Saturday, 31 October 2015

Supporting Handmade... Top Tips!

Following on from my "Why support handmade?" post, I thought I would help you out with a few suggestions of where to look and tips to bare in mind. I know it can be hard to find handmade gifts and products.

Online websites
www.etsy.co.uk A fast growing online market place for handmade and vintage products. There are often options for customisation. This website puts you in touch with artisans and vendors, in one convenient and easy to use website.

www.notonthehighstreet.co.uk Very similar to Etsy, its a fab website for finding gifts that are a little different! Not your average, boring, gift from a high-street shop.

www.littlemajilis.com "Shop from makers and merchants from the Middle East" This one is specifically for those of us living in the middle east. It can be hard to get things delivered here in Dubai, but this website is a gem! All the vendors are based in the middle east, offer home deliveries or pick ups locally. Try signing up for their newsletter for wonderful ideas and new finds!

Social Media


Many artists and small businesses are making the most of social media platforms to advertise their products and encourage word of mouth. I personally use Instagram a lot. Try searching Instagram or Twitter for hashtags such as #handmade #gift #crafts along with the name of your town or city and the product you are looking for. For example, when posting pictures of my crochet items I will often use #crochet #crochetaddict #gifts #heirloon #crochetblankets #baby #Christmas to get attention.

Local Markets

Local markets and stalls are a fab way to find handmade gifts. As well as being able to meet your vendor in person, you can look at and touch the products for yourself. Seeing it in person can sometimes help you make your decision!
Here in Dubai we have markets like ARTE and RIPE which feature local people showing their creations and locally made products.

Blogs

Artists and crafters sometimes produce a blogging diary of their makes too. Reading them is a great way to get to know them and their passion. They will share their new finds and trials on there too. they will always love to hear your feedback, so please comment on them. This helps them to improve, change or reinforce their ideas.

Try having a glance through local bloggers too as they often write reviews for products they have tried. Dubai based blog Sassy Mama Dubai often do this, as well as Mum Of Boys and Life With Baby Kicks. Check out Sassy Mama Dubai's list of Where to get things made in Dubai or Gifts for Newbie Mummies.

Top Tips to Keep in Mind when buying Handmade

  • Time - Some things are made to order so you need to order in advance with plenty of time for the item to be made. If you have left it to the last minute, don't fret, some vendors keep a stock of their homemade wares.
  • Cost - Don't assume that having something handmade will cost more than buying it in a shop. For example, when doing some research today I found MASS PRODUCED crochet blankets in big named stores online that cost the same as my HANDMADE ones. I have bought speciality camel milk soaps here in Dubai for a similar price to well known upmarket brands you find in the supermarkets. Equally though, having something handmade can cost more, and rightly so! Instead of paying for a brand name, you are paying for quality, love, care and individuality!
  • Customisation - If you see something you like but want it in another colour, a different size, or want to personalise it by adding a name on it, just ask the maker!
  • Gift Cards/Coupons/Vouchers - If you can not decide for yourself what you think your loved one might like, why not ask for a voucher from the artisan? I have done this before for a baby shower gift. This was especially successful as the customer wanted to wait until they knew the sex of the baby to order a gift and the mum could choose the exact pattern and colours herself.
Thanks for popping by and reading my tips for supporting Handemade. If I have encouraged even just one of you to do this, I have been successful.

(I suppose I should cheekily take the opportunity to plug my own little home based business while im here... I make Handmade crochet items to order, blankets, cuddly baby loveys, hats, toys, bunting... you name it. At the moment, they are just available in Dubai. Here's my Facebook page if you want to take a peek.)








Thursday, 29 October 2015

Why Support Handmade?

With Christmas coming up in just 8 weeks (eek! 8 weeks!).. my mind has begun conjuring up creative Christmas ideas. It can be so hard to come up with the perfect gift. Now i'm probably a tad biased here but I think its amazing to gift and receive something handmade.

Here's my top reasons why I like to support 'Handmade'.

1. It feels more thoughtful.

Sure giving any gift is thoughtful, and appreciated! But to receive a gift that has been chosen and made especially for you is very special. Its more than likely one of a kind! This goes for gifts made by your own fair hand too! Or your child's. My sons Handmade salt dough ornaments have always gone down well with the grandparents! Rather than another store bought standard throw, a handmade, knitted blanket made in your favourite colour combinations would be much more thoughtful and special.


