We are hiring

We are looking to add to our team of fabulous tutors at BTHQ.  No formal teacher training qualifications are required as we believe the best way to learn is from experience but you must be confident in talking to groups of people and instructing in your chosen craft.

Previous workshop experience is not necessarily required after all everyone has to start somewhere, but you must be able to show that you could assist a pupil in fixing a mistake and answer questions that may arise during a workshop.

Lastly you must be passionate about BTHQ and driven to promote the other classes we offer within the business, not just your own.  We need you to gently encourage pupils to return and sign up to more classes at the studio as well as purchase materials and equipment from us following their classes. (In fairness this usually happens pretty naturally as they have a great time when they are with us).  Whilst we do not have a formal commission structure it is in your best interest as a tutor to ensure that the pupils return so we can keep hiring you to run more classes!

If you have an idea for a workshop you would like to deliver at BTHQ, please send us an email or letter outlining your experience and what you think you could offer as a fun workshop.  We have knitting, quilting and crochet covered but are open to suggestions for other crafts and any other technically specific sewing classes which we don’t always offer.

Please also tell us when you are available to deliver workshops.  i.e. Only in school hours, only at weekends, just evenings, not daytimes etc. BTHQ is currently open Tue, Wed, Fri & Sat but we hope to open 6 days a week and a couple of evenings in the near future once our team grows.

We will then reply to you and may ask you to make us some samples or supply is with some pictures of your crafts so we can sound out our existing pupils on the potential options available.

Materials are always provided by Beautiful Things if pupils are not required to bring them themselves so you would be paid an agreed hourly or per workshop rate following your workshop.  You would be employed on a self employed basis and would be responsible for invoicing us for your time.  Therefore you are responsible for your own tax and National Insurance contributions.

Money back guarantee – What have you got to loose?

Have you been pondering our Semi Virtual Crochet courses and wondering if £40 is a lot to spend on something that might not work? It wouldn’t surprise me, potentially it might be.

But……………….I am so confident in my training abilities and my product that I am prepared to offer you a 100% money back guarantee if you do not successfully learn to crochet using our beginners course ‘Learn to Crochet the Easy Way’.

By the end of the course you will know all your basic stitches, how to crochet with straight edges and follow a simple pattern to make a rose.  Once you have mastered all of that then blankets and garments are within easy reach.

Of course there has to be some Terms and Conditions to ensure you’re happy with how the guarantee works:

  • You must commence your course within 4 weeks of receiving your starter kit (we use tracked postage to ensure you receive your kit as soon as possible after ordering and will be aware of any delivery issues in the unlikely event that they should occur).
  • You must complete your course within 8 weeks of commencement.
  • If you are unable to understand or complete any of the parts of the course you must have contacted us either via the online support forum, email, in person or via the telephone and tried the solutions offered to you to rectify your problem.  After all we want you to learn to crochet, this is why these support options are available to you.  You can contact us numerous times (although we are confident you wont need to).
  • If after trying all of the above you are still unable to complete the course you must send back your full kit including all of the work you have attempted to do so far. (Please contact us and ask for a returns label) When we are in receipt of your package we will process your refund.
  • This offer only applies to course/kits purchased from 27th April 2017 onwards using the correct code at the time of purchase.

If you would like to take advantage of the money back guarantee then please use the code MONEYBACK in your coupon code box in the checkout. (this will also give you 10% off by way of a thank you).

Go forth and Crochet! What have you got to loose?

Claire x

Crochet an Octopus for a local neonatal unit

Beautiful Things has launched an octopus Crochet Along (CAL) following news of these little critters being used in neonatal units across Europe to aid the comfort and development of premature babies.

You can read all about it in this article in the Daily Mail http://www.dailymail.co.uk/health/article-4167048/Hospitals-giving-premature-babies-cuddly-octopus-toys.html

Claire has launched he own campaign and has agreed to donate any octopi made and sent into BTHQ to the Neonatal unit at Broomfield hospital who are looking forward to receiving them.

If you would like to make an octopus please follow the instructions and pattern below and post to Beautiful Things, Unit 1 Ingrave Enterprise Centre, 8 Brentwood Road, Brentwood, Essex, CM13 3QH

The optimal size of the octopus is around 7-9 cm in length of the head and around 7-8 cm in head circumference. They shouldn’t be much bigger because of the limited space in the incubator. For the octopus to be the right size you should use a 3 or 3,5 mm hook and a cotton yarn the point is to make the octopus very tight so that the filling doesn’t come out when it is a bit stretched). They should be filled with polyester fibre that you can find in teddy bears or pillows and that can be washed at 60º C. The size of the head as well as the hardness of it is not as important as the length of the arms. For safety reasons the outstretched arm cannot exceed 22 cm.

If you can, please donate octopuses through your local “Octopus for a preemie” Facebook group –  so that the hospitals don’t have to deal with every person who wants to contribute, but most importantly, it guarantees that no octopus poses threat to the safety and health of vulnerable preemies as the groups check if every octopus meets all requirements. If you are making these for the Beautiful Things group then please send them to BTHQ and we will distribute them through the proper channels.

And this is the pattern for the octopus
Converted to UK terms

ch – chain
dc – double crochet
dc2tog – double crochet 2 stitches together (decrease)
sl st – slip stitch

inc – 2dc in one stitch (increase)

R1: 6 dc in a magic ring
R2: Inc (2 dc) in all st (12)
R3: Inc, dc – repeat x6 (18)
R4: Inc, dc, dc – repeat x6 (24)
R5: Inc, dc, dc, dc – repeat x6 (30)
R6: Inc, dc, dc, dc, dc – repeat x6 (36)
R7-14: 1 dc in all st (36)
R15: 4 dc, dc2tog – repeat x6 (30)
R16-17: 1 dc in all st (30)
R18: 3 dc, dc2tog – repeat x6 (24)
R19-20: 1 dc in all st (24)
R21: 2 dc, dc2 tog – repeat x6 (18)
R22: 1 dc in all st (18)
R23: 7 dc, dc2tog – repeat x2 (16)
R24: 1 dc in all st (16)
R25: Here you start the legs: *50 ch, turn and make 4 dc in each ch make a dc in 2 of the stitches around the base of the octopus head*.  Repeat 7 times so you get 8 arms. End with 1 sl st and cast off.

You may need to twizzle you legs round and round in an anti clockwise direction to get them to spiral properly. It is important that you keep the chain straight when you are doing your DC’s into it to stop the spiral twisting in the wrong direction.

If the outstretched arms are longer that 22 cm, make fewer chains to start.

The base of the octopus:

R1: 5 dc in a magic ring
R2: 2 dc in all st (10)
R3: inc, 1 dc – repeat x4 (15). Finish with a sl st and cast off. Weave in the ends.

Make eyes and embroider the face of your choosing.  (safety eyes and beads are not to be used, all faces must be made from cotton to comply with sterilisation requirements) Stuff and stitch the base to the bottom of the octopus and your lovely little creature is complete!

BTHQ Beautiful Pupils – January 2017

We had such a lovely start to 2017 with lots of people taking their first ventures into sewing and crochet.  We have seen 2 groups of people take our 4 week sewing course and another group take our 1 day intensive and we have taught 2 separate groups of beginner crochetters and a couple of drivers licence sessions too.  Not to mention our regular classes!  It’s been a busy time but we are delighted to say all of our beginners have booked on to more classes to progress their chosen craft.

beginners sewing class

So I thought I would share a couple of fabulous pupils with you.  First is Lorraine who is a regular visitor to BTHQ.  Although she has not been in yet in 2017 she sent me the following message to show how inspiring my You Tube videos are to her:

” I wanted to tell you how you vlogs / podcasts really inspired me to start knitting socks.  I’d always looked at them and thought 4 needles…no way. But watching your podcasts and your confidence grow with your own knitting got me started. I was gifted some beautiful yarn just before Christmas, so I printed the winwick mum pattern, picked your brains on various needles and you re-assured me that I could knit with magic loop so I cast on. Albeit on Christmas eve for the first time, and then again on new years day.  I’ve now just cast on a patterned pair.”

IMG_2336_small2

How lovely are lorraines fabulous socks?  If you want to enjoy the support and friendship BTHQ has to offer but can’t come to classes then join our facebook group. Beautiful Things Crafty Corner which is a great place to chat to fellow crafters about your ideas and ask for advice and guidance.

