Blog Tour: Crafting with Mason Jars

Jars are big currency in my house so when my friend Hester from Hester's Handmade Home announced her latest crafting book would focus on crafting with mason jars and other glass containers, my ears pricked. Hester is something of an upcycling genius and offers tutorials on her vlog that forever have me itching to get making. 

Crafting with Mason Jars blog tour, A Playful Day

Crafting with Mason Jars blog tour, A Playful Day

When I moved house recently I caused great amusement that I shifted an entire box full of jars and bottles. They're all now in full rotation as small vases for fresh flowers, storage solutions and vessels for preserving. What I love about Hester's book is that any new glass entering my home will now have even more possibility as something fun and useful around the house. It speaks to the maker in me that wants my home to be as environmentally friendly as possible. It's a big part of my pledge for The Maker's Year so I'm considering Hester's book a bit of an essential for 2016. 

Crafting with Mason Jars blog tour, A Playful Day

Crafting with Mason Jars blog tour, A Playful Day

Keeping the fact that I was moving again in 3 months firmly in focus, I flipped through the book, trying hard to resist the urge to make bird feeders, hanging lights and planters. Naturally I've earmarked a few for later when I won't have to dismantle them again. I wasn't disheartened by this limitation thought and soon started listing all the quick ways I could use new glass containers. For me, this is the joy of Hester's book: a project for everyone. 

In total Hester offers 35 projects ideas ranging from simple gift ideas to items for the garden or your home. A quick flip through confirmed there's not a huge amount of additional items that you'd need to invest in to make the majority of these projects. Upcycling for Hester is all about what's readily available so it doesn't become an arduous task but rather a project to make at the weekend that is quick with satisfying results. 

So what did I do to celebrate Hester's new book.....? 

Crafting with Mason Jars, Blood Orange Cocktail project

Crafting with Mason Jars, Blood Orange Cocktail project

I made a cocktail of course!

I have some fabulously shaped jars that I've kept with the express purpose of Summer cocktails in the garden. If I'm getting my own garden for the first time in months, I plan to celebrate! Hester includes a number of quick party and picnic ideas and her cocktail recipe just had to be tested out in time for my birthday this weekend. 

It mean, I should practice before Summer, right? 

Hester's version is Pineapple Vodka but, inspired by her suggestion to play around with the recipe, I decided to work with something more seasonal and reached for the Blood Oranges nestled in the bowl on my kitchen table. (I'll be sharing the recipe I used and links in next week's podcast which is basically a love letter to Blood Orange). I love the idea of cocktails with brunch this weekend, served in mismatched jars full of pink delicious vodka. 

Thanks for the inspiration Hester! If you're looking to pin this post for later reference, feel free to grab the image below: 

Crafting with Mason Jars By Hester Van Overbeek

Crafting with Mason Jars By Hester Van Overbeek

With thanks to Hester's publishers, Cico Books, for kindly providing a copy of 'Crafting with Mason Jars' and a mason jar to play with. This blog post has been created for the Crafting with Mason Jars blog tour. Opinions expressed here are my own. 

Useful links:

Review: Makery Sewing

Kate Smith is the owner of The Makery in Bath, a creative hub that focuses on skills needed for making and specialises in sewing. With The Makery's commitment to helping people improve their skills, 'Makery Sewing' is a good basic book to help you take the steps you need. Inside you will find over 30 projects divided into sections 'Home', 'To Wear' and 'To Give'. 

A review of Makery Sewing by Kate Smith

A review of Makery Sewing by Kate Smith

The Highlights

The book is beautifully styled so it's a delight to pour through and get in the mood to make. Each project has a clear picture at the start of that section with an arty styled shot of the materials you'll need sandwiching the instructions. The instructions are clear and I like the fact that each new project starts with a little info bubble on how long you should expect this to take you. 

Beautiful styling inside this basic sewing book

Beautiful styling inside this basic sewing book

The projects are not costly as they are mostly quite small and easy to achieve. They shouldn't need a great deal of specialist equipment and in fact, hand sewing instructions are given for the really easy to achieve projects. This would be a good book to take nibbles in sewing before splurging on some fabric for a bigger make. 

