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Useful Apps for Bloggers: Grammarly


Useful Apps for Bloggers

Whenever I find an app that I think will be super useful for my fellow bloggers I vow to write a post about it...(then I get sidetracked) I have at least 10 on a list ready to share with you all so here's the first I think that every blogger, writer or social media manager should have.

Grammarly

www.grammarly.com

This app is a constant help for me. I have an A-Level in English, however, I still make mistakes and this Chrome extension has been extremely useful. I've added it as an extension on my Chrome browser, so wherever I'm typing when I'm online it is constantly pointing out issues with my copy.

What does Grammarly do?

Here's the concise answer from the Grammarly website.

As you type, Grammarly checks your text for more than 250 common and advanced writing improvements. The checks include common grammatical errors, such as subject-verb agreement, article use, and modifier placement, in addition to contextual spelling mistakes, phonetic spelling mistakes, and irregular verb conjugations. Plus, Grammarly’s spell check takes the context of your sentence into account. Grammarly also provides synonym suggestions to make your writing more readable and precise. With Grammarly, you can write online with confidence.
And here's a little video that shows Grammarly in action.



It's not completely fool-proof and of course, you'll still need to re-read and check over posts but on numerous occasions, Grammarly has picked up on simple mistakes I've made.

It underlines the spelling or grammatical mistake and then you can just click to repair it or click ignore to overrule it.

I'm just using the free version, but I'm very tempted by the 'advanced' paid for version as I'm sure there are many more mistakes to repair in my writing.



Grammarly Synonyms Feature  - aka making your writing more interesting

Another genuinely beneficial feature for me is the synonym feature.  You simply double click on a word and it shows you alternative words with a similar meaning.

I usually write quickly and then edit later.  Quite often I use words like 'great' and 'lovely' far too frequently so this is quite helpful to make my writing less repetitive.

Another Quick Tip - Overusing Exclamation Marks

Guilty.  I'm addicted to exclamation marks so at the end of a post I click ctrl + F and search for exclamation marks.  This isn't a Grammarly feature but one I use to weed out the zillion !!!'s I use when I'm typing at speed. Sometimes I realise I've been using exclamation marks like full stops, so this helps as it highlights them all so I can double check really quickly if they're all necessary.  (I deleted 6 from this post, in most cases, they are most definitely not required!)

Sign up for your Grammarly account here - www.grammarly.co.uk


Which is the most popular craft in the UK?



Which is the most popular craft in the UK?

I thought this was interesting! I work within the crafts industry and work directly with all disciplines of craft, so it's interesting to see how popularity wanes and waxes over time - or at least since 2004 where Google Trends goes back to.



I put in 5 of the most popular craft disciplines into Google Trends to see which was the winner.  The battle of the crafts...  the winner is... SEWING! But I would argue that it only pips Knitting because of The Great British Sewing Bee spikes you can see clearly over the past 4 years.  You can see the Potter Throw Down spikes too!

The knitting line is so consistent with regular spikes over winter... makes sense, other than hard-core knitters most people aren't as interested in summer.

Crochet is the most interesting to me, there are no peaks and troughs here it's just growing! It's such an accessible and mobile craft.  Embroidery is perhaps the most consistent... looks like it needs shaking up a bit!

Also really interesting to see that all crafts searches seemed to dip during the credit crunch of 2008.

Have a play on Google Trends, are people more or less interested in your topic than they were?


It's great fun to compare terms (Isn't it fab that so many more people are googling about love than hate! Also the home page is a good place to keep up to date with current affairs as it shows you what's trending in the UK as a whole.


Easter Craft Ideas - little handmade gifts


Are you looking for some cute Easter craft ideas to make this year? For the last few years I've made some little DIY Easter craft projects as gifts.  I like anything I can fill with little chocolate eggs as that always goes down very well with the kids and adults too if you go for some good quality chocolate.



The last few years I've used my big stash of felt squares to make little easter gift bags.

