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Great Lunch Bag Tutorial

Insulated Lunch Bag

I wanted to share this great lunch bag tutorial that I have made again and again for myself, family and friends. It’s from the blog of ZaaBerry, a US crafter who is a chemist by day and a sewer by night, check out the tutorial and her blog here.

This lunch bag was one of the first proper sewing projects I had attempted since Mrs Poyser’s Textiles class at school. I had run up some curtains on my sewing machine before but nothing that involved zips or ‘complicated’ sewing inside out and turning techniques (it’s not too bad once you have done it a couple of times and ZaaBerry’s tutorial has great instructions). My first attempt must have taken me the best part of a day to make- I struggled with the zip and I probably spent far too long making sure all the fabric was straight but it came out great! At that time I couldn’t find the insulating fabric that it asks for in the tutorial (turns out you can’t buy it in the UK- I now use Insul-Fleece which I think is the same thing, available on Amazon here) so the first time I used an old ironing board cover which worked fine (though it is probably not quite as insulating as the metallic insulating fabric I have used since). I also couldn’t explicitly find PUL fabric (and I had no idea what it was) so I went along to Abakhans (great fabric shop!) and looked through what they had until I found some lightweight waterproof fabric (oilcloth would be far too heavy for this project I think so I wouldn’t try it).

The latest one pictured here is one I made for my mum. This one took me about 2 hours to make from start to finish- I made my own straps as instructed in the pattern rather than using tape.

Let me know what you think!

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Hand printing cards

A collage of my hand-printed cards
A collage of my hand-printed cards
A collage of my hand-printed cards

Taking a break from sewing, crocheting and other textile based crafts I decided to try my hand at card making! I had some cards left over from when I had made the invitations for my wedding a few years ago, that had been languishing unloved in a box for some time. I was having my usual casual potter through the aisles of Hobbycraft one weekend when I saw they had a sale on ink pads and stamps, remembered the cards and thought I’d give stamping a go!

I bought a stamp set of small alphabet letters, a black ink pad and another ink pad that had various colours in it. I’m a big fan of simple cards with cute messages and random thoughts on them, and thought I’d create some simple characters with the basic phrasing “I like…” leaving the card blank inside so they can be used for any purpose- birthdays, thank you’s, keep in touch etc. I used my finger to stamp a colour in the middle of the card and drew my characters around it in black ink. Then I got creative with their messages!

Here is a little collage of the results. They have gone down really well with family and friends, especially when doing bespoke Ines based on their own interests! Which character is your favourite?

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Maternity t-shirt stylings

Maternity t-shirt with the caption "I am so crafty I make people"

Ah maternity t-shirts. So many lovely ideas on Pinterest for slogans and designs, and yet so few places to buy from. My internet choices were to get something shipped from the US for extortionate prices or settle for a ironed-on cheap knockoff version, that I wouldn’t know the fit of until it arrived. So I did what any sensible crafter would do and decided to design and make my own!

 

First off was to buy some maternity shirts. I found one of the few places to physically sell maternity wear in actual shops you can visit to be Peacocks, and very reasonable prices they were too- I bought two but will no doubt get more as my existing t-shirts stop fitting me!  Next was to choose my designs. I opted for “Loading. Please wait…” and “I’m so crafty I make people” to reflect both my geeky and crafty sides.

Loading in progress - with the lightbox
Loading in progress – with the lightbox
Finished t-shirt with Loading caption
Finished t-shirt with Loading… caption

“Loading. Please Wait…” was the simpler of the two to produce as it involved just a permanent fabric marker pen. The first step was to stabilise the fabric whilst transferring my design to it wouldn’t get distorted on the stretchy t-shirt fabric. I used a piece of freezer paper ironed on the reverse side of the t-shirt and then attached the print out of the design onto the freezer paper with sellotape. I then used a light box to shine through the paper and t-shirt so I could draw on the fabric with a pen. Once transferred a quick iron with a hot, dry iron to seal in the ink and it’s ready!

For the second design I decided to get more crafty and use fabric paints to sponge print on the design and get that mottled, summer effect that you see on a lot of inspirational quote type pins these days. I first chose a suitable font and printed out the right size to fit onto the shirt and then traced this to freezer paper. Using a craft knife I then cut out the letters making sure to keep the inside of a’s etc. attached so they would iron onto the fabric and not affect the printing process. Again I carefully ironed on the freezer paper to keep my lettering intact and then put a piece of cardboard between the front and back of the t-shirt so the fabric paint wouldn’t stain through.

Maternity t-shirt with the caption "I am so crafty I make people"
Finished crafty making t-shirt

I used Dylon fabric paint pots in pink and purple for my design. For the first ‘sponging’ I lightened up the pink and purple separately with white and went over the whole design in a random splodgy pattern. I let that touch try and then sponged on gradually darker versions of the two colours until I achieved the effect and colour I wanted. Again I let this touch dry and then carefully peeled off the freezer paper. I used a small paintbrush to fill in the little lines left by the letter stencil for a’s etc. and left that for a final dry overnight before using a hot dry iron to again press the ink into the fabric and seal it.

