Saturday, 24 January 2015

Sprouting facial hair for Comic Relief's Crafternoon


Several months ago I was contacted by Emma Mitchell and Jane Toft who had, under the lovely  umbrella of Mollie Makes, decided to create a bookazine of crafty goodness in aid of Comic Relief. For those in other countries who may not be familiar with it, Comic Relief is an annual event that's held in England where money is raised with the aim of reducing poverty, to a backdrop of general silliness and comedy. Comic Relief began in 1985 and later, in 1988, Red Nose Day became a part of that fundraising. I think I was in my first year at secondary school when this event launched and I can still vividly remember the utter excitement of wearing a large plastic red nose to school - there weren't the regular dressing up or own-clothes days at that time, so this seemed like a very unorthodox addition to our school uniform, the wearing of which gave me butterflies in my stomach. Although in that first year, Comic Relief were yet to refine the comfort of the fake nose, so I remember it being a slightly painful excitement, which left deep red imprints where the plastic had squeezed my nose!

Anyway, back to 2015 (where I am 37 and no longer in secondary school) the bookazine is called The Big Comic Relief Crafternoon and it's packed full of wonderful projects and tutorials from lots of talented craft, crochet, knitting and sewing people. From memory, I think that Jane Brocket, Tif Russell and Lynda Lewis are just a few of the contributors.


I was delighted when Emma invited me to contribute a pattern design that built upon the theme of Red Nose Day, to include some more hirsute facial enhancements, which people might be able to wear on the day. Knee-deep in a paper piecing project that was giving me more stroky beard moments than any sewing project really should, the idea of sewing something completely frivolous, but for a seriously good cause, appealed hugely and I plumped immediately for some mustachioed goodness because they are such a delight, as are most things that come in many varieties - is it just me, or does anything that that could be feasibly displayed on a tea-towel depicting the various guises it may appear in seem instantly appealing?

I learned many new moustache names when researching shapes and also happened upon some interesting beard names - I particularly liked the shapely French Fork. If you live with a bearded beauty (or if you happen to be actually be one, reading my blog), you may enjoy perusing this chart that I came across, where you can discover just how trustworthy he's perceived to be. I'm delighted to find that my own father, newly sporting a beard for 2015, remains at the highest level of trustworthiness with his Full Beard and hasn't turned into a good-for-nothing scoundrel who would sell his own grandchildren for a shiny new paperclip). But anyway, back to moustaches: my tutorial features the classic Handlebar Moustache, my favourite style, but it's very adaptable, so you could easily convert it to suit your own preferences.


The Big Comic Relief Crafternoon, a special edition of Mollie Makes, will be on sale in Sainsburys and via iTunes and GooglePlay from this Thursday, January 29th. It costs £7.99, with £5 of that going straight to Comic Relief. Please do go and buy a copy if you have the money to spare - you will be rewarded handsomely with patterns for knitted beards, crocheted red noses (so much easier to breath through I'd imagine), wrist warmers, small creatures (who can also be enhanced with miniature facial hair!), and even knickers (for you, not for the small creatures). The magazine also gives you a guide as to how to run your own Comic Relief craft fair if you're interested in selling your own forest of moustaches or luxuriant jungle of knitted beards to furnish the faces of people within your local area.


From just the communications that I've been party to, I can tell that, despite their jolly tones and amusing emails, it has undoubtedly taken a gargantuan effort on the part of Emma Mitchell (who some of you may know as Silver Pebble on Twitter), Jane Toft and the Mollie Makes team to make this bookazine happen - so I'd like to say a huge thank you to them for finding such a fun way for craft to become a part of Comic Relief - I feel privileged that my moustache is a small part of that. To make The Big Comic Relief Crafternoon the fundraising success that it deserves to be, I know that Mollie Makes would be delighted if you could share news of this special edition with others. You can follow The Big Comic Relief Crafternoon magazine on Twitter here (@CRCrafts - so worth doing and it's not at all sell, sell, sell, but more, look at this adorable crocheted guinea pig that's actually the size of a baked bean! Yes, literally, a baked bean) or follow them on Facebook.

Yours, at the ready to sprout temporary facial hair and hoping you are too,
Florence x

Tuesday, 20 January 2015

Ring-a-Roses English Paper Piecing Pattern


The pattern for this English paper piecing design is finally available! I've chosen to name this pattern after the nursery rhyme, Ring-A-Roses, despite the urban legends linking it to the plague! To me, this design has a strong feel of circularity, both in some of the individual blocks within it, and the circle that appears at the centre when viewed from a distance. So the playground rhyme - where children would join hands and dance around in a circle - has been whirling around in my head the whole time I've been writing this pattern up.


Down to the details, my Ring-a-Roses PDF pattern comes with:
  • Full-size pattern pieces that can be printed on regular printer paper
  • A colouring sheet so that you can plan out your colour scheme
  • Simple construction illustrations that show how best to assemble the blocks
  • Helpful tips for newer EPPers 
  • The pattern pieces produce a finished design that measures 17¼" x 17¼", but the pieces can easily be scaled up
  • It's instantly downloadable for you to save and print out from your own computer 
  • It costs just £4 (that's around $6USD, $7.50AUD, $7.40 CAD). 
  • You can buy a copy, here!


I chose to fussy-cut my fabrics for this pattern (due to my slightly unhealthy fussy-cutting addiction), but I think it would look fantastic made up in solids or randomly cut patterned fabrics too. However, if you want any advice on fussy-cutting for your own version, you can find a tutorial on my blog here


I chose to frame my version of Ring-a-Roses, but it's an easy-to-adapt pattern. You could add a border and make a cushion, super-size the pattern pieces and make a large, square quilt or, as the pattern pieces tessellate, you could easily continue the design to make something bigger and more elaborate. However, if you're looking for something that won't take you too long to finish, this size is perfect. 