In 2015 I made lots of these little felt bunnies.  they're really easy to make you just cut a rectangle and on one side add the bunny ear shapes.  I added some pretty fabric for the insides of the ears too. Then sew up the sides and add a little nose (I decided it was better without eyes too) Fill with some mini eggs and tie a little bow around to close it up.  



Last year I made these little felt carrots, it's a really simple idea and the carrots look more realistic if you sew random white threads on them. I filled them with chocolate eggs for all the easter bunnies.

My Favourite Easter Craft Tutorials

I've been on the hunt for easter craft ideas for me to make this year!  

The brief for my easter gifts this year - 
  • Must be able to fill them with mini eggs...  not negotiable!
  • Must be fairly easy to make, or have a really good step by step tutorial!
  • Not expensive to make! 
I've got my sketchbook out doodling some ideas.  I've also found some great easter craft ideas on Pinterest that suit my style, I will add more as I find them.

Please leave a comment with a link or description if you have any favourites you know of that fit my brief!



Mini Easter Egg Basket crochet pattern - I can crochet, I'm not amazing at it but this looks pretty straightforward!  Not much room for eggs, maybe I could make them a bit bigger!


Easter chick from an egg carton - I just think these are cute AND I have some perfect orange card left over from Halloween! I keep my own chickens so I also have some really clean egg boxes.  Only downside is they wont hold many eggs - would be good on a plate setting though!




Little sleeping bunny bags  These look really easy to sew up and I'm pretty sure I have everything in my stash to make them so they definitely tick the inexpensive box!





How interesting is your 'About Me' page?




All About Me... ?

Is your 'about me' page on your blog interesting and engaging?  Does it make people want to follow your blog and journalists want to interview you?

As a potential follower of a blog I want to know who's writing it, what they are passionate about and why should I become a blog follower - what are you writing about that I just can't miss?

An 'about me' page on your website / blog can be difficult to write - you sit in front of a blank page and suddenly you are self conscious and wondering who will read and judge and perhaps even decide not to follow or buy, just based on the next few paragraphs?

 - did I mention gin too many times, does it sound like I love my dogs too much, should I talk about my children?...  

Make it interesting!

Well duh!!! but you'd be surprised how many bloggers don't! If you already have an 'about me' page read it again, does it really sum you up?

Begin by writing your about me page from the heart, what are you actually trying to achieve with your blog?  If you find it difficult to start, try asking yourself some questions like those below.  Type your answers out and then edit them into a few powerful paragraphs that get the point quickly about what your blog is all about and why you think we should follow it.

Take care not to simply describe your domestic set up, I see this so often in those little bios in the sidebar of a blog.

'I am a mother with 2 fantastic kids and a wonderful partner, I make my crafts and write this blog in my spare time. I really love knitting, I learned to knit when I was 8 years old.'

YAWN! how about -

'If you met my family, you'd understand why I had to start writing a blog - it's certainly cheaper than a psychotherapist! I've been knitting since I was 8 - whatever you do don't open my cupboard doors, you will be drowned by an avalanche of yarn!'

Rather than being turned off by the idea of hearing about some fairly average normality, we know you have a sense of humour and we're excited that we might find out some snippets about your hectic family life as well as your obvious passion for knitting and stash building.

If you have some favourite bloggers see what they've written, do you think they've done a good job or do you feel they are selling themselves short?



Questions to help you write your 'about me' page


- Why did you start writing this blog?
- What is this blog about?
- In what environment do you write your blog?
- Who do you think would love to read your blog?
- Why should I follow your blog?

Write it and then edit edit edit... take out anything that isn't relevant.

How long should it be?

This comes down to personal preference and the style of your blog. If you write long posts then a long 'about me' will probably suit your blog style.  If you mainly post images then perhaps you can sum yourself up in 3 images?

A huge essay / life story can be a bit overwhelming, most people clicking on your about-me page are there for the first time having landed on a post they found interesting enough to want to find out who you are and where you are in the world.  You could include a link to find out more on a blog post you've written about your story.