Next up is an absolutely fabulous project that I was really pleased to help with.  Debs contacted me last year to ask if I could help her and her friend Janet create some advent calendars.  They had bought some lovely Liberty fabric squares and were hoping to create something amazing with them.  We couldn’t get them booked in before Christmas sadly but they chose to come in in January to make their calendars for next Christmas. We designed these fantastic giant wall hangings with Liberty pockets.  We asked the lovely Charlotte who is one of our tutors to design and cut some iron on numbers in the liberty font which really set off the project.  Now Janet & Debs plan to fill each others calendars with lovely little surprises every year.

hand sewn liberty advent calendar

They had a wonderful 2 days with us creating, catching up on gossip, laughing and drinking tea whilst they sewed.  If you would like to come and work on something with your friends then do get in touch so we can help make your wish come true.

Last but not least it would seem our recent vlog about Mental Health has done it’s work.  We have seen a huge increase in the numbers of people coming in to simply ‘use the space’.  This is Viv who popped in to knit some socks and Elspeth.  Elspeth brought her Ancient Greek text books in to catch up on some revision!

dedicated craft space BTHQ

If you would like to pop in and use the space then all we ask is a donation to MIND our chosen charity.  You can find out about our work with MIND and why we have chosen them HERE

Lets talk Mental Health – Supporting MIND

Mental Health is a hugely important topic.  Beautiful Things has chosen MIND the Mental Health Charity as it’s chosen charity for 2017.

Please join me on my vlog as I talk to you about why Mental Health is so important, how we can work together to raise awareness and take you on my own personal Mental Health journey.

Make a cuppa and settle down for the most important 20 minutes viewing of your day.

The BTHQ 2017 Giftalong

How many times have you said to yourself you would like to make all your Christmas presents but then never got round to it?  Or perhaps you are one of those crafters who is furiously casting off a knitting project on Christmas Eve desperate to wrap it up for morning.

Well this year I am planning on being super organised and I’m hoping you would like to join me.  I have decided to run the BTHQ Giftalong for 2017.  It is a ‘CraftAlong’ and the aim of the game is to make 12 gifts during the course of the year and in time for Christmas.

Any Craft goes, big or small so the objective should be achievable.  We have support in our Ravelry Group and there will be prizes each month for those taking part.

Tune into my podcast below to find out more.  (If you don’t want to sit through the whole thing skip on to 33:00 and I will tell you all about it in a couple of minutes)

Bye Bye 2016, Hello 2017

WOW! 2016 has been pretty fabulous for Beautiful Things and the Family Mack.  Besides all the sad passing’s of many of our favourite celebs, a few political debacles and various other ‘world’ problems, things close to home have been great.

2016 saw the launch of our Semi Virtual Crochet courses which have taken off fabulously.  We have taught so many people to crochet in the comfort of their own homes and are really enjoying seeing them all develop their skills.

2016 saw the launch of our You Tube Channel.  A regular podcast, sewing and makes videos and lots of tutorials and fun videos.  Our followers have grown from just 40 at the beginning of the year to nearly 2000!

2016 welcomed Carol to our team of tutors, allowing us to teach knitting classes.  As an added bonus I have learnt to knit and am now enjoying a new hobby and some valuable ‘me time’.

2016 saw us exhibiting at our very 1st LARGE show.  We attended Yarndale in Skipton, North Yorkshire and I was joined by my lovely Mum and 10 of our fabulous regulars.  I’m very grateful for all of their help and could not have done it without them.

2016 saw so many great classes, lots of new pupils, returning pupils, fun days out, Crafty Cuppas, Crafternoons and crochet clubs.  We have had so many laughs and watched so many of you get a huge kick out of learning something new.

So what has 2017 got in store for Beautiful Things?

You may or may not have noticed that we have been closed throughout the end of December and are not opening again until next Thursday (12th Jan).  There is good reason for this………

We have been at BTHQ for 4 years in March.  Hard to believe I know, but in that time we have accrued a lot of ‘stuff’.  More importantly we have been putting said ‘stuff’ away……..reaaaalllly badly!  The place is heaving with boxes, mostly full of junk or half empty and we are in the midst of a huge clear out and de-clutter.  Along with the clear out comes a bit of a furniture shift about to give you more space to move when you are in class.

You might have seen some of our pictures and silly videos on our Facebook page and we are almost done.  I’d like to say a big thank you to Elspeth who has been giving me a hand in making the magic work.  I can’t wait to see it all finished.

We are not planning any major launches this year in terms of products and no big shows. But what we are concentrating on is developing a really varied range of new classes for you to enjoy.  We are planning regular Crafty Cuppas and Crafternoons, A big ‘Craft Jumble Sale’ in the spring, to relieve us of all our ‘stuff’ and lots of charity events.

Now I love setting goals for a New Year and my goal this year is to get BTHQ full to bursting every day. I want to see fully booked classes, people enjoying craft and making new friendships.

Now to make that happen what we need is a great atmosphere for our new and existing pupils to experience.  Atmosphere comes with bodies and the best way to get bodies is to encourage you to use the space.  If you are at a loose end and want somewhere to sit and knit, crochet or craft then simply give us a call.  If there is room round the table that day, you are welcome to come on in.

We also want to use this as an opportunity to raise some money for our chosen charity of 2017, MIND (the mental health charity).  Craft is proven to be a fantastic way of helping people deal with various mental health issues and I know for a fact that some of our wonderful pupils have benefited from what BTHQ can offer.  If you want to use the space, simply pop a donation in our charity pot.

So without further ado, I have waffled on enough!  There is no fancy pictures or arty layout to this post, it’s more of a little letter to all of you.  Thank you to everyone who has supported Beautiful Things in whatever way they have this year.  I am extremely proud of my little business and love nothing more than sharing it with you all.

Here’s to a wonderfully fabulous 2017.

Happy New Year to you all

Claire

x

 

BTHQ Beautiful Pupils December 2016

I thought it would be nice to introduce you to a couple of our fabulous pupils.  During the month of December I have received 2 lovely emails from our clever crafters.

First up is Kim.  Kim has been to a few of our sewing classes during the year, but her last one was our lovely quilt as you go stocking.  As you can see she has gone on to make more.

kim sewing class testimonial

Hi Claire,
Following on from the Christmas stocking class, I thought you might like to see my efforts. I have made two more! I just wanted to say thank you for all your help and encouragement to get me sewing in 2016. I have definitely found a new hobby that I really enjoy. I look forward to learning some new skills in your classes during 2017!
Wishing you and your family a joyous Christmas  and a very happy, healthy new year.
Love Kim Gavan x

Next up is Karen who has taken our beginner and intermediate online crochet courses.  She has made these beautiful poncho sets

crochet classes left handed pupil essexcrochet poncho class essex

Hi Claire,
I just wanted to let you know and show you the results of me doing your online courses.  
I have really got the crocheting bug, having done sewing and knitting for years I have just picked up the crochet hook thanks to your courses.
Once I had finishes the courses I really wanted the poncho you were wearing but living in Colchester it was too far to come to your classes when I work so I found the pattern and you can see by the photos I went a bit mad…  making up gloves and wrist warmers to go with them.
Thanks again, Happy new year, Karen Hills
If you would like to feature on our new monthly posts then do get in touch, send us some pictures and a word or two and we will include you. You don’t have to have taken one of our classes necessarily but you could have been inspired by something we posted on social media.  We would love to welcome you into the BTHQ fold.
In the meantime, happy crafting!

What sewing machine is best for you?

I’m often asked what sewing machine I’d recommend, there are so many out there, which ones for you?

Firstly ask yourself a couple of questions

  1. Am I looking to get into quilting or dressmaking?
  2. How often will I be using the machine?

If you answered yes to question 1 then you are going to want to get yourself something that will offer you some slightly more advanced options.  Sure you could start off on a basic domestic machine, but trust me you will soon get bored and want to step up and it can often cost you more in the long run to upgrade.

In class we use the Janome CXL301 Sewing Machine (pictured above) which is available for £299 (occasionally you can pick these up in the Sales for closer to £250 but it’s rare) These machines are perfect for those of you who want to do lots of sewing and who appreciate a gadget or two that makes your work faster!  It has a fantastic tortoise and hare function that allows you to slow the machine right down.  Perfect for a nervous sewer, a tricky corner or using with children.  It also has an in built needle threader and has a top loading bobbin which is much easier to thread.

sewing machine mat with tools

If you said you will be sewing occasionally and not that regularly then you can probably get away with a Simple domestic sewing machine like the one shown in the picture above (these are also the machines we run our Sewing Machine Drivers Licence session on)  You won’t have a fast and slow option or a needle threader (like the CXL301) but it will sew your basic stitches and can make almost everything you want but may take a little longer as you don’t have the shortcuts offered on the computerised machines.

If you really want to treat yourself then go for a Janome DSK100 this is the machine Claire uses at home.  It is a beauty, offers all the functions of the CXL301 but also has embroidery stitches and a cut button.  This little button alone is worth the £150 extra you will pay as it simply cuts your threads for you at the end of each row.  You can literally half the time it takes you to make something simply by using this button!

