Wishlist Wednesday: And a Crafty New Year

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Full disclosure: This post contains some affiliate links. When you make a purchase on Amazon after using the links in this post, Roxy and I get a little kickback, helping us keep the website running.
So, Christmas has been and gone for another year. I hope you got lucky and found everything under your tree that you asked for! Maybe you got a little money for Christmas but you’re not sure what to spend it on? Don’t worry, I’ve got some ideas for the crafters out there to lighten your purse – whether you’re looking for a big budget item or just a little treat! Just read on below.

1. Cricut Explore Air 2 Machine (Affiliate)

I’ve talked about my desire for a Cricut before, and that desire hasn’t waned. If anything, when I spotted the new colours it’s available in, my need for it has grown. I have a huge thing for mint green, so I really had to restrain myself when this beauty popped up in my Black Friday deals.
Beyond appearance, this equipment is a workhorse. Gone are the days when your cutting is restricted to how well you can hand cut or which die-cuts you own. With a Cricut Explore Air 2, your imagination is very much your limit. It’s not just for cutting either – attachments mean you can also get it to draw or write for you. Just think about it – calligraphy style writing without the hand cramp? That’s the dream! The only thing that’s holding me back is that price tag – I feel like I’d need to be doing a lot more papercraft than I currently do, but fingers crossed for the future!

2. Big Shot Plus Starter Kit (Affiliate)

A Big Shot Plus was my first die-cutter, and honestly, I would still be using if it wasn’t so big! When I moved into my tiny studio, the Big Shot went to my sister and I took my Cut’n’Boss. But the Big Shot, in my view, was a much more reliable piece of kit. At most, I would put things through twice to get a clean cut. The system is simple, with pictures on the plates to help if you forget the order. The larger size (compared to the original) means you can cut bigger dies (duh!), but it also copes well with smaller more intricate dies.
The only drawback is that it is hand operated (an electronic version is available), so this needs to be considered for those with bad wrists like me! However, I only found it to be a big problem with high GSM Card. All in all, it’s perfect for a die cutting starter, especially if you go for the starter kit. When I first bought it, I used the starter kit contents to make a series of Easter boxes for my family, which out having to use anything else from my stash.

3.KnitPro Symdonie Rose Interchangeable Needle Set (Affiliate)

This set of circular needles was top of my Christmas list a couple of years ago, and since receiving it I haven’t used anything else (even for non-circular projects!) The needles themselves are a gorgeous mahogany colour, with rose gold-coloured metal for the attachments.  The kit comes with a needle gauge (for when the numbers inevitably rub off) and a range of needles and connecting cables. They are the perfect size to sit in your hands, and I’ve found using circular needles like these for all my knitting helps support the weight on my wrists better, leading to less pain. Like other wooden needles, I’ve found them easy to knit with, not too slippy and not too sticky for most yarns. The ends are sharp and stay sharp.
 There are a couple of things to be aware of before purchasing. The connections may gradually unscrew as you are knitting, but as long as you keep an eye on them and screw them back up as you go, you shouldn’t have many problems. I have also had one needle break at the part where the wood connects to the metal. However, I had no problem purchasing needles to replace it, and it was one that I had used a lot! Overall, I would absolutely recommend these to any knitters out there!
When I first saw gold plated needles recommended for cross stitch, I brushed it off as just silly. How much difference could a bit of gold plating really make?
The answer is a lot. I picked some up on a whim a year ago and haven’t looked back since. It glides through the material, making even the little movement of making a stitch feel seamless. They also feel a lot easier to thread than the standard needles you get.
They also look really fancy.
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Experience it for yourself and pick up a pack today. You honestly won’t regret it.
And that’s it for the last Wishlist Wednesday of 2017! Be sure to check back in 2018 for more recommendations and to find out what else is on my wishlist – this is just the start! And in the meantime, comment below with what’s on your list!
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Project Monday: Crochet Shrug

Full Disclosure – This post contains affiliate links. When purchasing on Amazon after clicking the link, I get a little kick-back to keep the site going!

