Tuesday, 27 January 2015

Book Review: Knitting Smitten

Time for a book review! Today I'm reviewing Knitting Smitten: 20 Fresh and Funky Hand-Knit Designs by Jessica Biscoe.


Knitting Smitten is part of Quadrille's "Simple Makes" series, which includes Fresh Prints, Felt Sew Good, and Scissors, Paper, Craft. This is turning out to be a fantastic series of books! Each title I've reviewed from it (if you click on those three links they'll take you to my reviews) has been fresh and modern and filled with simple-but-not-boring projects, and Knitting Smitten doesn't disappoint.


The book starts with some tips on choosing yarns and deciphering knitting patterns, illustrated with some delightfully quirky pictures of pompoms and little sheep figurines...

... then there are some step-by-step "how tos" for the stitches and other techniques you'll need. I always like seeing photos in this section of a knitting book as I find them much easier to follow than diagrams, and this book includes both the English/US and the Continental techniques for each stitch. 

The designs are divided into three sections - knits to wear (including hats, a cowl, a cape and some legwarmers)...


... knits to share (including gifts like a purse, a cable headband and a doggy bowtie) and knits for your home (including a throw, a couple of cushions and a paperweight in the shape of a hedgehog).


I sometimes struggle with knitting books as my skill level is.... not great. But I still want to knit fun stuff! I have to admit that I probably wouldn't have picked this book off the shelf based on the front cover alone, but inside there are loads of projects I would love to knit. None of the projects seem stuffy or old-fashioned and it all looks like stuff I could manage with a bit of practice - though I would have to learn how to knit in the round (eek!) and buy the needles to do so. 

I especially loved these cable bracelets...

... this adorable necklace with a teeny knitted bow...


... and these delightful woodland-themed mittens complete with red squirrel and little knitted acorns!

This book would be a great buy if you're looking for some fun, achievable knitting projects to keep you out of mischief in the evenings or you have a friend with a birthday coming up who's recently learned to knit and wants to try some new things.

Knitting Smitten is published by Quadrille. RRP £12.99. It's available from Amazon UK, Amazon USA, The Book Depository and many other bookshops.

Please note: Quadrille sent me a free review copy of this book. The Amazon & Book Depository links in this post are affiliate links.

Monday, 26 January 2015

Unplugging and Destashing

I took a couple of days off from computer-y stuff over the weekend - but not voluntarily! I'm not sure how but I managed to hurt my neck and shoulder at the end of last week in such a way that it was quite painful to type. So, I had to temporarily abandon plans to finish up my accounts and reply to all my emails and schedule some blog posts... and instead made a start on destashing some craft supplies, with my assistant keeping me company on the sofa.


I'm having a BIG clearout! I'm making up lots of bundles of supplies and will be gradually getting them all photographed and added to my Big Cartel shop this week. There will be packs of ribbons...


... colourful felt balls...


... buttons...


... a whole assortment of random crafty, stitchy supplies like these reels of elastic...

... and lots of felt, including some patterned felt...

... a couple of big bags of scraps...


... some bargain packs of felt squares... and more!

I'll announce here on my blog and on my Facebook and Twitter pages when the first things are available :)

Friday, 23 January 2015

Crafty Ladies: Meet Nicole Vos van Avezathe

As regular readers might have noticed, I'm now running my Crafty Ladies series fortnightly instead of weekly. I love this series and I hope you'll continue to enjoy the posts when they pop up every couple of weeks! 

The second Crafty Lady this month is embroidery pattern designer Nicole who sells her charming work under the equally charming name of Follow the White Bunny. She's shared what she was up to in the run up to Christmas, and her tips for being (and staying) creative.

Nicole is one of the many designers whose businesses have been affected by the new EU regulations regarding digital products. She wrote a great blog post recently about how the new rules have forced her to stop selling her digital embroidery patterns but have also inspired her to think about what she really wants from her business and her creative work. I'm excited to see the new online course she's working on and all the stitchy projects she comes up with this year!


Hello everyone! My name is Nicole Vos van Avezathe. I live in Rotterdam, in the Netherlands, with my husband Erik, kids Luna (9) and Zoe (14) and cat Milo. We sadly lost our other cat Tijger recently. During school hours and often in the evening too, I run a small embroidery pattern design business under the name Follow the White Bunny. I sometimes make craft patterns too.

I love reading, listening to music and doing crafty things like quilting and sewing. I also love good food. I studied Medieval history but after I graduated, ended up working as a typist. Later I did planning & control at a health insurance company, which is an interesting career move for someone with slight chaotic tendencies :)

We then moved abroad to Norway for a couple of years and while my oldest daughter was in school and the youngest doing toddler naps, I started sewing and embroidering. And selling my first patterns!

