Friday, 18 November 2016

My DIY Fabric Banner from Create! Craft Kits

This weekend I got to enjoy something special... something that I don't get to indulge in very often... crafting time for ME! Don't get me wrong, I adore what I do, but with the length of my To-Do list rivaling my kids' Christmas lists, it has been nice to spend some time creating something just for the sheer enjoyment of it.

When I saw that blogging Craft Queens Em and Rachel had come together to produce some DIY crafting kits, I was so excited for them (ok, and myself)! And as it seemed that their secret squirrel project had coincided with the planning of my secret squirrel DIY project, maybe we could trade kits and all have a go at something a bit new...


DIY Fabric Banner from CREATE! Craft Kits

My first impression upon opening the CREATE! Craft Kit was just how deluxe and professional it was - a handwritten note, kraft gift box, tissue paper to fold back to get to all the goodies. It was so much fun to open and discover! There were instructions, twine, white thread and sparkly gold thread, buttons, felt, gorgeous patterned fabric, thick white twill for the backing, and some templates.

Confession: I don't own a sewing machine anymore, because I just get too angry with them. They hate me. They see me coming and decide to go haywire with their tension settings, just to p*ss me off. However, I didn't feel that the lack of a machine hindered me in any way - it's a small enough project that it didn't take me long to hand-sew even the edges. Also, I could have used Bondaweb or similar to stick the shapes to the banner, but I do love the look of a simple running stitch.


DIY Fabric Banner from CREATE! Craft Kits

3 things I loved about this kit:

  • The amount of thought that had gone into it - for example, the interfacing on the back of the pink fabric meant that I could feel free to cut it however I wanted, without the need to sew seams or worry about fraying. I did use pinking shears, but only because I like the zigzag effect, not because I needed to.
  • Even though there were shape templates included, I didn't feel tied down to using these designs. Indeed, the instructions encourage you to freestyle it a bit if you wanted to! I actually found the flamingo in my own stash, and ummed and ahhed a bit over whether it would be 'cheating' to use it... then I remembered that with crafting for pleasure there are no rules!
  • It was a small enough project that I could complete it within a morning (immediate gratification is important to me when crafting!!), but substantial enough that I felt really proud of my banner when it was finished. I felt I had accomplished something.
Without further ado, I bring you my finished banner! It's now hanging beside my pegboard in my Craftroom, and makes me smile whenever I look at it.



DIY Fabric Banner from CREATE! Craft Kits

Em and Rachel will be at the Independent Oxford Christmas Market next Saturday (26th Nov) - and excitingly, they will have a mini banner workshop running there, as well as having the kits on sale to buy.

LINKS:
For tickets to the Independent Oxford Christmas Market, click here.
Kits can be purchased from Rachel's Etsy shop
Follow CREATE! on Instagram...
...or Facebook
...or Twitter!
Em also wrote a great post on her blog with more info about the kits - you can read it here.

Saturday, 29 October 2016

Enamel pins... what's the big deal?

Confession: I didn't know collecting pins was even a 'thing' until I got a message from the beautiful, pink-haired Holly Coral this summer, asking if I fancied doing a swapsie for one of my crochet necklaces.

Since then I've co-designed my own range of crafty pins with artist Claire Spake (she's nuts, and has since become a bit of a bestie, but that's another story), participated in various swaps with other designers, and am following more pin artists than I care to mention on social media! There's something about pins that's hooked me, and I can't see this current obsession ending any time soon!

'Crafty' enamel pins by Fickle Craftroom: crochet/kntting/yarn, scrapbooking/papercraft, Singer sewing machine, 'hello' paint tube

Maybe it's because they're essentially grown-up 'pocket money toys' - an inexpensive way to update an outfit and add a bit of individuality to your style (cheaper and less permanent than a tattoo as well!). There are cutesy pins, dark pins, feminist pins, niche pins - seriously, something for everyone!



My main issue though is how to wear them... I don't wear a denim jacket because I usually wear jeans and am not young or cool enough to pull off double denim. Although I'd love to get away with dungarees (with patch pocket perfect for sporting a pin or 7), I'm not sure my boobs would let me. I do pop them on my handbag occasionally, but have lost 2 treasured pins this way, so am now a bit nervy.

How do you wear yours please???????????

