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How I Found Out That Yarn Is The Best Medicine


Post Header Image Showing Yarn And Knitting Needles

I am one very happy bunny at the moment and a lot of it is down to Yarn! How has Yarn become my medicine of choice?

I have enjoyed both knitting and crochet for a long time but now I am working from home I find that some of my craft hobbies needed a little added something to make me happier. That something was other people!

I know that while I prioritise making time for creativity many people don’t have that luxury and after reading the work of Brene Brown recently one of her statements resonated with me so strongly that I have almost adopted it as a mantra!

“I’m not very creative” doesn’t work. There’s no such thing as creative people and non-creative people. There are only people who use their creativity and people who don’t. Unused creativity doesn’t just disappear. It lives within us until it’s expressed, neglected to death, or suffocated by resentment and fear.”

With that in mind I set about creating a group locally to where I live that embraces all types of Yarn craft and means that members will have a definite  time in their calendar which is just for them to exercise their creativity.

So far we have had two meetings at Sacher and Strudel, a local Viennese Patisserie. It was important to me to get myself and attendees out of the house, away from the chores, family and petty distractions. Plus, hello! VIENNESE PATISSERIE! Home made Apfel Strudel and gourmet coffee!

Luckily Antonia, the proprietor and pastry goddess was on board and we decided to charge £5.00 a session including a hot drink of choice and away we went!

The Viennese Patisserie in Shawford that is the home of the Yarning group

Yarning (as we decided to call it after a Facebook poll) is open to everyone. It doesn’t matter whether they are old or young, beginner or experienced they can pop along, and just lose themselves in their projects, good conversation and amazing eats.

I am there to answer questions, help with patterns and provide resources that can be used by everyone. Attendees can bring their own projects or I have put together two kits. One for knitting, one for crochet that attendees can buy. These contain EVERYTHING needed for the project from beginning to end and are based on patterns freely available on the internet.

Beginners kit contents and final projects for knitting and crochet

There is also a library of books and patterns (both knitting and crochet) that attendees can borrow simply by signing them out.

A Library of knitting and crochet books to borrow

I have also started a Yarning Facebook Group which I am really enjoying finding fun and interesting content for.  Members can ask questions, share useful videos and any yarn related humour is always welcome.

Yarning has its own Facebook Group Where Members Can Post And Ask For Help


I brought along my crocheted spotty blanket to work on and even managed to get a few stitches in between helping others.

Members of Yarning can bring along their own projects, like my spotty blanket shown in this image.

So far this has been a place where new friendships are begun and expertise is shared freely. Click To Tweet

So far I have had a huge amount of fun at the Yarning gatherings. The idea was that the time is relaxed, enjoyable, inspiring and rejuvenating . Where solutions to other problems present themselves because they have simply not been at the forefront of your mind for a while and it is proving to be exactly what I was hoping for!

If you think this sounds like fun and are in the Hampshire area come along. I’d love to see you and we can enjoy the atmosphere together.

For further details, dates and prices please find our Yarning Facebook Group and get in touch!



The Knitting Tip Book I Wish I Had Bought Years Ago

The Knitting Tip Book I Wish I'd Bought Years AgoScarily I have spent at least £500 on craft books in the last 3 years. Gorgeous, but useless books. Do you know what my single most used knitting book is?

Front Cover - Tips For Knitters by Debbie Bliss

Disclaimer: I purchased this book at full price for my own use. I did not receive it as a 
gift nor was I asked to write this review. All opinions are my own.There are no affiliate
links in this post.

I should explain first of all that this isn’t a detailed “How to knit” book. I think that it works best in partnership with YouTube as probably the best medium for learning how to knit basic stitches and focusses instead on ways in which you can make your basic projects into professional looking articles. I refer to this a lot, especially to refresh my memory after I haven’t knitted for a while.

Boosting Your Knitting Ninja Skills

The retailers recommended price on this is £8.99 (although, at time of writing, The Book People seem to have a good deal on copies) this puts it at up to £10.00 cheaper than a lot of books covering similar subject matter. Plus it is the size of a small notebook which makes it incredibly handy to slip into your knitting bag. My version is paperback, which keeps weight down, although I know that a hardback version is published.