Because the design is slightly more involved than basic hexagons and has some quite tiny pieces, it's aimed at people who already have one small EPP project up their sleeve (or more likely, on their bed or holding their pins in cushion-form), so I haven't included instructions as to how to do things like the standard EPP whip-stitch which you would have almost certainly mastered during your first project, because that felt like it would be a waste of your printer ink. However, because English paper piecing is a relatively easy skill to learn, I am assuming that relative newcomers may want to give this pattern a try, so I have included brief details about my favourite needles and threads, different methods of basting and other information that I thought might be more useful.

If you buy the pattern, I would love to see how you get on with it, so please do feel free to tag a photo with #RingARosesEPP on Twitter or Instagram or email me a photo at flossieteacakes (at) gmail (dot) com.

Florence x

Briefcase bears and imposter parcels


Just after Christmas my oldest, and very dear, school friend, who now lives in Canada, came over to visit with her husband and children. I spent a few days mulling over what I could give them and then when I was looking for something with my son in a cupboard and caught sight of one of his bears' sleeping bags (pattern here), I suddenly realised that I should make some for my friend's children. My son chose the creatures to go in them - we lined one of each possibility out on the shop floor to try and decide - they're lovely Jellycat animals, our favourite brand of soft toy.

I'm slightly lacking in overtly boyish fabrics now that my own son is older, having sold all my dinosaur and train fabrics a few years ago. I put together a few possible combinations from my stash and when I asked for my husband's opinion he told me that it was as though I were fashioning a sleeping bag for a business man or politician who wanted to keep his bear privately nestled in his briefcase, but in tasteful colours just in case it was discovered. Sometimes you can't quite see something until someone points it out, but in retrospect, David Cameron would indeed have been delighted with my understated choices, my friend's young son probably less so. So I revisited my fabric drawers and found some of Cotton and Steel's arrows with sparkly gold bits and some contrasting orange with more spangly bits from the same range. I still think it could safely nestle in the briefcase of a more mature bear-carrier if required…but now it's maybe more Richard Branson or James Dyson in style...


And onto the other sleeping bag, for my friend's daughter. The rabbit is resting in a bed of Jeni Baker's lovely 'Geometric Bliss' line by AGF. It's a gorgeous line, that's bright and vibrant, but also has a distinct pastel feel to the colours (you can find the whole collection over at The Village Haberdashery). The creature's new owner was possibly the most gratifying recipient of any gift I've ever given, so I felt pleased with my choices there! It's a few years since I've seen a child playing with one of these sleeping bags for the first time and it made me realise anew what a cosy toy it is - it made me feel so happy to have made them (but not quite as happy as seeing my friend and her lovely family).

Geometric Bliss came from my ever-growing stash of fabrics that Jacqui from Hantex surprises me with every now and then. I love these little parcels as they always seem to have an uncanny knack of arriving on a miserable day of mishaps when an envelope stuffed thick with fabric is just what's needed to make everything feel better on some level. Often, they're not things that I would have necessarily bought myself, so I always feel a slight sense of fascination when they work their way into my projects - there are now several of these prints in my Passacaglia cogwheels and their inclusion has subsequently led me to view certain print styles differently and reassess the way that I buy fabric. When I'm buying fabrics myself, I tend to cherry pick my favourite designs from different collections and so rarely get to appreciate how a designer puts together a cohesive collection, with some lead prints that sing and shout and others that work as a choir, singing harmonies in the background.  I tend to go for the ones that beg to be fussy-cut or combine my favourite colours - often aqua/green and pink - and completely forget to buy the more subtle prints, which give a piece room to breathe and a chance for the eye to take in the more intense prints, so I've found there's something that stretches me slightly about someone else adding to my stash. It's helped me realise why shops' stash clubs or Block of the Month fabric schemes are so popular, because through experimenting with someone else's choices, you naturally learn more about combining colour and pattern - I find I have a tendency to become entrenched in using only what my eyes are naturally drawn to.


Tuesday is my day to sew, so today I'm writing up the pattern for this English paper pieced wall-hanging and also listening out (slightly obsessively) for the doorbell. Last week my husband gave me the USPS tracking number of some fabric that he'd ordered for me from overseas (yay - I know what's inside the box, so I'm super-excited!). We followed its progress to customs in the UK, where it seemed to stop for a while. Then DHL Global texted me to say that they had my parcel. I did wonder how they had got my mobile number, but we assumed that USPS must hand over to DHL Global for the final leg of delivery, so over the weekend I happily received notifications as my DHL package went to Docklands and various other places with the guaranteed result of arriving at my door on Monday. On Monday, after what seemed an interminable wait, the doorbell eventually rang in the late afternoon. The driver on the doorstep held a very, very tiny package in his hands that was clearly not fabric. I think my sinking heart may have actually been visible on the outside of my jumper (I am so sorry, lovely DHL man, that I must have looked so visibly disappointed, and forgotten to smile, when I opened the door to you. I know that you almost certainly don't read my blog, but it feels better to have written a formal apology to you). Once inside, I unwrapped the package and found that DHL Global had actually been delivering some Squeebles business cards for us from Moo, based in England. To us, also based in England. I'm unsure why the deceptive use of the word Global ever needed to enter into matters. I am really pleased with the business cards - they have lovely rounded corners and a very tactile surface, but they are not a large delivery of fabric from America. So the waiting continues and although I really want for it to be over, I do think the waiting bit can be even more exciting than the actual having bit!