So the final results: two lovely printed t-shirts to show off the bump!

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Jeans to skirt upcycle- with added maternity benefits!

collage of the jeans maternity skirt conversion

You know the feeling; your favourite and most comfiest jeans have finally got a hole in them and are looking just too scraggly to be a pair that is fit to leave the house. You have 2 options: downgrade them to decorating scruffs or in the bin they go. But wait, there is a 3rd option! Why not convert them to a skirt, especially now the sun is shining and your pins need a little colour.

 

Continue reading Jeans to skirt upcycle- with added maternity benefits!

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Happy fruit!

Fruit buttons - watermelon and strawberry

My latest crafting activities have proved… fruitful with the creation of these happy little buttons.

I have used 29mm metal buttons and designed my own cross-stitch patterns to produce these friendly little fruits.  I can also make them into brooches!

I really like them as they quick and fun to make, and are a great addition to tops, bags, hats, head bands, bracelets… wherever you need a cute bit of fruit really.

I am selling them at £5 for two buttons/brooches, any fruity combo or two of the same.

Fruit buttons - orange and lemonFruit buttons - pineapple and cherriesFruit buttons - watermelon and strawberryFruit buttons - apple and pear

Hope you like them!

I’d love to hear from you, so please vote for your favourite fruits in the poll below, and leave me a message if you like!

[polldaddy poll=7214465]

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Mug cosies for a cuddly cuppa

Mug cosy - Heart mug

I love snuggling up with a nice cup of tea in the colder months, or after a hard day, or when sitting down to be crafty, or when watching TV… Ok, any time of day or night is a good time for a cuppa in my book!

I was sipping away to myself one day and came upon the decision to make mug cosies for me and my friend at work, for these three reasons:

  • we both love tea
  • we both have boring cups at work that have just randomly materialised from the depths of people’s drawers and from attending free events over the years, with various degrees of straight-laced branding that could do with a little colour
  • our ‘kettle’ which is actually a hot and cold water machine, is temperamental about the temperature of the water it releases so we have to find other ways of keeping our brews warm

So I went to work creating us some fun covers.

First, I tackled my friend’s cup which is one of those that curves as it goes down to the bottom. I wanted to make the cosy as, er, cosy as possible so I made a chain that would only just go around the base of the mug when stretched, joined it in a loop, then continued in a round to form the base.

It’s worth noting that I’ll do anything to get out of having to do any finishing or sewing pieces together at the end of my projects, so the cosy part of my cosy is made as a whole piece and its just the embellishments that I sew on after.

Next the hole for the handle. Instead of continuing in a round I turned instead for the next row and continued in lines, turning as I got to the end each time to leave the gap. For the curved cup I increased the number of stitches in each row at appropriate points as I made my way up the cup. Eager to see my results quickly, I also switched to double crochet (dc) rows about so it grew faster. Once I had a hole big enough for a handle, I joined the pieces once again and continued in a round for 2 rounds, making sure to leave enough room for my lip to drink from the mug (a mouthful of wool is not great).

I finally finished off the piece by crocheting a fanned lip/tag at the handle of the cosy so you can pull the cosy on and off easily.

For embellishments, I added a few hearts and joined them all up with a squiggly line, but there was still something missing…

I decided to add a tag, like what you would get if you were using a drawstring teabag to the side of the cup and put my friend’s name on it. For this I simply used some spare white fabric I had, printed my friend’s name onto t-shirt fabric transfer, ironed it on the fabric and cut it out. Worked a treat!

Here is the finished article:

Mug cosy, customised label

The mug cosy for me was slightly easier to make as it was a straight mug. I used exactly the same technique as before just without having to do any increases. I chose a light green colour for myself and added two hearts, which I have to admit turned out better than my first attempt at hearts after I had a rethink about the pattern. The clever thing about double crochet is that it affords a bit of stretch and space between each strand, which lent itself nicely to the addition of a little chain stitch ribbon/bow I added at the end and just passed through the spaces.

This is how mine looked from the front and back (I didn’t add a tea tag to mine):

Mug cosy - Heart mug

The handle angle shows better the extra lip I added to allow the cosy to be taken off the mug more easily.

And there you have it! I haven’t tested the longevity of the heat of the tea, but it certainly satisfies the fun and prettifying aspects of the original brief and it’s snugglier to hold than porcelain. Hope you like them, if you are interested in any more detail on how I made them let me know!