I like the fact that it is clearly written by a Brit and consequently talks in British knitting terms all the way through. It has a particularly useful needle size conversion chart for UK to US sizes but one of the few tricks I think it misses is including a chart to translate UK to US yarn weights. I have printed out my own and glued it into the back of the book for reference

Knitting patterns use abbreviations, you can find lots of keys as to what these mean (including one in this book) but what is often not covered are commonly used expressions, such as “place markers” or “easing in any fullness”. The author covers these common terms too.

The “Fixing Mistakes” section is probably one of my most thumbed. Picking up dropped stitches and untwisting them is something we all tend to need at one point or another! My other gem from this book is the demystification of the fabled “thumb cast on”. I still don’t like it but at least I now understand how it works in both the UK and European version!

I actually bought this book after attending a day workshop on finishing techniques because it has a really clear section on types of seams and where to use them.

The choosing a seam section of the book gives really clear instructions

Beware Of The Knitting Purists

On the negative side it makes me smile how Debbie Bliss covers “Yarns” without mentioning that synthetic yarns exist.  It fits in with her ethos of only using natural fibres but they aren’t all that is out there! Her edging reference section has some gorgeous ideas for decorative finishes for your projects and the book tempts you with more advanced things such as intarsia and bead work. It doesn’t provide an exhaustive guide to these though and you may well want more information before embarking on them.

In short this is a book that I would recommend for any “not quite beginner” which will last into expert-hood.

Are there any knitting books that you wouldn’t be without? I’m always on the look out for new titles to recommend to people attending my workshops (plus I need to feed my book addiction somehow!)


Easy Block Printed Easter Cards

Make these easy block printed Easter cards - Il Magpie Miscellanea Di S

Easter is very early this year and if you are looking for Easter cards that also happen to look really good look no further than these easy block printed Easter cards.  They also have the added bonus of being fun to make for pretty much any age group!

Block printing is a quick and easy way to get a stunning result. There are a lot of different ways to make a block and the method used in this project can be done by young and old alike. A really good excuse to get your fingers messy!

There are two versions of these cards, one is more traditional, the other a bit funky.

Family Friendly: Yes, with small adaptations can be done by all ages.

Skill Level: Easy. (Some accuracy with scissors needed).

Time Needed: One and a half hours (one hour to make the stamps, half an hour to print)

Approximate Cost: Around £5.00, including the card blanks.

Materials Needed:

Make these easy block printed Easter cards - Il Magpie Miscellanea Di S

  • 2 A4 Craft Foam Sheets (if working with young children pre cut foam stickers may be better)
  • Ink Pads (Stamp Pads) in colours of your choice
  • Washi Tapes (optional)
  • Blank Cards and Envelopes (I used these, but many places sell similar).
  • Paper to practice on.
  • Double Sided Tape

Kit Needed:

Make these easy block printed Easter cards - Il Magpie Miscellanea Di S

  • Flat Bottomed drinking glasses
  • Ball point pens (one each)
  • Scissors
  • A Hole Punch (optional)

How To Make Easy Block Printed Easter Cards

Step One:

Using double sided tape stick your two pieces of craft foam together to make a double layer. Don’t use glue as it takes DAYS to dry due to the non-porous nature of the foam!

(If you have young children and are using pre-cut foam stickers pick two the same shape as each other and stick one on top the other)

This helps you to have a clearer outline and results in a better print.

Make these easy block printed Easter cards - Il Magpie Miscellanea Di S

Step Two:

Print out the Easter designs I have drawn up on a piece of paper and cut them out. Draw around them onto the craft foam with a ball point pen. Click here to download.  Block Printed Easter Card Templates

When adding detail you can do it in two ways:

  1. Use the ball point pen to draw the detail (like the zig zag lines) onto the foam shape. Press hard and go over it several times this indent will give you the pattern when you print.
  2. Use scissors and a hole punch to cut the detail out of the two layers. This shows up more clearly when printed with but is more tricky.

Step Three:

Use double sided tape to stick the cut images to the bottom of the drinking glasses. They will come off again with soap and water but you could also use any flat, hard surface that will take a bit of pressure while you print (bits of scrap wood or empty jam jars would also work well). The advantage of using glass is that you can see exactly where you are positioning the stamp!

