22 December 2012

Deck the halls

Apart from one present, I've limited my crafting this Christmas to decorations (especially after the big faff last year with the brother in law's rudolph jumper).

I have a whole board of Christmas decoration ideas over on Pinterest, and here are a few that actually made it into reality.
Merry Christmas banner
Excuse the frog tape - we've just decorated!
I loved this idea for a thanksgiving banner, but adapted it slightly - using the words Merry Christmas instead, and keeping the felt colour to just one - red. I bought the felt from Raystitch, and although I bought two lots of the felt I might have been able to squeeze it all into one, so it doesn't cost a huge amount to put together.

Christmas felt wreath

I fell in love with this wreath as soon as I saw it, but really didn't like the idea of cutting out loads of felt circles. I may have been time and cash poor this Christmas, but I was more time poor than cash so I bit the bullet and ordered some already cut out from Etsy. I was going to make it in white felt, as I thought the version pinned on Pinterest was so lovely, but quickly remembered that it would be hanging on a white door, so went for red again. It was really simple to put together, and only took me a couple of hours spread over three evenings. (The wreath form was from Craftmill, where I also bought some papier mache cardboard cones for something else that I haven't quite got round to making yet - next year!)

Finally, 3d paper snowflakes! I've been wanting to make these for years, but never quite got round to it. This year, however, the office (well, my team anyway) went a little mad with the decorations and I made a few to hang over my desk. After getting some admiring comments from colleagues, I spent my last afternoon at work last week teaching seven others how to make them. You have never seen a more attentive bunch! So here's the results...

Paper snowflakes

I also made a paper version of the Merry Christmas banner, and some of the pictures around my desk got in on the act too.

Paper merry christmas banner

Santa hats Santa hats 

Hope you all have a lovely Christmas x

11 December 2012

(Secret) santa's little helper

Now it's December, I think we can officially start to talk about Christmas. Most years I do the majority of my shopping on Amazon, but this year me and the boy are boycotting the company. I know technically they're not doing anything illegal, but just as they make the choice to structure their business in a way so as minimise the tax they pay, I also have the choice to take my money elsewhere*.

So we're having 'indiecember'. Where possible, we are sourcing presents from smaller companies, or larger ones we know pay (a respectable amount of) corporation tax. People keep asking me if it's hard. It really isn't. It takes a little longer (after all, there's more than one checkout process), but I'm yet to find something that can only be bought on Amazon (admittedly, I don't have a Kindle).

For me, the hardest thing to buy for Christmas is the secret Santa gift. Finding something that isn't tat and comes within budget can be nigh on impossible. I've been extremely lucky the past two years with my names out of the hat, and they've been relatively easy to buy for as they've been colleagues I know relatively well. My secret this year? Etsy.

I was already on there buying some other gifts, and thought I'd see if I could find anything suitable. So I played with the location and price filters, and there were so many beautiful things that I thought I'd share some of them with you guys...

(My location filter was set to UK and budget to £5, although I've also added a few up to £10 in case yours is bigger. Try changing the location and budget filters to suit you)

  1. Make Tea Not War mug from Second Heart Crafts, £3.50
  2. Deja Brew mug from Second Heart Crafts, £3.50
  3. Bloomsbury bone chine mug from Summersville, £6
  4. Star Wars personalised mug from Gelert Design, £7
  5. Whale from Wales print from Hello Dodo, £4
  6. Batman tote bag from Hello Dodo, £10
  7. Hand dyed bamboo tape yarn from Dye Spin Knit UK, £4
  8. T shirt yarn from Fireside Yarns, £7.50
  9. Handpainted bamboo crochet hook from Logii, £3
  10. Pencils for every occasion from Dusty Trinkitten, £4.50
  11. Letterpress ruler labels from Present and Correct, £4.47
  12. OMG engraved pencils from Vivid Please, £3.50 
  13. Polyhedra Jotter from Present and Correct, £4.15
  14. The Big Book of Ideas from oh NO rachio, £10
  15. Blue Library Cards from Knot and Bow, $4.25 (This one slipped through the location filter, but it's such a lovely thing for people like me that dreamt of being a librarian when they were 8 that I thought it was worth keeping it in!)
  16. Polka dot washi tape from Little Grey Clouds, £2.95
  17. Classiky Little Garden washi tape in yellow from Joe and Flo, £2.70
  18. Washi tape in Liberty Art Fabric from Big Birds Boutique, £2.50
  19. Pale green long stripe washi tape from BeryluneUK, £2.40
  20. 2013 desk calendar from misterrrob, £4.95
Apologies for the consumerist nature of this post - I promise there will be handmade posts soon, but this does come under the spirit of a handmade Christmas.

