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6 Ways Blogtacular 2016 Inspired Me To Change My Perspective

Nothing in my year excites me, challenges me and motivates me as much as Blogtacular.  This two day creative conference for bloggers sees major names from the creative world speak.  I have come back from the conference buzzing, exhausted and excited to put what I learnt into practice but I wanted to use this post to share what I got from the whole experience.

This year (my second at Blogtacular) really picked me up by the scruff of the neck and shook me. These are the 6 Ways Blogtacular 2016 Inspired Me To Change My Perspective.

6 Ways Blogtacular 2016 Inspired Me To Change My Perspective

YOU are enough.

I made a commitment at the beginning of this year to push myself beyond my comfort zone and really flourish. I have found what I am passionate about doing with my life but now the devil is in the detail as to how to accomplish it.  I have spent a lot of time feeling a bit like the rug has been pulled out from under me. I am 41 and self employed for the first time. Working from home I have put on some weight (up until now I have pretty much always had jobs where I am on my feet all the time) and there is no-one to blame for any decisions I make but me. I was feeling old, out of touch and frumpy. How I used to define myself is no longer relevant. I am at a big crossroads where I have to choose how the rest of my life will go.

Blogtacular Creative Conference 2016 Image Courtesy of Mollie Makes © Will Ireland-91

Blogtacular Creative Conference 2016 Image Courtesy of Mollie Makes © Will Ireland-91

In he late thirties our keynote speaker Lisa Congdon found herself, newly single and unhappy in her job.  Lisa joined her brother in an art class and found her purpose in life. She became an artist and illustrator and her colourful, quirky work was hugely in demand.

Earlier this year she reached another crossroads. She realised that she had let her work become how she defined herself. She was perilously close to total burnout. She shared with us Jen Pastiloff’s “Girl Power Manifesto” as illustrated by Emily McDowell

The Girl Power Manifesto by Jen Pastiloff

Words © Jen Pastiloff Design © Emily McDowell

We are bombarded with the work, appearance and opinions of others via the internet.  That makes it hard to hold onto this. Lisa admitted this which took her to her next piece of advice…

Choose the metrics by which you evaluate your success or failure.

“Scarcity tells you that you are not enough now, and you must be more to have some chance of being enough in the future... Being more usually gets translated into doing more. Because you are not enough, you can never do enough to become enough. This leads to an ongoing tap dance of over-commitment, workaholism and super-sized ambition that is never satiated...”

Image © Lisa Congdon Quote © Tara Rodden Robinson

The quote that Lisa shared from Tara Rodden Robinson stopped me in my tracks. The metrics by which I judged myself were all wrong, all skewed, how did I know that? Because I didn’t use the same criteria to judge anyone else, and, most importantly, I hated the thought of anyone else judging themselves like that.

Lisa shared her criteria for measuring her own success and I think they are a great starting point for me (and pretty much anyone), although I expect that they will evolve to become more personal over time.

# Move your body everyday # Get help # If the answer isn't "Hell Yes", say no. # Approach everything as a beginner. # Create space for your relationships. # Embrace your imperfections.


Time for a change and to embrace the principle of Wabi Sabi .

Know what you are offering and have a plan.

This gem actually came from Kristobel Plummer’s session on “Blog Business”. Her point was actually made with regards to working with brands for sponsored posts and alike but I feel it fits very well with life in general. Everyone has principles and being clear about what they are equips you to evaluate any opportunity and maybe avoid that sinking feeling in the pit of your stomach when you realise that you are on the wrong path.

Blogtacular Creative Conference 2016 Image Courtesy of Mollie Makes © Will Ireland-106

Blogtacular Creative Conference 2016 Image Courtesy of Mollie Makes © Will Ireland-106

Be clear and intentional in your communications.

Kristobel also stressed the importance of clarity in all your business communications. You can then manage expectations successfully and build a relationship that is beneficial for both parties. This started me thinking about how clear and regular communication would benefit every aspect of my life.

