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? 

 

 

#makegoodfeelgood

This week I had the opportunity to write about an event for a charity I've supported for over a decade. Mind are a charity that provide advice and support to empower anyone experiencing a mental health problem. Mind campaign to improve services, raise awareness and promote understanding and I have used their services many times in my professional and personal life. (You can read the article I wrote for Mollie Makes here). 

In a year in which I said goodbye to another beautiful friend battling depression I found my thoughts once again returned to supporting Mind. This time of year can all too often leave me with the 'snowball-gathering-momentum' feeling and I know I am not alone in that. This year, Mind have created a fundraising event based on bringing people together, to craft with their Crafternoons. When interviewing Rachel Boyd, Information Manager at Mind, I was struck by the power of the online craft community. 

“Relationships with others help you to feel supported, positive and connected to the world around you, and are one of the most important things in staying mentally healthy. When it isn’t possible to see family and friends at Christmas you can stay in contact over the phone, by email, text or Skype, which can help to keep the relationships going.”

With the relocation and working out life as a single parent, a real life gathering kind of got away from me this year so I'd like to throw something out into the Internet to give a little support for those who perhaps aren't having a good time right now. 

Comforting crafting

Let's focus on a Cyber hug rather than a Cyber Sale for the Holidays. 

On Monday 7th December I would love it if you would join me and lots of others to share a positive message about our crafting. Using the hashtag #makegoodfeelgood, share an image of anything you are either currently making or something you’ve already made and love. You can share any craft from baking a cake to repairing a pair of much loved socks. When you post, it would be great if you could explain why it makes you feel good to have made it. I hope that we can remind everyone to take a little space in their busy lives to gather with friends, craft and feel good at a time that can be particularly challenging for those who suffer from mental health problems.  

yarn flat lay

If you want to link back to me @aplayfulday that would be lovely but is not essential. If you want to shout out support for Mind’s Crafternoons, that would be even better.  Any sharing and spreading of the plan beforehand is always helpful to make the ripple go a little further. Just remember to include the hashtag #makegoodfeelgood so all of us can join together online in one big crafty hug. 

If you or any of your loved ones are feeling in need of help, you can find Mind online @Mindcharity, call 0300 123 3393 or text 86463. 

Guest Post: Martine’s Motifs

In this month of slowing down I've thought a lot about new skills, dwelling on simple tasks and enjoying a good fling with being polycraftual. Someone I've followed in her polycraftual exploits is Martine, the queen of crafts as far as I'm concerned. I asked Martine to guest post for me this month and amazingly, she found time to pop in and say hi! It's an honour to host Martine here, she's bursting with ideas and inspiration.

Martine hosts the iMake podcast from her Guernsey based home and writes for several publications. I first fell for her amazing ability to write tutorials- I found myself wanting to branch away from knitting and get seriously into soap making and crochet! 

Here's her thoughts on a little motif work...

Martine of imake

The word “motif” doesn’t seem be used in conversation very often, which is a shame, as it’s rather a lovely sounding word with a variety of meanings. A motif can be a decorative design, or a pattern, or sometimes a symbol. It can also be a reoccurring or dominant theme in writing, artwork or music. For example, Guernsey (my island home) is a motif featured often in my podcasts and photography.

Whatever your incarnation of “motif” is, it seems that in most cases, motifs are not just decorative they can be meaningful. Here are a few examples of where I have used motifs in my creative endeavours. 

My Favourite Things

In August 2014 I hosted a knitalong and our chosen project was the “My Favourite Things”  Infinity Scarf by Jill McGee. It’s a stranded colourwork/fair isle scarf knitted in the round as a long tube, then grafted at the ends. The utterly joyful part of the making process is choosing your own motifs to feature in the scarf (the idea being that they represent your favourite things). 

My scarf included coffee cups, flowers, squirrels, sheep and an Apple logo. It also included a number of traditional fair isle bands ­ those bits weren’t particularly meaningful, I admit, but they looked pretty!

