Tea, Cake, Creativity, and Community, During a Pandemic

I have just written an email to my Felt Club subscribers and thought I would hop on here and share my thoughts with you. I’m not a natural online sharer so I best make the most of it.
Today marks the horrible anniversary of the first year of UK lockdown and, like me, you are probably feeling a tad emotional. There is absolutely no denying it has been the crappiest of crappy years and I have learned much throughout the last 12 months (including proper grown-up knitting) and whilst I have always had a passion for crafts as therapy, this past year has showed me, more than ever, just how crucial it is for better mental health. Tea, cake, creativity, and online community has been my mental fuel and I can say, hand on heart, there hasn’t been a single day for the past year where I wasn’t excited to get out of bed and embark on another work day. Crafts not only give us immense joy but also serve as a coping mechanism during times of stress, anxiety, and uncertainty. It allows us to focus completely on the project in front of us and park our troubled thoughts for a while. We may not have been able to meet up with our creative companions but we have been able to discover the true importance of the online world and the creative community we have been able to share with through our screens.

Crafters do it online!

Testament to this are the many lovely messages, emails and reviews I receive from so many customers and people who have found my online resources. Quite honestly, some of the messages left me a hot emotional mess. I say hot and emotional because I am also going through menopause which is a whole other conversation (thank goodness for HRT) and one that I know many of you understand and have personal  experience of. It is yet another topic severely affecting women that I think we should discuss more openly and not allow others to dismiss as ‘women’s troubles’. Like I said, that’s a whole other conversation…

Hopefully, we will be doing this again soon.

The point is that crafts are the mainstay of my life, not just as business but as a lifestyle, a vocation, my mental prop, my passion and, outside of my family (which of course includes the dog) my purpose. What I have also noticed, since the start of the pandemic, is the joy and satisfaction of really simple needle felting projects. I don’t know about you but the events of the last year has seen my thoughts meandering all over the place, and the need for a simple craft project – one you can just pick up without the need for thinking, planning, or tutorials – has become really important to me; recent bumble bee brooches and spring garlands being good examples you may have seen here on the blog. Creative repetitiveness is quite meditative and blocks out the noisy world much better than any set of headphones, although headphones plus crafts pretty much has you covered.

My free resources are there to encourage, and cajole anyone who is interested into trying a new craft, any craft in fact. My YouTube channel now has 40+ video tutorials and the blog now has too many to count. They are there not only to teach but to help improve your mental health and ease the soul. Start creating something and you will soon wonder where the day went, along with all the stresses and anxious thoughts that kept you awake last night. My resources are also a thank you to all the people who continue to support small independent creative businesses, mostly run by women who, like me, are also spending a lot of time multi tasking, not only their own lives but the lives of their nearest and dearest. We sometimes wonder why more women take up crafts than men and, for me, the simple answer is that many many women carry a huge emotional workload that so many men don’t. That’s not stereotype, it’s fact. Many women won’t even recognise it as emotional workload, but more as just mental list: house work, kids health and well being, planning visits, holidays and packing (often for the whole family), shopping, doctors, dentists, care of the mental health of loved ones, pets, important calendar dates, managing finances, planning for the future, worrying about the future, chronic illness, the list is long and endless and this last year has increased that ten fold! And yes, men do have this too but the fact is that it is still mostly women who are the bearers of these huge emotional stresses, the linchpin of the household and many working a full time job to boot. Now add menopause and hormones into the mix and you realise that women are pretty amazing creatures, and most don’t even realise it! No wonder we love crafts. It keeps us sane in a complicated and, often insane world.

So my best advice is, women keep on filling your creative boots, soothe your soul, drink tea, eat cake and keep falling down the craft rabbit holes of YouTube, Pinterest, and of course my blog. They know where you are if they need you, they always do because you made sure of it x

Tea + Cake + Creativity equals this face!

Subscribe below if you want to receive a notification every time I post something new. I have just done some major housekeeping on the blog and website – no small task for one so technically challenged – so it should be much easier to navigate and find what you are looking for. Just click on the menus for the drop down options. Happy creating!

We need craft therapy, now more than ever!

