You’ll Do: Top 10 Brutally Honest Valentine’s Day Cards

Roses are red, violets are blue...

Valentine’s Day, the day when you tell the one you love just how much they mean to you. Or, if you’re me, the day you send your other half a a mildly insulting card telling them that you tolerate them. Just.

I’m not particularly a big fan of Valentine’s Day (as you may have guessed), but tradition dictates that if I don’t want my other half to hate me I should really give him a card. Especially since I demand some form of token gift in return – just because I don’t like Valentine’s Day shouldn’t mean I miss out on overpriced flowers (this is in bold just in case my other half bothers to read this blog. You know, just to hammer the point home).

Anyway, if you also like your cards with less schmaltz and added snark, then here are some of the greatest Valentine’s Day cards you can buy, from the best designer makers / illustrators selling online…

This is just one of Mardy Mabel‘s amazingly brutal greetings cards…

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Because nobody loves anything as much as Kanye loves Kanye
Kanye loves Kanye

Because honesty is always the best policy…

Anti Valentines Day Cards

It’s funny, because it’s true… (Emily McDowell also has tons more great cards on Etsy too)

Valentines Day Card by Emily McDowell

Because if you don’t love yourself no one else will…

Anti Valentines Day CardsThere is NOTHING sexier than good grammar…
Valentines Card by IndieBerries

This one may be going a *little* too far…

Anti Valentines Day Card by Naughty LIttle Cards on Etsy

Well, it doesn’t hurt to keep your options open…

Valentines Day Card by Julie Ann Art on  Etsy

For the geek in your life…Star Wars Valentines Day Card by Card For Life on EtsyFor those who prefer to not aim too high…

Valentines Day Card by Cheeky Kumquat on Etsy

Because I live in Walthamstow, London, and the Hipsters are coming…

Hipster Valentines Card by Kay Barker on Etsy

PS. This list does not include ecards because, quite frankly, if all you get is a snarky ecard I give it six months.

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Normal Service Is Resumed

Just a quick post to apologise for the lack of posts at the end of 2014. I know, I’m sure you have been devastated by the lost. Bereft of craft tips. This was due to too many writing deadlines, running a café and lots of market stalls with Crème Anglaise (actually having some stock up and decent pictures is also on the 2015 to do list). Oh yeah, and I had two children to look after. Always forget about that.

Anyway, I’m back. I know, amazing, right? A Beautiful Mess, must be quaking in their stylish boots. So, before my next post (and it’s a tutorial to boot) to try and make amends, here’s a picture of a cat poking its head through a slice of bread. After all, nothing says sorry on the internet like a cat looking miffed while doing something slightly silly (I suspect this will break the internet just like Kim Kardashian did)…

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Make Something Good

Plushies from hell, my favourite artist, phenomenal chocolate, stunning stained glass and a hundred other amazing makers made Make Good the most inspiring event I’ve been to in a long time.

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My life is ridiculous at the moment. While I dislike blogs that are all me, me, me, as quite frankly I don’t think any of you particularly want to know about the minute of my life (despite the fact I am, obviously, fascinating) bear with me while I get self indulgent for a moment. You see, I’ve been stuck in a blur of trying to run a business, forward plan, look after kids, freelance, pitch, work on our ceramics range, help make a year 1 science project, work on a club door and clean my house (OK so the last one is a lie, it’s still a pit) among a million other chores and tasks. I’ve even been employed by stealth to work on a magazine two days a week, which I didn’t even notice happening. It means making and blogging have had to take an underserved back seat, but I think, thanks to Make Good, I may have got the kick up the bum to sort my life out and start making changes.

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For those of you who don’t know, Make Good was a ‘festival of culture, creativity and entrepreneurship’  – basically lots of unique start-up businesses founded by a whole host of weird and wonderful people (emphasis on the wonderful) doing everything from millinery to accountancy, café owners to artisan cider producers. Most of the companies are here thanks to School For Creative Start-Ups, who help creative people make viable businesses by providing mentors, business know-how, courses, advice and support to turn your hobby or fledgling firm into a full-time job that more than pays the rent.  Basically they sound pretty damn amazing.

