Makers are a bit like elves, really. Hard at work creating handmade products perfect for gifting. So many people these days are starting to look past the big companies, trying instead to purchase from small businesses, creatives, and support their local economy. Which is AWESOME! And if you’ve stumbled across this blog post for that very reason, thank you.
If you don’t already know, I essentially make products from paper and rescued leather*; journals, notebooks, bookmarks, origami animals to name a few items. My products are perfect for avid readers and lovers of all things cute. I sell online, mainly on Etsy but also Folksy too. Plus, if you’re based in the Northamptonshire area, you can head over to The Emporium at Nene Court in Wellingborough to browse my handcrafted products (as well as a whole host of amazing locally made awesomeness). So, what have I got to offer all you lovely people this year? Let’s take a look!
Gifts for book lovers & readers
These soft leather bookmarks have been hand stamped with slogans – READERS GONNA READ and ONE MORE CHAPTER. They’re £6.50 each and you can find them in my Etsy store and The Emporium.
One way I use up the off-cuts of paper and leather from my big journals is to make these mini books, which I then turn into necklaces. I have a few different styles available, which you can look at online from Etsy or Folksy, plus I have a selection over at The Emporium.
Presents for notebook & journal addicts
Soft, leather-wrap notebooks & journals with blank insides, ready for you thoughts, drawing, lists and more! While they are often quite similar, because they’re made from rescued leather, each one is unique.
Kawaii origami necklaces
Currently only available online are these super cute origami animal necklaces. Folded from small squares of origami paper and then set in resin; choose from a crane, fox or butterfly.
Hope you like what you see! Please don’t hesitate to get in touch if you have a question about any of these items.
– The Captain
*When I use the term ‘rescued leather’, I mean leather in different forms which is being discarded for one reason or another. I use leather from bags and coats, off-cuts and samples, and waste from the shoe industry.
Bring on the trumpets, my Folksy shop is open once again! You can find my range of hand bound leather journals and mini book necklaces there, plus… something completely new for me. Origami jewellery is something I’ve been thinking about doing for a long time, but couldn’t really think how to get the results I wanted. Paper is so delicate and needs reinforcing or coating if you want to make it durable enough to wear repeatedly. After going through a few different options, I finally hit upon the answer – setting the origami in resin is the perfect way to preserve it!
I’m so pleased with the results. To start with, I’m doing 3 animals, just to see how they do. I’ve chosen a crane, a butterfly and a fox. Which is your favourite? Are there any other animals you’d like to see?
You can find these in the jewellery section of my Folky shop and they’re also on Etsy, too.
Next up something not quite new, just a little improved: ‘Once Upon A Time’ book necklaces.
These are made, as always, from upcycled leather – the section used for the cover was rescued from a shoe factory. For the insides, I’ve used ivory paper; I think it just goes with the whole feel of the mini books. I’ve also added an extra stamp at the bottom, a kind of swirly flower – and of course there’s a little key charm.
Well that’s about it for news. Let me know what you think: anything new you’d like to see? A particular origami piece or a certain style of journal? Let me know! As always you can get in touch at email@example.com or via the contact page.
I’ve made gift bags similar to this from old sheet music, but they are great made from old magazines.
You can easily make this simple upcycled version yourself, all you need is an old magazine page and some tape. If you’re after something fancier, you can use any nice sheet of paper you like (A4 works well) and instead of taping, overlap the edges slightly and glue them down for a neat finish.
Lay your page out landscape
Fold one side in to the middle (you needn’t be exact) and run your thumb over the fold to crease well.
Fold in the other edge so that it meets the first one.
Tape it up, right the way from top to bottom (or overlap slightly and glue).
Fold up the bottom – roughly a quarter, but again, it needn’t be exact.
Open up the bottom section you’ve just folded over…
…then squash each corner down in turn, so they make triangles.
Fold the edges of the bottom section to meet each other in the middle.
Tape it up! Again, you can overlap slightly and glue at this point- just make sure you’ve glued the edges well, as this forms the bottom of the bag.
Ta da! Done! Stick your hand in (carefully) to open it out; the bottom should make a nice flat base.
