A coloring book for grown-ups: Secret Garden review

When I was a kid, I used to love coloring. Well, I loved drawing and painting free-hand, too, but a really good coloring book was always a treat. Once my family got a home computer, I even started printing and stapling together my own coloring books from clip art images. Those were the days!

Most kids tend to like coloring books - they're usually a safe bet for gifts to kids you don't know too well.  Have you noticed though, that as you grow up, you're supposed to stop liking them? Either you turn your love of drawing into a serious endeavor and attempt to become an "artist" (in which case coloring books are frowned upon because they're obviously not original art), or you just grow up, cut your hair, get a job and prepare for a life without this childhood treat. How sad is that?

Lately, though, I've seen a lot of  books which challenge the idea that coloring is just for kids. More and more coloring books are cropping up that are completely geared towards the adult population. Yay!

A few months ago, I picked this fantastic coloring book by artist and illustrator Johanna Basford. It's English title is Secret Garden, and it really reminds me of the classic children's book with the same name - which, incidentally, is one of my favorite books ever! What can I say, I'm a child at heart...

The pages in this coloring book are really beautiful and very intricate - there's a reason this book is not marketed towards six-year-olds! At 96 pages it's really thick, and since the pictures are so complex you really get a lot of bang for your buck! Animals and plants are (obviously) the main theme of the Secret Garden, and I love Johanna's drawing style. Flowers, leaves, vines and bugs intertwine into gorgeous designs that will keep you busy for hours. 

I use regular colored pencils or my Derwent Inktense pencils (dry, not wet) in my book - the pages are not super thick, so I'm not sure how well they would hold up to paint or markers. Plus, the book is the perfect thing to keep your hands busy in the evenings in front of the TV, so colored pencils are really the easiest way to go.

Aren't these pages just great? I definitely recommend checking this book out! If you'd like to try some coloring yourself but you don't feel up to buying an entire book, there's a  really sweet giveaway on Johannas blog - have a look here to download a Valentine's themed coloring page. I promise, once you get started you won't be able to stop!

Subversive cross stitch kitchen towels

Time for more machine cross stitch! I visited my mom three weeks ago and we spent an entire day in her sewing studio, but I only now got round to photographing what we made. Kitchen towels!

A friend of mine put this idea in my head a while ago, and I just had to try it out. I bought some cheap kitchen towels from IKEA and from my local fabric store - I figure that if I decide to make more I can get nicer towels, but for a first attempt I didn't want to spend too much. 

We all use them, so why not make your kitchen towels a bit of a statement? In this case a (slightly snarky and sarcastic) statement in favor of love and respect. The saying is sort of hard to translate into English - humor doesn't always translate well, plus it does have some cussing in it and I know not everyone is as relaxed about that as us Swedes are. :-) 

They were easy and relatively quick to make - the most time consuming part has been snipping off all the little threads and pieces of stabilizer on the back! That's the only downside to making these compared to the framed and hooped pieces I have made before; you have to be a lot more conscious of how the back looks since it won't be mounted. But they were still a lot of fun to make!

Stockholm Sewing Festival

This weekend my aunt, my mom and I visited the Stockholm Sewing Festival at Stockholm International Fairs. I love the Sewing Festival! It's the largest Swedish fair for sewing, quilting, knitting, embroidery and a host of other, fabric related crafts. Always really inspirational to visit.

It's been a couple of years since I last went, and to be honest I think that's a good thing - a lot of the sellers return every year so you start to recognize things from previous years. But after waiting a couple of years I found lots of new inspiration!

One of the biggest thrills for me this year was visiting an entire stall devoted to English paper piecing - I rarely see a lot of EPP in Sweden but apparently it's on the rise! If you're in Sweden and feel like buying some EPP supplies without splurging on overseas shipping, have a look at QuiltPassion! I couldn't resist buying some hand quilting thread, it will come in very handy once I start sewing my hexie quilt together. I also got some clamshell templates - not sure what they will become yet, but I'm thinking maybe a pillow using some of the Liberty fabric I got in London?

