Total relaxation 


Well, I now feel like I’m living in the 19th century as we are still without wifi (EE are incompetent idiots, they admit it. Kind of.) Due to having lovely friends who want to instant chat, which I’m not complaining about, I have now used up my data bolt on too. A little checking of high-data gobbling Instagram might also be the culprit too. I’ve had to come out to find some Wi-Fi to do this Yarning Along post! Such dedication. 

After being busy moving house, I couldn’t wait to go to Knit Group last night for the first time in ages and actually do something with yarn! I was truly excited about it and spent a few lovely hours knitting and chatting. So relaxing! The light in the pub is not fantastic, unless you want to go for a smoochy romantic evening of course (!) so I’ve found that just doing plain knitting is much better than trying to crochet. My elbow feels fine, but I’ll take it easy.  My knitting is slowly growing. It’s definitely going to be a slow long term project; a few years I reckon! 

There was a lot of interesting talk about making nettle yarn. I’m too lazy to go gathering bunches of nettles and checking to see whether they’re male or female (who knew?!) but I am genuinely interested to see what the resulting yarn will feel and look like. I couldn’t resist joking about making annoying husbands wear a knitted vest made of nettle yarn… but the joke’s on me as apparently you can make quite silky yarn. The more you manipulate the fibres, the smoother they become. I’ll show you if they do produce any yarn. 

My friend and I were on instant messenger this morning when my phone provider messaged to say I’d run out of data. I asked her to Google my two nearest library opening times, so I could pop in to pick up a new recipe book and use the free wifi. It’s great having a friendly PA isn’t it?!

I bought As I Walked Out One Midsummer Morning at Trelissick, a NT property in Cornwall, for £1 a few weeks ago. I’ve always wanted to read it after enjoying Cider with Rosie some years ago. Laurie Lee’s writing style is really readable but well written. I can see why his books are classics. This one tells the story of how as a 19 year old, in 1934, he decided to walk to London from his small Cotswold village, he then decided to go on to Spain. (So far he’s only just got to Beaconsfield, some miles away from London.) 

What about you: what are you making and reading? Have you done any social crafting in the last few weeks? Heard of nettle yarn?

If you’d like to share what you’re making and reading every Wednesday too, leave a link in the comments. Don’t forget to link back to this post on your blog, and use #yarningalong on social media, so others can find us and join us in Yarning Along.

The Spring Knitting & Stitching Show 2014, London

I can’t believe it’s that time again already! Last year I had such a good time at the show that I just had to go back again.
When I was thinking about the show I decided my iPhone would stay firmly in my bag, and I’d just wander without taking photos. Then I saw the skeins of wool and knew that you’d enjoy seeing some pics again. So here goes, prepare yourself for much loveliness. I really enjoyed this feast of colour.

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I missed Mr X Stitch again. One day I will catch up with him to say hello!
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I was really tempted to do this and hung about the table for a little while watching a few women stitch, but time was ticking and I wanted a good look around before my sewing workshop. It was £5 to have a go at this embroidery kit. The flower design was printed on the fabric, then a piece of gauzy material is placed on top which you stitch through. What a lovely prettifying technique!
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The quilts are always a wow. There are women who are available to chat about the techniques which have been used. I noticed they wear gloves so they can show people the backs of quilts and handle them without leaving marks. I like this level of respect and care.
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I spent some time in the Wilderness! It was the same last year; I got intensely itchy fingers to craft after the profusion of colour, texture and sheer inspiration. I hadn’t taken any crochet and there were 40 minutes before the workshop, so I joined a table and started to crochet a strip to add to the chains to gradually decorate the area. A textile artist who goes to festivals and teaches knitting was running the project, along with an intern or two from Toft.
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I chatted a novice knitter from Leighton Buzzard who told me about the forthcoming Canal Festival she and her knitting group from Nutmeg Needlecrafts will be involved in. They have a canal boat which is to be yarn bombed and are currently searching for squid patterns. Excellent! I love this kind of thing.
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That plastic crochet hook was the worst I’ve ever used. I looked such a beginner struggling with all its bendyness that someone asked if I was just learning to crochet. It took every ounce of self-control not to say about Simply Crochet. You can imagine!  It was a relief to switch to what seemed like super-long knitting needles, after my recent circular knitting.