For the first time in my 51 years I am suffering from, what I can only assume, is anxiety. I am usually pretty chilled and my glass is almost always half full. Yet, my stomach is in knots, I can’t switch off, my heart is constantly fluttering, I’m frequently feeling overwhelmed, and fight or flight mode is firmly in the ‘on’ position. I’m worried for those who are going to suffer terrible financial hardships over the coming year and for the kids where school is a safe haven and a place where they get most, if not all of their nutrition. Ring any bells? Well of course it does. It is a universal feeling and we are all suffering – to one extent or another – the same emotions. Much of what we take for granted will be out of reach for some time and many of us (myself included) have the added worry of close, immediate family members and friends who are very vulnerable with serious health conditions. We are entering difficult times, in uncharted territory, and need to find our own coping mechanisms to help us navigate the next few months and beyond.
So here’s the thing. We all know how to stay safe but staying sane is another matter. Many of us will be isolated and often lonely over the coming months and crafts, now more than ever, will provide us with much needed respite and allow us to switch off, for a little while at least. For lots of us crafts and the creative community will become our online ‘tribe’ and take on a much more important role. Creativity is so important for our mental health, especially as we hunker down for the long haul.
I had a discussion with a very close friend about how I was feeling and her advice was to keep creating and continue to share it with others, as I have for the last six years. So, to that end, I will continue to add tutorials to YouTube and the blog whenever I can. I may even do a Facebook live if that’s something you might enjoy. It’s also a time to refocus and prioritise and this is just my, very small contribution. If there is any aspect of needle felting you are struggling with, even if it’s the confidence to get started, then just pop over to my Facebook page and message me or pop a question in this FaceBook post. Even if I’m not around (or don’t have the answers), there are lots of knowledgeable and talented crafters on there (some I have been in contact with creatively for a long while) able to share their own creative advice or just give you the boost you need to get going. What you definitely won’t see from me is lots of ‘positive vibes’ quotes. It’s not my bag (I have always found my sense of dark, dry humour to be the best remedy) and it will get very old very quickly, oftentimes diminishing the problems we are facing. Nobody wants a barrage of ‘you got this’ or ‘keep calm and carry on’ when calm is the last thing we are feeling. However, social media really is about to come into its own so let’s bolster and support each other as much as we can and continue to use our creative social media community for the greater good.

YouTube tutorial links are below and kits and supplies available on the Lincolnshire Fenn Crafts website and Etsy but all you need is a handful of wool, a felting needle and a cuppa.
Stay safe and big love
Sandy xxx

This way for craft therapy video tutorials

Est. 2013
© 2013 Lincolnshire Fenn Crafts

Passionate About Pumpkins

sandy psI’m a little bit excited because, Take A Break Makes magazine is out this month (UK only) and you will find me inside with my pumpkin masterclass tutorial, exclusive to TABM, and I’m really impressed with the content  #notbiased Seriously though, aside from the fact that my pumpkin masterclass class is in there, it really is full of great crafty content. Arrived within 48 hours of ordering too! Thanks to daughter for lovely photo 🥰 and Lauren, editor at Take A Break, for inviting me to write the feature. If you don’t fancy a trip to the newsagents, it is available  from Great Magazines for just £2.99 including postage.  My mum has ordered three, bless her 🥰

PUMPKIN VIDEO TUTORIAL

PUMPKIN NEEDLE FELTING KIT

Don’t worry if you can’t get your hands on one because you will find the full video tutorial on the Lincolnshire Fenn Crafts YouTube Channel. In fact, I was feeling so generous that I recorded two tutorials; one using wool batting and the other using wool tops/roving. That way, you can use whatever your preference or what you have handy in your wool stash. You’re welcome 🙂

If you don’t have your own wool and needle stash you can pick up a pumpkin needle felting kit on the website. TAKE ME TO PUMPKIN NEEDLE FELTING KIT

From wool to pumpkin in 30 minutes!

I kid you not, pumpkins are one of the easiest things to needle felt so, even if you are the most nervous of beginners, I have every confidence of pumpkin success! For those of you lucky enough to have beautiful weather this Autumn, you can really make an outside impact, whether that be on tables or porches, with a ‘pile’ of pumpkins. Trust me when I say that you will soon be plonking pumpkins on every surface! They really are that addictive!