Once you get going, they’re really quick to make. They make great bags for small gifts instead of using wrapping paper; they look so colourful!
Intrigued about life aboard The Craft Fantastic? Fancy a peek inside the captain’s quarters? Here’s a behind the scenes look at craft HQ!
Where do I work?
I live in Northampton and work from home, in a studio/workshop/creative space that I set up in my teeny box bedroom. Like all good craft rooms, it’s full to bursting with supplies, materials, tools and projects on the go, which cover most available space – including the desk.
Despite the lack of space, I love working in this room. It looks out onto the back garden, so I can always see the birds flitting around in the hawthorns.
What kind of setup do I have?
Very little of my desk is actually used for making. I like to have everything to hand for whatever it is I’m working on, so there’ll always be tools, templates and materials lying about.
As what I do is very hands on, though, I find myself picking things up and moving them around while I’m working, sometimes holding things between my knees to get the right angle!
Tools live on my desk, with rolls and rolls of paper above. Everything else is generally packed in my handy IKEA shelf unit, or shoehorned onto an old set of shelves. There’s a lot of furniture in there for such a small room.
How do I work?
One of the most time-consuming things is turning ideas into a finished, polished product. As I use a lot of upcycled materials, I usually go through what I have and that’s often the first point of inspiration for me; certain papers and leathers will be crying out to be used together.
I have a brainstorming session, sketching and writing out ideas in a big blank book. Then I go over them, making a list of the materials I’d need and figuring out how to make them; really getting an idea of how feasible they are! I usually make my own templates, so I need to check and double check all the measurements and figure out what order I need to do things in; this is generally what takes the longest.
After I’ve gathered the materials and sorted the process and templates, it’s time to get to work. Here are some finished products from the past few months. I hope you’ve enjoyed reading!
Spring is the time of year for new growth and new life- so it’s the perfect time for a new craft idea! This seasonal papercraft project will brighten up your home.
Tassel and Feather Garland
These are simple and cheap to make, and look great using pastel shades or bright colours. You could even use old magazines for the feathers.
What you’ll need:
Tissue paper or thin paper
Thick paper or thin card
Medium-thick string or twine
For the tassels:
The tassels are made from the tissue or thin paper. Cut a rectangular length, twice the height you’d like your finished tassel to be, and fold in half from top to bottom. Take your scissors and fringe the bottom, snipping even strips upwards towards the fold, making sure you stop 2 or 3 cms before you reach it. Unfold, roll up and twist the uncut middle section. Then just fold and twist to make a loop, securing with a bit of glue.
For the feathers:
Use thicker paper or thin card for these. Practice drawing some feather shapes on some scrap paper, till you find one you’re happy with. Use the shapes below as guides or make your own up! Make sure the ‘stem’ of the feather is quite long.
Once you’ve cut your feathers out, fold over the long stem to create a loop (make sure it’s big enough to pass your string through) and dab a spot of glue on the end to secure.
Have a think where you’d like your garland to go and measure the string length accordingly, making sure you leave enough at each end to fasten it onto something.
Now all you need to do it thread your tassels and feathers onto the string and you’ve got yourself a garland! Make as many tassels and feathers to fill it as you’d like; experiment with a spaced out, even look so you can see each individual shape, or try grouping tassels and feathers together in bunches for a fuller feel.
Did you have a go at this? I’d love to know how it turned out!
Is 2019 the year you want to try something new and be more creative? There are so many different crafts with so many different books on each one, that picking a place to start can feel overwhelming; and so you just never get round to doing anything. Sound familiar? Well hopefully this list will help! I’ve scoured this here tinternet and found various craft books that I think are fantastic for starting out, but perhaps more importantly, keeping you motivated. There’s nothing worse than being put off something you’re trying to learn because you’re just not inspired. So, here you go, 8 books to get your creative mojo going. Some are craft-specific, some are all-rounders, all of them are designed to spark your imagination and keep that creative flame lit!
1. The Craft Companion
A good all-rounder, this one has some extras to keep you inspired! Along with a range of different skills to learn, the book includes a brief history on each craft, projects to try, plus it shows you inspirational makes from talented artisans. Even the titles of the different sections make you want to dive right in: fibre – stitch – surface – form. Go on, talk crafty to me.
