Christmas Crafting with Merrie and Bright

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December is here! It’s the most festive time of the year, and it’s time to start decorating the house for Christmas. The shops are full of wonderful decorations, but being creative, I do like to make something myself.

In previous years, I’ve made lots of bunting, but this year I fancied something a bit different. As soon as I saw the new range of wrapping paper from Merrie and Bright Calligraphy, I knew that I had to make something with it! In this post, I’ll be running through two simple makes using this wrapping paper that can easily be completed in front of a festive film!

Origami Baubles

First up was creating some origami decorations for the tree. I’d seen a tutorial in issue 72 of Mollie Makes, but was waiting to find the right paper to use. Merrie’s gorgeous deep grey paper is just the right colour to fit in with our colour scheme!

These baubles were super-easy to create, only requiring 6 10 x 10 squares of paper. I practised on some plain white printer paper first, which I’d recommend while you get the hang of the construction.

Festive Frames

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Next up, was to create some festive artwork. In our living room, we have two long shelves where we have lots of framed pictures. These tend to get moved around quite a bit throughout the year, but I was keen to update them for Christmas. As this new artwork is only going to be out for one month a year, I also don’t want to spend a fortune on materials, you can easily create these pictures with some nice paper and other materials you already have.

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Instructions

You will need:

  • Wrapping paper
  • Plain paper
  • Scissors
  • Circle cutter (optional) or a plate to draw around
  • Double sided tape
  • Metallic pen
  1. Cut your backing paper to the required size.
  2. Decide how big you want your bauble to be, I went for a single bauble, but a few smaller ones would also look great! I used my circle cutting tool, but if you don’t have one, simply draw around a plate or cup, and cut.
  3. Cut a small rectangle of paper and stick to the back of your bauble using tape.
  4. If you want to decorate your bauble now is the time, I decided on a star that matched my backing paper for my larger picture. To do this, simply cut out your shape and stick with double-sided tape.
  5. Using a metallic pen, draw a line down the centre of your backing paper, going roughly half-way down.
  6. Using double sided tape, stick the bauble onto the backing paper.

Top tips

  • If your wrapping paper is rolled, you may want to flatten it overnight before cutting.
  • If you are temporarily replacing existing pictures, store the picture in the back of the frame, so that it’s easy to find in January.
  • Keep any offcuts and use for wrapping small presents, or even making gift tags.

I’m really happy with these makes, they really are super simple and are an easy way to update your festive décor on a small budget.

The paper for these makes has kindly been supplied by Merrie and Bright Calligraphy. I met Merrie last year and we instantly clicked over a love of all things creative! As well as her beautiful wrapping paper, Merrie stocks all kinds of lovely Christmas decorations, cake toppers, and calligraphy kits in her online store. She also runs calligraphy workshops! If you’re on the hunt for beautiful Christmas gifts, her online shop is definitely worth a look.

 

 

Being Proud of Who You Are

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Two weeks ago, I turned thirty. I had a wonderful day surrounded by family and friends, who definitely spoilt me rotten. I was lucky enough to receive lots of wonderful gifts, and I can say that all of them were incredibly meaningful. From new pin badges, to products from my favourite creative, through to a hipster colouring book, all of them showed that my friends and family really understood me.

One present in particular, meant a lot. Mr Makes commissioned a custom sunshine doodle from the wonderful Jo of Hello Sunshine. As you will spy from my Instagram, I am a big fan of Jo’s work, and I can assure you that she is just as lovely and sunny in person.

The first reason I love this picture so much, is obviously because it is just awesome. From including my beloved yellow raincoat, to an all-important cup of tea in an enamel mug, I love the amount of detail that has gone into it.

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Secondly, and most importantly, I feel that it really captures me. I live in trainers, my hair is never perfectly straight, and I do consider my sewing machine one of my most prized possessions. That is what I’m going to be focusing on in this post, that feeling of realising that you are truly happy with who you are.

Two weeks ago, as I sat and stared at my picture, still a little surprised, I said something to Mr Makes, ‘If this represents me at 30, then I’m happy with that’. Turning 30 is a big milestone, although admittedly I hadn’t really been that bothered about it. At that point, I think it dawned on me that although it probably was a big deal, the reason I hadn’t been worried is that I’d reached a point in my life where I was happy with who I had become.

