Wednesday, 28 June 2017

Lovely Lichfield: The Cathedral Close & Erasmus Darwin House

Whenever I go on holiday to a big city I try to include an out-of-the-city day trip in my plans. For example, the first time I visited Birmingham I also took a trip to Stratford-upon-Avon (so delightful! so much history!) then on my return visit to the city I hopped on a train to nearby Lichfield.

I started my visit by following the local heritage trail, popping into the Samuel Johnson Birthplace Museum and Lichfield's Museum at St Mary's in the Market Square (regular readers will know how much I love A) a heritage trail and B) little local museums). As well as the museum there's also a little cafe at St Mary's, where I stopped for a cuppa and something sugary (yum).

Now, when I came to blogging about my Lichfield trip I had totally planned on devoting a post to this early part of my day - showing you the church, the market square, the local park, etc - but it was such a grey and miserable morning that all my photos turned out terribly. Dull and depressing and definitely not representative of the actually quite lovely stuff to see in Lichfield. Nobody wants to see that snooze of a blog post.

So, I'm skipping that bit and moving on to the part of the day when the sun came out and cheered up all my pictures (hurrah!).

The weather started to improve just as I reached the cathedral close. Lichfield Cathedral itself is magnificent (and deserves its own blog post another time) but the Close is ridiculously charming.


It was lovely going for a quiet walk around the Close, thinking about all the people who've lived in these houses over the centuries and reminiscing a little about the years I spent living in another cathedral close in another city (many moons ago). 


Just off the Close is Erasmus Darwin House, which was my final stop for the day. Erasmus Darwin was Charles Darwin's grandfather and a doctor, inventor, botanist and poet. If you look closely, you can see him peering out the the window of the house...


Erasmus Darwin was a fascinating and incredibly accomplished man about whom I have to admit I knew very little. The museum really brought him, his ideas, and his inventions to life - I very much enjoyed my visit!

Not a bad view to have from your house, huh?

 

The museum also has a lovely Herb Garden, which is divided into Mrs Darwin's culinary herb garden and Dr Darwin's medicinal herb garden. All the plants are labelled so you can expand your botanical knowledge... 

 
 
 

... or you can just sit and enjoy the view like I did!

I'll be blogging about Lichfield Cathedral sometime soon (if you're a regular reader you'll know that "soon" is a bit of a flexible term when it comes to my travel blogging, but I promise I'll get there eventually!). In the meantime, you can catch up on my posts about Birmingham's architecture, museums, and Jewellery Quarter, or read about my earlier trip to Stratford-upon-Avon.

For more city break inspo, check out my posts about visiting Manchester and Leeds.

Monday, 26 June 2017

A Year of Wreaths: June Felt Butterflies Wreath Tutorial

Another month, another free wreath tutorial! Hurrah!

June's wreath is covered in pretty felt butterflies:

 https://www.thevillagehaberdashery.co.uk/blog/2017/a-year-of-wreaths-june-felt-butterflies-wreath-by-laura-howard

The butterflies would look fab decorated with sequins or embroidery, and you could also use the templates to make felt or paper butterflies for other crafty projects.

 https://www.thevillagehaberdashery.co.uk/blog/2017/a-year-of-wreaths-june-felt-butterflies-wreath-by-laura-howard

Click here for the free step by step tutorial on The Village Haberdashery's blog.

 https://www.thevillagehaberdashery.co.uk/blog/2017/a-year-of-wreaths-june-felt-butterflies-wreath-by-laura-howard

You can buy a kit with all the materials you'll need to make this wreath, or just follow the links in the tutorial to find all the individual supplies in The Village Haberdashery shop.

Click here to find all the wreath tutorials in the series.

Friday, 23 June 2017

Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery, and the Pen Museum

During my week in Birmingham, I spent a lot of time in museums.

If you're a regular reader of my blog you'll know this is something that happens on most of my travels! I love museums big and small, and as well as exploring their exhibits I also like to support them by eating in their cafes whenever I can.