Sunday, 23 October 2016

7 ways to deal with Crafters' Block

7 ways of dealing with Crafters' Block: Fickle Me blog

Do you freeze when beginning a large project? Do you have spells of just feeling generally uninspired and unmotivated? Us too! Try our 7 ways of digging yourself out of the hole and rediscovering your creative vibe…

OVERWHELM

1. Just make a start. Whilst this may sound like an obvious and too-simple suggestion, making just the smallest of starts will instantly make your project seem less daunting and more easily achievable. I overcame my bullet journaling fear of imperfection by writing just one word on the second page: ‘Index’. As soon as my beloved journal was no longer virgin and pristine I could let go and begin. In fact once I’d broken that seal, I was raring to go, and you couldn’t have kept me away if you’d tried!

7 ways to deal with crafters' block: Fickle Me Blog
My beloved BuJo
2. Break it down. When I had a recent wholesale order of crochet baskets, all I could do for a while was stare at my yarn… In my head though, I broke it down into smaller sections; x amount of red baskets, x amount of blue ones, and so on. Each part was then immediately achievable, and I got through the order relatively quickly.

3. Visualise coming to the end. Really concentrate, and do this as clearly as your possibly can –where will you be sitting? How will you feel? What will you do to celebrate? Think about how silly you’ll feel that you felt overwhelmed at the beginning! I also do this with car journeys actually! It honestly does make the trickier bits whizz by and seem irrelevant.


LACK OF INSPIRATION / MOTIVATION

4. Embrace social media. When I’m having a confidence wobble, or am just in a general bit of a sulk with crafting, quite often the last thing I feel like doing is going on Pinterest or Instagram, and seeing how creative other people have been! Then I remind myself to grow up. When I relax, and just have a little browse for the sake of it - rather than putting any sort of pressure on myself – I often feel the tension melt away and I start enjoying myself again. Appreciating and celebrating other people’s work is a wonderful thing! 

7 ways to deal with crafters' block: Fickle Me Blog
Oh FFS

5. Try something different. When you remove the pressure to be great at something straight away, it’s easier to go with the flow and enjoy yourself. You never know, you may even stumble across a brand new hobby!

6. Make lists. A bucket list, a shopping list, a to-do list for the following week… getting your ideas onto paper not only clears your mind, but it helps you focus on what’s important to you. Ideas will flow, and you will gradually feel inspired and excited to start ticking things off. (Note: a brand new notebook is obviously a must!)

7. Go outside. I’m not one for the gym, but just getting outdoors energises and restores me – especially if there’s some gorgeous Autumn sunshine and piles of leaves to crunch through! Get your boots and bobble hat on, and go blow away some of the cobwebs!


How do you get inspired after a creative slump? I’d love to hear your tips! xx

Sunday, 24 July 2016

#worklifebalance ... where does your partner fit in?

Being self-employed is hard. Being a mum is hard. And combining the two, especially when children aren't yet in full-time school is just a whole 'nother world of hard! And with families becoming increasingly spread across the country, (free) childcare is just not as easily available as it once was.

Our son is almost 6, and is by turn a ball of energy or an utter sloth. Our daughter is 18 months old, and on the cusp of angelic baby, and stubborn, mischievous toddler. She still breastfeeds, and we still co-sleep (more on this in another post), and so I don't have the freedom that I used to have when our bottle-fed son was tiny.


Work life balance?
Becca. 'Helping'.


Introduction out of the way, I will start by saying that I'm aware that I am extremely fortunate to be in the situation that I'm in. My husband supports us financially, so that I can focus on looking after the children. He's out of the house for 12 hours a day, Monday to Friday, but he is also a very hands-on, loving dad, who enjoys nothing more than some good old-fashioned Family Time. He takes responsibility for certain 'blue' jobs around the house, including garden maintenance, financial admin, and emptying the bins. He even irons his own work shirts! My 'pink' jobs naturally vastly outweigh this, given that's I'm at home, although we do pay a fab lady who comes and helps with the cleaning.

Between looking after the house and the children, any work I get done during the week is very disjointed, and so it's at weekends that I'd ideally get some nice big chunks of time to really crack on. Unfortunately, I'd be lying if I said this didn't cause some friction between my husband and me... He's more than happy to take responsibility for the kids and give me a couple of hours to myself one of the days, but this really isn't sufficient to do everything that needs to be done...