PUMPKINS OUTSIDE TABLE

Gnomes and pumpkins are a match made in heaven and, if you have been following my Nordic Gnome tutorial you will already know that gnomes are as easy as pumpkins to make.  I CAN’T WAIT, TAKE ME TO GNOME TUTORIAL

pumpkin gnomes

I also stepped a little out of my rustic comfort zone this year and went for all out, pumpkin glamour. More stylish than Audrey Hepburn, a big slap of glamour for your Autumn/Fall table and perfect for even the most princessy of princesses 👑 Nearly all of my beads are charity shop finds made from unwanted necklaces and bracelets and they usually cost between 50 pence and £1.50. Perfect up-cycling for embellishing your perfect pumpkins.

Ain’t no party like a pumpkin party!
YOU WILL NEED:
30g core wool for a medium sized pumpkin, D15cm
10/15g wool batting sheet (any colour)
Contrasting wool top colour: For pumpkin lines
Embellishments: Tussah silk fibres, old jewelry, lace, ribbon etc

Serious rustic chic, giant pumpkin with hessian ribbon embellishments.

Hopefully I have given you enough ideas to inspire your Autumn/Fall creativity, and Pinterest is awash with needle felting ideas! Most important, it doesn’t matter what you make as long as you are creating something that makes you happy whilst doing it.

Happy Fall Felting; I know I’m in the UK but I needed some alliteration to end with.

Sandy x

op3

Est. 2013
© 2013 Lincolnshire Fenn Crafts

This Needle Felting Kit Is More Fun Than You Can Shake A Fairy At!

‘Shroom With A View’ needle felting kit has arrived and if you are already a fabulous Felt Club member you will have already received your mahoosive discount code! You are so worth it. I must admit I am a little bit in love with this one.

Makes one large mushroom house and garden or two smaller ones.

This is the latest addition to my garden range of needle felting kits; perfect for only the best dressed fairies and gnomes.

A beautiful enchanted garden needle felting kit to feed the imagination and add a whimsical, woodland  flourish to any room.

Ideal for any skill level including absolute beginners.

Nature and nurture in one beautiful piece plus sustainable and eco friendly credentials to boot. The result is a beautiful statement piece celebrating the art of needle felting and the wonderful properties of natural fibers.

TAKE ME TO ‘SHROOM KIT

ETSY

Ended!

Fiver Friday If you are super fast you may get in on the fiver Friday action! This Blue Tit supply pack should keep you busy for a few hours with perfectly matched colours, wire for legs and black glass eyes. Can you believe that the fiver includes UK postage…I’m not even sure how I managed that!!!
Only available until midnight tonight so don’t hang about! Discount already applied.

30% discount on all needle felting patterns Last little treat for you.  until the 7th June. Instantly downloadable and printable. 15 to choose from for all abilities.

TAKE ME TO PATTERNS

ETSY

Become a VIP Felt Club Member and be spoiled with exclusive access to promotions, secret discount codes for new product launches and sneak peeks and your loyalty discount code on every purchase, forever! BECOME A VIP FELT CLUB MEMBER

FELT CLUB PHOTO

Want to know what needle felting is all about? Just pop over and have a look at my series of video tutorials. TAKE ME TO NEEDLE FELTING VIDEO TUTORIALS

TWITTER VIDEO SERIES

Have a fab weekend and big love for all the support!  heart hands.jpg

Est. 2013
© 2013 Lincolnshire Fenn Crafts

needle felted pig

Needle Felted Pig

IMG_9412.JPG

As I sat down to make a sheep at the weekend I decided to take some of my own advice and step out of my comfort zone. I have been wanting to make a pig for months but time, as always, ran away with me and other aspects of the business demanded my attention. So, I changed tack and pulled up various images of pigs on Google; even if your creations are not true to life a photo is always great for reference, proportions etc.

Now, you would think pigs, with their simple shapes and obvious snout wouldn’t be too hard… Not so. Their perceived simplicity means that there is nowhere to hide when it comes to making mistakes and that body and head shape took way longer than I expected. However, now I know what I would change for the next one. Overall I am pretty pleased with the end result but I would definitely do a few things differently next time; bigger snout; change how I assembled it; more work on the face.

