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.

Wednesday, 7 June 2017

A Walk in the Fog

The end of May was wonderfully sunny but one bright, hot afternoon I decided to go for a walk on the beach only to find that the beach had vanished!

 
The rest of town might have been baking under a clear blue sky, but you stepped onto the beach and into the enveloping mists of a thick fog rolling in from the sea.

 

It was incredibly atmospheric and slightly eerie, with all the familiar landmarks looming up out of the fog. Of course, I couldn't resist taking lots of photos!


There were just a few people out in the fog like me, and a few holidaymakers at the sunnier edges of the beach trying to make the best of their day out. People looking a little depressed as they ate their picnic lunches, kids throwing balls and yelling "I can't see where it's gone!", the tourist horse and cart disappearing up the beach and into the whiteness leaving a trail of hoof marks on the sand.


It was especially surreal being able to hear the end of the pier but to not be able to see it. Just knowing you were getting closer as the 60s and 70s hits got louder and louder...


Definitely not the kind of walk I was expecting, but a very enjoyable one all the same!

Monday, 5 June 2017

Getting Older, One Photo At A Time

When I turned 30 a few years ago, I thought it would be nice to make a photo collage: one photo of me for each of my 30 years.

 
It was so fun seeing all the photos together that picking a new photo to add to it has become an annual ritual. As well as continuing the "Laura slowly ages in photographs" project, it's nice to take time to look back on the previous year (the ups and the downs) and to choose an image to remember it by.

When I turned 31 I chose a photo of me playing board games at Christmas, which was perfect for a year that was all about family. When I turned 32 I picked a blurry-but-who-cares selfie from the morning of my sister's wedding. 


For my 33rd year I opted for a photo taken at the end of my volunteer shift for the Tower of London's incredible Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red installation. This was such an amazing thing to be part of and something that a few years earlier I'd not have had the confidence to sign up for on my own, so this picture reminds me of the day but also to say "heck yes!" to more awesome things in the future. 


Then last year I turned 34 and didn't blog about my choice of photo. I still picked one, but when I looked back at my year I realised that most of it had been focused on my move back to the southwest and I wasn't quite ready to announce that yet! (It sounds daft, but I thought I might jinx the whole thing by revealing my plans before they'd come to fruition).

A large chunk of my 34th year was spent looking up properties on Rightmove to work out what I could afford on my budget, visiting towns and cities to see if I'd like to live there, narrowing it down to one place that ticked all the boxes, going flat-hunting with my dad (who helpfully radiated a zen-like calm while I practically vibrated with anxiety), then putting in an offer on a flat and beginning the process of Actually Buying A Flat (OMG).

I hoped the purchase wouldn't take too long and I'd be able to do a dramatic reveal in a "hey guys, guess what I've been up to this year..." blog post but - alas! - the process dragged on and on and I finally ended up moving in December by which point I thought I might as well wait and blog about two years at once.

Sooooo... what photos did I choose?

For my 34th year, I couldn't resist this TIGER SELFIE taken at the Jewish Museum's excellent Judith Kerr exhibition.


When I wasn't busy flat-hunting that year, I was spending my days off going on trips and lots of highly enjoyable Nice Days Out and this exhibition was definitely one of the highlights. I adore Judith Kerr's books, and how often to you get to take a selfie with a character from one of your most beloved childhood books??

Now to celebrate turning 35 this month my photo for the year simply has to be this ridiculous snap of me wearing my rainbow blanket as a scarf.


As well as making me laugh, this photo is a perfect reminder of the past year as it was a) taken by a lovely friend on the beach in my new hometown and b) showcases the magnificence of my rainbow blanket which I finally finished last year, was one of the first things I unpacked when I moved into my new flat and has been on my bed ever since (a little cosy corner in the chaos of DIY projects and piles of boxes).

Friday, 2 June 2017

Super-Cute Felt Returns!

I've got some excellent news to share today: my first book, Super-Cute Felt, is being re-issued by my publisher this month. Hurrah!

Here's the new cover - isn't it fab?

https://makeetc.com/collections/kids-craft/products/super-cute-felt?variant=40749955460

It was incredibly exciting when Super-Cute Felt was first published back in 2011: a whole book full of projects designed by me! With my name on the cover and everything! OMG!

I'm beyond thrilled that it's been popular enough to merit this new edition. 

Super-Cute Felt includes 35 step-by-step hand sewing projects divided into four chapters: accessories, gifts, homewares and celebrations. There are big projects (like a cushion and a detailed tea cosy) and small projects (a pincushion, hair clips and felt ornaments), projects for all skill levels and a techniques section with lots of tips on working with felt.

