Sunday, 1 December 2013

2013 Christmas Markets

 I didn’t manage to get to the Manchester Christmas markets last year with being sick during pregnancy and then I was busy doing fairs at several weekends over the Christmas build up.  I have been determined to get to some this year and over the last 10 days, I managed to get to 3.  Last Friday I went to Birmingham and met up with my mother in Law to have a gentle stroll around the markets with several children in tow.  It was quite the adventure for my little girl embarking on our train journey from the picturesque Great Malvern station to arriving to our 2nd largest, bustling city.  I came to the Birmingham markets approximately 6 years ago and was quite unimpressed in comparison to the Manchester event.  However I found them much improved this year and less cramped than the aforementioned.  Whilst still being quite expensive, I also thought that they were more reasonable although I can’t share my purchases as yet as it may ruin the surprise for family members who read this post.

My next adventure was to the Worcester Victorian markets.  I was very excited as I have only heard good things about them.  I had my 2 youngest again and decided it would be another new experience which would only be benefited if we truly embraced the theme and thus, I got dressed up.  It was a wonderful day and I am considering having a stall there next year.  

I will write later in the week of some of the stalls I saw as I have links to pages and photos of individual stalls but it was hands down the best fair I have been to.  The prices are reasonable and I don’t mean expensive but understandable, I actually mean fair, competitive prices and nearly all the stalls (perhaps 200 odd) were crafters not traders (which is all I saw at the Birmingham and Manchester ones).  There were many people dressed in Victorian regalia and entertainment on the street for children making the atmosphere very friendly.  Again I cannot share pictures of my purchases as they are for presents.

The last fair visited was the Malvern Christmas Fair and switching on of the lights.  My eldest daughter was involved in the lantern parade as part of her school but there were activities on throughout the day including a crafters market, face painting, a Grotto and choirs, brass bands and the local radio station were hosts.  Another lovely day with a family friendly environment and food and fair rides were quite affordable.  

The craft stalls however, were very expensive.  The sellers are definitely more artists rather than hobby crafters but I didn't buy a single item even though I was very tempted by a baby bib (but I felt £8 was too much for one).   The fair was beautifully laid out and the stall owners were warm and chatty but this was more of a high end gift fair.

Saturday, 23 November 2013

Christmas bargains

I mentioned that I had won some Christmas decorations on ebay and that I'd share pics of them on here when they arrived and so, true to my word, here are a few:

These were all bought from the same lady along with 2 beautiful candlesticks.  I really love the angel and have looked for years for one that I didn't think was creepy.  I am very pleased with this one. 

 These were extra cheeky bids that I won and was really pleased as they're vintage and a little different to everything else I see repeated in high street stores.

I also managed to pick up some unusual pieces in a local charity shop.

These were 10 pence each in a box under a shelf so I did have to rummage but I was very pleased with my efforts.  Above them on the shelf were two paper envelopes with a £1 sticker on.  When I opened them out, I discovered they were these lovely lanterns!  I had a little helper to display them!

This little stash of material set me back the grande sum of £6! The green and white polka dot pieces are 0.5 meters long but 2m wide and the patterned piece is 3m long and 2m wide.

This William Morris piece however, was 50pence.  It is uneven but there's enough fabric for a full a line, knee length skirt or several cushions- ooooh decisions decisions!

Wednesday, 13 November 2013

Christmas Spirit

I love Christmas; the decorating, eating great food, buying/ making gifts, time off with family, cold weather and fires but I love Christmas for it's true message.  I always try each year to start telling the kids the Christmas story early so that they know Christmas is about Jesus being born rather than just about them getting presents and so buy as many nativity related things that I see and find in order to make it fun.  I bought a lovely 3D nativity puzzle from M&S 2 years ago and a gift set of a book with paper figures and a stable which we got out this week and completed.

I am going to try and post all things Nativity related in the lead up to Christmas including the things I make which follow this theme. 
I saw these on Mollie Makes Facebook feed and wish I was skilled enough to make although I like to think I could manage the cardboard stable....

I had a little look on ebay and etsy etc to see what a knitted/ crochet set would cost me and they seem to be approx £25 which isn't bad for all the time someone would take to create them but I can't justify it at the moment and thus, I have begun to create my own.  Not being the best knitter or crochet chic however, I have decided to sew mine and am going to use a very eclectic mix of fabric to make it totally unique!  Here's the first of my wise men.

Watch this space!

Friday, 8 November 2013

Paper Baubles

I love the very ornate glass baubles from the likes of Russia.  A few years back I went to Poland and regret that I didn't buy any while I was there as they are more expensive over here.  A few searches on ebay has allowed me to purchase some vintage baubles which I will be collecting next week, but in the meantime I have been utilising the big shot to create more basic paper baubles.

I also went shopping for the first time this week and in time for the new pretty Christmas paper with co-coordinating cellotape and ribbon in Wilkinsons.  It was just very hard to choose which range to get as they had woodland creatures and a Scandinavian-esq grey themed reindeer.