The grandmas who came on a coach trip from Stratford Upon Avon looked sidelong at me as I started knitting, but without comment. You do, I do; we all love to watch people knit and note how they hold the needles and wrap the yarn. And the loud Essex ladies (I’m sure they were knitting bunting with me last year) settled down to knit alongside us too. I do enjoy social crafting and meeting new people.
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I like to do my own thing, so rather than knit a tiny row and turn, turn, turn I went for a longer row for my chain. It’s smaller than others but the lovely intern from Toft said she always likes different and going against the grain. Hurrah! So do I.
Here she is crocheting mine to join it above the yellow.
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Time to sew! Last year I hadn’t signed up to any of the workshops and because I went at the weekend they were fully booked. As I’d got a half-price ticket to the show (from an Amazon Local deal following a quick Google for discounted tickets) I felt I could definitely sign up for one. It’s funny how we justify our treats, isn’t it?
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Janome seems to be the machine of choice for sewing classes and workshops.
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I was the only one who took off their boot/shoe. Ah well. Like Patch who commented last post about this, we are also a shoes-off house and so I’m not wearing them when I sew anyway. I do take slippers off though too. I just think I can feel the pedal and control it better.
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This sew a mini storage basket hour-long workshop was for any level of sewer. Ho-hum. I’m not sure how a complete beginner would have managed. It was fast and furious with experienced sewers racing far ahead of us less speedy ones, so the next step (or two steps ahead) were demonstrated before we were ready to take it in. My slower timing wasn’t helped by the fact I hadn’t realised there were pins so I had to take my first bit of spotty fabric off the interfacing and resew a section as it was skew-whiff. Still, I was pleased that I re-threaded an unfamiliar machine without an issue. I also used interfacing for the first time (the experienced “I’ve been sewing since I was 10”) helpful lady next to me said mine was much thicker than hers which maybe didn’t help. I’m not sure I could have put the teeny dressmaking pins through it and the fabric, let alone taken them out.
It’s a fun way to make a storage basket and very ingenious. I want to make another. However I will NOT be using the same materials. The hessian frays and moves around. You can see where it’s not sewn properly on the bottom left. But I liked the shaping where we sewed the corners so they flare it at the bottom and the basket sits flat. I can’t remember the term. Oh, we also ‘nested’ our seams. That’s another new thing.
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Here’s mine. It’s not bad for the speed of the making. During the sewing I had a text from Someone asking if I was having fun.
‘Wasn’t when you text. Was furiously sewing a storage basket, argggh never sewing hessian again!’
‘Bet you never thought you’d write that sentence. :-)’

That is very true. All in all it was fun, albeit slightly stressful. When the tutor Sandra Togher, from the Bowery Gallery in Leeds, said “You have five minutes left” I thought of the stress experienced by the GBSB contestants, with the cameras and pressure of competiton etc! But I’ve learnt some new skills which I can practice and refine. Good value for £10, don’t you think?
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Here is my neighbour’s basket. Perfect isn’t it? She’s so good that she altered the way you sew the top and so hers is much neater than anyone’s. The interesting thing was that when Sandra asked if she sews professionally the answer was no; she works with her husband selling cars, doing the accounts, but it’s been a long term dream to teach people to sew. She really should do it. I’d go to a class.
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I stood and watched a machine patchwork demo, and then bought a few sweets from Henleys of Gloucester as a post-hessian stress treat. Any excuse for liquorice comforts.
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I also went back to the Wilderness to check on the chains. Rather than the lone chain there were now a jolly collection hanging from the stand. Can you see mine?
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At 430pm it was so much quieter, I reckon the coach parties had left. I enjoyed another mooch around both halls and did some shopping. The show is huge and there’s something for everyone. Cats Protection were there again (I don’t really get why, is it that crafters are often cat lovers? Mad knitting women with cats? I do know one or two, or six of those actually…) Interestingly there were arthritis relief and massage stands too. That’s the shape of the things to come, maybe.
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The fabrics are what were making me swoon. I loved them last year but wasn’t sewing. This time I just had to buy a few half metres and some fat quarters. Yippee!
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Here are my buys. I keep being attracted to chicken fabrics, this is my second lot.