Tools and materials are really clearly laid out at the start and there's plenty of diagrams and schematics, simply drawn, should you need. They remember to tell you to trace the patterns at the back of the book so you can use it again and there's a tips and techniques section at the back of the book too. Very user friendly for a novice like me. 

The Projects:

I really liked a lot of the simple items in the 'Home' and 'Give' sections. Highlights include the Foldaway Bread Platter, the Sweet Tin Footstool and Hooped Laundry Bag. I was a little less convinced by some of the 'To Wear' projects as there could have been more simple modified tees, upcycled skirts etc. I suspect the aim was to keep things to a very small yardage of fabric without sizing so that it was a really entry level book. Lots of bags and a dog collar was a little uninspiring though. 

Patch Pocket Tee Project from Makery Sewing

Patch Pocket Tee Project from Makery Sewing

I do think I will have a go at the Patch Pocket Tee project to help me familiarise myself with my sewing machine. I think many of the projects would ease you through the skills you'd need to eventually progress to dress making should you wish. 

Food For Thought:

Something that might have worked well would have been a rating system or suggested progression of skills. It's arranged by inspiration which makes for a happy flip through and to dive in wherever whimsy takes you. I know I'm guilty of biting off more than I can chew when excited though so would love something within the book to help me pick a project by skills needed too. 

Advice and Tips from Makery Sewing

Advice and Tips from Makery Sewing

I would recommend Makery Sewing for novices and those looking for cute ideas for materials they might already have and wish to use up. It's very sweet and I'd be interested to see more from The Makery. They have a good eye for cute projects and simple but effective technqiues that appeal to those new to sewing. 

My copy of Makery Sewing was sent for the purposes of review by the Octopus Publishing Group. Views are entirely my own. 

An Inspired 2015: Makelight

At the start of this year I made a decision: I wanted to gain confidence in my making and really explore creative ideas that had captured my imagination. I wanted to chase inspiration, to immerse myself in making and learn new things. As a result, I pledged to have 'An Inspired 2015' and have been on a creative mission that has opened up new worlds and places both online and in real life that excite and challenge me. One of the places I found myself recently was the Makelight studio. 

Makelight studio is the real life home of photographer, blogger and maker Emily Quinton. Emily's images are breathtaking and her passion for creativity and making life more beautiful resounded strongly with me. I'm a creative person, I want that reflected in every part of my home and work.  Whether it's the tools I use, the images I capture or the things I make, I find myself increasingly drawn to little voyages into beauty that make me so happy as I go about my daily life. 

With that in mind, I booked onto one of Emily's workshops. If you're found me on Instagram, you might have seen the results already. I've been having a lot of fun. 

Imagery and Styling with an iphone (inspired by Makelight Workshops with Emily Quinton)

Imagery and Styling with an iphone (inspired by Makelight Workshops with Emily Quinton)

Emily's gift is gentle encouragement and sound knowledge. She's been shooting pictures for most of her life and ran a successful wedding photography business before Makelight. It means that you get a blend of techniques, styling, insider knowledge into how to create images that appeal to your audience and a thoughtful look at how we present those images to the world.

Emily has a real vision with her social media and is supporting companies to think about their visual branding too. There's a quiet confidence in Emily's work that makes a big impact and being at her gorgeous studio really confirmed to me that it's ok to dream big, chase light and chase your dreams. Emily is living proof that growing your voice, be that written or in images, makes exciting things happen. 

Imagery and Styling with an iphone (inspired by Makelight Workshops with Emily Quinton)

Imagery and Styling with an iphone (inspired by Makelight Workshops with Emily Quinton)

One of my favourite things that I took from the day has kept me inspired for a week since the workshop. Emily watched as we worked before gently asking 'what is your story?' I thought about it a lot and I've been playing with the idea ever since. Finally, my images are starting to tell the same story as my words and I couldn't be happier. 

Imagery and Styling with a DSLR (inspired by Makelight Workshops with Emily Quinton)

Imagery and Styling with a DSLR (inspired by Makelight Workshops with Emily Quinton)

There are several different workshops from Level 1 (that's the one I took, I wanted to brush up on the basics) to more niche sessions like Food Styling or Photography for Makers. Emily works with both DSLR and iphone so the techniques are accessible to all. 

