Christmas Craftiness part 1

I hope you had a great Christmas! Mine was full of non-Christmassy films and far too many chocolate oranges. As usual, I'm finding the few days between Christmas and New Year a bit strange - I'm feeling like hiberbating but I need to do some serious tidying and organising.

I made a few presents this year, these ones were using the patterns from the Alphabet Motif Club designed by Carina. The club patterns are still available, but Carina is temporarily shutting her shop from 1 January to deal with the EU VAT changes. There are more details and coupon codes here.

I had to frantically finish this piece, take a photo and wrap it up in the same evening which is why this photo is a bit washed out - it's much prettier in real life! It was the first time I'd used the "yay!" stitch... I wrapped the 4" hoop with dark greeny-blue wool to add to the rustic feel.

This one was finished on Christmas Day in front of Doctor Who (I wasn't that impressed with the Christmas episode, I actually fell asleep at one point. I like the new Doctor but the scripts have been pretty weak for a while). I'd had very little sleep that week so my tracing on a window was a bit wonky - the green lines at the bottom aren't where they're supposed to be, but I think it still works as it's consistent. This hoop is wrapped in brown wool. I prefer the wool wrapping to painting the hoops for these motifs. I want to try more hoop decorations next year, especially using crochet.

I suspect several more of my friends will be getting these alphabet hoops over the next few months and I'll definitely be making one for myself!

Truly nasty tax changes that will probably affect YOU

There are scary new EU VAT tax changes coming in on 1 January 2015 which will affect you if you run a business selling digital products from anywhere in the world, if you sell to countries in the EU.

They will definitely affect you if you live in the EU and buy digital products (ebooks, music, craft patterns etc) as at best prices will go up to include the VAT, and at worst you won't be able to buy from many sellers as they will exclude the EU to avoid dealing with these new laws.

Many businesses are simply closing down at the end of this year, so even if you aren't in the EU or have a business that sells to the EU, you may still be affected.

In short, it will affect hundreds of thousands of small businesses, many of which will be forced to shut.

Here is an excellent resource of what's happening and how you can get involved campaigning against these changes.

There is also a good write-up of the issues by What Delilah Did here.

There is a petition to try and suspend these changes for micro-businesses and sole traders here - please sign it!

Here are some businesses that are either closing completely or stopping selling their digital products from the end of the year, so this is your last chance to support them:

If you are in this position and want me to add your site to this list, leave a comment.

I will be taking my monster Halloween pattern off sale from Etsy and Craftsy at the end of the year, and waiting to see what happens (so frustrating as I had many plans for new patterns for next year). Currently HMRC are saying that manually emailing PDFs to customers won't get caught up in the tax changes, but they keep changing their minds on it so I don't want to risk it. Here it is to jog your memory in case you want to buy it:

Monster News!

Hooray, I can now sell my monsters worldwide! If you're outside of the EU and have been wanting to adorn your house and clothes with monstery goodness, now is your chance (obviously, you lovely people inside the EU can still buy them!). To celebrate, anyone can now get 10% off in my Etsy shop (except my Halloween pattern) using the code WORLDDEC14 for the rest of this year.

And here is Phylisss. She is very excited by the news.


Last week I went to Sorrento with Em (purveyor of the finest Mexican-inspired bottlecap jewellery). It was the first time I'd been to Italy and I had procrastinated too much on learning tourist-level Italian so I wasn't sure what to expect.

Once we got out of Naples I was blown away by the views of the Bay Of Naples - mountains everywhere and I was very excited by my first glimpse of Vesuvius! This photo is of the gorgeous view from the cliffs of Sorrento. We tried walking down to the beach and ferry terminal but gave up through laziness and used the lift.

Didn't think much of the tiny tiny beaches!

This ruined saw mill (Il Vallone dei Mulini) was in a ravine in the centre of Sorrento. At night it is lit up orange and is pretty spooky. It was still quite atmospheric by day.

