Today I’d like to show you how to make a double-sided cutting & pressing mat. These are handy to have if you are undertaking a small sewing project with lots of small pieces that need regular pressing. No need to keep getting up and ironing between stitching a seam.
It is aimed at people who know their basic stitches but really want to get their heads around following a pattern.
There are no rules with how a crochet pattern should be written and they all differ so much from pattern to pattern. Thats why we swear by the ‘practise makes perfect method’ and have put together some of our favourite patterns for you to work your way through with our help, advice and guidance.
You can find out more about the club and how it works HERE
but if you are already sold on the idea and want to join in, we thought we would share the patterns that are available to try with you here.
When you first start any new hobby it can be really easy to feel totally daunted by the options available to you.
Some people feel like they need to buy absolutely everything before they get started and others worry that they need lots of things, but have limited funds to get started.
To help you make a decision on what to buy we have written the following guide of things that are ‘Essential to have’, ‘Nice to have’ and ‘A treat to have’
Most of these items are available to buy from our shop shelf at Beautiful Things Headquarters so you can pick them up when you come to class but if you are unable to make it to the shop we have included clickable links to all the items mentioned.
(These are affiliate links and whilst it costs you no more to purchase via them we will earn a small commission for recommending you).
Sewing machine needles & Bobbins
Sewing machine (mechanical domestic model) – As a studio we recommend Janome machines as our machine of choice but thats not to say other makes and models are not just as good. If you choose to buy from the link below that is fabulous, however we do have a deal with Sewing Machines Direct. Choose any machine on their website and contact them directly, mention Beautiful Things and you will receive a further discount on the advertised price. Should you purchase please let us know what you have bought as the company offers us a commission on all sales (at no cost to you). We choose to pass this commission onto MIND the mental health charity.
Nice to have
Cutting mat (basic A3)
Sewing machine (computerised domestic model CXL301 listed here is the same machine we use in our studio for classes) – As a studio we recommend Janome machines as our machine of choice but thats not to say other makes and models are not just as good. If you choose to buy from the link below that is fabulous, however we do have a deal with Sewing Machines Direct. Choose any machine on their website and contact them directly, mention Beautiful Things and you will receive a further discount on the advertised price. (Cxl301 are currently approx £299) Should you purchase please let us know what you have bought as the company offers us a commission on all sales (at no cost to you). We choose to pass this commission onto MIND the mental health charity.
Cutting mat (coloured A1)
Rose gold fabric scissors
Sewing machine (higher end computerised model with cut functions, extendable table for quilting and knee lifts for dressmaking) – Sewing machine (computerised domestic model DSK100 listed here is the same machine that Claire has at home) – As a studio we recommend Janome machines as our machine of choice but thats not to say other makes and models are not just as good. If you choose to buy from the link below that is fabulous, however we do have a deal with Sewing Machines Direct. Choose any machine on their website and contact them directly, mention Beautiful Things and you will receive a further discount on the advertised price. (Cxl301 are currently approx £299) Should you purchase please let us know what you have bought as the company offers us a commission on all sales (at no cost to you). We choose to pass this commission onto MIND the mental health charity.
Zips – I love to buy zips in bulk. I always buy 20″ and then I can cut them down to whatever size I need
I think I am safe to utter the C word now. Preparations are well under way and it’s important to make sure your loved ones know exactly what to get you this Christmas when it comes to anything crafty!
So how can we help make sure Santa brings you exactly what you want this Christmas?
We sell vouchers for all of our classes in whatever denomination you would like. Simply pop the amount in the box, click pay and a voucher code will be sent directly to your inbox which you can print and pop into a gift card. Having your voucher stored in this way means you can use the credits as you please, either as full payment for a class or part payment, using the same code the next time you book towards another class. Buy vouchers HERE
If you have a specific class in mind and know the dates you are available, simply send Santa a link, tell them the date to book and ask them to pop your details and the words CHRISTMAS GIFT in the comments at check out. We will make sure we don’t send any spoilers such as confirmation emails directly to you before the big day!
Sewing machines & overlockers
If you are after a sewing machine this year then we have a fantastic partnership with Sewing Machines Direct. Not only do they offer a great service but they also donate money to our chosen charity of choice MIND the mental health charity for every sale we generate for them. Drop Claire a line and she will happily recommend some of their machines to you, once you know which one you want, ask Santa to get in touch with her via email and leave the rest up to our team of elves.
Are you after a new rotary cutter, daylight lamp or set of beautiful knitting needles? We obviously stock the basics in the shop but we can order in almost anything crafty from our suppliers and get a quick turnaround. Simply find the items you want online, send the links to your family and ask them to contact us. We will match all the major competitors on price and get your goodies in for you. They can pay by card over the phone and arrange to collect from the shop or we can post them out.