We would advise against a ‘mini’ machine though.  They really are incredibly basic and often do not have lights or interchangeable presser feet.  Even for a child we would recommend a ‘grown up’ machine.  Expect to pay between £80 – £100 for a good domestic model.

If you need any further advise and guidance drop us a line, we would be happy to make recommendations for you.

(please note the links offered in this blog post are affiliate links but are our own personal recommendations)

 

 

 

Time

I have spent the last 2 days at our Local Gift & Food fair in the sports centre promoting Beautiful Things and selling our online crochet courses and kits.

I spoke to loads of lovely people about crochet and sewing, sold plenty of kits and I know that many of the people we spoke to will go home and book courses.  But………………..

If I had £1 for every person who replied to our questions with “I don’t have time” I would be rolling in it.

My argument was in return “You need to make time”

I harp back to my earlier post about making time to craft and enjoying valuable me time for your own personal sanity and relaxation (You can read it here) it is soooo important.

I will leave you with this quote from the writer of my favourite all Time Musical RENT, Mr Johnathon Larson.  He speaks a lot of sense.

jonothan-larson-quote

The house work can wait, do something for you for once.  Stop being so busy being busy!

On the Crochet Class Couch

As those of you who know me know I am extremely passionate about the way I teach crochet.  I have my thoughts on the best way to teach and why learning the theory is really really important.

Join me as I chat to Emma Dyos from JW3 PR about my passions, how and why I teach the way I do and why I try to discourage my pupils from ‘Running before they can walk’

This video will also help any of you who are maybe thinking about learning to crochet or need some help and support on an already existing journey to work out which of my learning opportunities is best for you.

So make yourself a cuppa, grab a biscuit and sit back for 20 minutes and enjoy a chat with me.

Why must you ‘make’ the time to craft?

When I ask people if they want to learn a new craft one of the most common answers is; “I don’t have the time”.

We are all so busy, running around after the children, working on our own businesses, commuting too and from the ‘day job’ managing the house.  Sometimes I think I should run away to the circus as I must be one of the best jugglers there is!

But it is really really important to SWITCH OFF.  You need to give your body and mind time to rest and relax.

We all know that but honestly how easy is it to achieve?

sock-knitting

Recently I decided to take the chance to learn to knit.  As you know I can do most crafts but this was a dark area for me.  Having always been a crocheter, going over to 2 sticks was seen by some as crossing over to the dark side!  In learning to knit I have also been setting myself a personal challenge: Each night at 10pm (or earlier if I can manage it) regardless of how messy the house is or how many emails need answering in my inbox, i have been stopping what I have been doing, getting out my knitting and concentrating on nothing else for at least an hour.  I might watch a spot of telly while I knit, or catch up on a podcast or two but most importantly I am chilling out.  Taking some time for me and not letting the general day to day grindstone work me down further.

Doing this allows my brain to switch off so that when I finally go to bed my mind is calm, rested and focused on the job of falling asleep.  I’m getting a much better nights sleep and waking up feeling far more rested and ready to face the day and whatever it throws at me.

After just a few weeks of doing this I can honestly say I feel less under pressure, the to do list is looking smaller and to top it off I have learnt something new and am getting ahead on making my own Christmas presents this year.

So don’t let “I’m too busy” or “I don’t have time” stop you from learning something new.  Use it to gain time, ‘Me time’

Use it as your prescription for a more relaxed and healthy lifestyle.  I promise you that you will see and feel the difference in a very short while.

Embroidery threads for embroidery classes

If you can already knit or perhaps you like to do cross stitch or embroidery, dig out an old project or treat yourself to a new kit and give yourself that precious hour or even half an hour at the end of your day.  Every little bit helps.

For those of you looking for a new skill, our Semi Virtual Crochet courses are ideal.  You receive a lovely kit and book in the post, then simply log onto our website and plug yourself in to our professionally filmed tutorials and crochet along with me.  You can take it as slowly as you like, there are not deadlines or timescales to finish in.  Bitesize easy chunks of ;’Me time’ are what’s on offer.

intermediate-semi-virtual-crochet-kit

Until the end of October we have the following deals available on all our courses:

Beginners – £20 off (HALF PRICE) use code beginners20 at the checkout

Intermediate – £15 off (HALF PRICE) use code intermediate15 at the checkout

Amigurumi Cacti garden £5 off use code cacti5 at the checkout.

So I challenge you to start rewarding yourself with a crafty hour each day even if you grab one of your childrens colouring books and some pencils, anything creative will help you in the long term I promise.  Do let me know how you get on and if you want to try your hand at any new crafts, do get in touch with me to see how I can help you.

But most of all enjoy your new found TIME.

 

Banishing the stigma with The Depressed Cake Shop

The wonderful Liz Fox of BuBakes is hosting a fantastic event this Sunday 7th August at the Essex Cricket Ground in Chelmsford

Alongside the Depressed cake shop she is organising an event where people can come together to learn more about Mental Health and the challenges it can bring.  As well as lots and lots of great cakes there will be ‘Creation Stations’ so that you can get to feel how crafts and creativity can be used to help cope with anxiety and alleviate depression.

Beautiful Things will be there manning an Adult Colouring creation station and a crochet station.  You can pop along and spend time helping us create a fabulous granny square blanket which we will auction off when it’s complete to help raise further funds for Mind and Help for Heroes which are the events chosen charities.

depressed cake shop

If you can’t make the event, please feel free to make a granny square or 2.  Please start with 2 shades of grey and then add 7 rounds of rainbow colour to create a 9 round square.  These can be dropped in to BTHQ during the next couple of weeks so that we can join them together.  Please use a 4mm hook and DK weight yarn.  If you are coming and want to make a couple to bring with you then please feel free, the more squares the better!

We are also in need of grey yarn to join the blanket together with so if you have any scraps of DK in your stash that you would like to donate we would be very greatful.

What is Kickstarter? & How can you help us?

You might have heard recently about our new Kickstarter campaign we are currently running to launch our Semi-Virtual crochet courses.
Semi virtual crochet course for beginners
I realise that a some of you are not necessarily familiar with what Kickstarter is so I’d like to talk about Kickstarter (and crowdfunding in general) to make it a little clearer for you to understand what we are doing and why we are doing it.
If you haven’t already, take a look at the Kickstarter website in general.  Perhaps open the link in a new tab or window so you can flick between it and this post as we talk you round the site— www.kickstarter.com
Opened it up? Good now………..When you hit the home page you’ll see a featured project in the middle, categories and types of projects on the right, and more recent projects further down.  “Projects” are the things that people are Kickstarting, or trying to raise money for.  (Our project is called Learn to Crochet the Easy Way) Kickstarter exists so that startups and even established businesses like us can raise funding from anybody who’s interested in their products and projects.  This is called “crowdfunding” – it’s open to anyone who wants to be involved.
So for an example of how it all works click the following link to see an example project we can talk to you about.
The campaign launchers want to raise $70,000, and as of when I wrote this post they’ve raised approximately $20,780
There are two twists with Kickstarter that make it different from normal money-raising and investing channels.  Check out the right-hand side of the Queen’s Bookshop page, and you’ll see a rewards area, which starts with “Pledge $10 or more.”
If you pledge to give them $10, you’ll receive in return the rewards listed underneath.  If you pledge $25, you’ll get the stuff in that box.  And so on, with the dollar amount going up for larger rewards.  So instead of just handing over money and hoping the product succeeds, you get something in return.  Your card is not charged until the project ends and hits its targets.
The other twist is that if a project doesn’t meet its funding goal, it doesn’t get any money.  So in this case, if the Queen’s Bookshop doesn’t get $70,000 in pledges, they don’t get anything. Even if they raise $69,999 the project will not fund.This protects you the pledger and helps ensure that the project is on the up-and-up.  You won’t get charged a penny but you also wont receive any goodies.
Kickstarter is owned by Amazon, which gives some reassurance.  And there has been some fantastic stories about how struggling businesses Kickstarted their project, got lots more money than they asked for, and got a whole new lease on (business) life.  A great example of this is the Kerfluffles marshmallow lady:
She asked for $2,023, and her backers gave her $104,667!  That’s a lot of marshmallows!
So for Beautiful Things and our Semi-Virtual Beginners Crochet kit, the idea is that a crowd (you!) will fund our project by pledging money and getting some great rewards in return, and also feel good that you’re helping to kickstart the kits into existence and make our awesome project a reality.  We hope you’ll participate in our Kickstarter campaign!
We only have 12 days to go and still need to raise pledges of just over £800 to fund our project.  Remember it’s an international project so we will post our kits and goodies WORLDWIDE.
If you do not need to learn to crochet there are still small pledges you can choose.  The smallest being only £1.  Just like facebook and other forms of social media, Kickstarter loves pledges.  The more we receive the higher we climb up their ranks to and they will share our project far and wide.  So go on, pledge to support us even if you only spare us £1 we will be super grateful.
Don’t want to pledge? That’s ok too, but please give our project a share amongst your friends and family and remember to show them this post too as not everyone ‘Gets’ Kickstarter.
Thank you in advance for all your pledges, likes, shares and general support, we really are very grateful.

