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The Rewards of Building a Business Around a Passion or a Hobby

(Or Why I Do What I Do!)

Those of you who regularly read this blog know that I am a craftaholic. It was my love of crafts and my inability to choose one over all the others that led to the start of Il Magpie Miscellancea Di S. I can say without a doubt that the last year has been one of the most rewarding, challenging and exciting of my life.

For me the decision to base my business on crafts was easy. Over the years I have watched the people I have came in contact with and without a doubt the people who have been the happiest have been those that have had the opportunity to take their ideas and run with them!

You have a sense of ownership that can’t be equalled and that means your heart and soul shine through. You are on display like never before but that means you can embrace and communicate your own values, no more singing from the company hymn sheet. You actually believe in what you do. This means you meet like minded people.

That could be one of the reasons why my craft workshops and groups like the Mumpreneurs Networking Club are a huge bonus. The old saying that “It takes a village” also means that we women are hotwired to support each other through good times and bad. If a friend has something to celebrate I am the first to open the champagne or to pass the tissues when things go wrong. In fact the whole reason I am on the Mumpreneurs Networking Club Bus Tour is because a friend thought it would be a great opportunity for me. My passions chime with theirs and the support comes through.

The Mumpreneurs Networking Club Bus Tour

It seems obvious that I would wake up each day and run towards my day’s work because I am lucky enough to share what I love doing. But everyone has off days. There are the days when the website crashes or I meet a troll on social media,or indeed the infamous day when I put my hand into a band saw (don’t advise it, very painful).

The same day can also see me teaching to someone to knit, or get to play with a new material and the huge variety in a single day is stimulating, exciting and takes me out of my comfort zone almost daily. Variety is the spice of life and that means my life is really spicy.

Running any small business means that you are constantly learning and running one that reflects your values and passions mean that learning is exciting and interesting. You can see the point of everything you do, because YOU are deciding to do it. No more sense of time-wasting in order to just tick boxes!

Make A Simple Wifi Password Sign Using Canva

Back in 2014 I used a holiday photo to make a home wifi code sign for our guest bedroom as a way of making visitors feel more welcome. Since then we have changed our router, and indeed our internet provider. That means a new password for the wifi and an opportunity to introduce all of you to one of my new favourite (and free) resources  I thought I’d get you all started with a tutorial for a simple wifi password sign using Canva that you can stretch your creative muscles on.

Make your own version of this stylish wifi password sign using Canva and your guests will feel right at home.

I am not affiliated in any way with any of the products used during this article. I have received no compensation (monetary or in kind). All opinions are my own.

This is a brilliant way to become familiar with the design programme and make something that is personal and useful in a short space of time.

Materials You Will Need:

Make a stylish wifi password sign using Canva displaying your home wifi code for guests, using just an empty photo frame, photo print paper, a computer and printer

Kit You Will Need:

You will need very little kit to make this wifi password sign using Canva. A computer, a craft knife, a cutting surface, a steel rule and a printer.

How To Make A Simple Wifi Password Sign Using Canva:

Step One:

Go to and make yourself a free account. You will need your email address and a password (or you can use your Facebook or Google account).

You will need an email address, Facebook or Google Plus Account to make your wifi password sign using Canva

Step Two:

Selecting the “work” option will lead you to a paid account so selecting personal is completely adequate for most purposes! You will also need to confirm your email address via the email they send you.

 Select the personal option to make your wifi password sign using Canva

Step Three:

Canva will then take you on a little tour of the programme. It’s worth doing this and you will end up on the page that allows you to choose a “canvas” (or working area size) from a large range of templates. You will then need to measure the size of the image area in the frame you have chosen. Mine was 178mm x 128mm.

Measure the size of the image that you will need to make your wifi password sign using Canva with a ruler.

Step Four:

If your frame is a standard size to fit (for example) a postcard, you can select that option for canvas size on Canva (make sure that you click on the plus sign to see the full range of pre-set canvas sizes, there are loads!)

Make sure that you click on the plus sign shown at the top of the home screen so that you see the full range of canvas sizes available for your wifi password sign using Canva

Click on the one that fits and the programme will present you with a blank canvas.