I chose the Nordic route and here's what I've created:

For full descriptions for how I created both of these, please look at my project 52 page (which should probably be renamed now as it has been a failed challenge! Yet I am telling myself it was merely postponed and I will try to catch up- eek or at least to 52 new things)  I get very excited at Christmas, starting in November so I warn you that lots of my posts now may well be Christmas related although I can't apologise for it as I'm not sorry.  Did I mention, I love Christmas and love crafting at Christmas! 

Wednesday, 30 October 2013

Banana Cake

I'm not much of a baker but the girls love to do it and my husband loves cakes so they do go down well on the occasions when I make one. We had some miserable looking bananas and with it being half term, I thought it might be a good idea to bake with them.  A quick internet search delivered this recipe:

2 Ripe Bananas overripe is best)
170g caster sugar
170g S.R.flour
170g soft margarine
3 eggs
Vanilla essence

Preheat oven to 160C/ Gas mark 3
Use a food processor to blend all ingredients well
Pour into a lined loaf tin
Bake for 1 hour
Cool and enjoy

Very easy instructions so I gave it a go: 

I mixed the butter and sugar together and then folded the sifted flour in using a metal spoon,  I then added the eggs one at a time and finally the chopped bananas.  I used my hand blender to really mix it all and get a light  mixture.  The recipe here said to use vanilla essence but another recipe had said to use golden syrup or treacle with spices so I also added a tbsp of golden syrup and tsp of cinnamon. I greased the inside of my loaf tin and then poured in the mixture.

 It goes into the preheated oven for an hour and presto:

It smelled amazing and slipped out of the tin really easily without breaking/ crumbling.

It's a moist sponge so perfect with a cup of tea- especially while still warm but I will serve it with hot custard tonight which makes a great autumn/ winter pudding.  It was very easy to do and I will definitely be doing this to use up ripe bananas from now on!

Monday, 28 October 2013

Mag review

In my previous post I said I had been reading lots of magazines and I thought I would share my thoughts on them.  It's just my opinion and in no way should it be seen as authoritative but I'd be interested to know what other people think of the craft magazines that are out there.  I have a subscription to Mollie Makes and so am obviously a fan.  I am familiar with it's layout and pictorial style but I wondered how it compared to other publications in terms of value for money; number of articles, number of tutorials, how many pages (and how many of which are adverts!) whether each has its own unique selling point and finally- the best gift!!!
I am comparing them but I must point out that they are from different months but I quick look tells me that there are the same number of pages each month.

I'll start with 'Homemaker' Issue 11 (November 2013)
Cost: £4.99,     Pages: 114 (of which are adverts- 14)     Number of Articles: 10    Number of Tutorials: 22.  The free gift was some lovely paper bunting which is self assembly) but in all honesty, it was the reason I bought the magazine.  It is lovely and the magazine is also good.  It also includes 8 baking recipes and some pages on flower/ plant arrangements.  I think it is a really good magazine for a creative person who likes lots of different crafts as there is a good variety but I think the projects/ tutorials are quite basic so perhaps appropriate for a beginner.  There wasn't any knitting or crochet projects which may appeal to someone who already has a knitting subscription but would like something a little bit different.

Mollie Makes Issue 23 (November 2013)

Cost: £4.99,    Pages 98 (of which are adverts: 14)    Number of Articles: 10  Number of tutorials:12, with templates.  The free gift this month was a beautiful 2014 calendar and of a high quality. (Their gifts are usually a make your own kit or something to add to your haberdashery).  Their projects are predominantly sewing, knitting and crochet although there are some other crafts covered too including jewellery and papercraft.  Their articles are the longest and most in-depth with some covering 5 pages.  It is printed on much thicker, matt paper and so the feel is that of a high end product and their photography is probably the best of all the magazines I have looked at.  It feels very on trend and the instructions for the projects are clear and detailed with usually a full page dedicated to pictures and instructions.

Crafts Beautiful Issue 255 (July 2013)
Cost: £4.99    Pages 122 (of which are adverts 25)  Articles: 9   Projects:32 (mostly cards with additional variations).  The free gift was beautiful stencils- 6 8x8" sheets with a variety of flowers, birds and sentiments (including some Christmas images).  The main focus I believe this magazine has is papercrafts but they do also have some sewing and knit projects too.  The articles are quite short but there are reviews of many items and the advertised gift for the following month was excellent too.  It is very inspirational for a card maker/ scrap booker and I enjoyed reading it and would buy it again but it isn't my favourite as I'm not a papercrafter really.