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There were a few amusing events on the tube home, but I’ve waffled enough now. If you’re near enough to London why don’t you go to the last day of the show tomorrow? It’s a lovely day out, and even if you go alone people are so friendly and chatty that you won’t be silent for long at all. You can play my shopping bag weebles game too (you remember? Weebles wobble, but they don’t fall down?) At the end of the day you’re constantly bumping into, or swinging around and hitting, each other’s bags; bouncing off their packs of yarn and fabric. It’s funny and all good natured.

Are there similar shows where you live? Have you been to one and if so, what makes you swoon?

Homemade London: Mystery Workshop

A few weeks ago my friend and I had to cancel our long ago booked Mystery Workshop at Homemade London. The tube strike was in full force, the weather was stormy and traffic in Central London was grid-locked. We rescheduled and the evening came around again yesterday.

You book a place, paying £12, and basically have no idea what you’re going to be doing for the hour until you arrive. Apparently they’ve run Mystery Workshops since May and haven’t repeated one yet.

When we arrived I was slightly dismayed to see a table laid with jewellery making pliers and fixings. I’ve enjoyed the jewellery workshops we’ve done, but it wasn’t what I wanted to do for an hour last night. Then I popped downstairs to the loo and discovered my idea of heaven set up downstairs; a table lined with posh Janome sewing machines. ‘I guess they’re ready for tomorrow’s classes’ I sighed.

Wrong!

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A dainty glass of something vodka based with several raspberries (only wafted near a vodka bottle it has to be said, but that’s probably not a bad thing before handling jewellery pliers) before we started to make earrings. There were 10 in the workshop in all which was a good number. The girl running the workshop was lovely, bubbly, really helpful and fun.

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The atmosphere was good and great fun as we laughed, groaned and muttered all grappling with jewellery links, trying to open the chain links to make four separate chains (from a choice of silver, rose gold and gold) and affix shells (pearly or blue/black.) The girl opposite forgot to breathe as she concentrated hard, prompting concern from her friend as she turned slightly purple!
Half an hour on each activity of the workshop meant we had a little time to play with those super sewing machines; making little bags for our earrings.

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We shared the machines in pairs. It’s the same as G has, so she cranked up the speed and whizzed along.
My sewing’s definitely getting better. My little seams are pretty straight now.

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We’re getting a bit more cocky now that we’ve sewn a few things and think that the basic little bag design could be better, rather than having raw edges at the end of the ribbon seam. But I did enjoy having the chance to use a sewing machine. Before meeting in the afternoon I’d spent some time chatting to the sewing demonstrator in John Lewis, Oxford Street, discussing buttonholes (last week’s revisited skill along with another friend. I need some practice so I haven’t shown you!) The chat had whet my appetite to do some sewing. Good timing all round. We stayed to chat after the class for a few minutes talking about machine embroidery which I’d really like to try sometime. The book below was recommended…

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And that, was another good day.

A lot of measuring, pressing & pinning

This week I’ve got together with a friend who has a new sewing machine and needed a little jog to use it. It’s like anything; if you don’t use it you can lose your confidence and that fizzy feeling of motivation can fade away.
So, as I’d already started to make a large tote bag (working my way through Sew! Cath Kidson) I suggested she do the same. It’s really good making the same item alongside another. Fun, but also I’m sure I’d make mistakes without the discussion and thinking out loud you do together, especially at this early stage of my beginning to sew again.

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It’s not puckered, it’s just the way it’s hanging off the newel post. Maybe it needs another press too after being bundled up on my way home?

