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29 September 2014

Adventures in the garden: French Runner Beans

This year I tried my hand at growing French Runner Beans for the first time. 
Starting them off in my little plastic greenhouse, I thought they would never make the light of day as the slugs almost demolished them. Pesky little blighters! Thankfully, the slugs were "disposed" of and the beans survived and made it to the great outside, where they grew....

...and grew...

...and grew!

They seemed pretty happy with the old bits of fence I popped in the plant pot, using it as a nifty climbing frame. And oooh, I loved seeing how they would wrap themselves around the frame and climb up and up and up! It actually made me stare in awe and amazement at them. Plants are incredible and yes, I'm a total confessed, geek about them. I mean just look at that! Wow!

And don't get me started on the day I saw my first little bean sprout! I think the whole neighbourhood heard my squeals of delight, "my first bean, my first bean, eeeek!"

Since that first bean, I have had a tonne of them! The more I pick, the more they grow and I'm still picking! And cor blimey, they taste A.MA.ZING! Seriously, homegrown tastes sooooooooooooo much better. They are absolutely gorgeous!

This is how they're looking at the moment. Oh and those bright, orange flowers are marigolds, which are super happy to be paired up with the beans. For a while I was wondering if they were trying to compete and grow as tall as the beans. I'm planning to pick a bunch and pop them in a kilner jar flower vase.

I cannot wait to grow beans again next year. I think I might try some peas out as well. 

Have you been growing your own veg this year? I'd love to hear all about it!

28 September 2014

Artist in the Limelight feature

The awesome artist that is Katrina Sophia is interviewing me over on her website as part of her Artist in the Limelight series. Pop on over for a read and check out her GORGEOUS website too! 

27 September 2014

Guest Post Tutorial: Skirt Bag DIY

Hi folks! The lovely, talented Hannah from Rose Tinted Crafting is guest posting today and sharing her awesome Skirt Bag DIY! I can't wait to give this a go as I've got a tonne of skirts I don't wear any more and this is the perfect way to recyle them! So, without further ado, lets hand over to Hannah!

Do you have any skirts in your cupboard that you never wear but just can't seem to part with? Perhaps you love the skirt fabric but have nothing that goes with it, or you are waiting for the right occasion to wear it to that doesn't ever seem to happen. 

One way of keeping your skirt, while at the same time giving it a practical use, is to turn it into a handbag. I have done this to a number of skirts that I either no longer wear or have thrifted and I have been so pleased with the results. Instead of the skirts being hidden away for years on end they are now used regularly. It means that not only have I got my money's worth in purchasing them but I also get to use the garments I like for a useful and stylish purpose.

To make a bag out of a skirt you will need:

• A skirt
• Scissors
• Thread in co-ordinating colours
• Tailors chalk/pen
• Pinking shears (optional)
• Sewing machine
• A ruler
• Iron
• A strap. I used a ready made strap that can be cut to size. Other options for a strap 
include a belt, a scarf or a recycled strap from an old bag you don’t want or have 
thrifted. Alternatively, why not make a strap out of fabric, see below.


1. Start by turning your skirt inside out. Then using tailors chalk mark out on your skirt how wide and deep you want your bag to be. Make sure both sides are of equal width, a ruler really helps with this. You may want to baste stitch or pin along the markings first and turn the bag out to check you are happy with the diameters before sewing.

2. Sew along the sides and the bottom, where you have marked with chalk. The skirt I used was very flared so it needed taking in at the sides but if you are happy with the width of your skirt you can leave the sides and just sew along the bottom 

3. Cut off any excess fabric from the edges. To prevent the edges fraying zigzag stitch/overlock or cut with pinking shears.

4. To give the bag a flatter bottom and a more structured appearance you can box the corners. To do this you will need to hold up the bag and flatten down the bottom corners. The side seam and bottom seam (on each side) should both line up centrally to the corner points. Pressing the corners with an iron and using a ruler to measure will ensure the corners will be of an equal width. With your chalk mark a line across each corner approximately 4 centimetres (depending on the size of the skirt) from the point. Then pin in place and sew along the line. Cut off the corners, leaving about 1cm seam allowance to overlock/zigzag stitch.

5. Now for the strap. Decide how long you want your bag strap to be. It may help to pin it to the sides of the bag first and try on for size, so that you can make any adjustments. Next cut the strap to your desired length. Place the strap ends (about 3 centimetres length) inside your bag on each side and pin to secure. Now stitch in place. I prefer to sew a box shape with an X inside for extra strength and stability.

If the fabric of your skirt is quite thick and sturdy such as denim, you could leave your bag as it is. If, however the fabric is delicate or, like me, you carry around everything in your bag bar the kitchen sink, you may want to make a lining for it. A lining will give your bag extra re-enforcement, as well as provide a neater finish to the inside, with the raw edges concealed between the two layers.