I feel a lot of guilt and pressure during the times I spend working at weekends. I even feel guilty about time spent doing household chores if he's looking after the kids! Is this just all part and parcel of normal Mum Guilt?! I have to sometimes rather indignantly remind myself that this is the only thing I do for myself, whether I call it work or not. If I didn't have it, and were always available for family duties 24/7 then I would be frustrated and resentful.

I do wonder if we just have fundamentally different ways of thinking, based on our own experiences. I believe that deep down, he sees my work as my 'me-time'. Similarly, he doesn't see the bigger picture, in that if I'm not physically making something for an order, then it's not 'work'. The hours spent blogging, photographing, listing products or generally working on my website, planning events, interacting with people on social media, researching suppliers etc, are seen as me just playing on my phone.  By contrast I do NOT see his 60-odd hours of working/commuting as 'his time'.

I apologise to you all, as I could probably summarise all of the above in just two sentences: I am supported in my ambition by my partner, however on a practical level, I do not have enough child-free time to work. I feel guilty about the time I do get, whether the pressure is real or perceived. Basically, it's almost all in my own head.


Ignore the dust!

To finish, here are some quotes from other #mumbosses, when asked how supportive their partners were...


"I often feel that my husband isn't supportive but the reality is that he doesn't understand what it's like to be at home full time with the boys and have your own business. I find it impossible to switch off and am always thinking about the next idea. He comes home and leaves his work at the door. He's as supportive as he's able to be and that's fine. I've started to meet other mamas in my situation and that's where I get the support that I need."



"My husband is amazing and very supportive but I still feel that he sees it as a hobby. I am getting spoilt if he looks after the kids while I work. If there are family/house things that need doing then they come first, work should fit around. There are always things that need doing so I am often distracted from work."




"I want to help bring in some income, I'm a SAHM, but my husband says I'm just wasting my time. Any suggestions I make he says is a waste of time or I'm doing it wrong and won't sell anything."


"My husband is nothing short of brilliant. He helped with the night feeds because he knew I needed sleep to get through the day, he always said having a whole 10 hours to himself was easier than my job of looking after the children and running the business. Now they are older he takes them out when I need some brain space."

The following, and final quote comes from a life coach and qualified NLP practitioner who I consider myself lucky to have happened upon:



"My advice for the partner thing: 1.) have a plan - it's the only way you can get the most out of your time (your plan/his plan/joint plan) 2.) don't nag, it's ugly (a friend once said to me 'shag don't nag') 3.) understand what works for you and him - it may well be different but if you can get under the skin of what makes you tick then use it to find a solution (eg I'm a starter and he's a finisher) 4.) get help from a mentor or coach - ask for help and you shall get it usually (people like Hayley Southwood have made it work as did Jo Malone and heaps of other women) or be clear to your partner what you want and why 5.) remember, even on the moaniest bleak day we have it so much better than so many people and we have a choice over what we do which is a gift..."



Right, I'm putting the laptop down now, and going to have an early night so I have enough energy to be superwoman again tomorrow! ;-)


Friday, 22 July 2016

#worklifebalance ... Labels

I recently completed a market research survey, which asked me to select from a list of 'employment status' options. Was I a stay-at-home-mum? Was I self-employed? A working mum? These were all on offer, as well as the standard full-time / part-time / unemployed options.

I was actually stumped! I do stay at home and look after my children, but I am also self-employed and work from home every minute I can. What do I want to be recognised for? Does it vary depending on who I'm speaking to? Women are so wary of being judged that we too often downplay our achievements and our roles. We don't want to make other's feel bad about their life choices either, which leaves us in a bit of a pickle! We NEED to have our family and friends on board with us as they are our support network and (hopefully) our main cheerleaders.

Stay-at-home mum?
Stay-at-home mum?
 To my 'mum friends', I have been guilty of massively downplaying my ambitions and the amount of time I spend working on my business. My small successes that I am so immensely proud of  might be mentioned in passing conversation, but I dread being seen as boastful, or as having 'changed'. As such, I (mainly) refrain from squealing and doing a silly dance whenever I get a new stockist, for example - even when that is TOTALLY what my instincts are yelling at me to do! I don't want them to think, that I think I am all Busy And Important, or that I think their lives are less Busy And Important by contrast. And yet I do feel that my business is a large part of my identity. So am I a stay-at-home mum? Not completely, no.

