The Gift of Making

One of my favourite things about being a maker is the powerful resources that I have available to me to show people in my life or community that I care deeply about them. There's a real joy that comes from selecting just the right small gift that communicates to someone "I remembered you got cold hands when you cycled to work to teach my daughter last week" or "You Little One is your most precious thing, they deserve to be wrapped in the rich natural fibres that I sourced just for them". 

Thanks to the ability to make, I can craft unique gifts that layer meaning so that not only is it just right for a problem the recipient might have been trying to solve but also has a little detail like the motif of a much loved flower. Rough gardeners hands and cold feet find perfect solutions and allow me to gift something that fits into the everyday fabric of their lives. It makes me smile to think of them reaching for those cycle gloves on cold mornings and remembering my gratitude expressed in knitted warmth. I love it best when I create a useful gifts but one with no less beauty for all its practicability and careful consideration.

'Chai' hat by Clare Devine awaiting its pom pom, Little Sprout Bonnet by Melissa LeBarre on the needles

'Chai' hat by Clare Devine awaiting its pom pom, Little Sprout Bonnet by Melissa LeBarre on the needles

When I launched The Maker's Year, I pledged to consume less which meant that gift times have prompted me to look around my home for resources that are ready to become something special. Two little friends birthdays this month meant that my eye fell on some newly acquired balls of Classic Elite Big Liberty Wool. Chunky and machine washable, this did everything I needed on the fast and practical front so that I could whip up two quick gifts for these tiny bundles of joy that I've watched grow over the past few years. 

Big Liberty Wool, KT Robbins Ceramic Succulent Pot & 'Chai' hat by Clare Devine

Big Liberty Wool, KT Robbins Ceramic Succulent Pot & 'Chai' hat by Clare Devine

To me though, the gift of making goes further than producing beautiful hand mades. Appreciating other makers need to create means that the gift of new resources can be just as vital. When I visited someone's family recently, I remembered that The Grandma (yes capitals, she's awesome) was an avid knitter. It's rare to see this matriarchal figure without knitting in her hands as she holds court amongst the huge volume of friends and family members who visit her throughout the day. Showing my appreciation for her need to make felt right for my visit this weekend.  

So before I set off to join the crowd gathered in her front room, I picked out some wool that I knew to be soft and durable. I wanted her knitting to be a pleasure as she worked and a welcome break from the squeaky acrylic that she so often chooses for its convenience. Having worked with Milla Mia before, I reached for a selection of colours I knew would soon bedeck tiny baby feet and heads as this wonderful knitter whipped up gift after gift of her own to bestow on friends and family. 

Milla Mia gift

Gifting resources and hand mades is one of the easy ways I'm managing the tendency to acquire yarn that I want to knit with "soon". Too many skeins have disappeared into plastic tubs as I wait for this magical time when I will knit faster and have more time to choose just the right pattern. Crafting with intention is something I've been enjoying reflecting on thanks to Felicia's Stashless Challenge at The Craft Sessions. If you've not discovered Felicia yet, I thoroughly recommend you spend some time getting to know her philosophy on craft and using your stash to enhance your making not weight it down. She inspired this post and I'm extremely grateful. 


With thanks to Love Knitting for providing yarns that feature in this blog post for review purposes. Opinions here are my own. 

Photography For Knitting & Crochet

Just a quick blog post to let you know that we have a few spaces left on our popular photography workshop next weekend and we would love to see you there.  You can join myself and Emily Quinton for photography, practical sessions and inspiration at her beautiful Makelight studio. 

Whether you have always wanted to take better pictures of your finished objects or are a designer thinking about getting the best images for your patterns and social media, this is a morning dedicated to celebrating stitches and your craft.

