Wednesday, 26 October 2016

Eight Years of Free Craft Tutorials!

I've been sharing craft tutorials on my blog for... a while now. I shared my very first tutorial way back in 2008 and since then I (and some lovely guest bloggers) have shared almost 200 free tutorials, patterns and crafty ideas.

You'll find links to all my free projects over on my (newly updated! hurrah!) Free Crafty Tutorials page.

You can follow that link and bookmark it to come back to when you're feeling crafty, or you'll always find a link to it in the menu that runs along the top of my blog.

Tip: if you're reading my blog on your phone, click on "Home" and a little menu will pop up for you to choose from (you can also read more about me, or my books Super-Cute Felt and Super-Cute Felt Animals, or about the other crafty books I've contributed to).

There are lots of tutorials for making things from felt (of course - you know how much I love felt crafting) as well as free embroidery patterns and other stitch-y projects.

Then if you scroll down, you'll find Christmas tutorials including lots of felt ornaments and festive paper crafting projects...

... and if you scroll even further, there's ideas for making greetings cards and tags and for creative gift wrapping.

Tip: if you're viewing the page on a smartphone and all the images are squished together, turn your phone sideways and they should expand to be their correct shape :)

P.S. Do let me know if you make anything using my tutorials, or those of my guest bloggers! It's always so great to hear how people have been using the patterns, and truly wonderful to see pictures.

You can get in touch or tag me on social media - Twitter, Facebook and Instagram - or send me a message via my contact form. I've also started a hashtag on Instagram: #bugsandfishestutorials

Monday, 24 October 2016

Christmas Ornament Tutorial: Sew a Sparkly Felt Star

Time for another free festive pattern: a sparkly star!

felt star ornament

This sparkly star ornament is part of a set of cute felt Christmas decorations I designed for docrafts Creativity magazine last year.

So far I've shared tutorials for making a snowman bauble, a stripey stocking and a reindeer bauble. The rest of the projects will be posted on my blog over the next few weeks... so stay tuned! 

felt Christmas ornament set
 felt Christmas ornament set
felt star ornament
To make the star, you will need:

- templates (see the bottom of this post)
- royal blue felt
- silver star sequins
- white and royal blue sewing thread
- white embroidery thread (floss)
- white narrow ribbon
- toy stuffing
- sewing scissors
- sewing needles and pins

felt star ornament

To make the sparkly star:

1. Use the templates provided to cut out two star shapes from royal blue felt.

2. Sew on silver stars. Start in centre and work outwards. Sew stars in place with 3 stitches of white sewing thread. Leave space at edges to sew together.

3. Cut a 15cm (6 inch) length of narrow white ribbon. Fold the ribbon into a loop and sew the ends to the top of the undecorated star shape. Use whip stitch and royal blue sewing thread, sewing into the felt not through it.

4. Place the front and back star pieces together so the ends of the ribbon are sandwiched between the two layers and the loop sticks out the top of the ornament.

Hold or pin the two star pieces together and blanket stitch around the edge, using half strands of white embroidery thread. Stitch most of the way round and leave a gap for stuffing.

5. Add small pieces of stuffing to gradually fill the star, stuffing it lightly so it's evenly filled but still very squishy. Then sew up the gap with more blanket stitches and finish your stitching neatly at the back. 

felt star ornament

This tutorial is for personal use only: you can use it to stitch as many felt ornaments as you want for yourself or as gifts, but please don't make any for sale. You may borrow a photo or two if you want to blog about this project, but remember to credit me and link back to the original source, and do not reproduce my entire post or share the pattern itself on your site. Thanks!

I'll be posting the fifth tutorial in the series next week. In the meantime, you can get your Christmas craft on with the free festive tutorials in my archive.

For even more crafty goodness, check out my books: Super-Cute Felt and Super-Cute Felt Animals.

Click here to view the template sheet, make sure you're viewing it full size then print it at 100%.

felt star ornament tutorial

Friday, 21 October 2016

Book Review: A World of Quilts

If you follow me on Instagram you'll have seen that I've been putting in lots of hours of work lately on the Christmas quilt I'm sewing for my sister. This seems like a good time to review one of the quilting books that's been on my "to review" pile for a while!

A few years ago I reviewed Quilt Love by Cassandra Ellis and adored it. Her aesthetic isn't my usual taste (I'm a sucker for really bright, bold colours) but Cassandra writes so passionately about quilt making and the joy of making special, meaningful quilts full of character, memories, history and emotion. The book was also really rather beautiful! I pretty much fell in love with it and the whole idea of making a quilt.

So, I was delighted when her publishers (Jacqui Small, who publish so many gorgeous titles) sent me a copy of the follow up - A World of Quilts - to review. Unfortunately they sent it at a time that I was feeling a little overwhelmed by work and it (and a few other titles) has sat on a shelf ever since. Hopefully this review will be worth the wait...