IMG_9390

As far as technique is concerned I tend not to use full body armatures*, preferring to work with a much more solid shape and my favourite British wool tops. Instead, I used 1mm paper covered wire for the legs only to aid stability and create a leaner leg. I prefer paper covered wire as the wool holds much better when wrapping and negates the need for any messy waxes or glue. I wrapped each leg in a base layer of white Jacob top then added another layer of carded Corriedale flesh leaving the trotters exposed for contrast.

*Some pieces require a full armature, especially if you want to pose your piece when it’s finished. Carded wool usually works best for this and creates a much softer sculpture requiring much less use of the felting needle.

The body core is grey Jacob top which is a lovely coarse wool top that felts really easily and is still one of my favourites after six years of working with it. Felting the core really firmly allowed me to shape the wool once it was finished creating a nice curve along the back. See video tutorial: HOW TO CREATE A FIRM BODY

I actually made the body, head and snout as one piece but would definitely make the snout separately next time because it lost a lot of its definition and I had to build it up again.  I then covered the whole piece in a lovely carded Corriedale flesh, felting just until it held using my 38 needle at a diagonal angle to reduce needle marks.

You may be wondering why the core colour is a complete contrast to the top layer; this enabled me to create that lovely dark wiry detail that you will see on many pig breeds which sits in dark contrast to the really light top coat. This contrast is achieved by using a 32 reverse needle to pull through the dark grey Jacob wool top, enabling it to sit on top of the flesh colour. Wool tops work really well for this as they have a much longer fibre length than carded wool which allows them to be pulled through the body without breaking off.

IMG_9394

Ears were the easy part and using a photograph for reference makes it much easier to get the correct shape and proportions. My needle felted ears tutorial shows you my favourite, super easy technique for creating animal ears: TAKE ME TO THE TUTORIAL

IMG_9413.JPG

Finally, I covered a short piece of 0.5mm paper wrapped wire in carded flesh to create the curly tail; roll vigorously in the palm of your hands once the wool is attached. This will create a lovely firm finish which stops the wool from ‘sagging’ when it is curled.

IMG_9426.JPG

Add a couple of glass beads for eyes and hello Twiggy The Piggy*

*I claim no responsibility for the name. Blame lies solely with my good friend, Nancy (author of the amazing Maine Coon cat tutorial) who named her ‘Twiggy The Piggy’. I told her it was only marginally better than Babe but she insisted… 

Needle felting kits for all abilities are available on the website and Etsy:

TAKE ME TO NEEDLE FELTING KITS

IMG_9403 - Copy (3).JPG

Est. 2013
© 2013 Lincolnshire Fenn Crafts

Find Me In Handmade Seller’s April Issue!

I don’t normally post non needle felting related blogs but couldn’t resist as I am so thrilled to be April’s featured business in the fabulous online Handmade Seller Magazine. A huge thank you to Dani, founder and digital artist, at Handmade Seller Magazine for inviting me to be this months featured seller. Wow, writing a feature is hard and takes so much more time than you realise but, I really enjoyed going back over the last 6 years and reviewing my business journey. And, even if I do say so myself, it’s a really good read 📰

Handmade Seller Magazine Lincolnshire Fenn Crafts
I have been a ma-hoosive fan (and subscriber) of this great online publication for about four years now and it’s a fantastic resource for handmade sellers. It covers everything from E commerce and Etsy to Pinterest, blogging, SEO (search engine optimisation), photography tips, resources…the list really does go on and on.

April 2019 Handmade Seller Magazine Featured Seller Sandy

Even better, featured stories are told by the people who know best, business owners, sharing their own stories of successes, and failures.

handmade seller5
Handmade Seller Magazine

It was a real honour to be asked to contribute. I hope you enjoy it and it helps you on your own handmade business journey or just gives you the courage to start.

Sandy xhandmade seller6

Est. 2013
© 2013 Lincolnshire Fenn Crafts

needle felted mushroom, snail and leaves

New Needle Felting Kit Launch: Forest Floor Garden

‘Crafternoons’ just got better…

I am so excited about the launch of my latest needle feting kit: Forest Floor Garden. The first in my new range of ‘garden’ needle felting kits.

IMG_8580

Shop Kits Website

It has so much going on and will keep one or two people occupied for a fabulously creative afternoon.