Fickle Craftroom stall at Blogtacular
Self-employed?
To my 'girlboss' friends, I often feel a bit of a farce. Whilst I’m confident in certain areas, I have insecurities about my business. Do they take me seriously? I have no idea. Yet I am still doing the same thing they are – following my dream. Working for myself. Doing what I love, and doing my best to fit it all in around my family. Am I self-employed? Undoubtedly. But not in the high-flying, besuited entrepreneurial way that the terms suggests. And certainly not full time.

working mum
Working mum?
So a ‘working mum’. That fits, right? I wish it sounded more glamourous though. And so even though it is descriptive on both points, I don’t tend to use this either.


How do you describe yourself / what you do?

Friday, 10 June 2016

A New Venture: the Three Wise Monkeys Vintage & Arts Emporium

"In the heart of the St Albans countryside is a long established high-end outlet store selling fabulous homewares and luxury leather goods.   Immediately adjacent to it is this.  My eyes just lit up when I saw it, my little house of dreams! I just had to have it."
Denise outside the Three Wise Monkeys Emporium, pre-restoration

Fate had a hand in me meeting Denise. I saw a post she'd shared on Facebook in a group we were both a part of, about a search for potential traders for a new space - to be called the Three Wise Monkeys Vintage & Arts Emporium - opening up in Hertfordshire. It was at a time when I was frustrated at not being able to find a community outside of London for small indie designer/makers, so I leapt at it and sent an email. My imagination was fired up and energy levels at an all-time high. Weeks went by and yet this stranger's vague Facebook post remained at the back of my mind. And then the email came. Would I like to go and see the Emporium and have a chat. Yes. Yes I would.


She sent a text saying 'I'll meet you by the ivy-covered door'. Who wouldn't be intrigued? At first we were very businesslike and mindful of health and safety; "mind the step", "watch out, the floor's a bit rickety here". But walking around the beautiful old saddlery, smelling the old leather, seeing the raw beauty in the beams and the old shop fittings, let alone the BUCKETLOADS of potential, any awkwardness melted away and we each discovered a kindred spirit.


Later, porfolios shown and forms signed, we went for a cuppa and some cake at the neighbouring cafe. Topics of conversation included glitter, real-live organ grinders and monkeys, studded bowler hats, origami jewellery, tiny terrariums, Alice in Wonderland, and much more (I can't wait til next time - and imagine if there was wine involved!?).


Plans include an Italian-inspired cafe, units and cabinet space held by local collectors and artisans, and a workshop/meeting space. There is also Colin.

Becca, me, and Colin. As you do.

But anyway - I don't want to divulge too much here. You can read all about Denise's plans and progress with this fabulous building and project on her Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and blog. Rather importantly, there is also a Crowdfunder page. There is still a lot of work to be done before we open in September, and every penny counts (and could be thanked for in cake!). Likewise, if you have any skills you are able to offer the restoration of this gorgeous building, please also get in touch.


Incredible image, of unknown origin - pinched from Three Wise Monkeys' FB page

Thank you for reading. Xx


Sunday, 29 May 2016

May Madness

Sorry! I am painfully aware that Fickle Me has been quiet late lately, but F.I.C.K.L.E. M.E..... have we been busy!
I need to keep numbering in my brain all the things I have got going on, so I don't miss anything! So here's what we've been up to:

Photo credit: Mariam El Mofty
  • Meeting up with Denise from Three Wise Monkeys Emporium, regarding a selling space for us within their gorgeous premises. I cannot wait to don my wellies and get involved with the whole doing-up of the place, as the premises are absolutely gorgeous. More on this soon.
  • I had a meeting at a lovely gift shop in St Albans this week, about stocking a couple of my jewellery ranges with them. I don't know yet how this will progress, but the ball is in my court, with designing a co-ordinated collection asap in summery colours.
  • Converse recently got in touch with me, via an East London- based experiential marketing company. They were interested in ordering 30-40 pairs of bespoke, hand-embroidered shoes to be given out to selected celebs at Glastonbury!
  • I've been hearing about Blogtacular for some time now, but my friend OhGoshEm recently tweeted me about their indie designer/maker marketplace. Since then I've signed up for a stand, so need to get some stock together, stationery printed, and some stall designs decided upon!
  • I'm part of an 8k strong Facebook group of local mums... I occasionally post or comment, but rarely share my work on there... my friends often urge me to, but I feel funny about it. Not only is it the self-promotional 'selling' aspect of it, but also the fact that I'm actually putting myself 'out there' as me, rather than my brand (if that makes any sort of sense!) that I find a bit scary. Anyway. I bit the bullet a couple of weeks ago, and posted a couple of photos of my baby-friendly crochet jewellery on there, and what happened? They bit my hands off!! I sold a LOT of necklaces within a single evening, and repeat orders are still trickling in... there's a lot to be said for supporting local businesses, and these ladies are kicking ass! 
  • One of the aforementioned local mums turned out to be a wonderful photographer, as she liked her necklace so much that she's not only made multiple repeat purchases, but also offered to do some of my product photography! So watch this space for some new and beautiful images...
  • Another of the local mums came up with the idea of hosting a jewellery party at her home! She's invited a group of friends over to come and meet me and have a look at my designs - I'm so grateful to her and can't wait! 
  • I also need to complete a bespoke commission for some black and gold- themed jewellery to be worn at a posh wedding!
Fickle Craftroom black and gold jewellery commission