Make these easy block printed Easter cards - Il Magpie Miscellanea Di S

Step Four:

Choose what colour stamp pad you want to use. It works best if you press the pad onto the foam, moving it around as necessary to make sure the whole design is covered in a good layer.

Make these easy block printed Easter cards - Il Magpie Miscellanea Di S

Step Five:

Print onto your practice paper. Play with different layouts and find some you like. If you want to overlap two stamps in different colours it is best to wait until the paint from the first one is dry.  Always start with paler colours and stamp darker ones over those if you want overlapping designs.

Step Five A (Optional):

If you want to make the funkier version of these cards. Choose five or six designs of washi tape (or alternatively alternate two or three) and stick lengths  from the outer edge of the card. Don’t be afraid to tear the ends at an angle. That slightly ragged finish looks really good. Use scissors at the edge of the card to cut the tape to fit. Then proceed to step six.

Step Six:

Stamp your cards. You will have a good  instinct now for how often to add more ink to the stamp and how to position it. Feel free to use mine as inspiration or a starting point. At this point you will really understand how easy block printed Easter cards are to make. Using glasses as your blocks should make it easier to line up your stamps as you want them.

Make these easy block printed Easter cards - Il Magpie Miscellanea Di S

Step Seven:

Once your cards are dry, add personalised messages (I often cheat and print out my greeting in a handwritten style font I like, copy it in pencil and then go over it in pen!) You could even add a personalised stamp to the envelopes as well.

Make these easy block printed Easter cards - Il Magpie Miscellanea Di S


Final Thoughts…

I hope that you enjoy making these easy block printed Easter cards. I had fun coming up with them. I would really love it if you would share pictures of your block printing adventures on the Il Magpie Facebook Page.

All things print and printmaking have been on my mind recently. I have been on a fantastic Letterpress printing workshop with Inky and the Beast (more to follow about that!) and I am leading a workshop on the 25th where attendees design, make and print cushion covers with their own blocks. I particularly love this workshop as the students always come up with new and exciting ways to use blocks that I would never have thought of! If you are in the Hampshire area and want to build on your knowledge of block printing from these easy block printed Easter cards you can find more information here.


Geometric Notebook Cover DIY (Using Your OWN Images)

Geometric Notebook Cover DIY using your own Instagram images - Il Magpie Miscellanea Di S

I splurged a bit on my planner this year and treated myself to the Blogtacular/Lollipop Life Planner which has huge flexibility in it’s layout to plan how I wanted to. One of the best things about it was that it comes with a plain grey board cover. The possibilities were endless. I always like to customise my planners. and this year I came up with  this Geometric Notebook Cover DIY that I wanted to share with you.

Geometric Notebook Cover DIY using your own Instagram images - Il Magpie Miscellanea Di S

After a great deal of mulling things over I decided that I wanted something bright, colourful, inspiring and personal. Anyone who follows me on Instagram knows that my insta feed is pretty colourful and I decided I want to use my photos from the last year to inspire the next. I also needed the cover to last the whole year without looking tatty. I’m thrilled with the Geometric Notebook Cover DIY that I ended up with and think it will do the trick beautifully.

Geometric Notebook Cover DIY using your own Instagram images - Il Magpie Miscellanea Di S

Geometric Notebook Cover DIY:

What You Will Need:

Geometric Notebook Cover DIY using your own Instagram images - Il Magpie Miscellanea Di S

Step One:

Choose your photos. Instagram pictures work well because they are square to start with. Print them out onto thin cardboard. I found that two per A4 sheet worked out with about the correct proportions. I needed 21 images per cover. So to do the front and the back I needed 42 images.

I had an Inkjet Printer so I used that. If you have a colour laser printer you can skip Step Two.

Geometric Notebook Cover DIY using your own Instagram images - Il Magpie Miscellanea Di S

Step Two:

Spray ALL of your images with 3-4 coats of transparent spray sealant. It is best to do this in the open air. I used my washing line and some pegs but make sure to check the wind direction first as you don’t want a face full!

You are doing this so that the ink doesn’t run when you coat it with Mod Podge.  Doing this meant I got away with using the Inkjet printer instead of paying for colour laser print offs. Plus I get to keep the rest of the spray for other projects.