This scarf is, without a doubt, the best thing I’ve ever made. The design process was incredibly enjoyable and the constant pattern changing meant that the project was completed quickly. Seeing KAL participants’ pattern choices, and learning about the reasons for their choices, was also quite wonderful. 

Read more about Martine's Cowl  here  on her website

Read more about Martine's Cowl here on her website

Cross Stitch

I’ve had a love affair with cross stitch for years, but, try as I might, I cannot seem to finish a large project. Small -projects, though, are totally achievable and completely satisfying. There are lots of free resources online for cross stitch motif patterns ­ alternatively grab some graph paper and felt pens and design your own. One of my favourite cross stitch projects was creating and stitching my own QR code ­ it’s both meaningful (it’s a link to my website) and functional (it works!) 

Martine's tutorial  How to Cross Stitch a QR Code can be found on her website,  here . 

Martine's tutorial  How to Cross Stitch a QR Code can be found on her website, here

Doodles

I’m a compulsive doodler. My doodles invariably feature a whole host of motifs, often relating to the situation or my feelings at the time. Doodles aren’t just a tool to pass the time in meetings though. They can look fantastic on handmade greeting cards, scrapbook pages or as part of your website (scan them, tidy them up in your photo editing software of choice and then you’ve got completely unique, personal motifs for your website). Here are a few of my doodles.

Doodles

Over To You...

Do you use motifs regularly in things you create? Are they meaningful, decorative or both? I’d love to know.

Thanks for reading, TTFN.

Martine XOX

 

You can find Martine on her online home iMake as well as sharing her ideas on Pinterest, FacebookInstagram and Twitter. Thanks so much Martine!

{Guest Post} Publishing as a Feminist Act

This week, I shared an interview on the podcast with Melanie Falick that inspired me enormously. As well as being a highly acclaimed published author in her own right, Melanie has built a career on nurturing and empowering women to find their voices and become published authors. When the interview ended, we both felt there was still a little more to add. As is often the case when I interview a guest, we talked a little while off air and Melanie very kindly offered this guest post to share an important idea. 

Rebecca Ringquist's Embroidery Workshops


When I interviewed artist Katharine Cobey for my first book, Knitting in America, she said to me, "If I were a man and I were knitting things, I would feel perfectly calm. It would be perfectly ordinary to have a beautiful studio, to say what I do is as important as I can make it." But women don't always feel that confident and entitled. "It takes putting both feel firmly on the ground," Katharine continued, and saying, " 'Stand up,' all the way that you can go. Just as big or as little as you are, but as much as you can."

(c) Abrams Books

(c) Abrams Books

I think of Katharine words often. As an editor of craft books, I always try to give my authors (who are most often women) the chance to "Stand up," that is, the opportunity to express their creativity and knowledge in a bold, solid, confident way. Gone are all of the apologies that women often make for being a bother or taking up too much of someone's time or space. Gone is the modesty that many of us have come to believe we must express lest be labeled bossy or egotistical. Gone is the idea that what we do with yarn or thread and needles is trivial. Instead, we create a book that is as beautiful and substantive as we can make it, that allows us to say to the world, "I have something important to express, my work is worthy, I believe in myself." 

(c) Abrams Books

(c) Abrams Books

I'm not sure how to define the term "feminist act," but I do know that I have always been dedicated to the idea of celebrating what women do, especially the parts of women's lives that have often been devalued and under-appreciated. 

 

Find Melanie online on Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest  as @Melaniefalick and also at her new online home, MelanieFalick.com.
 

Minikrea- Kjole

This sponsored blog post is brought to you by Ray Stitch. and views expressed here are my own. To find out more about sponsorship opportunities, please email me. 

 

I've become polycraftual. 

There, I said it. I have been wanting to tell you all for a long time but today's finished item means that I can't hide it any longer. I still love knitting but we have agreed to see other crafts and knitting seems ok with that. In seeing other crafts, I've come to the conclusion that it actually makes my relationship with knitting stronger. Learning to sew has taught me an enormous amount and I am so thrilled with the results. 

