Thursday, 29 March 2012

A Totally Crafty Weekend

Spring sprung this weekend! The weather was amazing and I made the most of the sunny Saturday by taking a stroll down to The Crafty Fox market at The Dogstar, Brixton. I had heard lots of good things about this huge market, and was getting excited by all the tweets during the week. There were three floors of stalls, workshops, a tea room, a DJ and almost best of all....a buggy park! I loved the way they had thought of everything!

I had Wiss with me and was initially unsure about taking a toddler to a busy craft fair, but actually it was a pleasure and he had a whale of a time! There was so much to look at (and so many foxes and badgers to spot) that he wasn't bored at all. Some of the stand-out stalls for me were: original soft toys from Stuffed Nonsense, a badger in his pants from Jimbobart, a gorgeous art bag with pencils from Sally Nencini, and wonderful cards from Stacie Swift.

We didn't really have time to stop for one of the classes (I was tempted to sit down to learn some crochet tips) but we did take some time out to enjoy a slice of cake! I wasn't able to manage a camera and a little man so apologies for the lack of photos, but I urge you to go along to the next Crafty Fox Market. You won't be disappointed!
Our little tea party!


Cards from Stacie Swift

Then on Sunday it was my turn to get behind a stall and sell. This is Wiss was taking part in the very first Craft Fair at the Balham Bowls Club, organised by Emma Barrett. For those that have never had the pleasure of visiting the BBC, it is a gloriously quirky pub with odd mismatched furniture and great charm. We had the room upstairs which is light and spacious and has room for customers to sit back and relax as they browse.

There was a steady stream of people throughout the day and I really enjoyed meeting a completely different crowd. Thanks as always to my customers, and to those who stopped to chat, especially Sarah and Paul. There is talk of this fair becoming a regular feature at the BBC, so I will let you know as soon as I know. Huge thanks go to Emma for organising this fair and finding such a great venue!

I took a couple of pictures myself, but there are more photos and write-ups of the whole event on these blogs: Emma Barrett and Sarah South London

I was so impressed by both of these fairs and all the talent on show, and it seems that the time is right for pop-up markets all over London. I'm definitely keen to get involved and be part of this great new trend, so I hope that you'll be able to visit my This is Wiss stall in a market near you soon!

Saturday, 17 March 2012

Happy St Patrick's Day!

St Patrick's Day this year is a special date for me. Yes, my husband is Irish so we always celebrate it in some way (usually wearing green!) but there's another reason I want to write about it today.

One year ago I stumbled upon an amazing blog. I was completely new to this form of digital 'diary' and I didn't know it then but it was going to make quite a difference to my life! The website was Dana Made It. I was blown away by the stunning photographs and the fabulous things that Dana made for her family and home. More than that, there were great free tutorials where she shared her knowledge. I was hooked! I was inspired!

Before this, I had been knitting and sort-of sewing things during my pregnancy and maternity leave but I was self-taught from books which were informative but rather old-fashioned. Dana showed me that handmade could mean cool and funky too! Just look through her website yourself and you'll see what I mean.

I wanted to start sewing straight away, just something simple but I needed to give it a go. St Patrick's Day was a few days away so I decided on a themed appliqued t-shirt for Wiss to wear to nursery, inspired by this tutorial. I lasercut (what I thought was*) a shamrock from green felt and machine sewed it to a t-shirt from BabyGap. Simple!

I haven't stopped sewing from that day, and the rest has just snowballed from there. I had no idea that from that easy-peasy t-shirt I would be making clothes from scratch, start my own cottage business, be selling in markets, have a website or my own blog! It's been a very busy year but it's been great fun. Like many, I dream of big things but I know it will take lots of hard work, time and dedication. I want to thank everyone who has helped and supported me and 'This is Wiss', let's just wait and see what the future holds...

I'll leave you with a compare and contrast of Wiss on St Patrick's Day 2010 and today. Where does the time go?! I wish you all a wonderful day and hope you are wearing something green to celebrate!

*I was informed by my mother-in-law that this is actually a 4-leafed clover and not a shamrock! I'm afraid I'm still not sure what the difference is between clover and shamrocks though. Please leave a comment if you do!

Wednesday, 7 March 2012

World Book Day Event Part 7

Welcome back! It's the last day of the week-long World Book Day event here on
This is Wiss. I hope you have enjoyed the posts so far? I am really excited to introduce my final special guest for today's blog: Kelli writes her Tales from Homemade House and blogs all about her busy (but fantastic sounding) life with her four children. She cooks, crafts, grows her own veg, and has a passion for a simple, more fulfilling life and writes about it all in such a lovely and genuine voice.