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Pockets inside and out! I’m very pleased with this cotton tote. It’ll make a lovely crochet or knitting bag for summer crafting. My friend’s bag is super too. She used upholstery weight fabric so it’s very strong. Next time I make this tote I’ll use thicker weight fabric so it can be used for carrying heavier items. It could be a posh bag for buying fruit and veg at the market.

What are you planning on doing crafty-wise this weekend? Have a good one!

(I’m blogging on the go, on my way into Central London, so apologies if this post is dodgy in any way!)

2013

A selection of this year’s highlights. (Top of my list for 2014 is to enjoy putting the CAL blocks together, after a refreshing break. You should know I’m basically pre-empting comments here!) I’ve got many, many more photos of craft events, exhibitions and shops I’ve been lucky enough to visit too, probably enough for another gallery times ten. What a fun and creative year.

Meeting other crafty peeps has been a highlight, I see I wrote the same on last year’s gallery 2012.  I’ve always loved meeting new people and not being a shy sort find it all a bit of an adventure. Putting on some music, the radio or an audio book and settling down to make something is one of my favourite ways to relax, apart from reading, cooking or baking. But I have to say that there’s nothing like meeting others – having a good chat and seeing what they’re making. Social crafting seems to be one of the best ways to meet people too. I reckon if you’re shy then joining a crafting group works well as you can always focus on what you’re crocheting, knitting or sewing or whatever to calm your initial nerves. If you’re stuck for conversation just ask what kind of yarn (or whatever) they’re using and generally you’re off!

Have you joined any new crafty groups this year? Taken part in any workshops? Do you enjoy social crafting, or prefer it to be solely during your alone time?

Sew Happy Again

Yesterday my friend and I had another day of sewing after the success of our last get together. Another sausage and egg bap for late breakfast and then we sewed until dinnertime.

My friend has a really handy bag which she uses all the time, it was made by a Swedish acquaintance. She asked for the hand-drawn pattern so we could make one. The instructions seemed a little scant, but then when you’ve made 75 bags for a recent event you probably can’t even list the steps, you sew on auto pilot. I was a little fuzzy though, because I hadn’t ever seen the actual bag and my (dozy?) friend forgot to bring hers as a finished sample!

I have to tell you that:

a) it took us about 8 hours of sewing time

b) we were very hungry by dinnertime

c) I suddenly had a light bulb moment 10 minutes before we finished when I realised what the template instructions meant when they said ‘on the fold’. I apologise if by some magic the ear burning sensation was felt by the pattern writer  something along the lines of  “the instructions are a little poor as they were written by someone for whom English is an additional language.”  It really highlighted that anything I ever learnt at school about dress making and reading patterns has vanished into my brain of custard. Also that buying a sewing instruction book is pointless without actually reading the book – the knowledge and skills do not seep into your consciousness

d) next time we’re sure we could make these bags in 4 hours, or much less, as we literally doubled the amount of sewing by having double the quantity of pieces

e) at the end of the day we modelled the bags with an onion in each. It had been a long day by this point…

f) I refused to let my friend take her onion home as I was thinking of the spiced parsnip, ginger & apple soup I’m going to make

g) next time she can have all the onions she wants

Click on a photo if you want to view a larger size. Please don’t judge me on the straightness of my seams.

Mine needs ironing and the gappy part where you put your hand/scissors/moans and sighs (when it came to sorting out the handles) in to pull the whole thing the right way needs to be hand-sewn. That’s going to be the easy part – I will enjoy giving it many admiring looks as it’s the first bag I’ve ever sewn.

Onion anyone?

Sew Happy

I can’t tell you how excited I felt last week about getting together with one of my crafty friends to do some making, rather than go to another craft event to see others’ creations, or buy more pretties which sit and wait to be used.
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I set up the dining room into a sewing paradise, stocked the fridge with ingredients for a late breakfast and chilled the wine in case we wanted a post-sewing reward.

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I decided I’d better stop arranging stuff as I seemed to be heading towards doing a wall display, or an interest table…

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I’ve been saving the Mollie Makes kits for a while now for a social crafting session. My cousin gave me this craft pocket wall organiser, doesn’t it work well?