Motivation value: 9/10 – background, ideas and projects all in one place.
2. Homemade (101 Beautiful and Useful Craft Projects)
Filled to the brim with creative ideas from and for around the home. There’s a lot about reusing and re-purposing in here, which I’m a big fan of. I nearly always start projects by going through everything I’ve already got in the house and seeing what I can use. It’s a great way to reduce waste and make use of things that you don’t use in their current form. The book is seasonal, so it’ll keep you going all year. As well as a variety of projects, it offers advice for practical and basic crafts, such as sewing and knitting.
Motivation value: 8/10 – it’ll get you looking at everyday objects in a new light.
3. Paper Craft Home
Papercraft has got to be one of the most accessible crafts around. There is so much you can do with a blank piece of paper! It’s versatile, affordable and simple to pick up. This book contains a range of papercrafting techniques for you to try out, before moving on to various projects. There are even some templates in the back to help you get started on some of the trickier projects, so no need to feel overwhelmed.
Motivation value: 7/10 – it’s a fun book for if you just want to get stuck in to something quickly.
4. Craft: Techniques and Projects
Fairly traditional in terms of layout, pictures and projects, this book is another good all-round source for those who don’t know which craft will suit them. There’s a mix of projects from simple to in-depth, with good clear pictures alongside the explanations.
Motivation value: 8/10 – there really should be plenty in here that you want to have a go at.
5. Everything Oz: The Wizard Book of Makes and Bakes
Whether you’re a fan of The Wizard of Oz or not, this book is an absolute joy. It’s filled with a wide variety of projects, both in terms of different crafts and skill level. Most are practical, some are just plain fun; I mean, I don’t know when I’d ever need giant paper poppies but this book makes me want to make them. Along with baking, sewing and papercraft projects, there’s a ‘beauty’ section which contains recipes for making a simple body scrub and skin tonic. Yes please.
Motivation value: 7/10 – a good ‘coffee table’ book, you’ll want to keep looking through this one.
6. Conscious Creativity: Look, Connect, Create
A ‘marmite’ book, I think, and you’ll know whether it’s for you if the title appeals! If you feel you simply want to bring more creativity into your life on a basic level, this book is for you. It will get you looking at your everyday world and really seeing it; colours, shapes, light, shade, texture. Your brain will open up and you’ll start noticing these things for yourself. Think ‘Amélie’ as she dips her hand into a sack of grain to see what it feels like… only it’s a book…
Motivation value: 8/10 – though it is more motivation and inspirational creativity than making.
7. The Wood Carver’s Dozen
Beautifully presented. Suitable for absolute beginners, it goes through tools, materials and techniques. The projects are for making everyday items that will look beautiful in your home. Everything is made using hand tools, so there’s no fear of having to invest in expensive equipment.
Motivation value: 7/10 – this craft is hard work but well worth the effort.
8. Mollie Makes: How to Crochet
Crochet doesn’t seem to be dwindling in popularity, probably due to the fact that you don’t need much in the way of materials and tools and it doesn’t take up too much space (yet. Wait till you get hooked. Pun intended.) This book is simple and clear, with great pictures and tutorials, making it easy to follow for the absolute beginner. There are a few simple projects and some trickier ones, so it should keep you going a while.
Motivation value: 7/10 – the colourful pictures and examples of what you can do with crochet will keep you coming back.
Just a short message to say THANK YOU to all my wonderful customers & followers – I couldn’t do this without you! I’ve had an awesome 2018 and am now winding down and starting to think about 2019. So keep your eyes peeled for some newy newness, coming at you very soon! In the meantime, I hope you have a fantabulous festive season.
Hands up if you can’t believe it’s nearly December! I’ve given myself a slap on the wrist for not posting since September; I’ve been juggling lots of new things and my brain has been full. Here’s a brief run down of what’s been going on aboard The Craft Fantastic:
It’s been going since the end of August, running every Thursday at The Emporium at Nene Court. Everyone who’s been has had an amazing time, which is great! From next year, though, I’ll be scaling it down and changing it up, running it the last Thursday of every month, the odd weekend dates (to be announced!), plus adding the option to have your very own Coffee.Cake.Create party or event – starting with Christmas parties!