Finally, for the reader who, in the comments to my last post, wrote that she prefers seeing photos of our cats, to photos of Nell, here's a photo that I've taken especially for you, of Honey, mid morning stretch on my daughter's bed just now.

Florence x

Friday, 9 January 2015

Making cushions



I had a really lovely time doing some fairly basic sewing over Christmas. With flu that went around our family for over five weeks, I either didn't feel I had the mental agility for any complex sewing projects or didn't have the expanses of time to immerse myself in them. But there's a lot to be said for some quick finishes occasionally!


My parents bought me some gorgeous Abigail Borg fabric for Christmas and out of the three half-metres they gave me, I managed to make six cushion cover fronts. Abigail Borg is an English, independent surface pattern designer based in Worcestershire and I'm more than a little in love with her beautiful fabrics (she does amazing wallpapers too!). I love her drawing style and the way she uses colour. It feels totally unique. The fabrics, which are a linen/cotton mix, are all printed in the north of England. They felt a little stiff when I first opened them (in the way that fabric can when you can almost feel a sheen of dye fixative fresh from being printed). The selvedge says that the fabrics are dry clean only, but I blasted them with a steam iron and afterwards they felt lovely and soft and not at all starchy. The quality is beautiful and the colour wasn't affected at all by my doing this.  Do go and have a look in Abigail's shop - she has many more designs and also ready-made cushions (although if you can sew, I suspect you may be like me in finding it almost impossible to buy something when you could make it yourself).


When cushion-making, I like to line the cushion front with some quilt wadding to make it extra comfy; prefer a generous cushion cover so that the cushion pad has room to fold around the contours of the person resting against it; and I love an invisible zipper closure because it's so easy to put in and doesn't interfere with the line of the cushion (conversely, they're my least favourite zipper to install when dressmaking). I made a total of six cushions - some 40cm, 45cm or 50cm square, depending on which chair they were destined to live on.

I do have a tendency to fall in love with whatever area of sewing I'm working in at the time, so it's fairly predictable that I remember thinking that there may be no greater joy in life than sewing simple cushions that are two squares of fabric and an invisible zipper (I tend to think the same thing when fussy-cutting things for some English paper piecing, when hand-quilting, when sewing a Peter Pan collar, creating a sleeve placket, appliquéing a pencil case or installing a magnetic snap on a bag. I think essentially it just means that I love all sewing, but I somehow find myself surprised by this with each new task that I start on. This is what my family and I would refer to as 'being a creature'. I feel like this is a phrase that others will probably just understand instantly, but just in case that's a completely false assumption, being 'a creature' means that there's an element of Creature Comforts about a person and that it's slightly amusing that they actually have fully-formed thoughts going on in their head when they seem so much more like a creature than a proper person). I rarely make quick-to-make things and my children are so used to seeing something come to a finish over the course of months, that when I emerged from my sewing room after an hour with two finished cushions they seemed shocked that this could actually happen and appeared more impressed by these simple cushions than anything else I've ever made!



Here some of them are in the sunshine one day. I love that they have added some colour into our front room in a way that doesn't overwhelm me. 


I think I discovered Abigail Borg through Katy, who I follow on Instagram. I find that I have freakily similar taste to Katy and she rarely mentions something that I don't absolutely love (we even have identical dogs - Otto looks just like Nell, our golden retriever) and Katy has been the source of my buying clocks, blankets and all sorts of other loveliness that I've had on a mental wish list for years, but never found quite the right one of until now - I'm afraid I think that I now secretly view Katy as a my own personal shopper! If you haven't already discovered her blog, Apartment Apothecary, do go and have a look - it's a delicious mix of interior design, small-scale gardening, simple but unique craft projects, inspiring finds and other good things…and photos of Otto, which makes it entirely wonderful all by itself.

So just in case I have any of my own readers who are actually here for the occasional dog photo, here's a recent photo of Nell. My husband and I got up really early one morning to go frost-hunting and left our lovely teenager in charge (supervising from her bed). It was the most perfect mix of frost and crisp sunshine and we had the most magical hour before it began to melt.


Someone on Instagram told me that this kind of thick frost is called a 'hoar frost' and it feels pleasing to know the right name for it now. Nell was completely delighted by it and skitted about seeming to enjoy the loud crunching under her paws and occasionally eating great mouthfuls of it. She also, as with mud patches and puddles, enjoyed lying down in it, embracing her inner piglet.


Finally, as this is my first post of 2015, I wanted to wish you a belated happy new year - I hope it's a really happy one for you.

Florence x

Tuesday, 23 December 2014

EU VAT Solutions!


This post will cover four things (none of them actually related to the current wall of crazy in my sewing room in the photo above!):

1. A huge thank you to the people who left such helpful comments on my last post.
2. To let you know that I'm so grateful to everyone who bought one of my patterns in the face of me letting you know my shop may close temporarily due to the EU VAT issue, but that I think there's a workable way around the problems now, so there's no longer a need to rush to buy.
3. To let any others selling PDF patterns know about some solutions to the EU VAT problem.
4. To share Etsy's disappointing stance on the EU VAT issue.

***

1. Thank you so much for all your incredibly helpful and supportive comments to my last post. I'm so grateful! I was so touched and appreciative.

2. I was overwhelmed (in the best way) by the number of messages of support that I've had, the many people who've bought my patterns this week and the emails from shops offering to stock them for me and deal with the VAT on my behalf (including two of my sponsors - thank you Backstitch and Plush Addict!). I'm so grateful. I'm pleased to say there's no need to rush to buy my patterns now as in the last 24 hours I've become fairly sure there are workable solutions on offer that will allow me to keep selling (as long as I can find the time to implement them when both me and my entire family have flu and it's Christmas time!). 