On my previous trip to Birmingham I'd spent a very short amount of time in the main Museum & Art Gallery - just enough to decide that I had to come back to the city for a longer trip so I could spend more time exploring all the exhibits!

I ended up spending so much time there on my return visit that I actually had to abandon some of my other plans for the trip. As well as exploring the permanent collection, I was lucky to be visiting during an excellent temporary exhibition devoted to William Morris & Andy Warhol. This exhibition was so fascinating (and so packed with interesting art and objects) that I visited it multiple times during the week (and all for free thanks to the magic of the Art Pass


The building itself is gorgeous - it's well worth a visit just for the architecture alone.


If you visit the museum, make sure to pop into the Edwardian Tearooms for lunch or a cuppa. The setting is fabulous, the food delicious and the service impeccable.


At the other end of the museum-size scale is Birmingham's Pen Museum: a lovely little museum, absolutely jam-packed with interesting objects relating to the city's pen trade and the history of writing.


I mean, just look at all this fabulous stuff!


I'd expected to just quickly pop in here as I worked my way around the Jewellery Quarter Heritage Trail, but ended up spending ages looking at everything and being generally delighted by it all.

Big municipal museums might have fancy buildings and famous artworks, but nothing quite beats the charm of a small museum devoted to something rather niche! The Pen Museum is just round the corner from the excellent Museum of the Jewellery Quarter, too, so you can easily fit both of them into one day.

Missed my earlier posts about my Birmingham trip? Follow the links to read about architecture, owls and the Jewellery Quarter.

Wednesday, 21 June 2017

Free Tutorial: Felt Butterfly & Flower Hair Combs

The new edition of my first book, Super-Cute Felt, came out last week. Yay!

To celebrate, you'll find a free project from the book over at MAKEetc: pretty felt butterfly and flower hair combs.

https://makeetc.com/blogs/kids-craft-ideas/felt-butterfly-flower-barrettes

These combs are perfect for summer parties (or even weddings), and can be stitched in any colours you fancy. You could also used the butterflies and flowers to decorate other things (brooches, bracelets, hairclips, purses, all sorts of pretty things).

https://makeetc.com/blogs/kids-craft-ideas/felt-butterfly-flower-barrettes
https://makeetc.com/blogs/kids-craft-ideas/felt-butterfly-flower-barrettes

Click here for the full step by step tutorial.

The new edition of Super-Cute Felt is out now. It's available from Amazon UK or Amazon USA, or via your local bookshop :)

https://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/178249460X/ref=as_li_qf_sp_asin_il_tl?ie=UTF8&tag=bugandfis-21&camp=1634&creative=6738&linkCode=as2&creativeASIN=178249460X&linkId=705b0b9740ab405c830a6318719d6984

P.S. You can read more about my books here and see lots of other crafty books I've contributed to here.

Please note: the Amazon links in this post are affiliate links.

Monday, 12 June 2017

Visiting Birmingham: Exploring the Jewellery Quarter

Time for another post about my trip to Birmingham (finally!).

On the first day (well, afternoon really) of my visit to the city I mostly just walked around oohing over the architecture and photographing owls.

The next morning I headed to the Jewellery Quarter: a historic area of the city which has been home to goldsmiths and silversmiths for over 200 years.

 
 
If you're visiting Birmingham and are at all interested in history this part of the city is an absolute must-see.

I recommend picking up a copy of the Jewellery Quarter Heritage Trail leaflet (PDF) from the tourist info office - it gives you an easy to follow walking route around the area and lots of interesting information to read along the way. There's a lot to see, including some really rather gorgeous buildings.


After following the trail I visited the Museum of the Jewellery Quarter, about which I'd heard great things - and it did not disappoint!


The museum is based in the former factory of a jewellery manufacturing firm, Smith & Pepper. When the owners of the firm retired they just ceased trading and locked up the building, creating a fascinating time capsule of a place.