2. This time it's personal!

You can choose specific colours or patterns for scarves you know your loved one likes. An unusual flavour for fudge that your friend will find super yummy! A special scent for soaps or bath bombs that your mum will forever associate with you! By buying or making something handmade, you may get the opportunity to customise your purchase, making it unique and personal!

If you live abroad away from your family like I do, gifting them a personalised present from your place of residence can be a beautifully personal touch. These personalised henna decorated candles from Dubai were a huge hit with my mum!



3. Support the little guy!

Large stores have their place, but when placing a customised, handmade order you are more than likely giving your hard earned cash to an individual. They could be a stay at home mum creating personalised prints while their babies sleep, a grandma making jewellery in order to supplement her pension, or someone's brother constructing carpentry master pieces in his spare time. You are supporting individuals who are doing something they love! It may be their hobby, a skill they have honed over many years, it is their Passion!


4. The perfect Fit

"One size fits all" is generally not true. We all come in different shapes and sizes. If you know someone who struggles to find clothes that fit, why not arrange to have something custom made for them! With a little research you can find tailors and dressmakers in your local area who can make them something made to measure, with fittings that will ensure a perfect fit and make them feel like a V.I.P! This goes for home furnishings too, or even baked treats! How thoughtful would it be to get your friend some homemade, gluten or dairy free baked treats?

5. Tender love and care

Ok so your handmade product may be a little more expensive than the one you saw in the shop, but goodness me, so much hard work and effort has gone into it! Someone has spent a long time in their craft room, attic or workshop making sure every aspect of their work is as perfect as can be! You are supporting an artist, a creator, a human! A little piece of them goes into every single thing they make!


6. Saving the planet, dude!

I once heard a little anecdote about recycling that likened it to "turning up after an earthquake with a dustpan and brush". But equally "Every little helps" comes to mind also. Think about it.. when buying something from a large chain store, that has been made in a factory in one country, flown across the world to be packaged, then sold and delivered in countries across the world, how many fossil fuels, air miles, sweat shops, factory emissions and packaging have been involved?

7. Quality Craftsmanship

When having something handmade, that gift is made with love, care, attention to detail, and a lot of time and effort! No Mass produced factory jobbies here! That handmade short bread has been through countless taste tests, every stitch of that handmade cushion has been checked and rechecked. The person making you your gift has been practicing their skill for years, spending time and effort coming up with designs and trying them out. It is quite nerve wracking sending your work out into the world.. believe me!



Sunday, 18 October 2015

Do you sometimes feel like you live in a Zoo? Well we tried the real thing!

Kids can be mental. Good mental. But sometimes it can feel like your living in a zoo... with feeding time, mischievous monkeys and funky smells.


My son William loves visiting zoos, and when we saw a deal online for a nights stay at a zoo in Abu Dhabi I thought it would be a great idea! Emirates park Zoo is on the outskirts of Abu Dhabi, about an hours drive from Dubai. We booked a family chalet for the three of us, and our friends joined us too in the chalet next door.


The family chalets overlooked a large enclosure where you could feed giraffes, zebras and deer. It was an amazing experience for the kids! We spent the afternoon by the pool, with the kids giggling, splashing and making the most of the pool slide! Us mums reclining in the shade, chatting and relaxing! Two dads, on kids look out duty.


We headed to the new Yas Mall on Yas Island for dinner in the evening. So many restaurants to choose from! The Rollercoaster restaurant is cool, but we opted for PF Changs, Yum!

Once the kids were tucked up in bed, happily worn out from their first day at the zoo, we cracked open the Oreos, marshmallows and fizzy sweets, ready for a few games of Uno on the patio!

We spent the next day exploring the zoo, feeding all the animals, monkeys, giraffes, zebras, sheep, birds... there's just so much to see! The animals looked fairly well looked after, and were definitely well fed with all the visitors they had that weekend!





It was a fab place to stay! Such a special treat for the kids, and not too bad a place for us adults to enjoy some down time too! The rooms were clean, large, very efficient air conditioning. The patio areas outside each chalet are a perfect place to unwind in the evenings, with the autumn whether in Dubai approaching the temperature was perfect! With self catered rooms, you can take everything you need to feel comfortable, whatever snacks and drinks you want. There is a restaurant on site and room service, although we did not try it out.

