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Stitch Shape and Bristol Fashion

Crafting in the West Country

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I Got Itchy Feet and Stitchy Hands

Hey guys. Sorry about the break. I did mean to get some posts queued up before I went away, but I was so overwhelmed with packing, it just got away from me. But normal service has now resumed!

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Everybody’s got something to hide, except me and my monkey!

Time to get inspired! There was so much to see and do, I lost the rhythm of crafting. My plans were dashed. None the less, still have lots to tell you about. There is a fresh creative energy buzzing inside of me, and I can not wait to unleash it!

First of all, go and see things. Find all of the most beautiful places where you live, visit them, look at them with fresh eyes. In a 7th century church in Rome, I took pictures of the floor. Weird, huh? Well, I specifically had my mother in mind, I know she loves some good tile patterns to give her ideas for patchwork. She is pleased.

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Aisles of tiles.

Do things on your own and talk to people. Bit of a contradiction, right? Being by yourself gives you the time to soak up your surroundings. The most stressful day I had was when I did a walking tour of Rome. Not only was it hot and crowded, but I had to keep up with the group and couldn’t stop to take in the beauty of the city. The best places I went were places I went on my own. In Gibraltar, I talked to a taxi driver about the view of Africa from the top of the rock. In Florence I met a lovely street vendor from Yorkshire and bought a pressed flower from him. Barcelona introduced me to some American students to whom I gave some tips on what to do when they visit London which, thanks to Facebook, I know they used. I went to a talk about the psychology of art and nearly started crying because of the ideas that were discussed, something I may have been too self conscious to do had I been with someone.

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Confirmed: Morocco.

Find out how things are made. Anything. Even if it’s not something you want to make yourself. Our tour guide in Rome kept saying the architecture of the city is like a lasagne and she’s spot on. Rather than tear anything down, they just build more on top and it’s given me some great ideas for making some never ending projects that you just keep on adding to.

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The lasagne that is Rome

Throw your plans out the window if you don’t have time for them. My cross stitched diary I only ended up having time for the first four days. I’d like to give it another go if I have a holiday with more time to relax. On the first night, saw a band and rendered them in cross stitch. Later on I got to know them and on the last day I showed it to them. They had to have a picture of it. Happy feelings.

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It’s a boat! It’s a train! It’s SUPERBAND!

Until next week.

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Sun, Sea and Stitches

This time next week I’ll be on a boat on an adventure around the sunny north Mediterranean coast! I haven’t been on holiday in 8 years and I’ve been trying to work out what to take to keep me occupied between ports. I’ve got a few things planned, so let us have a look on what I’m hoping will work craft wise on holiday.

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First time I’ve treated myself to prescription sunnies!

Part 1, the knitting.

You may remember me mentioning a few posts back that I’m planning to knit myself an octopus costume. With the ocean waves around me and 6 days at sea over the 2 weeks, what better time to make a start? It needs to be done by August, along with a couple of other costumes, so tentacles at the ready! The disadvantage to this is volume of the wool I will require. I’ve decided to take 3 balls with me (I have one per arm) and hope I’ve paced it right.

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Green Octopus. Because why not?

Part 2, the sewing.

Much smaller and more portable, cross stitch seems like an excellent idea. The debate was whether to take a kit or not, and in this case I decided not. But what shall I cross stitch? I’m going to take a piece of Aida, a selection of colours and turn it into a diary! Every day I’ll add it it to represent what I’ve done that day, something I’ve seen, something I’ve done… Currently, I’m thinking about what colours to take and how best to record which part represents the day/place. But I’m hoping to keep it fairly organic and let it grow as one image.

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So many colours, how will I choose?

Part 3, the sketching.

This week I came up with a 5 year plan. A big part of it is broadening my repertoire within art. I need to build up a skills set of working in various media and will be taking a whole bunch of classes and workshops when I get back. In the mean time, a good place to start would be warming up my sketching muscles. I bought a sketch book and a set of pencils and plan to record the beautiful cities of Europe in graphite. I’m not planning on recreating the Renaissance, just get myself going after a long break from pencil and paper.

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Warming up by doodling some shoes.

Part 4, the photography.

