Thursday, 31 July 2014

Fabric Friday - Our Top 5 Fruity Finds

It's been hot here at Ministry HQ. Very hot. Sweltering. We needed something cool and refreshing during the unexpected heatwave so we feasted our eyes on these tasty summer fabrics and cool cool printed treasures. 

Here are our top 5 fruity picks:

1. Andrea Lauren's 'Fruits' collection on Spoonflower has something for everyone, but our particular favourites include the stylish and graphic pineapples and watermelons. 
2. Marimekko's got a huge pair (smirks behind hand)! Ok, so it's a huge PEAR. Ripe and juicy via the Scandinavian Design website. Don't browse for too long though, you'll go mad with desire.

3. Loving this mega bright and fun 'Banana Split' iPad sleeve by Snupped on Etsy. Yellow is definitely my favourite colour!
4. Take inspiration from the SundayBestStore on Etsy and this very cute coin purse in vintage Habitat cherry print fabric. Dig out your own fruity fabric from your stash and join us for our Snap Frame Purse course for beginners next month (30 August)!

5. I'm in actual love with this Fresh Farmer's Market dress from Mod Cloth. It's out of stock (darn! Just as well though) but that wouldn't stop you from getting hold of a similar kooky print and a vintage dress pattern would it? Take a look at our dressmaking courses if you don't know where to start.

And that's it! Do these count as my 5-a-day? Lip smacking, finger licking, juice squeezing gorgeousness from around the globe. Have a great weekend!

Monday, 21 July 2014

Pinterest - Our 5 Fave Crafty Pinners

photo from A Beautiful Mess
If you didn't already know, Pinterest is a brilliant place to gather together future projects, free tutorials, party plans and all kinds of inspiration. Here's five of our all-time fave pinners to get your crafty taste buds tingling:

1. Etsy. One of my best friends wore a handmade wedding dress from Etsy at her wedding this weekend. It was PERFECT. And Etsy is the perfect place to buy handmade, independent and unique. Their Pinterest boards are heaving with awesome things and they invite brilliant artists / makers / interesting dudes to guest pin for them too.

2. Elsie Larson. Many of you will already be familiar with the Larson sisters and their beautiful lives documented via their blog A Beautiful Mess. They are excellent curators, post spot-on tutorials (fashion / beauty / homes) and are just great gals generally.

3. Tilly Walnes. The lovely and very photogenic Tilly Walnes was a contestant on the first series of Great British Sewing Bee. She now runs her own business Tilly and The Buttons, sells her own dressmaking patterns and has published a book. Pins photos of her loyal followers wearing their own versions of Tilly's designs.

4. Deborah Beau. From France, via Yorkshire! One of the finest curators of beautiful and inspiring pins out there. A great one to follow: feast your eyes.

5. Craft Candy. Listing all the independently run craft workshops around the UK (including ours) Craft Candy are brilliant sign posters and promoters for the crafting community. They also bring all kinds of tutorials and projects together in one place on Pinterest. Check out their boards!

You can follow the Ministry of Craft boards and pins here. We try for an eclectic mix of postings but you'll mainly find crafts, clothes, cats, courses and cakes.

Monday, 14 July 2014

Meet our talented tutors - Jeanette Archer - Upcycling and dressmaking


Our new kid on the block, expert up-cycler and super seamstress, Jeanette Archer, can teach you how to make a pretty pair of shorty PJs out of a couple of unwanted cotton shirts. She’s a thrifty momma with years of sewing experience, we’re thrilled that she’s joined our merry Ministry band of sisters and I urge you to check out her blog and then book on her course!

What first drew you to your craft ?

I have been sewing since I was a child. I remember making dresses for my dolls with a box of pastel coloured tissues at my grandparent’s house. My mother shouted at me for making a mess, but my granddad encouraged me. One of my most treasured possessions as an eight year old was a paper bag full of tiny fabric scraps, a needle and thread. I was convinced I could stitch up something lovely with those scraps.

As a teenager, unable to afford the kind of clothes I wanted to wear I began sewing. We would be given huge bags of hand me downs from family with older cousins, and I loved trawling through those bags for items I could cut and stitch and dye into the clothes I wanted.

What’s your crafting background?

I was taught to sew at school. I completed the old fashioned O level and A level needlework. After completing an Art Foundation year at Birmingham Polytechnic, I went on to study Surface Pattern Design, specializing in printed textiles.

I have spent the last eighteen years raising my large family, but have kept busy crafting during that time, designing and making cloth nappies, baby carriers, fabrics and children’s clothing which I have sold online and at various craft fairs.

Did you train professionally as a seamstress or are you self taught?

As I have said above, I am a trained seamstress and surface pattern designer, but I strive to improve my skills by attending workshops when I can. I have taught myself the basics of pattern drafting, but this is an area I would love to get more professional training in.

What are your main sources of inspiration?

I am inspired by everything! I am drawn to pattern and colour everywhere, and obsessively take photos of anything that catches my eye; peeling paint, a faded print on an old tea towel, a feather or leaf lying on the pavement, everything!

I am a huge Pinterest fan, and can easily lose myself on there for an hour or more.

I love vintage clothing, particularly the styles of the 40’s, 50’s and 60’s. I like to be inspired by those eras and hopefully come up with something that is my own style, rather than feeling like I’m wearing a costume.

I spend far too much time rummaging through boxes of old linens in charity shops!

Who’s been the biggest influence on your career so far?

That would have to be my needlework teacher from school, Mrs Geddes. She was a proper lady, wearing tweeds and twinsets. She never batted an eyelid when I showed up for lessons with crazy hair (or once a shaven head!), and she gave me the skills and confidence to create with fabric. She would often bring tea and scones to lessons, and of course the tea was always in a cup and saucer.