"Books have been an important part of my life since I was very young. I was a regular visitor to my local library throughout my childhood years. The earliest books I can remember are those wonderfully illustrated, heart-warming tales by Shirley Hughes. I read anything and everything as a child and if I had a book in hand I was totally absorbed and transported within the pages. Hans Christian Anderson, Enid Blyton, Point Horror...they all hold fond memories for me and now that I have four children of my own it has been an exciting journey to see how each of them have reacted to books and how their tastes have been similar or drastically different from my own at that age. Here I will give a rundown of the books that are currently holding my children in thrall at the various ages and stages each of them are at.

Starting with my eldest who is 9, and currently the most reluctant reader of my brood, it has often been a challenge to find books that interest or excite him. A logical and inquisitive boy, we started him off on factual textbooks from dog training to the solar system, anything that held his interest. In an attempt to develop his imagination there is a series of books that were by far the best for holding his attention and for giving him the enthusiasm to want to read more and they have to be the wonderful ‘Mr Gum’ books by Andy Stanton. Full of humour and illustrations that are reminiscent of Quentin Blake the books tell the story of the crotchety, smelly old man who has become a firm favourite in my son’s opinion. With much gross humour and the odd made up words these tales have my son laughing out loud and excitedly reading his favourite passages to anyone who will listen. For that alone Mr Gum gets my full vote too.

Next is my 7 year old. She is an avid reader with a wild imagination and will read anything she can get her hands on, and with a bookcase that is bursting at the seams with excellent authors it has been very difficult whittling them down. There are, however, two classic authors that outshine the rest with their ability to capture children’s imaginations regardless of what decade it is. First is Enid Blyton who writes about everything from midnight feasts at boarding school in ‘Mallory Towers’ to daring adventures with the ‘Famous Five’. Blyton was always a firm favourite of mine and it has been such a joy to pass this love down to my own child and relive the adventures anew with her. Second has to be Roald Dahl for his humour, the gripping, page turning fear and the possibility that anything at all could happen. He takes children on a rollercoaster of emotions, laughing aloud one minute and hiding under the covers the next. His characters are big, ferocious and lovable all at the same time and keep children, (and adults), always wanting more.

For my three year old daughter there were many authors who had written excellent books such as Julia Donaldson’s ‘The Gruffalo’s Child’ and Eileen Brown’s ‘Handa’s Surprise’, but for a whole series of books our definite bedtime favourite is Dorothy Edwards and her ‘My Naughty Little Sister’ series. Very like the books by Shirley Hughes, Edwards has a lovely homely, timeless feel in the way she writes and she manages to portray the viewpoint of a child in this age group perfectly without it ever feeling belittling. Her stories have been wonderful to read aloud to my daughter and, after all, if the story teller doesn’t enjoy reading it then the listener will never enjoy hearing it.

Lastly is my youngest son who has recently turned 2. Throughout the day the books he enjoys are those brightly coloured board books with clear pictures of the ordinary things he sees about him daily, those things he is just beginning to form the words for. They give him an immense sense of achievement to recognise and pronounce the word for each picture and vitally they give him the confidence to handle and enjoy books. For bedtime, however, there is one all time favourite that has been passed down all four of my children and it is perfect for that sleepy, relaxing time just before bed... Allen Ahlberg’s ‘Mocking Bird’. With its beautiful and detailed Georgian illustrations by Paul Howard it is written to the tune of the original song and whether read or sung gently it is definitely a wonderful book to end the day with and it is the one book above all others that fills me with the memories of each of my children’s sleepy bedtime routines at this age.

I hope you’ve enjoyed reading about our favourite books and hopefully it has inspired you to take yourself and your little ones off to the library or bookshop to see what adventures you can find amongst the shelves. I’d like to say thank you to Angela for asking me to write this guest post for her blog and for World Book Week and I hope you have all enjoyed the fun posts and pictures that have been featured throughout the past week by all the talented ladies who have participated."

Thank you Kelli for rounding off the week so beautifully. There is something very comforting in the fact that your children are enjoying today all the books that you, and many of us enjoyed in our childhoods, a *few* years ago!

I want to give a huge thank you to all my special guests who have made this week so entertaining, and inspiring: Beth, Jo, Emma, Lisa and Kelli. Please continue to visit their blogs to read more of the same great stuff. I have thoroughly enjoyed this collaboration and have loved reading such varied responses on the idea of World Book Day,
and I hope you have too?

