Sunday, 1 March 2015

The Craft Book Review

I have probably said this before, but I can't help browsing all of the craft magazines whenever I am in the newsagent.  I always hope to find a really good sewing magazine I haven't seen before and often end up buying a magazine based on an eye catching project on the front cover.  However, when I get home I soon discover the only bit of interest in the whole magazine was the item on the front cover!

I was pleasantly surprised yesterday to come across a new publication amongst the magazines simply called "The Craft Book - Techniques and Projects".  Needless to say, the cover image piqued my interest and a quick flick through prompted me to buy it.  I didn't even check the price.

Having got to the checkout, I was slightly taken aback to find it was £9.99.  As I had found the publication amongst the magazines, I had expected a magazine price, of say £4.99.  With nearly 170 pages of content, "The Craft Book" is actually what it claims to be, a softback book and not a magazine at all.  Given the amount of content, I think it is actually a really fair price.

The book is split into five main sections, Textile Crafts, Jewellery, Ceramics & Glass, Candles & Soap and Eco Crafts.  Each section then gives really clear written information and photographs of all of the tools you will require and instructions on a wide variety of projects, from silk painting and needlefelting, beading and metal clay to basketry and rag rugging.  Also included are crafts I hadn't even heard of at all, including ribbon weaving and cold enamelling.  I was really surprised to find such a wide range of crafts included in one book.  Whilst each subject offers only a taster project, it is enough to give you the confidence to experiment further.

I would really recommend a buying a copy of "The Craft Book" for yourself or a gift.  It is ideal for anyone with a love of crafts, from mid teens upwards.  The only problem you may have is finding enough time to try out all the crafts!

If you can't find the book in your local newsagents or for more information, click here.

Wednesday, 24 December 2014

The Art of Giving

It's Christmas Eve, the decorations are up, the Christmas cards sent and the presents bought and wrapped.  Sitting quietly with a cup of tea, I can't help thinking about all of the orders I have posted out over the last few weeks not just to the UK but the USA, Europe and even Australia.  I hope they have all arrived safely and in time for tomorrow.  More importantly, I hope that whoever receives the items as a present actually likes them!

Buying presents is tricky, whether it is for Christmas or a birthday.  Even if we think we know someone really well and know their taste inside out, I am sure sometimes we just get it wrong.  So what's the answer?  Well, everyone could write a list of items they would like or need, I do that for some of my family who ask.  Whilst you know you will get something you actually like, it does take away the element of surprise though.  You may not know who will buy which bit but you still know what is probably under the Christmas tree for you.

Some people announce they don't know what they want (not very helpful!) and just want cash or a gift voucher.  That's fine but if we all gave each other a voucher, there wouldn't be a pile of presents under the tree on Christmas Day.  Somehow a little bit of the Christmas magic would be lost for me.  I do like to eye a pile of presents, even if they aren't for me!  I also think that if we all just swap a gift voucher then we may as well not bother at all, you are just passing cash between you at the end of the day, so what's the point?

Buying presents for someone can be an art.  I believe it takes time, thought and care.  And that for me sums up a gift.  It isn't about how much it cost, or if it has a designer label or not, it is about the time someone has taken to choose it.  The thought they have put into finding something they hope you will love.  Best of all for me, is the smile that lights up their face when they open a present they genuinely like.

Have a lovely Christmas everyone and a very prosperous 2015!


Sunday, 30 November 2014

Small Business Saturday

The UK has millions of small businesses in its villages, towns and cities, many based online, like From Rags To Bags.  They are all dependent upon the continuing support of existing, loyal customers, as well as new customers to promote growth.

Small Business Saturday was the idea of American Express who first promoted it in 2010 to show support to small, local business.  The date chosen was the first Saturday after the popular shopping days of Black Friday and Cyber Monday, at the end of November, which primarily favour the major retailers.

This year's Small Business Saturday is 7th December.  It is the perfect time to revisit your favourite small businesses or discover new ones.  With Christmas around the corner, small businesses are often the perfect place to discover unusual gifts, often handmade locally.

For more information on the Small Business Saturday campaign in the UK, click the link:

Small Business Saturday website




Sunday, 29 June 2014

Upcycled Teal & Tape Table

I've been painting furniture for the last twenty five years, it is a great way to create bespoke furniture and to give an old piece of unwanted furniture a new lease of life.

A few years ago, I bought a very uninspiring little occasional table at the local dump for the bargain price of 50p.  I looked handmade and was thickly, and badly, painted in a dark varnish.  I liked the size and shape of the table and thought it would be useful somewhere around the house.  At only 50 pence, it was worth buying.

I spent a lot of time wondering what to do with the table.  It didn't actually look too out of place as it was, so I gave it a clean and used it as it was.  I thought about painting it cream and stencilling a design on the top and then thought about covering the entire table in decoupage, which I have done in the past on other furniture.

Having recently bought a new teal, brown and cream rug for my sitting room, I decided to paint the table teal.  Whilst I was pleased with the colour, I felt it needed something more.  I had read about Japanese Washi tape in craft magazines and had wanted to try it for a while, so that seemed the ideal solution.

Washi tape is a strong, durable paper like tape, similar to masking tape but is actually made from bamboo, hemp or tree bark.  It comes in a huge range of widths, colours and patterns so is perfect for craft projects.  It is readily available in craft shops and online.  I looked on eBay for mine as I wanted one that was a teal colour.  With postage it was a few pounds, so not very expensive.