Imagery and Styling with a DSLR (inspired by Makelight Workshops with Emily Quinton)

Imagery and Styling with a DSLR (inspired by Makelight Workshops with Emily Quinton)

The other gift from the day was a copy of Emily's new book, Maker's Spaces. The book is a glorious walk around the studios and spaces that creative businesses inhabit, all beautifully shot and presented to be gobbled up on rainy days like today. It's published by Ryland Peters and Small and is available to buy on Emily's website

Maker Spaces by Emily Quinton

Maker Spaces by Emily Quinton

If you're looking to develop your story telling, make your blog and social media more enticing or just want to chase inspiration, I'll look forward to seeing you at the studio soon. I know I'll be visiting again. 


With Spring rapidly approaching and the start of a new month, it is fitting that today I am welcoming Alana Dakos as this month's blog and podcast sponsor! Today is an especially good day because it sees the long awaited release of Alana's latest Collection, 'Botanical Knits 2'!

'Forest Foliage', (c) Alana Dakos

Here's a teaser for those of you who can't wait:

'Continue to embrace the beauty of nature with Botanical Knits 2. In this follow up collection, traveling cables, organic textured stitches, and lacy stitch patterns make a reappearance, along with easy to read charts and written pattern instructions. From the cables of a heavy sweater coat to the delicate stitches of a lace shawl, the essence of plant life is worked into each of the 4 sweaters and 8 accessories included in this book'.

'Bare Branches', (c) Alana Dakos

Botanical Knits 2 is available as an ebook ($18) or to pre-order in print ($22 plus shipping). Everyone who pre-orders the book in print will receive a complimentary ebook to download right away. Those who pre-order will a;sp receive a botanically inspired gauge measuring bookmark as well as a new complimentary knitting pattern designed by Alana Dakos with their book shipment in June. To get your preorder, simply click on the button in the side bar. 

The Botanical Knits Ravelry Group has KALS for each of the designs which you can find here

'Thicket', (c) Alana Dakos

Want to find out more? I'll be featuring the latest Collection in the next podcast and you can win a copy. So join me on 16th March 2014 to celebrate Botanical Knits 2. I can't wait to share it with you!

The Scrumptious Collection: Volume 3 Blog and Podcast Tour

Hello and welcome to my post for the Scrumptious Collection Volume 3 launch! I've had the pleasure of being involved in the build up to this release and have really enjoyed the posts so far. You can see a full list of them here so go look as there's some real goodies!

The Collection is part of the Scrumptious Collection series that supports the Fyberspates Silk and Merino yarn range 'Scrumptious'. It's a popular series and I featured the first volume on the podcast some time ago. You can even hear the interview here for the podcast that I did with Jeni, the Director (and all around lovely lady) of Fyberspates. What I liked about this particular collection was how 'British' it feels: 13 exclusive designs from 8 British designers, all shot on location in the coastal region of Lyme Regis, UK. 

The collection includes 5 garment (3 sweaters, 2 cardigans) and 8 accessory patterns. There's some chunky knits, some lace, some new to me techniques such as Fair Isle and some interesting sweater designs. It's got options for digital as well as hard copy which I always like to see. 

Simene Stole, (c) Jesse Wild

So what am I going to focus on for this blog post? The yarn obviously. There's a pattern that I'd personally like to play with and I've been pondering yarn options for ever since I saw the proofs.The Simene Stole is a geometric lace stole that is knit up in a stunning yellow for the book sample. I've actually just finished a hat in the same colourway, using a different base and I'll be talking about how happy it makes me in this weekend's podcast. Designed by Melanie Edgar, this stole calls for Scrumptious Lace base which I love for it's sheen and definition. I also think the Fyberspates Gleem base would be beautiful as it's just that little more crisper in definition due to the BFL content although still with the high shine Silk content. Mind you, Ethereal, the cashmere blend would be an amazing laceweight both to work with and to wear. This stole would just be so snuggly. It seems patterns are very enabling and I can spend hours considering yarn options!

Ethereal Laceweight in 'Tumeric'

I've also just finished working with another yarn that I am itching to try again. Fyberspates Twizzle Silk is a gorgeous Silk: Merino single that would be a stunning heavier option for this stole. It would certainly be less crisp in definition but wow would it be luxurious to wrap around your shoulders on a cool evening. I worked up a shawl recently and the garter stitch in the soft stitches it created just made my heart sing. 