I will be taking a couple of days off from blogging now as I have all manner of mundane tasks to get through, before getting back behind the sewing machine. Thank you all for stopping by and please do leave a comment below if there's anything you'd like to add.
Bye for now!

Tuesday, 6 March 2012

World Book Day Event Part 6

Hello! We have reached the penultimate day of the week-long World Book Day event here on This is Wiss and I have asked another special guest to write today's blog.

Lisa started her blog, 'A Day in the Life of a Crazy Busy Mum of Two' last year and it does exactly what it says on the tin! She describes herself as a 'craft virgin' but she crochets, knits and stitches and has tackled a whole range of projects recently including Kindle covers, bunting, keyrings and participated in craft swaps. She has so much enthusiasm and is always trying something new, that it's always exciting to see what she's been up to.

"So when Angela contacted me to write a guest blog for world book day two things happened. The first was a wave of excitement came over me and once I’d quickly typed my acceptance then came the fear! I’ve only been blogging myself a few months and tend to ramble and digress. A bit like I’m doing here!

World Book Day! I am a self-confessed Bookaholic, if there is such a thing. I love them, my house is filled with them and luckily it seems to of rubbed of on my two and a half year old.

I knew straight away which book I would like to write about as Nathan and I have been having fun with it for a couple of months now. It’s called '365 Things to Make and Do.'

Now you need to bear with me here, Nathan isn’t the easiest child to photograph for two reasons, one he doesn’t sit still long enough and two when you ask him to smile we seem to have taught him to grimace?!

Anyway, the book has, as the title suggests many many activities to make and they are all very easy and simple. There are detailed steps and images to show you just how to put them together and all you really need is a "Treasure Bucket" just a good selection of craft bits.

Nathan loves just sorting through them first.

Then we start the actual making, I can’t get pics of that though due to me needing to be very alert around the use of glue! We’ve made many things using the book, from a tiger mask to a real spider with 8 legs! Today however Nathan decided on a rocket. I’m sure you’ll agree with me that we did a very good job?!

Nathan is still quite young to be using the book but I’ve found that if you choose things that are very quick at producing results it will hold his attention just long enough. I recommend this book wholeheartedly and like I said I’m a Bookaholic. I have several childrens craft ones although this is the only one we have used so it must count for something. There are fabulous pictures inside, so much so that Nathan happily looks through it for periods of time just to decided what we can make next time!"

Thank you Lisa, and of course Nathan! I love the fact that he chooses what he wants to make from the book, and it must give him a great feeling to see his real one alongside the one on the page. It has inspired me to try some crafting with Wiss!

Once again, I'm going to urge you to check out the Official World Book Day website. They have lots of fab competitions, including Design a Bookmark, or Design your own Picture Book (which will get printed if you win!)

Please come back tomorrow for the very last post in this week-long event.
Kelli from Tales from a Homemade House will be sharing the favourite authors of her four children, and from her own childhood!

Monday, 5 March 2012

World Book Day Event Part 5

Welcome back!
It's Monday which means we are on day 5 of the week long
World Book Day event here on This is Wiss.

Today's special guest is...well, me! I'm back to give you some ideas on making your own books. I know that World Book Day is about celebrating the best in children's authors and illustrators, but why not have a go yourself? Of course, if you fancy turning your hand to actually drawing your own pictures, or even writing a story then by all means do it, you can get as creative (or not) as you wish. But these ideas use photos so are even more easy to produce.

The first book I made for Wiss was about our/his family. My mum lives in Suffolk, and my brother in Australia so they aren't able to visit every weekend! But even the people who live close aren't around on a daily basis either, so I wanted to make sure that Wiss grew up knowing who the important people in his life are.

I used a plastic slip-in photo album from Muji (similar to this one) so it could be wiped clean! I printed out the names of the people to go alongside each photograph, and used thin card to make the bages a bit sturdier and easy for little hands to turn.

Everybody features in the book, including our cat Raoul! We have the grandparents, uncles, pets and a couple of close friends and our neighbour. Wiss really seemed to like the photos that showed him with that particular person. Finally, I included a couple of 'line-ups' from our wedding day. Wiss loves these as he has to search out each face! First we had to point out each person, then he was able to do it himself, and now he can name everybody too. This book has provided great opportunities for discussion, even from a really early age.