 Of course I had to get some fabric, too, but I tried to resist impulse buying. The yellow, orange and red in the photo above is going straight into a project, so I figure it almost doesn't count... Oh well. I did manage NOT to buy this amazing wool embroidery kit from Swedish embroidery artist Karin Holmberg. I love the look of wool embroidery and I would really like to give it a go, but I just don't think I'm ready to take on a huge project like this. I'm hoping to take a class on wool embroidery someday, there's so much to learn!

I spent a lot of time ooh:ing and aah:ing over all the traditional swedish wool embroidery at the fair though. All those vibrant colors - yum!

In other news, I have had my hands full with starting a new job, mom visiting and Keith contracting a really nasty virus which completely knocked him out - meaning our Valentine's Day was spent on the couch watching TV. I did get him some flowers and chocolate though, so not a total loss! I hope to get back to blogging regularly soon, I just need to find a way to organize myself and get settled with the new job. Hope you all have a great week!

Another alphabet quilt update

I apologize for sort of dropping of the map this past week! I just started a new job (I'll be working at my favorite NGO, Amnesty International! Yay!) so my mind has been on things other than crafting this week. But I did want to show you what's on my living room floor at this moment:

Progress! That's all the background pieces for my hexagon alphabet quilt, cut out and prepped. Finally! I was getting so sick of cutting and gluing a thousand shades of white and off-white...

I laid all my pieces out in order to get a feel for what the background will look like when it's all sewn together, and to check that I had a balance of solids and patterned pieces that I was happy with. I'm hoping to keep the background interesting, without detracting focus from the letters themselves. Do you think I've found a decent balance between the two?

I will be taking a bit of a break from this quilt for the coming month, as I have another patchwork project (do you remember the secret project I mentioned a while ago?) that is demanding my attention. But my hexie quilt is never far from my thoughts! I'm really excited about how it's looking so far - I'm hoping I will still be this excited about it once it's completed. I can't wait to begin stitching it together!

Photo Fabric Cushion finally complete!

Another old project has been crossed off my to do-list! I stared this photo fabric cushion back in October, but really I have had the idea in the back of my mind since 2008 when I made a photo memory quilt for my mother. Yes, I'm that slow! But this weekend I visited my mom and we spent a day out in her sewing studio. Working on old WIPs is always more fun when you have company! I'm really pleased with the final product.

If I was going to do anything different next time, I might add a border to the front in order to make the photos "pop" more - you can see in the photo above how the curve of the cushion sort of hides the edges of some of the photos. Ah well, live and learn!

This is the back with a single button closure. Since the cushion cover is not very large (finished size is about 33 cm / 13 inches squared) I figured I'd only need one button to close it. The cushion is a tiny bit over-stuffed though, the reason being that the cushion insert is about an inch larger than the cover. If I can find the motivation, I might pull the insert out again and remove some of the stuffing, but I figured we'd use it for a while first because pillow and cushion inserts tend to flatten over time. Either that, or I'm just lazy! :-)

In other news, a cold and dark January is finally over this weekend and we are moving towards lighter times! I apologize again for the bad lighting in my photos lately - there's only so much you can do in Sweden this time a year without buying a bunch of professional lighting equipment... But as I say, we're moving in the right direction. I can't wait for spring!

Upcycling vintage teacups: Making teacup candles

This project is something I've been planning to make for AGES, but I only got around to it last week. There is SO much you can make with vintage china - have a look at this list for example. This is a quick and fun way to upcycle old teacups you may have lying around!
First, some back story: When Keith and I first moved in together almost a decade ago, all our glassware and china was of the cheapest, most boring IKEA variety. Completely usable, but uninteresting. Then in 2010 two of our friends got married, and for their reception they went out and bought a ton of vintage china plates, glasses and teacups from various charity shops. They mixed them up and made adorable mismatched china place settings, and after the wedding (as, unsurprisingly, they didn't have much everyday use for 80-100 dinner plates and teacups) Keith and I were invited to take some of the china home with us. I was completely in love with the idea and replaced most of our boring china with this vintage variety. This worked really well over the next several years. But there are some less than practical things about unmatched vintage china - for example, most of it was neither microwave or dishwasher safe. So once we both left school and started working and our budget wasn't as tight, we started looking around for a third option. Two years ago, we started collecting a set of tableware which I really love: Pergola by Swedish porcelain makers Rörstrand.

