When I was a little girl, I took ballet. My mum and her mum, my Granma, used to knit me those cute little cardigans that cross over at the front and tie at the back. They were always in a beautiful pale pink, and the wool was always really itchy.
I’m pretty sure that the itching wool was not a contributing factor to my stopping the ballet classes and embarking on a life of clumsiness rather than grace. But I didn’t really give them that much more thought until my daughter started the classes last year.
In the hormonal aftermath of giving birth, I wept over the baby pink clothes Edith had been bought, railed against all ideas of the stereotypical girl child and vowed that my little girl would play football and do maths and be obsessed with Lego and diggers. She had other ideas. Edith loves pink. She loves playing with dolls and in her model kitchen. She likes to sit quietly and read books. She couldn’t give a shit about diggers.
At our first babyballet classes, I opened the door to herd of shouting toddlers, all awash in baby pink satin and tulle, tiny leather ballet shoes on tiny toddler toes. I looked down at Edith; she looked up at me and smiled, her little hand tugging at mine.
It took me an unusually long time to succumb to the spendthrift voice in my head to buy her the branded ballet uniform. Now my Saturday mornings involve rushing to a ballet class and then wrangling her into something more suitable for going down the slide.
The other girls, and they are all girls in this class, had beautiful pale pink cardigans knitted, I assume by grandmothers or even great-grandmothers. I had an idea: I would make a cardigan for Edith to wear to class. I eventually sourced a pattern – no mean feat as this sort of thing seems to be a sadly dying tradition – and some nice pink yarn (not itchy) and set to work.
I love creating. I love turning a raw material into something functional or beautiful. But what I loved most about this project was that I was participating in something that had, by virtue of me doing it, become a family tradition: mothers knitting their clumsy daughters ballet cardigans. I’ve never been that close to my mum, through no fault of hers I might add, but with each stitch and every row, I felt a little closer to her, and to Edith now that I am a mum of a girl, like my mum and her mum before her. That cardigan may look like it just keeps her little shoulders warm in a cold church hall, but it’s generations of creativity, a new family tradition, a signal of a new generation: that nothing and everything changes.
I was so excited to be asked to judge the handicrafts and needlework categories at Oakworth Village Show this weekend that I sort of forgot how much responsibility there is in doing something like this! I was really nervous as I drove to the Village Hall, having a real “imposter syndrome” crisis and fearing being the victim of some sort of Midsommer Murder about my decisions. The curse of an over-active imagination!
Everyone was so nice though but there was an air of anticipation as the other judges and I went into the hall to see what everyone had brought along. I spent ages looking at the needlework entries – my husband and I had joked that the power would go to my head, but I found I had to be ruthless because it was the only way to pick the best entry. There were some excellent cross stitches that had been entered but, having cross stitched myself, I know that you don’t really defer from the chart. There was also a great framed felt family tree with really cute little owls on, which I adored but it didn’t show the breadth of techniques that other items showed.
One entry that did catch my eye straight away was this whimsical needlefelt wreath. It obviously required a lot of skill and time and the finished result was a really high standard.
Although I was not a fan at all of the colour scheme (really don’t like bright orange – I don’t really know why!) the level of skill in this wall hanging is immense. It was stretched across a hoop and every stitch was even.
The other project I liked was this knitting needle case. I loved how the colour palette went together and inside were lots of little pockets and the stitching was so neat.
After much to-ing and fro-ing, I decided that the needlefelt hoop should win first prize because it was so neat and skillful, closely followed by the knitting needle case. I chose the crochet hoop for third prize.
I also had to judge a handicrafts section and the first thing to catch my eye was these two knitted dolls. I knew immediately that the red-headed one would take first prize – I was tempted to put her in my bag and make off with her! There was also an excellent crocheted dog made out of brightly coloured granny squares. Unfortunately, my pictures of him and his jowls and little button tail came out so terribly I can’t contemplate putting them up.
A couple of the entries were papercraft, which, I’ll be honest, doesn’t really float my boat. There was nothing wrong with them but, for me, fibre arts is where it’s at.
I thought it might be useful to put together a few tips if you’re thinking of entering your crafts into a competition.
– First of all, make sure you’ve read the rules! There’s no point slaving away on a project only to find it doesn’t meet the criteria
– Make something specific for the competition. Judges have to be really picky and, if it’s quite obviously something that’s been hanging on your wall for twenty years (I kid you not) you might find that goes against you.
– If you’re sewing something, make sure that your fabric is pressed and all your raw edges are enclosed or neatly finished. Any visible stitching needs to be absolutely top notch (I was looking VERY closely!) and make sure you snip away all your ends. Also make sure you remove any basting and tacking.