Recently I’ve been making…

I have a bunch of unfinished sewing/quilting projects waiting to be finished but somehow I just can’t find my sewing mojo at the moment! I did finish the Noodlehead Supertote a little while ago. I like making practical bags with lots of space for when I’m out shopping and this bag is perfect for that.

For a book review, Handmade Scandinavian Christmas, I made some paper Christmas decorations with my youngest daughter last week. It’s always good to put a book to the test I think when you are going to review it. I normally never do any paper crafts (you can only do so many crafts!) but we both really enjoyed it and I was pretty impressed with the results. We did the proper grown up projects by the way but Luna was totally up to the task.

Hopefully I will have time to try a recipe from the book as well. Because we lived in Norway for a few years this book is partly a trip down memory lane for us. I’m looking forward to making a comforting bowl of Scandinavian rice pudding :)

I’ve been working on…

My main craft is embroidery so a lot of the time I spent on crafts involves embroidery. Usually I have several things on the go at the same time some ‘official’ and some for fun or to explore new techniques. I just finished creating and embroidering a design for a magazine, which was fun to do. I have also just designed a pattern called Wave Goodbye featuring a bunch of animals in a VW van.

I started on a completely new and rather timeconsuming embroidery project recently which is kind of a try out for an online class I’m planning to teach next year. I can’t share too much yet but I’m really excited by it! And… I’m working on a Secret Santa Swap present for one of my &Stitches colleagues!

I’ve been blogging about…

All sorts of things! Usually about embroidery though…I rarely plan blog posts, I just write about whatever comes on my path: a vintage book or a so called ‘aha’ moment about how to pull floss from a skein the correctly!

I’ve been reading…

I’m terrible at keeping up with blogs on a regular basis, so once in a while I check posts via Bloglovin’ and often I follow links people post on Twitter or Facebook or something. There was an interesting post by Abby Glassenberg recently about how much money fabric designers really make. The outcome wasn’t a surprise to me but I bet it was an eye-opener for many people.

I love to read books about history or (historical) fiction and I always have my e-reader full with lots of books, afraid that I run out of things to read! You can check out the books I read on Goodreads. For (older) books about embroidery I like to search Ebay or Abe books for affordable, interesting titles. I recently bought a fun, little book about Floral Embroidery from 1975 for just 1 pound. Unfortunately shipping to the Netherlands was over 5 pounds…

While I embroider, I’ve been watching…

Especially when I’m doing detailed stuff (which is often!) and peering through my magnifier all the time, I’m not able to watch tv while I stitch. I need to concentrate and often I just listened to music on my headphones as podcasts etc are too distracting as well. And even though I like alternative and rock music, I tend to go for calmer tunes while I embroider. I even made a ‘Dreamy Embroidery List’ on Spotify with dreamy tunes.  It’s quite a short list now but I’m open to suitable suggestions to add to the list :)

When I’m not crafting, usually later evening I like to watch documentaries about history or art. Or cooking programs! I also love most Tim Burton movies. We occasionally watch whole series within a week or so on Netflix. Currently we are watching the third series of Lilyhammer. It’s about a New York mobster, played by Steven van Zandt, who under a witness protection program ends up in Norway. It’s a kind of tragi-comedy.

Nicole’s 3 Top Tips for Being (and Staying) Creative

1. Stand out by being original and unique. Find out what inspires you personally and develop your own style. Sure you can jump on the Owl, Fox, Moustache whatever bandwagon but in the long run a distinctive design style that is close to you, is more valuable.

2. Develop and nurture special technical skills and expertise. Explore your craft in depth, it’s techniques and it’s history.

3. Try new things, all the time: new crafts, new places to go, new books, new colours etc etc.


Visit Nicole's blog to see what she's been making lately, or visit her shop to buy her original embroidered pieces or a copy of her super cute Princess and the Pea iron-on embroidery pattern. You can also find her on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook, or sign up for her newsletter.

Click here to read more posts in the Crafty Ladies series.

Thursday, 22 January 2015

A Flock of Felt Birds

One of the nice things about designing projects for craft magazines is that you get the lovely thrill of seeing your work professionally photographed and in print, but without having to wait months and months (or even years) until it's published, like you do in the world of craft books.

So while I won't be able to show you any of the destined-for-craft-books projects I've been working on this winter for aaaages (boo) I can show you one of the magazine projects I made as it's out now! Yay!

For the current issue of docrafts Creativity magazine (issue #54) I made...


... a bird mobile! The birds are hanging from beaded threads, suspended from a real twig decorated with paint and felt "leaves".


This was such a fun design to work on, as it involved die cutting, sewing, embroidery, painting, threading sparkly beads and sticking stuff with a glue gun. Lots of crafty goodness!

Unfortunately I learned the hard way while making this project that if you string lots of small beads and then drop the string they go everywhere (oops!). If you fancy making your own mobile you can pick up a copy of the magazine at your local newsagent or online. Try not to be as clumsy as me :)


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