November 17, 2015

Edward's Menagerie,

During the summer, I was invited to attend a book launch for the latest title to join Edward's Menagerie...

The launch took place at the Toft Alpaca Farm near Rugby, which is well worth a visit for the wool shop, cafe and a tour of the Alpaca fields.  

During the day I was there, Kerry herself gave a number of workshops taking us through the process of making one of the birds from start to finish including stuffing, sewing up, joining limbs and also adding the eyes.

There were other members of staff on hand to instruct crochet for those who were either a beginner or (like me!) had not done any crochet for a very long time.  Everyone there was lovely and very welcoming.


Also included, was a tour of the farm and the chance to meet the Alpacas up close.

They are adorable!

While I was there, I bought some Alpaca fleece to do some wet felting with.

As far as the book itself is concerned, the first Edward's Menagerie book was hugely popular so following that with birds is a natural step.  The birds are cute, comical, colourful and bursting with character.   Design wise, they all follow a similar pattern, as in body, legs, head, and wings, the idea being once you have made one, it becomes easier and easier to make more.  The crochet side is well explained and the patterns are graded for difficulty so anyone from beginner to advanced will find a project to suit them.  You can easily alter the scale of your bird by using thicker wool and a larger hook too. 

There are over 40 patterns in the book, making it good value for money, and unlike sewing books where the pattern may need to be traced from the book, these instructions are all in written form, so it is only a matter of preference over print copy or digital.  Although, for me, I prefer to buy in print.  In our house, music and movies are all pretty much digital nowadays, but for books, nothing beats an actual book!.

November 10, 2015


Wow, it's been almost a year since I last blogged.  It wasn't intentional to take such a lengthy break, it just kind of happened that way.  I have been posting on my Facebook page, occasionally in the meantime, but not with any regularity.  I also love using Instagram, although my posts tend to be mainly of our cats!

There has been crafty stuff going on, a bit of teaching and writing to be precise.  I have spent some time doing workshops with Primary School kids at my sons school, and out of all the projects I did with them, the wet felting has to have been the most successful.  They had great fun doing it, its messy but its just warm water and soap messy, and we always seemed to gather a bit of an audience of the other kids wanting to know what we were doing.

We made balls, basically the easiest thing to do if you wanted to give it a try.  The fibers I used were given to me by Coats Crafts UK (I used to work for them!), and is called Filz-it. 

The kids did really well considering none of them had done it before.  Wet felting to make balls can be tricky as it requires lots of patience, if you rush the process, the ball won't be matted enough to stay as a ball and will break open as it dries.

Lots more to blog about soon, including a book and Alpacas (all will be revealed!) and a small sewing tutorial.

November 14, 2014

Rocking Robins,

If you fancy a little sewing project in the run up to Christmas, there is a new magazine out from My Time Media, the team behind titles including Popular Patchwork.  Its called "Make your own Gifts & Toys".

I have a pattern in there to make a matching pair of Robins,

there is a little Mama bird,

and also a baby one too, both with the cutest wire legs!

The magazine is out in the shops now or you can buy a copy online from My Hobby Store, just follow this link.

November 4, 2014

Garden projects,

Hello!  Long time between posts again, I have been making and doing I promise, but just not been blogging about it.  To remedy this, here's a snippet from what I got up to during the summer.  We have a large back garden, but when we moved in, it was very overgrown and full of weeds.  Its been a gradual job but it has slowly been tackled and out of the previous wilderness, is sprouting a haven with decking, gravel and raised railway sleeper flower beds.  

In one corner, I had the idea (possibly courtesy of Pinterest) of making the gravel area into a boules pitch.  This has been a huge hit with adults and children alike, and as the area is 'L' shaped, there was a little space for something else...

Making use of a chunk of tree trunk, which I know will rot but can easily be replaced when it does, and some pebbles, a little game of tic, tac, toe (or noughts and crosses) insect style.  This has also been a hit (ps, I used acrylic paint on the pebbles, which had a coat of clear yacht varnish over the top, and the black is blackboard paint, as it was the only black I had in the house!)

My next garden project is going to be these...