If none of them fit click on “Use Custom Dimensions” in the top right hand corner of the screen. You will need to change the unit of measurement to mm (millimetres) and then type in the size that you want your image to be.

To create your wifi password sign using Canva if none of the template canvas sizes match the frame you have, then use custom sizes to make your own

Step Five:

There will be a menu on the right hand side of the screen that provides a large number of layouts that you can pick for your sign. You may choose to have one large image or a collage of smaller ones.

In your wifi password sign you can use one single, large image or a collage of many to make your sign from.

These are all free to use so just click on the one you want to have it appear on your canvas.

Step Six:

Start adding images to your layout. Here you have two choices. You can click on the “elements” tab at the right of the screen and click on the “Free Photos” icon. This will give you a choice of loads of lovely professional stock images to use. To add them you just click and drag them into the spot you want.

Under the elements tab there are a lot of free stock photos that you can use in your wifi password sign

Simply drag and drop the photos to where you want them on your wifi password sign.

Step Six (alternative version):

If you want to use your own holiday snaps uploading them to Canva couldn’t be much easier. Just click on the “Uploads” tab (again at the right of the screen) and select “upload an image”. It then takes you into your documents or pictures to select the image you want and uploads it to appear in the “gallery” on the right hand side of the page.

Use the upload an image command to import your own photos into Canva to use in your home wifi password sign.

Step Seven:

If you want to move a picture to a nearby area you can just click and drag the picture to where you want it. To get rid of it altogether just double click and click the cross (X) to remove it.

If the wrong part of the photo can be seen inside the frame you have chosen for it you can change that really easily. Simply double click on the image and the whole thing will appear with the area that can be seen in the frame highlighted. Just drag the image so that it lines up the way you want. You can also rotate the image in this way.

If the wrong part of the picture is in focus on your wifi password sign using Canva , double click and drag the image to the correct spot.

Step Eight:

Once all your images are in their frames and you are happy with the layout of your wifi password sign using Canva it is time to add some text to the picture. If you put text straight onto the images it is likely to disappear into the background where you can’t read it. I get around this by adding a “shape” into the mix.

“Shapes” are again found under the “Elements” heading on the right hand side of the screen. There are loads of free ones. Once you have selected a shape you can change it’s colour and how transparent it is by clicking on it an using the menu that appears.

By clicking on a shape a menu appears and allows you to change the colour or transparency of the shape you have chosen for your wifi password sign.

If you want to you can place a shape over the entire collage and adjust the transparency to make the image appear slightly faded. That helps any text that you put on it to stand out.

Step Nine:

Next in your wifi password sign using Canva  you add your text via the “Text” tab on the right hand side of the screen. Again, there are lots of free text layouts that you can use, either on their own or in combination with each other. However I often find that I want to put more text in them than will fit and you can only edit them so much.That means I use the provided layouts as inspiration and use the heading, subheading and body text commands choosing the fonts and colours that I want.

You can use pre formatted text combinations or make your own for your wifi password sign using the text tab.

Step Ten:

The image on the left was produced using my own holiday photos, whilst the one of the right uses Canva’s free stock images.

Two examples of a wifi password sign that you can design using Canva, one using stock photos, one my own images.

Because the images in the sign on the left have brighter colours they have been “knocked back” using a semi transparent rectangle (from the “Elements” menu, under “Shapes”) placed over the top of the collage. When you add the lettering on top of this it stands out more.

Step Eleven:

When you are happy with your wifi password sign using Canva, it will automatically save it for you on their cloud so that you can access it by logging into your account at any time. However you can download your design in several formats. If you just want to print it I suggest downloading a PNG file as this will give you a better quality print.

The download button is at the top right of the Canva screen. Click on it and select the PNG format to download a file of your wifi password sign that gives a good quality print.

The download button is at the top right of the Canva screen. Click on it and select the PNG format to download a file that gives a good quality print.

Step Twelve:

Print your wifi password sign using Canva design, frame it up and enjoy!

Once you have printed your wifi password sign and trimmed it to size it can be displayed for guests to use whenever they need it.

