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31 October 2014

What's on the jukebox, Jo?

With the lovely glimpses of sunshine this week, it has been all about sunny songs that give me a kick in my step and make me feel happy, happy, happy! I've got a whole heap of songs I listen to when the sun is out but this one in particular by Syndicate of Sound has certainly been on repeat. Pop it on and have a dance around the living room!
Happy Friday!

28 October 2014

Hanky history, part 1

Handkerchief, hanky, kerchief, pocket square, handkercher, tomayto, tomarto...whatever you call that square piece of fabric you blow your nozzle on, did you know that the handkerchief can be dated as far back as the Romans, when it was used for signalling the start to chariot races and according to research done by Handkerchief Heroes (I love that name!), some historians state that it can be traced back as far the Chou dynasty. That's 1000BC folks! Apparently, it was used then to shield a person's head from the roasting sunshine! Now I can't help but get an image of grandads at the beach wearing white vests and hankies on their heads, knotted in the corners and also, a slight stretch admittedly but this sketch by Monty Python of hanky wearing on the head comes to mind and is just brilliant!

Hankies have certainly featured in Shakespeare's time (Othello, Cymbeline, As You Like It) and in the 16th century they started to come out of the dark and feature as fashion accessory. According to Fashion Encyclopedia, "King Louis XVI of France (1754–1793), made it a law that all handkerchiefs must be square, and they have remained square ever since"! What a strange thing to impose but hey how often do you see a round hanky? Maybe I should start selling them or would the french royality have something to say about that. Hmm, don't fancy having my head chopped off!

Since then, the handkerchief very much became part of men's fashion being carefully folded and tucked into the left breast pocket of suits and available in a whole range of fabrics, colours and patterns. This tutorial by Liberty's on different methods for folding your hanky is particular good to get that perfect suit look!

All interesting stuff hey? I've actually found a whole heap of history on the kerchief, so rather than overwhelming you, I will share part 2 next week. And well, it would be remiss of me not to say that I'm actually flippin' proud to be keeping the tradition of handmade hankies alive and kicking in my Etsy and NOTHS shops.

Are you a hanky person? Do you have different hankies for different ocassions? I'd love to hear what you think about the good 'ol handkerchief!

24 October 2014

What's on the jukebox, Jo?

Can't believe I've only truly just discovered Muse!! Have I been living under a rock? Quite possibly. Of course I've heard of them but never really gave them a listen until I heard this particular track on 6 Music recently and thought, god damn it, this is good! I turned the volume up and have had it on repeat ever since.
What's on your dukebox at the moment? Have you only just discovered a band that's been around for aaaages?

22 October 2014

Adventures in the garden: veg tops

Vegetables are such beautiful creatures. Their different shapes, colours, and textures. I love growing them and seeing how they develop and form. Watching them go from seed to vegetable produces a mixture of feelings in me: excitement, admiration, and peace. I don't know what it is about gardening and being out in the garden but it's almost like a form of meditation for me. I feel so calm and unbelievably happy that I can't help but notice the change in myself. My shoulders relax, any tension in my body lifts and my mind is at one with itself.

This year has been the first time I've combined this feeling and love of all things green, with my other love - my camera, Beryl. On sunny days I've found myself grabbing Beryl and racing out into the garden to snap pics of those veggies. You would think the world was going to end the speed at which I was running into the garden.

In September I was admiring how the veggies in my little plots looked from a bird's eye view and so, I tried to capture what the resident Black Bird might see when perched on the fence. Granted the Black Bird would have to be digging for worms to view the fennel at that angle! ;-)

I particularly love the beetroots and carrots and boy oh boy it's harder than it looks pulling carrots up! There was me bumbling along, thinking I'll just pull a few carrots up for tea but ha! They are tough little ladies. Their roots hold strong and the only method is to get the fork out and carefully dig them up. This discovery made me admire them that little bit more.

This may be the last gardening post for a little while but we'll see. I may be able to slip one more in before Xmas - the late batch of sprouting broccoli is certainly ready for its photo shoot!

20 October 2014

New in the shop: Classic Handkerchief with a twist!

Hey folks! There's a brand spanking new handkerchief design in the shop! Woo!

