Things to do, people to see! How I’m planning to kick 2015’s butt.

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What are you going to do with yourself this year? We’re halfway through January, hands up who has a plan…

I have tried so hard, on so many occasions, to Get My Shit Together, and back in December I decided to stop trying to pull myself up by my own shoestrings (laces, bootstraps, whatever you call them) and get some help.  Not boring, corporate, pull-yourself-together ‘self help’ books, or well-meaning ‘this amazing woman manages four children, her elderly parents, her own law business, a petting zoo and a homeless charity – she’ll show you how you can too!’ websites (gods, do they make you sick? They make me sick) – no, I wanted something more… me. Check this out. I mean seriously, Check. This. Out.

2014v2-buy-table-printed-headerPretty hippy, yeah? Perfect. And let me tell you, it is uh-maze-ing. I love it!  Check out Leonie’s website for more about her, and about how this workbook works.  I spent the Christmas hols curled up with this book and a stack of coloured pens, and I worked out what had gone right, and wrong, in 2014.  What I wanted to carry forwards, and what I wanted to leave behind. I scribbled and drew and coloured in, and I now know what I need to do this year, what I want to do this year, and how I can make those things happen in Real Life. And I am planning my week in advance, which means it’s easier to stick to (I woke up in a fug this morning, but have still completed all my to-dos because I didn’t have to think about what they were, I just did as past-me told me to 🙂 )

This covers my business (woohoo!) and just life (again, woohoo!), and makes sure you stop to review how you’re doing at the end of every month. It’s like a gorgeous rainbow kick up the arse. Or something.  So far this year, having and *using* this book has meant I have regular space in my diary for fun stuff (what luxury!), I have signed up to learn Danish (having spent the last four+ years meaning to do so), I have submitted “art” to an exhibition (as opposed to leaving the browser tab open to remind me, until such time as I can close it again because I’ve missed the deadline), and hey look at me! I’m writing a blog post!

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My “100 Things To Do In 2015” is great, because I’ve never set myself such a challenge before – I usually just think ‘oh that’d be nice, one day’ and never do it. I’m only up to 58 so far, but that’s OK, I’m sure I’ll think of more. It ranges from ‘Take my daughter to Copenhagen’ to ‘Drink a White Russian’ (because Dude) to ‘Clean the damn windows’, but I’m really looking forward to having fun with it 🙂  Go on, what would you put on such a list?

Birthday parties and workshops

I think it’s time I reminded people that I do parties! That’s right, why have a boring party, when you and your friends can learn to make sock monsters instead? I can do children’s parties (generally over 9’s only, but I can be flexible, so get in touch) and grown up parties.  They’re much the same, but I’ve found the grown up parties tend to involve more wine 🙂  Also hen parties, stag parties (you know you want to), and whatever-other-parties. Parties!  I will bring all the materials, including worksheets, and remain on hand to teach and talk you through every stage of making your very own sock monster. It’s amazing fun, and your guests will love you for it.

Creativity with socks - the best party fun ever
Creativity with socks – the best party fun ever

I also run workshops, for schools, community groups, festivals, anything you like really.  I can teach monster-making, or other sewing skills, or a creative tie-in with something you’re already doing (an example of this was a ‘Make Do and Mend’ workshop I ran with a class of Y4s, to complement their studies of life on the ‘home front’ during WWII). Please see my Workshops page for further details, and/or get in touch via the contact page.

Sock-monster-making workshop at 'Festival at the Edge' storytelling festival
Sock-monster-making workshop at ‘Festival at the Edge’ storytelling festival

Craftivists, assemble!

Are you crafty? Would you like to try turning your hand to some craftivism? Have you done so before? If you answered yes, or no, or maybe, to any of those questions, then WE NEED YOU! It really doesn’t matter if you can or can’t sew, or if you shun the activist limelight (suggested reading: Why craftivism is good for introverts) – read on, and then get in touch about joining in, or even popping along to a local stitch-in.

Image: Craftivist Collective
Image: Craftivist Collective

This summer the Craftivist Collective is teaming up with War On Want to add their crafty shoulders to the “Love Fashion Hate Sweatshops” campaign. I’m joining in too, and together we’re asking people to take up craftivism to help change the world for garment workers across the globe – stitching in support of the stitchers, as it were. How? By stitching mini protest banners, and hanging them where people will see them. Mini whuh? How? Well OK, I’ll let Sarah (founder of Craftivist Collective) explain how:

“Our small, provocative Mini Protest Banners can help us reflect on this issue of sweatshops and what we can do as an individual (consumer, voter etc) to keep the spotlight on this ugly side of fashion we CAN change. Also by hanging your banner in public you can engage others in fighting for a world without sweatshops & supporting War on Want‘s www.lovefashionhatesweatshops.org campaign in a provocative but thoughtful way without people feeling threatened or preached at.”

