Easter holidays are finally here!

As I am lucky enough to work in education today is the start of two weeks off for me, to say I’m excited is an understatement! I have so many ideas of projects I’d like to do, places I’d like to go and people I’d like to see during these two weeks but the main way I want to use my time is to finish some work in progress projects that have been building up. I thought it might be nice to share some of the projects I’d like to get on with during my two weeks. I’m sure I will be more motivated to get them finished if I’ve told you all about them.

These little needle felted animal portraits are actually finished, but my aim for the Easter holidays is to find cute little vintage picture frames for them. I’m very excited to see them all framed up, I think they will look great! I made these little guys much in the same way as my needle felted animal ornaments, except these were needle felted onto small pieces of pre-felt and made flat rather than 3D. The fox is wearing a needle felted suit jacket but the badger’s shirt and tie are made from shop bought craft felt, it was loads of fun experimenting with making these animal portraits and I’m definitely going to make more!

In comparison to the needle felted animal portraits, this is a project which I have literally only just started. These fabric strips will be made into a patchwork baby blanket for my cousin’s baby, due in July. I have made a few baby blankets before but in the past have kept each blanket to just one colour scheme with different patterns, this time I wanted to try a more multi-colored theme with coordinating patterned fabric. This fabric was purchased at the Craft 4 Crafters fair we went to last month in Exeter, I really love the cute woodland theme, the mushroom print is my favourite! Unlike my other baby blankets which have been hand sewn, I will be machine sewing this quilt. I’m looking forward to getting to know my new sewing machine better and increasing my quilting skills. I adore making things for babies and can’t wait to make things for my own little ones sometime in the future.

This patchwork quilt is a project I have been working on for years, that’s not even an exaggeration .. it really has been years. I am using the english paper pieces method and hand sewing the whole thing which is part of the reason it has taken me so long, the other part is that I keep running out of money to buy more fabric. However I can finally say I am nearly finished with this quilt! I am sewing a border at the moment, using a pretty floral fabric in shades of ivory, pink and blue.

I hope to have finished the border in the next week or so and can then move onto picking backing fabric and wadding, exciting! I have learnt a lot whilst making this quilt so I will definitely write a big post about it when it is finally finished. That will be a good day.

The final project I’d like to share with you today is this apron that I finished sewing this week. A couple of years ago I made aprons as Christmas gifts for lots of people and it was so successful I have decided to make a few for my Etsy shop too. This is the first one I’ve made, I love the combination of subtle heather grey fabric with the bold psychedelic paisley deer print. Although this apron is finished I need to iron and photograph it properly and then list it on Etsy. Hopefully I can get that done during my time off and maybe even make some more aprons. My mind is full of fun fabric and print combinations I’m dying to try!

I’d love to know what you all have planned for Easter? As well as these crafty goals I am hoping to spend lots of time with friends and family and of course, eat my weight in chocolate eggs!

My first Etsy custom order…

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Sorry it’s been a little quiet around here for a week or so, I’ve been pretty busy with work, quality time with friends and family and lots of making things. I must work harder on making time for blog posts!

Something pretty exciting happened the other day, I received my first ever custom order on Etsy! A lovely lady called Pamela told me she loved the seascape design felt fronted cushion I had on my site, but wanted 2 larger versions. I was more than happy to have a go at making these for her and just this morning I got them finished! You can have a look at my original seascape felt cushion in this post.

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Making two matching pieces of felt was tricky, it meant carefully measuring out pieces of each colour used so as not to include too much of one and make them look too different from each other. I had also not worked on a sheet of felt this large before, Pamela wanted her finished cushions to be 45cm squares which meant starting the wet felting process with squares of over 60cm. If I am going to continue to create felt pieces of this size I will have to find myself a new work space as none of my surfaces were big enough to roll the large felt sheets comfortably. Attempting to work out how large to start the felt sheet to allow for shrinkage during the wet felting process was another challenge that thankfully turned out ok.

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Despite these challenges making this custom order was a brilliant experience for me and one I hope to have the chance to repeat regularly. Being paid to create has always been a dream of mine and this week I got to live that dream a little bit, it felt great!