Meet the Classic Handmade Handkerchief, ta da!

I've taken my classic white handkerchief design and given it a much needed splash of colour! 

I had loads of fun trying out different coloured rolled hems and decided to go for these three: red, green and blue. I feel these particular shades are great classic colours but they also stand out well against the bright, white cotton.

Available in both my Etsy and NOTHS shops, you simply choose which colour and personalised option you would like. I currently offer a choice of 1 -3 letters or a memorable date. 

Each handkerchief comes in a gorgeous gift box (completely free of charge!) and makes a lovely, handmade, personalised present!

As ever, I'm always open to custom requests, so if you would like a completely different colour or a twist on the personalisation, please do drop me a line!

I hope you like them and if you missed it last week, another new design hit the shops. Check it out here!

17 October 2014

What's on the jukebox, Jo?

I've had this song by Joan as Policewoman on repeat this week, love it and the video ain't half bad either.
What's on your jukebox at the moment? Any good recommendations?

15 October 2014

New shop product!

If you follow me on Twitter you might have seen that I was getting rather excited over a new product idea on Monday. In fact, I got so over excited that I just got straight on and made it, tested it, photographed it and well uploaded it into my NOTHS and Etsy shops on Tuesday! I absolutely LOVE that exhilaration you get when a design idea comes to mind and you can't help but throw yourself into it!

Anyway, I should really introduce this new guy shouldn't I? Ok, so in the words of a best friend, drum roll, fig roll, sausage roll....

Introducing the Autumnal Accessory Gift Set, ta da!

This entirely handmade gift set comes in a choice of three fabric patterns and includes: one pocket sized handkerchief, a matching button ring and pendant. The pendant comes with a choice of silver or gold plated and oval or round frames. 

This is also a double-whammy of new designs, as this gift set comes in my new gift wrap boxes, with my Adventures & Tea Parties logo stamped on the top of the box (pic at bottom of this post).

Soooo, what do you reckon? Are these a goer? I'd love to hear your thoughts folks!

14 October 2014

Working for myself: handkerchiefs

When I receive a lovely personalised handkerchief order, it's not sent to some centralised office where a handkerchief is pulled out of storage, having been pre-made in a far east factory. I make each handkerchief from scratch and to order for every customer. It is just me. No factory, no team of makers.

But what does that process involve?
Well, it includes little ol' me and myself going in person to my local, trusted fabric shops and sourcing soft, 100% cotton. The cotton is then washed, carefully aired and ironed. I then test the fabric. That involves making an entire handkerchief from scratch and trialing hand embroidery on to the fabric. 
The trial embroidery will include testing a range of different colours to get the perfect match and ensuring the embroidery stands out through carefully selecting the right embroidery stitch and the right font. Once I'm happy with this, I will then make a whole new handkerchief again and photograph it and upload the picture on to my Etsy and Notonthehighstreet shops.
But what happens when a personalised order is received?
I firstly check that I can do the personalised order. Sometimes customers ask for a completely different personalisation, so I have to make sure I can deliver on that. With the chosen fabric I iron it again, then cut out the handkerchief size required (leaving a hem allowance all the way around). Using my overlocker, I create a beautiful rolled hem around the handkerchief and then dampen the edges to ensure the water soluble pen mark (which I used to draw the handkerchief square with) is completely washed out. 
After the handkerchief has dried, it's back to the ironing board again for another press before slip stitching the tails formed from the overlocker neatly into the rolled hem. Next I hand embroider the personalised option chosen and further hand sew an 'Adventures & Tea Parties' label on to the back of the handkerchief at one of the hem edges.
It's back to the ironing board again for a final press and a final check. When I'm happy with it and it's nicely folded into a square or rectangle (this shape depends on the size of the handkerchief), I then start preparing the gift wrapping. I offer additional gift wrapping, which includes a 100% recycled sturdy cardboard box filled with 100% recycled shredded paper. I carefully place the handmade, personalised handkerchief in the gift box, pop the lid on and select a ribbon to compliment the colour of the handkerchief. This is then cut to size, wrapped around the box and tied into a bow. I always tidy the ends of the bow up by cutting them to ensure they're even.
Next I stamp an envelope, write the address on and check this twice by looking the address up on the Royal Mail website. I then print the receipt and pop this and the gift wrapped handkerchief in the parcel, with some pretty washi tape at the edge to ensure it's secure. It's then off down to my local post office to send it on its way by first class post and job done! 

