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Blog about living a life to nurture, cherish and create.

Monday, 24 March 2014

Good news!

You can now follow my new blog on bloglovin'.

Read my most recent post, Are You A Pinterest Mum here.
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Monday, 17 March 2014

Exciting times!

I have spent the last couple of weeks building a new blog - which has its very own home at To celebrate, I am hosting a competition where you can win anything from my etsy shop! Pop over and enter now!

I will now be posting from

Thank you for following me here - I hope you'll follow me over there as well. I am currently trying to set the new blog up on bloglovin' but haven't yet managed this so the best way to continue to follow for the time being is on facebook.

So long!

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Thursday, 13 March 2014

Mummy who makes: Anna Fine Jewellery

Today I'm honoured to feature an interview with Anna Clifton who makes jewellery under her label Anna Fine Jewellery. Like me, Anna used to be a Secondary School teacher and is now using her creative business, amongst other things, to strike a balance between work and family life.
Anna, how did you come to start your handmade business? I've always wanted to be an artist for as long as I can remember. From the age of 5 I used to tell my teachers I
was going to art college when I left school. I ended up doing A Levels in Fine Art and 3D Design, followed by an Art Foundation at Derby University and finally a degree in Jewellery and Silversmithing at the prestigious Birmingham School of Jewellery (now part of Birmingham City University).
 Grace circle drop earrings
Grace circle drop earrings
What is your favourite thing about running your own creative business? What
do you find most difficult about it? Being my own boss and being able to work when I want! It's also really important to me to be able to fit my business around my children's school day but it does mean being really disciplined and working hard during the hours I do get to be in my workshop. When I was teaching full time I would drop my daughter off at 8am and pick her up again at 5pm. I felt like I was missing watching her grow. The nursery fees also costs more than the mortgage! I want my children to be proud of me and see that work doesn't have to be a 9-5 job. I still use my teaching skills by running free-lance workshops in schools.
Anna Fine Jewellery jeweller's bench
Anna at work
Anne Fine Jewellery workbench
Anna's workbench
What inspires you or puts you in a creative mood? Everything around me! I moved to Malvern a few years ago and I find the surrounding countryside and woodlands very inspiring. A walk to the top of the hill or listening to my favourite music usually puts
me in a creative mood.
Grace ring by Anna Fine Jewellery
Grace ring 
Where do you work? I have a workshop near to where I live in a lovely log cabin.I have my jewellers bench and a soldering area in there as well as a big drawing board. It's a working space, so not always all that tidy! I use renewable energy in my workshop which I'm really proud of. People are often attracted to my work because of my environmental principles and because they are looking for something unique.  I use recycled precious metals wherever possible. My Grace rings are very popular although most of my customers come to me because they want to commission a bespoke piece.

What advice would you give to someone aspiring to make a living from their art or craft?  Be prepared to put in a lot of hours and work the hardest you've ever worked for very little pay! To begin with anyway. Include your family in what you want to do and make them part of the business.
You can keep in touch with Anna and her work by visiting her website or etsy shop, liking her facebook page or following her on twitter. If you are interested in ordering any of Anna's work she has said that if you contact her through any of these means she will send you a special discount code.
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Monday, 10 March 2014

Oodles of reasons to learn to sew

learn to sew
I was amazed when my three year old daughter came home from Pre-School last week with her first ever sewing. I had been impatient for the day when I could share my life-long passion for sewing with her but was nervous to introduce her to it too soon. I didn't want to put her off by trying before she was developmentally capable of the fine-motor movements. All the 'My First Sewing Kits' I'd seen had age recommendations of about 5+. I should have known that you need to follow your gut instincts with these things - you know your own child's ability and interests better than anyone. My daughter loves to make things - and sewing is her next step on her making journey.

This little anecdote from my journey through motherhood made me think about why we should teach children (and adults) to sew and the many benefits that can be gained from this wonderful skill.