Another Pinterst find, made from painted bricks believe it or not.  Am undecided as to what paint would be best though, any ideas?

April 4, 2014


I have been playing with wire this week, something I've wanted to have a go at for a while but never got round to, wire for birds legs.

Love the way they look, but oh my goodness, harder to make than they should be!  Plus then you've got to get it to stand up without toppling over.

Cute though!

March 14, 2014


I have been eyeing up leather offcuts on Ebay for a while, attempting to make an educated guess as to which would be the colours I was after (as in browns, grey, off white), and given I only need small pieces, took the plunge earlier this week...

...and here they are.  This bag is 100g in weight and was only cheap, less than £3, and the colours are just about perfect.  Now to see if the idea I have for them works!

March 11, 2014

Sewing Bee...

The Great British Sewing Bee has been a fantastic vehicle to encourage home sewers to pick up their needles and thread, and with Series 2 in full swing and Series 3 already recruiting, it was decided to give a sewing themed fundraising day a try at my son's primary school.

I am a member of the 'PTA', albeit on the periphery as I am often unable to volunteer due to logistical issues and other commitments, but I do stick my hand up if and when I can.  When the Sewing Bee idea was floated, we did initially want to go down the Softie route and make something from the book, but in the end it made sense to go with a simpler project, as when working with little ones, you really can end up spending the whole time just threading needles.  After a bit of googling, the often used idea of a finger puppet and an easter egg fitted the bill nicely, so I quickly knocked up my own version.   

The idea is to have different projects for different skill levels,

the chick being the easiest as we can just glue the eyes and beak on,

 followed by the rabbit, 

and then the easter egg for the parents to make which opens up at the back to house a bit of chocolate.

It's hard to gauge how well attended these things will be.  The last time I taught in school, I had a class of 31 year 9's, but they didn't have a choice, a captive audience!  We made ladybirds, from the pattern I put together for Whip Up

they finished them off the week after I was in but my daughter was allowed to take some photographs for me of some of the ladybirds.  They all did really well.

I will report back on the Sewing Bee, fingers crossed it is a Sewing Bee and not a Sewing Zzzzzzzz! 

February 14, 2014

Interview with Sewing Bee's Stuart Hillard,

Over the summer at the Festival of Quilts, I arrived at the Popular Patchwork stand and was lucky enough to meet Stuart Hillard for the first time and since then it had been on the back of my mind to ask to interview him.  A few months ago we managed to squeeze in a chat over the phone which I'm delighted to be able to share...

ME : Hi Stuart, and thank you so much for talking to me!  My questions are all Sewing Bee related, so here goes, where did you see the advert for the Sewing Bee, and what was the application process.

STUART : Well, I didn't actually see an advert as such, a friend mentioned it, which led me to go searching for more information.  The application process was lengthy, starting with a form to fill in, then a telephone interview, followed by a telephone technical test (for example, what is a french seam?).  Next, it involved a trip to London where we had to show samples of items we had made, then there was a screen test, and a live sewing test, along the lines of the technical challenge segment on the show, and finally a psychometric test.

ME : Wow, that is lengthy!  So, what is the set up when each episode was filmed?, is it a similar set up to the Bake Off where filming seems to take place at the weekends with a week off in between?

STUART : We're not allowed to give too much away about the filming set up, but what I can say is it is very intense.  There were few breaks between episodes and during each of the sewing tasks, when they say we had 3 hours, it really was just 3 hours, there's no pause in filming while a shot is set up.

ME : On the first show, the feedback about your dress was that the fabric print should have been pattern matched throughout, and May stated that there should be whole shapes running down the back seem.  Watching at home, the first thing that went through my mind was, ok she's made it sound like that's a really easy thing to do, but in reality, how simple would pattern matching actually have been?

STUART : Ah, yes!  To tackle the pattern matching, you would place each pattern piece individually on the fabric and choose key points in the print to get a match.  I could see on the day that was specifically mentioned as the whole point of the show was to test our sewing skills, but historically, fabric prints used in dressmaking don't often match!

ME : You seemed to get on really well with presenter, Claudia Winkleman...