13 October 2014


Today only get 15% off absolutely everything in my Etsy shop! Simply enter the following discount code at checkout:


Offer ends at midnight tonight! 

12 October 2014

Adventures in the Garden: Insects

One sunny day back in September, I headed out to do some gardening but immediately switched the trowel for my camera as there was a wonderful photo opportunity. And I have to say, these guys were the perfect models; they didn't blink once!

10 October 2014

What's on the jukebox, Jo?

Soooo, my bloggity blog is rather lacking in blog posts at the moment as I'm super busy but coming up next week I'm going to be continuing my series on working for myself and my adventures in the garden gets all creepy crawly!

And so as it's a busy ol' week of orders, business and admin, I'm sharing this awesome song by tUnE-yArDs, aptly called, Bizness.

I absolutely love this band and ooh this video is pretty, darn cool too!

What's on your jukebox at the moment? I do love a good recommendation!

6 October 2014

Guest Post Tutorial - DIY Wall Art

Today the lovely Brittany from Midwest Girl. Big City Style. is guest posting, while I head off to a wedding! Brittany's a crafty lady from across the pond in NYC and today she's sharing a fab tutorial, which is a perfect weekend project. So, without further ado, lets hand over to Brittany!
Hi Adventures and Tea Parties readers! Here’s a super simple DIY wall art project.  I made it for my little girl’s nursery which is Paris themed, but you could use this anywhere and it’s also a great go-to for personalized gifts! 
What You’ll Need:
- A canvas of any size (It doesn’t even have to be blank!)
- Scrap fabric large enough to cover canvas
- Modge podge & paintbrush or spray adhesive
- Scissors
- Felt
- Iron-on letters & iron
- Jewels, sequins or anything else you want to jazz it up!
Let’s Get Started:
1. First we’re going to cover our canvas. *If you’re using an old one with something already on it make sure it won’t show through your chosen fabric. If it does, simply glue on some plain white paper before the fabric! Coat your canvas in a thin layer of Modge Podge or spray it really well with spray adhesive. Press the fabric down firmly smoothing out any wrinkles or bubbles. Trim any excess fabric to about an inch (depending on how deep your canvas sides are) all the way around.
2. Make two cuts into the fabric to the edges of your canvas on each corner (cutting out a little square) to ensure a perfect fit. Coat the edges with mode podge or spray glue and smooth down the fabric on all sides, trimming any excess.  
3. Next decide what you want your wall art to say. It could be a quote, a saying, a song lyric, even your name! I went with “Je t’aime”, which means I love you in French. Follow the directions for your specific iron on letters or you can even glue them on, just make sure they are secure and dry before moving to the next step.
4. Now for the art, continuing with my Parisian theme I made the silhouette of the Eiffel Tower out of white felt. You can create your own silhouettes, make flowers or anything else you please to decorate your wall art. Stuck for ideas? Feel free to cut out my template above! *Tip: if you’re making your own, try drawing only half on a folded sheet of paper first to ensure that both sides are perfectly symmetrical! 
5. Jazz it up with sequins, jewels or anything else you please! I wanted to keep mine simple but cute, so I glued on a few jewels to add some bling to my baby girl’s canvas. 
6.Gift it or hang up and enjoy!
Hope you have fun making this wall art your very own!
What a great tutorial, thanks so much Brittany! 

3 October 2014

What's on the jukebox, Jo?

Music is a bit of life saver at the moment. It's blocking out worries and keeping me focused. Thank goodness for music!

I've had a whole mixture of music on this week but this lovely song by King Creosote has really caught my ears.

Happy listening!

1 October 2014

Blog Gem - Hugs Are Fun!

Yay, it's Blog Gem time! 

This month I'm interviewing the lovely lady behind Hugs Are Fun. I first came across her gorgeous blog through the world of twitter when I saw her beautiful stitch work and I've been hooked ever since! So, want to know more? Me too! 