Photography for Knitters & crocheters2.jpg

The morning will include:

  • Finding inspiration and developing your style
  • Learning to use and find the best light to really show your stitches and accurate colour
  • Composition and styling- how to take pictures of whole pieces vs small details such as lace or colourwork
  • Getting the best from your camera phone
  • Shooting in Aperture Priority mode on your dSLR (if you have one)
  • Basic editing on your phones and computers
  • A goodie bag for each attendee 
Photography for Knitting & Crochet

After the workshop, there will be a couple of hours to share food, knit, crochet and practice what you’ve learned. During this time you will have plenty of time to get hands on with props and share ideas. Emily and I will be on hand to answer questions about:

  • Tips and tricks for visual social media and using photography on your blog
  • Story telling through visual social media, so that people want to connect with you and if you’re a designer, buy from you!
  • Tips for building your social media following.
  • How to create a visual social media presence that really represents your brand or tells the story you’ve always wanted to tell.

After the workshop you will be able to join the private Makelight Facebook group for continued support, inspiration and networking.

Photography for Knitting & Crochet

Essential Details:

Date: 16th January 2016

Cost: £85 (includes lunch, drinks and cake)

Workshop running time: 10am-2pm

Coffee & settle in: 9.30am

Lunch, practical sessions with props & making time: 2-4pm

Tickets here

Please bring your camera(s) - whatever that is and remember to charge it up and clear your memory cards. We will have plenty of props and inspiring things to photograph but if you want to bring some of your own things then please do.

We can’t wait to spend the day with you all! x

Wipsandblooms... Adding More Blooms

With the Christmas decorations taken down last week, I spent some time looking really closely at our new living space and pondering what I can to do to add a little cheer until we move into our final home in June. It's hard to put your stamp on a temporary space and yet I find myself needing to settle in somehow. I work from home, I take pictures almost constantly and I like to have a little corner to nestle into and read, knit or pour over recipe books. Having only just moved and then Christmas, I haven't yet felt that sense of belonging that I need to call the place we dwell our home. 

I peered closely at the walls that will form a constant background to whatever I do and whatever pictures I wish to take for the next 6 months. All but one are painted in dark colours that feel more than a little oppressive on gloomy overcast days like today. I started to feel a little despondent just looking until I realised this needs to become a place to nestle into on those dark days. On light filled days I know we will head out as much as possible to explore our new surroundings. I think I need to think of this as a space to recharge after such adventures. 

dark walls

So I started simply and looked at what I already had. Candles here and there, a few prints on the wall that I could enjoy as I pause from typing and editing were a good place to start. I added some lighter fabrics on places like the kitchen table and knew instantly that what I really needed was some pretty sprays of flowers to pick up dark corners. I've found it hard to find a florist here yet so when my Wips and Blooms cohost Katie emailed to share the news that Bloom and Wild would love to support our creativity this month, I was overjoyed. 

Adding a little something to the kitchen table that is the hub of our daily life felt like a changing moment this week. I've always loved cut flowers in my home, almost as much as pottering in the garden. We don't have our own garden here so the need for flowers felt more important than ever. Bloom and Wild send you a seasonal bouquet in the mail (yes really, it's just perfect) and when it arrived I immediately pushed aside my laptop and started creating little pockets of joy round the home. Just the act of cutting the flowers and stepping back to look at how I was arranging them left me feeling calmer and happier. 

arranging flowers

From moments spent pondering new projects to taking a calm 5 minutes knitting between editing jobs, my kitchen table began to feel like I had at last found a little sense of home. It's so simple and yet so satisfying to watch the Alstroemeria slowly open to reveal delicate hues and those Wax Flowers have been particularly bringing me joy all week. 

'The Isla' bouquet kindly provided by Bloom and Wild

'The Isla' bouquet kindly provided by Bloom and Wild

Bloom and Wild have kindly offered a 3 month supply of flowers for our favourite #wipsandblooms image this month. To take part, simply take an in process shot of what you are making with your favourite flower or foliage to share on Instagram. It can be any craft and any bloom you feel like. Just remember to add #wipsandblooms and tag myself (@aplayfulday) and Katie (@ceramicmagpie) so that we can see and enjoy your work. If you need ideas and inspiration, you can look at our WipsandBlooms pinterest board here to help you. 

My current wips&blooms- Hugni by Ysolda Teague in Isle Yarns

My current wips&blooms- Hugni by Ysolda Teague in Isle Yarns

I'll be sharing more Wips and Bloom images too over on Instagram across this month to encourage you to take a moment to capture your making. I can't wait to see what you create. 