– Try to avoid entering something obviously from kit form unless you’ve made adjustments to it and embellished it in some way. Judges will be looking for creativity as well as technique.
– Don’t be That Person – just enter one thing per class. It’s not very sporting to enter three or four things in one class. I’m all about fairness and don’t think “other people should have a chance of winning” or anything, but, out of politeness, don’t hog the class.
– Bear in mind that judge’s personal preferences regarding crafts will come in to it. I don’t like papercraft, so it was unlikely a papercraft item would win in a class I was judging. If you can, have a snoop about who the judges are and what they like and create accordingly. I’m not saying not to create what you like but, if you were on Bake Off and you know Mary Berry likes booze in her cakes, you’re going to put it in, right?
– Enjoy the process. Everyone likes to win but we can’t all be winners. Just because you don’t get a rossette doesn’t mean you’re not any good. You’ve done your best and showed your artwork. I have no doubt that now that I’m sitting at home there will be people – winners, losers, and spectators alike – grumbling about the choices I’ve made. Don’t lose any sleep over it.
The rest of the show was something to behold! I was too busy chatting to the vegetable judge to take any pictures but I had no idea that vegetable growing was such a big thing. The criteria for judging the cucumbers alone was mindblowing and don’t even get (him) started on the peas. It was genuinely fascinating.
And speaking of vegetables, one of the classes for children was to make an animal out of vegetables.
These two were my favourites. They’re absolutely amazing. So cool! And the detail is immense. I’m such a philistine I’ve got no idea what veg these even are but the animals are incredible.
It was lovely to be part of such a well run show with such a high standard of entries. Let me know how you get on at craft competitions around the country this summer.
Oh my goodness! How is that Christmas sneaks up on us every time, even though it’s on the same date every single year? I’ve been so busy preparing for the big day, as well as a certain small person’s first birthday party, that I’ve completely forgotten all the fun and crafting that can happen at this time of year.
I love Christmas crafting so I was so excited when Viking asked me along to their Christmas Arty Party. Me, in a room with a load of other crafty bloggers making festive crafts, drinking mulled wine and spiced apple tea and gigantic turkey burgers?! Absolutely count me in!
Apart from the food and drink of course, my absolute favourite part of the day was doing brush lettering with Joyce from Artsy Nibs. She has the absolute patience of a saint. Joyce gave us a lovely pep talk before we started about how important it was to be relaxed while doing the lettering. If I’m honest, this stressed me out even more and I was very tense to begin with! It was like when someone says “don’t blink” and before you know it, you’re blinking constantly. With some wise and calming words though, she showed me where I was going wrong on my ‘e’s and I was soon taking nice deep breaths and doing lovely long strokes and off in my own little world. It was truly mesmerising.
After a busy few weeks, and an even busier couple of weeks ahead, I decided to get the brush lettering pens out again last night and have a little practise. I felt much calmer at the end and it really highlighted to me the importance of taking a moment to slow down and take some deep calming breaths and create. Everything seems better after that. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to stuff another mince pie in my face…
Thank you Viking for inviting me along! And for the epic photos used in this post.
On the blog this week I thought I’d show you how to crochet a pumpkin. It’s really quick and easy and a great little decoration for Halloween and for autumn. You could add a Jack o’lantern face with black felt if you were that way inclined too.
The pattern is free to download using the button below.
And you can visit my Etsy shop to see Walter the Triceratops – my first amigurumi pattern to be released. He will be joined very soon by some festive amigurumi as well as some other animal chums. There will also be a new sewing kit in the shop in time for Christmas (yep, I said the C-word!) and I’ve already got my Christmas cards in stock available to buy.
“We’re not going home until I’ve touched an alpaca,” I said to my husband as we piled into the car this morning. He raised his eyebrows at me and gave me a look I know well as he started the engine and backed off our drive. And so began our trip to Skipton Sheep Day.
I saw this event come up on Facebook and of course I was desperate to go. I am the girl who’s just signed up to a fourteen deep waiting list for an allotment so she can FINALLY keep chickens. I’m totally obsessed with rural life and want nothing more than to live on a small holding with pet farm animals and make cakes with delicious eggs from my very own chickens. Think Barbara from The Good Life – she is my actual role model in life.
I was so excited I kept forgetting about Edith but luckily Rich was on hand to look after the pram while I surreptitiously pushed aside eager children to stroke goats and sheep, donkeys and ponies.