* This is my decision, but I realise this isn't for everyone. Christmas can be hard enough without making it harder. And yes, I am also boycotting Starbucks, and my over reliance on google, not least using blogger, worries and annoys me.

28 November 2012

You will always find me in the kitchen at apronalong parties.

Am I *too* late, or just fashionably late to this party?

I hadn't originally planned on taking part in Karen's apronalong. My own apron was one of the first things I made when I got my sewing machine (it's the Amy Butler domestic goddess apron).

But then I remembered my friends birthday, and she's got a new house and an even newer kitchen. And she does bake a mean cake. So I knew what I had to do.

I picked up some gorgeous fabric (Moda's Mama Said Sew) - 1m of each during Raystitch's sale. The pattern (another Amy Butler, this time from In Stitches) only calls for 3/4 yard, but I wanted the zig zags to run horizontally. (Plus it was a 1m minimum to get the discount. What can I say, I'm a good friend but I like a bargain.) The red's pretty bold, but I know she has bits of red in her kitchen.

I cut it out whilst catching up on Parenthood on Saturday (does anyone else watch this? I seem to be in a permanent state of sobbing this series. I blame it on a lack of Crosby and Jabbar) and made it up on Sunday. It went together reasonably easy, and the make felt smoother because of my better than usual cutting out - it was pretty straight (it would have been obvious if it wasn't with this print. )


It has some lovely touches, like the pocket and towel loop, and pleats on the ties.



So I'm a little sad to see this one go, but I know it's going to a good home. Here we are modelling our aprons at a murder mystery party last weekend (we were dressed as bakery/tea shop owners - don't ask!)



Happy birthday Kerry!

30 October 2012


First up - an admission. Halloween's never really been my thing. I'd like to think it's because my parents wouldn't let us get involved with trick or treating, but my sister loves Halloween and regularly holds/goes to Halloween parties, so I guess that's not it.

Me? It's the one night I can be assured of a trip to the cinema to avoid said trick or treaters. And eggs and flour on the door.

This year however, colleagues were holding a fundraising party on Friday as part of their mission to climb 24 peaks in 24 hours in aid of Homeless International. (This is partly a team building exercise - beats the usual, but I'm equally glad I'm not in their team!). Fancy dress was entirely optional, but I spotted this and couldn't resist making it.

The instructions are quite sparce, but there's enough there to get you to a finished product. You could probably do this with just a white wire coat hanger and white yarn, if you have a strong enough pair of pliers or wire cutters. I got myself down to Hobbycraft and picked up a thin silver alice band and some 1mm and 0.6mm silver jewellery wire (had tried to get white 1mm wire to then use yarn, but couldn't find any so improvised - I think it worked out ok). And a hot glue gun which I borrowed from the boy.

Spiderweb supplies

But a spiderweb is nothing without a spider, so knowing that my crafting skills weren't up to making that too I found some in a pound store, and hot glued one to the web. I had a couple spare, so hot glued them to brooch backs to pin on my clothes.