Here's a peek at just three of the designs from the book...

Cat, mouse and cheese finger puppets:

https://makeetc.com/collections/kids-craft/products/super-cute-felt?variant=40749955460

A sparkly butterfly cushion:

https://makeetc.com/collections/kids-craft/products/super-cute-felt?variant=40749955460

And an embroidered mug cosy:

https://makeetc.com/collections/kids-craft/products/super-cute-felt?variant=40749955460

The new edition of Super-Cute Felt will be published on 13th June, 2017. You can pre-order it on Amazon UK or Amazon USA, or pop into your local bookshop and ask them to order it in for you :)

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.

Wednesday, 31 May 2017

April in Pictures: a Creative Challenge and the Perils of Perfectionism

Better late than never, it's time for my April Instagram update!

April got off to a great start, with a couple of days of gloriously warm weather. The English weather in spring (especially on the coast) can be notoriously unpredictable, so I've been trying to make the most of the good weather when we've had it.


I'm continuing to go on lots of walks exploring my new neighbourhood, sharing photos on my Weston-super-Magic account (I post rather erratically there but it's great not worrying about when I "should" post or how my follower count is doing - it's purely a little collection of some of my favourite snaps from my walks).

Sadly it was rather chilly later in the month for the latest Made by Mrs M Photowalk, but we all had lots of fun regardless and took approximately a gazillion photos of London along the way. I still haven't edited most of my photos, but Kate's shared lots of awesome ones over on her blog.

This is definitely my favourite shot from the day - the sun came out just in time for our visit to the Barbican, which was looking as wonderful as ever. The Barbican is one of those love it or hate it bits of architecture, and I am firmly in camp "love it". 


Back at home, I had fun playing with threads...

 
 

... jazzed up a gift with some simple paper polkadots...


... and designed the latest wreath in my series for The Village Haberdashery: a fabric-wrapped wreath bursting with bright spring flowers.

 

I also decided to take part in The 100 Day Project: a global challenge where people do a creative task every day for 100 days and share the results on Instagram. I thought long and hard about what to do for this challenge and eventually chose #100DaysofFeltStuff, recreating one "real world" object in felt each day.

If you've been following me on Instagram you'll know that I've not kept up with the daily part of this challenge at all, but I'm pleased with the results so far - both the finished pieces I've made and what I've learned from the process.

I'll be honest with you guys, I regretted starting this challenge almost immediately. I loved making my first felt object (a slightly ridiculous felt washing up sponge) but photographing it was a nightmare. I realised that as well as giving myself the (difficult, and time-consuming) challenge of making a 3D object each day I'd also voluntarily signed up for the utter stress-fest of taking decent photos of the blinking things.

Frustrated tears were cried. There may have been a bit of sulking. I definitely considered scrapping the whole plan altogether - either backing out of the whole challenge or downgrading it to something much simpler that I could do with less effort. But I decided that I was more interested in the creative challenge of making these objects than in having a daily photo to share so I'd try to make things when I could, and then have a little photoshoot for the finished pieces when I had the time and some decent light (and when I'd worked out the best way to photograph them).

On Day One, I made a felt washing-up sponge, which made me laugh a lot:

 

On Day Two, I made a felt jaffa cake - I gave up trying to photograph this one and took a video of it instead. I mistook this for the real thing several times, which was very pleasing! You know you've succeeded in recreating a bit of food if you're actually tempted to eat it.

On Day Three, I made a felt lipsalve and discovered another challenging part of this project: sharing pieces which normally wouldn't see the light of day as I'd consider them flawed prototypes. My perfectionist tendencies were being tested - in a good way, I think!

At the time I was slightly mortified having to share this and could have given you a long list of what was "wrong" with it but now I look at it and just think "a felt lipsalve! how fun!"


On Day Four, I made a felt highlighter pen.

 

On Days Five and Six, I made an empty embroidery thread bobbin and one wrapped with felt "thread".


I then decided to mix things up a bit, adding some of the 2D pictures that are more my usual style. (3D objects are hard, guys! I also wanted a bit more variety, and to use this challenge as an opportunity to get a few old designs out of my sketchbooks and into felt-y reality).

So, for Days Seven and Eight I made a duck and a goose.


For Day Nine, I made an eraser.


Day Ten, a Barn Owl.


And Day Eleven, (my favourite so far) a Kingfisher.


I was (and still am) delighted with how all these turned out! I don't know what, if anything, I'm going to do with them all but the process of designing and making and sharing them has been very worthwhile.


Unfortunately I then got sick (ugh) and other life stuff intervened and I ended up pressing "pause" on the project for the moment, but more on that another day...

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.