If you have a wish list you would like to leave with us then please just send it in an email, you can then ask Santa to get in touch with us directly and the elves can make sure you don’t have a disappointing Christmas. Last year one lucky lady had an entire dressmaking course and a new sewing machine bought for her by her other half because she had been cheeky and added them both to her list!
If there is anything we can help you with please do not hesitate to ask. As a small independent business we rely heavily on our customers supporting us at this time of year. A good Christmas for us means a good Christmas for our families! This year my Son wants a Nintendo Switch!! Mr Amazon doesn’t need your money and his customer service is not as good as ours ;-)
Would you like to do work experience at Beautiful Things? There is never a typical day at BTHQ. Sometimes we are packed to the rafters with pupils and you might be asked to make lots of tea, tidy up and keep the customers happy or you could be sat at the computer all day doing administration tasks.
Some days we have no pupils at all and we will get you preparing materials for classes or packaging orders to go out to our customers.
Other days could be a mixture of both and sometimes you could find yourself building flatpack or videoing some content for our social media.
So that we can benefit from training you up to do the role we ask that you stay with us for a minimum of one month for a minimum of 10 hours per week.
The hours are ad-hoc and can vary from week to week. These can be arranged on a per person basis in advance. Regrettably the posts are unpaid but we are happy to pay travel costs if you use public transport or 40p per mile if you drive. You are able to take part in classes that have space in your own time or work towards a place on a specific course should you so wish.
To apply please email firstname.lastname@example.org telling us a little about yourself and why you would like to work for us. Where you are located and the times you might be available.
Fancy a free crochet tutorial for a remembrance day poppy? Here you go then. This was filmed for our online crochet club but as they have had access to it for a couple of months now I thought I would share it with you. Please pop a donation into the Royal British Legion pot if you make one of these to replace your paper poppy. And if you make them to raise funds through sales please credit Beautiful Things for the tutorial. The pattern to accompany the video can be found here Printable Poppy Pattern
I know it can be difficult to find time for yourself, so I thought it would be a good idea to show you a few ways that I grab a quick #MeTimeMoment – Remember this is YOUR time and it is up to you how you spend it, either on your own or with friends and family.
Head outdoors – Go for a quick walk a round the block, it’s a great way to clear you head and get the exercise you need.
Reduce your caffeine – Have a herbal tea or a hot chocolate instead of your four shot, extra hot, soya latte. Or maybe enjoy a glass of your favourite tipple.
Be creative – Even if it is a little DIY project, knitting a jumper or colouring in a picture, any creative time is a perfect way to let loose.
Spend time with friends – Enjoying some time with your fiends or family is a great way to feel connected.
Write down your feelings – Journaling is a fantastic way of expressing your feelings and allows you to look back over situations you have encountered and re-evaluate how you dealt with them.
Now that you have some ideas, let me know how you’ll be spending your next moment of #MeTime!
Many of you have had your own sewing encounters long before coming to see me at BTHQ.
This may have been learning to sew at school, being taught by a family member or trying to teach yourself.
So, I am here to ask you to join me on Facebook for a live discussion around your sewing experiences, have they caused you more pain than pleasure?
Recently, I received an email detailing one person’s experiences with sewing:
“For me I was the last to be chosen at PE as I wasn’t great at team sports – I was slow and not at all competitive. The memories associated with PE are humiliating and there’s no way I would volunteer to go back to that environment.
My memories of sewing are similar – I tried and failed and the whole class knew because the teacher showed them my disastrous attempts and banned me from the sewing room = humiliation. In order to change my ‘association’ with sewing = pain/humiliation. I would need a new and far more positive experience and be willing to ‘risk’ the humiliation and give it a go. I’d need to trust you and the other people there to provide a safe and supportive environment.”
I am thankful to say that, I believe, the way I teach sewing at Beautiful Things offers completely the opposite experience that this lady had. Our classes cater to your level of experience, if you’re a complete novice or very advanced then we have something for you!
The curriculum is built to make sure that sewing is fun, delivered in bite sized easy to learn segments and I, or one of my amazing tutors is always on hand to answer any of the questions you have. We also always guarantee small classes of no more than 4-6 pupils at any one time.
The aim of a Beautiful Things sewing courses is that you will learn new, transferable skills, you will be proud of the things that you walk away with and you will always walk away with a finished item, that is our promise to you.
So my question to you is this; did your sewing journey start with a bad experience? And if so, what turned it around, or are you still waiting for something to change your mind about sewing?
Join me tomorrow night (Fri 18th Aug 2017) at 8.30pm and we will have a chat around your sewing experiences both positive and negative.
The LIVE stream will be on my business page on Facebook so be sure to come over and like it ahead of time. If you can’t make it, send me your thoughts or questions in an email or comment and I will respond to them in the live stream.