Geometric Notebook Cover DIY using your own Instagram images - Il Magpie Miscellanea Di S

Step Three:

Measure your notebook. Mine was A5 size. I wanted a minimum of four complete triangles across the width of mine (I thought it needed at least this many to get the tessellated look I wanted but still be big enough to show the pictures off). A few sums gave me an isoceles triangle with a base of 4.5cm and a vertical height of 6.4cm (Allowing for a 2mm gap in between shapes). I also wanted the header “Life Planner” to show so I made a note of it’s size and location.

Geometric Notebook Cover DIY using your own Instagram images - Il Magpie Miscellanea Di S

Using these measurements I made a template from a spare piece of card.

Geometric Notebook Cover DIY using your own Instagram images - Il Magpie Miscellanea Di S

Step Four:

I placed the template over my images, moving it around to get the best “view” of the image before drawing around the shape with a pencil where I wanted to cut.

Geometric Notebook Cover DIY using your own Instagram images - Il Magpie Miscellanea Di S

Then I set to and cut out all my little triangles!

Step Five:

I arranged the triangles as I wanted them and used my trusty double sided tape mouse (those things are seriously life changing!) to stick all of them into position (front and back). I didn’t use glue because I didn’t want to make the cardboard damp and risk it wrinkling.


I added some washi tape around the header text to make it stand out a bit more and another area on the back for continuity.

Step Six:

Break out the Mod Podge. I used it neat (un-diluted) and used an old paintbrush to paint a coat of it all over the front cover.

Geometric Notebook Cover DIY using your own Instagram images - Il Magpie Miscellanea Di S

Step Seven:

After the cover is thoroughly dry coat it with Mod Podge again (ordinary PVA glue will also work for this but I like Mod Podge because it isn’t quite so runny and I can get it in a matte finish).  Keep the coats as smooth as you can for the best finish (if I did this again I would actually use one of those foam brushes to help with this). Keep doing this until you have 3 or 4 coats of Mod Podge on both the front and back covers. As the Mod Podge dries you will see that it really brings the colours of the images out on this Geometric Notebook Cover DIY.

Geometric Notebook Cover DIY using your own Instagram images - Il Magpie Miscellanea Di S

I really love this Geometric Notebook Cover DIY, it was really good fun to make and now it cheers my days up. Helping motivate me through the rest of the winter towards sunnier spring days. I am also really loving the Life Planner itself. It is really flexible and actually allows me to bullet journal (which might be my new obsession).

What about you? How do you plan? Do you bullet journal? Any tips for a newbie journaller?

Starting Needle-felting: What You Need To Know

Welcome to this post on starting needle-felting and what you need to know.

This is the second post in a series that gives you the facts about a craft before you commit to buying kit, or possibly even before you try it. This post aims to be a “fact file” with the answers to the most common questions.

(Please note that the prices I quote are correct at time of publishing and they are from (almost) universally available sources like Amazon. You may well be able to find cheaper versions by shopping around!)

Starting Needle-felting: What You Need To Know - Il Magpie Miscellanea Di S

Starting Needle-felting; what is it exactly?:

Needle-felting is a process that is used to make two and a half or three dimensional decorative objects. It involves using barbed needles to stab wool fibres again and again which causes them to lock together and the object to become denser, keeping its shape as you work. This happens because wool fibres have scales on them which lock together when they are rubbed against each other. The image below shows a merino wool fibre (top) viewed under a microscope alongside a human hair (bottom).

Starting Needle-felting: What You Need To Know - Il Magpie Miscellanea Di S

Photo courtesy of CSIRO [CC BY 3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

 The material produced as these scaled fibres rub together and lock is what we call felt.  As you know if you have ever washed a “hand wash only” jumper in the washing machine it felts because the fibres are rubbed together by the washing process and lock together into a denser textile.

How Much Time Per Week Will Needle Felting Take Up?:

To be honest, like embroidery, starting needle felting can take as little or as much time as you want. Its sister activity wet felting takes a lot of set up and clearing up but needle felting can be done at any table and the kit takes minutes to get out and clear away. I suggest that you felt onto a surface that will not matter if it gets marked but apart from that small 3D projects can take an hour or less (Hobbycraft have some kits that make a good starting point, I particularly like the penguins). More detailed projects like the ones the amazing Mrs Plop makes take hours each to do (if not days) and require a lot of practice!