The possibilities are really endless for a wifi password sign using Canva. You can produce collages, or use one single image. Make a plain background for your text or use icons from Canva’s stock list. Remember that if a $ sign appears when you hover your mouse over it you will need to pay for it when you download the project but there are loads of free resources to choose from.

I use Canva for so many different things and find it so easy to use in comparison to some others. Your party invitations, posters and graphics will never look to professional!

How are you getting on with Canva? I would love to see the things you create with it. Tag @IlMagpie on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram if you post anything!

5 Of The Most Useful YouTube Videos For Learning To Crochet

Now that my social “knit and natter” group “Yarning” has been running for a few weeks (If you love Yarn crafts come and join us, more details here) I have found myself posting links to videos in the group Facebook page so that attendees can check them out in their own time and come back to them repeatedly if they need to. Five of the videos have stood out as being useful YouTube videos for learning to crochet in particular so I have decided to corral them into this post for easy reference.

The 5 Most Useful YouTube Videos For Learning To Crochet like this (and this includes left handers too!)

There are loads of useful YouTube videos for learning to crochet but as I am left handed I wanted to make sure that (wherever possible) there are decent left handed versions available as well.

Before we start I have to point out that most of these Tutorials are American. That means they use US crochet terms. If they are using UK crochet terms I will make it clear in the title. If you don’t know how US crochet terms translate into UK ones you can download my free guide here.

Without further ado here are my…

5 Most Useful YouTube Videos For Learning To Crochet

Crochet Slip Knot – Beginner Course: Lesson #4 (by the Crochet Guru)

I like the fact that she takes you through THREE different ways to tie a slip knot and that this video will work for you whether you are left or right handed. Her explanations are really clear and don’t waffle. I have to admit that I’m a pretzel girl myself 😉

Crochet basics – Chain stitch & Foundation chain (by Bella Coco)

This is the same in both the UK and US.

Ok, you can let out a cheer because this video is BRITISH! She starts by giving you yet another way to tie a slip knot and then de-mystifies the chain stitch. I particularly like the fact that she puts the pattern shorthand (ch) on the screen AND the UK and US terms. In this case they are no different but it’s still nice to have this reinforced.

If you are LEFT-HANDED and want to learn this most of the videos are disappointing because they are either poor quality or they are the same tutorial as that for right handed people where they have just mirrored the footage (cheats!).

The best of a bad lot is another video by the Crochet Guru. The video is really clear and easy to follow I personally just find it disappointing that it isn’t being done by a left hander!

Crochet basics: US Single crochet (UK Double Crochet) starting a foundation chain (by Bella Coco)

The single crochet stitch is one of the basic building blocks of crochet. A lot of the patterns you see are made up of different combinations of chain, single crochet, double crochet, half treble crochet and treble crochet stitches.

Disappointingly I couldn’t find a single video that I felt both explained the process of putting single crochet stitches into a foundation chain clearly AND that had decent quality video. I may have to resort to making one!

US Double Crochet Into A Foundation Chain (UK Treble Crochet) (by Crochet Guru)

Both the right and left handed versions of this video are lovely and clear.  The video deals with making US double crochet stitches into a chain to give a square(ish) result.

This is the left handed version of the video

How to Crochet Magic Circles: Double Crochet (The Crochet Crowd)

This video shows you how to start any circular project (including Granny Squares) in the simplest way. I particularly rate it because he shows you how to tie a slip knot clearly and is very clear about how to finish off stray ends or “stragglers”.

It is a long video and he doesn’t feel the need to fill in any gaps of information with chatting (which I find confuses me when I am following instructions).  At 11 minutes in he shows you how to turn a corner and at 19 minutes he gives a valuable “rule of thumb” for making sure that included stragglers don’t get unwound.

And the same thing for left-handers-

I hope that you find these videos all nice and easy to follow. In my opinion these were the most useful YouTube videos for learning to crochet although there are a lot of others. If you have any links to videos you think would be clearer please feel free to post them in the comments section or in our Yarning Facebook Group.

How To Make Russian Doll Family Portraits

Capturing each incarnation of family as it evolves with time is a constant challenge. Photos are great but it’s nice to change things up and these stylised Russian doll family portraits will provide a quirky and original way to document your family as it is now.