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It really was inspiring not only finding new projects and people to write about – and buy from – but to feel so much positivity in one place. I’m now going to see if I can sign up for the School For Creative Start-Ups for the café, get some more childcare and start making time to make again.

So to kick this off, here’s my round up of my favourite businesses and people I met at Make Good (although it really is the tip of the iceberg, check out the full list here) before I toddle off to start on the enormous to do list I have made for myself…

Mock Duck Studios Amazing puppeteers who not only make all the Duracell Bunnies, but quirky creations such as these…

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Cocoa Hernando Beautiful artisan chocolate makers with stylish packaging, almost as good as the chocolate inside. The masala chai can only be described as heavenly…

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Renn Designs Unique kid’s wallpaper that  isn’t too twee. I am mildly obsessed with the girl flying on a swallow on the pink one…

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Matt Sewell My favourite artist of all time Matt Sewell was there which came as a great surprise. Not only are his birds beautiful, but he was absolutely lovely, excused the fact I sounded a bit like a stalker, has some amazing projects coming up and made me this…

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R. G. Croudence Glass Incredibly talented stained glass maker and restorer, using exciting new techniques, while also recreating more traditional designs (like the ones which used to be in my mum and dad’s terraced house before the days of double glazing)…

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The Rag and Bone Man Taking upcycling to a whole new level, the Rag and Bone Man transforms vintage machinery and scrap into stylish pieces for the home…

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Mrs McGettericks Fuggler Emporium The freakish little fellas are so awesome they’re getting their own blog coming soon! Promise!

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Spring Felt Birds – Tutorial

Spring is here. I know it doesn’t particularly look like it but I saw daffodils today, so that makes it an actual fact. This also means it was time for new shop decorations – and a lovely tutorial to match. Don’t say I don’t spoil you.

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I decided to go with some cute little felt birds perched on embroidery hoops this spring. I love making things from felt firstly because it’s easy – you put a template on some felt and cut it. It doesn’t move about and drive you a little bit mental like cotton can. Also I can buy a metre of the stuff for £4 down Walthamstow market. Now I grant you a metre is rather excessive for some tiny little felt birds, but come on. It’s a bargain. Screw you Hobbycraft.

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Anyway I digress. Here’s what you actually need…

  • Blue, yellow and white felt (or whatever colours you fancy) One square of each will be enough.
  • Blue, yellow and black embroidery thread
  • Fabric glue
  • Scissors
  • Embroidery needle
  • Stuffing
  • This lovely pattern, which you can download HERE
  • Pencil to draw around the patterns with

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So first up let’s do the Tweet Bird.

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Get the two body pieces and your black embroidery thread (you only need to use two strands at a time for any embroidery thread used in these patterns) and sew it through, leaving it a little loose to create a semi circle. I sew this down in the middle to keep it in place, but you don’t have to.

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Next, starting at the beak, sew all the way down the back with two strands of the blue embroidery thread. When you reach the tail, line it up the white bottom of the bird and, starting at the middle of the tail, keep on sewing round holding the edges together.

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When you get to the end of the body piece at the start of the beak sew the two blue sides together and then pass the needle under the stitches and back to the start of the white felt and sew down the other side of the body. About two thirds of the way down, pause sewing, stuff the body full of stuffing then sew up to the end. Now all you have to do is stick on the wings (you could sew these on two, but I decided life was too short) and there you have it. Your cute birdie is complete.

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Now we’re on a roll let’s do the Little Chick. Which is, in no way, an angry bird. It has a sweet nature. First thing to do is sew two eyes. I went for simple little crosses, but you could do loops the same as the Tweet Bird, if you so wished. Next sew the two tiny beak triangles together then sew this to the bird between the middle stitches.

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Next pick a corner and start sewing to the top. When you get there pick another side and sew back down to the bottom again. Then with the last side start at the top again so there are no gaps and then, when you get half way down, stop sewing, stuff it full with stuffing, then sew it up.  Stick on the wings, then finally take the tail piece and sew it on the birdie’s bum and you’re done.