Clearing out my fabric stash

I’ve been meaning to clear out my personal stash of fabric for some time! Today I finally committed three lots of fabric to patterns and I’m going to tell you all about my plans.

Apologise for the dodgy light and sound but the sunshine and my webcam are not friends. I also snuck into my bedroom to get some peace and quiet away from the kids!

 

 

A trip to the Goldhawk Road

Yesterday I went on a F.A.R.T (Fabric Aquisition Roadtrip) with Elspeth.

For the past 2 years we have been reading all about the wonders of the Goldhawk Road in West London and we thought it was time to check it out.

I chose a Saturday as I decided to drive, meaning we could buy as much as we liked without fear of heavy bags on the train.  There is no congestion charge on a Saturday so for two of us to travel it was also more cost effective.

It took just over an hour to get there from Brentwood. Sat Nav kindly took me all the way round on the M25 and cut me into London just near Heathrow.  I would imagine on a weekday the journey would be horrific if you fancy trying it though.  We parked in the local shopping centre just behind Morrisons for £9 for the day.  During the week it is a lot more expensive so another reason to head in at the weekend.

goldhawk road fabric haul

We started on the right hand side of the road looking up towards Goldhawk Road train station (where the bridge is in the distance).  The 1st shop is a really lovely shop with floor to ceiling fabrics.  It has loads of luxury silks and linens as well as plenty of printed cottons.  Prices in here are fairly standard for the basics and then go up a bit for the more luxurious fabrics.

A bit further along is Fabrix a great shop for your linings, ponte, jersey, felt, lining cottons and all the basics.  They also own the next door shop which has your slightly more luxurious basics.  We visited this shop right at the end of the day to buy all our linings and bits for the patterns we had decided to make.

Another of my favourites also on the right is Classic Textiles.  This place is a bit of an Aladdins cave with 3 storeys of fabric, thin little corridors and it’s all a bit of a squish but you can get all sorts of wonderful fabrics in here and the staff are really helpful.  I bought my crepe jersey & luminous sweatshirt fabric in here (see my video for my full haul).

A1 fabrics is the last shop on the right and is great for cottons, some lovely plain boiled wools and beautiful shimmery fabrics for dancewear and costumes.  I bought my rose print trouser cotton in here.

Next to the railway bridge is the market.  We had a lovely street food lunch of falafel and chicken wraps here and wandered in to find the haberdashery stalls to stock up on zips and thread.

After lunch we crossed over and came back down the other side of the road.  There is another 7 or 8 shops on this side and I’m not sure whether I had fabric overload, lunchtime sleepy-ness or if they just were not as good but I didn’t find anywhere near as much of a nice haul on this side.  There is a lot more Asian fabrics, beautiful lace and stunning bead work with lots of African wax cottons etc on this side but there are a few beauties hidden away.  It was on this side I picked up my lovely coat wool and Elspeth bought some fabulous printed linen.

All in all we spent 5 hours fabric shopping in approx 15 shops!  We had aching hands from our bags and between us spent just under £200 but I think we will have 11 garments to show for it when we have finished!

I can highly recommend a trip but if your making a special trip do take your patterns with you so you have an idea what you are buying for.  If you don’t I could easily see it being a bit of a mind blow and you will either end up buying nothing or buying everything!

On the way home SatNav took us a different way and we realised it is a stones throw from Westfield. Next time I may consider parking here and leaving the kids at Kidzania.  I can combine being a fab mummy with a fabric shop which is always good!

Make sure you follow our blog and subscribe to our You Tube channel to see my makes as they start to appear.

Baby blanket Ta Da!

I love a good baby shower and my go to gift is always a handmade blanket.  Since I learnt to crochet a few years back I have always enjoyed working away on these for 7 or 8 months as soon as I hear a friend is expecting.

crochet blanket essex

This time I heard my lovely friend Louise was expecting just as the Cherry Heart Spice of life CAL (Crochet along) was announced.  I thought this would be perfect to have a go at and decided to use a colour palette that the lovely Heather from The Patchwork Heart had come up with using Stylecraft Special DK.

The colour recipe is: claret, lipstick, pomegranate, shrimp, spice, gold, saffron, lime, meadow, sage, aspen, storm, blue, denim, aster, bluebell, violet, grape, pale rose, fondant and raspberry.

20160311_113410

The pattern can be downloaded HERE although the official Crochet Along has finished you can see all the blankets that were made by looking up #spiceoflifeCAL on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook.

crochet classes billericay brentwood

I added a couple of rounds of trebles round the edge and a simple 5tr scallop pattern to finish it off.  I probably should have blocked it all to make it lie nice and flat at the edges, but I confess to being naughty and wrapping it as is!

Lou was very pleased with her blanket, which I knew she would be.  Funnily enough whenever I had posted sneak peeks of it on Instagram she was always one of the first to like the posts!

handmade crochet baby blanket classes essex

I’m looking forward to updating you all with pics of Little Baby Bunny all wrapped up in it sometime towards the end of April

lou opening her crochet blanket gift

We are hiring!!

Beautiful Things is growing at a rate of knots and we are loving having some great fully booked classes each week.

The majority of our sessions are run by our in house team of tutors who have learnt their trade within our own 4 walls, but sometimes we need to reach out for the more specialist areas.

We are specifically looking to recruit a knitting tutor.  You must be able to teach complete beginners through to more advanced levels.

We are looking for someone who can develop a beginner/intermediate/advanced programme similar to our in-house crochet courses as well as offering 1 off ‘make something’ sessions such as sock making etc.

Our classes are small, usually only 4 for beginners and 6 for more advanced.  We pay a percentage of class fees to all tutors and a rate will be agreed with each individual during interview.

If you think you have what it takes to join the team at BTHQ, please send us an email outlining your experience.  You do not need to be a qualified teacher to teach here, we believe, knowlege, experience, a passion for your craft and the ability to teach with a sense of humor are far more important!

We could also be interested in speaking to you if you are able to teach any of the crafts you don’t already see on our website.  So do have a look around.  Perhaps your a screen printer, a yarn dyer or specialise in something a little different.  Drop us a line and tell us about yourself (we make no promises, but who knows, today could be your day)!

Raising awareness

One of the ways we like to raise awareness of Beautiful Things is to raise awareness of other local businesses and charities.  In return for doing a good deed or two we can raise our profile too.

BOSP travelling star sewing pattern

This is one of the reasons we chose to work with Brighter Opportunities in Supported Play or BOSP for short.

BOSP is a locally based charity offering respite activity for children and young adults with disabilities.  Whether its an after school group, youth club or simply taking a group of youngsters to the cinema, BOSP make living a normal everyday life a possibility for both the children and their families.

Jodie charity worker from BOSP

BOSP logo is a sweet little star and when the charity approached us in 2014 to make a few stars they could use for a competition we jumped at the idea.  We held our 1st star making day in November 2014 and a group of regular pupils from BTHQ got together to make over 20 felt stars.

BOSP star sewing class brentwood

We also developed a pattern and instruction book so that others could make stars too.  Subsequently those stars have travelled all over the world with people posting snap shots of their stars in all sorts of famous places from the Taj Mahal to the Grand Canyon!  You can check out their travels by searching the hashtag #BOSPtravellingstar

the team stuffing BOSP stars

As it had been a while since we last worked with BOSP we held another star making day last week.  You have been looking at some of the photos from the day throughout this post.

free machine embroidery sewing BOSP star faces

The great news is that  the funds from the sale of the last batch of stars went towards buying a new mini bus for the group.  Here we all are pictured with the bus that BOSP has recently purchased.

BOSP minibus

It’s great to do something good now and again.  If you want to help BOSP and make a few stars then please feel free to download the pattern from our site.  Geoff in the Remnant shop in Brentwood is also happy to offer you 10% discount on yellow felt if you mention you will be making BOSP stars with it.

We made 25 star softies and 25 mini stars which will be made into keyrings.  These will be available at various BOSP events during the year, or if you drop them a line via Twitter they will be only too happy to sell you one to take on it’s travels!

big bundle of BOSP stars

Happy sewing.

 

Looking back

Back in March 2012 I wrote this post on my old blog ‘A day in the life of……’

It was before the studio, I had just had a baby and was on ‘maternity leave’ a.k.a. working for myself and looking after kids in the vain hope I could make a go of it full time and not go back to work.