I’ve learned to accept that no matter how much I use my GHDs, my hair will always have that wave to it, that me and heels will never get on, that it’s ok to own a bright yellow coat, if that’s the colour you really want. I’ve never been the most confident person, but since starting this blog, my confidence has soared. That is largely in part to the wonderful creative community around me, who I’ve met through Instagram/Twitter, and events like Blogtacular and the Independent Oxford meet-ups.

I’ve learnt that being a bit different is not only ok, it should be celebrated!

Outside of the blog, I also have a full-time job, and for a long time, I felt the need to keep the two separate. I didn’t mention it to colleagues, but lately I’ve been starting to discuss it more. I’ve begun telling people that I do two things, yes I have my 9-5, but I also have a blog and just generally like creating things. When people meet you and ask ‘what do you do?’, it shouldn’t be defined by just a full time role, it’s all the things you do in life that make you unique. For a long time, I’ve wanted to be a ‘creative’ and perhaps I feel like I’m finally there, it only took 30 years!

I feel like this post has been a bit ‘me, me, me’ and that wasn’t my intention at all, I hope to encourage you to take some time out of your day to do something you love, and be proud of it. Be proud of what you are, and what you do. If you can’t do your dream job 9-5, find a way to do a little bit of it in your spare time. If you want to be creative, go for it. Embrace all of the things that make you happy and which make you unique.

Why I’ll be Buying Independent this Christmas

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Back in March this year, I wrote a short article for the Lucky Dip Club Magazine, Girl Planet on the joy of buying independent. Since that published, I’ve certainly been trying to buy more from indie sellers, both online and through events like the Handmade Fair and Renegade Craft fair. It seems that my love of independent hasn’t gone unnoticed by friends and family either. Last weekend, I celebrated my 30th birthday, and I was genuinely touched by how many gifts were not from the high street. In some cases, family had actively sought out gifts from creatives that they know I love. Others had found new independent sellers.

Even though it’s still only November, I’ve inevitably started to think about Christmas shopping. Every year my husband and me set a budget for our Christmas gifts for each other. It sounds boring, but it means that we don’t end up spending loads, and it removes the fear of opening your presents on Christmas morning and realising that one of you has spent way more than the other. I came up with the idea that this year we should only buy gifts from independents, i.e. no high street gifts allowed.

We’ve also taken a similar approach to our Christmas food. I’m hosting Christmas for the first time this year, and I began looking through the food catalogues from the supermarkets. It dawned on me that we have a really good butcher locally, and we already have a veg box delivered regularly, why did we need to go anywhere else?

I still believe that the high street has its place, the majority of my food shop comes from a supermarket and I still buy a lot of my clothes from the big names. Admittedly I get stupidly excited when certain coffee chains release their Christmas drinks and our Christmas stockings will be filled with gifts from the high street, because we have a small budget and sometimes the pound shop does have it’s place. That’s all ok. It comes down to balance, for some things I’m happy to buy on the high street, but other times I’d rather buy independent. When it comes to giving gifts, I’d rather receive something handmade and unique than another generic toiletries set. On a selfish note, I’d also rather avoid the big shopping centres at the weekend in December, as I find it stressful, no matter how many hot chocolates I consume. I can easily browse Etsy in my pyjamas in front of the telly, no stress needed other than ‘where’s my charger?’.

Finding independent sellers can be incredibly easy. If you like to shop in person, look out for local craft fairs, where you can see a wide range of gifts, and actually meet the person who made them! If you prefer shopping online, Etsy and Notonthehighstreet.com are obvious places to start, but indie department stores like Berylune will provide access to lots of indies all in one place.

This Christmas, I’m going to make a promise to include more independents in my Christmas shopping. I’ll be buying only independent gifts for my husband, I’m going to try and avoid the high street as much as possible for my family, and my Christmas dinner will come from local shops where possible.

I’m going to be sharing this message on my various social media, and it would be great to spread the message of independent further. If you’d like to share my ‘I’m buying independent this Christmas’ image on your social media, please feel free; I’d just be grateful if you could credit me for the image.

Finally, a little selfish plug for a local event, the Independent Oxford Christmas Market. If you’re local to Oxford, do head down to the Turl Street Kitchen and The Old Fire Station next Saturday (26 November). As well as a wide range of local designer-makers, I’ll be there selling some Create Craft Kits and also some of my own products! I’m also going to be running a workshop, follow Independent Oxford to find out more.