I am still new to Etsy and the world of selling handmade items but I am really enjoying learning as I go along and this custom order has definitely boosted my confidence. If you have any advice/words of wisdom/amusing anecdotes about selling your handmade items I’d love to hear them!

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I’ve been making …

Just a quick post today to share a few of the things I’ve been making this past week. I have been feeling really inspired lately and my new working hours mean that I have a good amount of free time to be able to get on with personal projects. It feels so great to be going through a phase where I can turn ideas into actual finished items quickly as sometimes it can take forever!

I finally got round to turning a couple of handmade felt pieces into cushion covers, they are felt on the front and plain cotton on the back like my last felt fronted cushion, you can find my tutorial for making these here. I think the sea-scape cushion is my favourite, I nearly kept it for myself but I have decided to list both cushions on Etsy.

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I had a day off work yesterday as I’ve hurt my back, I’m definitely getting old! This unexpected free time meant that I could sit and give embroidery a proper go. I haven’t really tried embroidery before but I found working on both of these plant themed pieces so relaxing, I’ll definitely be doing more! I’ve decided to pop these in my Etsy shop too, just to see what happens, you can have a look at the Etsy shop here.

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Watercolour painting is another art form I have not done much of, but I’ve always been a huge fan of the way it looks. So I have decided to take the time to teach myself, probably using youtube tutorials, any recommendations of good ones would be great! These are just little scrappy tests I did one afternoon, my technique could certainly use some work but the main thing is I enjoyed doing it. I’m very excited to push myself out of my comfort zone creatively and learn a new skill.

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I’ve also been slowly working away on my 70’s inspired floral patchwork blanket, a project I have been working on for a couple of years now. I am pleased to say it is finally nearing completion! The english paper piecing method is slow but I think the blanket will be beautiful when it’s finished, I plan to share it with you soon.

That’s all for today, I hope you enjoyed seeing a little update of my creative activities. And thanks so much for reading, this blog really pushes me to find inspiration and finish the projects I start!

Needle Felted Succulent DIY

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Just a quick post today to show you how I made this cute little needle felted succulent. This little guy is also available to buy from my Etsy site. Take a look at our Etsy shop here. I plan to try making a few other types of needle felted houseplants, more succulent varieties and some cactus would definitely be fun!

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For this project I used some wool roving I was given by a friend, it is coarser than the corriedale or merino tops that I usually use so it felted really quickly but it was a funny mix of blue-ish greens so all the leaves came out a slightly different colour!

Anyway, here’s how to do it:

Start by rolling some wool roving into a rough ball-like shape. The amount of wool you use will decide the ultimate size of your leaf, you will get the hang of using the right amount of wool for your desired size after some practice.

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Start to stab your wool with your needle felting needle repeatedly, turning the wool over regularly so that it mats together evenly. Once the wool has started to mat together, begin to focus on a top and a bottom side, creating a flatter shape.

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Create a pointed leaf shape by focusing your stabbing on the two top edges. Don’t forget to work the top and bottom evenly, as well as working on all edges from time to time to create a smooth, neat, well constructed leaf shape. When you are happy with your leaf, move onto another one! You will need to make leaves of all different sizes to create your succulent.

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When you have made enough leaves (I made about 20) it is time to build your succulent. Sorry there are no photos of this stage, I got carried away and completely forgot to document this part. I’m also not sure that I built my succulent and attached it to the pot  in the most sensible way, you may well have a better idea than me of how to do it, but here’s what I did:

I turned a small amount of wool into a rough, flat base and beginning with my four biggest leaves, positioned them on top and attached them by stabbing them a few times. I repeated this step with each of my next leaves, working in fours and decreasing in size as I went along, attaching them at first to my wool base, and then also to the other leaves underneath. I added a small ball of wool roving to the middle of the succulent so that I had something to attach the smallest top leaves to.

When my succulent was attached together I put some toy filling in the small plant pot I was using (I used a metal one but a tiny terracotta pot would look cute too) and then covered it with some green craft felt, glueing the edges into the pot with super glue. This looked a little like a green cushion inside my pot. I then positioned my succulent on top of the felt with some super glue in the middle and stabbed the lowest leaves into the craft felt with my needle a few times to secure it into the pot and it was done!