What else to include on your 'about me' page

Your about me page is an opportunity to convert a first time reader into a blog follower.

Social Media Links - Add just the links you use most so that people can quickly get in touch.  A journalist/blogger might want to quickly send a tweet, or a potential customer or new blog follower might want to follow you on Instagram / Facebook

Instead of links you could simply add a big call to action to sign up for your newsletter!

Links to your best most popular blog posts - just a few of your best posts, a snapshot of what you write about.

How you work with brands - you don't need to include a full advertising page, just a few words at the end to indicate if you are interested in sponsorship and advertising will do alongside your email address or an embedded contact form.

If you find you start getting lots of requests to work with brands, then you could create a dedicated page to help filter out the spammers and all those people who want something for nothing!

Your email address or a contact form
I would have a separate contact me page, people tend to look for 'contact' so it can help people who quickly want to get in touch.  However, I think having your email address or a contact link on your about me page is also important.

This post was originally posted in 2011 and has been updated in Feb 2017     

5 Stunningly Creative Ways To Wrap Gifts This Christmas

It’s often an afterthought; choosing a unique way to wrap presents at Christmas - But not anymore. Once you’ve finished browsing these 5 creative ways to finish off your gifts this year, the once boring boxes underneath your tree, will never be the same again.

The Cut Out

Inspiration and image credit: HomeEdit
Here’s an extremely quick and easy way to spruce up that plain paper you’ve been hoarding since Xmas ‘13. Simply draw a symmetrical shape onto a piece of card - Think Christmas tree or santa beard. Cut the shape out and fold in half. Use this shape as a template to draw on the reverse of your wrapping paper. Using a craft knife (Or very carefully with scissors), cut along the shape you’ve drawn - NOT along the fold line though! Now simply half fold out the shape to achieve a similar style as below:

Funky Gift Bag Modification

Inspiration and image credit: Fly Fresh Forever
This is the kind of gift wrap that will end up outshining the present! Why not take the gift bag you received from the office secret santa and turn it into an awesome little body shaped bag.
Tip for increased personalisation: Make mini caricatures of your family. Pop on a little cardigan design for your grandad or a peppa pig t-shirt for your young niece.

Vintage Twist - The Artisan Paint Fleck

Inspiration and image credit: Apartment Therapy
We love this simple yet effective way to take simple vintage craft paper and turn it into something striking this christmas
++ It’ll only take 2 minutes to do - Just be careful not to get paint on the carpet!
Simply peg up a large sheet of brown craft paper on the washing line. Take some thinly diluted paint (left over from the side of the house you forgot to paint this summer), and using a sponge or large paint brush, flick the paint across the sheets - Keep it mono-coloured for a classy outcome. You can order a few sheets of brown craft paper here

The All Out Gift Wrapped Extravaganza!

Inspiration and image credit: Karen - The Art Of Doing Stuff
Like a nativity play on a box, our next recommendation is not for the novice - However, if you can pull it off, or just want a cool project this sunday. Then why not try your hand at creating this boxy masterpiece.
Further inspo: How about making an ice-skating pond theme, using a similar design, but adding some blue paint and two black lines for skate tracks.

The Complementary Palette

Inspiration and image credit: Wrap This Up
So how about keeping it simple you ask? - No fear. This following suggestion will make wrapping beautiful presents effortless. Grab yourself a wrapping paper kit from WrapThisUp and take the guess work out of choosing perfectly coordinated paper, twine and tags.
So there you have it; 5 great ways to wrap your presents up this Christmas.
Have you got some ideas to share? Why not comment below with a picture of your gift wrapped masterpiece…

Merry Christmas X
This post was written by Rory Orchard of Wrap This Up!

Crochet Pine Cones (make your own, free pattern!)



I know you all love pinecones, my Pinecone Christmas Decorations posts get hundreds of visitors every day at this time of year.

So when I saw these crochet pinecones, I thought I must drop everything and share them with you. They look great multi-coloured but might be nice in a gold or silver yarn as tree decorations too.

