Monday, June 3, 2013

Martyrs Day

Today us Ugandan Martyrs Day. You can read more on it here.

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Ugandan Bark Cloth

 I bought my first bark cloth the other week. I was wandering around a market celebrating fairtrade at the Uganda Museum. I found a woman who was selling things made out of bark cloth. All her items were lovely, but having little money I had to be strong and decide on one thing. I bought a small bag.

Bark cloth is made from the inner bark of a fig tree (so I've been informed). 

Bark cloth is traditionally used to make clothes. They have some nice examples at the Uganda museum. 

Now I just have to try and source a bolt of the stuff from somewhere so I can play with it.

Friday, May 17, 2013

Dress a girl around the world (and boy)

I recently stumbled across a great charity called "Dress a girl around the world"  through Louise Horder (@SewScrumptious), who is their UK ambassador. This charity encourages people to make dresses (and shorts) for underprivileged children around the world out of pillowcases, or leftover fabric. The patterns are easy to follow and the resulting clothes are really lovely.

As someone who has recently started working with an orphanage in Uganda (more on this later) I can really see the use in this charity. So many poor children in the world wear worn second hand clothes. having a nice piece of clothing that is theirs and was made just for them can make a big difference to their self-esteem. It may seem like a small thing when these children often don't have enough to eat. But  I think knowing that a stranger cares enough about them to hand-sew them something has the potential to improve their lives, if only minutely and for a short time. The photos of children receiving their clothes speaks volumes I think.

Malawi 2011
Uganda 2012
You can believe if I had a sewing machine I would be making up a batch of these straight away. However, as I don't I will instead be collecting a bundle of clothes from Louise in August and bring them back to Uganda with me instead. 

If you have some spare fabric and time please think about making some clothes for children around the world. You can read more on this, including where to get patterns and how to donate here on Louise's blog. There is also a useful magazine article pattern here.

Let's all dress some children!

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

A portrait postcard of an Indian school girl

I have a whole bundle of travel postcards in my head - waiting to be made into reality. I finally finished an Indian one last week.

Isn't she sweet? Off to school in her pinafore dress.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Babble string with: Fritha Strickland

Fritha Strickland is one of my new favourite illustrators. I love reading her blog updates. Partly this is because she lives in my hometown and I get nostalgic glimpses of it in her photos. But mainly it's because she shares lovely glimpses of her life and her illustrations. Her work is bright, cute and quirky.

I sidled up to her (through the interwebs) to ask her a few questions about her life and work:

1. Were you arty as a child?

I was indeed! My parents raised us largely without TV and on a shoestring budget. Most of mine and my siblings games were made up and sometimes even our toys were drawn and cut out!

2. Where did you grow up?

A variety of places, different towns, cities and countries.. at the time I wasn't always so happy about this but I think it made for an interesting upbringing.

3. Did you study illustration? Where? Was it useful?

I studied Graphic Design at university with my final year focusing on illustration. I would say it was useful but as a young adult I didn't appreciate the help and resources being offered to me. If I was to be given that opportunity again I think I would have the life experience to know I needed to attend and make an effort!

4. How did you get into running your own business?

Ever since I was a child I have always wanted to work for myself. I've had many a disastrous business idea, including selling painted stone on the wall outside my house as a child!I have always been driven by wanting to create and not wanting to take orders from someone. My chance to work for myself came about fully when I finished work to become a stay at home mum. Although I have plans to establish myself more this year (the first year of Wilf's life I was rather overwhelmed and not entirely able to focus on working for myself).

5. Do you sell as craft fairs?

Not so much although if I was going to I think it would have to only be at Christmas time.

6. Where do you get your inspiration from?

Life, my family, nature, books and my sons toys

7. Do you carry a sketchbook with you?

I don't as most of my work is hand drawn on a sheet of paper then scanned and edited on photoshop. I would love to get back into the habit of keeping a sketchbook though I use Pinterest a lot for recording ideas and mood boarding.

8. What's your workspace like?

Currently (and always) a mess.

9. What do you think is most important for the creative process?

Don't force it, if you have been struggling with feeling creative take a break. Go for a walk, read a magazine and try again.

10. What's your favourite medium to work with?

Simple Sharpies, a medium sized rotering pen and Photoshop.

11. Which piece of work are you most proud of?

This changes constantly. At the moment this print is something that I feel very connected to, it seems it strikes a chord with people for all sorts of different reasons!

I love that in the a photo of her workspace it isn't in the least bit messy. It is the picture of organisation.