I love crafting (obviously) but there is one craft that has eluded me. I have tried for a long time to be able to crochet, but anything beyond a granny square was something that I just couldn’t get my head around.

I hate not being able to do something. My long-term anxiety has turned into a perfectionist trait, that I’ve never been able to get through. So I’ve been determined to get my head around crochet for a long time. I had numerous books and magazines with instructions, but after a while, I realised I was possibly starting off a bit too ambitious. Knowing that I could make a semi-decent granny square, I searched for a clothing pattern that made use of this skill, along with using up some of my yarn stash.

After a little bit of digging, I found this pattern posted by Lara on her blog, Thornberry, (Originally posted on a no longer available blog). It looked perfect – nice and simple, but still something I would wear often. I dug out my crochet hooks and some t-shirt yarn I’d been hoarding for a while and got to work.

It was great to feel like I was producing something, and the speed of crochet over knitting definitely makes it feel more rewarding! I did hit a couple of speed bumps. I was aiming to make it all purple, but underestimated how much yarn I would need! It’s been in my stash so long the manufacturer has long since disappeared, and I couldn’t find a close enough match elsewhere. So instead I went with grey, which will match most of my current wardrobe. The two colours seem to compliment each other well.

However, different manufacturer means a different feel to the yarn. The purple was quite stretchy, whereas the grey isn’t. In comparison, it’s rather stiff. The difference isn’t hugely noticeable when wearing it, but it did take some getting used to!

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Wearing my new crochet shrug – perfect for this cold weather!

The finished item isn’t perfect – it’s a little bit heavy and feels a bit stiff under the arms – but I’m so pleased with myself for finishing it! It’s great for the current cold spell hitting the UK, and it’s been making my gloomy evenings feel a bit cosier! With the practice creating it gave me, I’m feeling a little more confident going into future crochet projects.

If you’d like to make one of your own, follow this link to buy the yarn that I used. (This is an affiliate link, so when you buy anything on Amazon after using it, I get a little kickback to keep the site going!)

What projects have you undertaken to challenge yourself? How great did you feel when you finished it? Let me know in the comments or over on social media!

Catching Up with My 2017 Goals

Where has 2017 gone? I can’t believe it’s December already! As everyone gears up for the holidays, I’m looking back on my 2017 goals. So, let’s dive in!

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1. Finish my Master’s Degree

This one was always a dead cert unless something went drastically wrong. There were a few weeks in August when I began to think about deferring my final essay until 2019 (this has been the year of continuous fatigue) but I manage to stick with it and get everything in. This was despite that fact that by that time I was basically working full-time! (More on that later). I knew that I probably hadn’t done enough at that point to get a distinction, but was happy with what I had achieved. I finally got my results back a couple of weeks ago, and not only passed by got a mark high enough for a merit – except my university doesn’t do them! Boo! Regardless, I am proud to have gone from a lower-second Bachelor’s degree to a Master’s degree, whilst also working crazy hours. I will be officially graduating on the 11th, and have basically been told I have to go because my family wants to come! I don’t particularly feel the need to spend a whole afternoon socialising and waiting for my name to be called, but there we are!

2. Fit in More Crafting

This goal has been a little bit up and down! I have added ten minutes knitting to my daily to-do list (although don’t really time it, I just finish one row of whatever I’m working on!). This has definitely helped, as it’s one of the easiest things I set myself to do. But, I’m still not managing to do it every single day, and non-knitting crafts have really fallen by the wayside. I’d love to be able to do some more papercraft and cross stitch, so think when my current knitting project is done I’ll have to mix it up again!

3. Develop My Career

This one has been a little bit of a rollercoaster this year! Way back in January, I was working as a stage manager for a brilliant new show. This was a fantastic opportunity to return to my first love, theatre. Shortly afterwards, I stage managed another show, this time a devised ‘dramatised tour’. Both experiences were great, I loved them – but they were so stressful. My anxiety and depression were all over the place, making it difficult to get anything done that wasn’t work. Not what you need when you’re also trying to finish a Master’s! I began to see that even though I loved the career, it wasn’t working for me. On top of my mental health, I’ve had more physical health problems during the year that, as of yet, the doctors have refused to diagnose. A job that requires lots of running around and late nights just isn’t healthy for me. I think I knew this four years ago when I first left, but because I had never loved anything the same way, I didn’t know where to turn.