One of those things that has no purpose other than to make you smile!

Do you crochet?  Find the pattern here on the Yarn Freak Blog


Growing Your Handmade Business - get a discount code for this brilliant course


Growing Your Handmade Business
by Cassie Boorn

Creative makers tend to focus all their energy on creating amazing products. They pour their heart and soul into every single item they produce. But having a great product is only half of the battle. You need a great plan for taking your product to market, building a brand around your work, and generating enough sales to reach your individual goals.

Modern Thrive just launched a live online workshop designed to help you build a profitable handmade business. They have brought together three incredible handmade business owners to give you an inside look at how they built their career, and share proven strategies that you can apply to your own business. This program will give you the insight you need to turn your handmade shop into a full-time business.


Everyone who signs up will get the opportunity to learn from these amazing makers:


Lane Huerta is the Founder of LoveLane Studios, an award-winning handmade shop that creates imaginative play-wear for children around the world. Lane began designing and screen printing tea towels, pillows and other home décor and became a veteran of Indie Craft Parade and other artisan craft fairs—but it’s been her imaginative children’s designs that have captured the world’s attention.



In 2014, Etsy.com featured Lovelane’s Play Hard children’s wear on its homepage, and demand for its hand sewn, American-made capes and crowns have soared. Lane and her work have been featured on media platforms across the globe, including The Huffington Post, Today.com, Hooligan’s Magazine, Harper’s Brazil, and ABC World News Tonight. Today the brand employs two team members, hand-prints the line in studio and contracts sewing to local seamstresses. This method of production makes it possible for Lovelane to wholesale to retailers like The Land of Nod and specialty boutiques worldwide.



Jahje Ives is the Founder of Baby Jives Co, a handmade shop that creates mobiles and artwork to inspire wonder and imagination. Her work has been featured on Today’s Parent, HGTV, Martha Stewart Living,  and in Pregnancy & Newborn Magazine. Baby Jives started as a solo operation run out of an extra room in her home where she made mobiles between naps. 

Now, Jahje works with independent seamstresses and a family run cut-and-sew business to produce her most popular mobiles. This has allowed Jahje to keep up with demand and expand into wholesale, selling to small shops and larger brands like The Land of Nod and West Elm. Jahje shares her story with her more than 60,000 social media followers, allowing her to connect with customers and the maker community.



Dianna Barton is the Founder of Plum and Sparrow. Dianna fell in love with her own Moses Basket after the birth of her first child. She knew she wanted to share this little gem with other mamas, and began searching for something unique, beautiful and one of a kind.

Plum and Sparrow is a supporter of the Fair Trade Federation. It takes an entire village in Africa to make each of their baskets. As one individual harvests the materials, it moves onto the next step where it is delicately colored, after the hand-weaver entwines every piece bringing it all together, finishing it with the leather handle. The intricate design of their products has drawn the attention of leading tastemakers, and landed them coverage on hundreds of national blogs

The live workshop begins November 9th, but you will get lifetime access to all of the content. The program includes (3) hour-long interactive sessions, daily email lessons and a comprehensive workbook. In addition, you will get access to a private community of like-minded handmade business owners.

The workshop is $97 but you can save $30 if you sign up now with discount code “CraftUK.”
(current exchange rate 8/11/16 - £78 but use the discount code and it is £54)



Promote your handmade Christmas decorations



Do you make handmade Christmas decorations, are you making any to sell this year?

Be sure to post your work on my Facebook page Handmade Christmas, just add a picture to the wall and I'll be sharing them all through the run up to Christmas.  A great way to get your work seen by people who love all things festive and handmade.  It's all free promotion, no need to message me, if it's related to Christmas gifts and decorations and it is handmade you can post it.







How to like and network with Facebook pages as your page and not your personal profile


If you aren't already doing so, you need to start networking 'as your page'.  Boosting your fan numbers and Facebook fan page engagement is not just about your own updates.