It all started with last month's focus on a Handmade Wardrobe. I decided it was time to take the plunge and just commit to sewing something. I was daunted by the idea of an adult garment so I spent some time looking at simple patterns for childrenswear and reached out to Ray Stitch for some ideas. As always, they were amazingly encouraging and full of helpful suggestions to get me on the right path. 

I had the pleasure of living near Ray Stitch in my North London days. I would regularly go in to soak in the inspiring fabrics, notions and samples, all presented in a way that was uncluttered and appealing. By the time I got a sewing machine though I was already heavily pregnant so it's only now that I have found myself with fabric, machine, pattern and the determination. 

Minikrea kjole- 2002 using Birch Fabrics Organic Cotton

Minikrea kjole- 2002 using Birch Fabrics Organic Cotton

The details:

Pattern Minikrea Kjole 20002

Fabric Birch Fabrics Serengeti 100% Organic Cotton (Giraffe family, shroom)

Making this dress for my daughter was such a learning lesson. Curved hems, pinning accurately, cutting the fabric correctly (with huge thanks again to Rachel for rescuing me when I cut wrong and wept the first time), lining , armholes, placing button loops... 

I've since realised that a mini person sized pieced dress is ambitious for a beginner like me. I think the fact that I had made the commitment thanks to the talented help of Lisa and Rachel from Ray Stitch meant that I stuck with it when I might have been otherwise tempted to put it aside and make something that felt less complicated for me to achieve. This isn't a hard pattern but there was a lot more steps than I had in my skill set at the start. I chose all the easy options with the exception of the button loops as I wanted cute buttons. There are options for puff sleeves, bubble hems and all sorts that would be fun one day but for now, simple lines is perfect for this newbie. 

Minikrea kjole- 2002 using Birch Fabrics Organic Cotton

Minikrea kjole- 2002 using Birch Fabrics Organic Cotton

Still, I now have a dress that is hanging and waiting for the Playful Tot's return and I can't wait to show her. We've already tried it on at the midway point so she's been asking ever since for her new giraffe dress. I am slightly concerned it might fall apart the minute she starts twirling around in it but you know what? I wouldn't mind because this feels like a huge step forward for all of my making. 

Minikrea kjole- 2002 using Birch Fabrics Organic Cotton

Minikrea kjole- 2002 using Birch Fabrics Organic Cotton

Lessons:

Plan ahead- When I knit, I tend to jump in and figure things out on the needles because I have the safety net that I can unpick if I make a mistake. That's simply not an option in sewing so I know that from now on I will be less resistant to researching a little so that I knit just once in the first place. It's ok to take your time!

A good start saves time- On a similar note, reading the pattern thoroughly each time you have a bit of time to sew as well as setting yourself up with all the equipment and information you need, leads to a much more successful crafting experience. I tend to have an extremely limited amount of time to make these days so using some of that time to get organised has been a revelation for me. I zipped through tasks on the days I did this rather than fumbling about and getting frustrated. 

Room to Create- I live in a smallish London home. We don't have spare rooms to make and create in so everything has to be contained in a way that I can stop and start whenever I feind a spare few moments. I have a new found appreciation for knitting fitting between those times in our lives when I can just put in a few minutes of stitching while my daughter brushes her teeth or we wait for a bus. Dedicated craft time can then become a little more extravagant in comparison if I remember the first two lessons. 

I could really get into this polycraftual thing.


With huge thanks again to Ray Stitch for setting me on my garment making path! Ray Stitch is a ‘fabric boutique’ selling a carefully selected and wide range of designer prints, plains, weaves and knits. The range is underpinned by a fully comprehensive range of high quality tools and accessories and a plethora of seductive buttons, ribbons and trims. Committed to a conscious approach to product sourcing, many of the products they sell are organically or sustainably produced.