Tuesday, 19 February 2019

Stitches Show - NEC 2019

This is essentially an advert for the companies mentioned, but I have not been paid to promote them.
All reviews and opinions are my own. Links may link to affiliate pages, where I may receive a commission for orders.

KingCole Pattern no 9115
I thought it about time I wrote a blog post, and what better than having a re-cap of my experiences from the Stitches Creative Craft Trade show at the NEC in Birmingham this week.

This craft show is a little different from the consumer craft shows as it's for businesses and companies of all sizes to come together to network and do business with each other. It is a fantastic opportunity for crafty entrepreneurs as well as established businesses to discover new companies and products all in one place. So I decided to pop along to check out some yarn companies and wholesalers who I can work with and collaborate with on my new launch of crochet kits this year, with my crochet hampers being such a success last year.

Rico Essential Cotton Yarn
I wasn't sure what to expect. I knew what I wanted to achieve and that was to discover some amazing new yarny people I can work with and I certainly wasn't disappointed in that area. I was super excited to catch up with KingCole who have been absolutely amazing in helping me achieve my ambitions with my crochet hampers and kits, and so far we have enjoyed Opium Palette in our Summer 2018 hamper, ZigZag sock yarn in our Autumn 2018 hamper and the gorgeously sparkly Shine DK in our Winter hamper so I was excited to see what new yarn ranges they are bringing out this year! Stay tuned on that one.

I was also super excited to meet the team at Rico as I am a big fan of their yarns, especially their cotton ranges. I was not disappointed. I was interested to see that they had a Vegan yarn on display as well. A great team of people and a gorgeous range of yarns. So much colour and softness!

I was also delighted to see some foreign brands make an appearance such as Gr√ľndl from Germany, Lion Brand from the USA, Novita from Finland and the lovely Shannon from Cascade yarns in America.

Novita especially, took part in the fashion show, showcasing some of their new knitwear designs coming out soon, which absolutely blew me away. I instantly fell in love with their Nordic imagery and natural yarns! I think I want to literally move there now and start raising sheep.

I was also honoured to meet Mr Bonfanti himself, from the Italian button company Bonfanti’s buttons. These stunning buttons have earned well-deserved recognition from the best tailors and Italian fashion houses over the years and are certainly no plastic mass-market rubbish. Made from real mother of pearl, precious metals and resins, these buttons are truly exquisite to look at and touch. They will definitely be making an appearance in my crochet kits at some point!

The team at West Yorkshire Spinners were also there, which I made a bee line for as they had such a pretty and well designed stand! Lovely team of people, who seem really passionate about their yarns and what they do. (You'd be surprised how many companies barely even discussed their products!) I was excited to see their Re:treat yarn on display and I'm looking forward to seeing their new colourful yarn ranges coming out later this Spring. What I love about West Yorkshire Spinners is that everything is made in the UK, spun, dyed the lot, so much so you can possible even trace your yarn back to the very individual sheep who donated his fleece for you. I bet he was happy on that day in the Summer we had last year! *Phew

Meeting the lovely Rachel at Baa Ram Ewe
Last, but most definitely not least, I was so happy to come across and meet the lovely team at Baa Ram Ewe and discover their amazing yarns in person, which I will definitely be trying to incorporate into my crochet kits later in the year. A gorgeous range of British Yorkshire yarns encompassing everything wonderful about rural life here in England such as yarns from the Masham Yorkshire sheep breed, Wensleydale and Bluefaced Leicester wool and even UK Alpaca fibres.

Yorkshire, as you may have guessed by now, is truly the home of wool here in the UK and I'm so happy to see companies like Baa Ram Ewe promoting it. They also have the cutest shop up in Chapel Allerton, which I have to visit one day!

Of course there were also a fair few companies that didn't rise to the occasion, who shall remain nameless; overcrowded stands, inaccessible yarns and just plain rude sales reps, but the one thing that shocked me the most was the reaction I received a few times when I explained what HappyBerry did.  The disparity between online and offline businesses still seems huge. As an online business that uses social media a lot, I was often met with confusion, judgement and just plain disregard when I talked about what HappyBerry was all about. I was really surprised that some quite fairly large companies weren't open to the idea of the massive online craft community. On one particular occasion a sales representative of a rather large yarn company here in the UK felt it necessary to continuously repeat their requirements of doing business with them. I left that stand feeling quite angry at how closed minded they were.

I felt it appropriate on only two occasions to ask if the business would like to take a photo with me so I could share what they did with my followers and showcase their gorgeous products to a wider audience. It reminded me of the time I started in web design back in 1999 and how difficult it was to convince companies to have a website, even after explaining it was an online catalogue and the modern way to showcase their work. Although many companies have websites now I was shocked to discover they barely had a presence on social media. Yes, social media is horrible when used negatively, I think we can all agree on that, but the crafting community is wonderful and I love how we support and encourage each other. It's a shame to see these offline companies missing out on that. I have also only just discovered that there's a magazine dedicated to the craft business community, who share articles by experts and what's hot and new in the crafting world... yet, barely a presence online.

Just weird imo!