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She’s arrived! We did a happy dance on the doorstep, then I carried in her kit as she unloaded the car. And yes – I know her swanky sewing machine is backwards! We’re new to sewing, or refreshing our long-lost skills, but not that daft. It was where it landed when I plonked it down with the cover still on.

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The first thing I said was that I’m not very impressed that Brother don’t sell a cover or case for the sewing machine. It’s going to get dusty in no time, and I don’t want to lift it in and out of the box between use. And so my friend suggested that was exactly what we should make, especially as she happened to have pieces of PVC. What a good idea! Plus it’s a total money saver as the s/m bags I’ve seen are hardly cheap.

We couldn’t match the patterns because we had to be extra careful with the piece of PVC so we had enough. I don’t mind – it’s really cute isn’t it? (I think it was bought in a Dunelm store.)

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I had imagined we’d tackle one of the easier projects from Sew! part of my collection of Cath Kidson books but no, we basically made a sewing machine cover from scratch – no pattern! If you’re a sewer (do we have to use ‘sewist’? Where did it come from – is this an American term?) you might be quite unimpressed with this but we’re both fairly inexperienced.

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When I tried to hem the bottom of the nearly completed cover we just couldn’t get either machine to go. The PVC surface was too grippy and held tight. After a bit of head scratching I remembered reading how you can use tissue, or a special tear-able material to sew with flimsy fabric for support and improved tension, I imagine. Something tissue wrapped arrived last week and I’d tucked it away Womble-like ….. “making good use of the things that we find, things that the everyday folks leave behind”…..

The drawback was that in order to get the machine to move the tissue had to be at the front and back of the cover. Ha ha! I’m not only sewing a new material, on a brand new machine, but I’m sewing blind. It’s a bit wobblier than my other pretty even seams, but if you visit and check the straightness of the stitches at the bottom of my cover you just won’t be invited back again.20131028-132523.jpgRipping the tissue off was actually good fun – a bit like when you’re tiny and the wrapping’s not to be admired, it’s all about the present. Of course now I need to look out for more tissue to hoard.

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This is immediately post ripping so I can see little white lumps of tissue under the stitches in this photo. Afterwards I wiped both inside and outside with a damp cloth and it all came off.

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We did a fair bit of woo-hooing and *blushes* high fived ourselves at the end of the making. Chinese, wine and a sweet DVD followed, of course under no circumstance did we sit and sing along to Jolene

but you can if you want to ;-) I just did a practice run to check this vid and heard howling noises coming up the stairs. Soup for dinner tonight it is, despite the earlier look of depression. That’s what you get for mocking my Dolly.

Bergere de France poncho – Finished

Enfin, le poncho est terminé!

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20131026-124214.jpgIsn’t the yarn lovely? It’s a wool blend (51%) and is Sirdar Escape Chunky, bought with my gift card from Black Sheep Wools. It’s just so warm and soft, not at all itchy. It’s a little on the fluffy side – when I hoover after knitting there’s a circle of reddish pinkish fluff on the carpet by the sofa – so I should perhaps wash the poncho soon.

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Such a simple beginners design by Bergere de France  – you knit two rectangles and through some clever fixing end up with a cosy poncho. In a way it was a little too simple for me knitting-wise and I must admit it did become known as ‘that stupid poncho’  particularly as halfway through the first piece I decided that it was tiny. I held it up against a very petite lady I know and she thought it was not even going to fit her.  When in Broadstairs, Kent I visited the lovely little yarn shop C Wool (near the beach, geddit?!) and the experienced knitty owner told me that French patterns use a size smaller needles than we, for a denser fabric, and the Italians use a size larger. So poncho take two began with larger sized bamboo needles and quite a lot of sighing.

It used less wool than the pattern stated and is definitely a less dense fabric using larger needles. I’m very happy with it, although it’s not something I’d ever wear out of the house because, as anticipated, it makes me look like an Oompa-Loompa!)