Don’t be scared to try something new, to step out of your comfort zone and re-try something that hasn’t worked for you before, for whatever reason. Things can be different and when you do it the Beautiful Things way you won’t look back!
So you have bought a Semi Virtual Crochet kit/course and have yet to start it? or Maybe you still are not 100% sure if it’s for you?
Hopefully by now you will have watched some of my facebook LIVE series around the course where I outline its benefits and why it’s 100% better than any other method of learning to crochet.
But……………….despite, the amazing professionally filmed video tutorials, the great printed instructions and the support forum you are still nervous because you won’t have Claire on hand to help you when the worst happens (which it wont but we wont go there).
ok then, I give in……..For one day only Claire is opening the doors to her studio for 10 lucky pupils for 5 hours! All you have to do is bring along your kit (you can purchase any of our semi virtual courses at www.semivirtualcourses.com) an electrical device which can access the internet (laptop or tablet is preferable), a pair of headphones and a packed lunch.
You can plug in and dedicate the whole 5 hours to working on your course knowing that you have Claire on hand in the studio to help you if you simply don’t get it. (she will most probably spend the day making you all copious cups of tea and coffee as you wont need her but that’s besides the point) ;-)
The day takes place on Sunday 10th September from 9.30am – 2.30pm and is bookable in advance.
This day is available at a special early bird price of only £30 until 10pm on Monday 14th August. After this time if there are spaces still available then the price increases.
Book your slot HERE (please remember to purchase your course/kit in advance of the session at www.semivirtualcourses.com if you are not already in receipt of one) Any of our 4 courses can be taken during this special session. If you want to bring your own materials and just sign up to any of our course only content that’s also absolutely fine with us. Anything goes.
If you have any questions before booking please feel free to contact us
So it’s time for us to launch an amazing special offer to celebrate the opening of our brand new unit at Beautiful Things. The new space offers a huuuuge craft table just aching to host you for your next craft gathering.
We have put together some suggested sessions for you which are laid out below but here’s the deal:
If you fancy crafting with your friends, pick a session you’d like to try and then get your friends together. Speak to us to find a suitable date for your party to join us and we will book you in. Do you want to know the best bit? The organiser goes FREE!! Yes that’s right. If you do the leg work and get your mates together your course is totally and utterly FREE OF CHARGE!
So here are the packages we are currently offering:
Mosaics £28 per head (max 8 pupils)
Bunting basics (sewing) £25 per head (max 6 pupils)
Fabric boxes (sewing) £25 per head (max 6 pupils)
Unicorn tote bags £20 per head (max 8 pupils)
Motivational Message art £18 per head (max 8 pupils)
Absolutely anyone can paint workshops £18 per head (max 8 pupils)
Bitesize sewing hair bobbles (sewing) £10 per head (max 6 pupils)
Tote bags (sewing) £25 per head (max 6 pupils)
We can also arrange other activities for you and the same offer can apply, just let us know what you fancy. These are just some ideas to get you thinking. Why not bring along some fizz or ask us to arrange a lunch or afternoon tea for you (additional catering costs apply, price on application)
You really don’t want to wait to book though as space and time in the studio is extremely limited, book now and have something to look forward to! Perfect for a Christmas get together, a birthday treat, hen party or JUST BECAUSE. Hey the kids go back to school soon, why not treat yourselves to some mummetime!
All you need to do to get the ball rolling is send us an email saying what kind of gathering you would like to arrange and we can look at dates for you. You can then get in touch with your friends, find out what works for everyone and we can get you booked in. (Payment is in advance to secure your booking)
We look forward to organising your perfect friends crafting session for you and to welcome you all to Beautiful Things.
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.
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).
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!
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.
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.”
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.
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!
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
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)
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.
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
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.
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
Am I looking to get into quilting or dressmaking?
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.
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)
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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
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)!
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
After a morning of theory we ventured out to Thorndon Hall to try out what we had learned in the class room.
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.
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.
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.
We then had great fun jumping off stools in the courtyard to play with our shutter speeds.
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
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 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.
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!
My very first attempt at a flower turned out rather childishly bright and happy
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!
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.
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
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
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
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?
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.
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).
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.
I decided to go for the patch pocket option and went a bit crazy with the old decorative stitches as you can see!
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.
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.
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
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.
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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,
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.
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.
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.
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!
Just take a look at what you can make with them. Pom Pom pets, angry birds, bobble hats, garlands, wreaths and lots lots more.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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!
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.
I am a crafty Mum of 2 who as well as managing the house and looking after my 10 year old son and 6 year old daughter somehow manages to make time to craft and run a business!
I have a studio in Brentwood, Essex where we teach all sorts of crafts and I personally enjoy crochet and sewing in particular dress making. I am currently learning to knit and am podcasting about all my crafty endeavours on my You Tube channel.
I champion crafts as a way of tackling mental health and confidence issues and am an active fundraiser for MIND UK.