I decided to run the tape around the top edge of the table and also down the legs.  It took about ten minutes to simply unpeel the end of the tape and then run in along each surface, smoothing it as I went.  You have to take some care as you can't really stick, peel off and stick again too many times as the tape with loose it's tack.  Once stuck, it seems to stay put though.

As the table is in constant use beside a sofa, with cups of tea always sitting on it, I needed to protect the paintwork as it is a water based paint.  If I wiped the top, the paint would come off.  To seal it, I rubbed on a few coats of Annie Sloan Soft Wax which is designed for the purpose.

I am really pleased with the transformation of my table.  It has gone from a dark, dull table to a bright, contemporary piece of furniture which will have a place in my home for a long time to come.  When I am bored of it, I can simply peel of the tape and paint it another colour.






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Sunday, 8 June 2014

Seaside Cushions on Wow Thank You

A week ago, the website Wow Thank You, which is a platform for UK artisans to sell their products, ran a poll on Facebook to see which seaside themed cushion was the voters' favourite.  I got an email to let me know that one of the four cushions chosen for the poll was mine.

Voters had a few days to cast their votes on A, B, C or D, with one voter being picked at random to receive the winning cushion as a gift from Wow Thank You.


I never expected my cushion to win and was amazed to get an email saying not only had my cushion topped the poll, it had won by a country mile!  The other three cushions received about 42 or 43 votes each in a surprising complete tie.  My cushion gained over 280 votes though, 70% of the whole vote.

I have to admit, I'm not sure winning the poll had much to do with my cushion sewing skills.  Having read some of the many comments left by voters, I think it was the appeal of the British beach hut that swayed the vote.



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Monday, 2 June 2014

Faking It

Like most small businesses, I don't have a vast budget to hire professional products stylists, photographers and studios.  I am the stylist and photographer and my home ends up as the studio with product sets wherever is practical, usually in the kitchen as it has good light.


One issue I always had was that virtually all of the walls in my house are plain magnolia paint.  I happen to like it from a decor point of view but from a photographic backdrop point of view, it's not very inspiring.  I didn't really know how to resolve it though.

Earlier this year, I came across an online photography course aimed at crafters.  The first two weeks taught photography techniques, including lighting, exposure and focus, the second two week module concentrated in styling products.

To say the course transformed my product photos is an understatement.  I no longer use my camera in the auto mode and adjust the light and focus manually.  More importantly than that though, I learnt to fake it.  With the help of very simple props, you can create all sorts of different photographic scenarios to stage products to their fullest.  My favourite prop of all is rolls of wallpaper which can very simply be dropped down behind the product to create different backgrounds.  No more magnolia paint.  With so many different wallpapers available, you can create fake wooden panelling, bricks or use flowery designs.  Whatever fits with your products.






My kitchen is still my studio but you wouldn't know from the photos, they have been taken anywhere, even a professional studio.




If you are interested in the course I took, visit www.photocraft.org, I would highly recommend it.

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Saturday, 1 March 2014

Decluttering and the Laws of Attraction

Since starting From Rags To Bags, over five years ago, my study/sewing room has become overrun with fabric, ribbons, buttons and all sorts of other craft bits.  I admit I've had a tendency to hoard but you never know when something will come in handy.

The result of my hoarding was not only the built in wardrobe packed to the rafters but fabric being stacked over every surface and also overflowing onto the floor.  Trying to get to my sales stock in the wardrobe was a nightmare as I was constantly having to shift everything stacked up in front of the doors.  The bookcase was groaning under the weight of fabric piled on top, the shelves were bowing and the sides were falling apart. I realised a few months ago that I really needed a sort out.

Having mulled over the problem for a while, I decided to invest in some heavy duty racking.  Whilst it may look a bit industrial it was the most practical solution.  I was going to buy cupboards but I was worried about the load bearing capabilities of the shelves and also realised that having to constantly open and shut the doors would wear thin eventually.

I was pleasantly surprised when I searched online for racking, to find that it came in a variety of colours, including a royal blue which matched my chair and curtains.  The shelves could also hold up to 250Kg each.  Perfect!

I have spent the last couple of days sorting through every single piece of fabric, trying to decide if I liked it and more importantly if I would ever use it.  Some has gone in the rag bag which I donate to a local wildlife charity.  They in turn sell it to a rag merchant for recycling, so nothing is wasted.  The useful remnants I discarded (which was a really big bag full) have gone off to the local hospice shop for them to sell and raise funds.  The remainder, is now neatly sorted and stacked in plastic storage boxes on the racking.  My sales stock is also easily accessible now on the top with the remainder in the wardrobe which I can now get to as well.  I can't believe I have so much more room again now either.

However, I am now fighting the universal laws of physics.  I am convinced that as soon as you declutter and make space an invisible force field kicks in sucking new items back into the void.  I popped into town yesterday to drop off the large bag of remnants into the charity shop, only to find myself ten minutes later buying a fabric sample book from the soft furnishings shop on the way back to the car park! The shop had very helpfully put the book outside with their remnants so I couldn't miss it.  They label they had stuck on the book suggested patchwork but the fabric is perfect for my doorstops.  How could I resist?

So, once again, I found myself this morning sorting through more new fabric, trying to decide which bits to keep and then trying to cram them all into the already over full storage boxes.  Perhaps if I have paid more attention in my physics lessons at school I would know how to avoid the magnetic laws of attraction.  I blame Newton personally, I'm sure he would have had a theory about it.
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