The Maker's Year

I feel like I start each new year by stating "I'm not really that sold on resolutions" and then wondering if I should be more committed to the idea. I prefer to shift things in new directions when I feel an urge to change regardless of the time of year. However, I came out of 2015 feeling like I'd run a marathon and decided that what I needed was some sort of challenge to give me back a feeling of time well spent. When I wrote down my plan in the form of The Maker's Year, I wondered how many others would want to participate. So the challenge became an open invitation for anyone who wished to join me and I don't think I was quite prepared for the reaction. 

The Maker's Year is a creativity and sustainable living challenge with a seasonal focus. The seasonal part is where I want to really focus my efforts by looking to my local surroundings and existing resources and habits to help me create in an achievable way. I want this to work like a creative habit that builds momentum across a year as I reflect on my process, everyday making and look to nurture my craft skills. The aim is to encourage every person to think about little differences in their lives that can have a massive impact in our day to day and documenting that in a way that is useful and inspiring for others. 

I thought it might be helpful to collect together some really inspiring initiatives and ideas out there that appeal to me as a Creative. The Maker's Year falls companionably with most of these and I wanted to share them for you to discover too.

The Maker's Year Resources

#MakeDoandMend Hour- Hosted by Jen Gale @makeandmendyear, this happens every Thursday 8-9pm GMT on Twitter. Mending and reusing is one of my learning goals for 2016 and I know I could do with some ideas. Sometimes it's the little suggestions that set off a light bulb moment and have you reaching for your sewing scissors with relish. 

Embracing the Seasons- This has been a constant drip feed of seasonal goodness since I discovered it about 8 months ago. Embracing the Seasons forms one part of Seeds and Stitches blog which is co hosted by two women whose work I very much admire. Davina and Hannah share little glimpses into a family life that works very much in tune with the seasonal calendar. I always remember to slow down and make room for my making whenever I linger on this blog or hashtag (#embracingtheseasons). You will find plentiful ideas and recipes here. 

#makingwinter Twitter Chat - Hosted by Emma Mitchell (@silverpebble) every Tuesday at 8pm (GMT), this is an hour rich with so much creative diversity it's mind boggling. I have sworn several times that I will immediately bubble up chutney or take up tatting thanks to this sharing session. Turn up at 8pm GMT, share whatever wintry wonder you've been making and drink in all the creativity people contribute. 

A Year of Creative Habits- A blogger and artist, Crystal moody challenged herself to do one little, creative thing every day in 2014 and then again in 2015. A daily photo of her artwork is a soothing reminder of what just 15 minutes can grant you. Food for thought when I feel as if there's just enough time in my day to be creative. 

The Year in Books- Hosted by Laura who blogs and shares under the name Circle of Pines, this is a monthly reminder to read more. Reading both fiction and non fiction in a published format always gets my creative juices flowing and my heart rate lowered enough to playfully explore but I rarely find time. I've been enjoying the Twitter chat immensely for new book ideas (@circleofpines)

A Year of Making- Originally created by Miriam Felton, this hashtag (#yearofmaking) was her way of sharing something she had made each day for a year. Kim Werker was so inspired by the idea she has given the hashtag further momentum and developed lots of ideas for how to inject creativity into your daily rituals. A lovely place to browse for new and creative inspiration. 

#makenewlight- This month's instagram challenge from Emily Quinton of Makelight that aks us to think about new beginnings or hopes for the New Year ahead. What I like about Emily's monthly prompts is that she offers a way to create a collaborative gallery on her website which is such a lovely act of sharing by Emily. There are some beautiful projects on there already. 

#myhandsmaking- A new join up that really hones in on the process of making on Instagram. Hosted by Fran of FallforDIY, the idea is show the production and the physical act of your hands shaping, moulding, building, threading, stitching, cutting, drawing and anything else they could possibly do to be creative. 


There's just a few that caught my eye recently but I would love to know some of yours. What's been catching your eye lately?