When choosing fabric for your lining I would suggest picking a material that is quite strong, as a delicate material is more likely to tear or fray. The fabric also needs to be quite thin as the lining and skirt bag will be sewn together and bulky fabrics can be difficult to sew. I have used linen and cotton in the past which has worked well. I have also tried pillow cases which didn't work as well but it would depend on the quality. If in doubt ask the assistant at your local craft/fabric shop for recommendations. 

1)  To make a lining for your bag start by measuring the width and depth of your skirt bag. I like to make my bag lining using one rectangle of fabric folded in half. To do this you will need your bags width measurement with seam allowance added, and the depth measurement doubled with a seam allowance added to the top and bottom of the fabric. So, this is how I measure it:

• The bag's width + seam allowance and the bag's depth x 2 + seam allowance. (For 
example if my bag's width is 26cm I would mark 28cm (a centimetre either side 
for seam allowance) across on my fabric and if its depth is 30cm I would mark 
out 62cm (skirt's depth doubled, with added seam allowance). Mark your fabric 
with chalk using your measurements and cut out the rectangle of fabric.

2)  If you would like to overlock/zig zag your edges you may want to do this first before the lining gets sewn together as it's easier. Fold your fabric in half (right sides of fabric together) so that the short edges of the rectangle meet to make the top and the folded crease is now the bottom. Sew along the two side edges leaving a 1cm seam allowance on either side.

3)  Sew across the bottom corners (as in step 4 of the skirt bag above) and trim excess fabric.

4)  Fold over the top edge (seam allowance) of your lining so that the raw edges don’t show at the top. At this stage I press the top edge down with an iron. I then open all the seam edges and press those flat so that they are not bulky to sew over. 

Now insert the lining into the bag (you do not need to turn it inside out as the raw edges should be on the outside, which will now be concealed inside the skirt bag giving a neat appearance). Pin the lining and bag together along the top edges.

5)  Finally, sew all around the top edge.

If you want to enhance your bag further why not try adding a trim, a pocket, a zip fastening or a button/toggle closing to the top of your bag. Also, if you think your bag might be to flimsy you could use iron on or sew in interfacing to the lining (during stage 1) to give it more stability

Another option, if your skirt has a nice edging along the bottom, is to insert a lining and leave the bottom of the skirt open, like I did for the skirt above. 

So that is how to turn a skirt into a bag. I hope you found this DIY helpful and are inspired to upcycle an unused garment in your wardrobe.

Thank you so much, Hannah! What a wonderful tutorial! 

Happy sewing everyone!

12 September 2014

This Is Your Kingdom: Foxton Locks

In my latest adventure in Leicestershire I went exploring the beautiful Foxton Locks. I was inspired so much, I wrote a little review on it as part of my contributor role at This Is Your Kingdom. You can read it here, along with LOADS of other gorgeous reviews of things to see and do in the UK. 

Have you been exploring and adventuring in the UK recently? Where do you go? Any recommendations?

11 September 2014

What's on the jukebox, Jo?

This week I've been listening to a whole range of music, the top picks of which include Chemical Brothers, Dr Feelgood, Black Grapes and 'Dare' by Gorillaz FT Sean Ryder has been on repeat. I've been hoping they will alleviate the festival blues but I'm not sure they've helped, they just make me want to go back to the EOTR Forest Disco and dance! Must book the next festival tickets soon....
Anyway, for the rest of the week and today especially, I'm all about rock 'n roll as today would have been my Dad's birthday and he loved the 70s rock and experimental bands of that era I remember when I was little reguarly walking into the living room to see my Dad lying on the floor, wearing large headphones plugged into the record player. He would just lie there and listen, with the LP cover at his side...and occasionally laugh at the brilliant, daring lyrics of the time. I always wanted to know what he was listening to and he would always let me a listen.....
....so here's one of the first few songs I remember listening to on those big ol' earphones.

10 September 2014

Adventures in the Garden: Veg Plot

I'm writing this post whilst looking at my warm, sunny, green garden. Right now, everything looks vibrant and fresh and so, so, so much bigger than these seedlings I snapped back in July.