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To attach them to an embroidery hoop take it apart so you just have an inner hoop. Sew through the bottom of the bird, round the hoop twice, then sew through the bird again to where you would like the second leg to go (make sure they’re a decent amount apart or the bird will wobble about) then go back through the bird wrap it round a few times and tie it tight.

There you have it, two lovely little birds. Just one tiny thing, these are only to be made by you for fun, not for financial gain, so please do not sell any items made from these patterns as that’s just not cricket and it will make me sad (and possibly a touch stabby) and no one wants that now do they?

One last thing! Here are the rainbow rain clouds I made for the window display. Nice, eh?

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And in case you missed them these were the hearts for Valentine’s day. Feel the love.

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Great Balls Of Embroidery

I thought when it came to craft I was pretty much up on all the ones out there. So, imagine my absolute delight to find a type of embroidery that not only had I never heard of, but is also absolutely stunning. Temari Spheres.

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In the past I have considered remortgaging my house or selling a kidney so I can go to Japan – mainly so I can visit Fabric Town. Yes, that’s right Fabric Town. Better known as Nippori it’s a whole area devoted to selling fabric and crafts. Just imagine entire department stores devoted to fabric and a floor just for buttons! Kind of makes John Lewis haberdashery look a bit pedestrian doesn’t it? Anyway, I digress, now I wish to go to learn the art of Temari Spheres. I have a feeling it could take a while though…

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These Amazing balls of embroidery were created by a 92-year-old grandmother. She’s been making them for 50 years and now has over 500 of them. It’s all thanks to her grandaughter that I found them after she posted them all on Flickr under the name NanaAkua.

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Temari originally began in China, but came to Japan in the 7th century. They are traditionally given by parents to their children on New Years Day and hidden inside is a piece of paper containing a wish that the parent has made for their child which will forever remain a secret.

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The balls are traditionally made using silk scraps from old kimonos and take insane levels of precision, patience and incredibly dexterous fingers. You also have to have specific training in Japan and will be tested on skill and technique before being acknowledged as a Temari crafter

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Sadly my skills might not be up to the challenge, but if you think you could produce (ahem) wonderful balls then check out this website for a great how-to and lots of interesting information on the history of the craft. I’ll just stick to admiring these balls for now and keeping my clearly childish sense of humour. 

Twinkle, Twinkle Paper Stars – Tutorial

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I’d like to say how I am all set for Christmas, presents are wrapped, all work is done and I’m currently being a domestic goddess making gingerbread houses and homemade decorations with the children, but that would be a big fat lie. 

However, way back at the bitter end of November before I went Christmas market selling crazy and the shop was rammed full of people painting baubles I managed to make some lovely paper stars for Creative Biscuit.

There’s still time to make some for Christmas all you need is some wrapping paper and a pair of scissors. No glue or tape required.

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So let’s begin… First of all you need to cut eight squares of paper – mine were extra big to be hung in the shop so I made them 30cm by 30cm.

Take your first square and fold it in half then unfold it flat.

Next, fold the bottom sides into the middle so it makes a kite shape.

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Fold both of the top sides into the middle.

Next fold the bottom right side up so it follows the line of the top fold then fold it back down and do the same with the left side.

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Now flip it over so it’s the plain side (as it were) and you can just see the fold lines.

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Now fold the right side up following the original fold from the other side.

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Using the triangle fold lines, fold the top end together so the small end lifts up. You know what, the pictures make much more sense than any description I can write, which is probably just going to confuse matters. Once you’ve done this you will end up with two points. Lovely stuff. Now make seven more.

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Done that? OK. Next up you want to open up the big end of one and put the little end of the other flat under the folds and then fold it together.

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At this point don’t worry too much about pushing it in too far, this will come later. Once you have it in, fold it back up and then do the same thing in a circle until all eight are joined together – as above.

