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How Creativity Works - The art of frustration

IMAGINE: How Creativity Works from Flash Rosenberg on Vimeo.

If you're feeling frustrated by your designs then this video may offer you a little comfort.

Pin Cushion Sewing Box - Handmade Gift Idea

A Charity Advent Calendar for Oxfam

Last month I was sent a little unassuming, plain pine box as part of a really wonderful idea for raising money for Oxfam.

(A reminder in advance - when you get to the end of the post please do share it somewhere so we can get lots of people involved and lots of bids)

24 Bloggers, 24 Boxes

Parcel Hero, the organisers of this brilliant event, are creating an advent calendar made of 24 boxes by 24 bloggers .  

All the boxes are being transformed by bloggers all over the world and will be collected together to become one giant advent calendar.  The whole advent calendar, complete with gifts inside every box, will be auctioned on the Oxfam Ebay page from the 18th November.

The Brief

My instructions were to decorate the box however I wanted, "Go Wild" let your creativity flow...  oh and make something to put inside it as a little gift. 

Imagine how much fun it would be opening up a new box everyday of December with a handmade gift inside! 

I didn't exactly go wild, I have a thing about making things that are functional. After a little head scratching and looking at the box every day for a fortnight on my desk, I decided to make a sewing box with a built in pin cushion.

The sewing box has a pin cushion top, a little handmade purse and a few emergency sewing supplies.  I really hope whoever the lucky person who bids the highest for this amazing advent calendar will find it useful.

How to Make a Sewing Box Pin Cushion!

I used a very scary looking drill bit called a hole saw to cut the hole in the top of the box. The box came from here - The Wooden Box Mill - I was a bit nervous! I then used a coat of white paint, I've left it at one coat so the gran still shows through.

I then laid my pretty Japanese material (wrong side up) over the inside of the hole, I added the stuffing (read more about the very special stuffing in this box at the end) and I then wedged the stuffing in using a piece of thinish wood I found in my garage, and cut it exactly to fit the inside.  It's really secure with no need for glue or pins.

Use more stuffing than you think and stretch the fabric and let it push through as you press down, as this then gives a really smooth finish and makes the pin cushion sturdy enough to support the pins well with no creases.

The fabric which overlapped was trimmed and a little card piece added to make it look neat and tidy - you could also use another piece of wood here. 

I printed a little inspiration too - 'Measure twice, cut once, swear less' never a truer word said! I'm always thinking I'll get it right only to ruin something! (usually when gung ho after a glass of red!) 

Inside the Sewing Box

The brief asked for something handmade. I made a little purse to match the pin cushion in the pretty Japanese Sakura fabric and then added some extra goodies on top so it became a useful sewing kit.  The sewing kit will fit inside the purse and you can use the box for pins then and have a mobile sewing kit for your handbag too!  Or just use the purse for change.

To make the purse you can use my mini coin purse tutorial from waaaay back in 2010 on my old blog.

I like presents where there's lots of little things so I hope whoever bids for this does too. 

I've added some reels of cotton, folding scissors, a seam ripper, pins and a tape measure.  I bought all this from Abakahn which (lucky for me) is just up the road now I've moved to North Wales.

The little ring is useful for clipping inside a bigger bag.

Nice Zip right?

and now....   The Story of the Stuffing!

This little box is actually really special!  The stuffing inside my pin cushion is made from the actual wool that was on Harvey Nichols shop front for Wool Week back in 2012.  

It's roving, so perfect for the pins. I got sent a bag of it as a prize for completing a questionnaire about wool week and it's been in my craft stash ever since, I am yet to think of a great use, as it's such a pretty blue it shouldn't really be hidden away.  (when I entered I though t would be wool to knit with rather than roving)

So there's not only a lovely purse and sewing supplies, but a little bit of history in this pin cushion too, it's probably lucky and will make all your sewing projects turn out perfectly!

If you like the post please share, pin and tweet so we can raise lots of money for Oxfam!

You will have the chance to bid via Oxfam’s eBay page from November 18.
[Update - See all the boxes HERE]

Learn To Knit Today!

Learn to Knit Today! Go on...  give it a go :)

I love knitting - if you've never tried it before then take a look at this brilliant infographic. This Learn to Knit infographic covers all the basics of getting started with knitting, from which needles to use, casting on, basic knitting stitches and casting off. 

Once you've mastered the basics you will be hooked...  Stick with it, while it's fiddly at first soon it becomes embedded into your muscle memory how to hold the needles and yarn to get the right tension.  You'll also find it's a great way to relieve tension as it's such a relaxing thing to do, there's something about knitting, stitching and crochet that enables you to push away all those stressful things buzzing about in your brain and just focus on what your hands are doing.  They should probably prescribe craft supplies on the NHS!  