While wandering around Sorrento, we came across this monastary (Cloister of San Francesco) which was incredibly peaceful away from the taxis and mopeds in the town centre. We were trying to see a Pompeii exhibition but ended up following strange music up to an exhibition of antique music boxes (the sort with the metal disks with holes in) where the curator made us dance with him to a waltz - probably the oddest part of the holiday...

On the second day we visited Pompeii. I've been fascinated with Pompeii and Vesuvius since I was a kid so it was amazing to finally go there. We downloaded the Rick Steves' podcast (much embarrassed laughing when he told us to don our imaginary togas and played electronic trumpets at us) and map which was useful as there were no maps available and we only found one sign when we were actually in Pompeii (we still got a bit lost). I now have a new appreciation for the National Trust. The stray dogs were friendly (and seemed to adore one of the tour guides) - from this month they are being microchipped and getting any vet care they need, according to a sign near the entrance.

I'm fairly sure this is the Temple Of Jupiter near the Forum. You can see Vesuvius in the distance.

I can't remember what this arch used to be, possibly something to do with a water tower, but I love this picture as the roads lead towards Vesuvius.

This is some of the ceiling decoration in one of the baths. A lot of the artwork has been stolen or moved to the Naples Archaeological Museum but there was still enough to be really interesting. I was more affected by the body casts than I thought I would be, even though we only saw a few. I guess it was because you could see the pain some of the people were in when they died by their positions and expressions - it upset me in a way I wasn't expecting from just having seen photos.

I climbed a volcano! We got a bus from Pompeii station up to the car park part of the way up Vesuvius, and walked the rest of the way up. I thought my heart was going to explode from the exercise (when I got back to the car park the ambulance workers asked if I was ok! I guess I had gone purple). The views were incredible and it was all worth it when I got to the crater.

Photos don't really do it justice. The tiny trees you can see at the bottom of the crater are actually full-size. There was a faint smell of sulphur and steam coming from various places (which you can see in the photo below).

After spending the evening eating far too much and trying to stop my legs seizing up, the next morning we took a surprisingly rough ferry trip to Capri (no I didn't vomit, but lots of people did). At the Sorrento ferry terminal we found a stray cat colony, including these adorable kittens. They all seemed quite healthy (they're got their eyes shut here because of the wind), and the plates lying around suggested that the local restaurants kept them fed.

The photo doesn't really do justice to the hills of Capri near Marina Grande. We took a tiny bus up the scary windey roads to Anacapri as Em wanted to go on the chair lift. It was pretty terrifying on the way up Mount Solaro on the lift (my brain kept trying to convince me to jump off) but the way down was lovely. I especially enjoyed the interactions with the people going up the mountain at the same time as I was on the way down (and amused by the woman filming herself crying while on the chair lift...). I didn't take any photos as I was too scared of dropping my camera, just concentrated on the views. It was a bit weird going over peoples' gardens, I appreciated the one that had lots of ornaments and plastic toys on the route of the lift.

The plane trip back was Not Fun but I was very excited when I realised we were flying over the Alps!

Knitting And Stitching Show

Wow, this is a late review. I've been struggling with procrastination when it comes to writing and crafting, I guess the gloomy rainy weather isn't helping :(

This was the third year I've been to the Knitting and Stitching Show at Alexandra Palace. This year I went on the Friday after the insane crush of last year, and it was much calmer. Apparently the Wednesday was even better. Somehow I only had time to see most of the exhibition and about half of the shopping stalls.

The Knitted Flower Pergola was the first exhibit in the foyer - I loved all the details like these budgies! It was a community knitting project to raise funds for Livability John Grooms Court, a home for disabled adults in Norwich.

Just like last year, I was drawn to Ann Small's exhibit. Her "A Walk On The Wild Side" collaboration with Sue Walton included several flying beasties which I wanted to take home. She uses potassium permangenate to colour her fabric rather than tea as it can be bleached back with lemon juice - I mostly remember potassium permangenate baths as a kid for my eczema so am glad there was a happier use for it.

