Shop crush: Misha and Puff

One of the great things about Instagram is that it can introduce you to a world of crafty sellers, online shops and creative people. This was certainly the case for me, and many of my recent new Instagram follows are baby-related, having become my new favourite online shops. So much handmade goodness out there for babies! As much as I enjoy buying treats for our baby from eBay and high street shops, like many I am always on the look-out for more unusual, special items from small, independent businesses. I’d love to share some of these with you in this space, and today we’ll begin this series with Misha and Puff, a wonderful knitwear company for babies and children up to four years old.

Everything sold by Misha and Puff is handknitted in Peru by a group of women, either from their homes or at a local knitting centre. The centre provides meals and day care for children, meaning that these women can support their families. While recently browsing photos from a recent trip that Misha and Puff took to Peru, I read that when asked why they came to do this work most of the women responded with one of two reasons:
1. Because they can still stay home with their kids and 2. Because they love to knit. What a wonderful collaboration!

As well as being truly mindful of the process behind their pieces, Misha and Puff knitwear is also extremely beautiful! Made from hand-dyed merino wool, the collections come in a chic palette of stunning colours: blush, nutmeg, persimmon, zephyr and graphite. I recently ordered the popcorn vest in the gorgeous green-grey zephyr, and I wasn’t disappointed: it’s so cute! I can’t wait to see our little one bobbling about in it this time next year. The garment tag even had the name of the knitter written on it.

Although these clothes are expensive compared to those we see in the shops every day, I love that we know where they have come from, and that they have been hand-knitted by women who take pride in their work and importantly, have been paid properly for their time. As Misha and Puff describe it on their website, “Families working together to benefit everyone.”

Here are some of my favourite pieces from the website…
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Anna Bond for Puffin in Bloom

My obsession with flowers is well documented on this ol’ blog, so it’s no surprise that I’m a big fan of Anna Bond, founder of hugely popular Rifle Paper Co. Her beautiful paintings can be found adorning everything from calendars to greetings card, notebooks to phone cases, and even wallpaper! Anna’s instagram feed is a delight, full of dreamy snaps of her daily life and floral paintings.

But something particularly lovely recently caught my eye – Anna’s designs for covers of four classic children’s books, which are being re-issued by Puffin over the next few months as part of their ‘In Bloom’ collection. Aren’t they just stunning!? I love the colour palettes, the hints of gold and the little O-mouthed characters. Working in a library, I’m still a big fan of reading a story in a book rather than on a digital screen, so these have gone straight onto my wishlist for Christmas. I sincerely hope Anna has more treats like this up her sleeve!

If you haven’t visited the Rifle Paper Co. website before, I’d highly recommend popping over there for a browse (I have my eye on a floral 2015 calendar). But maybe leave your credit card in the other room…

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In bloom

Continuing with my flower obsession, I thought I would share another craft project from back in the Spring, when I was on the hunt for inspiration for our floral wedding theme. After seeing the wonderful Thumbelina-themed wedding of Brittany Watson Jepsen, wonderful artist and fellow flower lover, I really began to get excited about paper flowers. I had never thought about making GIANT ONES!

I decided to have a go at making my own huge poppy, and happily I discovered that Brittany had shared her tutorial over on the wedding blog 100 Layer Cake. So I bought the card and set to work, not quite realising just how much manpower was needed to cut out all those big petals and leaves. It was a bit of a slog, but I loved the end result, and then took my new flower friend for a walk around the garden…

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There are soooooo many paper flower tutorials and ideas of how to use them around the internet, but here are just a few of my favourites:

– Brittany’s round-up of her own paper flower inspiration

– Oh Happy Day is one of my favourite websites ever. They always have a wealth of fun flower-based DIYs

– I love the colour and look of these gorgeous anemones by Lia Griffith, especially lined up in a row

Paper flower rings (!) by Brittany

– These delicate crepe paper flowers look delightful in a vase

A different spin on the tissue paper pom pom craze from Elsie of A Beautiful Mess. I love how these look all hanging down together!