Craft seller- Ah ha!  I have 2 issues of this magazine and when I started writing this review, I had the older version next to me but I have just picked up the other most recent issue and it has undergone a major facelift. I will review the more recent one as it seems more relevant.  I will point out that I actually had a few minor criticisms on the earlier issue which have been addressed in the latest one which is encouraging (also to me as perhaps I do have a clue on these things)

So- begin again: Craftseller Issue 28 (October 2013)
Cost: £4.99   Pages: 106 (of which are adverts: 21) but there are also 8 pages of free printed paper.   Articles: 8, Projects: 12 now with templates and an additional 3 baking recipes.  The free gift was a book of Halloween ideas to do with kids which is timely for half term and has some good projects although not massively unique.This issue has a striking 'togetherness' with a theme running throughout.  There are lots of reviews of items, blogs and books with oodles of pages showing interaction with the customers.  There were competition pages, star letter and advice pages with good responses and a strong sense of this being a magazine for the serious crafter.  The projects were varied; sewing, crochet, cards, jewellery and knitting.  It's unique selling feature is that I think thks magazine is all about the business of selling crafts and so it is aimed at those who are thinking of selling their wares and thus has articles on how to increase business and how to write a good blog.  My favourite improvement was the switch to the thicker matt paper.

So overall, I will be buying more copies of homemaker but not I doubt I will become a subscriber as I think the projects are more for a beginner and more varied than I want in a subscription  It is however a little treat I may buy for myself.  I am very impressed with the new craftseller as it has a lot of the attributes which has made me enjoy Mollie Makes but with the added business elements.  I am less likely to buy Crafts Beautiful as it is more card making than sewing.  I still love Mollie Makes for being the most on-trend, the luxurious feel but also because I think it has the best articles.  I love Pinterest and I think I could find a lot of the other magazine's contents on there in terms of their projects, and I wouldn't spend £5 on a magazine just for a gift that I may not use.  Whereas I love all the gifts from Mollie Makes, it is the area of crafting I like the most, and it's a good read in the bath!

Friday, 25 October 2013

Imaginary conversations/ posts

I find myself thinking of posts that I think I have made and then realise that I merely thought of them and regretfully did not actually type them.  The last few months have been a whirl where I don't know if I'm coming or going but I can honestly say I am very content and well...Happy.  My back being bad has definitely slowed me down on the unpacking and making a nest instinct, but it has not quenched my thirst for all things crafty.  Ebay has been haunted by my searches for crewel embroidery, patchwork quilts, books, fabric, dies and many many other crafty bits.  So although I have been somewhat laid up, I have been preoccupied with crafty musings and the meaning of life.  This is helped by the visits from family members bearing gifts (in the form of craft magazines).  I also purchased 2 new Cath Kidston books; 'make' and 'stitch'.  I literally cannot wait to start having a go at some of the projects in her books.  I continue to receive Mollie Makes which has not disappointed me and am awaiting a birthday present in the form of a new subscription crafty mag! I am keeping a journal of all the ideas I am getting as I know I will forget them all by the time I get the time to craft after I have caught up on all the unpacking and housework!  I have also been doodling some more and have begun to assemble my very first scrap book which I will share with you very soon.
I have no pics to upload this post but wanted to 'touch base' as I realised that I had only imagined I had written some of the above, albeit in better detail with images, as is always the way when we imagine we have done something which we have not.  I shall endeavour to meet my own expectations better next week as I have been informed of several new followers and I do not want to disappoint my existing faithful readers, or those who are new (welcome).  I feel awfully pretentious talking to you who are mostly good, long-standing friends as 'readers' and am afraid that anyone new will now think Urghhh I'm not reading her blog again.  I shall therefore never mention it again other than to say, 'Thankyou for taking an interest in me and what I'm doing', and I will try to post more regularly.

Tuesday, 8 October 2013

The Big Shot has landed

I hinted in my last post that I had made an exciting new purchase whilst being laid up.  Well it has arrived- yay!  I have been very disciplined and only had a very little play as we have lots going on this week and I must reserve my energy.  To say that my mind is in overload creatively is an understatement!  When I get to grips with it properly, I will post more.  As you will know, I am not really a paper crafter and thus it may come as a surprise to you that I bought one but that is because.... it also CUTS FABRIC!  So for crafting and appliqué, it is amazing.  I'm hoping to do lots and lots more sewing now that we're getting our flat sorted and I have to take it easy due to my back.  It's the perfect excuse.  Double yay! My husband also surprised me with a Singer.  So something old and something new (the big shot is a duck egg Blue, so I just need to borrow something to make it a match made in heaven).  I'm really looking forward to using the singer with the quilting as it is supposed to stitch the wadding to the top layer very very well due to the extra weight behind the stitches.  Without further waffling, I'll upload the pics of my first die cut and re-post soon with my fabric experiments.

The moment of truth

 My first roll of the handle was to emboss (I chickened out of cutting!)   Here are the results!

Now for the big moment- Cutting!  I did scratch the plates first time through so it was a whimper in the moment but then I was keen to do more.  The on-line tutorials had warned me the plates would get scratched which I am pleased I knew in advance as I think I would have been alarmed.  

I chose contrasting colours for the first go- admittedly, I didn't give it a great amount of thought as I was too excited.

The finished piece.  So excited to do hundreds of these so expect to see them on lots of future projects.