Botanical jewellery workshop

IMG_8717When it comes to wearing jewellery, I’m I bit obsessed with all things outrageously bright and bold. From oversized necklaces to vibrant gemstone rings, I love wearing jewellery that stands out and captures your attention.

So when I heard that Electric Daisy Flower Farm were running a botanical jewellery workshop at The Makery over the Christmas holidays, I was rather intrigued! My boyfriend and I have an allotment and I love taking photos of plants (check out #savvygardener) so this seemed like a perfect combo.

IMG_8688IMG_8664IMG_8677Upon entering the workshop room, I was overwhelmed by the smell of gorgeous freshly cut foliage and flowers. The selection of materials brought in by artist and flower farmer Fiona Haser Bizony were really stunning.

She encouraged us to think about different textures and colour palettes, and after arranging my selection of leaves and berries (quite a number of times) I stuck it to my ring back with a glue gun. So quick and easy. “Why didn’t I think of this?” I found myself squealing. Ta-da! What do you think?

IMG_8682IMG_8693IMG_8718The ring lasted almost a whole week, which was very impressive. It naturally dried out over the first few days, but that only added to its charm and character. Have you ever made anything out of foliage?

By Hand London – Charlie Dress

IMG_9231It seems strange to admit this, but it’s only been a year since I put together my first garment. I’d appily sewn the odd cushion in previous years (basically anything with straight edges), but it was this By Hand London Anna Dress which gave me the confidence to start sewing full garments.

So now, one year later, I’m super-excited to announce that BHL have launched a brand new dress pattern and Simply Sewing got first dibs on featuring the pattern. Woohoo!

What’s best, they’ve named it the Charlie Dress.

IMG_9237IMG_9226IMG_9208IMG_9172It’s a pretty straightforward make, so even if you’re relatively new to sewing, just take it slowly and I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised. The only part I found particularly challenging was creating the circle skirt template. I don’t have a big table at home, so I had to sellotape pieces of wrapping paper together on the carpet and measure it out with a pencil on a piece of string (with my boyfriend holding the other end!). BHL have a handy circle skirt calculator app on their site, which you might find helpful if it’s your first time.

For the next few months you’ll be able to get hold of the Charlie Dress pattern for FREE with Simply Sewing issue 12, which you can buy online here: you making it? Share your pics using #charliedress – I can’t wait to see.

SS12 cover

Sew Over It – Tulip Skirt

close upfull lengthHands on hipsSo I’m only a short way into my dressmaking adventure, but I’m definitely hooked. I love the feeling I get when I finally master a new technique such as adding a pocket, or piping. I only wish there were more hours in the day. And that’s the only excuse I have for this Tulip Skirt taking me almost 5 months to finish. Gah. But I did manage to master the whole pocket and piping thing. I think.

Lisa Comfort, of Sew Over It, designed this little gem for us to feature as a 3-part sew along in Simply Sewing (issues 5-7). Did you give it a go? It’s really cute. I used a linen-style fabric in navy with white stars, and burgundy red piping, for a rather (unintentional!) patriotic look. I made it in a size 14 (what I’d normally buy on the high street) and the fit was perfect. I was worried it would be a little tight, but the sizing was really accurate and the shape is very comfortable. I’ve only just discovered Mad Men (yes I know, where have I been?) but I’ve already added her Betty Dress to my wish list.

The Handmade Fair 2015 – live Q&A with Chinelo Bally

THF_2September 2015 saw the second Kirstie Allsopp’s Handmade Fair grace the grounds of Hampton Court Palace. Last year was really fun. I spent most of the weekend occupying the Mollie Makes tent teaching people how to crochet, but this year was going to even more fun.

I had a very important job to do – interview Great British Sewing Bee finalist (and Simply Sewing cover star) Chinelo Bally, on stage no less. How exciting (and frightening, obvs).

THF_3THF_4I spent the best part of the fortnight before making myself another Anna dress and rehearsing my interview questions. But when I got there, talking to Chinelo was such a charm that most of my planning went completely out of the window and we relaxed into a total gossip.

THF_1We were first up on the main stage (and boy did those metal steps leading up to it feel wobbly!) but much to our surprise that didn’t deter a chirpy early-morning crowd. The audience were so welcoming and delightful, it was an absolute pleasure to talk in front of them and involve them in the Q&A.

THF_collageScreen Shot 2015-11-03 at 12.09.50 PMA few laughs, a measuring demonstration and a couple of shameless magazine and book plugs later and we were back in the green room. What a blast! Chinelo even made a dress for Kirstie. I really wish they’d have filmed it so that you could all watch it back!

What’s best, just a few weeks prior to the show Chinelo came to Bristol to be our beautiful cover model for Simply Sewing issue 9 - such a stunner. You can still buy a copy of the issue, which includes an exclusive batwing top tutorial from her new book Freehand Fashion (Pavilion Books).