You can catch up with Fritha through these channels:

Her blog

On twitter

On Pinterest

Her Etsy shop

The good news is that many of Fritha's prints (and other lovely things) are available to buy through her shop (above).

Thanks for letting us get to know you a little Fritha!

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Beautiful African Fabrics

These are block printed on cotton. I bought them from a tailor's shop but I plan to do a proper hunt for a good fabric shop. I need more of these. There was such a beautiful selection (forgot my camera - sorry). Choosing just two was really hard!

I chose the red and green one because it made me think of tentacles. No idea what to do with these fabrics yet but the collection has begun!

Thursday, April 25, 2013

A brief example of Australian quilting

I hastily snapped this pic whilst in bed under featured quilt. Hence the slightly crumpled look to the quilt. I thought it was a lovely example of quilting though. We went to Australia for two weeks around Easter and this quilt was made by a quilting group in Ballarat. 

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Babble string with: Joanne Hawker

Welcome to my newest feature. Can you have a feature on a blog? If you can then this is one. I so often stumble upon amazing people on the interwebs who make such beautiful things it makes me gasp. I thought it would be fun if I shared them with you all. Even better, unlike my 'I spy' series, for Babble String I've actually contacted the people and interviewed them. WOAH.

First up on this roller-coaster of overusing the word 'string' is the wonderful Joanne Hawker. It is no lie to say that I lust after everything she makes. Joanne creates cute illustrations from Somerset. They are bright, cheerful and sweet.

Sailing under the moon print
Two lovely giraffes print
I sent Joanne some questions and she kindly answered them:

Were you arty as a child?
Yes! Very much so! My primary school wasn’t exactly the best when it came to academic subjects but I won’t go into that. I spent much of my days at that school hand binding my own books, lino cutting, drawing, making curtains and making candles. Yep you read that correctly. I was doing that from the age of 4 to 9! I wouldn’t dream of giving lino cutting tools to a child but hey it didn’t harm me! My earliest memory is of me in the bath with my teenage mutant ninja turtle bath pens. They were the best thing EVER! Thanks mum!

Where did you grow up?
I grew up in a little village on the outskirts of Ilminster in Somerset and I still live there now with my mum. I’m saving and saving until I can afford a house of my own with its own little studio space.

Did you study illustration? Where? Was it useful?
I didn’t! I studies Graphic Communication. When I first filled out my UCAS application form I did it all for Illustration courses but then changed my mind at the last minute and went for Graphics instead. I felt it was easier to cross from Graphics to Illustration than vice versa. I’m glad I did it this way. I studied at the Cardiff School of Art and Design (UWIC). It was a great course and I learnt heaps. So yeah I’d say it was useful.

How did you get into running your own business?
It’s something that I’ve always wanted to do. I got fed up with not hearing back from job opportunities and thought you know what? Sod that, I’m going to be my own boss and that is what I’ve been aiming for ever since. I have some new products on their way and I’ve been scribbling down new ideas for something else that been bubbling around in my mind for a little while which I’m really excited about!

Do you sell at craft fairs? Which are your favourite?
I don’t, I can’t make up my mind as to whether they would be a good thing to do or not. I’ve heard a few stories about them. Maybe once I make a few more things I might consider it.

Where do you get your inspiration from?
I know its cliché but everywhere! Mainly from the natural environment though. You’ve probably noticed from my work that I’ve got bit of a thing for woodland creatures. We do actually have a little hedgehog living in my garden at the moment that we rescued so expect to see him popping up on a few things! Another source of inspiration comes from dreams. I have a VERY vivid imagination and can probably draw most scenes from my dreams in perfect detail.

Do you carry a sketchbook with you? (if so could we see some pages from it)
I don’t carry it with me because I don’t want it to get scuffed and dirty. The only time it goes on an adventure is if I’m staying somewhere then I pack it in my overnight bag. I can’t show you any of my new stuff because they are still in process but I can show you my initial scribbles for my repeats! Sometimes I find the original line work to be more beautiful than the finished piece. I think it has something to do with the simplicity of it and the neat black lines.

What do you think is most important for the creative process?
To draw with a pen or pencil (although I prefer pens) and not to go straight for the computer. I find going straight for the computer blocks out creativity. With pen and paper you can just go for it and it keeps a permanent record of all your ideas. Some of which may inspire you for future projects.

What's your favourite medium to work with?
A variety of black drawing pens and my sketchbook before reworking digitally with my Wacom Bamboo Tablet.

Which piece of work are you most proud of?
At the moment my favourite piece of work actually comes in the form of a set of designs. I rekindled my love for repeat patterns and made a nature inspired set. They include LOTS of flowers, a few ladybirds, a few bees and some birds in their little houses.