Rediscovering Drawing: Lisa Congdon’s Creativebug Classes

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I’ve always been a doodler. If there is a random piece of paper, and some form of drawing instrument, you can pretty much guarantee that I’ve drawn something on it.

At Blogtacular this year, the Artist Lisa Congdon delivered the keynote speech. As well as giving a completely inspiring, confidence-building speech, she shared snippets of her sketchbooks, which instantly inspired me. When I then discovered that she had filmed some Creativebug classes, I knew that I needed to give them a watch.

Earlier in the year, I took the Basic Line Drawing class, which does exactly what it says on the tin. I treated myself to a new sketchbook, and some drawing pens, and spent a long evening drawing flowers and patterns. Over the next few weeks, I spent time experimenting with different shapes and colours, some worked well, others were not so good. I found the circle patterns to be particularly effected and started experimenting with mixing them with hand lettering.

Since then, I haven’t really spent much time in my sketchbook as I’ve been focusing on other projects. However this weekend, I found myself with a free afternoon and evening, and started the next class, Sketchbook Explorations. In this class, Lisa teaches you how to use other materials to make some seriously impressive sketchbook pages. Armed with watercolours, felt tip pens, and my trusty sketchbook, I spent hours creating bright, vibrant patterns.

The reason I love Lisa’s classes are that they are not focused on perfection, and although you are shown techniques and given lots of tips, there is lots of room for experimentation. I find drawing this way really relaxing, as I’m not too worried about achieving the perfect piece. I easily spent about four hours yesterday with my head in my sketchbook, only stopping for tea breaks!

Drawing in general is one of my favourite things to do, but I don’t find myself making time for it. I have a projects list with thing I’d like to make, but it tends to be set pieces of work. Drawing will definitely be something that I try to do more of; it’s perfect for a night in front of the telly! I’ve also still got some more of the Exploration classes to do, which I’ll share pictures of along the way.

On a different note, I’ve had my Creativebug subscription for almost a year now, and to be honest I haven’t really made the most of it. If there are any other subscribers out there, I’d love to hear your recommendations for good classes to take.

Mini Makes: Planner Dividers

img_3165A few months ago I treated myself to a bargain planner in the Kikki.K sale. My planner came with lots of sub-dividers, but some of these sections are still quite large and it would be useful to be able to quickly open the relevant month of the calendar, or my latest to do-list. When shopping in Tiger recently, I found this single hole punch for just £1, which is exactly what I needed to make my own custom planner dividers.

This is a really simple make that can easily be completed in around 20 minutes and doesn’t require too many materials!

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You will need:

  • Patterned paper (I used some Mollie Makes patterned papers and some Nikki McWilliams wrapping paper).
  • Card (an old cereal box would be perfect!)
  • Single hole punch
  • Double sided tape
  • Ruler, scissors, pencil

You’ll also need your planner to hand so that your dividers fit.

Instructions:

  1. Measure the height of your planner page, and work out how much you want your marker to stick out at the top (I chose 1cm). You’ll also need to decide on the width (I went for 5cm). Draw this out on your card and cut.
  2. Cut out your paper. You’ll need to cut two pieces, one which is 2cm taller and 2cm wider than your card, and one which is 1cm shorter and 1cm narrower than your card.
  3. Attach double-sided tape to one side of the card and attach the larger piece of paper. Try to keep the excess around the sides roughly the same, but it doesn’t matter too much if you’re not exact!
  4. Turn over your card and apply double sided tape around the edge. Fold over the paper so that you have a nice smooth edge.
  5. Apply double-sided tape to the wrong side of the smaller piece of paper. Stick to the card, covering where you have the folded over bits.
  6. Line your divider up against one of your planner pages, and using a pencil, mark where the holes need to be punched.
  7. Using your single-hole punch, punch out the required number of holes. Once complete, rub out any pencil marks.img_3164

You’ve now got a custom planner divider! This DIY could also be used to make some fancy bookmarks, just leave out the last two steps. You could also then decorate your dividers with some washi tape to make them even prettier.

If you do decide to give this a go, please do share your make on Instagram, and don’t forget to tag me so that I can see (@emmakesandbakes).