Make these cute Russian Doll family portraits of your family using blank dolls and my free templates

As my son is currently in Australia and the family cat is getting on a bit I decided that making these Russian doll family portraits  now would not only be a great way to re-unite the family (in spirit anyway) but would also make an amazing addition to the new gallery shelves in our kitchen re-vamp! My first action was to find recent photos of all the family

To make Russian doll family portraits you will need recent photos of all the family like these

As I was making these it occurred to me that others might like to do the same so I have put together this tutorial and some templates help.

Materials Needed For Your Russian Doll Family Portraits:

If you gather the materials pictured you will be able to make your own Russian doll family portraits

If you are looking for blank Russian dolls you can find some on Amazon (not an affiliate link) but if you want the ultimate selection of family member numbers and shapes try Russian Crafts.


Assemble the kit pictured so that you can make Russian doll family portraits

Step One:

Print out the free templates for each size of your Russian Dolls and cut out the appropriate hairstyles, clothing etc. for your family. Glue them onto the template to assemble your family.

Cut out the most appropriate parts of the templates and glue onto the base to assemble your own Russian doll family portraits

Step Two:

Using a fine grade sand paper sand your dolls to remove any rough surfaces or little nubs left by the manufacturing process. If there are any dents, holes or cracks you can use wood filler to fill them and allow it to dry.

Use a fine grade sand paper to remove rough patched from your doll blanks

Step Three:

Using a soft pencil transfer the designs onto the wooden dolls. Only bother transferring the lines for the clothing and hairstyle at this point (the paint will cover any more detail and you will end up re-drawing it!). Use masking tape to put a centre line down the front of your dolls and across the dome of the head, run a pencil along the edge of the tape to give you a line. Then put another piece at right angles across the top of the dome/head to give you a cross. This gives you a way to line the ears up! You can also use masking tape to help you draw (fairly) straight lines around the circumference of the dolls.

Use masking tape to help you line things up and get a nice finish when transferring your designs to the Russian doll family portraits.

Step Four:

Separate your doll halves and put masking tape around the rims on the lower halves. For taping inside the top halves it is easier if you cut thin strips of making tape to do this with, rather than doing the whole round in one length.  You don’t want paint to get onto this area or your dolls won’t fit together properly so it’s worth taking the time to do this with some accuracy.

Use short lengths of masking tape to cover the joint area in the middle of each doll. This means that they will still fit together

Step Five:

If you aren’t confident in mixing paints to make different colours I have a couple of pieces of advice for you

  1. Buy small bottles of pre mixed craft acrylics in the colours you need from Hobbycraft or The Range (for example the Decoart range).
  2. Use a paint mixing helper like Try Colours to get the colour you are looking for then jot down the recipe (how many brushfuls of each colour you need to make the recipe).

Again, you can use masking tape to give your painting straight lines if you don’t have a steady hand. I recommend painting in this order as it means you swap between top and bottom halves giving colours a chance to dry.

  • Skin tone on head and face.
  • Lower half of clothing (trousers or skirt)
  • Hair
  • Shoes
  • Upper clothing (pale colours first and allow them to dry before adding the next one)

Outline the area with a fine brush first and then you can “fill in” with a larger brush if the area is big enough. It is really worth using decent brushes for this rather than the ones that came free with your kid’s art set. You will get a smoother finish and much more accurate lines.

Start painting with pale colours first. Outline with a fine brush and then fill in. Swap between halves to allow drying time.

Don’t overload the brush with paint or it will go *splodge* and spoil your design.

Step Six:

Repeat the painting process with all of your dolls. If you go over the lines or make a mistake LET IT DRY and then paint over. If it is a pale colour it may take a couple of coats with drying time in between to cover it but it will work.

Leave all the halves to dry.

Step Seven:

When all the paint is thoroughly dry take your pencil  and tracing paper. Trace the facial features, the collar and the hairline off of your original design. Flip the tracing paper over and trace over those same lines on the back.

Use a soft pencil and tracing paper to transfer the face designs to the dolls. Go over the design with Sharpie

You can then put this paper (back around the right way) onto the face area of your doll and re-trace over the lines with your pencil. This will leave a copy of the features on the doll. If you are not happy with the result you can use an ordinary rubber to erase the marks and try again.