If you are looking for somewhere fun to take the kids, or somewhere different to go with friends, take a look at Emirates Park Resort and Zoo. You can visit the Zoo just for the day also.

Emirates Park Resort and Zoo

P.O. Box:111026
Al Bahia, Abu Dhabi-UAE
Tel :+971 2 5069000
Fax :+971 2 5646977
Email : reception@emiratesparkresort.ae
              reservation@emiratesparkresort.ae

Thursday, 8 October 2015

Creative Corner: Crochet Bunting



These gorgeous, colourful triangles have been dotted around my living room recently. I've been working on a few sets for some lovely ladies here in Dubai. They have been very popular on my facebook page so I thought I would show you how I make them and maybe inspire you to try your own?

The ones I have been making lately have used two colours on each triangle. You can obviously change this to personalise your own bunting. I have seen just one colour per triangle or a different colour used for each row resulting in five colours per triangle. It really is completely up to you and the look you want to create.


I used a 4mm hook and some DK yarn. You can use whatever you have available, although I would say don't use any yarn that is too thin as you will find it harder to sew on letters if you want them. You will notice at the beginning of each new round, I only chain 2 instead of 3 for my beginning treble. I find this looks better as 3 chains is too many and looks out of shape.


To start, Chain 4 and join to the beginning chain to create a circle.

Round 1. Chain 2. Working into the centre of the circle, 2 Treble crochet. Chain 3. 3 Treble crochet. Chain 3. 3 Treble crochet. Chain 3 and join to the top of the beginning chain 2. You should have 3 clusters of trebles with 3 chains in between.

Round 2. Chain 2. Treble crochet into each treble of the previous round. When you reach the corners complete 2 trebles, 2 chains, 2 trebles.

Round 3 - 5. Repeat the same as Row 2. You should be creating a solid triangle shape made up of trebles.

Round 6. This is where I changed my colour for the final row. Its up to you if you change or not but just repeat row 2 again. Weave in ends.

When you have made all the triangles you need for your bunting you can attach letters if you want them to feature a name or greeting. I made my own templates by printing out the alphabet in a font I liked. I use these to trace the letters onto felt and cut them out. I hand sew the felt letters onto the bunting using a running stitch. You can also use a blanket stitch if you like.


You can now begin joining the triangles.

With your joining colour, Chain 8 and join to the beginning chain. (This creates a little loop which will help you to hang up the bunting. Adjust the number of chains if you need a bigger or smaller loop.) Continue to create chains, I like to make about 15 chains at the beginning before I join my first triangle. However many you do here, remember to do the same number at the end of the line of bunting.

Now join a triangle, arrange your triangles in order and choose the LAST triangle to use first. Single crochet into the top right corner. Single crochet into each treble across the top of your triangle, single crochet into the top left corner.

Chain 10. (or however big you want the gap to be between triangles)

Repeat the joining process for the rest of the triangles, and making chain 10 gaps in between each one.

When you have joined your last triangle, chain the same amount that you did at the beginning, for me that was 15. Then chain 8 extra and slip stitch to the number 15 chain to create a loop at the end.

Turn you work and begin to single crochet across every chain and single crochet of your joining row. This will leave you with a thin row across the top of your triangles. When you reach the end loop again, cut yarn and weave in ends. If you want a thicker joining row, either use treble crochet stitches or do more rows of single crochet.






I would love to see your versions of this really cute bunting! So please share them with me!

Monday, 5 October 2015

What age would you wish to stay forever?

If you could stay a certain age forever, what would it be?

My husband and I wonder this quite a lot. With my birthday coming up next month and only one year left of being in my twenties, I've been thinking. Have I had the best year of my life? Or is it still to come?

So school years are fun... no responsibilities, learning new things, all your time outside of school can be spent messing about with friends and creating relationships that may last a life time. But then there is also homework, GCSE's, no money, relying on parents for lifts everywhere. Nah... no thanks.

I enjoyed the years after I left college. I got my first full time job. I had some cash, worked hard to save for my own car so I could go where I wanted, when I wanted. Not really many responsibilities still as I lived at home with a very supportive mother who did all the washing and cooking. But apprenticeship wages, and no room for promotion within my job was always hanging over me. I didn't feel challenged.