So excuse me - I promise I'll be back soon! Follow me on Instagram to keep up with my progress on all of the above xxx



Monday, 9 May 2016

Mini Crafter: 7 TIPS FOR MAKING CARDS WITH KIDS

I totally realise that encouraging our children to make their own greetings cards is nothing new - and I swear I'm not writing this to try and teach my grandmother to suck eggs, as it were! But I wanted to write this post to share some thoughts and some tips with you all.

7 top tips for making greetings cards with kids!
Keep it simple!

  • Don't make it too complicated by offering too much choice. Children are easily overwhelmed, and what might look like a large and exciting array of materials to us, may put them off entirely. Some card and foam shapes (or old birthday cards to cut out), some pens and some sticky dots in various colours can be enough sometimes.
  • In a similar vein to the above - and especially if your child is anything like my impatient boy - make sure there aren't too many steps. Two or three is perfect, eg potato-printing, sequin-sprinkling, and writing a simple message. Otherwise they just lose interest.
  • Personally I prefer not to use picture or character stickers, as this can take away some of the creativity and imagination that plainer or more open-ended materials can offer.
  • If there are lots of little pieces, or glitter *shudder*, I highly recommend using a large tray - we have a huge Ikea one that is perfect
  • If you're a perfectionist parent, then only actually offer materials in your chosen colour or theme - otherwise your stress levels will not cope when your little darling chooses, say, snowflake stickers for a summer birthday, or a 'daring' combination of orange/pink/green...!
  • Follow your child's lead. If they're happy to get on with it by themselves then don't hover (although obviously take the necessary precautions and supervise if there are scissors involved). Alternatively, this can be a lovely bonding activity and your child may love to have you sit with them and make your own card. 
  • Have fun! 

7 top tips for making greetings cards with kids!
Quick fun crafting = one happy boy
7 top tips for making greetings cards with kids!
Hapee birth day


Thursday, 5 May 2016

A Tour of the (Current) Craftroom

Hello you nosy parkers! Don't you just love a tour of somebody else's house? I know I do. And my favourite part is getting to see how they organise all their belongings. So I am throwing the doors - and drawers - of the Fickle Craftroom, wide for all to see!

Currently, I work at home...... where I can keep an eye on my kids, make my coffee the way I like it, and ignore the laundry pile. This, however, does mean I get little hands 'helping' rather a lot, so I need adequate storage to keep all my bits and pieces hidden away when not in use!

Here's our dining room, with my beloved mid-century modern walnut table and Eames-esque chairs...



The alcove is home to our 5 year-old's desk, which makes him feel very important! The chests of drawers are cheapie Ikea Rasts, with a lick of paint. I was originally going to paint all of the outer casings with this blue, but Mr C rather surprisingly said he liked the effect of alternating the units (he's usually quite conservative in his design choices)! The knobs are a mixture of gold, turquoise and grey.

The majority of my stationery is kept in the drawers, as well as my packaging supplies for Stitches & Lace and Fickle Craftroom.

1. general odds and ends: stapler, stamps, stickers, rulers
2. ugh. receipts ready to be sorted for tax return time!
3. felt flowers, my bead box, pretty papers, Diana camera, embroidery hoops
4. A4 notepads, scrapbooks, magazine cuttings
5. small notepads, notecards, address book
6. envelopes, tags, mailing boxes
7. business cards, stickers, gift papers & bags
8. beads, pom-poms, lollipop sticks and other kiddie craft paraphernalia
9. diamante tool, metal stamping blanks, jewellery findings, washi tape and duck tape
10. crayons, chalks, paints and sponge shapes
11. Fickle Craftroom packaging - boxes & bags
12. collage materials and stickers
The dining room flows through to the living room, which is decorated in the same colours; mocha/oyster/grey and turquoise.




