Monday 21 December 2015

21st December: Make Festive Light

I love photography.  It's part of the reason I enjoy blogging so much: it gives me a place to share the photos that I love, and it gives me an excuse to upload the photos from my camera, go through them and actually make something of them.  In winter, it's hard to get photos as the light is so infrequent and poor, especially on work days when I leave home in the dark and return in the dark.  So I've been making the most of my weekends for photography!

Over the last month or so, I have been experimenting with flatlays.  A flatlay is basically an arrangement of objects or props or items, laid out specially to produce what is hopefully an aesthetically pleasing picture. 

I first came across the concept when I discovered Emily Quinton's beautiful Instagram feed. Emily is a photographer who runs Makelight: workshops and online courses which are all about producing more beautiful images.  I would love to do one of her in-person workshops one day, but that's a bit tricky when they tend to be on weekdays when I'm working.  However, there is a free taster course on her website, and I have followed along eagerly with that and been putting a few of her suggestions into practice.

I want to keep on improving my photography, particularly if I'm sharing it here. I have approached photography for the blog reasonably functionally: if I'm sharing a craft project, have I shown the finished item, and a few details?  Have I documented the process? And that has been enough.  However, I'm now keen to think not just in terms of the function of these photos, but also the form.  Can I photograph a project in a way that shows what I've done, but in a way that means the photo itself is also attractive?

I am very much a beginner in this process, and so I recommend looking up the Makelight instagram account which you can find at @emilyquinton as it really is incredibly lovely. Anyway, I've been following Emily for a little while now, and find her work very inspiring: her pictures made me want to see if I could improve my own!

Some of the pictures in today's post are new; some you may have seen over the past month, but it has been a lot of fun experimenting with this idea of creating prettier images and styling them out. Through the month of December, you can use the hashtag #makefestivelight to see loads of other pictures which draw inspiration from this style.  I love looking at pictures and it's a nice way to while away a few minutes here and there.

Kisses xxx

P.S. This post is part of my Journal Your Christmas series: a collection of posts following along with Shimelle's online class.

P.P.S. Seriously, come back natural light, I need you!

Sunday 20 December 2015

20th December: A Nice Cup of Christmas Tea

Let's face it: a cup of tea is basically the best at any time of year.  However, at Christmas it's nice to treat myself to a new brew or two, and indulge in a proper pot of lovely leaf tea.  Usually I go for Whittards Christmas tea, but being unable to get to a branch at a suitable time, I have opted for something different this year.  I wandered past a shop that was completely new to me in the centre of town, and was immediately drawn in by boxes and boxes of tea in every blend, flavour and colour imaginable.  Somehow when I stumbled out again, I had acquired a box of Banana Bread tea: a delicious black tea flavoured with banana and vanilla and every good thing.  Just inhaling the scent makes me smile!

Now that school is very much out, it's nice to take the time to brew a pot of tea properly, and while away an hour or two with a homemade biscuit (compulsory) and maybe even an iced gem or two.  Who knew you could still get iced gems?

I have also splurged on a new mug, or in fact, two new mugs, because they're beautiful, they hold a lot of tea at once which is a bonus, and also because they're so beautiful  Again, I had very good intentions as they started off as gifts...but somehow some extras ended up coming to live with me.

Because, y'know, they're so pretty.

I may also have accidently purchased an Earl Grey style tea, named Girly Grey, which sounded lovely, but is as yet unsampled.  I'm quite tempted to save it for those grey January days.  And of course if I get the chance, I'm still going to pick up the Whittard's Christmas spiced blend.

So today shall be very much a Christmas Sunday at home with cake baking in the oven, tea on constant rotation, knitting out, the Man cooking his signature Sunday roast, a little bit of mulled wine for later and the Advent candle burning down into the twenties. I'm very much looking forward to it!

Kisses xxx

P.S. This post joins others in my daily Advent series as I record Christmas memories with photos and stories along with Shimelle's Journal Your Christmas class.

Saturday 19 December 2015

19th December: Crafty Review of the Year

2015 has been a pretty making-filled year,  I've tried new things, practised old things, developed new skills and generally thoroughly enjoyed myself.  So I wanted to record a quick run down of a few of the projects I've worked on this year.  Finishing my giant, hand-stitched world map has got to be up there as one of the biggest projects I've ever completed.

 I knitted a full set of little tortoises for Team Ecuador, so we could take them on our big trip this summer.

I learned how to hand-embroider pillows using techniques that I made up myself in a suspicious and dodgy fashion.

I've lost count of how many times I've baked ginger biscuits: simple, quick, crowd-pleasing.

I've scrapbooked, and hand-cut lots of lacy titles.

I've worked on my knitting through a year of commutes and discovered a love of lacy, beaded patterns.

I've made flower pot bread, both for myself and with 40 Guides.

I've continued to stitch badges onto my camp blanket, one by one.  It's an ongoing project.

I've bake caramel shortbread.  It's just yum.

This Advent has seen the creation of an Advent Calendar.

And knitted snowflakes have adorned pretty much everything.

Kisses xxx

P.S. This post joins others in my daily Advent series as I record Christmas memories with photos and stories along with Shimelle's Journal Your Christmas class.

P.P.S. Today is Secret Christmas Day of Fun!  The man and I will be out and about on the town enjoying a day of festiveness that I've organised. I had so much fun planning it, so here's hoping it all comes off!