Knit Night in Twizzle Silk

I think this is what I enjoy so much about Fyberspates as a company and why I love working with Jeni. The yarns are constantly evolving and so with each collection you feel you have a range of options to indulge on the patterns. I'm currently craving lace and this could be just the fix I need. If only I could choose a yarn....

You can grab your copy of The Scrumptious Collection Volume 3 either on Ravelry or directly from Fyberspates for £12. There's also a list of wholesalers so do check it out to see if you're LYS is stocking it. 

Head to Toe: Kids' Knits Accessories

Sometimes I think I need a tin foil hat. 

No really, hear me out! I was pondering cowls for mini people the other day. I have a good success rate with knitting baby hats for new arrivals and I often want to make a sibling gift to say 'Hey, you have a new job to do and you rock'. Trouble is, most parents admit that their little ones tend to rip off any hat made for them and scarves just aren't practical for clambering and streaking around. My answer was cowls and I needed some patterns. 

'Mallard', (c) Katya Frankel
Just as I was thinking this, Head to Toe' by Katya Frankel dropped into my Ravelry inbox. Uncanny right? This fab  collection includes 8 hats, 7 scarves/cowls, 4 gloves patterns and 5 sock/ slipper designs. The patterns are sized from toddler and work for both boys and girls which is a big plus and I think makes the book greater value for money. All designs have a contemporary and practical feel to them so rather than being loaded down with cute ruffles and such, these should raise few complaints or provide an obstacle for running, jumping and generally being a kid. It's nice to have the novelty factor in knits but these are often subject to whimsy and easily discarded so a trusted hat or gloves is a must quite frankly. 

'Bowburn', (c) Katya Frankel
There's good sizing information in the book and comments about ease and where it should be applied. The photography is great: clear and detailed but full of fun and mischief too. I thought the models were so beautifully captured as well as wrapped in gorgeous knitwear!

'Rainton', (c) Katya Frankel
There's also a great mix of patterns for different levels. In my experience of working in a yarn shop, many people come to knitting through children's knits. Whether it's an expectant mum or a relative wanting to surprise a niece or nephew, I was often approached about patterns that were good to gift and easy to make. As your knitting level progressed, you wouldn't be turning away from these knits either as there's all sorts from cables to fair isle and good support for both in the form of written instructions as well as charted. 

'Cannonfire', (c) Katya Frankel
A big thumbs up round here. Stay tuned to see what I'll be casting on. I suspect I'll be using this collection a lot! Get your copy either directly from Cooperative Press or on Ravelry here. A big thanks to both Katya and Cooperative Press for letting me review such a packed book of really well thought out knits. 

GaGa for Theatre

One of the areas I studied at University was theatre and I'm a bit partial to something a bit interesting and a bit different when it comes to performance. I love a good musical, don't get me wrong but I'm really passionate about interesting stage design, attitude to audience or something particularly transporting. It makes it quite hard for me to sit still and watch children's theatre as it can often be very (very, very) cheesy.

Last week, a friend invited us to go and see a show put on by the GaGa Theatre Company at our local cinema. When it said 'catchy tunes' I groaned inwardly but was hopeful at seeing the word's 'multi sensory' as this implied an understanding of how to really engage with a very young audience. We weren't disappointed.

We went to see the showing of 'Up and Down', a performance based on the wonderful children's book by Oliver Jeffers. It's a tale of friendship between a little boy and a penguin who dreams of flying. I love the book and was delighted to see it brought to life with the use of actors, projections and carefully thought out props. The music was wonderfully composed by Julian Butler and the Playful Babe sat entranced, body popping throughout.

The performance was as true to the illustrations and spirit of the book as I've ever seen and didn't feel a need to narrate to its' young audience, leaving them the joy of discovering the tale through live action, animations and music. That's a rare find and I was so impressed that the creators understood that discovering the tale for yourself is half the fun of performance and story telling.

Also, the whole thing was hosted to be as convenient as possible: 45 minutes in length, buggy parking and no annoying tat on sale that you inevitably end up buying to avoid temper tantrums. There was even an email sent afterwards of really thoughtful follow up activities and links to download the music for free (which we have and danced to daily).