Starting Needle-felting: What You Need To Know - Il Magpie Miscellanea Di S

The simple needle-felted hearts that you can see in my images are done using a mould to help shape them (a bit of a cheat but it works!) and take about 15 minutes each.

However starting needle-felting should come with a health warning. It is SERIOUSLY addictive!

Do I Follow Patterns Or Do I Have To Make Up My Own Designs?:

There aren’t really “patterns” as such for needle-felting but if you search “Needle felting tutorials” on Pinterest you will find hundreds of “how to’s” for every animal and object under the sun. You can use these as your guide when starting to needle-felt.

Once you get confident you can spread your wings a bit.  Knowing basic stuff like pipe cleaner “skeletons” or adding detail with a single needle will give you the confidence you need.

Starting Needle-felting: What You Need To Know - Il Magpie Miscellanea Di S

How Much Money Does It Take To Start Up?:

This isn’t the cheapest of crafts. You can buy a packet of felting needles for around £7.00 and use them as they are. However I find it a lot easier to mount the needles in a felting tool.  I like the Pen Style Felting Tool by Clover which comes with needles and costs £8.25.  I prefer the way this feels in my hand and it has better control for detail.  A lot of people get on just as well with the more traditional style tool though, which is a similar price.

Starting Needle-felting: What You Need To Know - Il Magpie Miscellanea Di S

As an absolute minimum to start with you need a felting tool, some wool roving and either a brush style felting mat or a piece of dense foam to use as a surface to work on. Everyone has an opinion on which they prefer.  A brush mat like mine can be bought for £10.63 and a piece of foam is around £5.60. Personally I prefer the foam for 3D work as it helps hold and shape the object being felted.  Having said that the foam doesn’t last as long because the constant punching from the tool breaks it down.

Wool roving (also known as “Tops”) is available in loads of colours and quantities. A quick search on Amazon for “wool roving” yields around twenty pages of results with prices starting at £1.46 for a 10 gram bag.

Any additional moulds etc, are entirely up to you and the tutorial you are following.

Total cost to produce a simple first design is around £15.31 (around $21.85).  This only gives you one colour of roving to work with though so you may want to factor in a few pounds for extra colours.  This cost also is for the foam mat rather than the brush mat.

How Quickly Will I See Results?:

Quickly! As I mentioned before the small hearts take around 15 minutes each. The basic shape of the item you are felting emerges really quickly but the really fine detail takes time and patience (an usually use of a single, fine, needle).

What Previous Knowledge Do I Need?:

No previous knowledge needed at all. There are lots of tutorials and projects out there in cyberspace but I think some of the best are Hawthorn Handmade’s written guides to different parts of the process and their video tutorials.

The Homemakery’s introduction is also worth checking out.

How Dexterous Do I Need To Be?:

It depends on the project. The more detailed the project, the more dexterity is needed to get that detail.  Although small my felted hearts take very little dexterity because there is no detail. When I tried to turn one of them into a Conversation Heart considerably more dexterity was needed to add the wording.  I used a single needle and almost needed a magnifying glass (I know I’m getting old!) Even then I wasn’t entirely successful!

How Much Brain Power Does It Take?:

Not a much unless you plan to take it to a very high standard or make your own designs. It’s also very cathartic after a stressful day to spend some time stabbing something!

One word of warning though.  The needles do snap if you are too rough with them. As they are fairly expensive to replace try and avoid that by paying attention to where you are putting the needles.

How Much Room Will It Take Up?:

(I’ve added this category from the last post at the suggestion of one of my readers who pointed out that she has little storage space at home and this would be a factor for her choosing a craft to try).

Needle-felting takes up a small amount of space. I can keep all my kit and materials in one box (like the one below) from Ikea that measures 27x35x20 cm.

Starting Needle-felting: What You Need To Know - Il Magpie Miscellanea Di S

(photo courtesy of Ikea UK)

Needle-felting is great fun and addictive but I would recommend that you try in for the first time in a class. The kit is then often provided for you to take home (either included in price or for a small extra fee). You should find it quite easy to find a local beginners class and take it. There are quite a few around and learning in a group is always less intimidating.

I’d love to know if this post is useful to you and I am more than happy to answer any questions you have via the comments, Facebook or Twitter.

Happy Crafting!

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