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Discovering Broomstick Lace

Green Bracelet

I love learning new crafting techniques. I have been happily crocheting away for a couple of years now, perfecting and speeding up in standard crocheting stitches, but I wanted to do something different and was considering branching out into knitting more. So I was browsing the internet one day to see if you could do a cable stitch in crochet (turns out you can – more here) when suddenly I came across a whole other bunch of crochet stitches that I never even knew about before! The one that really caught my eye however was broomstick lace -it is so pretty and swirly.

For this stitch you require a cylindical implement to fix a series of crochet loops around (hence a broomstick, though I found that a drumstick is a good size), which creates a lovely loop pattern. It is hard to describe but the following blog has perfect instructions. I experimented with rows of two and discovered this would actually make a really nice bracelet or headband. Here is my first attempt in blue, where I used a 9mm crochet hook to do the loop holes.

Blue crocheted bracelet

I then experimented and created this lovely two toned bracelet using green and cream, where I used the said drumstick to make bigger holes which suit a 2cm button.

Green Bracelet

As well as headbands and bracelets, I think this stitch would make a lovely purse (lined with a contrasting fabric perhaps) or great edging to sleeves.

Please let me know if you like them!

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Starting out – My first Enterprise Network event

two balls of wool chatting

As I am new to starting out in business by myself – and indeed new to blogging – I thought I would start both by talking about an event I have just been to where I learnt about networking and making connections with people – that is an important skill for both, right?

I actually happened upon this event whilst browsing the business start-up pages of the UK government’s website, in particular their business support finder page. You simply put in the details of what kind of business you are looking to run and where you are based and amazingly it provides you with a wealth of support resources that I probably would never have found otherwise.

I found that their setting up page is also a really useful content page of links to get you thinking about the different parts to starting out. Also worth mentioning is the information I was looking for in the first place which led me to their site – protecting intellectual property – a must-know topic for any business but especially for crafty peeps.

See what I did there? Connections! It’s all about the connections.

So, back to the event. The Blue Orchid organisation specialises in business start up support in the North West and news of the events they are holding is generally available here. Though they do not seem to have a lot of events in the future advertised on their site pages, not to be discouraged, I followed one of their past links for an event that looked interesting to their eventbrite booking page and that is much more up to date and choc-full of events. Alternatively, you can call or email them to find out about events, plenty of contact details available on their site!

As another slight aside, I have found eventbrite to be another excellent site for finding events to appeal to all aspects of your life. I feel a whole new world has been opened up to me!

I promptly booked myself onto the 30th April City Library Enterprise Network event, supported by Manchester City Council with Blue Orchid, which promised:

Meet other enterprising people and businesses in your area, share knowledge, and receive expert advice and information from speakers on a range of topics

and in particular for this session:

introduce you to the concepts of Networking so that you will have a clear idea of what it is and what it’s not

Exciting!

I then realised I had no business cards and 4 days to make that happen. I got there, but that journey deserves its own slot, so more to come later on developing business cards.

I went along to the event with a friend of mine, who is also looking to set out for themselves. It can be good to have a familiar face at these events, especially if it’s your first and you are a shy person, as you can face the unknown together, but as soon as I’d met a couple of people it was clear that I was in good company.

Unlike a couple of other events I had been to in the past, these were not the drones of faceless corporations; the hard sellers of hard business; the pompous event organisers who look at you quizzically, trying to understand why it is little, insignificant you that is here and not your boss; these were real people, trying to make a real go of it, exploring their dreams and seizing the day to try and make a difference to themselves and others. These people were My Kinda People.

We got refreshments and settled down to an excellent presentation from Gilli Bruce of  Gilli Bruce Training which was delivered with enthusiasm and a fair bit of audience participation. Some of the key items I took away were:

  • Network with a relationship mindset not a sales mindset
  • Focus on getting people to know, like and trust you
  • Remember that people know people who know people, so it’s worth taking the time with everyone you talk to even if you cannot directly benefit from a product or service they are providing
  • Actively listen and ask follow up questions – people like people who are interested in them
  • When promoting yourself, say something that appeals to each of the main decision making factors we all use –  what you know, what you love and what you do
  • Be your honest and true self

We then had the chance to practice our networking skills for around 45 minutes at the end of the session. It was really refreshing to meet people who were all working for themselves, most of whom were just starting out but a few who had been doing it for a while, and being able to talk about why we are starting out and the ideas and experiences we have had so far.

So,my words of advice are –  if you are um-ing and ah-ing about going to events, are worried that your business idea is not mature enough yet, or you are not sure if you can go and chat with random people who may have certain expectations of you, try to bite the bullet and go to an event designed for start-ups and talk to people in the same position as you. It can really give you a confidence boost and at least enforce your belief that starting out on your own can really happen if you put your mind to it.

I hope  you found my first post interesting and helpful and I’m glad to have made a connection with you!

Check back for more starting-out businessy ramblings as well as crafty posts of my creations as and when I get the chance to design them.