3. I'm keen to share the solutions that I've found, as I know that many others sell, or are hoping to sell, PDF sewing patterns too. Both of these services deal with all the VAT for you, so you can go on selling just as you always have, without any additional admin or hassle.

Paddle

Paddle offers the ability to keep everything on your own website or blog, and offers the same kind of Buy it Now buttons that have been available through PayPal. They take 5% of your profits, charge £0.50 per transaction and pay you your earnings on the 15th of every month. Their service emails a link to your customers to enable them to download the PDF file after purchasing. Paddle offer in-depth reporting stats and my emails to them have been answered quickly and with a professional warmth - I feel really enthusiastic about potentially using them. Worrying about implementing the system onto my blog over Christmas, they (unexpectedly) reassured me that someone would be around to troubleshoot over the Christmas period, but that they may just be a little slower to respond than usual. Impressive. They will handle all the VAT on your behalf to allow you to go on trading as though nothing has changed. 

I've written to them to ask if the 5% and £0.50 per transaction charge covers any PayPal fees that might be incurred if the customer chooses to pay via this method and will let you know what they say.  

Thank you so much to one of my readers, AnEnthusiast, for letting me know about this service. She found out about it when she was discussing EU VAT problems with a neighbour and discovered that the neighbour worked at Paddle! What amazing serendipity. 

PayHip

PayHip have historically provided distribution and checkout services for eBooks, but they're happy for anyone selling digital PDF products to use their service. PayHip allow you to set up product pages that you can link to directly from your blog, Twitter or wherever else, so that customers can complete the transaction on their site. Unlike Etsy, it's not a great big open marketplace where people can go and search for other shops while they're there. Payhip take 5% of your profits and pay you immediately following each sale. I guess you could create a Buy it Now button and place a link behind it, so that it would work in the same way as these on-site buttons have in the past. I've had a few exchanges with PayHip on Twitter and they seem helpful, enthusiastic and are completely set up to handle VAT on behalf of their customers.

Financially, PayHip offer a better deal so this is who I may end up going with, but there are probably pros and cons to each service. Thanks so much to Kerry, who told me about PayHip late last night, shortly after they'd announced their ability to handle VAT. It feels amazing that two viable options have now presented themselves over the weekend.


I'm looking forward to knowing that I can now write up a pattern for this English paper piecing project that I've recently finished in Oakshott and Liberty print fabrics!

4. Finally, I wanted to share Etsy's announcement on EU VAT, which they made on 22nd December, saying that they are not going to take on the responsibility of dealing with EU VAT and that it is up to their sellers to deal with these issues. I believe they may be creating a tool to allow sellers to collect the two pieces of customer location evidence needed in order to deal with the tangle of VAT paperwork vendors will have to work their way through now, but it doesn't sound as though this will be available for January 1st. It is, of course, completely understandable for Etsy not to want to take on this extra administrative burden but, after months of silence in the face of their sellers' increasingly panic-stricken requests to know what was happening, to announce that this is their stance nine days before the changes come into practice, with Christmas in between, feels quite staggering.

I'm not affected by this as I make very few sales via Etsy (less than 80 in two years!) and so have already removed my patterns from sale, but many will be. In the longterm, this will affect all Etsy users when the new EU VAT law applies to physical products, as well as digital, the following year.

I'm imagining the next year may bring new, more boutique, specialised marketplaces who are willing to support their vendors by dealing with the VAT issues and seize upon the gap in the market that Etsy are creating by not doing so.

All that's left, is for me to wish you a really happy Christmas! I'm wishing especially for good health and plans that actually come to fruition to be under the tree, as my children have had flu for over two weeks now and my husband and I are unwell with it too. We've already missed seeing family and friends for Christmassy celebrations and it now looks like even our Christmas day plans may have to be cancelled too, as no one seems to be getting much better.

Yesterday, we ran into the truly exhausting realisation that we still had to wrap all the presents and that we had NO cellotape left in the house and so would actually need to go out into the world and buy some (having already braved going out once to walk Nell). Both of these tasks felt equivalent to suddenly being asked to run a marathon and when my husband finally got home with the cellotape and collapsed into bed, I then spent six hours in a haze of wrapping (I don't believe that I have actually bought six hours worth of presents, just that flu-wrapping takes several times as long as good-health-wrapping). My daughter helped me with quite a lot of the gifts that weren't for her and we put on Christmas music while we wrapped, which made the whole thing feel even more surreal, as there are only actually three Christmas songs which we like…so we had them playing on repeat.

Wishing you a happy Christmas and a plentiful supply of cellotape,
Florence x

Thursday, 18 December 2014

Goodbye for now, PDF patterns


I've been avoiding mentioning this on my blog as I was hoping that it would resolve itself before January 1st, but that's now looking increasingly unlikely. I think that most digital sellers are now aware of the changes in EU law that make it virtually impossible for small businesses to continue to sell their eBooks, patterns and digital products as of January, but for everyone else, I wanted to let you know that my patterns and eBooks will be taken off sale in the next week or so, so if there are any that you know you'd definitely like to own, now is a good time to buy them. You can find all the relevant links in my left-hand sidebar or on my Patterns page (I feel compelled to mention my favourite pattern here, as if you have a small person in your life, a bear or doll's sleeping bag makes a really wonderful Christmas gift - you can find the pattern here…and if you have any concerns about the correct sizing for your particular bear or doll you can find a post entitled Unwieldy Antlers and Other Sizing Issues, here! You will get to see a reindeer, guinea pig, sausage dog and other creatures being stuffed into a sleeping bag to trial sizing…it's every bit as fun as it sounds.)