STUART : Yes, most definitely!, I absolutely love her personality, presenting style and her sense of humour.

ME : And lastly, do you have any advice for the series two contestants?

STUART : Well, they are already filming and not far of finishing series 2.  Advice I would give is allow your personality to shine through with what you make.  You can buy clothes so cheaply these days, no-one needs to make there own, so if you are going to sew, it should reflect you as a person.

Choose patterned fabrics when the fit isn't an issue, and go for plains if the fit is important, but most importantly, have fun!  The Sewing Bee was intense pressure but also a joy to take part in.

A big thank you to the lovely Stuart for taking time out of his busy schedule to chat, roll on series two of the Sewing Bee, can't wait!

February 13, 2014

It's a little dusty here!

You know how it is, the longer you leave writing a blog post, the harder it becomes to have anything to say.  Do people even blog anymore?  For a while I shifted my focus over to Facebook, probably not the best decision long term as I do think Facebook is squeezing business fan pages into pouring cash into promotion, but the focus changed while I was web editing for Homemade with Love magazine.

Sadly, the magazine is no more.  I knew when I first got involved the shelf life may well be short, but it was great fun while it lasted.  The people I crossed over with were hugely knowledgeable and helpful when it came to tackling my little part of publication.  The market for crafts magazines in the UK is currently very competitive, there are some very strong titles out there on the shelves with good quality content.  Working with Homemade was a really interesting insight into the publishing side of crafting, I learned things I did not know about putting together a magazine and also added to my writing and research skills in a way which will be useful as my own business of Lucykate Crafts grows.

Now the magazine has ceased, the website and blog which I had worked on have both been taken down.  One of the highlights was (I think!), my interview with Stuart Hillard from the first series of the Great British Sewing Bee, which I conducted from home via telephone.  We had a fun chat for about 20 minutes or so, and to prevent this from disappearing into the ether, I have saved the interview and will repost it here on my own blog.

Just before christmas, the Fox from the front cover of my book came home.  Moving forward, after quite a turbulent few months at home, it is time to focus on Lucykate Crafts again.  Decisions need making, name change?, blog redesign?, I'm not sure yet, but one thing I am sure about is getting these PDF pattern finished and released!

December 21, 2013


Well, that was a longer break than was intended, I haven't blogged since July.  I will be back in the new year with lots of new things and finally get those PDF patterns I've been working on published.  In the meantime, there have been big goings on in this household, one of which is the portrait my husband has been working on, which has been finally unveiled at the National Portrait Gallery this week.  We have had to keep this news quiet for sooooo long, it's nice to see it on the wall.  You may (or may not!) recognise who it is of...

Merry Christmas!

July 26, 2013

End of term,

I always find myself conflicted at this time of year when it comes to the phenomena of gifts for teachers.  Gone are the days when an apple would suffice, and while I am very grateful for the work teachers do educating our offspring, the part I prefer to avoid is the competitive gift giving that can go on.

My son has arrived on the last day of term with a perfectly respectable bunch of flowers only to see another child walking in with what looked like the whole of the Chelsea Flower Show.  I don't always make gifts but this year I did, which were small and discreet.

After deciding to stick with Owls, I took the pattern I had been using for brooches and reduced it further and made 3 of these... 

They came out quite well and I took the opportunity to time how long they took to make (roughly 1hour for each, that was 3 done in a morning, so 6 a day maybe, thinking in Etsy terms here).  I can see the beginnings of a production line forming!

July 10, 2013

Issue 4,

I am aware I've slipped on the blogging front lately, by way of a reprieve, check out the cover of Issue 4 of Homemade with Love!

It's out in the shops from July 12th, and available online here.

June 4, 2013

have you heard the news?

It's been busy lately, to a point where I almost forgot about my own blog!  In a nutshell, I am the new Web Editor for a UK published sewing magazine called 'Homemade with Love'.  I'm excited by the role for a number of reasons,

A lot has been happening over the last few years within the area of craft and sewing magazines in this country after a bit of a drought.  When I first arrived on the design scene, it was (oh, how I dislike admitting to this date), 1994!  I had finished my degree in 1992 and spent a bit of time plugging the gaps in my knowledge and experience by attending a computing course.  By 1994, I had an interview for a design job with Coats Crafts UK, so wanted to do a bit of research to prepare, and I bought this...