Freaking flower party blowers! Another Oh Happy Day triumph

I have a few other ideas up my sleeve for wedding decor, including many a project from this beautiful book, which arrived a couple of weeks ago. I’ve only dipped in and out of it so far, but just give me a free afternoon, a cup of tea and some post-its and a book review will be on its way. Believe me when I say that this book is something really special in the world of paper flowers…

The flower bug

We’ve been doing some wedding planning recently. When thinking about themes and colour schemes, it occurred to me that I am quite obsessed with all things floral. I seem to be drawn to flowery patterns on clothes, fabric, wallpaper, crockery, furniture: you name it, I love it. I’ve been scouring our local car boot sale lately for embroidered floral linens and tablecloths, and my Instagram feed is pretty cluttered up with photos of flowers.

This is all heavily influencing my plans for wedding decoration. I think our wedding “theme” has even become, ever so simply, FLORAL. Maybe I’ve just been noticing it more lately, but sites all over the internet seem to be full of flowers at the moment, so I’d like to share some of them with you.

First off, Brittany Watson Jepsen, of The House That Lars Built fame, wrote just this week about her own obsession with flower gardens. She is a big influence anyway, introducing me to the wonder of giant paper flowers. Check out her wedding: I mean. WHUUT!?

I’ve pre-ordered this book, and come October you will probably find me buried under several layers of tissue paper.

My lovely friend Helen is doing our wedding flowers, and I am thoroughly enjoying reading her new blog about all things floral.

Kate Miss’ floral crown experiments have made me even more set on having flowers in my hair on our wedding day, and flower arranger-extraordinaire Chelsea’s blog is a constant source of floral inspiration.

I also love the Oh Happy Day blog in general, but their insanely awesome floral-themed DIY ideas have made me ultra-excited about wedding party decorating.

Wild Hearts Wedding Photography specialise in dreamy, 70s shots and full on flower joy. I love it.

Here are some more floral things from around the internet sending me Big Time Giddy lately. There will be more posts on wedding stuff in the next few months, I’m sure, but for now: deep breaths. And enjoy the flowers.

Sources:
top row, 1-r: 1. 2. 3
second row, l-r: 4. 5. 6
third row, l-r: 7. 8. 9
fourth row, l-r: 10. 11. 12
bottom row, l-r: 13. 14. 15

Lately: phone edition

My brother spoiled me last Christmas by giving me his old iPhone. I’ve never had a fancy phone before and I have to admit that I’m slightly obsessed. I can go on the internet any time I like! Obviously this is dangerous and makes for rash, excited Twitter behaviour and online purchases. I’ve also started taking photos with my phone, which means I’ve beeen neglecting my film and SLR cameras. Sob. But I’m sure the novelty will wear off, and I hope to redress the balance soon. In the meantime, here’s what’s been happening lately via my iPhone…

Enjoying: an indulgent evening of fancy cocktails at the top of the Hilton hotel, Manchester

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Finding: treasures, and only taking some of them home

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Marvelling: at handmade feats of beauty

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Preparing: for an Alice in Wonderland themed Comic Relief fundraiser at the library where I work

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And of course, crafting: as usual…

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Book review: Learn to Knit, Love to Knit

I became aware of Anna Wilkinson after seeing one of her beautiful fair isle designs on the front of a Debbie Bliss knitting magazine back in 2010. The unusual colour choices paired with a traditional pattern caught my eye straight away, and of course, I bought the magazine.

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I discovered that, upon graduating from Winchester School of Art, Anna won first prize in the 2009 Knitted Textile Student Awards, and then went on to have her work exhibited at the Knitting and Stitching Show at Alexandra Palace. Impressive stuff! (The interview is, incidentally, also where I first heard about Grey Gardens, and now I’m a huge fan, so thanks Anna!) I didn’t forget about Anna and her talent for design, so last Autumn I was not at all surprised to hear that she was about to have her very first book published. Hooray! I immediately ordered a copy for the library where I work, and after an agonising month-long wait, finally got my hands on Learn to Knit, Love to Knit.

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And boy, I really wasn’t disappointed. It’s a beautiful book, with thorough instructions and bright, clear photographs explaining the very basics of knitting through to all the more complicated bits – cabling, knitting buttonholes and duplicate embroidery.