I’ve been reading around the sticky subject of sweatshops, and where our clothes are made, and stuff like that, and did you know the legal minimum wage for garment workers in Bangladesh is just 11p per item? And that’s only in the places that respect the minimum wage laws, and the organisations who keep an eye on this stuff say that’s still only about half of what people need to live on.

I won’t go into the issues here, but if you want to find out more, there are plenty of articles out there about the nasty realities of sweatshops. About the poor safety (remember the recent factory collapse, in which over a thousand people died preventable deaths?), the sexual harassment, child exploitation, physical abuse, and of course the complete pittance of a wage. Hunt some out.

I’m not exactly a fashionista, but I do like good clothes. Well made, fabulous clothes, that make me walk tall and say ‘yeah, I look awesome today.’ But the idea that fellow human beings were treated like expendable commodities to make those clothes, well, that I don’t like. I can’t think of anyone who would, really. But what do we do to change it? We can’t wander about butt-naked all the time (well I can’t, not in Yorkshire – brrr), we need clothes!

No, these things won’t change by themselves. And we won’t change them by feeling cross about them. Not by reading a Guardian article and leaving a sad face in the comments thread, not by discussing it on Facebook (a place recently described by folk singer Gavin Davenport as “the new opiate of the masses”), and not, you may be surprised to hear, by boycotting sweat-shop produced clothing. As this 2009 article points out: “sweatshops are only a symptom of poverty, not a cause, and banning them closes off one route out of poverty”. We need to improve the factories, not close them.

Don’t be downhearted, here’s where you come in: we need as many people as possible to stitch a little protest banner (you can get a funky kit, or make your own), like this one:

Image: Craftivist Collective
Image: Craftivist Collective

Hang it somewhere it will be seen, take a photo, and send it to us. Your photo will be put with all the others from across the globe, and made into a giant collage to be displayed during London Fashion Week. A time where fashion lovers come together to display and admire creations designed by the Haves, and (most often) made by the Have-Nots. As Craftivist Collective founder Sarah Corbett says: “Wouldn’t it be brilliant if LFW 2014 was a show of only exploitation-free clothes? Let’s fight together for that reality one stitch at a time!”

Image: Craftivist Collective
Image: Craftivist Collective

I’m stitching my mini-banner right now. I got a kit from the Craftivist Collective which has everything you need (even a needle! They think of everything), but you can make your own too. I would recommend the kit though, because you can start straight away, proceeds go to help fund projects like this one, AND YOU GET A BADGE. I mean, come on! Choose your message (all we ask is that you keep it factual, and polite – this is a creative, not an aggressive, campaign), and get stitching! Send your pictures and the location details to me via this site. This protest started in the UK, but you do not have to be in the UK to take part. This is a global issue!

AND AND AND! I will be running at least one drop-in craftivism session in Sheffield over the summer, where you can join in, drink tea, and discuss more about this campaign, and craftivism in general, so do let me know if you’d be interested in, well, dropping in. And/or you have a suggestion for a stitch-in venue (my original choice is closed for a summer refurb – typical!). Seriously folks, who’s in? Watch this space… 🙂

Exploring embroidery

Oh dear,long time no postee, my bad. But I have been doing lots of stitching!  I finished that tree, whaddya think?  I think it looks a bit bare, but I’m not sure what to add – any ideas? Oh, and what did I learn? I learned that next time, I’ll start in the middle and work outwards. D’oh! But hey, that’s the whole point of learning.

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I’ve also been expanding my embroidery education to try out different filling stitches. I can do outlines, but I’ve never really done any solid fillings other than satin stitch (perfection of which remains elusive). So, here’s where I got to:

Leaves - stitching and colour-blending
Leaves – stitching and colour-blending

Lots of fun. What are you learning? How’s it going?

Making and mending

birdies

Happy New Year you lovely lot! How’s it going so far? I’ve made some simple resolutions this year (blogged here, if you’re interested), but one more specific challenge I’ve set myself is to MAKE more stuff. It’s easy sometimes to get bogged down with admin, with tweaking and twiddling my online store, and of course with the daily running around and picking up after the smalls.  I realised after Christmas I hadn’t done nearly enough crafting, and that had to stop. Or start. Whichever. So I’ve put a fancy-pants app on my fancy-pants phone, which means I can tick off every day I do something crafty – which should of course be EVERY day.  Thus far, it seems to be working, and even that naggy voice in my head which keeps telling me I need to pay the gas bill, or do all the ironing, or tidy R’s room because she is *never* going to do it herself – even that little voice has to wait until I’ve nurtured my creative mojo.

So, this year I have:

1) Finally put the buttons on a cushion cover I made ages ago, so it can now function as a real actual cushion, on our real actual sofa.

cushion

2) Completed a custom cross-stitch for my oldest friend.