Your local charity shop is the best place to go to get a beginners ball of yarn and some needles for next to nothing. Go on, knit yourself a scarf :)

Cute Pinecone Christmas Decorations - Little Skiing Girls

Adorable Pine Cone Skiiers will make perfect Christmas decorations - spotted these on lovely blog Bella Dia - pinecones, lollypop sticks, those little wooden or polystyrene balls and some really thin needles to knit up some little hats and scarfs - or you could go for a fabric version?

Here are some more pictures, they're gorgeous!  If you like these, like Handmade Christmas on facebook for more DIY Christmas decoration ideas!

Summmer House Makeover

This summer has been a busy one.  We're building a chicken coop, making a cider press, trying to work out what to do with kilos of beans, plums, tomatoes, cucumbers and chillies, wondering why our courgettes didn't grow, trying to entertain kids whilst working full time (mostly the beach!) and also we've built a summer house.

You can follow our progress on Instagram - I'm @craftbloguk  - say hello so I can follow you back :)

We were gifted an old summer house when my sister was clearing her garden and although not quite finished we are well on the way to bringing it back to it's former glory.  It's looking lovely nestled in at the back of the garden.

Summerhouse Makeover

We had to create a slab for the base, and also repair quite a few of the sections which had got rotten from a flood a few years ago.  We painted the back with a good wood preservative (we used this one)
The slab looks a bit messy, but you won't actually see this once it's finished as we will add a self leveling screed and tile the inside, it's just to ensure it won't get damp and rot.

As you can see the wood was in pretty bad condition 

We chose some nice garden paint from Homebase in 'Pebble' - we have lots of space in the greenhouse so were able to paint despite all the rain we've had.  The colour looks great as it's not too bright and blends in well into it's surroundings.  

The inside is next to do, it will be painted with 'Almond Essence', a pretty just off white colour. We will also be making a bench in there with some cushions made from this pretty selection of Fat Quarters from Izabella Peters which go really well with the Pebble colour.

The summer house is nestled in among the apple and plum trees, so we can sit in there, have a coffee and watch all the little birds hopping about - as well as planning what to do with all the fruit!  That's the plan, it should be finished in a few weeks, in time for an Indian Summer...  (crosses fingers!)

Upcycled Patchwork Deck Chair Cover

It's not often I get enough time for sewing, but I'm very proud to show you how I took some old (and very much loved) scraps of fabric and created this pretty patchwork deckchair cover.

My new deckchair cover is NOT a perfect example of patchwork but I love it as it's made from fabric that has real meaning to me and looks fab in my jungle garden.

The original cover was just a plain canvas - dull!  I wanted something floral so had a look in my fabric stash.

I decided to use an old Liberty Print shirt belonging to my mother (you may remember I used that to make this little purse too) and also two of my daughters old skirts from when she was about 6 - they were threadbare in places otherwise I would have sent them off to a charity shop.  Plus I had a fat quarter of fabric spare from a project a few years ago, which blended in nicely.

When I look at it now I think of my mum and my daughter.  Upcycling using fabric from favourite clothes is a great way to personalise an item.

The size of the squares was decided by the fabric I had, I am not a patchwork expert and I'm also not very good at cutting - I need one of those fancy quilting rotary cutters.

I stitched them all up together and added a canvas backing and surround.  I made loops at the ends for the deckchair rods - these were double stitched as this is what takes all the weight. 

You can't please everyone!

(The deckchair was supplied by Ocean as part of their upcycle challenge)

Clever Crafter's Guide to Wool! #FolksyFriday

This week my #FolksyFriday is all WOOLLY - inspired the fab infographic that was sent to me by Tom, the owner of a company that makes clippers! Scroll down to see it - I did not know that it takes 4.2 sheep to knit a sweater. I didn't realise how many people there were on Folksy selling wool and yarn.

Join in and make a #FolksyFriday post - Folksy are tweeting out all the posts and they're looking for people to curate Folksy Friday's on their blog too - perfect for all of you bloggers! Details are HERE  Add it to your blogging diary for next week (or whip one up quick today!)

Tax Tips for Selling Craft

“Handmade” is en vogue and crafters everywhere are turning hobbies/addictions into businesses and selling their handmade crafts, but some are finding the making-money part a bit tricky. Competition is fierce, and while most consumers love the one-of-a-kind, you-can-see-the-fingerprints look, they don’t always love the price-tag. Luckily, whether you sell the odd candle to workmates, or have been picked off Etsy to design a Habitat range, you could be wealthier if you made friends with the taxman.

Who can claim back taxes?

Professional crafters with concession stands in John Lewis and features in Ideal Home can claim back tax on all kinds of expenses, but even some small-time crafters could too. Many people see their craft as a hobby, and don’t declare income to HMRC. However, if you’re making a profit it’s often a legal requirement, and with or without profit it might be beneficial to do so.