Once all the points are together gradually work them in further one at a time working around in a circle until eventually the middle will look something like this…

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Congratulations, you have made a lovely paper star. Now all you have to do is make a small hole in one of the points, thread some string or embroidery silk through and hang in your desired location. Then sit back with a mince pie, some mulled wine and listen to the Christmas tune of your choice, but may I wholeheartedly recommend this…

 

You Can’t Beat The Real Thing

Lets get something straight right from the start, copying is not the greatest form of flattery. ‘Oh wow, you completely copied my design and are making money from it while I don’t get a penny. Fabulous,’ said no one. Ever.

Sadly for designer/makers everywhere it seems checking that someone isn’t plagiarising your work has become a daily task.

This isn’t anything new though both the blog youthoughtwewouldntnoticeFacebook page Designers and Illustrators Against Plagiarism and IP Isn’t Free on Flickr show how people are being ripped off on a daily basis.

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However, the whole debate has come to a head recently after an American company called Cody Foster was caught, allegedly, copying smaller designer/makers on a huge scale in the US (you can read the full story here).  Luckily thanks to the power of social media several big companies who were stocking products including Fab.com and Anthropologie have apologised and taken them from sale as soon as they were informed of the potential copyright infringements.

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While the Cody Foster debacle and its part resolution is a step in the right direction, it doesn’t help smaller designers. Last year Tatty Devine had to contend with Claire’s Accessories copying some of their designs (the original story is here). While they’re not a huge company they were able to get legal advice and come to an agreement with Claire’s on some of the disputed designs. However, if it’s just you making or illustrating in your lounge, taking a company to court is a prohibitively expensive process.

Gemma Correll's original designs

Gemma Correll’s original designs

Designs similar to Gemma Correll's

Designs similar to Gemma Correll’s

Having a lot of followers can help when fighting copycats. For example, other companies have repeatedly copied Gemma Correll’s super cute pug dog designs, but when Urban Outfitters carried a very similar T Shirt, the company who made them for the chain of stores eventually pulled them from sale after an Internet outcry. However, as Gemma also says in her blog post here, some designs are either changed just enough to be different, or produced in a country that has rather flaky copyright laws, so there’s nothing you can do.

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This is the same for the amazing Paper Panda, a paper cutter who lives in the Cotswolds who I recently interviewed for Craftseller magazine. She designs and hand cuts every paper cut she sells and, wanting to pass on her skills, she made starter kits and now has a band of cutters who have learned from her who even call themselves Panda Cubs. However, her generosity hasn’t always been appreciated. Some paper cutters out there (not the Panda Cubs, of course) regularly copy her work and then try and palm it off as their own, which is incredibly frustrating and, despite numerous complaints to sites like Etsy and Facebook, it’s incredibly difficult to stop.  Once again thanks to her whopping 30,000 Facebook fans who are fearsome foes to say the least, they at least can be in doubt that they are in the wrong. However, it doesn’t stop it sending Louise a little crazy, which when someone is so nice it seems, well, unfair.

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Having said all of this not everything is copied. For example Paper Panda released ‘The Dream’ and a week later Rob Ryan released the strikingly similar ‘There Is Only Time’. Clearly neither copied the other they just had a similar idea at the same time.  Sometimes people do just have similar ideas to you. That’s coincidence. That’s life. I’ve seen some people saying they’ve been ripped off and I just don’t buy it. Either I’ve already seen stuff similar to theirs or it doesn’t come from an original idea in the first place (I’m naming no names, as that would just be mean and it’s all subjective anyway).

This doesn’t take away from the fact that big companies seem to think it’s OK to steal ideas wholesale from smaller designers rather than paying them or just employing good enough designers themselves and who don’t think it’s morally OK to just nick other people’s work.

I used to love the Designers Republic’s quote: ‘Talent borrows, genius steals’, but I’m starting to see it in a whole new light. It’s exactly why I was nervous about Pinterest in the first place. While I can, hand on heart / Guides honour, say I have only ever used it for inspiration or tutorials, I worry every time I put a picture of one of my items on there that it might get copied. While 99 per cent of the time I go by the rule that, you know, most people are just nice, it’s sad that those without imagination will continue to copy those that do. Shame. On. You.