I saw these cute little tiny sheep that are apparently the rarest in the UK. They are called Boray sheep and are from the Scottish Isles. They are a very primitive breed with a very coarse fleece and don’t produce a lot of meat (so the lovely owner told me) hence their unpopularity with farmers. They’re also not particularly friendly and the rams have HUGE horns so they’re not really pet sheep either. But, they are used in Viking re-enactments as they are the most authentic so our interest was piqued.
I also saw these super cute dudes – I have no idea what breed they are but I will tell you something: when I do get my small holding these are the sheep I will have. Look at those dreads! And those little black faces! So adorable.
It wasn’t all about the animals though (although they were amazing and The Sheep Show was excellent). I managed to get some chutney for the father in law for Christmas and some gorgeous Damson Jam for me. There was also a sticky toffee pudding stand as well as a gin and Prosecco bar, however, we’ve had to really tighten our belts so we couldn’t go for too many treats, which was a shame.
I also saw Sarah from Little Beau Sheep selling her super cool wool felted products. One that’s definitely on my list for the future is her wool soap. It’s soap inside a sheep made of wool and I conditions your skin with the lanolin when you wash AND makes the bar of soap last longer and with less mess on your counter tops. My hands are really taking a bashing with all the hand washing I do because of Edith so I treated myself to some lanolin balm. My lips are often sore so I put some on and they’ve been soft and lovely ever since.
I also chatted to a lovely lady about the National Trust and I’m now even more resolved to go and visit more of the amazing places my membership affords me. It’s such a great scheme and you’re guaranteed a fabulous day out wherever you choose to go.
But, did I get to touch an alpaca? Yes, reader; I did. This is Archie and just look at his incredible hair! Apparently, they’re very similar in keeping to sheep so maybe I’ll add some of these to my small holding list. He’d just been clipped but his coat was so so soft.
We all had such a great day out and at very little cost. I’m really looking forward to going again next year. I’m off to look at small holdings on the internet and see if I’ve got enough money in my purse for one…
I really love the trend for brush lettering and personalisation at the moment. I designed this necklace to compliment both of those trends, and it’s a really quick make you could complete in an evening or two, depending on how quickly you can stitch!
The kit comes with instructions, but for more detail, see below!
First of all, decide what letter you would like to embroider.
Use the carbon paper facedown between the letter you want to stitch and the grey linen fabric
Use a knitting needle or a blunt pencil to rub over your letter, making sure you get right to the edges. It’s best to use the middle of your fabric.
Place the fabric letter side down on an ironing board and then place the interfacing bumpy side down over where the letter will be and use a hot iron to bond to the fabric.
Using an embroidery hoop will make the sewing much easier. Use three strands of your chosen colour to work the letter in satin stitch.
Place the letter centrally over the inner circle of the pendant. Draw around the inner circle so that the edges of the circle nearly meet on the back.
Use embroidery thread to gather around the edge of the fabric and pull tight around the inner circle, securing tightly with stitches and knots.
Draw around the outer pendant on the grey felt, omitting the top part to create a true circle. Cover the felt in glue, put the outer pendant on the felt and then place the inner circle in the hole. Make sure that your letter is straight with the top part uppermost. Leave to dry overnight underneath something heavy – I used a bottle of whisky in a box!
Use flat nosed pliers to apply one large jump ring to the top of the pendant and one large jump ring to one end of the chain. Thread the chain through the pendant ring and then use the pliers to apply the small jump ring to the other end of the chain, along with the lobster clasp.
Trim away any excess felt et voila! Your necklace is complete!
It would be amazing if you showed me what you make! Tag me (@elm_rocks) on Instagram and Twitter and use the hashtag #elmrockscraftkits
I’m sure I’m not alone in the craft world for hoarding craft supplies! In fact, I know I’m not! I only have to mention to my crafty friends that I’ve got lots of craft stuff and they immediately sympathise and also say “oh my god, I’ve got to have a craft room clear out!”
My craft room was really out of hand. I couldn’t find anything, things were getting damaged before I’d had a chance to use them and I couldn’t remember what I had, so I was wasting money on supplies. When I moved house, I literally got rid of loads to charity shops, schools and craft groups and still had stuff that I didn’t need that I actually moved house with – twice!
