All the fun of the fair…

Smiles, sunshine and super stitchers, this only just touches the surface of what can only be described as one of the best days of my crafting life so far.

All the fun of the fair

Decisions, decisions – so much to see, so little time x

After being the selected as the lucky winner on a giveaway post run by Melonberry Vintage on Instagram a couple of weeks ago, I found myself in possession of two complimentary entry tickets to The Handmade Fair 2015, the brainchild of everyone’s favourite crafter, the lovely Kirstie Allsopp. To paraphrase this year’s event annual it is ‘a celebration of learning new things, meeting like-minded creatives, indulging in passions and finding inspiration’. These words could not be more perfect in describing the day I spent with my lovely friend Lucy (of Mrs Bishop’s Bakes and Banter fame) whose passion for all things crafty is equal to mine.

The sun shone brightly and smiles were definitely firmly placed upon every person’s face throughout the day, as we explored the two shopping villages thoroughly and made the most of the day, upgrading our tickets and attending some additional sessions led by crafting experts. The first of these was a Grand Make run in conjunction with artcuts, where along with a tent full of fellow crafters we made a hanging wooden dove embellished with delicate stamping and sparkly decorations. It was a quick, simple make that had a delightful outcome and I have already decided that will make a perfect gift for someone special in the near future.

hanging dove collage

My completed hanging dove – such a lovely make x

After pausing for a short refreshment stop we entered the ‘Super Theatre’, a big top style tent which immediately drew the eye with its fun red exterior and built excitement in all who were due to visit it’s mysterious interior in which we would get to be within a stone’s throw of the revered Kirstie. In our session of choice Kirstie was talking to the talented author and illustrator Lauren Child about her passion for doll’s houses and miniatures.   This was a great choice for both Lucy and I as it combined my own enjoyment of creative and intelligently illustrated children’s books and Lucy’s newly found passion for doll’s houses, which she has humorously been sharing recently over on her own blog.   It was a fascinating discussion which gave an insight into Lauren’s creative process, sharing her passion and wonder at using miniatures and the origins of her use of mixed media.  The focus was unsurprisingly on her version of ‘The Princess and the Pea’ in which the illustrations cleverly combine miniatures, paper dolls and mixed media backgrounds.  Kirstie and Lauren were joined by the amazingly talented miniaturist Pat Cutforth, a lady who has been Lauren’s own inspiration and mentor in the creation of all things miniature since her childhood.  It was such a pleasure and privilege to be privy to the secrets of someone’s creative process and to understand where their passion originated from.  It is so easy to forget that everyone was an amateur at some point and that their journey to success, with its own stumbling blocks, may not be so different to the creative path you are carving for yourself.  Both Lucy and I left the tent inspired, with our brains filled with the amazingness of creating tiny versions of real life and hoping that one day maybe we could learn a little bit from Pat too (luckily courses with her are available).

super theatre collage

The Super Theatre experience was amazing – such inspiring women x

The early start and busyness of the morning meant that quite an appetite had developed by lunchtime and we were ready to explore the food court located at the centre of the show. This boasted an impressive twenty caterers offering a wide range of cuisines for every taste and appetite. I opted for the traditional British tourist’s day out choice of a sausage sarnie which definitely hit the spot.  Whilst sitting on our chosen picnic bench, outside the delightful ‘Super Theatre’ big top, the atmosphere of the day was so apparent, the usual awkwardness that the British public generally has towards each other was completely washed away as our common interests seemed to make everyone who attended feel almost like familiar friends.   We shared our bench with a lovely mother and daughter couple who we chatted away to like old mates and were the reason, due to their eagle eyesight, I managed to get my copy of the adorable ‘Goldilocks and the Three Bears’ book signed by the very understanding Lauren Child, who I think was just packing up ready to have her own lunch as I approached her.

Our learning journey came to its completion with a brilliant skills workshop, led by Caroline Preston, where we were taught to make an delicate origami butterfly as well as a pair of interslotting triangles for a larger sculpture being created by Caroline. As an origami amateur I was so pleased with my finished butterfly and give high praise to Caroline for her teaching, it was perfectly paced and pitched for us beginners with a satisfyingly complicated looking outcome. Caroline was also super friendly and clearly excited to have a tent full of people to share her expertise with.

Origami workshop HMF

Concentration and calmness descends upon the tent

as the Great British Paper Folders get to work!

With such an amazing day being had already it could only get better and the rest of our afternoon didn’t disappoint.  We did not know as we entered the shopping village that the most exciting part of the day was yet to come. After only a short stroll from our chosen entrance we found ourselves stunned into awed silence as we happened upon stand E4 – where the one and only Tilly stood before us. Like giggling school girls we approached the sewing superstar and chatted for a short while about her inspirational influence on novice sewers like ourselves, as well as sharing my thanks to her for pointing me in the direction of the wonderful Janome DKS100 which I purchased primarily based on her own recommendation (read more in my recent review).  My lasting impression of her would have to be a combination of her down-to-earth loveliness along with my surprise at how tiny she truly is!