Another highlight was Caren Garfen's exhibit  "She Was Cooking Something Up". This consisted of a stitched kitchen showing stats and messages about women's body image - it was pretty hard-hitting at times.

I spent quite some time in the felting exhibition (including laughing at the giant genitals of the "Lust" figure from the Seven Deadly Sins). One of my favourites was the teddy skull (Ursulus Teodorus Ruxpinus) by Stephanie Metz.

I'd seen pictures of the Hobbit knitting by Denise Salway ("The Knitting Witch") all over Instagram so ran around at the end trying to find it. Denise was really friendly and Smaug was so cute in his tiny knitted glory!

I think next time I'll try to go for a couple of days so I can do some classes, spend more time looking at the exhibits and do some leisurely shopping. I'll need to catch up on lots of my UFOs before then to make space in my craft room...


On my recent trip to Somerset/Devon, I was determined to visit The Donkey Sanctuary near Sidmouth. I have always loved donkeys, and despite living near-ish the New Forest I rarely get to see any. The Donkey Sanctuary has several centres in the UK and works worldwide to to help working donkeys and the people that rely on them, as well as arranging donkey-assisted therapy.

There are several walks around the Sidmouth centre, I obviously chose the shortest one with the most donkeys. We met several mules that were quite excited to see us (and tried to eat our shoes) and many, many donkeys in the fields, most of who ignored us but a few came up to nuzzle us.

This is Freddie from Ireland. He's 11 years old (most of the donkeys at the sanctuary are much older) and was one of the donkeys in the barn area who were interacting with the public. He was finding this bench very useful for awkward itches.

I had a lovely relaxing time strolling through the countryside stroking donkeys and can highly recommend a visit!

I've rounded up some cute donkey items from Etsy....

Isn't this needle felted donkey from Swan Quarter House Creations adorable? I love his little garland and his expression. You can keep up-to-date with Jodi's newest creations on her blog.

The donkeys in this print  from Cath Ward look very eager to meet people (or are trying to get food). Check out her other lovely watercolour prints and laser-cut wood animal charms, brooches and necklaces in her shop.

This cute donkey brooch is from Oneiroxora's shop where she sells gorgeous handmade jewellery. You can also follow her on Facebook.

Awww, look at Arthur's soulful face! You can make him using a pattern from Patchwork Moose (I'm also very tempted by Otis the bat). Find out more on her website and Facebook page.

If you want more fluffy cuteness, why not take a look at my alpaca visit from earlier this summer?


Last weekend I went away to Somerset for a relaxing weekend (OK, only the hotel was in Somerset, everything else we did was in Devon). While driving around we saw a sign for Beer and couldn't resist...

Beer turned out to be a really quaint fishing village. Driving through I was quite excited by the amount of tiny specialist shops and art galleries (this was before I threw a strop at the stupid parking machines. I'm never capable of being relaxed for more than 20 minutes). I fell in love with a nearly-£9000 painting, sadly it will never be mine :(

Look at the view....

I attempted to take arty photos...

It had just stopped raining, and the weather was gorgeous.

We went rock-pooling (my first time!) and saw crabs, anenomes and really strange stripy fish with fins next to their heads. The plants and rocks were amazing colours - I especially liked the pink stripy ones. I thought this one looked like a dragon egg.

Sadly after falling over several times trying to get back up the pebbly slopes, we needed caffeine more than beer, so we failed in our original mission in visiting the village...

Craft Fair and (gulp) Christmas....

This weekend I organized a craft stall at a local goth/EBM/alternative night. After a lot of panicking about lighting levels (which is why I now own all the fairy lights in the entire world) and timings it went pretty well. Also on the stall were the amazing Esperanza Em (Mexican-inspired jewellery - I reviewed her shop last year here), Katy's Sock Monkeys (self-explanatory) and Imp of Mischief (gorgeous jewellery). It's a really welcoming club and venue - they are also holding a New Year's Eve event (details here).