To give you some background on this, EU legislation around VAT is changing from 1st January, but this doesn't just affect EU sellers, it affects all digital sellers worldwide. Currently, when you buy a digital product, the VAT is paid in seller's country - this means that big businesses can base themselves in tax havens and avoid paying VAT on their sales. To try and stop this kind of sneakiness, the EU have altered things so that VAT is now payable in the buyer's country too. While we have a very high VAT threshold in England (you'd have to earn around £81,000 before you started paying VAT here), in other countries it's set at all different rates, many of them at 0. This means that if I sell even one product to an EU country, I would require two pieces of evidence to ascertain the buyer's location (PayPal doesn't currently give me this kind of information about my buyers) and I would then need to submit a quarterly VAT return to every single country that I sold to. As a small business this is prohibitive in terms of both time and cost.

My e-book: A Practical Guide to Machine Appliqué 
HMRC and the EU seem to have had no awareness until very recently as to how these changes would cripple small businesses  - this, of course, was never their intention, but it is now impossible to sell digital products directly through your own website or blog, as I do, without exposing yourself to this VAT nightmare…just selling one pattern for 1p or 1 cent to an EU country would legally require a VAT return to be submitted there. Initially, HMRC made over-simplified assurances that if you sold through a third party platform, such as Etsy, Folksy or Craftsy,  it was the platform's responsibility to do all this paperwork, rather than yours. However, HMRC had misunderstood how platforms like these work - we are paid directly by the customer on these platforms and then pay Etsy a monthly bill, giving them a cut of our sales profits, so this no longer stands as it's a scenario where no one pays the VAT.

Unfortunately, whether they're part of the EU or not, this change affects ALL digital sellers worldwide. This will mean that from January it may be really difficult to buy many of the digital products that you usually buy.

The hope is that platforms like Craftsy, Etsy and Folksy, with their larger infrastructures and finance departments full of people who wouldn't be reduced to snivelling heaps attempting to put the structures in place to handle all these VAT payments, will step up and offer a solution - they have a vested interest in doing so as they stand to lose a huge amount of money if all their digital sellers withdraw their products from sale. If they aren't able to do this, it will mean the demise of literally thousands of small businesses. I'm really hopeful that they will make this happen, which is why I've held off mentioning this here on my blog, as I was hoping it would be a simple case of just transferring the location of my patterns. But it's now December 18th…and it's looking like this may not happen as we'd hoped, at least not in time for a smooth transition on January 1st.

There has been some talk that the changes affect online advertising too. While this might be the case, all of my sponsors are based within the UK only, so for this reason, I'm happy that this side of my business will survive, at least.

I'm really lucky that my main source of income - the business I run with my husband, making our educational Squeebles apps for children - isn't going to be affected by these change, as the VAT is paid at the point of sale. For that I'm hugely grateful, but I'm feeling sad that my own little pattern business is coming to an end for now. Even if I'm able to sell again through an online marketplace like Etsy at some point in the future, it feels a great shame that this change in VAT legislation means it will be very difficult to sell independently through our own websites or blogs - that feels like a step backwards. One of the incredible things about the internet has been the ability for cottage industries to spring up and for it to become viable for so many people to run their own businesses from home, working independently in their own niche areas. This doesn't just affect craftspeople - it affects everyone from people selling eBooks on how to do your own accountancy, to people producing paid-for webinars teaching people how to use Photoshop or Illustrator.

What I want to say more than anything at this point, is how incredibly grateful I am to everyone who has bought patterns from me over the last five years - I have really appreciated your support and it's a real delight to see what you've made with them. It was my blog readers who encouraged me to write my very first pattern and without your faith in me, I don't think it's something I ever would have ventured into. I can still remember the first time a confirmation email from PayPal landed in my inbox saying that I'd made a sale…it was the most incredible feeling and since that point, as I've added more patterns to my site, those emails have continued to land in my inbox daily. I am so grateful. Thank you.

If the situation doesn't look like it will be resolvable, my intention is to make my existing patterns available free of charge, as I'd much rather they were out there for people to enjoy than sitting unsewn on my laptop, but I hope you'll understand my need to hold off on that for a little longer to see how this unfolds, as financially it's not an easy prospect to suddenly lose this source of income.

Patterns aside, I have been doing a great deal of Christmas sewing and I'm looking forward to sharing some of it with you in my next post.

Florence x

Friday, 12 December 2014

A winner


This is a very brief post just to thank you so much for all your comments on my giveaway post sharing your foodie memories and associations  -  I loved reading them all, and what was sadly striking was how so many of our foods are associated with memories of parents or grandparents who are no longer here…and how impossible it is to recreate something in exactly the way they made it.

Salamanda is our winner who had her own recollection:

I remember my dad making us French Toast when we were little and it was delicious. I think it was the only thing he could make then. Sadly he died almost 10 years ago and I recently was thinking abou him and tried to recreate it but it just did not taste how I remembered it.

Salamanda, do send me your address either here or via DM on Instagram and I'll get the fabrics posted off to you. Thanks so much to Elephant in my Handbag for providing the gorgeous fabric bundle - remember, you can get 10% off anything that you buy in the EimH shop using the code 'FLOSSIE' at the checkout.

Wishing you a lovely weekend,
Florence x

Thursday, 4 December 2014

Brambleberry Ridge Giveaway!


I rarely run giveaways on my blog, but with one in October and one in December, it may seem as though all the buses have arrived here at once. I know you probably would have actually withered away to a sad little heap if you were actually stood waiting at a bus stop for two months…but it's relative. Anyway, the Number 8 bus has arrived. (Say what?! There's 8 fat quarters in the stack I'm about to give away and it's quite a nice bulbous-looking number, so if a bus has to stop at my blog, then I'd have a preference for it being the Number 8).