Choosing great, relevant content to share is essential to keep fans engaged. However, off-page activity is an equally important way of increasing likes and engagement on your fan page and should not be overlooked. You can also find great content to share yourself on other people's fan pages.

Benefits of networking 'as your page'

  • You can start conversations with like minded brands with a similar target audience by commenting on their posts, with potential to develop the relationship further.  For example guest posts/product collaborations/giveaways. 
  • The fans of the pages will see your comments and may be inclined to take a look at your FB page
  • You get a news feed of juicy posts that come from Facebook pages you have liked that your audience may also appreciate
  • You don't have to like pages with your personal profile and clog up your personal news feed
  • It may help with your page being highlighted to a person as a 'suggested page' as Facebook tracks every interaction.


There are three parts to this post, so just to be clear what we're talking about.

  • Liking and commenting as your page on other Facebook pages
  • Liking a page as your page, so it appears in your page newsfeed
  • Accessing your page newsfeed


Liking and commenting on Facebook posts as your page on other pages

Liking and commenting as your page is really straightforward, you simply use the little toggle on the post which shows your profile image and simply switch to the page you want to comment as. Easy peasy!

 
Liking a Facebook page as your page

This is easy too,  but Facebook don't make it really obvious.  Click on the more link and a little dropdown list will appear with the option to 'Like as your page'



You'll be able to select which page you want to like it as next and then you're done.


The important part after you have liked lots of relevant pages you can network with is to head to your page feed.

Now, where do I find my liked as page newsfeed?

There is a link in the left hand side bar of your personal Facebook feed which says 'pages feed'.  This is not it!  This shows you pages you have liked as your personal profile - www.facebook.com/pages/feed - so it cuts out all the stuff from your sister and that girl you used to know when you were 6 ;)

Instead, navigate to your Facebook page home page and in the right hand side column there will be an option to 'see pages feed' which is what we are after!

www.facebook.com/yourpagenamehere/pages_feed/

The link will look like this, just replace 'yournamehere' with your page name.  Itt sadly doesn't work with other peoples pages which would be really useful!  You can see what another page likes by looking in the bottom right hand corner of their home page, the link will bring up a list with buttons next to the names of the pages for you to like / unlike.  If you click 'like' on these you'll be liking as your personal profile - you need to go to the actual page.

It's a good idea to add this Facebook page news feed link to a bookmark on your tool bar so you can really quickly start networking next time you are at your desk with 15 mins to spare.

How to find pages to network with on Facebook

You can use this method in my post all about suggested pages here - where i show you how to find the pages that facebook tells people are similar to your page, or other peoples pages - it's a lovely fall-down-a-rabbit-hole way of finding pages to like as your page.

One of the best ways to find pages to network with is to just delve in and start browsing for Facebook pages on certain subjects.  Think laterally and ask yourself.

PLEASE DON'T BE A SPAMMER. Actually get involved in the conversations people are having and never copy and paste comments... ever.

Have fun!


Make a pretty rose from autumn leaves



Make a pretty rose from autumn leaves.  

I'm planning on trying to make these with the huge quantity of dropped sycamore leaveas in my garden. If you extended the stem with some wire you could create a whole vase full and they should last a good few weeks before they become very brittle.  I found these pics here


Here's a video to show you exactly how they're made if you fancy having a go yourself.



I also spotted this pretty bouquet idea on Pinterest and added it to my Craft Life board.



DIY Hot Chilli Sauce


At the beginning of the year I planted chillies in my greenhouse and over the last month they have been ripening to a beautiful bright red (read my tips for growing chillies

With more than enough for cooking, I decided to make a hot chilli sauce because I add hot sauce to so many dishes, it's quite addictive.


Here you can see the chilli plants growing amongst a sea of basil - the smell is amazing.  they're growing in a wicking bed which means I don't need to worry about watering too often.  You can find out how to make your own on a recent post of mine - DIY Wicking Beds




I was recently sent this pack of Posca paint pens to review and I knew exactly what they would be perfect for - labelling the glass jars for my hot chilli sauce!