Like Quilt Love, A World of Quilts is a beautiful hardback. This time round the designs are inspired by quilting traditions around the world, with 25 contemporary quilt designs included in the book. The designs are inspired by styles such as Postage Stamp, Rail Fence, Kantha, Wild Goose Chase, Amish Sawtooth, Wholecloth, Utility, String, Welsh Bars, Log Cabin, Pojagi, Irish Chain and many more.

Then there's a "Quilt Masterclass" section, which covers everything from designing your quilt and choosing fabrics to binding the quilt and caring for the finished quilt. I found this section very useful when I came to start the actual quilting part of my Christmas quilt recently, it's filled with lots of helpful tips.

You can, of course, get a quilting how-to from lots of different books - so what makes this book special? For me, it's Cassandra's whole approach to quilting.

She writes in the book's introduction that she realised quilts were "the absolute summation of homes, families, communities and individuals. They were practical and very, very personal, which meant they became completely precious to the individual and family. Quilts represented both the maker's creativity and their family's history. As well as a means to provide warmth, quilts could be the ultimate storytellers."

Her writing is so encouraging and inspiring!

"Find a story and a quilt that moves you. Do not fret over your stitching skills or be anxious about your choice of fabric. Most of all, don't give a moment's thought to whether you feel you are creative. Just make."

She encourages you to work with fabrics that have real meaning to you, including recycling old shirts and dresses, and using luxurious fabrics like silk and velvet to create something really special. I'm so used to seeing quilts made with purpose-designed quilting cottons it makes a nice change seeing something like, for example, a quilt made from vintage saris.

Even the Masterclass section is inspiring. The advice isn't at all prescriptive, instead there's lots of emphasis on doing what works best for you and not worrying too much about small imperfections. "The Japanese have a philosophy of kaizen, which means continuous improvement while being happy with what you have created now - and I love this idea. Just remember, it is the making that is important, not the perfect triangle."

This is basically exactly what I needed to hear as I embarked on hand quilting my sister's quilt - it's being made with so much love, what does it matter if my stitching isn't quite straight and my stitches are a bit wonky?

Each of the 25 designs in the book is introduced with a page about the history of the traditional design or local quilting tradition which inspired it. Together these are like a mini history of quilt making, they're so interesting to read!

Then there's an in-situ photo of the quilt looking lovely and all the practical information needed to make the quilt. The projects are rated by difficulty: "easy", "a little more challenging" and "requires patience and concentration" so you can see which ones you feel up to tackling.

Each design is illustrated with a clear photo of the quilt laid out flat and (apart from the simplest designs in the book) also a diagram showing the arrangement of the pieces and the block sizes. Cassandra has also included a little "make it yours" section for each project, with suggestions for ways you could vary the design through your fabric choices, sizing, etc. Not much information is given about how she's chosen to actually quilt each design, though - the instructions focus mostly on making the quilt top then quilting and binding is covered in the Masterclass section.

All the designs in the book are inspired by traditional designs - these are Cassandra's interpretations of them, not a how to guide for sewing 25 different traditional quilts. For example, the English Paper Piecing quilt features just 66 pieced hexagons arranged in decorative rows across the quilt.

I love this idea of incorporating a time consuming, traditional technique in a contemporary quilt. The look is very fresh and - of course- the quilts will be much quicker to make!

All in all this is a really wonderful book and one I highly recommend if you're thinking about making a quilt, or even just curling up on the sofa reading about quilts and daydreaming about the one you'll make one day.

A World of Quilts: Designing and Making Contemporary Quilts Inspired by Traditional Patterns by Cassandra Ellis is published by Jacqui Small. RRP £25. It's available from Amazon UK, the Book Depository and many other bookshops. 

It's also been republished in the US as World of Quilts - 25 Modern Projects: Reinterpreting Quilting Heritage from Around the Globe, a paperback published by C&T Publishing, available on Amazon USA.

Please note: I was sent a free review copy of this book. The Amazon & Book Depository links in this post are affiliate links.

Wednesday, 19 October 2016

A Kitsch Festive Stocking for Mollie Makes

I'm delighted to have a project in the current issue of Mollie Makes (issue 72).

Here's a peek at it on the first page...


... here's me on page 59 (it never gets less weird seeing your own face staring back at you from a magazine!)...


... and here's my stocking project in all it's kitsch, pom-pom-and-tassel-covered glory :)

I love crafting throughout the year, of course, but I think Christmas crafting is my favourite! There are so many nice festive projects in this month's issue of Mollie Makes, it's a joy to have my stocking published alongside them.

The new edition of Mollie Makes Christmas got a little mention, too (with my partridge and pear wreath on the cover, yay!).

Click here to see more of the crafty, creative goodness in issue 72 of Mollie Makes. It's in UK shops now and available online here. The digital edition is available from ZinioGoogle Play or Apple Newsstand.


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