However... did you note my cunning use of the word 'CURRENT' in the title???? Well. This little beauty is soon to be mine!


I have just started a new Pinterest board with She-Shed inspiration, and I have no doubt this will grow daily!

What would your dream She-Shed include?

Wednesday, 27 April 2016

Happy National Stationery Week!

Oh dearie me but I love stationery. I LIVE for stationery! I am known by family and friends as the Queen of Lists. I have drawers and drawers of notebooks. Pens. Washi tape. Notecards.

Fickle Me Blog: List Notebooks
1. Pygmy Cloud 2. Got2Jot 3. The Green Gables
Even growing up, I remember my greatest ever Christmas: it was the Year of Stationery. This wonderful Noah's Ark 12-in-1 set, where the anchor was a pair of scissors, the wheel was a roll of sellotape. A giraffe was a ruler. It was fantastic. The other amazing present was a box from the big office supplies shop from the eighties whose name I forget. It was chock full of tiny notepads, tins (the dream), teeny tiny rubbers, and a full size sellotape dispenser which we still have...

Fickle Me Blog: 'Vintage' Noah's Ark Stationery Set
The only picture available from Google: from the VINTAGE section of Etsy *cries* (shop: PopesWithPaint)
When I was a cool twenty-something living in London, I would spend my weekends moseying through Covent Garden, or one of the many indie markets. I would buy trinkets, snacks, make-up, jewellery, but always, ALWAYS stationery. I loved Urban Outfitters, Paperchase (especially the 3-storey flagship on Tottenham Court Road), and Artbox - Artbox in particular was amazing because it housed myriad Japanese bits for like a quid.

Nowadays I'm very conscious of supporting small, UK-based businesses, and there are SO many creative people out there!

Here are a few of my faves (prepare yourself!):

Fickle Me Blog Favourite Stationery
Credits from left to right...
2ND ROW: PeleMeleClaireabelle Makes (more funky motivational pencils at ThriftBoxUK, come to think of it!), Serendipity VitaPencil Me In

Now this doesn't even cover the half of it, but I thought for my first stationery post I would keep it to the 'classics' - by which I principally mean pens and paper. However, look out for future posts on card-giving (both buying from small independent designers and making your own), gift-wrapping, as well as other stationery bits and pieces!

I hope you enjoyed looking at this post as much as I enjoyed researching it!

xx

Sunday, 10 April 2016

Mini Crafter: LEGO PARTY #2

So we read about my little man's DIY lego bunting here last week. Bless him, he loved it. Bunting wasn't the only homemade touch though - we created all of the decorations and games ourselves.

Lego party games decorations

B made some fab Lego and Duplo models and we displayed them in our glass cabinet, along with our Pass the Parcel prize (a lego storage box wrapped in yellow paper, with a lego man's face drawn on it in Sharpie - of course).

We used a large base plate with a number 4 fashioned from Duplo blocks for a birthday plaque, and used bulldog clips and string to hang it from underneath our bunting.

Cutlery was stored in a pot made from yet more Duplo, and the tableware was very plain - and cheap - just paper plates, cups and bowls in our primary colour scheme from eBay. We did draw Lego man faces on our square yellow paper plates for an extra quirky touch though, with my beloved Sharpie!

Onto the games!


Lego party games decorations
  • Lego & Spoon Race. Hilarious! Balancing pieces of Lego on plastic spoons as we raced up and down our living room.
  • Stick the Head on the Lego Man. B spent another happy hour or so painting a Lego man onto a huuuuge piece of paper, which we used as a spin-off to the classic 'tail on a donkey' game. 
  • Lego Memory Game. We laid out 10 or so Lego/Duplo parts, for eg a motorbike, window, elephant, and gave the player 30 seconds to try and memorise them all. Tell them to close their eyes and then take one piece away - they then have to try and guess what's missing.
  • Find the Lego Man. I found an amazing template via Pinterest for a Lego man paper chain (Kirigami, if you will), and then just cut it up into loads of little men. We hid them all over the house to be hunted down by excited partygoers.
  • The Build-a-Car game we didn't actually play, as B received lots of Lego sets as presents. However, I'd pre-prepared a few sets of random pieces, including wheels (obvs), some generic bricks, and then some wacky parts, just for fun. The idea was that everyone would be challenged to build the best vehicle they could within  the allotted the time, and then we'd race them.
One final thing to say: THE JELLY DID NOT WORK!!! I bought special moulds, but nope. I was much more disappointed than the birthday boy was though! Thank goodness for cake baker extraordinaire Nicola, who has been in charge of birthday cakes every. single. year. This years was constructed from multi-coloured bricks made from sponge, and had Lego construction men on the top (not that we managed to get a good photo - impatient little fingers seem to appear on every picture I have?!) 