Oxford Instameet: Autumn 2016

Another month, another Instameet. In reality, it’s actually been three months since the last Instameet I attended, but time goes so quickly!

On 1 October, Independent Oxford ran their Autumn Instameet, and after the fun I had at the last one, there was no decision needed about whether or not to attend. We met again at Modern Art Oxford, but this time in the fantastic Missing Bean pop-up café. The Oxford Instameets always start with a natter over some tea and cake, which is a great way to get to know your fellow photographers. Right from the start, it was clear that the theme of the day was going to be yellow. I was pretty happy that my teapot matched my trusty yellow raincoat, and already had my first photo opportunity!

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Our first stop was at one of my favourite places in Oxford, independent haberdashery Darn It and Stitch. Inside this cosy little shop, you’ll find an array of beautiful fabric, wool, and trimmings, all of which is perfect for some Instagram photos! I managed to leave without buying anything (but admittedly with a long list of stuff I’d be back to buy at a later date).

From Darn It and Stitch, we made our way towards Magdalen Bridge, and on to Cowley Road to visit the Annie Sloan store. At this point, I should hang my head in shame as I’ve never actually been in the Annie Sloan store, and it’s now clear that I’ve been missing out. The shop is filled with colour from top to bottom. It’s also not just paint; think lovely fabrics, cute stationery and some amazing bright rag rugs too! The rainbow staircase also deserves a special mention; it’s quite simply amazing!

The rain had returned by this so we made our way towards Big Society for some lunch, which continued the yellow theme! Over burgers and fries, the chatting continued. For me, Instameets are just as much about the socialising as the picture taking. They are a great way to meet fellow creatives and people who just like taking photos and I really love the informal, welcoming nature of them. I’m definitely going to try and attend more of them over the next year, and hopefully discover more new photo hotspots!

Do you have any recommendations for other Instameets? I’d love to hear your suggestions!

Counting Down to 30

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A short post on a weekday? What’s going on? Well, in one month, I’ll be thirty. I’ll make it clear now that I am completely fine about that. As I sat down to start this, I thought this might end up being a post where I reflected on my life and where I’m currently at, but that seems a bit deep, at least for a Thursday.

Instead, this is a post asking for inspiration. As I reach an important milestone in my life, are there any memories I should make in the month leading up to it? Anything I need to experience? This post came from a conversation I had with Mr Makes earlier this year, I confessed that despite my love of fast food, I had never eaten a Big Mac, and so he insisted that it had to be done by the time I reach my birthday. It seems like an achievable task.

So now I’m opening up the conversation to you all, is there anything you think I need to do in the next month? Perhaps there’s a book which you recommend to everyone, or a film that you adore. Something (else) I need to eat, or of course, something to make! Let me know in the comments below, or over on Instagram.

There are a few boundaries. There isn’t a limitless pot of money or time. In any case, what I’m hoping for are suggestions for the little things in life that you love. I’ll try to do as many as I can over the coming month, and if not, I’ll definitely do them in my first year of my thirties!

Introducing Create!

 

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For the last few months I’ve been working on a secret project, which I can now share with you all. Over the summer, with Rachel from Handmade by Holchester, we’ve been designing a range of craft kits. Earlier this week, we launched 4 kits, each to make a fantastic fabric banner, two for Christmas, and two for all year round.

I can’t take much credit for deciding to sell these kits; Rachel approached me earlier this summer to ask if I would be interested. We had taught a workshop earlier in the year, showing fellow crafters how to make similar banners, and we saw how much enthusiasm there was for them. Each kit is designed to teach you step-by-step how to create something wonderful, but also allow the maker to be creative with the design. Inside each box are two templates, but we encourage you to go freestyle. Perhaps a heart, a sun, or even a letter. Each banner can be tweaked as much as you want.

I’m really proud of what we have designed for you all, and we’ve had some really positive comments to date. We’re selling the kits via the Handmade by Holchester Etsy page, and also at some events in Oxford, which we’ll be attending:

A Rosie Life launch, 20 October, The Annie Sloan Shop, Oxford.

Find details about tickets on Rosie’s Facebook page.

Independent Oxford Christmas Market, 26 November

As well as having a stall, we’ll be running some mini workshops, more details to follow.

So what do you need to know about the kits?

