Craft Crush: Cacti!

After a week with no wifi (what did people do before internet?!?!?) I’m back with a new craft crush.

I noticed a while back that cacti are very ‘on trend’ this year. But to be honest I wasn’t really on board with this trend. I had two little cacti when I was younger and never really liked the spiky little things. That was until I started seeing this trend being translated into craft!

Handmade cacti made from all sorts of materials have been popping up on pinterest and in etsy newsletters for the past few weeks and I think they are just adorable. You have the chic look without the actual prickles.

So here are a few of my favourites:

These stained glass cacti by MooncalfGlass are adorable. I love them lined up by the window, bringing in colour without blocking the light. There is also a hanging version.

Pet Plant Knitting Kit, Succulent Kit, Christmas Gift, UK Shop, Scotland. Plant craft kit. Plant felt kit. Christmas Stocking Filler

If you want to have a go at making a cactus yourself try out mybaboo‘s Mini Knit Kit! This looks more like aloe vera to me but you can find lots more knitted cacti on etsy. I particularly like this luxury wool pin cushion.

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I love this project by Veronika Richterova featured on Colossal made from recycled PET plastic. It is visually stunning and has an inspiring message. Her website a tribute to PET bottles is really informative and in the gallery of her work you can see many more examples of her sculptures made from PET plastic. Time to start collecting bottles and having a go myself I think.

Here’s another simple cactus craft kit, this time made from felt. Probably easy enough to be a nice craft project for kids. The great thing about this one is that it is in flower all year round 🙂

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I’ve seen an awful lot of variations of stones painted to be cacti. They are cute and fun and is an easy craft project for kids. Here (above) you can see some by Salt and Pepper Moms.

Kim Sielbeck

I just love these colouful and quirky paper cacti by illustrator Kim Sielbeck featured on Brown Paper Bag.

And finally, what is life without some concrete? These concrete cacti could make a great paperweight or bookend.

Natural Dyes and Eco Printing

I’ve recently become quite fascinated with natural dyes and eco printing. It is amazing what you can use to dye fabric or yarn… food remains like onion skins and avocado pits or flowers and leaves create a variety of colours and sometimes pattern too. There are several different methods which can give different results depending on what look you are going for. But I will cover the different techniques individually in more detail in later posts.

As with most of my new obsessions, it started with something I saw on Pinterest. I have now made a board on the topic, so if you are looking for more inspiration check out my ‘Natural Dyes and Eco Printing’ board. My next step is usually to look on etsy to see what other people are making. I found this amazing project by ImmySmithArt which uses plant dye to make ‘chromoscapes‘ in order to “create a visual chemical memory of the places plants were collected”. How awesome is that?!

 

You can buy a chromoscape here

You can also find a whole range of different items of clothing that have been eco printed on etsy. I have picked this shawl to showcase as I think it shows the real potential of eco printing. It is well designed, has vivid colours and crisp lines.

Find the shawl here

So having been inspired and done a little research, I decided to have a go myself. I was lucky enough to be at my parents house where I could plunder the garden for the materials I needed. I more or less followed the instructions from Frankie, using rose petals, a variety of leaves and some rusty nails.

I pinched some apple cider vinegar from my mum and soaked the plain white cotton fabric in it. Laying the fabric out flat, I then placed on it the petals and leaves before wrapping them around the nails. I tightly tied the bundle up with string and put it in a steamer for just under two hours. The results were mixed, but not bad for the first time. In some places you can see the rose petals coming through and the outline of some leaves.

I think it could have done with a little more time in the steamer to really let to the colour of the rose petals show through. I then made part of the fabric into a little drawstring bag:

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For a first attempt I was quite pleased with the result and it is definitely something I will be trying again in the near future. Keep an eye on the blog for more about natural dyes and eco printing.

For more information there are several resources out there on this topic including Angela Daymond’s Dyeing from Natures Store Cupboard.

 

 

 

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Berat, Albania

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Deep in the heart of Albania is the beautiful city of Berat. The two neighbourhoods of Mangelem and Gorica face each other across the river, each displaying the characteristic architecture of the Ottoman era, cobbled streets and a certain undefinable charm. High on the hill above Mangelem is the castle and from here you can capture views of the surrounding mountains.

I was lucky enough to spend some time in this city learning about its history and up close and personal with some of its wonderful architecture. The most memorable aspect of the city for me is the neighbourhood of Mangelem where the house almost look like they are built one on top of another and hundreds of windows stare out – getting the city the names ‘city of a thousand windows’ or ‘city of a thousand eyes’.

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But I will not only remember Berat for its architecture – trust me to unwittingly arrive on the day of a craft market. There were still several stalls out when I arrived late on a Sunday, but I was drawn to one in particular. This couple sold me some stunning woven table runners made in the north of Albania, in the Shkoder region. The weaver has won national awards for her stunning designs and craftsmanship.

I was attracted to the simple and elegant red and white designs which I think are so typical in the Balkans and although they appear simple there are some deceptively intricate patterns.

Final words on Berat: Character, Charm & History.

Ohrid – Pearl of the Balkans

Perched on the edge of the lake that shares its name, the city of Ohrid is known as the pearl of the Balkans. The city and the lake are both protected by UNESCO as cultural and natural heritage respectively.