Fun times :-)

Lego birthday party cake

Tuesday, 5 April 2016

Mini Crafter: LEGO PARTY #1: DIY Lego Bunting

My little man has been obsessed by Lego before he could even say the word. So for his 4th birthday, we had... a Lego party!

He wanted to be involved with every little detail, and I was keen to have my mini crafter on board - it's not often he wants to join in with his nerdy mum! And as everyone knows, the most important thing about planning a party are the details - we wanted the Lego theme to permeate throughout; decor, food, entertainments, the lot.

We started with the bunting...

Lego party DIY bunting

Supplies:
- A5 sheets of craft foam in bright colours (or cut A4 in half). We used red, green, yellow & blue. You will need 10 pieces of A5 per 1m of bunting, including the extra needed for the circles.
- Scissors
- PVA glue
- String
- Hole punch

1. Put aside 6 pieces of A5 foam per metre of bunting. These will form the basis of your lego pieces.

2. Cut out a LOT of 4cm diameter circles from your surplus foam.

3. Let your kiddo go wild with the PVA glue! I demonstrated how to stick 6 circles to each 'brick', and let Mr B do the rest. It's not important how in-line they are; crafting with kids is not meant to be perfect, so try and let that inner perfectionist step back!

Lego party DIY bunting

4. When the bricks are dry, punch a hole in each top corner, and lay them out in a design that pleases the eye. Mr B was very hands-on at this bit and I had to bite my tongue and restrain myself when he chose not to alternate the colours in sequence!! As a self-confessed control freak this was haaaaard.

Lego party DIY bunting

5. Encourage your kidlet to 'sew' the string through the holes in the corners.

Lego party DIY bunting

6. Tie loops at each and and ta-dahhh! You're done! Easy peasy and looks fab.



Skills practised: counting, colour recognition, sequences, fine motor


Thursday, 31 March 2016

Under the Spotlight: Stitches & Lace

Stitches & Lace was my first baby, and I'm very fortunate in that it grows and changes with every year that passes. Read on to find out more!


Stitches & Lace was your first baby? How was the idea 'conceived'?
Well, I'd had some ideas floating around my head about wearing flat shoes on my wedding day back in 2010 (I cannot walk in heels to save my life!), and as we were planning to head to NYC for our honeymoon, I also liked the idea that I could wear them there too! Something pretty and a bit special, and yet practical enough to withstand a bit of pavement-bashing. I started researching, and whilst I found some gorgeous images on Pinterest of personalised Converse, I couldn't find any UK sellers. So obvs - I made my own! They went down an absolute storm and I got so many questions about them that I decided to test the water and see if there was a market for selling them to other brides.


What has been the most surprising thing you have found?
Initially, I thought that personalised baby shoes would be a big thing, but whilst they have held their own, the vast majority of clients have been brides.


Also - this year so far, my main clients have been men, buying gifts for their brides-to-be! They've been so sweet and thoughtful too, often working closely with me on special touches to be added to their designs. One asked for a matching pair for his bride and their baby daughter, with little guitars stitched in orange thread! Another, I've worked with tirelessly, going backward and forward with emails and photos until between us, we've got them just so.


How have you continued to evolve with current trends and stay inspired?
Social media plays a big part in this, with regards to trends, and especially with trying out new font styles. I'm addicted to Instagram and Pinterest! Although looking at my orders so far, apparently purple is a big thing this year, which I wouldn't necessarily have predicted!


My clients are continually my main source of inspiration though... one of them has an idea; I love it and use it again, and then someone else builds on it with another idea, and so on. For example in previous years, my embroidery has mainly been set right in the centre of the outer sides of each shoe. This year a lady wanted her name running alongside the laces. It was such a simple adaptation, yet it looked so discreet and classy that I've continued to use this style. Smaller text looks neater, I've found, and less is definitely more. That said, I absolutely love the diamante heel strips that I've started offering... just the smallest hint of bling!