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Phew! That was a tricky one to describe, I hope it made some sense? Like I said, I’m sure you can figure out a much simpler way to attach the felted succulent to the tiny plant pot. My way was complete guesswork and hard to describe but I’m pleased to say my little succulent is firmly attached to his new silver pot home.

It was so much fun to combine two of my favourite things – felting and succulents! What do you think of my little needle felt creation? Would you give it a go? I’d love to see pictures if you do.

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Terrarium Adventures Part 2

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If you’ve been reading this blog for a while you’ll know that earlier this year I posted about my growing obsession with the world of terrariums. You can see part 1 here. At that point I had finished one terrarium and was looking for ideas for how to complete my second fish bowl style terrarium. Well I’ve finally got round to putting it all together, I’ve gone with an under the sea type theme and I thought you guys might like to see it.
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To put this terrarium together I used a layer of small shingle type stones on the bottom, then a layer of sand. After that I added a couple of larger stones, some fake moss that I think kind of looks like coral, some smaller decorative stones, a tiny diver figurine and of course, three of my beloved air plants.
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I’ve always thought air plants look like sea creatures so it was easy to imagine them in an underwater themed scene. The tiny diver figure adds that sense of a shift in perspective again, giving the viewer the feeling that they are looking into a tiny world full of giant plants.

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All that’s left for me to do now is add some small shells and maybe even a couple of little dried starfish, just to add to the underwater theme a touch more.

Of course I couldn’t just stop there this weekend! So I put together another tiny scene in a glass trifle dish we were given by a family member.

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For this trifle dish terrarium I mostly only used plants and materials I already had at home. I started by adding a layer of shingle to the bottom of the dish and then a layer of cactus and succulent soil on top (this soil has sand included to aid drainage as cactus and succulents really hate to sit in water). After the base layers I added three succulent babies that I have propagated myself from the leaves of other plants and a larger cactus that I couldn’t resist buying. I also found some nice looking stones and a larger, crystal encrusted rock that has formed a sort of magical looking cave in my little scene. I topped it off with some moss left over from my original succulent terrarium kit, some smaller decorative stones and some sand to create a sandy path leading to the crystal cave. Last but not least I added a tiny figurine of a photographer.

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I had ordered the photographer figurine online when I ordered the diver for the air plant terrarium, being a photographer myself I couldn’t not buy the tiny little guy, even though I wasn’t sure how I was going to use him. Pairing the little photographer with the crystal has worked out perfectly as there really needed to be a focal point worth photographing in any scene that I added the photographer to.

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I am really pleased with how both of my terrariums have turned out, especially the trifle dish one as it wasn’t planned, I just kept adding bits and pieces until I was happy with it. I can’t wait to watch the succulent babies grow and add even more drama to the tiny world!

I expect you can tell that I am totally hooked on this terrarium business now, I used to think they were totally tacky but my mind has been completely changed. Now I think they are so much fun and really creative, how do you feel about them?

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Searching For That Perfect Piece

Me and Nathan have decided to purchase some large scale art for our bedroom at some point this year. This is quite a new concept for us, being creative, visual people our home is already full of our own art as well as gifts we have been given by friends and family over the years. Being able to hang a piece of graphic design, photography or a painting you have made yourself is a great feeling, but we’d both love to start a collection of others peoples art too.

Of course art can be expensive, our tight budget will limit our options drastically but for now it’s fun to just have a look around at what’s out there. As a bit of a change from my usual posts here on Make It Paisley I thought it might also be fun to share the pieces that have caught my eye so far with you.

At this point I have only looked at Etsy as it provides such a wealth of talented artists and creatives. I love the idea that our savings could be used to purchase a beautiful piece of art, and that money would also be helping to support a fellow creative person to follow their dreams!

These abstract prints from Lola Donoghue have really caught my attention, I love how bold they are.

 

Apak Studio’s work is brilliantly whimsical and would look great in an adult or childs bedroom.

 

Wonderfully surreal and just absolutely gorgeous, I’d love some of Gabriella Barouch’s art in my home.

 

Another bold and beautiful abstract by Maria Sa on Etsy, can you tell I’m very attracted to all things turquoise?

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Psychedelic wonderfulness from Yellena

Beautiful paintings inspired by the natural world, particularly cactus and succulents from artandpeople. She had me at cactus!