Well I did it!

It’s a great read, it even mentions meeting with Jim a.k.a Mr Frog of Chicken and Frog Bookshop and without their input I honestly don’t think I would be where I am today.  Laughably I was also running with the lovely Laurie of Local by Social who has now gone on to be my fabulous web developer and she also made a massive transformation to my business this time last year. (I’m no longer running I have to add but hope to change that soon).

I think I might do another similar post, would you like to read it if I did?  After all I now have premises, work full time, both kids are at school and I have a new house too.  Lots has changed in 4 years but I still think I could be superwoman!

If you have a blog, why not go back and look at some old posts, it’s really interesting what you find.  I rarely get comments on my blog but it’s a wonderful way of documenting my life and where I have come from.

Tilly & the buttons Agnes top

Fun pouffy sleeves and a fabulously funky print whats not to like about Agnes?

agnes tilly buttons jersey sewing pattern front view shoulders

I love, love, love this top pattern.  Granted it helps that I am a little skinnier than I used to be and can now wear tight fitting clothes but the main reason this top looks so nice is that it’s a ‘Tilly’.

agnes full view tilly buttons top

As much as I go on about her, Tilly Walnes really does make exceedingly good patterns! Great instructions, lovely fits and pattern pieces that actually fit together where they are supposed to every time.

agnes tilly walnes jersey sewing pattern shoulders

There’s not really a lot more to say about this really other than, you have to try it!

If you’d like your hand held, or are a little bit scared of Jersey you can always come along to one of our Agnes classes where we will help you every step of the way.  You will leave with your very own fabulous top and have fought the fear of jersey too.

And if you  love this fabric then it’s available from Plush Addict HERE

Going on a roadtrip?

There’s a reason they call this little beauty the roadtrip scarf.  A few hours in a car/plane/bus (delete as appropriate) 1.5 balls of yarn and a crochet hook and Ta Da!!

roadtrip scarf crochet class essx
I love it.  The pattern is by Zooty Owl and can be found here.  There are loads of posts out there with tips for the edging  and close up videos of starting off, but it’s one of those patterns that once you’ve done the 1st few rows you are off.

Roadtrip scarf crochet stylecraft cascade

I used the new Cabaret yarn by Stylecraft.  My tension is quite loose so I did crack into a second ball but if you were tighter then I’m guessing you might get away with 1 if your lucky.

roadtrip scarf twinkly yarn

The colourway I chose was Rainbow but there are some beautiful colours available. I believe this yarn is quite hard to acquire now, I know when I was at Ally Pally back in October the Stylecraft stand was running low on most of them.

roadtrip scarf crochet flowers

The thing I loved most about this scarf was the lovely little flowers.  A simple pattern whipped up in minutes using a magic ring.   I’m adding them to almost everything I make at the moment!

claires roadtrip scaf

I’m thinking of running a crochet along at Crochet club next year for the roadtrip scarf.  Fancy joining us?

 

 

Sewing Coco – A Tilly & The Buttons fav

I love Coco.  The first in an ever growing collection of patterns by Great British Sewing Bee contender Tilly Walnes.

Sewing patterns by Tilly and the Buttons

Having made it first back in March 2014 (Read all about it here on my old blog) and subsequently teaching lots of our pupils to make their own, I have been itching to try it again.

For those of you who follow me on Instagram you will have noticed that I have been loosing weight with Slimming World and now being only 2.5lb away from my final target and nearly 2 stone lighter I am also 2 dress sizes smaller!

My old coco’s hang off me like tents so when I came across this beautiful striped ponte de roma at the Big Knitting and Stitch show at Ally Pally early this month I could not wait to get started.

Coco tilly and the buttons

I was inspired by Elspeths recent make (we have been doing slimming world together) and she looked fabulous in her smaller coco which she had made into the top version in fabulous purple ponte.
striped coco collage

I decided to go for a funnel collar and also place the cuffs onto the sleeves.

Halloween coco dress sewing class

Well I love it! So much so that I wore it to class on Saturday.  Being Halloween we put on the silly hats and paraded our finished coco’s in style.

Later that evening I went off trick or treating with my wee ones. Add a silly hat and a lacy cardi and it makes a great witches outfit, don’t you think?

halloween mackaness style

If you would like to try a coco then we are running another class in February.  It’s our Tilly Weekender where you can come for a day or the whole weekend and make as many Tilly items as you like.  Coco takes 1 day to make but you can always try another pattern too and enjoy the whole weekend if you wish.

Alternatively if you would like to try it alone we sell the full range of Tillys patterns in our shop, so do pop in.

Taking perfect pictures

Wow my brain is buzzing with information and ideas following a fabulous day spent at BTHQ yesterday learning to use my camera.

We were fortunate to be joined by Tracy Williams who is a fantastic local photographer who specialises in working with natural light to take all sorts of wonderful photographs from newborns and weddings to Woodland fairies and product photography.

Tracy was running a course at our studio to help those of us with digital cameras get off the ‘Auto’ setting.  The great thing about owning a studio like mine is I can often join in with the fun and so I took the day off and joined in with the other pupils.

Learning to taking portrait photographs

We had a great day learning about Aperture and ISO and how we could use them to let in light, blur out our backgrounds to gain ‘depth of field’ and capture movement and motion with our shutter speed.

Getting just the right amount of colour in your image

chinese lucky cats photography course

After a morning of theory we ventured out to Thorndon Hall to try out what we had learned in the class room.

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We started off in the shade of some trees capturing portraits using a light reflector.  As you can see we played around with our angles shooting from up high, straight on and down low.

portrait photography class portrait photography class

Then it was off along the footpath to the hall itself to shoot some of our crafts and makes in the brighter light. Below are a number of collages with all the pictures the group took (There were 4 of us). It’s very interesting to see how the photos differ in both lighting, composition and depth of field.

Abney & Teal dress photography course

1 blanket photographed 6 ways composition

Chic classy cape sewing class

On the way back to base Laurie was super lucky to even capture some cyclists whizzing past us at great speed with this fantastic shot.

Learning to capture movement with shutter speed

We then had great fun jumping off stools in the courtyard to play with our shutter speeds.

Capturing the moment Shutter speed

capturing jumping with shutter speed

Needless to say I am going to be spending some quality time with my camera over the next few weeks and am now looking forward to my holiday to turkey even more.  Just think how beautiful those souks and sunsets will look now I know how to operate my camera to it’s best.

If you would like to have a go at getting your camera off auto then Tracy is joining us again on the 8th October.  You can book the class online HERE

Thank you, Thank you, Thank you

It’s been over a year in the making but this afternoon we were awarded PLATINUM status on Craft Courses.

platinum status provider www.craftcourses.com

We have been using the site to promote our classes for just over a year and it has proved an effective advertising tool for us.  It’s also a great way for you lovely lot to say what a fabulous time you have had at BTHQ. You can read all our lovely reviews HERE

The site awards Bronze, Silver and Gold status quite quickly and we have been a Gold supplier for a while, needing only ten 5 star reviews .  Platinum however takes you 50 to achieve!

So a huuuuuuge big thank you to each and every one of you who made this possible, we are very grateful to you all.  Don’t stop those reviews coming in though we love to hear how much fun you’ve had with us.

If you have already reviewed on Craft Courses, you could always pop over to our Trip Advisor page too!

 

Playing

Sometimes it’s lovely to just play.

I’m very fortunate to have fabulously talented pupils who can do things that I cant.  One such pupil is the lovely Elspeth.  You will have seen her pop up on my blog before, she is my dressmaking sewing buddy and has recently become the latest recruit at BTHQ and is our official sample maker (she needs a better job title I know but we are working on that one)!

elspeth painting

Elspeth has always been particularly good at drawing and painting and can sketch almost anything you need her too. When I saw a painting on the wall at our sewing class at the local arts centre I knew I had to replicate it.  Made with simple blobs of watercolour and outlined in ink I thought it couldn’t be that hard!

So my day off arrived, Elspeth turned up laden with paint, paper and books and we simply played.  I quickly  found out that the super wet, splodgy ways of watercolour are not for me.  Being an old school acrylic painter and one for corporate straight edges and blocks of colour and also someone who cant draw for toffee I admitted defeat very early on.  However once I found my own style I was very pleased with the pictures I did manage.

My tortoise was a wet and watery one but he had a lot of help from a black pen.

tortoise watercolour

I particularly enjoyed my toadstools.  I could have cried when the red leaked into the brown but actually it looks like a great bit of light reflection and I now love it. Not so sure about my geisha girl but she is passable!

watercolour paintings

My very first attempt at a flower turned out rather childishly bright and happy

flower watercolour

And having an artists cat in residence helped me finish off a trio of toadstools! You can see my random effects at painting ‘properly’ in the back ground here, so not my cup of tea!

stampy cat helping paint

I can highly recommend ‘playing’ though. Find a friend with a talent who can share it with you, put the kettle on, set aside a couple of hours and have some fun.  It was so therapeutic and I thoroughly enjoyed it.