I moved onto another job, aged 20, where I met my husband to be. Two years later we got married, set up our own home and were happy in our jobs. My husband got a promotion. I took part in every training opportunity that came up at work and took on another role too. I was growing more confident in myself and what I could do. I started working from home in my spare time, making bespoke wedding and bridesmaid dresses. Using skills I had learnt in school. My husband and I began travelling and enjoying amazing holidays together, our relationship still young and exciting.


In 2009, we realised something was missing. At aged 25, I became pregnant and we had our amazing little boy William. We became parents. Our focus was on him, this tiny thing that needed everything from us. I think becoming a parent does change you, but definitely for the better!


Just before turning 27, we moved our little family to another country, Dubai. Completely different to anything we had experience before. And so began another adventure! My career took a back seat to settling in our family to this new life. Making friends, discovering our new city and setting up a new home from scratch.

Two years on, life has changed again! I am back to work part time, William has started school. We are settled in Dubai, happy and loving life here. Life is hectic, we have big responsibilities, paying bills, working hard and building careers. As well as caring for our son, educating him and creating fantastic family memories.


 So what age would I want to be forever? Maybe 27, 28. But at this rate, maybe I haven't reached that golden age that I want to be forever yet. I guess you never know, until you have experienced it and its long gone. When you can look back at your past, with all those memories, and pin point the best time.

What do you think? Could you decide what age you wish you could be forever? I would love to hear... and your reasons behind it too!

Mummy's Me Time

What do you do with your ME time???

 

And... breathe!..... The apartment is quiet. I'm all alone. I have my laptop set up, with a coffee by my side. It's a good Monday morning!

This September my son started school and I started my part time job. Since then, our weekdays have been a bit manic. Between school runs, working, making pack lunches,  making two separate dinners every night, washing, cleaning, crocheting orders... It's great, but its busy!

So the two mornings a week that I have to myself, I need to make the most of. So far, food shopping and cleaning keeps getting in the way. But here's my top things that cheer me up, and make me feel fresh again when I get a bit of "Me Time".

1. Get Pampered.

I'm not talking day at the spa kind of pampered, although I wouldn't say no to that! No, I'm more realistic. I'm talking, I've got an hour before I need to leave for the school run so out comes the coconut oil for a hair mask, bicarb and coconut oil for a face scrubbing or foot scrub. Not only do these things make me feel better, they help freshen up my skin and give a deep condition to my hair too.

For ideas and recipes for homemade beauty products and treatments, have a little gander at my Pinterest board here.

2. TV Guilty pleasures.

Curling up on the couch in my pyjamas, with a coffee and some biscuits, watching last nights Downton Abbey. Need I say more? Ok.. well.. lets try some X Factor, TV Drama like 'Dr Foster', returning to high school with 'Pretty Little Liars' or swooning over teenage vampires (played by 30 year olds so its ok) from 'The Vampire Diaries'. Basically, anything the husband hates watching.

3. Go back to Bed.

Before my husband pipes up at this one... yes its great to go back to bed to catch some more zzz's once the boys have left for school, but its also just really nice to take 10/20/30 minutes to eat breakfast in bed, catch up on Facebook or blog reading.

Check out this round up of amazing looking Delicious Coffee recipes to make at home.

4. Exercise.

I am so not one for exercising! I will find any excuse not to do it, and as a result, I am totally unfit. One of my excuses for the past two years is that I never had time. I had my son to look after all day and come the evenings when the husband was home, I had dinner to cook and just didn't feel like it! So now I am trying hard to get motivated and to spend some time on my mornings off doing some kind of exercise. So far I've been for walks and done a some toning workouts at home. The weather in the mornings here in Dubai at the moment are lovely. Check out the photo above that i took yesterday! Gorgeous foggy morning! My miniscule abs are aching, and I get a stitch if I even think about raising my pace to a slow jog at the moment but every little helps!

5. Get Organised.

This one might sound a bit sad. But I am kinda sad sometimes. I hate things being untidy, I need a list for everything, I don't like clutter. So to spend a bit of time cleaning and sorting cupboards, making a dinner menu plan for the week, jotting down potential blog posts, or even cleaning the fridge out makes me feel like I have accomplished something with my time. I love walking back into the apartment after work knowing that its tidy and that I have a plan for things to get on with.