And finally - what have been your absolute number one favourite pair of shoes so far?
Aaaagh this is such a difficult question! There've been Mickey Mouse shoes for Florida weddings, the pair I embroidered for One Direction's Louis Tomlinson (no lie - they were a commission for his birthday by Yorkshire Tea!). The pair I stitched ever-so-simply for my daughter when she was born though are very special... they now hang in her nursery where I see them every day.




Stitches & Lace shoes can now be purchased through Fickle Craftroom: we offer an all-in service, or you can send in your own shoes to be embroidered. Extras such as diamante heels and shoelace plates can be added separately if desired.

I'd love to hear what personalised touches you added - or would add - to your big day? xxx

Tuesday, 8 March 2016

Under the Spotlight: Hallam Roses WI President

The Women's Institute first formed in Britain way back in 1915, and was originally intended for women to simply get together to help the war effort with food provisions. Since then it's come a long way, with several high-profile members including the Queen (and even Kate fancies a go at jam-making, apparently).
Photo credit: www.wi.org.uk
The WI, whilst it still largely retains its old-fashioned 'jam and Jerusalem' image, is about way more than the perfect Victoria sponge (FYI no cream in the middle- jam only. Caster sugar on top, NEVER icing sugar). Charity work is high on the list, as is pushing women's rights... for example the recognition of rape within marriage, STI awareness, to name but a couple.

But enough of the history lesson. As it happens, one of my oldest friends, Emma, is President of her local WI, the Hallam Roses, in Sheffield. Here's a snapshot of one of our chats. Over cocktails. Obvs.



Isn't it just for old ladies who knit?
You joke but one of my previous WI's had people sitting in the corner knitting. I did wonder what I'd joined. But no. It's most certainly not just ladies who knit. Our group is a 'new wave' WI, and our members ages range from about 20-50ish (although don't hold me to that). Our meeting topics this year range from the crafty - we just did a macrame meeting - to wine tasting to belly dancing. We ask our members what they'd like to do and then try to plan our meetings around that. The WI is, as a whole, becoming more modern too. There is a festival that runs every year called 'Tea and Tents', and the WI had a stall at last years' Glastonbury (which we helped at!) And in Sheffield we've had about 6 groups open in the city centre in the last 3 years! It's a popular thing to do. But some of the 'older' ladies I have met through the WI with are pretty amazing. They are some of the most spirited and passionate people I've had the joy of interacting with. And I certainly wouldn't like to get on their bad side.



What happens at your meetings?
We start at 7.30 but people drift in earlier to chat with friends, and have a drink and some cake. Meetings proper start with a bit of an intro from the President (me), where I run through anything that might be happening in the WI in South Yorkshire or the country as a whole. We talk about any decisions that need to be made for the group, and then we move into our meeting activity. Activities usually last just over an hour,  and then we wrap up for the night. As we meet in a bar people do stay and grab a drink afterwards if they fancy it too. And no, we don't sing Jerusalem, but there are some events where they do sing it... Honestly? I don't know the words so I stand there like one of those footballers at the world cup not singing the national anthem, being glared at by the old school members.



What has been your biggest project?
I'd have to say our biggest project was a craft fair we organised for charity. We had 30 stalls, loads of people through the door and about £500 raised for charity. It took a lot of work from everyone, so it was a big commitment, but so so worth it. One of the events we're running this year (and which we did last year) is a swishing event. That was really popular and a really fun evening too. 

How do I join? 
The WI website has a list of all the local WI's in existence and details on how to create a new group in your area too. I'd also search Facebook for groups. You can find a lot out about a group that way as I think it's important to find one that works for you. 


Would you describe yourself as a feminist?
This is a difficult question to answer. I've never classed myself as a feminist as I have this vision of feminists as aggressively fighting for women's rights and hating men. I know it's not like that, but that's where my brain goes.But I do believe that women should have equal opportunities. I've always been told that I can do anything I want. That I'm just as able as anyone else. And this is true of all women. Work hard and you'll get what you want. I don't think our WI is a feminist group, but it does build friendships and it does provide a great support group for our members.

Thanks Em! It was really good to get an insight into what goes on within a modern WI. Girl Power!!

Xx