Anyway, I hope you enjoyed reading my post. Do join me on Instagram for up-to-date information on what I am designing, sharing and posting, such as my journey to the Stitches show. I have extra exclusive video tutorials over there and I'm also sharing what's on my hook! I hope to see you over there.

Instagram: happyberrycrochet
YouTube: happyberrycrochet
Website: www.happyberry.co.uk

Friday, 20 April 2018

Crochet Inspired Cabochon Jewellery

Lately, I've been feeling a little left out of the latest campaigns on discussing how crochet has been great for mental health. Don't get me wrong, it is fantastic to focus the mind, help with quitting smoking for example, and help with recovering from an illness, but for me, well, my story is a little different. 

As a designer, and prolific pattern sharer, either on YouTube or my website, I sadly can't remember when I last crocheted something and wasn't stressing about writing the pattern down, what colour combos work best and if a design will work, and that's even before I've started getting the camera out lol! And I definitely can't remember the last time I crocheted from someone else's pattern and did something just for me. It's almost like I can't anymore as a little voice inside me says, "just design your own!" Sounds terrible I know, and on occasions crochet has become quite overwhelming and I have to actually take a break from crochet for the sake of my mental health!

But all is not lost as I have a lot of other creative interests that I refuse to let become anything other than hobbies. Something I can keep to myself and at my pace, and that is really important for staying sane. When a hobby becomes a job, it is no longer enjoyable and you need to keep that balance. So to keep that balance with crochet I often take a break from time to time (I even travel without a hook... deliberately sometimes!!) and try maybe some embroidery (you can follow my embroidery art journey here), or my other passion, jewellery making. So today I thought I would share with you how to make Cabochon Jewellery with a crochet theme. I hope you enjoy and feel inspired! 

You will need; (all these items are available on Amazon)
- A picture of your choice; either designed on paper or cut from pretty paper
- Pendant tray
- Matching glass cabochon to fit pendant tray
- Mod Podge sealant glue (or similar)
- Rubbing alcohol or some kind of solvent cleaner (I actually used a CPU cleaner being a geek)
- Large hole punch, preferable the same size as your cabochon (mine was 1" in diameter)
- An old brush you don't care about
- Kitchen roll or tissue
- Glue gun (optional)
- Scissors
- Strap or chain for necklace

Step 1 - Design/cut your image
You can use pretty paper if you like. Mollie Makes magazines are good for this as each issue often has designer papers for your various craft projects, but you can also use wrapping paper or even dried flowers. Just make sure that whatever you use isn't too thick. Once you have your chosen design (I designed my own), cut it out either using scissors or much easily by using a large 1" hole punch. Note* A clever way of making sure you see what your punching out is to hold the image and hole punch upside down before punching. That way you can line it up perfectly!

Step 2 - Clean
Once you have your image, put on your gloves and clean your cabochon glass bead with some alcohol solvent cleaner. This will remove any dirt or smudges, like fingerprints, from the flat edge, which you don't want appearing on your final necklace. Just dab a few drops onto some kitchen roll or tissue and wipe as necessary. Leave to dry. 

Use parental help if young as you don't want to get solvent cleaner on your skin or in your eyes.

Step 3 - Seal your image
Now you want to stick your chosen image or flowers to your cabochon glass bead. The best product for this is definitely Mod Podge as it works as a glue and sealer at the same time, and the best way to do this is to place a large drop in the middle of your picture, then stick the cabochon on top. When you do this it will spread out the glue to the edges naturally as you push down, leaving no brush marks! Wipe off any excess gently with your brush or a tissue and move your image around as needed. Leave to dry.
Once dry add extra Mod Podge around the edge to seal and secure in your paper to your cabochon. You want to avoid any moisture creeping in and damaging your paper. 

Then add a layer or two of Mod Podge to the back of your image, sealing in your image totally. 

Allow to dry in-between coats. It should take about 10 minutes or so to dry. Try not to add too much at once as it may soak the paper.

Step 4 - Attaching
For attaching your final cabochon image to your pendant tray you can either;

1. Add a drop of hot glue to the centre of your pendant case and very quickly push your finished cabochon into the casing. 

The glue will spread out as you press down, but you must do this very quickly otherwise the glue will dry too quickly and the cabochon won't fit.

Or 2. You can add a layer of Mod Podge to the interior or your pendant case along the bottom and around the inside edge and then push your cabochon inside. 

Either option works fine as the cabochon should sit inside your pendant case even without glue, so it is only to secure it in place in case it falls out. 

I prefer the second option with the Mod Podge because as you push your cabochon inside it will squeeze out a little Mod Podge around the edge sealing it in further against moisture. 

Wipe off any excess glue from either method and leave to dry. Any excess glue should scrape or peel off easily when dry.

And now you're finished! Add a chain or strap of your choice and enjoy. 

I hope you enjoyed this quick photo tutorial. 

Please do share your cabochon creations, or any of your HappyBerry creations with me on either Facebook or Instagram! I love to see what you create! And remember, stay happy, keep smiling and most of all, keep enjoying what you do!

This article is NOT sponsored by Mod Podge, Mollie Makes or the weird CPU stuff I used.