  • Make do and mend - everyone should be able to sew on a button. It's wasteful not to be able to wear a garment anymore just because a button fell off.
  • Make adjustments - I'm only 5' 3" and while shops are getting better at stocking clothes for the vertically challenged not all trousers come with short legs. It's boring to have to do it but it's good to be able to buy the style you like and make them the right length. You can make many more elaborate adjustments (watch the Great British Sewing Bee to see some amazing transformations) but this is a useful basic skill.
  • Creativity -  sewing is where my creative imagination takes flight. I see a piece of gorgeous fabric next to another one and I imagine what I might do with them, what other embellishments I might add, how I will cut them, sew them, press them etc. You never know, sewing may be the home of your, or your child's, creativity.
    Monogram pillow
  • Problem solving -  to my mind problem solving is really a type of creativity, but I'm driving at the more practical types of problem solving here. How are you going to put that zip in? How are you going to fit that sleeve? How are you going to make this piece of fabric that's just an inch too narrow stretch to do the job? If you can solve these types of real problems in sewing you can probably transfer your problem solving prowess to other areas of life and work.
  • Mathematical skills - measuring and estimation are used constantly when you're sewing and they are important skills in mathematics that any primary school curriculum will try to develop. You could be working out if you have enough of a lovely piece of fabric in your stash to make the item you have in mind, or converting a pattern that's written in centimetres to inches. All of this is practical and useful maths.
  • Planning skills -  a good sewer will at least have an over-arching view of how they think they will complete each of the steps in a sewing project before they start. You need to make sure you've cut fabric with allowance for putting in the zip, or you've added the applique to the front of the cushion before you sew the back to the front. Sometimes there is fun in seeing where a project takes you but the more experienced you get the better you will be at planning it out.
  • Dexterity - you may naturally have nimble fingers or you may be a bit clumsy but using your fine motor-skills can only improve them, and you'll see benefits in other things you try to do e.g. planting tiny seeds or decorating the Christmas tree.
    Peg bag
    One of my first peg bags
  • Creating useful things for yourself and others - believe it or not the seeds of my handmade business started when I made three peg bags - one each for me my mother and my sister. I worked out a pattern and off I went. They were delighted and I thought - 'How exciting, I could sell these,' and, the first creation I sold online was a peg-bag. My business has evolved since then but this act of making something I needed was the beginning.
  • Opening up career and work opportunities - my lifelong passion for needlework has led me to having my own creative business which is an absolute delight! It may open up similar opportunities for others.
  • Making friends and deepening relationships -  teaching someone and sharing knowledge,
    Red bandana bib with white stars ByElsieB
    Bandana bib
    or even doing something you both love side-by-side can build a deep friendship. This may be with a mentor, a peer or a child but it's something truly worth having. I have been attending 'Sit and Sew' sessions in my village for the last year and it has been a great way to get to know people I wouldn't ordinarily have come into contact with. I learned the rudiments of my sewing skills from my mother which has given me deeper and wider respect for her skills and resourcefulness. I hope to pass these skills to my daughter, and add a dimension to our relationship in the process
  • Giving lifelong pleasure - sewing is something that you do from the age of 3 to the time in your life when your fingers don't work so well anymore (I dread that day). It keeps you occupied on a winter evening, exercises your mind and allows you to fill your world with beautiful things. Who wouldn't want to have a go?
    Personalised cushion ByElsieB
    Personalised cushion
At the end of the day, when you learn a new skill you never know what other benefits you are going to gain. Do you sew? When did you learn? What do you make? Have you taught anyone? What have you gained from your sewing skills? Let me know by leaving a comment below.

Other posts you might like:

Check out my shop, ByElsieB, to see what I've been sewing lately. Join my mailing list to get highlights from my shop and blog, 10% off and a free baby gift guide. Just pop your email in the box below.
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Tuesday, 4 March 2014

Nursery decorating idea: shelf display

nursery decorating idea
Today I have recreated the look I have used in some of my photos of my new monogrammed pillows. I created this look with some of the things I am fortunate enough to have around the house. The shelves belonged to my Great Grandmother and I'm lucky enough to have inherited them. All the cushions and pillows come from my shop, ByElsieB. You can see where to get similar items below.

Shelf display for pretty girls' bedroom or nursery

Columbus Bookcase, $795 / Personalised cushion in pink, $67 / candy art ORIGINAL Watercolor Painting by SchulmanArts on Etsy, $100 / Mini Rag Doll Eco-Friendly Fabric Cloth Doll 12" Camille Doll with..., $39 / Bunny Bank, $165 / Reclaimed Weathered Oak Photo Frame 8x8 by BlackRabbet on Etsy, $41 / Monogrammed pillow for children, $29 / Monogram pillow for girls, $29 / Monogrammed pillow for baby, $29 / Wooden Giraffe Bookends by DominiquesOnline on Etsy, $71 / Rimini Touch Lamp, $13 / Peter Rabbit Classic Gift Set, $7.71

Do you love this look? Let me know what you think in the comments below.

If you do love this look, why not pin it to Pinterest so you can find it easily again later?

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Sign-up here to get my baby gift guide. Whether you're a new parent whose friends are all having babies or someone whose children are starting to have their own babies, this gift guide will give you some great ideas on what to give whether its a new baby present, for a Christening or Baptism, at the first birthday or first Christmas. You'll also get 10% off in my shop. Just put your email address in the box below and click the pink button.
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Monday, 3 March 2014

Looking back - February 2014

I have always been one to look back - relishing and loving happy memories of the past and drawing on what I have learned and trying to apply to to what I'm doing now. I love the visual way of looking back at the relatively recent past using my instagram feed.

