget is limited, so that’s why I was so pleased to be given the opportunity to review Build a Better Vegetable Garden – 30 DIY Projects to Improve your Harvest by Joyce Russell with photographs by Ben Russell (published by Frances Lincoln). It’s full of ideas to create garden structures, supports, containers, beds and loads more too – all of which can be made without too much outlay (especially if you already have some of the the DIY tools).

My ambition this year is to work on our fruit garden. The current arrangements for our gooseberries, blackcurrants, blueberries, raspberries and strawberries were put together as a ‘temporary’ measure about 5 years ago, and are quickly becoming unsustainable! I am so fed up of the battle with our resident wood pigeons over my gooseberry harvest… and don’t get me started on my rage with the squirrels who pick a lovely luscious strawberry, eat half, then throw the rest away! So I am excited to see that there are simple, inexpensive, projects for a fruit cage, plus a project to make post and wire supports for raspberries.

We also plan to plant dwarf apple trees – so I was excited to see this drying cabinet project:

build-a-better-vegetable-garden-drying-cabinet

Other projects that got me interested include a simple A-shaped bean frame, which look so much more elegant, practical and sturdy than my wobbly garden cane structures:

build-a-better-vegetable-garden-bean-frame

I was also excited to see ideas for creating a cold frame and a covered hot bed plus projects to create raised beds, all kinds of planters, a garden caddy, a boot cleaner, troughs for grow bags and loads more.

You can start simple with a leaf compost bin or maybe some simple cloches:

build-a-better-vegetable-garden-leaf-heap

build-a-better-vegetable-garden-cloche

Then move onto the trickier projects like these fabulous slug-proof salad beds – which have the advantage of being able to be moved nearer to the house later on in the growing season. I even have a supply of old wellies to use:

build-a-better-vegetable-garden-slug-proof-beds

I have done garden DIY projects before (putting decking in our first garden in London was a wild introduction!), but it has been a long time, so I am glad to see that there are two excellent sections on tools, materials and safety. If you are a total beginner, I think you could feel pretty confident in the advice given here. The added bonus is all the brilliant gardening tips – this feels like real value for money!

As you can see from some of the photos I have included here, each project has a difficulty grading, so you can start with something achievable, and then work your way up to something a bit trickier when you have the confidence.. And there’s also an indication of how long each project will take to complete (although, knowing me and my ability to drill holes in the wrong places – did I mention that decking in London?) I need to add on a couple of hours to every project, just to make sure!

build-a-better-vegetable-garden-shed-fit-out

My favourite project is this fabulous shed shelving and hanging system. Just need a shed to put it in…

Giveaway

I have a copy of this fab book to giveaway. Just leave a comment on this post, maybe telling me what your garden plans are this year, or, as usual, I don’t mind a ‘pick me’. I am happy to post the book anywhere in the world, but bear in mind some of the gardening information might not be quite right for your climate! Please leave your comment before 9pm on Friday 13th January to be in with a chance of winning.

Build a Better Vegetable Garden by Joyce Russell, photography by Ben Russell, is published by Frances Lincoln (£16.99)

 

Mini-tutorial: Fabric zipper pull

Imrov pieced zippy pouch with fabric zipper pull plus tutorial

As you might have noticed, I’ve really got into using zipper pulls as a finishing touch on pouches and bags. Here’s a way I devised lately of making a fabric pull to match the pouch you are making. I won’t lie – it *is* a little bit fiddly, but the results are cute, and I think, worth it. I attempted all kinds of methods of attaching the pull to the zip and finally settled upon using a 7mm double loop split ring. They are very cheap and easy to get hold of from any beading shop or some craft shops – and come in different finishes; I got silver, gold and antique bronze – which seems a good selection to match up with most fabrics.

Tutorial: Making a fabric zipper pull

fabric zipper pull tutorial step-1

Cut a piece of fabric measuring 1 1/2 inches by 4 inches. Fold in one of the short edges 1/4 inch, and press.

fabric zipper pull tutorial step-2

Fold the fabric in half, lengthways, right sides together, and press.

fabric zipper pull tutorial step-3

Stitch the open long edge and the unfolded short edge closed – with a scant 1/4 inch seam. Reverse stitch or back stitch at either end of the stitching to secure.

fabric zipper pull tutorial step-4

Trim the seam a little and cut diagonally across the corner, as shown, without cutting through the stitching, of course!

fabric zipper pull tutorial step-5

Turn the tube you have created right side out. This seems a bit impossible at first, but if you use a blunt pointed knitting needle or crochet hook and start in the middle as shown, it actually comes together quite easily. Or you can use a fancy tube turner if you have one – that makes it very easy indeed.

fabric zipper pull tutorial step-6

Make sure the folded short edge that you made in Step 1 is tucked inside the tube, then press the tube flat (with the seam to the side), then hand stitch the open short end closed.

fabric zipper pull tutorial step-7

Thread the split ring onto the zip end.

fabric zipper pull tutorial step-8

Thread the fabric pull through the loop, so the loop is positioned at the half way point, and twist the fabric over, as shown.

fabric zipper pull tutorial step-9

Fold the fabric pull in half and pin the ends together.

fabric zipper pull tutorial step-10

Adjust your stitch length to a shorter setting (I use 1.5mm) and stitch across, as close to the loop as you can, leaving long threads at either end – DON’T reverse stitch.

fabric zipper pull tutorial step-11

Knot the two threads at either side of the fabric pull, then, using a needle, hide the thread ends by stitching them into the fabric of the pull, and trimming away any excess.

