Another new venture, and all the fun of the fair…

Greetings cat fans!

Yesterday I finally had to give in to an urge that’s been poking me in the ribs more and more of late, and have a go at a prototype Thing. It’s going to involve learning another new skill, and this one has nothing to do with ink…

  
Yup, this one involves dusting off my sewing machine and also remembering how to brandish a needle and thread without making too many tiny holes in my fingers. Dah-dah-daaaaaaah… *waggles eyebrows ominously*

I’m going to need to learn some Proper sewing techniques to make these, but for the purpose of this prototype I just went for it – I didn’t have much time and wanted to get it done quickly so it didn’t end up as a half-made idea in a box in the loft.

I just used cheap acrylic felt, as it was to hand. For the proper ones I’ll need to research the material properly, because I want them to be hardwearing and washable. 

The first thing I discovered was that controlling a sewing machine to sew around shapes is quite hard! The second thing was that I should have had two seperate pieces of white felt, instead of one with the collar shapes cut out – doh, schoolboy error! What a silly moo! I stitched on the white felt, then cut out the black outline and double-stitched it over the top…

  
Well, I say over the top – I might have missed in a few places. See, told you my sewing skills need work! 

Once I’d got the basic design on the front done, I added the border then stitched the back and front together – and probably broke every rule in the Good Sewer’s Guide! 

  
Don’t zoom in too closely – my stitching is very embarassing!

Then it was time to add the face, which I cut out in felt and hand sewed on. I wanted to embroider it, but couldn’t find any black embroidery thread so that’ll have to wait for the next prototype. Maybe. I’m still at the planning stage, really!

For the whiskers I just used a couple of strands of wool, and loop-stitched (is that a Thing?!) them on.

Then I ran out of time! It still needs whisker-dots, collar-holes, and stuffing, but you get the idea! Meet the first stupidcats cushion:

  
It’s convinced me that this is definitely something I need to learn how to make properly to add to my range of stupidcats goodies! This one is small, about 12 inches square. The next steps will be to research materials and learn how to sew properly! Although, in my defence, I did handsew some stonking corners to a tablecloth I made a few years ago:

  
I’d like to be able to perfect the cushion-making process by September and offer them in green, pink, blue and orange – like my cards, and soon-to-be-launched tote bags. Fingers crossed!

“Why September?” I hear you cry? Well. I have a Big Event in September. A few weeks ago I received an email that I thought at first must have been a mistake, but turned out to be real! I was asked by the organisers of Kirstie Allsopp’s Handmade Fair if I’d be interested in taking a stand at their 2016 fair at Hampton Court in September – little old me and my stupidcats! I decided to go for it, so keep your eyes peeled for more news about that over the next few months. I’m hugely excited about it, and a little bit scared as it’s going to involve A LOT of work (not to mention designing and building a stand!) but hopefully it will be a real step up for stupidcats. I was delighted to be asked, and it was great to find out that social media does work, because they’d come across my work on Twitter!

Finally, an update on the tote bags I was prototyping in my last post – I’ve set myself a launch deadline of May, so it won’t be long now until you can get your paws on one!

Laters! x

UPDATE: Finished it! 😸

  

WARNING: 2016 may contain stupidchickens…

Merry 2016 everyone!

We’ve been in Scotland, staying with our lovely friends in Ayrshire. It got a bit wet:

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That’s the main road to Ayr out of the village of Crosshill, but thankfully it had dried out by the evening.

I had THE Best New Year’s Eve. EVER.

I have decided that I need to spend every Hogmanay in Scotland from now on. So there!

In nearby Ayr, in a little pub called The Twa Dugs, Carol and Mark Bailey run an open mic night every Thursday called Acoustic Bliss (which is also broadcast live over the internet), and as Hogmanay fell on a Thursday, they hosted the evening. Mark is a Proper Craftsman. He makes guitars. Beautiful guitars. Bailey Guitars. Take a peek at his website – they also run “build your own guitar” courses. He and Carol are also wonderful musicians, and they counted us all down to the bells with a delightful song they’d found, after searching and searching for a New Year’s Eve song that wasn’t all doom and gloom, as most of them seem to be!

Here’s Mark and Carol performing the song – and the whole pub joining in. It was WONDERFUL! It’s only short, give it a listen – I think it should be sung everywhere before the bells!