I have had some very happy times this month but in other respects its been a bit of struggle. I adore the emergence of the spring flowers, I had a wonderful trip to London with my husband to see the musical 'Matilda' and I've had some happy times with the children. I also managed to get some amazing publicity for my local Pre-School - turning the negative of people stealing our posters into the positive of getting it featured in three local newspapers and on one local radio station. My biggest professional achievement was launching my new line of monogrammed pillows - it was really hard work but I'm really proud of what I have made and the photography I have done to show them off.
However, I've been struggling with migraines and low-energy. At times I've really been questioning if I try to do too much. The trouble is its all so worthwhile and something just drives me to keep doing it all - even when I'm in pain. I think I just need to get even better at managing my time so that I can keep doing everything - to be more efficient in everything I do. Seeing as I'm a lifetime fan of efficiency this shouldn't be too hard!
In March I'm looking forward to a month of celebration - my son's Christening, my birthday and my daughter's birthday. March has dawned with sunshine for us so I'm optimistically looking forward to the third month of 2014.

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Thursday, 27 February 2014

Tutorial: How to applique letters with bondaweb

Monogrammed pillow
You may have seen the new monogrammed pillows that I have just launched into my Etsy shop. Today I thought I would give you some insight into one of the handmade processes that goes into making them: how to applique letters using bondaweb (fusible webbing).
Monogram pillow

What is bondaweb?
Bondaweb enables you to applique without pins. It is a piece of paper which, on one side, has a web of heat-activated glue. You can draw your shape onto the paper side then iron it onto fabric, cut the fabric shape out, remove the paper and iron the fabric shape onto a backing piece. It enables you to make your applique very neat and precise - and you won't prick you fingers on pins!

How to applique letters using bondaweb
applique with bondaweb what you'll need
What you'll need
Before you start collect together everything that you'll need: fabric and paper scissors, pencil, quilters' ruler, bondaweb, fabric for applique and backing, contrast thread, printed off letter, sewing machine, iron and ironing board.

1. Print out a letter of the size and font that you like on the computer. You could also trace a letter or draw one by hand. I would recommend keeping the shape quite simple to start with as this will be easier to both cut and sew.
2. Cut out your printed letter.
3. Reverse the letter and draw around it on the smooth side of the bondaweb. You need to reverse the letter so it reads the correct way on your finished item. The smooth side of the bondaweb is the side without the web of glue.
applique with bondaweb
Reverse letter and draw around it on smooth side of bondaweb
4. Cut the letter shape out from the bondaweb, leaving a small margin around the edge. As you can see from my picture I didn't bother cutting inside the curves of the S. This will be cut away later. Leaving this allowance gives you some margin for error.
5. Take the fabric you want to cut your letter from and iron it flat. Place it with the back facing you on the ironing board. Carefully place the bondaweb letter on top of the fabric.
applique with bondaweb
Iron fabric flat, turn over and iron bondaweb letter on
applique with bondaweb
Cut fabric shape out
Depending on the fabric you have chosen you will have to think about centring the pattern of the fabric, making sure the pattern is the right way up and that any stripes or checks run down in a straight line. You can see that with my stripey strawberry fabric I had to take note of which way the strawberries ran down the fabric and the placement of the stripes, I centred the S over one particular stripe. Choosing a plain fabric will remove this complication for you. Iron the bondaweb in place.
6. Leave the fabric and bondaweb to cool for a couple of minutes before cutting out the letter shape, right on the pencil line that you drew.
7. Place the fabric letter onto your backing fabric. You need to try to get it straight. I folded my 12" square backing piece into quarters so
applique placement
Get the position of the letter right before ironing in place
that I knew where the centre was. I also used my quilters' ruler to make sure that the letter was the same distance from the top of the backing as it was from the bottom.
8. When you're happy with the placement of the letter iron it in place. This is the point of no return!
applique machine sewing
Sew the letter in place with the stitch of your choice
9. Now you can sew the letter in place. I used the blanket stitch setting on my sewing machine at its longest and widest stitch size. A zig-zag stitch with a wide but short setting is a common choice for machine applique. Use scraps of fabric to try out which stitch you prefer before starting to sew your finished piece.
10. Congratulations! You have finished your letter applique. You can now make up your finished item. whether its a cushion, a quilt, an apron or anything else.
applique letter S

If you follow this tutorial I'd love to see your finished item. Snap a picture on your smart phone and add it to twitter or instagram tagging @ByElsieB.

If all this sounds like too much fuss and bother for you - why not just pop over to my Etsy store and buy a monogrammed pillow there.

If you know a baby and are looking for ideas for baby gifts, sign up for my baby gift guide which covers new baby, Christening /Baptism, first Christmas and first birthday. You'll also get 10% off in my shop. You will also get emails every now and then from me about my handmade world - what's new on the blog, what's new in the shop, craft fairs and other relevant news. Just pop your email address in the box below and click the big pink button!
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