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It could be reversible if your seams are invisible I reckon. Mine are *ahem* not – since I couldn’t face sewing them and decided to slip stitch crochet instead. This means they’re a little on the bulky side as I went under the top stitches and the wool is chunky, but that’s fine. If you’re sewing up a long length of knitting you can’t use too much wool at a time as it will tangle, so I could imagine running out and having darned ends to potentially pop out. Crochet it was and fast too.

The diagram was making my eyes roll as I tried, and failed to match up AA with BB, fold GG and HH and stitch it to JJ (ish) but luckily my cousin was here for dinner and a bit of social crafting Thursday. After merely glancing at the pattern, and pushing it to one side, she worked out how to assemble it, fixing the edges together with stitch markers. So I set off with my crochet hook. Although she had her own crochet with her she *somehow* ended up starting to sew the little red jumper for me. It’s gone home with her, and I didn’t even need to provide buttons. This reminds me of the Snow Patrol ‘Chocolate’ lyric” As a child of 25….” And older…Ha ha!

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The neckline is as it should be above, but last night I decided it looked a little wide and drafty as the plan is to wear it when it’s chilly and I’m snuggling on the sofa during the winter. This is far less grannyish than pulling a blanket up to my chin, yes? So for the first time in YEARS I picked up stitches around the neckline and knitted a little garter stitch collar. It rolls inwards but actually that works well so I’m happy.
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Happy that is apart from the stream of questions asking if I’d like a llama or a sombrero to go with it. Actually I wouldn’t say no to a BIG bottle of tequilla but that’s not materialised.

Here’s a link to some poncho related facts if you’re inclined to look.

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Tomorrow a good friend’s coming over. She said that we’re always talking about craft, visiting crafty shops, events and emailing links but apart from the embroidery and jewellery workshops we haven’t actually done any together! So she’s coming here with her s/m, I have mine as Christmas came early for me last Saturday and we’re having a stitchy day together. Very exciting!

Do you have the chance to get crafty this weekend?

An Etsy craft party

Tonight I’ve been to my first Etsy craft party. I think I heard about it through Twitter several weeks ago. That was a funny thing; there were others who also couldn’t remember how or where they signed up to go.

Mollie Makes have been publicizing Etsy craft parties, it’s a big thing apparently and they’ve happened all over the world today. Have you been to one? Ever heard of an Etsy craft party?

It was a very relaxed evening with various tables set up for craft activities: bunting to make for the venue who work with Crisis, friendship bracelets, card and stationary making and china decorating. There were drinks, nibbles and cakes – always a good thing.

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I don’t think anyone’s going to spot my chain stitching on the 2, but it was relaxing to do. Of course I should have used a contrasting colour.  I must have been tired, or too busy chatting to think (or too much Buck’s Fizz?!)

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My table’s bunting (photo’s a bit fuzzy, sorry.) They look pretty with ready-made crochet flowers and sequins etc sewn on.

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While I was embroidering, my friend was busy decorating a bowl. I love it.

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She then moved on to card making and created this for her sister and family who are emigrating to Australia next month. My photo was taken before it was finished, she added some text too. Love those thumb print people!

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Yes well, no comments required about this piece. The purple line down the middle was an end of evening ‘what was I thinking?’ mistake that didn’t completely come off even with some rubbing with a baby wipe. I’ve donated it to my arty friend to clean and decorate.

Who knew you could use Sharpies on china? The ink will come off with washing, but I’m told you can bake it in a low temp oven for 30 mins to set the pen, then I guess you just don’t use it for anything other than for decorative purposes. I liked the idea of having a lovely bowl for my ends when I’m darning, perhaps I’ll hint a bit when we next meet.

The space was light and airy, it’s obviously used by ongoing art groups as there were many works in progress.

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It was a relaxed time with no pressure to craft in a certain way. The resources were ready, we paid our £5 (raising money for Crisis) grabbed a drink and chose where to start. I’d definitely attend another Etsy craft party and hope that the tentative suggestion about meeting again as a group happens in the future. I’m always up for social crafting and love meeting new people, especially when it’s going to be in a pub next time.