Friday, 12 December 2014

Easy Men's Scarf: Knitting Project with Debenhams

When Alina from Debenhams* contacted me to ask if I'd like to take part in their knitting project to celebrate their new men's knitwear collection designed by Patrick Grant (yes, thee Patrick Grant of The Great British Sewing Bee), I was excited and of course I said yes!  All I had to do was to knit something cosy for a man in my life - I chose to knit a scarf my boyfriend, Stephen. He had managed to lose the last one I lovingly pored over when he moved house so it was time for a replacement, anyway. But shhh! It is a Christmas surprise present - he is under instruction not to visit the blog.

I chose to use Stylecraft Life Super Chunky in a light, soft blue (Celestial 2455) which was soft and cosy but easy to care for and can be washed at 40 degrees. It comes in 100g balls - I bought 3 - and is knitted up on 10mm needles. I used round needles as it is easier to knit with these on trains without elbowing your fellow passengers, and this is where I intended to do the bulk of my knitting. I felt something chunky was best as I knew it would knit up quickly, meaning it would be easier to keep it as a secret surprise scarf until Christmas.

It was a pretty straight forward project - I decided to knit it in a mistake rib pattern to add some interest and texture to what would otherwise be a quite basic scarf. If you can knit and purl, you can do this stitch! Just cast on a multiple of 4 + 3 stitches - I cast on 23 - and repeat knitting 2, purling 2. At the end you will purl 1. It's so easy and  but just adds something to a simple project like a scarf.

Check out Debenhams' full range of knitwear here, and their Christmas knitwear here.

* I believe in full disclosure and in the interest of honesty, I would like to point out that I was offered a Debenhams voucher to participate in this project. However - that does not mean the only reason I did this was to get a voucher. I was genuinely excited to receive this invitation and the gift card was just a nice bonus.

Tuesday, 25 November 2014

Make your own Christmas Wreath: Direct Blinds 'Deck your Door' campaign

I love a Christmas wreath, and had been intending to make one this year. For a few years now I've had one which is made of bells. I imagine this is extremely annoying for my neighbours and cats seem to find it terrifying. So I was intrigued when I got an email asking me to take part in the Direct Blinds 'Deck your Door' campaign*

The options really are endless - you only have to type 'wreath' into Pinterest to see how many variations are out there. Do you like traditional foliage? Do you like sparkles? Bows? Burlap? Baubles? Berries? It's out there.

So understandably I was spoiled for choice! I had thought of doing a pom pom wreath but this didn't really fit with my partner's tastes, so a compromise came to me when I started work. I wrapped deep green wool around a rattan wreath. The rattan wreath gave it a nice, more interesting shape than the foam wreath I was experimenting with. Once the rattan was almost totally covered, I knitted 2 little holly leaves from this pattern. Then I made 2 little pomspoms for the berries and I was done!

*I want to be totally honest and upfront about this kind of thing, and I was offered a Hobbycraft voucher to buy my supplies to make the wreath for this project. This was a nice bonus  but not the reason I took part. As I said I had intended to make a wreath this year anyway, and anything that inspires people to get creative is fine by me.

Thursday, 19 June 2014

Interview: Chatting with Samantha Claridge - Haberdasher & Blogger Supreme!

Sammy on the left with her blogging partner, H

Samantha - known as Sammy - runs Sew Crafty Sewing Centre in Maidenhead & co-runs Live It. Love It. Make It. with her lovely best friend & partner in craft, H. She lives in Maidenhead with her husband & 2 cats. I am so excited to be chatting with her about her exciting and crafty life!

Sammy, was it always your plan to have a creative career? What was your dream job?
The only thing I knew was that I wanted a job that I loved. I had so many ideas when I was younger about what I wanted to be when I grew up but the one thing they all had in common was the need to be creative within my job. Even when I worked in pubs in my late teens/early twenties the event planning, cocktail mixing and chalk board painting was the part of the job I enjoyed the most.