What's your favourite mythical animal? Why?
Umm, I don’t really have a favourite so I would probably go for something like the crazy creatures from Where The Wild Things Are. Except I would be Max and instead of wearing a wolf costume I would be wearing my fox onesie and I would be Queen!


Joanne also shared her workspace with us but I'll show that in a separate post. Thanks Joanne! I really enjoyed your answers. I particularly love Joanne's sketchbooks. Repeating patterns! Yes!

I highly recommend checking out Joanne's work and getting to know her at the following places:

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Why I'm not sure I trust Blogger

What with the announcement by Google that they're closing Google Reader down in July I find myself becoming increasingly distrustful of them. So much so that I've been heavily researching moving this blog from Blogger. I think Google has become too huge. And a little bit evil. They're massive enough that it doesn't matter to them if they annoy their customer base. After all we're all just advertising targets. So I don't trust that they won't scrap blogger as just another way to try and force us to use Google +. Google + can't be everything Google - it's getting really annoying now.

I decided the best option was to self-host using wordpress' software. If it wasn't for the fact I was struggling creating a theme/layout that I liked and didn't make me want to cry I probably would have done so already. I decided to postpone it until a time I'm actually earning money as all the hosting and the like was adding up. I don't mind spending money for freedom but it seems wasteful to commit to it when I don't actually have any coming in.

If you're thinking of switching then I highly recommend reading through this website that I found. It's called 'Blogging with Amy' and has loads of useful tips about switching and self-hosting.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Patchwork curtains in an Indian school

The school I used to work at in India used the prettiest patchwork curtains to separate classes. Three classes shared this room, separated by the curtains. The curtains were made by the mothers of the students who were taught to sew by the school.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Patterns: Hand art

This is my hand decorated with henna. I thought it was a beautiful enough pattern to share.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Baking paper: Makes excellent pattern paper

Although I filled my suitcase with craft supplies for our move to India (and then Uganda) every now and then I curse some essential item I forgot. Recently I discovered that I really didn't have any paper thin enough to allow me to trace a shape to make into a pattern.

So I did what I always do in this situation - I popped to the local supermarket and scoured their shelves.

Baking paper (available even in Uganda) makes excellent pattern paper. It's thin enough to trace through AND thin enough to pin to fabric to allow shape cutting. The fact that it's super cheap is an extra boon. To be honest I even used it in London. It's too useful!

The following photos show me using baking paper to make my felt map of Uganda.

Friday, March 29, 2013

Some sketches

I thought I'd share some sketches I did months and MONTHS ago when I was still living in London.

A sketch of a friend of mine. Notice in all these sketches the ridiculous amount of repetitive fine points. I was having a bit of a craze with them (still am). Man it makes my fingers hurt. I'm worried I'm developing arthritis in my fingers.

Little girl lost in the woods. This sketch is based on the work of Don Kenn who sketches on post-it notes and I love.

Another copy of a Don Kenn sketch.


More fish. This one really made my hand ache for hours afterwards.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Indian hand embroidery

When we were in Jaipur (India) over the Christmas holidays as well as block printing we also saw men embroidering fabric by hand. They were working on a man's wedding jacket and using real gold thread. It was beautiful work.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Crafty tips in the classroom: Name cards

I am terrible at remembering names. I'd list it as one of my biggest weaknesses. Superman has his Kryptonite and I have the inability for names to stay in my head. It is quite terrible. Usually I forget a person's name whilst they're still introducing themselves.

Now think on that as I tell you I'm a teacher and in London I was a guide leader. Yup. I regularly have groups of 30 children or so under my command. Have you ever tried to control a group of children when you don't know their names? It leaves you powerless. So I'm always up for new strategies to help me memorise names.

When I was teaching in India earlier this year I had an even bigger problem when trying to remember names. Indian names are hard. And long. My brain refused to co-operate. But luckily I was struck with inspiration. I cut some drawing paper I had into cards, handed them out to my students and had them make themselves name cards. Then I made them wave the cards in the air whenever they wanted to answer/ask a question.

Inspired idea. They loved making the cards. This was my grade 4 class and as they have such regimented school day they adore anything creative they get to do. I was impressed at how different all the cards were. Here is a selection of them:

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Saturday, March 16, 2013

The benefits of crafting

I've been thinking about the benefits of crafting recently. I follow lots of people on twitter who when feeling down or ill often turn to craft to perk themselves up. I know I do this as well. Whenever my spirits are low, when the black dog is biting at my heels then simply completing a project makes me feel better. No matter how small - even if it's just colouring a page of my notebook in red. Just doing something and being able to see a solid result at the end soothes me.