Helping out at The Emporium.
You can find me there every Monday, being shop girl! If you’ve never been, The Emporium is a marvellous shop just outside Wellingborough, Northamptonshire, that’s stocked with locally made, hand crafted products from over 40 different sellers. There’s also a licensed Harry Potter nook in the back!
Along side all this I’ve been working on what is the main subject of the post: finding ways to use up even more of the leather scraps and off-cuts left over from making books. As you may know, the leather I use for my notebooks and journals is either upcycled from old jackets and bags, or unwanted off-cuts. My most current batch of off-cuts came from a shoe factory, who were throwing out a LOAD of different leather scraps, some of them quite big! I do hate waste, and I already use some of my scraps to make mini books…
… and I’ve recently added bookmarks, which I love:
My latest acquisition of leather got me thinking what else I could make – I’ve got some bigger bits and now some scrappy little bits not big enough for the bookmark tabs. So I’ve got a bit off-piste and experimented making personalised keyrings and valet trays (The Internet tells me that’s the official name for them; I call them leather bowl-type things).
What do you think? For the trinket bowls, I’m doing ones that say ‘KEYS’ and ones that say ‘THINGAMABOBS’ – any other suggestions? What would you keep in them?
I’m hoping to showcase all this lovely new leather stuff at a local Christmas market, part of a series of ‘Moonlit Market’ events being held in a lovely sheltered courtyard off the Guildhall Road in Northampton town centre. More info here.
Like the look of the mini books and the bookmarks? You can find them in my Etsy shop. They make excellent gifts for book lovers. I’ll hopefully be adding the keyrings soon, but for now the leather bowl-type things will only be available at the Christmas market.
Heads up, Northamptonshire! There’s a brand new craft experience in town. Every Thursday (10:30-15:00), the mezzanine floor of The Emporium at Nene Court is the home to Coffee.Cake.Create.
So, what’s it all about? Basically, it’s a regular event where you can turn up, make something and enjoy a delicious cake and a hot drink. There’s a menu for the crafts, with 4 to choose from and a variety of skill levels and project times. You’ll get everything you need to make your chosen project, use of tools and a handy set of instructions; but never fear, the resident craft captain (that’s me, by the way) will be on hand to help if you need it.
If you’ve never been to The Emprium, here’s the deal: it’s the home of handmade in Northamptonshire. Situated within Nene Court, the shop houses 30+ makers, artists and crafters in the downstairs area, while upstairs is a space where various workshops are held, as well as Coffee.Cake.Create.
Next door to the shop is the Garden Deli, a marvellous little cafe that has an outdoor space as well as a new expanded seating area right in The Emporium. This is where the delicious cakes and hot drinks come from for Coffee.Cake.Create; the price you pay for a project includes a drink (up to the value of £3) plus any piece of cake. So, once you’ve chosen and paid for your project at The Emporium, it’s just a few steps through to the Deli where you can order your items – they’ll then be brought up to you so you can sit back, relax and do your project in your own time.
It’s a great thing to do with a couple of friends, for some time out from your day, or to learn a new skill. You could even hold a Coffee.Cake.Create. party, hen do or event – it doesn’t have to be in the day time! Contact me for more info, or follow the link below. The menu is set for September (see below), with new crafts, specials and festive-themed makes coming later in the year. Hope to see you there one Thursday!
A while back, I shared this tutorial for origami heart cards as part of a DIY wedding post – here it is again, on it’s own!
If you’re looking for something simple to make with inexpensive materials, I’ve got a tutorial here for you – origami heart cards. They’re very quick to fold once you get the hang of them, and can be used in various way. Hover over the pics in the gallery below for step-by-step instructions:
These would make nice simple (and cheap to post!) save the date memos:
You could use these to decorate the tops of your favour boxes (simply glue together if you don’t want to use as a card):
Or, use them for a place setting – or a place setting/box topper combined. You could even write a personal message on the inside:
The nice thing about these is you don’t need to get special origami paper – you can even cut down bog standard printer paper into squares. This is great for getting the exact size you want – just experiment!