Last but not least, although it is not my usual style this print has really caught my eye. You can find it on PrintsOfHeart.

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So far my selections have predominantly been paintings and illustrations but I think a photographic print could look equally great in our room. Maybe a list of my favourite photographic art will have to happen next.

We would absolutely love any suggestions you might have, either of talented artists on Etsy, or if you happen to be local to Bristol, UK then ideas for galleries or affordable art fairs we could take a look at!

I hope you enjoyed my little list of great art from Etsy, I’m certainly enjoying browsing for that perfect piece!

 

Handmade Felt-Fronted Cushion

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As promised here is a quick explanation of how I made this felt fronted cushion cover, with handmade felt. This cushion ended up as a gift for my Dad’s birthday, but I have since started making more to sell on my Etsy shop, I may even keep a couple for myself too!

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My first step was to make a sheet of felt by hand, using the wet felting process. You can take a look at a tutorial I wrote on wet felting if you are not familiar with the process here. Or try this method which involves adding to a material called pre-felt here.

When making this piece of felt I tried putting smaller blue and green pieces in between layers of the sky blue coloured wool roving, hoping that they would show through in a subtle but pretty way. Unfortunately, as with many crafting experiments this did not work out, my top layer of blue must have been too thick as you couldn’t see the dark blue or green at all and I was left with plain blue felt. To jazz up my blue felt a bit I added wisps of blue and green later, using a needle felting technique. As with all crafts it takes time to learn how felting works, each time I have a go I pick up new knowledge so it’s never really a failure!

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Once my sheet of felt was made, rinsed and dried I measured the cushion I wanted to cover and cut two pieces of cotton fabric to be the back of the cushion cover. I went for a envelope style cushion cover, meaning the back was made up of two pieces of fabric which overlap so that the cover can be removed and washed if needs be.

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I hemmed the edges of the two pieces of cotton that would be visible, then pinned the cotton pieces to the felt piece, front sides facing. I was careful to make sure that I was pinning in a neat square, measuring as I went along to ensure my cushion cover came out square and professional looking.

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The last step was to sew the pieces together in a square shape, following the pins carefully and then trim off the excess felt. When turned the right way round I had a cushion cover with a felted front and a plain cotton envelope style back.

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I really like the contrast in textures between the felt and the cotton, the felt gives the cushion a warm cosy feel, whilst the plain cotton backing keeps the cushion looking modern and smart. If you don’t fancy making your own felt you can of course use this method of making an envelope cushion cover with any fabrics you want.

I have just finished another felt piece inspired by ocean colours, and am hoping to turn it into a cushion tomorrow. After that I plan to try making some in subtle, earthy colours like cream, grey and brown. These are not colours I usually go for when decorating my home but using an old, traditional technique to make fabric by hand from natural sheep’s wool has me all inspired to look to nature for my colour palette too.

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Well thanks for reading about my felted cushion covers. If you make your own felt, using any technique at all, I’d love to hear what you use it for in your home!

 

 

 

Photography Backdrop DIY

 

DSC_0042As someone who tries to regularly update a blog and sell on Etsy I know the importance of great photography to capture viewers attention and attract customers to your items. However for a long time I really have put no effort at all into my blog or product photography. To make matters worse I have a degree in photography and I work in a college photography studio. There really is no excuse for my laziness when it comes to the standard of the images I put online, I could easily bring items into work and use the studio set up there to create professional looking images, and I could have used the photographic knowledge I built up over years of studying to improve the photos I took for this blog at home but for some reason I haven’t.

Unfortunately when you have studied a subject for a long time, you can easily lose your passion for it. Equally when you work each day in an environment it can be hard to muster enthusiasm for using that environment to it’s full potential. I have wanted to focus on making and creating rather than improving the photos of the things I make and create.

Having recently decided that it is time to change all of this, I set out to make a set of simple bright photography backdrops that I could use easily at home to photograph small items for my Etsy shop and this blog. I was inspired by this post from A beautiful Mess to create a whitewashed wooden board backdrop.

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Want to know how I made this whitewashed wood photography backdrop? read on, it’s so simple!

Once again having a father who is a carpenter came in handy: he gave me a few offcuts of MDF with a smooth white finish on each side. One sheet I will be keeping plain white. For the other sheet, I bought 5 sheets of soft wood cladding from a local DIY store and used them to create a wooden plank effect.