(Image from Rorstrand.se)
By now we have switched out almost all of our old china, and most of it has gone back to the charity shops from whence it came. But I still love many of those old cups and plates, and I've kept some of them with the intent of re-purposing them into something different. I also love "green" and earth friendly crafting - making something new out of something that would instead just become trash. This is the first project I have made so far, and it was both simple and fun.

Vintage teacup candles 

To make your own teacup candles, you can either use the stubs of old, nearly burnt-out candles, or buy shredded candle wax at the craft store. You simply melt the wax in a double boiler (put a metal or thick plastic bowl over a regular saucepan filled with barely simmering water), place a wick into the teacup and pour the wax into the cup.

I started out by using candlewick yarn, waxed yarn which you cut and tie to a pencil or skewer (as when you're making regular tall candles) and rest over the mouth of the cup. But I also had some shorter, waxed wicks which I believe are supposed to be used for making gel candles, and I actually found these easier to use. They are sturdier than the candlewick yarn, so you just pop one into the cup and hold it with your fingers as you pour the wax. In this picture, you can see the little metal plate at the bottom holding the wick in place.

I added some pink wax coloring to the wax as it melted, the color turned out a bit brighter than I was expecting but I still like them. You also have to leave the cups in place for an hour or so to let the wax set and harden - otherwise you can get creases in the surface of the wax.

All done! Right now I'm trying to decide whether to glue the cups to their saucers or not - I'm not sure whether I like the candles better with or without saucers. What do you think?

I'm planning to give these candles away (they make great hostess gifts, for example) over the coming year. And I have another vintage china project in the works, too: Making a couple of vintage china cake stands (like this one) is on my crafty to do-list for this year. I'm happy that those lovely plates and cups will get some more use, instead of languishing in my cabinets!

My craft space

Mission accomplished! It took a while to get my messy desk sorted, because of course I had to take several breaks for Tudor-watching (can you believe I finished a four-season TV series in less than two weeks - crazy). But now that I finally did it, I thought I would take the moment to show off my unusually well organized craft space!

This is what my desk looks like when it's not covered in a complete mess of papers, books, fabric and thread. The desk itself is actually an IKEA Melltorp kitchen table. We have two of these in our combined home office/craft room, this 125 cm one and a (now discontinued) longer one which we use for our computers. We didn't really plan it this way, we actually spent ages looking for matching office desks that fit our needs (white, simple, with a decent depth that would fit monitors and printers, and durable and not too easy to scratch/stain) but we just couldn't find any. Then one day we were walking through IKEA, having just dismissed most of the desks they carry, and stumbled on these tables in the kitchen/dining section. Perfect! We also got a couple of white Helmer drawer units, one of which you can see here holding craft supplies. To the left is a stackable drawer unit which I bought at MUJI, holding supplies for paper crafting.

Actually, I'm realizing as I type this that almost our entire home office is made up of IKEA furniture... How predictably Swedish of us! This Billy shelf holds my fabric collection, of which I am totally proud (it's usually the first thing I show people when they visit for the first time!). I love being able to get an overview of all my fabric when I'm planning a project, and keeping it sorted by color is both practical and decorative in an otherwise pretty boring and functional space. The sweet little thread rack on top of the shelf was a present from my mom a couple of years back, but we have yet to mount it to the wall because our apartment walls are made of incredibly hard concrete - meaning putting anything up on the walls takes a ton of hard work. Seriously, we have already worn out one high-end hammer drill on those bad boys!

In the corner next to my crafting desk are two closets which are gradually being taken over by craft and sewing supplies. In one of them I keep general supplies that don't fit into the two drawer units, and in the other one I store WIPs and ongoing projects, plus clothes that need mending or altering. I'm really grateful to have this extra storage space - in the last apartment we lived in we had barely any closet space so supplies and ongoing projects would always end up littering the desks, the kitchen table, sofa, or even the floor when I wasn't working with them... Having somewhere to put these things away feels like such a luxury.

So, that's my entire crafting space! I know there are people who have entire rooms dedicated to crafting, but I'm really happy and content with my little nook. The only thing I can miss sometimes is having a cutting table, to save having to crawl around on the floor when I'm planning or assembling larger quilting projects. But that's a dream for far into the future!

Another item on my to do list...