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Psst! Don’t miss the Handmade Christmas Fair (20 – 22 Nov) at Manchester Central. You can get £7.50 OFF the price of the ticket to the show (normally £17.95) using our special discount code at

Sometimes it pays to look down.

yay afterXanthe Berkley first introduced me to the concept of a photo walk at Blogtacular 2014. She really is the queen of adventure-capturing and from the moment she handed me a balloon I was hooked. Natually.

Photo walks really get you thinking about using your eyes more. It reminds you to look up, look down and look ahead. I was a little astonished at all the beautiful little details in life I was missing because I was constantly walking around with my eyes fixed on my iPhone calendar, worrying about minor details of my day ahead. Well, scrap that. I want to see the world in full colour, from every angle.

Ahh, that’s better.

stitching in the sun

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IMG_5348awards meThese photos were taken on the little adventure I had at the Mollie Makes Handmade Awards. Such a gloriously sunny day and rather poetic as the team presented me with my very own Mollie cover as a leaving present. Certainly not one for the downstairs loo, this one’s hung in pride-of-place and always will be.

A little update

By Hand London Anna DressIt’s a little bit embarrassing when the last update on your blog was so long ago you don’t actually remember writing it … with all those typos (gah). But it’s quite refreshing to come back to a page and feel like you really have something valuable to say. An important update, of sorts. And that’s exactly what this is.

I have news. I am leaving Mollie Makes… to become the editor of Simply Sewing (yay!) For my interview I even made myself a new dress (By Hand London’s Anna Dress), pictured above. I was pretty pleased with how it turned out – even if I was a little bit sick of looking at the fabric by the end of it.

By Hand London pattern cuttingBy Hand London adding zipSo this is not a farewell, it’s more of a ‘see you on the other side’ kind of post. I’m not going far, promise. In fact – my new desk is just a few metres away from my old one!

I started work on Mollie Makes back in 2011,  when issue one was still in its planning stages. I was there when it all began with tear sheets in meeting rooms, whispered discussions and crocheted apple cosies. Hard to believe we’ve just sent the 55th issue to press! I designed the first 6 cover gifts and went on to become a freelance News Editor before being officially offered a full time Deputy Editor role. It’s been a total blast (the team are just awesome) and the magazine has come a long way since those early days, but so have I. And so I’m thrilled to be able to take on new challenges in the tactile world of sewing and collaborate with new pattern makers and sewists.

(Get in touch with me @thesavvycrafter on Twitter or Instagram)

Simply Sewing coverIf you’re interested in sewing, go take a peek at – I think you might rather like it.


The Knitting & Stitching Show

Megan Barley's 'Flying High' quilt

Megan Barley ‘Flying High’ quilt

There’s no denying that my history working for CrossStitcher means that I know many of the people who exhibit at the Knitting & Stitching Show. Special shout out to Floss & Mischief, Mr X Stitch and Bobo Stitch – you guys always make me giggle! It’s an especially nice place to meet the creatives behind emerging businesses and talented students showcasing their work. I especially loved the quilt gallery and the textile art/fashion exhibitions, all stretching my imagination of what is physically possible with fabric! Fascinating stuff.

Here are few of my favourites from today:

Charlotte Bailey chocolate bar goldwork 3 Charlotte Bailey chocolate bar embroidery 2Hanging by a Thread
Charlotte Bailey’s chocolate bar embroidered artwork on Mr X Stitch’s Inspiration Stand (a result of Jamie’s collaboration with the Royal School of Needlework and junior embroiders at Guild) was a total show-stopper. The intricate piece, stitched using traditional goldwork techniques such as couching and felt padding, offers a thought-provoking insight to the emotional impact of eating disorders whilst displaying one of the most intricate disciplines in a contemporary and recognizable light. Incredible stuff. Take a look for youself.

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Katie Essam combines freehand embroidery with applique, felting and paint to create her incredibly detailed pieces and they’re just so tactile and delicately mesmerising. I loved her papyrus prints, too – they worked really well as more affordable, but just as realistic, stitched artworks. I can’t stop thinking about this 3D bicycle piece! Katie offers workshops too, and gave me a few priceless tips for stitching without twisting the fabric – move it from left to right instead. (Makes total sense now I’m thinking about it.) I’ve got my freehand embroidery foot at the ready! See more of her artwork at

Anna Dressby hand london stand by hand london girlsBy Hand London
Before, however, I can start any freehand embroidery adventures, I need to get cracking on this lovely Anna Dress pattern from By Hand London. I was so happy to see Elisalex and Victoria, representing modern dressmaking and contemporary style. This London-based brand is all about giving people a platform create their own individual style patterns and a brand new custom fabric printing service. Just think what you could create now!

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Kerry Lord’s gorgeously characterful critters are just so irresistible! Although I’m not quite talented enough with a hook to venture into creating one of my own, it was great to see the work of many others displayed as part of their #crochetjungle campaign, raising money for Birmingham Children Hospital Charities. It’s not over yet, though! You can still get involved and crochet something for it – or head to to donate.