(From French & Saunders sketch: Whatever Happened To Baby Dawn?)
(From French & Saunders sketch: Whatever Happened To Baby Dawn?)

3) Made some beautiful felt bird bunting for another friend, who was 23 on the 23rd January (a cool fact she and I thought more people should be excited about. She texted me at 2300 to say so).

Bird bunting

4) Made three table mats to make mealtimes easier to clean up (I’m kidding, we’re very genteel diners here) – the fourth is still waiting to be cut out, I should really do that today.

Trousers into Viking apron into placemats. Recycling to the max!
Trousers into Viking apron into placemats. Recycling win!

5) Embroidered a warm scarf to keep my partner snuggly on his cycle to work.

Scarf

6) Embroidered a picture for someone I don’t know, as a Random Act of Kindness. There are reasons, it’s not actually that random, but that’s a whole other story that isn’t mine to tell.

NOT TOO SHABBY, if I say so myself.  But what I’d like to know is, what have *you* been doing? Have you kept your creative juices flowing, and unclogged by mundanity and chores? Has it been easy, or have you struggled? What did you last create, and when?

Also, if you think being 23 on the 23rd deserves a bit more whoopee, head on over to Kirsty’s page and tell her so 🙂

You can buy anything on the internet…

It’s a crazy old place isn’t it, this internet?  I’ve just put three more monsters into my Etsy.com shop,

Rainbow Sock Chicken!

and relisted a few fabric-y stitchy things too.

Rainbow ribbon coasters

You may want to go take a peek.  Tell your friends, too, I’m sure they’ll thank you.  I mean, there’s only so much LOLcats you can take in one day, even if it is a Friday.  Ooh, speaking of which, it isn’t just ANY Friday, it’s a fifth Friday – not many months have those, y’know.  So if you feel like some more stitchy fun, head on over to Mr XStitch, where they’re having a Fifth Friday Festival of Fabulousness.  Books, stitchings, and a craft swap!  I’ve already signed up for the swap, so I’m excited.

Thwarted actress. Expect hysterics.

Whatever you choose to do with your Friday, make sure it’s fun, OK?

I’d like a vintage Cthulhu cross-stitch sampler please!

Longer ago than I care to admit, I received a request for an HP Lovecraft inspired cross stitch sampler.  The commissioner has seen other Victorian-styled samplers I’d done – mainly this one:

Redwork sampler
(From Joss Whedon's 'Buffy the Vampire Slayer')

and sent me a request that ran thus: “The main things I’d like is for it to look old fashioned, to fit in a space 12” tall and for there to be an octopus/squid hidden in it somewhere. The text I’m wanting is “Ph’nglui mglw’nafh Cthulhu R’lyeh wgah’nagl fhtagn”. You can totally do what ever you like from there if its more fun.”

Cool! I totally did whatever I liked, and after an embarrassingly long time, I came up with this:

Let sleeping Cthulhus lie

I confess I was a little concerned at what I was being asked to realise here, so double checked this wasn’t an incantation to summon the great octo-thingy himself. Was assured: You can’t summon Cthulhu, you have to wait for him to awaken when the stars are right. That translates as “In his house at R’lyeh, dead Cthulhu waits dreaming.” Phew.

I did have a lot of fun.  I managed to include the Elder sign, and applied subtle use of variegated thread,  inspired by the story “The Colour Out of Space” (a colour which is unrecognisable as any one colour).

I also filled in space with a lovely peacock – both a traditional sampler motif, and a bird of which I know this person to be particularly fond.  And here he is, the great squid himself, hanging in there at the end of the alphabet 🙂

Mr Squid

I love doing work like this.  To give an idea, this took me about sixteen hours to stitch, and probably at least two hours to chart up.  If you want to see what other geeky stitchiness I’ve been getting up to recently, check out my Flickr photostream, and if you’d like to talk to me about commissioning your own piece of antique pop-culture, please get in touch!  Past commissions have included a Neil Stephenson quote sampler, and a Nintendo birth sampler.  I believe anything is possible; challenge me 🙂

PS: This sampler was also blogged by the recipient, here.

Sharing the love

**GIVEAWAY TIME** Right then you ‘orrible lot! Once Picky Miss reaches 150 ‘likes’ on Facebook, I’m going to give away a random parcel of crafty stuff to one of my likers. I’m not sure what’ll be in it yet, but it will be a veritable magpie-trove of crafty bits and bobs. Some things made, some things to make yourself! So please get the word about, tell your friends about Picky Miss, and let’s see how quickly we can hit 150. Here’s the link to my Facebook page. Or, not wishing to exclude those who choose not to engage with Facebook (and good for you, btw), add a comment below telling me what you like about Picky Miss, and I’ll include you in the grand prize draw 🙂 And….go!