After a few months of being camera-less and having to rely on my phone/iPod to see my through, I have finally got a new camera, and I love it and I’m so excited to use it. While taking pictures might seem like standard holiday making, I’ve decided to set myself some boundaries. Looking at old family albums, they’re so much more interesting to look at than photo’s on Facebook, because when you were limited to 32 exposures on a roll of film, you took 32 different pictures. So, I’m limiting myself. 10 pictures a day of culture and 5 a day of selfies and the like. No deleting pictures to make a space for another, I make my choice and I stick to it.

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My new baby!

See you next week!

Mal-knit-ficent

This week I’m going in a slightly different direction and talking you through how I made my latest creation. I had this idea a while ago and after finally seeing the film and forgiving Angelina Jolie for breaking up Jennifer Aniston and Brad Pit, I decided to have a stab at a Maleficent headdress. It’s still not quite finished, but it’s not far off.

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Isn’t she stunning!

Stage one is breaking the design down into individual elements, studying them and working out how best to recreate each of them in a knitted form. So, looking at it, we have a hat and two horns.

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Turban’d!

After looking at the hat structure for a while, which has an almost ‘widows peak’, turban style hats seemed to be the way forwards, with a deep V shape at the front that an extra piece of knitting could be used to turn it into more of an M shape. It also needed to have a ribbed texture and cover the ears. After a snoop through ravelry, I decided upon this pattern, and knitted it up with no issues.

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With only my phone to take pictures, correctly exposing everything is a bit of a challenge…

So, the insertion to make the M shaped brim! It was a small piece of knitting, created thus.

CO 3 stitches

Row 1: K

Row 2: P

Row 3: K1, M1, K to last stitch, M1, K1 (5 stitches)

Row 4: P

Rep last two rows until you have 9 stitches, ending with a P row.

Next Row: K

Next Row: P

Next Row: K1, SSK, K to last 3 stitches, K2tog, K1

Next Row: P

Rep last two rows until 5 stitches remain

Next Row: K1, S1, K2tog, PSSO, K1

Next Row: P

Next Row: S1, K2tog, PSSO

And it just seams nicely in place! You can play with the proportions if you want, my first attempt was bigger and much much too big.

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Nose warmer!

Now, the really tricky bit. The horns! The first attempt I made, I decided were far too large for Jolie’s Maleficent, but would be quite good for the animated version.

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Round 1: too big!

To make them I used my trusty old Clanger pattern as a guide, and I’ll talk you through how I adapted it. The pattern can be found here for free.

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Round 2: There we go!

I knitted it in DK on 4mm needles. you start out by following the instructions as given on the pattern. except you work in the round. Follow the pattern until you have 30 stitches and then work one more row as given in the pattern. Work 12 rounds stocking stitch. Remove marker, knit 15 stitches, replace marker. Repeat the shape back of head instructions as you used them before, but without making any stitches. Knit in stocking stitch for 12 rounds. [P1 round, K1 round] 3 times and cast off.

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Long Horn? Mooooo!

I still need to work out how to make the horns stay upright and a few other bits, but I’d say I’m not far off a finished piece. I’ll follow that up on another blog and will also document the creation of a complete costume over the coming months. See you next week!

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Black stuffing is a must me thinks…

Fearless Knitting!

First off, apologies for not posting last week, everything’s a bit mad at the moment. I’m writing this whilst perched on a stool and I have never wished for something to support my back more than I am now. Also, no pictures this week because the vast majority of my knitting is currently in storage. This post will be revised when the time is right. Anyway, this week I’m back in action and writing about being fearless.

When I first started knitting I’d say I was pretty fearless in my approach. I never saw a technique as something scary, so much as something to try out, and I think this approach is pretty good, but the longer I’ve used it, the more I’ve put rules in place to make the process balanced.

Firstly, know what you’re trying to make. The second thing I ever knitted was cabled arm warmers. I was just following a pattern pretty blindly and only at the end did I understand how the instructions I was following related to what I was actually making. It was actually a fun way to go with a massive learning curve (I hadn’t even purled before) but I wouldn’t recommend trying it often. My mum bought me the kit, it could easily never have been made at all. If anything would have helped me, it would have been knowing which bit of the instruction related to what outcome. I didn’t even know the word cable.

Budget according to your confidence level. If you want to have a go at a technique and create a huge, show stopping object out of that super expensive yarn you’ve had your eye on for ages, work out the technique on a smaller test item first. Last year my birthday present from mama sheep was the yarn to create an object of my choosing. I’d had to Totoro adaptation of Paper Dolls ear marked for a while, and while I’m not disappointed with it, I really should have researched fair isle and maybe done a few tests before jumping into such a large and expensive piece.