This is a glorious little stack of Violet Craft's Brambleberry Ridge, that Elephant in my Handbag, one of my blog sponsors, are offering up to you. Stephanie and Jo were kind enough to let me take my pick of what I wanted to share with you and I was really keen to see this fabric collection in strokeable proximity (but don't let that put you off!) and thought you might love it too.


Brambleberry Ridge is actually several hundred times nicer than I even imagined it to be and I'm feeling slightly pained by having to give it away. It's partly a tactile thing. I'd anticipated a fabric with so much gold printing to feel a little crispier than regular quilting cotton (the golds I've come into contact with in the past often have), but it's actually entirely the opposite. To me, this cotton feels slightly more silky and fine than standard quilting cotton (I can't determine whether it is actually a different base cloth or not and I'm not familiar enough with Micheal Miller fabrics generally to be able to compare it against their other lines - this may just be how their fabrics feel, or it could be the effect of the gold - either way, it's lovely and my husband agrees that I'm not imagining it and that it's curiously softer than my other quilting cottons in his period of brief enforced fabric stroking). It's just really quite divine.


And then there's the colours…these two above are my favourite. I just think they're perfection. They remind me of peppermint creams (which are also perfection).


I remember my mother giving me my first peppermint cream when I was about four years old on the long journey north to see relatives. She passed it through the gap in the front seats to where I was sitting in the dark with my sister in the back of our little Alfa Sud and when I put it in my mouth and it melted on my tongue, my little four-year-old tastebuds and mind may have actually imploded. Even now, handmade peppermint creams are one of my favourite foods on earth, although I don't think I've ever tasted any as good as the ones that I ate on that late night journey. My mother had bought them at a school fate or cake sale earlier that day and I've never been able to recreate a peppermint cream that tastes quite as perfect, but if you'd like my almost perfect recipe for the ones above, you can find it in my archives here. They are delicious (she said, immodestly).


Anyway, these gorgeous fabrics are currently sitting on the back of my chair (in a non-leant-upon way - I'm slightly clueless as to why I chose a chair with a back, as I never actually sit back when I'm typing or sewing, but I really adore this chair, so it possibly earned its place for aesthetic reasons) until I post them off to one of you.


Here's what you have to do to enter: just tell me one of your own memories - adult or childhood - of an amazing meal or food that you still long to recreate exactly or can still almost taste when you think of it. Or indeed, if there's a certain fabric collection that reminds you of a certain food I'd love to hear about that too.

Florence x

Ps. The latter suggestion makes me think that's some odd variation of colour synesthesia (where names and words are linked in the person's mind by colour - I have this and I'm guessing a lot of visual thinkers do too). Fabric Eatesthesia?

Pps. You can currently get 10% off at Elephant in my Handbag using the code 'FLOSSIE'.

Wednesday, 26 November 2014

Another Charlotte Bartlett quilt


Over the last week I've been hopping between working on this English paper piecing project and an enormous Charlotte Bartlett quilt that I'm making as a Christmas gift for my parents. You might remember my first Charlotte quilt, which I named after a character in an E.M. Forster novel for the reasons shared in this post, when I found the piecing for the original snowball quilt (intended as a huge quilt for our back garden) that I was making so stultifyingly dull, that I decided to make it far smaller…perhaps not allowing all the members of the family to sit on it at the same time! Anyone who's read the book or watched the film of A Room with a View, may instantly understand why a quilt that was too small for everyone to sit on may take on such a name, but for those that haven't, do go and read my original post and you can add the phrase 'For goodness sake, don't be such a Charlotte Bartlett about it' to your own lexicon, for times when you're faced with a whiff of martyrdom!



Anyway, the name now seems doubly appropriate in its nod to martyrdom, as I decided to make this quilt in full knowledge of how much I'd not enjoyed the piecing work involved in its creation last time and it's just as unpleasant as I'd remembered it to be! I know some people find chain piecing soothing and meditative. I wish I was like them, but even with episode after episode of The Good Wife playing on my laptop in the background (it's an American legal drama and truly wonderful), I still don't find it restful. However, I'm spurred on by the fact that over the last few years, whenever my father has caught sight of my Charlotte Bartlett garden quilt, he's said how much he loves it, so I really have wanted to make him a similar one. My mother also adores the colour blue and I think will really love how exuberant Kaffe Fassett and Philip Jacobs prints tend to be, so I'm hoping it will be a perfect joint present. These are the blues that I chose for the quilt.


This is the original quilt. It's traditionally called a 'snowball quilt' because of the tiny pieces sewn to the corner of each square, which, when sewn together, create a sense of a quilt full of round balls, although my version doesn't make this so apparent, as I haven't chosen to use a particularly contrasting print.


You can see a photo of it in its early stages, below. This is the first time I've used my new design wall properly - I've had an EPP stuck up there with pins until now as, with the papers still in place, English paper piecing projects don't cling to the design wall in the same way that fabric does. But goodness, it's exciting stuff to see fabric just 'sticking' to the wall unsecured by anything other than its own desire to cling to a piece of flannelette!


This was my paltry dusting of completed snowballs last week…I now have a pile akin to Helvellyn, which is moderately satisfying, but I will be aiming for Everest proportions over the coming week, before sewing them all together. I have a tendency to over-cautiousness and in the past when I've chain pieced things, I've still felt the need to take back-stitches at the start and end of each line of stitching, even though the seams will be secured properly later by sewing across them. However, a quick discussion on Instagram about this gave the confidence to dispense with this, although I've still decreased my stitch length a little to make the stitches harder to work their own way out…just in case some of them are particularly wilful in wanting to make a bid for freedom.