Do pop back and share with me the fun times you have been having.

Results of our customer survey

Thank you all so much for responding to our recent survey regarding life at BTHQ.  We have taken on board all of your comments and have already started to put plans in place to accommodate your wants.  I thought I would pick up on a few things that where mentioned and reply directly so you can all see what we are thinking.

For those who have not made it to BTHQ yet the main reasons were work, childcare and finances.  Well obviously we can’t help you needing to work (it’s a pain I know) but we do have weekend and evening classes and try to save these slots for people who can’t make mid week sessions where possible.  Finances and Childcare often comes hand in hand but we do have a great deal with Little Legs nursery for childcare during classes and after lots and lots of you asking we will be launching a pay as you go scheme soon so you can start to save monthly towards your classes. Our lovely Web developer is looking into an online system right now for you all.

A couple of other answers which stumped me where ‘I’m a novice’ well there is something for all levels at BTHQ including free starter classes.  I also received answers such as ‘no suitable classes’.  If that was you please do get in touch and tell us what you are after and we can put it on for you.

It seems we have our class times about right.  You would all love more weekends and I am doing my best to get external teachers in for when I am on holiday to make the most of those precious Saturdays.  Sadly we can only open once every 6 weeks by arrangement with our landlord on Sundays otherwise we would have more availability.  This Weekend I am away but the lovely Charlotte is back to teach fabric letters.  Come September my smallest littley will be starting school so we will be opening on Tuesdays as well and will be running more school hour classes so there is more hours on the cards.

Courses seemed popular so we will try to add a few more 2-3 week sessions.  We are keen to make sure that our sessions remain ‘short and sweet’ and we don’t become too much  like a college so will still have plenty of half day and full day classes too.

We asked you what you wanted and we had some responses such as ‘Making things not clothes’ I have to admit this one stumped me as we have bunting, bags, flowers, boxes, storage, blinds, cushions and all sorts.  If there is something in particular you had in mind though do let us know.

This popped up a lot ‘More patchwork’ & ‘Patchwork courses’ I do have a few technique sessions planned for after the Summer and I will ask Maria I she can break down her 1 day beginners into a course to be delivered for you.  Watch this space.

You also asked us for more crochet at weekends.  We have already sorted that one for you and you will notice we have flowers, beginners and a new Crochet Along cushion class all at weekends already on the calendar with more to come soon.

You asked us for more Parent and child sessions specifically at the weekends.  Sadly we can’t run these as our weekends are so booked up with adult sessions.  As much as we love teaching you and your children these classes are not cost effective to run at weekends.  We do try to make sure we always have plenty of sessions in the holidays and are always able to offer 121 sessions after school most days. On the subject of kids, you asked for more boys stuff.  I have my thinking cap on for summer holidays and am planning a minecraft related activity but if you have any great ideas do let me know.

For all you intermediate crochetters we were asked for a Crochet stitch masterclass and we think this is a great idea.  Give us a month or so to whip up some samples and write some patterns and we will get it on the schedule.

So thank you again, our feedback is always really useful to us.  We try to accommodate all your needs but as everyone is different this can at times be really tricky.

Most of all I was delighted that you are all so positive about BTHQ and what it means to you.  We are glad we are pressing the right buttons and do remember if we are not doing what you want, speak up about it and we can fix it!

On that note I shall leave you with the final response.

Kit Kats will be back just as soon as I can get to the cash and carry!

BTHQ Billericay

Did you know we also teach classes in Billericay? Yes we have a splendid studio in Brentwood and it’s a great place to learn, but not everyone can get there in the evenings and our strict 9pm closing time can cause an issue for those classes that take more than 2 hours.

For this reason Claire often opens up her home in Billericay for classes which don’t involve too much equipment such as crochet and handicrafts.  We work in a lovely sunny conservatory and there is always tea on tap in posh Pip Studio cups!

BTHQ Billericay

These classes usually take place on a Tuesday or Thursday so if you’d like to know what sessions take place in Billericay search using our calender function and take a look at those evenings.  Any class taking place in Billericay will say on the main description.  If it’s not stated there then you can assume the class is at BTHQ in Brentwood.

BTHQ Billericay classes

So whats on at BTHQ Billericay in the next few months? Just take a look at the wonderful assortment of classes in the picture above! Here are all the dates, click through to find out more and book online.

Crochet Ripple –  19th May

Crochet Flowers – 9th June

Crochet Teacosy – 16th & 23rd June

Lampshade making – 30th June

Crochet with beads – 7th July

Crochet Bag – 14th July

Clasp purses – 16th July

Whilst your looking around.  Somewhere on our website hidden amongst the classes is a link to win £25 worth of free classes! See if you can find it. (competition ends Saturday 16th May)

Claire also teaches on a 121 basis from home too so if you would like to learn in Billericay at a time that suits you do gt in touch.

 

Me Made May – The almost mid way update

So how are you all getting on with Me Made May? #MMmay15

I’m pretty much on track with my pledge.  Here’s my run down so far.

Day 1 /Friday) I wore my BTHQ tunic top.  We run a class for this top if you want your own it’s the perfect beginners dress making project.

BTHQ tunic top

Day 2/Saturday) I wore a yellow jersey tunic top that I had made (sorry no pics, but I still need to blog about it) and made a start on making my Miette Skirt

Miette skirt Tilly Walnes GBSB

Day 3 Sunday) Sadly a fail day for me.  I didn’t even get out of my jim jams! On the plus side they are Moomin Jim Jams and I think all can be forgiven.

Moomin jim jams

I wish I could find some fabric like this, I can see it as a Liberty Tana Lawn can’t you?

Day 4/Monday)  A making day today.  Bank holiday and a reason to slob about in trackies! I made a start on my Daughters Miette inspired dungaree dress.  It needs tweaking yet but it’s almost there.

miette inspired girls dungaree dress

Day 5/Tuesday) Another at home day today but I did pop my Elise Patterns Kyoto Kimono top on.  Apologise for the dodgy mirror Selfie but I was home alone!

Elise Patterns Kyoto Kimono selfie

Day 6/Wednesday) Back to work again and time to throw on my trusty Tilly and the Buttons Matilde blouse I also made myself a Washi dress from stash fabric

Tilly and the Buttons Matilde Blouse

Day 7/Thursday)  A good day for Me Making today.  Not only was I wearing my new Washi dress, but Elspeth and I enjoyed an afternoon at our pattern cutting course at the local arts centre

washi dress

Pattern cutting class with Elspeth

Day 8/Friday) I confess to a  second day sporting the Washi dress!

Day 9/Saturday) It was Little Macks 8th birthday and we threw a big family BBQ.  I was wearing a new make (still to be blogged) Simplicity 1419 a.k.a. My Blue Racoon frock

blue racoon dress Lisette 1419

Day 10/Sunday) A relaxing day at home for Mr Macks birthday.  I wore my 3 hour slouchy cardi and a black vest to relax in the garden

Slouchy Cardi GBSB

Day 11/Monday) Another double up day with the slouchy cardi coming out again! I did spend the entire day staring at a computer screen to add lots more classes to the website for you all to enjoy.  Go and have a snoop around.  Somewhere on our site amongst the class listings is a secret link with the chance to win £25 of class credit!!

Day 12/Tuesday) It’s housework and admin day today and I confess to jeans and hubbies rugby top!

I’ve not done too bad though.  How are you getting along?

Miette – Tilly & The Buttons Pattern Review

Hats off to you Tilly another fabulous pattern.  As part of My ‘Me Made May’ challenge I said I would finish off more of my stash outfits.  Well I have had this fabulous jungle print fabric in the cupboard for a couple of years so it was time to turn it into something.

sewing miette

When I placed an order with Tilly for our Coco Patterns for class I needed to top my order up, so rather than order another bunch of coco’s I thought I would treat BTHQ to half a dozen Miette patterns too (There are 4 left in stock at BTHQ if any of you fancy popping in and having a go).

miette sewing pattern

I traced my pattern off first of all (with help from Stampy Cat) in case I needed to make any changes, but as with all Tilly patterns it fits like a dream.

stampy cat helping me trace off my miette pattern

I decided to go for the patch pocket option and went a bit crazy with the old decorative stitches as you can see!

miete skirt detailsmiette skirt detals

Granted most people go for a plain fabric for this skirt and I can see why.  Trying to pattern match this baby would be tricky.  Thankfully I went for a super busy print and made sure I wasn’t chopping any animals in half down the middle.  I tried to pick areas with statement animals for the pockets and I reckon it works ok.

tilly and the buttons miette skirt

I can see myself in the summer with a vest top on a nice safari!  Next up is a pattern hack to turn this into a miette/dungaree dress for my daughter.  Watch this space, if the kids behave this Bank Holiday I might get cracking.