Upstairs in the museum there are galleries devoted to the history of the Jewellery Quarter, and to jewellery made from natural materials around the world, but the highlight is by far the guided factory tour. It's hugely entertaining, packed with interesting facts and amusing anecdotes, and you get to look around this incredible place!


I'll share more photos from my Birmingham adventure soon. In the meantime...

Friday, 9 June 2017

May in Pictures: Summer Travels, Foxgloves, & My Little Ponies

Time to look back at what I got up to in May!

My May was a busy one, but I had some breaks from my ongoing flat renovation and was able to squeeze in some lovely Nice Days Out.

I spent a weekend in Bristol and Bath, enjoying some free events as part of the Residents Weekend (I might not actually live in Bristol but I have a Bristol-area postcode, which totally counts!) and meeting up with friends.

I've been back to Bristol many times since I moved away from the city over a decade ago, but this was the first time I'd been back to one of the areas I used to live in: Clifton Village. It was deeply weird being back in Clifton after so long, and to add the the weirdness I immediately bumped into someone I knew from University! Clifton was looking just as lovely as ever, of course, especially with the #wisteriahysteria in full swing.    


The warmer weather (and some gorgeous sunshine!) meant lots of opportunities for walks on the beach and exploring places like this wonderful local nature reserve. (I'm loving living here so much, you guys). 

  
On a trip home to see my folks, I spent the day in nearby Reading and explored the excellent Museum of English Rural Life which I'd shockingly never visited before despite going to school just around the corner. The main gallery is fascinating but I especially loved the archive upstairs where you can peek into cabinets jam-packed with interesting things, and this fabulous little gallery devoted to Ladybird Books (swoon). 

 

One of the joys of visiting my parents is getting to see all the wildlife in their garden, including the badgers who show up to eat peanuts most evenings.

It's also great to see my niece and baby nephew. My mum has been clearing out the loft recently, and sorting out lots of toys for the next generation to enjoy - including our My Little Pony collection. (Did you have any of these when you were a kid?). So many 80s nostalgia feels. 


Later in the month I combined another family visit with a day in London - I do love being back in the southwest but I miss all those galleries and museums and beautiful parks rather a lot.

 

I was delighted to spot those foxgloves when I'd just delivered my Foxglove Wreath to The Village Haberdashery that morning. The felt foxgloves were a real challenge to design, but I was delighted with the end result and everyone's kind comments. It's so nice sharing things and getting such a positive response in return. (Click here for the free foxglove wreath tutorial)

 

In May I also got back into reading Actual Books, after a patch of mostly reading Harry Potter fanfiction. I'll be blogging sometime soon about my recent reads (as you might have noticed, my New Year's Resolution to both read more and blog about it each month has not been going entirely to plan).

 

Another project that's not gone to plan: my 100 Day Project. Long story short, I got sick (ugh) and then I got a horrible attack of creative block (double ugh) as my blogger's block expanded to envelop all my creative outlets (ugggghhhh).

I hoped to jump back into the project in mid-May and made a start with a felt puffin (for day 12) but then life got in the way again, I was busy with messy decorating projects, have been generally feeling a little worn out, and am still suffering a bit from the curse that is creative block... which is all deeply frustrating.

At this rate I will probably have finished my 100 Days of Felt Stuff in a few years time (haha), but I'm hopeful I can get back into it soon. In the meantime though, hurrah for puffins!

 

This was a funny one because the sketch came together really quickly (and just how I pictured it in my head) but translating it into a 3 inch high felt bird proved much trickier. I felt quite exposed sharing it at the time, but now I'm rather pleased with him. I really need to remember how this kind of thing keeps happening, and to stop being so hard on myself when I make things I don't think are quite "perfect".


Want more colourful, crafty updates? I'm lauralupinhoward on Instagram - click here to visit my page and follow me. You'll also find me on Facebook and Twitter.