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First I glued each piece of the cladding together, then I added some wood glue to the MDF and placed my assembled cladding onto the wooden board.

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I then firmly secured the cladding to the board using nails along the edges. The 5 planks of soft wood cladding I bought just happened to be the same width as my MDF board so I did not have to cut them. They are however much longer than my board, but I decided rather than cutting them down to size to keep the extra length as it will give me more room to photograph my subject.

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Once the wood glue was dry I used a tester pot of white fence paint to give the boards a bright, white finish. The test pot managed about two coats before running out, leaving my with a whitewash effect that is bright and white enough, while still showing some wood grain and texture underneath.

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I am very pleased with the outcome of this simple DIY, I can place my backdrop in whichever room has the best natural light at the time and switch between white wooden boards as a base or as a background, using the plain white MDF board as well. This is essential in a house like mine that is often very dark, the darkness has really been holding me back lately in terms of photography for Etsy and this blog, I’m so glad I’ve found a solution!

The added texture that the planks of soft wood give add some detail and interest to the images, whilst the bright white keeps it fresh and avoids distracting the eye from the subject of the image.

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The whole thing cost less that £5 too, which is always a winner with me! I’d like to try tiling one of the other boards with some simple but pretty tile next, more options for backdrops with texture can only be a good thing!

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What tips and tricks do you use for taking photos at home? I’d love to hear!

Half Term Happenings

It’s been a couple of weeks since my last blog post, sorry about that! I have been pretty busy though, a week off from work for half term has actually given me less time for blogging than when I’m working!

I thought you might like to have a quick look at some of the crafty things I’ve been doing with my week off, I’ve really been focusing on getting items ready and listed on the Etsy shop.

I have finally got round to making and photographing four strings of fabric bunting that I had been planning for ages:

And I’ve also listed a couple of the needle felted animals and mushrooms that I made recently:

As well as a few that my talented mum has made:

Having a whole week off has meant that I managed to get light, bright photos of my handmade items as I have actually been at home during daylight hours. I also put some time and effort into making myself a set of at home photography backdrops, there will be a tutorial for this on the blog soon. I feel like they have made the world of difference to my images!

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It was also my boyfriend Nathan’s birthday, so I made him this card. Why on earth would you put a moth on a birthday card I hear you ask? Nathan actually loves moths! I’m hoping to have a go at creating a needle felted moth for him soon.

Another project I plan on sharing with you here is this cushion with a hand felted front and a cotton envelope back. This one is a birthday present but I hope to make lots more for the Etsy shop and maybe a couple for me!

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Sorry if this post has felt a bit like show and tell – with me doing all the showing and telling! It feels great to have gotten so much done in the last week, I can’t wait to share proper tutorials for some of these items with you on the blog over the next few weeks.

 

Photography Lately

I thought it might be nice to share some of my recent photography with you lovely readers. Well I say recent but actually these photos were taken in September on a family trip to Longleat Center Parcs so they are not recent at all, but I have finally gotten around to posting about them so better late than never!

We were incredibly lucky with the weather during this long weekend in the woods. The sun shone all weekend and it was unseasonably warm for early autumn in the UK. The strong sunlight breaking through the trees made for some images I am really proud of. Everywhere you looked in the forest was another beautiful natural scene waiting to be photographed.

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The wildlife was another brilliant thing about being in the woods all weekend, I really enjoyed photographing the ducks, robins, swarms of fish in the lakes and most of all the badger which visited our cabin at night. I can’t believe the badger let me get close enough to take photos of him but I guess he was pretty used to holidaymakers feeding him in return for posing for a few pictures.

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Our long weekend at Center Parcs was with my boyfriend Nathan’s family so of course I took lots of photos of everyone on the trip – especially Nathan’s niece and nephew who are the cutest kids, but rather than bore you with somebody else’s family photos I thought I’d just post the wildlife and nature pictures today!

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We had such a fantastic time riding bikes, swimming, eating great food and generally spending time together in the stunning woodland. But I think my favourite part of the trip was really getting into taking pictures again, sometimes life gets in the way of you putting time into your favourite hobbies and it can be so nice when you get the chance to re-discover your love for it again!