 'Inspirations' magazine, circa February 1994. 

Back then there weren't that many sewing mags around to choose from, but I do remember that Inspirations became a particular favorite of mine, due to a number of house moves and the growth of the internet since '94, this is the only issue I kept.  It even came with a cover kit, embroidered buttons.

The reason I kept hold of this one, is it featured an interview with a lady called Jacqueline Farrell.  A machine embroiderer who has since then written a few books and coincidentally worked in the Glasgow branch of Coats, the company I was just about to have an interview with, before they relocated to Darlington.

I cannot remember how I got hold of her number, but if memory serves, I actually rang Jacqueline and had a chat about the craft kit world and any tips she could offer to someone just starting out.  Coats were very impressed during my interview with the research I had done, and yes, I did get the job!

While I worked at Coats, the design studio regularly bought in sewing magazines, the internet was still very much in its infancy so any design ideas came from more traditional channels, the main two I remember being Crafts Beautiful and Marie Clare Idees.  Then, suddenly everything went very paper crafts orientated, and sewing projects in the crafts magazines were few and far between.  I'm very glad that sewing is once again hugely featured, with so many high quality publications available, including, of course, Homemade with Love.

And to prove how old my copy of Inspiration magazine is, look at the feature they did on the Spitting Image puppet making workshop!


May 23, 2013

Pin it Forward UK

My post today is all about Pinterest.  If you haven't already discovered Pinterest, why not?!!  Pinterest has been around since about 2010, and although it is accessible worldwide, the reason behind this push for the UK is there are some developments (new language and location settings) which will just make it more user friendly for the UK audience.  There are 300 bloggers taking part, and a big thank you to Antonia of Tidy Away Today for introducing my Pinterest post today.

Before Pinterest began, for a long while I had been after a kind of online pinboard for images.  I'd tried using Flick 'favorites', but that wasn't quite right, tried using Tumblr, but that wasn't quite right either.  I've always been in the habit of collecting images for inspiration.  When I worked as a designer for Coats Crafts UK, they had literally only just got the first computers in the design studio.  This was also before Google was created, so all our research was done the old fashioned way via magazines, books, wrapping papers, greetings cards etc.  I had folders full of ideas I collected and referred to constantly.  Pinterest was exactly what I had been looking for all these years.  And now, the first thing I do after taking the kids to school is check my Pinterest feed.

I have lots of boards, some I refer to daily, like style (so I at least look slightly human on the school run) and garden ideas (given we've been revamping our back garden at home).  But my all time favorite, is soft sculpture,

this one is my go-to place when I'm sewing, this is where all my favorite things live!

If you'd like to follow me, I am here, or if you're not already pinning, follow the registration link.

To continue on the Pin it Forward UK journey, please visit Rosie at DIYcouture who is showcasing this intriguing board 'we shall not cease from exploration', you can read up on the background behind this board here.

Happy Pinning!

May 15, 2013

tricks of the trade #2...

Following on from my previous post around this subject, this time I'm going to show you what I do with my ends of embroidery thread while I'm sewing a Softie. 

When I'm sewing, I often have a few different colours on the go, which rather then tying off, I'll thread through to the back in case I need that colour again.

But obviously, these thread are not going to be where I want them to be, when I come to use them again.  So how do I get from one place to another?  I simply use the needle to literally, snake the thread around the inside of the Softie.

Begin by waggling the thread to make the hole in the fabric slightly larger, then pull the thread hard in one direction to create a gap right next to it, feed the needle carefully though this same hole.  

Take the needle back out where you want it next to go, and gently pull on the thread.

Once the thread is pulled through completely the hole kind of magically disappears, it has now moved to the new position ready to continue the applique or repeat this process to move it further.

A simple process, but this is something I get asked a lot, so I hope that explains how I go about it when I'm sewing.