I did look through a big pile of quilting books before deciding to torture myself with the Charlotte Bartlett quilt again, but nothing else offered quite the flow and wildness that I think my father really loved about the original quilt. I could possibly have done just simple patchwork square but, quite inexplicably, I felt mean to take away the tiny corner stubs, just in case that was the thing he'd liked about it. I had an idea that it may have actually been the occasional snippets of black that he loved, so I've been careful to pick some blue prints that also have a bit of black in them.


And because I know that some of you come here just for the dog photos (that may not actually be true, I just like posting them), here's a photo from a few weeks ago when we went for our annual walk with some of Nell's brother's and sisters.


After a dry summer, everywhere suddenly seems to have turned to mud. A week after this photo was taken, my husband injured his leg playing football and so I've been in charge of all of her walks each week (I usually only did three or four, either with friends or with my husband or children). It's been an odd experience to suddenly be on full-time dog-walking duty when, until getting Nell, I was something of a mud-phobic creature. I've been for lots of lovely walks with friends and my father and, for the first time ever, I found myself walking through the woods alone (not out of a newfound braveness, but rather sheer frustration at how dull it is to be confined to walks in more public places). I know lots of women who do this, but I wasn't one of them, so I'm happy to add it to my mental list of 'trying new things', which I started over the summer when I climbed up some high scaffolding (with a really awful fear of heights) and sewed with some purple fabric after years of avoiding the colour.



What are you working on this week? And have you added anything to your own list of 'trying new things'?

Florence x

Thursday, 13 November 2014

Our evening meals


This is a slight detour from sewing, but as all sewists have to eat, I thought you might be interested in hearing about something we've been enjoying for much of this year. Up until April, we were in one of those slumps where I found myself cooking a rotation of the same meals every evening, either because I hadn't had the time to go out and buy any interesting ingredients or because I didn't have the time to research recipes in advance of actually cooking the meal. It went something like: pasta with tomato sauce with vegetables; gnocchi with a blue cheese sauce and asparagus; pasta with pesto and vegetables; jacket potatoes with grated cheese and vegetables…and over…and over. Everyone in our house quite likes these things, but it wasn't particularly exciting to be eating them in rotation every week. I actually really love cooking things from scratch…there's just a slight planning issue sometimes. Anyway, eight months ago, that changed when we discovered Hello Fresh. Each week they deliver all the ingredients I'll need to make three meals with full colour recipe cards for each. The quality of the ingredients is fantastic and the recipes are wholesome, hearty, unpretentious, but really, really good. 


The recipes are often quite involved, but it's this that means that somehow on a Wednesday evening when I've worked all day, got soaked on the school run, helped with homework and am trying to work my way through a washing mountain and would normally decide that some pasta, a jar of sauce and vegetables would suffice, instead I find myself whipping up something like a huge cauliflower and lentil dahl or Lebanese sweet potato wraps, without all the stress of planning or shopping for it. 


The recipes usually take between 35 to 50 minutes to make and I tend to put on a podcast while I'm cooking - it's a really lovely way to relax at the end of the day. It's completely transformed our week and I no longer have the guilt that I was beginning to suffer in feeling that my children would grow up not remembering me cooking particularly varied or interesting things for them (because a few years ago I did used to seem to have time and inclination to cook a lot more) or ceasing to being willing to try new things because they'd got out of the habit of it - I really minded about that idea. 


I have to confess that I don't actually eat many of the Hello Fresh meals myself as I have so many allergies and food intolerances - everything from gluten, to onions and garlic and a myriad of other common ingredients - that it's really rare that a recipe excludes all the things that I can't eat, but it's reignited my joy in cooking for others and the other three members of the family are really enjoying sampling all these new dishes each week. 

Hello Fresh don't really give you a huge amount of autonomy over what you cook each week. We order the vegetarian box for four people, but other than that, we don't get a say in what arrives. I quite like the surprise factor of this, although it does mean that I occasionally have to substitute something - for example, my daughter feels smoked paprika gives things a meaty flavour so I'll switch it for regular paprika from my own spice drawer and we always substitute any rare tofu appearances with some halloumi from our own fridge. 

I'd initially thought I'd want more than three meals a week, but actually it's perfect. We have one night a week where too many people are out to justify using one of the recipes and we also have an amazing local pizza restaurant that we tend to collect pizzas from on Friday nights and then the weekends tend to offer more time for planning out my own recipes anyway. I'd also thought it would be too expensive, but actually, what used to happen was that we'd dash out to the shops constantly to buy a few random bits and pieces and come back with far more than we'd intended to buy (often disparate items, that didn't really make a meal). I think our overall food bill is actually far lower now than it used to be. 


I really love how excited everyone is when the week's recipe cards are unpacked. At the sight of an enormous salad there are often sighs of disappointment, but it's been these dishes where everyone has usually said: I really wasn't looking forward to this one, but it's amazing! 


The fact that we've been getting Hello Fresh boxes each week for eight months now should be a good indication that I think it's a brilliant service, however, just to maintain balance, I thought I should also share the things I'm less keen on: very occasionally, an ingredient has been missing from our box - it's never caused a big problem as I've normally found something in the cupboard that I can substitute it for; you need absolutely massive pans and serving dishes to carry off Hello Fresh recipes with ease - the portions are invariably huge and often provide leftovers for the next day, which is brilliant, but you will need big pans; over the summer they changed over to new eco-insulation bags for the cold items (if you're out, the delivery company will leave the box somewhere safe for you, so the food really needs to stay cold all day in the summer). The eco bags drive me slightly loopy as they're huge and sometimes it feels as though they've wrapped one block of cheese up in the wool of an entire sheep to protect it properly, which even though it's an eco bag, feels slightly wasteful - I'm hoping this is a seasonal thing and that they'll go back to standard insulation now the weather has cooled. 