I got lucky though. On a whim, back in February, I applied to do a marketing administration work placement for an arts organisation. I figured it would be good experience whatever I ended up doing. Well, soon after that placement started, their Student Recruiter left, and I was offered the position until that contract ended. Then, their Marketing Assistant left, and I was asked if I wanted to take on that role for an additional two days a week. Meanwhile, my previous experience working with adults with learning disabilities and driving minibuses meant I was asked if I would like to work with our after school disability programme, with the occasional Saturdays. ‘Why not?’ I said, suddenly working five and sometimes six days a week. By this point, I’d fallen in love with the organisation, and had found a new passion in marketing – something I never thought I would enjoy! But all of this was only until the end of 2017, when they were recruiting a full-time Marketing and Communications Officer.

Of course, I applied for the full-time role, really not expecting to get it but not wanting to let go of the job I’d fallen in love with. Much to my surprise, I found out last week that my application was successful! Plus, my manager wants me to continue my work with the disabilities programme, allowing me to be flexible with my hours to make that happen. I really couldn’t be happier, and am still riding on the high from the news!

Safe to say, I have achieved this goal for 2017!

4. Make Some Friends

This was always going to be a hard one. I did start off the year really trying, but as socialising isn’t always something I enjoy, it’s pretty easy to talk myself out of it. Now I’m starting to get a more regular timetable, I will continue to try to do this. I have been talking to people at work, and going out on our work socials. I just always struggle to trust people! But all I can do is keep working on it. I have been trying to at least maintain current friendships, which I guess is something?

This will have to be a goal that comes with me into 2018!

2017 Achievements

  1. I passed my Master’s degree, and didn’t just scrape through like I expected!
  2. I applied for and gained a full-time job at an organisation that I love.
  3. I’ve nearly finished another large craft project – this time, crochet, which I’m really not good at but determined to try!

Tune back in at the end of the year, when I’ll be outlining my goals for 2018 – and let me know if you have any suggestions or goals of your own!

Bank Holiday Project Monday: ‘Reyna’ Knitted Shawl

What did you do this Bank Holiday?

This time last year, a Bank Holiday meant another day at work for a little bit more pay. Now I’m  working and studying, they are a welcome reprise in an otherwise busy life. I have been looking forward to this for several weeks, literally counting down the days until it came along – since I spent my Easter bank holidays travelling to and from my parents!

Taking full advantage of this rest day, I spent my morning deep cleaning my flat – something that has needed to be done for quite some time! I then took Roxy for a little walk and got some work done, before diving back into one of my craft projects that has been pushed to the side for a while.

I’ve been working on this shawl since before Christmas, hoping that it would be done for the cold winter – and obviously failed! The pattern is by Noora Laivola and I found it over on Ravelry. (If you’re not familiar with Ravelry but love knitting and/or crochet, you need to check it out!) I’m using some gorgeous yarn from Sirdar (Sylvan, Broadleaf Colourway) that I fell in love with when I saw it. However, I failed to take into account the texture of this yarn’s impact on the outcome. As the yarn varies in width, some holes have come out bigger than others, and it’s looking a bit weird. I really love the colours though, so I’m willing to overlook the problems with it. It’s definitely taught me a lesson to remember in the future though.

How about you? How did you spend your bank holiday? Or for those across the seas, what would you do if you had a day off work right now? Join the conversation below!

Project Monday: Weasley Jumpers

I have just returned from the Warner Brothers Studio Tour for a third time, and it remains a truly magical experience (pardon the pun.) I would go and look at the paper props everyday if I could. Sneaking in just after the end of 2016, it was the perfect end to my most Harry Potter filled year since the release of the last film. There was Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, which excited me mostly because of the new details revealed about the Wizarding World, and there’s nothing I love more than world building. However, the biggest Harry Potter event of my year took place a month prior, and it was one we’d been waiting for for 366 days.