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Learn to Knit, Love to Knit also employs a very novel approach, with the first section (Learn to Knit) containing ten projects for those just starting out, and the second (Love to Knit) detailing ten projects for more experienced knitters. But this doesn’t mean that beginners can simply play it safe – oh no, the very first project of the book involves knitting mittens, and stripes. And another thing I love: this book is not about sensible homeware – it’s all about garments and accessories. For you! Although I am quite happy to knit myself garments, I know others who feel like they should be making more, well, useful items. After seeing some of the patterns in this book, you won’t be able to stop imagining them hanging in your wardrobe.

The first section of the book includes very non-beginner garments and accessories such as a delicate lace collar, the colourful arm warmers featured on the book’s cover, a perfectly feminine lace top and a knitted collar and matching muff! The round-necked raglan and random striped sweaters are both beautiful as they are, but also provide the perfect basis for designing your own patterned jumpers. Of course, stylish and pretty photography always helps in a knitting book, and Anna and her team have definitely got this pegged.

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I love that Anna doesn’t let the beginner knitter shy away from these projects, which I know would seem daunting to some of my knitter friends. But as I always tell them, if you can knit, purl and decrease, you can knit a jumper! Anna certainly seems to share this view, and her book is marvellous at encouraging less experienced knitters into having a go at something more challenging, and, dare I say it, interesting than a scarf.

Anna’s penchant for bright, bold and often surprising colour choices is still very much a trademark of her work. The second section, containing the more advanced patterns, certainly explores this further. The ‘Love to Knit’ section contains a preppy college-style cardigan, a fair isle tank top (added to my to-do list), polka dot socks (also on the list), a cabled tam and snood and a stunning embroidered cardigan which two friends immediately requested for their birthdays.

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The final pattern in the book is one I may have to move straight onto after I’ve finished my current project. Anna teams deep mustard with dark turquoise and a pop of bright pink in a beautiful little tweed cape. Perfect for the transition into spring, so I should really get knitting…

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My first project from this book, however, is the the short-sleeved fair isle sweater, knitted in that fuschia pink and mustard yellow. I would never have put these two colours together, but when Anna suggests it, it works. I’ve been knitting the jumper on and off since last Autumn, and it turns out that bright pink and deep yellow are the perfect antidotes to wintery weather.

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It’s clear that I love this book, and I am excited to see what the future holds for Anna. You can follow her work on Facebook and Twitter, and if you ever get stuck with one of her patterns, rest assured you can contact her for help. I emailed her recently when I got in a pickle with the fair isle sweater, and she wrote back straight away. Yes, I am firmly in Camp Anna. And if you treat yourself to this lovely book, I have no doubt that you will be too.

A Valentine’s shop

This past weekend, I took part in a Valentine’s themed pop-up shop organised by Laura of Laura’s Attic. On Saturday she turned her studio in Mold, North Wales, into a one-day shop, offering the work of local artists and craftsellers to the public. The Attic was transformed into a mini fair, with a total of eight crafty ladies setting up stalls in one room. I was lucky enough to be invited along, and I think I speak for everyone involved when I say that the day was a big success. As well as my hand-knitted and sewn goods, my stall featured gorgeous cards by Suz Hughes, illustrator extraordinaire.

Laura did a great job of advertising the event, and the attic was full of enthusiasm and excited chatter all day. I had a lovely time talking to the other stallholders, some of whom I already knew and some I had the pleasure of meeting for the first time. I was already a big fan of lovely Jen, owner of the wonderful wood-based Loglike, as well as Jenny Murray and her beautiful ceramics. I also had the pleasure of meeting Lora Wyn and seeing her delicate, whimsical jewellery in person. I had a good natter with Sarah, owner of The Way to Blue, whose lovely cyanotype prints would definitely not look out of place in my blue and white kitchen.

Heather of Cinders Cottage Crafts was also in attendance, selling her stunning range of wooden animals, candle holders and other homeware (I treated myself to a little wooden mouse). I also met Sophie Tilley, whose delightful wooden dolls (boasting beautiful packaging) make the perfect present for a special little girl. Last but most definitely not least was Heledd Roberts, a local photographer and lovely lady who, it turns out, enjoys a good film camera as much as I do.

It was a real pleasure spending the day in the company of such talented and friendly women, chatting about everything from knitting, craft projects and running your own business to where to get fabric printed. The event was enjoyed by everyone, with customers filling the attic all day. I even overheard one excited customer saying, “I’ve touched everything here!” I took a lot of photos during the day, some of which you can see below. You can find more over on flickr.

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