Anyway, if you'd like to try your own Hello Fresh box, you can get £20 off your first order by quoting my referral code GALEFS. When you get £20 off your order, Hello Fresh give me £12 off my next box as a thank you for referring someone (this is standard for all their customers - this isn't anything related to my blog and this isn't a sponsored post - I'm writing it because I love their service and after eight months of using it every week I feel really happy to recommend them here), so if you'd rather this didn't happen, but still want to try a box, just omit the code. 
    Florence x

    Ps. And if you do use the code: Cheers! We might end up cooking the very same thing one night next week. Freaky. 

    Tuesday, 11 November 2014

    Links to good things


    Last week, in the midst of painting the hall, stairs and landing, I also filled in a small chunk of missing plaster that was knocked out when we had a new kitchen installed about six years ago. The hole was about two inches square, half an inch deep and sat just above the wooden worktop upstand. Sometimes I would put things in front of it, so that I could pretend it wasn't there, but mostly those things got moved by my family, not realising that the recycling pot had been strategically placed, and so most days when I cooked, I noticed it and minded about it. At first, when I was happily pottering around in a new kitchen, my thought was optimistically always, I must fill in that hole tomorrow…but gradually, over six years, that thought turned to wondering what would propel me into action to fill it and whether it would always be like that, until perhaps we were struck by a mad flurry of efficiency if we came to sell the house. I felt slightly envious of the people who would live here next who would never have to see the bit of missing plaster. It's odd how these things which would take five minutes to fix, can sit there for years, making you feel guilty and slightly exhausted on a low-level each time you catch sight of them. Anyway, now that it's finally done, I can report that there are seemingly few things that could make you feel quite so victorious and jubilant than checking something off a mental To Do list that's been nagging at you each time you've caught sight of it for over half a decade…I'm not sure quite why I'm sharing this with you, other than to say that if you have your own metaphorical missing chunk of plaster that will take five minutes to put right, I'd implore you to stop reading and go and tend to it (and then report back once it's done - I'd love to hear what yours was. Next on my own list of 'Things that I am Really Going to Do this Week!' is gluing the small air vent grill, that sits at the bottom of our chimney breast, onto the wall, so that it doesn't fall out every time we open or close our bedroom door!)

    Anyway, I thought you might enjoy a bullet-pointed list of interesting things from around the internet. Bullet-pointed, because that seems an appropriate medium of conveying information for someone who is so ultra efficient…or at least the best course of action for one who still has slightly painty fingers and needs to go and declog them at the earliest opportunity, rather than think about breaking up paragraphs nicely.


    • I've been meaning to tell you about Lysa Flower since May, so the fact that she's appearing in this blog post now, whilst belated, at least means that I can say that I'm sharing her work quicker than I can fill a hole in the kitchen wall. If you haven't discovered Lysa Flower's work yourself already, I think you'll love it. Lysa creates beautiful drawings of people's fabric stashes or favourite pieces of haberdashery. Rendered in coloured pencil on a plywood base, there's something I find just incredibly lovely about Lysa's drawings.


      When I asked Lysa why she first decided to draw on wood, here's what she said: Hmm, why did I settle on wood? All this started with drawing dresses but they were on paper. It seemed no matter how I framed them they wouldn't lay flat. I had seen these wood canvases at the art supply store and thought I'd give it a go. I was really happy with the results and felt it kept everything fresh and clean looking. However my main goal was for it to look modern. Lysa is happy to take on commissions, so do get in touch if you fancy having a part of your own stash captured on wood before you cut into it. Lysa also collaborates with Warp and Weft, where she's been sharing a free downloadable calendar image for each month this year. I adore October, featuring Elizabeth Olwen's Wild Wood line for Cloud9.
    • Co-incidentally, fabric distributors, Hantex, sent a delicious bundle of Wild Wood to me recently, which was very lovely as it's been one of the collections that I've been most excited about this year - you can find their list of UK stockists for this line here and scroll up and down admiring the real fabric and the Lysa's drawing of the real fabric as many times as you'd like (that's exactly what I've been doing while writing this post, anyway).
    • I have no idea what the recipe details are, as they're in Japanese, but I've fallen in love with these adorable biscuits and the step photos look easy enough to follow to achieve the same thing with your own recipe. 
    • If you love seeing all the photos from Quilt Market where designers unveil their much anticipated new fabric collections to the industry and retailers, Abby Glassenberg has written a well-researched and eye-opening article about how this works from a designer's point of view and just how little money, and quite how much hard work, can be involved in the process. It's a really interesting post and the comments are well worth reading too. 
    • One of my lovely sponsors, Elephant in my Handbag, is offering a 10% discount on your first order with them, using the code 'Flossie' at the checkout. You can find the code on their button in my right hand sidebar too, if you ever want to click directly through. 
    • Have you watched this wonderful three-minute video about how the thousands of ceramic poppies were made which have been placed around the Tower of London to remember each soldier who died? It's really worth watching. 
    • I've really enjoyed reading the Motherhood Around the World series on the Cup of Jo blog. Each post featured an in-depth interview with an American mother who had emigrated to a different country and shared her thoughts on the cultural differences that exist in raising children in her new home. In the final post, the tables were turned and Joanna interviewed nine mums who'd moved to the States from elsewhere to hear what their take on the differences were too. The interviews are fascinating reading - I loved every single one of them. 
    As always, if you have any interesting links of your own, please do share them in the comments. And thanks to my sister, Laura, who prompted this post - after an unplanned three week hiatus - with the text: When the devil are you going to blog again? I miss you! xxx. (We had actually been speaking on the phone, texting and even seen each other in person the week before, so it was a doubly sweet text).

    Florence x