Okay, so my crafty new year didn't get off to a very good start - I didn't do anything creative at all this weekend. Just a lot of cleaning and binge-watching the Tudors (HOW did I not watch this brilliant series before now??)... One reason I haven't crafted a lot lately is that my craft space looks like THIS:

Yes, that's the very ugly truth! In all honesty, this is what my crafting desk looks like most of the time - I do a lot of my crafting in other parts of our apartment, like the kitchen table or in the living room, so this desk usually turns into some kind of "I'll sort this through later" dumping ground for works in progress, supplies and little bits of thread and paper that don't have a proper home yet.

So for week three of the new year, my big crafting goal will be to sort this desk out and actually spend some time at it! Wish me luck!

My 2015 Crafty To Do-List

I told you last week I was working on a crafty to do-list for 2015. I started the year by doing a quick inventory of my ongoing projects, and soon realized that before I start too many new projects, I really need to focus on finishing old works in progress. I have a ton! So instead of listing the 200+ new projects I want to try out, I focused on the projects that I want to finish. Without further ado, I present my 2015 crafty to do-list!


1. Finish 1st sashiko pillow 
2. Finish 2nd sashiko pillow
3. Cut out and prep all hexies for my hexagon alphabet quilt 
4. Finish secret EPP project
5. Finish a PocketPhoto cozy for Ella
6. Make 2 china cake stands
7. Make 4 vintage tea cup candles
8. Finish sewing basket make-over
9. Finish photo patchwork cushion cover 
10. Sew wool embroidery pin cushion
11. Sew a hanging sleeve and mount mom’s wall quilt
12. Frame (and hopefully, sell) all machine embroidery pieces
13. Practice face and figure drawing
14. Make watercolor resist paintings
15. Cut and mat old linocut postcards
16. Finish little house lavender satchets
17. Start on vintage embroidery patchwork quilt
18. Sew doll quilt for mom’s garden play house
19. Finish yo-yo Christmas garland
20. Make 3 potholders from old quilt test blocks

What do you think? I will post updates to my list as I (hopefully) start to check things off. Here's to a crafty new year!

Vegan New Years Feast: Recipe Suggestions

As I mentioned in my last post, I'm trying to go sugar free in January. It's tough! Another goal I have for 2015 is to eat more vegan - I'm a vegetarian but I'm hoping to reduce my carbon footprint further by eating less eggs and dairy. And I got off to a great start on New Years eve with a delicious vegan New Years dinner! 

Keith and I spent a pretty quiet New Years with his parents and sister. With me being a vegetarian and my sis-in-law being allergic to both gluten and dairy, the New Year's dinner proved a bit of a challenge. In the end we went with three recipes from the fantastic vegan food blogger Oh she glows. And since it was such a hit, I thought I'd share the menu with you!

My apologies for the bad flash photo, I didn't think to document the process so all I had was my phone camera. But you'll find much more appetizing photos on the Oh She Glows blog anyway - I definitely recommend checking it out!

- Glazed Lentil Walnut Apple loaf. Though a bit labor intensive, this loaf was a big hit. I love bean/lentil loaves, they're so hearty and filling. The tasty glaze made this loaf feel a bit more festive, and I loved the addition of the apple and celery.

- Crispy Smashed Potatoes with Avocado Garlic Aioli. This was my sis-in-law's favorite recipe of the bunch - the potatoes were the perfect amount of crispy and the avocado aioli was fantastic. We did "cheat" a bit here as we didn't manage to find vegan mayo at my in-laws' local grocery store, but next time I make these I fully intend to use vegan mayo (I have used this brand before with great results).

- Nut Butter Crusted Parsnip Fries. Since Keith is not a fan of potatoes, we made these parsnip fries as an alternative side dish. They were fantastic, and far healthier than regular fries since they were baked rather than deep fried. I've already bought another bag of parsnips to make them again!

- Vegan Chocolate Mousse Without Added Sugar. This is a recipe from another (now dormant) blog called Vegan Magic. I was very excited to find a creamy vegan mousse recipe without added sugar. It may be because we were already so full from the main course, but we found the chocolate mousse almost TOO rich - next time I will try adding a bit more liquid coconut milk to dilute it a bit.

With fantastic recipes like these, there's no need to miss dairy. I'll keep you posted as I venture further into the world of vegan cuisine!