Recognize your skill level and challenge yourself accordingly. Never tried intersia or increases before? Sure you can try them both at once so long as at least one of them is used in a simple form. In general I would recommend just trying one new thing at a time, but if a second technique you haven’t tried is used in small quantities or in entirely separate rows to the one you’re really excited about, why not give them both a go at once?

Know if you’re in the mood and have the patience. I often have a couple of different projects on the go at once and which one I’ll work on will depend on how much concentration I want to give my knitting. There are projects were you can be mostly focused on the TV, projects where you’re half watching the TV and projects where the TV might as well not be on at all.

Well, see you next week. Promise this time.

May The Craft Be With You

Inspiration can be found in the most unlikely of places. Crafting is warm and homely, science fiction is technology driven. But a huge number of crafters find inspiration in the fantastical.

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Anyone got any Jelly Babies?

In a previous post I talked about Dr Who‘s glorious tank top in Sylvester McCoy’s incarnation. However, one of the most iconic pieces of televisual knit wear was Tom Baker’s scarf when he was the fourth doctor. One day I shall start one, which I believe will be an eternal work in progress when I need to get on with something easy. There is endles information on how to create your own, but a particularly good source seems to be this website which even shows different versions of it.

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Incoming message from the big giant head…

Aliens land on earth, what do they do? Infiltrate the government? Take over the planet with their advanced technology? Or live in a small American town for a few years and form a nice comfy  ’90s life style? Well according to 3rd Rock From The Sun, it’s the latter, and boy, do those aliens wear some awesome knitwear. Whilst they all have something to show, the single character who has the most fantastic array is Harry. His collection has even been archived by a fan on tumblr. You should defiantly check it out.

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Any guesses as to the theme?

I am in that frantic point of my current project where I want to finish it so I can get started on the next. There’s a pile of yarn ready to go! I can’t say too much about what I’m making as it’s going to be a surprise gift, but needless to say, I am doing my usual trawl of the internet, finding bits of other patterns to thieve. What inspired this upcoming project was the annual Geek-A-Long mystery blanket run to raise money for Child’s Play Charity. If you’re looking for a fount of colourwork patterns along a geeky theme to get inspired, look no further! A couple of the designs are going into this upcoming project.

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Imagine his expression is his response to me not having seen Firefly.

Confession time guys. I haven’t seen Firefly. Well, not all of it anyway, I watched a couple of episodes and just didn’t get into it. That was a few years ago now, it might be time to try again, especially since I have been binge watching Buffy (another Joss Whedon show). But just because I haven’t experienced the full saga, doesn’t mean I don’t know about a particular hat everyone who loves the show seems to want. If you want to make a stab at reverse engineering for the first time, this seems like it would be a nice place to start, it’s quite a basic hat with ear flaps and a pom pom. All the parts are simple enough and the simple colourwork is what makes it recognizable.

A quick word before I go, everything’s a bit chaotic at home right now, I promise I’ll keep posting every week, it might be a little less interesting for a month or so though.

Live long and prosper!

Oodles of Doodles

Some days you just can’t think of anything you want to make. Other days you have ideas coming out faster than you can say ‘What time does the craft shop close?’  You can use one problem to combat the other. Write down all the ideas you have as you have them, and when you get stuck in a dry spell, you have somewhere to go get inspired.

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Check out that cover! Patchworking win.

Mama Sheep had an idea. An idea of a perfect patchworking notebook. But she could never find anything that would quite fit the bill. The Concept was to have pages with squares, but they would alternate between different sized squares, depending on what kind of detail she wanted out of it. Frustrated by her inability to source one, she eventually made herself one. It has provided her with several years of design recording and she’s never looked back.

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Working through one idea, two different sized squares are WONDERFUL!

Making a book for yourself isn’t as tricky as you might think, especially if you’ve already got crafting skills. It doesn’t have to be of exceptional quality, just sturdy. She included two different sizes of squared and plain paper with a patchwork cover. There’s plenty of tutorials online to provide you with different ways of binding your own book, so if you can’t quite find something to fit the bill, do it yourself!

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Yes, I drew out pokemon knitting charts in case to mood ever strikes me. I am not a bad person.