Meeting Tilly

This actually happened, eeeeek!!!!

The rest of the afternoon passed in a flash of fabric induced happiness as we browsed both the shopping tents, chatting away to the ever friendly stall holders. This included the wonderful Katie Essam, a young textile artist whose free motion mixed media pieces were such an inspiration for a newbie like me, I shall most definitely be booking myself on one of her courses soon.  My budget for purchases was exceeded slightly but this is not something I feel at all guilty about, I figured where else am I going to find such a variety of quality sellers any time soon. My fabric stash is well and truly well stocked, material has been bought for a couple of patterns I have been waiting to make (Tilly’s Bettinne and easy PJ bottoms) as well as a huge array of scraps and bundles for my future free motion projects. A few notions later and I finished the day with only a few pennies left in my purse but brimming with ideas and excitement for future projects.

fabric stash collage

My fabric stash – beauty and inspiration galore x

Before we knew it, sunset was fast approaching and it was time to say goodbye to The Handmade Fair. Like any memorable and happy day the time had passed too quickly and as we strolled past the gates of Hampton Court Palace on our way to the train station we vowed to return next year to do it all over again, perhaps over two days this time so we can fit in even more crafty experiences.

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AWESOME – definitely the write adjective for this day, good choice Lucy x

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Sewing Machine Love…

My super duper sewing machine -Janome DKS100

I love my sewing machine, over the summer I have used it almost everyday and each time it has been a joy to use. After learning to sew last year my passion for this hobby has grown and after some careful research I decided to purchase my own machine in March this year (I had been using my Mum’s machine) and opted for the Janome DKS100, a computerised sewing machine as recommended by Tilly over at Tilly and the Buttons.    I cannot praise this machine enough, it has been perfect for me so far and today I wanted to share my love for my sewing machine with you.

Here are my top ten reasons for loving my sewing machine:

  1. It’s beautiful – this may seem like a strange thing to start with but I cannot say how satisfying it is to take the protective cover off and be greeted by its cheery bright blue keypad and sleek design – I love it.

Sewing Machine 2

  1. It lets me be a sewer – this may seem like an obvious thing to say but the nifty time-saving gadgets on this machine let me start sewing in a fraction of the time I have experienced with other machines I’ve used. It has buttons for an automatic thread cutter, thread knotting and needle up/down position which not only make sewing easier they have also helped to make my finished pieces neater.
  1. It doesn’t need a foot pedal – this is a controversial point as some sewers find sewing without a pedal disconcerting however, I decided when I got my machine to exclusively use the start/stop button and speed slider rather than the foot pedal. I have found this has become second nature, the start/stop button is placed appropriately so it is easy to use and the speed slider means there are no sudden changes in speed unexpectedly.

gadgets collage

  1. It’s heavy – I could also see this as a disadvantage I suppose as it means I am unable to transport it very easily however, it’s weight means it is stable, particularly when sewing through multiple layers.
  1. It treats me like a numpty – by which I mean it prevents me from making unnecessary mistakes or put myself in unnecessary danger. For example, it recognises which foot is on the machine and if this is appropriate for the selected stitch chosen, if it’s not it won’t let me select the stitch unless I change the foot. It also has a handy ‘safe’ button which can be pressed to prevent machine from starting, even if the start/stop button is accidentally pressed. This is particularly handy when threading the needle.

A handy button to keep me safe - what a (1)

  1. It has some very cute stitches – the machine comes with the capability to use approximately 100 stitches (most of which I haven’t used yet), including basic stitches, simple embroidery, quilting, button holes and more. The best ones of all are the cute embroidery stitches which I can’t wait to use to finish a project or two.

Cute stitch selection

  1. It has a lovely best friend in the form of my super sewing box – the organisation of my sewing bits and bobs is awesome since I was bought this super sewing box by my husband for my last birthday, everything is in one place and it is handily placed right behind me when I am sewing for easy access.

sewing box

  1. I have made some lovely things on it – this machine has given me confidence and in turn this has helped turn me into a better sewer which has encouraged me to sew more. In the months since I have had it I have really enjoyed using it and it’s ease of use has allowed me to create some really nice makes.

my makes collage

  1. It has turned me into a crazy fabric lady – despite lack of funds I have still managed to accumulate quite a fabric stash, mainly in the form of fat quarter bundles which handily fit with my favourite type of make – mini makes and accessories.

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  1. It will allow me to grow as a sewer – I purposely chose a machine that I could grow into, I am really looking forward to learning new techniques on this machine – I am yet to brave zips or button holes but they will be on the agenda soon or else everything will be poppered or Velcroed together for all eternity!

As you can see I really do love my sewing machine, it hasn’t at present given me anything to complain about and I can’t wait to become an experienced sewer using it.

What do you love about your sewing maching or do you have another crafting tool which you couldn’t live without, I look forward to hearing all about them xx

Disclaimer: the opinions in this review are my own, I was not asked to write this review by Janome and I purchased the Janome DKS100 myself.

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