I’m in a couple of Facebook groups for selling craft supplies but other crafters are usually in the same boat and trying to reduce their stash of supplies. I ended up hiring a table at Fox & The Magpie, a crafty café near where I live for a craft room clear out sale. To be honest, I wasn’t expecting much. I’ve been in the craft fair game for a while now and I’ve sat behind my table of stock I’ve made and packaged and promoted only to have no one turn up. But this was really busy, and busy with people who had actually come to buy as well. Lots of what I’d brought with me sold, which was great! I’ve still got some bits, so if you see anything in the photos you like the look of, let me know by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org
Have you had a craft room clear out? And how to you stop yourself from creating the same problem again?!
It doesn’t take the most observant person to notice that yellow has been massive on Instagram for ages, or at least it has been on my Instagram feed! I love the colour yellow – it’s such a bright and happy colour and evokes a lot of positivity for me. I think it’s something to do with the coming of spring – lots of daffodils coming up and brightening the days after long wet winters, sunflowers with their enormous yellow heads contrasting beautifully with their chocolate brown centres, bees coming out of hibernation and flying around, pollenating our fields and gardens.
With so much to love about yellow, it’s always saddened me that I can never wear it as a colour. I’ve always thought that I have a yellowish tinge to my skin. Attractive, eh? Other expressions for such complexion include sallow, which, I’m sure you’d agree, is not a particularly attractive colour! So I’ve always steered clear from happy yellow.
My parents brought my Granma to visit Edith a couple of months ago. She’s always been really good with colour and what suits people. We were walking through the new Victoria Gate centre in Leedsd towards the new John Lewis when we walked past Joules. I’ve been lusting over the yellow raincoat in there for absolutely ages and dragged them in to lament that I couldn’t wear yellow. My Gran was astonished: “what do you mean, you can’t wear yellow?” she asked with incredulity from her wheelchair. I was sold! I went home and managed to find a discount code for 20% so I got it for a bit of a bargain!
I’m really pleased I bought the coat and went out of my comfort zone. It’s such a pretty and useful coat.
Have you ever thought you couldn’t wear a colour only to be proved wrong?
A few weeks ago, we went to Harrogate for a little day trip. I’ve been once before to the knitting and stitching show there but didn’t really get to see much of the town as there was too much to see in the exhibition centre. That said, my dad and I were dispatched to get the car as my Granma, who’s 90, uses a wheelchair and it was raining. Both of us are easily distracted and ended up getting a bit lost because we weren’t paying attention to where we going. We ended up walking past a cheese shop and of course we had to go in! I managed to get a Christmas present for my father in law, so it really did solve a problem!
Well, cheese is cheese and the lure of it was enough to get me to back to Harrogate. We didn’t go straight there, but instead went to Betty’s Tea Room for some lunch followed by a wander around. It was raining, of course, but that didn’t dampen our spirits or our day. I took a number of photographs of flowers and doors, like you do and that took more time than anticipated. We were running out of time and it looked like we wouldn’t make it to the cheese shop but we stumbled upon it again! I was so happy. I was just coming out of The Remnant House, where I bought some fabric to make a dress, and crossing the road to meet my husband, who was coming out of the record shop, when I saw the cheese shop again! Amazing. I treated us to some lovely Yorkshire Blue, my favourite of the blue cheeses; some Brie and Rich loves really spicy chilli cheese and they have a lovely one there. I may have eaten a bit of the Blue in the car on the way home.
I’m convinced this shop pops up when you need it. And you always need cheese, right?
I love being organised and I love a pretty notebook, so bullet journaling is pretty much perfect for me! For those not in the know, bullet journaling is having a well deserved moment with stationery lovers and planner geeks like myself. It basically takes all those post-it notes and lists that we’ve all got dotted around and combines them neatly in one notebook.
Genius! You can get inspiration for bullet journaling spreads from Pinterest and you can check out the board I created here. I also recommend watching some videos for bullet journaling and I found Claireabellemakes’ and Nikki McWilliams YouTube videos really inspiring.
So here’s my own BuJo (how modern).
As you can see, I’ve messed up my index page but I’m going to fix that. The thing I like most about Bullet Journaling is that I can keep track of things, which will be useful when I come to reflect on my business each month and at the end of the year.
I was really nervous about starting the bullet journal – the spreads on Pinterest were all so artistic and gorgeous that I feared messing up my fancy new notebook! So I’ve kept it quite simple to start off with but I’m now enjoying being a bit more creative. I’ll show you more spreads over the coming months and you can keep track of them over on my Instagram feed.
I’m going to add a bookshelf spread as I’m planning to not buy any more novels this year until I’ve read all the ones I already own. Does anyone else find book buying totally addictive? So far, I’m really enjoying using my bullet journal and it’s certainly useful for keeping track of things and planning my weeks and my product development. Do you bullet journal? What do you find most useful about it?