Incorporating three separate elements; mushrooms, snails and leaves, which mount on a lovely piece of split Hazel (from coppiced Welsh woodland*). Each element comes together to create a beautiful forest floor garden theme.

mushroom5

It is my most detailed kit to date with no fewer than 74 full colour photographs! Suitable for confident beginners and beyond. Just add enthusiasm!

You will learn all the basics of needle felting but with the added bonus of new types of wool and techniques to create fabulous shapes.

 

*I have carefully sourced the wood slices, which are split Hazel, from coppiced ancient woodland in Wales. It is an area that the owner has carefully nurtured back to life and is now full of all manner of flora and fauna. Wood slices are really popular for crafts but most come from unsustainable forests. If there comes a time when I can’t find a sustainable source then I will simply stop putting them in the kits.

IMG_8511.JPG

 

PINTEREST WORKSHOPS FOREST FLOOR GARDEN.png
Brand new to needle felting? Then pop over to the easy tutorials and dos and don’ts page.

Video Tutorials

Dos And Don’ts

FELT CLUB PHOTO

Est. 2013
© 2013 Lincolnshire Fenn Crafts

needle felted herdwick sheep

Herdwick Sheep And Winnie The Pooh

Herdwick three ways. My favourite sheep. Natural, sustainable and completely biodegradable; what more do you want from a craft…

Have a fabulous week everyone and always remember that crafts are the perfect, instant respite when the stresses and strains of daily life start to get on top of you. So, today is officially my ‘Crafts As Therapy’ Monday. Failing that, just read a few Winnie The Pooh quotes; if that doesn’t work then we are all doomed and should stay in bed for the rest of our lives…

“I am not lost, for I know where I am. But however, where I am may be lost.” —Winnie-the-Pooh

Use the basic shapes video or tutorial to make the head and body then be as creative as you like. Sheep are the easiest way to start needle felting and you don’t even need to add the legs: BASIC SHAPE VIDEO 

If you fancy something more seasonal then the NEEDLE FELTED PUMPKIN VIDEO is perfect!

IMG_4752IMG_4755IMG_4799IMG_4734

For more craft inspiration follow me on PINTEREST

Go Big Or Go Gnome!

Hope your Saturday afternoon was a good one! This was mine. The hat on the large gnome was problematic but a wire through the head (brutal I know) soon fettled it. It seems odd to be making gnomes in the hot August sunshine but I like to plan ahead. To be honest I can’t think of a nicer way to spend the afternoon; well, maybe a cocktail bar in the Bahamas but you can’t have everything…

IMG_3964.JPG

It’s Okay To Feel Uninspired

You’re probably thinking, “Where is the pretty picture”? “Where is the carefully executed photograph”? Well, in the interest of full disclosure and honesty (and I do like to be honest), this is exactly what I achieved yesterday…nothing!

I picked up my felting needle, stared at some wool, drifted off somewhere else for 10 minutes; don’t ask me where? Stared some more, and then gave it all up as a bad job and watched the TV for the rest of the day.

Today, over my morning cuppa, I started to think about the ‘nothing’ I had achieved the day before (an Oxymoron, I know) and quickly realised that I didn’t care because do you know what? It’s okay to have a bad day, in fact, it’s okay to have several bad days. It doesn’t matter if you don’t create something every day (I most certainly do not) or get the ironing done, sort out the draws full of odd socks the kids have created, walked the dog for long enough, stuck a meal in the microwave because you just couldn’t face cooking etc. etc.

We live in a world where we are bombarded every day, via social media, of perfect lifestyle photographs; perfect images of creativity and artistic ability; perfect homes where every item in it is handmade; perfect artists and creatives; perfect pictures with inspirational quotes… and I love all of those pictures as much as the next person. In fact, we need them, just like we need galleries, green spaces, feel-good movies, coffee shops, and days of doing nothing.  However, I can guarantee, behind every one of those photographs is a person who has bad days just like the rest of us. It is the bittersweetness of being human, top of the food chain, of being self-aware, feeling guilty; now that’s a whole other conversation…

I think what I’m trying to say is just don’t feel bad about it. Your craft box will still be there tomorrow, the next day, the next week and month. Your wool, needles, paints or whatever it is you use to create won’t be judging you so no need to judge yourself. The worst thing you can do is force yourself and take comfort that, at some point, you will be doing this again…

happy-dog-photos-1

 