As well as being home to beautiful vernacular architecture, amazing natural diversity, stunning scenery and a fascinating history, Ohrid is also home to some wonderful craftsmen. Traditional crafts in this region include wood carving, silver filigree and handmade paper.

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Sunrise view of the lake and the old city

At the handmade paper workshop on Car Samuil you can witness the process of paper-making that has been passed from generation to generation and find unique souvenirs like handmade cards and beautiful prints of scenes of the city or people in traditional dress.

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Traditional methods of paper-making being demonstrated

Just along the street from the paper workshop is the Tron woodcarving gallery exhibiting the work of woodcarver Dragan Nelovski. This craftsman will show you his work and the process of creating it, explain the different types of wood he uses and share his passion for the craft with you.

Tucked away by the Church of Saint Sophia is one shop that is not to be missed. A deceptively small shop is an absolute treasure trove for traditional, handmade textiles. Outside you will see a selection of folk costumes, but inside is where the magic is. If you are looking for a handwoven kilim rug made here in Macedonia you will find no better place. Stored away in the back rooms are all conceivable sizes and colours so you are sure to find the perfect souvenir!

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Folk costume on display outside shop
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And inside hides a treasure trove of handmade textiles

My final words on Ohrid: inspirational, tranquil & authentic

Current project #1: Travel Set

For Christmas I received a sewing machine and I couldn’t wait to try it out! To be honest my machine sewing skills were a bit rustier than I expected. My first attempt to make something was a apron upcycled from an old dress. However I was far too excited about getting to use my lovely new sewing machine which resulted in a rather wonky, thrown together apron. Not a very auspicious beginning.

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Then I spotted this printed fabric in my local fabric shop. The colour and pattern caught my eye and looking closer I saw that it was made of old post marks and stamps. I decided it would be perfect for making a kind of travel set to hold all my bits and bobs while I am travelling.

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First I made a laptop case for my little HP notebook. Like with the apron, I was a bit too eager and made quite a few mistakes. But it functions pretty well as a padded case so I’m happy with it. I also made a pencil case and two drawstring bags to keep my chargers and cables in to save them getting tangled or lost. I am really pleased with the drawstring bags. The time I put into thinking through how to make them and measuring correctly really paid off and the red cord from Norwich market is a nice finishing touch.

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I still have some of the fabric left over and I’m wondering what else to make. Any suggestions?

Valentine’s Day Special – Zagreb, Croatia

Back in September last year I spent several weeks in Croatia’s capital, Zagreb. There was something about this city I really fell in love with and as it’s valentine’s day, I thought I would share some of the love.

One of the things I liked the most about Zagreb was that every time I went into the city centre there seemed to be something different happening – from folk dancing to burger festivals, film screenings to farmers markets. I particularly enjoyed stumbling upon a couple of craft markets in the central square.

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At one of these craft markets I found a stall selling a variety of handmade fabrics, mostly woven and many with lovely embroidery or lace detailing. I really love the heart pattern that is traditional in Zagreb, but ended up buying a more subtly decorative piece which I gave to my grandmother for Christmas.

I stood talking to the stall’s owner for several minutes as she described the different techniques and the time put into each piece. She clearly loved making this textiles and was happy to share her knowledge and experience with me.

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I’m now back in the UK and planning my next trip. Just wondering how to fit a visit to Zagreb into my plans…

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Happy Valentine’s Day

Gent, Belgium – Handmade Heaven

Gent, a lively city in Belgium, is home to many makers and walking around the city I discovered several shops selling quality handmade items. Here’s a round up of my favourites:

Woven Stories

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A shop entirely dedicated to woven crafts, Woven Stories doesn’t just sell textiles – it sells stories. Bringing together woven textiles from all over the world (and some made right there in the shop), each also tells the story of its maker, the technique used or its inspiration. This shop contains not only a wealth of textiles but also a wealth of knowledge on all things woven.

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Discover Woven Stories at Baudelostraat 11 or find out more at: www.wovenstories.be

Mayenne.Shop

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Mayenne.shop is run by accessory designer Mayenne Nelen and features her own unique collection of leather goods (braces, handbags, wallets) and her selection of jewellery and objects by Belgian and Dutch design talent. I spotted this wonderful crockery set (above).

Discover Mayenne.shop at Sluizeken 28 ( Oudburg ) or find out more at: www.mayennenelen.bigcartel.com

Marlies Davans

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Unfortunately Marlies Davans little atelier/shop was closed when I passed by but the window display alone caught my attention. Marlies creates wonderful leather goods including phone & ipad cases, wallets and coasters.

Discover Marlies Davans leather goods at Oudburg 53 or find out more at: www.leather.marliesdavans.be

 

Leon Strous: Ceramic artist, Amsterdam

In a basement in Amsterdam’s Spiegelkwartier I discovered the amazing ceramic artist Leon Strous. His private gallery and studio are home to an array of interesting characters. Leon works in fine clay to create sculptures that tread a fine line between reality and abstraction but always with humour.

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When I visited Leon he was just putting the finishing touches to one of his quirky characters. Seeing the artist at work on these intricate pieces was definitely a highlight of my time in Amsterdam.

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