I'm willing to admit that I put far more thought into the spiderweb than I did into my clothes. In the end I opted for all black, and it was only on the bus into work on Friday morning that it all fell into place - I wasn't going as a woman who'd made a spiderweb fascinator. Oh no. I was going as a black widow.

Spiderweb fascinator
Spot the liberal application of hot glue!
(It also reminded me of this song from A Star is Born. I love so much of this soundtrack, but Queen Bee in particular is a standout track for me.)

I got loads of comments about how great it looked, and even had colleagues coveting it for their own costumes at other parties that weekend. Best of all? It meant I could go to a Halloween party in fancy dress and still not look like an idiot on the night bus home. That really is priceless.

15 September 2012

Handmade is made better

Today I met up with my former work colleague/now real life friend (don't you just love it when that happens) Anna in East London for what she called Craftaday.

Yep, definitely in East London!
First up we headed to Spitalfields market for the designers makers market.

Anna is starting up her own business designing fabric and making it into fab things like cushions (check out her blog to see some of her ace designs), so she was scoping out the market to see if it was something she might like to sell at in future.

I was in full on magpie mode - everything caught my eye! There were quite a few stalls selling vintage cups and saucers, so I know where to go in future when I finally get round to making teacup candles. I did buy some lace trim from Bits & Bobs though - two lots of normal lace trim which I think will be good for embellishing pockets, and two bits of elasticated lace, for when I learn how to make knickers!

Excuse the yellowness - complete lack of natural light
when I remembered to take this pic!
My favourite though were these wooden necklaces from Anna Wiscombe. I'll definitely be buying one of these soon.

Then we made our way towards Brick Lane for the Renegade craft fair. 

It was massive! Loads of stalls with a good mixture of things on sale. I bought a few things, but since some of them were christmas presents (organised, I know - I shocked myself!), all I'll share so far are these prints from the lovely Sean Mort.

I've wanted an illustrated/screenprinted band print for a while, but while prevalent in America there seems to be less of them around in the UK. It's been a long hard search I can tell you.

I also bought this print (which he designed especially for Renegade). It seemed rude not to!

Sean's prints are just stunning and simple, and really reasonably priced. I fear this may be the start of an expensive habit!

Some of my other favourite stalls: 
  • Ham - I was *this* close to buying a rabbit on a trampoline tea towel
  • Lovely pigeon - for jewellry and paper products (and free lolly whistles)
  • Joy Nevada - for cute animal tee shirts for little one
  • The always brilliant miso funky - I was incredibly tempted by the 'What would delia do' kit
  • Birds in hats - name says it all really!
  • Oh, hello friend - for all that lovely stationery, like a sewing machine shaped tape dispenser or washi tape, that you really really want but really really don't need. 
This poster (from Bob Motown, I think) really summed up the day for me. What I saw today might not be cheaper than the high street, but then again you probably wouldn't get these things on the high street. The creativity and enthusiasm shown by the designer/makers is infective, and frankly, knowing how much time I spend on things I make, I was more than prepared to pay the extra for their time and effort.

Like it says, ...

12 September 2012

You may go to the ball

Bit late, I know, but I spent a lovely couple of hours in the company of complete strangers on Friday night.

Yes, it was the V&A Ballgowns meetup organised by Karen of Did you make that? fame. Given the chance to visit the exhibition on my own, or with a bunch of like minded sewing people I've never met before, the answer was obvious. (I was so immersed in the exhibition that I forgot to take any pictures at all, but Karen's got a full round up.)

One of my favourite moments of the night was when we turned the corner to the gallery and a wave of silence descended - we knew immediately that serious business was about to occur.

The exhibition shows a range of ballgowns made since 1950, but I have to admit it's the most recent ones in the mezzanine gallery that appealed to me the most.

My favourites?

Well there's this Erdem dress

It's got pockets people! What's not to love about a ballgown with pockets!