There was an interesting project starting last summer on this topic. A woman was starting a magazine called Tre La Creativity. This was going to be focusing on creativity and ill-health. I got involved in it because this subject matter resonated with me. Sadly, the first edition of the magazine has yet to be published and I slightly regret the time I put into the project, although I am glad I didn't put in more. I suppose this is the downside to creative projects - sometimes they can wait for years, waiting for the one finishing touch. Sometimes they never get finished.

I think for a long time "crafting" was slightly looked down upon as a way of wasting time. A craft kit was something you'd give to a child to keep them out of your hair. Recently there has been a huge revival though with etsy and folksy offering an easy way for people to showcase and sell their makes. Crafting has now become big business (well...bigger than it was). It is now trendy - not just something for grannies in the WI to do. In fact the WI (women's institute) itself has gone through a revival with new trendy groups opening.

It's times like this I really miss having access to the British Library, or my log in at UCL. I know there are lots of interesting books and articles on this topic, but I can't quote them because I can't read them. I wish there was more open access in the world. You will have to take my word on it that there have been studies into the benefit of crafting on the body (improving arthritis in fingers) and on the mind. If I manage to find the names of such studies (as I'm in Uganda I don't rate my chances) I will post them. Please post in the comments if you know of any.

As it is - crafting soothes me and makes me saner. This is why I filled my suitcase with craft supplies rather than more practical things like clothes, or waterproof shoes.

Everyone should have a go making something. It spreads smiles.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Crafting: A definition

What is this thing we call 'crafting'? This term has become increasingly popular. People call themselves crafters, there are magazines dedicated to craft. But what is it, exactly? I've been musing on this as I rewrote my instagram description. I describe myself as a crafter. What does that mean? What do I mean by it?

I just looked up the definition of 'craft' in the Merriam-Webster dictionary. This is what it said:

: skill in planning, making, or executing : dexterity
a : an occupation or trade requiring manual dexterity or artistic skill<the carpenter's craft> <the craft of writing plays> <crafts such as pottery, carpentry, and sewing>
b plural : articles made by craftspeople <a store selling crafts> <acrafts fair>
: skill in deceiving to gain an end <used craft and guile to close the deal>
: the members of a trade or trade association
plural usually craft
a : a boat especially of small size
b : aircraft
c : spacecraft

I think when I describe myself as a crafter I'm focusing more on definition 2a. I make things. I make art. Using all kinds of materials. Sometimes it's felt, sometimes old jam jars, sometimes even re-used plastic bags. That's what we  do as crafters. We take things and use them to make beautiful, or interesting objects.

What is so wonderful about crafting is how open it is as a definition. You can take it and do pretty much whatever you want, make it yours.

I define it as a way of looking at the world. You find an object (a leaf, a paper bag, a ball of wool) and you think to yourself "Hmm, how can I use this?"

It's an exciting way to be.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Safari Brooches

The other weekend I was lucky enough to go on a 3 day safari in the Maasai Mara in Kenya. It was brilliant! We saw so many animals I lost count and filled my camera with pictures. To celebrate I've been playing around with African animals as my theme and have started making some brooches in memory of the animals we saw.

I started off by sketching animals onto calico and then painting over them with my fabric dyes. This was fun.

Our cleaner thought I was quite, quite mad when she discovered all the drying fabric scraps I'd littered the bedroom with though.

Once they were dry I started embroidering the animals. Then, I cut them out and sewed them onto felt for the backing.

I've finished three badges so far. What do you think? The lion is my favourite so far.

I have an elephant planned. What other animals should I do? 

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

An African Cricket

I made this little chap today. I think he's rather fetching.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Playing with aperture

I've been experimenting with the aperture on my camera. Had a slight mishap where I got the tripod stuck on the camera and badly scratched said camera trying to get it off. Oh well. It's on the bottom anyway. Above you can see my efforts. I've been going through my3boybarians' photography course (free) '31 days to a better photo'. It's really great for refreshing my photography knowledge.

I used a 50mm lens for these photos.

Monday, February 11, 2013

DIY: Easy to make Washi Valentines decorations

I'm not the most romantic person in the world. However I was looking at my small stack of washi tape and decided to make something with it for Valentines Day.

These hearts are super easy to make.

You get some card (I used drawing card but this would be a great project for using up some cereal boxes) and draw hearts onto it, then cut out the hearts.

Then you stick the washi tape, in whatever pattern you want, over the front of the card and fold down the edges.


Now you have some beautiful heart decorations to do with what you will.

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