My snowmen danglies will  be adorning the Christmas trees of Southampton and Portsmouth this festive season thanks to the lovely customers this weekend, but you can now buy Christmas monsteryness from my Etsy shop. They will be joined by more tree danglies as I make them! Yes, I know it's not Halloween yet...

Christmas Bob tree hoop:

Christmas pudding monster tree dangly:

Jeremy On His Halloween Travels

Anna Marie has stitched up a version of my latest pattern "Jeremy's First Halloween" (available on Etsy and Craftsy) - it looks great! I love the extra graveyard grass.

Have you sewn any of my patterns? If so, I'd love to feature your versions on here and Pinterest - send me your photos!

Halloween Monster Embroidery Pattern!

I have a new embroidery pattern available! Yaaay! This pattern shows Jeremy's response to his first Halloween (it isn't celebrated in his home dimension and it was his first encounter with pumpkins).

It is available on Craftsy, and includes suggested stitches and DMC colours along with instructions for tea-dying. This is my first non-free pattern which is quite scary/exciting...

You can also see the original textile portrait that Jeremy patiently sat for at Mad's Monster Emporium, along with portraits of his friends.

Update: pattern is now also available on Etsy.

Alpacas Galore!

After my previous trip to the Petlake Alpacas open day, it was a no-brainer that I would go again this year, and drag friends along to revel in the fluffiness.

Alpaca group

Like last year there were several baby alpacas to squee over, including several that were rolling down a tiny hillock. I walked an adult alpaca called Casper (first photo below) - he was quite fiesty and kept getting tangled up with the others being walked. The next person to walk him was a small child - by that point he'd had enough, started jumping around then escaped into the middle of the field.

Alpaca collage

(thanks to Anna Marie Haworth for the non-me photos in the collage).

Last year I bought a painting of a cow (below) by Lucy Tidbury. She was at the event again this year with some gorgeous paintings, but sadly I only had enough money on me for postcards.

Cow painting by Lucy Tidbury

In honour of the alpacas, I have rounded up some awesome alpaca crafts from Etsy!

WildOlive alpacas embroidery pattern

This cute embroidery pattern is from Wild Olive's shop (she also does the seasonal stitching clubs that I have failed to keep up with, her latest club is a year-long 50 States quilt). Also check out her blog which has loads of tutorials and free patterns.

Lucyravenscar alpaca family amigurumi pattern

Lucy Ravenscar's adorable alpaca pattern makes me wish I could crochet properly. Check out her blog for more details on her patterns.

PrintsbyLucyPerry alpaca linocut card

I love this linocut alpaca card by PrintsByLucyPerry. She also has a print of the same design.

WestWightAlpacas alpaca hat pattern

You can now pretend to be an alpaca with this cute hat pattern from WestWightAlpacas! She also makes glass alpacas.

Art House Summer Exhibition

I was so excited when I got two of my textile art pieces into the Southampton Art House Summer Exhibition. These were pieces that I originally made during my City & Guilds Level 2 Machine Embroidery. Here they are hanging in the exhibition.

"Castles" - inspired by moss, plants and weathering of ancient castle walls after visits to Chepstowe and Corfe Castle. I created printing blocks using giant pencil erasers and lino cutters, then used a heat transfer press to create the pattern on the fabric. I added batting and thick calico backing, then I quilted using dense machine stitching to suggest moss, adding some hand embroidery in places using different types of threads (including buffalo wool!). I couched various wool to create vines, and used soluble fabric to embroider leaves to hang at various points from the vines.

"Falling" - a large piece combining tea-dyed calico, organza, satin and scrim. I machine embroidered leaves in various neutral tones onto the calico, and created individual leaves using satin and organza, singeing the edges with an incense stick! I shredded holes in the organza and scrim to create a tattered effect and strung it from a large twig.

The exhibition is on until the 28th September and includes lots of lovely pieces in many styles and mediums. The Art House hosts a huge variation of live acts, workshops and other events and serves gorgeous chocolate cake!