Above are my four veggie plots, sprouting a mixture of vegetables, herbs, flowers, salad leaves...and the odd random plant that somehow made its way to the veggie party! Birds perhaps helping me plant some seeds? Maybe so.
As the seedlings came up in July, the local gang of cats started to prefer it as their toilet destination...err, thanks cats. So, I found every bit of spare chicken wire, old wooden climbers...anything that could deter the odd visitor or two. It seemed to do the trick and the plants were happy, despite looking like prisoners.
And then they grew and grew and grew....and demanded more and more water...and more and more attention...picking, pruning, weeding...I love all these little jobs and could quite easily do them all day long. Gardening is definitely my little oasis of calm and relaxation.
What I've been most excited about (aside from some of the veggies I'll be sharing over the next few weeks) is my little plot of herbs. I've never had herbs grow so voraciously. Just look at them now!! I'm soooo happy with them...and cor blimey, they taste amazing!! We're having herbs with pretty much every meal now and that's one of the many, many things I love about growing your own, especially herbs. You can go mad and have them with everything, without paying a comparable fortune in the supermarket for some squashed herbs in a plastic bag. It's a no brainer.
Next in this little ol' blog series of mine will be all about veggies from above!
Have you been growing any plants this year? Have you got a favourite and what do you love about growing your own? I'd love to hear from any green fingered friends out there!

8 September 2014

Adventures at End of the Road festival

Just over a week ago, I went on an adventure to North Dorset for the End of the Road festival. I went with the soul reason of seeing three acts - Lucius, Deer Tick and Benjamin Clementine - and to dance with friends. 
Having hyped it up in my head a "little" too much, I was rather nervous that it wouldn't deliver but boy oh boy did it deliver! I've been to some pretty awesome festivals in my time, Primavera, ATP, Summer Sundae, Glastonbury but I think this one might just have stolen top spot.
Everything about it rocked! The atmosphere and crowd was the friendliest bunch ever; the size, layout and vicinity of the campsite to the stages was perfect; the food and drinks were really varied (if a little pricey but I was relieved to be paying the same price for something I wanted to drink , rather than watered down lager); the toilets were the cleanest I've ever seen at a festival and the hot showers were...hot and clean! And well, the bands and the dancing were second to none!
Here's a terrible picture I took on my phone of Lucius. They were on the main stage early afternoon and put on the best show! The size of the crowd easily doubled throughtout their set and no one wanted them to stop! I danced all the way through and could have cried they were so damn good!
I've been continuing to play them none stop since I got home and have just discovered the NPR Music Tiny Desk Company on Youtube, which features amazing bands and artists literally playing in an office. The set by Lucius is fantastic...
Something I love about going to festivals is discovering bands you've never heard of before and two that stood out for me were Tune Yards and Hookworms. I've come home wanting to listen to them none stop....
I think it's safe to say that half of the festival was taken up with dancing with old friends and new. Every night we all went to the Forest Disco to dance until we couldn't dance any more. Now, if you're wondering what the Forest Disco is, well it's actually a lit up disco floor in a forest on the festival site. It was amazing and my idea of heaven! 
Here's an absolutely awful picture of the entrance into the forest disco, which doesn't do it justice at all!
Since arriving home I have not felt the same and have terrible festival blues...the sign of a good festival me-thinks. I am now literally counting the days until End of the Road festival 2015!

6 September 2014

New Autumn range in the shop!

If you follow me on Instagram, Facebook or Twitter you might have seen a sneak peek of some of my new autumn designs. Well, it's now time to officially reveal them and to announce that they can now be ordered in both my Etsy and NOTHS shops! 

Introducing the tartan collection, which includes rings, necklaces and cufflinks handmade with four choices of gorgeous pink and blue tartan fabrics. The necklaces come with a choice of silver or gold plated pendants and 24" chains and they look great teamed up with a tartan skirt or as a statement piece with a plain coloured top! And the cufflinks look fantastic with a crisp white or navy shirt and make a great Christmas gifts for the guys!

Also introducing my vintage style, autumnal jewellery collection. These make perfect accessories for that bright but cool autumnal day, when it's all about cardigans, brown brogues and stepping on crunchy leaves! Included are two styles of necklaces, available in gold or silver pendants, four styles of rings and three cufflink patterns. And remember ladies, we can wear cufflinks too! Simply take the buttons off those autumn macs and replace with a pair of cufflinks - way more fun!

To celebrate the release of my autumn collection, I'm offering 15% off in my Etsy shop only on these and my other collections over the next 3 days. Just use the following coupon code when ordering: AUTUMN

So, why not treat yourself to an autumnal accessory or even do your Christmas shopping now!

5 September 2014

Flash Sale Friday has arrived!

Ding ding! The shop door is open for the big Etsy Flash Sale Friday!

Get the above discounts by using the following coupon code at checkout:


Offer lasts for 24 hours only!


Happy shopping everyone and here's to keeping handmade alive!

4 September 2014


Woop woop! It's nearly time, folks! The big Etsy Flash Sale starts tomorrow!