What’s the best thing about being a crafter?

Sewing for me is a meditation; I can feel myself relaxing as soon as I begin. I thoroughly enjoy the process, right through the planning, making and completing. Of course it’s fabulous wearing something you made yourself too, and even more fabulous if it’s made from something that might otherwise have been discarded.

Do you do any other crafts in your spare time, apart from what you specialise in?

I knit, badly, crochet a tiny bit, and I get very messy with creative play in my role as a childminder and Mummy.

What’s you’re the best thing you’ve ever made?

Difficult question. I think probably my best friend’s wedding dress and my eldest daughter’s prom dress.

Have you ever made a creative mistake?

Oh yes of course! Everyone does, and as frustrating as it is, I hopefully learn from them each time.

And your favourite tool or material?

That would have to be my main sewing machine, a Husqvarna Lily. I love how it does a little purr when I switch it on, like it’s saying hello.

Where can we see / buy your work?

I have a shop on Etsy selling my sewing patterns and sewing kits

What have you got coming up in the future?

Really looking forward to teaching upcycling classes at the Ministry of Craft obviously, but I’m also working on two new children’s patterns to sell in my Etsy store.

Jeanette's first upcycling course at Ministry, Sew your own Pyjamas: Short, sweet & upcycled
For more insight into Jeanette's world check out her very excellent blog, follow her on Twitter @lazyseamstress and Facebook too for good measure. 

Friday, 11 July 2014

Tell The Bobbin Who's Boss - And The Winner Is...

For the past 12 months you’ve been telling the bobbin who’s boss in our aptly titled #tellthebobbinwhosboss competition. It’s so exciting when my inbox pings and I get a new entry from one of you crafty lot. You’ve been entering in droves!

And it’s no wonder when there are awesome prizes up for grabs: a six issue subscription from the good people at Love Sewing magazine, plus a cute beginners’ sewing kit and a £10 gift voucher from ourselves. What’s not to like?

Our superstar winner of June’s competition is Jenny Day.

Jenny came on one of our first ever SEW YOUR OWN TUNIC courses. She made a stonker of a tunic on the day of the course but put those new found skills into action (you’ve gotta use it or lose it!) and made another tunic dress at home as soon as she could. Her slick choice of floral fabric and her well-honed sewing skills caught the eye of judge, Helen McLaughlin (editor of Love Sewing);

"I love Jenny's choice of fabric here. Its bold, vintage-style print fits the tunic's cut perfectly to create a great summery retro look. She also gets extra points for being adventurous enough to work with a large print and matching it perfectly at the shoulder/sleeve seams. I want this dress!"

Well done and congratulations to Jenny! A well deserved win. If you’d like to enter our competition this month all you have to do is send me a picture of your sewing project (it can be hand sewn or on a machine, anything goes), or tweet me a picture of it using the #tellthebobbinwhosboss hashtag . Also let us know your name and which Ministry of Craft course you attended.

Now get stitching! I look forward to seeing what you’re made of!

If you want to learn how to sew, we can help! Check out our courses for beginners here.

Friday, 4 July 2014

Ministry of Craft Tutorial: Stop! Hama Time!

We, the office team at Ministry of Craft, have six children under eight between us. Consequently Hama beads are a big part of our lives and the perfect rainy day activity. But who said it was just kids that get all the Hama bead action?

With a fab range of fun colours, (including glow in the dark!) and plenty of different shaped templates to choose from, we've been inspired to create this on-trend geo jewellery set: totally wearable and pretty unique!

Ingredients:  (All available at Fred Aldous)

Hama bead pack (1000)
Hama bead peg board
Glue gun
Rico Made by me Super jersey thread
Chain nose jewellery pliers
Ring base
Earring stud and back
Jewellery chain

Decide on the layout of your design and place your Hama beads on the individual spikes to create a pattern. I went for a geometric design and managed to get all of the items - a ring, two earrings and two necklaces - on one board.

If you want to create circular jewellery you'll need to use a circular board.

Iron over your Hama beads using the greaseproof paper on a medium heat, until all of the beads merge together to create one piece.

Be careful not to press down on the iron too hard as it's easy to melt the top of the plastic spikes as well!

Once the beads have cooled, remove them carefully from the bead board. 

Using a kebab stick or a similar pointed object, pierce through the back of your design at the point where you'd like to attach a jump ring.

Using the half nosed jewellery pliers, open up your jump ring and feed it through the hole you've created. Once it's through, use the pliers to close the hole.

Repeat on the other side. Now you're ready for the chain.

Feed the chain through your jump rings, so the chain lays across the top of the design.

Alternatively you could attach a chain with larger links directly to the jump rings by opening up a link.  

Pre heat your glue gun and then add a small amount of glue to the back of the your Hama bead earring. Press the flat base of the stud down onto the glue and leave to dry before adding the stud back. 

Repeat for the other earring and the ring design too.

In place of a chain we found this cool Rico super jersey in yellow, which has a thousand crafty uses! 

Follow the steps above to add a jump ring to your design and then simply thread through the jersey.

Et volia! New fab, fun and funky jewellery ready to wear! 

After modelling my creations for the tutorial pictures, Lindsey went and bought her own Hama bead supplies
from Fred Aldous. She immediately made necklaces for her friend's imminent hen party; all the hens got a neon pink necklace to wear with the contrasting yellow jersey thread. And the lucky hen got this delightful L-Plate necklace (plus another beaded charm which is too X-rated for us to picture!). 

So remember that Hama beads can be employed for all your life events, and not just for rainy days!

Check out our Hama bead pinterest board for further inspiration. If you'd like to come and make jewellery with us at Ministry of Craft then check our forthcoming courses here. We also host awesome hen parties, so if you're a hen looking for a crafty send-off then take a look at our party page here.