Sara Tasker reminded me that  not all communication is via words. In her “Phoneography” session. She talked about the fact that “you are only as good as your top 3 rows” (of images on Instagram) and her 126k followers can’t be wrong. By having three words that describe your style. If your image does not fit at least one of these words, it doesn’t make it onto Instagram. ALL my communications  matter and using some of Sara’s visual techniques will help improve mine immensely.

Blogtacular Creative Conference 2016 Image Courtesy of Mollie Makes © Will Ireland-195

Blogtacular Creative Conference 2016 Image Courtesy of Mollie Makes © Will Ireland-195

When the blurb on the Blogtacular website boldly stated that “Laura Jane Williams believes that none of us is screwing up like we think we are.” I knew that I had to take her writing workshop. I wasn’t disappointed. Funny, bold and brave she had all of us working through three drafts of a piece about a first meeting and she also made the point that words can either paint a picture or move a story along with pace.

Both of these have their place but I need to be clear which I am aiming for.

Laura shared the Maya Angelou quote,

“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

Blogtacular Creative Conference 2016 Image Courtesy of Mollie Makes © Will Ireland-220

Blogtacular Creative Conference 2016 Image Courtesy of Mollie Makes © Will Ireland-220

All of this emphasis on the importance of the quality of your communication could have been, quite frankly, terrifying. At the last Laura saved me from paralysis as a result of the expectation placed on me by telling us to write (or communicate) from a place of “NOBODY CARES”. This lets you find your voice while no-one is listening. This is going in big letters above my desk!

You have a tribe and many of them will be struggling with the same things you are.

This year I decided to jump in with both feet and apply to get onto one of the organised photowalks on the Friday afternoon, attend the party at West Elm on the Friday evening PLUS the big event itself (9 1/2 hours plus travel time) on the Saturday. I used the last of my tax rebate to fund two nights in a hotel and off I went. During the course of the two days I chatted to a LOT of people. As we Photowalked, at the West Elm Papermakers Party and during the conference itself, and do you know what I found?

Quite simply this tribe “gets”me. They understand an outgoing introvert because a lot of them share the same traits. Some of them went through far more than me to get to and get through Blogtacular. As we talked they shared the same insecurities about blog post frequency and quality and there was loads of excited “me too!” moments. Even the speakers seemed to be kindred spirits. Lisa’s “vulnerability hangovers”, Kristobel’s regret that she hadn’t educated herself on business matters from the get-go, Sara’s belief that life is messy and your images should reflect this, just about everything that Laura said and Enid’s office with the “Done is better than perfect” poster on the wall!

I lost count of the number of times that I heard other bloggers say that they didn’t think they were posting enough or that the quality of posts wasn’t strong enough. I read a lot of these blogs for pleasure and I would totally disagree. I hold their blogs up as examples of what I want to achieve and how I wish I sounded. Everyone looks at themselves and their work with a very distorted lens. Being able to discuss our issues and insecurities in person was liberating.

Blogtacular Creative Conference 2016 Image Courtesy of Mollie Makes © Will Ireland-181

Blogtacular Creative Conference 2016 Image Courtesy of Mollie Makes © Will Ireland-181

Be brave and be flexible.

In my opinion all of the speakers were brave for just getting up in front of the crowd and sharing their stories. As if this wasn’t enough they all put themselves out there in a very personal way via their chosen creative outlet.  That requires a huge amount of bravery just to keep “showing up”. As Lisa explained it was about balancing the potential they have for great creativity against the risk of exposing themselves to trolls. That takes bravery.

All the speakers showed that they have all evolved from their starting point into what we see before us today.  Something has helped them do this. Enid Hwang spoke of the importance of having a process to help you deal with change. This flexibility allows a creative person to roll with the punches and find a way to get around the reach of the person throwing them. Being flexible gives you the capability to keep showing up.

In conclusion.

What the other 349 (ish) attendees took home from Blogtacular (aside from an awesome goodie bag) I would be really intrigued to learn. I know that some of the things I picked up on certainly weren’t explicitly spelt out and were a result of where my head was at just before the conference. It was the message I was ready to hear and the one that Blogtacular gave me.