Once you are happy with the facial features on your Russian doll family portraits take the Sharpie pen and line them in. You can also outline the edges of the clothes and details of the hair if you wish to.

Step Eight:

Set up the halves on Newspaper outdoors and spray with a THIN coat of spray varnish/sealer. It is really important to spray thin coats and build them up. If you spray a thicker coat the paintwork will run (as you can see in the picture below).

Spraying varnish on must be done in thin coats or the paint will run as in the picture.

If your paint does run you can leave it to dry and then re-paint and re-varnish but it is best to avoid it all together.

Leave the dolls to dry thoroughly.

Step Nine:

Remove the masking tape around the  joints of your Russian doll family portraits and enjoy!

Once all varnish is dry remove the masking tape and assemble the dolls.

Now your dolls are finished. I can’t wait to get a reaction from Australia about mine!  I would really love to see them if you do make any so please share to my Facebook page.

If you want to download the templates and make your own click on the image below.

Click on this image to download the free templates pictured

Finished Russian Doll Family Portraits

Creating the Environment That Will Make You Love Your Workshop

I love running my craft workshops and have been regularly running them from my home for a while. However the Il Magpie workshop environment has not been all that I would wish for and I worried that this affected the overall customer experience. Our long, narrow kitchen was too small for much movement and it was difficult to separate the work in progress, completed work and the refreshments provided. As workshop environments go it was adequate but not ideal.

This blog post takes you on a tour of the exciting changes that are happening at the nest to make YOUR workshop experience more enjoyable.

Now the Il Magpie workshop environment is getting a radical make over! It will give forthcoming workshops an inspiring & practical space to get creative in.

However at the moment it looks like this:

Building work well under way to make the Il Magpie workshop environment an inspiring and practical place

What Is Happening?

A rethink of almost the entire downstairs footprint is giving us a much larger, squarer kitchen.

These quick sketches of the old layout versus the new layout really give you an idea of the better use of space.

The kitchen units will form a U Shape around the farthest end of the kitchen. The computer generated picture the kitchen company have given us shows the room when looked at from inside the back door (I am beginning to think that they know us too well, including the bottle of wine!)

Detailed plans to make the Il Magpie workshop environment an inspiring and practical place

The under stairs cupboards have been improved and extended. They will contain a cloak room, extra storage space and a chalk board on the outside of one.

These three doorways will contain a cloak room and more storage with a chalk board on one door

Finally there is a re-vamped and easily accessible bathroom situated just inside the door for workshoppers convenience.

How Will The Changes To The Workshop Environment Improve The Experience?

This means that the workshop environment will be much easier for attendees to move around, getting new perspectives on their work in progress or picking up further materials.

Plug sockets in the floor under the central work table allow sewing machines, hot glue guns and other electrical tools to be plugged in without trailing cords. Plugs with USB sockets will allow me to use more technology to help in the teaching and learning process.

These brushed steel double electrical sockets mounted in the floor will make using sewing machines much safer

The space now has two windows and French doors allowing lots more natural light in and 10 recessed LED spotlights throughout the rest of the room simulate daylight when none of the real stuff is available.

There will be a gallery wall in clear line of sight from the work table that students can use for inspiration or display.

This cheerful yellow wall will showcase a gallery of inspiration and if you look carefully under the building supplies you can just see the pew.

A separate space for relaxing with a hot drink and a slice of cake is now possible and will be furnished with a converted pew and side tables to let students chat and socialise.

At the other end of the table a movable trolley allows students to watch videos or presentations of techniques they are learning on repeat.  A blackboard on the door of one of the cupboards can be used to brainstorm ideas or write reminders for drying times. Another cupboard hides a cloakroom where coats can be safely stored away from paint and dye.

Finally there is a re-vamped and easily accessible bathroom situated just inside the door for work-shoppers convenience.

The downstairs work-shoppers bathroom with the tiles just starting to go on the wall

When Can You Come And Try It Out?

Work is scheduled to finish in early May so sign up to my mailing list below to be the first to know when the grand launch event is and what workshops there are for you to enjoy!
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