The Knitting & Stitching Show runs from 5 – 8 March, at Olympia Central, London. Find out more about the show at

Osborne House – Isle of Wight

Osborne House

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I remember going to the Isle of Wight when I was a child, but it was nothing like the summer I imagine Queen Victoria and Prince Albert spent there. Osborne House, in East Cowes, was built between 1845 and 1851 as a summer home and rural retreat for the family. What a treat that must have been! There’s a private beach, acres of gardens and a beautiful Swiss cottage ‘playhouse’ at the side where the children learnt to cook in the child-size kitchen.

Canon EOS 400D DIGITAL670 Canon EOS 400D DIGITAL677The private beach, quite a trek down through the land at the rear of the house, is beautiful. It’s recorded that Queen Victoria regularly bathed in the sea and this was where her children learned to swim. “We have quite a charming beach to ourselves,” Victoria wrote in 1845.

Canon EOS 400D DIGITAL562 Canon EOS 400D DIGITAL538Canon EOS 400D DIGITAL576The allure and charm of the Swiss cottage is spectacular – beats my days of washing dolls clothes in my plastic Wendy House! There’s a beautiful garden surrounding the wooden-clad building, enclosed by tall elegant rows of trees. You really do feel like you’re in a different era walking around these grounds – such a treat for your imagination.

Canon EOS 400D DIGITAL596Canon EOS 400D DIGITAL604 Canon EOS 400D DIGITAL613And then there’s The Walled Garden. What a feast for botanical-loving eyes, full of lavendar and arches of trailing roses and fruit trees. No vegetables were grown in here because the area was too small to feed the entire family. Instead, the garden was used for growing cut flowers as Queen Victoria demanded that the house was to be decorated with floral displays whenever she was in residence.
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The Handmade Fair

Photo: Fiona Murray

Photo: Fiona Murray

From Kirstie’s pom-trimmed wedges, to the record-breaking length of pom poms, The Handmade Fair (19 – 21 September) was a riot of colour and handmade loveliness. Set in the gorgeous grounds of Hampton Court Palace, there was no way this was going to be a flop – it was going to be bloody darn marvellous. And it was.

My Editor, Lara, introduced me to Kirstie in the green room right at the end of the fair. She’s nibbling from a bag of Kettle Chips like there’s no tomorrow. (If you’ve ever worked at a show like this, you’ll know how important it is to stuff your face at every opportunity, as though it could be your last.) We’re all pretty tired, hyped-up on coffee and a weekend diet of crisps and water, but she’s still vibrantly welcoming. She shakes my hand and asks me how it’s been. “It’s been brilliant. A real buzz,” I say, with my stomach rumbling in the background. She replies: “Well, as long as everyone that’s come has had a nice time, that’s all that matters. What a brilliant weekend it’s been!”  It was a brief encounter, but she came across as a lovely lady with great stamina (and an amazing taste in shoes).

Photo: Fiona Murray

Photo: Fiona Murray

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pom pom record

Photo: Fiona Murray

Photo: Fiona Murray

Highlights included the hilarious Mollie Makes Mash Ups!, our lovely Mollie Makes Cafe workshops with the lovely ray-of-sunshine-Ruby (of Frank & Olive Crochet) and crown-pleasing display of Bonbon Balloons. Alongside all that lovliness, we had our ‘Movers & Makers’ – Girl & Bird, Julia Staite, Ladybird Likes and Kate Rowland – selling their wares and the Hotchpotch Vintage girls, serving tea and cake. Perfect, much? Well don’t take my word for it, here’s a sweet promo video from the event.

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Photo: Fiona Murray

Photo: Fiona Murray

Photo: Fiona Murray

Photo: Fiona Murray

I was therefor the whole weekend, teaching people how to crochet. I probably taught around 60 people how to get hooking, which is quite an acheivement in itself. Sad you missed out? Sign up to their newsletter at and get first dibs of tickets next time.

*All photos by me, unless otherwise credited. Some of Fiona Murray’s photos may have been taken by Sally Crane, a talented assistant photographer who was also at the fair :) Please don’t share without permission.

Growing succulents & cacti

There’s something beautiful about succulents (and cacti) that completely amazes me. I don’t know if it’s the plumpness of their leaves, the blush shades or just the fact they don’t need huge amounts of looking after, but I do know – they’re lovely, unpretentiously tranquil plants

They don’t need huge amounts of attention, but there are a few things I’ve learnt about keeping suculents that might help if you’re about to start out. Don’t over-water – you can normally tell if you’ve done this when the leaves puff out and fall off. Only pot in containers that have drainage (or get good a drilling holes in the bottoms of things!), or the soil won’t be able to dry itself out properly. I believe the soil should feel like a flannel thar’s been mostly squeezed out. Most succulents like a good source of natural light so don’t place in dark corners. Most of all – just keep an eye on them but don’t be tempted to tamper with them too much. They really are very good at looking after themselves.

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I’m not an *amazing* gardener (I need to let my other half get all the praise for that one), but I love nothing more than getting my hands dirty on a Sunday afternoon. Or any afternoon for that matter. Just growing anything pleases me, even if it’s just herbs. What do you grow?