While trying to get an amazon purchase to a high enough value to get free shipping, I came across a squared paper for knitting charts notebook by chance and it was just about the price I needed. What so special about this paper I hear you ask. Well, it’s not quite squared. Knitting stitches are a little wider than they are tall, so if you’re charting out a fair isle design on properly squared paper, it will be slightly distorted when it comes to the knit. I’m not completely happy with the paper in this particular book, I feel the lines are a little bulkier than I would like, but I am glad I’ve bought it and will invest in some from a different supplier again in the future.

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I have my reasons for wanting to make an octopus costume. If you keep reading, one day you’ll find out what they are!

Have a notebook just for general ideas. I have a ton of them! Each idea gets one double page. Any ideas I have relating to that project prior to construction go in that book, but once construction has started it’s for reference only. Some pages only have a title, others have calculations, small sketches, different ways of trying to make the idea work. They don’t have to be good sketches, just represent what I want out of it.

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The notebook of minty freshness and blogging joy!

I also have a whole notebook just for this blog! Ideas for posts, lists of things that could go in them, ticked out, scribbled off, regrouped into another in a similar line. I’m also having ideas about other stuff to make constantly while writing this, so making sure I highlight any new ideas while I’m writing so I know where there’s something else to be made!

Have a great week guys!

Health and Saftey in the Stitchspace

People think that crafting is a sweet little hobby that couldn’t possibly cause any harm, on the whole it is, but it’s important to remember that you can still injure yourself badly working with sharp objects.

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A High Vis jacket probably isn’t required… Probably…

Pins can be dangerous business. Last year, my mum started telling every crafter she came into contact with about this story, where a member of a wardrobe department accidentally inhaled a pin, resulting in her having surgery. Anyone who uses pins will keep them in their mouths and my mother is now quite adamant that we shouldn’t. While I haven’t stopped doing it, I am much more wary now, and ensure I keep my tongue firmly against their heads if they are in my mouth.

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It’s hard to make pins in your mouth look good. That’s probably for the best.

Repetitive strain injury preventing me from knitting is something I live in fear of since it’s halted my mothers pursuit of the hobby. For me, there are three things that help when I do start getting twinges in the wrists. Firstly, make sure you have as much of the weight of what you’re making on your lap as possible. When you are knitting, the weight of it rests on your wrists and puts them under strain. A useful tip I read to combat this is that working on circular needles, even when not knitting in the round helps to keep the weight elsewhere.

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Could be a poor man’s Jolly Roger

Overloading your needles is a bad move. When you have too many stitches on them and you’re fighting to stop them slipping off the ends all the time, guess where the strain goes? Yup, once again, it’s your wrists doing all the work. Using circular needles helps to combat this also, as there tends to be more room on them than a straight set, but you don’t have two rods sticking out which can be annoying.

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Easier and more comfortable to put it on a needle that fits!

If you do start getting twinges, take a break. As hard as it can be when you’re in full knit mode, it’s better to take a break and spend a little longer finishing the project than finishing the project more quickly, but never being able to knit again. The thought that sends a chill down my spine. No resting properly when you do discover the problem will worsen it and potentially cause lasting damage.

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I always take a break with my best MUGgle.

Rotary cutters are lethal. My mother recently told me a story about a well known local patchworker who wore her cutting mat out so much that the blade of hers got stuck. When freeing it, she also sliced through the skin on her other arm and had to go to hospital. The surgeon had never seen anything like it and didn’t know what a rotary cutter was. when she explained to him it was a razor blade on a wheel, he couldn’t believe people were allowed them!

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ALWAYS retract the blade after use.

I could bore you with the thing we were told in school, goggles for the sewing machine in case the needle breaks… but these seemed a bit more obscure. See you next week!

Acceptable in the 80’s

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I wish my hair was as big as hers.
I think Beverly Goldberg might be my spirit animal. I finished a project yesterday and it came out surprisingly 1980s. Although a lot of the fashion of that era is considered hilarious, if you are picky, there’s a lot of inspiration to be found.

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Look at all of them! I’d be that happy if I had that many.
Gyles Brandreth is many things, politician, comedian, television personality and knit wear icon. He was known for his fantastic collection, he’s even released a book of patterns. Which I may have a copy of. Bright colours and designs that would appeal to children, this man managed to make knitwear his trademark. Apparently the volume of his collection was in four figures at one point. With the rise of the Christmas jumper and fashion choices of hipsters, the cheesy jumper is making a come back. Here’s a clip of him more recently revisiting the remnants of his old collection.