If you would like to try a Miette and have your hand held, I would be happy to book you in for a class at BTHQ just drop us a line.

Me Made May 2015 #MMMay15

What is Me Made May I hear you cry?

In a nutshell it’s a month of celebrating everything handmade.  If you are a dressmaker then it’s your month to shine.

Me Made May all about wearing our handmade garments every day or certainly more than usual.  Finishing off your WIPS (Works in Progress) or pledging to make a few more garments than usual.

You can choose how to take part and find all the information you need over on the ‘So, Zo…….What do you know’ blog.

So what am I going to do during Me Made May? Well here is my pledge………………………

‘I, Claire Mackaness of www.clairemackaness.com, sign up as a participant of Me-Made-May ’15. I endeavour to wear my handmade garments each day for the duration of May 2015′ I also pledge to finish of the garments I have already bought fabric and patterns for and to blog my garment making news at least once a week during May.’

So pop on over to ‘So, Zo………What do you know’ find out more and choose how you want to take part.  Enter your pledge and then let me know if you’re joining in too.  I’d love to follow your progress on Instagram, Twitter and Pinterest.  Just remember to use the hashtag #MMMay15

 

 

Teabag Holder Tutorial

The lovely people over at the Sewing Directory very kindly asked me to do a tutorial for them.

sewing, craft

I decided to write up a tute for my famous teabag holder.  So many people have loved this product over the years I have been making them to sell that the time has come to share the love.

Pop over to the Sewing Directory to view the Tutorial HERE

#GBSB Fashion with fabric – Slouchy Cardie review

WOW!! I LOVE IT.

slouchy cardi GBSB

One of the best patterns I have tried this year.  Super simple to make, fits like a dream and looks fab.

slouchy cardi The Slouchy Cardie is featured as one of the patterns in the Fashion with fabric book from series 3 and is the 1st item I have made from the book so far.  I have plans to try the knit wrap dress too, but that might have to wait for Autumn.

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I can feel Spring in the air and there are some summer dresses next on my list.

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Thank you Thrifty Stitcher for designing such a great wardrobe staple, I can see these being rustled up in lots of different jerseys this year.

Slouchy Cardi GBSB

I urge you to give it a go, let me know how you get on.

Wanna Make a #Coco? – Where to buy Ponte Roma

So we all love Tilly and the Buttons Coco pattern, it’s a great first time sewing project and one which I have personally made on numerous occasions.

Sew Your Own Coco

If you fancy trying your hand at Coco, we run classes at Beautiful Things HQ and are often asked by our pupils where the best place to buy fabric for this pattern is.

Having tried lots of different jersey fabrics to make coco, we found many of the thinner knits required the use of an overlocker to get a good finish.  But when we discovered Ponte de Roma we found a fabulous fabric that required very little work to whizz into a fabulous top.

Coco Party

The first place I can recommend personally is Geoffs Remnant shop in Brentwood.  Geoffs shop is a little gem, a traditional haberdashery shop based on Kings Road.  Geoff opens Wednesday – Saturday 9.30am – 5pm but closes for lunch for an hour at 12.30. He stocks a great range of plain coloured ponte which is excellent quality for making Coco.

If you’re not local though we have rounded up the following online suppliers:

Plush Addict

Backstitch (Make sure you check the title is PONTE ROMA as it’s mixed in with other jersey fabrics)

Minerva Fabrics

Guthrie Ghani

The Textile Centre

And lastly not strictly Ponte but a great quality Jersey and in some fabulously funky prints.  The lovely folk at Elephant in my Handbag sent me some samples so I could have a good tug of the stretch and it’s a nice weight without being too slippy. Buy jersey here

So what are you waiting for? Grab yourself 2 metres of fabric and make yourself a Coco.  More class dates are being added to our website soon so do make sure your signed up to our mailing list to find out when we release new dates.

The Walkaway dress – I’m walking away!

So as promised I gave myself a day to make the Walkaway Dress this week.  After my initial assessments of the pattern which I talked about HERE I looked at it again with fresh eyes.

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I decided to use the Buttericks version and graded the pattern out from an 18 at the bust to a 22 at the waist.  My first stumbling block was the huge amount of fabric required.  Having cut out the long front section on the fold, the tiny back section on the fold and then the Huuuuuuuge skirt I realised that the skirt piece in fact required you to cut TWO!!!! Oh no………………….I’ve run out of pretty red duvet cover :-(

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After a huge internal hissy fit where I threw all my toys out of the pram and almost gave up there and then I turned to a big piece of navy polka fabric that I had in my stash.  It would mean using the stiff starchy almost see through white binding I had for making bunting with but I reminded myself this was a wearable toile and an experiment!

I re-started the clock (wanting to see if it really was possible to make this beast in 4 hours) and got cutting.  Half an hour in and I was cut out with all my markings transferred and good to sew.

GBSB, fashion with fabric, thrifty stitcher

The Buttericks instructions are clear and easy to follow, more so than I would say the Fashion with Fabric book is which I was also referring to out of interest.

Quite quickly I had my dress assembled but not bound.  It was at this point I tried my dress on and where I would look at making any adjustments needed……………….Have you ever tried pinning yourself in blind behind your back? Impossible! I tried a bulldog clip, various long pins nothing was working.  In the end I took it off and pinned it and then wiggled into the whole thing and flipped it over my head.  It looked ok, but it was impossible to really see.  A good seamstress would have stopped and waited till someone else was on hand to look at it with her, but no, I couldn’t resist and cracked on with the binding!

KAM snap, dressmaking

I did decide to cheat and used a KAM snap at the back as I though this would be easier to do up than buttons.  For a tiny while I thought about using them on the front too but then snapped out of my laziness and went back to button loops.  It was a skill I needed to try and also part of the visual prettiness of the pattern so I was good.

A few more hours in (3.37 to be precise) I was stitching buttons on.  I used some pretty red vintage floral buttons to give it some zing.  So it is at least possible to indeed make the dress in a morning and go out for lunch in it the same day! Although the pattern does say to hang for 24 hours before hemming to allow the bias to drop so it’s not entirely true.

walkaway dress finished

On the mannequin the dress looks ok, it is pinned in massively at the sides at this point though as it is very very gappy.  I have to say, when trying this on I would never ever wear it.  There is no flattering 50’s fit, the waist is far lower than it should be and as for the sides, they gape so much that you would see all your undergarments.

The next day Elspeth my trusty sewing buddy came into the studio and tried it on.  At first glance she looked super, especially as she happened to have a red long sleeved top underneath, but on 2nd glance we all thought it reminded us of the housework aprons worn by our grandparents!

walkaway dress binding

It was at this point I realised that without a big pattern rework to include heightening the side panels and raising the waist this pattern would never look beautiful I decided to leave it on my mannequin as a homage to the GBSB 2015 crew!

elspeth walkaway dress

Following on from my disappointment I have discovered a few people online who have made this garment work but I’m still not sure I feel like trying again.  I particularly like this blog by Edelweiss Patterns which tells you a little more history of how Buttericks re-drew the original 1950’s pattern and some changes you can do to make it fit.  Who knows maybe one day I might try again but I think it will be chalked down to an experiment for now.  Do let me know how you get on with the pattern I would be interested to see any you have made successfully or not quite so successfully!

Lastly huge thanks to Elspeth for agreeing to prance around in this monstrosity and have her picture included on my blog! You can read her blog ‘Ever so Elspeth‘ where she chats about her sewing and craft adventures.

 

Rainbow Pom Pom blanket – ta da!

Don’t you just love it when you can finally reveal a blanket you have made as a gift?

This little beauty has been in the pipeline for some time.  I’ve been itching to make a baby blanket in rainbow and white but none of my friends would oblige me with said baby!  Finally my lovely friend Saz announced her pregnancy and my crochet hook stopped twitching.

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I had already planned a rainbow blanket but when she said she could not decide between making a pink blanket or a rainbow blanket (she crochets, in fact I taught her) I did the kind thing and offered to make whatever she decided not to, so she could have both.

Thankfully she chose pink and so therefore the rainbow blanket could become a reality.

pom pom rainbow crochet blanket folded

I decided on a very simple join as you go with a spot of ribbing and then some scallops before adding teeny tiny pom poms all round the edge.  The colours are all from my stash, there is a little stylecraft in there a spot of pound stretcher purple and lime and a random king cole blue!  The white however is all stylecraft special DK as it’s a dream to join with.

pom pom edging

If you fancy adding teeny tiny pom poms to your blanket edges you can purchase the mini makers from our shop.