This Gareth Pugh dress had a fair few of us staring at intensely, unable to take our eyes off it. In this pic it looks almost like chain-mail, but it's made of loops of metallic leather and is just beautiful up close.

But the ultimate for me is this McQueen dress.

Remember the Alexander McQueen exhibition held at the NY Metropolitan Museum of Art a couple of years ago? Will it ever be held in the UK? Seriously, it needs to be. The man was a genius and I for one can't wait to see more of his creations in person.

If you have a chance to visit - do! I had a lovely time, and I'm only sorry I couldn't spend longer in the company of those lovely ladies (I managed to double book myself - not sure how, I'm never usually that busy!) and I can't wait for the next meet up.

5 September 2012

WIPs, UFOs and OMG

Whilst it might seem that it's been a bit quiet in Josie and May towers this year, I have been busy beavering away on some quick, and some not so quick, projects.

I promise I'll post soon on some of the quicker makes soon, but thought I would share some of the half finished things I'm currently working on...

I've been toying with the idea of making a granny stripe blanket for my living room - this one, to be precise -
Source: flickr.com via Amy on Pinterest

 and then I stumbled across this on Pinterest.

After figuring out which seven shades of yarn looked best together I got cracking on the granny squares.

Still some way off the amount I need!
Crikey this crocheting malarkey is addictive! I've done a fair amount whilst watching the Olympics, and it's brilliant for on the train (much easier than knitting, where I fear I'm annoying train neighbours with my knitting needles and elbows).

But one WIP isn't enough - oh no! I'm also making a quilt for a christening present. I was going to finish this UFO quilt from my mid-year resolutions post. Really, I was!

But then I saw the Aneela Hoey 'a walk in the woods' charm pack in Raystitch, and couldn't not buy it.

Seriously, how cute are these fabrics?!

Source: etsy.com via Miranda on Pinterest

It's the first quilt I've made since, well, the first (albeit still unfinished!) quilt I made and it's my first time at hand quilting.

I've just got a little bit of hand sewing left before attaching the binding, so it should be ready in plenty of time before the christening!

I've also been acquiring and stockpiling grey and yellow fabrics for a quilt for our bed. Just a few more yellows to get (probably Cloud 9 simpatico) and then I can make a start.

But OMG I am paralysed by indecision on this one! I've no idea what kind of arrangement I want (although I have plenty of inspiration on my Pinterest board) or where to start once I've figured that out. Any suggestions?

22 February 2012

May you live in Pinteresting times

It's been a while since I last blogged. Partly because I've been busy, then full of cold. But it's mostly that whilst I've got lots of ideas for blog posts, the words just aren't coming out of me. They'll be set free soon enough though.

This one though, I only started thinking about this morning. About the time a link to this blog post 'How long before I lost Pinterest' arrived in my inbox at work (NEVER was my immediate answer! Full disclosure - I love Pinterest. I can, and do, spend hours on the site). What follows are my initial thoughts in response, and I apologise now for the text heavy, picture free nature of the post - oh the irony, given that Pinterest is the almost the exact opposite.

(By the way, has anyone else noticed Pinterest's been getting a lot more media coverage recently? I squeeled with glee when I spotted that Pete Cashmore from Mashable has written an article for CNN on 'Why Pinterest in 2012's hottest website' earlier this month.)

In my day job I manage a website, and have set up Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn accounts for the organisation, so I like to think I know a fair bit about company and brand involvement in social media, but something in me recoiled in horror when I read it.

Now as a trade body, it's unlikely we're going to get involved in Pinterest. And when I first read the blog post I thought of how I would hate to see heavily branded pages like we see on Facebook pushing things for sale, or free items for repinning (maybe that's just me though).  And to be fair to the blog author, it is for a marketing website so it's to be expected that it has a marketing slant.

But when I thought about it and looked back at the people I follow, I realised there are already brands using Pinterest in a really unobtrusive, helpful way.