Here’s how the finished hoop looks:

Zippy pouch with fabric zipper pull

Creativity and wellbeing – come and read!

So, I’ve finished reading the first book on my creativity reading list for 2017Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert (if the name sounds familiar, it’s the woman who wrote Eat, Pray, Love). A really interesting and encouraging read, although I don’t agree with everything she argues! I’d love to talk more about it, and other books about creativity and textiles, and as mentioned in my previous post, I was thinking about setting up a book group to do just that.

Sooo…. as 2017 is definitely my year of  What-The-Hell-Just-Go-For-It – I am just going for it… who cares if I end up hanging out there all by myself?  Here’s the group:

good-reads-book-group-header
Very Berry Creativity and Wellbeing

I would love it if you wanted to join in (it would be nicer if I wasn’t all alone, I think…). There’s no commitment to take part – you can just lurk, enjoy the book suggestions and my witterings, if you like…  It’s hosted on Goodreads.com – so it’s so easy to load up books to our Group Shelf and you can keep track of your own personal reading too.

If you have any worries about privacy or being part of group made up of random folks, here’s some reassurance. The group is closed and secret on Goodreads – new members will be approved by the group moderator (me). The group will not appear in Goodreads search results or in the profiles of its members. Only members can see the group information, polls, and discussion board. When you ask to join – you will have to answer a question, but it’s easy, you’ll have no problem with it, and it’s nothing intrusive!

Here’s a fab quote about the importance of creativity for our wellbeing from Big Magic that I highlighted, just for a bit of inspiration to end this post:

We all need something that helps us to forget ourselves for a while – to momentarily forget our age, our gender, our socioeconomic background, our duties, our failures and all that we have lost and screwed up. We need something that takes us so far out of ourselves that we forget to eat, forget to pee, forget to mow the lawn, forget to resent our enemies, forget to brood over our insecurities.

 

Hello 2017! This is not a resolution…

A creative reading list for 2017: starting points

I’m really excited to share my creative reading list for 2017 with you. I’ve been working on this list in the quiet moments since Christmas and can’t wait to get started on it. The first thing to observe is that these kind of books seem to have MASSIVE titles..!

You can read more below about my reasons for embarking on this effort – well the reasons aside from the obvious, that I love to read, and love craft books – it’s all about pressing the reset button for me this January.

I had a thought of setting up a small closed Facebook group for people who are interested in sharing books and thoughts about reading on topics of creativity, stitching, textiles and personal development/mental health. If it’s an idea that appeals, do let me know, no worries if not!

So here are the books that appealed on my browsing round Goodreads – do you use Goodreads? It’s a fabulous app/website if you are a reader – do feel free to friend me if you are a user.

creativity-books-for-2017

 

So here’s a bit more about why..

Early last year, after the death of David Bowie, I scribbled down a few thoughts about the way he lived his life and the way that his creativity resonated with me. Here’s the list I made back then.

Learning from Bowie

When I wrote that, right at the beginning of the year, I knew I wanted to take these intentions forward with me into 2016, and in some ways I did – they certainly bubbled away under the surface throughout the year.

Back in the spring, I took the risk (see point 3!) of paying a monthly rent for a workroom of my own (I may have mentioned this a few times ;-)). This step was definitely about the practicalities of having the quiet, the space and the light that isn’t available at home, but more importantly, it was about taking myself seriously as a creative person. I also decided to stop selling Liberty lawn too, for the same reasons – I was so keen to free up more time to devote to ideas and developing my craft. I don’t regret either of those steps for a second – it has been fantastic to be surrounded by other people making fabulous work, talking about collaborations, art & craft markets, exhibitions and being excited to be part of the resurgence of our city.

But taking on the responsibility of finding my rent and whilst still paying myself a wage, with no income from the fabric selling, has been hard, and there’s been very little time for learning, being curious, exploring, moving forward. Sometimes I’ve been too busy with commission work to take part in my own swaps, which doesn’t feel right at all.

So, here we are at the start of 2017, and I am going for it again… And I’m going to start by really getting back to the roots of my creativity – what works for me, what doesn’t, different ways of working, things I want to learn, things I want to do, developing goals, being authentic, being playful and moving forward. I’m also going to work more on my research into the relationship between craft and mental health (which if you are a regular reader, you’ll know I’ve written about a bit before). I’m sharing this intention with you all because I really want to put in the work, but will no doubt suffer crises of confidence (my inner committee is already telling me this is a stupid idea…) and boredom (my honey bee mind wanting to move along to the next flower) along the way, so need to be held to virtual account!

Oh yes, and if  you have recommendations to add to my eclectic list, or if you’re interested in chatting on Facebook in a little reading group (see above) do get in touch. Here’s to my making 2017 a year of following my curious creative whims.