That book was such a success that I wanted to make more. I am a member of Groupon and when they had an offer from 2M Books to make personalised photobooks I jumped at the chance. The deal was great: £3.99 for £25 to spend on making up your own book. You download a software package and then you are able to drop in your own photos, pictures, captions and text and format each page as you wish, including the hardback cover.

This book is a fairly typical alphabet picture book but I used lots of photos of items from our everyday life to illustrate it. I thought Wiss would like to be able to see the image in real life and compare it to the one on the page. And of course, there are lots of photos of him too!

The possibilities are endless and other ideas I've had include, Emotions, Numbers, Colours, and Where We Live (with family members pictured outside their own houses) etc etc! Wiss really likes looking at his personalised books, and I'm sure they will make lovely keepsakes too in the future. I'd love to hear from you if you've made your own books, or if you've got any more ideas for topics. Please leave a comment below...

I'm sure you've all visited by now, but if not then check out the Official World Book Day
website for loads and loads of great ideas, games and listings of events near you all celebrating books!

Tomorrow is the penultimate day of my week long event and I have asked another fantastic blogger to write a guest post. Lisa will be writing about a great craft book that has provided lots of inspiration for her and her two-year old son. Have a brilliant day and I hope to have you back tomorrow.

Sunday, 4 March 2012

World Book Day Event Part 4

It's day 4 already! The week is flying by but I hope you have been enjoying
the special guest posts so far?

Today I am very pleased to introduce Emma from Lemons for Lemonade. Emma lives in Oxford and works in a jewellery shop by day and crochets and sews by night. Her blog is full of great photos of everything and anything she gets up to - visiting lovely craft fairs, seeking out quirky new shops, the sights around her and crochet! I don't know how to crochet so I am a little in awe of the amazing creations she produces - and so quickly! I asked her to guest in this series as I couldn't wait to see what she would make....
You won't be disappointed!

"I can’t remember how old I was when I got given my first Mr Men book.  I’d hazard a guess at five or six.  And I can’t even remember which was the first book I got, but I’m pretty sure it was Mr wait, Mr Sneeze....or was it Mr Muddle?!  Anyway, these books were my collection.  My sister had the Beatrix Potter books, my brother had the Little Grey Rabbit books, and I had the Mr Men books.  When I reminded The Fathership of this over supper last night, he said he’d never have let that happen if he’d realised at the time!
I’m glad The Fathership didn’t realise.  I loved the Mr Men books – the Little Miss books too (although these were a much later addition to my collection) – and I still do: short stories, funny characters and brightly coloured pictures, what more could you want?!
When Angela asked me if I’d like to be a guest contributor on her blog for World Book Day, and to perhaps crochet my favourite character from a childhood book, I jumped at the chance.  To not only have been asked to feature on Angela’s fantastic blog, but to get to challenge myself to make something completely different to what I’ve done before, and without a pattern to follow to boot, was too good an opportunity to miss.
So I set about thinking what on earth I could make.  What character could I crochet that wouldn’t be too hard to do, or take too long?  My first thought was The Very Hungry Caterpillar.  Definitely up there in my list of favourites, and I very nearly settled for that, (several squished up crocheted balls, all sewn together, plus a couple of antennae, easy) but I knew deep down that it wasn’t my absolute favourite character.  It was then that I decided to approach the whole thing from a different angle.  I know, I thought, I’ll Google “favourite children’s books 1980s” and see what comes up.  Well, all sorts of beauties that I’d forgotten all about popped up: Meg and Mog; Flat Stanley; the Dick King-Smith books, The Worst was all I could do not to go straight out and buy them all again just so I could re-live my childhood years!  And then up popped Mr Tickle.  That was it!  I’d found my character!  How could I have forgotten all about Roger Hargreaves’ brilliant set of characters and the books I used to read over and over and over again?  And the best bit was (or so I thought) that Mr Tickle would be a breeze to crochet....
How wrong I was!
First I tried making Mr Tickle’s body spherical.

It didn’t look right.
Then I couldn’t work out how to shape his feet, and couldn’t find a suitable pattern for “crocheted feet” anywhere, until trusty Twitter came to the rescue and the lovely Louise Campbell (@louisefcampbell) very kindly pointed me towards her pattern for a crocheted David Tenant, which she thought I could adapt in the foot department.  Perfect!
Even the arms caused me grief!  I really wanted to have some wire running though them so that I could manipulate Mr Tickle’s arms into all those bendy shapes without them flopping about everywhere. 