So, my advice is to put down the wool, needle, whatever… stick the kettle on and do something else, or, like me, watch the TV and fall asleep on the sofa doing nothing. Now, where’s that remote…

Plastic Reduction At Lincolnshire Fenn Crafts

 

We try very hard to keep waste to a minimum and, wherever possible, use recycled material, packaging and minimal plastic. We are constantly looking for alternatives and 99% of our products are sourced from local or British suppliers. Here’s what we use at Lincolnshire Fenn Crafts. #reducereuserecycle

Boxes:
All kits and wool bundles come in sturdy A4 recycled, reusable and recyclable boxes. All my handmade, ready to purchase items are delivered in the same manner.

Cellophane bags for wool:
Re-usable and 100% recyclable through council refuse collection facilities linked to managed recycling programmes. You can also add the cello bag to their plastic recycling bins. However, I am currently investigating 100% biodegradable ‘cellulose’ bags which I hope to be changing over to as soon as current supplies are used.

Felting foam:
Although the foam used in my kits does not contain any plastic, and is fully re-usable, I have just changed my current foam to a type that is (in my opinion) better to felt on with less ‘bounce’ but, with the same carbon footprint.

Mail Bags:
All mailing bags are recycled and recyclable.

Felting needle test tubes:
Recycled, recyclable and re-usable; there should never be a need to throw these away as they are the safest and most practical way of protecting your needles and are handy for all sorts of craft uses.

Needle Felting Photography Tip

 

IMG_9264

Product Photography Tip

We are so used to snapping away with our camera phones, and why not? The results are, on the whole decent and convenient. I am as amateur at photography as they come. However, when it comes to my product photography I have learned always to use my trustee Canon 400D; you have to actually look through the view finder, which, by the way, I love! Please note, anyone under the age of twenty will have to pop over to Wikipedia to find out what a view finder actually is…

Photographing needle felted items from a distance can sometime prove a challenge and the sharpness you are looking for can often be elusive. I have been photographing a new mouse (to encourage Spring to get a move on) and am so pleased with the result. Determined to make best use of my trustee Canon 400D I have forced myself to use manual mode. This was taken indoors; 50mm lens; f stop 2.8; iso 800. Some minor editing and, et voila! I have always opted for the quick and easy auto mode with good to great results. However, the difference using manual mode is clear to see and the depth of field is just lovely on these settings. I have previously used a combined lens of 18mm-55mm and would have to often sift through 100 photos before finding one I was happy with. On this occasion the difference when using a dedicated 50mm lens is like…well, night and day.

If you are serious about your craft business, blog etc. then a decent camera and lens is a real investment!

 

Website

Etsy

Craft Your Way To Better Mental Health

As many of you may know I am a firm believer in this philosophy and Amy Jakob from Hope The Black Dog is a testament to this. Read her article and how crafts help her deal with depression and anxiety here at: http://www.thenationalstudent.com

£1 from every sale in her Etsy shop:  hopetheblackdog is donated to MIND who is a proud charity partner of the Heads Together campaign, which is led by the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and Prince Harry.

the healing power.jpg

Painting by  Cathy Malchiodi  a wonderful advocate for art therapy.

 

New! ‘Rustic Robin’ Needle Felting Kit

New kit ready.  I know I shouldn’t have favourites and should love all the fuzzies just the same but I can’t help it… I have put this on as an introductory offer for Mother’s Day and Easter and, even better, you get to make two Robins from one kit because there is zero chance of you parting with the first one! www.lincolnshirefenncrafts.com

 

‘Fuzzies’ Demand Unreasonable Christmas Perks!

img_2226

Just had our pre-Christmas meeting and the Fuzzies terms of employment are as follows: Refreshments to consist of; unlimited supply of mince pies and full fat Jersey milk; toilet break every two hours (on account of their tiny bladders); afternoon tea at 2pm followed by nap 😴 time and a story; paid lunch and tea breaks; 12 weeks paid holiday per annum; discount on tickets to Disneyland Paris; office party with a magician; clothes allowance and full health insurance for life.
Negotiations are underway but, I do feel they have me over the proverbial barrel…

Can anyone recommend an experienced employment lawyer???

www.lincolnshirefenncrafts.com