You have been blogging with your best friend H now for 2 years - what is the best thing about that for you? What inspired you two to start blogging together?
H and I had both been reading blogs for about a year before I started a blog of my own, it didn't get very far, I think I wrote about 4 posts before deleting it a few months down the line. About a month later H said to me that she was thinking about starting a blog. I suggested that it might be fun to write one together. H and I are so similar in so many ways and so different in others, but we are united in our love of crafts, so we thought it would make more interesting reading to work as a team. To this day that is what I enjoy most about our blog, and working with H. We always try to have balance. H keeps me in check (literally spell checks everything for me) and I do the same for her. We motivate each other and each pick up the slack if the other is suffering from bloggers block.


How did you get involved with Sew Crafty Sewing Centre?
11 and ½ years ago my Mum phoned me for our usual weekly catch up and mentioned that she was thinking about doing something a little crazy. She was looking to buy the haberdashery shop that she had worked in for the past 8 years as the owner was about to retire. She asked if I would like to be her partner and run it with her… of course I said yes. I had been managing a bar after leaving collage as I had become disillusioned with the design industry that I had trained in, so I jumped at the chance to a) get back to being creative and b) work with my Mum. Six months later we opened our doors for the first time as owners of our very own haberdashery shop. Eleven years later and we are still going strong and just about to open our ‘doors’ online.

What do you love most about running a haberdashery shop? Are there any down points?
Being my own boss, being surrounded by pretty things all day long, working with my Mum, our lovely customers and getting to choose what we sell are probably the things I love the most.
The down points are keeping your momentum going year after year, mean people,  doing accounts, and being responsible for everything, that can way heavy.

How do you choose what to stock in your store? How do you stay up to date on the latest craft trends?
We learnt early on that we shouldn't stock things that we wouldn't use ourselves, just because they are fashionable. It is too hard to sell things that you wouldn't recommend to a friend or use yourself, it shows when you talk about your products if you don’t believe in them. People come to our shop because they like the things that we choose. They like how we display things, and the brands we choose to sell, that is why they come to us over other places. It makes it easier for us to choose what to sell too if we keep to our aesthetic. Of course we update our choices every season as our tastes change. We read a lot of fashion magazines, craft magazines and blogs to keep up with what is current and websites like Pinterest are great for trend spotting. We also visit trade and public shows like ICHS and the Knitting and Stitching shows to see what people are buying. We also listen to what our customers are asking for, we have a rule of three, if three people ask for something (on three separate occasions) we don’t currently have we will try and find a way to stock it.

What advice would you give to someone hoping to open their own independent haberdasher?
Firstly for anyone starting any kind of business, take a course in business basics! Tax and accounts can make or break small businesses. Get a handle on cash flow, profit and loss, gross and net profit before you go choosing all your pretty stock. Trust me! I wish I had paid more attention in Business studies class. Secondly I would say work to your strengths, Pick your genre and don’t try and please everyone. If you are a dressmaker the specialise in dressmaking fabric and equipment, If you are a quilter at heart then stick to quilting supplies, at least at first. Once you have built a customer base you can expand your supplies to meet demand.

Find Sammy around the Web:
Sew Crafty Sewing Centre | Facebook | Twitter
Live It. Love It. Make It. | Bloglovin' | Facebook |  Twitter

Saturday, 31 May 2014

Me-Made-May '14 - the aftermath

So first I must apologise for not fufilling my promise of plentiful Me Made May outfit photos. I assure you that I did complete the challenge - with the exception of one day when I was taking part in a charity walk and needed sportswear.

on the left Tilly and the Buttons Picnic Blanket Skirt; on the right Colette patterns sorbetto top

I am glad that made quite a broad pledge - I could not have worn all me - made as I just don't have enough things and frankly the things that I do have don't really go together.

By Hand London Polly top, worn 2 ways

It turns out everything I have made or even my upcycled pieces are patterned... And all of the fabric in my stash is patterned, too! Crazy. So - a new pledge! I must use all of my patterned fabrics - perhaps to make dresses as I missed wearing dresses very much this month - and then focus on making some plain wardrobe basics to wear my lovely patterned pieces with.

On the left - 2 pairs of pyjama bottoms from the first Great British Sewing Bee book; On the right a skirt which used to be a dress