Hopefully in a few weeks I can pop back with a piccie of the wee jellybean all wrapped up in her blankie.

This post is my submission to the Deramores Craft Blog Competition 2015. Deramores is the UK’s number one online retailer of knitting and crochet supplies. Visit www.deramores.com for more details.

 

The Walkaway Dress – The Hype and my measuring nightmare!

So Last week following Episode 3 of the Great British Sewing Bee the world went mad about the Walkaway Dress.  That included me who went straight on line and bought myself a copy of Butterick B4790 from Jaycotts and at the same time I also ordered the new Sewing Bee Book, Fashion with Fabric.

GBSB, fashion with fabric, thrifty stitcher

The book was first to arrive and I had a good look through.  From the outside it looks very nice, there are good projects and the instructions seem clear.  ‘We shall see though’ I thought to myself remembering my foray with last years book and it’s terrible measurements and wobbly instructions.

Well, yesterday the pattern arrived.  I have to admit I have not seen many finished walkaway dresses on social media this week.  I would have thought by now they would be springing up all over the place but I think I might know why.

Straight away I can see a big issue.  The pattern is not designed for the everyday woman.

Lets take my measurements as an example.

Bust: 40 inches
Waist: 36 inches (I know how lucky am I)
Hips: 46 inches

A tea dress usually fits me beautifully as I have a narrow waist and the skirt can skim out and over my enormous bottom, therefore I thought the walkaway dress would do the same.

pattern grading, pattern cutting, dressmaking

Alas the bust – waist ratios on both patterns make simple pattern grading next to impossible.  On a regular pattern I can grade in from my bust to my waist with ease but as this has an unusual construction method with the wrap front and back grading seems impossible to me.  On the back piece how can you see where the bust ends and the waist begins?

I had hoped that one pattern may be better than the other but with Buttericks I am an 18 bust and a 20/22 waist (I don’t worry that my hip measurement is off the scale as that’s irrelevant with this type of pattern.

Looking at the book version it’s even more ridiculous.  I am a size 10 bust and a size 18 waist.  Hilarious how can 1 pattern come in two totally differing sizes?

So I have made a decision…….I think I might get angry with the book version going by past experience so I’m going to cut a size 20 Buttericks from an old duvet cover (which is very pretty so may end up totally wearable – fingers crossed) I am hoping and possibly assuming that as the whole thing is bound, once the bodice is attached to the skirt I can try it on and if need be shave a little off the sides here and there before I bind it!

toille, wearable toille, dressmaking

Watch this space………….

I’d love to know your thoughts on these patterns, have you had the same brain numbing conversations with yourself that I have or have you made a beautiful frock first time round?  Do comment below and let me know I’d be most grateful.

 

 

Why I LOVE My Vintage Singer Sewing Machine

Ok so she’s not a beauty but my ‘Phyllis’ is beautiful on the inside.

Yes it would be nice to have a shiny black and gold stunner, but Phyllis does the job better than any other machine I have owned.

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I’m all for a nice shiny Janome (My more modern favourite) but if your after a love affair of a machine that will very rarely misbehave then it’s vintage all the way.

When I first acquired Phyllis (named after my Grandma who was her original owner) she was a tired old girl who had been stored in my Mums loft for a good few years.

My Sewing Machine man Martin came to give her a house call and proclaimed that she was indeed a stunner, sturdy and built to last. After a good service and a replacement cog or two which had gone brittle over time,

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she was as good as new. Maybe not to look at but certainly on the inside.

Martin is a wealth of knowledge on machines and is a huge fan of vintage. His words were “These machines were built to last Claire, no melted down car parts and old bits of cold pressed steel in these babies”

Give him a bank of old Berninas any day!  His next job is to service Iris who is another singer I have acquired complete with sewing table.  She was just £10 and works very well but her feed dogs are a bit poorly.

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It’s true though. As much as I like my shiny white janome, it jams up a lot more than Phyllis. It cant cope with any kind of thickness without the help of different needles or special feet and there are far too many knobs and dials to fiddle with.

I can honestly say that a good vintage machine and a proper service is well worth the spend. I just wish I could make new customers who walk into my studio understand this, but alas, they are on the look out for the shiny white machines of the modern age.

Therefore Phyllis remains at home and allows me to enjoy some selfish sewing every now and again.

p.s. She is awfully good at inserting an invisible zip perfectly without a silly invisible zipper foot. Another perk of having a fully adjustable needle and a skinny zip foot. If your lucky I might film you a tutorial shortly.

Pom Pom Crazy!!!!

Pom Pom Makers – what’s the fuss about?

Crafternoon Pom Pom Making

Cast your mind back to Christmas 2013, Kirsty Allsop was on your telly box twittering away about all the fabulous crafts she had tried for Christmas.

We were thrilled to learn how to tie die our own knickers………….or not and then came the BIG SHOW AND TELL!!

Kirsty showed us the Clover Pom Pom maker and the world went mad. Friends of mine with online shops sold out in minutes, the wholesalers could not keep up with orders and the world went pom pom mad.

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We took a stock of pom pom makers to the Creative Craft show in February and within 3 hours had to put in an emergency order to our suppliers to have more delivered the next day!

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Just take a look at what you can make with them. Pom Pom pets, angry birds, bobble hats, garlands, wreaths and lots lots more.

Pom Pom Pets craft course_Brentwood Essex
So what’s all the fuss about? The easiest way to explain is to show you our new little tutorial on You Tube. Take a look and see if we can excite you with pom poms.

Beautiful Things stocks all sizes of Pom Pom Makers in our shop so pop along if you’re after one.  Alternatively pop into the studio and try them out, we would be happy to let you play. We even have a pom pom pet class planned for the Easter Holidays.

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If you are visiting the Five Lakes Creative Craft Show 12th – 14th Feb 2015 then pop by our stand where you can have a little play and purchase any of the 3 sizes we have in stock.

 

Simply Crochet – Cowl Neck Poncho

Welcome to my shiny new blog, thanks for popping by to say hi. I thought I’d start things off with a review of the Cowl Neck Poncho pattern from issue 25 of Simply Crochet.

I fell in love with this pattern the minute I saw it and was extremely keen to hook it up, however I’m always wary of trying new yarns, spending lots of money and then being disappointed so when I saw that Daisy Jones had created one in Stylecraft Chunky I was straight off out to buy some yarn.

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I was very grateful to Daisy for saying exactly how much yarn she had used and using her calculations and the fact that I wanted to use my corporate colours I knew I needed 5 balls of Parchment, 2 Pomegranate, 2 meadow and 2 dark brown.

A couple of days later my yarn arrived and I rushed home to make a start. At first I panicked a bit as the pattern calls for a 7mm hook to do the cowl neck and I did not have one of those at home. So with the need to start playing strongly on my mind I took a chance and worked with my trusty Clover Amour 6mm hook instead. My theory was that I have quite a loose tension anyway and working with a chunky yarn would mean that it should hopefully work out ok!

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Sitting down with the pattern I read about the front and back post trebles needed to create the rib effect and my mind went blank. The magazine tells you to look at the back of the issue for descriptions but even those were not particularly clear. I know I thought the trusty Lucy from Attic24 has recently made this poncho too, she must talk about how to do these, so off I popped to her post.

Sure enough on her blog post about the same pattern she mentions a wonderful little YouTube tutorial which got her out of the same sticky situation and I have to say it is wonderful:

After a couple of rounds I was off, happily hooking away and by the end of the evening I had finished the cowl and completed my first round of granny stripe in parchment. Two more evenings and one more crochet club at work followed and I had finished all my stripe. I had worked out how many repeats to do based on the number of rows in the pattern and added another 3 to give it slightly more length before finishing with one final row of parchment.

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Then it was onto another couple of rows of the rib before adding the tassels. Now that’s a whole other job! 2 entire evenings spent wrapping yarn, cutting lengths and hooking it through it certainly is a task. I can see why Daisy blogged about her poncho before finishing them, they are a chore but I think totally worth it. Of course you don’t have to add tassels if they are not your thing, Lucy didn’t and she has added a nice little scalloped edge to her poncho.

The lovely folk at Simply Crochet have just announced that this pattern is now available to buy from Ravelry for only £2.75 if you missed the November issue.  You can download it HERE.

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Whatever you decide to do I’d love to hear about your attempts, you can be sure you will get a lot of comments if you choose to try this pattern. I have just got back from the Waltham Abbey Wool show where I chose to wear mine and I really should have had a sign on my back!

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Photography credits to Rebecca Burton Photography ©2015

This post is my submission to the Deramores Craft Blog Competition 2015. Deramores is the UK’s number one online retailer of knitting and crochet supplies. Visit www.deramores.com for more details.