The best part? My intrepid explorer was enthralled. I didn't have to walk her around or retrieve her from 15 rows back where she'd crawled off to find her own adventure. She pointed and whooped and clucked contentedly throughout. A big thumbs up for us. We'll be attending again!

Among Stones

Welcome to the last stop on the Among Stones Blog Tour! I've been eagerly waiting to write this review up since Carol sent through my copy a few months ago. Having interviewed Carol Feller, the designer behind the label 'Stolen Stitches' some time ago on the podcast, I have a great fondness for her work. She creates with a passion and commitment to quality knitting patterns and knitwear and is really rather lovely to boot. 

As my part in this tour, I have been secretly working on a project both inspired by a theme of Carol's work as well as an actual pattern. I'll explain as we get going....

The Collection: Among Stones contains nine patterns - four women’s  sweaters, one child sweater, a beaded scarf, a shawl, socks (in adult and child sizes), and a hat  and mitten set - all photographed in locations in Ireland and Scotland. In the designer’s words: 

“This book is filled with some of my favourite kinds of knits: simple, interesting, wearable. All photographed in some of my favourite kinds of places: secret, beautiful, tranquil. I hope you enjoy them as much as I do.”

The Inspiration:

Carol's work is often photographed in wonderful locations that have a special meaning to her so I started thinking about my own knitting stories that I've not yet shared here on the blog. The most obvious was that Carol lives not far from much of my maternal side of the family in Southern Ireland and I recognise much of the landscape in which she creates. 

(c) Buffy Toughie in 'Messenger'

However, an experience this Summer kept springing to mind that I wanted to share. I had the pleasure of visiting Asti, the founder and master dyer at Juno Fibre Arts this summer while staying with very close friends. The combination of a wonderful afternoon talking about knitting and dyeing with Asti, in the company of a close friend and the Playful Baby clucking along happily is an extremely pleasurable one for me and I wanted to knit something that reminded me of my own personal knitting geography. I chose Buffy Toughie, one of Asti's wonderful sock bases to work with. I'll be talking in a little more detail about this visit and yarn in my next podcast but Carol's commitment to sharing her favourite places through her knitting was such an inspiration that I couldn't resist adding this element to my post. It's something I think I would like to do more of in the future: commemorating and marking the special stories we create thanks to our knitting community. I owe a big thank you to Carol for making me smile every time I reach for my project. 

(c) Buffy Toughie in 'Messenger'

The pattern: Such a variegated yarn demanded a very particular pattern and luckily, with Carol, you're in safe hands. I chose Pyrite, a sock that is worked from the top down in a subtle slip stitch pattern, It's an ideal way to smoothly blend a variegated yarn or just add a little textural interest to your sock. I've tried a few slip stitch sock patterns now to break up a variegated and either found them lacking in enough rhythm to memorise or just bored me to tears. Somehow, Carol has got it just right with this pattern. I just want to sit and work on it all the time, (time however, is quite a barrier these days). 

(c) Joseph Feller

As I would expect from Carol, there are multiple sizing options, clear instructions and explanations of techniques where necessary. There are multiple pictures of the project too so I have a clear idea of what my final socks will look like. Carol is an experienced pattern writer now having published two previous books, (Contemporary Irish Knits and Scrumptious Knits) as well as being widely published in books and magazines, such as Twist Collective, Interweave Knits,  and Knitty among others. She has also taught at numerous international events and for so there is something reassuring about Carol's pattern writing. There's no hidden surprises and you can navigate around the patterns and pattern notes easily do to the intuitive layout. I will be knitting many more of these socks!

To find out more about Carol and her wonderful new publication, tune into the next podcast where I'll be talking about the other 8 patterns or visit Carol's websiteto pick up your copy. 

Carol can also be found on Twitter (@stolenstitches), and Facebook

A heartfelt thank you to Carol for letting me review the book, the inspiration and the many socks I will be knitting. 

Amongst Stones

RRP: €17, £15, US$22

ISBN:978-0-9571212-2-5 (print) 978-0-9571212-3-2 (digital) 

Direct Customers: Order from

US Wholesale: Deep South Fibers

Europe Wholesale: Contact