  • Each kit is £15, with FREE postage within the UK. You can pick one up here.
  • All the materials are included; the only thing you need to add is pins to make life a little easier.
  • We purposely leave the boxes unsealed, so that if you’re giving as a gift, you can add additional decorations.
  • The kits really are designed for beginners, included is a step-by-step guide to help you along the way. We’ll also be sharing top tips over on our Instagram.
  • You don’t need a sewing machine! Although it is admittedly easier with one, we include white thread in case you don’t have access to one.
  • We’ve really tried to include the best quality materials possible. Each piece of fabric comes with interfacing attached to the back to prevent fraying; the needles are the same ones we use in our day-to-day sewing. The white cotton is a lovely thick twill, so it hangs really nicely.

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I’d love to know what you think about the kits, if you do buy one, I’d love to see your completed banner. I’ll be sharing my favourites over the coming months on social media. If you have any questions about the kits, do leave a comment below or contact us via our Instagram, Twitter, or Facebook.

September Roundup

img_2299I always seem to begin these roundup posts with ‘it’s been a busy month’ or ‘it’s gone super quick’ or something similar! I’m now of the belief that this has just become the norm for 2016. What it does leave me with though is a real sense of achievement when I look back at all the things I’ve done this month.

The month started with a visit to The People Shop to see the lovely Allison Sadler for a creative mentoring session. I met Allison at Blogtacular earlier this year, and immediately knew that a session with her was exactly what I needed. I won’t reveal too much of what we discussed, but I came away excited to get going, and looking forward to what’s ahead. What I will say is that The People Shop is lovely, full of wonderful things that I will definitely be adding to my Christmas list this year. The People Shop represents everything that I love about buying independent and I wholeheartedly recommend that you check them out!

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Whilst in Birmingham, I couldn’t resist also popping into Guthrie & Ghani, which was just down the road. Run by Lauren from the first series of the Sewing Bee, Guthrie & Ghani is a gorgeous fabric shop filled with wonderful fabric, patterns, and books. I picked up this lovely mustard dog print fabric, which I’m currently planning to make into some pyjama bottoms.

On the independent theme, I was thrilled to work with The Fabric Fox in September, using some of their wonderful fabrics in my Fabric Storage Tubs tutorial. I try to buy as much of my fabric as possible from independents, I find they are priced just as competitively as the big stores, have wonderful ranges, and in my personal opinion, the service is more personal.

Later in the month, I attended the Handmade Fair. I’ve already written a lengthy post about this, but the highlight was definitely the fabric shopping! I also learnt how to paint enamel mugs, which I’ve already had another go at for my Dad’s birthday. He was really chuffed with his new mug!

Throughout the whole of September, I’ve been taking part in House of Pinheiro’s SewPhotoHop challenge. Each day has a prompt for you to share a picture of something sewing related. I did this last year, and comparing my photos now to what I posted before, I feel like I’ve come a long way, both in the quality of the photos, and the projects in them. Hopefully by next year, I’ll have even more handmade clothes to finish.

There has also been time for some making this month, and I finally got around to making something with August’s We Make Collective box. Embroidered in front of many hours of Mad Men, I stitched this Don Draper-inspired motivational hoop.

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September has also been the month when I announced two very exciting bits of news. The first was that I was a contributor to the latest issue of Caboodle Magazine. I worked on a little DIY project, a retro-style Diner flag. I actually submitted my tutorial a few months back, so it was really nice to see it finally in print! It’s also so nice to see so many familiar faces in the magazine, I’m honoured to be in such great company.

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Finally, the biggest news of all came towards the end of the month, I’m launching something new! With my crafty BFF, Rachel from Handmade by Holchester, we are launching some craft kits just in time for Christmas. They’ll be on sale from 3 October, and I really hope that you like them! In addition to selling the kits, we are going to be running some mini workshops, at the Annie Sloan shop in Oxford as part of A Rosie Life’s Cocktails and Crafts night, as well as at the Independent Oxford Christmas Market. This project has taken up a lot of our time over the past few months, but working with Rachel has been fantastic. Head over to our Instagram page @createcraftkits to see more sneak peeks.

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So, that’s September in a nutshell! The rest of the year looks just as busy, but I’ll also be working on some exciting stuff to share with you all over the coming months. Thanks for reading!