The key to understanding if you’re eligible or not is honesty, and if in doubt a quick chat with an accountant should clarify things. Selling goods at markets or online sites like Folksy are good, though not always definitive, signs of commerciality. Generally, you have to make a profit (sell your goods for more than you spend on materials) for HMRC to consider your activity as trading.

However, plenty of businesses use loss-leaders to grow their customer base, sell early models at cost-price to test the market, and offer discounts to friends. If you do plan to make a profit, selling just one mug or birthday card or crocheted dog jerkin could be enough for you to consider yourself a professional, and start claiming back tax on business expenses.

Crafters’ Allowable Expenses

When calculating allowable expenses, honestly weigh up your percentage personal against business usage. To claim back tax, you must be a taxpayer, which means having an income over the annual personal tax allowance (£10,600 in 2015). However, even if you aren’t currently a taxpayer, keep records as in future you could declare previous ‘trading losses’ and lessen your tax bill.

Materials, stationery and equipment may seem obvious, but crafters often forget items which fall between personal and business. They’ll declare their new sewing machine or pottery wheel, but forget using their dental floss as bead wire, their personal computer to manage their business, or the household oven to bake Fimo.
You can claim back for rent and rates on a studio, but if you work from home you can also claim for the percentage you use for your business in terms of rent/mortgage, gas, electricity, water and general maintenance. If you use your phone to call suppliers, organise bookings, or make sales, a proportion of your phone bill can be offset too, as can business postage, or the cost of transporting your goods to a fair.

Marketing expenses are allowable, and these include advertising, PR, and website costs. There’s plenty of advice on how to do it yourself on this very blog, but sometimes it’s a good idea hire a professional. Journal and membership organisation subscriptions are allowable, such as Ceramic Review, Let’s Knit! or The British Sugarcraft Guild.

Travel costs to craft fairs, trade fairs, courses, talks and so on are allowable, and this extends to research trips. Research and development tends to be the most neglected section of small businesses, especially in the creative sector, partially because creative R&D doesn’t feel much like work. Courses, related books like The Tomb of the Unknown Craftsmen or Hilary Pullen’s very own Online Marketing for Your Craft Business, competitor’s products, and even a proportion of costs incurred conducting research into Chilean basket weaving, involving a return flight and a four star hotel, can all be considered business expenses.

How do I do it?
One call to HMRC is all it takes to register as self-employed. People often find the idea of a self-assessment tax return incredibly daunting, but HMRC keep making it easier. While you must keep records of all of your costs and income, when it comes to filling in the form, so long as you aren’t earning over the VAT threshold (£82,000 in 2015), you can enter these as lump sums, so it really isn’t a huge administrative burden.

HMRC likes to nurture entrepreneurial endeavour, but they don’t like fraud. The most important thing is to be meticulously honest about what you spend on your business. If in doubt, always consult an accountant.

This guest post was written by secret potter Natalie Butlin from Accounts and Legal, small business accountants in London offering a full range of tax and accounting services. With everything from self-assessment and VAT returns, to business plans and financial forecasting, Accounts and Legal is a one-stop-shop for your craft business.

Folksy Friday - How does your garden grow?

Handmade Gifts for Garden lovers - All made in the UK! (Scroll down for individual links)

Happy #FolksyFriday - it's been ages since I've posted a Folksy Friday and I thought it was well overdue for me to pick a few beautiful products from this lovely (and 100% British) handmade marketplace!   

Want to Join In?  Post your own Folksy Friday!

If you've never done a 'Folksy Friday' before it's a great way of supporting designer makers from the UK, you just pick a selection of items from the handmade products or supplies on Folksy!  

It's also a great way to network with fellow bloggers who love craft - and if you sell on Folksy it's a good way to help raise awareness of the site. Post the link over in the Folksy Forums too and give the sellers you've featured a quick tweet/tag to let them know.

Love it - But how did you make that picture collage?

I used picmonkey to make the collage, just save the images and then upload. So simple and quick - but you must be sure to add links.

I've also shared all the images below individually in case you'd like to pin them to your awesome Pinterest boards...  (hint hint!)

Post links to your own Folksy Friday's in the comments below so I can come and see them - and tag them with #FolksyFriday when you share on social media! You can even share them on Instagram.

A photo posted by Hilary Pullen (@craftbloguk) on
I'm obsessed with gardening...

That's my daughter in our nearly 100 year old greenhouse! You may have noticed from my Instagram feed that I've become a little obsessed with gardening, more than ever before since we moved house last year. This picture was taken the day we moved in, we've done a lot of work on it since then, we're slowly renovating it with a self imposed deadline of 2019 when it will be 100 years old and we'll have a big garden party to celebrate.

Real Flower in Resin Pendant - Wishes on the Wind

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