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Acoustic Bliss

 

 

So many great musicians played that night, including my other half Jon Gibbons – he’s a singer/singwriter and plays with bouzouki player John Duffy. Together they go under the name of The Fabulous Duffy Gibbons, and they both play instruments hand-built by Mark Bailey:

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The Fabulous Duffy Gibbons performing at The Twa Dugs in Ayr

Here are a few more pics of other players, from Hogmanay in The Twa Dugs, and other gigs at The Treehouse in Ayr and The Kirkmichael Arms in Kirkmichael:

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John Duffy and Jon Gibbons performing at The Kirkmichael Arms

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Emma Durkin playing at The Twa Dugs

 

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Gordon playing at The Twa Dugs

 

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Tom playing at The Twa Dugs

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Mayan playing at The Twa Dugs

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The Truetones (Anita and Ian Gailey) playing at The Twa Dugs

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Mark Bailey playing at The Kirkmichael Arms

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Carol singing at The Kirkmichael Arms

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Mark & Carol at The Kirkmichael Arms

 

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Jam session with Emmanuel, Laura, Anita and Ian at The Twa Dugs

 

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John Duffy & Jon Gibbons at The Twa Dugs

I hope all your Hogmanay’s were as much fun as ours! And in the words of the song, I’d like to wish you all “A happy new year with love overflowing, and joy in our hearts for a blessed new year.”

xxx

ps: I warned you about chickens – meet Esmeralda, a rough of the first stupidchicken from stupidcats!

 

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Esmeralda, the first stupidchicken!

Special thanks to John Duffy for planting the stupidchicken idea!

New notebook designs, hurrah!

A while back I had a play with an idea for a new notebook design, and now thanks to the joys of Christmas holidays I’ve been able to bring them to life!

I wanted to do a repeating pattern on the covers, using thick 300gsm Kraft card, but without printing it from the computer as that felt like cheating. So I knocked up a little stamping guide from balsa wood (the smell of the Bostik glue took me right back to making models with dad when I was little!):

  
As with my other notebooks, the new ones are then hand punched, hand stitched with gorgeous waxed bookbinding thread (in stupidcats orange!), pressed overnight then each of the three edges is trimmed by hand using a carpenter’s square and a Very Sharp Knife. Inside each book are 28 pages (56 sides) of beautiful 85gsm Fabriano blank paper.

  
These are available as a pack of four (one of each design) for £14:

  
Or each design is available separately for £4 each – here’s “Sir Reginald”:

  
“The sad one” (click on the pictures to visit the items in my Etsy store!):

  
“The alien”:

  
And last but not least, my Coraline-inspired “the other one”, with button-eyes:

 

My logo is stamped inside the back cover, and as a finishing touch, a wrap is added to each notebook – in stupidcats orange of course!

My little booky-wooks…

Hello! Remember me? I’m the one that hasn’t blogged for ages!  

In my last post I showed you a sneak-peek at a notebook I wanted to make. Well, this post carries on from that…  

I’d chosen the card I wanted to use for the covers (from GF Smith‘s Colorplan range – a hefty 270gsm for the outer covers, and 135gsm for the inner covers), and after much sampling I settled on Fabriano Bioprima for the inside pages, because… well Fabriano papers are delicious to write or draw on in pencil, pen or ink! 

Next I needed to find some waxed bookbinding thread that matched the colours of the inner covers as closely as possible, and after getting samples from various places I was pleased to eventually find the perfect matches – and they were from an Etsy seller in Nottingham. Nice to keep things in the Etsy family, and also shop local! The thread is beautiful. It’s made in Ireland by Crawfords, who are reknowned for their high quality threads. It’s heavily waxed, which helps to keep the colours bright, makes stitching easier, and ensures that it holds its shape well so knots won’t come undone. 

  
So. I’d selected my materials, bought bookbinding needles, a bone folder, an awl to make the holes in the spines, a circular cutter to make the round windows in the covers, and a heavy duty corner cutter to round off the corners. And I’d done hours of research and reading about bookbinding techniques, and made a lot of practice notebooks. 

Then I ordered The Guillotine. 

Meanwhile, I was folding, punching, stitching and pressing… 

  
   

I “made” a makeshift press from two bits of wood and some g-clamps – it doesn’t look very sexy, but it does the job perfectly!

  
And The Guillotine arrived.  

Broken. 

And the seller was a nightmare. Not in the UK as they’d stated on their site, barely spoke English, and they just kept repeating that I had to send it back to them for repair or refund. Which they’d do or issue on receipt of the damaged one. But they wouldn’t provide a return address…  

And the craft fair I’d booked was now less than a week away – my stall would look pretty bare without the notebooks! 

So I activated Plan B. Forget the guillotine – trim the books the traditional way. A quick trip to our local hardware store provided a carpenters square and a very sharp, titanium bladed knife.