It really helps that the conference is sponsored by brands which really “get” the importance of fostering creativity. West Elm, Mollie Makes, Sudo, Microsoft, Annie Sloan and Pinterest all sponsor and most of them are returning for at least the second year. That helps make Blogtacular a “safe” space for all attendees to get the most from the experience.

Thank you Kat and Team and thank you sponsors for charging my batteries for another year.

How I Felt Before And After Blogtacular

Image ©Claire Reynolds


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.

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!

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!



Choosing A New Craft? -Six Questions To Ask Yourself First

I asked you to bear with me earlier this week when I evangelised that you should include crafting in your New Year’s Resolutions (see Why Make Crafting Your New Year’s Resolution? if you missed it). Now I feel that I have to put my money where my mouth is and  help you with choosing a new craft. I will then spend my next few posts profiling some fun crafts that you might be interested in trying.

In the meantime, if you are feeling bewildered by the sheer number of crafts out there and the process of choosing a new craft I thought I would share my decision making process when choosing a new craft to try. I have put this in an infographic (my first ever attempt at one of these!) so feel free to pin, print or refer to it whenever you like.

Graphic giving three questions to ask yourself before choosing a new craft

Graphic giving three questions to ask yourself before choosing a new craft

What do you have to consider when you are choosing a craft or project? Tell me on Facebook, Twitter or leave a comment here and I may well add it to my infographic!

Why Make Crafting Your New Year’s Resolution?

Why You Should Make Crafting YOUR New Year's Resolution - The benefits and perks of crafts.

Happy New Year everyone! Have you managed any Christmas crafting?

Now is the time that most people (me included) are thinking about resolutions, words of the year or other ways in which to alter the course of their every day life for the better.  It is a time of “Fresh Starts”.

Anyone who knows me or reads this blog knows that I strongly believe that including crafting in your lives is a great resolution to make. I thought I would make one of my resolutions to explain why!

Well, here we go…

Did you know creativity is good for your health?

In our modern world we are always on the go. We work long hours, run around after our kids in what little spare time we have and go to bed at night with our minds whirling and the worries of the day looming. According to the Mental Health Foundation 1 in 4 British people will experience a mental health problem during the course of a year. To me, this shouts that something should change.

We need to give ourselves the tools to not only survive life, but flourish. Breathing space is essential. Click To Tweet

In 2004 Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi (Positive Psychologist at the Quality of Life Research Centre, Claremont Graduate University, California) gave one of the early TED talks on “Flow, the secret to happiness”.


He uses a graphic to illustrate his research over a period of years which clearly indicates that as the average income rises, happiness doesn’t!

Graphic from TED Talk "Flow, the secret to happiness" illustrating the relationship between income and happiness

He has studied creative people such as artists and composers and this has led him to his belief in “Flow”. This is a point, when you are engaged in doing something creative, as he puts it.

“when you are really involved in this completely engaging process of creating something new, as this man is, he doesn’t have enough attention left over to monitor how his body feels, or his problems at home. He can’t feel even that he’s hungry or tired. His body disappears, his identity disappears from his consciousness, because he doesn’t have enough attention, like none of us do, to really do well something that requires a lot of concentration, and at the same time to feel that he exists”

Flow requires challenge in the task & enough skills to achieve it. Crafts provide this in bucket loads! Click To Tweet

It is, in a nutshell, what the trend for mindfulness is all about. Just look at the huge popularity of adult colouring books at the moment. This really underscores the point that the brain NEEDS a creative outlet, even for those who don’t think they are at all “creative”.

If you pass on crafting skills (whatever your method) you leave a legacy.

Think about what we have left of ancient civilisations.  It is usually their art, their sculpture, their jewellery and architecture.  If we are lucky their writings or music. Creative pastimes all of them.  No legacy is left behind of how good they were at bringing home money or riding a horse.  Creation is the legacy that civilisations leave behind.

What will we leave for future generations of archaeologists?

On a more mundane note I have had huge fun doing creative things with my children. It has passed on problem solving skills, love of beauty, appreciation of artistry and (sometimes) valuable skills that should be preserved for future generations.  I really think that sewing a button on, making a greetings card or baking a cake are skills that our society will need and want for a long time to come (alongside new and advancing technology).