Boden have a nice balance of their clothing, behind the scenes at Boden, and pins that are nothing at all to do with their clothing but do fit in with their ethos. I really like their behind the scenes board. If I wanted to look at their clothing I would probably go straight to their website, but the behind the scenes pictures offer a little bit extra. Having said that, it tends to be the pins that have nothing at all to do with their clothing that I like the most and repin.

Quadrille Craft - when I look at the pins from those I'm following it always seems to me that Quadrille mostly pin their own products to their profile. Nothing wrong with that, but I wouldn't want to see companies doing that in isolation. But looking back at their profile on Pinterest today, it's not what they're doing. I like seeing the end products of the projects featured in their publications, so I can see what others have made of them, and they have that with their boards Your take on our makes and Everything Alice.

I was going to include Sarai's profile too, but thought that might be unfair as it is a personal profile rather than one for Colette Patterns. But having said that, do check it out as she has an amazing Pinterest profile.

Etsy pin items for sale on the site on their boards, but also links to useful information from other sources too (who needs to know how to tie a bow tie?). And maybe because Etsy aren't actually the seller the pins to the items for sale don't actually feel like they're trying to sell me something. It feels more like they're pointing out lovely things on their site, much like a treasury.

But I think that's the point. For me, Pinterest is at it's best when it's about sharing, not selling. I have bought items that I've found on Pinterest. I don't doubt that I will do it again in the future. But these are all things I have stumbled upon, either when looking for something in particular or just browsing particular categories.

I'd love to know what you think about this issue. Do you love or hate Pinterest? As I said before, I love it and use it as an online pinboard storing links to things I've stumbled across, acting as a repository for past and future projects. How do you use it?

31 January 2012

Crafter's guilt

I've been making quite a lot over the past few months (particularly lots of baby stuff, but that's for another post). It's kept me quite busy, but very little of it has been for me.

I don't think I've actually managed to complete anything I set out to on my mid year resolutions post. And despite two years of saying I would make some oven gloves, the only reason we now have some is because we saw some nice ones that matched the kitchen colour scheme in the John Lewis sale.

Still, my tea towels are relieved.

Sorry tea towel.

I have two days off work next week, and I'm planning on completing some makes for me/the flat.

I made the Vogue V1197 months ago, and it's been such a hit that I plan on making another one. In fact, I was so sure that it would be a great dress, having seen Karen's and Eugenia's, that I actually bought the fabric for the second dress at the same time as the fabric for the first one.

I'm also planning on making some roman blinds for the flat. We only have 3 windows, but they are big (1.2 m x 2 m)! I bought some (relatively) cheap plain fabric from Fabrics Galore at the weekend and have ordered some kits. I'm planning on making one for the kitchen as a test run: it's the only room that doesn't currently have, or need, a blind so I don't have to worry too much if it all goes horribly wrong.

So there we have it. Two projects in two days may be incredibly ambitious. But I'm not going to beat myself up about it if I don't finish them both. After all, two days of sewing for myself - it's hard to feel guilty about that.

1 January 2012

Oh lately it's so quiet...

It's all been a bit quiet on here recently, hasn't it. Well, this jumper is the reason...

It's been a hard slog knitting this baby in time to give to my brother in law for Christmas, leaving very little time for blogging. It went right down to the wire, and yes, it might be missing some sleeves, but personally I think he rocks it as a tank top.

I was also kept busy by lots of orders from friends and colleagues for bags and make up bags for them to give to friends and relatives as christmas presents.

Luckily, I had most of the requests pretty early on (most before September!), so I was able to plan my sewing time around the knitting! And I had a lot of fun wrapping them all before passing them on.

2011 has been a pretty good crafting year. I've kept sewing and knitting throughout the year, and learnt how to crochet. And Josie and May is now a fully functioning business (this time last year, I didn't even have the name). I'm already planning crafting for the next year - quilting and more knitting and embroidery as well as sewing. Promise to keep you updated throughout the year!