  
As it turned out, I’m glad the guillotine thing fell through. Trimming the three edges of each book by hand is very therapeutic, and much more rewarding. Just look at the edge on that!

  

After folding, stitching, pressing, and trimming, the books are ready to have the holes cut in the outer covers and the text and images stamped on. That might seem a little backward, but I didn’t want to cut or print the covers first as there’s always a slight variation in size after the hand trimming, and I didn’t want them to look off-centre.

  
And once the ink has dried, the final touches are added – the corners are rounded off…

  
…and the coloured packaging strip and the badge are added.

  

     

  
Ta daaaaaa! Here are the four finished designs…

  
They’re all available from my Etsy shop here

And finally, here they are on my stall at the local craft fair – it was the first proper one I’d attended, and went really well!

  

So there we have it! After Christmas I’ll be starting on cat designs for a new badgebook, and four more notebook designs. I was hoping to do a Christmas badgebook, but unfortunately the full-time job got in the way. At least I have some festive designs ready for Christmas 2016 though!

Oh, and I did eventually get a refund for the broken guillotine. Phew!

CraftBlogUK-tastic!

Evening all!

Just remembered about the WordPress app on my phone so thought I’d pop a wee blog!

One of my Craftbritannia teamies on Etsy told me about the Christmas Link Party that CraftBlogUK are running – you add a piccie of one of your favourite creations, and after the deadline anyone can vote on their favourites. CraftBlogUK will then feature the winner on their blog.

Being of the shy, retiring type (!) I’ve never done anything like this before, but in a sudden fit of madness I posted a piccie of my little snowy wol brooch 🙂

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And squeeeeeeee! There’s still over two days to vote, but at the mo little wol is in the lead with 32 votes!

There are some fabulous crafters featured there – including some of my Craftbritannia teamies – so if you have a mo, pop over and have a look. You can vote for up to three items, so if you join in please use all your votes 🙂

CraftBlogUK Christmas Link Party

That’s all for now peeps! Catch ya later! x

My dear old dad…

I’m back – have you missed me?!

I took a few months break after my dear old dad was taken very ill – sadly he passed away on August 18th. He’d lived in Iceland for the last 10 years, so with me being in the UK and my sister living in Switzerland as you can imagine things were rather difficult. Thankfully we were both able to time our last visit to see him so that we were able to be with him together for a few days before he died. The hardest day of my life was having to say goodbye to him on 12th August when I left to return home, knowing I’d never see him again…

But I don’t want this to be a sad blog entry, so I’d like to share with you a lovely, funny, story about Dad…

In 1999, the year after we lost our Mum, Dad came to Iceland to visit my sister and I who were both living over there. It was a big thing for him, as he’d only been abroad once before (not including his National Service!) and never on his own. On his way home, he was told at the airport that the flight was overbooked and there was no room for him – but thankfully, he was then told that there was a spare seat in Business Class so he boarded and was very impressed with the extra leg room and big seats. There weren’t many people in Business Class, and the others all seemed to be travelling together.

Soon after take off, a ‘young lad’ came over and started talking to him. He sat down, and they spent the whole flight chatting – he even gave Dad his in-flight meal as there weren’t enough to go around due to the overbooking. Dad told this ‘rather scruffy but well spoken and polite lad’ all about his two daughters he’d been visiting, and about how they were both teaching music in Iceland. The lad said he was in the music business too and told him his name, but Dad had never heard of him. At the end of the flight, he handed Dad a bit of paper with these words written on them:

“I’m Robbie Williams, ex-Take That”

!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

How utterly cool is that?! And how sweet! I bet Mr Williams actually found it rather a refreshing change to chat to someone for nearly 3 hours who had never heard of him! And how lovely of him to give up his time to keep an old man travelling alone company! Dad was quite surprised when he later saw him on telly performing, and realised how famous he was!

So there we are, hope you enjoyed my little story about Dad, one of the many, many wonderful memories of his life that always makes me smile 🙂

Miss you awfully Daddy, but you were such a lovely, lovely person that I always smile when I think of you, and always will 🙂

It’s the Crazy Craftbritannia BNR Weekend!

Just noticed that for some reason this appeared as a Page instead of a Post when I published it last month! Doh! So here it is as a post…

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Ooops, yes it has been rather a long time, hasn’t it… sorry!

I’m just trying out this ‘ere WordPress iPhone app so I’ll keep it brief – if it works I’ll be back later with more!

So for now… 6pm* GMT tonight! The crazy Craftbrittania BNR kicks off on Etsy! Be there or be stupid! More info here…

http://craftbritannia.blogspot.com/2010/11/christmas-payday-bnr-invitation.html

Laters! x