Harry Potter And The Cursed Child

Yup, last October was finally our time to see Harry Potter’s first (official) outing on stage. (No spoilers here, I promise.) Working in theatre means it’s obviously a huge passion of mine. I’ve seen quite a few plays, good and bad, over the years. Cursed Child definitely landed on the  good side, despite the plot being lacking. It was redeemed by some outstanding staging and technical effects. The whole performance was perfectly choreographed to an amazing soundtrack (when will we be able to listen to this at home?) Most of all, it wasn’t just a play, it was an experience that took over the entire theatre.

Of course, a huge part of the Harry Potter experience has always been the fans, and they did not disappoint this time around either. I have never been in an audience which collectively, audibly gasped before. Best of all, a majority of the audience was dressed up, including my family.

The Mission: 6 Weasley Jumpers in 366 Days

“366 days to make six Weasley Jumpers, that’s totally doable, right?”

Needless to say, it wasn’t completely doable. The Weasley Jumpers took a who family effort, right up to the beginning of the show. It was a little crazy, but we were glad to have achieved something together. It isn’t perfect as it’s my first handmade jumper, but I love it more than anything, and the feeling of accomplishment cannot be replaced. We’re talking telling everyone around me that I knitted it myself level here. You’ve got to make your pride known!

If you want to have a go at making your own, I used this pattern from Canadian Living; super simple, including different sizes. I used Hayfield Bonus Aran Yarn in Green Heather, and some standard felt for the letter.

Now I have achieved this, I can’t wait to branch out and try a more difficult jumper!

Hello 2017!

I’ve never been a fan of New Years resolutions – If you want to make a change, why wait for a new year to do that? But I do like setting myself goals, and the new year does make a good landmark from which to measure my progress. So, here are my 2017 Goals!

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1. Finish my Master’s Degree. 

All things going well, this should be a dead cert. What I’d really like is to graduate with a distinction, but we shall see how that goes! But I’m proud of myself for even working for my Master’s, and know that a distinction won’t be worth it if it comes at the cost of my mental health, so will continue to just do my best without sending myself crazy!

2. Fit in more crafting. 

Whilst it is something I love, crafting is also the first thing pushed to the wayside when things get tough. But as I know from many rounds of therapy, reading and personal experience, times of high stress are precisely when I need to make time for pleasure activities. What’s the point of living a life with just work? I did that for two years, and look where it go me. So, at least one hour of crafts, please and thank you.

3. Develop my career. 

A vague goal, but since I still don’t know at nearly 25 exactly what I want to do (who does?), I can’t get much more specific right now. I want to continue to look at theatre and mental health, but I want to keep stage managing too. But, part of me is always tempted to just find a job at a cattery in the countryside. So, we’ll see where I am at the end of 2017 – just so long as I’m not standing still. (And, you know, have some money. Roxy still isn’t contributing to the rent bill.)

4. Make some friends. 

It’s not that I don’t have any friends. I have some great friends. But I really don’t socialise often. Part of that is because of the crippling social anxiety, but at the end of the day, that’s not going to improve by  sitting in my flat alone. And living in a capital city really doesn’t give me any excuses to not make more friends – there are hundreds of clubs and meet up groups in the area, I just need to make the step. So, by the end of the year I want to be doing at least one social thing a week. Maybe. That sounds very scary.

And that’s all I have right now, although I’m sure I will continue to develop my goals as the year chugs along. How about you? Any resolutions or goals? Share them with me and we can be accountability buddies!

30 Cards in 30 Days – Christmas Edition

It’s pretty safe to say I failed in my attempt to make 30 cards in 30 days. To be entirely honest, I was fooling myself to think I could do it when I was moving house in the middle of the month. Still, I made more cards than I otherwise would have done, shown below.

I’ve decided to be a little more conservative with my next challenge for myself, whilst tying in with the time of year; 12 Christmas Cards in 12 Days. Much more doable, since I was likely going to be doing it anyway, just without accounting for it! Below is my little list of prompts – I look forward to sharing the results with you!

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