Something else I must mention is, hop on over to Cut Out & Keep which is a FAB resource for project tutorials, I am a Crafty Superstar this week, yay!  There is an interview and a project a day too.

May 7, 2013

from Pinterest to the garden...

I am taking part in a scheme called 'Pin-it-Forward' later this month to celebrate the official UK launch of Pinterest, (yes, I know here in the UK we can already use Pinterest, all will be explained in my official post on the 23rd), and as I was deciding which of my boards I was going to post about, realised I have over 1,600 images pinned.  It would be an interesting exercise to see how many of those images I actually refer to and made use of.

Only a few weeks ago, I came across this on Pinterest, someone I follow had pinned it so it featured in my feed, I followed the link to it's original source (which is where you can read up on how they were made), and decided to have a go myself.  

Mine are a bit smaller than the originals (although I love the idea of making a really big one with a wok!), I used enamel camping bowls at £1.50 each, red spray paint was £3.50, white enamel paint was £1.50 and the tree branches came from the garden.  I sprayed the bowls red (they were blue), and the kids did the white spots for me.
(the bunting and the bamboo wind chime both came from Ebay)

Al thinks they look a bit daft, but he's out voted as both me and the kids think they're rather cute!

May 5, 2013

Stitch Zakka,

I am in a new book which is coming out soon,

trying not to give too much away, the projects involve a bit of this,

and a little bit if that. 

The book is out in June.

May 2, 2013

tricks of the trade #1...

A while ago I made two short films which are uploaded to You Tube, one of those films, the free motion embroidery one has had over 160,000 views.  I keep meaning to make another, this time showing how I stuff a softie.  The reasoning for this is that I am quite brutal when it comes to getting that stuffing in, there's lots of banging and bashing it on a table top involved to shape it, and poking with a stick, which is what brings me to the point of this post, tricks of the trade #1...


  I find that all artists and designers always have certain tools they love, and I do love my stuffer sticks.  Except this one is not really a stuffer stick, it's a chop stick!

Now, you can buy proper bona fide stuffer sticks,

 (my Harry Potter wand)

and I do have one, except mine wasn't bought, I pinched it. 

When I worked for Coats Crafts UK (I can tell this story now as I haven't worked there for a good few years now!), one thing that did bug me was their reluctance to try anything new.  Ideas would be put forward at the product development meetings only to be met with a negative reaction, that was until one of our competitors came out with something similar.  Imagine the scene : an idea that had been pitched for a while :  Rag Doll kits, 'Oh no, couldn't possibly do that, too complicated/expensive'.  That was until a company called the Little Experience came out with a range, then the reaction was 'We should be doing these, why aren't we doing these?'.  Err, well we could have been doing them if you'd listened to your design team!

The story rolls on, as happens in most in-house design studios, we then have to go and purchase one of the competitor products for manufacturing analysis.  Inside said kit, was exhibit A, the stuffer stick, which eventually fell into my bag and made it's way home.  While this particular stuffer stick is very nice, has been extremely useful over the years, and also doubles as a wand occasionally, I do tend to revert back to my trusty old chop stick (which was also 'acquired', this time from a chinese restaurant), and this is why...

Stuffer sticks are used to get the stuffing into all the little nooks and crannies of a softie.  I use the end to push small chunks of stuffing in one at a time.  The chop stick is thinner than the stuffer stick, but despite that, it seems to retain it's strength, which is good as even when I'm being really rough with it, it doesn't feel like it's going to break. 

I also find the little square end it has very useful.  Quite often when I'm stuffing softies, I'll get issues like the one above, a stubborn crease which will just not go.  The most effective way to rectify this, 

is to take a small piece of stuffing,

and gently push it into place, over the existing stuffing, to fill out the crease with the square end.  The chop stick works better for me in this instance, as the pointed end of the stuffer stick is too fine and pokes straight through the stuffing I'm trying to get in, and the flat end is too wide as it tends to move not only the extra stuffing, but also what is already inside, which is exactly what I don't want it to do having already spent time shaping it.

So, that's it, a post all about sticks!  Just to finish off, here's oops of the week...

I made two right ears, ...oops!