Friends who passed on crafting skills to their kids evangelise on freedom gained by kids amusing themselves! Click To Tweet

I can’t count the number of times I’ve been grateful for childhood knitting or embroidery lessons and cursed the fact that I didn’t continue them as I became a teenager.  A major opportunity lost!

Luckily with the advent of You Yube, Blogs and social media the skills are there to be learnt with a walk of fingers across the keyboard.  Crafts have evolved and embraced the digital age.

Technology has led to its own issues as we become addicted to our gadgets. Experts are now encouraging us to “unplug” from technology and spend time away from our phones and computers. What better way to spend this time than crafting? Plus you have the added bonus of a garment, a picture or other useful artefact at the end on the process.

Those who follow the Il Magpie Facebook page will know that I was really impressed  and shared Sarah Hazell’s decision to spend 15 minutes a day hand sewing a piece of patchwork. That 15 minutes can take place anywhere, in the car waiting for kids to finish scouts, on a daily commute or in front of the TV in the evening but that 15 minutes will give her time to unwind and become absorbed in something outside here daily grind.

I often knit or crochet on car journeys (doable, despite travel sickness) and this cures boredom and allows me to process the events of the last few days. It’s like a mini holiday!

I founded Il Magpie to give people the chance to breathe, to relax and forget their worries.  I try to give workshop attendees (and indeed readers) the confidence and skills to tackle new things. They can go home with something they can be proud of and if it is a jumping off point for further crafting adventures so much the better.

Albert Einstein once said “Creativity is intelligence having fun”.

I'm crafting loads of fun & the more of us that do, the better. Who knows we may just craft a saner world! Click To Tweet


5 Garden Projects For the Non-Gardener

Any one who has been following this blog for a while knows that I DO NOT have green fingers but I still want a space to enjoy and relax in.  So, as we embark on summer here are the garden projects I have been coveting the most as a non-gardener and want to try (Just click on the image to go to the tutorial or the source of the image)…

Number One:

French Glazed Plant Pots – Tutorial by “So Much Better With Age”

I love the look of these and once I discovered that “Latex Paint” is actually what we call emulsion in the UK I think this is  a good warm up project to start the summer with…

Image of finished french glazed plant pot by "So Much Better With Age"

Image from “So Much Better With Age”

Number Two:

Teapot Planters – Funky Junk Interiors

I can’t find the tutorial on this one (I pinned it on Pinterest and if you click on this picture it will take you to the blog the image was pinned from but I cannot find the relevant post, sorry!) It looks straight forward though and I will be raiding the charity shops!

Image of teapots used as planters displayed along a staircase hand rail

Image from

Number Three:

Up-cycled Drawer Planters – Estate 2 on Etsy

This one links to an Etsy listing where these were sold.  I want to make my own.  A good way of getting a bit of height into any garden.

Image showing two drawers painted blue, cut off and mounted on a wall as planters

Photo by

Number Four:

Mosaic Stair Risers – Frankie Magazine

Again, no tutorial on this one but there are loads of good tutorials on mosaic-ing (for example this one by Total Mosaic – How to Mosaic) I love the idea that it is pretty but discreet.

Image of outdoor stair risers which have has broken crockery mosaiced to them.

Photo by Carine Thevenau


Number Five:

Can Lid Shingles – Beth Evans Ramos

This idea would cover something ugly in a really attractive way.  This is the only one that I am not quite sure where I am going to use it.  Although there isn’t a tutorial you can zoom in closely enough to see the nails through the centre of each can lid.  If I spray painted the lids in colours it could be even more attractive.  The lids would definitely need to be sprayed with something so that they didn’t rust though!

Image of a chicken coop covered with tin can lids as shingles/roofing tiles

Image by Beth Evans Ramos


Well that’s my plans for this summer.  I will be interested to see if I manage to achieve them all, in part or whether life will get in the way!  What pretty things have you found to add to your garden.  I would love to see more ideas.  You can check out mine on my Garden Ideas Pinterest Board.

Happy Gardening!

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