A couple of homemade French knitting bobbins (Thanks Fathership) and a small length of French knitting later, and I went back to the drawing board.
In fact, the easiest part was the hat which, weirdly, I thought would be the hardest part.
So would you like to see the finished article?  Of course you would!

I just love his obscenely long arms and those distinctly Quentin Blake-ish looking fingers (Roald Dahl was of course another contender for this project but I knew I wouldn’t be able to do justice to Quentin’s distinctive drawings) and he looks so happy and jolly doesn’t he?
I am mighty pleased with him.
Now then, I am almost certain that Mr Tickle is going to stay here and live with me at number 23 (he’s made some friends already, as you can see above) but if enough of you clamour for a pattern, then I will think about having a go at rustling one up for you, but you must promise not to reproduce the pattern in any way or sell the resulting Mr Tickle.  How does that sound?  Just leave a comment on this post, and I’m sure Angela will let me know how many people respond.
This has been such a rewarding project for me, so thank you so much Angela for asking me to contribute.  I feel very honoured to be here amongst all these talented people – be sure to visit their blogs, won’t you?
Have a lovely day.
Much love,
Emmalemonade x x"

Thank you Emma! Not only is your Mr Tickle fantastic but I also learnt that there is actually a pattern out there for a crocheted David Tennant. Wow!
Visit Emma's blog for more fabulous crafting, snippets of her life and lovely photographs. And leave a comment below if you'd like to make a Mr Tickle of your own.

As always, you can find lots of great things to do/see/read/play on the Official World Book Day website. They've even got a cooking section!

The World Book Day Event continues on This is Wiss tomorrow with another post from me: I will be sharing ideas on making your own books. Enjoy your Sunday and I hope you will visit again tomorrow.

Saturday, 3 March 2012

World Book Day Event Part 3

Welcome to Day 3 of the World Book Day event here on This is Wiss!
I have a very special guest blogger today - this is her first ever post! I'll come clean straight away: I have known Jo since we were 11 years old and started school together. She is an extremely talented illustrator and has worked making props for the advertising industry, as well as teaching at the University of Essex. She has fantastic taste in style and  design which extends to every aspect her life, including family life with her two children. So who better to ask for ideas on stunning illustrated children's books?

"My name is Jo, and I am an addict. I am hooked on books, especially the picture kind. I have passed my pages problem onto my two children and I am going to share with you a selection from their groaning book shelves...(or is that my husband?!)

Here it is, my much deliberated twenty-one (it started out as five!) favourite picture book list. They have been selected purely for looks, so although many would have also made the cut of a best story book list, think of this as a booky beauty pageant. You be the judge.

I found it tough to shortlist these books, and not least to select a particular book from each of the featured illustrator’s ‘canon’ to best represent their utter brilliance, so I suggest that if you approve of my selections, you check out the rest of their work. Geniuses all.

This is not a chart run-down, they are all No.1’s……

'There are Cats in This Book' by Viviane Schwartz

'Jim: A Cautionary Tale' by Hillaire Belloc and Mini Grey

'The Incredible Book Eating Boy' by Oliver Jeffers

'Popville' by Anouck Boisrobert & Louis Rigaud

'Hansel and Gretal' by Cynthia Rylant

'I Want My Hat Back' by Jon Klassen

'Harry and Horsie' by Katie van Camp

'For Just One Day' by Marc Boutivant

'Noisy Neighbours' by Ruth Green

'An Awesome Book' by Dallas Clayton

'And The Train Goes...' by William Bee
'People' by Blex Bolex

'Iggy Peck, Architect' by Davis Roberts

'The Lonesome Puppy' by Yoshitomo Nara

'Zombie in Love' by Scott Campbell

'Eli, No!' by Katie Kirk
'Children Make Terrible Pets' by Peter Brown

'Mr Big' by Ed Vere

'Harry the Dirty Dog' by Margaret Bloy Graham

'Operation Alphabet' by Luciano Lazano

'Wonderbear' by Tao Nyeu

Also, I could have included Jonny Duddle, Adam Rex and Chris Judge but you gotta stop somewhere..."

Wow! There are some absolute gems in that line up, and I know that Jo had even more she wanted to include too! If you would like to hear more from Jo then please leave me a comment below (I'm trying to persuade her to write a blog herself as she has a wealth of fabulous information, tips and cool ideas.)

As always, please check out the Official World Book Day website - they have online games and trailers to watch as well as recipes and other downloads, all with your favourite books.

The World Book Day event continues here tomorrow with a guest post from Emma of Lemons for Lemonade. Make sure you pop back as you won't want to miss what she has made!