Myself and four other UK designer makers will be offering awesome discounts in our Etsy shops for 24 hours only! The coupon code needed will be up on the blog at midnight, so if you're a little night owl, fly back later for some late night shopping! Alternatively, pop by tomorrow to pick up some beautiful handmade gifts. You could even do a bit of Christmas shopping! Oops, yes, I did just say the C word but hey there's nothing like getting the Christmas shopping done early! 

Want to have a sneak peek at our shops now? Here are the links to all our Etsy shops :-)


Happy browsing and don't forget to come back later for the special coupon code!

See ya!

Flash Sale on Friday!

Coming up tomorrow on the blog a big flash sale, featuring myself and other UK designers!! Stay tuned to pick up some great discounts on handmade goodies!

2 September 2014

Blog Gem - Bugs and Fishes

Hola! It's Blog Gem interview time and this month I'm super proud to be interviewing the incredibly talented lady behind the blog, Bugs and Fishes and the gorgeous shop, Lupin Handmade. So, without further ado, lets find out more!

Hello there! Who be the face behind the blog?
Hello! My name is Laura but here on the internet I'm often known as Lupin. 
I used to sell my handmade designs and lots of craft supplies through my shop and on Etsy but now I'm changing direction and focusing more on designing and writing. I love spending more of my time designing new, but it still feels a bit weird not going to the Post Office every other day with a big bag of parcels!
I write tutorials for books and magazines and I'm working on a range of PDF sewing patterns to sell via my shop. I've also written two books about felt crafting: Super-Cute Felt and Super-Cute Felt Animals
I write about all my crafty adventures over on my blog, Bugs & Fishes. My blog is a bit like my crafty diary, but I also feature other designer/makers and share lots of free tutorials.
When I'm not busy making things - or writing about making things - I love going on Nice Days Out to explore the museums and historic houses in my local area. In the evenings I can usually be found curled up on the sofa doing some knitting or some simple sewing, and watching detective shows or a nice bit of sci fi. 

What is your creative space like? 
After years of running my business from my kitchen table, I've now got a room of my own to work in. I feel a bit pretentious calling it "my studio", so I usually refer to it as my office. 
I've got lots of shelves for all my supplies, books and paperwork, a desk by a big window, a pinboard covered in colourful inspirational things and a comfy daybed piled high with hand-knitted blankets and handmade cushions that I can sit on and sew. 
It's great having all my crafty supplies in one room and to be able to close the door on my work at the end of the day - especially if I'm in the middle of a project and have made a bit of a mess. I do try to be organised and to keep things tidy, but I don't always succeed!
If you had to take only one craft tool to a desert island, what would you choose and why?
A sewing kit - with needles, scissors and threads. This would come in handy for mending things if I was stuck on the island for a long time, and I could while away the hours by embroidering designs on leaves or threading shells together to make necklaces. 
How do you work and get inspired? 
Lots of my work-for-hire projects come with quite a fixed brief, so I spend some time brainstorming around that and then develop my best ideas into finished designs for my editors' approval. 
In my own work I find that one idea tends to spark another. Maya Angelou said, "You can't use up creativity. The more you use, the more you have" - I've definitely found this to be true! The more things I make, the more ideas pop into my head for new things to make... but sadly there are never enough hours in the day to make them all. 
What top tips would you give to anyone starting a blog and running an online shop? 
Work hard and be nice to people! 
Get to know your camera so you can improve your photos. Be inspired by the success of others but don't copy them or their work, or use photos without permission. Take customer service seriously and never spam people. 
Read lots of advice (the internet is jam-packed with it these days) but always remember that what works for someone else isn't necessarily right for you, for your life, for your audience, or for your products. Use the advice to help your blog or shop be the best version of itself, not a copy of someone else's brand or an unfocused hotchpotch of things based on what you think you "should" be doing. 
Is there a story behind the name 'Bugs and Fishes'?
My blog is named after a zine (a homemade, photocopied magazine) I used to write when I was a teenager and a student... which was named after something a friend of mine used to write instead of "Hugs and Kisses". I've been writing things and "self-publishing" them under the title Bugs and Fishes for over half my life now - it doesn't really mean anything anymore, it's just a fun title which I hope is easy for people to spell and remember! 
And finally...book & tea or film & wine?
Book and tea, for sure. There is no such things as too much tea.
Thank you so much, Laura! It's been wonderful hearing all about your creative world! I love the sound of a daybed to sit and sew on and what great advice for those setting up an online business - read guides, work on your photography, be yourself, don't copy and be nice! And ooh that quote from Mary Angelou is fabulous! Thanks again, Laura!

I hope you've all enjoyed this month's Blog Gem. Stay tuned for next month's interview from the other side of the world! That's right, we're getting all international at A&TP headquarters!

All of the images and interview answers are the copyright of Laura Howard at Bugs and Fishes and Lupin Handmade. Please do not use without seeking permission first. Thank you.


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