Friday 18 December 2015

18th December: Every Christmas Card I Write

When I was younger, I used to think writing Christmas cards was a bit of a chore.  But over the last few years, it's a ritual that I've really come to enjoy.  I like to make time to sit down and do a good job of it, thinking about the people I'm writing to, and enjoying a cup of tea and endless renditions of I'm Dreaming of a White Christmas, because it never gets old.

It's lovely to connect to people by post over Christmas, and imagine cards winging their little way to all the people I love, wherever they may be.

Kisses xxx

P.S. This post forms part of my Journal Your Christmas, an online class from Shimelle that's all about capturing the Christmassy good times.

Thursday 17 December 2015

17th December: Learning Brush Script

I love lettering.  I love its elegance and beauty, and I enjoy the form and shape. Playing around with words and letters is something I can do that feels artistic and that I can still accomplish, without needing to actually be artistic.  I have no talent whatsoever in that area, but I've been writing ever since... well ever since I learned to write, and playing with letter shapes gives me some structure that feels more natural.

With this in mind, I signed up for a brush lettering workshop and last week, I popped along to take a class with Quill London.  They offer a range of workshops, but I have seen a lot of brush script around lately and so I was keen to have go, and potentially be able to incorporate it into my scrapbooking one day.

The format to the class was very similar to the calligraphy workshop I took at the beginning of the month.  We learned how to manipulate the painbrush, we practise on lots of geometric letter forms to get the hang of it, and we repeated drills in different letters to learn how to switch between thick and thin lines.

The alphabet style was generally simpler, although we were encouraged to morph it into our own as we gained confidence.  For me, that means more loops and joins, as I like the look of loopy writing, and it's akin to my natural handwriting.

Once again, all materials and equipment were included in the class, and so it was lovely to be able to take home brush and ink to practice.  We were also given a couple of sheets of really quality paper and encouraged to try a couple of bigger projects at the end of class.  It was nice to see how much we had all progressed in a couple of hours, and I'm looking forward to having another go once school breaks up.  Altogether it was a great experience.

Kisses xxx

P.S. This post is one of an ongoing series I'm writing for Advent as part of Shimelle's Journal Your Christmas class, which is all about capturing festive memories through journalling and pictures.

P.P.S. Last day of school!

Wednesday 16 December 2015

16th December: Snowflakes

I've been doing a bit of festive knitting this year to make cute little gifts, and decorations to add a Christmassy touch to our home.  I've found in the past that designs like this snowflake are usually crocheted, and given that my skills in that department are very limited, I was pretty chuffed to find this knitting pattern for snowflakes on Ravelry by designer Sharon Winsauer, which you can download for free.  And you can find it here!

Once I got to grips with the pattern, it was quite simple to try out slightly different edges and designs.  Every snowflake is unique, obviously.  The pattern is knit in the round with 4 dpns, and the design is hexagonal so once you've set up your stitches, the pattern repeats itself in six little sections. The whole thing made a lovely little project to cart around on the tube and work on while I commute.

I was able to use up odds and ends of yarn that were floating around in the bottom of my knitting basket, and I pulled out the snowy, wintry colours.  Each snowflake is reasonably quick to make, and doesn't need much yarn at all.

The only fiddly part of snowflake production was blocking them to shape.  That involved soaking them, and then stretching and pinning them to shape so they dry into snowflake shapes.  When first knit, they look more like woolly Brussels sprouts. There are lots of little points to pin out, but I think the final, lacy effect is well worth it!

And I had lots of fun photographing them!

Kisses xxx

P.S. This post is part of series I'm blogging for Shimelle's Journal Your Christmas class: capturing festive memories every day throughout advent.

Tuesday 15 December 2015

15th December: Modern Calligraphy

I've become a bit of an Instagram afficionado of late, and like browsing a little here and there to see what folks are making and doing.  That's how I came across Modern Calligraphy. Calligraphy photos were beautiful to look at, through browsing this elegant script, I came across Lamplighter London, a small company which ran calligraphy workshops in, you guessed it, London.  I signed up for their newsletter and back in October, I managed to snag a place on a special festive edition of the Beginners' Modern Calligraphy class.

I like the sound of the class very much: it included all the equipment and materials which you could take home and keep, it covered 2 hours of instruction with a small class group of ten (and believe me, those ten spots sold out within a day of the class becoming available), and it included a delicious dinner afterwards, prepared by the tiny little restaurant 26 Grains in Covent Garden, which doubled as a venue for our class. Not to mention the nibbles.  And Prosecco. And the care an attention to detail that meant we all received hand-written name cards.

I found the course to be very meditative.  It seems the trick is to go slow and really take your time with the shapes, which is often the opposite to the way we scrawl out notes in our busy lives.  We learned how to manipulate the pen to create the beautiful variation in thickness, and we practised regular patterns and shapes which would eventually turn into letters and finally whole words.

I was surprised by how much progress we were able to make in the two hours.  Obviously I have a lot to practice, but I felt the class gave me a really good beginning: enough information to get me started and make me feel as though I know what to work on to improve.

And we finished with a little flourish: I managed to inscribe 'Merry Christmas' onto a tag!

I'm really looking forward to getting to grips with this new skill over Christmas!

Kisses xxx

P.S. This post is part of series I'm blogging for Shimelle's Journal Your Christmas class: capturing festive memories every day throughout advent.