The jars look fab! Sadly though I used far too many chillies and as a result the first batch I made with just white wine vinegar mixed with roasted onions and chillies was practically inedible it was so hot, so I've cut it down with tomatoes to a hot and then even more tomatoes for a medium hot.

I'm going to dry the next pick of chillies and make chilli salt - another of my favourites.


I've put lots in the freezer as the sauce doesn't have a really long shelf life.  Any advice on making sauce that will last for a year would be much appreciated as if it's the very hot stuff you only use a little at a time so a bottle can easily last a few months.



The jars look great, I particularly like the little cheap herb and spice jars from Poundland (2 for £1).

The paint pens worked beautifully on the glass jars, the only problem was trying to keep them away from the kids who wanted to decorate practically everything!

Find out more about these pens on the Uniball website - Posca Paint Pens


Fun Sewing Quiz!


I just got sent a link to this fun sewing quiz by the team at Terry's Fabrics - they've got a big selection of curtain fabrics, so well worth a look if you're on the hunt for new curtains. I really dislike sewing large curtains, it a bit overwhelming -  but love the finished article (and how much money I save!) so it's a love hate relationship...  just 3 rooms left to go in my house - and I need a blind for my office...  it's all on a never ending to do list.  Plus with left over curtain fabric you can sew bags, cushions and all sorts.

Anyway - here's the quiz, be sure to comment with your score! I scored 11 out of 15 but some of the film ones were sheer guess work - can you beat me? Probably!

The Sewing Quiz by Terry's Fabrics




3 Mindful Colouring Books to Give Away - worth £9.99 each!



Do you like colouring books!  I have 3 beautiful mindful colouring books to give away, all illustrated by the talented artist Georgie Woolridge

See entry details at the end of this post





Illustrated byGeorgie Woolridge and published by Modern Books, RRP £9.99 each

Mindful Colouring Books

Mindful colouring is a way of escaping stress and slowing down a bit.  It's a lovely way to relax, unlike picking up a book you don't need to concentrate much, you can just pick up a pencil and start colouring away.  


Georgie has created 3 beautiful books with illustrations and descriptions, Animals, Birds and Waterlife.  I've been colouring in little tree frogs in her animals book - I just had a vibe they should be orange with aqua marine spots!

It might seem a little odd to see grown ups happily colouring in, but it's actually very soothing - you're only concern is which illustration to colour in next and which colours to choose. 


Way better as a method of relaxation than watching mind numbing TV or playing candy crush, it gives you permission to just think and clear your mind. It's a little like many repetitive crafts in that way. My daughter has also taken to it, her frog is looking great :)

I have a slightly weird completely natural obsession with pencils (I really do want to own a pencil shop!) so my medium of choice is the traditional watercolour pencil but you can get some lovely art pens and I do like any excuse to go to a stationery shop.

You can order Birds, Waterlife and Animals online on www.amazon.co.uk or by telephone to the publisher’s warehouse, by calling 01256 302 692. For more information, please visit: www.modern-books.co.uk.

How to Enter!

To enter and win all 3 books just head to my Facebook Page here Craft Blog UK for the competition post and like and comment on the post - I'll pick a winner on Friday!

Will post to UK addresses only via Modern Books.

The health benefits of sewing infographic

Brilliant infographic! Find out all the ways in which sewing can improve your health.

Health Benefits of Sewing
Health Benefits of Sewing by Terrys Fabrics.

Chickens! #folksyfriday

I haven't written a Folksy Friday for ages.  This week the theme is chickens, I absolutely love keeping chickens, I'm currently getting 28 eggs a week (that's a lot of eggs to use up) I get a great deal of pleasure just watching them scratch about - they're very happy!


There are lots of sellers on Folksy who make gifts perfect for chicken keepers like me - I've chosen a few of my favourites.


Rocking Chicken by Wobblywood 

Chicken Brooch by Claire Gent


Chicken Print - New Country Girl


Hen - Lavender Scented Keyring - The Peacock Emporium


Hen & Chick Card - The Free Range




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