Hello there, who be the face behind the blog?
My name is Rebecca, I'm a 30 year old mom to two little girls. My husband and I are high school sweethearts (we started dating when I was 15!) and we live in the Chicago suburbs. I have my degree in Illustration but I don't draw nearly as much as I wish I did! I started my blog as a place to show of my cross stitch patterns, but in the past year it has evolved into so much more than just cross stitching. I have been dabbling in lots of different crafts, embroidery and English paper piecing most recently. I'm hoping to do a lot more sewing and continue learning more!
What is your creative space like? 
I have a desk that houses my computer and my mess of supplies which also pour over onto a shelf and into a closet. I try to only keep out supplies and projects I'm currently working on, but it's still usually quite a mess! I have a pegboard on the wall where I keep embroidery hoops and scissors and some other odds and ends and I try to organize the best I can, but I just don't have as much space as I would like. Maybe someday!
I do a lot of my stitching and working on the go. I keep a bag in the car with my current project that I can work on if I'm waiting somewhere or if my daughters fall asleep in the car. Or I work on the couch while my husband and I watch tv. Basically my creative space is wherever I am currently!
If you had to take only one craft tool to a desert island, what would you each choose and why?
Oh goodness, this is tough! So many tools require multiple components to be of any use! My first thought was embroidery floss, but that's useless without scissors and a needle and fabric! I would probably bring knitting needles or crochet hooks because I think I could fashion a fiber to work with out of supplies on the island and make some useful things!

How do you work and get inspired? 
I'm not sure my work method is in any way advisable. I have a short attention span and have a hard time staying focused on one project at a time. I tend to take on way more things than I have time for, put them off until the last minute, and then make a mad dash to finish. As crazy as that sounds, it works for me. I always get things done and I'm (usually) really pleased with the result. I seem to work best under pressure and when I don't have a deadline, I spend my time working on silly little projects that I don't really care about.
Inspiration for me comes from everywhere, I am constantly looking at patterns and colour combinations when I am out. I will see something geometric and think about how I could make that into a cross stitch pattern. I am forever searching for items that I can cross stitch on. 
What top tips would you give to anyone starting a blog and running an online shop? 
Don't let yourself get trapped by what you think you SHOULD be doing, everyone's creative journey is different. It's a learning experience and it's ok if it doesn't work out the first time, keep trying! Find your voice and your work flow and go with it, just be yourself! 
I think it's so important to network and meet other makers as well! I have made so many amazing makers through Instagram and Twitter and reading blogs. These people have been amazing resources for me when I have a question and I've gotten a lot of opportunities this way as well! So leave comments on blogs you like, engage in conversations on social media, and don't be afraid to send an email asking for help!
Is there a story behind the name 'Hugs are Fun!'?
I was trying to come up with a fun and recognizable domain name. I kept coming up with things that were already taken or just didn't fit. Somehow Hugs are Fun popped into my head and it was available. I thought it was cute and went with it. I did realize later that it was a song on the children's show Yo Gabba Gabba, but by that point I decided to just go with it anyway!
If you could go to a Creative Blog Award dinner with any 5 people and/or fictional characters (dead or alive), who would you choose? 
Leslie Knopp from Parks and Recreation and Jenny Lawson. aka the Bloggess. would both make things extremely fun and hilarious. I would also bring along Joss Whedon because I want to be best friends with him, and Neil deGrasse Tyson because I think he's fascinating. Then I would bring my husband along because I wouldn't want him to miss the fun party going on with this group of people!
And finally...book & tea or film & wine?
Can I pick tea and film? I like to read but it never seems to happen because I can't stitch and read at the same time. So, I always have a tv show or movie playing while I work. I don't drink wine but I love tea!
Thank you so much, Rebecca! It's been truly wonderful hearing all about your creative world! I cannot agree more that everyone's creative journey is unique and it's important to find your own voice and style. And that's so true about networking and getting involved, especially through social media.

I hope you've all enjoyed this month's Blog Gem!

All of the images and interview answers are the copyright of Rebecca Greco at Hugs Are Fun. Please do not use without seeking permission first. Thank you.


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