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‘Baa baa black sheep, have you any wool?’
Princess Diana was the epitome of ladylike grace and sartorial sophistication in the 80s. This was one garment that garnered attention. It wouldn’t be hard to take the basic sheep design and apply it to a more contemporary silhouette if you wanted to try something similar yourself. It could even be used to make cushions, scarves, anything you want really.  I’ve always had a weakness for sheep decoration, when rendered in knitting, doubly so.

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I hope you’re singing the Dr Who theme tune in your head right now.
Traditionally when one thinks of Dr Who and knitting, the mind would instantly find itself thinking about the Fourth Doctor, Tom Baker, and his magnificent scarf. As a knitter though, it looks a rather boring and laborious task to take on. What would be a far more exciting task is the tank top of the Seventh Doctor (played by Sylvester McCoy). I’ve come across charts of the fair isle design before, and am quite tempted to give it a slightly more feminine twist. Anyone want to provide the matching umbrella?

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Crisps or video games, everyone loves them!
Inspiration doesn’t just have to come from preexisting knitting. Retro video games are made to measure for this, don’t you think? You get a iconic design that’s pretty much already a knitting chart! Space Invaders seems like it would be a great place to start. The rows lend themselves to being adapted easily into different spaces, you can get away with only using two colours. If you’re a geeky knitter like me and haven’t dabbled with this idea, what’s wrong with you!?

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If you don’t occasionally wander around humming the Mario theme tune, we probably can’t be friends.
Mario provides a huge range of choice for adapting into knitting. First of all, it’s got a lengthy history, so there’s a ton of different pixel versions of him to choose from. You’ve also got an opportunity to use the fact he’s animated to create something very kinetic. It’s not only Mario either, there’s a whole host of characters to involve and iconic backdrops. If you need a bit more guidance with adapting these thing, just do a  quick google. Loads of people have done it before.

So, thank you to the 1980s, I’ll see you all next week.

Stuff, Stuff Everywhere!

One of the big problems with crafting is, where do you keep all your supplies? I’m lucky enough to live in a house with a dedicated sewing room, but that doesn’t make it easy. The house is being decorated, I plan to make myself a little crafting corner in my bedroom. In light of this, we have been discussing how we are going to use the space sensibly and what already works for us. Here’s some of the best bits.

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Yes, it is a tip, but it will be sorted… eventually…

Small Space Storage

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This Ikea laundry bag has done me well!

When I was at university, I was living in small rooms, moving regularly and only just delving into my knitting addiction. After some careful thought, a large laundry bag seemed like a great idea to keep my supplies in. It’s compact and squashable. A bit of a pain to find stuff in, but easy to move about and would sit at the end of my bed without taking up much space.

The Stash of Fabric

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Every once in a while, there’s a big sort out and it’s all organized by colour!

My mum read a great tip online a couple of years ago about how to store stash fabric, and it has done her well. Fold it around the cardboard used by comic book collectors and it is so much easier to organize and view. (If anyone knows where this tip originated, would love to be able to share the link.) The card isn’t terribly cheap, but once you use that piece of fabric, you can use the card again!

Works in Progress/Unfinished Objects

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The Liberty bag is one of my prized possessions.

Getting distracted from your project by a new idea, it’s something I’m getting better at not doing, but I don’t think I’ll ever be completely innocent of it. How I stop myself getting to confused by returning to a project after 6 months is by keeping all of the yarn and notes and everything together in a nice plastic bag. Next step, I plan to buy some plain tote bags, which I can then make notes on in fabric markers to help me identify what’s occupying it.

Knitting Needles

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The vase would only have cost me about £2

At some point I decided there should be a home for my needles to return to, but I knew trying to organize them by size wasn’t going to happen. A moment of inspiration came and I decided to buy a vase to keep them in. This was only a cheap one to see if it was a worthwhile plan, and it turns out it was! I plan to buy a bigger, prettier one in the no too distant future.

Make it Pretty

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Storage being proudly displayed in the living room

A huge issue for me is having to go through a whole process to get out and put away something I use regularly, because I’m trying to keep it hidden. By spending an extra few pounds to make a storage feature a decorative feature, it could actually make the whole process of crafting much less frustrating.

Once everything’s done in the house, I’ll do a follow up post and let you all know how it turned out. But that may well not be for quite some time…

 

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