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.


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…


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.


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.


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


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. 


Craft Hacks

This post comes to you thanks to a, shall we say, disagreement with my partner Tim. You see Tim is a pedant. As he rapidly approaches 40 he is getting more and more picky about things. Don’t worry, his inexhaustible supply of gripes and misdirected fury are qualities I actually quite like about him, but anyway, it all started one evening while I was browsing the internet….

A friend of mine had posted a link to some excellent life hacks. Now I’ve always been a fan of a good life hack, or in my day-  and in the pages of my mum’s copy of Family Circle or Take A Break – they were called ‘hints’, ‘tips’ or ‘cheats’ (Viz’s Top Tips remains one of my main resources for learning how to gain a Darwin Award should I ever want one).

I mentioned my love of the life hack to Tim, which prompted a furious response that there was no such thing as a ‘life hack’. It was simply a tip. You could only hack a computer I was informed. It was as ridiculous as saying ‘Totes Amaze’ and possibly the tipping point that would see the end of the English language as we know it.

So do you know what I did? I went on Pinterest and started a board of Craft Hacks. I thought I would combine a lovely list of lots of random hints, tips and cheats for crafters solely so I could repeatedly tell Tim that I’d found another hack and it was amazing. Hack, hack, hack. Sorry Tim did I mention I found another hack?

Anyway, it turns out an evening of winding up your boyfriend can actually result in some very useful information being found. I now know ways to make sure my wool never gets tangled. How to clean paint brushes and how to keep my bobbins in order. Good, eh?

You can find my Craft Hack Pinterest board here. Feel free to share your hacks with me. Oh and remember it’s definitely a hack and not a tip anymore. OK?

Twinkle, Twinkle Paper Stars – Tutorial


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.


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.


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.


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


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


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.


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.


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…



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.


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 and Anthropologie have apologised and taken them from sale as soon as they were informed of the potential copyright infringements.



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.


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. 

Paper Hot Air Balloons – Tutorial

It’s raining outside, the nights are drawing in, a conker collection is gathering pace (well I’m fishing them out of the washing machine after they’ve been hidden in pockets) and I’m wrapped in a blanket rather than pay for more electric. That’s it, summer is officially over, but it has at least given me the excuse to make new autumn themed decorations for the shop!


We’ve got paper windmills and autumnal coloured pom-poms in the window, but my favourites are the paper hot air balloons and clouds we’ve made to hang throughout the shop.

I was very honoured when a customer asked if they were Flensted mobiles. They’re actually much cheaper and easy peasy to do yourself, so if you fancy having a go, here’s what you need….

  • 7 sheets of A3 card (I used a 240gsm so it was thick but not immovable) and I brought mine from here
  • Double sided sticky tape
  • A paper template of the half balloon shape you would like – here’s a copy of the template I made (you need to stick the two bits together, obvs)
  • Scissors
  • Embroidery cotton and embroidery needle
  • Something blunt to score with (I used a butter knife!)
  • A ruler (I used a quilting rule, but anything with a straight edge will do)


First of all get the six sheets of the card you want to use to make your balloon and put aside the one you’ll use for the basket. Score them lengthways down the middle and fold them over. Once folded, trace around your template and cut out your balloon shape.


Next on the outside right hand side of the balloon shape cover the edge with double sided sticky tape – don’t take off the tape just yet! Do this on all the pieces then gradually stick them all together until they all meet up (hopefully the pictures explain this better!)


Next make the basket.  Draw a 4in square and score a line 1in from each edge the whole way round. Cut diagonally in from each corner and fold up the edges to form a box using some more double-sided sticky tape to keep it in place.

Cut four pieces of embroidery thread then tie knots in one end of each and thread them through each side of the box. Once all of them are in place, thread them through the card at the bottom of the balloon and tie them off.


To hang the balloon I used some more embroidery thread and a needle to push through the top of the balloon and form a loop to hang it. You could try and attach some thread inside the balloon when you’re sticking the sides together, but I found this didn’t hold as well, although you may have more luck!

If you fancy making some clouds to go with your balloons, it’s simply the same technique again, but with just three pattern pieces. And there you have it, beautiful balloons!

Crafty Like A Fox

Craft markets are dangerous places. No matter how much I try and restrain myself I always end up coveting items on other people’s stalls and making a rather presumptuous list of items my partner can buy me for Christmas. Well if it’s good enough for my five-year-old daughter, it’s good enough for me.


I’ve done some great craft markets in my time (and some shockingly rubbish ones too, naming no names, for now anyway), but Crafty Fox in Brixton has to be one of the best I’ve been lucky enough to be a part of. Brilliantly organised, lots of customers and damn fine tunes playing in the background.


Not only were some of my favourite other crafty seller there including JimBobArt (who currently owes me three lighters, just in case you’re reading James) and Kate Rowland (although I missed her as she was on the Saturday, boo.), but I got to discover a whole range of other makers who will be seriously testing my bank manager’s patience in the coming months.

While it’s a near impossible to pick, I’ve tried my best and here are my five favourite sellers from the Sunday market

Sandra Dieckmann‘s beautiful prints


Floss and Mischief’s quirky cross-stitch


Oh My Clumsy Heart’s lovely jewellery

ImageJill’s lush purses


Pygmy Cloud’s super cute critters


Plus a special shout out to the lovely Paper Moon, Mister Peebles and Terri Leahy. Damn it, there wasn’t one bad egg there.

I also got to show off a couple of my new items including this new cape / coat…


And my new Peter Pan collar dress…


… which I still need to take proper pictures of and put on my Folksy site. I even got a chance to stitch my new fox to go on the shoulders of T Shirts to take the place of the hand-drawn one I was doing. Although I may pop him on some zip tops too or even a dress for me. A crafty fox for Crafty Fox. Lovely stuff!


Craft Fails: Nailed it!

You’ve been sucked into Pinterest for hours. Just like a trip to Ikea, you only meant to get one thing, but find yourself looking at stuff you really don’t need, but are successfully convincing yourself that you do (more cushions anyone?).

You’ve pinned a couple of tutorials and decided: ‘Yeah, dip dying looks easy. I’m doing that! I could sell the things! It would be amazing! That’s it. I’m quitting my job on Monday and I’m setting up a dip dye business.’ Or something like that. Not speaking from personal experience of course… Anyway, you get round to buying all the stuff you need. Spend a significant amount time following all the instructions and ta da! It looks absolutely nothing like it was supposed to. In fact, the chances of you being able to sell it are nil. Even the charity shop would reject it.

If this is you, do not fear. You are not alone.  In fact it would appear that the Internet is awash with craft fails. But rather than be despondent, let’s celebrate those great triers of the craft world.


ImageI have discovered several blogs that list either their own, or the best fails they’ve found and there are some absolute corkers. Here are five of my favourites (from epic failure blog Craft Fail)…

 In at number 5… Crayon candles


Number 4… Chocolate kiwi lollipops


Number 3… String balloons


Number 2 … Marbled nail varnish

ImageAnd smashing it at failing, in at number 1 is…


You can submit your own fails to Craft Fail here, and there’s also sites like Pintrosity and Pintester who do the fail so you don’t have to. Obviously having never having had a craft disaster myself, ahem, then I cannot submit. However, I have made a Pinterest board of some of my favourite Craft Fails and it only sucked away about an hour of my life making it. Winning!