So there you have it. That's what I get up to when I have some 'Me Time'. How about you? I'd love to hear! Maybe I am missing something! So please share.

Right, i'm off... I've got the rest of x factor to watch before the washing machine finishes!

Friday, 2 October 2015

Creative Corner: Baby burping cloths

I seem to be in a time of my life where I know a lot of people having babies. Its such an exciting time and lets face it, although I don't need much of an excuse to get crafty.. its a pretty good one.

So this summer when travelling back to the UK, I had two very close friends to see who had had babies. It was great to meet their little bundles, one of which is a very long awaited niece of mine! I had already made them a crochet blanket each but wanted to make them a little something extra.


So out came the sewing machine and these baby burping cloths and matching bibs were made. I personally love this balloon and birds fabric. I found it in a shop in Satwa here in Dubai.  So if you'd like to have a go at making these yourself, here are the quick and easy instructions!
 
 


You will need
 
Plain muslin cloths. (I found mine in a supermarket here in Dubai, you can buy them fairly cheaply online or in baby shops.)
Printed cotton fabric. (I head to Satwa, Dubai for my fabrics. They are usually around 12 aed per yard, that's just 2 quid!)
Thread
 
Sewing machine
Iron
Scissors
Pins
 
Burping Cloths
 
1. Begin by folding your muslin cloth into three. I then iron it flat like this. Take the measurements you need for the middle section. Add 2cm to each measurement, this will allow for a 1cm seam allowance all the way round.
 
2. Cut out the printed fabric to the size required.
 
3. Fold over edge raw edge of the printed fabric by 1cm. I used the iron to press the edges over as it helped to keep them in place for sewing. Place the fabric on top of your muslin cloth, just to check it fits well. The muslin cloths I bought were not always perfectly straight so I sometimes needed to adjust the printed fabric to fit.
 
4. Pin the printed fabric onto the muslin cloth so that it fits nicely down the centre of the cloth. Sew in place.
 
It is just that simple! Once you are done, you have a gorgeous personalised gift for expecting mothers. I was given some of these by my mother in law when I had my son William and I absolutely loved them. Its especially nice when you can choose prints that fit in with their chosen nursery theme or favourite cartoon characters or colours. I had some fab Hungry Caterpillar and Pirate themed ones.
 



Bandana Bibs
 
To create matching bandana bibs is good fun. They will be used ALOT as babies begin teething and weaning. They are great for protecting little ones clothes from messes and look super cute on too! They are still easy to make, but do require a little more effort.
 
1. Have a look at this template I created here. Either print it out or recreate your own using the measurements. The measurements include a 1cm seam allowance.
 


2. Iron out any creases in your printed fabric and your cotton muslin. Use the template to cut out one bandana bib shape each from the muslin and the printed fabric. Bare in mind that some of the muslin fabrics can fray very quickly once cut, so try to do the next staged fairly quickly, with minimal handling of the fabric.
 
3. Place the two fabric pieces with right sides together, ie. inside out. Pin around the edges to keep them in place and sew around with a 1cm seam allowance. Make sure you leave a gap of roughly 7cm on one of the sides so that you can turn the fabric through.
 
4. Turn the fabric through your gap so that you have the right sides facing you now. You may need to put your fingers right inside to push the corners out nicely. Iron the bandana flat.
 
5. Top stitch the bandana bib all the way around, just a few mm from the edge. This will reinforce your stitching and close up the gap you left.
 
6. Cut out a small square of Velcro that will fit on the ends of the bib. Pin and sew each square on, making sure they are on opposite sides of the fabric so they do up nicely once placed around babies neck. So one piece will be sewn on the printed fabric side and the other piece will be sewn on the muslin side.
 
Voila! You are done. Once you have made one, you will want to make more and more! They are kind of addictive! I try to make a few at a time, and then I have a little stash ready for when babies come along.
 
I hope this has inspired you to have a go at making your own personalised bandana bibs and burping cloths. I would love to see them if you have a go, so please do send me a photo! Either leave it in the comments below or email them to me at sharkyknows@gmail.com